Tuesday, December 30, 2003


My colleague just pointed out a blaring headline on the top right-hand corner of MSNBC.com: "Efforting Relief." Come on, folks, knowledge of the English language hasn't declined that much, has it?

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Two cats on a lap

I returned home after being gone over a week. Not only did my little cat jump up in my lap, she did so with the big cat already curled up taking most of the room on my lap. Nevertheless, after grooming the big cat's head and ears, she managed to find space to curl up, too. Such a warm welcome!

Thursday, December 18, 2003

A fragmentary life

At my church we've been studying parts of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship [Nachfolge]. My pastor pointed out a passage in the brief "Memoir" of Bonhoeffer's life prefacing the book in which G. Leibholz writes that
Bonhoeffer often asked himself about the deeper meaning of his life, which seemed to him so disconnected and confused. A few months before his death. . . [for plotting to kill Hitler], he wrote in prison:
"It all depends on whether or not the fragment of our life reveals the plan and material of the whole. There are fragments which are only good to be thrown away, and others which are important for centuries to come because their fulfillment can only be a divine work. They are fragments of necessity. If our life, however remotely, reflects such a fragment . . . we shall not have to bewail our fragmentary life, but, on the contrary, rejoice in it." (p. 34)

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Joy notes

Last night, after posting a somewhat whiny entry, I recalled that last Sunday, the third Sunday in Advent, was the "joy" Sunday. (It is often symbolized by a pink candle amongst the three purple candles in the Advent wreath.) How quickly I forget!

So I read through texts assigned for Sunday again.
"Sing aloud. . . . Rejoice and exult with all your heart!
Do not fear. . .do not let your hands grow weak." (Zephaniah 3:14, 16)

"I will trust and will not be afraid, for the LORD GOD is my strength and my might. . . .
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation." (Isaiah 12:2, 3)

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. . . .
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." (Philippians 4:4, 6)

In the Gospel reading, John the Baptist tells the crowds to give away extra clothes and food; the tax collectors not to collect more than was owed (in order to pocket the difference); and the soldiers not to extort money (Luke 3:10-14).

So joy, not being afraid, gratitude, not worrying, and not grasping after extra money and possessions are all tied together. A timely message for me.

Monday, December 15, 2003


Every year I think I'm going to do December differently. But it seems to end up being this weird month of things just having to get done. Being a student doesn't help. Then last year I was unemployed, and the previous year or two before that I wasn't sure how long my job would last.

And then there's my house, which is in a perpetual state of untidiness. Or I get one room cleaned and within a day or two clutter has begun to build. I am pleased to report, however, that my dining table remains clear, with only a small white cloth and two blue candlesticks in the center as an Advent reminder.

I need to wrap the presents for my brother's family and find a box somewhere big enough to ship them. So far I've not had to venture into malls or large box stores for shopping—locally owned toy store; locally owned record (i.e., CDs and DVDs) store; museum shop branch. And a great benefit at work is that we can use the company's deeply discounted shipping rates to ship boxes right from work.

I think I'll try handmade gifts next year for birthdays or maybe get organized enough to work on things throughout the year for Christmas gifts. I've been impressed with those knitting bloggers who will be ready (more or less) with wonderful handmade gifts for family and friends.

All this to say, I haven't been focusing on anything too deeply. Just skimming along the surface. Reading for escape. Not able to grasp anything for long. Dealing with what presents itself but not being very creative, imaginative, or engaged.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Because there never can be too many lists of books to read

The first of a series of columns of book recommendations, by John Wilson, the editor of Books & Culture.

[Update 12/16/03]: Column Two.

[Update 12/23/03]: Column Three, a top 10 list.
Old stoves

While browsing the LA Times online, I came across an article about stoves from the 1940s and 1950s that are being refurbished and sold in the LA area. One restorer, Stevan Thomas of Vintage Stoves, left his job at a bank and now finds and restores stoves fulltime. His current featured stove, a 30" O'Keefe & Merritt, is quite similar to mine, although much shinier! I also didn't pay close to $5,200 for mine!

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Second Sunday in Advent

Today is overcast and rainy. We're finally getting a sense of the winter darkness of the season here in So Cal. The Advent readings and hymns for today were centered around John the Baptist's call to "Prepare the way of the Lord."

It is also the feast day of St Ambrose, bishop of Milan in the fourth century, who baptized St Augustine. St Ambrose is considered to be the one who introduced hymn singing in the church. So today we sang one of the hymns credited to him, "Savior of the nations, come."

Advent hymns are quite unfamiliar to me. They're sung only four Sundays of the year and in many churches are displaced by Christmas carols. I was struck by this hymn today, "On Jordan's Banks the Baptist's Cry..." sung to Puer Nobis. The language is perhaps a little dated but it captured for me what we long for in the Advent season.
On Jordan's banks the Baptist's cry
Announcing that the Lord is nigh;
Awake and hearken, for he brings
Glad tidings of the King of kings.

Then cleansed be every heart from sin;
Make straight the way for God within,
And let us all our hearts prepare
For Christ to enter there.

We hail you as our Savior, Lord,
Our refuge and our great reward;
Without your grace we waste away
Like flow'rs that wither and decay.

Stretch forth your hand, our health restore,
And make us rise to fall no more;
Oh, let your face upon us shine
And fill the world with love divine.

All praise to you, eternal Son,
Whose advent has our freedom won,
Whom with the Father we adore,
And Holy Spirit, evermore.

Trans. from text by Charles Coffin, 17th-18th cent. Tune adapted by Michael Praetorious, 16th-17th cent. From the Lutheran Book of Worship.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Fuller in the news, again

Another LA Times article about Fuller Seminary:
One of the nation's leading evangelical Christian seminaries has launched a federally funded project for making peace with Muslims, featuring a proposed code of ethics that rejects offensive statements about each other's faiths, affirms a mutual belief in one God and pledges not to proselytize.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Fever day

Yesterday I had a fever. I rarely get sick, so when I do, it is a noteworthy event. All I had was a fever—no sore throat, no upset stomach, no stuffy sinuses—just body aches and an elevated temperature.

I came home from work mid-morning, swinging by the pharmacy to buy a thermometer. (My old mercury thermometer had broken sometime between my last illness and now. Now I've got to figure out how to dispose of it properly.) Digital thermometers are quite fascinating. Even without my glasses on, I could watch, cross-eyed, the temperature rising, until the beeps indicated the correct temperature was recorded. So every 15 minutes, except when I was asleep, I took my temperature, watching it rise to 100.3. No shaking down the mercury to the bottom of the glass tube hoping the thermometer didn't fling out of my fever-weakened grip. No more squinting and rolling the thermometer back and forth trying to catch the light just so to read the temperature.

My bedroom is on the south side of the duplex, and, during the winter, the overhanging tree loses its leaves. Noticing the bright afternoon light turn into the dark evening as I lay in bed reminded my of long afternoons in sick bay at boarding school. Afternoons when you're ill always seem so long. Then, even though you've been sleeping most of the day, your body still knows it's time to sleep at night. 3:00 AM 99.5° 5:00 AM 97.1° (or maybe a little higher) 7:48 AM 98.6° On the road driving to work 98.1° Just now 98.1°

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

December writing

I'm pleased to see that Susie of one of the first weblogs/blogs/online journals I came across, Raspberry World, is updating her site regularly again, at least for the month of December. She is currently living in Germany. Her site has beautiful pictures and descriptions of life in Germany, her cat, and delicious recipes.

Susie is participating in Holidailies, a group that is updating their websites everyday in December. Registration for new members is open until Saturday, December 6 if anyone is interested in a little extra incentive to write during December.