February 13, 2010

Go, Canada!

During the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Olympic Games last night, I was impressed by the amount of time and the degree of prominence given to the First Nations: the indigenous people of Canada. The leaders of the four nations whose territories encompass the Olympic venues were seated with the national and international leaders.

Tribal representatives offered greetings in their native languages, as did the Utes at the Salt Lake Games. But then native people from across Canada performed their traditional dances in traditional attire throughout the parade of nations. I was struck by the similarity between the dances and costumes of the Prairie tribes, as they were called, to those of the Great Plains in the U.S.

But I was most sharply struck by the notion that no games in the U.S. has ever given so much time and prominence to native peoples. For all our similarities, there are great differences between Americans and Canadians, and this is one of them. Here, we frequently forget our native peoples. And when we remember, it often seems an afterthought. ("Hey, since we're in Utah, we should invite the Osmonds. Oh yeah, and maybe the Utes, too.")

But another segment of the show was very -- how shall I put it -- North American. When the tartan-and-leather-clad tap dancers and fiddlers took the stage, in what I can only describe as a Punk Rock Riverdance, it demonstrated the individuality and inventiveness that characterizes both of our pioneer nations. The fiddling and clogging, which the producers encountered on Canada's east coast, is similar to that seen in Appalachia. I'd say it was the same, but I've never seen tattooed Appalachian dancers in black studded leather and chains. (Which isn't to say they don't exist. Only that I've never seen them.)

At the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, a thousand men, all of similar height and build and ethnicity, dressed the same way, doing the same thing, expressed the conformity of the Chinese Communist state. Contrast that with the Canadian people, a variety of colors and sizes and ethnicities, each dressed differently, dancing together but not in unison.

We Americans may admire the Chinese precision and unity, but individuality and innovation -- those are things we can relate to. Our normally unassuming Northern cousins have set themselves the audacious goal to own the podium at their games. I wish them well.

February 12, 2010

How many times do I have to tell you…

So often, I tell my teenager “we need to leave at X o’clock,” and he’s not ready to leave until X-plus-ten … or plus-15 … or plus-20 …

You would think I’d have learned by now to give him an earlier deadline, like editors sometimes do with recalcitrant freelancers. But no, even after years of arriving late at school, or dentist appointments, or worship, I told him the truth: We need to leave by seven-thirty.

Then I waited with gnashing teeth while he took uncommonly long in the shower, ignored my instruction to wear a sweater and a jacket because it would be cold, and roamed about the house searching for a misplaced wallet.

I looked at my watch. We were told to be at the school at seven-forty-five so he could take the state’s standardized test. It was now seven-forty, and the school is fifteen minutes away. Meanwhile, he looked for a book to read during the bus ride home.

My fury swelled. His insubordination showed disrespect for me and for his own education. I poured out my wrath by punching the wall, scraping the skin off my knuckles.

Once he was in the car, I sped to the school, praying we would be in time. We got to the school office five minutes after eight. Two other homeschoolers waited in the lobby. The secretary reassured me that the testing coordinator had not yet started. Thank you, God. I apologized to my son for losing my temper and wished him well. The coordinator came to admit the homeschoolers into the testing room.

I headed out, still angry. In the car, I prayed aloud, something I don’t often do in solitude. “Jesus Christ Lord God Almighty in Heaven, help me. Why is he so disrespectful? Why does he do the opposite of what I tell him? I give clear instructions, and he doesn’t follow them.”

I imagined God folding his arms and frowning. “Now you know how I feel.”

I would rather punch a wall and hurt myself than hurt my child. In the same way, the Creator poured out his wrath on the Redeemer, shedding his blood rather than ours. And despite our faults, He gives us enough grace that even though we fall short of the goal, we are still admitted into His presence.

February 5, 2010

Cancel this "special order"

This just in, from one of our faithful correspondents:

I have received an e-mail that looks like it is from Amazon.com but is not. I am sure it is a phishing scam.

The mail is very well done in that it has the Amazon logo and claims to be from "order-update@amazon.com.
It tells you to click on the attached link for an update on your order status.

The tip-off for me was: 1. I have no current order with Amazon, and 2. rather than a hot link to UPS as I would expect from Amazon, the mail had an attachment that was a .zip file with the instruction to open the zip file for order update information.… This one is pretty sneaky in that is does not try to scare you, e.g. "your credit card data is wrong," or sell you something. But I'm positive the zip file would unload some nasty bit of malware that would either steal my data or just trash the hard drive.

Malware, indeed. Akin to the "special delivery" e-mail noted earlier, this type of scam often involves software that logs your keystrokes, giving a hacker access to the things you use your computer for, like shopping and banking, either of which can get the hacker your credit card number. Alternatively, if you are using a Windoze computer, malware can turn your PC into a "zombie," generating even more spam to the unsuspecting masses.

For more information, visit Symantec's Web site.