"The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God." -St Irenaeus of Lyon

Archive for October, 2010

Away for the weekend

As much as I try to get things sorted in advance for my travels, I find myself running a bit behind this week.  My first term paper is due next week.  Courses are keeping me very busy.

Be back on Monday!


Crazy Ideas

I really like anthropologists.  They tend to be extremely open-minded and consider non-traditional ideas.  This week, I had the ability to sit in on a really fascinating global development lecture.  Our speakers have been very critical of international organizations.  If the speaker fails to be critical, then the students will certainly be.

After the seminar today, a group of students got talking about how to reform international organizations.  We have the options of reforming from in the organizations or from exterior of the organizations.  All of this discourse has me thinking: If I were going to a WTO (or G20, or IMF, or really any large organization) gathering, what sort of protest sign would I want to carry?  A bunch of students thought that it would be intriguing to create a particular protest section at these gatherings as an alumni event.

So I went to the anthropologist convening one of our courses and suggested that we create a wall of protest signs we would carry at one of these large gatherings here on campus.  I targeted the anthropologist because I knew I would likely have a receptive audience.

Sure enough, I was right.  But I do think asking a professor if we could create a collage of protest signs at the end of the term is one of my more ridiculous serious ideas I have had in a while.

Seriously though, I am loving the open-minded and creative academic culture here.  If we manage to create such a wall by the end of the term, I’ll be sure to post some pictures.

Friday Forum: Creative forms of pizza

This Friday Forum is brought to you by my friend Rae, who has encouraged me to consider a pizza that avoids meat, dairy, fish, wine and olive oil.

Like many people, I enjoy pizza.  However, I also have a general disdain for imitation soy products that approximate meat and dairy products.  This disdain generally means that I shift my eating during fasting periods of the Church away from meat, dairy and their approximate forms.  The net result is that I have to put down pizza eating for the fasting seasons.

Or do I?

Investigations into most forms of pizza dough suggest they meet fasting criteria.  Your mileage may vary, but I typically can find suitable bread products.  Additionally, many of the ready made tomato sauces work quite well in pizza.  I try to buy something with appropriate seasoning or at least add some oregano.  Being single and lacking a food processor, trying to create a tomato puree just seems like more of a hassle than it is worth.

So we have our crust and our sauce.  But what do we do about our toppings?

If I really wanted to go all out with regards to textures, then I would probably use finely diced mushrooms as my main cheese substitute.  My personal experience with mushrooms on pizza is they pair quite nicely with black olives and zucchini.  You could also go for the simple take of “all vegetables, all of the time” relative to your toppings, loading up any vegetables that you think go well with tomatoes.  Here is someone else’s take on an appropriate vegan pizza; I’m generally not a huge fan of either eggplant and artichoke hearts so I would probably steer clear of this one for my own consumption.

As a single person, I also prefer taking a minimalistic approach to cooking pizza.  Your standard oven size is just way too big for me to eat of my own accord.  I find ways to cheat a bit by using toasted bread as my crust and assembling from there.  Effectively, you can make a pizza as easily as you can make an open-faced vegetable sandwich.  My strategy would be to saute the mushrooms and the olives together while steaming the zucchini adding aspects of Italian seasoning.  At other times of the year, I make my pizzas-for-one in the same style as a grilled cheese sandwich.  All I do is add tomato sauce and use shredded mozzarella.

Taking Care of Business

For the last several months, I have been organizing my blog around culture, education, engineering and theology.  The themes give me a wide space to play in, but I have been learning so much about culture.  I think it is time to expand my official category list to include development.  Development as I will be using it depends on leveraging various resources to create positive change in communities.  In many ways, development focuses on poverty reduction and alleviation.

When thinking about poverty, we have some common ideas about where poverty comes from and what we can do to reduce its effects.  Arguably, poverty looks different when you have rampant unemployment.  When people want to work but cannot find work, we have a huge problem.  This problem can manifest itself culturally, but more often we recognize unemployment as an economic issue.  Additionally, unemployment leads to rises in poverty.

The question then becomes “What is the ideal state for a nation’s economy?”  Certainly, we would find ourselves in a bit of a bind if absolutely everyone was employed at all times because industries could not expand very easily.  Yet, equally we find ourselves in a straight-jacket when people who want to work cannot find work.  Roughly speaking, we can divide the economy into two sectors that employ people: the private sector and the public sector.  When a country faces high unemployment because the private sector shrinks for any myriad of reasons, the unemployed have two options.

One option involves becoming a job creator.  Essentially, people can leverage their creative talents to try to create opportunities for themselves.  A small group of people can get together to pool resources, finding a small business.  These ventures require a substantial portion of risk.  In some economies, particularly in countries where the average age of the population is very young and the private sector is comparatively small, becoming a job creator is a fairly reasonable path.  A young entrepreneur can fill a void in her or his community.

Another option involves expanding the public sector.  The government coordinates this expansion with the fairly expressed goal of leveraging the human capital of its population towards national development goals.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt enacted policies to do just that when he enacted the New Deal, putting millions of people back to work.  Our state parks generally came from these efforts.  While many assign World War II the agent of economic turn-around, the observation about working towards national development goals still holds firm.  In the case of WWII, our national development goals concerned national security.  Personally, I would not say that the government-led expansion of the public sector has to involve choice jobs that appeal to everyone.  Yet, I do think focusing on jobs that put the unemployed into work at a reasonable wage makes a fair deal of sense.  Expanding in some public sectors, like education and the military, could create shifting national development goals.

Work plays a pivotal role in a person’s ability to function.  Without work, many of us find ourselves without any means of supporting ourselves.  Even the simple human act of eating becomes a question.  Depending on where we live, we do not generally have the option of putting ourselves to work through farming to solve the dilemma of putting food on our table.

I am struck by the connection between work and human flourishing.  One could say that we have been designed to work.  We have a deposit of gifts that allows us to participate meaningfully in the world around us while eating the fruits of our labor.  Our work adds value overall to our society, and not simply in the economic sense.  We become co-creators with our fellow human beings.  Who knows what we are capable of?

Manifesting God’s Love

The activity and clear proof of perfect love toward God is a genuine disposition of voluntary goodwill toward one’s neighbor.

– Saint Maximus the Confessor

Input, input!

I have been doing double time trying to keep up on my news feed.  Sometimes, being a graduate student feels a bit like this:

There are so many things to read, so little time.  Approaching reading with selectivity is hard!  I focus principally on keeping up with current events.  Yet the world changes constantly.  Many of the changes are major.  You can never really know what will be important to observe at any given time.

So, I’m reading, reading, and reading.  Even though it can get a little overwhelming, I am absolutely fascinated by what I am reading.  Different people raise different questions.  I see connections between ideas.  I live in a scholarly community where people have very diverse backgrounds.  It’s really fascinating.

But I can really relate to Johnny going on his input frenzy.

Concept of the day: Organizational hypocrisy

Political scientists have interesting lenses on the world, but today I learned about the idea of organizational hypocrisy.  I found it to be an intriguing concept to share with a broader audience.

“Organizational hypocrisy” carries a broad definition that the discourse, decisions, and actions of an organization may operate seemingly independent of one another.  In other words, talk does not necessitate action.  Particularly in institutions one may observe that vision statements differ significantly from reality on the ground.  Investigations and promises of institutional change occur over long time horizons and may placate persons who desire immediate change.

I think the presence of organizational hypocrisy is essential given how reforms can come in various high-pitched waves.  Many organizations work slowly to incorporate the latest fad.  Like any innovation decision, commitment comes through testing the various ideas.  If you can commit to a program in a piecemeal fashion over time, then it is much easier to envision moving more fully towards that program.

Change invites chaos.  The more an institution deals with people, the more sense it makes to try to mitigate chaos associated with change.  For instance, imagine living in a school district that adopted every educational fad suggested by a parent immediately.  The decision process simply wouldn’t work.  Sometimes people suggest things to organizations where the best response is politely diplomatic, “Thank you very much for your suggestion; we will consider the matter [relative to the stack of literature that suggests your suggestion would be remarkably bad for our context.]”