Friday, March 29, 2002

Stop the world

If only things would just stop until I figure out everything and have everything under control. But no. It is already the end of March. My paper is not finished. The rent is going to be raised. I have nine dozen eggs in the refrigerator I need to boil, peel, chop, and make into an edible Easter breakfast dish for 100 + people. I spent all day yesterday not revising my paper. (One of my fellow students just had a paper published in the main journal of my field [the type of journal in which the table of contents is printed on the outside front cover for all the world to see your name], and it was a brilliant article in which he boldly argues that a certain generally accepted hypothesis/dogma in biblical studies is "a figment of scholars' imagination.") Last night I went to a Passover Seder at a colleague's house. It was a wonderful but intense experience. Then I went to work this morning. It was non-stop busy; plus it was another colleague's birthday today. (Part of yesterday's running around was getting her gift, Bob Dylan's Love and Theft CD, and then making granola for her.) Tomorrow I have to do laundry and go to rehearsal for Sunday morning's music. Then I have to work on my paper. Sunday will be busy with music and food plus the Easter service. Monday and Tuesday I'm at work again. I'm glad for my job, especially with the rent going up, but sometimes it seems that between work and maintaining Life, paper writing so easily gets pushed aside. If only I could segment my mind so that when I have spaces of time in which to work on it, I would actually concentrate fully on the paper and not worry about everything else going on. And to think there are people who earn degrees AND work full-time AND have a family.

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Another connection

Earlier in the hour as I was watching the NewsHour on PBS, I saw/heard Margaret Warner discuss the situation between Arafat and Sharon with New York Times' reporter, Serge Schmemann. Schmemann is the son of Father Alexander Schmemann, whose journal (and other books) I've commented on here. I've seen his byline in the NY Times on occasion, but tonight was the first time I'd seen him on television. He looks like pictures of his father, complete with a beard, and is very articulate.

Why I'm intrigued by random connections like this, I'm not sure, but a weblog is a handy place to record them!

Monday, March 25, 2002

One more Oscar tie-in

As might have been predicted, Sunday's LA Times Book Review selections were books related to movies somehow. One review that interested me was by Tobias Wolff of In the Bedroom, a collection of short stories by Andre Dubus.

Wolff says of Dubus's short stories:
Reading through them ensemble, I was struck by their plenitude. Part of the pleasure of writing short stories is learning what you can live without. The form relies on an acute, watchful reader--an aficionado, really--who is insulted by fat explanation, fat description, by anything reducible to something more essential; but the consciousness of that scrutiny can lead to a chill, starved sort of story in which the writer seems hesitant to tell you anything at all for fear of being common. I know; I've written a few.

Dubus never succumbed to this anorexic impulse. His language is full-throated, and he's not afraid to linger on the undramatic, even languorous moments in which we define ourselves--conversation over a barbecue, a divorced father driving home alone after dropping off his kids. Dubus takes his time; his stories, like his sentences, tend to run long. But that vigilant reader prowling the flock for bloated stragglers will never catch Dubus out, because at his most complex, he is still irreducible.
I first learned about Tobias Wolff when the bookkeeper at a company I used to work for told me she was reading his autobiography, This Boy's Life: A Memoir. She worked at the company's office in New York, but recognized one of the towns mentioned in the book, Sedro-Woolley, Washington, because that was my home address. Later, when a movie was made of the book, the movie was filmed in Concrete, Washington, another location in the story. (Yes, the town was named after the concrete plant that once operated there.)

My first job after college involved working at a social services outreach office in Concrete a few days a week. (See last paragraph of my Oct. 28, 2001 post.)
She's back!

Susie is back from her trip to England. It sounds like she had a great time. I'm jealous of her pictures of Big Ben. When I was last there (mid-1980s!), Big Ben was covered in scaffolding.

My weekend alternated between living-in-my-head solitude (e.g., getting lost in a novel Saturday afternoon) and social interaction with the outside world (Palm Sunday celebration at church and going with friends to the Wistaria Festival in a nearby town).

[Edit 6/11/06: Photo deleted.]

Friday, March 22, 2002

More about Zambia

Finding the picture of my old school yesterday (see below) has me thinking about Zambia a lot today. Here is a profile of Zambia's president, Levy Mwanawasa. (I keep forgeting how comprehensive the BBC's coverage of Africa is; I need to check it out more often.)

Thursday, March 21, 2002

Restaurant to try sometime

From an article in yesterday's LA Times:
Din Tai Fung Dumpling House
1108 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia
(626) 574-7068
Open daily 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 9:30 p.m. except Sunday, when the restaurant closes at 9 p.m.
School days

I found a picture on the web of the boarding school I attended as a child. The school is tucked away in a remote corner of Zambia, sandwiched between Angola and DR Congo (Zaïre). My father flew me and other children between school and home each term. (When I first left home in Grade One, the terms were four and a half months long. Later they were changed to three months.)

The long building that looks like a backwards "E" is the dormitory: four large rooms for about fifty girls on one end; the dorm parents' house in the middle; and the boys' rooms on the other end.

Wednesday, March 20, 2002


I've been reading Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. It's about very basic life principles (confirming with modern psychological research what people have known and practised for millennia), but it is a good kick in the rear for me.
Goals [e.g., working toward a doctorate] can lead into all sorts of trouble, at which point one gets tempted to give them up and find some less demanding script by which to order one's actions. The price one pays for changing goals whenever opposition threatens is that while one may achieve a more pleasant and comfortable life, it is likely that it will end up empty and void of meaning....Goals justify the effort they demand at the outset, but later it is the effort that justifies the goal. (pp. 223-24)
However, even if a goal is not met, it does not mean the time or effort spent attempting it is wasted or for nought. It is the concentration, the effort, the focus itself that produces flow or optimal experience.

So, instead of freezing up everytime I think of how much more work (and time) I have to go until I get my degree, and what happens if I end up not getting it, and then how many years will I have wasted—not to mention how much income forfeited, now I will tell myself that tackling a challenging task is a very worthwhile and satisfying use of my time, even if I don't accomplish the goal. However, by not being distracted by useless fretting, I can use my energy to make it more likely that I will finish.

End of self-help talk for today.

Monday, March 18, 2002

California Oaks

This weekend I bought this poster that I want to frame and put above my mantel.

P.S. I like the new upload-images-remotely feature of Blogger Pro now that I finally figured out what paths are what.

[Edit 7/8/06: Removed image.]
Refreshing, refreshing, refreshing

Today is one of those days at work where I'm stalled on my projects because I'm waiting for information and answers only others can give me. So I compulsively click the "Refresh" square on my Lotus Notes to see if any new messages (with answers) have arrived. None. Other days, I wait for queries I've submitted in batch to run, hitting F5 hoping the message "JOBQ" will change to "OUTQ" so I can then run more queries using the new data files. And then, after waiting, I find the information/answers/data are not exactly what I need, so I start all over again.

Thursday, March 14, 2002

Quotidian comments

I just got home from work; it was my day to drive. This morning there was an accident on the freeway just before the exit before the exit to our building and another one almost right in front of me as cars suddenly slowed. It's been very windy (the cold, dry variety of wind), so the sky and landscape are spectacular with all the smog blown away.

My car seems to be going just fine. Over the weekend, my battery conked out, only it gave no indication of being weak until I was getting on the freeway and the car just stopped. Fortunately, I made it almost all the way onto the shoulder before it froze up, and, thankfully, my parents happened to be visiting from out of town and were with me. A nice stranger stopped and jumped started my car, giving the battery enough umph to make it twenty-five miles home. We bought a new battery and my dad installed it.

I'm thinking maybe I should get a cell phone for such occasions, especially since I'm usually alone in the car. I do have AAA, but the phones by the side of the freeway don't always work. But I really, really don't want a cell phone.

Other moral of the story: Check to see how old your battery is, even if you have no problems starting the car. The "warranty" period on the battery is more like an "expiration" date, and you may want to change the battery once it is over the warranty time.

Today I got a new credit card in the mail. The company changed my credit card number, which I now have to re-memorize. I had never memorized my card number until the advent of and other online companies. Now it just rolls off my fingertips or tongue.

My professor also sent back the draft of the paper I submitted last week with helpful comments. Now, to finish it....

Tuesday, March 12, 2002


A favorite quote from Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams (a book given to me by an aunt):
Our correspondences show us where our intimacies lie. There is something very sensual about a letter. The physical contact of pen to paper, the time set aside to focus thoughts, the folding of the paper into the envelope, licking it closed, addressing it, a chosen stamp, and then the release of the letter to the mailbox—are all acts of tenderness.

And it doesn't stop there. Our correspondences have wings—paper birds that fly from my house to yours—flocks of ideas crisscrossing the country. Once opened, a connection is made. We are not alone in the world. (p. 84)
Already—the book was published in 1991 about events in the early 1980s—the practice of writing letters seems outdated, replaced by e-mail and weblogs. When was the last time I sat down to write a real letter (not just send a card), with pen and paper?

Monday, March 11, 2002

For the meantime

I'm recovering from an intense week and weekend about which I want to write but not at the moment. I just got to the Sunday paper this morning and read a review of a book I want to add to my reading list: Atonement by Ian McEwan.

Here's an excerpt from Atonement that's printed with the review:
Trapped between the urge to write a simple diary account of her day's experiences and the ambition to make something greater of them that would be polished, self-contained and obscure, she sat for many minutes frowning at her sheet of paper and its infantile quotation and did not write another word. Actions she thought she could describe well enough, and she had the hang of dialogue. She could do the woods in winter, and the grimness of a castle wall. But how to do feelings? All very well to write, She felt sad, or describe what a sad person might do, but what of sadness itself, how was that put across so it could be felt in all its lowering immediacy? Even harder was the threat, or the confusion of feeling contradictory things. Pen in hand, she stared across the room toward her hard-faced dolls, the estranged companions of a childhood she considered closed. It was a chilly sensation, growing up.

Thursday, March 07, 2002

Note from professor

The best part of a paper is the ?.

Wednesday, March 06, 2002

Barely hanging on

I've been submersed in trying to finish a rough draft of a paper, which I sent to the professor tonight. I certainly do not feel the relief of a job well done or even sufficiently done, but the professor told me to send the paper "as is" by 8:00 PM tonight, so I swallowed my pride, trampled on my insecurities, and sent it.

No other thinking has been going on. My primary emotional state has been a dull numbness of wanting to get this over with. The few bright spots in this bleak landscape included playing for the English and Spanish services at church on Sunday, escaping to my job that pays money and offers the satisfactions of defined tasks and sociability, and taking walks in the neighborhood to revel in the freshness of spring.

Nature's landscape continues to be glorious, in spite of me:

Monday, March 04, 2002

Spring in SoCal

One of the indications of spring here in So. California is the brilliant blooming of ice plants. These photos were taken at the Huntington just over a week ago.

Some of my neighbors have bright purple plants.

Friday, March 01, 2002


I finally got another roll of film developed. Here are a few pictures.

Loretta has become very camera shy; she runs as soon as she sees the camera, so it's becoming more difficult to photograph her.

Leo, on the other hand, is unfazed and only slightly annoyed.

However, he cannot stay annoyed for long.