Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What, will these hands ne'er be clean?

According to a recent study, guilt really does make you want physical cleansing, and, barring that, some sort of good deed to make up for it. Budziszewski and Shakespeare nailed it again.

Scientific American: Washing Hands Reduces Moral Taint

Grateful again for forgiveness.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Quote of the day

Today's quote of the day requires a bit of context. Tonight was Awana's "Dress Like a Bible Character" Night, and also my night to lead council time. I talked on Martin Luther because I thought we needed to distinguish him from MLK, Jr. I did it in the first person, from his wife Katherine von Bora's perspective, dressed as Katherine. I know she wasn't a Bible character; I fudged a bit. But I certainly wouldn't have been brave enough to waltz around church in a nun outfit if everyone else weren't dressed up too! I thought it went quite well and got several compliments. But the proof of the pudding...

Quote: "Was Martin Luther King's wife in the Bible?"

Runner up quote of the day: "I'm the guy the good Samaritan beat up."

A study in contrasts

"We're ready for you!"
"I got back just in time."
"Yeah, you didn't even get a chance to look at your magazine."
"Well, it was about cooking, and I don't cook. But I'd rather do that than this, to be honest."

"This was the most fun I've had all day!"

As another contrast, I've enjoyed the patients both days. The one quoted from yesterday came in an hour and ten minutes early, looked crestfallen when I told her that, then disappeared to Hallmark. As she left, I very nearly convinced her to take away the fleece jacket that's been hanging in the waiting room since January.

"Well, it's a nice jacket. Oh! It's a medium! Just my size!"

"Try it on!"

She tried it on and modeled it for me and the teenager also waiting. It fit perfectly.

"Well, I've been wanting one to go with these pants..."

"I'm sure nobody would mind you taking it."

"Well, I'd feel funny since it isn't mine... Maybe someone will come in one day and need a jacket." And she resolutely put it back on the hook and fluttered out, agreeing that if it were still there at her six-months appointment, maybe she'd take it then.

Today, I started tallying what the patients do with themselves while waiting.
Sudoku: 1
read a magazine: 4
nothing: 1
read a book: 1

In other news, I'm losing the day's rubber band war.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Further firewood adventures

Today Mom and I went out to split some firewood. Lilly the cat felt the need to come out with us.

“Let's try to split this one.” We each take a swing at a giant log, and miss entirely. The next time it goes in way off to one side and sticks. We yank it out and try again. This time it lands pretty much in the middle. We keep going until we've got a crack all across the top. Then we start banging the hatchet in with a hammer. Lilly complains at the noise. The log kind of cracks. We go to pull it out. It won't pull out.

I lean my foot against it and Mom wiggles the handle. The entire log falls over. She lifts up the handle, log and all, and bangs it on the nearby concrete two or three times. It doesn't crack, depressingly. I stand on the log and wave the handle up and down, and the log rocks gently up and down too. Lilly paces up and down the fence. I end up riding the log-and-axe kind of like a stick horse. Mom goes in and gets the camera, and just about the time she gets it turned on, out creaks the axe.

So we wedge it a bit further down the crack and hammer some more. It gets stuck again. I stand on the log and Mom wiggles that handle. It eventually comes out. We flip the log over and try to crack the other end.

Mom: “I think it won't split because of this.” She gestures at a sticky-out branch disrupting the wood fibers.
Me: “Oh, sure we can split it!”
We chop and hammer.
Mom: “This must be physics. Or geometry.”
Me: “I think it's math plus muscle, and we're out on both those!”

About this time we decide we need a boy. With all due respect to Gabi and Megan, our girl power just wasn't getting the firewood split. Unfortunately, there were no boys handy, nor men either.

So we went through the gate, past the lilacs and Tex's grave, and got some long but thin branches off the woodpile. We balanced them across two of the unsplittable logs and bunged away. They chopped into fireplace-lengths very obediently. Mom found a mid-size log and split it most admirably while I dragged a few more. One of them turned out to be a former 2x4, nicely weathered, and it looked like it needed to have "To the Beach" painted on it and hung in the entryway, so I put that chunk somewhere we wouldn't accidentally burn it.

We decided the woodpile was entirely big enough, and came in and built a fire. Then we collapsed in our respective chairs.

Lilly said, “My, wasn't that enjoyable?”

Time, or something

"The gods confound the man who first found out
How to distinguish hours! Confound him, too,
Who in this place set up a sun-dial,
To cut and hack my days so wretchedly
Into small portions."

That quote was at the top of my Sunday School handout this morning. My teacher soon declaimed thus:

"Hang on, I'm formulating a quote. 'For the sake of tomorrow's hope, do not forsake the moment.'" Mr. R 10-22-06

And thereupon he passed along to another group.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Practical rhetoric

This morning as I was doing my thing, I heard a nine-year-old boy in the waiting room, playing with his rubber lizard and engaged in a bit of rhetorical analysis.

"I think I should start my own insurance company so this can be my mascot," he told his mother. He recited the entire Geico gecko commercial about trusting the gecko for lower car insurance rates rather than some guy you know. He thought about it. "But it doesn't make sense to believe a gecko if you know and trust the guy."

There's nothing like an ethical appeal, even among lizards and their boys.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


I love having world enough and time for a twenty-minute walk each way to buy a latte at the new coffeeshop in town. It has wireless... ::delight::

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

"Peace out, Lizard."

Micaela of the red pigtails exited the church, aiming that line at me, complete with the peace hand sign and the chin thing that usually comes with. The "Lizard" really was vocative.

Life is good. :-)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Quote of the day

"The more they talk about unity, the more complicated it gets."

Monday, October 09, 2006

Fire and shopping

It's a Sunday evening, and a juniper-wood fire crackles away softly in the fireplace. Two tongues of flame rise from the cinders, and red-glowing sticks—wood no longer, only ashes that have not yet collapsed--lie crazily in relief against the blackened bricks.

I'm drinking a cup of coffee. The beans were from “Trader Giotto's,” as the ricotta packages say. Coffee reminds me of HRC, soon going to Italy, and of the spaghetti lunch fundraiser I'm decorating for in a mere two weeks.

We went to Santa Fe this afternoon for lunch, printer ink, and fabric to decorate with. I found a vaguely Italianate red-and-yellow calico on the clearance rack, but it turned out to be misfiled and not on sale at all, so I settled for eighteen yards of cappuccino-colored muslin. I'm going to drape it above the serving hatch and as curtains over the windows. Mom has a giant piece of heavy blue, red, and mustard upholstery cloth, which ought not be cut, that I think I'll hang over the end wall. That room is so vast and bare and cinder-block-ey. The big fabric can be an arras. Polonius, beware.

The fire is being ornery tonight. For some reason, the logs and sticks refuse to land where I want them, but hang off the grate or perch at acute and slippery angles instead of the nice, neat latitude-and-longitude layers that hold still and burn in place until crumbling to ashes.

The sticks really do glow. There's no other word to describe it. For a moment there, half a dozen of them were sticking up and glowing solidly, making patterns in the dark fireplace like Ent-fingers or tree branches against the sky. It was a little eerie, the sort of thing that would have been appropriate under the witches' cauldron in IV.1.

Or perhaps I've just walked down too many aisles of Halloween decorations. They're highly in evidence. In fact, at the Mexican restaurant where I had lunch yesterday, the Grim Reaper (rather taller and more inflatable than I had ever imagined him) stood guard over the cash register, his ragged sleeve creating a canopy for the girl at the cash register to peer through.

Probably most people who get into the whole Halloween thing don't mean anything particularly spiritual or devilish by it. But I have my doubts about it. It can't be good for a culture to be saturated, even for a season, with all that is most ugly and fearful.

The fire has died down. There are hardly any flames at all, just a dull red under-glow.

It can't improve the soul to make your living manufacturing giant rats, plastic tombstones, glow-in-the-dark jack o'lantern stickers, and suchlike. The Reformers and Dorothy Sayers talked a lot about the value of work, but “the only Christian work is good work well done.” It may be work, and presumably people make money doing it, but—is it worth doing? Is anyone truly better off because they can buy a bloody amputated limb? There are probably legitimate times and reasons to buy such things—like dramas—but I wonder. Can you really be motivated to do your work well if your work is creating ugliness for its own sake?

And the worst of it is, these Halloween aisles have a strange attraction and make the Christmas aisles next door look tame. For some reason, I want to walk by the fake ghouls and gremlins. What on earth for? I guess if I, who love the One who takes out the real ghouls, am attracted, I don't have to wonder why others are too.

I suspect we'd be rather less enthusiastic about putting an imitation disintegrating human corpse on our front doorstep if we had to walk by real dead humans, like the crucified slaves along the highway after Spartacus' rebellion; we'd like it even less if we'd known and loved those humans. But at the same time we decorate for Halloween, our prisoners are executed cleanly (or not executed, as the case may be, no matter what their offense) and our cemeteries are tucked away in back corners, where we do not walk through them on our way to church every week. We have such short memories. But the image of God is still in people, though twisted and uglified by the fall, and I do not willingly celebrate the corruption of the body.

Once I think about it, of course, the Incarnation is much more radical than mere human death. It was through Easter that Halloween was done away, and through Christmas that Easter was made possible. “On that beautiful, scandalous night...” Humans ought to die. God made us upright, but we have sought out many devices. Yet He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf, and the sting of death, which is sin, has been removed. Blessed be His name! As I was talking about today with Lisa, when sin is dealt with, the devil can't really hurt us any more.

The wood at odd jaggedy angles has burned away, and I put a central piece of the juniper trunk on the fire, straight across. It still has branches sticking out all round that caught brightly. I added a few more sticks parallel to and right across it. It's burning well.

For our God is a consuming fire.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


It suddenly struck me that since they've redone the solar system, the old "My very energetic mother just served us nine pizzas" won't work as an acronym to remember the planets anymore. Horrors! So I invented one inspired by Con Law. (Blame Jupiter; that's where the key J came from.)

Many vacillating experts may cause justiciability since undefinable nuances promote constitutional excesses.

(My apologies to Dr. Farris. Someone reply with a better acronym, please!)

Discord in the solar system

Our dwarf planet, the one formerly known as 2003 UB313, has been given a name--Eris, the goddess of discord. As it was her size that convinced astronomers to define planets and dwarf planets, the namers thought it rather appropriate. And her moon got named Dysnomia, after Eris's daughter, who was the goddess of lawlessness.

Eris is way out beyond Pluto, in the Kuiper Belt, which is an excellent place to put discord. If they find she has another moon, I think they ought to call it Paris. All in all, I think the name rather appropriate too--and I'm thrilled they didn't really call it Xena.

On missing appointments


Especially don't when you particularly tell me the day before that you'll be there.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Lorac

A poem for October.

The Lorac went chog-clogging down Parsley Street,
Hopping and skipping with big chocolate feet.
His striped furry footfalls made a marigold dance
In the window-box garden of two ancient aunts.

Under the rainspout that drained the church roof
He landed and splashed, then slipped on with a whoof
That astounded two bullfrogs from their own youthful peeps
Into full-throated croaks, each croak ending in leaps.

The Lorac then loped up emergency stairs,
Fifteen rickety flights that careened through the air,
To borrow a broom and the janitor's bucket,
To sweep an old doorstop where someone had mucked it.

The Parsley Street Park was deserted that day
Except for those uncles with checkers to play.
They grumpily told the loud Lorac to leave,
So he did, and came back, bringing peppermint tea.

He brought it and turned like his cookies were burning,
And bounced down a path for some mud-puddle churning.
Neither uncles nor aunts ever saw him again.
Nor have I; maybe someday we'll learn where he's been.

Quote of the day

"When the cat's away, the mice will play--oldies."

--Patient regarding the office music in the good doctor's absence

Funeral music

I think I'm disturbed. O you who were in Poetry last year, what do we make of this cultural phenomenon?

LONDON (Reuters) - James Blunt's "Goodbye My Lover" is the song most requested at British funerals and remembrance services, closely followed by Robbie Williams's "Angels," according to a survey released on Monday.

Research for the Bereavement Register found just over a half (51 percent) of people ask for a specific song be played at their funeral and 79 percent have talked with family and friends about possible song choices. The survey of 5,000 people also uncovered some unusual final choices for the final goodbye with rock songs like "I'll Sleep When I am Dead" by Bon Jovi, competing with classical tracks and soul.

"The top 20 really shows how far we have come in terms of saying goodbye. Gone are the dirges of yore, instead we are seeing contemporary music that is
easier to relate to," said Mark Roy, founder of the Bereavement Register, which
removes the names and addresses of people who have died from databases to reduce junk mail.

The top 10 requested songs were:
1 - "Goodbye My Lover" - James Blunt
2 - "Angels" - Robbie Williams
3 - "I've Had The Time Of My Life" - Jennifer Warnes and Bill Medley.
4 - "Wind Beneath My Wings" - Bette Midler
5 - "Pie Jesu" - Requiem
6 - "Candle In The Wind" - Elton John
7 - "With Or Without You" - U2
8 - "Tears In Heaven" - Eric Clapton
9 - "Every Breath You Take - The Police
10 -"Unchained Melody" - Righteous Brothers.


...they're blaming the Amish school shooting on "a society awash with guns."

Can I blame it on a society awash with messed-up people, please?