Month: December 2016

The More Things Change…1998 to 2017

My father loved to read Molly Ivins.  Her brand of populist liberalism, her concern for the powerless, her razor-sharp wit were all right up his alley.  As a New Deal Democrat, Daddy didn’t have much sympathy for corporate-backed, hypocritical, poll-watching politicians. So when I went to my father’s house earlier this year to help clear out his library, I brought home the four Ivins books he had at the time plus a biography of the Texas firebrand.  Daddy had almost all of Ivins’ works, but some he had given away.  (He once gave me a copy of one of her books that he said he had purchased at the remainder table at the local bookstore, only to come home and find out he already had two copies of the same book.) I was looking for a quick and lively read a few days ago after working through a couple of more difficult offerings, and pulled You Got to Dance with Them What Brung You off the bookshelf.  This is Ivins’ 1998 take on the Clinton …

Top Posts of 2016 (The “Whatever Else Tickles My Fancy” Edition)

As promised yesterday, I’m back with the top posts on More to Come… from 2016 that don’t relate to family and friends.  What I’m calling the “Whatever Else Tickles My Fancy” edition. In a year when I took my sabbatical in Rome and Maine, many of the top posts are from those trips. If my day job doesn’t work out, I may have a future as a travel writer! As was the case with yesterday’s top ten, I’ll list them in the order they appeared during the year. I left for Rome in early March, and Time Off was my post to set the stage for my sabbatical. I had a number of nice comments from friends and colleagues with well wishes.  I also got to showcase my cool “What Would DJB Do?” mug! My first post from the American Academy came on March 10th, and was entitled Looking Back, Looking Forward.  After that, I was posting 3-4 times per week for the remainder of the six weeks we were in Italy. Claire joined us …

Top Posts of 2016 (Family and Friends Edition)

I’m lucky to have patient readers of More to Come… as the blog (like my mind) is often all over the place. In looking back over posts from the past year, I decided to highlight the top ten (in terms of views) in a “family and friends” edition, to be followed tomorrow by a “whatever else tickles my fancy” edition, where I’ll catch the posts that don’t directly relate to family members. Unfortunately, many of the top family posts this year related to death and loss. There were so many losses this year (both family and others who felt like family) that I added a Rest In Peace category to the blog. I’m grateful for the notes and comments these musings brought, but like so many readers I still miss the people who are no longer with us. I’ll highlight the top ten family and friends posts in the order in which they showed up on More to Come… Andrew was asked to join Lady Gaga and 50 other survivors of sexual assault on the …

Merry Christmas 2016

Several years ago we first volunteered to help serve Christmas dinner at our parish.  This is a wonderful tradition that we had just discovered.  Several hundred people – some homeless, some single, some elderly without family nearby, some simply wanting someone else to cook for them – come together for several hours of turkey, stuffing, pies, caroling, and conversation. That first year, as we were leaving, one of the children said, “Can we make this a regular part of our Christmas Day tradition?”  We’ve been there ever since. Because Andrew and Claire were born five days before Christmas, we have always waited to jump into the season until after we celebrate their birthdays.  Plus, Candice and I have always wanted to focus on Advent, and then celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas through until Epiphany on January 6th. But this year we’ve actually scaled back some of the past over-the-top holiday celebrations.  Our decorations are simpler. We are content to be together as a family around a dinner table.  (No cell phones, please.) And just …

Nothing Can be Changed Until It is Faced: The New Jim Crow

Several weeks ago I finished reading a book which won’t leave my mind.  The New Jim Crow:  Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander is an important and disturbing book which ultimately leads to much soul-searching on the part of the reader. It first came out in 2010 and has been on my bookshelf for a while, but I only picked it up at the tail end of the presidential election campaign.  That was timely. Alexander – a civil rights lawyer, advocate, and legal scholar – has written a well-researched and devastating work.  In The New Jim Crow, Alexander shows we have not moved into a colorblind society, but have – in fact – simply replaced one racial caste system (Jim Crow) for another (mass incarceration).  The book is thorough in its analysis and gut-wrenching in its conclusions. Alexander writes in the introduction, “What has changed since the collapse of Jim Crow has less to do with the basic structure of our society than with the language we use to justify it.  In the …

Be Civil, Be Urban

Each morning on my walk to our offices at the Watergate, I stop off at Filter coffeehouse for a coffee to begin the work day.  What first drew me to this particular coffee shop on I Street, NW between 19th and 20th (as opposed to the 15 others I pass in my 25 minute walk) is the sign on the door.  It reads, simply, “Be Civil, Be Urban.” I was intrigued.  My interest was really piqued when I stepped inside and found urban planning books and architectural models on the bookshelf, a prominent “Nope, No WiFi” sign, and a quote on the wall from architectural historian Spiro Kostof that reads, “Civilization, in this strict sense, is the art of living in towns.” Living and working in groups – in towns, cities, and organizations – led us to move toward a civilized society.  But civilization is not guaranteed. How we live and work together is a key to productivity, learning, growth, and happiness.  Civility is – unfortunately – in short supply in much of our national …

Relevance

Nina Simon, the Executive Director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, gave a powerful TrustLive talk at the recent Houston PastForward conference on place and relevance.  She defines relevance as a key that unlocks meaning, opening doors to experiences that matter to us, surprise us, and bring value into our lives. In her book The Art of Relevance, Nina applies two criteria to all the stories she tells about relevance.  First, how likely new information is to stimulate a positive cognitive effect – to yield new conclusions that matter to you.  Second, how much effort is required to obtain and absorb that new information.  The lower the effort, the higher the relevance.  As those of us who heard her speak know, she frames this work in terms of doors and keys that help different groups access rooms of information.  To understand individuals different from us, we have to go outside our rooms and look – with empathy – at the views of the community outside the door.  We have to learn from …