2012 in Stringerland

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fireworksAs I write this, our boys sleep peacefully undisturbed (so far) by the sound of neighborhood fireworks heralding 2013’s arrival. Much has happened in Stringerland in the past 365 days since last New Year’s Eve. Perhaps the question is not, what has changed? but what hasn’t?

For starters, there is a new person in our family. On November 23 we welcomed Andre Wing Yee Stringer, whose middle name means “eternal virtue.” Andre’s cuddly 22-inch presence makes him an unrivaled celebrity whose birth eclipses all other family news for the year. But plenty of transitions were underway even before Andre made his grand entrance.

2012 saw a new school for our kindergartener Theo, a new job for Rebecca, a new job for myself and a new church family for all of us. After 7 years in social services with intermittent roles in bi-vocational ministry, I began my first full-time pastoral ministry position in September. We shifted gears from an older, mainline congregation in a high church tradition to a larger evangelical congregation full of families and children. I went from a federal job in social (but still spiritual) work to a local church position in spiritual (but still social) work. My paychecks no longer come from your taxes; they now come from your tithes!

2012 was also a year of new discoveries and learning experiences for me personally. I visited 7 churches in 9 days, attended a lecture by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and completed 4 seminary courses in through Fuller online (Pentateuch, Christian Ethics, OT Writings, Systematic Theology). I also discovered something they call tweeting in June and haven’t looked back. After much deliberation and apprehension, I took the plunge on my first ever smartphone—and love it!

Other wonderful things I discovered in 2012 included the joy of swimming beneath Waimea Falls, the taste of souvlaki, the voice of Paula Fuga, the songwriting of Marty Haugen, the theological mind of Wolfhart Pannenberg, the practice of Election Day Communion, the Ecclesia Leadership podcast, and some show called The Wire. Oh, and it didn’t hurt that my favorite baseball team won the World Series.

If 2010 was a year of searing loss and 2011 was dominated by grief, 2012 was a year of fresh beginnings. It’s not that we’ve finished grieving or that new experiences necessarily equal better ones. But it does mean we’re still growing, still trying, still kicking. Maybe all my dreams didn’t die with Vincent.

Maybe God’s hope has surrounded us all along.

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Loon’s linkage (October–December ’12)

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Film log (2012)

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Here’s a list of the movies I watched in 2012, admittedly not as diverse as last year’s list of gems and duds. No profound agenda here, just another excuse for a year-end lookback (most recent views at the top).

1. Les Misérables, 2012

2. Safety Not Guaranteed, 2012

3. The Narnia Code, 2009

4. The Hunt for Red October, 1990

5. Courage Under Fire, 1996

6. Flight, 2012

7. The Bodyguard, 1992

8. Page One: Inside the New York Times, 2011

9. Up in the Air, 2009

10. LOTR: The Return of the King (extended), 2003

11. LOTR: The Two Towers (extended), 2002

12. LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring (extended), 2001

13. The Bourne Legacy, 2012

14. Super 8, 2011

15. Seeds of Hope, 2012

16. Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals, 2010

17. The Dark Knight Rises, 2012

18. The Dark Knight, 2008

19. Batman Begins, 2005

20. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, 2011

21. Moonrise Kingdom, 2012

22. Glory, 1989

23. The Woman in Black, 2012

24. The Way, 2010

25. Get Low, 2009

26. The Iron Lady, 2011

27. Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision, 1994

28. Wonders of the Solar System, 2010

29. Win Win, 2011

30. The Artist, 2011

31. Safe House, 2012

32. Higher Ground, 2011

33. Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, 2011

34. Of Gods and Men, 2010

35. Waiting for Superman, 2010

36. Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man, 2005

37. Moneyball, 2011

38. Exit Through the Gift Shop, 2010

39. My Run, 2009

40. The Ides of March, 2011

41. Witness, 1985

42. The Taking of Pelham 123, 2009

43. Millions, 2004

44. Midnight in Paris, 2011

2012: A pivotal year for Honolulu rail transit

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morning commuteIt’s been an eventful year from nearly every news angle. 2012 saw tightly contested races of both the Olympic and electoral variety. Headlines were dominated by stories of devastating loss domestically (mass shootings, a superstorm) and internationally (Syria, Libya, Israel/Gaza).

If that’s not enough to think about, consider the humanitarian crises we largely ignored in 2012: Myanmar, DR Congo, and Yemen to name a few. In the past year, we lost Trayvon Martin, Whitney Houston, Neil Armstrong, Ravi Shankar and Dan Inouye, but Joseph Kony is still at large.

What a year. What a world.

Closer to home, 2012 marked several major victories for Honolulu’s long-debated rail transit project. When construction began in April, a familiar band of rail opponents pointed to four looming obstacles, each with potential to sink the project before operations can begin as scheduled in 2019:

  1. The 2012 mayoral election. Ben Cayetano made opposition to rail the centerpiece of his campaign, promising to scrap the project if elected. Outcome: Cayetano lost the election to his pro-rail opponent (Kirk Caldwell), but said he would continue the fight against rail. While it wasn’t the first time city voters defeated a distinctively anti-rail mayoral candidate (i.e. Panos Prevedouros in 2008 and 2010), it was the first election since construction began and the last one prior to the arrival of federal funds.
  2. Federal funding. In the months and years leading up to December 19, 2012, rail opponents focused tremendous attention on the question of whether Honolulu’s anticipated federal funds would arrive. Outcome: The project secured $1.55 billion from the Federal Transit Administration, but prominent rail critic Cliff Slater downplayed the news saying, “This doesn’t change anything.”
  3. The City Council. Six of the nine council seats were up for election in 2012, with rail as the dominant campaign issue. Outcome: Oahu voters elected pro-rail candidates in 5 out of 6 races (Ann Kobayashi holds a somewhat complicated position on rail), while the other three council members also support rail. Vocal tea-party incumbent and rail opponent Tom Berg was defeated by a 25% margin, and earlier this month used one of his final votes in office as the sole dissenter in the council’s 8-1 decision to accept federal funds for rail.
  4. Lawsuits, the final frontier. Last year, rail opponents (led by Cayetano and Slater) sued the city to halt the entire project while archaeological surveys were completed on the project’s fourth and final segment, although surveys were already completed on the first three segments as per the FTA’s Record of Decision. Even so, construction was halted in late August at an estimated cost of $10 million per month of delay while the case went before a federal judge. In the meantime, survey trenches were completed ahead of schedule along the entire 20-mile route. Outcome: Yesterday, the judge upheld the FTA’s Record of Decision, ruling that Honolulu can proceed with construction on the first three phases while working to resolve feasibility/design issues on the fourth phase. This probably won’t be the end of anti-rail litigation, but it should be the last time construction is halted because of it.

A few short months ago, the fate of rail hung in the balance on all four fronts. But after going 4 for 4 in 2012, the project continues steadily forward as the year draws to a close. Amid some of the nation’s worst traffic congestion, 2012 was a banner year in the struggle for a greener, cleaner, more reliable, efficient, equitable and sustainable infrastructure for Honolulu’s future.

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