Jonathan Haidt: Can a divided America heal?

I am trying to find things that help me make sense of what I am feeling and what I sense going on around me.  I have a lot to think about after listening to this, but maybe it will be thought provoking for someone else too.  Disgust as indelible ink …  If you don’t watch anything else, start watching at the 16:00 mark, but the entire talk is worth listening to …  “Deep questions about morality and human nature”

Not feeling very hopeful today …

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

1967 “Steeler Lecture,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The “Steeler Lecture” was one of five sermons published in a book called “Conscience for Change,” republished as “The Trumpet of Conscience” after King’s death.

(source:, retrieved 11/10/2016)


An altar in the heart

Today I am thinking about a lot of things. First and foremost, I am thinking of my dad, my uncles and my grandfathers. The list is long. All of them served their country through military service and did so, I believe, well and proudly. One of my earliest childhood memories of a photo is a picture of my Grandpa Matthews dressed in his World War I uniform. And when my dad passed away, I got his military memorabilia, including a certificate from the US Navy acknowledging his presence at the Bikini Atoll atomic test in World War II. Though he did not know it at the time, his presence at that event likely rendered him unable to father a child (as apparently so many others experienced after the tests when they returned home), and thus he came to be my dad when I was adopted. War not only exacts a terrible price on those who suffer visible injuries, it can also leave a life of internal scars that few are ever privy to, scars that will not heal no matter what.

Of course, I also especially think on this day of Renee, my cousin down in Tallahassee who lost her eldest son, Anthony, in Afghanistan last year. I know she will carry the pain of a mother’s loss with her for the rest of her natural days. No parent should outlive their child, but especially not by losing them to an enemy’s hand. And I am reminded of all the loved ones who have sat at home with knitted brow and worried soul, anxiously awaiting their dear loved one’s safe return – and the agony of those who never see that day. God bless them all.

There are some who think it is inconsistent, or at least hypocritical, to pray and work for peace while also supporting the military. I do not. We would be blind to history and to human nature if we fail to acknowledge that there are those who simply will not choose to live in peace with their fellow human beings. The reasons are myriad, but it would be naive, I think, to assume that it will ever be possible for all of the world to avoid conflict entirely. The price willingly paid by so many who served, and continue to serve, our country to defend our freedoms demands, I think, our respect, even if we disagree with how they got there.

For any of you who read this who are veterans, thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. I hope you know how much you are appreciated.

Sometimes the heart breaks into a million little pieces

My phone just rang at work and it was my mom in Tallahassee. I could tell something was terribly wrong when I heard her voice. My cousin Renee has two boys both of whom are on active duty in Afghanistan. Last night, her oldest son was killed in an attack on their tent which caught fire from an explosive device and apparently killed all the men inside. I can’t tell you how it makes my heart hurt to think about the profound grief Renee and her parents are going through. It will be about a week they said before they are able to get his body home, and her younger son will accompany him on the trip.

I remember meeting Anthony last year when we went to Tallahassee. He seemed like such a really good guy, very personable, great sense of humor, somebody you enjoyed being around. I remember how Renee hugged him – the love for her son and her joy at having him home a short while was palpable. And now he is gone, too, too soon.

Mom broke down crying when she started remembering what it felt like when her brothers were away at war and she worried about them every day. And I can deal with almost anything in the world – except hearing my own mother cry. It is killing me right now that I’m not there to hug her and reassure her and just let her know that she is not alone.

Oh, this is never the way I want to start a day ….

Norwegian Purling

Update:  My original post from 2007 appears below.  However, to make it easier for users of mobile devices to watch the video, I am embedding a YouTube version here for you to see.  Also, “maske” is the Norwegian word for stitch in case you did not know.


Now, you may not share in the unbridled enthusiasm you are about to witness. If it turns out to be too much for you, I can only recommend that you turn away and mutter quietly to yourself “silly boy!” and go about your business.

You all know by now that I’m a relatively new knitter, though admittedly quite an enthusiastic one. In August while long-time family friends from Norway were visiting my partner’s parents, we got to spend some time with them. I’ve already posted pictures of the marvelous mittens that Berit and Turid knit as gifts for Harald and me. We enjoyed their company so much. When we were up in Lutsen with them, Berit generously offered to help me figure out how to sort a knitting problem (i.e. “knitting problem” read as “Beulah nearly destroyed a ball of wool yarn and the scarf that was taking shape at the other end of it”). Berit is an expert knitter (having done it and taught it for nearly four decades) and went to work and solved the mess in a matter of minutes. What shocked me, though, was the speed with which she knit. So she taught me how to do what I now know is called “Continental” style knitting, and which was once called “German” style knitting, at least before World War II. Having mastered Continental knit stitch, my right-hand numbness issues went away, and I could knit for long periods without any discomfort. And I knit quite a bit more quickly, too.

Now Berit also tried to show me how to purl the way she does, what I will henceforth and forevermore refer to as “Norwegian” purling. I tried to get it, but we didn’t spend much time on it. She assured me the way she purled was the common method of purling in Norway today. After they left and went home to Norway, I looked through all kinds of books, trying to find directions on how to purl the “Berit way” – all to no avail. I searched the web and found many instructions for Continental purling, but all of them were vastly different, and more complicated, than the way I saw Berit purling. I found one video for Norwegian purling, but there was no audio explanation, the video was for only one stitch, and I couldn’t figure it out from that video. Why was it so important for me to learn her particular way, you ask? What if I told you that you could learn to purl carrying the thread in the left hand, behind the work, exactly as you do for knitting in Continental style, but without moving the hands forward to form the stitch (as some Continental purl instructions recommend). For those of you who knit, is the benefit becoming clearer? To be more precise, it became obvious to me that if I could instantly change between knit and purl stitch without my hands ever leaving the needle or having to reorient anything, that it would represent a vast improvement and also provide the added benefit of more speedy knitting. Now do I have your attention? I thought so.

I wrote to Berit last week, bemoaning my lack of understanding and knowledge, and unable to find any resources to show me how to purl the way she did. And, bless her heart, do you know what she and her husband, Jan, did? They made me a digital video and burned it to a CD and sent it to me, post-haste! I got the CD (amazingly) in only a few days, on Thursday. I set every intention of sitting down with it today and figuring it out. In about 10 minutes, it finally clicked in my brain and I was able to successfully reproduce the much sought-after Norwegian purl stitch, thread in the back, no hand forward motions needed to form the stitch. I made a small gauge swatch. After several inches of that, I switched to the dreaded seed stitch, which looks so lovely but which so many people complain about making. A few more rows of that went my amazingly quickly. Then I switched to ribbing, and what a pleasure it was to instantly switch back and forth from knit to purl with only the slightest compensation from the right needle, that being whether you thread is in front of or behind the right needle as you are forming stitches. I feel like I had a knitting epiphany sitting right there on my back porch! Why are they not teaching this in any of the books or on-line resources I’ve encountered? It seems it ought to be at least taught as another option.

Of course, despite the time difference I resolved at once to call Berit in Oslo and thank her profusely for sending the video. I finally “got it” and will be eternally grateful for learning how to knit the “best and most comfortable” way (at least for me), as those in Norway knit, from her feet. As I told her on the phone, I’d kiss her a thousand times in thanks if she was here, so she better be glad she’s there! I asked Berit if I had her permission to post the video she sent me so that others I know who knit might avail themselves of the superior method, should they chose to do so. In her customarily generous way, she said I could use the video however I saw fit. So I am doing what any good and newly-minted disciple does, I’m spreading the gospel – in this case, the gospel of Norwegian purling. If you’ve never tried it, you really should. Those Norwegians, I swear, the really are the most clever people, aren’t they! So today I bless every Norwegian I see – which is pretty easy, considering I see one every few minutes! And for the rest of you who want to learn how to knit this way, I have converted the original AVI file I received into smaller files. I have a Windows Media version, and a MPG version. If these don’t work for you, let me know and I will try to work with you to figure out what version will work for you. I really want you to try this, OK? Here they are:

Norwegian Purling (Windows Media version) – 7 MB

Norwegian Purling (MPG version) – 12.7 MB

And honestly, Berit, because I know you see this blog – a thousand blessings on you and Jan. You’ll never know how grateful I am for the trouble you went to.

Notes from a N’awlins evacuee

I “met” Ray Whiting on-line about 9 years ago when I joined the Scribe Tribe, then a group dedicated to the art of journaling. He was the “other” token gay man in the group besides me. He has lived for many years in New Orleans and I learned through a friend (who still keeps in touch with him) that when Katrina hit he had not evacuated, primarily because he refused to leave without his dog, Hazel. Through the days that followed, we waited in horror as little bits and pieces of Ray’s story would get to us through his cell phone calls to his daughter in Houston. Ray has finally been evacuated to Houston to be with his family. He’s got a blog up and he’s writing frequently. He has much to say and many stories to tell. If you want to read some of them, go to his site,