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....