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Friday, November 14, 2008

Blog Moving

If everything goes well this blog will have a new home on Monday morning!!!

For a lot of reasons I am shifting Crossinator over to a Wordpress self-hosted site. Wordpress gives me a lot more flexibility and options and will hopefully lead to some more great content and thoughts.

This should be a seamless process and shouldn't miss any content or see anything except a new spiffy site!

The new site's address will be http://www.teamcrossworld.com/blog

Thanks and let me know if you notice anything weird happening!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Confused Discover

This always makes me laugh when I see it on my Discover Card statement.




You see... The Hub Bike Co-op is a bike shop here in Minneapolis. I'm not sure why I would ever need flight insurance on my purchases there... but who knows!

Anyway, just wanted to share my laughs with you!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Refugees are Humans Too


Refugee

That word conjures up a lot of different thoughts and feeling for different people.

Some say Jesus was a refugee, others think refugees are just another group of immigrants taking over our country. But to me, refugees are neighbors - both in a literal and figurative sense. We live in the most diverse neighborhood in Minneapolis. Minneapolis is home to the largest Somali population in the US and has a very large Hmong population as well.

Moving here has truly made the plight of refugees a part of my life. They are my co-workers, friends, neighbors, and if nothing else fellow humans on a journey seeking love and happiness.

Technical note: A refugee is a person who is fleeing their country due to a well-founded fear of persecution (for any reason) who is unable to seek protection from their own country.

I'd like to share a few stories about my refugee friends...

A Hmong student at my school recently came to the US to be with her family. She had not seen her dad in her 12 years of life. Like many other Hmong refugees her family was seeking safety after supporting the US during the Vietnam War. It had taken her father 12 years to secure the family visa's to live in the US. This family helped our Army fight and we can't let them be together?

A Somali co-worker has lived in the US for about 12 years. He is a well-respected man in his community and was fairly rich in Somalia before the civil war. He owned several banana farms and a large house. Now he serves as an Educational Assistant at my school helping with discipline and translation for our Somali student's and their families. His wife and a couple of his children live with him in a suburb but are unable to gain citizenship, because they might be terrorists. He might send them to Canada so they can become citizens there and be safe to live here.

Some of the Somali women that we work with in our English tutoring were sexually abused before fleeing their homelands. Many saw their husbands and children killed. We can't fully understand their story because of the language/culture barriers but also because the horror they experienced is too much to recount. We try to be their friends and help them navigate and understand more about the US so that they can feel more comfortable here.

I could share more stories but I think these give a glimpse into what it means to be a refugee. I can't imagine what it must be like to have suffered through a horrible ordeal and relocating at great cost and pain, and then having to adjust to a new culture and the hurt and pain that can come with that.

Please take a second and pray for the individuals in the story I shared, a refugee you may know, or for refugees in general. If you want to do more there are many great organizations working with refugees around the world. World Vision, World Relief, Catholic Charities, Refugees International and the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children are just a few.

This post is a part of Bloggers Unite For Refugees.

Being Poor

I got this in an e-mail from a psychologist at work. Some of the stuff could be a lifestyle decision and isn't necessarily about living in poverty, but I think the point is overwhelmingly made.

Being poor is knowing exactly how much everything costs.

Being poor is getting angry at your kids for asking for all the crap they see on TV.

Being poor is having to keep buying $800 cars because they're what you can afford, and then having the cars break down on you, because there's not an $800 car in America that's worth a damn.

Being poor is hoping the toothache goes away.

Being poor is knowing your kid goes to friends' houses but never has friends over to yours.

Being poor is going to the restroom before you get in the school lunch line so your friends will be ahead of you and won't hear you say 'I get free lunch' when you get to the cashier.

Being poor is living next to the freeway.

Being poor is coming back to the car with your children in the back seat, clutching that box of Raisin Bran you just bought and trying to think of a way to make the kids understand that the box has to last.

Being poor is wondering if your well-off sibling is lying when he says he doesn't mind when you ask for help.

Being poor is off-brand toys.

Being poor is a heater in only one room of the house.

Being poor is knowing you can't leave $5 on the coffee table when your friends are around.

Being poor is hoping your kids don't have a growth spurt.

Being poor is stealing meat from the store, frying it up before your mom gets home and then telling her she doesn't have make dinner tonight because you're not hungry anyway.

Being poor is Goodwill underwear.

Being poor is not enough space for everyone who lives with you.

Being poor is feeling the glued soles tear off your supermarket shoes when you run around the playground.

Being poor is your kid's school being the one with the 15-year-old textbooks and no air conditioning.

Being poor is relying on people who don't give a damn about you.

Being poor is an overnight shift under florescent lights.

Being poor is finding the letter your mom wrote to your dad, begging him for the child support.

Being poor is a bathtub you have to empty into the toilet.

Being poor is stopping the car to take a lamp from a stranger's trash.

Being poor is making lunch for your kid when a cockroach skitters over the bread, and you looking over to see if your kid saw.

Being poor is believing a GED actually makes a ********* difference.

Being poor is people angry at you just for walking around in the mall.

Being poor is not taking the job because you can't find someone you trust to watch your kids.

Being poor is the police busting into the apartment right next to yours.

Being poor is not talking to that girl because she'll probably just laugh at your clothes.

Being poor is hoping you'll be invited for dinner.

Being poor is a sidewalk with lots of brown glass on it.

Being poor is people thinking they know something about you by the way you talk.

Being poor is needing that 35-cent raise.

Being poor is your kid's teacher assuming you don't have any books in your home.

Being poor is six dollars short on the utility bill and no way to close the gap.

Being poor is crying when you drop the mac and cheese on the floor.

Being poor is knowing you work as hard as anyone, anywhere.

Being poor is people surprised to discover you're not actually stupid.

Being poor is people surprised to discover you're not actually lazy.

Being poor is a six-hour wait in an emergency room with a sick child asleep on your lap.

Being poor is never buying anything someone else hasn't bought first.

Being poor is picking the 10 cent ramen instead of the 12 cent ramen because that's two extra packages for every dollar.

Being poor is having to live with choices you didn't know you made when you were 14 years old.

Being poor is getting tired of people wanting you to be grateful.

Being poor is knowing you're being judged.

Being poor is a box of crayons and a $1 coloring book from a community center Santa.

Being poor is checking the coin return slot of every soda machine you go by.

Being poor is deciding that it's all right to base a relationship on shelter.

Being poor is knowing you really shouldn't spend that buck on a Lotto ticket.

Being poor is hoping the register lady will spot you the dime.

Being poor is feeling helpless when your child makes the same mistakes you did, and won't listen to you beg them against doing so.

Being poor is a cough that doesn't go away.

Being poor is making sure you don't spill on the couch, just in case you have to give it back before the lease is up.

Being poor is a $200 paycheck advance from a company that takes $250 when the paycheck comes in.

Being poor is four years of night classes for an Associates of Art degree.

Being poor is a lumpy futon bed.

Being poor is knowing where the shelter is.

Being poor is people who have never been poor wondering why you choose to be so.

Being poor is knowing how hard it is to stop being poor.

Being poor is seeing how few options you have.

Being poor is running in place.

Being poor is people wondering why you didn't leave.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Schools and Elections


Well election euphoria is still rampant here in Minneapolis. People were dancing in the streets, setting off fireworks, and more Tuesday night. I'm not going to discuss politics today but more post my thoughts of working in a school that hosted a polling site.

A lot more went into this than I expected. A few of us (including the principal) had a meeting to talk about logistics of the day. We had to make sure our students were safe, didn't interfere with the voting, and our school looks good.

The way our building is setup we don't have a secure way to section off part of the school, which turned out to be fine. A funny part of the logistics is that the school district won't allow the "general public" to use our restroom facilities. So someone ponied up the money to rent port-a-potties. Yes, we had 4 port-a-potties sitting outside our building.

Anyway I had the chance to talk to many of the students getting off the buses. Their reactions were wide ranging and interesting. Here are a few of them:

- "Did you vote Mr Cross?" Me: "Not yet" "Ok, be responsible."
- "What is going on??" (she obviously didn't get the phone call the night before)
- One student walked past the line of waiting voters and started chanting, "Obama, Obama, Obama."
- Another student later went through and pointed at people saying, "McCain, McCain, McCain."
- Fortunately, for the last two the people just laughed.
- Some voters waiting in line very early threatened to call the cops on a student holding an Obama sign if we didn't make him put it away - we did. The only cop that I saw around all day was our Liaison.
- Throughout the day students would walk by the voting room and say something like Obama or McCain. Interestingly, no kids said anything about our levy or referendum on the ballot!
- Every polling site had a Kids Voting Booth. It kept track of which school the students attended - not necessarily the polling site. Our school had 67 students vote - 65 voted for Obama,29 voted to pass the school levy.
- Voters lined the hall, out the door, and around the corner... the wait wasn't ever more than 30-40 minutes.
- Voters enjoyed the chance to talk and catch up with their neighbors and friends.

It was good to see the kids react to the election and to see democracy in action. We have a large percentage of students who are first or second generation immigrants. Some of these student's parents aren't able to vote but they got to see the power of democracy. A co-worker said she ran into a bunch of Somali's cheering in the streets - and they couldn't vote but were so excited to watch democracy in action.

A final note, the Family Liaison, was in charge of working with the election judges and making sure everything went smoothly. Talking to the election judge mid-way through the day, the judge commented to her that they had gotten a lot of comments about welcoming the school had been and especially the principal. My co-worker was shocked because our principal wasn't even there. Everyone thought the Liaison was the principal!! A funny story from election day.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

2 Songs 4 Election Day

Go VOTE! Here are two songs for you:

Savior on Capitol Hill, Derek Webb

I'm so tired of these mortal men
with their hands on their wallets and their hearts full of sin
scared of their enemies, scared of their friends
and always running for re-election
so come to DC if it be thy will
because we’ve never had a savior on Capitol Hill

you can always trust the devil or a politician
to be the devil or a politician
but beyond that friends you’d best beware
’cause at the Pentagon bar they’re an inseparable pair
and as long as the lobbyists are paying their bills
we’ll never have a savior on Capitol Hill

[Bridge]
all of our problems gonna disappear
when we can whisper right in that President’s ear
he could walk right across the reflection pool
in his combat boots and ten thousand dollar suit

you can render unto Caesar everything that’s his
you can trust in his power to come to your defense
it’s the way of the world, the way of the gun
it’s the trading of an evil for a lesser one
so don’t hold your breath or your vote until
you think you’ve finally found a savior up on Capitol Hill






If a Song Could Be President, Over the Rhine


If a song could be president
We’d hum on Election Day
The gospel choir would start to sway
And we’d all have a part to play

The first lady would free her hips
Pull a microphone to her lips
Break our hearts with Rhythm and Blues
Steve Earle would anchor the news

We’d vote for a melody
Pass it around on an MP3
All our best foreign policy
Would be built on harmony

If a song could be president
We’d fly a jukebox to the moon
All our founding fathers’ 45’s
Lightnin’ Hopkins and Patsy Cline
If a song could be president

If a song could be president
We could all add another verse
Life would teach us to rehearse
Till we found a key change

Break out of this minor key
Half-truths and hypocrisy
We wouldn’t need an underachiever-in-chief
If a song could be president

We’d make Neil Young a Senator
Even though he came from Canada
Emmylou would be Ambassador
World leaders would listen to her

They would show us where our country went wrong
Strum their guitars on the White House lawn
John Prine would run the FBI
All the criminals would laugh and cry
If a song could be president

Monday, November 03, 2008

Why I Am a Moderate


This recent post at The Moderate Voice easily summed up my thinking during this election season. A conservative friend who I trust and respect asked me to share with him some of my thoughts about why I'm a moderate. So here is my response:

I think I'm moderate about a variety of issues, but also moderate in that on some issues I'm conservative while others I may be a bit more liberal. In theory I like the idea of a small government and local control and as a Christian ideally having the church do much of the work that the government is doing. But I don't think that the idea of a free market works anywhere close to 100%. I'm sure you'd agree to some extent that the true laissez faire approach won't work. I think that our Biblical worldview shows us that humans are naturally self-centered and want what is best for ourselves. It is only after we have been redeemed that we can understand unconditional love and sacrifice for others in the purest sense. Therefore I think that if there were no regulations on the marketplace/country in general then all hell would break loose.

I think a pretty easy example of this would be health care. Letting the health insurance companies dictate the rules and regulations has left a lot people un- or under-insured. And like back in the old days when they would just deny all claims as SOP. Insurance companies want to increase their bottom line and will do whatever it takes to make sure their CEO gets a nice little bonus. I won't dive into specific policy details, but simply put everyone should have access to some type of affordable health-care. We are currently paying insurance premiums that go up in part because our neighbors can't afford a doctors visit and go to the local ER instead. This is expensive, partly because ER visits are generally more expensive, but also because many times the illness or injury has taken a severe turn for the worse. A close relative went to several urgent care facilities with stomach pains because she didn't have health insurance. This is a little bit cheaper and more responsible than an ER, but because she was seeing different doctors no one really thought there was a real problem. I think ultimately she caught a good doctor and he realized something bigger was wrong and they found her cancers. But if she hadn't got a good doc? who knows.. At the time she was being treated at Wishard hospital (which is a pretty decent place) but now that she has insurance she can go to IU Med Center (one of the top research facilities in the country). Why the disparity and double standard? Getting the cold or flu treated early can be a lot cheaper than treating pneumonia or something worse. Another major health related issue is prevention. Diabetes is a huge drain on the health-care system and can be prevented or at least have the affects stunted by proper preventative health-care. I could go on but the last point I'll make about health care (I think) is that much $ is spent on CYA testing and procedures because everyone is afraid of getting sued. To an extent this is healthy but what is wrong with some type of tort-reform to prevent frivolous law suits??

I'm a moderate because I think abortion is a heinous act, but should a small government interfere? Or why not actually do something to prevent abortions from occurring?? We've had a pro-life government for at least 4-6 years and what changed? Yes, Chief Justice Roberts is a stalwart pro-life choice, but he also doesn't believe in legislating from the bench so he isn't going to overturn Roe v Wade anytime soon.

I'm moderate because I think peace is a great idea, but sometimes we need to project and act out our power and military might just to remind people that peace takes some work. And maybe we should occasionally live up to our promises and really be a leader (Darfur).

I'm a moderate because I think each individual person has inherent worth and dignity as a child of God and each person should have the equal opportunity to succeed in life. Just because I grew up in a screwed up family doesn't mean I should be forced to live a screwed up life. I was blessed to have people around me who cared and supported me - not everyone has that. A family living in the ghetto struggling to make ends meet needs more than a free lunch at school to ensure educational success. Why can't inner-city schools have the same gorgeous/opulent facilities of a suburban school? Why must the school I work at scrape together every possible resource to make sure our students can pass a test? One of our students saw his mom stab her boyfriend in the eye with a screwdriver and another student saw a man gunned down on the street and those are just two instances that I know of. We have an amazing staff but kids still get lost because of their home and surrounding environment. Why should they pay for their parent's sin?

I'm a moderate because I believe the US is a nation of immigrants, founded and prospered through illegal immigration. Yes we need to do something to insure the physical safety of our country, but immigration is a part of our history and the global economy in which we are a part. If we want to insure national security we need to do more than kick out immigrants and build fences, we need to make sure that our trade policies are a little fairer, we need to make sure that people around the world have a chance at education and maybe a real meal or two a day. Did you know there is enough money in the US alone to (on paper at least) end world hunger? Why should we spend millions of dollars to ship food to Africa on an American flagged vessel, when African farmers produce the same product? If we spent our food aid money on food in Africa, we could help African farmers and their entire country pull themselves out of poverty - which makes our country a little safer.

I'm a moderate because I don't think drilling off-shore is going to produce any long-term benefits to our energy issues. Drilling off-shore will only allow us to keep the status quo a little bit longer. How can all the major auto manufacturers make cars that meet California emission standards or cars that are much more fuel efficient but get shipped overseas - yet claim they can't produce the same car for the US? Did you know for awhile that Honda produced the most fuel efficient vehicle on the market - but it was gas powered? At the time according to Consumer Reports the Honda gas-engine car was overall more fuel efficient than the hybrids being produced? The market dictated more horsepower and said hell to fuel economy, until energy costs sky-rocketed. When I worked at Honda's Accord and Acura plant they switched all kinds of parts around for a European or Asian and even Californian bound car to make them meet the stricter standards. Why shouldn't the government step in and make some minor requests for the long-term benefit of our country.

I guess those are few reasons why I am a moderate... no one party has all the right answers for me.

I look forward to your thoughtful responses...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Bayfield Wisconsin

We recently went camping in Bayfield Wisconsin. We had a great time and were pleased that it wasn't too cold and that lots of leaves were still on the trees. Our camp site was nestled right next to Lake Superior with a sweet view of Basswood Island. One day was spent wandering around a bunch of apple orchards, testing a wide variety of apple flavors and even picking a bag of our own. Our favorite orchards was the Sunset Valley Orchard. The owners were extremely friendly and generous with his apples.

I haven't really had time to play with the pictures at all, so below is a slideshow of pictures.