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Maybe I could marry my car...

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I'm miserable. Really. This is not a play for pity or the prelude to a plea for cash. I'm just simply miserable because I spend around two hours a day sitting in my car fighting traffic. And now some scientist in Sweden says this could very well ruin my marriage.

Well, I can definitely share this: it certainly isn't making it any more fun.

Here's what happened: until six months ago, my office was about a 15-minute drive from my house. Twenty on a tough day. An easy commute by Los Angeles standards. In fact, my wife and I moved to our current neighborhood just because it was close to nearly every major media company in town -- this way, no matter where our careers took us, we'd be covered commute-wise.

But then in January, my group moved to Santa Monica. On Google maps, this adds only ten or so miles to the drive each way. But in real-LA-traffic terms, it is the seventh circle of hell with asphalt instead of fire. The commute places me on Southern California's two busiest and accident-prone freeways with few real alternatives. I get to work keyed up and aggravated; I come home exhausted and frayed.

As if I needed this confirmation, along comes a study from Sweden, which (who knew?) apparently has traffic troubles of its own. Researcher Erika Sandow reports that long commutes can actually drive up the divorce rate by 40 percent.

The (un)ethics of ethanol

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The Senate voted June 16, 73-27, to end all taxpayer-funded subsidies for ethanol. Three cheers for this first step toward restoring corn-based sanity -- and ethics! Yes, this bill has a rocky road ahead -- even a potential veto by the White House -- but it’s a start.

There are serious ethical questions about the diversion of a large part of our corn crop here in the United States from food to fuel.

I certainly believe that we need to find alternatives to coal and oil, but I’m not convinced that ethanol is the answer. Yes, it’s renewable, and yes, it does not require shipment from the Middle East. But it’s impact on the environment remains highly debatable.

And in a world where millions go hungry, the diversion of crop land to fuel land is a real moral issue. Indeed, the World Bank and other international organizations recently called on governments to stop ethanol subsidies because they were driving up world food prices.

That is something the poor of the world cannot afford.

Lost in the garden

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My front garden this year is spectacular; it’s been blooming since February. Neighbors comment. The man walking his dog tells us they stop every day to look. I want to flag down passing cars and say, “Open your eyes. Come smell the lilies.”

Most of all, I stop to look myself, a dozen times a day. Right now we have the end of the lilies, fierce beauties – orange, maroon, yellow, white, pink. They stood at attention beneath our porch, tall waxy sentinels of creamy petal, thick brown stamen, reddish pollen flecks, and tiny pockets of nectar where the petals fold in at the bottom of the flower.

Lilies like their heads in sun and their feed in shade, in a patch of friendly Shasta daisies that are coming into their own, as are the day lilies, ruffled flirts that beckon the eye and are gone next morning.

I’m much better at living with beauty than visiting it as a tourist. I glaze over in the mountains and on the ocean shore. But standing on my front stairs, holding onto the railing, I lose myself in awe, over and over.

Father Corapi: You can't make this stuff up

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Three months ago, I wrote on this blog about the allegations of misconduct against Father John Corapi and the troubling reaction by what I termed his "fans." It looks like he lost a few of those fans this weekend with his announcement, via a YouTube video, that he is leaving the priesthood and establishing himself as the "Black Sheep Dog" where he can continue and broaden his ministry and outreach.

A favorite of traditionalist Catholics and EWTN watchers, Corapi and his almost unbelievable story of conversion from a fast life of money and drugs to the Catholic priesthood is taking some even stranger turns.

Charitable giving still below peak

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From The Wall Street Journal:

As the economy regained some momentum in 2010, Americans responded in kind by increasing their charitable giving.

Philanthropic donations from individuals, foundations and corporations increased 3.8% to $290.89 billion in 2010, up from $280.3 billion in 2009, according to the latest Giving USA survey, released Monday.

But with an uptick in 2010, the implications for fund-raising and for charities across the country remain uncertain for now, said Nancy Raybin, a spokeswoman for the Giving USA Foundation and managing partner of Raybin Associates, a New York-based nonprofit consulting firm.

...More than a third of all contributions made last year are to religious organizations and giving in that sector remained flat in 2010.

Bruce Springsteen's Big Man

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When I was a kid, you didn't see many white and black musicians sharing the glory of an album cover. Clarence Clemons broke all that down.

The saxophonist for Bruce Springsteen (who dubbed him "The Big Man"), died this weekend at age 69, after a severe stroke. Obits will remember his talent and on-stage stamina, along with the trademark saxophone wail that punctuated several of Springsteen's best song.

But I'll always remember that album cover.

On this day: St. Alban

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On this day we celebrate the feast of St. Alban, Britain's first Christian Martyr.


"He was yet a Pagan, when the cruel Emperors first published their edicts against the Christians, and when he received a clergyman flying from his persecutors into his house as an asylum. Having observed that his guest spent whole days and nights in continual praying and watching, he felt himself on a sudden inspired by the grace of God, and began to emulate so glorious an example of faith and piety, and being leisurely instructed by his wholesome admonitions, casting off the darkness of idolatry, he became a Christian in all sincerity of heart.

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April 22-May 5, 2016

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