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.