Brock at 40

Ending things here

Anyone on my friends list who is still active here:

Along with a lot of other people I am grossly unhappy with the new TOS for LJ  This account will run out at some point in April 2018, and will not be renewed.

All of the posts have been copied to my account (also "brock_tn,") at  The comments here didn't carry over, but that's small stuff.

See you over there.

reading at home

Wherein I charge headlong out of the broom closet.

As I noted a while back, the City Council here in Huntsville, AL, normally opens its meetings with an invocation, and they got a cease-and-desist letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation asking them reasonably nicely to stop doing that, with the not-too-veiled threat of a lawsuit if the city declined to comply.

This being Alabama, of course, there was never any serious consideration of ending the practice.  However, the City Attorney here actually knows how to do his job, and opined that while the practice up to that point (which had the individual members of the City Council offering Christian invocations in rotation, or occasionally varying that by inviting a favorite Christian minister to say some appropriate words,) was almost certainly not constitutionally defensible, there was a court-approved alternative.

There is no governing Supreme Court ruling on the issue of clergy-led invocations at the opening of local government meetings, but here in the 11th Circuit our Court of Appeals has held that an invocation offered by a member of the clergy selected from a roster of volunteers which represents the full spectrum of religious diversity in the community is not constitutionally objectionable, especially if the selection of which person will give the invocation on any given evening is left to a non-denominational agency that is independent of the city government. 

So the city here turned to the Interfaith Mission Service, which we work with on occasion as Lark and I are about the only Pagans in the area who are secure enough to be out of the broom closet, and who think that putting a public face on what we are is important.  And me, well, I went and volunteered to get on the City Council invocation roster, because, as I pointed out to the person running the roster, if they want to demonstrate they are being inclusive of all religions, having a witch give the invocation would go a long way toward proving their point.

So this afternoon after I left work I went to the gym, took a shower, put on my Minister Suit, and hied myself down to the City Council chamber.  Where I was introduced to the Mayor and Council Members.  Then the meeting was called to order, I read my invocation, we said the Pledge of Allegiance (amended in my case to say " nation, before the Gods, indivisible...") and then slipped out while they were doing the ceremonial reading of resolutions to honor various persons deemed worthy of such a distinction.  No torches or pitchforks were waved, nor were any tar and feathers in evidence.  And I was given to understand that I may well be invited back in several months, as non-Christian clergy willing to stand up and do this periodically would seem to be a bit thin on the ground around here.

And here is the text I used:

"O gentle Goddess and loving God, we pray tonight that You will bless this Council with wisdom and judgment so that they may make sound decisions for the governance of our city.  And further, we pray that You will visit upon these chambers an atmosphere of comity and peace, so that all who are here tonight to make their views known may do so in an air of civility and respect, without needless rancor or hostility.  These things we ask of You as children do of their loving parents, trusting that You will give unto us those gifts that we truly need." 

Brock at 40


OTHER PEOPLE get popular music:  Lady Gaga, or the Everly Brothers, or Springsteen, or the Supremes, or gawd'elpus, the Archies singing "Sugar, Sugar."

What do I get for an earworm?

The Non nobis Domine, from Brahnagh's film of Shakespeare's Henry V.

reading at home

Where DOES the time go?

I see it's been something over a year since I posted an update here.  Sorry about that.

My health is about as good as I could expect, all things considered.  The leukemia is what it is, though as one of my doctors points out, CLL is a disease that you die with, but not usually one that you die from.   In February, Lark and I signed up for a medically-supervised weight-loss program offered by Huntsville Hospital.  I've taken off a bit more than 70 lbs, and am now back to roughly what I weighed when we got married in 1978.  I've been taken off cholesterol-lowering meds entirely, and I've had the dosage of one of my blood-pressure meds reduced by 75%. 

Work continues to be work.  Well, it does when the Congress isn't being more stupid than usual.  But I'm giving some thought to retiring sooner rather than later.  Sooner being likely sometime after May of 2017, as opposed to five years after that, which had been my original plan.

In other minor details, I was initiated 1st Degree in the Gardnerian Tradition last night.  Details available privately to those of you who know me well enough to ask.

Brock at 50

We're at it again!

So we’re doing it again.  Lark and I are on vacation in Europe, including a cruise on the National Geographic  Explorer that begins in Copenhagen and ends in Lisbon.  And because neither of us had ever been to Denmark before, we flew in to Copenhagen a couple of days early, got a hotel room, and went to look at interesting stuff.

So, it turns out that Charles DeGaulle airport in Paris is Europe’s equivalent to O’Hare in Chicago: you have to fly through there all too often, but you never enjoy it.  This visit only reinforced my previous opinion that Terminal 2 was designed by a demented psych major who liked making mazes for rats.  Oh, and Air France managed to break our airplane by whacking the tail assembly with a piece of ground support equipment.  So they made us deplane, sat us in the terminal for 30 minutes, then loaded us into buses and drove us what seemed like half the distance to the Belgian border in order to load us into a spare airplane, after which they finally delivered us to Copenhagen, two hours late.  In the process, they lost one of our bags.  I filed the requisite report with the lost luggage office, and the very efficient Danish clerk informed me that she had located the bag at DeGaulle, there was a flight it might possibly make that evening, but that it would certainly be delivered to our hotel in central Copenhagen within 24 hours.  In fact, we had it in hand by about 11:00PM that evening.

Alright, I know, you’re wanting to know how we celebrated Talk Like A Pirate Day (Sept 19) when we were sitting around in Denmark.  Well, I don’t know about what you, but we got on the train, and went out to Roskilde, to the Viking Ships Museum.   Back in the 1960’s, near the town of Skuldelev, the Danes discovered the remains of five ships that had been sunk to block one of the channels leading into the southern part of Roskilde Fiord at some point in the around the 10th or 11th Century C.E.  So the National Museum excavated the five ships, preserved their timbers, and created a museum around them, that is now devoted to preserving and studying the art of making and sailing clinker-built wooden ships and boats.

This is “The Seastallion form Glendalough,” the VikingSkibsMuseet’s replica of a 60-oared Viking longship that was based on one of the ships recovered in the excavation.  When the Seastallion was completed in 2008, the Danes decided that because the original had been built in Dublin, nothing would do but to put a crew aboard her and sail her to Dublin via Orkney, then come back to Denmark through the English Channel.  And the big building in the background is the VikingSkibsHalle, where the preserved timbers of the original ships are displayed.

Sea Stallion

This is the interior of the VikingSkibsHalle, showing the preserved ancient ships displayed in wrought metal frames that show the original shapes of the hulls.

Hall Interior

And one of the things they allow visitors to do is to go sailing on Roskilde Fiord in a replicated Viking-era boat.  You KNOW we couldn’t go out there and not go sailing on the fiord in a “real” Viking ship.

Here’s a picture of the volunteers from the Museum getting the boat ready.  The boat itself is very similar to Skuldelev 6, the smallest of the ships preserved in the museum.  That boat is thought to have been a fishing vessel crewed by 8-12 men

Making Ready

And here’s a couple of pictures taken out on the fiord.

On the water 1

On the water 2

And that same day we also saw Roskilde Cathedral, where many Danish monarchs have been buried  since Harold Bluetooth.  Including every Danish king and queen since Margarethe I. You can see the spires of the cathedral in the lowermost picture above.  But more on that at another time.

Brock at 40

Cancer Update

Recap - About 16 months ago, I was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia.  As I pointed out at the time, this is hardly a death sentence.  My doctors continue to assure me that I will almost certainly die of something OTHER than my leukemia, many years from now.  And there are some promising developments in developing a definitive treatment for this particular form of leukemia.

So, in June of this year I had my 1-year-post diagnosis consult with my oncologist, at which I learned that it had taken roughly 13 months for my WBC (whitle blood cell count) to double from 24,000 at initial presentation to 51,000 (in June,) which more or less confirms the genetic assay which suggested that I have a slowly-progressing form of the disease.  A CAT scan indicates no current problems with my lymph nodes.  All well and good.

In early August. I went in for a routine check-up with my primary care physician, and he ran the usual sorts of labs (because of my CLL and a family history of diabetes he wants to pull fasting labs every time I come in.)  My WBC came back at 42,000.

This past Friday, I went in for my regular every-four-months checkup with my oncologist.  WBC was 37,000.
I've no idea what's going on with this, but I'm not complaining.  Since WBC is the primary means by which we track progress of CLL, a reduction in WBC is not really a bad thing.

In other news, work continues to be work.  But at least there IS work.

Finally, I will note that we are leaving on vacation tomorrow.  Lark has all the details over at her LJ,  

More later.

Brock at 40

Several incongruous congruities make for a post.

So, we have here in the Huntsville area this odd place that is entirely unlike the rest of Alabama most of the time, mostly 'cos most of the people that live here aren't originally from Alabama.  So we have two synagogues, several mosques and masjids, a Hindu temple, several different Orthodox Christian congregations, two different Buddhist institutions (one Zen, one not-Zen,) a Taoist something or other, and a pagan community that gives new meaning to the concepts of "formless" and "chaotic."  Plus the usual mass of Christian congregations of various stripes.  Not to mention plaids, polka-dots, and too many garish shades of purple.  (It's Lent.  Purple is de rigueur during Lent.  Even for some Baptists)  Somewhere in the middle of all of this there is something called the Huntsville Interfaith Mission, a group which oddly enough actually thinks that interfaith work involves finding common ground among people and congregations of all sorts of religious persuasions. and not (as is all too common among "interfaith" programs here in the South,) just among those people who practice "real" religions.

Among other things, the Huntsville Interfaith Mission sponsors a program called "One Huntsville," which brings together people of all sorts of faith groups once a month for supper and discussions of matters of faith.  Lark and I have been attending these dinners, and we've had some fine conversations, what with there being a mixture of Christians and Jews and Muslims and Hindus and us Wiccans as the token delegates from the pagan community.  At the last such meeting one of the Muslim women with whom we were talking was pleasantly surprised by the fact  that Lark was reading her way through the Q'ran (in an English translation,) in order to better understand Islam.

While all of this is gong on, Lark is doing her practicum / internship in chaplaincy for her Cherry Hill Seminary MDiv program at the Pastoral Care Department at Huntsville Hospital.  There she is totally out of the broom closet, and her boss, a Presbyterian, is so tickled by the fact that he has seriously competent non-Christian chaplains available (Lark and a couple of local imams,) that he spilled the beans about it in a recent newspaper story about the spiritual resources available at the new branch hospital here in Madison that open this month.  At the hospital Lark is handing out copies of Carl McColman's When Someone You Love Is Wiccan like they were bingo cards in a Catholic church hall on Thursday night, and the local pagan community can't decide whether to shit a brick or have apoplexy, because heretofore they seem never to have figured out that "out of the broom closet" was an option.

So, right in the middle of all of this, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sends a letter to the Huntsville City Council, in which it is pointed out that it is the custom of the City Council to begin each session of the Council with a prayer, and that the prayers are offered by the councilors themselves in rotation, with a different member offering the prayer at each session.  And since all five councilors are good God-fearing, Bible-reading Christians, all of these prayers up to now have been of a Christian nature.  The letter went on to observe that this sort of thing had been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States a number of years ago and suggested that the City Council really ought to cease this whole prayer thing, while hinting about dire consequences if they did not.  ('Twas patently obvious that the FFRF was threatening to sue the City Council in Federal court on behalf of one or more disgruntled citizens to force an end to the prayers.) 

Naturally (this is Alabama, after all,) all five of the City Councilors plus a whole passel of Concerned Citizens got up on their high horses (some of the horses being rather higher than was really prudent,) and adopted a position of "Prayer in the past, prayer now, prayer forever."  Whilst all this was going on the City Attorney thumbed through the various legal precedents and opined that the present practice of prayer offered by the individual City Councilors was probably not constitutionally defensible, but that a program incorporating a prayer offered by a member of the clergy selected in rotation from a roster maintained by an outside agency would likely be upheld, especially if a reasonable number of of the clergy on the roster were not Christian.  The City Attorney further opined that the Huntsville Interfaith Mission or some similar body might be an appropriate body to manage such a roster.  The Huntsville Times, our local daily newspaper, published an editorial this morning echoing what the City Attorney suggested.

So what all this means is that IF the City Council decides to go with the "invocation-by-clergy-critter-from-a-rotating-roster" plan, and IF the management of the roster is handed off to the Huntsville Interfaith Mission, Yours Truly is going to apply for a spot on the roster.  Am prepared to be personable, respectful, but assertive.  I'm already prepared to point out that the more non-Christian clergy they have in the roster the better the Federal judge will like it, and it don't get any more non-Christian than having a Wiccan in your lineup.  We'll see what happens.  But I'll bet the local pagans will turn forty shades of puce when they hear about this.  I'll just tell them to think of it as a learning experience...

Brock at 40

Drat! Bad news comes after good.

I'm informed, though a reliable source, that science fiction author Anne McCaffery passed away yesterday.  That's the bad news.  Or at least it is for many, many fen of my generation.

The good news is that we have a contract to sell the house and land in Tennessee.  We took less money than we really wanted, but the buyers had financing already approved for the full amount of the offer when the offer was made.  So we don't expect a problem completing the deal.

So there's an end, at last, to that little bit of bother.

Unless, you, gentle reader, might know someone who wants to buy a tractor?
Brock at 50

Ye Gods! There IS a light at the end of this tunnel...

Faithful readers of this collection of drivel will remember that almost exactly three years ago, I hied myself to Atlanta, six hours away from my nearest and dearest, in order to keep myself gainfully employed.  And that we have been living largely separate lives since that time.  I spent 27 months in Atlanta before taking a new (and permanent) job at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama last November.  And we committed to being here permanently, and we built a lovely new house, which we closed on back in April.  And since that time Lark and I have been driving back and forth between the farm in Woodlawn, TN, and the house in Huntsville, hauling the various bits and pieces (plus 27 years worth of accumulated books,) that were packed in boxes we were capable of lifting.  And as of this writing, better than three months after we closed on the house, we're still not living under the same roof full-time.

Howsomever, we are now informed that on 10 August, the proverbial large truck with several husky young men will descend upon the house in Tennessee and load up all the remaining stuff, rubble, and impedimenta.  And two days later, on 12 August, said truck and husky young men will deliver same to the new house in Alabama.  And we will finally, almost three years to the day after I left Tennessee for Atlanta, be back living together full-time. 

Address and telephone number for the new manse may be requested via e-mail.
reading at home

Bemused Brock is, well... ...bemused

I seem to have acquired a student. 

I went to the Huntsville Area Old Ways Association meeting on the 30th, (we meet over dinner on the 2nd and 5th Wednesday of each month, and occasionally for coffee and conversation on Sunday mornings,) and I gave a little talk on the theoretical aspects of religious and magical ritual.  The talk was well-received by a number of the listeners, and a few listeners seemed to be left somewhat glassy-eyed by the whole thing.  And one of the seemingly appreciative listeners asked for some contact information so that she could ask some follow-up questions.  So I gave her my e-mail address.

Well, one of the follow-up questions she asked was whether I would be willing to consider taking her as a student.

[insert curmudgeonly "HARRUMPH!" here]

Aside from workshops at random Pagan Pride events, a couple of presentations to HAOWA, and the odd bit of counseling given here and there on the Intarwebs, I've done no real teaching since we dissolved Tangled Moon at Midsummer three years ago.

But if one is going to invite questions one has to treat them with all due seriousness, even if they are questions that one does not expect.  So I sat and considered taking the young lady as a student.  And after I'd been sitting and considering for a spell, there was this gentle nudge in the back of my head and I was suddenly aware of the regard of the Goddess to Whom my devotion is given.  And She spake unto me, saying:  "Do you remember that old saw about 'When the student is ready the teacher shall appear?' "

I admitted to remembering something like that.

"Well," She went on, "you just appeared.  Any questions?"

"No," I said, "not really.  And even if I had questions, odds are I already know the answers I'd get."

"That's why We like you so much,"  She said.  "You don't make Us waste Our time explaining why you have to do stuff you're going to do anyway.  And cheer up:  We wouldn't be laying this on you if you weren't good at it.  In fact, if you were a lousy teacher We would not be having this conversation in the first place.  Besides, you asked for it."  [exit Divine Presence, stage right]

I suppose that I did ask for it, at that.  In the Tradition in which I was trained, at Third Degree you give yourself back to the Gods as a tool for Their hands.  And I let Fox elevate me to Third, even after she offered to let me back out at the last minute.  So if I were to decide to be less than happy about all this, I have no one to blame but myself.

And in a lovely display of synchronicity, I come home to find that Thorne Coyle has published a marvelously evocative essay about the ways that leadership and service to others intermesh,

In the actual event, my student turns out to be the sort of student one hopes for.  Or so my initial impression leads me to believe.  I expect that teaching her will be a somewhat-less-than-onerous task.  We'll just have to see.

[Watch Certain People laugh uproariously at the following statement:]

However, no matter what else happens, I am not going to let this turn into a coven.  Not even a little living-room coven.

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