Saturday, June 28, 2003


While browsing a display at the end of an aisle in Vroman's Bookstore, I came across this book: Wild Card Quilt: Taking a Chance on Home, by Janisse Ray. It's about a woman in her mid-30s returning to her childhood home and "[r]ediscovering the nearly lost pleasures of country life."

The book is published by Milkweed Editions, a non-profit literary press that offers some intriguing titles.
Misc. food topics

Calcium-themed Food Guide Pyramid. I printed the page and put it on my refrigerator for reference.

The Color Code: A Revolutionary Eating Plan for Optimum Health by J. A. Joseph, D. A. Nadeau and A. Underwood. I had first read about this book in a NY Times' article to which I linked last year. In spite of its "market-ese" title—"revolutionary" and "optimum" in one sub-title!—the book's claims are carefully qualified. The first two authors work and research in nutrition at Tufts. As the title suggests, the authors categorize fruits and vegetables by color group and analyze the health benefits, particularly the phytochemicals.
Plants manufacture those compounds to protect themselves against a variety of dangers, ranging from solar radiation to menacing microbes. . . .[T]hese vegetable defenders turn out to protect people, too, against a whole host of ills. (pp. 3-4)
According to the book (p. 185) the top ten fruits and vegetables (although the book analyzes many more) are:
  • Red: Strawberries, raspberries; tomatoes, red bell peppers
  • Orange-Yellow: Oranges, mangoes, grapefruit; carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash
  • Green: Kiwi, avocado; kale, broccoli, spinach
  • Blue-Purple: Blueberries, Concord grapes, dried plums; purple cabbage, eggplant
The School of Nutrition at Tufts University evaluates nutrition websites, rating websites from "Among the best" to "Not recommended."

Peaches are now available at the Farmer's Market. However, I'm still enjoying the strawberries.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Book reviews

Today's Los Angeles Times Book Review was particularly scrumptious—an extended review of Robert Lowell's Collected Poems, including a biographical sketch, and a shorter review of collected essays by Clive James.

Lee Siegel, James' reviewer, describes James' review of George Orwell's writing this way:
Considering, in 1999, the publication of George Orwell's collected journalism, James reflects on the strange fate of the adjective "Orwellian," which has been almost wholly detached from the author and applied to the condition of totalitarianism that he despised. "It is as if George Orwell had conceived the nightmare instead of analyzed it, helped to create it instead of helping to dispel its euphemistic thrall." In other words, the term "Orwellian" itself has now recast around the phenomenon of totalitarianism the sort of "euphemistic thrall"—gorgeous phrase—it once helped to sweep away.

Such an original, restorative perception serves the purpose not just of pleasure but of shaping a cultivated mind.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

To write

From "A conversation with Mary Doria Russell," appended to her book The Sparrow:
Q: What sort of writing routine do you have?

A: . . .The main thing to remember is that writing happens by doing the writing.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

The cat sat on the mat

I just realized that phrase is true. It struck me this morning as I was wheeling the rubbish bins to the curb and saw my neighbors' elegant long-haired cat sitting on their front door mat, his tail fanned around his feet.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

More summer reading

I'm now halfway through the second book by Mary Doria Russell, Children of God. I haven't read much science fiction, but I came across an interview with Russell on Metanexus and was intrigued by the themes of her books. My local library branch happened to have both of them. (The Sparrow is the first book.) Russell explores questions of theodicy and coincidence vs. divine intention/intervention. She pushes the question of suffering for God or nought to the limit, and very explicitly.

However, I'm enjoying the story and characters, as well as the theological grapplings.

P. S. What kind of spell checker doesn't recognize the word "theodicy"?

Saturday, June 14, 2003

Religion and Science

Metanexus has many resources available online about the current religion and science discussions. The Meta-Library section has a number of in-depth articles on a variety of topics. The last topic listed, "Theology and Science: Current Issues and Future Directions," gives a useful introduction to ideas and thinkers in the theology/science debates, with handy links to a glossary of philosophical and scientific concepts.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Pacific Northwest hiker

A renowned trail guide book writer and photographer, Ira Spring, died last week. I wonder if he ever encountered my grandfather while hiking?
He had been hiking since the 1920s and went on his first backcountry excursion, a trip with his father to High Divide above the North Fork of the Nooksack River, at the age of 11.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

June gloom

I've decided I really like Mary McNamara's "L. A. Centric" column. Today's is "'June Gloom': Just Think of it as a Tax on Paradise."
[M]any of us forget, each and every year, that June in Los Angeles is not the sunny, sprightly affair it is in other parts of the country. "June gloom" we call it as soon as we remember it, which is usually after three or four days of shivering in our hopeful tank tops and muttering things like: "Man, what is with the weather these days?"

Every year it is explained to us -- the rising temperatures of the land hit the still-chilly air of the Pacific, often with the added weather-phenomenon bonus of the "Catalina eddy" -- and every year, sometime around Labor Day, when the Los Angeles summer is just getting serious, we completely forget about it.
So today is the second day of intermittent misty drizzle.

Monday, June 09, 2003

Walk the freeway

For those in the LA/Pasdena area, next Sunday the historic Pasadena Freeway (110) is going to be closed off to cars for a few hours and open to bicycle riders and walkers. See the ArroyoFest website for details. The group organizing the festival is committed to promoting "livable communities" —for both people and wildlife—along the Arroyo Seco.
Another list

Ok. Time for another list. I'd like to sit and write a long entry right now, but I have an uneasy feeling that a few other items are a priority. So, for the time being, I'll just list the partial contents of my brain. Then I'll make that phone call.
  • Pentecost Sunday and the beginning of the long, green Pentecost season
  • Exploring Long Beach
  • Figure out and submit hours
  • Call to verify stipend(s)
  • Figure out what to DO about this chaotic, untidy house
  • Reunions
  • Corporate career vs. finishing Ph.D.
  • Save for retirement vs. buy house/property vs. finish Ph.D.
  • "Purity of heart is to will one thing"—S. K. Yeah, right.

Saturday, June 07, 2003

Ahab's Wife

I found a wonderful novel at the Quaker bookstore earlier this week, Ahab's Wife: Or, The Stargazer by Sena Jeter Naslund, and finished reading the 650+ pages last night. I guess the book made quite a sensation when it was published in 1999—New York Times Notable Book of the Year, etc.—but that was back when I was being a diligent student, so I hadn't paid attention. But, wow. Set in the early 1800s, the novel tells the story of a woman briefly mentioned in Moby Dick as the wife of Ahab. So the sea, sky, ships, whaling, islands, and lighthouses are major elements in the story. But there are also the motifs of homesteading—gardening, "putting up" the harvest, quilting, sewing. The novel tackles, as well, some of the social and intellectual issues of that time: slavery; women's rights; Transcendentalism, Quakerism, and Unitarianism. Above all, the novel is about the friendships, loves, tragedies, and joys in the life of a strong, adventurous woman.

Friday, June 06, 2003

Gardening in the city

Be sure to check out the pages of wonderful pictures posted recently at Path to Freedom. Go to the June 5 and 6 entries in the urban homestead diary for links to pictures of the garden, inventive re-use of "junk," and a city chicken/duck/rabbit coop and run.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Iraq's treasures

The current issue of the Smithsonian magazine features an article about the looting of ancient artifacts in Iraq, how extensive it was, and what is being done to recover and repair stolen artifacts. The article also has some nice summaries about the history and archaeological significance of various Iraqi or ancient Mesopotamian cities—Uruk, Ashur, Babylon, Hatra, and Samarra. (It's in a .pdf file so the accompanying color photographs are preserved in the online version.)

Monday, June 02, 2003

More beef

Articles about beef are popping up all over. The Atlantic has dipped into its archives and put together a "weblog" of links to articles, with commentary, published in the magazine over the years on the subject of beef.