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Thursday, December 30, 2004

The End of the Year As We Know It

And I feel fine?

I guess I don't, mostly because of the tragedy in the Indian Ocean nations. It makes it hard to look back at the "top albums" or "best movies" or "worst dressed celebrity" of 2004 when you realize - with the help of hourly footage from news crews - just how ridiculous most of our temporal existence actually is.

I haven't blogged much recently. New job and all. Busy time of year. Not much of value to say.

I have had the time to slow down a little. Cami and I have watched a bunch of movies that were on our "we should see that when it comes out on DVD" or "that's a Marvel Comic movie adaptation and to comply with an oath I made as a 15 year old comic book fan, I must own it" lists.

Christmas was low-key, for the most part. Midnight Mass was beautiful and helped me center myself on the Holiday. I was reminded that last year, at the exact same time, I was sitting in a corner of the side aisles of St. Lawrence church, weeping throughout the entire Mass. This year, though there was still sadness because of my grandmother's physical condition, there was more peace because my grandfather and mother were in a much improved living condition which has brought more stability and calmness to the holiday.

The choir sounded beautiful, singing for a half-hour before the Mass and throughout the service in a way that transcended the individuals involved. Cami says it is the choir's own band of guardian angels that actually do the singing that those of us in the church hear. It is the only explanation for how such a relatively small group can sound so full.

Overall it has been a good few weeks, though I’m still a bit overwhelmed at St. Joan. I don’t like not being able to adequately analyze a situation, and I still can’t do that with much of the finances. I have 12 bank accounts that I am responsible for, but have no ability to access the information I need from them. I have spent, literally, 6 to 8 hours physically sitting in the bank trying to get accounts set up in a way that I can access and evaluate them, and I’m not a whole lot closer today than I was three weeks ago. There are seven of the twelve accounts that I don’t even know the balances for!

I hope next week, with the bankers actually working a regular shift, I can finally get some of this sorted out.

Probably the last for the year…

Happy New Year, dear readers.

Friday, December 10, 2004

So long, farewell...My coworkers say "goodbye" Posted by Hello

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

In Favor of Stem Cell Research

As long as it doesn't destroy legitimat human life. Period.

This article in the Chicago Tribune (reprinted here in case you don't have a Trib subscription) hits on an incredible point: adult and other non-destructive stem cell research is providing major discoveries, but if you don't support the destruction of human life in the pursuit of stem cell research, you are some sort of short-thinking, religious nut.

Count me in with that group.

The idea of destroying human beings - with the full DNA and ability to become your un-born child's husband or wife, or the doctor or nurse who treats you as you suffer from Alzheimers in some lonely nursing home some day - in order to do research is almost as appalling as the apparent need of some in our society to impose legalized genocide on the unborn.

But, the media - and agents of the culture of death - are showing their true colors when the make the destruction of human life glorious while ignoring the area of the stem cell science where strides are actually being made.

A biased media and stem-cell therapy

Dennis Byrne. Dennis Byrne is a Chicago-area writer and consultant
Published December 6, 2004

The promise of stem-cell therapy is no fairy tale. The idea that stem cells could help someone like paralyzed actor Christopher Reeve walk again is no pipe dream.

On Thanksgiving Day, a South Korean woman, Hwang Mi-Soon, paralyzed for 20 years after a spinal-cord injury, rose from her wheelchair and, tearfully and with the help of a walker, took a few steps. Thanks to stem-cell therapy.

The doctors were cautious: Their work needs to be peer-reviewed and replicated. Still, the world has been waiting for this news. Stem-cell therapy has become the most hyped scientific advance since cold fusion. Californians voted to spend at least $3 billion of their money on it. Some politicians want to likewise spend our money. Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards said if Sen. John Kerry were elected president, "people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk, get up out of that wheelchair and walk again."

So then why didn't Hwang make the front page of every American newspaper? Has nearly every American editor suddenly turned stupid?

Not likely. More likely it's because the stem cells used in Hwang's therapy were from umbilical cord blood instead of embryos. Why should that make a difference? Because if you favor embryonic stem cells, you are a smart, loving person. But if you favor cord cells, you are a Luddite. If you want to avoid the ethical, moral or religious difficulties posed by killing embryonic human life or by creating it solely for the purpose of prospecting, you are a cruel person who would let people suffer and die from horrible, painful diseases or injuries. Same goes for advocates of "adult" stem cells extracted harmlessly and without any ethical problems from living tissues of adults and children. In short: Good guys equal embryonic stem cells; bad guys equal adult and cord stem cells.

Unfortunately for Bush-haters, conservative bashers and others who have canonized embryonic stem-cell therapy, Hwang's miracle was pulled off with cord therapy--news that a biased media would prefer to ignore. I find it hard to believe that media bias explains such a news brownout, but what else could? Media ignorance on a stunningly massive scale about the significance of Hwang's cure? Or near-universal journalistic skepticism about the validity of the claims?

In fact, adult and cord stem cells hold as much, if not more, promise as the embryonic types. For years, it has been used to treat leukemia. The good news about adult and cord stem cell advances flows so steadily, it's hard to imagine how a journalist with any news judgment could ignore it.

Just last week, right under our nose, researchers at a Chicago meeting of the Radiological Society of North America disclosed that adult neural (nerve) stem cells injected in mice can repair brain cells damaged by a disease similar to multiple sclerosis. One of the Italian researchers, who used magnetic resonance imaging to watch the cells migrate to the damaged brain area, said such therapies "are a promising future alternative in the treatment of previously untreatable central nervous system disorders, multiple sclerosis included." Because MS afflicts about 400,000 Americans, you'd think that the news would deserve at least a mention. It's at least as important as the more widely reported news that Swiss voters had approved stem-cell research.

Meanwhile, recent major studies demonstrate that umbilical cord blood could save thousands of adults who have leukemia. Previously, cord blood had been considered suitable only for children because of a relatively small number of stem cells in each marrow donation. But two studies published in the Nov. 24 New England Journal of Medicine suggest that isn't a serious problem.

True, adult stem cells don't always live up to their promise, and that's reliably reported. University of Chicago researchers recently said bone marrow stem cells failed to regenerate damaged heart tissue in laboratory animals, thus, said a headline writer, "dashing" hopes of using "adult stem cells" to rebuild human hearts. Well, not quite true. Researchers still are looking into the use of a putative adult cardiac stem cell for the same purpose.

Companies that preserve cord stem cells for future use already have captured the eye of Wall Street. One company, CBR, asserts that cord blood has been used in lifesaving treatments since 1988 and has the potential for treating scores of diseases, including Alzheimer's and diabetes.

Just thought you'd like to know.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Icy Wet Rat

Anagrams for Eric Wyatt

Witty acre
City water
Icy wet art
Icy wet rat

Anagrams for Eric Sheridan Wyatt

Hereditary wins act
Synthetic wader air
Scrawny Tithe aired
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Charity Rated Wines
Water Chair Destiny
Synthetic war ad ire
Treachery twins aid
Treachery twin said
Syndicate writer ah
Syndicate whit rare
Syndicate wire hart
The sincerity award
Water had sincerity
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The raw sincerity ad
Weird ash certainty
His certainty wader
Wide rash certainty
Intercity washer ad
Intercity wash dare
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Hears rant citywide
Share citywide rant
Citywide hart snare
Errant citywide ash

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Changes Come...

...turn my world around.

Below is the text of the email I sent my employees on Wednesday of last week, announcing my departure from my "home" of the last six years. I figured I'd post it here as well.

I'm excited, and a little nervous. I guess both come with the territory.

My Trustee friends and family,

Starting December 13, I will be assuming the role of Business Manager for St. Joan of Arc Church in Kokomo Indiana. It is a church of 1500 families, and over 80 current, active ministries. The parish moved last year from a church building they had outgrown in Kokomo into the former headquarters building of Conseco Insurance (I know it sounds odd, but actually I was very impressed with how they have made it “feel” like church).

The administrative office space, middle-school, banquet/reception space, lots of ministry space, and sanctuary are all currently housed in this huge building (I'm estimating at least 30,000 sq feet) sitting on 20 acres of land or so. They are planning two more phases of the move-in, including building a family-life center and a new church sanctuary in the upcoming years.

My initial duties will include preparing, overseeing, administering, and reporting on all budget/record keeping/banking/financial matters, personnel and payroll functions, oversight of grounds and facilities maintenance/safety/security, meetings-upon-meetings, recruiting and training of paid and non-paid personnel, and more! There are between 15 and 20 full- and part- time employees that I will oversee, in at least three "departments". As time goes on, I will have more pastoral/ministerial duties added into my job description.

The position includes a decent raise to start, and is on a track to become a pastoral associate which will almost double my current salary (while expanding my responsibility!. On top of that, I will have resources available for continuing education so that I will hopefully add a Bachelor's in Theology and a Masters in either Theology or Business Administration (maybe both?) to my resume in the coming years. One of my "goals" for the first six months is to attend a conference or two on Parish Business administration in Florida...gee....I don't know if I'll like going to Florida in the middle of winter...

So, to start, I will be commuting to the South end of Kokomo from Muncie(between 55 and 70 minutes each way), with the hope of putting our house on the market in January. Cami will still be teaching at St. Mary in Muncie, and we have commitments at our current church that will keep us "in both worlds" through the Easter season. After we have a buyer for our house (anyone?) we'll probably move somewhere between Kokomo and Muncie, cutting the commute down to 30 minutes or less each way so that Cami has several employment options: she can teach in Muncie still, teach at Ivy Tech in Muncie, Anderson, or Kokomo, teach at the new Catholic High School in Noblesville, teach at Indiana Wesleyan in Marion, etc. etc.

It is a bit bittersweet...I'm excited to have additional opportunities and experiences, nervous about working with a new group of people, sad to leave a parish and house and neighborhood that we really enjoy, etc. I've been blessed with a great job, that maybe doesn't pay great and is constantly a source of headaches (irate clients, commissioner appeals, news media, government budgets), but has given me invaluable experience. I’m sad to leave a group of employees who have grown and improved over the last 6 years, sometimes at my prodding, sometimes in spite of my own inabilities. I’m so incredibly proud of the staff of this office. I’m honored to have been a part of the dramatic changes over the last 6 years, and I know that our community is better served today than when I walked through the door into this experience.

Dick has been such a good boss; always encouraging me, listening to me, and helping me grow. I’ve been blessed to work with a fine management staff, including Kristen, Christina, and now Amy who have all worked tirelessly to make me look good. And, to top it off, I have - at my disposal – the finest front-line caseworkers of any social service agency in the state of Indiana and perhaps the entire country. ”If everything is so rosy, why leave?”

It wasn’t an easy decision.

As I prayed in the Church Sunday night, I was very unsure about my decision. I had made a pros and cons list, and that list was 2-to-1 cons, but most of the cons were "comfort-level" related (the status quo is a stubborn hurdle to jump), and the pros were "big picture pros" as Cami called them. I had experienced building anxiety throughout the weekend, and as I knelt to pray in silence for an hour, my mind was racing, my heart pounding, my anxiety growing. And I felt the Spirit say: "Be still and know that I AM God". Right then, the anxiety melted away, and I was able to kneel in silence before the Lord and just be still. When I was still, and had stilled my mind, the question surfaced: "In which of these two jobs will you have the opportunity to grow the most?"

My answer then became obvious: I could stay where I'm at and accomplish things – good things even - but not really grow much beyond what I have grown, or I could step out in faith into new opportunities, experiences, and ministries. As I have said to you all many times, the status quo isn’t good enough; not for me, or any of us. It was time I practiced what I preach.

Cami left my side and went to sing in the choir as I was praying, and after Evening Prayers and Benediction she practiced a song with the choir director. When we were finally in the car, on the way home, she said to me: "Obviously, you got your answer." I asked her how she knew that. "Because, you were sitting there nodding your head like someone was talking to you."

Indeed, He was.

Thank you all for sharing these last few years with me. I have learned so much, through both the good times and the not-so-good things we’ve encountered together. I feel incredibly blessed.