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!