Tuesday, November 28, 2006

My Work Seen in Public

I was in a Target restroom yesterday and noticed that the toilet paper dispensers were the same exact type I designed instruction labels for back when I was doing graphic design for Kimberly Clark. I see them from time to time, but usually they are locked closed and the labels I designed are inside the dispenser. As luck would have it, this dispenser was taped shut, and was easily opened. Sure enough, just behind the rolls of paper was a label I designed. It's neat to see work I've done randomly in public.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Product Over-Saturation

I wrote some time ago about my reaction to the ever-expanding lines of products upon my return to America. It seemed every product under the sun had expanded to 6 or 8 new flavors, or styles. Here's another one... M&M's. The classic chocolate candy is coming out with eight new "limited edition" flavors (read: if they sell well, then they become permanent). THIS is the kind of thing that overwhems me when I walk into the grocery store. I mean c'mon, do we really NEED strawberries and cream Pepsi?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Nerd Alert!

Today I totally geeked out when I saw a satellite in the early evening sky. I have seen satellites from time to time, but this time was different. Whereas I have randomly seen satellites before, I was expecting this one.

A few days ago I found a website called Heavens Above that accurately predicts when and where to view satellites. Feed your longitude, latitude, and elevation into the site and it will accurately predict the paths of satellites through the night sky at your location.

Apparently the most visible satellites are the Iridium satellites. While the word Iridium sounds like an element, (and for all I know it might be) in this case it is a company name. Iridium has over eighty of these satellites in orbit and the reason they are so visible is their highly polished surfaces reflect sunlight really well. While we are on Earth, rotating well into the nighttime side of the planet, satellites are still high above us, bathed in sunlight. The intense light reflected by these satellites is called an Iridium flare.

I checked Heavens Above for any Iridium flares that might be visible from my grandparents' house on Thanksgiving, and it turned out one was scheduled for 7:10pm at 49 seconds in the southern sky. It was Iridium 13 and it was supposed to have a magnitude of -7, which is much brighter than any star.

So I wandered around the neighborhood for a good view of the southern sky and looked up at the appointed time. The Iridium flare appeared right on cue and shown down like a spotlight (well compared to the stars anyway). It was truly bright for a few seconds, and then dimmed slowly into nothingness as it continued along its path to the horizon. Pretty neat what you can do with the internet.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope you have a good holiday and eat lots of turkey. Thank God for all we have!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Jason Clay: The Cook?

If you have been around me for any length of time you know that I am more of the macaroni-from-a-box or a TV-dinner-from-the-freezer kind of cook. But I talked to one of my fellow volunteers at the transitions retreat about how she makes dinner for her parents every now and then since she is temporarily living with them. It got me thinking about how I could help out around the house, since I am also temporarily living with my parents, and find a better, healthier way to eat at the same time.

My first attempt at cooking a real meal came today in the form of one of my mother's favorite dishes: Sausages and Peppers. Yum! It was a pretty good success I think. It's made with turkey sausage, red, yellow and green bell peppers, onions, and has a dash of red pepper flakes and oregano. I put a little more than a dash of the red pepper flakes, so it was pretty warm, but a success nonetheless.

Test Post... Go about your business

Just changed some settings on Blogger and I want to make sure my blog still works. If you see this it's a good indication it does.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Ghost Ranch- Abiquiu, New Mexico

Last weekend I had the privilege of joining all of the Young Adult Volunteers from national and international placements. Well, at least those who were able to attend. We got together for our "transitions" retreat at Ghost Ranch near Abiquiu, NM. Ghost Ranch is a wonderful Presbyterian conference center that is far removed from the outside world... so removed, in fact, that cell phones won't work there. It was a great place to reflect on our experiences around the world from this last year. I'd never been to New Mexico. It was nice. I'd like to go back again sometime and explore a little more.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Providence Canyon

My brother and I visited Providence Canyon in southwest Georgia over the weekend. Often referred to as the "Little Grand Canyon", it is a beautiful network of canyon walls. It was created by accident in the 1800's due to bad farming habits. The walls were a natural work of art, composed of layer upon layer of colorful soil. Georgia red clay comprised a hefty portion of the top most layer, which gave way quickly to white kaolin. Traces of golden hues reminiscent of safron, and purple soils (yes, purple soils) were also visible. The backdrop of colorful fall trees and an azure sky made the scene that much more beautiful. See my pictures on my photos page.

Thank God in Heaven

We might acutually have some real checks and balances in our governement now. Time to end the blatant corruption!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I voted. How about you?

Today I hope we can make some small, yet important changes to get this country back on track. Go vote!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Teri's Ordination in Chicago

I recently had the pleasure of seeing the culmination of my girlfriend Teri's years of seminary education, internships, youth ministering, and mission work in the form of her ordination at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago.

My mom and I decided to fly up for the ordination service and joined many of Teri's friends and family members. It was a wonderful time, and I got to see many dear friends I hadn't seen in some time. I also got to meet Teri's aunt for the first time. She is a very important person in Teri's life, so I was a little anxious about meeting her, but she seemed very nice. Turns out she is a Pisces like me, so that probably had something to do with it. ;-)

It was a beautiful service. Since I am ordained as an elder, I went up for the laying on of hands and made sure that I got my hand on her right shoulder. I know she couldn't see me, but I was glad that I got to experience (not just witness) a little part of the service with her. And then she served communion for the first time! Quite a momentus occasion.

Teri is now serving as an Associate Pastor at Ridgefield-Crystal Lake Presbyterian Church in Crystal Lake, IL. It's an incredible church with wonderful people in the suburbs of Chicago. I am very happy that she is serving there.

Mom had never been to Chicago so we made sure to hit the sites there as well. Fortunately Teri got to join us for a little while, and one of my former pastors, Beverly joined us as we toured around. She had never been to Chicago either!

Check out the pictures on my pictures page.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Having Keys Means You Belong

This is an story I have been working on since the day I left for Egypt. It started when I literally pulled out of my driveway on the way to mission orientation. Just before I got in the car I handed my keys to my father. Keys to the house, keys to my car, keys to my church and all kinds of random keys that I have long since forgotten what they open.

As the car rolled down the street, away from my home, I felt a profound sense of disconnect. It was one of those moments where the staggering realization that I was leaving the country for a whole year hit me in square between the eyes. I wasn't just giving up my keys, I was giving up little symbols of everything I was connected to, signs that someone trusted me, indications that I belonged.

The long flight to Egypt was surreal and gave me this indistinct "fuzzy" feeling, the anticipation of things to come. I was in between two lives. I left one behind that I no longer belonged to and was going to one that I didn't yet belong in.

When I got off the plane and arrived at Dawson Hall, my home for the next year, the process of belonging began again. I was given keys to my flat. I belonged at Dawson Hall.

After I completed my Arabic language classes, I was given another key: the key to my office where I would design publications and archive old volumes of handwritten text. I was entrusted with the computers and property in that room. I belonged at The Synod of the Nile.

Over the year I was trusted time and again with keys and belonged at many places, whether it was an office, a person's home or a hotel.

Fast-forward nearly a year. It was time again to relinquish these little symbols of trust and belonging. I said my farewells to my friends at the Synod of the Nile and handed over the keys to my office. I packed all of my things into two large suitcases and surrendered the keys to my flat. And once again I didn't belong. I didn't belong anywhere. I was in between lives once again. It was just temporary for me though.

What about those people who aren't just in between lives? You know, those folks that never have keys? The poor and homeless. Since they don't have keys society believes they don't belong anywhere... permanently. Nobody trusts them. In society's eyes... they... don't... belong.

There is one person in my life that I argue with quite a bit about the homeless. "Why don't they get jobs? They just stand around outside the homeless shelter all day and wait for handouts. They're lazy!" this person says.

What I have come to realize though is that nobody trusts them. If you were a business owner, would you hire a homeless person who didn't have transportation? Probably not. If you were a leasing agent for an apartment complex, would you rent to a jobless person? Probably not. They can't get a job because they are homeless and can't get a home because they are jobless. So you can see how homeless people are already at a disadvantage by simply not having keys.

Take your keys out and put them on the desk in front of you. Go on... do it. Good. Now look hard at your keys. Those keys to your home or apartment mean that somebody trusts you enough to pay rent or a mortgage. Those keys to your car means somebody trusts you to pay the financing or on a lease. Simply having those keys proves that you belong in this society. They are also a symbol of opportunity that not everyone has.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Confederate Memorial Service

First and foremost I am against slavery. I am totally opposed to the subjugation of people anywhere at anytime. Unfortunately slavery is a part of the history of the south, and oftentimes the focus of southern history. I struggle with that history as I write this entry. I encourage you to read through this completely and not dismiss it based on prejudice.

My father discovered some time ago that we have an ancestor that fought in The Civil War... for the Confederacy. Private Sanford Marion Davis was a part of Company A, 42nd Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry.

Being a military man himself, my father researched Pvt. Davis' military record and this is what he found. Davis was a farmer with a wife and three children and lived in Lawrenceville, GA. He received a $50 bonus when he enlisted with the Confederate Army at the age of 31. During the 18 months of his service he fought in battles at Tazwell, Tennessee; Cumberland Gap, Tennessee; and Chickasaw Bayou, Mississippi. Union forces captured him in 1863 at the Battle of Champion Hill, Mississippi. At the time of his capture he was already suffering from dysentery and malnutrition. He was later swapped in a prisoner exchange and was allowed to go on a 30-day furlough. He returned home to Lawrenceville, GA and died 25 days later.

Sanford Marion Davis never owned any slaves. In fact 99% of Confederate soldiers never owned any slaves. Why would Confederates fight in the Civil War if they didn't own any slaves you might ask. That's because the Civil War wasn't initially fought over slavery.

The reason the South wanted to succeed was unfair taxes. Often times it is referred to as "The Tariff." This site does a good job of explaining the economics between the North and the South and what truly led America into a Civil War: http://www.etymonline.com/cw/economics.htm

I find it interesting that the author has to validate his statements on one page of his site by saying:
I am [sic] born and raised in the North; I have no moonlight-and-magnolias sentimental attachment to the ante-bellum South. I live in an urban neighborhood, and I teach my child to judge the people around him by their deeds and character, not their pigment. I have no moral argument to make in favor of American slavery, though, unlike some, I won't condemn every slaveowner [sic] in history as a monster.

These sort of disclaimers must be made. Anyone, even the most respected historian, who defends or even speaks objectively about the Old South or the Confederacy is liable to be shouted down.
Now certainly the abolition of slavery was a good thing. I certainly must make my own disclaimers. I simply think we are spoon-fed slavery as the cause of The Civil War because the economic reasons are too difficult to understand, and takes more than a single word to explain.

I think this is best exemplified in an episode of the satirical television show “The Simpsons” entitled "Much Apu about Nothing". In this episode Apu, an Indian convenience store clerk who immigrated to America, decides to take his citizenship test. He studies hard and then has an interview with a test administrator.
Test Administrator: All right, here’s your last question. What was the cause of the Civil War?

Apu: Actually there were numerous causes. Aside from the obvious schism between abolitionists and anti-abolitionists, economic factors both domestic and international…

Test Administrator: (Interrupting) Hey, hey.

Apu: Yeah?

Test Administrator: Just say slavery.

Apu: Slavery it is, sir!
So basically what I am trying to say is that not every single soldier that fought in the Confederacy was a bad guy. My great-great-great grandfather likely fought in the war for the reason most wars are fought: money. He fought against the north because he believed that they were unfairly taxing the south… and that fifty bucks probably didn’t hurt either. My great-great-great grandfather fought for what he believed in, and lost. But he still fought for what he believed in.

To honor this, my father contacted the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs and ordered a military headstone to sit next to the original weathered marker. The new headstone lists his military affiliation while the old one does not. Dad even organized a memorial service to honor Davis, which was held on September 24th. A local color guard from the Sons of the Confederate Veterans was also involved and performed a 21-gun salute with muskets and a cannon! Women from the United Daughters of the Confederacy also participated and dressed in period clothing. It was quite a memorial. See the pictures on my photos page.

Upcoming Posts

So, I've got a ton of stuff to write about, but just can't seem to find the time. Here's a run down of upcoming posts. A confederate memorial service, starting a new business, a trip to Chicago and much, much more! Come back over the next several days and I'll make sure to have something new up. Hope you are all well. Drop a line sometime.