Thursday, January 31, 2008

Farsi of the day

Today's Farsi of the day is "fiil," meaning

This reminds me of the story where three blind sages met an elephant for the first time. The first felt its side, and said an elephant was like a wall. The second felt its trunk, and said an elephant was like a snake. I forget what the third sage felt, but it had no resemblance to walls or snakes, and the people back home didn't believe a word of it. The blind sages' testimony didn't agree, you see.

The moral of this story that you need to keep an eye on feelings and elephants. This philosophical illustration has been brought to you by me. :-)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Farsi of the day

And the Farsi for "fish" is "mahi."
That's as in, "mahi-mahi," which apparently in Farsi translates to "fish-fish."

Nothing like a spot of time travel

Quote of the day

"Aren't you glad you aren't a fish?" Amelia

"I bet fish are very happy to be fish, because it's their telos to be fish." Me

"Yes, but we did a calculation and fish had less than a .5% chance of survival." Amelia

"Was that all fish or just the fish in your study?" Me

"Maybe it was just the fish in the study. But my math teacher put more than a thousand fish in their pond, and they all died." Amelia

"All dead!" Me

"Yes, because there were snapping turtles, and they ate them all. Aren't you glad you aren't a fish?" Amelia

"If I were a snapping turtle, I'd like fish too." Me

"Yes, but aren't you glad you aren't a fish? Because then your snapping-turtle-self would eat your fish-self, and then where would you be? You'd have eaten one part of you. Sounds Cosmic-Humanist-ey, if you were reincarnated but not all of you was reincarnated into the same thing."

"Sounds Voldemort-ey to me." Me

"I really like the phrase 'and then where would you be,' don't you?" Amelia

Don't you wish you were here? Amelia: "I like being here!"

Monday, January 28, 2008

Fortune cookie fortune of the day

"Time to collect those goods."

My table immediately applied this to wedding showers. :-) Personally, I liked Amelia's fortune:

"Romance could divert your attention away from money matters today."

My response was, what day couldn't romance outrank money?? I ask you!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

You learn something new every day

So this beautiful Eilean Donan castle is actually in Scotland. And all this time I thought it was Irish; it was named "Eilean," after all!

Who knew?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Beware the Ides of March

I know it's still seven weeks out, but you can never start being ware too early. ("I am being good! I am being haive!") In any case, I have a more particular reason for this monition. I just bought my tickets to fly out to Virginia--on the Ides of March, as it happened. :-) It's a Saturday. And I'll be there, and thereabouts, and in Joisey, until the Monday after Easter.

See you all soon!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Quote of the day

"If it wasn't this, it'd be something else."


Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I've been reading through Tolkien's letters (my copy arrived yesterday!), and the list of things he despised surprises me. I knew he didn't care for machines and "progress," but I had been blissfully ignorant of his contempt for the works of Walt Disney (he'd object more heartily now, if he only knew), airplanes ("engines of Morgoth"), and Sayers' character Harriet Vane!

I should like to have Professor Tolkien to visit my hometown sometime. I should take him on a drive, and come down the mesa just at blue dusk, when the mountain across the way fades into the sky beyond and only the snowcap reminds you of the separation between earth and heaven. I would show him the long single line of rush-hour traffic winding in and around the clefts of the mountain, jewel-like, all going home to their house-lights snuggled in the valley. We could drive along the gray asphalt skimming between hill and cliff-face, seeing the Caja and knowing the River is just out of sight a thousand feet below, through a land all dusky from the red sun and cooled by rising moonglow. I would let him see silver planes coming in to land like the evening star, sun glinting down to us below. And then, when it got darker still, perhaps I should take him up the truck route, where only our own headlights lit up the road, going through a timeless endless movement of trees and stripes on the road, in which we could almost be sitting still and the scenery instead is moving around us. Even machines have their beauty, and make other beauties clearer, especially in this new town in an old land.

Tolkien's hates are nearly always stemmed straight from his loves, and the things he loves are good. I love them too.

Unfit for its purpose

I've noted a philosophical oddity, and thought I'd bounce it off you my faithful blog-readers. Sometimes, being made for a specific purpose makes an item unfit for that purpose.

I'm thinking initially of "party favors" packaged as such on the party row of Wal-Mart. But I also see it with cheaper editions of fashions (like necklaces and hairbands), Christmas ornaments, scrapbooking kits, and more recently, wedding supplies.

It's not that those things are inherently unusable. My sister and I bought a package of cheap ornaments for table centerpieces, and while they'd have been tacky for a tree they were just right on tables. They're merely unusable for their intended purpose.

Of course, I'm thinking about this because I'm in the throes of planning a wedding. Creativity isn't so much coming up with new things (for there is nothing new under the sun, vanitas vanitatis) as it's coming up with new arrangements of old things. I love old things, though I don't mean to look like something escaped from a Renaissance Faire. There's a fuzzy continuum between boring, creative, and freakish.

But it just seems odd that purposing unfits a thing for that purpose. Is this a function of mass-production and unimaginative trend-copying? What to do, what to do?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Quote of the day

"Why is this puzzle upside-down? And they made Noah look like Sean Connery." Mom

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Quote of the day

"I've known good Dwarfs," said Mrs. Beaver.

"So've I, now you come to speak of it," said her husband, "but precious few, and they were the ones least like men. But in general, take my advice, when you meet anything that's going to be human and isn't yet, or used to be human once and isn't now, or ought to be human and isn't, you keep your eyes on it and feel for your hatchet."

C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, chapter eight

(I observe they left that exchange out of the movie.)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Farsi of the day

And, of course, it would most unkind of me to leave you hanging after telling you what a maternal uncle is, without following up with a paternal uncle.

A connoisseur of last looks

I know, it's early to start mourning New Mexico. I've kept my equanimity pretty well, I think. I've got so many people here: church, school, patients, twenty years' worth. It was something of a shock when they started scheduling people's cleaning for a date after I leave, but even then I didn't lose it. I haven't been telling every patient that I'm leaving, either, because that would just make the next six months one massive goodbye. We have so many sweet patients.

But today I was talking to a patient, a courteous British gentleman. We've talked quite a bit about one thing and another, and he always has something fascinating to say on any subject. We discovered some mutual friends and chatted for a while.

At the end, he asked my wedding date, and wrote it carefully on the top of his printout. "I'll drop by before then," he said. That's when I teared up.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Farsi of the day

After quite the hiatus, Farsi of the day is back!
So. This word is "da'i," meaning "Maternal uncle." My da'i is Mike.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The uses of the humanities

Stanley Fish wrote these two articles on whether the humanities are useful. His answer is no. Art is an end in itself; the only good that can genuinely be expected from great literature is a wow, admiration of a word well written. It has no relationship to life.

Seriously depressing. I recommend Fujimura on Van Gogh's letters as an antidote.

I can't resist the opportunity to share a couple of my own thoughts, though. Fish is a smart, educated, forceful critic who sees a lot and expresses himself clearly. If he and I were to debate--well, anything--he'd win.

But I think Dr. Hake is right. The humanities without Christ are worthless. But oh--if you have the Lord Jesus--then art is worth its keep.

EDIT: Dr. Veith also had up a post on Fish's articles. He goes at it slightly differently, but it's also good.

Fortune cookie fortune of the day

You are in the vicinity of a good time. Get the shy to join in.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Espresso maker

I got a new espresso maker for Christmas, but as I had first a cold and then company for the next couple weeks, I didn't break it out of the packaging until last Friday. That was fun--opening it felt like Christmas all over again.

I was very good and read all the instructions before I used it. It's one of those fancy ones where you put water in the boiler and it uses part of it for the espresso, and then you turn a knob and it turns the rest of it into steam for foaming your milk. Yummy!

So I made espresso, switched the knob, foamed my milk, and had steam left. So I figured I'd just make more espresso. I turned back the knob, turned away...

...and it exploded. Coffee grounds went everywhere. Milk, froth, and steam went everywhere. The grounds-basket, I believe, had actually come unscrewed, and spewed its contents.


I made coffee Saturday, and even foamed my milk, but left the espresso strictly alone.

But then Sunday afternoon rolled around, and I felt the need to conquer. It's just too humiliating to fear your own espresso maker. So I attempted the mystery, but waited too long and wound up with too much espresso and hardly any foam at all. Sigh. I tried a third time, and then it worked. No explosion, and enough and to spare of the steam. Yay!

Wedding building!

Today the wedding plans took a great step forward: I reserved a building. :-)
I've been to at least three weddings here, plus various church and Young Life and Hope Pregnancy Center events, and also years'-worth of weekly babysitting, so it feels a homey sort of place. I'm happy.
Amelia, though, maintains that I should hold the wedding in our new church building--whether it's finished by June 28 or not. I overruled her.
Photo from the White Rock Baptist Church website:

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Alginator and the nature and naming of microwaves

We got a new office toy.

It's an Alginator: a mixer for alginate, which, as I have learned, is "goop for impressions." When the dentist gives you a mouthful of goop to find out what your teeth look like, the odds are, it's alginate.

Alginate starts life as a powdery substance, which gets mixed with water until it reaches a suitable state of goopiness. This new toy holds a little bowl and spins it round, and if you put a spatula in... well, it's a lot like turning a Kitchen-Aid on high. It gets pink goop everywhere!

We decided that The Alginator is a sufficient title. It doesn't need a name. It's like The Terminator.

In other news, it occurred to me to wonder why microwaves measure their power output in watts rather than calories. A calorie is defined by the amount of energy it takes to heat up a certain amount of water, yes? And microwaves do this all the time, yes? The good doctor says there is in fact a conversion factor, which leaves the question why microwave manufacturers prefer watts.

We decided it was a ploy. People would never buy their products if they realized they were adding calories to their food. ;-)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Reading, by Esolen

Somebody today asked me what I plan to do: meaning, whether I mean to be a receptionist my whole life. He had just finished telling me his adventures in Africa, in Asia, in Europe, in the Peace Corps. We were together looking at a reprint of a 1665 atlas, which Becca brought in today. It's a fascinating book.

I answered that I was getting married, which he accepted. And I dare say that will be an adventure--the working-up-to-it sure is! But this post spoke to my soul. I'm not very good at careers: I prefer old maps and the things a sensible child says to a critic.


While Jonathan was here, we went to see "I Am Legend" with the debater people. I actually didn't like the movie very much; zombie-vampire flicks aren't really my thing; and furthermore, in discussion, we decided that the movie's premise looked inconsistent. If zombies are essentially brain-dead, how come one Voldemort/Mummy-lookalike was able to mastermind a plot to do in the main character and then mobilized all the rest of the zombies to carry out said plot? Tim was able to explain the short story it had been taken from, which included the zombies evolving, and then the movie made more sense, but the movie alone had not convinced us.

Much more congenial was the metaphysical discussion that came after the movie, all about whether zombies have souls, and if so, what happens to them when their bodies are zombified. Since the body and soul are closely connected, it seems improbable that the body can do such nasty things and not harm its soul. But if getting infected with the virus isn't something the victims have a choice about, then it can't be a sin; and nothing but our own sin can take us from God. So our options are either a most un-Thomistic split between body and soul, or some horrible judgment-worthy sin. Neither is terribly encouraging.

So I was amused to find this discussion of the non-existence of vampires as a necessary prerequisite to human life. The author considered it a negative form of the anthropic principle: instead of factors that must exist for human life, it's a factor that must not exist. And the anthropic principle states that our universe is so precisely set up for human life, it must have an intelligent Designer.

So that's two ways vampires led me to think consider God this week. Life is good. :-)

Hat tip: Wittingshire.

Word of the day

Today (while playing, a never-ending word quiz) I came across the adjective "macaronic." The quiz claimed it meant "a hodgepodge of two or more languages," which seemed really peculiar to me. So I looked into the matter.

Rumor (i.e. two or three websites) says the word is taken from an Italian book titled Maccharonae, which was full of half-Latin, half-Italian poetry. As near as I can tell, the book really was named after the noodle.

And there you have it.

Song of the day

"Sixteen Tons"
Tennessee Ernie Ford

Disclaimer: this song has nothing whatever to do with my office. It rated "song of the day" because I was humming it yesterday, and then as I drove up the radio played it. Life is good. :-)

Some people say a man is made outta mud
A poor man's made outta muscle and blood
Muscle and blood and skin and bones
A mind that's a-weak and a back that's strong.

You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store.

I was born one mornin' when the sun didn't shine
I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine
I loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal
And the straw boss said "Well, a-bless my soul."

You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store.

I was born one mornin', it was drizzlin' rain
Fightin' and trouble are my middle name
I was raised in the canebrake by an ol' mama lion
Cain't no-a high-toned woman make me walk the line.

You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store.

If you see me comin', better step aside
A lotta men didn't, a lotta men died
One fist of iron, the other of steel
If the right one don't get you then the left one will.

You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Quote of the day

"Do you want to put your file underneath the dead people or on top of the dead people?" Rebecca