Monday, December 27, 2004

A New Site to Bookmark

Mmmmm.... Islay....

The Beautiful Letdown

That's the name of a CD by Christian band Switchfoot that we gave our niece for Christmas. I confess to never having heard the CD or the song, and to being clueless as to the theme or meaning of the title, but the title itself seems like a perfect description of the last two months of blogging for me.

In the months, then weeks, and finally days leading up to the presidential elections, the primary focus of this Blog was political. It was very important to me, I believed passionately in my cause, and so I blogged on it. A lot. And it brought me traffic - especially when I was blogging on the Dan Rather Memo scandal, and also when I blogged about what became for me a burning issue -- documented cases of politically motivated violence and vandalism against conservatives. I was posting numerous entries a day, and getting traffic in the hundreds a day -- not Instapundit by any stretch, but it made me feel good.

But once the elections were over, my enthusiasm for mosting waned. I just couldn't come up with as many things to be passionate about. Furthermore, my new job ccurtailed the time I had to post. And my traffic suffered too. I dropped form hundreds of readers a day to less than 50. Ironically, the change occurred at least partially because things went the way I wanted them too in the presidential election -- talk about a beautiful letdown.

Recently, my writing has started to pick back up again, as has my traffic. Blog Explosion helps with the traffic, so I don't put as much stock in it, but the fact that I'm once again getting comments, well, that feels good. And the best part is, it's not all politics. I'm finding other passions, other topics. I'm starting to get to know myself again, something I haven't done in years. And apparently, I'm not the only one who finds myelf at least mildly interesting.

Now that's beautiful, without the letdown.

Some Assembly Required

Thanks for the Memory to Robert at The Llama Butchers, who has a great piece on the Whininess of "Some Assembly Required" angst.

Personally, I laugh at the prospect of assembling presents for the coming Spawn of Brian. I've been assembling stuff my whole life, and am a Kung Glue Master.

But nothing like my Nephew. The Feared Redhead is the youngest of three sisters. The middle one has a 7-year old who has some LD-related issues. He's a sweet kid, I love him dearly (he couldn't pronounce "Uncle Brian" as a toddler, so I was designated "Unkin", a contraction of the two of which I've become fond), but he definitely has issues with listening to adults, calming down, paying attention -- not just standard levels of issues for his age, but serious issues.

However, put a Legos kit in his hands and something wondrous happens. The kid is some sort of freaky genius when it comes to assembling those suckers. hundreds of pieces? He can find the right one in a heartbeat. Twenty pages of instructions? No problem. In less time than it takes Ted Kennedy to polish off a gin and tonic, the kid will have it assembled. With one glance at the instruction sheet per step. Not me. I have to look at the step, find the pieces, then look at them again to make sure how they go together. At the least. But the Neph, he just works his way through a kit like a machine.

It's kinda spooky, but in a proud way.

It's No Surprise

Thanks for the Memory to Naked Villainy.

Apparently, President and Mrs. Bush's gifts to each other were national news, and the Maximum Leader asks a good question: Why?

A very good question indeed. And it brings to my mind a question I've had about celebrity status, a question which, when I ask it, will leave you convinced that I think WAAAAAAAYYYYYY too much:

How in hell do celebrities surprise their loved ones? It's not like you can buy something and not have the intended know at LEAST where you bought it, thanks to the ever-present paparazzi. God forbid you try pulling off something even bigger without them knowing.

I suppose they have agents/personal assistants/professional sycophants hwo handle such details for them, and this allows some stealth. But personally, for me, hald the joy in giving a gift is in looking for, and finding, the perfectly appropriate gift for the person, relying on and showing off how well I know them. The presentation is the other half -- price and reciprocation received are incidental. For someone who gets photographed every time they stop at the supermarket for cheese, this is not an option.

It's this kind of topic that led me long ago to decide that while I wouldn't mind being rich, I'm not so sure I'd like being famous. Not that either is a looming threat.

Banned Camp

Thanks for the Memory to Chad, substitute blogger at The Jawa Report.

A school in Tampa Florida, trying to cut down on pranks in school, has banned rubber bands:

In a December newsletter, the Buffalo Bulletin, administrators warned parents and students.

"There have been recent incidences of students at our school using rubber bands as a method of projecting objects at other people. The students refer to some of the projectile objects as "wasps.' Occasionally, students are using their fingers to project the wasps. These activities have resulted in injured students.

"Rubber bands are not permitted at school. If students are in possession of rubber bands for any reason they will be subject to consequences that may include out of school suspension. When rubber bands are required for classroom use, they will be provided and collected."

Now, I understand the need to crack down on an activity that is harming students. But again, the answer is to address the behavior, not to remove anything that might possibly be used inappropriately. Otherwise, we'll be reduced to banning pencils from school, leaving the kids with nothing but crayons, and replacing the hard textbooks with those soft and washable "Bathtime Books" for infants.

I Shot a Man in Reno, Just to Watch Him Die

So other than the dog almost dying, again, Christmas was good. I didn't receive a lot, but I did get to watch my nephews tear in to their chaches, and we did get a few things for the impending Spawn of Brian. But I did receive a couple of things I had really wanted: An Oregon knit cap, some pilsner glasses and a pair of Thistle-style Single Malt Scotch nosing glasses. But from the title, I'm sure you've ascertained that the gift I'll be talking about today is this one:

Now, I'm not the biggest country music fan -- growing up in Southern Idaho and Southern Oregon, most of the country music fans my age were the kids who had no tolerance for anyone not exactly like them, and I got a lot of grief from them. So I had a built-in animosity towards the genre for a long time. That's changed a bit, but I'm still not an enthusiastic listener.

Except when it comes to Johnny Cash. I cannot get enough of the man's music, though up until now I didn't OWN any of it (not that I was buying other music instead -- it's just not high on the budgetary priority list). But this year The Feared Redhead arranged for Santa to leave this CD in my stocking.

So what is it about Johnny Cash that makes me love his music so much? Let's ignore for a moment (as difficult as it may be) the fact that he is the baddest, coolest man ever to sing on a stage. Let's set aside the fact that when he sings of suffering and the Blues, he knows of what he speaks, having grown up the poor son of a sharecropper. Let's even discount, for the sake of discussing deeper things, that gravelly, crack of doom voice, the self-deprecating humor, or the passionate love for June that made all his love songs work so well.

The thing about Johnny Cash that endears him and his music to me is the interplay of sin and grace that was the pattern of his life. This was a man who made some serious mistakes in his life, who struggled mightily with addiction, who was anythng BUT the quintessence of Godly living.

And yet, despite all that, he was, at his core, a man of faith. He believed deeply in God and in the power of His grace to forgive, and I honestly believe that is what kept Johnny going. I don't think he was proud of the things he did wrong, but he knew he was forgiven when he repented for them. And in the end, I honestly believe Johnny Cash went home to be with the Lord.

And that gives me hope. while I've not live a life a quarter as hard as Johnny's, my own Christian walk is less than exemplary. I make mistakes -- no, I sin. Frequently. Sometimes egegiously. But when I do, and am faced with what I've done, I honestly repent and sincerely rely on God's grace to not only forgive, but to help me avoid the same mistakes again. I think Johnny Cash would know what I mean.

And so, this Christmas, the season of Grace, I received a CD of music from a man who truly appreciated the meaning of Grace. Thanks for the Encouragement, Johnny. I walk the line too.