Thursday, October 6, 2011

RIP Steve Jobs

Monday, October 3, 2011

40 years

Nuggets of marriage wisdom I have gleaned from my parents:

*Love is more powerful when put into action
*A marriage cannot survive without humor
*Commitment means upholding "for better or for worse"
*Be best friends first, then lovers
*Children should come along YOUR adventure, not the other way around
*Life should be sweeter together and a bit melancholy apart

Happy 40th Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What does Sept 11 mean today?

I read this in today's New York Times. As Caden and I prepare for our trip to New York this weekend (to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11), it makes me wonder what Sept. 11 means for us today.

September 7, 2011, 3:59 PM

The Only America They’ve Ever Known

When I joined the Army almost 10 years ago, I was already an old man — by the measure of my fellow recruits anyway, most of them only 18 or 19. I was all of 25, but it was enough to make a difference. Even though I got used to how my sergeants and lieutenants were often younger than me, I never got used to how young some of my fellow privates and Pfc.’s seemed. They were hardly more than boys, some of them, with bright ruddy cheeks, and bright eyes that grew hard during our year in Iraq.
Ten years later, Tea Party grotesqueries on one side and “The Daily Show” on the other.
Now we’re 10 years older. I’m working on a doctorate, helping a professor put together a course on the literature of war. Some of the students in the course — the same age as my fellow soldiers were back then — have been watching the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since they were 8. The single most important political event in their lives was the attack on the World Trade Center. The only America they know is a nation at war.
This is the legacy we’ve given them: not a national tragedy that saw Americans rise to their best, but a bitter wound that sent us reeling into wasteful, crooked, decade-long wars. I can’t separate out the decade of fighting from my own life, from getting older, serving my time in the Army, moving to New York, going back to school — and growing more and more disgusted with extremist show-politics, and more and more hopeless at our disaffected, alienated, intolerant citizenry, numbing itself with Tea Party grotesqueries on one side and “The Daily Show” on the other.
Once there was a vision of something else. I grew up poor, in a military family, waiting for nuclear war to break out with the Soviet Union. Yet despite that gloom, and the scandals of Iran-Contra, and the age-old corruption of our government, there was something that stirred in me when I stood before the flag, said the pledge of allegiance and came down on those closing lines about our nation being indivisible, “with liberty and justice for all.” Even as a child I knew this wasn’t a fact, but a promise. It was a promise to be better, to do better. It was a promise to ourselves — and to the future.
Over the years, whether I was marching in protest or going to war, it was because I believed that we make our world together, and that each and every one of us are obliged to chip in: to dissent, when dissent is needed, to fight, to enact the promise of collective democratic self-determination outlined in our Constitution and Declaration of Independence.
The flag to me was a symbol of that unrealized potential. It meant something bigger than me, bigger than you, something more important than making money or a career, something we could build together — something that we could only build together, depending and relying on one another — that might make the world a better place.
Today, this is what I see: a nation wracked by recession and 10 years of war-debt, bled dry by profiteers, where the rich enrich themselves at the expense of the poor and the demagogues and con artists we’ve elected squander our commonwealth, our treasury and our lifeblood. And as Sept. 11 approaches, I wonder what we will be commemorating on that grim day.
Now I think of these kids, who watched people cheering in the streets after an elite assassination team killed Osama bin Laden, and wonder what that flag means to them.
We faced a choice 10 years ago: to follow the example of the people at ground zero, the firefighters, the police, the regular men and women who risked their lives to help total strangers; or to do what we were told: to keep shopping, keep spending, keep oiling the big wheels of capital. The bad news is, most of us picked shopping. The good news is, we face the same choice again right now. We face it every day.
Our example is our legacy. Ten years from today, let us not look back in shame.

Roy Scranton’s five-part memoir for Home Fires, “War and the City,” appeared in 2010.
Roy Scranton
Roy Scranton served in the United States Army from 2002 to 2006, and deployed to Iraq with the 1st Armored Division from 2003 to 2004. His work has appeared in New Letters, Theory & Event, LIT, and elsewhere. He is working on a doctorate in English at Princeton University.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What it means to worship God

Why does God demand our praise?
(Adapted from “Desiring God” by John Piper, The Mission Statement of Bethlehem Baptist Church)
C.S. Lewis, when he was exploring Christianity as an agnostic, found one thing about the Christian faith most disturbing. He found it strange that all religious people should clamor for us to “praise” God; and still more odd that God should demand praise from us. He says we all despise the man who “demands continual assurance of his own virtue, intelligence or delightfulness,” and that we despise even further the crowd of people around such a one who gratify that demand. That was the picture he was getting of Christianity; that of a God who was saying, “what I want most of all is to be told, I am good, I am great.”
What Lewis came to understand is that God’s revealing of Himself to us, accomplished most clearly in our praise and worship of Him, is the most loving act God can do for us. God’s demand that He be praised works toward our highest good; namely, our exposure to His greatness, purity and glory. God is the beautiful, all-satisfying object we all truly need.
Lewis goes on to describe his misunderstanding of God’s desire for praise as likened to a vain woman fishing for compliments, and then offers up this pivotal quote:
But the most obvious fact about praise-whether of God or any thing-strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless (sometimes even if) shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise-lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game-praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious, minds, praised most, while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least . . . I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise what ever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: "Isn't she lovely? Wasn't it glorious? Don't you think that magnificent?" The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can't help doing, about everything else we value.
I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. (C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, [New York: Harcourt, Brace and World 1958], pp. 93-95.)
What Lewis is saying is that our delight of God is only partial until it is voiced in praise. Our praise of God deepens, completes, fulfills, and even consummates the joy that we have in Him.
Thus, God’s desire that we praise Him serves to expose to us the most profitable, valuable, desirable and needed object that Humanity can experience. His self-revelation to us and His demand that we interact with Him through praise is the most loving thing God can do for us.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The book that is kicking my ass

My letter to Richard Stearns, President and CEO of World Vision, and author of "The Hole in Our Gospel" (the book I am currently reading).


Friday, August 12, 2011
To: Richard Stearns, President, World Vision, Inc.

Dear Mr. Stearns:

You ruined my lunch today.

I was enjoying a delicious BBQ chicken salad at a cute street side café in Santa Barbara. I decided to bring your book, “The Hole in Our Gospel,” as my lunchtime companion. I chomped on my salad as I read chapter 12, “The Horseman of the Apocalypse.” But I couldn’t even make it past the first three pages of this chapter without completely losing my appetite. “How on earth can I continue to eat this meal when there are children dying every five seconds from starvation?”

I was disgusted (not with the salad of course—frankly, it was quite delectable). I was disgusted with the fact that the world can and does produce enough food to feed everyone on earth, yet 850 million people go hungry every day. I was disgusted and horrified by the statistics I read in your book (which I’ve read many times in newspapers, magazines, and my own research—but for some reason it bothered me more this afternoon). I was disgusted that I wasn’t doing more in that moment to be a part of the solution.

As a mother of two young children (ages 5 and 1 ½), your book hits a soft spot in my heart. As a follower of Christ, your book challenges me to live the kind of faith I have always sought out (but sometimes have not had the courage to put into action). As a journalist, your book reminds me to continue to be a voice for those who don’t have one.

I traveled on an assignment to Lusaka, Zambia during the summer of 2007. I was part of a small team (myself, a filmmaker, a producer, two photographers, and one teacher) sent there to cover the AIDS crisis and its devastating effect on the country’s 1.5 million children. We spent two weeks meeting and interviewing church and community leaders, teachers, and families. But the most profound experience was spending time with some of the 75,000 homeless children that live on the streets of Lusaka.

Reading about your travels to Africa reminds me of the scenes we witnessed in Zambia that summer: hungry and naked children aimlessly wandering about their villages, children rummaging through trash ravines searching for food, mass graves everywhere.

But I also saw great hope and strength amidst the darkness of poverty and disease. There are many people we met (including Rev. Aaron Chilunjika, founder of Full Proof Mission and Chisomo Drop-in Centre in Lusaka) who are changing history every single day.
I came back from Africa a changed person. “How can I return to my life here in the States and not do anything?” When you see that much poverty and despair, it leaves a mark on you. Permanently. 

So I founded a non-profit called Knowledge Empowers (sounds fancy, but it was started on a shoestring budget in my living room). Our goal is to raise $832 annually for a young man we met in Lusaka (his name is Twambo "Chips" Matembo) to attend secondary school. My dream is to someday send many more Zambian children to school. You can check it out, if you’re curious (

Well, back to the story about my salad. I didn’t finish it (my waitress even asked me if there was something wrong with it). I packed up, left the café, and went straight to my computer to do some research. I visited World Vision’s website and found two children from Zambia, both the ages of my children (the baby girl has the EXACT same birthday as my daughter, Isobel!). My husband and I are now sponsors of Lidiya, 1, and Alan, 5.

I must say, Mr. Stearns, thank you for ruining my lunch today. May God continue to use you powerfully for His Kingdom!

Sincerely yours,
Jennifer Cho Salaff

Monday, July 18, 2011

Journalism and ethics

The latest scandal in the world of journalism. Hacking into cell phones, selective leaks, hush money for the authorities, paying reporters and editors to keep their mouths shut... As they say in the newsroom, the shit is hitting the fan. And the truth always prevails...

The New York Times

LONDON — Two days before it emerged that The News of the Worldhad hacked the cellphone of a murdered schoolgirl, igniting a scandal that has shaken Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, his son James told friends that he thought the worst of the troubles were behind him. And he was confident that News Corporation’s $12 billion bid for the British satellite company British Sky Broadcasting would go through, according to a person present.

Now, with their most trusted lieutenant, Rebekah Brooks, arrested on suspicion of phone hacking and paying police for information, the broadcasting bid abandoned, the 168-year-old News of the World shuttered, and nine others arrested, Rupert and James Murdoch are scheduled to face an enraged British Parliament on Tuesday.
It is a spectacle that Rupert Murdoch’s closest associates had spent years trying to avoid.
Interviews with dozens of current and former News Corporation employees and others involved in the multiple hacking inquiries provide an inside view of how a small group of executives pursued strategies for years that had the effect of obscuring the extent of wrongdoing in the newsroom of Britain’s best-selling tabloid. And once the hacking scandal escalated, they scrambled in vain to quarantine the damage.
Evidence indicating that The News of the World paid police for information was not handed over to the authorities for four years. Its parent company paid hefty sums to those who threatened legal action, on condition of silence. The tabloid continued to pay reporters and editors whose knowledge could prove embarrassing even after they were fired or arrested for hacking. A key editor’s computer equipment was destroyed, and e-mail evidence was lost. Internal advice to accept responsibility was ignored, former executives said. John Whittingdale, a Conservative member of Parliament who is the chairman of the committee that will question the Murdochs, said they need to come clean on the depth of the misdeeds, who authorized them and who knew what, when.
“Parliament was misled,” he said. “It will be a lengthy and detailed discussion.”
Mr. Murdoch has indicated he wants to cooperate.
“We think it’s important to absolutely establish our integrity in the eyes of the public,” he said last week. “It’s best just to be as transparent as possible.”
Ms. Brooks’s representative, David Wilson, said she maintained her innocence and looked forward to clearing her name, but declined to answer specific questions.
As a trickle of revelations has become a torrent, the company switched from containment to crisis mode. Ms. Brooks and others first made the case, widely believed to be true, that other newspapers had also hacked phones and sought to dig up evidence to prove it, interviews show. At a private meeting, Rupert Murdoch warned Paul Dacre, the editor of the rival Daily Mail newspaper and one of the most powerful men on Fleet Street, that “we are not going to be only bad dog on the street,” according to an account that Mr. Dacre gave to his management team. Mr. Murdoch’s spokesman did not respond to questions about his private conversations.
Former company executives and political aides assert that News International executives carried out a campaign of selective leaks implicating previous management and the police. Company officials deny that. The Metropolitan Police responded with a statement alleging a “deliberate campaign to undermine the investigation into the alleged payments by corrupt journalists to corrupt police officers.”
Mr. Murdoch was attending a conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, in early July when it became clear that the latest eruption of the hacking scandal was not, as he first thought, a passing problem. According to a person briefed on the conversation, he proposed to one senior executive that he “fly commercial to London,” so he might be seen as man of the people. He was told that would hardly do the trick, and he arrived on a Gulfstream G550 private jet.
Inquiries on Several Fronts
The storm Mr. Murdoch flew into had been brewing since 2006, when the tabloid’s royal reporter and a private investigator were prosecuted for hacking into the messages of the royal household staff in search of juicy news exclusives. For years afterward, company executives publicly insisted that the hacking was limited to that one “rogue reporter.”
Andy Coulson resigned as editor of The News of the World after the prosecution, but said he knew nothing. “If you’re talking about illegal tapping by a private investigator,” Rupert Murdoch declared in February 2007, “that is not part of our culture anywhere in the world, least of all in Britain.”
But it turns out that almost from the beginning, executives of News International, the British subsidiary that owns the tabloid, had access to information indicating other reporters were also engaged in the practice.
The information came from thousands of pages of records containing names of thousands of possible hacking targets that Scotland Yard seized during the royal hacking case from the home of the private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, who worked for the tabloid. While the police largely limited their investigation to the royals, lawyers representing suspected victims of hacking fought for access to Mr. Mulcaire’s records and made them available to the tabloid executives during the litigation.
In the initial cases, News International saw documents naming other journalists, according to details of those cases obtained by The Times. Notes in Mr. Mulcaire’s files contain the names “Ian” and “Neville,” apparent references to the news editor, Ian Edmondson, and the chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck.
James Murdoch, who oversees Europe and Asia operations for News Corporation, signed off on a £700,000 settlement with Gordon Taylor, a soccer union boss who was first to sue. One condition of the payment was confidentiality.
This month, James Murdoch acknowledged he was wrong to settle the suit, saying he did not “have a complete picture of the case” at the time.
Ms. Brooks personally persuaded Max Clifford, a celebrity publicist, to drop his case in return for even more compensation, Mr. Clifford said. He was paid to provide story tips to the paper — a deal he said totaled £1 million.
Beyond Mr. Mulcaire’s files, another likely source of information about hacking by The News of the World are its internal e-mails.
Even as the company faced a flood of claims over the last several years, News International has acknowledged that it did not take any steps to preserve e-mails that might contain evidence of hacking until late last fall. When The News of the World moved offices late last year, the computer used by Mr. Edmondson was destroyed in what the company describes as a standard procedure.
The company asserted in court that a vast amount of its e-mails from 2005 and 2006 — believed to be the height of the hacking activity — had been lost. Company officials blamed the erasures on bungling, not conspiracy.
News International has subsequently acknowledged that some messagesmight be recoverable on backup disks, and the police are trying to recover that information now, said Tom Watson, a Labour Party member of Parliament. Last year, a forensic computer specialist the company hired to help it comply with a court order to turn over documents made a surprising discovery: three e-mails sent to Mr. Edmondson containing PIN codes that could allow access to voice mail, as well as names and telephone numbers, one official said.
The paper fired Mr. Edmonson and turned over the e-mails to the police. That prompted the new Scotland Yard inquiry into hacking, according to its head, Sue Akers. Mr. Edmondson referred questions to his lawyer, who did not respond.
In April, the police arrested Mr. Edmondson, along with Mr. Thurlbeck. A few days later, News International issued a blanket apology, saying: “It is now apparent that our previous inquiries failed to uncover important evidence.”
News International has for years said a 2007 internal investigation showed that hacking was not widespread, but recent interviews with company officials indicate that the inquiry had a different purpose. It was aimed at defending the company from a lawsuit filed by Clive Goodman, the paper’s royal reporter who had been fired for hacking. He claimed that the dismissal was unfair since others were hacking as well, according to two company officials with direct knowledge.
Colin Myler, who succeeded Mr. Coulson as editor of The News of the World, told Parliament in 2007 that News International had turned over as many as 2,500 e-mails to the law firm of Harbottle & Lewis, which the company had retained in the matter. In a letter to Parliament at the time, the firm said it did not find anything in the e-mails linking hacking to three top editors — Andy Coulson, Neil Wallis or Mr. Edmondson.
But a company official speaking on condition of anonymity said that the 2,500 e-mails given to the law firm related only to Mr. Goodman and represented only a small portion of the company’s e-mail traffic.
Since Scotland Yard began its new investigation late last year, with access to more internal documents, all three of the editors, who are no longer at the paper, have been arrested.
Two company officials said the 2007 internal inquiry was in fact overseen by Les Hinton, then executive chairman of News International and who resigned Friday as chief executive of Dow Jones. Mr. Hinton told Parliament in 2007 that Mr. Myler “went through thousands of e-mails.” But Mr. Myler was not given direct access to the e-mails, the company officials said. Mr. Hinton did not respond to a message, but in a statement announcing his resignation, he said he “was ignorant of what apparently happened.”
While the e-mails reviewed for the internal inquiry in 2007 showed no direct evidence of hacking, according to three company officials they did contain suggestions that Mr. Coulson may have authorized payments to police for information. Yet News International turned over those documents to the police in recent months, prompting yet another investigation, this one into possible police bribery.
It is not clear who at News International saw the e-mails in question, nor whether the law firm flagged them. The firm, citing client confidentiality obligations, declined to comment, as did News Corporation.
More recently, as lawsuits and arrests mounted, dissension grew inside News International, interviews show.
After Mr. Edmondson was fired and arrested, Ms. Brooks pressed to pay him a monthly stipend, according to a person with knowledge of the transaction. After an internal disagreement, the payments were moved from the newsroom budget to News International’s. The company put other journalists on paid leave after their arrests, reasoning that they were innocent until proven guilty, a company spokesperson confirmed.
By the middle of last year, News International’s lawyers and some executives were urging that the company accept some responsibility, said two officials with direct knowledge. Ms. Brooks disagreed, according to three people who described the internal debate. “Her behavior all along has been resist, resist, resist,” said one company official.
Scandal Erupts
Over the last several months, Ms. Brooks spearheaded a strategy that seemed designed to spread the blame across Fleet Street, interviews show. Several former News of the World journalists said that she asked them to dig up evidence of hacking. One said in an interview that Ms. Brooks’s target was not her own newspapers, but her rivals.
Mr. Dacre, The Daily Mail editor, told his senior managers that he had received several reports from businesspeople, soccer stars and public relations agencies that the News International executives Will Lewis and Simon Greenberg had encouraged them to investigate whether their phones had been hacked by Daily Mail newspapers . “They thought it was unfair that all the focus was on The News of the World,” said one News International official with knowledge of the effort. The two men have told colleagues they did not make such calls, but two company officials disputed that.
Mr. Dacre confronted Ms. Brooks over breakfast at the plush Brown’s hotel. “You are trying to tear down the entire industry,” Mr. Dacre told her, according to an account he relayed to his management team.
Ms. Brooks, whose tenacity is legendary, was not deterred. At a dinner party, Lady Claudia Rothermere, the wife of the billionaire owner of The Daily Mail, overheard Ms. Brooks saying that The Mail was just as culpable as The News of the World. “We didn’t break the law,” Lady Rothermere said, according to two sources with knowledge of the exchange. Ms. Brooks asked who Lady Rothermere thought she was, “Mother Teresa?”
The scandal that smoldered for years ignited this month with news reports that the tabloid had hacked into the messages of Milly Dowler, a missing 13-year-old girl who was subsequently discovered murdered. Ms. Brooks, who was News of the World’s editor during the Dowler hacking, issued an apology, saying that she would be appalled “if the accusations are true.”
In the last two weeks, a series of leaks landed in other British news media that appeared intended to shift blame from News International’s current leadership and onto Mr. Coulson and the Metropolitan Police. According to political aides and News Corporation executives, the leaks most likely came from within the company.
Leaks to The Sunday Times, the BBC, and to outlets like Mr. Greenberg’s former employer, The London Evening Standard, gave details of Mr. Coulson’s alleged payments to the police and blamed previous News International management.
Mr. Greenberg did not respond directly to messages seeking comment. But a News International spokeswoman referred reporters to a statement from Ms. Akers, the head of the police investigation, praising him and Mr. Lewis for their cooperation with the police.
The Metropolitan Police said it was “extremely concerned” that the release of selected information “known by a small number of people” present at meetings between News International and the police “could have a significant impact on the corruption investigation.”
Late last week, Rupert Murdoch told The Wall Street Journal that News Corporation had handled the situation “extremely well in every way possible,” except for a few “minor mistakes.”
This weekend, as Mr. Murdoch was coached to face Parliament on Tuesday by a team of lawyers and public relations experts, a full-page advertisement from News Corporation appeared in every major British newspaper. “We are sorry,” it said.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Opposite day

Yesterday's dialogue with my son:

Me: Hey Caden, did you know that Jesus said, "The first will be last, and the last will be first?" What do you think he meant by that?

Caden: (long pause) "That it's opposite day?!"

I love the fact that children seem to have a more grounded understanding of Scripture than adults (we complicate things). I love that Jesus tells us to be like children. I love how becoming a parent has helped me to understand why he said this.

The teachings of Jesus were countercultural in his day. Two thousand years later, they are still as revolutionary. Love your enemy (Matthew 5:44). To really live, you must die (Galatians 2:20). To save one's life, he must lose it (Luke 17:33). To be wise, we must become fools (1 Corinthians 3:18). To reign, we must serve (Matthew 25:21). To be exalted, we must be humble (Matthew 23:12).

Indeed, to the world, Christianity is "opposite day." Caden's insight is spot-on.