Sunday, March 30, 2003

'Tis the season for hiking

Today I made it to Henninger Flats, now that I know where it is and that there is water there. It was pretty hot and the sky deep blue. (The pictures to which I linked don't do today justice....) This time I didn't use the horse trail going up but rather the broader, less steep approach at the other end of the canyon. Wildflowers are beginning to bloom—next time I'll have to bring a wildflower identification book with me.

As I said, it's hiking season around here; it's still not too hot and there's not such a fire danger. See the gorgeous pictures on the March 30 entry at Path to Freedom. There's also a column in today's paper listing places to see wildflowers in the Santa Monica Mountains. Finally, the cover story of the LA Times Magazine—with more beautiful pictures—is about two friends who've been hiking together in the Sierra Nevada for thirty years.

[3/31/03 Edit: And Susie went hiking in the snow yesterday!]

Wednesday, March 26, 2003


One thing I love about living in So. Cal. is hearing languages other than English. And it always amazes me how versatile people here are with languages. In the Armenian grocery store, the check-out clerk automatically speaks perfect English with me, switching to Armenian for the next customer. At work, the programmer who sits two desks in front of me switches mid-sentence between Tagalog and English with whomever he's speaking on the phone. In fact, there's maybe one native English speaker in the IT group that's adjacent to our department. We hear Chinese, Hindi, Armenian, Farsi, Tagalog, as well as English spoken in a variety of accents. On the bus, old women chatter in Chinese throwing in English phrases occasionally. Every Sunday, I play for a church service held in Spanish. Now, if only I could speak fluently something besides English.

[3/28/03 Edit: Today in a coffee shop while waiting to place my order, I stood behind three Ethiopian men speaking Amharic.]

Monday, March 24, 2003

Rooibos tea

Rooibos tea is from South Africa. It is said to be very healthy (although it is not exactly very tasty...). In yesterday's LA Times Magazine there was a short article about it by Chris Rubin and a recipe for Rooibos Banana Spice Bread. Notice there are no refined sugars or processed fats in the recipe!
Rooibos Banana Spice Bread

Yields 2 loaves

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
1 cup strong Chai Rooibos tisane
2 ripe bananas
2 eggs
1 cup currants or raisins
1 cup walnuts, chopped

Grease and flour two 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and sea salt in a bowl and set aside. Blend orange juice concentrate, tisane, eggs and bananas in blender until well mixed. Pour over dry ingredients. Add currants and walnuts and stir until blended.

Carefully spoon into greased and floured loaf pan and bake for 30-45 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before removing from pan.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Sunday evening

For the liturgy in the English service we used a Service of Holy Communion for Peace. The first thing that struck me was that an Orthodox refrain, The Trisagion, was spoken in the confession:
Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal,
have mercy on us.
Although we spoke it at this Lutheran service, I was singing Tchaikovsky's haunting rendition of the words to myself.

The use of the word "shock" in one of the prayers jolted me:
Let us pray for the victims of war. . .
God of compassion and grace,
you remember all who suffer.
Even as we engage in combat,
may we also engage with even more intensity in acts of compassion:
to comfort those in shock, bind up the wounded,
feed the hungry, give shelter to the homeless,
bury the dead, and console those who mourn.
God of mercy,
grant us your salvation.
Change of subject. Yesterday I walked to the library, found My Ántonia by Willa Cather, came home, and read it straight through. It is a wonderful book. In the foreward, Kathleen Norris describes the novel this way:
[I]t...explores childhood affections, dreams once held dear, in the light of an adult awareness of displacement....My Ántonia is a continual revelation of stories that linger in the memory (pp. xiii, xviii)

Saturday, March 22, 2003

More on oil in Africa

From the front page of yesterday's LA Times, a story about the Chad to Cameroon oil pipeline by Ken Silverstein:
The pipeline is the largest single investment in Africa, according to World Bank officials. When the pipeline is completed, Chad will become the fourth-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa. The country is expected to receive at least $2.5 billion in net oil revenue over 25 years. Cameroon will collect an estimated $500 million in transit fees for allowing the pipeline to cross its territory en route to the Atlantic.
The article goes on to outline the measures being taken to combat corruption.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Templeton prize winner

Holmes Rolston III is the recipient of this year's $1.1 million Templeton prize in religion. (I heard the announcement on NPR yesterday but wasn't in my car long enough to hear the story.) Rolston is an environmental ethicist. From the CSM article by Stacey Vanek Smith:
The earth, says Rolston, is the Promised Land of milk and honey referred to in the Bible, and man has a duty to protect it. He discussed this concept in his first article, "Is There an Ecological Ethic?" (1975). "We have a duty to preserve the whooping crane, and a duty to preserve the wolves," he says. "We have a duty to preserve endangered plants for what they are in themselves, because they are a part of God's creation."
In other environmental news this week, the Senate approved removing from the budget resolution revenues to be gained by drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. See also the Sierra Club press release.

[3/23/03 Edit: In the Opinion section of today's LA Times, John Balzar commented on these two stories in his piece "In a Dark Hour, a Place of Light."]
Holding pattern

It's a beautiful day outside today. I slept in rather later than usual. Yesterday I had to do a blitz cleaning of my duplex because an appraiser was coming at 10 a.m. The landlord wants to refinance; I just hope my rent doesn't increase again as a result. One of the things I've learned in my new job is that part of the appraisal process for income properties is a survey of comparable rent levels. Definitely bad news where I live given the demand for housing.

So, once again, I have a relatively tidy house. Let's see if I can keep it that way! Maybe I'll try follow the FlyLady's program. Her CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome) acronym certainly describes the state of my place too often.

I've been hitting all the sites bookmarked in my "Favorites" list, reading how people are responding to the war. I feel so detached, with a sense of unreality. I didn't have a television during the previous Gulf War, and I'm very reluctant to watch a war on television now. Reading The Journal of John Woolman has been grounding. He had such a strong sense of the Truth and determined to live his life according to that Truth, regardless of prevailing opinions and practices. One hundred years before the Civil War was fought in this country over the issue of slavery, he personally confronted Quakers/Friends who owned slaves, refused to accept free room and board from Friends who used slaves, and refused to draw up legal documents regarding the disposition of slaves. Additionally, he wrote "epistles" and essays directed to Friends and the "Professors of Christianity of Every Denomination," arguing against the slave trade and ownership of slaves.

Woolman also took an active pacifist stand. He refused to pay certain "war taxes" even though other Friends paid them.
I all along believed there were some upright-hearted men who paid such taxes, but could not see that their example was a sufficient reason for me to do so, while I believed that the spirit of Truth required of me as an individual to suffer patiently the distress of goods rather than pay actively (p. 75).
Woolman quotes a speech made by another Friend, John Churchman, to Pennsylvania Assembly where Churchman reminds the Assembly that the framers of Pennsylvania's charter
would be greatly grieved to see warlike preparations carried on and encouraged by a law consented to...contrary to the charter [which set forth]...that the reverent and pure fear of God with a humble trust in his ancient arm of power would be our greatest safety and defence (p. 80).
Chapter Five lays out Woolman's thoughts on the war tax, as well as documents by other Friends on the issue. There is also a letter on pp. 48-50.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Chicken nuggets

From a column in yesterday's WSJ by Tara Parker-Pope: Chicken-Nugget Boom Leads To Worries About Kids' Health.
When it comes to childhood nutrition, few foods are as unhealthy and insidious as the chicken nugget, one of the most popular foods of the two- to six-year-old set. While other junk foods such as hot dogs and potato chips are obviously full of fat and calories, many well-meaning parents think they are doing right by their child's health when they feed them a nugget. After all, it's chicken.

But calling it chicken is a bit of an overstatement. Sure, chicken is the largest ingredient by weight, but once it's turned into a nugget, it's so laden with breading, fillers and fats, it's hardly recognizable as chicken anymore. Some 50% to 60% of the calories in most nuggets come from fat....

The vast majority of nuggets aren't whole pieces of chicken -- instead the chicken is either chopped into small bits or "comminuted," which means the meat and skin is finely ground into an almost paste-like concoction. At that point, binders are added to make it stick together and it's pressed into the traditional nugget shape....

Popular brands of chicken nuggets tend to have far more grams of fat and carbohydrates than they do protein, and most are made with partially hydrogenated oils -- meaning they include cancer-causing trans fats.

Monday, March 17, 2003

New bookstore

This morning I stopped by the American Friends Service Committee bookstore here in town. I've driven by the building many times, which has had some sort of peace banner displayed since at least Sept 11, 2001. The bookstore has a wonderful selection of children's books, books about social and economic justice and environmental issues, general religion books, and, of course, a selection of Quaker books. I was looking for The Journal of John Woolman, which I found. I could have bought many other books but it was fun just looking and being inspired.

It was also encouraging to go to a place that has made such a strong stand for peace.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

More oil stories

Here are two stories in today's LA Times about oil. First, from the front page, "Angolan Strife Threatens a Key Source of U.S. Oil" by Solomon Moore:
CABINDA, Angola -- The Angolan armed forces are surging through this remote province to end a rebellion that has threatened a U.S. petroleum giant operating here and could vex President Bush's plans to reduce America's need for Middle East oil.

And as Angola escalates what had been a low-intensity conflict, civilians are being caught in the cross-fire....

Cabinda is particularly important to Angola because the oil industry is the only economic sector that survived the civil war, accounting for 90% of this nation's export revenue. During that long conflict, petrodollars enabled the government to spend a third of the gross domestic product on defense.

At the center of the current dispute is the Cabinda Gulf Oil Co. -- a wholly owned subsidiary of ChevronTexaco Corp. of San Ramon, Calif. Sonangol, a state-owned petroleum company, is ChevronTexaco's partner in Angola and a source of much of the country's wealth. Angola, which produces about 900,000 barrels a day and about $4 billion in annual oil exports, accounts for nearly 4% of the U.S. oil supply, binding it to America's national interests.

Despite revelations by the international watchdog group Global Witness that as much as $1.4 billion in government revenue was unaccounted for in 2001, the country remains key to Bush's plans to reduce U.S. reliance on the Middle East by turning to oil producers in western Africa. That policy is taking on greater urgency as the administration prepares for possible war with Iraq and as political unrest has slowed Venezuela's oil production.
From the business section, a James Flanigan column, "Hear the Warning in Energy Crunch."
The longer-term outlook is...troubling. The basic problem is one of economic fundamentals: Production is declining in many places, while consumption of oil is rising rapidly in countries that never used much of the stuff before.

China, for instance, is burning up gasoline and other oil products at double the pace it did 10 years ago. That nation now uses one-fourth as much oil as the U.S., whereas a decade ago it used less than one-seventh. India too has doubled its use of oil over the same span. As these countries continue to develop economically, their need for oil will only get bigger.

Yet production is falling, not only in old fields in Alaska and the North Sea, but in the Middle East as well. "Saudi Arabia's main wells are past their peak," says Matthew Simmons, head of Simmons & Co., a Houston-based energy investment banking firm....

[W]hat we are witnessing is the end of an industrial model that counts on new discoveries of oil and gas to meet the swelling demand for energy.
One small candle

My candles are lit on my front porch.

Saturday, March 15, 2003


On Thursday I attended a FranklinCovey workshop on becoming more organized to accomplish more. It was offered at work, and I went with a great deal of skepticism and some reluctance. But I figured every little bit helps and even if I didn't swallow the system whole, just being prompted to think about how to live with more intention would be worth it (esp. since my company was paying).

So I've been mulling over one of the assignments they suggested, identifying values. I set aside my objections to their language and have been thinking about what sort of list I would compose—and why. The "Franklin" part of the company is named after Benjamin Franklin, so I pulled out my Norton Anthology of American Literature, vol. I, 2nd edition, and found the section in Franklin's The Autobiography where he describes his "bold and arduous Project of arriving at moral Perfection" (pp. 454-463). He uses the old-fashioned word "virtues" rather than "values," and lists and defines thirteen Virtues.

One of Franklin's Virtues I would choose for my list, because it is such a problem for me, is Order: "Let your Things have their Places. Let each Part of your Business have its Time" (p. 454). I am comforted that Franklin, too, struggled with Order.
Order...with regard to Places for Things, Papers, etc. I found extremely difficult to acquire....This Article therefore cost me so much painful Attention and my Faults in it vex'd me so much, and I made so little Progress in Amendment, and had such frequent Relapses, that I was almost ready to give up the Attempt, and content myself with a faulty Character in that respect (p. 460).

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Sunshine, glorious sunshine

It's going to be another spectacular day—into the 70s and 80s. I already have four clotheslines of clean laundry hung out to dry. It was a busy weekend. To Beverly Hills to hear my pastor give a workshop on Martin Luther's spirituality. Played piano for two services. Went to a gathering at a professor's home. Had dinner with my dad's cousin. Yesterday I met my former boss for lunch at the Women's City Club and saw a slide presentation by the director of the Gamble House about the restoration work being undertaken to preserve and restore the outside of the house. Picked up an armful of salad mix. Have you ever carried an armful of salad? Have been doing some intensive reading about which I will write here at some point. Now, on to the rest of the day.

Sunday, March 09, 2003

Prayer of confession

The prayer of confession we're using this Lent is striking:
....You have given us bounty, and we have hoarded.
You have given us wholeness, and we have fragmented creation.
You have given us good earth, and we have plundered it.
You have given us each other, and we have taken for granted the gift of community.
You have given us wisdom, but we have been content with convenience....

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Ash Wednesday

Today is the start of Lent. I first learned about Lent in Grade 11 Chemistry lab. A Catholic student at my lab table explained it to me. Having been raised low-church Protestant in a tradition where Catholicism was still suspect, I hadn't been taught about Lent and the practices associated with the season.

One of the books I've found most profound for exploring the meaning of Lent is Great Lent: Journey to Pascha by Alexander Schmemann. (It can be ordered via or directly from St. Vladimir's Seminary Press. Here's a pdf of their catalogue; Great Lent is on p. 29.) Although, sadly, the Orthodox and Catholics/Protestants use different calendars so that Lent and Easter rarely coincide in East and West, the Orthodox theology and liturgy have many treasures to offer. And Fr. Schmemann eloquently expounds those treasures.

In his chapter "Lent in Our Life," he explains that Lent is more than superficially observing the customs of Lent and Easter:
[A]s long as customs and traditions are not connected again with the total religious world view which produced them, as long as symbols are not taken seriously, the Church will remain disconnected from life and have no power over life....

To take Lent seriously means then that we will consider it first of all on the deepest level—as a spiritual challenge which requires a response, a decision, a plan, a continuous effort (p. 92).
He goes on to explore the significance of fasting:
Ultimately, to fast means only one thing: to be hungry—to go to the limit of that human condition which depends entirely on food and, being hungry, to discover that this dependency is not the whole truth about [human beings], that hunger itself is first of all a spiritual state and that it is in its last reality hunger for God (p. 97).
On the difficulty of fasting:
[I]f it is true fasting it will lead to temptation, weakness, doubt, and irritation. In other terms, it will be a real fight and probably we shall fail many times. But the very discovery of Christian life as fight and effort is the essential aspect of fasting. A faith which has not overcome doubts and temptation is seldom a real faith. No progress in Christian life is possible, alas, without the bitter experience of failure (p. 98).
Another guide: although praying the rosary is not a Lutheran tradition, I found instructions for making a rosary out of beads and a suggested "scheme" for praying throughout Lent using a rosary at the ELCA's website.

Monday, March 03, 2003


A Macy's advertisement for Dr. Scholl's sandals in today's paper reminded me of this WSJ article from a couple weeks ago, "Dr. Scholl's Clicking Sandals Are the Latest Oldie Craze":
With the economy in a lull and the fashion business in a funk, Dr. Scholl's and other wooden shoes, from wedges to clogs, are striding into the spotlight.

"Wood is a natural substance, and natural is peaceful, so we're drawn," says Patricia Field, the costume designer whose choices for "Sex and the City" have helped ignite sales of gold name-plate necklaces and silk-flower pins [and Dr. Scholl's sandals after they appeared in a couple episodes].

Nostalgia for old styles -- and prices -- may also be working in Dr. Scholl's favor. Susan Winget, a partner in the hip clothing retailer Tracy Feith, which has a store in the "Little Italy" section of lower Manhattan, says her shop began stocking the shoe last February and demand for the sandals has soared....

At beginning of the resurgence, many buyers were women in their early 40s reliving their youth. But recently the sandal has been spotted on younger feet, as well as those of Cindy Crawford and Jennifer Aniston.
Trendy or not, I think I'll head down to Macy's and get a pair. [Edit: sells Dr. Scholl's online, as well as many other brands, such as Clarks, England.]

On the front page of today's LA Times: "Seeking Poetic Justice" about Sam Hamill, the instigator of Poets Against the War. The group has prepared a book of poems and is holding an International Day of Poetry Against the War on Wednesday, March 5th. I first read about the movement over at Joseph Duemer's site.

Finally, via the Ms. Magazine blog, a Chicgo Tribune article about tampons:
[Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney] learned: 73 million American women use tampons, and the average woman uses as many as 16,000 tampons during her lifetime. (That's about 35 tampons a month over the course of 38 years.) Most tampons are made with cotton combined with rayon, a synthetic material first linked to a rare, bacteria-caused illness called toxic shock syndrome that killed 55 women in the late 1970s and early '80s.

Maloney also discovered that the Food and Drug Administration relies solely on data provided by the feminine products industry for tampon health and safety tests instead of commissioning an independent laboratory to do the testing.

"The government has done more research on the safety of coffee filters than tampons," Maloney says. "For an issue that is so important to women's health, women should be able to rely on independent research, not research funded by tampon manufacturers."
There is a lot more information in the article (requires free registration).

Sunday, March 02, 2003

Perfectly splendid day

Today was beautiful beyond description. In the 70s. Not even one cloud in the sky. The most deepbrilliantblue you've ever seen. And it was Transfiguration Sunday, the last Sunday in Epiphany, before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. We sang Alleluia for the last time until Easter.

Therefore, the theme was Light, brilliant Light. We sang "In Thee is Gladness" (In dir ist Freude):
In thee is gladness Amid the sadness,
Jesus, sunshine of my heart.
By thee are given The gifts of heaven,
Thou the true redeemer art.
Our souls thou wakest; Our bonds thou breakest.
Who trusts thee surely Has built securely
And stands for ever: Alleluia!
Our hearts are pining To see thy shining,
Dying or living, To thee are cleaving;
Naught us can sever: Alleluia!

If he is ours, We fear no powers,
Not of earth or sin or death.
He see and blesses In worst distresses;
He can change them with a breath.
Wherefore the story Tell of his glory
With heart and voices; All heaven rejoices
In him forever: Alleluia!
We shout for gladness, Triumph o'er sadness,
Love him and praise him And still shall raise him
Glad hymns forever: Alleluia!

By Johann Lindemann, tr. Catherine Winkworth.

After being in a church for five hours this morning, albeit with the stained glass windows glowing in the sun's light, I had to be outside. So I headed over to Eaton Canyon intending to meander along the stream and maybe do a little journaling. But I was beckoned by a sign, Walnut Canyon, so I started to climb, and climb, and climb. I'm embarrassed to admit I've never explored the hiking trails too far. I've always enjoyed just hanging out by the stream sitting on a rock under a tree. Or even climbing a tree sometimes. But today I headed up. [I realized, reading over this, that climbing a mountain fits with today's gospel reading. Jesus' transfiguration took place on a mountain.]

It was incredible hiking weather with panoramic views, truly a mar vista once I climbed up high enough. I'd only brought a small container of water and a couple of tangerines, plus some almonds and raisins. Because I didn't know where the trail ended, or if there was water along the way, I turned around at the 2 mile point. When I got home I checked my copy of Trails of the Angeles: 100 Hikes in the San Gabriels. Another half-mile and I'd have reached Henninger Flats—and water. So, next time!

Energized from hiking, I came home and made lentil soup for supper. Yum!