Things I learned in CPR/first aid certification

#1. 100 chest compressions/minute is an amazing aerobic workout. Don't forget to breathe.
#2. There's actually a specific depth of compression: 1.5" for infants, 2" for everyone else.
#3. Chest compressions for infants involve three fingers and are incredibly painful to do.
#4. You are supposed to pound a choking victim's back (between the shoulder blades) in addition to Heimlich.
#5. AED training is now part of basic first aid.
#6. As a first responder, I'm exempt from legal consequences as long as I get patient consent and don't bill them afterwards.
#7. The classic set of heart attack symptoms (in particular, chest pains) are sexist: cardiac arrest expresses differently for women.
#8. If there are bystanders, one useful thing they can do is clear the way for the EMTs.
#9. It's possible to have pepper allergies. (And it sucks to have them and be Romanian.)
#10. Swelling in the legs is a sign of hyperthermia.

It feels really, really good to be Red Cross certified again. Even if it does involve a $25 fee for getting caught in the wrong parking lot.


The Bibles of my life

A day or two ago, the Anarchist Reverend responded to a question:
You’ve lived some radical changes between your fundamentalist upbringing and now. Out of pure curiosity, what have the Bibles of your life been, and (how) have they related to those bigger changes?
You can read his response over there. For the sake of disclosure, and because it's something I've thought and derped about but never blogged about, I'm sharing my life in Bibles here.


Christmas Eve, 2011

Several Decembers ago, a moment passed out behind the wheel taught me to keep myself alert and my radio on whenever I go on long drives, especially after dark. Usually it's tuned to a mediocre rock station, or a grainy classical frequency - but there inevitably comes a moment When that moment comes, I flip to something totally unlike what I'd normally listen to: a Christian station.

It's a habit that I really ought to break, because my motive for listening isn't because I love it, or even like it: I listen to them for the hatred. Sooner or later, there will come a moment when the music will let up, and the spoken words will begin, and that's the cue for the eight-minute countdown before the station reminds me of everything that is wrong with American Christendom.

There comes a report on "the issue of homosexuality." There comes a plug for Focus on the Family, or a unilateral condemnation of working mothers at a time when my mother was running the house because her husband was dying. There comes the break from the Oberammergau Passion Play to pray against the ACA and for the deliverance of Holy Mother Church from the oppression of the Pill. (I shit you not.) During the Holy Week, there comes... actually nothing at all, and that was the most infuriating part: an uninterrupted block of evangelical pop songs, with nothing even acknowledging that it's 3:00 in the afternoon on fucking Good Friday. ("Positive. Affirmative." Some other Christian buzzwords - at the one hour, of the one day, when Christians and Trent Reznor can join together in one voice to say that God is dead.)

It's not something I do outside of Connecticut-to-Massachusetts driving, for the very simple reason that there's usually other stations once I get off the corridor from Waterbury to Springfield. But last Christmas Eve, I discovered that a few exits into Pennsylvania the devil's music came to an end. And as I pounded through the stations with my good hand, my attention divided between the backlit numbers on the display and the harrowing road conditions of Wilkes-Barre, my worst fears were confirmed:

It was Christian stations all the way down. And with no way to resist it, I settled on the least noisy stations and settled down for a nice winter's Two Minutes Hate.


This week in Andalusada blogging: 8/25/2012

For the last two weeks I'd sadly neglected The Andalusada Scrapbook. I stood convicted, enough so that this week I resolved to do better. The question is... what was there to write about?
  • Well, first things first there was beer. I'm still writing about it, still cleaning it up, but it was so long in coming that it needed to be posted before I forgot about it.
  • The next thing to go up was a glossary of the Scottish New World. It's something that R. and I had been derping about extensively, on and off, for the last week or so; and while this isn't exactly a blog post the way the others are, it was an infodump that merited posting. Not least because it introduced things like Scotland-Norway.
  • One of the things that's bugged me about the history of Scotland-Norway was the tangle of religious politics that resulted from trying a Catholic-*Protestant dynastic union. Last week, in a Barnes & Noble book I'd never read before (and haven't read since, because I'm not gonna pay for it), I discovered that the medieval Scottish church was awesomely corrupt. The same night I posted my Scottish New World glossary, the dots connected, and I gushed my thoughts to Engel about this. They were posted on Wednesday, as "The rise and fall of the Ryal Kirk."
  • Up to this point, most of the nations I've posted on ABC have been ones that don't exist IRL, and so need some introducing. What I haven't done much is write about the pasts of nations, especially the Great Powers. So on Thursday, for want of better thoughts to write, I introduced the first writeup of a nation in an era: the ubiquitous, regularly-mentioned Dystopian Catholic France. Watch your tongue.


Moments: an overview

So yesterday I started writing about that "constellation of moments":
[I]n my mainline experience, no, I’ve never been Born Again™ because I’ve never had any single moment that was like that.
What I have had is a year-long constellation of moments. From memory I can identify all of them, date most of them, and time one of them to within a few minutes. No single point was decisive (not even the timed one, which involved a decision) – but the gestalt is. It hasn’t ended yet (I was saved; I am being saved; too soon to go on), but I can definitely single out a moment before which it hadn’t begun.
And today I'm going to do so.


A year-long constellation of moments

This was me, on The Anarchist Reverend:
[I]n my mainline experience, no, I’ve never been Born Again™ because I’ve never had any single moment that was like that.
What I have had is a year-long constellation of moments. From memory I can identify all of them, date most of them, and time one of them to within a few minutes. No single point was decisive (not even the timed one, which involved a decision) – but the gestalt is. It hasn’t ended yet (I was saved; I am being saved; too soon to go on), but I can definitely single out a moment before which it hadn’t begun.
Thinking about it now, it's sort of astonishing that the moments of this constellation haven't been written about already. I may just do so.

Starting tomorrow, that is, because I'm getting kicked from the library tonight.


In which I am Cassandra

This was me, on August 9, 2012, on Slacktivist:
That's one of the big glaring things I'm not getting about Tony Jones's challenge: what exactly is it accomplishing? The problem with God-talk isn't that we don't do it, it's that it's easily and often dismissed as not Christian enough. Defining the parameters the way he does, it feels like his Storify stream is gonna wind up VALIDATING any future claims that "liberals are weak Christians and suck at God-talk." Because as much as I wish I was, I'm no mystic, neither apophatic or cataphatic. Without that kind of experience, I need to refer to Jesus and Scripture to say much that's substantive. And even if I did have mystical experience, without reference to the Word, in print or incarnate, it still wouldn't make the cut as being Christian enough.
(For the record, I'm gonna answer the challenge anyways.)
Today, Googling, I discovered that not even a week later it's already starting to happen. And to add insult to injury, the first comment was eaten by the Internet and didn't post.

I fucking hate being right.


A Bible As It Might Be

GAS is the clinical term for a psychological issue first recognized in the guitarist community. It's an acronym for "Gear Acquisition Syndrome." I got it early on in life, and I've had it ever since.

It comes in a few forms. One of them - most prevalent with books, for me - is completism. Series of books are self-reinforcing, cookbooks especially. There are two series of cookbooks that I will buy less because I'm interested (or able) to make any of their recipes than for the simple satisfaction of a rainbow row of books lined up together, all the same size and series. The other - especially with guitar paraphernalia - is utopianism: drawing up the exact utopian specifications for every last detail, in ways that would honor Fourier himself. This year, my GAS has been for Bibles.

Starting in January, when I first found religion, it was driven by dissatisfaction with the one that I had, which (as I've testified before) I had no idea how to read or even approach. Starting in the late spring, it was linked to the discovery of new favorite authors and new versions. As of the last month, it's been enabled and furthered by the GAS-inducing Bible Design and Binding Blog, which finally confirmed what I'd realized without knowing: that the Bibles I like are both marginal and poorly-supported. (The marginality and support are directly tied into the Discourse of Decline, and while it's going to take a lot of research to get the details it will be touched upon.)

I'd tried outlining point-by-point things about my dream Bible before. I fell asleep last night on  another specific list from Christian Matters of Taste. And in the morning, I awoke to the ever brilliant Slacktivist's article, "When 'evangelism' intends to alienate and exclude," which just about brings me to the matter at hand.

Fred started with an Orwell-grade lead: "The Truth For Youth culture-war Bible we discussed yesterday is destined to be poorly received. I think that's by design." Invisible Neutrino followed up:
One attraction I could see is that for teenagers questioning their place in the universe - what their purpose is - one possible answer is given in the Bible and its associated faith. But it has to be a process of self-discovery. You can't just patly supply the answer and expect someone to uncritically accept it; that's not the bedrock of a proper foundation of a faith-based existence.
It's linked because I'm still responding to it, and will write more on that in the future. But the first words out of my mouth on reading that were "I've been mulling over something like that myself..."
Evangelicals have tons of teen Bibles, with very specific culture-war topical notes and horrid garish finishes that instantly doom them to a fate no Bible should ever have: being outgrown. (I can't speak for the mainline, but I was given more or less a bonded-leather pew Bible; I have sentimental bonds to it but it's been totally unapproachable my whole life.)
Teenagers are questioning and establishing their place in the cosmos, and the Bibles they're given either give them pat answers or walls of text that are clearly meant to be filled in by an outside source (which teens are challenging.) From a product-side view (inspired by lurking on the Better Bibles Blog), somebody needs to design a Bible that lends itself to being both critically engaged and kept.
I'd mulled over specifics in the past, but right there was a half-sentence embodiment of what my dream Bible is meant to be. And now I'm going to spell out why it would look like itself - and what that self would look like.


This week in Andalusada blogging: 8/18/2012

I confess before you, almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have neglected the Andalusada blog, in thought and in deed, in what I have done and what I have failed to do; and I ask you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God. Or words to that effect.

In my last post, I was excited about a few things that I was gonna post. I managed all of two of them:
  • The first of them was the one that I had the least excuse for: the Meammosiran Cossack Host. It was, like everything else, late. (Tony Jones provided an excuse, but the fault is mine.) Truth be told, it's still being expanded upon.
  • The second of them was, as promised, the Grand Principality of Brazil. Also a work in progress.
There was some updating going on as well:
  • Most of my nations have a "INSERT NATIONAL NAME HERE Today" section where they should go. At present, it includes an entry or so about the nation's languages, government structure, and national economy. This week, after the G.P. of Brazil was written up, I added in a fourth section, on foreign relations. Expect that to be added to everything by next week.
There is also, it should be noted, something relevant I discovered: a limited-edition Samuel Adams beer that may, in fact, be relevant to the long-promised, long-awaited discussion of New World beer styles.

That is all, alas.


This is my story

The single most visited page in the history of this blog was "Testifying." My list of 15 reasons why I spent ten years out of the church, written in response to Rachel Held Evans's post of the same name. (I've retroactively tagged it "responsive writing," because it totally was that before the tag existed for it to be.)

Rachel also wrote a follow-up piece to it, "15 Reasons I Returned to Church." It doesn't have nearly as many responses, and while I may yet itemize a 15-point list of my own, this isn't going to be that list. It's tangentially related, though, because once again I'm writing a confession of faith.

No rest for the non-rightist Christian, I guess. Last week it was Tony Jones. This week it's the Anarchist Reverend:
But in our attempt to not be the screaming of the religious right we’ve become a kind of watered down left filled with platitudes and vague warm feelings. That doesn’t cut it for me anymore. And I have a feeling that it doesn’t cut it for a lot of other people either.

I want to know why you’re in this faith. I want to know why you remain a Christian? Why does it matter?
It was a good question, and although I didn't answer before the 24-hour deadline was up, it got me thinking.


Attempting "something substantive about God"

Back on Tuesday, Tony Jones wrote "A Challenge to Liberal Bloggers to Write One Post About God":
I challenge all progressive theo-bloggers to write one post about God between now and August 15.
I mean, all of you: Fred, Scot, Rachel, MPT, John Shore, everyone at the Patheos Progressive Portal, and all of you I haven’t mentioned or even ever read. Write something substantive about God. Not about Jesus, not about the Bible, but about God.
Now that I'm done, as Tony Jones would put it, "clearing my throat," I'm gonna (pardon the metaphor) spit it out.
God is sacred, and near at hand and difficult to grasp, and love in an eldritch non-Euclidean way, and kinda self-explanatory but not so much, and above my pay grade.
So there you go: a substantive sentence. And having said that, let's unpack this thing.


"Something substantive about God": clearing my throat

Back on Tuesday, Tony Jones wrote "A Challenge to Liberal Bloggers to Write One Post About God":
I challenge all progressive theo-bloggers to write one post about God between now and August 15.
I mean, all of you: Fred, Scot, Rachel, MPT, John Shore, everyone at the Patheos Progressive Portal, and all of you I haven’t mentioned or even ever read. Write something substantive about God. Not about Jesus, not about the Bible, but about God.
This is not going to be that post. In fact, it's gonna be everything but that post, so I can save time writing it.


Critical, apocalyptic optimism

Kathy Escobar is back from a month-long vacation. I didn't usually get around to responding much before she left, but after a month of silence, I'm not gonna lie: I was waiting for her.

What is the Discourse of Decline?

Growing up, the narrative I heard (pretty much from Bruce Bawer onward, at least) was about the worrying rise of "fundamentalism." The word eventually changed to "evangelicalism," but there was still that sense of being overwhelmed; the awareness that we were struggling even as the local megachurch exploded, eventually drawing my sister (and thus my mother) until it burned them both out.

What I've read, what I've heard, the Christians I've spoken to, the non-Christians I've spoken to - all of them share an overarching narrative about the history and fate of American Protestantism. That narrative runs something like this:
  • The mainline churches are the hegemonic ones in America. I use "hegemonic" both in the conventional sense of "dominant" and the Gramscian sense of "normative, such that outsiders are forced to define themselves relative to it."
  • The mainline churches have lost the Mandate of Heaven. They no longer take the faith seriously, and have increasingly accomodated to the secular world.
  • The Mandate of Heaven is passing to the evangelicals. Evangelicals, who do take the faith seriously and present it in an unadulterated form, are growing like gangbusters picking up those who leave (or are left behind by) increasingly irrelevant mainline Protestantism.
The only problem with the narrative is that it's not true.


This week in Andalusada blogging: 8/4/2012

The Andalusada Scrapbook has had, as of when I started writing, 1666 hits; it's rapidly closing on this blog itself, several years its senior. (Lesson from there: post more regularly.)

So let's start with what's new:
  • "The only new stub that I have to announce," I said last week, "is about Mahdism... It's going to be up first, because it's relevant to a lot of things later on down the line." For the first time in the history of announcing upcoming stubs, I was right. The first post of the day, on July 30th.
  • I really love posting nations, especially New World nations. Also on the 30th, I introduced Axamalia, or Axamalla, or whatever the hell it's called. Hispano-Baltic Texas.
  • Hispano-Baltic Texas (hereafter HBT) didn't just form itself. First, it had to break away from Mexico - one of the giant, space-filling empires that I've acknowledged but never actually written anything about before. So on the last day of July, I posted the G.P. of Mexico.
  • On the next day, 8/1/2012, the first of August, I introduced what (thematically) should have been posted on April 5th: the state that almost the entirety of Andalusada was building up to. I posted the Umayyad Caliphate of New Andalusia. It's the stubbiest of my national posts by far, for the simple reason that it's such a big topic, and I didn't manage to get anything else done that day because I was so busy searching through the blog and linking it to every post that mentioned it already.
  • After some really big-stroke posts like that, I started to write another fluffy one. At that point, though, I stopped - and, seeing how I'd already blogged the Great Realignment and several of the nations that came out of it this week, went on to write one of the few wars whose details I was really certain about: the Mexican Liturgical War.
And on the sixth day, today, I'm not posting anything; I'm just going to go back through the last week or so, clean things up and expand on them.


Why the fundamentalists win

Last month, Ross "Don't" Douthat took the opportunity to concern-troll the mainline after some fallout with the Episcopalian General Conference. A bunch of bloggers I follow wrote in response, and reading them was a humbling experience; they're all smarter folks than I, and what did I have to say? Nothing, that's what. Because I was in Niantic at the time, gorging myself on books on spiritual formation at $3 apiece. I didn't even discover the kerfluffle until a week later.

I was really meaning to write something about it. Anarchist Reverend's post "Progressive vs. Liberal" got me wanting to write something about it (or at least about related topics.) But then, yesterday, Slacktivist brought it up again: "Progressive religious voices not irrelevant, just ignored."

This is particularly big for me because, as I've written before, I have some issues with tribalism in my past, and I've read enough Nietzsche to be leery of ressentiment. I don't want this to turn into an excuse to curse the right and mourn the mainline.

I want to contribute to this discussion. I want to think substantial thoughts, and say substantial words. I'm tired of being a commenter. I want to write.


Instead of a regular sonnet, 7/31/2012

I really do adore the way you write.

Your style is *graceful* - short and poised and true.
And so I bought a card the other night
And, having bought it, tried with all my might
To write a card as gracefully as you,
To imitate your voice, to forge your hand.

I botched a dozen drafts in ballpoint blue
And butchered several more before I knew
That all the words whose power I command
Had simply proved inadequate for this,
Could *not* achieve that grace that I demand.
No words sufficed.

Beloved, understand
That in the end I gave the card a kiss,
Addressed it to the woman that I love,
And mailed it to the woman that I miss.