Monday, December 30, 2002

All about Barbie

Here's an interesting article about Barbie in The Economist magazine, via the Ms. Magazine blog.

The PBS program P.O.V. showed a provocative documentary by Susan Stern about Barbie a few years ago: "Barbie Nation: An Unauthorized Tour".

Sunday, December 29, 2002

Fragments of a week

Re-immersion in family Stayed one night with my sister and brother-in-law in Seattle. (My sister used to stay overnight with me in Seattle.) The rest of the time I was with my parents' in the house that used to be my grandparents'. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and the cousins' babies. Visiting my mother's aunt—snow and evergreen trees. Reading my grandfather's travel diaries. Grandmother's and great aunt's stories of simple Christmases in the past where the children each received a pair of mittens as a gift. Occasionally someone might get a doll. I won the Scrabble game we played huddled around the wood stove in the kitchen.

Washington Rain. Always rain. But sun, too. Outside my mother's kitchen window, the neighbor's newly painted barn perched on the edge of the hill. The annual pilgrimage to Easton's Books. In Seattle, we stopped by Chubby & Tubby's for some last minute gifts, a store that, sadly, is going out of business.

Traveling Celebrity sighting: one of the actors from Gilmore Girls, the man who plays Jackson, was on my flight from Seattle to Burbank, where it was unexpectedly and dangerously windy, so we were diverted to LAX until the wind died down and then flown back to Burbank. Rough landing. A fellow passenger in the shuttle on the way home—a float plane pilot in Alaska—said we should complain to the airline and get a partial refund because that sort of landing was inexcusable. Almost finished reading Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, which I want to finish before seeing The Hours.

Home again Raining last night but clear and rather cool today. Two long services at church. Much music; today is the fifth day of Christmas. Listening to a Christmas gift, Songcatcher.

From today's paper An article about a naturalist, Craig Childs, who walks the Southwest. His most recent book, for my "To Read" list, is Soul of Nowhere: Traversing Grace in a Rugged Land. At the end of the article, Childs muses about his desire to be in the wilderness:
"What I want to why am I so hungry for this?"

Saturday, December 21, 2002

Extended family

Here's an interesting trend, "Instead of Scattering, Families are Living in the Same Town," as reported in Friday's WSJ:
In a little-noticed but steadily growing trend, the American extended family is making a comeback. Increasingly, the people next [door] may well be your parents -- or kids. And the in-laws? They're moving into a casita in the backyard. Indeed, according to the most recent Census, the number of households with three generations under one roof has doubled in the past 20 years, while the number of young adults moving back home is up 6%.
[Edit: I finally caught on that I can link to articles in the WSJ so that non-subscribers can read them after the editor over at Path to Freedom posted a link to an article I had e-mailed her.]

I saw the movie The Two Towers yesterday. It was quite good, although I didn't have the same experience of being fully caught up into another world that I did with the first movie. Part of the reason was I didn't see it on the 60-foot screen and, also, the theater was full of elementary and junior high school boys who were a little young to understand all that was going on. Thus, they tended to laugh at inappropriate scenes, such as when the two voices of Gollum were contending for his soul.

The line that struck me was Treebeard's [the talking tree, or Ent] characterization of Saruman:
He has a mind of metal and wheels; and he does not care for growing things except as far as they serve him for the moment (p. 76).
Treebeard continues:
He and his foul folk are making havoc now. Down on the borders they are felling trees—good trees. Some of the trees they just cut down and leave to rot...but most are hewn up and carried off to feed the fires of Orthanc....Many of those trees were my friends, creatures I had known from nut and acorn; many had voices of their own that are lost for ever now. And there are wastes of stump and bramble where once there were singing groves. I have been idle. I have let things slip. It must stop! (p. 77)
And then he rallies the other Ents to go against Saruman's Isengard.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

And the rains came down, and down

The sky got really dark, and then it started to pour with windy, driving rain. The gardeners mowing the lawn across the street got soaked. Day two of the rains has arrived. But, already, the rain is much lighter, and the gardeners are still working. I can see blue sky behind the mountains.

Monday, December 16, 2002

Our water supply

I often don't agree with the Opinion page and editorials of The Wall Street Journal, but in its investigative news reporting, the Journal is not afraid to tackle corporate or government malfeasance head on. Today's Page One article (paid subscription required), "Perchlorate Runoff Flows to Water Supply of Millions: A Fuel of Cold War Defenses Now Ignites Health Controversy" by Peter Waldman, is about perchlorate, an ingredient in solid rocket fuel, in water supplies.
In the human body, perchlorate affects production of thyroid hormones -- a phenomenon that the Environmental Protection Agency says can cause thyroid ailments such as Graves' disease and cancer in adults. Fetuses and newborns, the EPA says, are at even greater risk, susceptible to neurological and other developmental damage.

For decades, millions of Americans have been unknowingly exposed to perchlorate through their local water supplies. No one denies that the chemical is toxic. But the level at which it becomes dangerous in drinking water is the subject of a fierce debate that pits the EPA against the Pentagon and its defense-industry allies. As a result, the U.S. is still years away from establishing a nationally enforced standard, and until it does so, a poisonous chemical lingers in the environment in amounts that could still be causing the slow spread of serious disease on a large scale.
Waldman goes on to report:
The EPA wants suspected water supplies tested nationwide for perchlorate, but the Pentagon, which argues perchlorate isn't dangerous in small doses, is resisting in many cases. Instead, the Pentagon has asked Congress for an exemption from environmental laws covering the cleanup of explosive residues at operational sites.
The article investigates in depth the dumping practices of various corporations, including Aerojet, which had a manufacturing plant a few towns to the east of where I live before the company relocated outside of Sacramento, Calif.
The polluting continued for years after evidence began to mount of the dangers of perchlorate. A three-month investigation by The Wall Street Journal has found that even after California regulators tried to control disposal of the chemical in the 1950s, companies dumped it with impunity. It wasn't until the 1970s, after passage of federal clean-water laws, that the defense industry began trying to contain perchlorate waste for treatment. But by then, the chemical had already begun its long, slow seep into water supplies nationwide.

As late as 1976, in fact, Aerojet-General Corp., operator of the missile plant near the Voetsches' home, built a special, 3,500-foot pipeline to dump toxic waste into unlined earthen pits -- directly disobeying a local water-board order issued just months earlier, state documents show. At first, Aerojet told investigators the pipe was just a stopgap measure to bypass a clogged holding pond.
And the article continues. If you don't have an online subscription to the WSJ, pick up a copy of today's paper at a newsstand.

Saturday, December 14, 2002

Yet another To-Do list

I've been in this very detached state of being: I survey the many things I should be doing, and then I do none of them and, at the same time, feel no guilt or dread of the consequences I know are unavoidable. However, I received a message yesterday that my job position has been approved, and thus I probably will be employed once again by some time next week. Therefore, more of my life will again be structured by outside demands. So, let's see if I can get things in order around here, so I can make progress in my studies while working at the same time.
  • Clean house. Kitchen. Living room/study. Bathroom. Bedroom. Garage.
  • Finish organizing and assembling Christmas gifts.
  • Do laundry on a day when rain is not predicted.
  • Choose and practice music for Sunday.
  • Get front-end alignment.
  • Finish book review and submit by Friday, December 20.
I am going to start with the kitchen: wash dishes; organize refrigerator; make vegetable stock with accumulated vegetables; make lentil soup for lunch; wash floor; tidy counters. On your mark, get set, GO.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Nature and religion, part I

I came across this book, The Good in Nature and Humanity: Connecting Science, Religion, and Spirituality, edited by Stephen R. Kellert and Timothy J. Farnham, a collection of essays on the subject of the book's title, many of which mentioned this book, A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There[: With Other Essays on Conservation from Round River], by Aldo Leopold. (My copy of the book is the same one I linked to at, but my copy doesn't state the subtitle although the essays are included.)
There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.

To avoid the first danger, one should plant a garden, preferably where there is no grocer to confuse the issue.

To avoid the second, he should lay a split of good oak on the andirons, preferably where there is no furnace, and let it warm his shins while a February blizzard tosses the trees outside. If one has cut, split, hauled, and piled his own good oak, and let his mind work the while, he will remember much about where the heat comes from, and with a wealth of detail denied to those who spend the week end in town astride a radiator (p. 6).

Leopold has many other wonderful observations about the connection between nature and human life:
Every farm woodland, in addition to yielding lumber, fuel, and posts, should provide its owner a liberal education. This crop of wisdom never fails, but it is not always harvested (p. 73).
Growing up in central/southern Africa, we didn't need to fortify ourselves against blizzards, but we did have to burn wood to heat our hot water supply. As a youngster, I know I didn't contemplate the spiritual aspects and value of going into the bush with my dad and loading the wood he'd cut into the trailer, then unloading it at home and stacking it. I mainly grumbled at how hot and sticky and itchy it was. And now I can take a shower at anytime of the day or night, trusting that the gas water heater will not fail. Thanks, dad, for all the wood you cut and hauled and stacked (you didn't make us children help you very often) and for all the mornings you got up early and made a fire in the Rhodesian boiler so that we'd have hot water when we woke up.

Saturday, December 07, 2002

What I need to do today

I've been immersing myself in figuring out a topic to pursue for one of the three papers I need to write. I went out to school yesterday and spent a good four hours in the library. Last night and this morning I've been reading through some of the material I found. Now I just need to come up with a workable subject and start.

However, I volunteered to have a group of people over this coming Tuesday, which means I need to clean up this house. I'll be making lentil soup, so I need to make the vegetable broth today. I've already been to the Farmer's Market and picked up leeks and celery. I think I have enough other vegetables in the fridge to make the broth.

I also need to return a couple items to stores. Shopping list: saline solution; toothpaste; milk; Peet's coffee; some blue balls (the new Advent color) to mix in with the pine cones my mum and I picked up at Big Bear this past spring. And I want to repaint the hearth of my empty fire place or figure out some other decorative way to cover up the evidence left after my cats slaughtered a creature or two there.

So, off I go.

Friday, December 06, 2002

"Eco lifestyling"

From an article in today's LA Times' Calendar section:
Danny Seo, the 25-year-old Martha Stewart of the organic set, speaks softly, but in that rapid-fire tongue so characteristically New York. He rattles off the eco-friendly elements of his ensemble, which he has worn to an important eco-friendly gala in Los Angeles populated by newly eco-friendly celebrities. "This," he says, pointing to his delicate wrist, "is a solar-powered watch. I'm wearing vegetarian shoes from England -- Paul McCartney loves these." His tie, he says, was picked from a clothing designer's trash bin. But the outfit is just the beginning: "It's all about eco lifestyling."
Living an online life

This morning I awoke to news of the unexpectedly high national unemployment rate for November. Well, I know one company that contributed to the increase....

The second issue of knitty magazine has been published. It has some fun patterns and ideas: how about some Kool-aid dyed handknit socks? And in other socks' news, Wendy Johnson illustrates how to knit toe-up socks.

Now to the topic of the day and online knitting convergences: yesterday I met the editor of the Path to Freedom website. She had contacted me via e-mail after I linked to her site a few posts ago and invited me to a knitting group that meets in a local library branch. She brought the two bunnies she wrote about in her November 13, 2002, post. I got some good ideas for the project I'm working on, and it was fun to see everyone else's work. Thus, via my online explorations, I've met someone living out what I've only dreamed about, and I've been introduced to a group of women keeping alive the tradition of knitting. Oh, and I learned about a knitting store that has reopened in Pasadena! Must check it out soon.

OK. When I typed the title to this post, before I wrote this entry, I wanted to write about how I get up in the morning and get online right after making my coffee (so sorry about Peet's, Laura) and toast. In what ways has reading (and writing) blogs/weblogs now for nearly a year and a half shaped my outlook on life or least the arrangement of my life? In certain aspects, how I perceive and connect those things that come to make up what I call "my life" has subtly shifted. And the time, in itself, I spend online counts for (or against) something. For the most part, I benefit from this online life, but I do need to figure out how to give or, rather how to WANT to give, my studies more attention, focus, and time. Enough online stewing.

Thursday, December 05, 2002


My coffee mug from KPCC 89.3 FM is stamped with a copy of an article titled "Fresh-Brewed Coffee May Hold Hidden Health Benefits." A UC Davis professor, Takayuki Shibamoto, "suggests that chemicals in fresh-brewed coffee may form potent antioxidants, similar to vitamin C or vitamin E, which are believed to help prevent cancer." Thus I reassure myself each morning as I gulp (no dainty sipping here) my hand-ground Italian Roast from Peet's Coffee. [Note to manual coffee grinder users: Peet's Coffee Italian Roast is a pleasure to grind because it is so oily that it grinds like butter. I've not tried other Peet's Coffee roasts, so I don't know if the oiliness is a feature of Peet's Coffee in general or only of the Italian Roast.]


I saw the movie Bowling for Columbine. It was very provocative. The underlying theme, that Americans are afraid and that this fear is prompted and promoted by television news, advertising, and American culture in general, challenged me to think about what a Christian response to fear might be. Even in the apocalyptic readings for Advent, "wars and rumors of wars...famines and earthquakes...and then the end shall come," we are told, "See that you are not frightened" (Matthew 24:6). And the phrases "Do not be afraid" or "Fear not!" are found throughout the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and in the New Testament.

The next movie on my list is Personal Velocity. I'm intrigued by the title, especially because a movie of my life would be titled more realistically Personal Inertia.

Sunday, December 01, 2002


Today is the first Sunday in Advent or the beginning of the church year in Western church traditions. I'm just learning how to observe and celebrate Advent, because it wasn't part of my low-church Protestant upbringing. Also, as this article about the Advent wreath suggests, the emphases and symbolism of Advent change with time and place. This year I'm making an Advent wreath by planting herbs around four two-inch clay pots with votive candles in them.

For me, following some of the traditions and meditations of the Advent season is a way to screen out, or at least mute somewhat, the blare of the holiday shopping frenzy.

Friday, November 29, 2002


I am eating a bowl of soup made from, yes, leftover turkey from the church dinner Wednesday night. The recipe is from Wednesday's LA Times' Food Section.
Creamy Turkey Rice Soup

Total time: 30 minutes
Servings: 8

2 tablespoons butter
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup jasmine rice
1/2 pound diced roasted turkey (2 cups)
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon fresh minced thyme
3 bay leaves
1 quart turkey or chicken broth
3 cups half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

1. Melt the butter in a 5-quart saucepan over medium heat and add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the rice, turkey, lemon zest and juice, thyme and bay leaves. Cook for 30 seconds. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes. Add the half-and-half and bring to a simmer over low heat. Add the salt and pepper and remove the bay leaves.

Each serving: 228 calories; 268 mg. sodium; 62 mg. cholesterol; 14 grams fat; 8 grams saturated fat; 11 grams carbohydrates; 15 grams protein; 0.80 gram fiber.
I made a few small changes based on the ingredients I had at hand. (I was hoping to buy nothing today, but I did swing by my neighborhood Altadena Dairy drive-through to get some half-n-half.)

My only other culinary exploits this Thanksgiving were two batches of cranberry-orange sauce. I made three times the recipe for Wednesday's church dinner and a batch for Thanksgiving dinner yesterday at my pastor's house. It is such a simple recipe to make, and yet it receives lots of compliments.

Thursday, November 28, 2002


I'm in a state of inspiredness upon my return from a conference in Toronto. The conference was held in downtown Toronto at various venues around the convention center, including the Royal York Hotel (where the queen stays when she's in town). My hotel was right next to the CN Tower, a wonderful navigation aid for finding my way around. The weather wasn't too cold, but scarves, hats, and gloves were very welcome. A series of covered walkways and underground tunnels made the trek between meeting locations much warmer.

The two newsworthy events of the conference were the interview with Jacques Derrida (between 1,500 to 2,000 people attended that event) and the debate over the authenticity of the inscription recently deciphered on the ossuary that perhaps once held the bones of James, brother of Jesus.

After attending a last session on Tuesday morning, I took off on a knitting adventure. Kate had recommended Romni Wools to me, and I spent a happy couple of hours browsing all their aisles of wool and boxes of patterns. I ended up buying only a couple of pattern leaflets because I was too overwhelmed by all the choice. The store is located in a garment district, and I walked back along Queen Street window shopping at the funky thrift shops, fabric remnant stores, ethnic restaurants, hardware stores, grocery stores, etc., with not a chain store in sight!

It's good to be back home, and I feel more inclined to tackle my studies. Now we'll see if feeling translates into action....

Thursday, November 21, 2002


I shan't be posting for a while; see you next week.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002


I shall boast of the weather in So. Calif. one more time. It will be in the 80s at the beaches, in the 90s inland today. My eyes feasted on the deep blue sky this morning as I hung out my clothes to dry, stretching up to fasten the clothes onto the rather high line, head flung back.

In the December issue of The Atlantic Monthly, David Brooks discusses a book by Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner, The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending and the Mind's Hidden Complexities. (Unfortunately, Brooks's essay, "Light Shows of the Mind," is not available online.) The process of "blending" the multitudes of concepts and sensations perceived by the mind is imagination.
Without our permission, our imaginations range around connecting one set of perceptions to another. The imagination builds fantasy landscapes and experiences and then moves into them to see what they're like. (p. 30)
Brooks explains shopping behavior in terms of imagination; we buy what "fires" our imaginations and then set that thing aside when it no longer has such an effect.

That the imagination can connect both fantasy and reality is what keeps us moving ahead, advancing:
For example, our imaginations trick us into undertaking difficult tasks. We decide to learn a language, renovate our house, move to a new town, have children, or begin writing a book [or undertake a Ph.D. program or a complicated knitting project]. We envision the pleasure and satisfaction we will feel and the success we will achieve. Then those tasks turn out to be hard, and the difficulties we encounter bring out our best exertions and make us better people. If our imaginations hadn't deceived us with glorious visions, we might never have started that book or that renovation [or that Ph.D. program or that knitting project] the first place. (p. 31)
What "fires" my imagination at the moment are beautiful knitting books of sweaters with complex patterns in rich colors photographed on remote Hebridean islands. What I am searching for is something to light up my imagination and compel me to plunge ahead with my studies.

Friday, November 15, 2002

Another glorious day

[Edit 9/12/05: To view photos, click here.]

The weather this past week has been incredibly gorgeous. Last weekend we had two inches of rain, which cleared up on Sunday. Then we've had sunny, warm weather all week. And because of the rain, everything looks washed and green, or, in the case of the sky, brilliant blue.

I just dropped off my car at the mechanic's. I was only going to get the oil changed, but he noticed metal showing through on my tires, so I'm getting two new tires now, too. I was going to have gone to a knitting shop this morning to get some help sewing together a project I've finished knitting (and to make myself stay in one place until I finished assembling it—not my favorite part of knitting) but now I don't know if I'll have time after the mechanic is finished and before the piano tuner comes this afternoon to tune my piano.

(One of) my current knitting projects:

Fingerless gloves

[Removed photo 9/12/05]
Pattern: Basic Women's Fair Isle Fingerless Gloves
Pattern from: Knitting Fair Isle Mittens & Gloves: 40 Great-Looking Designs by Carol Rasmussen Noble
Wool used:Filanda Extrafine 100% Alpaca, heather taupe color (# 32 / 452). I'm hoping I can make both gloves with just one 50 g. ball, but because I'm only using one color, I'm not sure if one ball will stretch quite far enough.
Where purchased: Temple City Knit Shop, Temple City, California
Needles: Addi bamboo double-pointed U.S. 0 (2.0 mm) for cuff ribbing and hand; U.S. 1 (2.5 mm) for ribbing for partial fingers; and U.S. 2 (2.75 mm) to cast off partial fingers.
Started: November 2002
Completed: February 2005
For whom: Me
What I learned: How to make seamless (partial) fingers on two needles, knitting with a third needle. Also, it is important that the knitted partial fingers are not too tight or else they cut off circulation to the fingers.

I tried out the glove last Sunday when I was practising the piano before church. It really helped keep my right hand warm and nimble in the not-quite-heated church. However, now that the weather has warmed up so much, I'm not in a hurry to knit the left-hand glove.

[Removed photo 9/12/05]

(This was a very difficult picture to take. I had to hold my 35 mm camera, which was extra heavy with the flash, in my left hand twisted around so I could press the shutter button.)

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Grade 4 project

[Edit 9/12/05: To view photo, click here.]

At boarding school, beginning in Grade 1, we had two handwork projects each term, one knitting project and one sewing project. Every Saturday morning we'd meet at the house of the teacher assigned to our projects. We worked on our handwork throughout the week, except we weren't allowed to work on it on Sundays. After "Handwork" we had "Library" and then a few prep periods. In the afternoon we went swimming and played down at the river. (I recently came across some school pictures, including the swimming pool and play area by the river. The pictures were taken before my time, but not much had changed at the school when I was there in the 1970s.) Then in the evening we were shown films. I loved Saturdays!

Eventually, I will take pictures of as many projects as I still have. I know I've lost some along the way, e.g., the yellow smocked nightgown and the blue dress with the hand embroidered bodice. As a start, here an egg cozy I knitted in Grade 4 (I think):

Egg Cozy

[Photo removed 9/12/05]

Started & Completed: ~ Grade 4
What I learned: How to make pom-poms
Handwork documentation

[Edit 9/12/05: To view photos, click here.]

Well, I got my roll of film back, so here goes. Eventually, I want to put up a separate page with my handwork projects, similar to Wendy's, but ever so much more modest. But Wendy is an inspiration and role model: she does beautiful work and she finishes projects. (Please note that some of my documentation categories are similar to hers, e.g.)

Oval Knitted Lace Table Cover
[Removed photo 9/12/05]
Pattern: Knitted Lace, Fluted Design with Eyelets
Pattern by: Mrs. Mae Young
Pattern Source: "Trimmings," in PieceWork magazine, January/February 1996
Thread used: DMC Fil D'Écosse; Cébélia; 100% cotton; Size 10; Color Ecru
Where purchased: Thread--Mariposa, South Pasadena, California and Michael's, Pasadena, California; Satin smooth brocade cloth--Velona Needlecraft, Anaheim Hills, California
Needles: Clover Takumi Bamboo double-pointed U.S. 1 (2.5mm)
Started: 1996?
Completed: November 2002
For whom: M
What I learned: How to block knitted lace from the instructions in Second Book of Modern Lace Knitting by Marianne Kinzel and from Judy Gibson's knitted lace blocking photos and instructions. (I also learned about Velona Needlecraft from Judy Gibson's site.) From the helpful woman at the Bearly Stitchin quilting supply store, I learned how to make patterns from freezer paper (available in grocery stores, e.g., Reynolds brand). You iron sheets of freezer paper together (iron on the non-plastic side) to make as large piece of paper as you need and then draw a template or pattern on the non-plastic side. You can then iron the pattern onto the back of the fabric (again, iron on the non-plastic side with the plastic side against the fabric), cut out the pattern, and then peel off the freezer paper.

The Bearly Stitchin woman also told me about foam-core poster board, which is available at art supply stores, and which can be used for blocking. I bought a 32" x 40" x 1/4" piece for $3 - $4, and it worked really well. I used a Sharpie water-proof marker (again, Judy Gibson's suggestion) to draw grid lines for blocking an oval shape. Because the board doesn't absorb water, the lace dries more quickly. The board is lightweight yet sturdy and, therefore, very easy to move from the floor to upright against a wall or from room to room. And it's very easy to reposition the pins multiple times as needed.

After I washed the knitted lace in cold water with Woolite, rinsed it, and then rolled it in a towel to absorb the excess water, I used T-pins to pin out the lace.

[Removed photo 9/12/05]
The next challenge was to figure out how to attach the lace to the satin material. Abbreviated version of a long story: the tailor at the dry cleaner I use sewed the piece together so that it is reversible. I was quite pleased with her work, although it's not perfect as the photo shows. However, the piece does look better in real life than in the photo and when it's properly ironed. Originally, I had wanted to complete the entire project myself, but after searching for ideas on how to put it together (the pattern is only for a piece of knitted edging, not for how to make it into something), I ended up having someone else finish it. Next time, I will look for a place that specializes in finishing handwork if something is too complicated for me to do well. I will also instruct them not to iron the knitted lace part.

Finally, here is the thank you note I received from M. On the one hand, I'm embarrassed because I know the gift isn't perfect; on the other hand, M writes such elegant notes.
How can I adequately express my deep appreciation and reverance for a gift of such consequence and intrinsic worth? I am awed by your thoughtfulness and the beauty and substance of your handwork. I will indeed treasure the beautiful lace and hold dear the kindness, talent, generosity of spirit, and good thoughts with which it was wrought. Thank you....

Saturday, November 09, 2002


From a link at dangerous chunky on 11.04.02, I found the Path to Freedom site, and realized as soon as I read "First real rain of the season!" in their Urban Diary that I was reading a local weblog, from my own city no less. Check out these pictures of their urban homestead garden. Their story reminds me of a family I see at the Farmer's Market who grow their produce in the backyard of their urban/suburban home.

Having recently been laid off by a Fortune 500 company, I am really drawn to that way of life, i.e., being as self-sufficient as possible. I've been fantasizing about moving back to my parents' farm, raising sheep and llamas, spinning my own wool, and knitting clothes for myself, as gifts, and for sale. Maybe I could also open a needlework store on the farm or in town and go into business with my aunt who does beautiful handwork of all kinds. Oh yes. And I could raise grass-fed beef and free range chickens and sell eggs and meat to people from Seattle. But after two days straight of rain here in So Cal, I remember how depressing Washington weather can get. But then knitting is the best antidote for the dampening effects of bad weather....

Even better, if I'd finish this #%&* degree, I would have a back up for earning (or supplementing) a living, in case farming and needlework weren't quite sufficient.

Friday, November 08, 2002

Escalating desire

I want a digital camera NOW so that I can write and illustrate the posts I want to RIGHT NOW without having to wait for Target to develop my film and e-mail me my pictures.

All this impatience because yesterday I knitted a fingerless glove, and I want to show it off. I have been wearing it all day today, and I am so pleased with it. I made it from 100% Alpaca extrafine wool from Peru. It is a heathery brown color, very soft and a little fuzzy, and very warm. I used a pattern from Knitting Fair Isle Mittens & Gloves by Carol Rasmussen Noble. However, I knitted the glove in only one color because I wanted to try out the basic pattern first before complicating it with colors and charts. More details when I post the pictures. I will knit a second glove, but need to get a few other things done first.

Last night and today it's been raining! This is good news.

Thursday, November 07, 2002


I would have been at work for an hour and fifteen minutes by now, if I were still employed....Last week, I was very conscientious, getting up by 6:30 and going for a walk before breakfast and the rest of the day. Now, I don't get up until about 7:30, and I've stopped going for walks. Must not slip any further.

Really need to make a plan for writing my papers. The first part of the plan needs to be to clean up the piles in the living room/study so I have a clear place to work.

I've been escaping into knitting. I finished one project last week and gave it to my (former) boss Tuesday evening. (Pictures soon.) Now I've almost finished the next project. I just have a little more knitting, and then I have to sew it up. Yesterday, I went to a knitting group that meets twice a month on Wednesday afternoons at a local bookstore. (Now that I'm unemployed, 2:00 on a Wednesday afternoon is no problem....) I thought it would just be a group of people who get together and knit, but there are also two expert knitters who help anyone who has knitting problems or questions. One of the women used to own a wonderful knitting shop in the town just south of here.

Everyone oohs and aahs over each other's work—it is quite flattering. I found out I knit the English way. I didn't realize there was a difference between the English and American ways of knitting. I knew the difference between English and Continental/Scandinavian styles and have tried the Continental style, but because I learned the English way as a child, that's what feels most natural to me.

P.S. My orange cat is once again curled up on my lap, sleeping, as I type this.

Friday, November 01, 2002

The middle of the day

Still trying to get used to this no (paid) work thing. Yesterday, I went out to school for a "let's celebrate; we've finished the commentary lunch" with the author. I also had to haul out all my books from one of the libraries because I'd failed to renew them in time to avoid dragging all 29 of them in to show the librarian that, yes, although some of these books have been in my possession for almost two (!!) years now, they still exist and are in decent shape.

Then last night I helped out at the church with crafts for the children who gathered in their costumes after going trick-or-treating.

Today is the first full day I've had free to study, I was going to say without interruption, but this morning I HAD to go to the used biblical studies/theology bookstore for their sale....Now my big orange cat, Leo, is curled up on my lap sleeping and keeping me warm as I sit at my desk.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

At loose ends

It's the middle of the day and I feel guilty for logging onto the computer to post here. I'm still adjusting to being out of work, and student mode hasn't yet kicked in again. Yesterday and this morning, I worked on a handwork project I was trying to finish for tonight as a gift for my (now) former boss. But it was one of those things I've not done before, and thus much thought and experimentation and running around asking for advice and looking for things and just trying to figure it out have been going on. I finally ended up having to let someone else (i.e., an expert) finish it, but that means it won't be done for tonight. When I get it back (sometime next week), I will post pictures of the process and of the finished product. Then you will know what "it" is.

I now have a lull of a few hours until I go out this evening. I should study. I should tidy my MESSY house. I should figure out a plan for the next few weeks, if not the rest of my life. I should...I should...I should....

Monday, October 28, 2002

Last day

Today was my last day at work. At 2:00 I was told, oh no, something happened with your paperwork and your last day technically isn't until the 30th or 31st. But by that point, I said, that's OK, I'll go with what I've been told all along; today's just fine. I don't need to come back. Anyway, I'm hoping to work something out with another department in the company. Meanwhile, there's a ton of other stuff to be done.

I was so busy doing "real" work today that I didn't have time to clear out my desk until it was almost time to go. Then I drove home, the last time to carpool with my colleague. I will miss the conversation on our drives, but hopefully much of our group is going to end up back together, but in a different department.

On Saturday, I FINALLY printed out the final version of the commentary manuscript. So that project is off my "To Do" list. What a relief!

So, suddenly, I have a whole new landscape to cultivate. I think I will sign off here and sink onto my couch in relaxed oblivion to watch whatever might be on TV and not torture my readers any longer with this entry written as I decompress from the recent events of my life.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Lunchtime update

I finally got a break from a hectic morning, which is only part of a hectic week. My To Do List finally is finished, except that when I tried to print the ms. Saturday night, the printer decided it would not print nuns. It would print the transliterated Hebrew letter just fine if I printed one page at a time, but would not print any nuns when I printed a chapter at a time. And because I am not going to print a 600 page ms. one page at a time, I've got to figure out something else.

I feel like I have been running flat out. I know things are going to change soon, and maybe then I'll have a chance to gather up all the scattered pieces of my life and try to order them somewhat. But right now it's just blind running.
Early morning

I drove by myself to work today and arrived rather early. I listened to a Mozart piano sonata, No. 15 in B Flat, as I drove through the Santa Susana Pass with the slightly-less-than full moon hanging over Rocky Peak in the blue-grey sky. Now the day may begin.

Friday, October 18, 2002

Like the end of term, part II

The signal that the end of term truly was at hand was when we'd come up to the dorm after class was over and find that our large suitcases had been taken out of storage and placed at the foot our beds ready to be packed.
Like the end of term

At work today it feels like the end of term at boarding school. There's not much to do at the moment—all my projects are on hold waiting for responses from others. I also have a couple phone and e-mail messages "out there" for which I'm rather impatiently expecting return phone calls. Those of us who've been laid off were told we could use work time to look for other jobs, so the rules have suddenly relaxed. Which is why I'm posting here even though it's not yet lunch. There's also that feeling of anticipation, tinged with excitement, about what will happen next.

Then I just finished a half-hour conversation with the professor whose manuscript I'm working on about the pros and cons of whether he should upgrade his current computer system or buy a new one. It is so easy to absorb his intensity, even though I can manufacture plenty of my own. Intensity is not a bad thing, it's just exhausting, especially in the midst of other intensity-generating situations. I think I will take a walk around the block at lunch, after writing my report, to try calm my mind.
To do

  • Write and send AAR student rep. report at lunch
  • Reply to Susie's note
  • Find ticket and go to art exhibit this evening
  • Go out to school and print ms. on Saturday
  • 90th anniversary celebration at church Sunday; help clean up afterwards since I won't be helping with preparations on Saturday

Monday, October 14, 2002

It is finished

The evil deed is done. The ax has fallen. Our department has been wiped out—at least its current personnel have all been cut. But the company's lay-off procedures have advanced from its former slash-and-burn days. We actually get two weeks notice, and full-time employees (not me) get severance. The company is also offering employees assistance in finding work elsewhere, either within the company or externally. It's been a fascinating morning observing how the lay-offs are being executed. It's quite a shock for many people, I'm sure, but hopefully they will find something else soon.

Of course I feel somewhat apprehensive about what might happen next, but at the same time, I'm not too worried (at least at the moment). There are people working on arranging possible positions for me. Also, there is the whole other side of my life (i.e., school) that has been shoved to the periphery about which I need to be making some decisions, or at least some progress. So, a little goading probably is not a bad thing.

But it is difficult to concentrate today. Fortunately, my current tasks don't require full attention.

Friday, October 11, 2002

The end of the week

Well. It's here. The weekend, which will be just as busy as the week, only different. With the uncertainty at work, I'm working as much as I can while I can....When you're told to make sure to finish the department policy and procedures' manual soon, you know something's up.

On Monday I went to school, picked up the ms. I've been helping out with, and entered the edits my professor made. Now I just need to double-check a few things, and it should be ready to print. The problem is finding time to go out to school to print it when the computer lab manager is around, just in case. (Most recent word processing lesson learned: Make sure the Auto Correct/Auto Format feature "Match parentheses" is de-selected or else all the ’alephs that are typed by using the right parenthesis in the transliteration font will morph into a strange character, and you will have to double-check all the transliterated Hebrew words throughout the 600 page ms.)

The rest of the week I went to work. My boss will be taking a three-month leave, beginning next week. Signs of further change are obvious. Senior managers are meeting often behind closed doors. Senior managers seem to be having difficulty looking one straight in the eyes.

Tomorrow I'm meeting my aunt who is flying to So. Cal. from Washington to run in a half-marathon in Long Beach. Sunday I play the piano for two church services again.

With everything that's happening, last weekend I escaped into an Iris Murdoch novel, Nuns and Soldiers. I'd never read any Iris Murdoch novels before. I rather liked it, especially the ideas in it and Murdoch's depictions of the experience—with all its confusion and uncertainty yet powerfulness—of being in love. I marked quite a few passages.
Any artist who is not a beginner faces the problem of enlarging into a working space that runs between 'just begun' and 'too late.' The hard work lies in the middle, when preliminaries are done, and the end is not yet enclosing the form. This is the space which longs to collapse, which the artist's strength must faithfully keep open. Tim was vaguely aware of this, but he was idle and lacked confidence (p. 124).
Of course, I read the above in terms of being a Ph.D. student. Or this, about Anne, who had left the cloistered life of a nun, and whose faith was being re-formed:
Anne knew how terribly close, for human beings, all things spiritual lie to the deep fires of the demonic. Concerning this, she waited, she cultivated still the metaphysics of waiting. And she noticed in herself, like the slow growth of an innocent indifferent plant, a renewed impulse toward worship and toward some kind of prayer. What kind of prayer this new prayer would turn out to be she did not yet know (pp. 312-13).
Murdoch's writing is wonderfully concrete, for example, when she describes the Count, who lives alone and listens to the radio.
He hated television. He lived in a radio world. He listened to everything, news, talks, plays (especially thrillers), political discussions, philosophical discussions, nature programs, proms, symphony concerts, opera, the Archers, Women's Hour, A Hundred Best Tunes, Desert Island Discs, On Your Farm, Any Questions, Any Answers. At some times of the year the steadily changing weekly copies of the Radio Times seemed the most evident movement of his life's clock....At times, sitting alone at night and listening to the gale warnings, for Fastnet, Hebrides, Fair Isle, Faroes, the Count had sometimes upbraided himself for wanting so ardently to console his beloved (pp. 35, 116).
Listening to gale warnings for far away places reminds me of listening to traffic reports for freeways I won't be taking that day when my clock radio awakens me early in the morning.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Burrito Express

[Written Sunday, October 6, 2002] I'm sitting at Burrito Express, my manna-from-heaven source. I wonder how many bean and cheese burritos, spicy, I've eaten during the three years I've lived in this neighborhood? A bean and cheese burrito, spicy, is the ultimate in comfort and convenience food. It is hot, soft, fairly nutritious, and filling. The restaurant—except restaurant isn't quite the word, even though there are three tables with benches squeezed inside where you order and tables outside under an awning and surrounded by a wainscoting-level wall with a two-foot wrought iron railing fence on top of the wall—is excellently situated on my way to the freeway when going to school and on my way home when I come back. A traffic light conveniently lets one get back on the busy street after picking up a burrito. And a burrito, expertly wrapped, can be eaten with one hand while driving. Today I'm sitting in the lately hot late afternoon sun with my back to the busy street and have almost finished my burrito.

On my drive here via the cash machine, I wanted to write everything I saw and remembered, like Laura's Chinese notebook(s?). Except that I'm writing on the back of a print-out of my sister and brother-in-law's wedding registry. (I still have to get their gift; according to the Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette, it is acceptable to give a wedding gift up to one year after the wedding.)

There was a woman I'd see when I used to hang out at coffee shops, back when I was a "real" student when I first moved to California. She had three or four journals she would hold up to her face and speak into as though they were dictating machines.

At the cash machine I heard two men talking behind me, and I knew they were speaking Armenian. I tried to figure out how I knew it was Armenian—it's sort of guttural and the diction is quite deliberate. But would I be able to identify it if I was in a place I didn't know there were people who spoke Armenian?

[Today] I wrote more but have recorded enough. I am tired and blank.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Gladwell articles

I just came across a site (via Arts & Letters Daily) that archives Malcolm Gladwell's articles from The New Yorker (and other publications). I've been carrying around the August 5 issue because I wanted to comment on Gladwell's article, "The Naked Face: Can you read people's thoughts just by looking at them?"

What intrigued me, besides the people who are very skilled at picking up give-away clues from the subtlest facial expressions, is that certain physical expressions produce certain emotional effects—and not just the other way around. Two researchers, Paul Ekman and J. J. Newberry, sat across a table and "made faces" at each other in order to catalogue all possible facial expressions. They realized after making sad and angry expressions at each other all day, they truly felt sad and angry.

Saturday, September 28, 2002

Catch-up entry

Sometimes when you don't do the things you should do on a daily (or even weekly...) schedule, you have to cram it all in 45 minutes when you're on your way to somewhere that takes 45 minutes and you've left yourself 45 minutes to get there. So this morning, when I was heading out the door at 9:15 to get somewhere by 10:00, my landlords, who live next door, said they wanted to install an overhead fan in my bedroom TODAY, and that they didn't know until last night that the installer would be available, which was why they were asking permission to go into my duplex today, as I was on my way out the door. Well, my house was in its usual chaotic mess, including a sink plus counter of unwashed dishes and a bedroom of heaped up clothes, not to mention a kitchen floor liberally sprinkled with cinnamon to discourage the ants who were attacking my unwashed dishes. I told them I was very unhappy for the short—no, non-existent—advance notice, and harumphed back into the house to tidy up at least a little. The clothes got picked up, many of them just thrown into the dirty clothes' basket because it was quicker than hanging them up. And then I washed most of the dishes. I was truly embarrassed by how long I'd let the dishes stack up. A good part of my irritation was at myself for being such a housekeeping slob; if I kept things tidier, I wouldn't have to worry about the landlords dropping by with no notice.


Forty-five minutes later, fuming because I was so late, I drove the 45 minutes to Torrance (only possible when you can drive 65 mph on the 110 freeway through downtown LA) to a Lutheran church that was holding a forum as part of a multi-year study in the Lutheran (ELCA) church on homosexuality. One question being debated is:
Should North American Lutherans ordain gay and lesbian persons to the ministry of Word and Sacrament; and if so, should gay and lesbian pastors be required to be celibate?
The second question:
Should North American Lutheran clergy bless committed relationships between gay and lesbian persons; and if so, should these relationships be recognized as marriages?
I was particularly interested in how the presenters (one of whom is a Hebrew Bible [Old Testament] professor at a local Lutheran university) addressed the issue of scriptural authority within the Lutheran tradition. Lutherans, following Martin Luther, clearly have a "hierarchy" of scripture in which certain parts of scripture take precedence over other parts. How is that hierarchy determined? What is the "governing principle"? Does the principle come from scripture itself or from outside scripture? For Christians, what is the place of the Hebrew Bible? These are very basic, long-standing questions that have been investigated by others much more profoundly, but which I want to explore and formulate myself.


Today it rained for the first time in months. It was a very happy event. Last Sunday a huge fire started in the foothills east of where I live and that I drive by on my way to school. Coming from work from the opposite direction on Monday, we could see the thick layer of smoke that had blown westward. That night and next morning the light from the sun was red from being filtered through the smoke, and my car and plants were covered with a dusting of ash. Tuesday afternoon I drove out to Claremont past the huge cumulus tower of smoke that had not yet been disbursed; the rest of the sky was much clearer than at home. Tuesday night the hills were red with flames in my rearview mirror as I drove home. Wednesday I drove to Claremont again; the smoke had been disbursed into a low blanket over the entire sky, and the hills were difficult to see. I watched a water-dropping helicopter land not far from the freeway, to re-fill with water I suppose. Driving home, the nearby foothills that had already burned were pockmarked with greyish ash. On TV I saw pictures of firefighters climbing up the steep hillsides carrying firehoses, arranged like the firehoses in those glass boxes in public buildings, strapped onto their backs. The first days of the fire it was over 100 degrees in that area. Thankfully, the weather is much cooler now, and the fire is reported to be nearly contained.


On Tuesday night I was a substitute lecturer in a Hebrew class (which was why I drove out to Claremont at the height of the fire). On the drive out, my alternator decided it was just too hot, and it didn't want to function any more. Fortunately, I was fairly close to the mechanic I'd located in Claremont for the occasions my car can't make it home to my regular mechanic, and the engine didn't quit on the very-crowded-with-no-shoulder street. Fortunately, too, the mechanic was able to replace the alternator in time for me not to be late to my class. The class went OK in spite of the fire raging close by and my car trouble.


Thursday evening we went out for dinner at Yujean Kang's with some business partners and our former colleague. It was an evening of excellent food and fun company. We had three appetizers and a number of main dishes including—my favorite—ants on a tree, crispy beef, chicken with squash, duck, Blue Lake green beans, and probably something else.


I am tired of writing. This is why I should post on a regular basis, so I don't have to cram a week's worth of writing into one session....

Monday, September 23, 2002


As my cube-wall partner says, Throw a question out into the universe and an answer will come back. Well, I suppose you have to be listening for the answer and then willing to take the step of at least provisionally identifying what you hear as an answer.

On Saturday I drove out to Pacific Palisades to walk a labyrinth built into the hill behind St. Matthew's Episcopal Church. I had never walked one before, and, no, nothing earth shattering happened. But I am intrigued by what could happen and why such a simple act could be profound.

Labyrinths have recently been "rediscovered" as an ancient practice that can help people cultivate a deeper inward life. The Episcopalian Grace Cathedral in San Francisco is a center reviving the use of labyrinths. Dr. Lauren Artress, who directs the program, has written a book, Walking the Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool, describing her uncovering of the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral, replicating its pattern and measurements at Grace Cathedral, and then inviting people to walk the labyrinth.

At the Grace Cathedral site there is a directory of registered labyrinths, many of which are open to the public. Or, if you're driving on Pacific Coast Highway, stop by St. Matthew's and take a walk!

Tuesday, September 17, 2002


The lack of activity here is a reflection of the lack of focus in the rest of my life. Once again, changes are afoot, and I'm trying not to be distracted, but without success. So I continue to retreat to my knitting....The vultures are circling here at work—in fact two of them are sitting in the office behind me as I type. I've been ignoring my studies, but next week I have to teach a three-hour Hebrew class (on irregular verbs, no less) for a fellow student who will be absent so need to gear up for that. I also need to find some more music for my (long-term) substitute musician gig at church. People have heard my preludes, offertories, and postludes more than a few times now.

I will try to post more regularly; maybe writing here will help sharpen my perception and grasp of what's happening and what I need to be doing.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Knitting fun

My recent (old) distraction is knitting. I ferreted out two semi-local knitting shops I'd not been to: Skein and Velona Needlecraft. Velona is quite a trek on traffic-infested freeways, but what a treat to walk into a store with aisles of floor-to-ceiling shelves shoved full of wool (or yarn, as they call it here)! I am working on my first pair of socks. I'm made the error of working from an English translation of a German pattern in this Inspiration book. After much frustration, I found a proper English pattern in the current Vogue Knitting magazine based on the pattern I'd started with. I'm using a blue-brown mix of Regia wool/cotton yarn.

One of these years I am going to start organizing my links into categories on this site. Until then, here are three favorite knitting sites:

Friday, September 06, 2002


I've been wanting to write about this subject for a while: the cult of being organized. I'm strangely, strongly attracted to concepts and products that promote living an organized life, but I'm often not organized and seem to live deliberately in rebellion of being organized. An organized life covers many areas: daily homemaking tasks; work-related duties; a Ph.D. course of study assignments; long-term plans for supporting life after income-earning years are past; and then the social, familial, and spiritual sides of life, if indeed such can be "organized."

To state the obvious, for me the desire to be organized is the desire to have things under control. I think, too, I sometimes confuse organizing something (or even only thinking about organizing something) with actually getting something done. And for me that's the seduction of the cult of organization. The catalogues promoting Daytimer or FranklinCovey products, for example, show calendar pages with notes such as "Write budget" or "Pick up dry-cleaning" or "Order tickets for the opera." Somehow the painful experience of hours trying to figure out a budget for the next year will be reduced to a tidy line if only I buy the cream and black leather desk-size stuff-your-whole-life-in-this zippered planner. And, of course, I'll be the sort of person who regularly attends the opera.

Today I was set off by an article in the WSJ, "Teens Trade Assignment Books for Time-Management Tools" by Nancy Ann Jeffrey (paid subscription required). The article points out how teenagers (and younger children) are being encouraged to take time-management courses and use corporate-type tools such as electronic planners and spreadsheets.
From his color-coded filing system to a date planner marked up with deadlines, Edmund Holderbaum is equipped with all the tools a busy executive needs to juggle big projects. He even met with one of those pricey time-management consultants, getting tips on keeping his paperwork straight.

It should all come in handy -- for his next geometry quiz. The 14-year-old Mr. Holderbaum has just entered the 10th grade, complete with an arsenal of organizational strategies for that extra edge in class. All the schedules, charts and files, he says, give him "a chance at competing."

Meet the new buttoned-down, ultra-organized CEO: your teenager. If it looks like kids are growing up even faster than usual lately, one of the reasons is they're getting a big push -- from parents and teachers seemingly intent on raising a new generation of Organization Kids. They're getting help from an industry that's deluging kids with MBA-style strategies for success, from books (a teen-tailored version of the blockbuster "Who Moved My Cheese?" hits stores this fall) and $400 Palm organizers to workshops and tapes that push go-getter mantras like "sharpen the saw." Schools across the country are buying into the idea big-time, shelling out thousands on journals, workbooks and other classroom materials intended to teach organizational skills.
Other teen editions of the current popular books on the subject are being published—some by the children of the authors of the adult versions! For example: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens: The Ultimate Teenage Success Guide by Sean Covey or Organizing From the Inside Out for Teens: The Foolproof System for Organizing Your Room, Your Time, and Your Life by Julie Morgenstern and Jessie Morgenstern-Colon.

The article writes about Jessie Morgenstern-Colon:
The high-school senior credits her organizing prowess with helping her get good grades -- while simultaneously practicing dance several hours a day, doing community service and staying in touch with friends. Her secret: A computer spreadsheet in which she logs activities for every hour of every day, clearing space for her one "leisure" activity -- a weekend night out with girlfriends -- and "keeping in touch" (a weekly phone call to a friend from camp). "I'm a very goal-driven person," she says. "To know that at the end of the day I've accomplished a billion things because I've time-mapped well is the most satisfying thing in the world."
To be continued (lunchtime is just so rushed...).

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Adventures in flying

Here's a picture of me with my dad's plane after we landed at the family farm in NW Washington.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Nothing to say

I've been sitting with the Blogger template open on my screen for the past 45 minutes while eating my lunch, trying to figure out what to write. But I'm coming up with nothing. I finished the Literary LA book (see below). Tuesday, I spent 10 + hours on my editing project and handed it off to someone else yesterday (big sigh of relief, for the time being). Today is another tasky/busy day at work. Tomorrow is orientation at school, and I have a small presentation to give to the new students. I am reminded that I am now starting my 5th (!!) year of Ph.D. studies and need to get a move on!

I got some pictures back from my trip to Washington, but I can't post them online at the moment because I don't have the claim number info. with me.

So, that's all the boring non-news for now.

Monday, August 26, 2002

Coffehouse LA

Last night I sought refuge in the air-conditioned local branch of Vroman's Bookstore. In the "Essays" section, I came across this book: Literary LA: Expanded from the Original Classic & Featuring the Coffeehouse Scene Then and Now. It's a collection of columns written for the former Herald-Examiner by Lionel Rolfe about bohemian writers with Los Angeles connections, e.g., Ken Kesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest), Aldous Huxley, Jack London, Charles Bukowski. It is a fascinating description of 1960s culture, in particular, that percolated in LA coffeehouses and independent bookstores.

My other purchase was the Fall '02 edition of Vogue Knitting magazine.
It is the 20th anniversary issue of the re-publication of the magazine—a flashback experience for me because I bought (and still have) the premier issue from Fall 1982 when I was in high school.

So I'm dreaming of opening a counter-culture coffeehouse/bookstore/knitting shop and forgetting the corporate and academic worlds....Not really, but it's a fun idea to play with.

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Clingy cats

Last night my big cat, Leo, would not let me sleep. He kept trying to climb onto the bed without my noticing it. Usually he sleeps outside the bedroom guarding the window (and his food supply) from marauding neighborhood cats, but last night he wanted to be within touching distance. The little one was content to curl up next to the bed. I finally put Leo out in the hall and closed the bedroom door but did not latch it shut; he pushed it open and came back in. However, he stopped getting onto the bed. Then I almost stepped on Leo when I got out of the shower this morning. While I was getting ready for work, he jumped up on the edge of the tub trying to rub against me as I was putting on makeup. It feels good to be so missed!

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Back home

It feels good to be back in my own space again after a week away. There were no disgusting, decomposing morsels dragged in by the cats and the weather in So Cal has been cool, so the house doesn't feel like it's been shut up, baking. I had managed to wash the dishes, scrub the kitchen floor, and vacuum the carpet before I left, so the house feels rather tidy. The cats displayed the appropriate signs of missing me and being glad I'm back.

I had a good holiday with family and will try write a few posts about it before I get caught up in the routine of life again.

Monday, August 19, 2002

Monday, August 12, 2002


Lunchtime. I just finished a juicy homegrown (by my colleague) tomato with mozzarella cheese, except that I forgot to bring fresh basil so I had to imagine the taste. It was still pretty good, though.

This morning I edited a telemarketing script and sent it off to our legal department for their approval. The script was poorly written. For example:
Question: Are there any restrictions?

Answer: There are a few, but they really aren't that bad...!
Yesterday I played the organ and piano for services at church. The regular pianist/organist got another job, so I'm substituting until someone else is hired. It was fun, except that the back of my legs and rear end are sore from sitting on a wooden bench for almost five hours straight!

It has been VERY HOT. I don't notice the heat in the air-conditioned building at work, of course, but my house is unlivable unless I have the fan blowing directly on me (and I am lying down).

Saturday, August 10, 2002


It is a hot Saturday evening. Actually, it's cooled down a bit outside, but the house is still hot inside.

This afternoon and evening, after a long nap, I've been reading All The King's Men by Robert Penn Warren. I had bought the book years ago at Skagit Bay Books in La Conner, Washington, although what sparked me to get it I don't remember. I had forgotten I owned it until I was looking in the book boxes in the garage and came across it. Robert Penn Warren was one of the author's photographed with his typewriter in the photo essay I mentioned a few posts ago.

I'm enjoying tracking the shifts in verb tense and temporal perspective in the novel, e.g., the use of the subjunctive to narrate a past event. This observation by the narrator, Jack Burden, about his boss, Willie Stark, who taught himself law by studying after working in the fields all day, coincided with some of my (bleaker) thoughts about my situation as a student:
But maybe it had taken him too long. If something takes too long, something happens to you. You become all and only the thing you want and nothing else, for you have paid too much for it, too much in wanting and too much in waiting and too much in getting (p. 68).

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

One year today

Just quick post to observe the one-year anniversary of my website. It certainly has been a fun distraction from studies, and I've enjoyed corresponding with some interesting online friends. Eventually I'd like to develop the site a bit more, but for now I'll just stick to the basics.


Saturday, August 03, 2002

Pray the news

I was struck by this front page article in today's LA Times about a group of Carmelite nuns whose vocation is to "pray the news." They've developed a website on which they post their thoughts and prayers, as well as invite others to consider joining their order.

It's reassuring to know there are people who devote their lives to "upholding" the world by prayer; perhaps because of them some of the plans of those who plot harm don't come to pass.

One of the aspects of Lutheran liturgy I appreciate is space in the weekly written prayers for any one in the congregation to pray. Because I usually read the paper before church, if a news article is weighing on me, I have an opportunity to pray in response to what I read.

Friday, August 02, 2002


I've been considering buying a laptop computer. My desktop version works just fine even though it's now four years old. It does have some limitations, however, e.g., no USB port, so I can't hook up any of the new gadgets, including a scanner someone gave me. I also wouldn't be able to upload pictures from a digital camera, if I were to get one, without the port. (This is just as well. While it would be fun to have more of my own pictures on this site, I imagine it could turn into [yet another] distraction.)

So yesterday I exercised the few vested options I have of my company's stock, which has been doing quite well recently. So I have the funds. But now I have to figure out if I really want/need a laptop and, if so, the daunting question: which one to get....My two primary reasons for considering the laptop are so I can 1) have a more up-to-date machine and 2) be able to be mobile with my computing, especially when it gets hot in my house or when I just need to get out. There are two libraries I can use that are close by, one within easy walking distance.

Well, this morning started in extreme frustration. Today I was going to devote yet another long day to my professor's fast-becoming nemesis ms. On Wednesday when I drove out to school to work on it in splendid air-conditioned isolation, two of the files wouldn't open from the floppy disk. So I (thought I) recopied them onto another disk this morning and drove out to school only to find I had labeled the disk but not actually copied the two files onto it. Not a total disaster—there is plenty else I could have worked on. But my brain shut down and refused to cooperate in any problem solving activities, so I turned around and drove back home.

I've also been considering moving a small desk into my bedroom for non-school related desk tasks, such as sewing or writing letters. I've looked at a couple possibilities, e.g., a long, narrow card table from Target ($28.99); a small side desk from Target ($48.99 on sale this week). I like the card table idea, especially for sewing, but I also have a narrow, metal, 10-drawer stationery cabinet I was given from the estate of a church member who died last year that I would want to fit under the card table because the card table is so long. However, the cabinet is a bit too high to fit under it.

So I ventured down to the "elite" Salvation Army store, which sells some of the nicer things donated to the Salvation Army, looking for a desk possibility. (It's where I found my German manual coffee grinder a few years back.) I didn't find any suitable desks, but I did find an old manual Smith-Corona typewriter. It looked in pretty good condition, and I asked for a piece of paper to try it out. Flashback! My mother had a very good manual typewriter (I don't remember the brand) she used when we lived in Zambia. I learned to type on it, and the tactile memory of how those typewriters were constructed and how they worked came right back—all the levers to adjust the paper, margins, etc. The ribbon wasn't placed in correctly, but I was able to figure it out and fix it. It even has the same kind of carrying case I remember from which you can unhinge the lid in order to type freely.

Someone had removed the price tag, so I asked the clerk what the price was—$17.50. The typewriter is in such good condition and such a beautiful (if that's the right word) specimen of a well-constructed, solid metal mechanical object. Even the ribbon is still very dark. It was worth the purchase just for the object itself, regardless of its usefulness.

Then I got home and started typing. What fun! First, there is no exclamation mark key. One types a single quote ' then backspaces and types a full stop . under it. A few keys, e.g., the single quote!, are in different places on the keyboard, which is strange and leads to many errors, especially if one uses contractions a lot. Then one can't type nearly as quickly as on a computer keyboard because the strikers (I don't know their technical name) get stuck. (I guess that's why typewriter manufacturers came up with the QWERTY keyboard in an attempt to slow typists down.) My accuracy on a typewriter is abominable after being spoiled by how easy it is to correct errors on a computer.

Anyway, I'm not sure how often or for what sort of writing I'm going to use my manual typewriter. (It would fulfill the mobility function of a laptop, to a certain extent, except that it's much heavier and would not be tolerated in a library!) It brings images to mind of novelists or war journalists with mussed up hair and ashtrays overflowing with cigarette butts next to their Underwoods as they pound out their masterpieces. In fact, a few years ago I had cut out a photo article from the (sadly no longer in print) magazine of the Library of Congress, Civilization, called "The Literary Life." [A book was published later, also no longer in print, called The Writer's Desk.] The photos showed well-known writers at their desks (or wherever they wrote), many of whom used typewriters. The black-and-white photos were taken primarily in the 1970s, so I'm sure many writers use computers now instead. But there's still this mystique about manual typewriters and, like me, not a little nostalgia (although I am NOT volunteering to write my dissertation, with footnotes, on a manual typewriter. No, no, no!)

I wonder, too, if not being able to type as fast affects writing by allowing one to be a bit more reflective, not to mention the aural and physical dimensions of using a manual typewriter.

I wonder, too, if I've been reading too much of the catalogue copy from that retailer of nostalgia, The Vermont Country Store. They sell a manual typewriter, an Olivetti, for $199:
Honest-To-Goodness Manual Typewriter

Manual Olivetti moves at a pace that allows time to compose your thoughts. Full-sized keyboard, sliding margin controls, three line-spacing selections and touch controls, ribbon positions for black, red, or stencil. Steel-case machine is built like a tank, with no electronic parts to fail or malfunction. Heavy-gauge vinyl carrying case. Color is gray. 13 ½"x12"x3 ½"; weighs 12 lbs.

Finally, a quote from the caption under Robert Penn Warren's photo:
The hard thing, the objective thing, has to be done before the book is written....If the work is done the dream will come to the [person] who's ready for that particular dream; it's not going to come just from dreaming in general.
Hard words for someone who does far too much "dreaming in general."

Sunday, July 28, 2002


1) My flame lily plant produced two flame lilies.

2) I finally rigged my one telephone line outlet to accommodate two wires, one for my phone and one for my computer modem. I no longer have to unplug the wire from the phone, string it behind the filing cabinet, table, and desk to plug it into the computer in order to access the web or e-mail (then reverse the procedure to be able to use the phone again).

3) Yesterday morning I took my two cats to the vet to be de-wormed. Putting them into their carrier rear first was much less traumatic then previous attempts to cage them head first. I learned that cats get tapeworms from swallowing fleas.

4) Then I went to the local branch of the public library and finished going through the ms. checking the Hebrew transcriptions. I need to go there more often: I am not distracted by my (messy) house; it's not so lonely; and it's air-conditioned.

5) Late yesterday afternoon I accompanied Suzuki violin players at a recital. The children with their tiny violins are so cute!

6) This morning I did laundry and hung it out to dry, read the newspaper, and soon will be heading off to church.

This is the record of occurrences, of interest only to myself, which, for some reason, I wish to document.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

O inspiration, where art thou?

Still tired. The subsidiary of my company that took over our little department has been taken over itself by yet another subsidiary. So that means another round of reports trying to explain what our group does. Just leave us alone so we can do our job and make you lots of money.

It's very hot and my house is very messy. And I have a 600 page ms. (not my own, unfortunately,) I need to go through and edit.

That's all, folks.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002


Tired, mentally and, therefore, physically. Not much inspiration to write here. But hop on over to Susie's site to see some excellent photos from Munich. I love the one of the little boy climbing into the fountain!

On the front page of today's WSJ is a disturbing article about manufactured food: Marketers Push Single Servings And Families Hungrily Dig In (paid subscription required). You can now buy pre-made, individually wrapped, frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Then there's the woman whose pantry includes individual serving size packs of:
Oreo, Fig Newton, Nutter Butter and Chips Ahoy cookies, wrapped several to a package. There are packs of Quaker Oats s'mores flavored chewy granola bars and Goldfish crackers. And there is Gatorade in bottles with pull-up sports tops, Poland Spring water and Capri Sun juice pouches.
Here's another quote explaining the popularity of breakfast hot pockets: "People were saying putting cereal into a bowl, adding milk to it and eating it is not convenient."

The focus of the article is on the individual serving packs and the fact that larger individual-size packages sell better. What the article doesn't investigate is the accumulation of all the excess packaging for individual servings, much of which is not recyclable or even eventually biodegradable.

Thursday, July 18, 2002

How to be a foreigner

I thought of Susie when I read in the LA Times Book Review this excerpt from the new foreward by Pico Iyer of The Inland Sea.

Iyer describes Donald Richie, the author, as "a writer on the peculiarly modern art of learning how to be a foreigner." Although The Inland Sea is about Japan and was first published in 1971, Iyer writes that Richie
tour[s] around the human landscape with a tolerant acuity. And he has more to say than anyone I know on the expatriate condition, the freedom of the man abroad, and the poignancy that underwrites it. He needs to be read by people with no interest in Japan and by those who never plan to visit that far-off island.

Monday, July 15, 2002

Bridge party

Saturday night I helped my boss at the Pasadena Heritage Bridge Party. The party is a fundraiser for an organization that works to preserve historic and architectually significant buildings. The entire bridge (which was preserved by the organization) is closed to traffic and set up with food booths, music stages, and other entertainment. It is a big, fun block party for our city.

[Edited 1/22/06: Removed image of bridge painted by R. Kenton Nelson, which was used on T-shirts and posters for the event.]

Thursday, July 11, 2002


From the WSJ:

July 5, 2002


With Their Feel-Good Scents, Clotheslines Make Comeback


With four kids and a pool, Deb Johns used to run her clothes dryer every night. But last month the fashion consultant installed a device that's even hotter -- a clothesline.

After years of disuse and despite conjuring up an image of the nomadic Joad family in "The Grapes of Wrath," clotheslines are suddenly popping up in even the most exclusive ZIP Codes. Makers like Butts Manufacturing of California say demand has jumped as much as 40% in the last year, and Stacksandstacks, an Internet retailer, says sales of air-drying devices are soaring 60% to 80% -- a month. Of course, unlike the cheap rope or metal versions of yore, these can get pretty pricey: One sleek chrome rack from Switzerland, designed for mounting on a laundry-room ceiling, goes for $75.

Why would anyone want to make the drudgery of laundry last even longer? Cost, for one thing. Californians started buying clotheslines during last summer's electricity crisis. Then word spread about the scent of air-dried laundry, something most people hadn't smelled in years. "Once you sleep in a bed of outdoor-fresh sheets, you can't imagine linens from the dryer again," says Elena May, a Kentucky garden-center owner.

Besides the feel-good scent, observers say, clotheslines appeal to boomers' nostalgia for the days when their mothers did the laundry. A more self-indulgent reason: These days more people are shelling out for high-priced Italian cotton, silk and linen sheets that they're afraid to put in the dryer. (Indeed, Americans so distrust their dryers that they air-dry more than 30% of their household laundry, according to appliance-maker Whirlpool.) Last year Procter & Gamble even introduced a "wrinkle-reducing" spray designed for line-dried items.

One wrinkle homeowners may not have thought about: Many homes built in the past 20 years are part of homeowners' associations -- and nearly all of them ban permanent clotheslines. (Florida, in contrast, actually has a law protecting them.) That's why the newest models fold up and store away. Butts's best-seller, for instance, works like a deck umbrella, with a base and removable pole. Also available: multiple-line models that hang on a wall and retract when not in use, so people don't think the Joads have moved in next door.

Veronica Jones's neighbors aren't bothered at all. In fact, says the Minnesota homemaker, they ask to borrow the line for their own sheets. Her children are another matter, though. They're so appalled at the idea of their mother doing something as old-fashioned as hanging out the family laundry, they practically hide inside on laundry day. And the next step, they fear? That "I'll move them all to an Amish colony in the middle of the night," she says.
Le Menu

Wednesday Night Dinner
Messiah/Mesias Lutheran Church

West African Groundnut Stew - Vegetarian
Jasmine Rice
Garnished with Mangoes and Banana Slices

Molasses Crinkles Cookies

Ice Water

My dinner turned out to be delicious, although I'll be eating stew for the next month; I slightly over estimated the amount of food I'd need. It was fun to prepare, except chopping the sweet potatoes. I forgot that sweet potatoes are like squash, not regular potatoes, and my wrist is still sore. I got the stew recipe from The Moosewood Restaurant Cooks for a Crowd: Recipes With a Vegetarian Emphasis for 24 or More.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Busy, busy

No time to think. I'm in a tasky, deal-with-all-problems-with-dispatch mode at work. It's quarter-end. Reports have to be compiled. Accounting errors must be corrected. Everything needs to be lined up for the up-coming marketing campaigns. And corporate attorneys need to be negotiated with.

For future weblog posts:
  • Skunks
  • Berg Hardware Store
  • TLS article in the Atlantic Monthly
  • Something else I forgot
  • Oh, the article in WSJ on the comeback of clotheslines
  • Saturday, July 06, 2002

    The weekend, so far

    The only thing I did to celebrate the fourth was to watch the neighborhood kiddies' parade. Children of all ages, riding bicycles and tricycles and being pulled in wagons, all of which were decorated in red, white, and blue, paraded along a three to four block route. It was very cute although a little overwhelming to see so many children in one place—like proverbial ants coming out of the woodwork.

    This morning I went to the annual cactus and succulent sale at the Huntington. I picked up some sort of Haworthia, "Royal Highness," (the label isn't very clear and I can't find the name in the reference books I have); an Echeveria secunda HGB 85639; and a Crassula capitella ssp. thyrsifolora. I planted them in a low, round earthenware container with another sort of flowering Crassula (I think) I dug up from the garden and a cactus my parents gave me. The container is clustered on my front porch with two other pots of cactus; a Euphorbia milii (crown of thorns) I got last year at the sale; a ficus; an Epiphyllum; and the ivy I grew to cover the peeling paint on my (rented) duplex.

    Thursday, July 04, 2002

    More food

    Last night, after getting back from the weekly church dinner, this week a BBQ in one of the church family's backyards, I watched Babette's Feast. What a wonderful film! It had been years since I'd seen it. If you've not seen it, go rent it. I volunteered to cook for next week, and although it will not be Babette's feast—not even close!—I am reminded that when people eat together, more can happen than just eating food. Now I have one week to figure out what the heck I'm going to make!
    My market

    From yesterday's LA Times:
    Pasadena's Weekend Pleasures
    David Karp

    July 3 2002

    With its fine selection of growers, devoted customers and veteran manager, the Pasadena Saturday farmers market ranks in the top tier of markets.

    One of its special pleasures is the just-picked produce grown by Mike Taylor in his West Covina backyard, such as luscious Brown Turkey figs, aromatic Santa Rosa plums, purple Japanese eggplants and a bevy of heirloom tomatoes, including flavorful Brandywines, fuzzy yellow Peaches and Enchantment plum tomatoes.

    Joan Kaplan from Altadena offers fresh sprouts. Some, such as garbanzos and lentils, are grown in jars indoors and have sprouts just emerging from the moistened seeds; in others, like the sharp radish and mild alfalfa, the sprouts have pushed out an inch or so, while her sunflower and pea sprouts are actually infant plants, grown in flats outdoors. Many shoppers are drawn to the spectacular display arranged by Jose Hernandez, the vendor for Suncoast Farms of Lompoc: huge mounds of broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus and artichokes, ornamented by zucchini with their yellow blossoms.

    Gary Ondray sells pristine shiitake mushrooms from Squaw Valley. Tanaka Farms of Irvine has giant, mild-flavored Maui onions weighing up to 4 pounds.

    "That's more than I can use at one meal, so when I buy one I chop it up and freeze the leftover portion for use later," says Gretchen Stirling, the market's manager. Stirling has managed the market since it began in 1984.

    Valencia oranges, one of the Southland's classic crops, are at peak quality, and Manuel Alvarez sells superbly sweet and juicy examples from Fillmore. They come in 20-pound bags for $4.

    At the Regier stand, customers gobble samples of superbly flavorful June Pride yellow peaches as fast as Tami Taylor of Dinuba can slice them; this Saturday she'll also have Redtop, a classic 50-year-old variety.

    Pasadena (Victory Park) farmers market, 2800 block of North Sierra Madre Boulevard, between Paloma Street and Washington Boulevard, Saturdays 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

    Hot tip: Look for intensely flavored sweet-tart Persian mulberries from Kim and Clarence Blain at today's Santa Monica market, and at Hollywood on Sunday.

    Tuesday, July 02, 2002

    Catching up

    This is going to be a random entry: I haven't posted for a while and I have a lot to say. [Edit: As usual, I ran out of energy way before I ran out of things to write about, so the rest of the topics will remain on my new "action" list, Weblog.]

    First, this rather inspiring article in the LA Times last week about a high school science class raising worms and using the worm castings in their container gardens.

    Next, the self-help book of the month: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. Like many self-help books, it's not much more than codified common sense, but I found some useful reminders in it. The notion of developing a system to keep track of all the things my mind is going to try keep track of anyway so that I can free my mind to concentrate on what I have in front of me at the moment was a timely nudge! I even finished a way overdue booknote yesterday and submitted it to the editor. So, common sense it may be, but I'll take help from where ever I can get it!

    Then, at work, my new mantra is, "What Would H. [my former colleague] Do?" I really admired the way she tackled problems head on without fretting over them, always treating people graciously while making sure they did what she needed them to do.

    Meanwhile, back at home, my calathea is unfurling two new leaves. I am very pleased. My white African violet buds, however, shriveled into brown berries. I think it's too hot for them in my living room. I don't know where else to put the plant, though, where it would be cooler yet still receive enough light.

    Finally, currently reading: Markings by Dag Hammarskjöd. I have written pages of quotes from him in my off-line journal. Here's one of his passages (p. 76).
    Now.  When I have overcome my fears—of others, of my-
    self, of the underlying darkness:
    at the frontier of the unheard-of.
    Here ends the known. But, from a source beyond it,
    something fills my being with its possibilities.
    Here desire is purified and made lucid: each action is
    a preparation for, each choice an assent to the unknown.
    Prevented by the duties of life on the surface from
    looking down into the depths, yet all the while being
    slowly trained and molded by them to take the plunge
    into the deep whence rises the fragrance of a forest
    star, bearing the promise of a new affection.
    At the frontier—