Saturday, December 19, 2009

A snow day with a dwarvish breakfast

"'Hey, brothers! A visitor for breakfast.'

"And immediately, mixed with a sizzling sound, there came to Shasta a simply delightful smell. It was one he had never smelled in his life before, but I hope you have. It was, in fact, the smell of bacon and eggs and mushrooms all frying in a pan."

--The Horse and His Boy, Chapter 12, C.S. Lewis

We had a simply delightful smell of that sort this morning: sausage and eggs and mushrooms and tomatoes all frying together in a pan, with apricot-jammed toast. And eggnog lattes.

Jonathan finished his finals last night (yippee!), so naturally we went to the library. The first flakes were just starting. When we came out, it was snowing hard, so we called in our pizza order, stopped at the grocery store for bread and mushrooms and eggnog, and then retrieved our pizza and returned home. By this point it was sticking to the roads and they were quite slippery.

It has been snowing all night, and we woke up to nearly a foot of good fluffy white stuff, just right for packing. The roads are thoroughly cloggy, and it's still coming down. What could be nicer than a dwarvish breakfast to start off a snow day?

As long as we don't have to dig Olwen out for a trip to the hospital, we are all set. :-)

Friday, December 18, 2009


This post is just a few snippets from C.S. Lewis on Christmas. I think I'd seen them all before, but they bear re-reading. I particularly like the one about Exmas. :-)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Baking soda vs. baking powder

This post is talking about the difference between baking soda and baking powder - an excellent question. Rumor has it that baking soda is just the base chemical that reacts with the acid already in the recipe, and baking powder has acid included in it so it doesn't depend on native acid to make your batter rise.

So, naturally, we had see whether baking soda is really fizzier when reacted with vinegar.

Yes, it definitely fizzes more effectively. It nearly overflowed the little dish. And, as you may observe, the baking powder (left) has more residue at the end than the baking soda. Cool!

Snowmen, ye be warned

Yes, I believe that's a snowman's head on a pike in someone's front yard.

This be what happens to the unwary in Christmas Town.

Quote of the morning

"What do you want for breakfast?" Me
"I want a resurgence of bright colors among the well-to-do! That would be fun. I want to wear a red coat into court. Red for prosecution, and blue for defense - a bright azure - or maybe green." Jonathan

(He has a new book out from the library on dyes and color. We take red clothes way too much for granted.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Power outage

This evening as Jonathan was leaving to pick me up at work, a neighborhood tree fell over and would have squashed him and Olwen if two or three convenient power lines hadn't caught it. Naturally, they started sparking and glowing odd incandescent colors. This was quite the experience for Jonathan, who had just come out of a final.

Happily someone called 911, and by the time he and I made it back, police had blocked off the road and switched off the power... to our entire development. This meant no more risk of sudden electrified tree torches; also, alas, no more electric burners or microwaves.

It would have been inconvenient, but I adore power outages, especially when my husband hasn't just been squashed. We lit a couple candles and the oil lamp, and had a delightful picnic supper. We went outside and could actually see stars. In the city! Real stars! And afterward, we packed up our computers and went to hang out at the library. Here, they have heat and light and internet.

I was going to spend the evening doing something, possibly feeling guilty about not running around like crazy cleaning and getting things ready. But I think God sent me a free evening. What a shame! I have to go hang out at the library and catch up on correspondence and magazines!

I'm also grateful that Jonathan, as he put it, didn't have a "truncated existence." :-)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving, or "Are you kidding?"

We're certainly having an eventful Thanksgiving. We got up this morning to drive to New Jersey, to be with Jonathan's family. We got off about 11:30 after only minor delays: packing clothes and my laptop which has been in rather ill health, cleaning the mouse cage, cleaning the bathroom after cleaning the mouse cage, etc. Merry was quite tame and let Jonathan apply vitamin E to her damaged ear. We had a good drive up, too. Traffic was quite reasonable, except for the lunatics going eighty or ninety in a fifty-five zone. But still.

We arrived quite happily, and started to unload the car. Jonathan pulled Merry's cage out of the backseat. "Merry, honey, that's not funny."

I looked. She was curled up in her food dish. "What?"

"Merry?" He joggled the cage. "She's not moving."

"Are you kidding?"

But - it was true. She wasn't moving. Somewhere along the road, our sweet mousie had passed on.

"Well, Jonathan," his mom called, "Go ahead and bring the cage inside. We'll take care of her after dinner." So Jonathan started to take in the deceased mousie, and his brother offered to help me haul in the luggage. So I called Jonathan back to borrow his key to pop the trunk. I popped it...


"Yes, dear?"

"Did you put in the suitcase?"

There was silence. "Are you kidding? I thought you put it in."

After dinner we ran to Target, just on the off chance they'd be open and have certain necessaries. They weren't. Ah well, we'll just have to hold on till tomorrow and... go... shopping... on Black Friday.

So we came back, and I thought I'd do a spot of laptop resuscitation. I plugged it into an external monitor -- and it worked!! So I started trying to backup some files. And the touchpad mouse was doing bizarre quivery things so I couldn't focus on an icon to click it. I tried borrowing Jonathan's mouse, but the USB port was mangled. I tried borrowing Mama B's mouse. That worked, especially after I closed down the touchpad. Then I started burning files to CD.

Then the CD drive refused to open. We got that solved, but I'm kind of nervous. It's not eight-thirty yet.

And we've got Maraschino arranged in a very pretty little box, ready for her interment in the morning. It's a sad night.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Manhattan Declaration

In case you haven't heard of it yet, the Manhattan Declaration was signed by over a hundred Christian leaders and released last Friday. It's long, but very good, and well worth your time reading.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Morning quotes

On making shopping lists:

"Here's a piece of paper! Oh wait, maybe I should have brought the notebook, too." Jonathan
"Never mind, here's a History of the Middle Ages to write on." Me

On cleaning out the refrigerator:

"It's always an adventure looking into the fridge these days. You never know how long a thing has been there. 'How old were you when the Mede came?' 'Three months!' Gaah!" Jonathan
My question: did he just quote the poem, which really was "Mede"? Or was that a schneaky pun, doubling as "Mead"? Not that there's any of either in there currently....

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Of amusement

The Silent Monks perform the Hallelujah Chorus (not easy, that):

It amused me! Also of interest were two bumper stickers I saw lately:

"The Fan: who invited you?" (The Fan is a nifty old neighborhood in town, full of old houses and narrow one-way streets and no parking.)

"Midwives help people out." (Not that I have midwifey things on the brain, or anything.)

Not a whole lot is going on, otherwise. I got up at an excellent and reasonable hour this morning, did a bit around the kitchen, backed up some files, went upstairs to get dressed... and somehow napped for over an hour. Oh well.

Friday, October 23, 2009

"Life is running around inside me like squirrel"

The offspring has been making her presence known. She kicks; quite hard, sometimes, actually. This afternoon especially she was kicking. I was talking to Jennie about it at work.

"My mom used to say she thought expecting was like having a squirrel inside her, running around," she said.

And Jennie hadn't even seen 'You Can't Take It With You'! So I had to explain about the Russian ballet teacher and his great quote. I don't think he meant it in quite the same context!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Another good pumpkin recipe

I must be in a pumpkin mood: the lattes last time, today pumpkin muffins! It is getting cold here; I'm almost having to shut the windows. (Alas.) This recipe was quite successful. I made a batch for Hannah, Rhyme and Reason, and two assorted brothers who visited today, and they were very effectively eaten up.

I understand this recipe was originally from Gourmet Magazine, but I found it here. It's good.

1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup canned pumpkin (you can use the rest of the can for making Pumpkin Spice Lattes. I recommend Libby's Pumpkin.)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp pumpkin-pie spice (or, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger)
1 1/4 cups plus 1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350F. Put liners in muffin cups. (Or spray your Bundt muffin tins.)

Whisk together flour and baking powder in a small bowl.

Whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs, pumpkin-pie spices, 1 1/4 cups sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until smooth, then whisk in flour mixture until just combined.

Stir together cinnamon and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in another bowl.

Divide batter among muffin cups (each should be about 3/4 full), then sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake until puffed and golden brown and a wooden pick or skewer inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.

Cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes, then transfer muffins from pan to rack and cool to warm or room temperature.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Pumpkin spice latte


I did add another spoonful of sugar to mine, though. And next time I think I'll tone down the vanilla extract - this recipe took about half my bottle. But it was really good. Jonathan liked it, too, and he's not even a coffee-drinker.

In which I am forced to defend Olwen by beating off a Chick-fil-A employee with a stick

So this evening I was driving through Chick-fil-A for my little sandwich. I get up to the window, and a guy leans past the lady trying to serve me.

"I'll give you $700 cash for your car," he says.

I shake my head. "I love my car."

"A thousand. Cash!" He shook his money clip encouragingly.

"I love my car!"

"I love my car too!"

"Why do you want my car?" I ask, genuinely curious. I mean, I love her because she's reliable and very well-behaved and good-looking and generally a ladylike vehicle, and also because Daddy and Grandad helped me pick her out. But she's not new and snazzy, and furthermore she hasn't been washed in months. People don't usually fall all over themselves to get their paws on her.

"Because your car doesn't need a new transmission!"

No, we're not from Ohio

For my birthday, we went to Virginia Beach last weekend. It was wonderful. First we went and drove down the boardwalk, but it was too touristy, there was nowhere to park, and the used book store I'd carefully scoped out online was closed, as in permanently.

So instead, we went to Sandbridge beach, just south of there. It was charming: not too busy, you drove through a cute town getting there (especially if you got lost on the way), and the day was breezy and sunny and generally perfect.

Jonathan built elaborate fortifi-cations, and I had a beach towel and an Agatha Christie. The tide rose while we were there and oceaned his construction. Happily, the towel was high enough up, I did not get oceaned.

While he was in the water, a couple walking along the beach stopped. The man addressed me.
"Are you with him?"
I dragged myself back into consciousness, and acknowledged I was.
"Where are you from, if you don't mind my asking?"
"Oh, Richmond? You were so white, we were wondering. I was guessing Ohio."
That above, by the way, is the couple that thought we were from Ohio.

As we were fixing to leave, I wrote the date in the wet sand. A little boy watched me. He then carefully turned to another patch, and started writing something himself.


I was over at the Semicolon blog, skimming through her hymns project. I don't usually watch the embedded videos, but I did these, and couldn't resist sharing. They're just that awesome. (Also very different.)

The first bit of this might be a little slow, but stick with it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

In sickness...

We've actually taken to sniffling in unison. Love, true love....

Monday, September 28, 2009

More medievalists regarding the hoard

This is a good collection of various medievalists' reactions to the hoard - rather more interesting than the general press' statements, I thought.

I particularly liked this one. The hoard included a folded-up gold cross inscribed with Psalm 67:2 (Psalm 68, as our English Bibles number them), about "Rise up, O Lord, and dispel your enemies." etc. This blogger notes that the main place in Anglo-Saxon literature that this verse survives is from the Life of St. Guthlac, about a Mercian warrior saint from roughly the right period. It's particularly interesting because Guthlac used this verse to ward off evil spirits. So, is this Guthlac's Hoard???

Well, probably not. But that would be cool.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Watch out for dragons

Dr. Veith had up this story about an Anglo-Saxon treasure hoard just discovered in a field in Staffordshire.

And -- to my very great excitement -- the scholars in charge of the hoard have started a website and apparently mean to put up their research - photos, catalog, x-rays, discussions, the works. So far there's not a whole lot.

They're dating the contents to the mid-600s, which is about 200 years before King Alfred. Staffordshire, come to find out, was the middle of the old kingdom of Mercia, which I don't know much about. They say Mercia was busy expanding about that time under kings Wulfhere and Penda. I think I need to go do more research.

My medievalist bloggers are all pleased as Punch. This link has several nice embedded news stories.

Apparently the treasure was found in July, but it went on display September 25th (yesterday). Not surprisingly, long lines of people want to see it. I sure would!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Overheard in the elevator

"We're going to have LOTS of fun today!" she said.

The skepticism in the atmosphere thickened. You might even call it doubt.

Finally, someone answered: "You clearly don't know what we do here."

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sir Pelleas

I just adore Morte D'Arthur. It's so... matter-of-fact about very random and bizarre things.

Take, for instance, the bit with Sir Pelleas. Sir Gawaine is out adventuring, the way these knights will, and comes across a Dolorous Knight (Sir Pelleas). He's just wailing and carrying on, and Gawaine watches him roundly defeat a whole gaggle of other knights, and then he lets them tie him up in a most humiliating fashion and haul him away.

Why would a reasonably competent knight do such a thing? It appears that he is hopelessly in love with one Lady Ettard, who can't stand the sight of him. He fights the knights she sends against him every day, but doesn't mind being arrested by them because that's the only way he gets a glimpse of her.

So in steps Nimue, the Lady of the Lake that just finished shutting up Merlin in a rock. Nimue casts a few love spells so that Sir Pelleas gets over his infatuation with Lady Ettard, and so that Lady Ettard falls hard for Sir Pelleas. Enter the following quote.
"Sir knight Pelleas, said the Damosel of the Lake, take your horse and come forth with me out of this country, and ye shall love a lady that shall love you.

"I will well, said Sir Pelleas, for this Lady Ettard hath done me great despite and shame, and there he told her the beginning and ending, and how he had purposed never to have arisen till that he had been dead. And now such grace God hath sent me, that I hate her as much as ever I loved her, thanked be our Lord Jesus!

"Thank me, said the Damosel of the Lake. Anon Sir Pelleas armed him, and took his horse, and commanded his men to bring after his pavilions and his stuff where the Damosel of the Lake would assign.

"So the Lady Ettard died for sorrow, and the Damosel of the Lake rejoiced Sir Pelleas, and loved together during their life days."
Book IV, Chapter XXIII. I'm so glad that worked out well for everyone, aren't you? As for Lady Ettard, well, I guess we're not supposed to feel sorry for her because she didn't have the sense to like Pelleas when he first started liking her? And I'm not even touching the theological bit in the middle.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A new book

Tonight I became acquainted with Hilaire Belloc's The Bad Child's Book of Beasts. They don't write children's books like that nowadays, no they do not.

Whether that's a bad thing...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Le siege parfait

Last week I was taking my lunchtime constitutional when I noticed that the corner furniture store had a display of chairs with a big sign, "Le siege parfait pour [something or other]." I meditated on this for a minute.

Aha! "Siege" must mean "seat" or "chair" -- like in Morte D'Arthur, the Siege Perilous! And that would make sense, because Morte was written during the Hundred Years War, when a massive chunk of English people spoke French anyway. And then I got off thinking about how Morte was the second book Caxton printed, after the Bible, and then thought about early printing in general, and then I was back to my office.

That evening, I shared my discovery with Jonathan. "So 'siege' must mean 'seat'"--
"Like the Siege Perilous?"
"Yes, exactly!" (We must hang out together too much. )

After that, of course, I had to start re-reading Morte D'Arthur. I even carried it to work with me. And today I made another discovery.

You see, my work chair and my back have been quarreling of late. I keep meaning to take a pillow or something, but haven't yet. Today I stuffed my nice hefty softcover Morte back there, and found it quite comfortable. As we learned in college, a thick book makes an excellent pillow. Le siege parfait, indeed. :-)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

General update

Yipes, I hadn't realized it had been so long since I posted. Sorry, all (those of you who still check).

I have, of course, been busy. Jonathan's started classes and a law clinic thing downtown, which basically ate all his time and was trying for the soul too, and somehow mine too, but that seems to be better now. We like our souls where they are, thank you. (You know it's been quite a week when I have the law school dreams.)

But then we got to go out to NM for Labor Day! That was a lot of fun. My grandparents were having their 60th anniversary party and we got to see a lot of relatives, and even meet some of their friends we've heard about all our lives. We also spent quality time with the cat Nefret, who may behave like a warthog but she's so cute about it somehow you adore her madly. Even Grandma likes her.

Then we trotted back to my parents' house (a mere jaunt of five hours on NM roads, which is SO much more tolerable than an hour on I-95), where the church ladies put on a baby shower for me! It was a beautiful little party, and everybody was so sweet--and generous, too. Golly. We also stopped by the Finneys' house and chatted with them briefly. Then on the way to the airport the next day, Mama took us by the Coffee Booth, and we ran into more people we knew. It was very good to see everyone.

This weekend we did a few things that needed doing, and have resoundingly failed to do others. Ah, well. The most exciting thing in the first category: we bought a baby chest of drawers/changing table off Craigslist! It was very reasonably priced, and we brought it home and scrubbed it well, which cleaned off most of the marks, and sanded it down, which got off most of the rest, and painted it, which dealt quite effectively with the remainder. It's so cute. It was decent wood construction and I think it'll hold up well -- and if we decide we hate it, we aren't out that much. I'm meditating adding pink-and-chocolate trim.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Pillage your village

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

I wouldn't have much minded pillaging something today. Planned Parenthood was running an attack ad on the Cheezburger site against a candidate, and I almost wrote and sweetly thanked them for introducing me to someone to vote for... but Jonathan pointed out they'd probably turn me into a statistic saying precisely what I didn't mean, so PP got away with it. This time.

I'm still a little bitter that they run ads for expecting mothers on Facebook.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Overheard at the breakfast table

"If worst comes to worst, we can always shoot them out of a trebuchet or a very large crossbow. 'Aiee! Refried beans, my only weakness!' That's quite a weakness."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A good library is hard to find

What makes a good library? How do you go about setting one up?

I can tell you some of what a good library is, and does: it's the sort of place where, every time you go, you can come across something new and fascinating, that brings you nose-to-nose with a world you never knew existed. A good library, one suspects, is one where pretty much everything in there is worth reading, even if it doesn't happen to be the sort of thing you care for.

A library, I am further convinced, should primarily have good books. I don't mind movies and CDs and computers and magazines; I got a lot of use out of the Purcellville library's CD collection. But if the library doesn't have books worth reading - or hides them among the nonsense, so you can't find them - I think it has seriously failed in its librariness.

I ask, because we went back to our closest branch library today. Sigh. It's - it's - I went and I couldn't find anything to read! Again! Or any movies to watch! Also again! And they don't have music CDs at all, as far as I can tell. So I sat and read a magazine that the good doctor used to keep in his waiting room.

I'm genuinely not sure if they absolutely don't have much I would want to read, or if they just hide them really effectively. It's a large new building. They have a lot of new books, a lot of computers, a big budget. I know I've got peculiar and somewhat conservative tastes, but still, I like a fairly broad range of reading-matter. I'd read children's, teens, adult sci-fi and fantasy, adult literature. I'd read fascinating and beautiful non-fiction books. You could probably talk me into reading philosophy and theology and plays and poetry. I would read ancient books, preferably in good translations. I'd read history or biography, or gardening and cooking and all manner of housey and crafty things.

So why does every book I pick up there seem to be soul-sucking drivel? Can someone explain this to me??

Bookish miscellany

My chief amusing anecdote from this week, once again, came as I was jellying my morning toast. One of the programmers demanded to know why all the jam was concentrated in the top of the jar, with a lovely air-bubble beneath.

"I think it's because I stored it upside-down," I said.
"That's not a good reason! You should come up with a better story than that! Just make one up!" (This programmer is like that.)

So I meditated, and Zahn came to my rescue. "I think it's because of the Van der Waal's forces, attracting the jelly to the top..." This was apparently a good answer, as one of the other tech guys started ribbing him about having to Google Van der Waal's forces. :-) It amuses me that The Green and the Gray can make someone sound scientifically literate.


In other news, Jonathan and I tracked down another library branch and raided it. I found a collection of essays by A.A. Milne and Meditations on Middle-Earth, by a rather impressive line-up of fantasy authors.

The essays by Milne were, for the most part, airy and readable, often hilarious, but not brilliant. Come to find out he wrote for Punch. No wonder his Pooh books have such a charming style! These essays are more like longish blog posts than anything else. Quite a lot of them have to do with a funny incident with him and his wife Celia.

Possibly the best of the collection was a satire purporting to be an account of a Poetry Reading. He set it at the perfect cusp of British poetic awfulness, that era when earnest fluttering women wrote embarrassing rhymes about Life, and gentlemen of vast proportions wrote galumphing verses about places in England (a send-up of Chesterton, possibly?), and very ugly young men wrote vers libre about ugly modern subjects. The hostess's husband was present in the story, making sardonic comments throughout. It was quite something, especially because, well, I've read a lot of that poetry. Unfortunately.

The Middle-Earth book, as might be expected, was rather a mixed bag. Its worst crime was its truly lousy editing: they let through such howlers as "Sargon" instead of Sauron, and "Owyn" instead of Eowyn. Gah. I suspect "tribute" books usually are mixed, but they should have at least let a fan proofread it.

A lot of the chapters are of the "I discovered Tolkien in the spring of 1967, read the entire trilogy in one sitting, and that's why I'm a fantasy author today" variety; which is of some interest, especially if you know the author and can say, "Ah! So that's why he does such-and-so in his books." Most of these authors do Tolkien the courtesy of not allegorizing him into the dust, and just loving his books for themselves. I can appreciate that.

A couple of the essays, on the other hand, have been quite intelligent discussion, the sort where you can say "Wow, I'd never noticed that, and that's very true." The chapter from Ursula K. Le Guin was like that. She sat down and analyzed how Tolkien used meter in his prose and rhythm in his plot and wound up with his particular special effects.

Orson Scott Card talked about why, perhaps, "serious" literature critics dislike Tolkien. He argued that it was because Tolkien wrote the story to be a story, and not merely a vehicle for interpretable symbols. The Lord of the Rings is something to get emotionally involved in rather than a literary crossword puzzle. He made the distinction between wild story and domesticated stories, i.e. Literature. It's an interesting argument.

And then there was Lisa Goldstein, whom I've never heard of, but she made the intelligent observation that Lord of the Rings is powerful "because we need myth. Not just because myths are entertaining stories, or because some of them come attached with a moral. We need them, the way we need vitamins or sunlight." I think Tolkien would agree with that. Goldstein has obviously been reading Tolkien's other works, On Fairy Stories and maybe "Mythopoeia." And referring to some of the derivative fantasy that tried to follow him: "Some of these books were so bad they wouldn't even make decent landfill."

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Finnish summer soup

Tonight we tried a recipe for Finnish Summer Soup from that website I like, and it was a resounding success. I substituted rather more homely ingredients -- ordinary brown potatoes, an ordinary white onion, black pepper, broccoli instead of cauliflower -- and we liked it very much. I also added some extra water, salt, and pepper, and halved the peas, on the grounds that two cups of peas were excessive. It made plenty of leftovers. Yummy!

To be sure, almost anything with half-and-half and butter would be good!

Monday, August 10, 2009

I don't understand

There's nothing quite like coming home from a long day of work and being greeted by a missive from Social Security, reminding you just how much of your paycheck has been directed to said Social Security over the past eleven years, not to mention Medicaid. This particular edition included cheerful information on the fact that at the current rates, the program's benefits will overtake income in 2017, and that I'm eligible for retirement benefits if I work another four years (!!), and how much my husband would come in for if I died or was permanently disabled today.

I guess these are good things to be told about? But, but, but -- why????

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Roasted figs

My new favorite food website had a really pretty recipe for roasted figs with honey and rosemary. So I thought I'd try it.

They were all right. But I was using preserved figs instead of fresh, and dried rosemary instead of fresh, and I didn't really have the kind of cheese they recommended.

Of the cheeses we did have, mozzarella and Swiss did better than Dubliner, which really wiped out the figs' flavor. I tried it with both crackers and bread. I do think rosemary, honey, and pepper improved the figs overall, and I might try it again if I get fresh ones sometime.

We went for the ultrasound...

And it looks like we're going to get a daughter for Christmas!


Sunday, August 02, 2009

Mawwiage is what bwings us together

We spent yesterday going to Anne and Gabe's wedding! We had a pretty rough drive up and back (going: so much traffic, we averaged 35 mph all the way from Richmond to Maryland; going back: nightmarish late-night heavy rainstorms), but it was definitely worth it.

The bride and groom looked super-happy, and they'd done a beautiful job. It was a traditional ceremony with a dinner reception and dancing afterward! They actually got Macaroni Grill to cater it, and I hadn't gotten to swing dance or do the Virginia reel for ages, probably not since Ben and Lisa's wedding.

I'm not sure who put together the slide show, but it was hilarious, and Kenny makes an excellent MC. The toasts were really sweet and blessing-ey. I also liked all the country music. We learned three things: you don't mess with the photographer's camera, the Gabe's cowboy hat, or the Gabe's Anne. These are not in order of importance. :-)

We got to chat with lots of friends, including Mandy Red-Hand, who flew out from Minnesota for the occasion. Afterward, we got gloriously lost in Maryland cornfields taking her back to Emily-Rose's cottage. Jonathan and I were reaffirmed in our hatred for the GPS's evil direction-giving skills. We saw lots of dark woods, took a ferry over the Potomac, and did a little four-wheeling across a patch of grass masquerading as a driveway. (Whoops. Olwen had had a long day, too.) Emily-Rose even lent me a book on Anglo-Saxon. Bliss. We made it home, somewhat draggled but quite intact, about 2 a.m.

Santa Fe

There's nowhere quite like Santa Fe. I've been playing with my new photo software, and came across these great old shots.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Lilias Trotter turns up

This evening I was reading along on the Semicolon blog, which is doing a 100 Hymns project. Usually I skim these, especially if I'm not particularly fond of the hymn, but in #52, "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus", a name caught my eye:
The composer and author of the hymn, Helen Lemmel, was the daughter of a Methodist pastor. From a gospel tract called Focused by Lilias Trotter, a missionary to the Muslims of Algeria, Ms. Lemmel heard the words, “So then, turn your eyes upon Him, look full into His face and you will find that the things of earth will acquire a strange new dimness.”
Lilias Trotter!? I love anything to do with her; I contemplated once writing a dual-biography thing on her and Amelia Edwards, the Egyptologist. They're a fascinating contrast. Both were intrepid Victorian women explorers who spent most of their lives in north Africa, founding organizations and writing and doing various exciting things. Lilias was a gifted artist in England, and everyone assured her she'd be throwing her life away by going for missions in Algeria.

She learned Arabic from French textbooks because there weren't any available in English, and she developed close relationships with the people there. She wrote and illustrated Arabic pamphlets which were apparently so well done, they were still in print at least through the 1960's, and maybe still are.

I particularly enjoyed her book Between the Desert and the Sea, which I ILL'ed several years ago. She just loved North Africa. It was a sort of illustrated journal, as I recall. I would have bought it, because it's well worth having, but it was last printed in about 1925 and Amazon is currently listing it for between $181 and $312. Sigh.

The saddest thing about Amelia Edwards was how she ended. When she got old (and ornery), her own Egyptian Exploration Society kicked her out, and her life sort of fizzled. But Lilias' people took good care of her, and even when she couldn't leave her bed, she had a very solid ministry encouraging and praying. God takes care of His people.

I had no idea that Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus was inspired by Lilias' little booklet linked above. Her text is well worth reading, and reminds me strongly of C.S. Lewis; and I like the song much more now.

Quote of the day

Inspired by a bug's license plate: "Woad? Wouter would." Jonathan
"That reminds me! I spent a good chunk of the afternoon thinking up rhymes for 'alligator.'" Me
"It's times like this I wish I had a blog, just so I could record these moments." Jonathan

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Hurray! China is starting to lift its one-child policy! It was such a bad idea, for so many reasons.

Portraits and rings

I just finished Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray for the first time. I've been meaning to read it for years; we actually had a Sunday school lesson on it once, of all things. It's a hard book, because it's not much fun to watch a soul sink into final depravity. Also, the author seems to have a creepy affinity for the sins he discusses in such luscious and vivid phrases.

So after I finish, I turn to the Afterward. It (no author listed) opined,
[I]t is clearly not a conventional morality tale. Just as the sins of his life have no consequence on his body, any potential punishment for Dorian's crimes seems simply to bounce off him. ...Even his eventual death is not a conventional 'comeuppance.' When he stabs the picture, he does so because he is sick of being reminded of his hideous crimes, not because he feels any remorse for them. However, despite all this, the book does have a 'moral,' deeply buried in its beautiful prose. It concerns the interplay of art and morality, and deals with how life loses its meaning when lived in a moral vacuum.
Eh? It's not conventionally moral because he doesn't have external consequences and he never repents? I beg to differ. The entire point is how sin and guilt weigh down and eventually destroy the soul. Wilde's portrait-mechanism was brilliant because it did what the Ring of Gyges did, and lets us watch the character run amok and destroy his soul without the usual earthly consequences interfering. It's quite a remarkably moral story.

And yes, Picture does talk about "the interplay of art and morality" in beautiful prose, though the discussion is not particularly buried. Harry, Dorian's sort of devil-on-the-shoulder, tries to argue that art is nonproductive of any action; but the whole book proves that utter nonsense.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Some names really don't smell as sweet

Front Porch Republic had a post on the silliness of a certain baby-naming trend.

Here's quite the list of celebrity baby names, illustrating something of said trend, just to prove the FPR author isn't completely making it up. (To do them justice, the website's Tips on baby-naming are rather more sensible.)

The more names I come across, the more grateful I am to my parents for picking me a really good one. Our goal is for the offspring to not be humiliated by whatever we pick. Incidentally, I'm making lists. I take suggestions, especially for my Awful Names collection.

Today I learned

Any sentence beginning, "The Brench and the Fritish" is probably not going to succeed, and should be started over.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The most restful Harry Potter yet

It's never easy, I daresay, to adapt 652 tightly-written pages (part six of seven) into a movie that humans can sit through without an intermission. I think, charitably speaking, the scriptwriters probably even read the 652 pages. Once, at least.

So yes, Jonathan and I went to see the new Harry Potter movie. I actually kind of liked it. It's much less tense than the book, almost restful, actually (except for the zombie scene). The adaptors naturally had to cut and condense and invent elements left, right, and center, and then relied on "scary" almost-colorless cinematography like in the third Pirates movie to try and add the creepiness back in.

I think the adaptors' worst problem was that they didn't have anyone to read the script over their shoulders and say, "Huh?" It has details like, the entire sequence of events hinges on getting the Death Eaters into Hogwarts, but once they're there, they stand around and watch Draco and Snape kill Dumbledore; Bellatrix smashes up the Great Hall*; they go outside and burn Hagrid's cottage; and that's it. I was sort of puzzled. Why did they waste screen time on totally apocryphal (and pointless) fight scenes at the Weasleys' house and then cut out the climactic awesome final battle at Hogwarts?

Entire subplots were either cut or handled poorly. We saw a fair amount of Lavender kissing Ron, but they never actually referred to her by name. (!) Jonathan points out she was wearing a lavender shirt, though. I suppose that would be a clue. Ginny doesn't break up with Dean before she switches to Harry, but that somehow never really got going either. We never see Bill or Fleur at all, or how Mrs. Weasley comes to like Fleur at the end, and naturally not why Bill now likes really rare steaks. We also don't see how Tonks and Lupin get together. It's assumed. They also left out the bit where Harry inherits Kreacher and the house.

I find it interesting that nearly all the angst from the prior films got cut. There are several love triangles, but overall it's so clean. The adults are mostly helpful and kind; Harry doesn't have it in for anyone particularly except Draco, who's very obviously up to something; nobody gets after him for using Sectumsempra; Harry even does what Dumbledore tells him in the last scene without having to be petrified. Bizarre. As I recall, the book is stressful to read because Harry insists on doing things that are an Incredibly Bad Idea, but in the movie he just... doesn't.

Subplots can be expended, I suppose. But it's a problem when a script bungles the main plot. I would argue, I think, that would be Dumbledore helping Harry learn what he needs in order to find the Horcruxes and destroy Voldemort in the final installment. We only see two of the memories from the book, three if you count the two versions of Slughorn's conversation with Tom. Absolutely huge plot elements are ignored. Why does Voldemort pick certain objects to hold his soul? He does have a rationale, of sorts. How did Dumbledore know to look for the locket in that seaside cavern? It was in a part of the orphanage memory that got cut from the movie. What is the significance of Tom's ring, that he made it one of the horcruxes? And most of all, why is it Dark magic to make a horcrux, anyway? What does murder have to do with splitting your soul, and is that really a problem? Horcruxes were reduced to a McGuffin, not a nature-of-the-universe thing. And it's hard to win genuine emotion for a plot full of McGuffins. Hence, I daresay, the reliance on color and camera technique.

Ah, well. For all its incoherence, I'm really not sorry we went.

*Laughing maniacally. I have a particular fondness for Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix. She's so crazy. She flaps around in her black dress, destroying things and laughing maniacally. Batty, quite batty.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Lewis on language

"The Lewis/Tolkien collaboration that might have been (but never was)" - A fascinating post from Lingwe. I quite liked Lewis' Studies in Words, not to mention Tolkien's "On Fairy Stories" and "English and Welsh," and will definitely have to find a copy of this new manuscript when they get it published. :-)

Hat tip: Unlocked Wordhoard.

A new low

I generally try not to think about Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Anglican church, but her speech from July 7 came to my attention. I do believe she's hit a new low.

The overarching connection in all of these crises has to do with the great Western heresy – that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God. ...That individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy, at the center of existence, as the ground of being. That heresy is one reason for the theme of this Convention.

Ubuntu doesn’t have any “I”s in it. The I only emerges as we connect – and that is really what the word means: I am because we are, and I can only become a whole person in relationship with others. There is no “I” without “you,” and in our context, you and I are known only as we reflect the image of the one who created us.

As I read this, the great heresy is that individuals can be saved. She's right that we can only properly be known in relationship to God. She's even right that people properly come in relational clumps. But God pleases Himself to save people from every people-group. We've never been promised that communities will be redeemed in quite the renewed-earth-here-and-now sense she seems to envision.
Some of the ecumenists in here will twitch at this word, but we should be in the business of subsidiarity – the church as a whole should not be doing mission work that can be done better at a more local level. The budget and the resolutions we will debate here should be about those things that affect the whole of this Church, and the vision of a renewed creation for all of God’s handiwork. We should leave smaller things and more local issues to more local parts of this Church.
Apparently, missions work is a smaller issue, not something that affects the entire Anglican church or is worthy of its attention.
We Christians often think the only important part of the Jerusalem story is Calvary, and, yes, suffering and killing in that place still seem to be the loudest news. But Calvary was a waypoint in the larger arc of God’s dream – it’s on the way to Jerusalem, it is not in Jerusalem. Jesus’ passion was and is for God’s dream of a reconciled creation. We’re meant to be partners in building that reality, throughout all of creation.
Hmm... the cross is only a detail on the road to an earthly paradise, that we help make. No wonder missions is irrelevant.

Why is she even claiming to be a Christian, if she despises 1) the cross, 2) salvation of particular people, and 3) missions?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hear ye, hear ye

The entire world needs to know that we have a rolling pin that lives under the cabinet, and, as of about five minutes ago, it answers to the name of Cuthbert.

(I'm not sure what it answers, actually... maybe it squeaks and chitters like a mouse? Jonathan thinks it goes "Swish!" That would be like its namesake the Wimseys' snake, anyway.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Another for the files

We found another crazy bicyclist yesterday - two, actually. We were driving up that same patch of Main Street when the pair of them turned side-by-side the wrong way onto a one-way street, into our lane, toward us. They did eventually maunder off into the parking lane and thus avoided getting squashed.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

New book

We were delighted this evening to learn that Megan Whalen Turner has another Attolia book coming out -- A Conspiracy of Kings, due to be published in March. (You can pre-order it at Amazon if so inclined.) There's even a Wikipedia page on it already.

My poor overloaded bookshelves think they can find room for it. They're pretty sure, actually. :-)

Friday, July 10, 2009

They did not choose life

Bicyclists in Richmond have no fear. They're quite a remarkable breed, especially downtown. They also have apparently even less concern for mundane traffic regulations than ordinary Richmonders. I can give you two instances from this week.

The other day, Jonathan and I were stopped in traffic in the heart of downtown. It's a one-way street, very busy at rush hour, and everyone's waiting for a bus or a red light or something. A bicyclist comes whizzing downhill in the most nonchalant manner, right down the center line between the cars. It's only after he's past that we quite realize he'd been riding the wrong way down Main Street.

And then today, we were stopped again on that same patch of Main Street, when another bicyclist comes riding up the center line. He's going the right way, but he runs the red light! With steady traffic coming through the intersection! It was an amazing game of Frogger, but he not only survived, he rode up the hill and right through the next red light too, like the devil was on his tail.

Meanwhile, my bike is currently chained to the back railing with two flat tires. I'm inclined to leave it there.


We spent this evening with books and online personality quizzes. (I love Fridays, in case I haven't mentioned it lately.) I liked this quiz -- it pegged me very accurately as an INTP and Jonathan as an ISTJ.

INTPs, I learn, are inclined to like sci-fi and grammar, and easy-going as long as you don't step on our principles. We pick up interests very intensely just long enough to get decent at them, and then -- oh look! A bird! We're also not very good at regularly posting on our blogs. :-)

I was also particularly amused by this list of probable careers for ISTJs, which included "Lawyer," "Military Leader," and "Computer Programmer."

Wednesday, July 08, 2009


If I were a fashion designer, I would make a line of dresses suitable for church. These dresses would be washable for nursery-duty and potluck days, and they'd even include sleeves in the winter. They would be incredibly cute. And I'd get a really great advertising campaign for them, so that people would want to go to church just for the fun of wearing them there.

Moral philosophy vs. Twitter

I don't even do Twitter, and I found these hilarious. (Or maybe, and therefore I found them hilarious?) Augustine and Rorty... bliss.

Hat tip: The Point.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

The kitchen is not on fire

After church, Lisa disappeared upstairs to tend to young David and I lay down on the couch. Our excellent husbands repaired to the kitchen and fixed lunch. I believe risotto was implicated. This was the conversation as overheard by me.

"We don't have enough chicken broth." Jonathan
"Add more white wine or vinegar or something." Ben
"I think the water will do." Jonathan
"Yeah, it will." Ben
"It's just the water that will boil off... wow." Jonathan
"It's fine." Ben
::loudly:: "It's fine, dear. Don't worry." Jonathan
"The pan is not ruined." Ben
"The wings are not on fire." Jonathan
"BUT CAN YOU FIX IT?" Me, highly amused.

"By the way, dear, and unrelated to anything that just happened, did you know that olive oil will burn when it hits one of our stove elements?" Jonathan
"As in, actually burn? With flamey things?" Me
"Oh yes, actual flamey things." Jonathan
"I think they actually used to burn olive oil for fuel." Ben
"That's right! In the Temple, and they ran out, but the oil burned for eight days! Granted, that was a miracle." Jonathan

Friday, July 03, 2009

I don't think he knows about second breakfast, Pip

We have a bunch of Indian programmers at work to keep our computers happy. They're quite nice, and the other day, one of them struck up a conversation with me as I made and jellied my mid-morning toast.

"Having your breakfast, eh?" he said.
"Yes," I agreed. "My second breakfast, actually. I'm like a hobbit: I eat six meals a day when I can get them."

He politely developed that frozen smile that means, "We just stopped communicating." I'm not sure if it was horror at six meals a day* or unfamiliarity with Tolkien. Westerners have some very odd hobbits indeed.

*The other three are for the new baby. Well, mostly. :-)

I adore three-day weekends

I really, really like days off. It's not that I hate my job, because it's a perfectly fine one, but there are such a lot of things at home I'd rather do. I now appreciate the Good Doctor's schedule even more than when I actually got all those Fridays off.

I'm further excited because we get to have company this weekend. Also, I like fireworks. I talked to one coworker to find out the best place to see them, and to another and learned about an out-of-the-way place that would probably have parking within walking distance (a thing not terribly common in that part of Richmond). There are definite advantages to talking to real, live, local people.

Buy provisions
Clean house
Download pictures and recharge my camera

It's a beautiful, sunny, cool morning, and I'm highly grateful for Fourth of July weekend.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bomb threats make me sleepy

On Sunday after church, Jonathan and I got together with Jen and Jen and Joe the Sunday school superintendent and Andrew, and a handful of mothers with tents and Christmas trees and small children whose names I don't know, and we started decorating for VBS.

It's a camping theme (thus the tents and trees), and it was so much fun. Jonathan and Joe got inveigled into moving chairs and tables and then making the columns into "deciduous trees" by the copious application of brown paper. I got to raid the sacred supply closet and make bugs and bats and other fauna to populate the trees.

So there we were, stringing pompoms, gluing popsicle sticks onto bat wings, and be-glittering fish, when Joe hangs up his cell phone and casually states, "By the way, this building is under a bomb threat."

Oh, is it?

"Yeah, apparently someone left a suspicious package out front by the sign. So the police and the bomb squad are out there. They've closed down the road. I think they have a bomb-sniffing dog, too."

"Didn't the police knock on the church doors and tell us?" demanded one of the mothers.

"Yeah, they did. And now I'm telling you. It's not that someone called up the church and said 'I'm going to blow you up!', there was just this mysterious briefcase out front. So someone called the police."

Andrew slipped out to go report on the excitement for us. I added jaunty feathers to my hot pink bird. Jonathan made more trees.

Around three o'clock, everyone started drifting away. We decided we should go, too, so we went out the side door to retrieve Olwen. Sure enough, there were a gaggle of squad cars and a bomb trailer and news guys with cameras. Unfortunately, one of the police shouted at us as we headed for the car. We explained that we really weren't trouble-makers crossing police lines; we had just been in the church and happened to be parked over there and wanted to go home.

"Oh," the policeman said. "Well, you're free to go out the back way, but you absolutely can't go over near the sign until it's over. I'm not even allowed over there. I'm sorry."


We went away and sat dejectedly on the curb. Another nice policeman drove up and said it could be another hour, or five, and asked if there was anything he could do to help us. Not really. About five minutes later, he drove back. "It's all clear! You're free to go!"


Home we went, and I slept for about two, two and a half hours. I tell you, bomb threats make me sleepy.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

And stuff

Verizon is bound and determined that I need a new cell phone. They've been bombarding me with ads. I don't know why (though I can make a few cynical guesses). But I don't really want a new phone. My current one works just fine, thank you. I like it. I have the right chargers for it. Furthermore, it has all my phone numbers programmed into it, and why would I want the bother of typing them all in again? I'm not necessarily opposed to having a new one, but it just absolutely doesn't rank up there with, say, a theoretical new pair of pants that fit. Or a pair of sandals I could wear to work.

I am, in fact, trying to clear out the apartment so as to fit in cribs and suchlike. I'm busy throwing away dead technology and unnecessary papers and packing away old clothes, so the concept of getting new junk is kind of horrifying. Tuesday night I put away two bags of necklaces I hardly ever wear and cleaned off my bulletin board.

On the other end of the trendy spectrum, my brave attempt to grow my own herbs this spring has been a pretty good flop. Some of them are still alive, but the rest died from... I'm not sure what. Lack of love and water probably didn't help. I even managed to break one of the pots. Organic food is all well and good, but it's simply impossible to grow a baby, work, and keep up with a mouse and house and garden. I don't know how ladies ever make it through the first trimester without a husband.

I recognize that programmers need something to do, and some people actually like gadgets. I'm also delighted for people with time and energy to grow edible things, and someday I might too. I suspect, however, that God has seasons for people, and this is a season in which doing and buying and keeping on top of inessential though very cool things isn't on my Called-To list. Perhaps I should break it to Verizon gently... or just keep throwing away their ads.

I failed

Yesterday afternoon, John Who Goes to Conferences stopped by my desk. We chatted a minute about this and that, and then I noticed he was fiddling with some kind of knit armband with a purple logo on it.

"What's that?" I ask.
"You don't know?" (Clearly not.) "Blockbuster last Fourth of July, also 1985?"
"I was in Scotland last Fourth of July..."
John taps it meaningfully, as if by looking more closely at it, I will comprehend all. I rack my brains for movies that came out last summer. It's not Kung Fu Panda, and it's not the classic Batman symbol, but maybe there's more than one?
"TRANSFORMERS! Transformers. Robots in disguise!" And with that, he went off shaking his head. I definitely failed.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

When we all get to heaven

I just discovered that Touchstone has a whole collection of posts on the importance of graveyards. :-) I believe it was Dr. Smith who first got me interested in theology of Christian burial; one of his many areas of arcane knowledge. He did it in freshman Rhetoric, no less. The randomest things turn up in his classes.

Your pardon, I need to go check on my husband. I think he found some undead sausage in the fridge.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Good instructions

This is a poem from Neil Gaiman, the author (I learn) of the book Stardust, and it's full of good advice if you should happen to find yourself in a fairy tale.

Hat tip: Semicolon.

Mixed compliment of the day

"You're the mother-load!"

Only my nice husband can say that and make me laugh. It could have been very unfortunate.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Really odd things happen when you talk without being awake. Whose herb garden did you go into?

Monday, May 25, 2009

It spoke to my soul

Abraham Piper is so right.

We called our pending offspring "them"... once. Then we discovered what we'd said. :-)

Thursday, May 07, 2009

You know you married a law student

...when he bends over a new section of notes and says, "Forcibly resisting arrest, hurrah."


Sunday, May 03, 2009

So that's what the Dream of the Rood is about

This evening I was catching up a bit on blogs, and came across this one from Brandywine Books talking about, of all things, evangelism methods used for the ancient Vikings. How on earth do you show the humility of Christ to warriors with no use for humility?
“Milk first, then meat” is the old formula. For the Vikings, the humility of Christ was meat that they had to be introduced to over time. ...

Warriors understood very well what it meant to go willingly to death. By emphasizing the courage of Christ in His self-sacrifice, the missionaries presented the Gospel story in a way that their listeners could begin to comprehend. The greatest warriors always die in battle. They fall and lie at their enemies’ feet, as if in submission. Their bodies decompose. What is that but humiliation? And yet they are victorious, celebrated in song, for they did not flee and they did not fail their oaths. In the same way (said the preachers) that which looks like defeat and humiliation in the eyes of our flesh can be true victory, if we turn our backs on our sins and turn our hearts to God, the great King who Himself bowed down to death.
The original post quotes a great passage from the Anglo-Saxon Dream of the Rood talking about the Master of mankind hastening to the Cross (the Rood) for death and great victory. It was very moving. I wonder, now, if we've got a copy of the whole poem.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Quote of the day

On the subject of socks that don't match even themselves, thereby defeating the logical law "A, therefore A":

"If I knew, I would say something witty, like 'I'm in your sock drawer subverting your teleology.'" Jonathan

On the subject of pepperoni, which is and is not a meat, especially in reference to Good Friday:

"I guess the cow could say, 'I'm in your pepperoni nuancing your metaphysics.' Then again, I guess the cow would say 'Moo!'" Jonathan

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Quote of the day

Quote from today:

"Squirrels are definitely warped by sin." Pastor Shelby during today's sermon.

And, for the fun of it, a quote from last Saturday:

"Do you want to share parsley?" Elizabeth, relating how she greets new neighbors.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Book of Kells

This morning I was reading a book on the Book of Kells (also called The Book of Kells), which I found most informative. I'd picked it up in a castle bookstore in Scotland. This book has a beautiful layout, with a full-page print of a page from the original Book of Kells, and opposite it text discussing it. Among other things, it explained why the four Evangelists were symbolized by a man, lion, ox, and eagle--a point that had always mystified me.

Matthew -- the Man -- His gospel emphasizes Jesus' humanity.
Mark -- the Lion -- His gospel emphasizes Jesus' royalty.
Luke -- the Ox -- His gospel emphasizes Jesus' priesthood and sacrifice.
John -- the Eagle -- He in his gospel "soars to Heaven, as St. Augustine puts it, and gazes on the light of immutable truth with keen and undazzled eyes."

Rather classy, I thought. This may not be the only explanation, but it struck me as a nice solid one. The Book of Kells (the original one) is astoundingly intricate and impressive, and I mean to learn more about it and also learn to illuminate manuscripts.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

On dying

"We cannot point to the high virtue of Christian living and the gay, almost mocking courage of Christian martyrdom, as a proof of our doctrines with quite that assurance which Athanasius takes as a matter of course. But whoever may be to blame for that it is not Athanasius." C.S. Lewis, "On the Reading of Old Books"

To which I reply: quite true. But why not??

I've been thinking about dying lately; not that I have any intention of doing so in the near future, but it's unavoidable in my current job. A most melancholy thing has struck me. Hardly anyone hospitalizes gracefully or dies well. Even those who claim that their "faith gives them strength" seem to fall apart when their bodies do, and there's nothing sadder to read than a do-not-resuscitate order of a self-proclaimed Christian.

I don't think that the Church these days really talks about dying much. I'm not sure why. It's pretty likely to happen, like taxes. I'm thinking of two ladies from back home. One said, "If God loves me, He'll heal me," and when she died, some of her family fell away from the faith. It's just not true that God will heal all His children in this world. And then there's a lady who spent her last months with cancer memorizing the saints' words from Revelation. She said she was learning her lines ahead of time.

The other day I came across an article. I wish I could remember what it was in. It was talking about the cost of hospitalization and the difference between people who had hope of an afterlife, and still fought to live, versus the people who had this life only and were fine with a DNR order.

We hate death, but we do not mourn like those who have no hope!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Very good and exciting news

I planted a whole packet of basil seeds a few weeks ago, and a bunch of them came up right away and withered almost immediately. It was heartbreaking. And then, last, as one untimely born, a lone little sprout came up.

And... it stayed up. I've been assiduously putting it in the sunniest spot ever since.

And tonight I noticed it's growing two more little leaves! It's decided to keep growing! HURRAY!

Friday, March 20, 2009

English as a written language

"Some people have no concept of English as a written language." Ben A 3-15-09

I submit a few instances for your consideration. They affect context rather horrifically:


And my personal favorite: "heart faliure."

Well, I thought it was funny...

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Sunny with a high of 77

I would just like to announce that it was 77 here today, and more or less sunny. This, after we had so much snow Monday that the public schools were closed three entire days. (The snow's all gone now.) I approve of Richmond weather.

A real mermaid

I loved this story about Weta Workshop (that Weta Workshop!) turning a a lady with amputated legs into a mermaid. :-) She got a functional prosthetic tail made to be used in water, and she even got the makeover to go with it. It's beautiful.

Apparently kids see her in the water and go, "Oh, right, there's a mermaid," but adults think it's really awesome.

Hat tip: Brandywine books.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Snow day

Yesterday was a miserable, chilly, rainy, sleety, hail-ey day. They were predicting snow but I didn't believe a word of it. We came home from church and huddled. With chocolate chip cookies.

But about 5:00 yesterday, it snowed! It really did!

We woke up this morning to find Olwen, and the rest of town, completely covered. That white lump in the foreground is our bush. My work and Jonathan's school were canceled. :-)

I celebrated by making tea and a breakfast casserole, with some El Pinto salsa that Kroger's here carries (!!). We mean to continue huddling inside today, catch up on laundry and taxes and such... and I just challenged Jonathan to a Scrabble duel. I love snow days.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Quote of the day

This quote comes from Thursday last, at small group, comprised of chiefly young couples.

Babies: "Watch out, they're catching." Katie

Thursday, February 05, 2009

"They're trying to tell me how to feel"

At first I thought she was just being dumb, but upon reflection, I think it's a cultural phenomenon. I was listening to Taylor Swift yesterday, to her new song "Love Story." It's basically a shameless rip-off of Romeo and Juliet, re-set loosely in contemporary times with a happy ending, and it's pretty cute. But there's this one line that ruins it. "Romeo, save me/ They're trying to tell me how to feel!"

There's also a scene in Sayers' Gaudy Night where Harriet and one of the professors are discussing proper feeling and knowing one's true calling. It doesn't matter so much what you feel, they conclude, "as long as you don't try to persuade yourself into proper feeling." Harriet concurs, noting that "trying to persuade herself into proper feeling" regarding her former lover is what got her into trouble. "You will only know what is of overmastering importance when you have been overmastered by it."

Why is it such a massive crime to try and tell people what's right to feel in a certain situation? Especially if it really will make their lives easier? And in some situations, if there really is a right versus a wrong feeling?

So I propounded this puzzle to my true love about six this morning. We blame the Enlightenment, which knew all about reason but didn't have the foggiest idea what to do with emotion. The Romantics rebelled by making emotion their god and their drug. I think that's where Aeolian harps and the wind and the soul all get mixed up together. (I like that mental image--it makes me think of a pretty woods, with harp-strings going sproing! and flying in all directions.) I further think Postmodernism quietly usurped that line of thought--the Aeolian harp emotion bit, I mean. I suppose, if you're defining your own reality, your emotions are about your only guide and therefore it really is a tyranny for someone to dictate those emotions.

I would go about this entirely differently: in the beginning was God, and He set up reality for us. I keep thinking of phrases like, "Rejoice, O Israel!" and "Husbands, love your wives." Yes, love is a verb and all that, but if it's not a commanded emotion too, I don't want it. Emotion is no longer so important, so bloated, so all-encompassing, and so emotions too can be brought into their proper service.

I also think of Lewis' Abolition of Man and his discussion of Men Without Chests. They have Stomachs--meaning appetites of one sort and another--and they have Heads--meaning reason of one sort and another. It's the Chest, the seat of the emotion, that never gets trained. And when things get a trifle sticky, it's not the Head that says "I am about to get shot and therefore I will stay right here"--it's the Chest that says "Yeah I know I'm about to get shot, but there's this flag, you see," and stays.

I don't want to go overboard and say "Yes! People should dictate emotions to one another all the time!" But I do think that if there's a common reality, there's the possibility for right and wrong feelings in relationship to it. So. Taylor Swift wasn't just being dumb, but I do think she was incorrect. Opinions?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Word of the day

Today's word of the day is "swulten," as in, "God bade us that we not eat, nor we that tree be touching, lest we swulten."

(Aelfric's c. 1005 AD Old English version went, "God bebead us thaet we ne aeten, ne we thaet treow ne hrepoden thy laes the we swulten."--and I updated the eths and thorns to mere th's. I daresay my translation is dreadful.)

It appears from this site that it comes from "sweltan, swealt, swulton, swolten," meaning "die." My Merriam-Webster's dictionary lists the Middle English "sweltan" as the root of "swelter," which would be "to die, be overcome by heat," from the Old English "sweltan," "to die." It also seems to be related to the Old English "sweatan, sweat," meaning "sweat." So it appears when they will surely swulten, they will die of heat.

I'm not sure why Aelfric chose the verb for "die" with warm connotations. It's certainly appropriate, hell-fire being what it is, but I question whether Eve would have been quite so on top of things at that stage of history. My source indicates Aelfric was working from the Vulgate, which uses "moriamur," and "mori" doesn't have particular connotations of heat. Was Aelfric just being creative and forward-hinting? Another possibility is that "sweltan" did not necessarily mean "die of heat" when he used it, but it picked up those connotations later, much like "starvan" didn't specifically mean "die of hunger" until it had been used in connection with too many sieges.

Isn't "swulten" a great word? Jonathan claims he's going to start using it instead of "pwned." I will now put away my Guide to Old English, Traupman's Latin dictionary, Vulgate, Merriam-Webster's, and Bobrick's Wide as the Waters, which started all this, and go to church.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Quote of the day

"And one thing I have learned is where craisins are, the joy of the Lord will come soon after."


Blood oranges are the improbability drive of the kitchen.

No matter how awesome "blackberry and blood orange tarts" sound, the blood orange portion is not recommended. They develop a Whang when baked: not so much nasty as, well, bizarre. Improbable, even.


A little thing, this new jar of cinnamon, but it's amazing. So potent, so sweet, so spicy, so holiday-ish. It even has an impressive name: "Spice Islands" Ground Saigon Cinnamon (100% organic, certified). Doesn't it sound exotic and tropical? And monkey-bread made with it makes your house smell just like Cinnabon. Yummm!

It's good stuff, in other words. :-)

I wonder if the forests where cinnamon-bark-growing trees come from smell like cinnamon.

Friday, January 30, 2009

What I've been up to

So: we beat the February 1 deadline at work. We (especially Tech) jollied the server into hanging in there, and even got to use the queues again. We all, but especially my team, had been working overtime like crazy people (especially John Who Attends Conferences), and so when we hit the requisite number of claims about Tuesday noon, the energy level at large sort of deflated, whoomf. It's been a very long week since then.

In other news, I've been getting Officially and Properly Hired, and am no longer a lowly temp worker. Not that anyone said so; but thus it was. Less easily got rid of was the insurance from the temp agency, which in a brilliant burst of irony called the very afternoon I'd signed up for the new insurance, and said actually there was a glitch and it isn't my fault but I wasn't signed up for 2009 after all, and did I want to? Well, probably. So I've had to be firm but very charming with two insurances.

It occurs to me that I haven't introduced the characters at work. We have them. John the Conference-Goer is called so to distinguish him from the other Johns in my work life, especially John My Supervisor and John Boatwrong. John the Conference-Goer started the same time I did, and before a meeting we got to talking.

"Have you been to the aquarium in Baltimore?" he asked. I hadn't. Had he? "Well--I hear it's really good, and I've been to it, but I haven't gone in." Why not? "I was just back from a... Conference. And I'd spent all my money on... Goods."

"What Conference?" I asked, innocently. I really was innocent.
"Arcfhmmf," he mumbled.
He looked around sheepishly. The room was full of people pretending not to be listening.
"It's an anime conference..."

That's the kind of Goods he'd spent his money on! But he's a good enough sort; friendly; I shared my Christmas cookies with him, and today he offered me his extra egg roll.

He's been working maximum overtime, which is 7 am to 10 pm. That's not civilized. I asked what he's going to do, now the deadline's over. He looked pensive and replied, "Take kung-fu." Apparently he's already signed up.

He likes to wander up to my desk while I'm working.

"What's up?"
"Not much."
Another pause.

Usually at this point, one of us will offer a topic, such as fish or movies, and we will actually start conversing. I find this process entertaining. He likes fish, especially in tanks, but eats sushi. I don't ask.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


"It is the decided opinion of all who use their brains, that all men desire to be happy."

"Being attached to him, or rather let me say, re-attached--for we had detached ourselves and lost hold of Him--being, I say, re-attached to Him, we tend toward Him by love, that we may rest in Him, and find our blessedness by attaining that end."

"For our good, about which philosophers have so keenly contended, is nothing else than to be united to God."

--Augustine of Hippo, City of God, excerpts from Book X, 1-3. You've got to love Augustine, especially when he's cheerfully co-opting Platonism for Christianity!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A melancholic server

"A server crashed at a big law firm downtown and ended the world as they know it." --Mrs. Smith

The server of my big law firm downtown has developed something of the melancholic, not to say obstreperous, temperament. It becomes burdened with self-doubt around 3:00. This becomes particularly evident to those who finish a claim, go to the queue, and request another claim.

The server finds itself forced to make a decision. It freezes. "Maybe I should give you this one. No, that one. No, that one. Oh no! Someone else wants another claim too! AHHHHH!" And the patient reviewer sits and waits, and gets timeout messages and unhandled exception messages and "You have been chosen as the deadlock victim" messages, and has time to write short stories about deadlocks and victims while the server second-guesses itself, and eventually restarts her computer in an attempt to jolly the server into thinking she didn't really mean it.

Julie, my project leader, is keenly, even painfully, aware of the server's shortcomings. So she's trying to work with it. She has a spreadsheet of all the claims that need to be dealt with, and she doles them out as we go. This has helped keep the server from having to make queue decisions, but now it isn't sure it can even work up the strength of soul necessary to save our work. We ask, and it sits and contemplates something, probably its own impending doom. The reviewer is reminded of the strange Renaissance habit of painting decorative young persons meditating on skulls as a memento mori, a reminder of death. Hamlet's random conversation to Yorick's skull comes smack out of that tradition, and isn't quite as random as it looks.

My theory is that the server gets an afternoon low in its blood sugar, and needs a snack. I find reviewers do. Either that, or the tech-gnomes need an afternoon snack and get a bit nibbly in the gigabytes. Meanwhile, our January 31 deadline is getting loomier and loomier. We all hope Julie doesn't have a stroke, or a conniption, or a fit of insanity, or whatever project leaders do get, brought on by a melancholic server.

Quote of the day

"And I don't think he's developed much of an idea of my constitutional reasoning, because of yet the only words I have said in his class, and I quote, are 'Macduff was from his mother's womb untimely ripped.'" --Jonathan

Thursday, January 01, 2009

A name for a pizza

Every once in a while, we feel the need for a pizza. It's a natural, human desire, I think. So we generally get carry-out from our closest little Pizza Hut. They're quite nice and all, but they do have a terrible time with our name.

The first time we went--not long after we moved here--I explained to the girl what our name was. "With a B," I said. We picked up the order for "Vail." Ah, well.

Next time we went, I explained our name again. They earnestly wrote it down, and they found our pizza under the name "Bates."

Yesterday, on the way home from work, I called in our order. I gave my name and phone number, and the guy took forever to enter it in, as they just got new software. (I feel his pain.) But he repeated my name back correctly, and even said, "Oh! With a B!" So I was reasonably confident.

I got there--a bit later, because in one of Richmond's less charming traits, during rush hour they randomly put up "No left turn" signs at intersections, and haply the intersection I wanted was one of them so I had to go up and turn around--but I got there.

This time the ticket was for "Cales."