Monday, December 31, 2001

Finally, Happy New Year to everyone!
This year. The not-so-good:
  • World events
  • Not meeting my paper writing goals. Evidence: A stack of book I've had checked out from libraries since January 2001!
  • My office moving 45 miles away.
The good (in no particular order):
  • Going to church again regularly
  • Having a good job and working with people I enjoy
  • Trip to British Columbia in June with my sister to hear her singing group, Schola Antiquae Vocis, perform their season-end concerts. Shopping for shoes in Vancouver, B. C.!
  • TA position with my advisor and opportunity to lecture
  • Rooming with former housemate at AAR/SBL meetings in Denver
  • My two cats!
  • Beginning this weblogging adventure.
Today. Wrote a book note/review on The Bible at Qumran: Text, Shape, and Tradition. Went to the mall and left again quickly, empty-handed. Rented three videos: Bridget Jones's Diary; Almost Famous; and Memento. Watched the first two and then washed six days worth of dishes, which earns another May Sarton quote:
The constant remaking of domestic chaos into the order that keeps a house alive and peaceful takes a lot of doing.
(From At Seventy: A Journal, p. 68)

Sunday, December 30, 2001

I want to compose a year-end/New Year's entry, but I am hesitant just to put it out there. In the meantime, I've been thinking and reading about the significance of New Year's and the desire to write such things as year-end reviews.

In Mespotamia, the New Year (month of Nisan, our April) was celebrated at the 12-day Akitu festival in Babylon. The king reaffirmed his loyalty to Marduk and reported that he had been a faithful and just ruler. The Enuma elish, the story of creation and the establishment of Marduk's temple, was recited, reminding those who heard it of Marduk's role in subduing the waters of chaos, that is, Tiamat.

I came across a summary of various New Year's traditions via a reference in The Lutheran magazine. The site, Alternatives for Simple Living, is a non-denominational Christian perspective on living more simply, with ideas and resources for celebrating holidays with fuller awareness of their significance. The site is very much in the tradition of the More-With-Less Cookbook and Living More With Less.

Friday, December 28, 2001

When asked what kept her writing for fifty years, May Sarton reflected:
What kept me going was, I think, that writing for me is a way of understanding what is happening to me, of thinking hard things out....Perhaps it is the need to remake order out of chaos over and over again. For art is order, but it is made out of the chaos of life.
(From At Seventy: A Journal, p. 105)

Thursday, December 27, 2001

I keep forgetting to report that my narcissus bulbs are in beautiful bloom. (Okay, I really must find a new adjective.) Four clusters of white flowers have opened with two more clusters about to open. The stems are 20 inches high now, and rather floppy, so I had to tie them together to keep them upright. I took some pictures and will post them when I finish the roll of film.
Monday--The Christmas Eve Candlelight Service or Misa de Noche Buena was very beautiful. There were candelabras at the ends of every other pew, or so; candles in the windows; two tapered candle holders in the front of the church (like the ones people use for weddings); and little hand-held candles we lit as we sang "Silent Night" in Swedish, English, and Spanish, the three languages of the church's history. The church was packed.

Tuesday--A very quiet day laced with some regret/guilt for not being with my family. It was beautiful weather. (I know I overuse that adjective in describing southern California's weather!) I was going to be ambitious and go hiking in a nearby canyon but settled for sitting in the back yard under the clothes' lines and reading Tokien's The Two Towers.

Wednesday--I made a (successful) early morning foray to Talbot's and then went to work.

Thursday--Another day at work. It is pretty quiet at this time of year. Not too quiet for telemarketing, though. So my colleague and I monitored some telemarketing reps. who are selling one of our products. Listening in on telemarketing calls is almost worse than receiving them because you simultaneously empathize with the person being called and with the person who has to try sell something. We make sure our reps. only do a soft sell and end the call after the second "No, I'm not interested," or even after the first refusal in no-rebuttal states.

Monday, December 24, 2001

Last night it must have been very windy because this morning the roads are littered with dried palm fronds and little black berries from the palm trees. The sky is deep blue with no clouds. It will probably be in the 60s again today. Perfect weather.

I went to the grocery store to buy ingredients for two salads I'm making for dinner tonight. Apart from making the salads, I'm not sure what else I'm going to do today. I deep cleaned the entire house on Saturday morning because the landlord and an appraiser were coming to look at the duplex at noon. Maybe I should study. Hmmm.

Well, yesterday I went to see Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. What a satisfying three hour escape into the world of Middle Earth! My friend, who'd not read the books, enjoyed it, too. I want to write something profound about how imaginative literature and good movies provide an escape, not an escape from reality, per se, but an escape in the sense of a prisoner escaping (to use an analogy I heard in a documentary about J. R. R. Tolkien). But my thoughts are not very deep or well-formed, so I'll leave it at that. I finished reading the first book last night and think I will soon start The Two Towers.

Friday, December 21, 2001

When I checked my favorite movie reviewer's column this morning in the WSJ, I was pleased to see he opened his enthusiastic review of The Lord of the Rings with a line in the quote I posted on Wednesday (see below): "'All we have to decide,' the wizard Gandalf tells Frodo, the young Hobbit hero of "The Lord of the Rings," 'is what to do with the time that is given to us.'" Now Joe Morgenstern said he had not read the books as a child nor as an adult, and he decided to watch the movie books unread. I've not seen the movie yet, but I presume that line is in the movie. (To those interested in text criticism: Notice Morgenstern writes "given to us," whereas Tolkien writes "given us.")
Written earlier at work and e-mailed home: Today everyone is giving cards and presents to co-workers, supervisors, and employees. There are various potlucks happening around the building, too. (My boss's boss just stopped by my desk as I was typing this, in Word, not directly in Blogger, thank goodness. But I'm not sure whether or not he could read what I had typed from where he was standing. The privacy/anti-glare screens only work from certain angles. [Edit] I checked later and my secret is safe. Even if he could see the screen, the type is too small to read at that distance.) I just sent off a very boring report I had to research.

My department banded together and bought the new translation of The Tale of Genji for my boss. (See an excerpt of a review from an earlier post.) Of course, she'd already read the novel and owns an earlier translation, but she seemed pleased to receive the new edition. It is two hardcover, cloth-bound volumes in a slip case--a beautiful edition.

Wednesday, December 19, 2001

"If I lived nearer a botanical garden, I'd probably while away whole days of my life walking among its indigenous floral treasures and leafy aliens, or buried in its library, or gleaning what I could of the institution's latest scientific investigation." Thus opens an essay, "Plant Zoos," by Hatsy Shields in The Atlantic Monthly for January 2002 (not yet online). I, however, do live near The Huntington and whiled away the afternoon mainly in the Desert Garden area (my favorite). I also walked through the Palm Garden, Jungle and Subtropical areas, and the Japanese Garden, including the bonsai area. (I'm looking forward to the new Chinese Garden that is going to be established.)

The temperature was in the upper 60s and brilliantly sunny. There weren't many people about; however, the groundskeepers were out in force cutting grass and using a chainsaw on something. So it wasn't quite as peaceful as it might have been. Still, it is easy to feel as though you've escaped somewhere magical.

Speaking of enchantment, I saw the end of a documentary on J. R. R. Tolkien's work. It inspired me to re-read The Fellowship of the Ring before seeing the movie.
'Always after a defeat and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again' [said Gandalf]. 'I wish it need not have happened in my time,' said Frodo. 'So do I,' said Gandalf, 'and so do all who have to live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.'

Monday, December 17, 2001

Warning: This is going to be a long post. I've been thinking I should start giving titles to my entries. I could call this one Las Posadas and also Reading Notes.

Last night I played the piano for Las Posadas service at church. Las Posadas is a Mexican tradition that renacts Mary and Joseph looking for a place to stay in Bethlehem. The service wasn't too different from the regular Spanish (Lutheran) mass except there was a mariachi group playing, too. Also, we sang the traditional Las Posadas song in which the men (Joseph), the women (Mary), and the children (the "chorus") sing different parts. My Spanish isn't very good but the song begins with Joseph and Mary looking for a place to stay, and the children sing that Mary is very sad because at the inn there is no room. Finally, everyone sings, "Enter holy travelers, receive the corner of my heart."

After the service, there were at least four different piñatas for the children to hit and open to get the sweets inside. We were also served a drink like hot chocolate and sweet bread (champurrado and pan dulce).

Reading Notes will have to be posted later. It is a sunny day, and I really need to do laundry, which I should have had out on the line by now to take full advantage of the sunshine. But hopefully it's still not too late.

Friday, December 14, 2001

When I walked out to the living room this morning, my big orange tabby, Leo, was sitting, smug as you please, on the red crocheted runner on my mantel. I wish I had let him sit up there until my flash warmed up and I could have taken a picture. However, I was too concerned he not get into the habit of sleeping on the mantle, so I quickly chased him off.

It is a dark and rainy (not quite stormy) morning. On the bright side, I plugged in my Christmas tree lights, to help dispel the gloom. I will go out shortly to pick up a few more gifts and then come back to start studying once again. I've taken a break since giving my last lecture over a week ago.

On Wednesday, I baked three kinds of cookies, which more than fulfilled my cookie-baking quotient for the year. My church had a dinner on Wednesday night, which I had to miss because of my class, and I volunteered to bring cookies. I made whipped shortbread so I could try out my new cookie press. It was quite an ordeal learning how to use the press because it has a gear mechanism that needs to be lined up just so in order to work properly. Anyway, after throwing out the first pan, which got too dark, I eventually succeeded in baking very tasty, tree-shaped shortbread. My attempt to make my grandmother's date swirl recipe was not so successful. I learned 1) make sure the butter is very soft so that the dough is pliable enough to roll up without crumbling, and 2) roll out the dough in a couple batches. I ended up with an enormous roll that made giant cookies. They tasted OK, but I felt a little sheepish contributing not-very-pretty cookies for a dinner produced by veteran church dinner cooks. Finally, I made ranger cookies, which are straightforward drop cookies. They tasted good but are not exactly fancy Christmas cookies.

Tuesday, December 11, 2001

This year I'm decorating my place for Christmas more than I have the past few years. Part of the reason is that I'm staying here rather than spending Christmas with my family out of state. And part of the reason is that I want a complete break from school, at least for a little while. So I cleared off the mantel of my non-existent fireplace and covered it with a red, crocheted runner my grandmother gave me. I also assembled my Swedish angels and candles chime thing, which is on the mantel with a Russian icon of the Mother and Child, a small wreath made of pinecones, acorns, and other brown tree things, a card my mother stamped, and a wavy, green-glass vase filled with water and rocks picked up on a winter Washington state beach in which I'm forcing three narcissus bulbs. The bulbs already have six- to nine-inch shoots in less than two weeks. It's fun seeing the roots grow downwards as the green shoots grow upwards. Laura Petix's Nov. 25th post inspired me to try grow paperwhites in rocks and water, which I've never tried before.

Next to the candelabra with five red candles in the fireplace place, I put a 20-inch potted Italian Stone pine tree (pinus pinea). I have one string of white lights on it--it is beautiful! I will try to keep it alive so I can use it for other Christmases. On my computer monitor shelf is a small ceramic tree with multi-colored lights, and I put multi-colored lights on the ficus tree on my porch.
'Tis the season for reading. In the "Leisure and Arts" section of the WSJ today is an article about Michael Silverblatt (paid subscription required) who hosts a local NPR program called Bookworm. An excerpt:
Mr. Silverblatt, 49, the monotone but strangely hypnotic host of the nationally syndicated radio program "Bookworm," is an unassuming man of sound judgment and taste who's baffled and quietly thrilled by his unexpected success on the airwaves. Now in his 13th year of producing the show at KCRW in Santa Monica, Calif., Mr. Silverblatt has become the go-to guy for brainy authors and poets, among them A.S. Byatt, Art Spiegelman, Grace Paley, Joan Didion, Edmund White and Carlos Fuentes, who are eager to talk a language other than sound bite and gladdened by the opportunity to converse deeply with someone who has read not just their current book, but all their books....The result is something out of the ordinary on radio -- soulful, meditative and, depending on your point of view, poetic or pretentious. "I want listeners to hear what writers talk about when they meet someone who knows all their work and loves it, and when they're willing to drop their guard to talk writer talk," he says. "It's almost like the fun of hearing, oh, athletes in the locker room or astronauts when they come off the ship. 'Bookworm' wants to give you the feeling of eavesdropping on a conversation between intimates."
Because the program airs at 2:30 Thursday afternoons here, I usually can't listen to it. However, I just checked the little radio I have at work, and I can pick up the station, so maybe I'll try next Thursday.

How about reading aloud this holiday season? Here is a free column from the WSJ's "OpinionJournal" on the joys and memories of reading out loud. I remember as a child my parents rushing to finish reading Around the World in Eighty Days before putting us on the plane to fly to boarding school. I also remember having The Hobbit read to us in Grade Five Literature class. We were allowed to do our handwork while listening, and I still remember working on a cross-stitch project for my mother while Bilbo and co. were being chased through the mountain tunnel. (Details are a bit vague, but I'm looking forward to having them refreshed soon!)

Friday, December 07, 2001

Today was a beautiful, 80°-weather day. I sat outside on my porch to eat my lunch.

The lecture Wednesday night went OK, although I wasn't as happy with it as with the first two. I tried to force too much information into too little time for a very tired class with end-of-the-semester papers and exams weighing upon them.

Thursday I went to work--end of the month reports are due. Then I came home and crashed. I watched The Rockford Files and then part of a Banacek episode before going to bed and sleeping 12 hours. Today I did errands and browsing--grocery shopping at Trader Joe's and browsing at Stats, a Christmas superstore. The store covers a whole block and is jammed with everything to do with Christmas, including craft stuff, year 'round. I only bought a few ink pads for the potato stamps I think I'm going to carve in order to decorate brown paper wrapping paper.

I just finished making Susie's mother-in-law's enchilada recipe with (some) of my leftover Thanksgiving turkey. It was very tasty! I liked the contrast of the spicy tomato sauce with the mild sour cream turkey filling. I sprinkled fresh green cilantro on top of the red tomato sauce instead of oregano, which made the dish look festive.

Saturday, December 01, 2001

I booted up the computer to do some writing for Wednesday's lecture, but, by force of habit, double-clicked on the Netscape icon and decided to write something here first. I've been neglecting posting thoughts and/or my activities recently. It's not that I have forgotten about it, it just seems I don't have much to say/write. So here is a random record of the past few days.

Last night I watched The Sound of Music on TV. I realized I've only seen the movie maybe two times before. I'm very familiar with the songs--we had a reel-to-reel tape recording of the album when I was growing up, and I've played the songs on the piano. But I had not remembered how spectacular the scenery is. (My aunt saw the movie being filmed on location in Austria while she was traveling in Europe.) I had an unexplainably unhappy day yesterday, and the movie was the perfect antidote.

On Thursday it rained heavily in the morning, and it was my turn to drive everyone to work. Thankfully we managed to avoid the inevitable freeway accidents.

Probably because I have the lecture to prepare, I've been wanting to spend time doing things (or at least thinking about doing things) for the Christmas holidays. I went to Sur La Table to buy a flour sifter and a few more cookie cutters. (I went to Target first, but their flour sifters were all Made in China. So I went to Sur La Table, where all the sifters were Made in China, except the most expensive one, which was Made in Taiwan. So I ended up with a heavy duty Made in China flour sifter. I try to avoid Made in China, but it's becoming more difficult. Then I think, I need to investigate more fully why I try to avoid Made in China. How founded are the accusations of human rights' abuses; low factory wages; environmental degradation? Even if well-founded, what about Made in Indonesia, Thailand, etc.?)

Then I went to the nearby public library and checked out some books on Christmas crafts and foods. Most of the books are circa 1980, although I did find Martha Stewart's 1999 Christmas book. The older books have some good ideas hidden amongst the (now) hilarious late 1970s fashions--think of a man with longish hair and sideburns wearing a wide tie appliquéd with a nature scene. I've marked a few pages to photocopy; we'll see if I ever actually do any of the projects.

This is the first December in three years I don't have papers or exams due. Once the lecture's done, I'm finished. The professor told me I don't even have to grade the class's papers or final exams. Of course, I have my three PAPERS hanging over my head, but, with no absolute deadline, why should I fret?

Tuesday, November 27, 2001

Today the cold version of the Santa Ana winds kicked up, at least out where I work. So it is very dry, static-y, and cold. My cat, Leo, who is sitting on my lap as I type, is keeping me warm. He likes watching the cursor move across the screen.

The news from Afghanistan (and the U.S.) is weighing heavily on me. As I type, I'm listening to The News Hour with Jim Lehrer on PBS. I feel I've not had the mental space to follow events closely; so I feel I've not been very engaged with what is happening.

I have much more I've been thinking about writing, but feel scattered. Two topics that perhaps I'll come back to: next Sunday begins the church year with Advent; and simple living.

Saturday, November 24, 2001

It is a rainy, chilly Saturday afternoon. One cat is curled up on her blanket on the couch; the other one is sleeping on the floor. The smell of cinnamon is wafting from the kitchen, where I'm cooking rice pudding. If only I had a working fireplace....Later this afternoon I'll bring in the candelabra that fits where the gas fire used to be.

I was up early to go to the Farmer's Market, which was empty of people. Besides oranges, guavas, lettuce, and cilantro, I bought a bunch of flowers, which are now in a vase next to my computer.

Then I went to Bed, Bath, & Beyond to get a present and a cookie press. I also found a red and green plaid table cloth for my card table, which complements the green plaid table cloth I'd found at a Salvation Army store a few years ago for my other table that now serves as a left-hand return for my desk. I also got matching cloth serviettes. The table linens ended up being on sale, although they weren't marked as such--a nice suprise!

Yes, I'm definitely in a home-making mood, along with much of the rest of the country according to articles I've read. But first I need to work on my final lecture, on Ezra-Nehemiah, which I give in a week and a half.

Friday, November 23, 2001

Scientific studies confirm the health benefits of cranberries: NY Times article (registration required).

Another cranberry-orange sauce recipe, from the NY Times, that doesn't require cooking the cranberries, thus preserving more of the health benefits.
I left the house at 6:15 this morning to arrive at work at 7:00. It's the first time I've driven out here without car pooling. Traffic was very light, but I saw three CHP officers who had pulled over speeding vehicles.

Most of the people who work around me doing data entry and filing are young women with small children. Some of them had already been shopping for Christmas presents at Kmart before they arrived at work at 7:30 or 8:00 this morning.

It's going to be a long, slow day. I have a big research project to start now that budgets are done. I also need to finish unpacking boxes from the move; we just got two more filing cabinets.

Thursday, November 22, 2001

Signs of the December holidays are appearing around town. I wish Southern Californians would remember they don't live in a snowy, winter wonderland. Snowmen just don't fit. On the other hand, since poinsettias are from Mexico originally, they seem a more appropriate Christmas decoration. The bleachers for the Rose Parade on New Year's Day started going up a month ago.

In Zambia, flame lilies bloom in December, a beautiful Christmas flower.

[Edited 1/22/06: Removed image and instead linked to flame lily image on James Warwick's site.]
My first turkey was a success. I used an oven bag to cook it in and put it breast-side down. I tried a sweet potato recipe with orange juice--not a success. But, thanks to my pressure cooker, I cooked yams in less than 10 minutes and mashed them with butter and a little brown sugar. The cranberry sauce turned out OK. The cranberries had been in the freezer since last year, at least, and the oranges from the supermaket weren't very juicy. (I had to miss the Farmer's Market on Saturday because I was in Denver.)

I had Thanksgiving Dinner with former neighbors who also go to my church. It was a relaxing afternoon with good food.

Now I have to think of creative ways to use 10 lbs. of turkey.

Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Some day I'll be as organized as Susie and have a whole section for my recipes, but for now I'll record my cranberry sauce recipe. It's a combination of two recipes from the LA Times Food section and from a cookbook on permanent loan from my mother, A Continual Feast: A Cookbook to Celebrate the Joys of Family and Faith Throughout the Christian Year by Evelyn Birge Vitz.

Cranberry-Orange Sauce
Make 1-3 days in advance for best flavor

1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar (I use less)
3 whole cloves
3 allspice berries
2 cinnamon sticks
1 bag (12 oz) or 3 cups cranberries
1 orange, peeled, seeded, chopped
Grated rind of one orange

Bring sugar, water, cloves, allspice and cinnamon sticks to boil in 4-quart saucepan. Cook, stirring, until syrup is clear, about 3 minutes. Add cranberries and cook just until they begin to pop, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and cool. Add chopped oranges and grated orange rind. Refrigerate 1 to 3 days before serving. Remove cloves, allspice and cinnamon sticks before serving.

Now I'll go and make the recipe. I forgot I'm suppposed to make it a few days in advance....

Tuesday, November 20, 2001

I'm back. I had a good conference in Denver--it snowed! But only a little one night. The rest of the days were brilliant blue skies. I want to write everything down--the sessions I attended; my conversations and observations; the people I met; and, of course, the books I browsed. But right now I'm tired and just want to curl up on my couch and watch Gilmore Girls when it comes on at 8:00.

As soon as I got back this afternoon, I cleaned up the bird feathers in my tub left over from my cat's feast. Somehow, while I was gone, she lost her collar with the bell and used her tactical advantage to sneak up on some poor bird.

Then I went to the grocery store where I had to park in a remote corner. I'm glad I didn't delay getting to the store. Already it was a shopping cart derby. I bought a 10 lb. fresh turkey and will try cooking my first turkey on Thursday. I think I'll follow Susie's instructions for roasting turkey. I already have a good cranberry sauce recipe.

After putting away the groceries, I washed my very dirty car, watered the lawn, and put out the rubbish bins.

Then I made dinner: mashed potatoes; pork chops seasoned with jerk sauce; steamed cauliflower; and applesauce. After eating out for four days straight, I was ready for good, plain, home-cooked food.

Tuesday, November 13, 2001

I'm in another mono-focus phase. On Wednesday I lecture on the book of Ezekiel. I'm not as panicked this time but still feel overwhelmed trying to cover 48 chapters of very figurative, imaginative writing in 1.25 hours.

Friday I leave for the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting in Denver. It's fun to rub shoulders (at least at a distance) with those who write the books and commentaries I read. And then there is the book pavilion. Every conceivable publisher of biblical or religious studies' books all with incredible deals....

Thursday, November 08, 2001

So, Norway is the number one place to live: "[M]ost Norwegians admit that in terms of uplifting ideals and earthly comforts, life in this country is as good as it gets. And this year's U.N. Human Development Report confirms that: It ranks Norway the No. 1 place in the world to live, based on a cocktail of indicators about health, wealth and social outlook." Read the story in today's Los Angeles Times.

Tuesday, November 06, 2001

Today we experimented with arriving at work by 7:00 AM so we can leave at 4:00 PM. I don't mind getting up early, but already I've hit the late afternoon trough. Today at lunch we ventured out to the one bookstore in the area. It's one of those remainders/discount book warehouses. I bought a Sunset book about growing and using herbs.

In yesterday's column by Thomas Weber in the WSJ (paid subscription needed), Mr. Weber listed some sites devoted to reviews of digital cameras. I hope I'm not breaking any copyright laws by listing the sites here. Because I'm at work, I've not yet checked any of them, but, based on Mr. Weber's word, here they are:A quote from Mr. Weber's column:
For anyone about to plunk down hundreds of dollars on photographic equipment, these sites boast must-read material.

But they aren't just great resources. These sites are also remarkable for the way they're produced. They're mostly garage businesses, put together by a handful of people working out of basements and dens.

They aren't affiliated with any big media conglomerates or established photography magazines. Instead, in the best tradition of Internet publishing, they have given individuals a global voice.

Monday, November 05, 2001

Remember, remember the Fifth of November....Link over to Susie's site to see her post about Guy Fawkes Day. I, too, grew up celebrating Guy Fawkes Day, although in the context of a former British colony. At boarding school, we'd build a big bonfire on the playground, complete with an effigy of poor Guy on top of it. At night, the headmaster would light the fire, and we'd all prance (no dancing allowed) around the bonfire in our pyjamas and dressing gowns. If fireworks were available, we'd have a fireworks show, too. We'd also light sparklers and then throw them up into a tall pine tree. It was an exciting event at our isolated boarding school wedged in the corner of Zambia between Angola and Zaire (now Congo, again). And because we celebrated Zambia's Independence Day (see Oct. 24 below) in the same way (sans the effigy), the end of October and beginning of November were highlights of the term.

Thursday, November 01, 2001

It's been a long three days since I last had a chance to post anything here. Tuesday I started grading essay exams at 7 AM. Forty-nine exams later I went to bed about 10 PM. My only break was to go for a long walk before it got dark. Wednesday I graded a few more, then typed up the notes I'd taken about each exam, reviewing each one in the process and adjusting the grade if I read it differently the second time around. Then I drove out to school for class. The professor let the class out early because it was Halloween and a full moon, too, for the first time in many years.

Today I was up early again to catch the carpool for work. At lunch we ventured out of the building to---Costco! This new office location is in the middle of tract housing, strip mall, and discount retail warehouse shopping heaven. In fact, our building is a converted warehouse. The former truck loading bays are now windows. I sit in the midst of a sea of cubicles. Since people I don't know walk by my desk all day, I don't visit many websites other than strictly work-related ones. So my posting-to-my-website-at-work phase was rather sort lived.

Monday, October 29, 2001

Well, today was the first day at my new office location. I left home around 7 AM, met up with three others from my department (I was a little late, which did not start things off too well--and I'm never late), and carpooled with them. We arrived shortly before 8:15 AM. It was a long day in a new building. I didn't go outside once. The day was spent unpacking the boxes for my own desk and most of the department boxes. Of course, we don't have as much space as we used to, so some stuff is still in boxes. Then, of course, it took a while until my computer was up. We're much more spread out, which means more walking and less communicating. We left work around 5:30 PM, arrived at the meeting place around 6:15, and I got home at 6:25. So, the move has added two hours a day to my commute and more for my colleagues who live at least another 20 minutes away.

When I got home, I had a long email waiting for me from a former housemate and pictures of a good friend's new baby! So that was a nice treat after a long day.

Tomorrow and Wednesday I stay home to grade papers and prepare for class. I have another lecture in two weeks, for which I've not started preparing yet.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my niece today!

Sunday, October 28, 2001

A chilly, greyish afternoon disoriented by the time change. So much to sort out. I feel that writing everything out will help to order my thoughts and shape the events of of the last few days, but I still hesitate to reveal the randomness and inchoateness of my state of mind in this public place. Two external factors are pressing at the moment: unpacking tomorrow at the new office location 45 miles away and the 60 + mid-term exams I need to review and critique (but, thankfully, not give final grades) by Wednesday.

Today's Los Angeles Times Magazine featured an interesting (long) article by Barry Siegel about Waldron Island, one of the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington state. It is a study of the society that exists on an island with no electricity or public services and that wants to stay isolated from the mainland, especially from its tourists and developers. It's about the struggle to define the boundaries of a community that is dedicated to tolerance: "Everyone is allowed and accepted. Yet...that tolerance is Waldron's greatest problem. People [on Waldron] have trouble intruding and imposing their will. Making judgments is hard, as is setting rules." A marijuana raid focuses this dilemma.

A thought-provoking aspect of the article is the author's self-awareness that, by writing a story about a community that doesn't want attention from the rest of the world, he brings about that very attention.
My presence has convulsed Waldron, pitting neighbors against each other....[I]t feels as if I've activated ancient fault lines that might otherwise have lain dormant.

Some here welcome such a prospect. This is good for the island, they maintain. This forces people to address issues, to define Waldron. The debate over my presence has swollen into yet another of Waldron's elemental, never-ending quests for survival.

I was especially intrigued by the article because of my experience in my first job after college. I worked for a social service agency in a remote community in NW Washington that struggled with similar issues and disputes. On one side of the street was a tavern frequented by out-of-work loggers sporting "Eat spotted owl soup" bumper stickers on their pickups. On the other side was the tavern run by the "Save the spotted owl" crowd. Of course, as the article points out, the sides are never that defined, and people cross from one side to the other.

Friday, October 26, 2001

The last day at the office. It's a pity all the stacks of boxes aren't in the picture.

The neighbors on our floor gave us a nice pizza and salad lunch and brought this beautiful cake.

Wednesday, October 24, 2001

Today is Zambia's National Independence Day. It received independence from the British in 1964.

Link to Map

[Edited 1/22/06 to remove image of map and provide link instead.]

Tuesday, October 23, 2001

A classic I learned about by reading last Sunday's LA Times Book Review: The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu, translated from the Japanese by Royall Tyler. The reviewer, Liza Dalby, summarizes the book this way:
"The Tale of Genji" is the great classic of Japanese literature. It was written 1,000 years ago by a lady of lower aristocratic birth who was put into service to a young empress--some think in order to entice the emperor to a salon where interesting stories could be found. This period of Japanese history, the Heian era (794-1185), was an age of aristocratic indulgence quite unlike the succeeding centuries of shoguns, samurai and geisha, who give us a more swashbuckling version of old Japan. In Heian courtly society, where aesthetic considerations were paramount, men as well as women freely wept into their wide sleeves, and a person's skill in rendering his or her emotions into a 31-syllable poem garnered the highest regard. This lost world has remained vivid for a millennium largely because of Murasaki Shikibu's writings about the adventures of her hero, Prince Genji, and his many loves.
I think the two-volume, 1,200 page work would fit nicely next to my three-volume set of Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust, waiting to be read sometime....
Today at lunch I walked two blocks to a magazine shop to pick up a copy of Personal Journaling magazine, which features an article about Raspberry World. Congrats, Susie!

I'm going to miss our current office location within easy walking distance of bookstores, the magazine shop, Target, clothing consigment stores, banks, world-class restaurants, a grocery store, a post office, dry cleaners, etc.

If you like big orange cats, make sure you visit Punchy. Demented is right!

Monday, October 22, 2001

Saturday, October 20, 2001

I logged onto the computer to look up a bridal registration list for a co-worker who's getting married next month. I thought, since I'm online already, I might as well post something. Hmmmm. What to say? Well, it's been a morning of chores and desultory reading through today's mail: the alumni magazine from my MA program and next month's Lutheran Woman Today magazine. I went to the Famer's Market, in the fog, and then to Trader Joe's. I volunteered to provide the coffee and goodies after church tomorrow so was getting food for that.

Then I tackled a very overdue task: cleaning out my worm bin. When I moved here two years ago, I knew I wouldn't have enough food and yard waste for a compost bin, so I decided to start a worm bin instead to compost my fruit and vegetable peelings. I had an adventure learning about worm composting and contacted a worm supplier through LA County's Smart Gardening site. I drove out to Biological Home Grown Farms near Riverside, Calif., and Tom Bennington helped me set up my worm bin. We punched small holes in the bottom of an 18-gallon Rubbermaid bin, put screen over the bottom (which allows the water to drain but keeps the worms in), cut a rectangular hole in the lid and duct-taped screen over it for air, shredded newspaper and mixed in peat moss for bedding for the worms, dampened the bedding, slipped the bin into another bind of the same size but with no holes (to keep the ants, etc., out) and added two pounds of earthworms. The worms have lived quite happily for two years. Their favorite food is cantaloupe peelings with lots of cantaloupe flesh still attached. But I'm afraid I neglected them during the recent hot weather. So I cleaned out the castings (which is excellent fertilizer) and gave them new bedding. I also fed them some cantaloupe chunks. I feel guilty because, even though earthworms are lowly creatures, they still are creatures and play a vital role in producing fertile top soil. I hope mine survive.

I found a fascinating book on earthworms at the public library, which I later ordered through Powell's Books. It's called Harnessing the Earthworm:A practical inquiry into soil-building, soil conditioning, and plant nutrition through the action of earthworms, with instructions for intensive progagation and use of Domesticated Earthworms in biological soil-building by Thomas J. Barrett. He's convinced that earthworms can help reclaim marginal soil to be used as productive farmland.

Whoops, I'd better get back to the task at hand.

Friday, October 19, 2001

At work, we have one week left at our current office. Next Friday, we're being moved (kicking and screaming) to another office almost 50 miles away. Right now I leave home about 15 minutes (or less) before I have to be in my desk at work. Now I'll be leaving an hour earlier. (Before I moved houses, I used to walk to work....) And no one has given us a rational business reason for the move. So we're all rather dispirited about the whole thing.

This book from Sunday's LA Times Book Review looks intriguing: Sunday's Silence, by Gina B. Nahai. Here's a quote from the review by Marcos McPeek Villatoro:
The Kurds and the Appalachians meet just east of the Cumberland Plateau. It's 1975. Adam Watkins, a reporter, has returned from the wars of Beirut to his hometown of Knoxville. His father, Little Sam Watkins, moonshiner, gambler and snake-handling preacher, is dead, supposedly murdered by a woman who shoved a rattlesnake into his face. This final bite, after 446 bites that through the years have left him swollen and blackened with venom, does him in.

In Knoxville, Adam meets the woman: Blue was born "in an area divided among five countries, [where] live twenty-five million people who call themselves Kurds." She was taken from her family in Iraq by a Jewish-Arabic man called only the Professor, who taught linguistics at the University of Tennessee. Once settled in Knoxville, the Professor wants to study Watkins' church to record their speaking in tongues, hoping to find evidence of a genetic link that connects all humans to an original language. Little Sam doesn't trust the Professor, but the Professor uses his svelte new bride as bait: He brings Blue to Sunday meeting.
I'll put the book on my list of books to read someday.

Monday, October 15, 2001

Blogger is very slow on Monday nights. I think it's because there are others, like me, who want to get away from computers on the weekends, and then when Monday evening comes, want to record the weekend's events.

My weekend was pretty laid back. Saturday morning I did a load of laundry and hung it out to dry before going to the women's Bible study at church. Saturday afternoon I cleaned my very neglected house (see entries re: lecture below). On Sunday I went to a church in a nearby town where my dad's cousin was the guest preacher. It was good to see him again and have a short chat before he went with his hosts to lunch. I forgot when I first wrote this entry that on Sunday afternoon I also went to a concert of sacred choral music by Czech composers accompanied by organ. I'll write out the program when I get home and have my ASCII codes for all the accents on the Czech names.

Today, I did another couple loads of laundry. I tried to get back into writing a paper, which had been set aside for too long. (Again, see entries re: lecture.)

Last Thursday, I read through a few journal entries after work and saw that Viv of First Person Particular was going to be at the Huntington for a lecture by Linda Parry on William Morris interiors. I had considered going when I first read the newsletter announcing the lecture because I have a book by the lecturer, Textiles of the Arts and Crafts Movement, but then forgot about it. (Once more, see entries below re: [my] lecture.) I thought about going to see if I could figure out who Viv was, introducing myself, and then telling her she didn't have to let me know whether or not it really was she. But I had worked all day and, anyway, thought it might be kind of strange to approach someone in that manner.

Now I need to do some preparation for Wednesday's class, for which I do NOT have to lecture this week. Big sigh (of relief).
I grabbed part of yesterday's LA Times to read while at the laundromat this morning and saw an article on the role of weblogs in reporting and showing what happened on September 11.

Friday, October 12, 2001

A friend sent me the HTML syntax so a viewer can click on a picture to see a larger version. So here's another selection from the Wild Russia site, almond blossoms by Hendrik Zeitler.

[Edit: The photograph can be viewed here.]

Thursday, October 11, 2001

Here are a couple [Edit: links to] pictures from the Wild Russia site.

These are fly agaric mushrooms (photo by Igor Shpilenok).

And Mount T'bga of Kavkazsky Zapovednik (photo by Robert Glenn Ketchum).

[Edit: I deleted the photographs and added links instead.]
Well, it's over. The lecture was delivered last night, and now life can resume. It went very well for a first attempt--the students applauded at the end! Thank you to those who gave me such good advice. My next task is learn to prepare for lectures more efficiently. Now that I've had the experience of giving a lecture, as well as having gained a better sense of the students' level of knowledge and preparation, hopefully the next one won't take so much time (or stress) to prepare. For me the highest reward was confirmation that this is what I really want to do. It's easy to lose sight of the goal during these long years of study.

This morning, while waiting over an hour for an appointment, I read an article in a back issue of Smithsonian Magazineabout nature reserves in Russia. The authors maintain a website called Wild Russia, where they post some beautiful pictures of these remote places. When I get home, I'll post a couple here.

I also learned about a Spiritualist town called Lily Vale in New York, cruises along the Inside Passage in Alaska, and sage grouse and their endangered sagebrush habitat. Somebody had torn out the article on a traveling Egyptian artifacts and monuments museum tour.

Friday, October 05, 2001

I just figured out that I can actually publish from work. (That probably was a dangerous thing to discover....) For some reason, I thought I couldn't FTP from work, but since the FTP link is between Blogger and my website, the type of connection I have at work is irrelevant. I knew a feature of Blogger is that you can publish from anywhere, but my brain hadn't thought through to the obvious conclusion.

I found Martin Marty's explanation of fundamentalism(s) in Sunday's NY Times Magazine helpful. I used to receive his Context newsletter, a weblog-esque review of and quotes from various articles about religion, culture, philosophy, and theology.
I'm obsessing over preparing a lecture I have to give next week, so I haven't been too engaged with the rest of life. However, I've read a few accounts of people visiting lower Manhattan, not as voyeuristic onlookers, but as people wanting to connect with the reality of what happened there over three weeks ago. Here are two from online journals, Rob's account and Susie's journal entry, and a column from yesterday's WSJ's Opinion Journal (free) site by Claudia Rosett. Last night I watched a Frontline program about American responses to terrorism in the 1980s. I was struck by how similiar some of President Bush's rhetoric is to that of President Reagan on the issue of terrorism.

Monday, October 01, 2001

Written Sunday evening: Late this afternoon I went for a stroll around my neighborhood. As I passed by a large California Live Oak tree, I saw a squirrel with its back legs and tail stretched out behind it sunning itself along a horizontal part of a branch. It merely looked at me as I walked by and continued enjoying its Sabbath rest. I don't remember ever seeing a squirrel that wasn't scurrying around looking for food, chasing another squirrel, angrily scolding my cats for disturbing it, or dashing up a tree to get away from me.

I am reminded, once again, of why I am a fan of reading book reviews. The cover review in today's Los Angeles Times Book Review is of Venice: Lion City by Garry Wills. The reviewer, John Julius Norwich, highly recommends the book: "For any true lover of Venice, here is a book to read and reread and treasure." In the course of his review, Norwich explains the subtitle of the book, a reference to Venice's leading relic, the evangelist, St. Mark, whose traditional symbol is a lion. I've never been to Venice; otherwise I would have known the story of how two Venetians stole the remains of St. Mark in 828 and brought them to Venice where they were housed in the Basilica of St. Mark. This is just one tidbit I learned in reading the review. Now I want to take a trip to Italy....

Saturday, September 29, 2001

I realized almost all the pictures on this roll of film are of my cats sleeping. So I still have to scan some really good ones of them awake. However, here are couple for now.

These cats belonged to the people who lived in the other half of my duplex. When they moved away about about eight months after I moved in, due to various circumstances, the cats ended up at the local humane society. Per chance, the children who used to visit on the weekends but lived with their dad in another city, happened to come to the humane society on a field trip and saw their cats. Immediate meltdown. I was contacted and agreed to take at least one of the cats. I was only going to take Loretta because she used to come around to my back door occasionally, although neither of them would let me pet them. I'm a grad. student and wasn't sure about having the responsibility for cats, especially if I might need to move. Also I wasn't too keen to have cats in my house. But when I went to the humane society to see them, Leo began meowing at me, and I had to take him, too. So now I have two cats.

Loretta is the hunter (therefore, she wears a bell in an attempt to protect the birds). When she does catch something, she very conveniently dines in the bathtub, which makes cleaning up quite easy. You just have to check behind the shower curtain before turning on the shower. She was a stray before being adopted so is still a little skittish. She is quietly affectionate but not cuddly.

Leo, on the other hand, is loud, opinionated, and very affectionate. Here he is outside the screen door pawing on it to let me know he wants in. The two of them generally get along, although Leo plays a bit rough sometimes. They are good companions and keep me amused.

Friday, September 28, 2001

My cats would rather not be disturbed at the moment, but I'll see if I can prevail upon them to be properly introduced when they wake up. Meanwhile, meet Loretta (get this bright light away from my eyes) and Leo (it's too hot to care about elegant poses).

Wednesday, September 26, 2001

I hope I get the film I sent in for developing back soon so I can post pictures of my cats. Then I won't have to think of so much to write about....It will be the first time I've received pictures via email. I still am not able to hook up my scanner to my computer.

Sunday I went with one of my colleagues and his family to a Torah dedication service at the local Lubavitcher Chabad. The scroll was beautiful. A scribe in Israel took about a year to write the first five books of the Bible in Hebrew. The last few words were completed at the dedication.

A news report about the aftermath of September 11 in Chicago just said the Fermi National Accelerator Lab in Illinois is closed to the public. I visited the Lab when I was in college. I didn't really understand the the significance of all I saw, but the outline of the accelerator ring under the ground was quite impressive.

Update on pressure cooking: I made a delicious Italian cheesecake recipe.

Saturday, September 22, 2001

I've been having trouble going to sleep because I do too much reading right before I go to bed, and then I can't stop from thinking. Or, as happened tonight, I post something here and then can't stop editing it in my mind. I also started re-reading Exclusion and Embrace and am amazed at how relevant—and challenging—it is given the events of September 11.

The way in which Tuesday, September 11, has reorganized so many people's perspective of life and given new significance to previously unnoted or unremarked upon events reminds me of a poem I read in American Lit. III in college. My penciled notation in the margin says "human organization of the scene."
    Anecdote of the Jar
I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion everywhere.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.

    Wallace Stevens, 1919, 1923
A small example. Earlier this evening while I was looking for the post on Susie's site where she first mentioned Bob Dylan's new CD, I re-read her quote from Shakespeare's Henry V:
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility;
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger....
It was posted Sunday, September 09.

Friday, September 21, 2001

I've been thinking about President Bush's speech last night, especially the line, "Whether we bring our enemies to justice or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done." But what does it mean to do justice? And can true justice be brought about? How is justice related to punishment, retaliation, revenge, reconciliation, forgiveness? One of the most significant theologians currently teaching and writing is Miroslav Volf. He is Croatian, received his graduate training in the United States and Germany, taught in the former Yugoslavia, now Croatia, and now teaches in the U.S. and Croatia. Toward the end of a book review about the Balkan War, in Books & Culture, Volf engages the author concerning the concepts of justice and reconciliation, including the limits of justice:
Finkielkraut [the author, jbb] starts the last chapter on reconciliation—an interview first published in Politique Internationale—on the wrong foot. "What other means, in effect, [are there] than justice to get out of the infernal cycle of revenge?" he asks rhetorically. Well, there are other means—such as forgiveness and reconciliation—and the rest of the text is in fact devoted to exploring them. But he never clarifies the relation between justice on the one side and forgiveness and reconciliation on the other. He seems to believe in the power of justice—but perhaps not in our ability, given the state of international relations, to implement it. So reconciliation becomes little more than a concession to our inability to realize justice; it rests not so much on moral engagement as on political shrewdness (in some situations "it's better to chose the path of history rather than that of a trial").

Finkielkraut does offer some wise warnings about reconciliation: for example, (1) that reconciliation presupposes the existence of discrete identities and is therefore compatible with the initial separation of parties; and (2) that reconciliation takes time and cannot be pursued effectively immediately after a war in which atrocities have been perpetrated. But missing from his account are some deeper insights into the relation between reconciliation and justice, insights on which the proper practice of reconciliation is predicated: (1) that justice can never be fully done in human affairs, and indeed that justice fully done would be disastrous, so that humane life depends on the tacit or explicit grace of forgiveness; and (2) that reconciliation and forgiveness are contingent not on the abrogation of justice but on not letting the claims of affirmed justice have full sway. Without justice as a structural element, reconciliation will always be attended by the whiff of a dirty compromise at the expense of those who suffered. With justice as a structural element, reconciliation becomes a way of affirming the humanity of both victims and perpetrators and of healing their relationships.

Finkielkraut ends his book by affirming the need to punish those who have committed "crimes that are so terrible and radical that no one has the power to pardon them." In such cases punishment is indispensable. Well, yes—depending on what one means by punishment. Informed as I am by Christian sensibilities about forgiveness, I think that the role of the courts is to identify the crime, establish the extent of culpability, and impose punishment, but only for the sake of prevention and restoration, not for the sake of retribution.
Volf goes on to discuss the link between repentence and reconciliation. Volf explores these issues in depth in a profound book, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation. He brilliantly brings together his personal experience of the Balkan conflicts and their aftermath, postmodern social and identity theories, and Christian theology to explore what a Christian response might be to the type of atrocity we experienced last week.
I'm getting File Not Found (Error 404) again when I try to view my site, both with Netscape and with MS Explorer. I don't know what to do....
I feel I'm an official weblogger/online journal reader now; my behavior is being influenced by the journals I read. At lunch I bought a CD, Bob Dylan's Love and Theft, based solely on the recommendations of Laura Petix and Susie. My boss and a colleague sampled some of the tracks and declared they, too, wanted to buy copies, even though they generally don't like Dylan's voice.

I don't trust myself to buy pop music because I didn't listen to it much growing up. At boarding school, one of the teachers had an Abba tape, which was the only pop music I knew. (I remember my dad agreeing to buy a ridiculously expensive book of Abba music, with pictures of the group, for me. The movie Muriel's Wedding is a favorite movie because of the Abba soundtrack.) When I came back to the States in Grade 11, one of things I was afraid of was not knowing what music was "cool" and therefore feeling out of place. Somehow, it ended up not being that important.

One of my housemates when I lived in Seattle introduced me to some of the "classic" and more recent pop/rock musicians: Eric Clapton; Annie Lenox; Crosby Stills & Nash; Nanci Griffith; Bonnie Raitt; Lyle Lovett. I'm happy to have found another avenue to overcome my deficit in the popular culture arena.

Thursday, September 20, 2001

To AnnaMarieD at ELN Chat Support. Thanks for your help. Sorry we got cut off. My Netscape crashed, I think.

To everyone else. If you need to contact Earthlink Support, use the Chat avenue. It's much less frustrating than getting on the phone. I'll write more later. I think the problems with my site are Netscape based.
Susie sent me a message that my site has been down since Tuesday. Thanks, Susie! I have no idea what happened and now will have to brave Earthlink support to see what the deal is....

Tuesday, September 18, 2001

It was a relief today to log-on to the Internet at work and see the WSJ back to its usual two-column format, instead of one column screaming the news. I know things are not "as usual," but this small sign showed me that people are attempting to go on with life.

Sunday was a long day. I played for three services, one English and one Spanish in the morning and another Spanish one in the evening. It felt good to be doing something, however insignificant, and to be with other people.

Work was quite busy today. I'm trying to help a colleague clear the piles on her desk, so I volunteered to proofread telemarketing scripts. My favorite line: "You will enjoy $1000 bail bond service" or something to that effect. I struck "enjoy" and chose a different verb.

Saturday, September 15, 2001

Tuesday, 6:20 AM PDT: A phone call from a friend. "I don't believe it. A plane out of nowhere hit the building." I rush to turn on the TV. I never turn on the TV in the morning. I hadn't even set the clock-radio alarm, so I might not have known anything was happening until I had logged onto my computer later in the morning. Watch with fascination and horror, listening to Peter Jennings struggle to find words that describe the pictures.

Tuesday, 9:00 AM: Pull away from the TV to shower. Try to start studying. The TV sits on my desk next to my computer. I swivel on my chair to the adjacent table. In preparation for tomorrow's class, I read the Enuma elish, the Babylonian "Creation Myth." Its violence is a fitting commentary on the scenes flashing silently from the muted TV next to me. Marduk, the chief god of Babylon, fights Tiamat, mother of the gods and representative of watery chaos.
They strove in single combat, locked in battle.
The lord spread out his net to enfold her,
The Evil Wind, which followed behind, he let loose in her face.
When Tiamat opened her mouth to consume him,
He drove in the Evil Wind that she close not her lips.
As the fierce winds charged her belly,
Her body was distended and her mouth was wide open.
He released the arrow, it tore her belly,
It cut through her insides, splitting the heart.
Having thus subdued her, he extinguished her life....
He split her like a shellfish into two parts:
Half of her he set up and ceiled it as sky,
Pulled down the bar and posted guards.
He bade them to allow not her waters to escape.
From ANET (abridged) pp. 34-35.

Tuesday, 4:00 PM: I gave up trying to study long ago. I receive another phone call. There will be a short service and communion at church.

Tuesday, 6:00 PM: After nearly 12 hours in front of my TV, I attend a simple service in the church hall. The pastor chooses a Christmas hymn.
It came upon the midnight clear, That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth To touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the earth, good will to all, From heav'ns all-gracious king."
The world in solemn stillness lay To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heav'nly music floats O'er all the weary world.
Above its sad and lowly plains They bend the hovering wing,
And ever o'er its babel sounds The blessed angels sing.
Then we read the litany. "Lord have mercy. Be gracious to us. Spare us, good Lord. From all sin, from all error, from all evil...From war, bloodshed, and violence...Good Lord, deliver us....In time of our tribulation...Save us, good Lord....To behold and help all who are in danger, need, or tribulation...We implore you to hear us, good Lord....Lord, have mercy." Then the eucharist.

Wednesday: I don't dare turn on the TV until noon. Then I listen to NPR as I drive out to school. Get home 10:30 PM.

Thursday 8:15 AM - 5:15 PM: Back to work. I compulsively go to various news sites throughout the day. My default/home site is the WSJ. I can't bear to look at the headlines blaring at me. Everyone is on edge. Someone criticizes President Bush. A retort: "At least he isn't sleeping with his intern!" "I don't care; I just wish he would show leadership!" The whole department retreats, silent, behind their monitors. Business partners from the east coast who are stranded in LA come for a meeting. One woman has a six-month-old baby from whom she is separated.

Thursday evening: I feel overwhelmed by the watery chaos of my house, of the world. I wash dishes for an hour. There is order in a tiny corner of the universe. Then I watch a Frontline special on Osama bin Laden. I had seen it when it played a few months ago. It is eerily prescient in its analysis.

Friday morning: Continue my fight against chaos by doing laundry. Watch part of the service at the National Cathedral. Discuss this Sunday's service with the pastor. Everything has changed.

Friday afternoon: Go to work.

Frioday evening: Go to church to practice the organ for Sunday. "God of grace and God of glory....Grant us wisdom, grant us courage For the facing of this hour."

Monday, September 10, 2001

The weekend revolved around church. First, I went to the women's Bible study Saturday morning. Then, on Sunday, not only did I play for two services, but I also "was" Martin Luther for the Adult Forum/Sunday School. We are going to be studying Luther's Large Catechism, but right now we're reading (that is, acting) a book called My Conversations with Martin Luther, by Timothy Lull. Dr. Lull, who is the president of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, Calif., presents five dialogues between Luther and himself in which they discuss Luther's theology, some of the controversial positions he took, the state of the Lutheran church today almost 500 years after Luther, etc. It's a fun way to learn about Luther and to try to imagine what he might think of the church that bears his name today in a very different time than in which he lived. Anyway, I got elected to be Luther, so I dressed up in a long brown robe and hat and read the Luther part of the dialogue. The conversations, although presented with a light-hearted touch, are quite profound.

Last night, I decided I wanted to make golden fudge. It is well over 20 years since I last made it. I was babysitting my sister, who was two or three years old at the time. As I poured out the boiling sugar mixture onto a tray to set, she reached up to grab it. I yelled at her not to touch it, but, of course, she didn't listen to me and grabbed a handful of hot fudge. Her whole palm blistered, and she screamed for at least an hour until my parents arrived home. Moral of the story: never make hot fudge around small children, especially if you have low counters. I'm happy to report that the fudgemaking last night was tragedy free.

At work today, we celebrated the birthday of one of my colleagues by having a lunch at an excellent Italian restaurant. I ordered the dish I order every time I go there, tortellini stuffed with squash filling.

Friday, September 07, 2001

It seems as though I've just been skimming along, not dipping too deeply beneath the surface and, therefore, not finding much to write about.

Today and this evening were a little chilly; I had to close my front and back doors a couple hours ago.

Work was productive today. Financial reports are due next week. I helped figure out some puzzling customer data. I visited a women's clothing consignment store around the corner from where I work. I bought a scarf and a hat. I need to vary my sentence structure. Since I'm on the subject of work, here's a definition of "adaptibility to change" from a corporate memo: "Being proactive in reacting quickly and effectively...." Academia is not much better with words like "disambiguate."

I'm beginning to feel a little overwhelmed by everything I need to do in the next months, starting tomorrow with:
  • laundry
  • women's Bible study
  • pick up bulletins for English and Spanish services on Sunday
  • prepare music for Sunday
  • clean up my kitchen
  • buy cream cheese and sour cream to try pressure cooker cheese cake recipe
  • buy saline solution
  • order video
  • deal with at least one pile of papers in my living room
  • oh yes, and STUDY!

Tuesday, September 04, 2001

I'm trying to listen to Jim Lehrer, Tom Oliphant, and David Brooks discuss the return of Congress and the upcoming budget fights. But it's too difficult to concentrate on both writing and listening. (I'm going to miss Paul Gigot's commentary on The NewsHour and his WSJ column, even though I don't always agree with him.) Now there's a piece about whether or not to offer amnesty to illegal immigrants.

September. J. and H. from work are lamenting the back-to-school chore of making lunches every night for their families (they have three and four children, respectively). The LA Times predicts a 12% increase in traffic as students and teachers return to school. The new school year is not supposed to make much difference to me at this point; I should be a self-motivated writer of papers, regardless of the season. I did hear today, though, that I have a new assignment as a teacher's assistant for a class starting tomorrow. I'm grateful for another line on my (rather short at this point) C.V., but am a bit nervous since I will be working for my adviser/mentor. All-in-all, I'm glad for the opportunity.

Sunday was my first of three Sunday's substituting for Rudolf, the church's pianist/organist. The English service went OK. But I tripped up TWICE in the Spanish service. The short version is that the regular pastor was on vacation, and I mixed up "Cantad al Señor" with "Cantemos al Señor" and picked the wrong "Aleluya." I've recovered (almost) by now but am very glad Pastor Pablo will be back next week. It was a good lesson that I need to learn Spanish much better.

Saturday, September 01, 2001

I went to the Farmers' Market this morning, a favorite Saturday morning ritual. I try to get there by 8:30, before it gets too crowded. It's a great place to peoplewatch and just savor being outdoors on a glorious summer morn. Sadly, the market had to ban pets, probably because someone got bitten. But it used to be that people would bring their dogs on leashes, which added to the friendly chaos of strollers, children's wagons co-opted as fruit and vegetable transport, wheeled shopping baskets, even luggage on wheels.

I bought white nectarines (for my newly discovered smoothie recipe from the LA Times. I use vanilla yogurt instead of plain yogurt and honey.); 20 lbs of incredibly sweet oranges for $3.50; a Persian melon; lots of vegetables for vegetable and chicken stocks; Asian pears, a delicious cross between an apple and a pear; and a cabbage. I am a great fan of cabbages because, along with carrots, they last forever in the fridge. Years ago, I got a recipe from an aunt for a cabbage and carrot salad with top ramen noodles and almonds that gets rave reviews whenever I serve it. Cabbage cooked with onions, tomatoes, and black pepper reminds me of growing up in Zambia, where, at certain times of the year, it was served almost daily.

Friday, August 31, 2001

There is such a strong pull not to study. W. B. Yeats said, "The intellect of man is forced to choose / Perfection of the life, or of the work" (quoted by Robert Giroux in his introduction to Elizabeth Bishop's collected letters, One Art, p. viii). Now I make no claim to perfection, but it seems that I must choose either graduate studies or life, and, having chosen to study, I now want life. But the reason I chose school in the first place was that I thought it would lead to the kind of life and work I wanted. And maybe it will, but the goal seems so far away, and I am impatient. So I push the goal even further away by not studying, i.e., WRITING.

While I was composing the above, I thawed out my homemade vegetable stock, which I then used to make a fantastic Risotto with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Smoked Mozzarella (I used Smoked Gouda). Score another one for my pressure cooker (and for Life)! The recipe is from Cooking Under Pressure by Lorna J. Sass.

Now it's time for Work. Life activities this morning included: grocery shopping at Trader Joe's; taking my computer to the place where I bought it three years ago to see if they could install a USB port so I can hook up my scanner so I can post some pictures on this site, only to find a "For Lease" sign on the storefront (This activity could also be categorized as Work, because I will need a scanner for teaching someday.); reading a few entries at First Person Particular; making risotto for lunch; and, finally, writing a post for my weblog.

Wednesday, August 29, 2001

What next? First, cell phone conversations in restaurants and now people who don't remove their phone headsets even to eat.

I realize I just wrote two sentences with no verbs (and I can't figure out where the commas go). Omitting verbs is a well-established trend in television newscasting, as reported by--but, thankfully, not usually adopted by--The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.
TERENCE SMITH: Today in Washington, around the country, television reporters, talking like this.

JOHN KING, CNN: Those negotiations continuing. Mr. Bush speaking to reporters earlier today: Suddenly optimistic.

TERENCE SMITH: Short, staccato bursts.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC News: Gary Condit today, the first sighting in weeks.

TERENCE SMITH: Fragments, not sentences.

[Reporters] JIM AVILA, NBC News: No natural enemies in North America, lives most of its life underwater.

TERENCE SMITH: Dropping most verbs, everything present tense.

CORRESPONDENT: A man alone as his wife sits in jail, admitting to killing her five children. Rest of online transcript

Tuesday, August 28, 2001

This blogging adventure has just shifted to a whole new level. I've been listed on somebody's links' page! Thanks, Susie!
Another lunchtime post from work. I don't really feel like writing anything. Has the thrill worn off? I can't maintain a regular weblog with links from all over the web because my main destination on the web is the WSJ, which requires a paid subscription. Popular culture, whatever that is, is not my interest, so there is a whole sector of the web I bypass. My studies seem to be getting more boring by the minute, so I really don't want to discuss them here. (That's not really true. It's just that I haven't checked anything off my [very long] list as completed in a very long time.) Maybe, instead of sitting at my computer for the rest of lunch, I'll go outside for a walk.

Monday, August 27, 2001

Finally, a successful attempt at studying. I went to a nearby branch of the public library. It is small, fairly quiet, and air-conditioned. The tall windows let in plenty of natural light, so it is a pleasant place to study.

The weekend. A friend got a new speed/power boat (29-foot Warlock--think Miami Vice, off-shore racing) so we went to Long Beach to test it out. There were two events going on, a poker run in which the boats go to specified destinations and pick up a card to prove they were there and a jet ski race. We were hanging around the edge of pack of boats that was getting ready to leave when the jet ski race started. The drivers wore helmets, and so many skis so close together churned the water to spray. It looked (and sounded) like a nest of angry hornets and could easily have been a scene from a scary movie.

Powerboating is an interesting "sport." A lot of money is involved, and a lot of time is spent in the harbour looking at each other's boats and discussing which one is the biggest and the fastest.
Today I am going to study first before posting a longer entry here about the weekend's activities.

Friday, August 24, 2001

My first attempt to post a picture. (Thanks to Susie at Raspberry World for sending me the HTML tags.) No, I don't work for Interweave Press, but I think they have wonderful publications about needle crafts, such as PieceWork magazine.

Thursday, August 23, 2001

Conducted successful experiments two and three using my pressure cooker. First, I made vegetable stock. Trader Joe's carries good ready-made stock, but Trader Joe's is a bit of a drive from where I live, and the stock still has a lot of sodium in it. At regular grocery stores, vegetable stock is made with high fructose corn syrup, not to mention up to 900 mg of sodium! Then for dinner tonight I made lentil soup using the stock I'd made. It tasted very good. I used a new recipe from The Bean Harvest Cookbook by Ashley Miller, a cookbook I found at the used cookbook store just down the street.

From another cookbok I found at the library, Eating Well in a Busy World by Francine Allen: "One of the simplest ways I have found to refresh myself from the numbness caused by long hours of shuffling ideas and papers is to immerse myself in the textures, colors and smells of things of the earth....[R]insing, chopping and cooking fresh foods not only leads to healthful meals, but can sensually delight and mentally relax the tired cook" (p. xi). And from Rosemary Radford Ruether: "[N]o theologian can be taken seriously unless he or she can cook" (quoted by John Goldingay and E. Schillebeeckx).

Wednesday, August 22, 2001

To those who've not yet discovered it, I offer the weekly Los Angeles Times Food Section. It's published every Wednesday and is available for free for one week at the website. The LA Times is one of the few newspapers in the country that still maintains a complete test kitchen and full-time staff. (I learned this on a Huell Howser program, which toured the kitchen and interviewed the staff.) The recipes are excellent. Besides feature articles with recipes (this week--eggplant spreads and dips), weekly columns include "Quick Fix" meals and "Wine." (However, I don't see the Wine column online.) The recipes often highlight the foods from the various ethnic groups/communities in the LA area.

Every January, the Food Section publishes their "Top 10" recipes for the previous year. I've even dipped into the archives a few times to get recipes, even though you have to pay a fee.

Tuesday, August 21, 2001

I watched the Gilmore Girls on TV tonight. I only recently happened upon the show, and I enjoy it even though I know that's not how people really talk to one another.
Blogger lesson of the day: When you edit entries on your current page and republish them, you also have to republish the archived entries so that any changes you make are reflected in the archives, too.
I'm going to try post something on my lunch break at work. It is a little distracting and not quite as easy as at home to get into the "headspace" for writing a personal diary.

In Sunday's Los Angeles Times Book Review, Seamus Heaney reviewed A Way of Life, Like Any Other by Darcy O'Brien. I read the review because it was by Seamus Heaney, and he reminded me why I love reading a well-written book review even if I never read the book itself. Heaney describes O'Brien's earlier works on Irish writers: "There was little sense...that Darcy himself was hitting his stride as a writer. These were maculate performances by someone with a gift for the immaculate." I don't recall ever hearing or reading the word "maculate." Of course, there is the immaculate conception and some people live in immaculate homes, but "maculate" never occurred to me. (It certainly would describe my house!) Heaney goes on to write that O'Brien's "at-homeness in places where he was slightly deliciously out of it, all suggested his artist's capacity for immersion and detachment." First, "slightly deliciously" is how poets write book reviews. Second, I wonder if the simultaneous experience of "immersion and detachment" is part of the urge behind online diaries and journals.

Speaking of Seamus Heaney, I recently purchased a double-CD of Heaney reading his new translation of Beowulf, an epic best heard out loud rather than read silently.

Monday, August 20, 2001

I have until 9 AM to complete this post. Then I am going to start studying. I just finished breakfast--toast, an orange, and tea with milk. Today's agenda: write weblog until 9 AM; study until noon; take shower, eat lunch, etc.; prepare for reading; drive out to school; photocopy essay from book I have to return; return recalled books; go to reading; come home and make dinner; wash dishes; pick up living room a bit.

Saturday I finished converting a top sheet to a fitted sheet. It fits perfectly! Saturday evening I went to a concert at church performed by the music director, Rudolfas Budginas. He's preparing for a five-concert tour of Hungary, so he played all Liszt piano works. Incredibly beautiful and technically dazzling!

Well, it's already just past 9 o'clock. I wasted a bunch of time looking for a listing of Liszt's complete works online to no avail. (Rudolf didn't have a printed program; he just told us what he was going to play before he played it. I want to make sure I have the correct titles of the pieces.)

Why 9 o'clock? C. S. Lewis writes about his ideal schedule in Surprised by Joy, a schedule he kept as a private student of Mr. Kirkpatrick.
[I]f I could please myself I would always live as I lived there. I would choose always to breakfast at exactly eight and to be at my desk by nine, there to read or write till one. If a cup of good tea or coffee could be brought to me about eleven, so much the better....At one precisely lunch should be on the table; and by two at the latest I would be on the road [alone]....Walking and talking are two very great pleasures, but it is a mistake to combine them. Our own noise blots out the sounds and silences of the out-door world....The return from the walk, and the arrival of tea, should be exactly coincident, and not later than a quarter past four....At five a man [!] should be at work again, and at it till seven. (pp. 115-116)
What strikes me about this ideal existence is that Lewis's meals (even tea and coffee!) are provided by another person.

More on this subject another time. But now I must begin "the one thing needful" for this moment.

Saturday, August 18, 2001

NEWS FLASH!! I just solved the disappearing "post" button mystery while editing my most recent submission to correct a grammatical error. The bottom frame that shows the previous posts needed to be moved down a little so it wasn't overlapping the top "Post to...." frame. Oh, the satisfaction of small victories.
New obsession: sewing things for my duplex. Not that I've ever taken formal sewing classes or am very good at it, but growing up my Mum let me use her featherweight Singer sewing machine to make Barbie doll clothes. I've also sewn a few simple clothes for myself, and last summer I made curtains for my bathroom and a long curtain to replace my missing closet door. I found a very useful book called The Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Home Sewing by Krause Publications. It has excellent sections on curtains and blinds and on making bed linens and coverings. It gives directions for making a flat sheet into a fitted sheet, which is handy for people like me who use a duvet with a duvet cover and therefore don't need top sheets. Other sections cover cushions, lamp shades, kitchen/dining table, and upholstery (too ambitious for me). Uh-oh. I was so excited to recommend this book, I typed too far and now my "post" button has disappeared again. What a bother. Now I have to cut and paste into a new frame, etc.

Got up early this morning, even though I was up until 2:30 AM dismantling a top sheet. Went to the laundromat and did two loads of wash. I like the large front-loading machines. They get clothes much cleaner than the top loading machines even when they're packed full. Plus it's hypnotizing to watch the clothes tumbling around. J. from work just got a new front-loading machine with a glass door. He says it's better than television; his children and cats sit in front of it mesmerized. Then I brought the wash home and hung it all out on my clothes lines. One of the simple pleasures I've enjoyed since moving to this duplex two years ago is hanging out the wash to dry. It's so quiet early in the morning; I don't have to worry whether dryers will be available when the laudromat is busy; I don't have to worry about shrinking my clothes; and the clothes smell so fresh and wholesome after hanging on the line all day, not to mention the satisfaction of using freely available energy (sunshine and wind). I only had to use the dryers a couple times last winter (but then that's an advantage of living in Southern California!).

Now I'm going to try and work on my paper....

Thursday, August 16, 2001

It's pretty hot right now. Another day of not working on my paper(s)....But I'm doing so many other things! Used my 20% off coupon at Bed Bath and Beyond to buy a Fagor pressure cooker this morning. My mother cooked with a pressure cooker all the time when I was growing up. The pressure regulator on the lid jiggled up and down once the pressure built up--the sound that lunch would soon be ready! I think I'll try beef stew tonight, even though it's so hot. One justification for getting the pressure cooker is that it takes much less time to cook beans, which I want to start eating more.

Monday, August 13, 2001

I realize it takes discipline actually to keep posting more or less daily on my site. Once again, I delude myself that if I THINK about it, it magically will get done. But no. Then it seems so boring to write about the daily details. Well, the details probably are boring to most but I'm going to go ahead and write about them anyway.

I think (!!) I just solved the disappearing button syndrome or at least came up with a workaround. If I right click in the Post to... box/frame and choose "Show Only This Frame," I can write longer posts and still see the buttons.

My adventure on Friday was to go to a favorite used book store and buy the Julian Green dairy/journal I'd seen there earlier (Personal Record: 1928-1939. Trans. from the French. Harper & Bros, 1939). I first read about Green's dairy in Fr. Schmemann's journal, and because some of my favorite books are those recommended to me by other people, either in person or in journals I read, I was eager to find Green's book. It did not disappoint me. Green was a young novelist living in Paris in the 1930s--he wrote this journal between 27 and 38 years of age--who visited the Louvre everyday ("I feel as though it has fed me and brought me up" [p. 61]). He describes the process of writing in graphic terms: "I try to write, but with a curious feeling that the words hate me, and that I am assembling them by force" (p. 96). I could keep this blog well-provisioned with quotes from Julian Green alone.

Saturday's and Sunday's activities were spin-offs from Friday's bookstore foray. I had bought another book there called New Papercrafts: An inspirational and practical guide to contemporary Papercrafts, including Papier mâché, decoupage, paper cutting and callage, decorating paper and paper construction, published by Lorenz Books, a beautiful book full of glossy pictures. It inspired me--as the subtitle promised it would--to start making all my own cards and giftwrap, but first I needed basic supplies, which required visiting a number of local art stores. I'm not at all artistic or "crafty"; however, once again, I like the IDEA of being creative. I did make one card and partially wrapped a photocopier paper box in wrapping paper so I'd have an appropriate place to store my supplies. All this activity (new website; new paper hobby; oh, and I need to organize my web bookmarks, which are in one huge file) is so compelling because, in real life, I'm supposed to be writing papers for my grad program. As Julian Green puts it: "I care for [dissipation] only when it is stolen from hours of work. The moment it becomes merely a means of filling up my spare time, I cease to enjoy it" (p. 77).

Friday, August 10, 2001

Just changed my blog status from private to public, with much hesitation about what I'm getting myself into. For reassurance, I've been looking back through some favorite journals and diaries that have been published in book form. Granted, the authors generally already had a public presence before their private writings were released, and the entries were edited either by the author or someone else. It would be interesting to find out if diaries more often are published before or after an author's death. I'll list a couple now and write about them later when I find out how to keep the "post" button from sliding under the frame above it when I write an entry longer than this. Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton; The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann: 1973-1983.
Little by little, inch by inch. I've now added my email address at the bottom of the page, thanks to help from CNET's free Web Building explanations. Next step: add it to the top.
At rebecca's pocket I read a helpful essay on the history of weblogs and the distinction between a weblog and a blog.

I need to figure out why the frame of the editing section in blogger disappears when I write longer posts, hidding the "post" button so I lose everything I've just written....
I need to start writing down the various paths I've taken to discover sites I like. I've been spending a lot of time at Raspberry World reading the weblog and journal posted there and following the links Susie highlights. I found her site via blogdex, which I read about on Monday in Thomas E. Weber's E-World column of the WSJ (you'll need a paid subscription) and which started me on this blogging adventure.

Wednesday, August 08, 2001

Message to Earthlink tech support re: Case ID#: P 3842646: I figured out the FTP problems I was having. But any further advice you might have on setting up and managing FTP directories and files so I can create additional pages would be appreciated. (I did find some information on the Earthlink Support pages.) Thank you.
This is a posting from work with J. and H. looking over my shoulder.

Tuesday, August 07, 2001

My next hurdle is to see if I can create a few more pages.
Experiment to see if I can add a link to The Atlantic Monthly magazine website.
Second/Third/etc. try of the day to FTP to my homepage.
First post on-line. Many ideas tumbling around my head until I actually start writing knowing I'm going to publish them to the world.