Thursday, March 31, 2005

Spring breezes

It’s way too nice to be inside an air-conditioned building today with the blinds on the windows closed, no less, because of the “glare.” It feels like one of those days in school when we’d beg the teacher to let us have class outside.

Oh well. Four rows of knitting while sitting under a tree on the lone patch of grass on the edge of the parking lot will have to do until this evening when I can drive home with the windows rolled down.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005


One of the commemorations this year around the ending of WWII sixty years ago is of the death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was my age, thirty-nine, when he was executed for plotting against Hitler. The church remembers him on April 9th. There is a quite profound article about Bonhoeffer by Lisa Dahill in The Lutheran magazine for April. It examines the difference between decision-making and discernment, captured in a line of scripture quoted in a sermon Bonhoeffer gave: "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you." (2 Chronicles 20:12)

The author writes that discernment is, first,
the humble recognition of our humanity, our radical humilty before God, our constant need to be shown the way—and our constant temptation to think we know better than God. [...]

The primal human temptation isn't eating the forbidden fruit itself, but the attempt to claim a sure knowing of the good. [...]
There are more riches in the article. Along with many books by and about Bonhoeffer, a fairly recent documentary is available, e.g., through Netflix.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Rubio Canyon

After full weekend of church activities, I was ready for a hike. So this afternoon I visited Rubio Canyon again.

There is less water than last time but evidence of a few more slides, as you can see in the lower right of this picture:

Looking down the canyon out to LA (barely visible through the haze in this picture):

A poppy along the path:

Much of the hike is making one's way up the stream bed. You can see evidence of the water company's battered pipes.

Arrival at the falls, much diminished since January:

And, for Jack, an experiment with the self-portrait mode on the camera.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Quotes on leisure on this Good Friday

I've been meandering through the book Leisure, The Basis of Culture, by Josef Pieper. I haven't been in the frame of mind to grapple seriously with philosophical German-translated-into-English writing, but I've been struck by Pieper's reflections. Here is one aspect of Pieper's definition of leisure:
Leisure is a form of that stillness that is the necessary preparation for accepting reality; only the person who is still can hear, and whoever is not still, cannot hear. Such stillness as this is not mere soundlessness or a dead muteness; it means, rather, that the soul's power, as real, of responding to the real — a co-respondence, eternally established in nature — has not yet descended into words. Leisure is the disposition of receptive understanding, of contemplative beholding, and immersion — in the real.

In leisure, there is, furthermore, something of the serenity of "not-being-able-to-grasp," of the recognition of the mysterious character of the world, and the confidence of blind faith, which can let things go as they will; there is in it something of the "trust in the fragmentary, that forms the very life and essence of history."
(p. 31. The quote in the last sentence is from the journals of the poet Konrad Weiss.)

There are other sides to Pieper's definition, all very rich.

(Thanks to John Bell of A Hillside Farm for pointing me to Eighth Day Books, where I found Leisure.)

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Blackberry Ridge Stole

[Edit 11/27/05: To view photos, click here.]

[Removed photo 11/27/05]

I've just finished three of nine pattern repeats for a stole using the Evening in Eden Stole pattern by Lynda Gemmell of Cabin Fever. I'm using black fingering weight wool from Blackberry Ridge Woolen Mill on No. 8 (5.0 mm) needles.

[Removed photo 11/27/05]

The wool is maybe a bit prosaic for an "evening" stole—something with some glitter might have been better—but the wool will be warm.

[Removed photo 11/27/05]

Current, unblocked dimensions are 24 inches wide and 23 inches high one-third of the way finished and without the fringe.

P.S. I think this would be a nice pattern in cotton for lace curtains.

[Technical lesson of the day: If the image file extension is capitalized when the file is uploaded, as in .JPG, then you must also capitalize the file extension in the html command or else the image won't be displayed on the web page.]

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Misty So Cal

My neighbor and I went for a short, clandestine walk in the mist early this evening in Eaton Canyon. We could have been in the Lake District in NW England.

There is more water than the picture shows—we couldn't see any way of crossing the stream without getting our shoes wet. And there are many places where there have been slides of various sizes on the canyon walls. Technically, people are not supposed to be hiking too far into the canyon. There were a few people out but not many.

We discovered this fascinating plant under one of the trees. My digital camera picture taking skills are still developing, and in the twilight and light rain, my focus was off. Now I need to go back and find the plant again.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Darfur, Sudan

David Brancaccio of NOW interviewed Samantha Power tonight about the situation in Darfur. (I'll link to the transcript of the interview when it's posted online in about one week. Update 3/23/05: Transcript now available here. Scroll down.) Power spoke about the current situation of people in "refugee" camps. When the women go out to gather wood to cook the humanitarian aid food (which is otherwise inedible) they are being attacked and raped by the roving Janjaweed militia.

Power also stated that since former Secretary of State Colin Powell declared that was was happening in Darfur was genocide, the debate has focused on whether it truly is genocide rather than the most effective response, or people have acted as though they've done their part by labelling the conflict "genocide."

Power also explored why what's happening in Darfur has not elicited the same kind of response as the tsunami has. Once reason is that people cannot imagine themselves undergoing what's happening in Darfur, whereas they can understand natural disasters or being on the beach.

There is currently a Senate bill introduced March 2, 2005, that has been referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, S. 495, the Darfur Accountability Act of 2005 "To impose sanctions against perpetrators of crimes against humanity in Darfur, Sudan, and for other purposes". One thing U.S. citizens can do is urge their Senators to support this resolution. As of 3/19/05, there are 19 cosponsors of the bill in the Senate. There was also just introduced a concurrent resolution S.CON.RES 17 regarding a no-fly zone over Darfur. The text hasn't been published yet.

My friend gave me permission to post the full text of the op-ed piece she co-authored and from which I posted excerpts earlier.
‘Hotel Rwanda’ Tackles Moral Issue That Implicates Us All
By the Rev. Tiffney Marley and Tammy Williams

Nearly a year ago “The Passion of the Christ” opened to national audiences. The film, which premiered on Ash Wednesday, has been viewed by many as “the most influential Christian-themed movie ever to come out of Hollywood.” Many Christian viewers who reflected upon Christ’s suffering on behalf of others were transformed by the experience.

This Lenten season, we hope that the critically acclaimed film, “Hotel Rwanda,” nominated for three Academy Awards, will attract a large audience. Some viewers who saw “The Passion of the Christ” might choose to bypass “Hotel Rwanda” because it lacks explicit Christian themes. This would be regrettable, for the film has much to teach us about suffering, redemption and transformation.

“Hotel Rwanda” recounts, through the story of Paul Rusesabagina, the events that culminate in the 1994 genocide of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus by extremists within the Hutu-dominated ruling party. As the manager of a luxury hotel, Rusesabagina saves the lives of more than 1,200 people by housing them in the hotel and paying off the military not to harm them.

Many viewers are likely to tag the picture as a “political” film about “the atrocities of war,” or as a “biopic” about “an African Oskar Schindler” whose courage surpasses their own. Yet to convey the film in these narrow terms evades what is most important about the film’s depiction of recent history -- namely, that genocide is a moral issue that implicates us all. Preventing and ending it is our task as moral agents, a task that cannot be outsourced to diplomats or saints.

To place genocide in the moral realm acknowledges that it results from the intents, decisions and choices of people. While a variety of choices culminated in the 1994 genocide, the Clinton administration, when confronted by the facts, chose not to stop the bloodletting. Indeed, according to author Samantha Power, the Clinton administration resisted the use of the term “genocide,” for fear that its use would obligate it to take action.

“Hotel Rwanda” also can inform our actions in the present. In fact, Rwanda has much to teach us with regard to the current massacre in the Darfur region of Sudan, where an estimated 70,000 Darfurians have died and another 1.8 million have been internally displaced by government-sponsored militia. Rusesabagina himself recently spoke of the need to apply the lessons learned from Rwanda’s past to violent conflicts in the present: “This movie is a message to the world. Watch out. Wake up. What was happening in Rwanda is now happening elsewhere. Since you didn’t do anything in Rwanda, what can you do now?”

This last question is what confronts us with respect to genocide. A critical first step is educating ourselves on the issue. We hope that clergy will encourage their congregations to see the film and facilitate discussion afterwards. Wrestling with matters of life and death in community can help us discern how to confront the crisis in Darfur.

Second, preventing and ending genocide involves confronting our policymakers. Power notes that the late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon surmised that if each senator and congressperson had received 100 letters from their constituents urging an American response when the Rwandan crisis first surfaced, U.S. policy would have been different. In light of this history, contacting elected officials is vital.

Third, confronting genocide abroad is often more successful when we challenge violence at home. When we can recognize the myriad forms that violence assumes in our society, then we are less likely to write-off political massacres abroad as something that “those people do to each other.”

As active Christians in the church community, we especially urge churches to prioritize genocide as a “pro-life” issue. It is ironic that some congregations in our own Black Church tradition who observe Black History Month have neglected to address black-history-in-the-making in contemporary Africa. Just as many black churches discerned that the anti-apartheid campaign of 1980s and 1990s was a moral issue, so, too, should these churches be in the vanguard to voice their outrage regarding the senseless loss of African lives.

For all who seek to cultivate a “culture of life,” ending genocide must be included among the list of “moral values” that many Americans profess to uphold. To this end, “Hotel Rwanda,” which obligates us to confront unjust suffering, may be our best hope for redemption and moral transformation.

The Rev. Tiffney Marley is director of Black Church Studies at Duke Divinity School. Tammy Williams is a lecturing fellow in Theology and Black Church Studies at Duke Divinity.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Fragments and notes

Wow. Look at the weather back East. It was in the 70s here in So Cal today. (By the way, Jack, Laura is my model for learning to take self-portraits with a digital camera.)


A really classy sweater, knit by Bonne Marie.


Pleasant Valley by Louis Bromfield. Excerpt. The farm is now a state park. A documentary has been filmed. Bromfield is one of the authors on The New Agrarian's Reading List, although I didn't realize that when I came across Pleasant Valley in the library.

I was aware...of what it was that attracted me to Europe and most of all to France; it was the sense of continuity and the permanence of small but eternal things, of the incredible resistance and resiliancy of the small people.[...]

It occured to me that the high standard of living in America was an illusion, based upon credit and the installment plan, which threw a man and his family into the street and on public relief the moment his factory closed and he lost his job. It seemed to me that real continuity, real love of one's country, real permanence had to do not with mechanical inventions and high wages but with the earth and man's love of the soil upon which he lived. (p. 7. Illustration of Bosquet, 237-42.)


Found tucked away in Border's religion section: The Care of the Earth, by Joseph Sittler. A collection of sermons. One quote from "The View from Mount Nebo" about the experience of viewing the promised land from a distance, like Moses, but never actually arriving there. Sittler describes those whose experience of the Christian life is not necessarily "warm and fuzzy" or full of "blessed assurance":
The people of Mt. Nebo are the obedient children of both participation and detachment. They know and they do not know fully. They participate because they come from the tradition and tuition of the faith, and have been so deeply formed by it that they cannot escape its terms, its claims, its ethics. And they do not want to.[...] They want to be open to the renewing power of the Holy, but at the same time, while they participate, they do not fully enter.[...]

For many of us tormented by this precise perspective, this means that we must sometimes envision with the mind what the heart cannot yet confirm, must see and affirm with clear intellectual sight what we have not been given the grace to celebrate in actual life.[...]

Hunger, unabated, is a kind of testimony to the reality of the good. To want to have may become a strange kind of having. (pp. 45-46 and 48)


Finally, (for now), an interview with Eugene Peterson.
[Interviewer] Many people assume that spirituality is about becoming emotionally intimate with God.
[Peterson] That's a naïve view of spirituality. What we're talking about is the Christian life. It's following Jesus. Spirituality is no different from what we've been doing for two thousand years just by going to church and receiving the sacraments, being baptized, learning to pray, and reading Scriptures rightly. It's just ordinary stuff.

This promise of intimacy is both right and wrong. There is an intimacy with God, but it's like any other intimacy; it's part of the fabric of your life. In marriage you don't feel intimate most of the time. Nor with a friend. Intimacy isn't primarily a mystical emotion. It's a way of life, a life of openness, honesty, a certain transparency.

[Interviewer] Doesn't the mystical tradition suggest otherwise?
[Peterson] One of my favorite stories is of Teresa of Avila. She's sitting in the kitchen with a roasted chicken. And she's got it with both hands, and she's gnawing on it, just devouring this chicken. One of the nuns comes in shocked that she's doing this, behaving this way. She said, "When I eat chicken, I eat chicken; when I pray, I pray."

If you read the saints, they're pretty ordinary people. There are moments of rapture and ecstasy, but once every 10 years. And even then it's a surprise to them. They didn't do anything. We've got to disabuse people of these illusions of what the Christian life is. It's a wonderful life, but it's not wonderful in the way a lot of people want it to be.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Move away from the computer

I just had to figure it out. The issue with my new camera was that I hadn't actually been taking pictures; hence nothing to download. Pressing the shutter halfway focuses the shot, and then you press the shutter the rest of the way and take the picture. Next, I played around a bit with the photo software.

This image is reduced to 33% of an image first reduced to 50% of the original, 338x253 and 88,098 bytes.

This image is reduced to 33% of the original, 676x507 and 174,487 bytes.

[12/09/2006: Deleted picture to obtain more disk space.]

OK. This is going to be fun. Next task: download the oversized images on my site, resize them, and upload again.

[Update 11:07 PM: Still haven't moved away....Did some quick trimming of image sizes. Last night I was at 9.6 MB out of 10; now I'm down to 4.72 out of 10.]
Shopping spree(s)

So that was a productive morning for my credit card. First, last night after attempting to upload a nearly 1 MB picture of the scarf below, I got a message that my web space here was too full to accept any more pictures. So I deleted a bunch of uploaded pictures that I'd never linked to and managed to squeeze in two of the three pictures I wanted to show. I know those file sizes are ridiculously large, and although there probably is some software resident on my computer I could use to make them smaller, I decided it was time finally to get a digital camera so I could post more, but much smaller and faster loading, photos here.

I had a vague idea of what I wanted—nothing too fancy or expensive because, based on the past twenty years I've owned my Ricoh KR-10 Super and not having purchased anything more than a flash, I know I'm not an avid photographer. I wanted good enough quality pictures, especially for macro shots of knitting.

So I went to Reed's Cameras this morning, received excellent help in picking out a camera set up, and walked out with a new camera and photo printer. I got a Pentax Optio MX, 3.2 megapixels and 10X optical zoom, and a Hi-Touch Photo Printer 631PS. I don't think I'll do much printing of my own pictures, but it will be nice for printing pictures I receive via e-mail.

I was not looking forward to deciding which camera to buy. It was definitely the right choice to go to a downtown camera shop that's been in business for years and get professional, mostly uninterrupted service. The large electronics stores would have been overwhelming. The prices were comparable to what I've seen online and, instead of paying shipping, Pasadena got the sales tax.

Then I drove over to Burbank to visit a knitting store I'd not yet been to, Unwind. They happened to have a sale on some of their winter wools, so I picked up 12 balls of Tahki New Tweed in a loden green. I also bought a couple skeins of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sport in # 132 Jay Pond (light blue and tan).

I also signed up to take a class on combination knitting with Annie Modesitt. Aside from being taught to knit at boarding school, I've never taken a knitting class as an adult. I've heard good things about Annie and, although I've done continental knitting by following a book, I've never really knitted extensively with it.

Well, I'd hoped this would be an illustrated post and took some pictures on my new camera to do so. However, after taking a few shots and nothing was there, I read the manual, which stated next to the Caution! symbol, "Always charge the battery after purchasing." So the battery is charging now.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Lacy scarf

[Edit 04/10/06: To view photos, click here.]

My mum's belated birthday gift arrived in the mail today [edit: that is, my gift to her—her gifts to me are never belated!], so here are some pictures.

[Removed photo 4/10/06]

Pattern: Vine Lace Scarf
Pattern from: "A Trio of Lacy Scarves" pamphlet by Catherine Vardy, Fireweed Originals. Purchased for $0.25 at a sadly now-closed thrift shop that had a wonderful section of linens and handicraft items.
Wool used: Cherry Tree Hill Suri Alpaca (I think; I've temporarily misplaced the label) in the Northern Lights colorway.
Where purchased: Skein in Pasadena, CA, with the counsel of Larry.
Needles: Crystal Palace bamboo double-pointed U.S. 7 (4.5 mm)
Started: September 2004
Completed: February 2005
For whom: My mother's birthday gift
What I learned: How to knit with lace-weight wool on large needles. With only 58 stitches cast on, the 8" bamboo double-points were a definite advantage over the 14" needles.
Blocking method: Washed the scarf in cool (or maybe warm) water with a touch of Woolite. I should have added vinegar to stabilize the colors, which did run a bit. After rinsing, I rolled the scarf in towels to absorb the excess water, and then pinned out the scarf taut on a towel laid over the carpet.

[Updated 3/5/05]

[Removed photos 4/10/06]

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Mid-day update

I took a sick day from work today, although I don't have anymore sick time accumulated, so it will be a day without pay. I'm feeling out of sorts but not so much sick in the sense of having a fever. I'm tired and worried about loose ends, and because things are in a momentary lull at work after a number of weeks of intensity, I thought it would be more productive to stay home. After all, work is affected if I'm distracted by a sense of things undone. Enough of rationalizations.

So I did a big load of laundry at the laundromat first thing and hung it out to dry. Although I now have my own washing machine, occasionally it's more efficient to do one big load in the enormous laundromat machines. And once I'm all caught up, I can do smaller loads at home more often. It has clouded over now, however, but I'm hoping the 30% chance of rain will hold off. Nothing like the East coast around here, though. It's in the mid-60s today and has been fairly sunny the past few days.

Then I dropped off my car at the mechanic's. For some reason he was closed last Saturday, and my car has been leaking transmission fluid rather worrisomely. Just one of those niggling things I needed to deal with. Nothing major. Just tightening of bolts was needed.

Next, I prepared three small packages for mailing. One was a very belated birthday gift for my mother, a picture of which I will post here once she receives the package. I just needed to weave in two loose ends; it had been finished, washed, and blocked for weeks now....Then I got an address for another small package I've been wanting to send to my former pastor. Finally, I wrote a card and prepared a third package, which has been waiting to be mailed since last September or so. Then, a short walk to the post office and three more items off my mind.

Now, a quick lunch of leftovers from the church dinner last Wednesday as I write here.

Part of the motivation for today comes from Pioneer Melissa's Six Week Tweak challenge (see her March 1, 2005 post). It continues the frame of mind I've been in recently and will bring me almost to my fortieth birthday, which is fraught with all sorts of potential for serious life examination.