Saturday, December 29, 2007

breakfast by candlelight

It was many years ago.

I went to Germany on a whim, I'd say, if I didn't know [now] how important it really was. At the time, though, I didn't know why I was going, I just knew I had to. Ostensibly, it was to attend a 'by-invitation-only' conference I had invited myself to.

I spent 3 days in the Atlanta airport on a stand-by buddy pass ticket, trying to get a flight to Germany. I'm still in touch with at least one of the people I met during that time.

Ultimately, I flew via Dublin - a most creative routing - courtesy of the Delta manager who finally took pity on me and got me on the last plane out before they suspended all buddy pass tickets for the rest of the week, they were so backed up. A year later, I would be living in Dublin.

The conference came and went - apparently without incident except for a passing reference to 'conscience' which I would work on for the next five years - and I found myself in Frankfurt at the end of the whole affair with nothing to do and no set place to stay for the weekend. An American woman I'd tried to steer clear of at the conference found out I was at loose ends and said "You must come back with me and stay at the castle!"

I have a rule: never turn down an invitation to a castle.

So an hour later, I found myself in her banger of an old Volvo station wagon, heading to a small village outside of Heidelberg. The morning I was to leave, we were up before dawn. A light dusting of snow had fallen, and my hostess had prepared coffee and a light breakfast. We ate by candlelight. I've never had candles at breakfast before. It was lovely! The sun slowly rose and took over from the candles. Now, whenever I'm up before dawn - or when it's a horrible bleak drear of a morning - I light candles and think of her.

Like this morning.

The sun is well up now, but the candles are still burning in the darkened living room. My checkered mug has only half a slug of coffee left and it's time to get up and moving and start the day. I'll blow the candles out when I get off the sofa. It's been too long since I've seen my friend, though, and it's been nice to think of her this morning.

Friday, December 28, 2007

songbird. singing. . . .

It's been feeling like spring here, these last few days, of a morning.I finally figured out why.

Some blessed bird has been holding forth, where formerly silence reigned.

No, it isn't any warmer than usual. In fact, this morning there was frost on cars and grass. But for some reason, this lone creature has had it in his heart to be singing. (and no, unfortunately the above is not a picture of the most recent singer. It's a picture I took last time I was in Dublin. We made an excursion one very cold day to Glendalough. This fat, feathery guy kept us company in the graveyard.)

It's amazing how I can get used to the silence - as well as get used to the song. It's only around the transitional period that I might become aware - but not necessarily. The bird singing - after having become used to silence - makes me feel like it's spring. And a profound silence - after the chatter of bugs and birds all summer and fall - makes me feel like a blanket of snow must have fallen. So I guess it's the out-of-the-ordinary that draws attention. The isolated bird singing when all else is (and has been) silent; the sudden silence when - an hour before - raucousness reigned. Other than that, the gradual decline or start up of the noises of spring and summer go largely unnoticed.

I remember coming across an unlabeled cassette tape in the dead of winter a few years ago in my cottage in Dublin. I popped it in to hear what it was. I had taped an interview on the back porch of my parents' house during late summer. The voices were barely discernible over the din of the locusts and crickets. I was amazed! Since then, I've made a recording of the summer night noises, and bring it out in the dead of winter, just to help myself remember. . . .

Must do this also for early morning bird song one day, I see. I'm missing 'em.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

leave the ruby red slippers. . . .

. . . . bring the socks.My favorite gift from the king: these regal socks and the 'courtly check' coffee mug (and enormous tea pot - same pattern, very cool).

different drummer

I'm a little worried about my Amaryllis Elvas. They started out fine.
They've been growing. (you just saw this picture, below).
One guy is marching to the beat of a distant drummer - in the opposite direction from the others'. (but look how much they've grown!)
This is the blossom hoped for, but I don't know about our little rebel. He may wear a blossom of an entirely different colour!As might be expected, I'm drawn to the rebel - the guy heading in the opposite direction.

Friday, December 21, 2007

they're getting bigger!

Remember these guys?

They're my Hippeastrum Amaryllis Elvas that I wrote about in dirt/happiness)

Look at 'em now! Wow. I'm so proud of the little guys. . . .

my new word

It's: excursive.

It's splendid! Here's the definition, courtesy of Wordsmith's A.Word.A.Day:
excursive (ik-SKUR-siv) adjective:
Tending to wander off; rambling.
My thoughts are excursive. Elsewhere, other definitional sources emphasized the excursional aspects of "excursive" - the going on a trip, making an excursion. And that's what I find intriguing not only in thoughts, but also in writing.

Other people - I am told - can find it merely annoying; not to the point. (Those are the same people who manage to draw up an outline before the fact, and then write to fill out the outline. I'm always surprised at where I end up. I do outlines at the end, to figure out how I got there. . . . )

By the way, you can subscribe to get a new word every day by email - NY Times called Word.A.Day "The most welcomed, most enduring piece of daily mass e-mail in cyberspace." I've been getting it for years. It's also a major source of the quotations I collect. . . .<

And the painting above, by another way, is by William Bradford, an American painter, 1823-92, who was related to the wife of a rather wealthy man I know, who apparently has several original Bradfords in his home. . . . This is not one of them, but it's one of my favorites of the ones I could find online. Their Bradford - the one I saw, anyway - was more cloud-ey; very somber and ominous. Right up my alley, in other words. I liked it well enough that I managed to remember the name long enough to do some internet research.

And there you have it! Excursive thought and writing. Voilà.

truth, error, and popular opinion

An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does the truth become error because nobody will see it.
Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948)

In other words, truth is not subject to democratic vote. Or 'spin'. Interesting.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

not reading PostSecret - part two

A few days ago I wrote about why I'd stopped reading PostSecret, concluding that it's grown past its initial positive impact, and is in danger of moving into scandalous voyeurism, if not also normalizing shameful behavior.

PostSecret Frank ("Yes, that Frank." as he assured me) weighed in on the matter in comments:
Thanks for your thoughtful comments.
Funny, but I really didn't expect to hear from him. It never occurred to me that he'd be interested in reading why I don't read PostSecret anymore. The jaded bit of me thinks:
All publicity is good publicity.
Of course he'd be interested, if only as a blueprint to attract more readers! Knowing what not to do is almost as good as knowing what to do. . . .
But no. I think Frank really is interested, because I think he started this project with a good heart, and for a good purpose. It's taken on a life of its own, though. I wonder if he'd noticed? Perhaps he was beginning to feel a bit uncomfortable with where things were heading?

I can't help but wonder if it'll make a difference. But no, I still won't be reading it anymore. I don't think there's a way to retrieve this, once the feeding frenzy of public guilt assuagement has commenced.

Lee Anne makes the insightful point that, "by sharing [public confession], you're dispersing the burden of responsibility/guilt."

WARNING: explicit theological content follows. Proceed at your own risk.

It seems to me that we might get some insight into this phenomenon by looking at the role of confession in Christianity. The Catholics, of course, involve another human being in the process: the priest. But the contents of the confessional are held in strictest confidence. (we've all seen examples of that, if no where else, in Law & Order and CSI, where the priest knows whodunit, but can't say because of the priest/penitent rules of confidentiality. . . .)

Alternatively, there's the "group confession" that takes place in the formal order of service, where everybody recites their individual and collective guilt of grievous offenses - but note: no details are given.

So, from the Christian side, confession is dealt with corporately (no details disclosed) and/or privately (where details are given, but then never referred to again). The cleansing agent is Divine forgiveness: the "do-over" and fresh start.

We see a different dynamic in the thought of Nietzsche, of course, as well as Sigmund Freud. There, ultimately it is the feeling of guilt itself that is attacked, rather than the erasure of guilt by the transcendent Creator. Where there is no guilt, there is no need of forgiveness. That requires, however, that we undo what we have held to be wrong, or bad. One way of doing that is to rehearse the disclosure of "bad" actions without attaching a corresponding condemnation for the act. Instead, we applaud the disclosure itself as "brave". Eventually, it appears the hope is that the underlying "bad" act will cease in our minds to be "bad."

There are a lot of variations on this theme, but this is enough for my present purposes.

For myself, I think I'd rather work on forgiveness of my bad acts, rather than working on dismantling my ethical convictions so that I won't notice my bad acts - or ultimately find in them an opportunity for pursuing cyber-celebrity by disclosing them in the most entertaining or artistic fashion, hopeful of being selected for publication in PostSecret. . . .

And now note this important DISCLAIMER: this is no way implies that all people submitting "secrets" to PostSecret are "bad" people, or that they're attempting to dismantle their ethical systems, or that they should rather go to a Catholic church and take advantage of the confessionals there (or an Anglican one, and confess "corporately"), or that Freud is a fraud, or that I don't like Frank ("yes, that Frank.").

It is an analysis of what seems to me to be the changing face of PostSecret, and thoughts on questions of guilt and how to be rid of it.

I'm glad you found my comments "thoughtful", Frank. I found them rather disturbing, myself.

best wishes,

stairway to heaven. . . .

Yes, that stairway to heaven, courtesy of the "Beatles". (actually, the "Beatnix”, a Beatles tribute group from Australia.

It takes a minute, but yes that is rather close to the actual melody! Arrangement is everything. . . .

I must say, I do miss the beginning guitar bit with the recorder flute.

This is amazing, though! Makes me laugh.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

strange music. . . .

There's a TV ad for some kind of car that features beautiful haunting music. . . .

There's a girl sitting in the backseat, looking up through a clear roof at the Manhattan skyline. And this music plays.

After some sleuthing, I found that the song in question is by Band of Horses, and that the song is called Funeral. (if you haven't already, click to play above, while you read the rest. . . .)

I haven't made out the lyrics yet, but the official music video by the band includes footage of a very depressed-looking man drinking, driving, more drinking-in-a-bar shots, and heading in the end towards a scary-looking accident with a truck. Driving a vintage car.


Rather a strange song to select to advertise a new car, wouldn't you say?

Then again, they don't play the lyrics in the ad. Just the beautiful, floaty bits. . . . (and I liked it well enough to take the time to track it down. That says something) And maybe this is about the death of driving old cars? whatever. . . .

I just like the song.

Monday, December 17, 2007

why I don't read PostSecret anymore. . . .

Not a flash in the pan, I think PostSecret is picking up readership.

In case you're one of the few who hasn't actually seen it, PostSecret is a blog that posts pictures of postcards that contain secrets. Seems thousands of people make up these clever ways of disclosing way too much information on a postcard and send them to one "Frank" at a pre-disclosed address somewhere on Copper Ridge Road in Germantown, Maryland.

More recently, PostSecret has entered the book business. More recently still, there are art exhibits, chat secrets, video secrets, PostSecrets lectures, conferences, and book tours and, now, secret follow-up stories. . . .

The original premise of briefly sharing in the limited format of a postcard a secret you had never told anyone else:
"Each secret can be a hope, regret, funny experience, unseen kindness, fantasy, belief, fear, betrayal, erotic desire, confession, or childhood humiliation."
The emerging 'norm' seems to be a growing "openness" about "sharing" things better left not only unsaid, but unthought!

Can we perhaps consider that there is a reason we keep certain things secret?

So. Why don't I read it anymore? Because (1) it's gotten too big properly to deal with secrets anymore, (2) secrets, dealt with on a large scale, are no longer secrets, they move towards scandal, (3) the mass consumption of secrets-leaning-towards-scandal begins to look a lot like scandalous voyeurism, and (4) I don't enjoy the attempt to make "normal" what really should remain shameful.

The message is that we all have secrets. True.

The follow-up to that, however, seems to be that if we just publish our secret, we won't be rejected and our secrets won't have a hold on us anymore. That may - or may not - be true. It depends on the "secret".

I know this may be an unpopular sentiment, but there are some things that are just wrong and proclaiming them in a "secret" forum doesn't make them right; doesn't make them palatable; doesn't make the proponent an acceptable member of society.

Frank: I think you started out well, helping people who had been crippled by a deadly secret. From giving people a hole to bury their secret in - with a witness to the burial - we've now invited those deadly secrets to join us for lunch.

I, for one, am not having any.

DISCLAIMER: Not all PostSecret "secrets" are scandalous. . . . Some "secrets" are sweet. . . funny. . . . enlightening. . . . thought-provoking. It's just that more and more deal with sex, death, hatred, humiliation, perversion and etc. . . .

Friday, December 14, 2007

the rise of the mediocre

I've been enjoying a bit of a back and forth with Lee Anne over at Adorable Device of Destruction (where does she come up with this stuff?! grin) about what happens to a military that no longer admires the society it is sworn to protect.

She refers to an excellent article by Robert D. Kaplan, On Forgetting the Obvious" in The American Interest, and says:
Kaplan explores the divisions between a small, elite warrior class and the American public. He views this separation as symptomatic of the diminishing importance of faith and nationalism in American society as well as an unwillingness to admit that war is a fact of life.
What came to my mind was C.S. Lewis' The Abolition of Man in which he explores the consequences of "debunking" the kinds of values that have traditionally undergirded our society - and, I would add, especially our "warrior caste". (who else, these days, do you hear talking about love, duty, honour, country? AND paying the price for those values, I mean. . . .)

The biggest reservation I have, though, about any kind of an "elite" group is the tendency for the 'rest of us' to slide/skate into mediocrity. Have you noticed that, with increased specialization, there is an increase in the big mass of us that has no clue what is going on?

With more and more specialists, we get more and more ignorance of those not specialists.

As tempting as it is to leave such weighty matters to the "specialists", I begin to think that we can't afford not to think about these things ourselves. We already have personal trainers to handle our flabby bodies, lawyers to take care of our disputes, police officers to "safeguard" our property at home, doctors to manage our health, accountants our wealth, dieticians, personal life trainers, shoppers, child care providers, lawn care "specialists", housekeepers, pooperscoopers, dogwalkers, color analysts, feng shui-ists, spiritualists, tutors, astrologers - need I go on?!

I came across Thoreau's Walden recently - in connection with building one's own house - and was struck by what he said about "divisions of labor" and thinking:
But alas! we do like cowbirds and cuckoos, which lay their eggs in nests which other birds have built, and cheer no traveller with their chattering and unmusical notes. Shall we forever resign the pleasure of construction to the carpenter? What does architecture amount to in the experience of the mass of men?

I never in all my walks came across a man engaged in so simple and natural an occupation as building his house. We belong to the community. It is not the tailor alone who is the ninth part of a man; it is as much the preacher, and the merchant, and the farmer. Where is this division of labor to end? and what object does it finally serve?

No doubt another may also think for me; but it is not therefore desirable that he should do so to the exclusion of my thinking for myself.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

and, finally. . . .

Further to the dirt & happiness correspondence I wrote about a little while ago, I wanted to introduce you to the latest inhabitants in our home. They look a lot like some sort of prehistoric dragon fledgling, don't you think?

They are the Hippeastrum amaryllis - the Elvas variety.

Wait'll you get a load of the blossoms! Now that'll cure what ails ya. . . .

music therapy. . . .

You knew it. . . .

time for some music for my soul.

Here's a little Sarah. . . . covering a great Joni Mitchell song that Non-Essential Equipment reminded me of. Nee likes the version by Robert Downey Jr. [?!] - I never even knew he sang! RD Jr.'s is a pretty good version. But Sarah McLaughlin is my go-to for melancholy.

malaise, uninterrupted

Now is the time of year when I find that money questions seriously compete with a joy to the world state of mind.

In no time flat, a "token" gift can add 50 bucks to my cash outlay. [so you do the math for, say, ten token gifts!] Not to mention the question of the NON-tokens, for which I struggle to overcome a current cultural equation indicating a direct correlation between degree of affection/love and amount of cash outlay.

In other words: if I don't spend a bundle, I must not care very much.

Add to this a general drowning in things - stacks of articles, books I can't put away, resurrected crafts I'm starting to dig out again, Christmas cards waiting for addresses and personalized notes [damn - I don't think I have time to write up one of those 'what-we've-been-up-to-all-year' one-pagers, can I really just write Wishing you the best for the upcoming year! and be done with it? And hey! They haven't contacted me, either, so why is it always my fault for not having been in touch, I'd like to know?! Simmer down there now. . . . sigh]

You get the picture.

On top of that, I finally got the kitchen guy to give me an actual number for the kitchen design he's been working on, off and on for a year, for the house being built. Can you say "way over budget"? Well, I can. It's way over budget. And when I pointed that out, he got - well - a bit snitty with me. No more Mr. Nice Guy - now I get 'business-like' emails and the proposal is in contract form rather than proposal form. Sort of a 'sign or else' format. . . .

Oh - and the countertop is suddenly - mysteriously - no longer included.


Emancipated son #1 continues his financial drama and has asked that I review a contract for his new employment elsewhere. As expected, it was draconian and incomplete and succeeded in pissing me off. I hate bad contracts. It's almost easier just to start from scratch. Anyway, the final indignity was to be told (having asked a bunch of questions) that I was overthinking the matter, and that this is just a simple arrangement, all that was needed was to make sure the legal 'mumbo-jumbo' was in order.


Funny how people view the law. It's 'mumbo-jumbo' at the start, when good will and best intentions still prevail. But when the will and the intentions have gone south - to hell in a handbasket - then suddenly the 'mumbo-jumbo' becomes important. The lawyers are still blamed - don't get me wrong - but it's because the parties didn't want to deal with what the 'mumbo-jumbo formality' was actually saying, to the extent that it does not mirror the "simple arrangement" the parties like to think they actually had. . . . . What's really going on, is that the parties have not thought through the details of their "simple arrangement", and decided what will happen if things do go wrong. . . . [which inevitably, they do. Sooner, or later].

Pessimism is an occupational hazard to practicing law.

Anyway - and a partridge in a pear tree to you, too!

Monday, December 10, 2007

it's sunny in Dublin

Don't blink!

Here's proof:

I keep a webcam widget on my Google desktop so that I can track the weather changes. I find it particularly unfair when it's sunny there, but overcast here. As it is today.

But I'll tell you what, there's nothing that will make you appreciate the sun more than living in Ireland! You don't take it for granted. I could go check the webcam in another 5 or 10 minutes and find it gray and pouring rain. Here, when the sun is out, you can usually count on it staying out for a good several hours. Not so, in Ireland!

This accounts for much of their approach to life, I think, which can be summed up twofold: (1) Expect rain, but (2) enjoy the sun now, while you can! It also accounts for the incredible diversity - and interesting - conversation about the weather, a favorite topic over there. You just can't help it.

thought: Membership? or Thought?

A sect or party is an elegant incognito devised to save a man from the vexation of thinking.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher

Sunday, December 9, 2007


Thursday was a concert over an hour's drive away.

Friday, the king's cold started catching up with me. I spent the day holed up on on the bed with books and my computer. Back to dissertation reading. The good news: I already have one of the 'new' books that Magda has recommended that I read.

Fun get-together Saturday with some of the people who were with us in Florida for the wedding - for which I paid today. . . .

Early to bed tonight, I think, and a fresh start tomorrow!

Friday, December 7, 2007

dirt + bacteria = happiness

I kid thee not.

Garden Rant has posted a story about how the Mycobacterium vaccae bacteria which is found in gardening soil (i.e. "dirt") has been scientifically linked to the report of a greater feeling of happiness by means of an increase in the "quality of life."

The scientific explanation appears to involve seratonin, neurons, and the brain's "mood center."

The actual subjects interviewed were mice and cancer patients.

There you have it! My excuse for potting and puttering on the dining room table, now that there's snow on the ground. For today, the transplant of 3 individually pre-potted Hippeastrum amaryllis (on sale at the Giant, twofer something. . . .) into a big glass centrepiece-type bowl, hopefully in time to bloom by Christmas, but knowing my luck, to bloom sometime after the new year, when I am out of town.

But who cares? It's the dirt that counts.


But here's what I'll probably miss, and that would do a lot for my mental state, as well.

I don't care what they say. I like the flowers best.

Still - nice to know there a benefit to the mess!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

another word of advice. . .

My mother was on a cruise not too long ago while I was in the throes of final dissertation madness. [No, I didn't resent it. . . . not much. Ok, maybe a little. . . .]

Anyway, on that cruise, she happened to meet an Oxford don - as she insisted on calling him - a lovely, dapper man from Oxford, who sent me this advice about finishing my dissertation:
It's not as hard as you think.
I can't tell you the comfort I derived from those words.

I don't know this man, but I salute him. And I give fair warning: If I ever meet you, I will kiss you!

"just remember"

Somebody sent me an email with some words of advice and encouragement and I thought I'd post them here, in case they might also help out someone else going through the same rough stretch. . . . [thank you, Mr. RB, whoever you are!]

Just remember ... nobody knows *your* research more than you, not even your supervisor. Your external examiner(s) are experts in the subject, but not in your specifics.

Where there is stuff you don't know that's fine - you've followed a scientific method, you've observed then considered the results and if, justify, where there are blanks, [because] there are decisions that were made to get the work done within the time (after all, three years is too short!), so there's always future work!

It's all about small steps. Each of us takes one small step so that we don't over-stretch the corpus of existing knowledge, so each new piece of work becomes a brick in the wall and can be used in the future.

Worrying is a good thing, it just shows that you give a damn. Not worrying at all would be foolish! Your viva is a once in a lifetime thing :-) Enjoy it; you've done the hard work already.

My very best regards . . .
Sounds to me like he knows what he's talking about. Spot on advice!

Now all I have to do is remember it. . . .

OK then! Write it down. That'll help.

Monday, December 3, 2007

"America's Most Smartest Model"

Who thinks of this stuff?!

"Most Smartest", eh?


viva voce

okey dokey then. Here's the first real mention of the viva voce. Latin, for "live voice." It is the oral defense of my thesis.

Notably, there's not much written about this process that I can find. There's a very helpful presentation here by Dr. David Twigg, and a postgraduate discussion huddle and support group here that takes on the topic on occasion. I did find this posting which takes on the difference between American versus European vivas, and this one, which gives greater insight into the British exemplar, which is of particular interest to me.

I heard from Magda today. Finally. The examiners have accepted and should get the manuscript tomorrow. So that puts me into February for the viva.

Rear in gear time! Back to some serious reading. It might be time also to read the dissertation again. Again? Actually for the first time, all at one sitting, that is. . . . I fear the typo. Oh Geordie-Geordie do I fear the typo! I'm sure there's tons of them. . . .

Then there's travel plans to make and accommodations to secure. And people to alert that I'll be in town - for after the viva, anyway. Although I'll have to be there a few days in advance. The time change heading East affects me pretty heavily for the first few days. As in: I can't think or speak! Fine. I can drink pints.

But to sum up, I think I need to do some more reading in my main guy, just to keep everything fresh and accessible. I will also read the dissertation several times - ditto: fresh & accessible - and start compiling an errata. It might also be a good idea to start thinking about what I think the weak points are, as well as the strengths, and to be prepared to discuss those.

Still in the spirit of Rembrandt - above is his painting of Hannah, the prophetess. Reading. . . .

who's reading whom?

A real book is not one that we read, but one that reads us.
W.H. Auden, poet (1907-1973)
Sounds clever. What do you think it really means? You know, feet on ground, "Oh yeah!" sort of stuff?

Not to prose-ify poetry, or anything. . . .

[I have an idea, but I'll let this percolate a bit first. Any other thoughts?] Also, painting photo found here - it's a Rembrandt painting. There's a second painting pictured there, as well. Also very cool!

Friday, November 30, 2007

thought: Politician? Or Statesman?

A politician is a man who thinks of the next election; while the statesman thinks of the next generation.

James Freeman Clarke, preacher and author (1810-1888)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

not one of their better ideas. . . .

The day after the Annapolis Middle East Peace Conference, explosions were heard and felt in downtown Annapolis. Heard and felt by me, anyway, starting about 8 p.m. I didn't actually see them. No one else seems to be talking about it.

Sirens did not immediately join the apparent conflagration which was shaking our house and went on for about 15 minutes, so I eventually assumed that the explosions were being caused by fireworks. This, even though November is not exactly associated with any known firework-exploding occasion.

My first thought: What idiot thought that EXPLOSIONS were an appropriate way to mark the conclusion of the PEACE Conference?

My second thought: What if it had been a terrorist attack? No one in Annapolis appears to be responding with any alarm. [I seemed to be the only person standing out in the street wondering what in the world was going on]. We're just sitting here like fat, dumb, ducks.

My third thought: Well, anyone at the Naval Academy who has experienced the dangerous kinds of explosions will certainly respond appropriately. . . . Here's hoping they gave them advance notice of a just-for-fun explosion display!

Because they sure didn't tell us about it - you know, the citizens of this town who live here and pay taxes that presumably paid for the display (although I guess that could be federal money, so that's all of you out there) - not that I saw, anyway. And I looked in the paper (after the fact) and we'd watched both local and national news - in between ridding the fridge of the final left-overs from Thanksgiving. And I don't see anything searching the online archives of the local paper, either. Unless I'm just missing it? The hidden-in-plain-sight syndrome. . . .

Maybe it was a flash-forward. . . . a Freudian fear revealed of what I dread might happen when you combine Middle East combatants in our little town. One soldier I know said that he was willing to go in harm's way over there so that we wouldn't have to, here.

Right then. So that we can have a little make-believe explosion session for grins and giggles, and oooh and ahhhh over all the the pretty colours. . . .

that'll leave a mark!

I bruise easily.

Always have.

The thing that has always amazed me is to discover a huge, angry contusion and to realize I have no recollection at all of how I might have gotten it.

I found one on my knee yesterday, cast about in my mind for a vague memory of pain and bumping into something, but no-go. I have no clue as to how or when I got it.

Last night I smacked the other knee on the bedside table getting in - or out - of bed at one point before lights out. I made a mental note, OK. That'll leave a mark . . . . now remember that this is where you got it!

But you know what? By the time I find it, a few days hence, I will have forgotten. So I thought I'd write it down. And then I thought that in a way that's what prophets do. They look around them and say of what's going on: "That'll leave a mark! Best not do that anymore. Mark my words."

So that those around them won't look at the bruise some days, weeks, years hence and exclaim: "Wow. Where'd THAT come from?!"

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

B.B.D.'s. . . .

Who knew?

B.B.D.'s - "Big Black Dogs" - are discriminated against in animal shelters, pet stores, and by every day people, most of whom seem to prefer lighter-colored animals. They are the least likely to be adopted, and the most likely to be euthanized. No, I am not making this up.

You may read about it here (commentary in Bark Magazine) and here (a website devoted to "making a difference, one black dog at a time).

The reasons are varied: superstition, fear, appearance (insofar as they can be harder to photograph and may not stand out as much), and even physicality, in that, for example, lighter colored sled dogs are said not to overheat as quickly as do black ones. . . . (try any of those excuses in the human realm!)

Well then, there you have it. More evidence of color discrimination. Truth be told, though, as with the squirrels, I prefer black dogs. And we've always had black cats. . . . (ok - for the last two-thirds of my life, anyway).

Then again, with me it's usually a matter of choosing what's not popular. My biggest nightmare is when something I've adopted becomes the rage. All I can do is hope it will pass quickly. . . .

But I wonder why no one talks about this color discrimination? I hate to say it, but I think it's a p.c. thing: not wanting to be accused of reducing the question of human racial discrimination to the level of animals. But then what about the animal rights activists? They're looking to elevate these kinds of questions. I would think they'd be all over this one.

[ok, ok. . . . I can't resist: "I would think they could really sink their teeth into this one."]

Monday, November 26, 2007

mostly words

[WARNING: explicitly religious content, including anti-institutional/denomination rant]

Before Thanksgiving, I was struggling with how to give voice to my increasing antipathy towards an increasingly offensive aspect of evangelicalism.

It kept coming out just nasty and critical, however, so I heeded my grandmother's advice and "since I couldn't say anything nice, I said nothing at all."

I've experienced several other examples of what's bothering me since then, though, so maybe today I can actually start to talk about it, without belaboring and humiliating one poor example as indicative of "THE LARGER PROBLEM."

I have 3 examples now.

1. The original example, a blog that purports to be a place to "discuss" worldview, religion, philosophy and culture, but which instead appears to be more an evangelical site for propaganda. There's no discussion. The few "nonbelievers" who stumble into the place are promptly ganged up on with the "accepted arguments". The ones who actually try to discuss the "accepted arguments" are largely ignored or dismissed.

2. A friend of mine, of evangelical persuasion, emailed me this, an ACTION ALERT that asks me to TAKE ACTION and shop at Wal-Mart instead of Target this Christmas, in order to "defeat" the "homosexual challenge to traditional marriage."

3. A Virginia megachurch is "expanding", through "outreach", and seeking to rent the Uptown movie theatre in Washington D.C.'s Cleveland Park for Sunday morning "services". The problem? Few - if any - of Cleveland Park's residents would be attending, and there is no parking for the additional minimum 400 cars that would be bringing the outreaching "worshippers" into the community. Round one went to the residents, as you may read the Washington Post, here, but the McClean church is not giving up. Ironically, they call this process "community campus development". According to the Washington Post article, their fearless leader explained: "I should have known that Satan wasn't going to take this lying down. We're going to fight, and we're going to let the Lord Jesus open the door."

Now that's a way to foster community!

It rather sounds like the attitude of the settlers towards the American Indians. . . .

I don't think I'd mind so much if this was about a bunch of Christians who lived in Cleveland Park and wanted a place to meet on Sunday mornings, in groups larger than living room-sized ones. Neither would I be offended if this was about actual Christian people actually moving to Cleveland Park and looking for a place of worship. And I'm not offended by people talking about what they believe. Free speech - remember? I take it very seriously. Just as I take the freedom of religion seriously.

I find it wierd that a church would want to rent a place in an area where none (or few) of its members live, so they could travel there on Sunday mornings at the considerable inconvenience not only to themselves but also to the people who already live there, so that they can make a show of "outreach" and so-called "worship" - and call it a "community campus."

Is it just me, or does this strike you as a bit strange? It seems to me that the new denomination - Evangelicalism - is more about ideological expansionism and warfare - and not about "winning" hearts and minds, let alone facilitating the changed lives that result when Jesus is involved. This is all about games, showmanship, and one-ups-manship. It's the equivalent of territory scent-marking or counting coup. You either live there or you don't. Stop making forays to piss and leave "Kilroy was here" messages for the devil!

I don't much like it - and I can imagine how the Cleveland Park residents feel.

Neither, however, do I like the unthinking command to link shopping at one particular store as indicative of the merits of traditional marriage or the morality of homosexuality. Hello?! Why not a little trial by combat instead? Or maybe a little witch-dunking? Divination or casting lots anyone?

As for the worldview discussion site, I expect that at one point the "moderator" will discover that he's less about discussion than actually trying to establish his own worldview and getting others to buy in. Let's face it: he doesn't want to talk about the worldview of an atheist. He wants to change it.

I'm back. . . .

Out of the turkey coma. The king has gained 2 pounds - net - I've avoided the problem by avoiding the scale.

Neat trick, eh?

Let's see. When last we spoke, an enormous bird was going into the oven, predawn, with predawn-gathered herbs.
(didn't that look good?!)

Here's what it looked like, out of the oven.

A work of art, wouldn't you say?

We've been having left-overs ever since. Repeat Thanksgiving dinners and now soup. Tonight I think I'll do a turkey pot pie. . . .

Just for a change.

Thanksgiving day was glorious - and gloriously warm. We opened up the house again, and the 'kids' (i.e. everyone except me, my ex-stepmother, and the king's mum) ate outside. I couldn't quite see my way clear to leaving the two mums on their own (one no longer sees real well, the other no longer hears real well, it's quite entertaining. . . .) so I sat at the table just inside the door with them, and ran back and forth.

A good time was had by all, though, I do believe.

I figured out afterwards that the only non-fattening thing on the menu was the turkey itself - and that was taken care of by copious amounts of gravy.

(and the gravy turned out great, by the way, even though I had an audience watching me prepare it - from scratch - no recipe - talk about pressure [if only trying to remember to rinse the spoon after every tasting so they wouldn't think/know I double-dip with the tasting spoon] )

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Into the oven with you, my sweeting!

Picture predawn sortie out into the herb garden. . . . flashlight in hand. . . . (sage, rosemary and thyme. . . .)

There will be 9 of us today. My brothers and their family, the king's mum and my ex-stepmother (mother to younger brother).

This 'blended family' bit is just wierd.

But I'm thankful. Oh yes. Very!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

mostly pictures

Heading to the greenwood, this is one of my favorite vistas just before we get there.
And this was the picture out the passenger side of the jeep as we crossed the South River.See?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

toxic ginger


You know you're in trouble when ginger turns out to be toxic!

OK. Ginger from china. Not all ginger.

But who checks to see where the ginger's from?

Who knew 'they' were importing it from China?!

I've already turned down several 'amazing deals' upon seeing that the item in question came from China. Who wants to die of lead poisoning from a cute little banana loaf baked in a one-dollar clay/ceramic loaf pan that Michael's is selling? All perfectly safe, I'm sure. But after the ginger episode - how can we know anything for sure?

This is what we get, I guess, when we take over all the "important" things like: making money or bigger/faster cars, following the careers of nubile teenaged delinquents with millions of dollars and no sense [I mean "cents", of course. . . . cents. That's right.], and gearing up for a multi-billion dollar presidential popularity contest [I mean: election]; while we leave the "unimportant" things - like food production and cooking - to whoever wants to try and make money at it. . . .

Funny thing, though: you can't eat money.

Monday, November 19, 2007


. . . . or is it 'synchronicity'?

Ah - I haven't thought of that song in ages. Nor have I posted any music in a while!

OK - let's go see what I can find on YouTube.

Here 'tis! Police's Synchronicity (looking pretty dated these days. . . .)

But no. . . . actually the word I was looking for IS 'serendipity': the occurrence and development of events by chance, in a happy and beneficial way,

whereas 'synchronicity' is: the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related, but have no discernible causal connection.

Well now. . . . but there are elements of synchronicity as well: significantly related, but no clear causal connection. . . .

What am I talking about? How just the right things - people, thoughts, information, opportunities - seem to come out of nowhere at just the right time.

Or maybe it's just my corvid-tendency to pick up bright shiny things and take them home, where they all then live together in a way that makes a (to me) surprisingly coherent pattern. And maybe it's just the superficial shininess that has dazzled my eyes and deceived me into thinking there's a greater unity underlying the whole?

Today, one Grim posted an article about military post-traumatic stress, here, at a site called Black-Five.

It opened my eyes to a whole new field of connection that is not only "happy and beneficial", but also significantly related, albeit with no clear causal connection.

A story about a supposed "non-practicing" pedophile in California some months ago led me to an article about the impotence of law, which introduced me to a whole new world of incredibly thoughtful, intelligent, encouraging and plain old fun people associated (often by marriage) with the military. I won't bore you with the complicated connections, but I'll tell you that they're quite astonishing. I've been so enriched by their thoughts!

Just today, I learned that Adorable Device is reading a book about Alice Williams - sister to William James - for her dissertation in English lit.

William James had a sister?! William James' thought appears in my dissertation, on law, ethics, and theology - for the proposition of religious experience as the connector between an individual and values/convictions. I'm ordering the book on the sister.

And it's indirectly through Lemon Stand that I found my way (by way of a path I no longer recall. . . .) to Grim's posting on post-traumatic stress. I think this might be really important with respect to the connection between the soldier and an ethics that makes sense - namely one that is more than just a series of rules written by know-nots in the no-danger-zone.

Grim has also posted on a surfer dude's amazing physics theory of just about everything which, like the last theories to catch my attention: John Nash's equilibrium in game theory and "fuzzy logic" - by whoever is responsible for that - strikes me as "related" to how we view the world, our role in it, and what we can, should, or will do.

Here's a picture of E8 - which forms the basis for surfer dude's theory - "the most elegant and intricate shape known to mathematics - a complex, eight-dimensional mathematical pattern with 248 points first found in 1887, but only fully understood by mathematicians this year after workings, that, if written out in tiny print, would cover an area the size of Manhattan."

Wierd, huh?

It reminds me of the yoke of a fair isle knitted sweater. . . .

Who'da thunk it! The Meaning of Life preserved in a traditional knit pattern. . . . I'm not at all surprised.

Meanwhile, Non-essential Equipment reports that some parents are boycotting Shrek 3 because it is supposedly pro-life - if you can imagine. Mustn't have that around the children!

Not to worry, though. Nee reports that she's seen the movie often enough* to repeat the "dialogue" verbatim, together with the various sounds of scatological bodily functions, and she has seen no hint of an overt "pro-life" agenda hidden therein. So there you have it: There is no cause for alarm!

*I believe the actual number of viewing times was, at the time of publication, 3654. Give or take a few. . . .

Sunday, November 18, 2007

squirrel integration

Imagine my surprise to see a black squirrel when we first moved into this neighborhood.

Grey squirrels - check.

Red squirrels - check.

Black squirrels? Ok, then. . . . check 'im out!

I promptly called him Zorro. Only to discover that my favorite neighbor calls him the same.

Over the past 2 years, Zorro has been joined by wife Zelda, and offspring Zero. The above looks like Zero. He's a little 'dustier' looking than the brilliant black of Zorro. . . .

I understand from this article that the black coloration stems from squirrels from Canada released by the Smithsonian in the early 1900's. . . . Go figure.

They seem to get along just fine with the grey squirrels, but they stick to themselves. Real loners.

I'm prejudiced: I think they're way cool. . . . much handsomer than the usual grey guys.

But there's room enough for them all. Meanwhile, the Z-gang tend to stick to the brick-walled garden of the mansion across the street. They don't seem to want to have anything to do with the likes of us common folk. . . . Hmmm. Reverse discrimination?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

now what?!

I am not good with numbers and I resent having to move into number mode.

If you force me to think like that, I will make you pay for it. So think twice!

Our architect and our engineers are forcing me to start calculating. . . . The problem? Architect's dimension numbers don't "close" for purposes of staking the house out.

Back to architect. Much dithering, whining and complaining, and a new drawing was presented with new numbers.

Engineer: "Those don't work, either."

Me: "What am I supposed to do?"

Engineer: "I'll review them closely, try and meet with architect to resolve, otherwise, I will make whatever modifications are necessary, working with your builder."

OK then. New plans are produced with new numbers. As might be expected, I ignore the numbers. The king, however, does not.

"The engineer has added a foot at the rear of the house, but only some 6 inches at the front."

[do NOT rely on my numbers. . . . these are all approximations - just as the above is not a picture of the actual house - trapezoidal or not - but the picture of the approximate tower I'd like to go hole up in. And - now that I think of it - to the left is the picture of the actual tower that started the whole process of building our own house. Just because I have it, and just to be accurate, and also because there are no numbers involved in showing it to you.]

Me: "Yeah?"

The king: "Are we getting a trapezoidal house? Or is this the fix necessary so that it is NOT trapezoidal?"

Me: "Ah. . . . hmmm. I don't know?"

In the meantime, it's raining cats and dogs (can you say "mud"?) and a cold front is coming in (can you say "Not a good time to either dig or pour foundations"?).

So we're back to waiting.

I really don't understand this. It just seems that whatever could go wrong, has gone wrong. And yet we don't think that we're doing the wrong thing by persevering in trying to build this house.

But I don't get it.

Somehow, more words don't seem to help.

There's a lesson for me here, somewhere. But I just want to pick up the phone and throw some more words at it. Or send them via email or messenger. Must. Do. Something. (where "Wait" doesn't seem to count as anything. . . .)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

herbes de prophète

There are as many recipes for herbes de Provence as there are herb growers, I think. Ultimately, I think it's about what herbs you grow and which you most prefer to use in your every day cooking.

The ones I use are thyme, summer savory, rosemary and sage - in approximately equal proportions. I also add lavender, but only a third of the other-herb measurement. So, for example, 1 tablespoon each of sage, rosemary, thyme and summer savory and 1 teaspoon of lavender.

Some people also add the smaller measurement of either mint or tarragon.

Wash fresh herbs and hang to dry. When they're dry, strip off the leaves & discard stems. Mix the dried herbs together in the proper proportions and store in an airtight container.

I've just harvested the dried lavender and I'll be mixing this year's batch of herbes de prophète soon. I didn't cut the lavender [oops! That's rosemary top left] or sage until just recently, so I have to wait till it's dry. I have enough of last year's blend to get me through Thanksgiving, though, so no worries.

aroma therapy

Guaranteed to make you feel better. BUT requires advance planning over several months:

1. Plant lavender plants

2. Harvest flowers at early bud stage

3. bunch and hang upside-down to dry

4. Dry for a minimum of 2 - 3 weeks - a month to be safe

5. On 'down' day, strip buds off stalks, breathing deeply. (discard stalks, save buds for sachets or include in yearly Herbes de Provence recipe - or tea)

Guaranteed to lift my spirits in 3 minutes or less. Every time. . . .

Monday, November 12, 2007

patience and genius

Michelangelo is reported to have said: Genius is eternal patience.

The story of his sculpture of David as a young lad is remarkable. It was done using a piece of marble that had been discarded by another sculptor as (as I recall) flawed. It had already been cut into, though, and thus compromised. It's been years now since I've read the story, but I recollect that the huge piece of marble lay outside, abandoned to the elements, for years, before Michelangelo was finally allowed to take charge of it. Where others saw ruin and failure after a brief - and now-ended - beginning, Michelangelo didn't give up. I understand that it was the very flaw in the stone that prompted part of the positioning of Michelangelo's David, and which is part of the "genius" of it.
Genius is eternal patience.
Sounds like another glimpse of the lesson of the ants.

. . . . and Churchill's "Never give up."

. . . . and this morning's reading in Matthew about asking, seeking and knocking - and continuing to ask, seek and knock, because those who ask get answers; those who seek, find; those who knock, have the door opened to them.

The difficulty is the bit in between. The lag-time between asking and getting, seeking and finding, knock-knocking and the 'Who's there?' opening. But that's the whole point, isn't it? If you won't endure the lag-time, you won't get to the genius bit.

I'm lagging a bit in the lag-time part.

But soldiering on, best as I can. Trusting.

[sigh. That's the life of faith, now, isn't it? OK, then. I feel better.]

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday - unrest day. . . .

OK, so I guess our day of rest was yesterday. It was certainly restful! I posted over at the greenwood, along with some pictures.

Here's a picture of a stripey feather we found, walking in the woods.

We don't do a legalistic day of rest, but we do try to have one. If we don't, things start sliding into the ugly p.d.q. Truth be told, we usually try to have two days of rest: Saturday and Sunday, but things don't often cooperate to bring that about. So yesterday was rest day with a nod to the Old Testament and a Saturday "shabbat" or "rest."

Today is the more "Christian" version of what seems to me to be hyper-activity with the family get-together and meal - although we do not do the attendance at a designated "house o'worship" as well.

Interestingly, the orthodox Jewish Sabbath rules would prohibit much of what goes on in "typical" American evangelical Sunday activities. For one, there would be no driving to the "local" megachurch - which is often up to a half hour away from the average attendee - as the Sabbath restricts travel to walking, and limits the distance, at that. Electric already on may be used, but there's no pushing of buttons so sound-checks of "worship bands" are out and I'm not sure about amplification, generally. . . . There would be no selling of Starbucks coffee in the lobby or foodcourt lunches in or out of the mega-option.

Ah. Don't get me started.

Anyway: for today, I have already turned the oven on, so I'm in violation of the electricity use mandate. I expect the television will also go on at some point: football! I have kitchen duties to perform: double baked tates and green bean casserole. My brother is in charge of the steaks - we're driving an hour to his house (well past the Sabbath distance) - and my parents are doing salads and desert, I do believe. No one mentioned bread. . . . and I imagine we're in charge of wine, as well.

The king left early to do his Sunday duty by his mother: store and prescriptions and "the visit".

I have to go open megacans of green beans and slop it all together into a tin foil pan with lid for transport. Then, when the tates are cool enough to handle: excavate, smash, dollop up with butter, milk and cream cheese, season, and refill - placing in additional tin foil pans with lid for transport.

I'm hungry!

Friday, November 9, 2007


My friend Nonessential Equipments posted a cutting indictment against the religious, which she entitled "Good Old-Fashioned Christian Values."

She doesn't say a word against Christians, mind you, she reports a conversation overheard in which a so-called Christian [quote-unquote] is annoyed at "having" to pray for someone who doesn't go to her church and might not even be a Christian. Like I said, it's a scathing indictment, because I have heard so many similar conversations and suspect that many people who might not actually say this, do think it, completely blinded to how UNchristian the sentiment proves itself.

The problem is that so many "christian" "churches" have turned prayer, worship, study, meditation, etc. into events; something you do or schedule, rather than forming part of your life. So we get prayer requests that are not based on any actual relationship, but which are instead based on a sense of obligation, offered in a performance spirit. By that, I mean that people seem to try and outdo one another coming up with people and/or maladies, tragedies, and other assorted travesties to pray for. I learned long ago not to bother with trying to keep up with supposed requests for prayer that did not resonate with me. I refuse even to write them down. If my heart is right about it, I'll remember without having to make a list and check it twice.

Further to my last posting, I actually read Matthew 6 this morning, and (besides ordering no worrying) it also talks about 'not doing your good works before men', to include giving and praying.

Elsewhere, I recall that it says that "God loves a cheerful giver." I think we might extrapolate the concept to include prayer. I shudder to think of grudging prayers under a spirit of compulsion. . . .

Now, if I can only stop worrying about what people will think of me because I don't play along with the pious prayer-"warrior" part. . . . (And actually, that's one of the reasons I don't write "prayer requests" down anymore. I found I cared too much what other people thought, and too little about what I was thereby implying: namely that I was going to be praying for all these people I'd never heard of.)

Every now and again, I do feel moved to pray for people I don't know. But generally I find it a whole lot easier to pray for those I do know, for help in circumstances I'm aware of, involving other people I might even know. You know what? If we all pray for those we know, who we know are having a hard time, maybe everything that needs to be prayed for will get prayed for. I can't help but think of Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves To Death - in which Postman (among other things) points out the deadening effect of reporting as unconnected "news", events from the other side of the world, which we have no hope or expectation of being involved with. It accustoms us to seeing events that seem to require action, but which we are too far away to do anything about. We get to the point where we learn not to do anything even where we could do something.

So: to the ungracious "Christian" who doesn't want to "have to pray for 'R' " (who has a lump in her breast): by all means, don't pray. In fact, maybe you should slow down on all the prayer stuff for a while. Maybe God will help you, and eventually give you something you really want to pray for, so you can learn all about it.

Unfortunately, those lessons are expensive. . . .


uggghhh. . . .

I did read about "post-dissertation depression", but thought they were kidding.

I'm feeling decidedly depressed though. Yep. That's the word. "Depressed." It's wierd. I can't really get into anything and I'm finding it hard to concentrate. I run around doing little bits of this and that - not enough to really make much of a difference in anything, but I have succeeded in making an even bigger mess than what I started with. And the mess already there was substantial! Due - of course - to the dissertation and lack of tidying-time and poor organization skills while submerged in legal, philosophical and theological minutia. . . .

I have no excuse now, though.

New topic: Thanksgiving is going to be strange this year. I was looking forward to a nice quiet Thanksgiving meal at home, perhaps with Emancipated Son #1 (plus wife). ES1's mother, however (i.e., the king's EX-WIFE), who recently moved back to the area, invited everyone to her house (including me and the king - can you say "there is NO WAY?!!!?") and now it appears that all of the king's family - including his sister, her husband, 2 children, and one grandchild - are going to the ex-wife's house. We get his mom. My parents are going on a cruise.

I'm having a hard time with this.

When I called my mother - w(ho may normally be counted on for a good griping session if you pick the appropriate topic, and I thought this one would be a grand slam. . . .) - advised that she'd just finished her Bible study and perhaps I'd enjoy reading Matthew chapter 6, which talks about "not worrying." She thought that just might be a good approach to take. This is not my mother's usual response.

On the one hand, I was delighted to see evidence of her applying Biblical principles to her life. Really: that's splendid!

On the other hand, looks like I'm out of a good griping partner. She learns quick, does my mom.

I'm still put out about Thanksgiving, though. I just think it's wierd.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

at loose ends

I don't know what to do with myself.

What a strange feeling!

Yes, there are lots of things to do. Laundry. Food shopping. Put all books away - or, rather, back on my shelf/box/library system - so I can re-negotiate my studio space. Start thinking through Thanksgiving, December birthdays, and Christmas issues. Start re-connecting with neglected friends. Resume knitting. Think up Christmas gift projects. Email new friend from Florida. I could go on and on.

But no. Instead, I sit here, in front of my computer, because that's been my life for the last however many months. Years really! Truth be told.

(Ah. Also: take computer to Mac-store for repairs. . . . Maybe THAT will get me away from the computer.

I also need to re-focus on the 'what's-next' bit of my life. Yes, stay up with the dissertation (meaning to prepare for the viva voce) but also be prepared to take the next step. WHICH IS???

That's the question.

Meanwhile, the king is crazed because work is frazzled, the house stake-out is delayed because our architect apparently didn't include all the relevant dimensions on the plan to suit the surveyor (even though the county seemed to find it acceptable and don't talk to me about the county requirements. . . .), oh - and the engineers bill arrived, speaking of ridiculous county requirements.

I think my job is to pursue peace. Yeah. I was going to say more, but realized that that was it.

Pursue peace. ["full stop", as they say in Ireland. Which took me some years to realize was meant to refer to punctuation, namely: "period"]

Off I go, then!

Monday, November 5, 2007

adverb - shmabverb!

I love Mark Twin:

When you catch an adjective, kill it.

(hmmm. . . . and just what is the difference between an adverb and adjective again? Here's a university primer on the matter, lest you thought it was easy.)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

the wedding

I haven't posted this because I was struggling with the tone of it, which I feared might come across as catty. It's the last thing I mean in the world. I adore the man who footed the bill for the extravaganza we attended for his daughter in Florida. It was already over the top before his wife died. It continued along those lines afterwards. I think a lot of us are worried about what happens after the hoopla has died down and the father of the bride is left alone in his very large house. . . .

I switched to water before the pink martinis could get to me. Actually, I think the pink martinis were 'martini' in name only, and mostly fruit juice - which was a blessing to the many of us consuming them.

I find it amazing what people do for weddings. 20 piece orchestra, 8 attendants each, everyone flying in (as no one actually lives in Tampa, the selected venue), crystal light-up bars, the required diversity in seating: lounge beds, sofas, arm chairs, bar stools, foam wedges, and - ok - the traditional table and chair. Limited in number. No master of ceremonies - thank God - bride and groom cheerfully mingling with guests and determined to enjoy the elaborately-staged affair, orchestrated by not only a wedding planner, but also a production company. I understand the bride started her "Bride" magazine subscription when she reached middle school. I am not making this up. I was told so by no less than 3 close family and/or friends.

Colours were brown and red - and riotous flower colours in the red, orange, yellow family. Matching butterflies were released at one stage (which was very touching when we learned that it was a reference to the brides mother who apparently had a really strong connection with them shortly before she succumbed to cancer.)

There were three weddings at this resort that weekend. The maid - SherELL - filled me in on all the goings-on and told me of her own wedding aspirations. "What were your colors?" she asked of my own wedding.

"Colours? I didn't really have colours. . . . Well - white - I wore white. Well, a creamy white. And I told my two 'attendants' to wear whatever they liked. They ended up in mostly black. So I guess it was a black and white wedding."

This bride was in a gown that hinted gold. And almost everyone wore tuxes. Well, the men, I mean. I ended up not taking the gown I took the time away from the dissertation to shop for, as I had no time to hem it. I wore a black and white polka dot tea length dress, and felt just fine about it - thank you very much. As it was, it was way too cold to be wearing the gown I bought! I spent much of the evening in the king's tux jacket, which - with the dress - I was told gave me a very Annie Hall sort of look. Not what I had in mind, but hey. Cold is cold!

Very few of the women had long dresses on and only one - ok, two - looked really good in them. I'm not sure why long dresses don't seem to look very elegant on most women. Maybe it's the way we walk these days? Anyway, it just seems out of place on most women I ever see in them. Like we're playing dress up.

My good news was that the kings tux jacket kept me warm, and the water kept me from a hangover, so all I ultimately had to cope with was a feeling of anticlimax that all that money couldn't bring back the missing wife and mother (one) and (two) the idea of the honeymoon seemed kind of thin and pale after all the extravaganza.

Then again, I guess people don't really have "real" honeymoons anymore - namely having waited until after the marriage ceremony to consummate the marriage - and so the emphasis is all placed on the ceremony and party. I don't know that a party will take all that weight. . . .

But who am I.

I wish them the best - they are a lovely young man and woman, a whole lot more mature than I was at their age, maybe even more mature than I am now! - and yet the wedding was bittersweet. There was a lack, somehow. An absence of joy.

And I am sorry to say it.

But I think most of us felt it, even though none of us would admit it

Saturday, November 3, 2007

the alligator

We found him on the bank this morning and Ernie photographed him with a long lens. . . . At the sound of our voices he went into the water and swam over closer to where we were, remaining submerged except for his eyes and nose. We lured him out by throwing brazil nuts.

Why is it no one ever eats the brazil nuts in the mixed nut mix?

He came up on land and ate at least one. I hope Ernie will email me the picture - it came out great!

Other than that, today was another slow day. We got up around 8 or 9, drank coffee, and then went for a walk. Lunch at noon - battered grouper sandwich - (many comments about the battered groupers group and how no one ever does anything for battered groupers. . . .) and then back for another nap!

How many naps can one woman reasonably require?!

Time now to go get ready for the wedding. I fear I'm going to freeze. . . . I did not bring enough warm clothes!

Friday, November 2, 2007

the bird

The king was up before dawn to golf again. This is impressive. He's not normally quite so keen.

Yesterday, he tells me he was playing more of a croquet than golf. . . . and he sank quite a few water shots. The aligators prevent much water retrieval activity!

The maids arrived at 9, and let in a small black bird, who flew straight into our room, in between the plantation shutter slats, and then fluttered up and down the window in a right panic. Poor little thing! I got the shutters open, and managed to get a small towel around his body and transported him outside. He was terrified, but calmed down as I held him. He flew away quick enough when I got him outside, though!

Interesting to think how destructive we can be when we're frightened, and in a strange environment, and facing what looks to be death - but which might actually be help from 'outside'. . . . .

It was an odd sort of visitation to start the day. I've continued to think about how I struggle against my circumstances - especially when I don't know where I am or where I am going/being taken - and resist, to my own detriment. . . .

Well - it's after noon now. And time for lunch at the Tikki Bar. sigh. Then maybe a nap. grin! Oh yeah. Just what the doctor ordered.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


I hardly know what day it is.

It's warm again - but that's because I'm in Florida. Tampa, to be precise. For a wedding. The king is golfing. I'm resting.

But I'm feeling a little guilty. On the build-up for the trip, I got all freaked about what kind of room we would have and whether we'd have to share a bath with another couple and how much I really just wanted to be alone for a bit with my husband. . . . We're in a 3 bedroom condo and I finally decided that ALL of the rooms were surely nice, and not to worry about it. (I can be so petty!)

We get here and the 2 men go off to sort out the rooms and it turns out that it's a two bedroom condo and a suite. The one couple that made the arrangments took the 'suite' and the king and I turned into the 2 bedroom condo and I naturally made my way to the back bedroom (both bedrooms have their own bath) where the sight of the water, waterfowl, gof course and aligator won me right over. I put our bags in there. The third couple doesn't arrive till later this afternoon.

Turns out that this is by far the nicest of the 3 bedrooms and now I feel guilty that I 'took' it. . . . (Ms. selfish is on duty. . . .) The "suite" turns out to be nothing more than a bedroom like ours, only a little smaller. And darker feeling. They are adjoining so they will share our living room. But I'm trying not to let my guilt feelings get in the way of loving life here in the corner aerie - windows open on 2 sides, with big wide plantation shutters. Only bad thing is that we have frosted glass french pocket doors as our bedroom door. Not exactly private. Oh well.

I'm still trying to figure out what to do with myself now that the dissertation is done. Mostly, I have been catching up on sleep. I have little energy for any new projects. I did bring some quilting along with me, as well as some watercolour paper and colours. . . . And a little Paul Ricoeur - just to stay sharp. Oh - and a little fantasy book I started the beginning of the year, and then resolutely put away. Time to get back to it.

But first, a nap I think.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

the woods

Ground-clearing started yesterday in the woods, the place where the king and I will hopefully live the rest of our lives, "happily ever after. . . ."

Here's a picture of the cleared driveway, which isn't quite as bad as I'd feared.

favorite books. . . .

I gave the link yesterday, but I'll do it again: My friend Nonessential Equipment posted a list of her favorite 10 books here and I've been meaning to think that through for myself, as well.

One I share with her is Anne of Green Gables (the whole series, actually - with Anne of the Island maybe my favorite - or maybe only my favorite right now, because that's the one I feel like re-reading right now. . . .).

OK. So top 10 in no particular order:

Anne of Green Gables
Canopus in Argos (Doris Lessing)
Razor's Edge (Somerset Maugham)

Austen. . . . ALL of 'em! (or most of them, I'm not that crazy about Northanger Abbey): Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility.

Man - that would be 7 already if I count them all! Ok - just count Austen as 1.

My Name is Asher Lev (Chaim Potok) (and 'Gift of Asher Lev' - but I won't count that as 2, either. . . .)

The Little Prince
Fugitive Pieces (Anne Michaels)
Dune (Frank Herbert)
The Flamenco Club (Sarah - Bird, I think it is)
And speaking of birds, Bird by Bird (Anne Lamott)

For today, anyway.

Monday, October 29, 2007

another day. . . .

Wow. Coming back to life again. Slowly.

I took the weekend 'off'.

Emancipated Son #2 was in from London (arriving the day before D-Day but not dreadfully underfoot until D-day, but after I'd finished printing, which was a good thing). So that meant that Emancipated Son #1 and wife were here Saturday and Sunday - and they're all heading out with the king and my dad for a round of golf this morning.

Meanwhile, construction in the woods kicks off today: the bulldozers arrive. I had to go to the woods on Sunday to discuss if there were any trees in the LOD ("limits of disturbance") that could be spared. . . . I felt like an executioner. I did manage to save like 4, but my favorite beech grove took a big hit. It will be painful to see.

Funny how that works though. That you have to raze what was there, before you can build anew. Not that I'd want to talk too much about Foucault and 'deconstruction' - because that guy just drives me crazy - but even Hannah Arendt notes that human creativity is done in violence. Namely, the violent 'fashioning' of something into something else. Consider the 'making' of a table, for example. It includes within it the chopping down of trees and planing of wood and cutting to size, etc., etc. (redundant 'etc.', I know. But it doesn't sound as good, otherwise).

So, too, to build a house, you have first to score the earth to make a solid - uncluttered - foundation.

I don't have to like it, though. Even though I know it is necessary and will work out for 'good' in the end. . . .

Still trying to figure out what life looks like now, post-dissertation. I'm not completely out of the woods, insofar as I have to get ready for the viva voce. . . . and have to stay sharp. Actually, there's some more reading I need to do on Ricoeur. Magda, bless her heart, told me to take a few days off and enjoy, but then to stay sharp and keep reading. The really cool thing was that she also said that she could really see how the paper came together, at the end. It feels good to think that I may have won her over . . . and if I've won her over, maybe that means all will be well also with the examiners! I hope.

Anyway, I'm not borrowing trouble here. I'll keep reading, and re-read the dissertation several times before the viva, and then go in and pretend it's like an appellate hearing. This, I know how to do.

I also get to read some non-philosophy - what a treat! My friend Nonessential Equipment posted a list of her favorite 10 books here, which got some of her buddies to post 10 of theirs, and there's so many books I've never read that sound so wonderful! Today, I think I'm going to sit down and figure out my favorite 10, but also start a book pile for regular reading again.

What a concept.

In the meantime, there's laundry, ironing (so that's where my 3 favorite shirts are!!!) and thinking about starting to pack for Florida. Wedding. sigh. and I have to hem a gown.

And before I do anything - send email to my Dublin runner to sort out final details of binding & turn-in instructions. It may be off my plate, but it's actually not across the goal yet! That happens tomorrow. Lord willing. . . .

Friday, October 26, 2007

zero. . . .

It's done.

It's on a plane to Dublin.

I'm exhausted.