Friday, December 31, 2004

New Year's Eve

I could be down on the Rose Parade route all night helping to save the 170 seats my church sets up along Colorado Boulevard, but I think I'll let others do that this year. I haven't attended the parade since the first year I moved here nine years ago but will probably watch it tomorrow in seats that others have saved for 20 hours.

This morning on my way to work I drove by people under colorful golf umbrellas in the rain already staking out their spot on the grassy median at the end of the parade route. The RVs have been parked in prime locations for three days now. It is clear of rain this evening with 20 percent chance of rain tomorrow—hopefully not until after the parade, which hasn't been rained on since 1955.

The work week was busy and absorbing after a lovely Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with friends. Christmas Eve meant another church service to help prepare. So it was somewhat of a relief when it was over—and Las Posadas less than a week before. I'm beginning to understand the daunting schedule clergy have at this time of year—and I didn't even have to preach!

I hadn't heard about the tsunami when I went to church on St. Stephen's Day. I had already been wrestling with the darker side of Christmas time. This year the liturgical choice was the martyrdom of St. Stephen, one of the first deacons in the book of Acts, or the First Sunday after Christmas, for which the Gospel reading is about the slaughter of the baby boys in Bethlehem.

I haven't watched any television yet. However, all week at work I watched the count of the dead in the headline story on the online WSJ change upwards by increments of thousands and ten thousands, sometimes hourly it seemed.

A book I had just picked up by the founder of Bread for the World, How Much is Enough: Hungering for God in an Affluent Culture, by Arthur Simon (brother of the late Illinois senator, Paul Simon), seemed a fitting read this week.

So did this excerpt from the poem, "Classifieds," by Wisława Szymborska:
Whoever's found out what location
compassion (heart's imagination)
can be contacted at these days,
is herewith urged to name the place;
and sing about it in full voice,
and dance like crazy and rejoice
beneath the frail birch that appears
to be upon the verge of tears.
[Edit 1/1/05: Changed some formatting and added a couple links.]

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Summer weather

Today is spectacularly beautiful. It's supposed to get up into the 80s. I have all my clotheslines full of laundry drying; just made quick and yummy muffins from the recipe on the Malt-O-Meal box; and will be going hiking in the mountains shortly. Fortifying myself for the next two weeks, which will be very intense with church-related duties.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Bulletin board

These days it seems all I have time/space for here are summary postings of reminders.

Last Sunday one thing I did make time for was clearing and preparing a space for my Advent altar. I drapped a beautiful blue with purple fringed silk scarf over the corner of my mantle and bookcase, placing on it two cobalt-blue glass candleholders with white candles and scattering white rocks gathered on a Washington beach to symbolize a path.

The other symbol I'm using this season is that of cleaning house.
Just as Lent is an appropriate time for spring cleaning, Advent, too, invites us to pay attention to our spaces, to eliminate the clutter and unnecessary furnishings....(Sundays and Seasons 2005, p. 23)
So, for this Sunday I chose the hymn "People, Look East."
People, look east. The time is near of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able, trim the hearth and set the table.

People, look east, and sing today—
Love, the Guest, is on the way.
Sparrow, at Mercy Street, is posting wonderful Advent quotes.


Norwegian knitting: Arnhild Hillesland, via the Winter 2004 Interweave Knits magazine.


How Iris Murdoch's novels have been analyzed to show traces of the beginning of her Alzheimer's disease: The Guardian article via Bookslut. I first heard the story on NPR. Dr Peter Garrard, the neuroscientist who led the study, mentioned that part of what informed the research was his undergraduate studies in ancient languages, where he was schooled in how to analyze texts.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Book reviewer

It's turned into a cold, rainy Saturday after a balmy Friday-after-Thanksgiving. I tried to make up for having had to work in a corporate office building yesterday by driving all the way home with the driver's side window rolled down. Today is a more typical Northern Hemisphere autumn-to-winter day.

I accomplished a number of tasks this morning, including finding someone to light the Advent candle tomorrow. I also have a number of gifts to buy today, so, naturally, I first went to a bookstore. Naturally, I found books that interested me, too, including discovering an author/book reviewer I didn't know of, senior editor of the Washington Post Book World (free registration required), Michael Dirda. I picked up his book Readings: Essays and Literary Entertainments about books, reading, authors, libraries, bookstores, his Beloved Spouse and children, and buying books(!).

Then I came home and looked up Dirda's writing online: his reviews, including tomorrow's review of Richard Wilbur's Collected Poems, and an archive of his weekly online discussions. I see that he also has just published another book, Bound to Please.
Pleasures of a book reviewer: to open a new book tentatively, with indifference even, and to find oneself yet again in thrall—to a writer's prose, to a thriller's plot, to a thinker's mind. Let the whole wide world crumble, so long as I can read another page. And then another after that. And then a hundred more. (Readings, p. 13)

Thursday, November 18, 2004


Finally, I've managed to download Real Player and have it work. So now I can listen to Michael Silverblatt's Bookworm online. I just listened to today's show with author Carlos Ruiz Zaphon Zafón about his book The Shadow of the Wind. The conversation was not as much about the content of the book as about the structure of storytelling and the experience of reading. Such riches!

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Haberdashery entry

A vague memory from post-colonial boarding school days is the small room, the haberdashery, from which we were supplied shoelaces, amongst other things which I now don't remember. According to Webster's, a haberdasher is "Brit: a dealer in small wares or notions." This is another of those catch-up entries of small (although not unimportant) notions.

Working full-time and helping out at the church now that our pastor and her husband have accepted a call to another church have not left much mental space for writing here or even checking e-mail very regularly.

So I missed the date to write back to my aunt about her book club's selection, Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, on which I do want to comment, perhaps in another entry (famous last words).

I've appreciated others' thoughtful, and passionate, entries on the election aftermath: Leah at Struggle in a Bungalow Kitchen; Charlotte at LivingSmall; Kerstin of At My Knits End, who has recently moved her political entries to homegrowndaisy.

Then, last night, Sister Joan Chittister was interviewed by Bill Moyers on NOW. (Hopefully, the transcript will soon be available in the archive.) She is a strong, prophetic voice challenging those who claim God's exclusive endorsement for their positions. At the same time, when asked what she has in common with those against whom she stands up so strongly, she responded, "Jesus."

I've also appreciated the mood of "November time" as the church year comes to a close.
As the church moves into November time, the procession of the faithful returning to gravestones is a lasting reminder of those who have gone before and by their witness have helped to sustain the church. Etched into memory and written into tablets of human hearts, our loved ones give us a living faith even in their dying. A cemetery walk at this time of year helps the members of its community ground itself in a story that extends far beyond what normally seems visible. At the graves, the faithful stand at the gate to eternal life. In this way, the church begins its move toward the end of the year, toward the fulfillment of all time, toward the culmination of twelve months of God's grace.

We remember that in every place, but certainly at the grave and in the church, the common prayers of the people have been shared. Our Kyries are a cry for peace. At times of grief and loss, we realize poignantly how prayer unites a people, even if the prayer consists of only a few words or even simple silence. This is counterintuitive to a culture that depends on convincing its members of the value of things through blizzards of word and image. The November church would do well to hold to silence in remembering the past. Sundays and Seasons 2004
As Pastor Peg Schultz-Akerson preached in her All Saints Sunday sermon,
Real joy, for Christians, comes not from things or from comfort or from security, but from glimpsing what Jesus knew – that God’s reign is wonderfully near and wondrously surprising. Joy comes in participating in God’s bringing of that reign about, even if our participating causes weeping for a time when we recognize the disparity between what is and what will be in the fullness of time. [...]

The cost is that the closer we listen to Jesus the more we notice life’s disparities – the more we notice things that cause us to share in the mourning for a world where things are not yet as God holds out for them to be. But to listen to Jesus is also to joyfully discover what it is that’s worth dying for and, that the dying we do in Christ is bound for resurrection. Jesus says, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”
Thursday night was a wonderful celebration of people coming together to honor those who are doing what they can where they are to live sustainably on this earth now. The City of Pasadena gave Outstanding Recycler Awards, and my friends at Path to Freedom were award recipients. The Patagonia company sponsored the event and provided a delicious spread. (Coincidently, the caterer purchased edible flowers from my friends to garnish the platters. See pictures here.) The founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, was one of the speakers. His simple, unassuming talk emphasized the five points outlined in this essay:
  • Lead an examined life
  • Clean up your act
  • Do your penance
  • Support civil democracy
    ("The great social movements of the past 200 years – for democracy itself, for women’s rights, for social equality, for conservation and preservation of the environment – rose up directly from small groups of people who spread the word to others. Today in the United States, small groups of kayakers and fishermen work tirelessly to bring down dams; duck hunters toil to preserve wetlands. And it’s mothers who exert the most pressure to clean up local toxic landfills.")
  • Influence other companies (Have a 100-year plan)
Photographer Robert Glenn Ketchum showed slides and made a plea to preserve SW Alaska's rich salmon-spawning habitat from oil drilling.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Office coloring

So what do you do when a colleague who's been out on maternity leave visits the office with her new baby and three-year-old and the three-year-old needs entertaining but you have not one child-friendly thing to be found in your cubicle?

Do a quick search for "coloring pages," happen on these cute hedgehog pictures by Jan Brett, find a pack of highlighters and an empty desk, and the child has something to keep her amused while her mother shows off the baby.

I'm sure the Internet abounds in such resources, but I've never had occasion to go looking before. The rain forest pictures look like they'd be fun to do, too.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Quote of the day
Every time we postpone some necessary event—whether we put off doing the dinner dishes till morning or defer an operation or some difficult labor or study—we do so with the implication that present time is more important than future time (for if we wished the future to be as free and comfortable as we wish the present to be, we would perform necessary actions as soon as they prove themselves necessary).
Excerpted from Time and the Art of Living, by Robert Grudin, in the current A Common Reader catalogue. The online version of the quote adds this line: "Disrespect for the future is a subtly poisonous disrespect for self, and forces us, paradoxically, to live in the past."

(The cover of the paper catalogue has a weirdly wonderful photo of a row of baobab trees from Thomas Parkenham's book, The Remarkable Baobab.)

Saturday, October 23, 2004

When I am an old woman I shall eat books

I made a quick trip this morning to the TKGA Southwest Conference & FiberArts Market being held at the Burbank Airport Hilton. I didn't go to any of the classes, but I did spend a couple of hours in the FiberArts Market. Wow. And this is a small event, I imagine, compared to the larger festivals I've read about. But I was overwhelmed as it was. So I fell back on what I know—buying books. I may have to go back tomorrow and buy some wool after I figure out what to do with it and, therefore, how much to get.

I really like the hand-spun and -dyed wool from Hand Jive Knits. I also enjoyed the Sheep City, USA booth (no website yet).

From Sheep City, USA:
Foot Notes: Socks to Make Your Feet Dance, by Joseph Madl (Philosopher's Wool)

Projects for Community Knitting, by Carol Anderson (Cottage Creations)

Natural Dyes and Home Dyeing, by Rita J. Adrosko

Vintage to Vogue: The Best of Workbasket Magazine.

Small Sweaters: Colorful Knits for Kids, by Lise Kolstad and Tone Takle.

More Sweaters: A Riot of Color, Pattern, and Form, by Lise Kolstad and Tone Takle.
From The Village Spinning & Weaving Shop in Solvang—definitely on my road trip list.
The Knit Hat Book, by Nicky Epstein.

Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys & Arans: Fisherman's Sweaters from the British Isles, by Gladys Thompson.

Folk Knitting in Estonia: A Garland of Symbolism, Tradition and Technique, by Nancy Bush.

Two-end Knitting: A Traditional Scandinavian Technique also known as 'Twined Knitting', by Anne-Maj Ling.

Toy Knits, by Debbie Bliss.

Latvian Dreams: Knitting from Weaving Charts, by Joyce Williams.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Weather report

It rained all night. First rain of the season.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Today's book list

In stacking order, from smallest to largest, with a nod to Mental multivitamin.

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood, by Alexandra Fuller. Why? Because an aunt is reading the autobiography for her bookclub and asked me to read it and send her my comments.

The Writer and the World: Essays, by V. S. Naipaul. Why? Because it's by Naipaul, it includes essays of "Africa and the Diaspora," and it was recommended at Blog of a Bookslut.

Breaking the Fall: Religious Readings of Contemporary Fiction, by Robert Detweiler. Why? Because of the subject matter and because it received the American Academy of Religion Award for Excellence in Publishing.

King of the Two Lands: The Pharaoh Akhenaten, by Jacquetta Hawkes. Why? Historical fiction about Egypt by an archaeologist, an interesting woman who was married to J. B. Priestly, whose novels I thoroughly enjoy. An American first-edition, 1966, for $10.

The Shape of Living: Spiritual Directions for Everyday Life, by David F. Ford. Why? Because I feel like I'm being shaped too much by my full-time, corporate job. Ford uses images of flood and the computer to describe the sense of being overwhelmed. He states:
The issue at stake is the whole shape of living. To attend to that when we are being overwhelmed is no easy matter. But it is hard to imagine any adequate way of coping that does not try to answer the big questions about life, death, purpose, good, and evil. So the basic conviction of this book is that we need to attend to the shape of living. We do not need to drown in what overwhelms us, nor is the solution to fiddle with some of the details [....] [T]he main task is to stretch our minds, hearts, and imaginations in trying to find and invent shapes of living. It is a task as old as the flood and as modern as the computer. (pp. 16-17)
The Comforter, by Sergius Bulgakov. Why? Because I want to keep reading in Orthodox theology and the cover picture, an anonymous 1517 painting of Pentecost with the Holy Spirit pictured as dove with wings outspread. Last week, at her farewell party, my pastor had us quote with her these lines from Hopkins:
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Bus stop exchange

As I was waiting for the second bus on my three-bus route to get to work this morning (I had to leave my car at the mechanic's), I pulled out my knitting, a Jean Frost jacket in an easy black-and-white slip stitch pattern that looks more complicated than it is. A woman who was also waiting at the bus stop came over and admired the knitting. I asked her if she knew how to knit. She replied, "I'm Armenian. We do everything!"

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


I love how a random click on a link directs me places I'd probably not deliberately seek out that introduce me to an author or book that intrigues me and ties together other ideas I've been reading about.

For example, somewhere (I don't remember where) I saw a link to an article about a family who decide to live for a year and not spend money on things, except food and other depletable necessities.

I then looked around the site of the person who'd originally linked to the article. She homeschools her children following the book The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home, by Susan Wise Bower and Jessie Wise. I'd not heard of the book but know of others who use the classical pattern for their children's educations.

So I recognized a similar book title, The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had, when I read through the book catalogue from A Common Reader, which I had requested after reading a couple entries at Theory of the Daily.

The notion of being self-educated or, at least, continuing to build on my earlier education now that I'm working full-time again and am out of academia, has been on my mind. I've really been enjoying book sites, especially Blog of a Bookslut. (It amuses me that the site is blocked at work, not because it would distract people from their job duties but because of the title, I'm sure.)

To be continued....

Friday, September 24, 2004

Hiking by the light of the moon

My neighbor and I went on a moonlight hike in Eaton Canyon for the second time. Such a simple activity yet so wonderful. This time we weren't feeling as energetic, so we went on the moderate walk along the canyon floor from the parking lot to the bridge and back.

Because we've just passed the autumnal equinox ("equal night"), it was already dark when we set off. In early July, it was still dusk at the beginning of the hike. The moon was really bright tonight, although it's not a full moon until Monday Tuesday. On the way to the bridge, the moon was behind us. On the way back, the moon shone directly ahead of us.

Our guide was the husband of the woman who led our hike last time. (See the July 3 comments.) My neighbor is very interested in photography, and the conversation came around to the plant photography and cataloguing Gabi and Cliff McLean do. Cliff mentioned another cataloguer and photographer, Tom Chester.

Tom is an astrophysicist who has applied his incredible discipline as a scientist to, amongst other things, documenting the plants along Southern California hiking trails. Beginning at a trailhead, he and his collaborator, Jane Strong, catalogue each plant as they encounter it.

I'm taking forever to finish this post because I keep getting sidetracked reading Tom's site and marvelling at how precisely he has classified and organized all the data on it.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

To do

This business of working full-time surely makes it more difficult to do all the other things that need doing. So, today's list:
  • Eat breakfast: delicious 5¢ grapefruit bought from the children down the street; oatmeal with raisins; coffee
  • Wash dishes
  • Pick up clothes: dirty and clean
  • Clean bathroom
  • VACUUM duplex
  • Online: pay phone bill; look up library books checked out from three different library systems; print out grocery list; post entry here!
  • Write and send birthday card; write and send letter
  • Pay gas and electric bills
  • Get church office key and finish assembling bulletins for tomorrow
  • Return library books due to public and seminary libraries
  • Go to Trader Joe's: milk; whole wheat tortillas for preparing altar tomorrow
  • Swing by the gardenLAb if I have time to see the Path to Freedom folk
  • Babysit friend's two small children this evening
[Edit 10:30 PM. The list worked! I went from one thing to the next and accomplished most of what I needed. Now to be more consistently disciplined.]

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Autumn transitions

I was struck by reading the notes for Autumn in the Lutheran worship planning guide, Sundays and Seasons.
The seasons are marked by cycles of reversals: the stars shift in the sky; the natural world finds new ways of living. Likewise, school's days begin or end, new calendar years are established, old patterns of living are undertaken. A cabin might be closed for the winter, new windows put up on the house, clothing styles changed—these are marks of a shifting and transitional time. (p. 288)
Here in So Cal, the hot summer weather kicks into high gear for a last hurrah. However, in spite of the weather, subtle changes can be seen, notably the shortening of daylight hours.

The theme of transition is looked at slightly differently in the notes for preaching, which muse that "we get several fresh, new starts at life per year." (p. 291) For many in the Christian tradition, Autumn is the winding down of the church year with Advent (this year, November 28) beginning a new liturgical year. However, in Judaism and for Christian groups that follow a Jewish calendar, Autumn is the beginning of the year with Rosh Hashanah followed by Yom Kippur. The civic New Year arrives on January 1, and then, later, the Chinese New Year.

I sometimes get frustrated with how out of sync all these endings and beginnings are. But I like the idea of being able at least to acknowledge the opportunity for several new beginnings.

Right on cue, Autumn (in spite of the weather) is lining up to be a season of transition for me. I have formally withdrawn from my academic program for a period of time, and my change of status request from part-time to full-time at work is making its way through the required approval levels. I'm glad, finally, to have come to a decision, although my feelings around these changes have an autumnal melancholic tinge to them.

Also, as I mentioned earlier, the situation at my church is in transition with the pastor leaving soon.

Cycles of reversals.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Community singing

This afternoon I was looking for song books for informal group singing. I came across two volumes called Get America Singing ... Again!, put together by the Music Educators National Conference. In the tradition of school song books my grandmother used, these two books feature traditional and folk songs, spirituals and gospel songs, patriotic music, 1960s folk/rock, and songs from musicals. Pete Seeger is the honorary chair of the campaign.

Content lists:

Volume 1

Amazing Grace
America, The Beautiful
Battle Hymn Of The Republic
Blue Skies
Danny Boy
De Colores
Dona Nobis Pacem
Down By The Riverside
Frere Jacques (Are You Sleeping?)
Give My Regards To Broadway
God Bless America
God Bless The U.S.A.
Green Green Grass Of Home
Havah Nagilah
He's Got The Whole World In His Hands
Home On The Range
I've Been Working On The Railroad
If I Had A Hammer (The Hammer Song)
Let There Be Peace On Earth
Lift Ev'ry Voice And Sing
Michael Row The Boat Ashore
Music Alone Shall Live
My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean
My Country, 'Tis Of Thee (America)
Oh! Susanna
Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin'
Over My Head
Puff The Magic Dragon
Rock-A-My Soul
Sakura (Cherry Blossoms)
Shalom Chaveyrim (Shalom Friends)
She'll Be Comin' 'Round The Mountain
Simple Gifts
Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
The Star Spangled Banner
This Land Is Your Land
This Little Light Of Mine

Volume 2

(Oh, My Darling) Clementine
All Through The Night
Auld Lang Syne
Both Sides Now
Camptown Races
Down In The Valley
Every Time I Feel The Spirit
Five Hundred Miles
Follow The Drinkin' Gourd
Getting To Know You
Goodnight, Irene
I Got Rhythm
I Love The Mountains
I've Got Peace Like A River
It's A Small World
Jamaica Farewell
Kum Ba Yah
Let It Be
Let Me Call You Sweetheart
Make New Friends
My Favorite Things
Old Macdonald Had A Farm
Over The Rainbow
Precious Lord, Take My Hand (Take My Hand, Precious Lord)
Rock Around The Clock
Side By Side
Take Me Home, Country Roads
The Erie Canal
The Midnight Special
The Red River Valley
Try To Remember
Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season)
Water Is Wide
We Shall Overcome
What A Wonderful World
When Johnny Comes Marching Home
When The Saints Go Marching In
Where Have All The Flowers Gone?
Yankee Doodle
You Are My Sunshine
You Are The Sunshine Of My Life
You're A Grand Old Flag
You've Got A Friend

You can purchase inexpensive singer's editions (linked to above) that have the words, melody line, and guitar chords, and piano music editions, at approximately the intermediate level.

From the Introduction to Volume 2:
Singing with others builds community, and America and the world are in bad need of that. When people join together in song it creates a sense of being connected, of belonging, and of being an active participant in life. This feeling is so needed in an age of electronic isolation and "virtual" participation in life. There is also mounting evidence that singing and other forms of interpersonal active music making [...] has [sic] significant health and long-term wellness benefits.
I hope to try out the books with a group this weekend, so I'll report back how they worked.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Une chaîne des livres

To deal with the decisions and events of the past few weeks (to be expanded upon later), I've sought shelter in the ever-comforting and orienting space of bookstores and reading. On Wednesday, while looking for a book to give as a gift, I saw this book, An Uncommon Correspondence: An East-West Conversation on Friendship, Intimacy and Love, in the Letters & Diaries section. It is a series of letters between two professors about courtship, marriage, and friendship. I was a little sceptical, but the endorsements by Cornel West and Nicholas Wolterstorff on the back cover intrigued me. Besides, one of the authors, Margaret Masson, had been raised in Zambia. Her letter writing companion, Ivy George, is from India.

So I bought the book, came home, and read it straight through. I quite enjoyed their exploration of their subject matter and the play of different cultural perspectives on their topic. I was also drawn to their friendship, which they maintained over long distances through letter writing.

Thursday, still searching for an unblemished copy of the book I want to give as a gift, I saw a small book on a display of Books about Books & Reading called Walking a Literary Labyrinth: A Spirituality of Reading by Nancy M. Malone. I picked up two copies, one for myself and one to go with the other gift book. Then I came home and read Walking straight through.

Written by a nun, the book describes the books the author has read and their effect on her life and understanding of herself. She doesn't develop the labyrinth metaphor very fully, but I enjoyed the simple descriptions of her life and books.

A third person, whom I didn't recognize, had also endorsed An Uncommon Correspondence, Rosemary Luling Haughton. Coincidently, Haughton is one of the authors Malone writes about in her book (pp. 82-87)! Haughton, a non-academic and mother of ten children, had written a book in the late 1960s that was a theological analysis of everyday experiences.

Towards the end of her book, Malone writes about perception and imagination and how "reading has compelled [her] to focus [her] vision." (p. 163)
I can hardly conceive how limited my perception would be without the books I have been privileged to read, how superficial my understanding of others, how undeveloped my sympathies. And I mean here, especially, without fiction, which puts flesh and blood on, and soul and feeling in, other human beings. Precisely because of its appeal to my imagination, [...] in fiction I come to know and understand people I may not have met otherwise. And thus I am persuaded to a more compassionate, generous, and loving response in my life beyond books. (p. 164)
Last week I had checked out a book from the library this time (!) that also discusses the role of imagination, particularly in the creation accounts in the Bible. (The book is The Ethos of the Cosmos: The Genesis of Moral Imagination in the Bible by William P. Brown.)
The cultivation of cosmologies drew deeply from the well of Israel's theological and intellectual imagination. Indeed, such imagination was necessarily a moral imagination, one that powerfully informed the community of its identity and conduct, invariably sharpening and broadening its character and praxis. (p. 19)
Then Brown quotes from Iris Murdoch's Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (purchased during last night's shopping spree):
The world is not given to us 'on a plate,' it is given to us as a creative task. It is impossible to banish morality from this picture. We work, using or failing to use our honesty, our courage, our truthful imagination, at the interpretation of what is present to us, as we of necessity shape it and 'make something of it.' We work at the meeting point where we deal with a world which is other than ourselves. (Quoted in The Ethos of the Cosmos, pp. 21-22.)
This quote reminded me of my pastor and her perceptiveness and imagination to see possibilities where most others don't. She is also willing to work hard and self-sacrificially to shape and create what she can imagine. (Part of my sadness these last weeks is that she and her husband have accepted a call to another church.)

Let me add yet another link. Somewhere, I don't remember where, I saw the name Guy Davenport. On one of these recent bookstore forays (this time to a used bookstore), I happened on a collection of essays by Davenport titled The Geography of the Imagination, in which he writes that the imagination is "rooted in a ground, a geography." Recently I've been looking more carefully at the landscapes, the geography, the descriptions of nature found particularly in the prophets of the Hebrew Bible. How did their physical geographies influence their "rhetorical landscapes" (Brown, 230)?

Finally, to record the influence of my reading the Internet, another of last night's purchases, and today's book read, was Willa Cather's The Professor's House, per the recommendation of Leonard Bast, whose site was recommended, in turn, by Theory of the Daily.

[Edit: An hour later. The chain lengthens and doubles back. While checking my links in this post, I saw that Leonard Bast's entry today was about Walter Ong, whose book Orality and Literacy influenced my grad school application essay. Further, Nancy Malone, in Walking, quotes Ong in her first chapter on the interiority of reading. Then, the Books & Culture essay by Jeet Heer about Ong to which Bast points quotes Davenport on McLuhan, Ong's mentor. Finally, Heer writes that McLuhan "excited the imagination of bright young students like Ong by confidently linking together disparate phenomena, ranging from modernist art to neo-Thomist theology, into a single worldview."]

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Typewriter buddy

Laura bought a typewriter! Coincidently, my typewriter is sitting on my desk with a page two-thirds typed. One paragraph is dated August 21, 2004 and the second is August 24, 2004. Most common error: typing ¢ instead of ' as in "don¢t" instead of "don't."
NEA chair

The alumni magazine of the university at which I used to work published an article about the recently appointed chair of the National Endowment for the Arts: "Mr. Gioia Goes to Washington." The magazine also published an interview with Mr. Gioia. Here is the opening question and his answer:
Q: In 1992’s Can Poetry Matter?, you challenged us to bring poetry back out of seclusion in academia. Have you noticed any progress in this?
A: I’m both encouraged and discouraged by the trends in American art. What I find most encouraging in poetry, and in some of the other arts, is the growing awareness that the vitality of culture depends on engaging a broad, mixed audience.

Most of the innovation in American poetry that’s happened over the past 10 years has happened outside the university. We have a renewal of interest in poetry and the other arts by non-professionals. We are also seeing a groundswell of community-based activities in the arts. This trend takes many forms. It ranges from bookstore readings to neighborhood book clubs to grassroots performance groups in theatre and music. People understand, at a deep, instinctive level, the power of art to build and refine community identity. This seems, to me, a wonderful and important trend.

The university has an extremely important part to play in all of the arts, but it is not a part that can be done alone. There needs to be a broader dialogue in society between artists, academics, bohemians and the general audience.

What I find discouraging is the continuing encroachment of the commercial, electronic media on American culture. Reading and other sorts of cultural activities are in decline as people spend more time with television, the Internet, iPods, DVDs — all of the electronic paraphernalia. I worry that the average American is becoming more of a passive consumer and less of an active and engaged individual.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

AIDS and the church

Another long gap, this time because I took a trip north to Washington state to visit family. While I was there I found out that two of my extended family members had just published a book, Time to Talk in Church about HIV and AIDS: A Bible Study Discussion Guide. Because they wanted full editorial control over the contents, the authors also established their own publishing company, Bakken Books.

The book is divided into ten chapters, each of which includes a short introduction, the full text of a biblical passage, and approximately ten discussion questions. The discussion sections begin with questions focussing on the biblical text itself. Many of the biblical portions selected are stories about people with leprosy. Parallels are elicited between leprosy and HIV and AIDS.

Other questions ask for people's individual experiences with and responses to HIV and AIDS. For example, in the chapter on "HIV and AIDS at the Communion Table," which studies the story of Jesus eating at the home of Simon, who had leprosy (Matthew 26:6-13), one of the questions is, "Would you invite a person who is infected with HIV to your home for dinner?"

Yet other questions probe the enormous social issues around HIV and AIDS and what a church's response might be. The chapter on "Protection from HIV" asks, "In cultures where women are subject to men, who needs to take responsibility for protecting young girls and women from HIV?" The chapter on "The Changing Family" looks at some of the family structures found in the Bible and then poses the question, "How can extended families be assisted as they attempt to cope with the sudden increase of children orphaned by AIDS?"

Corean Bakke writes in the Foreward, "The goal is not to locate right answers—there are no right or wrong answers for many of the questions—but to study and discuss." (p. 1)

I'd highly recommend the book for group discussion or even for personal study and challenge. In her Afterward, Corean reflects on the verse from the Sermon on the Mount, "You are like salt for everyone on earth":
Jesus speaks to me in language I understand when he likens my presence in the world to salt in my kitchen. I could neither bake nor cook without salt. Is my presence that critical to the well-being of my community? (pp. 85-86)

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Work and the soul

This commentary by Joan Chittister on today's portion of the Rule of Benedict (from Chapter 48, "The Daily Manual Labor") reminded me of a brief conversation I had with Jules Dervaes over at Path to Freedom when I picked up my weekly vegetable order about the importance of working with one's hands to untangle the knots in one's mind and spirit. Chittister also underscores the importance of work "for the upbuilding of the community." I ask myself, "Am I getting my recommended daily allowance of manual labor?" and "Who is my community?" and "What is my work for that community?"
Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore, the community members should have specified periods for manual labor as well as for prayerful reading.

There is little room for excursion into the quixotic in the Rule of Benedict. If any chapter proves that point best, it may well be the chapter on work. Benedict doesn't labor the point but he clearly makes it: Benedictine life is life immersed in the sanctity of the real and work is a fundamental part of it. The function of the spiritual life is not to escape into the next world; it is to live well in this one. The monastic engages in creative work as a way to be responsible for the upbuilding of the community. Work periods, in fact, are specified just as prayer periods are. Work and prayer are opposite sides of the great coin of a life that is both holy and useful, immersed in God and dedicated to the transcendent in the human. It is labor's transfiguration of the commonplace, the transformation of the ordinary that makes co-creators of us all.
(Online text corrected according to the paperback text of The Rule of Bendict: Insight for the Ages, p. 132.)

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Dog days

Well, it's now officially HOT in So. Calif. The enervating kind of hot. Plus I think I have a bit of a sore throat/sinus thing that's zapping more energy. Mainly, I've been regrouping after the reunion. Feeling the (comparative) weightlessness of the reunion being in the past—although there are still details I need to take care of. Playing over the days and events in my mind. Remembering things and stories and people and songs I hadn't thought of in 25 to 30 years. Wondering how to integrate it all into my present life. Catching up on a whole lot of alone time after days of intense interaction with a lot of people. Coming back to the rest of life with its challenges and decisions and possibilities.

P. S. Knowing the phrase but not knowing its origin, I did a Google search for "Dog Days" and found the following from the Columbia Encyclopedia at Fact Monster:
Dog Days is the name for the most sultry period of summer, from about July 3 to Aug. 11. Named in early times by observers in countries bordering the Mediterranean, the period was reckoned as extending from 20 days before to 20 days after the conjunction of Sirius (the dog star) and the sun.

In the latitude of the Mediterranean region this period coincided with hot days that were plagued with disease and discomfort.

The time of conjunction varies with difference in latitude, and because of the precession of the equinoxes it changes gradually over long periods in all latitudes.
[Edit: definition of "precession of the equinoxes" from Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, 8th ed.:
a slow westward motion of the equinoctial points along the ecliptic caused by the action of sun and moon upon the protuberant matter about the earth's equator
I think I need to study some astronomy.]

Friday, July 23, 2004


From the front page of today's WSJ: "As Cash Fades, America Becomes A Plastic Nation," by Jathon Sapsford.
[T]he nation passed a watershed last year. For the first time, Americans used cards -- credit, debit and others -- to buy retail goods and services more often than they used cash or check in 2003. [...]

By letting consumers buy things with unprecedented convenience and speed, cards have transformed the economy. They have helped keep consumer spending strong even through terror attacks and recessions. When people pay with plastic, they tend to spend more -- often more than they have in the bank. Thus, credit cards also have fueled an explosion in consumer debt. It is expected to hit $838 billion this year, an increase of 6.8% from 2003 and more than double what it was ten years ago. [...]

A currency can be anything that all members of a society agree it should be. The current boom in plastic is one of those rare moments in history when that agreement shifts and one payment form overtakes another as the preferred way to pay. The first such change came sometime between the 10th and 6th centuries B.C., when Greece and India each introduced metal coins, which surpassed barter or the shell currencies of earlier times.

Coins dominated trade for the next 2,000 years, until the introduction of checks by Italian merchants in the Middle Ages. In 1690, Massachusetts became the first of the colonies to introduce paper money. Cash took decades to gain broad acceptance, but eventually became the standard of payment for the next three centuries.

The first credit card was introduced as a service for the wealthy in New York in 1950 under the Diner's Club brand. Today, U.S. consumers use plastic to buy $2.2 trillion in goods and services each year -- roughly 20% of U.S. gross domestic product.

Last year, cash was used in 32% of retail transactions, down from 39% in 1999. Credit-card usage has remained stable, accounting for about 21% of purchases during that time. Meanwhile debit cards, which take money out of checking accounts immediately after each purchase, shot up to 31% of purchases last year, from 21% in 1999. [...]

Roughly 60% of credit-card holders roll balances over each month, paying interest of as much as 22%. Because these cardholders are the most lucrative customers of the banks, critics say they effectively subsidize the remaining 40% of cardholders.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

After the reunion

First (known) official reunion in the U.S. of former pupils from a certain missionary children's boarding school in Zambia.

The reunion was held at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California. We shared the campus with a football camp, a cheerleading camp, an Upward Bound science and math camp, and others. (The football coaches commented that once the cheerleaders-in-training arrived, many more passes were dropped.)

Clear and hot but not oppressive. Nice breezes. Coolish evenings.

Between 25 and 30 people ranging in age from 9 months to 75 years old. Former pupils of the school from the 1930s to the 1990s, now current residents of the U.S., Canada, Norway, Scotland, and S. Africa.

Evening gatherings to reminisce, leaf through old and new pictures and memorabilia, and watch old school films. Listening to authors read excerpts from their books/manuscripts about the school. Trip to Zuma beach just north of Malibu. Tug-of-war, dodge ball, and hard-driving game of keep-away in the swimming pool. Lingering over meals talking. Taking a 115 question quiz about the school. Morning worship service in the beautiful chapel. Hike to Paradise Falls in Wildwood Park. Evening hymn singing around the piano in the chapel.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Time out

I'm in the throes of last minute details and planning for a reunion of former pupils from the boarding school I attended as a child. So I won't be posting much here 'til the week after next. I'm looking forward to the reunion itself but will be very glad to set aside the task of preparing (and worrying) for it.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Moonlight hike

Last night I finally went on the moonlight hike in Eaton Canyon. Every month for months now I've written in my calendar to go on the hike and then never do. But the woman who lives in the other side of my duplex was enthusiastic about going, so we went last night.

We went with the "express" hiking group. The pace was pretty fast, but we did stop fairly often for the leader to point out various things along the route. The hike was about three miles roundtrip (I think) and took around two hours with all the stops. The most strenuous part was going up the Walnut Canyon horse trail.

As a bonus, the fireworks show for Sunday was being tested at the Rose Bowl, so we had a magnificent view of the fireworks. However, the moon was the real attraction. Eaton Canyon is too close to LA to experience fully being out in the wild (only at a few points along the trail were the city lights hidden), but it was wonderful to be out in the night listening to the crickets, breathing the sage-scented air, and watching the full moon.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Plumbing, completed!

Well, the plumbing work was finished last night. I have a renewed appreciation for the convenience and relief provided by water, gas, kitchen sink, bathtub, and toilet, having gone without at different times during the plumbing redo.

Now all that remains is to patch and paint the holes in the walls (bathroom, bedroom, kitchen) and install new linoleum in the bathroom. Those tasks were supposed to have been begun today, but nobody's here. When that's finished, then all (!) that's left to do is major vacuuming and dusting and putting everything back in its place.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Go read, and weigh in

In her most recent post, Leah at Struggle in a Bungalow Kitchen is trying to get to the bottom of a sense of discontent:
I have admitted on these electronic pages that an underlying resentment niggles at me and I have always been hard-pressed, (out of laziness? ineptiutde? lack of perspective? too much perspective?), to identify it, thereby relegating it unintentionally to the odious classification of “problem with no name”. I suppose one could call it a “malaise” but that is as lazy and hazy as the word itself. And if the cure for modern malaise is popping a Prozac, I’m having none of it. It would seem to me a better cure would be to 1) understand the cause of my discontent 2) give the cause a name, and 3) overcome it, insofar as I am able.
I think there are other angles to the restlessness with which Leah wrestles but probably a common impulse. I look forward to the discussion I hope develops in her comment box.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Saturday morning

It is very overcast and downright chilly this morning. I wandered around the Farmer's Market; ran into a bunch of Lutherans I know; and bought honey dates, chard, and red Russian potatoes. (My orange supplier has not been at the market for the last two weeks, and I am having citrus withdrawals.)

Driving home I stopped by a church yard sale being held at one of the lovely mansions that lines Orange Grove Boulevard. I found a tatted doily and a large table cloth from Greece. I'm going to use the table cloth as a door between my entrance/dining room/living room and the kitchen. The cloth is a heavy off-white muslin decorated with white brocaded patterns. It will be a lot easier to work with than the flimsy rayon material I bought a while back for the same purpose and will look more elegant.

It's definitely the sort of day to spend lazily around the house, but with all the plumbing work going on around here, I think I might take off again.

[Edit 6/23/04 Grammatical question: Is it "one of the lovely mansions that lines Orange Grove Boulevard," what I originally wrote, or "one of the lovely mansions that line Orange Grove Boulevard"? I think it's "one...that lines" but maybe it should be "mansions that line." Maybe I should just write "one of the lovely mansions lining/along Orange Grove Boulevard."]

Friday, June 18, 2004

Plumbing, cont.

Yesterday they removed the old tub and surrounding wall board. Today they repaired the floor, put in the new tub, and started tiling. The plumber comes tomorrow to plumb the tub, and then the other crew will continue to work on patching the walls.

When I got home this evening, everything was covered in a layer of fine dust. I'd covered some things previously when they drilled through the bedroom wall to get to the kitchen plumbing, but today's work affected the whole house. I keep vacuuming, but I think I'll be breathing fine particles for a while.

The bedroom is piled with stuff all draped in sheets: books, the contents of my clothes closet, the piano. The futon is folded up to make room for the closet contents, so I'm sleeping on the couch. I tried sleeping in the bedroom last night (before folding up the futon) but creeped myself out by imagining what might crawl up from under the house through the hole in the floor and wall between the bathroom and the bedroom closet.

The bathroom door is off its hinges, so things definitely feel in a state of flux around here. I am resolved though, that as I put things back in order once all the remodeling is completed, to weed stuff out and only put back what fits. I asked the landlord to put up a couple shelves on a blank wall in the kitchen, which he is going to try to do. So I might finally get some more storage space in the kitchen, as recommended by a number of people who've seen my kitchen.

June is the perfect month to do construction work in California. It's not rainy (usually), and it's generally overcast and relatively cool.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

More updates

Some more of my favorite websites are being updated again.
Apt. 11D

Path to Freedom Urban Diary

Theory of the Daily

Maybe I should follow suit.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Genetic testing of beef

I've just started re-reading Wendell Berry's The Unsettling of America. This Health (!) column in yesterday's WSJ punctuates Berry's dis-ease with industrial agriculture: "Better-Tasting Beef Through Genetic Testing?" by Antonio Regalado and Scott Kilman (paid subscription required).

MetaMorphix and Cargill announced that they are now able to identify the genetic markers for "desirable beef traits." The WSJ article underscores the industrial flavor of raising beef.
Over the next year or so, Cargill says it will experiment with whether it can tailor the diets of cattle to their genetic predisposition when they arrive at one of its feedlots -- where they are fattened on grain for several months.

Cattle lacking the genes for tasty meat, for example, might be denied expensive diets since they aren't as likely to be valuable. "If there is an animal that's never going to reach restaurant grade, you could just feed it to the max and get it through the system," Metamorphix's Dr. Denise says.

Cattle expected to yield the highest quality beef are typically fattened more gradually and given fewer growth-promoting drugs.
Hmmmm. So people who eat meat and who cannot afford the better grades of meat get meat produced with more drugs??

The article goes on to emphasize the need for predictability and consistency in industrial farming.
Genetic screening also could help bring order to one of the most chaotic parts of the food chain. So far, the cattle industry has resisted the factory farming techniques that have swept through the chicken and hog sectors. Companies such as Tyson Foods Inc. and Smithfield Foods Inc. have brought down the cost of raising chickens and hogs by rearing them indoors and controlling every aspect of their lives.

As a result, the quality of retail packages of pork and chicken has grown more consistent. Beef cattle, however, are slow to reproduce and are still raised on open land. More than 800,000 farmers raise all sorts of cattle breeds and crossbreeds, leaving beef packers to cope with a wide variety in the quality of the cattle they buy.

Genetic screens could help Cargill sort through animals that end up in its feedlots without making massive investments in infrastructure. "We have a tool to vertically integrate based on information," said Mark Klein, a Cargill spokesman.
Diversity is so inconvenient and inefficient!

Sunday, June 06, 2004


A favourite website is being updated again, Pioneer Melissa's. On Friday, June 4 she posted pictures of a cool quilt she just finished, "Log Cabin on Acid."

I am intrigued by quilts and but right now will continue to admire them from afar rather than make them myself because 1) I don't have the SPACE, and 2) I am overwhelmed by all the choices and decisions that go into quilt making.

I have picked up a couple (only two!) books on quilting from used books stores. The Mountain Artisans Quilting Book, © 1973, documents a quilting cooperative program in West Virginia. Besides quilts for beds or wall hangings, the book has pictures of very 1970s-esque quilted skirts! Piece by Piece: The Complete Book of Quilt Making by Dianne Finnegan is about quilting in Australia.

My great-grandmother made quilts, some of which my mother has. I currently use a "church quilt" my mother passed along to me. When my parents were missionaries, they were the beneficiaries of small church women's groups' generosity. These women's groups made quilts from used and scrap pieces of fabric. The quilts certainly are not "art" quilts but have their own charm.

The quilt on my bed is made of three-inch squares of random fabric and is backed with a flannel print. Each square is tied with yellow acrylic yarn. I've only recently started noticing the actual fabric in each square. I suppose some of fabric would be labeled "vintage" these days. (Perhaps my mother will leave a comment giving the exact provenance of my quilt.)

Church groups still donate large numbers of quilts. For example, in 2003 Lutheran World Relief's quilt project sent 406,560 quilts to various countries around the world.

Friday, June 04, 2004


The plumber has moved over to my side of the duplex after working on the other side for a number of weeks now. Originally it was to put in copper piping. But of course, once you start ripping out walls and looking under floor boards, you find all sorts of stuff, like lead pipes. Does anyone know of the possible side effects of drinking water for four and a half years that's come through lead pipes? I formerly used a Brita filter but haven't for well over a year now.

I don't know how long it's going to take fix up my side. The wall next to the shower and floor and joist underneath the tub is pretty much disintegrated. I'm trying to persuade the plumber not to swap out the wonderful old bathroom sink, even if it does have rust stains from the overflow outlet. I think it would be worth it to reglaze it.

The kitchen sink and wall faucet are going to be swapped out, too. I've also put in my request to add plumbing for a small washing machine in the kitchen. We'll see. Why don't I just come out and directly ask for a raise in rent?

To get to the kitchen sink, the plumber has to cut in through the bedroom wall. So last night I was cleaning up the bedroom. Between the bedroom and living room, I have at least 14 feet of unshelved books; approx. 43 feet of shelved books; 4 feet of magazines and binders (plus the basket full of magazines and catalogues); 2 1/2 feet of cookbooks; 1 foot of unshelved library books; and around a dozen boxes of books in the garage. I need an office lined in bookshelves!

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

More reading

I've been on a reading tear recently. First, I bought a copy of Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth at a garage sale, a 35¢ Cardinal Edition from Pocket Books printed in 1961. What a wonderful book about land, farming, marriage, family, and money.

Then I read through, rather quickly, The Holy Way: Practices for a Simple Life by Paula Huston. The book is a modern woman's take on the Catholic, often monastic, tradition of simplicity and spirituality. Besides telling her own story, Huston also depicts the lives of well-known Christian figures throughout history. The book is very readable and makes some challenging points.

Just today I picked up The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation by Barbara R. Rossing, a Lutheran seminary professor. The book is a strong critique of the Left Behind series and similar interpretations of the biblical books of Revelation and Daniel.

Rossing begins chapter one,
The Rapture is a racket. Whether prescribing a violent script for Israel or survivalism in the United States, this theology distorts God's vision for the world. In place of healing, the Rapture proclaims escape. In place of Jesus' blessing of peacemaking, the Rapture voyeuristically glorifies violence and war. [...] This theology is not biblical. (pp. 1-2)
I'm very interested in reading Rossing's book because I was raised with the 1970s' version of Rapture theology (e.g., Hal Lindsay's The Late Great Planet Earth and the movie A Thief in the Night) in the broader context of dispensationalist theology (my parents used the Scofield reference Bible and I attended a Plymouth Brethren boarding school). However, in seminary I reformulated what I had been taught growing up and now am much more aligned with Rossing's understanding.

A few pages further into the chapter, Rossing continues:
Christ will return, on that the Rapture proponents and I agree. I pray for it each time I pray "Thy kingdom come" in the Lord's Prayer—a prayer that is never once prayed in the twelve Left Behind novels. Jesus taught an urgency about his kingdom in this prayer that is still very much alive for Christians today.

But we completely disagree on what that urgency means for the world and for our life today. We differ, first of all, on our views of God—whether our God is a God whose will is to destroy the world. Second, we differ on whether Christians are to embrace an escapist ethics, as Rapture proponents argue, or are to urgently love and care for the world in anticipation of Christ's return, as I advocate. These differences in ethics will be crucial for our future. (p. 4)
[Edit: A 60 Minutes II interview with Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, co-authors of the Left Behind novels, and Barbara Rossing, among others (scroll down).]

Finally, to pick up a recent theme, the cover story of the June National Geographic magazine is "The End of Cheap Oil":
Think gas is expensive now? Just wait. You've heard it before, but this time it's for real. We're at the beginning of the end of cheap oil.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Mileage check

Union 76 Gas Station

5/15/04 9.813 gallons @ $2.299 per gallon. Total $22.56 at 124,417 miles.
5/22/04 10.628 gallons @ $2.359 per gallon. Total $25.07 at 124,687 miles.

270 miles driven in one week, combination of freeway and city driving. 25.4 miles per gallon in my 1992 Pontiac Sunbird.

5/31/04 9.527 gallons @ $2.359 per gallon. Total $22.47 at 124,899 miles.

212 miles driven in one week 9 days, mainly city driving. 22.25 miles per gallon.

6/07/04 10.304 gallons @ $2.359 per gallon. Total $24.31 at 125,123 miles.

224 miles driven in one week, mainly city driving. 21.74 miles per gallon.

6/14/04 8.790 gallons @ $2.259 per gallon. Total $19.86 at 125,316 miles.

193 miles driven in one week, mainly city driving. 21.96 miles per gallon.

6/22/04 9.788 gallons @ $2.219 per gallon. Total $21.72 at 125,547 miles.

231 miles driven in 8 days, mainly city driving. 23.6 miles per gallon.

[Edit 6/4/04: I will keep updating this post just for fun and education.]

Friday, May 21, 2004

On Knitting

The CS Monitor has a short article on knitting: "A ball of yarn, two needles, and a latte."
This city's first knitting cafe [Knit New York], where old and new intersect, manages to capture perfectly the mood of the current knitting craze. It has long been associated with grandmothers and stodgy, functional designs, but now younger, savvier women are being swept up by the possibilities of knit cellphone cozies and cashmere ponchos. Across the country, knitting cafes are providing them places to buy instructional books and beverages - and creating communities where a difficult stitch can be explained or a complex pattern unraveled.
Well, you don't have to go to New York for knitting and eating delights; a back yard in Pasadena will do just as well. (See the May 14 entry at Path to Freedom.)

Hmmmm, maybe I should reconsider my musings from a while back?

Monday, May 17, 2004

Online library

Via a series of links beginning with ever so humble, I ended up at we bought the farm, where there is a link to Soil and Health Library, "a free public library offering full-text books about holistic agriculture, holistic health, self-sufficient homestead living, and personal development."

Some of the books available are discussed in Shi's The Simple Life. For example, my public library did not carry any of Ralph Borsodi's books, which are now out of print and in the public domain. Steve Solomon has made them available on his Soil and Health site.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

The simple life

I've been enjoying reading David Shi's The Simple Life: Plain Living and High Thinking in American Culture, a history of the idea of simple living since the time of the Puritans in America. I'm into the chapter on "Progressive Simplicity," from about 1900 to 1920, which covers the Arts and Crafts movement; Frank Lloyd Wright; Edward Bok, the twenty-six year old editor of the Ladies' Home Journal; John Muir; and others. Each chapter begins with a general description of the time period covered and how the ideal of the simple life was defined and lived out (or not). Then Shi highlights individuals who lived out (or attempted to live out) that ideal.

The theme of the simple life ties together a number of strands of American history, including domesticity, economic policy and legislation, the establishment of political and civic institutions, and religious and intellectual life. It's fascinating to trace how compelling the vision of the simple life has been in American culture and yet how often it has remained an ideal rather than a lived reality. Shi's history is helping me understand some of the reasons I'm so attracted to that way of life, as well as my ambivalence.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Data contamination

From the CS Monitor: "E-serenity, now! Reeling from e-mail, cable TV, and cellphones, info-environmentalists try to reclaim mental green space," by Dean Paton.
"It feels to me that as a result of the high speed at which we're operating ... we're kind of numbing ourselves," says Dr. Levy. "I don't think too many of us run around in these activities with our hearts wide open to the world. We're just trying to get by."
Taking stock

Last night over at Path to Freedom, I watched a documentary about the peaking of the amount of oil still easily extractible worldwide and the implications for the industrialized way of life in the future as supplies decline: The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream. It was very thought provoking.

The re-airing of the issues of housing/suburbia and the automobile sent me back to a course I took over nine (!) years ago, Ethics of Everyday Life. (The course I took was taught by Robert Banks; Simon Holt was one of the teaching assistants.) The four issues we looked at were: housing/suburbia/home ownership; the automobile and transportation; time and busyness; and shopping and consumerism.

Besides watching documentaries and reading articles, we were required to collect articles from newspapers and other sources published during the time the course was offered; write up two "field" experiences; and write a longer paper on one of the issues.

One of the questions on a little quiz we took was, "Suggest four procedures/practices/habits which could be used to make us more aware of everyday ethical issues." My answer:
  1. Continue reading the newspaper
  2. Consider the impact of my actions on the environment; ask, "What if the whole world had the opportunity to live as I do?"
  3. Routinely take stock of how I'm living my life—what are the effects, what needs to be changed?
  4. Pursue the questions raised in class, read more of the books suggested with others.
The newspaper continues to supply ample material to ponder. Today's WSJ had interactive graphs (paid subscription required) showing the effect of increasing demand for oil by China and India:
Experts warn that without alternative fuel sources, the need for oil could pit massive consumers such as the U.S. against China and India. Gal Luft, executive director of the Institute for Analysis of Global Security, an energy-policy think tank, warns, "While the U.S. is absorbed in fighting the war on terror, the seeds of what could be the next world war are quietly germinating. ... By 2030, China is expected to have more cars than the U.S. and import as much oil as the U.S. does today." Although India's economy isn't growing as fast, its oil consumption is skyrocketing.
On peaking and price:
Paul Roberts, author of the book "The End of Oil, On the Edge of a Perilous New World," said in an interview that between 2012 and 2015, there will be signs of a peak in "easy oil" -- supplies that can be produced at prices roughly equivalent with today's. After that, he says, "you'll have to be willing to spend $35 to $40 a barrel for oil. As soon as oil outside of OPEC goes beyond $45 a barrel, OPEC will also raise its prices. With China helping us eat through easy oil much faster than anticipated, we'll reach that depletion point much more quickly."
On pollution, again a quote from Mr. Roberts:
"The Chinese are saying 'We can't afford high technology to make cleaner use of energy.' They're saying, 'The developed world had its shot at rapid industrialization with little regard to the environment, we want our chance too.'"
Another warning:
Dr. Luft of the Institute for Analysis of Global Security warns: "The oil market is too small to hold three massive consumers. The best way would be for China to circumvent complete dependency on oil. ... Without substantial American technological support, China is likely to follow the path of least resistance and become a full-fledged oil economy."
And from tomorrow's Journal: "Saudis Ask OPEC To Increase Quota: Economic Growth Is Fueling Soaring Demand For Oil That May Outstrip Supply. The article doesn't address long-term supplies of oil as much as why the short-term supply issues:
The big reason why growth in oil-supply capacity isn't keeping pace with consumption: uneasy money. Shocked by a price collapse in the late 1990s, the industry is widely seen to have underinvested in the capacity to pump, refine and distribute oil.

Friday, May 07, 2004

All the news

I'm in the middle of reading a fascinating article on the cover of the May 2004 issue of The Atlantic, "My Times," by Howell Raines. It's about Howell Raines's experience at the NY Times and the Jayson Blair scandal.

The first part of the article is Raines's analysis and critique of the NY Times. He writes how the Times lost its edge as a "must read" for its national readership and what he thought it needed to regain that edge.
To become a "must read" we had to think about who our readers were. We knew we were producing a paper for intelligent people, but we needed to be more intelligent about who those people were and what they wanted and needed to know. [. . .] I posited a New York Times audience with a Renaissance-like breadth of interests. [. . .] We knew that curiosity is the essence of journalism, but we weren't giving our readers credit for the range of their curiosity. (p. 63)
He also describes the Times's competitors and their coverage of culture and society, including the WSJ.
A managerial reformation would have to take place in the Times newsroom if our paper was to meet the information needs and expectations of the country's smartest, most affluent readers. Already The Wall Street Journal's new Weekend Journal section—a compendium of culture, lifestyle, health, and travel stories designed to appeal especially to professional women—was threatening our hold on that vital readership group. (p. 54)
I read the NY Times very haphazardly, occasionally reading articles online. The owner of a company I worked for shortly after college, which was headquartered in New York, got me a subscription to The New York Times Book Review because, he said, he wanted to "encourage young people to read." Well, I was pretty careful to read most of the review each week in case he wanted to discuss one of the books.

Later, I subscribed to the Times while living in Seattle. I lived in an upstairs apartment but the delivery person insisted on throwing the paper, very early in the morning, at the downstairs glass-paned front door. I credit the Sunday New York Times for distracting me from regular church going for a while. Curling up with a mug of strong coffee and the Sunday Magazine on a rainy Seattle morning. . . .

Now I read the online WSJ more regularly than anything. I'm not as diligent or systematic as I'd like to be. I scan the headlines and skim through work-related stuff at work, but I don't enjoy reading the online version via modem at home. Perhaps if I took more time to write about some of the articles here, I would feel I was taking better advantage of my access to the WSJ.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Natural air conditioning

My friends at Path to Freedom sent me this photo from our hike on Saturday. Standing in front of this mine shaft felt like standing in front of a refrigerator with the door open on a hot summer's day. The air rushing out from the shaft was at least 30 degrees cooler than the outside temperature.

Monday, May 03, 2004


It's the start of a scorching hot month—temperatures over 100 degrees the past couple of days. Fire season has been declared open, three to four weeks early.

On Saturday I escaped the heat with some friends by—yes—going hiking in the middle of the day (check out the second half of their May 3 entry for photos). Walking in the shade along a meager stream and climbing across boulders from an old landslide that had blocked the path was truly refreshing.

I've let the events of life pile up around me recently, so it was good to escape to the woods and hug a few boulders. I keep thinking that life will tidy itself up just any day now. But instead there is a steady progression of things to do, decisions to make, and experiences to live through. The following partial list is because I need to make a list:
  • Finish the RFP tomorrow that has consumed my time (and overtime) for more than a week.
  • With the RFP finished, I'll have one day to work on my project for a training class on Thursday.
  • Contemplate going back to work full-time; it's difficult to work on the type of projects that I've been given while on a part-time basis.


  • The semester is almost over. Arrange appointment with advisor to discuss decision about finishing my program.
  • Contemplate and make decision about finishing my program.

    Boarding School Reunion

  • Finalize pricing for those not taking the entire package or who are bringing families and answer e-mails.
  • Call the conference planning office.
  • Continue working on events schedule.
  • This will be finished by the end of July. With the reunion planning and administering off my mind, maybe this persistent sense of anxiousness and inability to relax fully will go away.


  • Ongoing challenges, but a sense of watching and being involved in something painfully real and worthwhile.


  • Need to keep the encroaching chaos pushed back. Washing dishes is always a good place to start.
  • Depending on the decision I make about grad. school, I would like to rearrange some rooms, so that the living/dining room is no longer a living/dining/studying room. Put the desk in the back of the house and the piano in the front.
  • Consider a possible (local) relocation. Pros: Larger house and yard; near friends. Cons: More rent; freeway noise; neighborhood not as nice/safe?; different stores and restaurants; the stress of moving.
  • Consider buying a house later this year, but not here. A much longer list to be developed elsewhere. Meanwhile, interest rates have gone up one percent. . . .

    Fun stuff

  • Start knitting again.
  • Write letters to faraway friends.
  • Have guests over (but, first, see Household above).
  • Get back to writing here and visiting the websites in my Favorites folder.
Above all, be grateful for and enjoy LIFE!

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Weblog sabbatical

I'm taking a break from posting online for a while. Please check back in a week or two. Best, JBB.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Housing prices

From today's LA Times: "Home Prices in L.A. Soar at Record Rate," by Roger Vincent and Don Lee.
Home values in Los Angeles County posted the biggest year-over-year increase in at least 15 years in March as frenetic buying activity pushed the median sale price up 29%, to a record $375,000, according to data released Monday.

Confounding predictions by the experts, sales were surprisingly strong, jumping 12% from a year ago to 10,875 new and resold houses and condos. Analysts and brokers said the heavy demand was driven by anxious consumers, many of whom are paying more than the asking price to get in the housing market before interest rates rise and supplies thin further.

The inventory of houses available for sale has been at historical lows, and the latest flurry of purchases suggests that the market will only heat up as the busy home-buying season nears.
For comparison, the article notes the median price in Michigan is $133,500. A few houses down the street from me, a 1,108 sq. ft. 2 bedroom, 1 bath bungalow is going for $550,000.

Of course, articles like this make me doubt my choices over the past years to 1) go to school and 2) not purchase a house because I was going to school and only working part-time, especially because finishing school is not so assured right now. Thankfully, my rent has been holding steady.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Malaria and DDT, reconsidered

"What the World Needs Now is DDT," by Tina Rosenberg in Sunday's NY Times Magazine.
The paradox is that sprayed in tiny quantities inside houses -- the only way anyone proposes to use it today -- DDT is most likely not harmful to people or the environment. Certainly, the possible harm from DDT is vastly outweighed by its ability to save children's lives.
Now I wished I'd quoted, or summarized, more from the LA Times' article on the same subject, to which I linked last year, so I could compare the viewpoints.

Via dangerousmeta!, who finds his opinion shifting and who is open to controlled, careful use of DDT.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Reverse chronology

Sunday evening. Nothing worthwhile to watch on television. Many other things that could be done, but it's a Sunday evening after all.

Sunday afternoon. Drove out to the beach again. The return trip, especially, was eerily traffic-light. On one of the most notorious stretches of Southland freeway. I kept imagining it was tomorrow, when it will be stop and go. I kept expecting traffic to slow down around each corner. It never did. It was hot inland (85 degrees) but very windy, although sunny, at the beach. Watched kite boarding for a while (a cross amongst surfing, wind surfing, flying a kite, skateboarding, and water-skiing) and then caught a nap wedged in a crevice mostly out of the wind using my backpack for a pillow. Cap low over my eyes, conscious only of the waves pounding and thoughts of writing about being conscious of waves pounding. . . .

Sunday morning. Got up early to slice six different kinds of cheese for the Easter breakfast at church. As I anticipated, the Norwegian Gjetost (goat's) cheese, was a hit. The service was lovely and included a piece by the bell choir.

Saturday afternoon. Spent the afternoon in the church office redoing the bulletin for Sunday's service.

Saturday morning. Got up early to prepare a breakfast for the women's Bible study. Went to the study.

Friday mid-day. Went to an ecumenical service. Our bell choir played; Pr Peg preached.

Thursday. Most of the day in a training class—in Pasadena! Oh! that I still worked here and didn't have to commute. I'm starting a course in my company's equivalent of Six Sigma. Maybe it will help me learn how to plan out things better. (Flow-charting is a main component of what we're required to do.) I have one week to finish a huge lot of work before next Thursday's class—and I won't be able to go to work tomorrow.

Wednesday. Started sketching out the requirements and figuring out the fields for a database for a project at work.

Tuesday. The usual.

Monday afternoon. To the beach. 134 W to 101 N to 23 S; PCH to Topanga to 101 S to 134 E.

Monday morning. Dropped off my parents at the airport and then went to work: 210 134 W to I-5 N; I-5 S to 10 E to 710 S to 60 E.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Sand and sea and starfish

Time and mental space have been a bit rare for posting here, but fortunately I have friends who are more disciplined about writing and have a digital camera, so check out the April 7 Path to Freedom diary entry for pictures of the wonderful Monday afternoon I spent at the SoCal seashore with friends.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Our significant world

From the Easter message of Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
We are gifted with a world rich with significance.
Via Pr. Peg Schultz-Akerson.

Monday, March 29, 2004

New Agrarian websites

I'm enjoying reading through the entries at two sites I found via Path to Freedom's diary page: The New Agrarian by David Walbert and his blog, The Halfway Homestead. He and his wife raise ducks, grow mushrooms and other produce on their one and a half acres, and cook from scratch. Walbert's philosophy of agrarian life in the twenty-first century is well thought out and practical. I also appreciated his ruminations on "The Halfway Homestead."
The halfway homestead is our answer to the question What can we do right here, right now? It's about putting down roots where we are, rather than holding back until we're where we think we'd like to be. It's about taking the scenic route, enjoying the ride, and holding open the possibility that we might find a better destination than the one we had in mind.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Notes on Hopkins

Inscape is "often used of the characteristic shape of a thing or species. . . . More importantly on other occasions it is used of the crucial features that form or communicate the inner character, essence, or 'personality' of something."¹ Inscape is "the result of mental analysis and perception."¹ Inscape is "the distinctive design [pattern] that constitutes individual identity. . . . not static but dynamic."²

Instress is "the identifying impression a thing can communicate to a careful and perceptive observer."¹ It is "often, though not always, associated with feeling."¹ "'The stress within', the force which binds something or a person into a unit."¹ Instress is "the apprehension of an object in an intense thrust of energy toward it that enables one to realize its specific distinctiveness."²

"[Poetry] is instress, and it realizes the inscape of its subject in its own distinctive design. . . . In order to create inscape, Hopkins seeks to give each poem a unique design that captures the initial inspiration when he is 'caught' by his subject. Many of the characteristics of Hopkins's style. . . can be understood as ways of representing the stress and action of the brain in moments of inspiration."²

¹From the Introduction by Catherine Phillips to Gerard Manley Hopkins: The Major Works (Oxford World Classics), p. xx.

²From the introduction to the selection of Gerard Manley Hopkins' poems in The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Major Authors, 5th ed., p. 2185.

But the definition that captures what's been tumbling in my brain is from the program notes to "Out of Inscape" for Basso and Orchestra by Robert Morris (gotta love Google!):
"Inscape" was Gerard Manley Hopkins's term for a special connection between the world of natural events and processes and one's internal landscape--a frame of mind conveyed in his radical and singular poetry.
"There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;" Hopkins.

"It's quiet down deep." Pai, hero of Whale Rider, as she dives down underwater searching for her grandfather's whale tooth. "He just wanted to go down and down." Pai's grandmother's explanation of Koro's refusal to talk after none of the boys retrieved the tooth.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Happy chickens

This picture is to be accompanied by a longer entry at some point. But I finally got the picture scanned and wanted to post it right away. Time: Late 1960s during the dry season. Place: NW Zambia. Who: JBB.