Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Photo

Here is our latest family photo. It was taken Christmas Day at noon on the shores of Lake Ponchartrain:


Saturday, December 24, 2011


Therese and I for the most part kept a vegan diet back in the 1990's. This was challenging in Omaha, a bit less so in San Diego and Jerusalem, but mostly it was challenging because I very much enjoy eating animal products. As a family we decided to try once again the vegan diet back in September. There are a few caveats though. We eat eggs from our own 8 chickens and we don't shun honey, though we rarely use it. It the most difficult for me during the holidays. Here's what we did for Thanksgiving:
Vegan Thanksgiving
The tofurkey was good, but it certainly wasn't the same as a fried turkey or one smoked on the green egg as I've made in years past. Tonight for Christmas Eve I'm making pickled vegetables for an appetizer, potato artichoke soup for a starter, and then squash & pecan filled ravioli, brussels sprouts, with a buche de noel for dessert. Typically in years past I would make a meal centered around beef wellington. Mostly though I'll miss having oyster soup. It's been a part of the Homan Christmas Eve dinner for as long as I can remember.

So why are we doing this? It's complicated, but influenced by the movie Forks Over Knives, my current status as a fat man, and a belief that a vegan diet arguably makes the world a better place. I doubt it will last more than a year, but it's an experiment, now four months old. Enjoy it while you can cows.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Saint Steve Gleason

Yesterday was the five year anniversary of the reopening of the Superdome. It was one of the most memorable days of my life. I wrote about it here. Here's a picture of me and Mark Gstohl at the game.

All last week the Times-Picayune ran articles about that amazing event. There were behind the scenes interviews with the players, coaches, musicians, workers, and broadcast professionals. Some of my favorite stories were from the ESPN crew about how that game was by far the most emotional sporting event they had ever witnessed. I found amusement in the quotation from Saints' owner Rita Benson LeBlanc about the Skids' song "The Saints Are Coming." She hated the original and described it as "an extremely harsh and barely understandable punk song." Saints players and coaches spoke about how it was the most memorable game that they had ever participated in, and the noise level in the Dome after the blocked Atlanta punt and subsequent touchdown has never been matched anywhere.

Steve Gleason, the Saints' player who blocked the punt, was featured on the front page of yesterday's paper. He announced that he has ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Gleason, like my family, moved to New Orleans, fell in love with the city, and decided to plant roots. There is much to admire about Gleason. He was at the Dome yesterday, and he served as honorary captain. It looked like he was having a hard time walking. Seeing him supported by Drew Brees, as he walked to center field grabbing the back of Brees' shoulder pads, and then upfield to start the "Who Dat" chant, well, it took my breath away. Here was an NFL athlete whose heroics five years ago caused our city to be able to boast to the world that we were strong, and we were back, and we didn't suck any more.

Thanks Steve Gleason. Words can't express how much your actions from five years ago until today have meant to me.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

9-11 Christmas Song

I watched just about all of the 9-11 anniversary material. I find it is important to be aware of politics and tragedy. But I'm also cynical and a big fan of kitsch. My favorite part of the 9-11 anniversary was an amazing painting that I think accurately depicts the sentiment of America. (HT gregp1134 on Twitter)
Yes, that's Santa having a hard time with 9-11, and Jesus is there to comfort him. Santa, overcome with grief, took off his hat and gloves at that angel statue, but then fell to his knees sobbing. Poor Santa. I've thought about the image quite a bit, and I've decided that the best thing to do for America is for me to make money off of the tragedy of 9-11 with a Christmas song. It's so sad it will have to be a country tune. All I have at the moment are the lyrics, but I think they're good enough for a Grammy or the country music equivalent (Hee Haw Award?).

Title: Don't Cry Santa Clause: The 9-11 Song

(verse 1)
The terrorists weren't thinking of Santa, when they made their evil plans.
They hated our freedom and Christmas cookies and Grandma's glaze-baked ham.
So they jacked four planes, took thousands of lives, when they crashed them from the sky.
But you crossed the line you SOBs when you made dear Santa cry!

Santa Clause didn't come to town, on the day terrorists knocked the towers down.
So let it all out Santa and dry your eyes, with a Jesus hug from the Lord Christ.
And cheer up Santa, we'll get revenge, we'll destroy their countries with bombs so then,
return Dear Santa to the north pole, and come 12-24, Let's roll!

(verse 2)
Nothing rhymes with Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, but we'll water board his ass 183 times for vice.
And on Christmas Eve he'll get no presents, cause Santa knows who's naughty and nice.
And Osama bin Laden, you deserved to die, for causing all of these tragedies,
But apologies to Saddam Hussein, cuz there were no WMD's.

(repeat Chorus)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Redheaded Eskimo from Nebraska Responds to David Simon's Assertions about Standing

"I'm going to make an argument here that standing is the lamest way of reducing genuine debate, discussion, and argument in our political culture, in our culture in general, and in our society."
David Simon, Rising Tide 6, Xavier University of Louisiana

I very much enjoyed Rising Tide 6, a conference in New Orleans about social networking and blogs. David Simon was the keynote speaker. I am a huge fan of Simon's work on shows such as The Wire and The Treme, some of the best television ever in my opinion. David Simon said he hoped that his talk would be provacative, and it was. But in the end what he concluded about "standing" bothered me.

It seems David Simon is so very tired of people complaining that because he is not from New Orleans, and that because he didn't experience Katrina and its immediate aftermath, that he has no business telling our story. He claimed that these attacks on his work are ad hominem and instead they should focus on the actual stories he tells, not his background. He said that to take the idea of standing to its logical conclusion, you'd have to be a "redheaded Eskimo from Nebraska to write the story of a redheaded Eskimo from Nebraska."

Well, as someone who grew up as a redheaded Nebraskan, it's my unfortunate duty to inform Mr. Simon that the preferred term is Inuit and they neither live in Nebraska nor have red hair. Though if Mr. Simon reads this and wants to collaborate on a future project about redheads and Nebraska, I'd be game. Think Omar in overalls on a tractor stealing from corn silos.

But more seriously, I present as an argument that standing does matter... Sr. Monica Loughlin, who gave the introductory remarks welcoming attendees to Xavier. Certainly Sr. Monica's standing as a Sister of the Blessed Sacrament, the order founded by Saint Katharine Drexel, certainly that matters in her ability to tell the story of Xavier's unique mission. Doesn't it give her street cred? I could have said the same words and it would have mattered less. If a heathen like Mr. Macrochephalus would have told that story, it would have been worse than meaningless.

I very much agree with David Simon that people in the media need to be curious and honest. I also liked his anecdote about David Mills, an African American writer who complained when people told him that they loved the work he did with the African American actors on the TV show NYPD Blue. Mills would get upset and tell them he wrote the words of Sipowicz as well! Awesome. So keep telling your stories David Simon. I love watching them. But I do think that standing does matter, it matters a lot.

You can see David Simon's talk at Rising Tide 6 here, thanks to Jason Berry for the video:

Rising Tide 6 - David Simon, Keynote Speaker from Jason Berry on Vimeo.

Monday, August 29, 2011


Today I began class by telling the students my experiences from six years ago. They were amazed that I swam to Xavier one day, and also that I naively thought that the world would change after those horrible events. I thought America would shift from policies that only benefitted the wealthy share holders to help some of the most disenfranchised. This afternoon I walked with my dogs to the Katrina memorial near our house. It's where they buried the remains of all of the unidentified victims who passed away during the flood. My dogs were a big part of my flood experience, and I was glad they were here. It's always depressing to remember what happened six years ago. My dogs in a way are lucky, as they don't know it's the six year anniversary of anything, and they certainly don't understand the concept of a Katrina memorial. Kochise even peed on one of the signs there. But luckily today is Monday. So I'd rather commemorate a Monday tradition instead of anything as horrible as a mass levee failures and suffering and death. Here is a Monday tradition in our house and throughout New Orleans: the classic red beans and rice with cornbread.

Monday, August 22, 2011

First Day Times 10 at Xavier

Today was the first day of the Fall Semester here at Xavier University of Louisiana. I have been here 10 years, having moved from Jerusalem to New Orleans in the summer of 2001. I would say that overall it's been a good fit. To be honest, there were frustrating times when I thought about leaving. I often believed that I would be better matched at a Division One research institution. It would also have been nice to be a bit closer to our families in Nebraska, as our children seldom see their relatives. But over the years I've been able to personalize Xavier's Mission, and there is plenty here that is worth fighting for. For me this especially became true for the people of New Orleans after the flood.

It is always wonderful on the first day of class when we get to meet our students. Most classes hand out a syllabus and dismiss. Instead, I try to hit the ground running and make the students come out of their security zones by telling them horrifying stories about Nebraska. I also explain to them that the key to staying out of trouble is to wear a sweater vest. I have never seen anyone in the news shot or arrested who is wearing a sweater vest. But I think my favorite part of being at Xavier is getting to know the students.

I am now 45-years-old, and that means I have about 20 years more of teaching before I could consider retirement. So I'm about a third of the way done. I wonder if I'll still enjoy meeting students in another 10 years?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

$15,033.79 Insurance Costs

I have insurance, but I don't have much faith in it. When New Orleans flooded, I figured that because we had insurance we'd be fine. We did come out fine, but it took several years of fighting with the insurance companies. We've also had several problems over the years of getting insurance companies to pay various healthcare and auto costs that were supposed to be covered.

But in order to drive, and to have a mortgage, and to be "responsible," our society deems it necessary to have insurance. However I think I'm paying way too much for it. In fact, insurance costs wind up being more than 25% of my salary. It costs much more than the national average to have homeowners and auto insurance in New Orleans, so I bet that I pay more than you. I pay $15,033.79 for various forms of insurance.

Here is a breakdown of what I pay for insurance annually:

$4,022 Homeowners Premium (Louisiana Citizens for $355,000 dwelling & $177,000 personal coverage)
$645 Flood Insurance (American National for $250,000 building and $100,000 content)
$173 Termite Insurance with Terminex

Then we have a rental property on South Hennessey:
$2422 Homeowners (Louisiana Citizens $200,000 dwelling)
$458 Flood Insurance (American National for $224,000 coverage)
$151 Termite Insurance with Terminex

Health Insurance
$2,213.76 for healthcare coverage for me, Kalypso and Gilgamesh with Humana.
$708.72 for dental insurance for me, Kalypso and Gilgamesh.
$1034.17 Therese's health Insurance
$53.77 Therese's Dental Insurance
$122.17 Vision Insurance

Auto & Scooter Insurance
$2,292.20 for 2001 Toyota Highlander and 1966 Pontiac Catalina for Therese, myself, and Kalypso with Geico.
$140 Vespa Scooter Insurance for Therese and me with Geico.

Life Insurance
$470 annual payment for me for a $500,000 policy with American General.
$128 for Therese for $200,000 policy with Genworth.

I know I can save money by shopping around for homeowners and car insurance. My goal is to have this bill be under $10K within one year.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Colbert Knows I'm a Hero

I believe that Stephen Colbert has done a better job than anyone in exposing the ridiculous nature of campaign finance laws in this country. Thus, I contributed $25 to Stephen Colbert's Superpac. Then, on Monday night's show, he aptly pointed out that I am in fact a hero. Check out this picture:

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Wide-Eyed Among the Believers: Ralph Adamo Goes to the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans

My friend and colleague Ralph Adamo went to the Republican Leadership Conference held recently in New Orleans. Here's his eyewitness account:

On day one of the Republican Leadership conference in New Orleans, I walked the Hilton to see what true-believing Republicans look like in larger groups. New Orleans is a Democratic stronghold – or has been – by virtue of its African-American majority, its giant underclass, its general history of Laissez-faire attitudes, its (historic) Catholicism. While Uptown has, increasingly, a Republican bent, you still just don’t see that many gathered together. Their work is done quietly here, in boardrooms, law and insurance offices. While there has been a Tea Party presence, it has been mostly generated in the suburbs, among the middle-middle class, those very folks who rarely ever venture into their host city any more for fear of crime and bad odors. Our radio, like everyone’s, is mostly dominated by dimwit right-wingers, but that has little or nothing to do with the character of the city.
So, I walked around. I looked at the exhibitors tables, the NRA table womaned by a slight, downy female with glasses, who looked as if she would not know one bore from another or the value of rapidly repeating riflery. But you never know and making judgments based on looks or gender is foolish on its face. Take Governor Huckabee, whose short entourage I follow toward his book-signing table. If ever a man looked friendly and harmless, it’s Mike, the guy you just have to like because, damn-it, he’s going to like you.
I skipped the first evening’s main event, a 40-minute oration by Newt Gingrich, amply and even lovingly covered by The Times Picayune the next morning. The paper wrote a friendly story, about Newt trading on his years as a Tulane grad student and on the birth here of his first daughter; the word ‘meandering’ was the only unkind note in the story, which essentially noted that he could make the faithful go crazy with his command of paranoia. Well, that would be my interpretation, based on his extraordinary references to Nazis and other enemies during the CNN debate, as well as that literally devilish inversion of his eyebrows (he’d be a natural for a revival of “Damned Yankees”) when he believes he has scored a point.
The second day, with many speakers and much activity, belonged to Michelle Bachman, or that is my reading of the crowd. It is axiomatic, however, to note that the largest and most enthusiastic personal posse belongs to Ron Paul. Paul’s young supporters are genuine enthusiasts, a bit of a mystery in that Paul’s appeal, deep and serious, is to inaction and resignation, however bright a face he paints on the results he foresees. Paul’s young supporters seem to be drawn by two realities: reasonable and laudable dislike of the increasingly remote military adventures in unpleasant foreign lands, and the fact that they have never personally known anyone who really, really needed the government all that much. That is, unless some of its more intricate and occult activities, like protecting food and water supplies and workplace safety, were to be considered. But that brings us back to Bachman, who wants nothing more (after the annihilation of ‘Obamacare’) than the dismantling of the EPA.
A reporter waiting for the ten-minute press conference after her speech discussed and then abandoned the idea of asking her what she might replace the EPA with, to continue the protection of the public and the environment from the natural tendency of the free market to consume and abandon. Finally, the reporter who considered asking the question shrugged and decided not to, as “she wouldn’t answer anyway.”
Bachman, in the ten press-minutes, was on a short leash, only once slipping into unacceptably nutty mode when she advocated teaching Intelligent Design as an equal theory with evolution. Her leash was longer in the big room, where RLC folks and lots of press crowded in to hear her articulate alternative universe ideas, in which the enemies of peace and prosperity are Planned Parenthood, NPR, the EPA of course, and the Cowboy Poetry Festival. She bragged about introducing her Lightbulb Freedom of Choice bill.
Chris Matthews has predicted that Bachman beats Romney (whether that means she wins the nomination was less clear), and indeed, even compared to the receptions given other slingers of red meat, Bachman is the clear favorite through the second day. (I write this before the results of the straw poll are announced.) The RLC crowd stood to applaud on numerous occasions, and nodded vigorously for most of her litany of zingers. She does have a sort of mad glint in her eye, but as the whole process is madness, what’s the harm? They loved her. In person she seems smaller, more fragile than she appears on TV, possessed of a vulnerability that, at this stage, must be adding to her charm, or at least as long as her tough talk belies it. When her speech ended and she went off to meet the press directly, more than half of the press corps got up and walked out on Rick Santorum, as did a noticeable percentage of the crowd.
Santorum has got to stop conflating things, unless he wants to be mistaken for a poet. As he did in his announcement speech, linking U.S. soldiers fighting at Normandy to the Republican urgency to kill off Obama’s health care initiatives, Santorum overdid it today. Working himself up to a nearly teary emotional state, he evoked the immigrant who came to this country to find “a government that believed in us.” Huh? The crowd seemed to share my reaction, but gave him a hand anyway because he was obviously trying so hard. But they loved Bachman.
Let me return to Ron Paul a moment, having been there myself, like Hillary in the mid-sixties, desperate for Goldwater’s clear, uncompromising, thrillingly unrealistic vision to be given a chance. In fact, my whole sojourn to this alien RLC meeting is in some ways a search for a lost self, me, the political idealist of more than a generation ago. So smitten was I that I even volunteered to help in the campaign of the suburban oil industry types who were plotting the over throw of Rep. Hale Boggs (disposed of not long after by the mechanical failure of an airplane in Alaska) and the beginnings of a modern Republican Party in Louisiana. This was the Louisiana of the ‘solid south,’ in which all eight congressmen and both senators (and everybody else) were Democrats. The Republicans, who would lose and lose again before their man Dave Treen finally got to congress, didn’t know how to use me, a high school boy volunteer, so they put me to work tending bar at a fundraiser in one of their homes, a job I did enthusiastically at Jack and Pat Black’s place, watching the erstwhile Republican revolutionaries get normally soused and begin pecking harmlessly at one another’s wives. This did not disillusion me, while other things began to. And when a Democratic activist invited me (from where I stood in a parking lot handing out fliers) to her house to meet Hale Boggs, I went to the Rubio home, was charmed, did not make anything of the fact that the drinking was about the same. Anyway, I can say President Paul without wincing because in fact he is likeable in a way that the more transparent Huckabee can’t be. And, of course, he is the epitome of the lost cause, therefore not a threat.
Is Michelle Bachman likeable, I mean, is she a threat? To me, I mean, as an observer. She worries me only because that degree of wrong seems motivated by genuinely sinister factors and agendas. Certainly all these folks speak, in their coded ways, for the unleashing of the market, by which they seem to mean ungoverned activity by entities whose only reason for being is to make a profit. They can disguise it ten ways from Sunday, and then shroud it in social concerns and theocratic mumbo jumbo, but bottom line -- they are the arguers for the corporations and the corporate state, and they know it. Our own governor, proudly swaggering from having vetoed (and then overridden an attempted override) continuation of a 4-cent sales tax on tobacco, was introduced to the crowd (grown notably thinner) finally by the CEO of Entergy, a corporation that sucked down huge amounts of public money after Katrina, but raised rates none-the-less . They love Bobby, almost as much as Bobby loves himself, as difficult as that might be to imagine. This is a governor by whom no taxes will be raised, no matter how many disabled people have their institutions padlocked, just to reference one of his notable accomplishments. The crowd loved him a little, warily, like maybe – despite it all – being Indian-American and a Rhodes Scholar and all, he might just be pretending to be stupid.
But Bachman, yes, what is it about her appearance? Maybe that she moves her arms awkwardly, uncertainly. I didn’t really get to see her walk, but from her stage presence, I got the idea she might be one of those people who walks without swinging their arms at all. Nothing wrong with that, of course, just saying…
Even walking out into the late afternoon, one is slammed hard by the high heat (95 degrees at 6 PM) joined with the daunting humidity – one temperature and one dew-point married, creating a hell on earth that should win us natives some points in the afterlife. Mere steps from the cool, crisp Hilton and its crisp, sincere guests, I begin to sweat for natural causes.
Tomorrow, Rick Perry enters the arena, as does my sentimental favorite for the nomination, old Buddy Roemer, once a Democratic reform governor of Louisiana, still the smoothest talker in the room. Will they love Buddy? I’m betting they might.

Ralph Adamo on the RLC’s third day
On the final day of the RLC’s New Orleans meeting, the most anticipated speaker was Texas Governor Rick Perry, a man who looks the part of a feckless president in a government noir film, and who in real life is not afraid to press really hard on the right wing’s sorest spots. His biggest applause line came when he decried illegal immigration, and his bragging was focused on Texas’ new tort ‘reform’ measure that says “loser pays,” on the new law requiring voters to produce a photo ID, and the new requirement that any woman considering an abortion be shown a sonogram of her womb. He also claimed to be saddened by Republicans who “duck and cover at pressure from the left” when social issues are under discussion. Perry’s oration had the rehearsed polish the audience might have craved, but the accent in which it was delivered had an uncomfortably familiar ring.
The afternoon saw mostly the same notes being played over and over, except for the discordant one struck by the hired Obama impersonator, who mocked aspiring Republican candidates as much as the president and was finally shut down by RLC organizers. The other discordant note was struck by Buddy Roemer, who told the uncomfortable truth about money and politics, and did not exempt his fellow Republicans from blame in turning the country’s interests over to lobbyists and corporate money. The attendees listened a bit nervously, but Buddy has a way of carrying on with his train of thought in a quiet, persuasive way. The danger he presents to the party is one he’d never overcome even if miraculous numbers of $100 and less contributions flowed in: his narrative puts the party out of business. Got to love his crazy truth-telling, no matter how wrong he might be issue by issue.
When Ron Paul won the straw vote by more than 300 votes more than his nearest rival (Jon Huntsman, himself well ahead of Bachman and Cain, the only other aspirants to reach a hundred votes), a big portion of the crowd in the hall booed loudly. Later, in the halls, one could hear many people telling their companions that Paul’s organized dominance of the vote, which he won four years ago too, rendered the vote itself meaningless.
All in all, hearing the candidates and their supporting casts (like Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council) talk was dispiriting; the negative cast of mind in which these RLC attendees dwell cannot be good for their health, or anything else. The country they dream about would scare many of them to death if it existed, a sort of sentimental police state with plenty of ‘exceptionalism’ for the ambitions of the morally righteous. The battle for this nomination promises to become uglier, and to reveal much of the republic’s scar tissue in the process.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Poverty Point State Historic Park

Poverty Point is an amazing archaeological site in northern Louisiana that I've wanted to visit for many years. We went yesterday, and the visit left me very intrigued and wanting to learn more about this bizarre group of people. The site consists of massive earthen mounds constructed at about the same time as Hammurabi, ca. 1750 BCE. The site is best viewed from the air, as it is huge. Here is an aerial shot from 1938 I believe:
On the grounds each of these giant concentric ridges formed a settlement ridge. They are hard to see on the ground, and have been reduced due to erosion and agriculatural plowing. Here is what one ridge looks like from the ground:
There are also several giant earthen mounds nearby. This one, Mound A, is said to be in the shape of a giant bird facing north. Here are the steps up one of its massive wings:
One of the biggest of many questions I have is how could so many hunter gatherers live in one location, as I thought hunter gatherer societies lived in small groups?

After the visit, we set up our tent at Poverty Point State Park and then I slept very little.
Glad to be back home.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Pharaoh Nagin

There's been a great deal of unfavorable reaction to Nagin's memoir Katrina's Secrets, self-published no doubt because publishers force authors to fix typos and more important, to fact check. Basically Nagin presents a scenario where it is him against the world. Untrustworthy government officials at worst are trying to poison him, and at best they are doing nothing because they are cowards, Republican, and in one case, female. These haters hate him, African Americans, and the Big Easy. But despite all of these countless obstacles the Great Nagin is victorious because God likes him. The most ridiculous part that nobody corroborates is that Nagin led a planned freedom march of stranded folks at the Convention Center across the bridge and they were on their way to the capital Baton Rouge. In volume 2 I'm sure Nagin played a key role in the Tracy Porter interception that sealed the Saints' Victory in Superbowl XLIV.

This all reminds me very much of ancient Near Eastern battle accounts in which various kings brag about how they alone courageously vanquished treacherous foes. One in particular that comes to mind is the Bulletin of Ramses the Great in which he defeats the Hittites. Most of the evidence suggests that at best this was a stalemate for the Egyptians, as they had to turn and high tail it back to Egypt. So go ahead and read this modified version, where the only changes are as follows:

Ramses to Nagin, Hittites to Baton Rouge, chariotry to buses, countries to parishes, ford to bridge, and Thebes to Poydras.

"Now while Nagin’s majesty sat speaking with the chiefs, the vile Foe from Baton Rouge came with her infantry and her buses and the many parishes that were with her. Crossing the bridge to the south of Baton Rouge they charged into his majesty's army as it marched unaware. Then the infantry and buses of his majesty weakened before them on their way northward to where his majesty was. Thereupon the forces of the Foe from Baton Rouge surrounded the followers of his majesty who were by his side. When his majesty caught sight of them he rose quickly, enraged at them like his father Mont. Taking up weapons and donning his armor he was like Seth in the moment of his power. He mounted 'Victory-in-Poydras,' his great horse, and started out quickly alone by himself. His majesty was mighty, his heart stout, one could not stand before him. All his ground was ablaze with fire; he burned all the parishes with his blast. His eyes were savage as he beheld them; his power flared like fire against them. He heeded not the foreign multitude; he regarded them as chaff. His majesty charged into the force of the Foe from Baton Rouge and the many parishes with her. His majesty was like Seth, great-of-strength, like Sakhmet in the moment of her rage. His majesty slew the entire force of the Foe from Baton Rouge, together with his great chiefs and all his brothers, as well as all the chiefs of all the parishes that had come with him, their infantry and their buses falling on their faces one upon the other. His majesty slaughtered them in their places; they sprawled before his horses; and his majesty was alone, none other with him. My majesty caused the forces of the foes from Baton Rouge to fall on their faces, one upon the other, as crocodiles fall, into the water of the Orontes. I was after them like a griffin; I attacked all the countries, I alone. For my infantry and my buses had deserted me; not one of them stood looking back. As I live, as Re loves me, as my father Atum favors me, everything that my majesty has told I did it in truth, in the presence of my infantry and my buses."

At least Ramses has the leadership skills not to tell us about his bowel movements after the battle.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

More Solar Panels

In January of 2009 we had 16 Solar Panels installed by Solar Works on the roof of our house. It cost about $25,000, and the only reason we were able to afford the panels was because of tax credits: 30% Federal and 50% Louisiana State (the highest in the country I believe). Here is a picture from Google Maps showing the panels:
We were very pleased with their production, so in April of this year we added 18 more panels, maxing out our roof.
Here are the 20 panels on the NW side:
Here are the 14 panels on the SE side:
Using the Enlighten system from Enphase Energy, we can monitor the production of the entire system and any one panel. Here is what is taking place right now as I type this:
Screen shot 2011-06-18 at 3.17.55 PM
Right now they are producing 5.12 kWh. Each panel is producing somewhere between 142 to 159 watts. We have a reversible meter from Entergy so right now we are selling electricity to the company, and later, when it's dark, we'll be buying watts back.

The 18 newest panels cost just under $30,000, so the entire system of 34 panels cost $55,000. However, after the 2011 tax credits, we'll have invested just 20% of that, or $11,000. With the energy savings, the system, we hope, will pay for itself in five to ten years.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Greece is the Word

Cassandra was cursed to see the future clearly, but unable to do anything to change the outcome. Such was the case for our wise friends in Athens, Lefteris and Daniel. Many summers after doing archaeological projects in Israel and Jordan, Therese and I would stop over for a few weeks in Greece. I remember vividly Daniel and Lefteris warning about the repercussions of Greece joining the European Union, and adopting the Euro. They explained that while such moves would greatly benefit the Swiss and German bankers, it would be devastating for the modest Grecian agrarian farmers and the workers. They said it was all devised so that people in northern Europe could pay lower costs for tomatoes and TVs. It is sad to see all of that playing out so vividly. And now the more cuts the Greek government shoves down the peoples' throats, the better the stock markets do around the world. Now Greece's unemployment rate is over 15% and set to rise.

While in Greece I recall watching the Marxist organization 17 November riot in protest because of a visit by President Bush 41, who they claim had played a role in supporting the Greek Military Junta. While I don't condone assassinations, I remember being impressed that at least some of the people would fight back against oppression. And honestly, I'm happy to see the people of Greece protesting these cuts today. It's hard to imagine people in Louisiana doing something similar. I would love to see a revolution. And oddly, perhaps we could model it on our own military. Nicholas Kristof wrote a column I read today about how the U.S. military has excellent healthcare, pays for education, and gives a living wage to all without the "top brass" earning 300 times what the lowest level employees are paid, as is the model with many corporations.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Ain't That A Kick in the Head

Last weekend my brother Jim and his family were in town. They are fans of the Miami Heat so I was glad when they left. While they were here we went to Ship Island. There, my son Gilgamesh climbed on top of me and kicked me repeatedly in the face. Therese took pictures.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bacon Donut Served by Pigs

I have lived 45 years without knowing that such an amazing culinary combination was possible. Some local police opened Blue Dot Donuts right around the corner from our house. They have many regular donuts, but one certainly stands out. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give to you, Blue Dot Donut's Bacon and Maple Donut:

Friday, May 13, 2011

Trained and Experienced Teachers with No Value

I just finished a week-long seminar during which I focused on how to improve by Religions of the Ancient Near East class by promoting an open space learning environment. This informative workshop about student self-authorship was put on by Xavier's Center for the Advancement of Teaching. While reflecting it struck me that so much of my work the past ten years has focused on the scholarship of teaching and learning, and I’ve had to learn a new “eduspeak” vocabulary and methodology. My graduate program, like the vast majority, trained me how to be an expert in my academic field, but offered little guidance in how to effectively create a learning environment. It’s been very difficult for me these past ten years to give up complete control of my classroom and get away from the centralized lecture format. But I'm trying.

Clearly the university I am at values education and the scholarship of teaching and learning, but it seems to me not too many other places do these days. I see this as especially true in New Orleans, where the charter movement is heralded on a daily basis for being the education messiah. Nearly all of our education leaders come from legal and corporate backgrounds, and they have no education about education, nor do they have classroom experience. Everyone says we need to run “public” schools like a business. In New Orleans, principals are now called CEO's and they make twice as much money as did pre-flood principals. Schools have no unions, and they much prefer 22-year-olds with no experience over the more costly senior teachers. Many of these new teachers majored in other disciplines, can't find jobs, and so come to teaching with no classes on how to be a teacher. So it would seem the field of education doesn’t value education. And it’s not just Louisiana, I read today that in Texas there are lucrative for-profit companies that offer teacher certification. The thing is though, that teachers are able to get certified without one minute of experience in front of a room full of students.

This all makes me furious. While I admit there are cases where charter schools are doing well, I wish there was more news about the drawbacks. Thing is though, charters are favored by powerful businesses, so voices favoring great schools for all students with shared power in which teachers made decisions at neighborhood schools, well, we don't get a very big audience. If I were a journalist, I would do two things in regards to charter schools: I would follow the money to learn about lucrative food contracts with Sodexo and I would look into how much money each school is spending on busing. People like to talk about how corrupt things were when the school management was centralized. I would argue there is just as much corruption now, it is just more difficult to find.

Cecilia Fitzpatrick

Therese is on her way to Omaha. Her grandmother, Cecilia Fitzpatrick, passed away. Therese was very close to GeeGee, as Therese called her, or Ceil, as others did. In fact, Kalypso's middle name is Cecilia, named in honor of Cecilia Fitzpatrick. Cecilia was born on October 31st in 1913. As a Halloween baby, she had a large collections of witch dolls. I will always remember her sense of humor, self-deprecating demeanor, and kind heart. Here is a picture from about 10 years ago showing GeeGee and Kalypso. We'll miss you GeeGee, and thanks for all that you did for Therese and the rest of those who knew you.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 video

Students in my and Dr. EY Hammer's Freshmen Seminar classes, for their Service Learning project, researched some of the famous people buried at St. Louis Cemetery No. 2. This was in an effort to promote our community partner, Save Our Cemeteries. Here is their video:

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Worst Muses Shoe Ever

I have a God given gift for getting the prize shoe throws at Muses parades. I've gotten at least one every year. I'm like eye candy for the Muses, and I tell the lovely ladies who are riding that I will do anything, and I mean ANYTHING, for a shoe. But this past year I received the worst Muses shoe ever. It's a crappy thrift store tennis shoe that was partially covered by ineffective glue and sprinkled with bargain store glitter. No laces even:

Compare this to some of the awesome shoes I usually receive from the lovely Muses:

I've concluded there are only two options. One, somehow Muses was infiltrated by one of those biddies from Iris. Two, the shoe was actually meant for Adrastos who was standing next to me.

Friday, March 25, 2011

No Heroes Home Movie

Back in Omaha from about 1983-1987, I documented some of the punk scene by shooting my band No Heroes and many other things. Members of the first incarnation included Greg Spence on vocals, Dave Loomis on guitar, Mark Blackman on drums, and me on bass. Later we added my brother Jim Homan on guitar, and I took over on vocals. The sounds on the video comes from Mr. Fink, who recorded a No Heroes show in Kansas City at the Foolkiller in 1984. Also check out R.A.F., several parties, Sol Liebowitz getting pelted with rocks and garbage, and a frozen squirrel named Rocky. My friends Matt and Marc have big roles, especially Marc's evolving hair. Sorry for the poor quality. The film is old and we were all on drugs.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hortons (Sequel)

Continuing with the Super 8 movie theme, this was a sequel we made to the original movie my mom called The Hortons. I shot this with a super 8 camera back in the early early 90's, and it stars Therese, Chris, Jim, my mom the Spider Woman, our first 1966 Catalina, Omar and Tigger.

Canoe Trip on Niobrara River ca. 1992

Some good friends, four canoes, a river, and all kinds of beer back in 1992. A super 8 movie I recently had digitized. Warning: more super 8s to come when time permits. Movie shows me and Therese, Patrick Chase, Matt McAllister, Marc LeClerc, Jackie Sterba, and Vicki and Scott Castleman.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Blue on a Green Day

Lately I've been overwhelmed by tragedy. Nothing too personal, as my grief stems from the events unfolding in Japan, the Middle East (especially Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and Palestine), Haiti, and any number of places in Asia and Africa. But mostly I'm saddened by events in Japan. I lie in my bed and think about people I'd seen in many videos that day running or driving as the tsunami hit. I wonder if they survived, or if their death was violent rather than peaceful. I wonder what thoughts were going through their minds as they drowned. I think about all the children watching from nearby hillsides as their towns and families are swept away. I think about all of the bodies washing up on the shores, and how I can't comprehend the long term effects of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

I know that much of this tragedy in Japan reminds me of Katrina, with a natural disaster made much worse by old and poorly designed infrastructure. And yet I'm upset when people compare disasters, often arguing which one is worse. Not knowing what exactly to do to help the people of Japan, who were so incredibly generous with time and money after Katrina, I've decided for now to donate $100 to the NOLA Japan Quake Fund. Also I plan on drinking more than a few black and tans at Finn McCools. Erin Go Bragh, My Goodness, My Guinness, and Sinn Fein.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Conservatives Attacking Teachers

I was very impressed with this segment from Jon Stewart, and as always, thanks to all the hard working teachers out there. I, unlike these talking heads, appreciate your efforts.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Who's Your Favorite Dictator?

Several years ago my librarian polymath friend Alison invited me to participate in the "Who's Your Favourite Dictator?" game. Did you notice the excessive "u" in her spelling-she's British. With all the recent political changes in the Middle East, the game has become decidedly more complicated. But back in 2008 the game was much easier. The Redcoat librarians favored Mugabe, Franco, and Hitler, though special mention went to Ghengis Khan for trashing the libraries of Baghdad. I preferred the Hittite ruler Suppiluliumas, and more recent, Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia. But that's for selfish reasons, and here's my logic: Like all Americans, I know deep down in my apple pie heart that Democracy is God's favorite government, and it should be implemented world-wide at any cost. This gift at times must be accomplished through guns. Such was our present to Iraq. But more recently, Jesus has been working through facebook and twitter and we've been getting democracy all over the Middle East. And though at times democratic people are influenced by Satan and elect hateful socialist governments like Hamas or Obama, these are short lived and Jesus smiles when they leave and finally give us our government back. So back to Saudi Arabia. I've always wanted to visit the Kaaba in Mecca. King Abdullah the evil dictator won't let me. With a democracy I'm convinced I'll not only be able to visit this holy site in Mecca, but I'll be able to buy a beer and toast God, America, and the Tea Party. Rock on America!

Friday, February 11, 2011

i-Confession Dooms Me to Hell with Onan

So I confess, I bought the i-Confession application for $1.99. I'm a Bible scholar, Mac addict, and a Catholic, so had to check it out. The application is interesting, but frustrating in its ignorance and obsession on sex. First, the authors like most traditional Catholics count the commandments different from the way the original authors intended, leaving out the commandment about false idols (Protestants read Mary statue worship) and dividing up the commandment about coveting into two. But let's leave that aside for now. My biggest problem comes with the application's focus on abortion, birth control, and masturbation.

I drove my friend a while back to get a vasectomy. Turns out I broke the commandment "You shall not murder." Even worse, and bad news for my wife of 20 years, but on a weekly basis I've violated the commandment "You shall not commit adultery." This is due to the adulterous sins of masterbation, contraception, and my favorite: "sexual acts in my marriage have not been open to the transmission of new life."

There is nothing in this application about the Catholic virtues of promoting peace and social justice, or objecting to capital punishment or unjust wars. Nothing about the sin of supporting governments that torture people. So again it seems a very vocal part of the Catholic church focuses on the fate of semen and little else.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Birthday Infrastructure Katrina

This afternoon near my house a water main broke and water shot more than 40 feet in the air, closing down Banks Street in front of Jesuit High School. Here's a picture I just took. Notice the rainbow:
This sort of thing happens all the time in New Orleans. Since Katrina, the Sewerage and Water Board averages 17,000 repairs per year, and only half of the drinking water pumped into the pipes makes it to homes. The infrastructure of the entire city is old, and furthermore it was damaged by the flood after Hurricane Katrina.

Similarly, today I'm 45-years-old. Like my city, my infrastructure is both antiquated and damaged from Katrina. Here's a picture of me right now as I type this. Clearly the infrastructure is broken. Notice there is no rainbow. Just Saints magnets and a paddle to stir crawfish:
Photo on 2011-01-26 at 14.28

Saturday, January 22, 2011

I'll Meet You At The Door

Therese's paintings of Kalypso and Gilgamesh, and our fleur du lis doorbell with Mardi Gras decorations, appeared on page 10 of the Inside Out (Home/Garden) section of the Times-Picayune this morning.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Yesterday morning we awoke to some louder than usual squawks from our chickens, and we were delighted to find two eggs in their nesting boxes. With today's developments, the total is up to three now. Pictured here is egg #3:
The eggs start off a bit small and get to their regular size in about a month. We got our Rhode Island Red hens on Therese's birthday, so that means they are now just over five months old. The chickens I mean are that young, as Therese is much much older. With five hens I'm thinking we should start averaging 3-4 eggs per day.

Charles Portis

Interested in the Coen brothers' remake of one of my favorite films, True Grit, I picked up the original novel by Charles Portis. I'm glad I did, as now I'm a big Portis fan. His brilliant portrayal of landscapes and characters, especially Mattie, led me to another of his novel's, The Dog of The South. There he creates one of my all time favorite characters, Ray Midge. Midge reminds me of another of my favorite characters in literature, Ignatius Reilly, in that the reader is offered a window into the perverse world view and corrupted logic of antiheroes who perhaps mean well but lack enough self-reflection to avoid obtrusiveness. While Ignatius obsesses on his pyloric valve and Boethius, Ray Midge focuses instead on grammar and Dr Buddy Casey at Ole Miss lecture on the Siege of Vicksburg.

In The Dog of the South, Ray noticed his marriage started falling apart when he began the Algebra lessons for his wife every Thursday at 7PM. He figured if he could teach his wife ninth-grade algebra he could teach anything to anybody. She started turning in answers she copied from the back of the book without showing her work, and he would grade her tests with a 0. So she runs off in Ray's car with a dreamer named Dupree, Ray sets out to get her back, and along the way we meet several memorable characters. Funny stuff, and I look forward to reading more from Charles Portis.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

725 Days of Smelling the Greatness

Beginning with the victory over the Detroit Lions on September 13th 2009, until the loss yesterday to the Seattle Seahawks, I certainly had the time of my life. The Saints next year, if there is a season at all, will certainly have a very different personnel and coaching staff. So thanks to the 2009-2010 team. You did so much for this city and region.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Attention To Detail

Buried in my 5 page syllabus is the following phrase: "Look at my webpage Course Commitments and send me an email saying hello and stating whether or not you can keep these commitments."

In a class with 30 students, I typically would get 3 or 4 emails fulfilling this task. Invariably, this is the strongest forecaster of success in my class. Students who send me this email, even before I meet them, are almost certainly going to be in the elite ~10% of students who get an A.

This reminds me of the story of Van Halen and brown m&m's. Van Halen in their contracts had a clause buried somewhere in the middle that stated the band needed a bowl of m&m's with the brown ones removed. The band knew that if there were brown m&m's, then the more vital aspects of the contract involving stage safety issues were in jeopardy of being unfulfilled to specification.

So success in college is really pretty simple from my experience. I'd advise perfect attendance, feigning a facial expression of interest, sitting in the front, visiting the professor during office hours, and carefully reading the assignments.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

End of a Homan Farming Era

Immediately before the end of 2010, my siblings and I sold the farm we inherited from my father. It was located in Cedar Rapids, Nebraska, and had been in my family for quite some time. My father liked very much the man J.K. whom we sold the farm to, and my dad thought he farmed well. My father grew up farming, his father farmed his entire life, as did my great grandfather, and his dad immigrated from Luxembourg to farm in Cedar Rapids.

This picture was taken in October of 2005. As I would often do when I visited my dad in Columbus, we would drive 50 miles east to visit Cedar Rapids. That's where my dad grew up.
He would point out the house in which he was born, his school, and many other locations. I was always proud to take my children there and let them hear from my father what life was like during the 1930's and 40's. Kids back then, in rural Nebraska, had so many responsibilities. While I'm sorry that this connection between the Homan farmland and my family has technically come to an end, I'm very thankful for the memories and the heritage. Just today I was telling my colleagues about my ancestors living in sod houses to survive Nebraska winters. With the proceeds from the sale, I was able to finally pay off my student loans and have some funds to spare. So thank you dad, and thanks to all of my ancestors before you who made all of this possible.