Life: February 2008 Archives

New Template

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I'm going to be experimenting for a little bit on the look of this blog. The new installation of Movable Type has been giving me all sorts of problems with comment submission, archives, and failures in spam prevention, because the changes Wink made to the templates when he did the last big site redesign weren't all compatible with the new features of this version of the MT software. I was hoping we could just make some changes in the templates he designed, but that doesn't look possible without more work than he can do on a level of detail beyond my understanding, so I'm just starting new, and if he gets some time he can implement some of those changes again with the new templates. I'll try to do what I can myself, but I'm sure there are limits to that.

It might be a while before the sidebar and features are all set up the way I want them, so if you're looking for something I once had in the sidebar or header, please be patient. I'll try to get the most important stuff done as quickly as I can, but the spam issue is the most important priority, and I want to get the new spam protection features working first. I've also got real life responsibilities, including some meetings at school for the boys this morning and an application to get out this afternoon, so I might not even get to some of the more important stuff until this evening.

Larry Norman has died. Some called him the grandfather of Christian rock music. He helped develop it before it got all commercialized and processed, and many of the earliest Christian rock musicians (Phil Keaggy, Randy Stonehill, Keith Green, The Second Chapter of Acts) were at least at some time all within his circle. His music was often cheesy but in a fun way, and it clearly challenged the status quo in evangelicalism in many good ways.

It was funny when I walked into my department a number of years ago and heard "Why Don't You Look Into Jesus?" playing very loudly through the hall, expecting that maybe our one evangelical professor had it playing (although he's not the type to play Christian music loudly so the whole department can hear). But it turned out to be a different professor, one who grew up in an evangelical home but is in fact an atheist. He had rediscovered Larry Norman on Napster and downloaded a whole bunch of his albums, and he was playing them loudly to illustrate the excellent music he'd grown up with. He wasn't in the least shy about proclaiming his appreciation for this outspoken evangelical rock musician whose lyrics were quite explicitly evangelistic.

Larry Norman had a hard life in many ways. Despite his significant influence, he never had much commercial success compared with the next generation of Christian rock (e.g. Amy Grant, Petra, Michael W. Smith, White Heart, Steve Taylor). He never became a mainstream artist or even a mainstream CCM artist in many ways, even though most early CCM musicians saw him as an important influence and owed him a great debt for helping get Christian rock going in the first place. He had heart trouble for decades, and to top it all off he had serious relational difficulties with several people close to him, the details of which too often made the rumor rounds in the public domain. His heart problems finally caught up with him on Sunday.

But whatever else is true of Larry Norman, he had a big impact on a lot of people, and I've probably been influenced by him indirectly in ways I don't even know about. I never listened to him much as one of my own favorites, but my brother Joel absolutely loved his stuff, so I have some familiarity with his music, and some of the people I did listen to growing up were directly influenced by him.

Larry was very nice to my brother, and I appreciate that a lot. Joel was in a college band called Mustard Seed that some people thought had all the signs of having a decent chance of becoming a hot new CCM act, just as Jars of Clay had done a few years earlier from the same school. (I won't comment on how Jars of Clay treated Mustard Seed when they had a chance to meet them, however.) My brother had put together a bootleg called We Wish You A Larry Christmas. Many people would have been upset, but Larry thought it was great, and he adopted the bootleg and began to produce it officially himself.

When my brother died in 1997, Larry did a free concert at his college as a tribute and performed one of my brother's own songs (Friendship's End) on a tribute CD some of Joel's college friends made after he died. His version isn't as good as Mustard Seed's, but it was a nice gesture. [I can't sing Larry's praises fully on this score, however. He later put that song on one of his own albums, and I have to think an administrative error took place, because he didn't give Joel any credit for it. Given how he'd previously treated him, this couldn't have been a deliberate attempt to take credit for my brother's work, even if it was disappointing to find out about.]

I've already seen several good tributes to Larry's life by people who know and appreciate a lot more about Larry's music than I can do justice to, so I'll refer you to those:

Charles Norman, Larry's brother
Internet Monk
my friend Gnu at Wildebeest's Wardrobe
Mark Joseph (at, of all places, the Huffington Post)
Steve Camp Jeff Smith posts Randy Stonehill's response
Michael Longinow, journalism professor at Biola University (guest-posting at GetReligion)
Chris Willman has a nice retrospective at Entertainment Weekly
Dennis Hevisi, New York Times
Rupert M. Loydell

I may add more as I discover them.

My Most Current Cell Phone

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I received a message today from the college I teach at. In response to the shootings at Northern Illinois, they're implementing a third-party notification system. They give no specifics about this system, but at they end they say this:

This system will be a powerful tool that we will allow us to communicate instantaneously. To maximize effectiveness, however, we will need everyone in the campus community to provide us with their most current cell phone number.

Now keep in mind that this is the institution that pays two-thirds of its adjuncts something like $2175 per course without a Ph.D. and about $500 more to those with one. (They arbitrarily selected some departments to give a raise to at the beginning of this year to equal one-third. Next year they'll pick another few departments to make it two-thirds, and the year after will lead to a raise for the rest.) Keep in mind also that they don't normally allow adjuncts to teach more than two courses per semester (with one in the summer, and those pay based on how many students are enrolled). Remember also that it would be stupid for someone trying to finish a dissertation to try to teach more than that (and I only teach that much to retain half-time work to keep health insurance, which the state, not the college, provides and only to families of at least five at my income level.)

[When the adjuncts at Syracuse University formed a union, the faculty at this college were so embarrassed (because they pay even less) that they passed a resolution urging the president to give immediate raises to their own adjuncts, who get paid about 2/3 as much as the adjuncts at the university. It went nowhere for a year, and then they decided to implement the ridiculous three-stage raise described above, which angered the 2/3 of the adjuncts who were now getting paid less than the people who sit next to them in their office without anyone doing any different work. This attempt to pacify the adjuncts thus led pretty quickly to the very union they were seeking to stave off. Suffice it to say that this is one of clearest cases of white-collar exploitation I've been familiar with.]

So why is it that they're expecting people in this kind of position to have a cell phone? Do they honestly expect people with a family who can't afford to have more than one phone to have that one phone be a cell phone that only one of them can have and that it would happen to be with the one who works for them? I'd much rather have VOIP. It's cheaper, includes the free long-distance, and doesn't bring with it the temptation to leave one's spouse stranded at home with no phone. It also allows multiple physical phones with one connection, so we can charge one while using another or have two people talk at the same time. There are times when I'd like a cell phone with me when I'm out, but it's just not a good idea to expect your employees to have one if these are the working conditions you're going to provide for them. Notice that it doesn't say "everyone who has a cell phone". It says "everyone in the campus community". They really are assuming everyone has a cell phone.

Now I could give them my most current cell phone number. It won't do them much good, though. I'm sure someone else has been using it for over a year. They didn't ask for a current number, though, just the most current one, and I can give them that. I probably shouldn't, though. It wouldn't be nice to whoever has it.

January License Plates

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Another month has passed, and my license plate records for the last month are ready for posting. Here are all the plates I saw during January.

U.S. States: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin

Other U.S.: District of Columbia, U.S. government

Canada: Manitoba, Ontario

From last month I've lost Alabama, Arizona, Kentucky, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Washington, and West Virginia and gained Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, and Utah.

I haven't seen Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, and Wyoming since I started this in October. I've seen all the other U.S. states. I've seen four Canadian provinces (the other two are New Brunswick and Quebec) and two U.S. territories (if D.C. counts).

I thought I saw an interesting plate last night. I even turned around and went back to where it was parked on the road to be sure. It said "Native America". I didn't know there were such plates. The frame surrounding it blocked everything else off. But then I did Google search this morning to see what it was, and it turns out it was just an Oklahoma plate with the state name hidden. I already had Oklahoma. Oh, well.

I did see the Arkansas plate yesterday morning, which was a nice last-minute addition. Usually the ranks fill out in the first week or ten days of the month and then new finds are sparse, but those finds are usually choice.

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