April 30, 2004
A Balancing Act: Proposed Legislation Could Mean Help for Working Parents
In honor of the two relatively new daddies in my department at work, now in the midst of the great juggling act of caring for a baby, supporting a working wife, and working out child care logistics, I bring this news of a proposed act aptly named, "The Balancing Act."
In the words of the CEPR e-mail I received today from Mayra Murray Diaz of the Center for Economic and Policy Research...
Rep. Lynn Woolsey's "Balancing Act" is a comprehensive bill that helps families balance the demands of professional life with the needs of family. "The Balancing Act" will provide benefits for part-time workers, paid leave for new parents, child care assistance, expansion of Family and Medical Leave Act, voluntary universal pre-school and increased availability of after-school programs.
So I did a little THOMAS search (at THOMAS, search for the word/phrase: "Balancing Act" and in the results click on H.R. 3780) and found some interestintg tidbits.....
Congress finds the following:
- Currently in two-thirds of married families with children in the United States, both parents work full-time. Seventy-one percent of mothers with children under age 18 work full-time, and another 29 percent work part-time.
- The National Study of the Changing Workforce [Executive Summary, PDF: 6 pgs.] found that 70 percent of employed parents indicated that they don't have enough time with their children.
- A survey conducted by the Boys and Girls Clubs of America found that more than half of the respondents indicated that they had little or no time to spend in physical activities with their children.
- Parents in 3,500,000 households, representing 7,000,000 children, spend an hour or less a week doing physical activities with their children.
- The primary obstacle cited by the parents to engaging in physical activities with their children was their work schedules.
- Nearly two-thirds of employees who need to take family or medical leave do not take such leave because they cannot afford to forgo the pay.
- Nearly every industrialized nation other than the United States, and most developing nations, provides parents with paid leave for infant care.
- In the United States, more than half of all mothers of children under the age of one now work. Yet parents of infants and toddlers face acute problems finding child care, and child care that is available is often of mediocre quality.
- The cost of child care averages $4,000 to $6,000 per year in the United States, and families with younger children or with more than one child face even greater costs. For example, the average annual cost of child care for a 4-year-old in an urban area center is more than the average annual cost of public college tuition in all but one State.
- The average annual child care teacher salary is $15,430, a wage so low that many programs find it extremely challenging to recruit fully qualified teachers and to retain them. High turnover rates make it more difficult to provide quality and continuity of care.
- Only 12 percent of eligible children receive child care assistance through the Child Care Development Block Grant, and only about 3 out of 5 eligible preschoolers are able to participate in the Head Start program.
- Among needy students, school nutrition programs often provide the primary opportunity for consumption of nutritionally valuable foods.
- Breakfast is a critical meal for children and provides the nutrition necessary to optimize their learning capacities.
- According to the Bureau of the Census, nearly 7,000,000 children in the United States are left alone after school each week without adult supervision or structured activities of any kind.
- Violent juvenile crime peaks between the hours of 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. and teens are more likely to be victims of serious violent crime in the hour after school lets out than any other time of the day.
- The Nation's communities can benefit from teleworking, which give workers more time to spend at home with their families.
- Companies with telework programs have found that telework can boost employee productivity 5 percent to 20 percent, thereby saving businesses valuable resources and time.
- More United States families are working more hours than ever. In 2000, the average American worker worked 36 hours more, almost a full week, than in 1990. A recent AFL-CIO poll found that nearly three-quarters of working adults indicated that they have little or no control over their work schedules.
- The AFL-CIO's 'Ask a Working Woman' survey for 2002 reported that 63 percent of working women work more than 40 hours a week, 30 percent of working women work 20 to 39 hours a week, and 7 percent of working women work less than 20 hours a week.
In essence, the bill seeks to amend and enhance the Family Leave and Medical Act by, for one, providing assistance for parents to effectively care for their children and support their families financially.
If the bill passes (I have no idea what the status is at this point...), it looks like good news for working families.
A Commuter's Reading List: U.S-Latin America Economic Relationship
Wanted to grab a few articles off the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) regarding U.S. economic policy toward Latin America...I'm especially interested in learning more about the impacts of NAFTA, the debate surrounding the proposed CAFTA and the IMF and World Bank involvement in all of this. I know very little about the whole mess but it does seem to fall under the broad category of "Justice" because it certainly appears that these economic policies are having great negative impacts on the poor in these countries which neighbor the U.S. (Hmmm....something about love and neighbors comes to mind....)
[Note to self: These are probably best read after a full cup of coffee.]
- NAFTA at Ten: The Recount (March 1, 2004 -- revised March 10, 2004)
- Fool's Gold: Projections of the U.S. Import Market (January 8, 2004)
- Another Lost Decade? Latin America's Growth Failure Continues into the 21st Century (November 13, 2003)
- Too Sunny In Latin America? The IMF's Overly Optimistic Growth Projections and Their Consequences (September 16, 2003)
- WTO Cancun Debate (September 5, 2003)
April 29, 2004
Contriving a Lesson for the Church out of Tolkien's Silmarillion
My brother, Brant, asks some interesting questions about the nature of music and its use in the worship of God -- especially in church settings. He also discusses how people purpose music to attempt to "set the mood" or "get" people to behave or feel a certain way.
But the point that Brant brings up that interests me the most is the issue of personal preferences verses community preferences. What happens when an individual decides to exert his personal choice for music (or whatever it might be) in the context of a community? (That is, he makes this decision not in a vacuum, but in the midst of his community.)
I believe J.R.R Tolkien has an interesting take on this question in his book, The Silmarillion.
The first chapter, "The Music of the Ainur," describes the story of the creator, Illúvatar, and how he made first the "Ainur" (even before he made the World). He gave each of the them a "theme of music" to sing before him. And since each of the Ainur only comprehended a part of the mind of the creator, as long as they sang by themselves, or only a few at a time and with the others listening, their understanding of Illúvatar grew only very slowly. But as they listened closer to each other, the Ainur came to a deeper understanding and "increased in unison and harmony." The remarkable thing is what happens next. What the creator, Illúvatar "willed" next was that they sing in harmony together "a Great Music" which he would sit and listen to and "be glad that through you great beauty has been wakened into song."
All was going well; it was the greatest music ever played by the Ainur -- it seemed to be without flaws (all those rehearsals must have paid off!). But then,
...as the theme progressed, it came into the heart of Melkor to interweave matters of his own imagining that were not in accord with the theme of Illúvatar; for he sought therein to increase the power and glory of the part assigned to himself. (emphasis mine)
Mmmm. Now that strikes a familiar chord, if you'll forgive the pun. A musician or band member wanting to increase the power and glory of the part assigned to himself? Worse yet, a leader in the church wanting to increase his own glory? Yeah. Unfortanately, yes, this does strike a chord.
But what intrigues me today in this story is why Melkor decided to interweave music that was not in accord with the theme of the creator: he was impatient to see Illúvatar make something out of the "Void" that existed. (Because, in the story, the Ainur were made first, even before the world.) Now eventually Illúvatar did show them through a vision what will be as a result of their interwoven themes into a "Great Theme"...but they were to wait a little while.
I think a similar thing is true for the Church today. There are some in the Church who can get so enamoured with the "theme of music" that has been given to them by God  that, they come to truly believe that they are actually entitled to increase the power and glory of their "theme" under the pretenses of filling a perceived void in the Creator's kingdom . Instead of listening intently to the others around them and together growing in understanding of the Creator and increasing in unison and harmony, the "Melkors" of the Church entertain a thought in their mind of their own making that is not in harmony with the others nor is it gladdening to the heart of the Creator. And as such it becomes "discord," done at the expense of harmony. The sad thing is this self-centeredness and feeling of entitlement is actually motivated by something noble: to see a void filled with something noble and beautiful . And unfortunatley, the "Melkors" of the Church think that noble and beautiful thing is them!
So to get back to one of Brant's original points, leading the congregation into a deeper understanding of worship may very well help answer some of these difficult questions of worship, music, and community. But I submit (with perhaps some backing from Tolkien, of all people), that leading the Church (including its leaders!) into a deeper understanding of "harmony" may help answer a related (greater?) question of "how can we gladden the heart of the Creator?" 
I don't know, though. Just a thought.
Amber's "Metaphor du jour" to Christianese Dictionary
 Themes of Music -> Spiritual Gifts
 Void -> The Kingdom to Come
 Fill the Void -> Advance the Kingdom
 Harmony -> Unity (see John 17)
 Gladden the Heart of the Creator -> Glorify God
April 28, 2004
Taking it to the Bank (and the IMF)
I wanted to pass along this recent commentary on the World Bank and IMF which also reports on the protest that happened there last weekend apparently. Good stuff. Sock it to 'em. (Also if you are a regular street protester and are experiencing protesters-block, there's some great ideas for skits and other ideas to create dramatic effect. Successful protesting is all about being the human political cartoon, I think. Not that I have any idea about these things.)
Ok, time to wrap this up...here you go:
SojoNet: Faith, Politics, and Culture
Happy vicarious protesting. =)
Jim Wallis on TV this Thursday
Sojourners' Jim Wallis will be appearing in the PBS documentary The Jesus Factor airing this Thursday, April 29, at 9 p.m. (Check local listings at http://www.pbs.org/tvschedules/ ) The one-hour program explores President Bush's connection with the 46% of Americans who describe themselves as "born-again" Christians. To what extent do the president's spiritual beliefs impact or influence his political decision-making? And how closely do Bush's religious views mirror those of the country's burgeoning - and politically influential - evangelical movement
Could be interesting...
April 26, 2004
iCal > movabletype
Another idea for the file drawer...publish iCal events to a MT blog:
Web, Audio Series on NPR Documents Mandela's Story
Found this, oddly enough, on Google News......something to file away for future reading.....
Now it's time to learn about CAFTA...
Yes, it's that time of year again. Time to protest another free trade agreement brought about by one-sided negotiations catering to the interests of large markets and corporations (read: rich people in the U.S.) at the expense of the poor.
In this case the poor practically guaranteed to be utterly screwed by this agreement (if it passes in Congress) are the people in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, most of whom are economically dependent on agriculture.
So for those of you who would like to just cut-to-the-chase and fire off a letter of protest to your local Congress-person, go here:
And for those of you who'd like to do a *little* reading on the subject, you're not alone. This was actually the first time I'd heard of CAFTA, so after a bit of Googling, I scared up a few readable articles for our mutual edification. :-) And in the spirit of free trade agreements intitated by the United States, they are all decidedly one-sided; however, unlike the free trade agreements currently in effect, they do not cater to the interests of the powerful and rich (who should know better than exploiting the poor: shame on you/us!)
CAFTA Not Likely to Do Better Than NAFTA
April 25, 2004
A growing "city"...
This has been an exciting week for sleepyheadcity.com.
This week, we added 2 new blogs and a photo gallery.
These blogs are just getting started...but I'm excited to see the vision for sleepyheadcity.com evolve...maybe soon I'll be able to actually put an index file in the root directory!
April 23, 2004
Today, in Sudan...
Received news of the continuing atrocities occuring in Sudan today through a Human Rights Watch appeal for support...
Truth is still one big "pillar of cloud"
I learned something interesting this morning. Truth and justice are cloudier issues than I thought. I guess I should have known. God did reveal himself as a "pillar of cloud" to the Isrealites on their journey through the desert, after all.
In a culture of the sovereignty of individual opinions, an increasingly free, open, and universal press (thanks to the web), and the persistance of nation-states, nationalism, and good old fashioned state-sponsored obfuscation of the truth, I find the line between truth and deception, hero or villain, right or wrong, to be increasingly difficult to draw.
With the very real possibility for all the facts to be gathered, all the truth revealed, I see an attitude of complacency to gather these facts, to reveal the truth, prevailing. This complacency only contributes to the surreptitious behavior of those who would "policy-make" their way out of testimony to the truth.
So even though we live in a world with incredible access to information, we have yet to see a world able to discern the credibility of this information.
Am I any better? I'm myself only a small voice that is maybe a just a little more than half-heartedly seeking to reveal the truth.
But I will say this: onward the explorers, the seekers, the ones who would embark on a journey to find the truth, to see it revealed before their eyes, to know, to believe and to gain something that they did not know they were looking for: a love that cannot be described in words, though it seems right to describe it as the deepest, widest, most amazing love they have ever experienced.
Today's journey takes us to the crazy mixed-up state of Israel. Both a favorite and a despised topic to "discuss" for a wide variety of people, today's story is one of a tiny bit of historical perspective coupled with the latest reports of an event that happened just the other day: the strictly conditioned release of Mordechai Vanunu from an 18-year prison sentence for his 1986 revelation of Israel's "not-so-ambiguous-after-all" capacity for developing WMD's via the Dimona nuclear power plant in the Negev desert.
Here's the oh-so-tiny bit of historical perspective: Past references to Vanunu in Sojourners Magazine:
- Commentary: Beyond Clan Politics: A consistent stand against persecution (January/February 1998)
- Between the Lines: Inspectors Turned Away Again (January/February 1999)
And...some selected recent coverage on Vanunu's release from the BBC (UK):
- Vanunu: Israel's nuclear telltale (Tuesday, April 20, 2004)
- 'Proud Vanunu vows to fight on (Wednesday, April 21, 2004)
- Vanunu: Hero or villain? (Friday, April 23, 2004)
Thanks to Shawn for the BBC article on Vanunu that sent me on today's journey.
April 22, 2004
Theology, Film, and a "New" Category: Third Cinema
(Well, new to me at least.)
Just came across these two brief articles from the National Catholic Reporter written by a doctoral student researching systematic theology and "Third Cinema" (which he describes in one of the articles I've highlighted here.)
Ok, I'm intrigued.
In the article I read first, "An earth-friendly film festival," Antonio gives us a run-down of some of the films screened at a festival in the Netherlands.
This film festival was unique because it sought to draw attention to oil extraction and mining activities in the developing world and how those activities have impacted the environment and the human beings living in the midst of this "development."
(I wonder if these films are available anywhere in my neighborhood?....neighborhood=Internet....hmmmm....)
So after reading this review, I thought to myself, "What is this concept of Third Cinema, anyway?"
Luckily for me, at the bottom of the article, there was a link that serendiptitiously stated:
For more on the concept of Third Cinema, see "Third Cinema and the God of the Edge," Global Perspective, Nov. 19, 2003.
So I did. And so I also recommend it to you.
3,000 feared dead in North Korean Train Inferno
April 21, 2004
Foreclosing on the American Dream
To avoid foreclosure for one thing.
This New York Times article, published April 11, 2004, reports on the political motives, governmental and corporate pressure, and deceptive ad campaigns resulting from a White House push for homeownership which targets first-time and minority buyers.
What has been the result of this push for homeonwership?
Foreclosures. Lots of 'em.
This article is definitely an eye-opener...especially for those young renters out there (me, for example) getting pressure from all sides to get a mortgage while the gettin' is good.
Noted by Economic Reporting Review as an "Outstanding Story of the Week."
Time to learn about Burma, OK?
Just wanted to get these articles and links posted for when I get a chance to get caught up on some human rights related reading....
April 20, 2004
Trackback and Pinging: How it Works
For the eager learner(s) out there (you know who you are), here's a great explanation of how pinging works and how to make use of the technology using MT's Trackback feature:
April 19, 2004
Integrity in Web Design
As far as web design goes, I am a big believer in INTEGRITY. A web site should reflect with integrity and honesty the ministry that it represents. Not necessarily better or worse, not what they want to be, but what they are.
Um, yeah. What he said. Check it out.
Hat tip: Shawn.
iPhoto to Gallery
I've got an out-of-the-box-yet-to-be-customized Photo Gallery (using Gallery) up and running. (I call it, The Photo Gallery at Sleepyhead City.) And yes, I can export photos directly from iPhoto using iPhototoGallery -- which extends iPhoto's "Export" options to include an interface for uploading photos to my Gallery Web site.
I'm really happy with the feature-set for Gallery. It creates thumbnails, an intermediate version, then a full-blown hi-res version of the photo (which I limit in size to 1024x768 in the iPhoto to Gallery Export). I guess you can also order prints direct from Shutterfly and a few others. Pretty cool stuff!
It also has a registration option which allows users to create albums and add pictures as well. I maintain control over who can register, so hopefully it will be a fun place for family members and friends to share photos.
April 18, 2004
My First Syndicated Feed
If you would care to glance to your left -- what's that? Yes, it's true, I'm now syndicating my del.icio.us links (which I update much more frequently).
Helping my friend Shawn set up his MT blog has inspired me to finally get this whole XML RSS thing figured out. I must say, it's way too easy! I spent way too much time reading about it and bookmarking stuff about it...really once I installed the MT Plugin Directory, it was a snap to install the GetXML plugin. Then in my MT Main Index template, I just pasted in:
<MTGetXML location="http://del.icio.us/rss/agentolivia"> <MTGetXMLElement name="item"> <a href="<$MTGetXMLValue name="link">"> <$MTGetXMLValue name="title"$></a><br /> </MTGetXMLElement> </MTGetXML>
...into my sidebar and shazam! the latest updates to my del.icio.us page! As my colleague, Cary would say, "I think this whole Internet thing just might catch on!" ;-)
Now it's time to figure out this whole iPhoto to MT thing. Onward!
April 09, 2004
Better run for the border
Here's a rundown on all the mayhem and democratic chaos happening with our neighbors to the south:
Obfuscation on the stand: Condoleeza testifies to the murky "truth"
For those of you (including myself) who missed Rice's testimony before the 9/11 commission, here is a bit of post-game analysis from "The Nation's" Capital Games column by David Corn. (I have no idea who this person or publication is; I'm just name dropping, I guess -- I found the column from Sojourner's list of alternative media.) Anyway, admittedly, I did intentionally decline watching her testimony, which I came across while changing the channel the other night. I didn't like that cocky smirk on her face. I decided to watch that Watergate documentary on PBS instead. (Remember the lesson of Watergate: "Don't get caught!")
Without further ado, for your reading enjoyment: Rice on the stand
From one "Ms." to another
April 05, 2004
Bending Toward Justice: The Unfinished Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education
Check out this April 2004 American School Board Journal Special Report, Bending Toward Justice: The Unfinished Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education.
There are numerous articles that reflect on "what has been accomplished and what remains undone in the quest for true and lasting educational opportunity for all." From "The Ruling that Changed America":
At the beginning of the 21st century, American schools are now 12 years into the process of continuous resegregation.
April 02, 2004
April 01, 2004
- CSS Panic Guide
- Information Architecture of the Shopping Cart (Argus White Paper)
- Getting Dreamweaver MX Up to Speed with PHP
- Using Amazon Web Services with PHP and SOAP (Part 1)
- Using Amazon Web Services with PHP and SOAP (Part 2)
- You Cannot Pass (road sign inspired by Gandalf's confrontation of the Balrog at the bridge of Khazad-Dûm)
- MusicBrainz (an open source alternative to CDDB)
Google's approach to webmail
- Google Job Opportunities: Google Copernicus Center is hiring (Accessed from the April 1, 2004 Google home page link entitled, "Want a job that's out of this world?")
- Sojoke Mail (April Fool's Day Edition) "Celebrate April Fool's Day with us by enjoying this satirical edition of SojoMail!"