Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bahar injas

That's the Farsi for "spring is here."

That's not to say it couldn't have the occasional relapse into zemestan, as we are on a mountain and all, but for most intents and purposes we're in a springy sort of season.

The snow has melted in all but the deepest and shadowiest crevices. Daylight comes through my bathroom window again by 6:30 in the morning, and it's still light after six at night. We've gotten up to or past fifty degrees most of this week, and everybody's still wearing their winter coats around out of habit.

My office plants--Bertie Woozle the schefflera, and my palm tree (nameless here forever more)--are leaning hopefully toward the window, through which cloud-filtered sunbeams no longer quite make it. We only get sun inside during the wintriest months, when it stays so low it can reach under the eaves. The palm tree and I both need to go sit in the sun for a while. We're getting pale.

But the worst of it is, with spring comes spring fever. Who wants to stay inside on a day like this? We've got Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald playing on the radio, which only makes things worse. They had a live jazz pianist at that little seafood place in Alexandria, the day Ben and Lisa and Jonathan and I went.

I think Princess Amy expressed it well, after Perry dropped her off at her parents' castle. She thought summer would never come. But in the meantime, she had an endless array of dress fittings and thank-you notes to write!

Lavendar's blue,
Rosemary's green,
When you are king,
I shall be queen...

Quote of the day

"We're pressing ahead toward total domination of his dentition." --the good doctor

If ye will not brush, ye will be drilled.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Word of the day

Today's word of the day is "bee." I'm rather excited because we've translated it into three languages. I knew the Farsi because Angelina taught it to me ages ago; Rebecca knew the Spanish; and a passing-by Russian patient was kind enough to oblige with her language. :-) (Gratia, can you give us Italian, too?)

Spanish: abeja

Russian: ptcholka

Farsi: zambor


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

On the recent rash of atheist books

I just read Dr. David Aikman's Faith & Reason lecture. It's been around a couple weeks, but it's good. If you haven't heard/read it yet, I definitely recommend it.

Practicality strikes again

I almost caught an adult playing today. I really thought I had. She was dressed for an office job, but I met her by a bridge in a woodsy bit of sidewalk across from the pool. She was walking along, arms out, putting one foot in front of the other like on a balance beam.

She looked up, saw me, and stepped onto the sidewalk. "Watch out!" she said. "It's really icy."

Practicality strikes again. Sigh.

I met her again on my way back to work. "So you didn't fall?" she asked, kindly enough. "Oh, no," I answered. "And you?" "Oh, I'm good too," she said.

A minute later I met an elderly man walking. "Watch out," he said. "There's a terrible lot of ice down there." I thanked him for the warning.

I'm sure grownups must play. They just don't do it in public. Much.

Song of the day

Frogs at School

Twenty froggies went to school, down beside a rushy pool,
Twenty little coats of green, twenty vests all white and clean.
"We must be on time", said they; "First we study, then we play;
That is how we keep the rule, when we froggies go to school."

Master Bullfrog, grave and stern, called the classes in their turn,
Taught them how to nobly strive; likewise how to leap and dive;
From his seat upon a log, showed them how to say "Kerchog!"
Also how to dodge a blow from the sticks which bad boys throw.

Twenty froggies grew up fast, big frogs they became at last;
Not one dunce among the lot; not one lesson they forgot;
Polished to a high degree, as each froggy ought to be,
Now they sit on other logs, teaching other little frogs.

On formal pronouns

Becca-here-at-work is taking Spanish. She's also got some Latin background, so we've been able to have some good grammatical discussions. Today we got into formal and informal pronouns. Her question: did Latin have formal and informal for the second person?

I didn't recall that it did, particularly. But Romanian (Latin's close relative) uses the second person plural as the second person singular formal, so I wondered if maybe Latin did and I just wasn't remembering it. Because that's what Spanish does, as well: "Como estas tu" becomes 'como esta usted.'

That led naturally into the archaic English formal and informal. "You," back around the Restoration, was rather the more formal construction, but if you were familiar with the person, you'd use "thee" and "thou." And even now English sort of retains a first person formal with the royal we. (As Megan K. said, the only people who can get away with the royal we are kings, editors, and people with tapeworms.) So in the first person, when you want to be formal you make it plural. But you assuredly don't do that in the second person. "O y'all, please hearken unto mine humble plea." No.

It occurred to me that when you want to be very respectful--at least in older English novels--you address them using the third person, with their title. "How is my lady this morning?" "Would Your Highness consider such-and-such?"

Isn't that interesting?

Monday, February 25, 2008

The sixth of Esfand

I'd never particularly thought of the sixth of Esfand, one way or another; it's a date in the Persian calendar. It's today, in fact.

But it sounds like what today is, which is exceedingly Monday-ish. It's the sort of day where your rubber band fizzles instead of firing, and you set a piece of paper on a countertop only for it to drift lazily to the chair seat, and thence to the floor.

Also, the phone has been ringing off the hook.

But then it would on the sixth of Esfand.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Three laments, kind of

First, from "Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog": a lament for Ulrich von Liechtenstein, also known as Sir William Thatcher, also known as Heath Ledger. It'll probably be funnier if you liked "A Knight's Tale." A tip of the hat to Unlocked Wordhoard.

Second, from Wittingshire: the woe of the eel and the seal. (Parenthetically, who says the lament is an obsolete art form??)

Third, from my mother, an email forward. Yes: to such depths I have descended, as to put forwards on my blog. But it fit so well with this post, I couldn't resist. :-)

A Minneapolis couple decided to go to Florida to thaw out during a particularly icy winter. They planned to stay at the same hotel where they spent their honeymoon 20 years before. Because of their hectic schedules, it was difficult to coordinate their travel schedules. So, the husband left Minneapolis and flew to Florida on Friday, and his wife was flying down the following day. The husband checked into the hotel, and unlike years ago, there was a computer in his room, and he decided to send an email to his wife. However, he accidentally left out one letter in her email address, and without noticing his error, sent the email to the wrong address.

Meanwhile... somewhere in Houston, a widow had just returned home from her husband's funeral. He was a Minister who was called home to glory after suffering a heart attack. The widow decided to check her email, expecting messages from relatives and friends. After reading the message, she screamed and then fainted.

The widow's son rushed into the room, found his mother on the floor, and then glanced up and saw the computer screen which read:

To: My Loving Wife
Date: Friday, October 13, 2004
Subject: I have Arrived!

Dearest Love: I know you are surprised to hear from me. They have computers here now, and you are allowed to send emails to your loved ones. I have just arrived and have been checked in. I see that everything has been prepared for your arrival tomorrow, and look forward to seeing you then. Hope your journey is as uneventful as mine was.

PS ....... Sure is hot down here!!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A postmodern defense of Romance

Here's a grad student's musings on Hawthorne and Romance (in the fairy-ish sense, not the love sense). It's somewhat misty, to me--probably because it was written by a grad student, who has been writing too many misty papers--but he wants to bring Romance back as a viable and acceptable genre, as opposed to its current despised status.

But he seems to like Hawthorne and Romance in a postmodern way. Look at this.
The 'truth' of Hawthorne's Romances is dissimulation, and their effect is not a reassurance of recognition, or one's direct and holy spiritual continuity with the world, but the spectral rupture, the experience of unreality. The[y] begin their affective work in the way of all manner of thing which can bear a terrible
effectivity being neither living nor dead. This is to say, that at moments,
Hawthorne's more ghostly moments evoke/conjure the figure of the Derridean
ghost, or that ability to produce effects without having being. The airiness in Hawthorne is not a Platonic or symbolist kind of 'more real' reality in pneumatic things, but rather a gray pale fading away of Being.
He likes Hawthorne's romances because they illustrate the erosion of being itself. In saying, "Romance considers the possibility of affecting the reader's experience of reality rather than representing it," he is being profoundly postmodern: representation fails when reality fades, and power ("affecting the reader's experience") is all you are left with.

Personally, I want to bring back Romance as a genre because of its power to express a "more real" Reality; but Reality falls apart unless you have the Lord Jesus, the Logos, at the center. In Him all things hold together, and in Him we have our being. And, if we have Reality, we can then gain back reality as well, and representation with it.

Skulls and Valentines

I couldn't resist linking these boots.

Farsi of the day

Today's Farsi is in honor of Olivia the pig, because I love Olivia.

I love her immortal phrase, "Where is my TOY???"

So, of course, when I came across a similar construction in my handy little Farsi grammar, I had to extrapolate.

Translated, Olivia would be yelling, "Asbabbazyam KOJAST?" More literally, that would be, "Toy-my where-IS?"

Doesn't it warm the cockles of your heart? :-)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Quote of the day

"Dorothy! I haven't seen you in so long--forty years!" Patient in the waiting room

This is why I love my town. :-)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Word of wisdom of the day

You should always wash your coffeepot.

The reason for this, you ask? Very simple, actually. You don't want your coffee to boil, because then it'll get bitter.

And a washed pot never boils.

Speaking of, happy St. Valentine's Day

I was trying to figure out which St. Valentine the day was for, and Dr. Veith kindly posted about it.

I like his idea of making a fuss about marriage on this day, as well as martyrdom. I don't really like the little skull-and-ribbon motif he recommends, but I bet it'd be very popular. (Anybody shopped in a junior's section lately? Lots of those. Usually in pink and sparkles, too. But I think those skulls are related to pirates somehow, rather than martyrs...)

I also like his picture. It adds a certain...something.

Anyway. Blessed be the God of love, who triumphs over death. :-)

Thwarting telemarkers

I love my office. We're so cheerfully, curmudgeon-ly, deeply non-modern.

I particularly savor my relationship with telemarketers. My response is nearly always, "We don't care; we are perfectly happy without whatever you're peddling; go away and leave us alone." (I'm much more tactful, of course.) They certainly don't get to talk to the good doctor. If they are very persistent, I let them mail us things, which we immediately throw away. "New and improved" does register occasionally--if there's reliable data behind the claim!

The phone company has been particularly annoying lately. I would tell them we didn't want their thingy because we were very happy with our account as it was, and they'd just call back another day. I finally called their help line and described the symptoms, which deeply weirded out that representative. He claimed they didn't do that, but there was a sneaky backdoor company that would call and sound like they were them, and next time that happened try and get the name. Well, they called back, and I got her first and last name, and she claimed she really was with the company itself; and she did sound above-board. I told her to take us OFF the list, and sure enough they haven't called back since; there the matter stands.

Today I got to tell a particular credit card company to go away. We did work with them a while ago--briefly. But they were expensive and a nuisance, so we quit. But they called back today. The lady told me all about their new whatsit "for our merchants only" and if we liked the FREE 30-day trial period, it would be only so much a month thereafter.

I said thank you, we didn't want to be one of their merchants and were extremely happy as we were.

She sounded taken aback. "But you are one of our merchants!"

I replied, "We used to be, but we cancelled our account some time ago."


We wished one another a happy Valentine's Day--I should have wished her a blessed Feast of Saint Valentine, but didn't think of it in time--and we parted.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Quote of the day

"I was telling Dr. M-- about Don. He was complaining the other day about spending $1700 on a dentist, and then on Saturday he died. He could have saved the money. Well, he didn't know he was going to break his hip." --A patient

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Consider the turnip

I've never enjoyed turnips so much.

So I looked it up on Wikipedia. You will be glad to note, "Turnips are sown from the beginning to the end of June, but the second and third weeks of the month are, by judicious farmers, accounted the most proper time."

We should certainly follow the advice of the judicious farmers instead of those harum-scarum weekenders. Take note, O ye who mean to sow turnips.

Furthermore, "Pliny the Elder writes that he considered the turnip one of the most important vegetables of his day, rating it 'directly after cereals or at all events after the bean, since its utility surpasses that of any other plant.' Pliny praises it as a source of fodder for farm animals, and this vegetable is not particular about the type of soil it grows in and because it can be left in the ground until the next harvest, it 'prevents the effects of famine' for humans."

Query: does it prevent famine itself, or only the effects of famine? If the latter, is it not rather immoral to grow turnips at all and divorce the thing from its effect?

I also learn that turnips were the original jack-o'-lanterns; there's a historical marker dedicated to them "on Main Road in Westport, Massachusetts"; and that "The turnip is an old vegetable charge in heraldry. It was used by Leonhard von Keutschach, prince-archbishop of Salzburg. The turnip is still the heart shield in the arms of Keutschach am See."

I can imagine it now: "Once more unto the brink, dear friends, once more, and close up the wall with our Salzbergian dead! For prince-archbishop von Keutschach AND THE TURNIP!!"

And, with that, I leave you with this recipe for pirate stew, featuring, of course, turnips. I haven't tried it; if anyone does, do let me know how it turns out. :-)

1 pound beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small sweet potato, chopped
4 small potatoes, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 turnip, chopped
2 parsnips, chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon butter
1 small onion, chopped
3/4 cup pineapple juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 cube beef bouillon
3 tablespoons rum


Combine the beef, flour, salt, and pepper in a resealable plastic bag; shake to evenly coat the beef.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Brown the beef in the olive oil. Transfer the meat into the bottom of a slow cooker and return the skillet to the heat. Add the sweet potato, potato, celery, turnip, and parsnip. Pour the vinegar into the hot skillet to deglaze the pan, scraping loose the particles from the bottom with a spatula; empty into the slow cooker. Return the skillet to the heat and melt the butter. Cook and stir the onion in the melted butter until softened; scrape into the slow cooker.

Combine the pineapple juice, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, garlic, beef bullion, and rum in a small saucepan; cook until the bouillon cube dissolves. Pour into the slow cooker.

Turn the slow cooker on to High; cook for 1 hour. Switch heat to Low and cook an additional 6 hours.

The hunting of the dress: an epic in five fits

Fit the First: Before

A wedding is a beautiful thing
And after finding the eponymous ring
One further task may bring duress:
The hunting of a wedding dress.
My own small town is rather short
On gowns of that particular sort,
So Mom and I called up a store
In Albuquerque's wider shores.
But illness struck, and cancelled flat
Our appointed slot, and that was that.

Fit the Second: Friday

A week went by. Our health restored,
We ventured out to hunt once more.
One Jessica was sweet, but tired,
And draggled was her stock entire.
The dresses there--and elsewhere too--
Came comparatively huge!
I don't consider myself too small,
But they just didn't fit at all.
We partly paused the dresses' slips
By tying up the back with clips,
But plastic clips, and metal clamps,
Make airy spirits rather damp.
We fortified ourselves with lunch
And tried again with Andie's bunch.
Andie too was sweet, but there
The dresses' price was near despair.
My preferred "crustacean" glam
Cost upward of three thousand clams,
While the simple veil in favor
Was hundreds more than I could savor.
The Dress itself did not live there
So we sought some other lair.
We next met Liz, who had a ball
Finding me two dresses small.
But both had iffy workmanship
And a dressing room too small for the slip!
As we neared our house that Friday night
My Olwen started rattling--light
At first, but thicker later, until
Our concern could not stay still.
"Dad," I cried, "Please fix my car!
I'm afraid to take her very far!"
Probably it was just cosmetic,
But it sounded less than copacetic.

Fit the Third: Saturday Morning

Daddy tightened some loose screw
And cured the rattle. We tried anew
To hunt The Dress-the elusive Dress--
And got our coats, when Dad expressed
The need to fill my tires with air.
He went, and we stayed in, and there
Mom computed while I played
With my mousies. Though afraid
I caught my Bing, and then transferred
Attention to Marry, who scurried
From my hand, up on her cage,
And off the back! It seemed an age
As I waited for the whoosh-
The squeak--the smoosh--
Of the mouse who rashly leaped
Down four shelves. But Marry creeped
Into hiding as I emptied
The wrought-iron shelf to locate simply
Dust bunnies and no mouse. The next
Events combine and meld, the vexed
Shutting, pouncing, luring, shining,
Coaxing, missing, and designing,
As still my frantic Maraschino
Eluded like some desperado.
But Dad came back, and caught her under
The shelf that had begun that blunder.
We breathed again, and I and Mom
Left, and salvaged some aplomb.

Fit the Fourth: Saturday afternoon

Darlene's was fine, but didn't have
The Dress I wanted, yes, must have!
And Darlene lectured me on why
I shouldn't want my size to try.
We then dropped by a little shop
Of Celtic things--so I bought
A how-to book on drawing knots
And promptly started sketching lots.

Fit the Fifth: Saturday Late Afternoon

At last we made it to the place
Where our first appointment space
We'd given up. There Madelyn
Gave me a catalog, to begin,
And figured out what styles I like.
We went back to a room to try
Her best suggestions: a dressing room,
Expansive enough I could assume
Those floofy dresses; mirror, chair,
And racks, and table, all were there.
She even had two little samples
For brides like me who aren't so ample.
And best of all, we soon assessed
She had my Dress--the elusive Dress,
With ample floof and details exotic,
Clear proof my hunt was not quixotic!
Its pictured model was pretty scary
But in it I look like a fairy,
So with tears and song we bought the gown
And wrote this poem for its renown.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Teaching history, continued

A blogger inquires why pollsters don't know history. When you read a few more details, some of the "mythical" people were at least based loosely on historical persons. :-) I want to see the original study now.

But people should still know Winston Churchill was real.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Quote of the day

Nice patient: "Are you fluent in Persian?"

Me: "Oh, no!"

Nice patient: "You can just get by in it?"

Me: "I don't know if I can even get by. I don't have anyone to talk to in it, you see."

Nice patient: "You should get on Skype. I am sure lots of men would like to talk to a medical girl, and then you would get lots of practice. When I'm on my account, people are calling me all the time."

The nice patient leaves. I boggle.

I'm not sure I want to talk to random Iranian men on Skype...