Saturday, May 31, 2003

Out and about

I've been on jury service call all week, and yesterday I was called in to LA County Superior Court in Los Angeles. My name was never called to be on a jury panel, so I sat in the jury service room until 4:00 in the afternoon. Not the most exciting way to spend a day, but not so bad either. We were given an hour and a half for lunch, so I wandered over to Olivera Street where Los Angeles was first established, peaked into the old cathedral where noon mass had just begun, and looked around the stalls of Mexican handicrafts and trinkets.

Then I popped into a chain bookstore to find "airport reading." In the morning I'd tried doing some serious reading I'd brought along with me, but it was too difficult to concentrate. The selection was pretty paltry—I'm spoiled living in Pasadena with its independent and specialty bookstores. I found Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. It is good mulling material.

Having sat for way too many hours yesterday, this morning I pulled my bike out of the garage, dusted it off, went to a nearby gas station to pump up the tires (they were too flat for my little foot pump to handle), and then rode over to the Farmer's Market. I've always thought I should ride my bike there but never had until this morning. It is so lovely riding through the pretty neighborhoods along the way. I've figured out a route that avoids major streets except to cross them.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Cute kitties

For those who enjoy cute kitty pictures, check out the three pages of pictures (so far) of all sorts of cats—and a few dogs—playing with catnip toys knitted for them on Wendy Johnson's catnip toy knit-along.

I knitted a toy last week, but still need to sew it up and stuff it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

On walking in the woods, or "plain pleasures"
The tempered light of the woods is like a perpetual morning, and is stimulating and heroic. The anciently reported spells of these places creep on us. The stems of pines, hemlocks, and oaks, almost gleam like iron on the excited eye. The incommunicable trees begin to persuade us to live with them, and quit our life of solemn trifles....

We never can part with it; the mind loves its old home: as water to our thirst, so is the rock, the ground, to our eyes, and hands, and feet.

From Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay, "Nature."

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Specialty Beef

Yesterday's LA Times' Food section ran an article on "specialty beef." The second half of the article has some interesting information about the beef industry and alternatives:
After decades of consolidation, four companies sell more than 80% of the beef in America.
One farmer who raises a small herd of cattle organically says:
"The closer the farmer gets to the consumer, the better off he is," says [Guinness] McFadden, who holds an MBA from Stanford University. "Selling your product yourself takes time and effort and you have to be involved. But you will be repaid if you do a good job."

Still, Magruder says, most conventional growers in his beef-heavy area [Mendocino County] are reluctant to even think about making any kind of change.

"People get very defensive about it," he says. "They'll laugh at you for trying something different, then tell you how bad the cattle market is. They don't see the connection."
By Russ Parsons.

Friday, May 16, 2003


An article about Gracia Burnham, a missionary who was held captive in the Philippines for over a year and whose husband was killed in the rescue attempt, was on the front page of the LA Times a few days ago. It documents her adjustment to living in the States.

Although my family didn't go through such an ordeal, I can understand some of the dislocation the Burnham family is experiencing. I, too, "grew up flying in [my] dad's red and white Cessna" in a "bush" setting.
Martin Burnham was a missionary pilot, delivering mail and supplies to those who spread the Gospel in the Philippines. The kids grew up flying in their dad's red and white Cessna to the mahogany forests or the beaches, to mountain villages brushed by clouds. They rode motorbikes to the waterfall. In the warm dusk, they played soccer with their parents.

Life here is different. It feels splintered.

"There's always some place to run off to," Gracia said — a game, a practice, a lesson. "Americans stay busy all the time. There's no end to it."

Mindy, 13, misses helping her mom make homemade pizza from scratch. They don't seem to have time in Kansas.

Zach, 12, misses the river. He misses his inner tube. "I don't fit in here," he said. "I'm different."

During the year his parents were held captive, Jeff, 16, taped all his football games. He couldn't wait to show them to his dad. Now, he says, sports are stupid. All he wants is to learn to fly.

The Burnhams have all they need in Kansas — more than they ever had before. The community of Rose Hill built them an airy brick house on Primrose Lane. A local dealer donated a new Dodge Caravan. Just the other day, landscapers came by, unbidden, to lay down sod. Gracia is grateful. But she also feels disoriented....

She folds the laundry. She buys the groceries. She goes shopping for antiques with friends. Now and then, though, she longs for the quiet she had in the Philippines, the time to reflect and to pray. She drives to the Wal-Mart parking lot and sits alone, singing hymns.
By Stephanie Simon.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Oh lutefisk!

First there was the plain silver Jesus fish emblem on the back of cars. Next the fish grew legs and became the Darwin fish. Then the Jesus fish turned violent and swallowed the Darwin fish. Tonight on my walk I observed for the first time a fish symbol with the word "Lutefisk" in it.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

World health

Friday night I caught Bill Moyers' interview with Bill Gates on Now about the world health issues the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is tackling. (Transcript of the interview available.)

I was impressed with Gates's insight and dedication to working toward eliminating deadly diseases in poor countries. Having grown up around many of the diseases discussed in the interview and having heard, too many times, the wail of women as they came to the morgue to mourn yet another child who had died of malaria, I was reminded of how important the Gates Foundation work is.

My mother used to teach a Medicine and Surgery course at a nurses' training school in Zambia in which she lectured about various tropical and infectious diseases, their transmission, the different stages of the diseases, and what treatments, if any, could be provided. I remember sitting in the back of the classroom drawing pictures while she taught the student nurses. When I was older, I read her notes and learned all about malaria, the stages of sleeping sickness, how bilharzia is transmitted, etc. That was before AIDS had been identified.

As the editor over at Path to Freedom wrote in today's post, when we have it so good here in our comfortable lives in So Cal, it is easy to forget those who struggle—even those amongst whom we once lived.

P.S. The CS Monitor ran an interesting article about the PBS program "Now With Bill Moyers": "'Mr. Rogers' of news gets edgy," by Janet Saidi:
What may set "Now" apart from previous Moyers programming is a tone of urgency that offers not only hard-driven, alternative news, but decidedly cutting-edge content....

That may sound a little, well, radical for a man in a Mr. Rogers sweater. In fact, while Moyers still comes across as empathetic and engaged in interviews, his on-air style is more probing and direct: "I've become impatient with the superfluous," Moyers admits.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Easter season

I was happy to find a copy of St. John Chrysostom's Invitation to Easter sermon posted by John Bell at his Notes from a Hillside Farm website (see Sunday, April 27, 2003, entry). It is such a hopeful, forgiving sermon. Even those who haven't quite managed to observe fully the rigors of Lent are invited to the Easter celebration:
If any [one] be devout and loveth God,
Let [her] enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast!
If any [one] be a wise servant,
Let [her] rejoicing enter into the joy of [her] Lord.

If any have laboured long in fasting,
Let [her] now receive [her] recompense.
If any have wrought from the first hour,
Let [her] today receive [her] just reward....

And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour,
Let [her], also, be not alarmed at [her] tardiness.

For the Lord, who is jealous of his honour,
Will accept the last even as the first.
He giveth rest unto [her] who cometh at the eleventh hour,
Even as unto [her] who hath wrought from the first hour.
And He showeth mercy upon the last,
And careth for the first....
And this grace is not just for the season of Lent. We try to live up to what we ought—and want—to do and be, but too often we fail. However, as Chrysostom's sermon reminds us, failure is not a reason for giving up or turning away.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

To lawn or not to lawn

This article from the cover of Sunday's LA Times Magazine, "Whither the lawn," highlights the issues surrounding lawn-growing in So California.
The problem with turfgrass [vs. native grasses], unfortunately, is that it doesn't belong here. To keep it alive, we subject it to more heroic measures than a guest star on "ER." Americans spend $1 billion a year on synthetic fertilizers and half again as much on pesticides and herbicides. Nobody knows for sure what effects these chemicals have on the environment. That said, a thorough reading of the myriad warnings contained in the instructions for applying Turflon—commonly used to kill unfashionable Bermuda grass—is enough to make you consider buying a chemical warfare suit. Lawns also contribute indirectly to air pollution. There are more than 1 million lawnmowers in Southern California, and each of them, on average, spews as much pollution in a year as a new car driven 86,000 miles.

But the biggest knock on lawns, especially in these parts, is that they suck up water at an alarming rate. It's not uncommon for homeowners in L.A. to dump 65,000 gallons annually on their yards. That's more than 1 million glasses a year. In coastal areas, families typically devote one-third of their water to irrigating their landscapes. Inland, more water goes to lawns than all other household uses combined.

On a statewide basis, agriculture is by far the biggest water hog, consuming 80% of the water used for non-environmental purposes. Nobody has a hard number for how much water goes to lawn care—certainly no more than 5% statewide. But the percentage may be four or five times higher in urban areas, especially if you include golf courses, parks and other large turfgrass areas.

The numbers game gets more complicated when population growth is factored into the equation. State officials project a scary 50% increase, from 35 million to 53 million residents, during the next 25 years. The Metropolitan Water District already may lose a sizable portion of the water that now comes from the Colorado River. "Southern California is facing the big crunch," says Carolee Krieger, president of the California Water Network. "And I don't know if there's going be a place for lawns in this environment."
The article also covers the history of lawns in the U.S.

Friday, May 02, 2003

Friday afternoon

It's been an unnerving week for reasons that can't be explained here. The weather is clouding over, with rain predicted for this evening and tomorrow. I made an agreement with fellow student to send her whatever I have of my (way overdue) book review by Sunday. As she put it, "Why do we do this to ourselves?" i.e., tie ourselves up into mental and emotional knots over fairly straightforward tasks, which then mutate into monstrous things.

A second Trader Joe's opened in town. This is happy news for me because, while it's probably further than the other store in terms of distance from where I live, the traffic is much better, and it is not too far out of my way on my route home from work.

This week I drove to work every day rather than taking the bus. This means I haven't read the LA Times this week and therefore don't have much to link to.