Wednesday, July 21, 2004


The Houston Chronicle has reported that Protestants will soon cease to be the majority of Americans. As one source in the article was quoted as saying, it will be the first time this was true since the founding of the Jamestown colony that Protestants were not a majority.

There are two interesting things about this. First, Jamestown was English Protestants, but Florida, California, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Louisiana, and the Mississippi Valley weren’t. They were French and Spanish Catholics. Alaska was Russian Orthodox. This, of course, completely ignores the aboriginal populations in all of these areas, but since the article did, I will too. In any case, this first-time-since-Jamestown business starts to seem like more of a historical accident than anything else. If the United States had gotten the Louisiana Purchase, the Mexican American War settlement, Florida, and Texas in 1789, when it got to the Mississippi, we might have read this headline in the early 1800s instead of the early 2000s.

The second interesting thing is that the survey in question only counted as a “Protestant” a member of a mainline Protestant church (i.e. Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, etc.). As such, many of the “megachurches” were excluded from being counted as Protestant. I figure that the people who are really concerned about these sorts of things (they call them Unionists in the UK) will wise up to this before too long. Redefine “Protestant” to mean neither Catholic nor Orthodox and the majority tag comes roaring back. Restrict it to the mainline denominations and be part of a plurality. I think I see where this is headed.

Which reminds me . . . I have always joked that whites will never become a minority in the United States because we change the definition of “white” to suit our majoritarian needs. For instance, there are old writings from colonial times that differentiate Germans and whites (wouldn’t Hitler have loved to know that!), while there are writings from the 1950s describing race riots in American cities as being “between the whites and the blacks” and advising Polish immigrants to stay out of the fight. The Irish, the Italians, and the Greeks have all been considered non-white in the past. They are all (generally) considered white now. My guess is that largely European Latin Americans, the Japanese, and possibly the Koreans are next on the race-switching parade. Makes it seem pretty pointless to be racist when the definitions change like that.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Most mornings, I get a ride to work. This morning there were other things going on in the morning and I took the el. My car was too full for the early hour, and had a couple of loud, crazy seeming people on it. I got off at Damen and got on the next train.
I thought about switching to the Evanston Express (the Purple Line for you neophytes) at Belmont, Fullerton, and Merchandise Mart. This is quicker because the train enters the east side of the Loop first, and my stop is the second from the end when the train goes around the west end of the Loop first. Anyway, I decided to just be mellow and read my book instead.
When I got off the train, two separate times I actually waited for the walk sign before crossing, which is close to unprecedented for me. In fact, I was grooving to some Nas (You Wanna Be Me), and then some Common (The B*tch in Yooo) and was just taking it easy.
When I got in the gerbil run (aka the Pedway) I was going to grab some breakfast at the Drunkin Donuts, but the line was long, so I pushed on to the little take away stand closer to my building. I bought a muffin there, barely having to break stride.
All of this, all of the little decisions, all of the little stops and starts, added up to running into Irv from Kirkwood in my building’s lobby. Irv does not work in my building, but he was headed to the NBC Tower, and was going into my building to get some coffee on his way to NBC Tower.

Friday, July 09, 2004


The Financial Times has been running a series this week about Wal-Mart. In each one, they have some advice from experts on how to compete with Wal-Mart. The general advice: don’t. Be a different store. You will never beat them on price, so beat them on merchandise. If they offer two flavors of pork rinds, you offer designer flavors (oops, did my Wal-Mart bias just slip out?). Anyway, this advice is interesting to me not so much in the retail environment, but in other areas.

For instance, the Washington Post ran a story about the building of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in 1952. They described how the bridge made Maryland’s Eastern Shore much, much more accessible to outsiders. It brought money, better health care, etc., but also has changed the character of the communities on the Eastern Shore. This is all pretty standard gentrification stuff. However, they mentioned two things that got me thinking. First, there used to be ferries across the bay, but that they were idled by the bridge (now bridges). Second, apparently bridge traffic is terrible.

Some of you (realistically, BOTH of you) may remember that Kate and I took a small car ferry from Canada into the United States earlier this year. We did this because . . . bridge traffic was terrible. The fact of the matter is, we would have paid more than $5 Canadian to avoid the traffic, and to get to go across the water on a boat. How is it that some mildly enterprising Eastern Shorer has not already thought of the same thing? If you don’t take a ferry in New York or Seattle, this whole idea of taking a boat somewhere is very cool to us city slickers. If it allows us to avoid some traffic, it is very, very cool. Almost (though not quite) regardless of price. That would be a niche.


The French and the Germans both claim a man named Charles the Great as their own. He is known in the United States and France as Charlemagne and in Germany as Karl der Grosse. He ruled over an area that straddled the Rhine (as Germany did from 1871 to 1919), and spoke neither French as we know it, nor German as we know it. He generally kept his court in Aachen (present day Germany). At various times during their history the French and Germans have had more or less acrimony about his origins, but having fought three major wars on 80 years (Franco-Prussian, the Great War, and World War II), as well as the Napoleonic squabbles, they seem to have agreed to just share old Charlie.

That controversy having been settled, both Koreas and at least one China are now arguing about the provenance of the Koguryo monarchs in the for the eight centuries or so from 277 BC to 668 AD. The Koguryos ruled the northern part of the Korean peninsula and a chunk of northeast China (like the Japanese during the 1930s and early 1940s). The Koreans claim them as Korean ancestors. The Chinese, afraid to spark separatist Koreans in China (trying to unify with North Korea?), call them “a subordinate state that fell under the jurisdiction of the Chinese dynasties and was under great influence of China’s politics, culture, and other areas.”

Not surprisingly, this has angered both Koreas, who went from having an 800 year kingdom that lorded it over the smug Chinese to having a manservant in the family tree with one press release. In fact, the South Koreans have indicated that China’s stand undermines efforts to secure peace in the region. I guess if the Charlemagne parallel continues, they already had the Korean War, with Chinese troops invading over the Yalu River, so they just need a couple of world wars and they ought to be all set.

P.S. The name Koguryo seems . . . gasp . . . Japanese to me. Wouldn’t THAT be a kick in the head!?!

Also, this controversy came up in a Financial Times article. Their links policy is the height of ignorance, so they do not get a link. The author was Andrew Ward, the article appeared July 6, 2004 and was entitled China and Korea spar over dynasty.


The press is reporting that Richard Riordan, in charge of education in California and former mayor of Los Angeles told a six year old girl at an event that her name “Isis” meant “stupid dirty girl,” rather than Egyptian goddess. He was, it seems, kidding, although the punch line is kind of sketchy. The true moment of brilliance came when another politician asked if Riordan would have spoken to a white girl like that, and planned a civil rights demonstration. The demonstration planning fizzled when it was discovered that little dirty Isis was a blond white six year old. THAT is what is called a Ten on the Unintentional Comedy Scale.