Tuesday, November 26, 2002


Prayer is still needed. I've learned some new stuff tonight that I'm not sure I'm really at liberty to divulge, but essentially there have been some developments at the Jones household that have me more concerned than ever about the long-term stability and safety Isaac and his sister will have there.

In Isaac's case, the need is especially strong. His emotional and developmental growth is severely retarded. He's almost 3 years old and can barely speak at all because of the environment he's lived in most of his life so far.

These kids need intervention, and they need it in the worst way. In Christian's case, he needs someone who can afford to spend 24 hours a day taking care of him and motivating him to grow. Remember, for the bulk of his life he not only has lacked opportunity to grow, he essentially has been discouraged from learning and realizing his potential.

Be praying for them. 

Friday, November 22, 2002

support network

During the nine months my wife and I had our foster son, we got little in the way of support from our extended families. I don't doubt that they cared, but for the most part, our respective families weren't emotionally invested in Isaac and what happened with him.

His birthday came and went, and the only presents he got from our families were some leftover toys my mother had.

By way of contrast, the couple who had Isaac's younger sister had remarkable support from both sets of parents and other immediate family members. Her first birthday was as big a deal for them as it was for her foster parents. I would be surprised to hear that they treat their biological grandchildren any differently.

A few factors play into this, I'm sure. Isaac was already 2 years old and not very adorable because of his problems. His sister was only 6 months old and recovered from the neglect much more quickly once she was in a caring home. And there was also distance -- my family lives hundreds of miles from us and rarely saw Isaac. His sister's foster grandparents live in the same town as her foster parents, and they saw her regularly.

I don't want to be bitter, but it's hard not to. Often foster parents are dealing with children with severe emotional and developmental problems; it's that much worse when we have to deal with it alone. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2002


It's the bitter irony of the book -- I think Smeagol *was* changing, but Sam never let him. Frodo was willing to give Smeagol the chance he needed to become a new person and redeem himself, but Sam was so deeply suspicious of him that Smeagol ended up falling back on established patterns of behavior.

In the last chapter or so before the book ended, Smeagol was all set *not* to do what he did, because he was moved with compassion for Frodo. But what does Sam do? He wakes up and says, "Where have you been sneaking off to?" and immediately the light dies out in Smeagol's eyes.

It's no surprise the old fellow attacked Sam personally.

'fellowship of the ring' DVD

We got our extended version DVD of "The Fellowship of the Ring" on sale last Saturday for $25. It even includes the free movie ticket for "The Two Towers.'

Overall, I thought it vastly superior to the cinematic release. I wasn't wild about the scene where Boromir tries to take the Ring during the Council of Elrond and I think there was another scene that was kind of weak, but I can't remember what it is right now.

Absolutely worth the money, though.

urban legends about elmo

It's been an urban legend for years that Bert and Ernie are gay, and that Ernie was going to die of AIDS complications to teach children tolerance for other lifestyles.

It is an urban legend, wholly untrue. Everyone knows that Oscar and Elmo are the gay couple.

elmo from hell

Just in time for Christmas in hell, it's Chicken Dance Elmo!

Actually, it's been out for a while. I had the misfortune of seeing it at my niece's birthday party back in September. Pretty sick, isn't it?

Sunday, November 17, 2002


I finally saw SpongeBob the other day, and I have to say, I just don't get it. It seemed about as unfunny a cartoon as I can recall, although in that sense it goes right along with a number of other contemporary cartoons like "Rugrats."

And what's the deal with this ugly animation anyway? Why does everyone have to look like they were beaten with an ugly stick for a half-hour before breakfast?

worship styles

I find a large-group worship experience often leaves me standing around with my hands in pockets, wondering why everyone but me is getting something out of the service.

Instead, I prefer a small-group setting, with no more than six or seven people, while the worship leader plays the guitar. The actual songs don't matter that much -- i.e., hymns or praise choruses -- as long as they have intelligent lyrics, which I suppose is another way of saying I don't enjoy most praise choruses.

media bias

Actually, the research has been done. It depends on how you interpret it where the bias lies.

A former editor of mine did his master's thesis on how objective newspapers were when it came to businesses. His discovery was that, despite the ardent claim by all journalists that advertising dollars don't determine coverage, and despite a few newspapers that actually do appear to make a concerted effort not to connect the two, there can be no doubt that newspapers are pro-big business in terms of coverage.

I've seen it myself. At The Times of Trenton, where I worked last year, we refused to cover a major lawsuit against one of our big advertisers. (The Princeton Packet, incidentally, covered the story and lost the account, which amounted to a lot of money.) In addition, The Times gives front-page and Page Three coverage to all sorts of stupid things because they involve advertisers. A new rollercoaster at Six Flags got a bigger story than any of the local issues that day. Other businesses, when something bad was happening to them, while we might run the story, we wouldn't put their name in the headline.

Pretty despicable, really.

At WCN Newspapers, where I work now, we're not allowed to do a story on any business -- no matter how newsworthy -- unless we clear it with the higher-ups first. After all, they might owe us money or not have an account with us. So much for an independent press.

Like I said, an individual's perspective and defintions shape their understanding of media bias. "Pro-big business" is a conservative bias, and has nothing to do with how wealthy you are.

Friday, November 08, 2002

islam and politics

I read an interesting piece in The Star-Ledger some weeks ago. I wish they put their opinion section online; if they did, I would link to this column.

The writer's thesis was that Islam may very well be a great religion, but where it differs from the world's other major religions is that its theological system is inextricably linked to its political system. Muslims not only view Mohammed as a prophet, they view him as the seal of the prophets, the one who modeled for the faithful how to live life. In addition to being a prophet, Mohammed was a statesman, and a warleader as well.

The writer called a number of Muslim advocacy groups in the U.S. and asked them questions about human rights in the Middle East. They went out of their way to avoid saying anything negative about countries like Saudi Arabia where Islamic law is upheld. (He asked one spokesman about the fatwa to kill Salman Rushdie and got this less-than-ringing endorsement of free speech: "It's wrong to demand someone's death for what they wrote, but don't quote me on that.") In fact, he wrote, several prominent Muslims scholars reportedly have said that if Muslims were in the majority here in the United States, it would be their duty to enforce Islamic law here as well.

I've had the privilege to know a number of Muslims, and I've taken the opportunity to learn more about Islam from a Shi'a co-worker of mine. But I do wonder if this writer didn't have a point: Islam may be a religion of peace, but at this point in its history, it's not a religion that co-exists with other faiths well, particularly when it's in the majority -- much like Christianity in the Middle Ages.

shopping carts

When I take over the world, shopping carts will be available at all retail outlets, for parents with multiple children. Already, although I lack world power, this initiative is having some measure of effect. Read the letter I sent to Home Depot a while ago:

I am writing to express my extreme dissatisfaction with an area of customer service that your company apparently has overlooked: child safety and shopping carts.

I was at the Milltown, Iowa, Home Depot earlier today, hoping to pick up a few things. Because I had two toddlers with me, I did what I always do first: I looked for a shopping cart with seats for two children.

Imagine my disappointment not to find one. I talked with a couple employees who told me the store doesn't have any, even though the matter has been brought to the attention of the store manager before.

Let me put it bluntly: A regular shopping cart is *not* safe for two children. A moment's inattention on a shopper's part -- such as to look at a prospective purchase -- will give a child enough time to stand up, fall out of the cart, and hit the concrete floor with his head, causing serious injury and even death.

Even if a child does not climb out, putting him in the main part of the cart -- the basket -- limits a customer's ability to shop. Would you put drain cleaner in the cart with a child? How about fertilizer? Sharp tools?

Shopping carts with seats for two children are common at other stores. I use them at the supermarket all the time and at some of your competitors. Having access to one at Home Depot would keep my children safe there and it would limit your liability in the event of an incident like the ones I described up above.

I urge you to take measures to rectify this situation before something does happen.

And then I got this (presumably form) respone, the next business day. I was impressed by the speed of the response, but I have to admit I haven't been back to the Home Depot since to see if there have been more substantial changes. (I filed the same complaint with Wal-Mart the same day, but since I don't like to go there either, I don't know what they've done. Not surprisingly, they never responded.)

Hello David Learn,

Thank you for your e-mail to Home depot Customer Care! [Note they don't know how to capitalize the spelling of their own store name. --Dave]

We first want to apologize for any inconvenience we may have caused you. A formal complaint was made against the Milltown Home Depot. This information will be addressed to the proper Management and will also be filed here in our Corporate office. Thank you for your time in letting us be aware of your experience.

If we can be of any further assistance, please feel free to contact us again.

Think we can get a movement going? Put yourself in the position of a single parent trying to get shopping done with two toddlers in tow. It's virtually impossible to push two carts in order to give both kids the coveted seat, or to push a stroller and cart at the same time.

At Wal-Mart, the store manager offered to have an employee watch my children while I shopped. (As with Home Depot, I was out with both Isaac and Evangeline by myself.) But think about it: In this day and age, how many parents are going to feel comfortable leaving their children with a complete stranger while they shop? I sure wouldn't.

Anyway, lettuce agree that it is fun to cart around our children like a tiny sack of potatoes when we're grocery shopping. Orange you glad that it's not really a problem? Natasha egg-spects me to help with shopping, and while it would would drive some people absolutely bananas, I'm very cereal when I say spending time with my kids -- even at the supermarket -- can really Cheerio me up. I get a real Kix out of it.

Sunday, November 03, 2002

feeding time

Rachel is doing well. At the moment she's trying to decide if she wants to be asleep or awake as I work on a long-overdue free-lance piece. Several times today she has latched onto my neck in her quest for milk, but fortunately for all of us succeeded in doing nothing more than giving me a wet neck.

Friday, November 01, 2002

new arrival

Born: 7:28 p.m.
Oct. 31, 2002
Weight: 8 pounds 3 ounces
Height: 20 1/8 inches

We're not quite sure when labor began. Natasha started having Braxton Hicks contractions last night, but it wasn't until this morning -- after a prenatal exam, ironically -- that they became regular. Our first official recorded contraction was at 10:24 a.m.

We named her Rachel Hermione after her two paternal great-grandmothers, both of whom died about 12 years ago. Rachel and her mommy are still at the hospital while Evangeline and I get some sleep and get ready to go in tomorrow morning.

I've explained to Evangeline that she has a baby sister now, but I'm not sure how much she gets it. She was pretty upset about being away from us all day today, probably because she's worried about going away like Issac did. We'll see tomorrow how she handles visiting the baby hospital.

She actually wasn't due until Nov. 5, but decided to come out on Halloween and get some early trick-or-treating in. (I guess she didn't realize the hospital would keep her there for two days.)
Labor went fairly smoothly, at least from where I was. The actual delivery went much faster than last time, which was unexpected since Evangeline was induced and Rachel's birth was pretty much natural.

Wouldn't you know that Rachel would have to be born the day after Evangeline's third birthday? Natasha and I are trying to figure out what's so special about late January that we've had two children at the end of October.


The account of Samuel's appearance to Saul in Endor is an excellent response to believers who say there's no such thing as ghosts. I like to throw that out all the time, along with the Transfiguration appearances of Elijah and Moses.

I'm not quite sure I buy the idea of an "incorruptible body" being sent from heaven, though. When Paul speaks of us gaining incorruptible bodies, my understanding is that he's speaking of the Last Day.

The Tanakh doesn't teach of an immediate afterlife; instead it talks of going down to Sheol, or literally "the grave." Sheol is where everyone goes when they die. In a literal sense it means the graves where people are buried, but I believe it also refers to an afterlife destination where we all await the resurrection on the Last Day, when Revelation says hell (Greek: hades, the word the Septuagint uses in place of Sheol) and the sea give up all their dead.

In other word, when you die, it's like going to sleep, but we all awake at the same time.