Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Praying online

Via going jesus: the Episcopal Daily Office liturgies. The familiar words of Compline reminded me of the occasions I attended the beautiful Compline service at St Mark's Cathedral in Seattle on Sunday nights. The lights would be dimmed and people would come as they were and sit anywhere, including on the floor. (For a city with one of the lower rates of church attendance in the country, Compline drew an interesting crowd.) If I didn't attend in person, I often would lie in bed and listen to the live radio broadcast of the half-hour liturgy sung by the Compline Choir.
Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awake we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.
From the Song of Simeon.

(This online version of Compline doesn't have the verse from 1 Peter 5:8—"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." I'm sure I remember the calm, deep voice of Peter Hallock quoting that verse.)
Clever storage idea

Speaking of textiles, I saw an old electric sewing machine for sale at the "upscale" Salvation Army store. It was a Domestic brand built into a cabinet. The matching chair had a seat top that could be lifted off to access a storage area for spools of thread and machine accessories. What a great idea!
Yet another textile company closes

Say "good-bye" to Cannon and Fieldcrest towels:
Textile maker Pillowtex Corp. filed for bankruptcy-court protection, saying it will close all 16 of its plants and sell off its assets. The move by the maker of Cannon and Fieldcrest towels and sheets cost thousands of textile workers their jobs and is likely to stir the debate over imports that are whacking U.S. manufacturers. . . .

"Cheap imports are flooding the U.S. market and driving down prices, while global sourcing has created a new business model for textile companies that we are unable to replicate without substantial investments," Pillowtex Chairman and Chief Executive Michael Gannaway said in a letter to employees. . . .

[O]ver the past few years imports have made serious headway. From 1999 to 2002, linen imports -- a category that includes towels and sheets -- more than tripled from Brazil, rose 72% from India, rose 96% from Turkey and rose 36% from China, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

While China is becoming a target of trade-relief efforts in the U.S., statistics show Chinese-made sheets decreasing, according to IDS, a trade monitoring company. Still, the textile industry is bracing for a new wave of Chinese textiles in 2005, when quotas are lifted on a broad range of products. Thus the loss of jobs is gaining more and more attention in Washington.

From an article by Dan Morse in tomorrow's WSJ (paid subscription required; emphasis mine).

And today's front page WSJ article: "Trade With China Is Heating Up As a Business and Political Issue," by N. King, Jr., B. Davis and K. Leggett.
U.S. manufacturers have shed more than 2.4 million jobs since 2001, a rate of more than 2,600 jobs a day. Lawmakers and many manufacturers pin the blame on China, whose exports to the U.S. have more than doubled in the past five years, topping $110 billion in 2002. U.S. exports to China are also rising at a good clip, but they are likely to tally less than a fifth of what China ships to the U.S. this year.

"China is now the economic villain that Japan was in the 1980s," said Nicholas Lardy, a China specialist at the Institute for International Economics in Washington. In the first five months of this year, the U.S. ran a $43 billion trade deficit with China, compared with a $26 billion deficit with Japan. After Canada and Mexico, China is now the third-largest supplier of goods to the U.S., having displaced Japan last year.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Monday night treat

One of the advantages of having grown up overseas, in a place far from television reception or movie theatres, is that I have a whole lot of popular culture to catch up on, including Columbo movies. So Monday nights, from 8 - 9:30, I watch Columbo on KDOC TV, channel 58. (No cable needed!)
Ordering your study world

In the tiny corner of the http://www. world I inhabit, I've noticed I'm not the only one on a cleaning/organizing/redoing binge. Joseph Duemer has refurbished his writing room. And Melissa at Pioneer woman with cell phone is redecorating both her daughters' rooms. [Edit 8/5/03: Lisa B-K over at madame insane tackled her house—complete with before and after pictures.]

My progress so far (with excellent help!):
  • kitchen cleaned, de-cluttered, and re-organized
  • garage cleaned, organized, and containerized
  • stuff on bedroom floor picked up
  • almost all books either on bookshelves or in boxes in garage
  • entire house vacuumed and kitchen floor washed
  • refrigerator cleaned
Next projects:
  • clean papers and junk off desk and table
  • find and install shelving in kitchen to clear off counters more
  • make final decision to move study area from living/dining room to curtained-off area of bedroom
  • move piano from bedroom to living room
  • move desk and computer to bedroom/study
  • string up curtain to divide bedroom into sleeping and study areas
  • buy one more large (72" inch high) bookcase and move into bedroom/study
  • organize books into various bookcases
  • sort bags and boxes of papers
Breaking news: It's raining!! Of course, I just washed my car this morning, but I am not going to complain about rain in July!

Back to main topic. As Joseph Duemer put it:
A good deal of physical effort went into redoing the room; I hope for equal intellectual energy going forward.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Working together for the common good

Shields and Brooks on The NewsHour tonight discussed some interesting issues. I was particularly intrigued by the story—and excerpt of—Rep. Bill Thomas's apology for calling the capitol police on his fellow committee members (scroll down the transcript to "Partisan bickering in Congress" and "A tearful apology from Rep. Bill Thomas").
I learned a very painful lesson on Friday. Because of my poor judgment, I became the focus of examination rather than the issues.

The visions that each of us have for a better America, different as though they may be but equally entitled to be heard, weren't focused on.

It has been said that our strengths are our weaknesses. Or as my mother would have put it, "When they were passing out moderation, you were hiding behind the door.''

I believe my intensity has served useful purposes, fixing problems and passing laws that otherwise may not have made it. But when you're charged and entrusted with responsibilities by you, my colleagues, as I have been, you deserve better. Moderation is required.

For the remainder of my time in this, the people's House, I want to rededicate my efforts to strengthening this institution as the embodiment of what is best about us. I need your help and I invite it. I yield back the balance of my time.
What doesn't come through on the transcript is that he was trying very hard not to cry as he gave his apology. Having witnessed a similar blow-up (in very different circumstances) recently, it struck me how important it is for the offending party to 1) recognize how out of line such behavior is and how destructive of any attempt at community or working together and 2) sincerely and non-defensively apologize so that people can get on with the task at hand.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Eating together

I couldn't resist another quote from Sr Joan's commentary on The Rule of Benedict, for March 23 - July 23 - Nov. 22:
In Benedictine spirituality. . .the sacramental value of a meal in which the human concern we promise daily at the altar is demonstrated in the dining room where we prepare and serve and clean up after one another. The Rule is at least as firm on presence at meals at it is about presence at prayer. . . .Monastic spirituality revolves around becoming a contributing part of a people of faith, living with them, learning with them, bearing their burdens, sharing their lives. The meal becomes the sanctifying center that reminds us, day in and day out, that unless we go on building the community around us, participating in it and bearing its burdens then the words family and humanity become a sham, no matter how good our work at the office, no matter how important our work in the world around us.
A list of women bloggers

Ms. Magazine's blog, ms. musings, has started a list of women's blogs on the right column of the blog. The list focuses on "blogs that cover politics, current events, feminism, culture and technology."
The "Green Patriarch"

From today's CS Monitor: "Orthodox Leader Blesses Green Agenda," by Colin Woodard.
[Patriarch] Bartholomew declared that the wanton destruction of nature was a sin, as were actions that caused the extinction of species; altered the climate; stripped the world of its forests; and poisoned the air, land, and water. . . .

Recently, his chief theologian, Metropolitan John of Pergamon, took things a step further, declaring that humans must not simply act as stewards of the environment, but as "priests of creation," embracing nature rather than simply managing it "The human being is almost by its very constitution the link between creation and God," he explained. "We are part of nature."

Monday, July 21, 2003

Carving our souls

I appreciate Sr Joan Chittister's ability to offer the wisdom of Benedictine spirituality to those of us who don't live in a monastery.
Indeed, Benedictine spirituality is clearly rooted in living ordinary life with extraordinary awareness and commitment, a characteristic, in fact, that is common to monasticism both East and West. As the Zen Masters teach: "One day a new disciple came up to the master Joshu. 'I have just entered the brotherhood,' the disciple said. 'and I am anxious to learn the first principle of Zen. Will you please teach it to me?' he asked. So Joshu said, 'Have you eaten your supper?' And the novice answered, 'Yes, I have eaten.' So Joshu said, 'Then now wash your bowl.'"

The first principle of Benedictinism, too, is to do what must be done with special care and special zeal so that doing it can change our consciousness and carve our souls into the kind of beauty that comes from simple things. It is so easy to go through life looking feverishly for special ways to find God when God is most of all to be found in doing common things with uncommon conscientiousness.
From Sr Joan's commentary on The Rule of Benedict portion for March 20 - July 20 - Nov. 19 (emphasis mine).

Now I must go wash some bowls.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Knitting for a cause

I just came across a relief project via getcrafty called afghans for Afghans. One of the current campaigns is to send a shipment of wool mittens, hats, sweaters, socks, and vests to children in Afghanistan. The due date for this "Campaign to Clothe 5,000 Afghan Children in Time for the Winter" is August 1. That's soon, but it wouldn't take long to knit or crochet some little mittens or socks, and there are some simple patterns listed on the page.

I've been having fun with another project the women at my church are working on, gathering items to assemble layettes that are distributed to newborns in refugee camps and hospitals by Lutheran World Relief. I've made some good finds (good quality items at a low price) at the Salvation Army store and a nearby children's consignment store. We've had the most trouble tracking down diaper pins. I guess even people who use cloth diapers these days don't use diaper pins but wraps.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Illegal immigration

From tomorrow's LA Times Magazine: "Undermining American workers: Record Numbers of Illegal Immigrants Are Pulling Wages Down for the Poor and Pushing Taxes Higher," by Fred Dickey.
  • No bargaining position for unskilled laborers to demand increased wages because of ready supply of illegal immigrants who will work for low wages.

  • Businesses cutting (tax) corners to compete.

  • Tax shortfall due, in part, to underground economy.

  • Lack of tax revenue leads to lack of services (e.g., hospitals) needed by illegal immigrants, who generally don't have health insurance, who therefore sometimes end up requiring the most expensive care (e.g., emergency room).

  • "There is no question that illegal immigration greatly troubles Americans. The polls show it, both before and after 9/11. They want them to go home. One poll even showed that almost two-thirds want the military to patrol the border. Of course, they never gripe about the cheap hamburgers or the low-cost gardening that migrants make possible."

  • Our current approach to border patrol is not working: "Operation Gatekeeper started in 1994 to stem the flow of illegal immigration north by clamping down on the main ports of entry in the Southwest. In addition to forcing many border crossers to attempt a dangerous trip across the desert, it has had the unintended consequence of transforming a fluid population that used to go back and forth into one that simply stays here.

    "An unauthorized worker probably would prefer to work in this country and return home as often as possible, preserving his Mexican roots. Gatekeeper, however, has cemented that worker's feet in the U.S. It's not hard to understand his hesitancy to go home for a holiday or family event if he knows there's a good chance he'll be caught on his return. So, he does the obvious thing: He hires a coyote (outlaw immigrant trafficker) to bring his whole family north, often one member at a time."

  • An answer? Stronger enforcement of ID verification for employment. But, according to one INS official, "Congress refuses to make the program mandatory so as not to offend big agribusiness and other industries that freely employ illegal workers. These industries then take some of those profits and give generously to members of Congress.
Read the article for many more points and statistics. It is bound to generate letters to the editor.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Much cooler

Although it's still smoggy/overcast, the weather is much cooler tonight. A lovely relief.
Music on TV

Last night I watched Alison Krauss + Union Station on PBS's Soundstage. What a great performance! They played some of the songs from "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" amongst others.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

It's back. . . .

From the CS Monitor: "As L.A. Expands, a Familiar Adversary Returns: Smog," by Daniel B. Wood.
A spate of hazy pollution this year culminated in the city announcing a Stage 1 smog alert last week. True, the designation lasted only 3 hours. But it was the first such alert - which brings with it an official caution about outdoor activities ranging from running to rollerblading - since 1998.

Officials are playing down the episode because of a rare confluence of extended hot weather and high-pressure systems, which cause air inversions, trapping ozone gases at lower altitudes. But independent experts say the moment has long been coming when population growth, industry expansion, and greater SUV use would overtake the area's hard-won gains of the 1990s.
It's strange to me that I've been in California long enough (nine years in June) that I remember the "old days," when the air quality score was posted on a movable sign in the lobby of the office building where I worked (to which I walked from home, I might add).

Now I can't even take the bus to work at my new office location anymore because of route changes.

And the article is not kidding about it being hot!—the humid kind of hot we're not supposed to have to endure in So Cal. Although if I don't have to worry about trying to keep a decent, non-sweaty appearance and if I don't have to study in it, I don't mind the heat so much. Even if it is more difficult to get to sleep at night. . . .

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

New blog

Via Invisible Adjunct, I recently came across a new blog I've been enjoying, Household Opera. I have a certain resistance to reading academic blogs too often—some of the pain too familiar?—but I've enjoyed Amanda's posts. (It's like when I worked in the travel industry and couldn't look at the travel section of the Sunday paper without flinching.) I've had my copy of Richard Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy sitting on the cart next to my computer with a bookmark in the section "Overmuch Study" ready to quote here, but Amanda already did.
But it's supposed to be a dry heat

It has been hot and humid the last couple of days. Thankfully, it still cools down somewhat at night. I'm certainly appreciating the ceiling fan the landlords installed in the bedroom a few months ago.

Everything is busy, busy. I'm getting some expert help on organizing and rearranging my rather overwhelmingly disordered house, so that feels much better. Yesterday we tackled the kitchen. I love counter space. . . .

At work our department is undergoing an (internal) audit. I've never gone through such a thing, but it is a sign of how much our company has grown, as well as the stepped up scrutiny of corporations generally. Although our company's business is highly regulated, what our department does is much more strategic and project-based than many of the other departments in the company. Also, we are very small and used to operating via a lot of informal communication and keeping tabs on projects rather than formally documenting every step via detailed plans, checklists, reports, etc. But it looks like we might have to start doing more of that. And maybe I can learn from all this and create some sort of tracking mechanism to keep tabs on my progress in my studies. . . .

Tomorrow I'm cooking for the weekly church dinner. I'm planning to make Caribbean black beans and Spanish rice (recipes from the Moosewood Restaurant Cooks for a Crowd book), served with orange slices and fresh organic salad from the Path to Freedom family. Ice cream cones might be good for dessert (especially because it's hot and ice cream cones don't create more dishes to wash or dispose of).

Saturday, July 12, 2003

The mud of life

A missionary doctor, Paul Brand, well-known for his work with leprosy patients, died earlier this week. The Christianity Today magazine website republished an article Dr. Brand wrote in 1985 called "A Handful of Mud." Soil is life. Can we preserve it for future generations?

Dr. Brand begins the (very long) article by recounting a story from his childhood in India. He and some friends were playing in terraced rice paddies and broke down an irrigation channel so that mud from the paddies was washed away.
One of the boys had spotted an old man walking across the path toward us. We all knew him as "Tata," or "Grandpa." He was the keeper of the dams. . . .

[T]he elder stooped down and scooped up a handful of mud. "What is this?" he asked. The biggest boy took the responsibility of answering for us all.

"It's mud, Tata," he replied.

"Whose mud is it?" the old man asked.

"It's your mud, Tata, this is your field."

Then the old man turned and looked at the nearest of the little channels across the dam. "What do you see there, in that channel?"

"That is water, running over into the lower field."

For the first time Tata looked angry. "Come with me and I will show you water." A few steps along the dam he pointed to the next channel, where clear water was running, "That is what water looks like," he said. Then we came back to our nearest channel, and he said again "Is that water?"

We hung our heads. "No, Tata, that is mud". . . .

He went on to tell us that just one handful of mud would grow enough rice for one meal for one person, and it would do it twice every year for years and years into the future. "That mud flowing over the dam has given my family food since before I was born, and before my grandfather was born. It would have given my grandchildren and their grandchildren food forever. Now it will never feed us again. When you see mud in the channels of water, you know that life is flowing away from the mountains."
Dr. Brand documents other examples of erosion he encountered throughout the world, and then he asks,
Is there a common thread? It is not ignorance in all cases. Nor is it dire poverty (although that sometimes leads to the cutting of the trees for fuel). No, there would be enough for all if it were not for greed. More profit. Faster return on investment. A bigger share for me of what is available now, but may not be available tomorrow.
He goes on to write,
I would gladly give up medicine tomorrow if by so doing I could have some influence on policy with regard to mud and soil. The world will die from lack of pure water and soil long before it will die from a lack of antibiotics or surgical skill and knowledge. But what can be done if the destroyers of our earth know what they are doing and do it still? What can be done if people really believe that free enterprise has to mean absolute lack of restraint on those who have no care for the future?
Dr. Brand's hopeful answer?
The sense of concern for the earth is still transmitted by person-to-person communication and by personal example better than by any other method. Old Tata still lives on. He lives in the boys who played in the mud, and they will pass on his concern for the soil and his sense of its importance to future generations.

Friday, July 11, 2003


I don't have a digital camera (or new enough computer equipment to use one), but if you'd like to see a picture of the luscious tomatoes I've enjoyed for two weeks now, pop over to the July 11 entry at the Path to Freedom Urban Diary. One of my own tomato plants produced two yellow tomatoes, and the other plant has three large red tomatoes that are nearly ripe (yes, they do have proper names, but I'd have to go outside to get them). And two tomato plants grew up from seeds in the compost. They currently have quite a few blossoms. Meanwhile, I'm more than happy to pick up an order of tomatoes from the Path to Freedom family each week!

The other day, I read this entry over at dangerousmeta!:
santa fe new mexican: taos fire intensifies. it's burning in the taos pueblo's watershed, threatening their water supplies.
It reminded me of a 1920 article in the Journal of Forestry by Aldo Leopold, "The Forestry of the Prophets." Leopold notes: "[The prophets] understood not only the immediate destructive effects of fires, but possibly also the more far reaching effects on watersheds." (p. 72; further discussion and qualification on p. 74) He then quotes from the book of Joel:
Unto thee, O LORD, I cry. For fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and flame has burned all the trees of the field. Even the wild beasts cry to thee because the water brooks are dried up, and fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness. (Joel 1:19-20, RSV)
[Article reprinted in The River of the Mother of God and Other Essays by Aldo Leopold, ed. S. L. Flader and J. B. Callicott (Madison, Wisc.: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991): 71-77.]
An American in Africa

This is a sobering opinion piece in today's CS Monitor: "US creates African enemies where none were before" by David Gutelius.
PALO ALTO, CALIF. – President Bush repeatedly highlighted the importance of democracy, peace, and security during his African tour this week. But, administration mismanagement of the war on terror has deeply undermined stability across Africa in the past year.

In its African incarnation, that war has managed to produce almost exactly the opposite of what was intended. The administration has allowed African partner regimes to crack down on a wide range of Muslim groups over the past 18 months, creating enemies where they previously didn't exist. The majority of Muslim leaders in Africa abhor violence as a response to government repression and coercion. They have little or nothing in common with Al Qaeda. Yet US foreign policy in Africa has inspired radicalism, discredited moderate African Muslims, and fomented political instability in key nations. . . .

At several stops along his African tour, Mr. Bush touted $100 million in new funding to fight terrorism in Africa. Yet the administration appears oblivious of the effect of US policy on African Muslims. This is perhaps because few US government analysts speak local languages or have direct field experience in Africa. But if the US doesn't closely monitor how governments use this new funding, it's likely to increase political instability in a dozen African nations.

Sunday, July 06, 2003

Sunday morning quote

From Richard Smith's essay in The Oxford American music issue, "Amazing Grace," on The Blind Boys of Alabama:
"Amazing Grace" is usually the celebration of a happy soul on salvation's shore; sung to the tune of "Rising Sun" it was transformed into the testimony of a human tossed up from sin and misery.

I realized in that moment why I am left cold by most religious music, especially "praise songs." I don't question the praise singers' faith or sincerity, but so many of their numbers are bouquets to God, thank-you notes to the Holy Spirit, infomercials for Heaven. The Blind Boys praise the Lord, yet bear burning witness to past trials. Praise singers celebrate their spiritual wealth; the Blind Boys want to get your soul out of debt. (p. 60)

It has been noted that in African-American music traditions the verse beginning "Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come" is the highlight of the song, in fact the last verse, whereas in white churches the last, and most triumphant, verse is "When we've been there ten thousand years, Bright shining as the sun. . . ."

(I would disagree with Richard Smith that "I am left cold by most religious music." However, I do agree with his description of "praise songs.")

Saturday, July 05, 2003

Saturday afternoon musical post

Part I

I'm listening to an incredible CD compilation at the moment from The Oxford American. I found out about it while reading through the archives of LivingSmall. Here's Charlotte's entry, including the playlist. Our local newsstand still had the special magazine issue and CD in stock. I've enjoyed reading the essays about the featured musicians, too.

I have really enjoyed LivingSmall, which I discovered via Path to Freedom. Charlotte is a wonderful (published) writer, who writes about the sorts of things I'm interested in and sometimes write about here, except she writes ever so much more eloquently.

Part II

My sister is singing at the Vatican tomorrow! I am so proud of her and the women's a cappella group, Schola Antiquae Vocis. They sing Gregorian chant, Renaissance polyphony, and other sacred music. Their director used to sing with a Vatican choir, the Cappella Giulia. They are singing Vespers at 5:00 pm and the Mass at 5:30 pm. They will be singing with "the men" according to my sister's itinerary. (Women's choirs are not common at the Vatican!) I've been trying to figure out what the men's choir is—maybe the Pontifical Musical Chorus of the Sistine Chapel? I'll find out from her when she gets back.

Anyway, they've performed four other concerts already throughout Italy and will sing one more concert after their Vatican appearance. Apparently it has been very hot in Italy this summer. However, my sister wrote in a postcard that the heat helps her hit the high notes!

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Peace Like a River

Many of my musings these days would come out more like obsessings if I tried to post them here. Thus, the gaps. But I continue to escape into non-school-related reading.

I picked up at the library yesterday the novel chosen for Pasadena's One City, One Story "bookclub": Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. I read about two-thirds of it last night. It is a lovely story—and funny.

Book discussions are scheduled throughout the city, mainly at library branches. However, one will be held at Trader Joe's, I guess because there are many descriptions of homecooked food in the book!