Friday, January 31, 2003

Montaigne's blog

A few nights ago, I pulled out The Complete Essays of Montaigne, translated by Donald M. Frame. I think that if Montaigne were alive today, he would have a weblog/blog and might say in his apology for keeping a such a weblog:
I have no doubt that I often happen to speak of things that are better treated by the masters of the craft, and more truthfully. This is purely the [weblog] of my natural faculties, and not at all of the acquired ones; and whoever shall catch me in ignorance will do nothing against me, for I should hardly be answerable for my ideas to others, I who am not answerable for them to myself, or satisfied with them....These are my fancies, by which I try to give knowledge not of things, but of myself.
About linking to other websites or quoting other authors, he might write:
I make others say what I cannot say so well, now through the weakness of my language, now through the weakness of my understanding.
Further (on the likely anti-linear structure of his weblog?), he might post:
As my fantasies present themselves, I pile them up; now they come pressing in a crowd, now dragging single file. I want people to see my natural and ordinary pace, however off the track it is. I let myself go as I am.
From Montaigne's essay "Of Books" in Book II, pp. 296, 297.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003


From the Food Section in today's LA Times an article about (dried) beans with links to recipes on the side.

Monday, January 27, 2003

A note

It is not necessary for you to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.
Rabbi Tarphon, quoted in How to Read and Why by Harold Bloom, p. 277.

And some things might even get completed if I don't desist from them.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Gearing up

Life is revving up again: work; research assistant duties; my own studies; "temporary" music position; other church stuff; planning committee exploring a school reunion next year; other stuff to take care of, e.g., car, pets; and household chores. It's the sort of busyness that keeps me from writing here.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

On the difficulty of putting things into words

As I enjoyed our perfect weather yesterday—low 80s, deep blue sky—and wondered, yet again, how to describe the feeling of living in it, I thought of these words of John Muir:
Bookmaking frightens me, because it demands so much artificialness and retrograding....I find that though I have a few thoughts entangled in the fibres of my mind, I possess no words into which I can shape them. You tell me that I must be patient and reach out and grope in lexicon granaries for the words I want....

These mountain fires that glow in one's blood are free to all, but I cannot find the chemistry that may press them unimpaired into booksellers' bricks. True, with that august instrument, the English language, in the manufacture of which so many brains have been broken, I can proclaim to you that moonshine is glorious and nice, and sunshine more glorious and nicer, that winds rage, and waters roar....This is about the limit of what I feel capable of doing...(p. 200).

From a letter written in Yosemite Valley, December 25, 1872, from John Muir to Jeanne Carr in Kindred & Related Spirits: The Letters of John Muir and Jeanne C. Carr, edited by Bonnie Johanna Gisel (Pasadena Public Library, Santa Catalina Branch: 92 Muir, J).

Of course, Muir did persevere and did find words, for example, in these articles on forests published in The Atlantic Monthly.

Friday, January 17, 2003

The estate tax

Right now I'm listening to/watching an interview with Bill Gates, Sr. and Chuck Collins by Bill Moyers on "Now" about why they are against the repeal of the estate tax. I first read Bill Gates, Sr.'s arguments in the current Sojourners Magazine (the article isn't online yet).
Happy New Year, Trees!

Throughout the world, Jews gather on Tu B'Shevat to celebrate trees and the bounty we receive from God through them....

Increasingly popular among Jews of all denominations is the Tu B'Shevat seder. Like the Passover seder, it is an elaborate intertwining of food, wine and words.

This kabbalistic ritual emanates from the mystical notion that eating a wide variety of fruits with proper intention can effect a tachyon (a healing or rectification) of the first time humans "missed the mark" by eating from the Tree of Knowledge.

The global ecological crisis — from burning rain forests and clear-cutting ancient forests. Holes in the ozone layer make clear that our nibblings from the Tree of Knowledge have indeed brought an urgent need for terrestrial healings of cosmic proportion.

In Tu B'Shevat we find an affirmation of the necessity for caring for trees, and by extension, the entire garden in which we live.

And we find a connection between our consciousness, our consumption (eating), and the health of the world around us.

Here's the source for the above quote by Mark X. Jacobs on beliefnet about this holiday and links to more information and articles.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Chinese food

Today's Food Section in the LA Times featured Chinese food along Valley Blvd, which is on my bus route to work. Along that part of the route, I've seen a lot of older Chinese people getting on the bus with shopping bags full of vegetables. And most of the signs in the area are in Chinese and English. Someday I'll have to go down to that area to explore rather than just travel through.
On early risers

(Unfortunately, not me these days.) From Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac:
Getting up too early is a vice habitual in horned owls, stars, geese, and freight trains. Some hunters acquire it from geese, and some coffee pots from hunters. It is strange that of all the multitude of creatures who must rise in the morning at some time, only these few should have discovered the most pleasant and least useful time for doing it....

Early risers feel at ease with each other, perhaps because, unlike those who sleep late, they are given to understatement of their own achievements....The coffee pot, from its first soft gurgle, underclaims the virtues of what simmers within...(pp. 59, 61).

Word of the day: anserine, "of, relating to, or resembling a goose." "The goose on the [sand] bar, rising briefly to a point of order in some inaudible anserine debate, lets fall no hint that he speaks with the authority of all the far hills and the sea" (Leopold, p. 61).

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Clearing my brain

This going to work every day is putting a cramp in my style, that is, my desire to post here more often and more coherently. Right now I should be working on a very overdue book review before I leave for (paid) work, but, no, I got up late and now am writing here instead of working on the book review.

Oil has been on my brain the past few weeks. Then I checked out the "News Center" section of Path to Freedom this morning, where the top story was "End of Cheap Oil Poses Serious Threat to World Economy, Experts Say". I also read two articles in yesterday's LA Times on my bus ride to work related to the subject. First, from a story about the recent LA Auto Show:
The traffic in downtown was thick enough that some people left their vehicles at home and did what public officials have been urging them to do for years -- use public transportation to get there. Others willingly paid $25 to park the cars they own to see the cars they wish they could own....

There was little talk about fuel mileage, emissions or the environment.

Then this was a front page article: "U.S. Quest for Oil in Africa Worries Analysts, Activists."
The Bush administration's search for more secure sources of oil is leading it to the doorsteps of some of the world's most troubled and repressive regimes: the petroleum-rich countries of West Africa....

But some oil analysts and activists fear the administration may be repeating mistakes of the past, when the U.S. tolerated questionable practices by allied governments to advance its Cold War and energy security interests.

So, I will continue to do my tiny little bit to use less oil by taking the bus to work, even when, like last night, I have to wait half an hour for a connecting bus to arrive just to travel the last few miles home. (Grrrr.)

Sunday, January 12, 2003


For the "maybe someday" file, from today's LA Times:
In her home studio at the majestic Duncan-Irwin House in Pasadena, Chaves teaches the techniques of Craftsman-style embroidery....The one-woman business also offers do-it-yourself kits and customized pieces such as centerpieces and portieres. Her eight-hour classes are held about every other month and cover such topics as how to achieve a perfect French knot and the finer points of Belgian linen. Even novices can get a good start on a pillow embroidered with flower buds and leaves by the end of the day, she says....

"People live in the fast lane nowadays, so things like needlework have become rare," says Chaves, who estimates that there are less than a dozen commercial embroiderers in the country producing Arts and Crafts-style textiles. "I would like to see this art continue on with young people. Hopefully it won't die out like other skills." Since knitting has recently surged in popularity among fashionistas and Hollywood starlets, maybe embroidery will soon have its day, too.

Phone: Ann Chaves, (626) 792-9729.

Friday, January 10, 2003

End of the week

Not much to write. It was a week of getting adjusted to working (without desk or computer...) and trying to figure out the best way to get to work. Although the office is not far from where I live, there is no quick way to get there. I work half-days in the afternoons. I'd been considering trying the bus system and was prodded along when my car started stalling out on the drive home on Wednesday. The mechanic couldn't replicate the problem, so he replaced the fuel pump, filters, etc., anyway, having fixed a vacuum leak last week.

The bus trip, including walking a couple blocks to and from the bus, takes from an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes with one transfer. Driving myself, including parking at a remote site (yes, the company has a few space issues), takes almost an hour in the evenings. So I'm trying to figure out how to be more efficient at home and then use the bus riding time for reading, eating lunch, planning, etc. There certainly is less stress taking the bus than driving myself on crowded streets with lots of stop lights now that I've figured out which buses to take and where the appropriate stops are. After I see how work goes (with desk and computer) I might see if I can adjust my schedule and come in four days a week.

On the ride home tonight, I overheard a passenger talking with the bus driver and saying that the route we were on may be discontinued this summer. This is one of the reasons why LA's public transit system has such a bad reputation—they make it more inconvenient to take the bus, not easier! However, the proposed change is due to the new extension of the rail line, so I'm sure it will be useful to some people. Perhaps I'll go to the hearings at the end of the month and see what's up.

Monday, January 06, 2003

New Job

Today was my first day at my new job. I'm glad to be working again, although I don't yet have a desk or a computer. So my colleague and I spent the entire day camped in our boss's office. It's a strange mixture of new and familiar. Some of the people in the building I knew from years ago at a previous location. The business is different than what I was doing before—therefore a new list of acronyms to learn—but the type of work is similar.

The strangeness element was compounded by the weather. Last night was extremely windy (and I don't know if tonight will be much better). With the neighbors' (my landlords) wind chimes; the clothesline that's tied to a tree and rubs against the corner of the house that happens to be where my bed is; screens falling off the windows; other anonymous bumps, clanging, and crashes; plus the noise of the wind itself, I didn't sleep much. I was also anxious about starting my new job and was afraid the electricity might go off, disrupting my alarm so I wouldn't get up in time. So I was pretty tired by the end of the day.

I had a very social (for me) weekend. Two sets of out-of-town friends were visiting, so I saw them Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Then on Sunday I enjoyed a lovely afternoon touring the Path to Freedom garden and visiting with the family.

Saturday, January 04, 2003


I found guavas this morning at the Farmer's Market! Their marvelous smell is filling my kitchen. I also bought two bags of tangerines—one for me and one for the neighbor who fed my cats and collected my mail while I was away—organic purple potatoes; brussels sprouts; and limes.

Friday, January 03, 2003

A 10-best list

Here are the 10 best recipes of 2002 as chosen by the LA Times' Test Kitchen staff. The pumpkin-thyme dinner rolls sound especially good, as well as the mac and cheese made with goat cheese.

Thursday, January 02, 2003


I just typed out three plus paragraphs explaining that I start work again on Monday and that I decided not to move back to my old house, and I was typing so hard because I'm so keyed up that I hit a wrong button by mistake and wiped out my whole post (which, of course, I'd not yet saved). I'm not going to re-type it all because it was very cathectic writing, and the energy is mostly dissipated now. To summarize, I'll be working part-time for the same company, different subsidiary, same colleagues. Oh, and I decided not to quit my Ph.D. program at this point in time, which is why I chose to work part-time rather than a full-time. And then that led to Kierkegaard's questions:
[W]hat kind of life do you live, do you will only one thing, and what is this one thing? (p. 182)
And, further,
whether you really live in such a way that you are capable of answering that question, in such a way that the question truthfully exists for you. Because in order to be able earnestly to answer that serious question, a [person] must already have made a choice in life, [she] must have chosen the invisible, chosen that which is within. [She] must have lived so that [she] has hours and times in which [she] collects [her] mind, so that [her] life can win the transparency that is a condition for being able to put the question to [herself] and for being able to answer it....To put such a question to the [person] that is so busy in [her] earthly work, and outside of this in joining the crowd in its noisemaking, would be folly...(pp. 183-84).
And that's only a sliver of K's relentlessness.

Finally, a reminder to myself now that I'll be receiving a paycheck again, from a family who deliberately chose to "live more with less" so they'd have more to give away:
It actually felt liberating—we were free from the spending patterns dictated by the availability of money (p. 55).
From "Nonconform Freely" in Living More With Less by Doris Janzen Longacre.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

The weather

Now that the entire nation has had the opportunity to feast their eyes on Pasadena's gorgeous weather, I have no need to describe it here!
To will one thing

To those desiring that their New Year's reflections take an existential soul searching direction, I offer Kierkegaard's Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing: Spiritual Preparation for the Office of Confession. I don't know if "relentless" properly describes a book, but that's how the book felt as I read through it today. I had read a quote from it a long time ago, and the book's title, Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing, has stuck with me since, mantra-like.

I cannot find one or two quotes to write here without feeling like I have to explain K's entire argument/appeal (which I've only partially absorbed). K himself says in his preface that the reader who benefits most is the one who "reads willingly and slowly, who reads over and over again, and who read aloud—for [her] own sake" (p. 27) . So, for myself, I record this:
For confession is a holy act, which calls for a collected mind. A collected mind is a mind that has collected itself from every distraction, from every relation, in order to center itself upon this relation to itself as an individual who is responsible to God. It is a mind that has collected itself from every distraction, and therefore also from all comparison. For comparison may either tempt a [person] to an earthly and fortuitous despondency because the one who compares must admit to [herself] that [she] is behind many others, or it may tempt [her] to pride because, humanly speaking, [she] seems to be ahead of many others....

But when all comparison is relinquished forever then a [person] confesses as an individual before God—and [she] is outside any comparison, just as the demand which purity of heart lays upon [her] is outside of comparison. Purity of heart is what God requires of [her] and the penitent demands it of [herself] before God (pp. 215-216).

[Edit: I wrote and tried to publish this New Year's Eve, December 31, 2002, but Blogger posted it to the future for some reason.]