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Friday, April 29, 2005

A Sweet Cat Story

One of my long-time favorite websites, through which I have bought many good books, is the Advanced Book Exchange, known shorthand as ABE. It's a worldwide network of used and out-of-print booksellers (some large, many small) where you can find almost anything, and compare prices and conditions of all copies available. I love it! Almost two years ago, I joined the community forum (which you don't have to be a member to read), and have enjoyed "talking" to other forumites about favorite books and pondering such weighty questions as "Are All Readers Cat Lovers?" The old "cat" thread, with its several thousand postings, has long passed from the scene, so someone decided a few months ago that it was time to resume the feline subject. The following post was made by "Ferret" to the "Cats 2" thread when another cat-owner brought up the topic of the furry ones and their chosen furniture comfort-spots:

My husband once woke in the early hours to hear that classic of horror films, the rocking chair moving back and forth, back and forth. To make it worse, the rocker appeared to be humming... showing a good deal more courage than I would have done he went to the kitchen (where the chair was situated) preparing to shout "Begone, creature of darkness"... only to discover Otto rocking gently, and singing a little cat song to himself...

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Non-Discrimination...

I'm applying for jobs with the "gov'ment" as I am in DC and it is one of the larger employers in the area of Liberal Arts majors. This evening, I found a vacancy announcement which went well beyond the ordinary "race, creed or color" non-discrimination statement:

"The Department of Homeland Security is an Equal Opportunity Employer. All candidates will be considered regardless of their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, sexual orientation, protected genetic information, status as a parent, lawful political affiliation, marital status, physical/mental disability (if not a job factor), membership or non-membership in an employee organization, or any other non-merit factor."

My question: what the heck is "protected genetic information"? Are we talking X-Men here?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Rain and a Son

I'm sorry I haven't been writing for the last several days.

I was in the hospital until 2:30 this morning, which is one of many happy reasons for my silence--my friend Leah Baker was delivering her firstborn, Noah, and her husband called me as I was driving back from North Carolina yesterday afternoon and invited me to come in to be with her parents for the happy event. So, just minutes after arriving home (to discover the front door not only unlocked, but open! thankfully, nothing was missing!), I hopped back in the car and made my way out to Fairfax Women's Center, where Leah was in her eleventh hour of labor--literally, but not figuratively, as we all found out.

Hours and hours later, at ten-thirty, after we'd done our best to keep Leah entertained, watched the computer monitor of the contractions and heartbeats plot hundreds of boom and bust Nasdaq graphs, and discussed baby names if the infant were to surprise us all and turn out to be a girl, the obstetrician decided they had to do a C-section.

So poor Leah had to go through both labor and surgery.

Her parents and I finally got to see the baby at 2:15 (we were kicked out of the delivery room and sent downstairs to the lobby, to wait with other anxious families). Noah had a cap on his little head, and a cute button nose. He also had a temporary dent in his head where he'd been squashed against his mother's pelvis, but that would quickly vanish, the doctor assured us, anticipating Leah's mother's worries. I declined an offer to hold him--I never thought I'd be nervous about holding a baby, but this one was so new! The proud grandparents took loads of pictures. I was included as "Aunt C--." Leah was physically deflated and emotionally bouyant--Aaron couldn't contain himself, picking up and cuddling his tiny son, cooing over him in his basinette, just thrilled with fatherhood.

I can hardly wait to see my niece! Just getting to be there with Noah made me desperate to be introduced as "Aunt C--" to my sister's daughter before she gets much bigger (she's gaining an ounce a day, so I need to hurry!). I plan to fly up to Rhode Island next Friday and stay until Sunday--long enough to pay the proper attention to the small person, but not long enough to get on her mother's nerves. My poor sister has been getting little sleep, so even the most welcome visitors may be too much if they hang around excessively. I've got to cuddle Rita a little bit, since I probably will be cuddling Noah a lot by comparison--geographically, he's much more convenient!

Saturday was a long-anticipated street festival in North Carolina, where I was selling my jewelry and a friend's pottery. Business was slow, and the weather, though visually lovely, was unkind. The show was supposed to last until 5 pm, but a thunderstorm came blowing through town at 2pm. Providentially, with the help of some kindly locals I managed to get everything moved under a storefront awning before the rain got heavy, but my selling was ended for the day. Still, I did make back what I paid for the booth space and for gasoline for the trip, so it wasn't a money-loser. And, too, thanks to the rain my sunburn (of which I had been unconcious--it was so cold out, I thought I was more in danger of frostbite than sunburn!--was arrested just at the point where my shoulders were pink, before they got cherry-red. In this case, the clouds had a lining of SPF-20.

Sunday after church I went down for a nap at 2 PM. I woke up at 2 AM. I'm a lousy guest--talk about not being sociable. I have no idea whether my friends tried to wake me: although I remember I had all sorts of crazy, complicated dreams, I've no recollection of their prodding to rouse me from my slumbers. They are a longsuffering pair, Paxifist and Deacon Paul.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Rita looks vaguely Asian in this picture, but that's probably due to her being dressed in what looks almost exactly like a minature version of her mother's old karate gi!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

I Need Wings!

If I'm going to be a godmother (whee!), I might as well have a pair of gossamer wings to complete the image!

Monday, April 18, 2005

Thank God

Sitting here at the Georgetown Library, still all a-glow from new aunthood, I was thinking about how gracious God has been to me. I have a healthy niece and sister--two major answers to prayer, since the pregnancy was fraught with health-worries for both mother and child.

I have two jewelry shows scheduled in the next two weeks--one at an annual street festival in North Carolina and the other here in DC--and lots and lots of lovely inventory I hope to sell.

The semester is almost over and I am still more or less sane (!)--although the Wayfollowers out there should pray that I'll finish the papers that are due in over the next many days (there's one about medieval Russian women that I am totally stuck on that I need to finish THIS WEEK).

The weather is beautiful. The cherry trees are blooming.

I'm feeling much more healthy after stuffing myself with meat over the weekend (I'd been almost totally vegetarian for months, and I needed iron!).

I actually got the online application system for a couple of federal jobs to work last night--after several false starts!

And I'm gradually getting in shape--situps every night are beginning to pay off with strong abs and endorphins.

Yes, I still want to know what I am supposed to be doing this summer and next fall, but for now I'm chilling.

And I'm successfully selling unneeded academic books on Amazon...I may actually get some of my scholastic "investment" back this year!

Is it Psalm 19 or 119 (or 39? I'm horrible with off-the-cuff references) that talks about "When I consider the heavens, the works of your fingers, the moon and the stars...What is man that you are mindful of him?" I've been awful about my quiet times lately, and I slept through church yesterday, but I remembered that verse as I was dropping off to sleep in the wee hours this morning, and thought: "ISN'T THAT COOL?!? We are just microns by comparison to the far reaches of the universe, and yet we are "fearfully and wonderfully made." Life is good.

BeAuntified

I am pleased to announce the arrival of my niece, my parents' first grandbaby and my maternal grandparents' first great-grandbaby, at approximately 2:30 this afternoon. "Rita" (as she will be known to the readers of my blog) weighed 6lbs 14oz and looked like a cute "little troll" in her mother's words. The trollishness should subside as the "fur" on her back diminishes and reestablishes itself on top of her head. She seems healthy, my sister is fine (though totally exhausted!) and the whole family is pleased. I am tickled pink. A niece! Just goes to show that I can't read sonograms and that all the old wives tales about the way a woman "carries" are total baloney. I also am thrilled that I have someone else to bedeck with jewelry now! And maybe she'll like antiques...

Saturday, April 16, 2005

SSTOP

Thursday night saw the first meeting of Georgetown's Students Stopping Trafficking of People (it was either that, or a totally unpronouncable acronym), which I was pleased to attend. I've been chafing to do something about modern slavery and human trafficking ever since I went to Ukraine in 2002 and met street kids there--clusters of pre-adolescent prostitutes, empty-eyed elementary-age children addicted to glue, and so forth. These are just a few of the millions susceptible to worse exploitation--being packed across borders and sold or bartered into slavery. It's big business. Conservative estimates now place about 21 million worldwide in slavery, their labor unrecompensed and fuel for the drug and arms trade, among other grave social ills. You thought slavery disappeared with the American Civil War, didn't you?

A second catalysing incident in my desire to do something NOW about slavery occured my first semester at Georgetown. I was in the back of the History department, photocopying something of little importance, when I overheard a male graduate student tell a story of his past summer's research experience in Syria. One day, he'd decided to go to a notorious red-light district along with two female friends, just to see what all was there. The trio entered one of many brothels and in a large main room was a stage with well over a hundred pale, painted Eastern European women standing, waiting to be chosen by customers.

The proprieter approached the Americans: "Which you like? 100 dollars."

My colleague waved him off--"No, no, just looking."

"Which you like?" insisted the propietor, ready to bargain.

Figuring to explain his situation, my colleague gestured at his female companions.

"We have boys, too!" said the proprietor.

The other graduate students, listening to this story, burst into laughter. I crouched over the copy machine, seething with anger. I know where those women came from, and the children certainly didn't choose their "profession." I was appalled that liberal Western adults could chuckle over this situation. But I didn't know how to express this, other than turn to the guys involved and tell them, briefly, "That's awful!"

This is an issue that is virtually unknown to people here in the US. Who talks about slavery here, except in a historical context? I wanted to find out more about what was going on, what the conditions and locations of modern slaves were--that's why I arranged for the independent study on the subject with Zimmer last term. But still I felt like I was the only one who cared, and what useful thing was I doing, really? Just to see the flyer inviting people to the SSTOP meeting was a morale-booster. And then to go to the meeting and find fifteen other people who are as passionate about ending slavery and the slave trade as I! And not only that, they have ideas about how we can do it.

The primary goal right now is simple publicity--informing Americans that slavery does exist, in a virulent and cruel form--crueler, really, than anytime before in history, as many of these people are victims not only of physical abuse, but of sexual and psychological maltreatment that exceeds all preceding examples. This is what Sharon Kohn, an executive at the International Justice Mission, is doing. She spoke at a recent IV dessert meeting about rescuing a family from slavery at a brick-kiln in India late last year. The freedmen literally fell down and worshipped at the feet of the man who had been instrumental in arranging their escape.

Repeat this story thousands upon thousands of times, from brick kilns in Pakhistan to forests in Brazil to brothels in Bangkok and cities in North Africa, and the plight of these people becomes clearer. This is an evil that we free people should not ignore--we cannot leave these fatherless, these "widows" (women forced into prostitution, many infected with AIDS in the process) to the mercy of those who exploit them. The British abolitionist William Wilberforce spent decades of his life fighting the slave trade, which the British had pursued with tremendous profit, and he swung public opinion to his side in the nineteenth century, with wonderful results. I believe that Christians in particular should take the lead today in this new crusade. We should not, we cannot, ignore victimized people at any stage of life--from conception to death--nor at any place on earth. Thanks to the international media and global economic integration, what we do in secret will be shouted from the rooftops, whether we will or no. Start the whisper of information about these devastated innocents with a mind to the end that they will be freed from bondage--physical, intellectual, and ultimately, spiritual.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

A Mine of Valuable Insults

I wrote my brother Bob last night, since I wanted to make sure he got sufficient original stuff to read at Officer Candidate School, where he is currently enduring miseries of the peculiar and particular kind that the military encompasses in its plan to "break men to make them good leaders." I told him that should he make the Navy his career, he should use the opportunities of pre-engagement preparation to address his underlings with Shakespeare. Of course, the speech prior to Agincourt from Henry V is wonderful, but overused. There are lots of piquant observations on men and morale elsewhere in the Bardish canon. For example, Troilus and Cressida is chock-full of glorious insults, which I shall have to work into my conversation nowadays, though whether Bob can impose them on a faceless enemy in the future I do not know.

A sample from Act V, Scene 1:

PATROCLUS: Why thou damnable box of envy, thou, what meanest thou to curse thus?

THERSITES: Do I curse thee?

PATROCLUS: Why no, you ruinous butt, you whoreson indistinguishable cur, no.

THERSITES: No! why art thou then exasperate, thou idle immaterial skein of sleave-silk, thou green sarcenet flap for a sore eye, thou tassel of a prodigal's purse, thou? Ah, how the poor world is pestered with such waterflies, diminutives of nature!

PATROCLUS: Out, gall!

THERSITES: Finch-egg!

I do want to call somebody "finch-egg" every now and then! I might escape bodily harm saying that one; using "whoresome indistinguishable cur" might leave me severely disabled, in addition to being less genuinely applicable.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Sandmonkey on Wars--Iraq and Star

Would encourage my readers (who are willing to overlook occasional crassness) to read Sandmonkey (see the blog link on the sidebar) for his opinion on the origins and outcome of the Iraq War, which observations and arguments have spawned considerable response among his regular visitors. I also enjoyed finding out (thru a previous post of his), my "Jedi identity."
:: how jedi are you? ::

Monday, April 11, 2005

Baptism

My distinguished honorary nephew was baptised in North Carolina on Sunday, along with six other small people. I'd never been at a mass christening before, nor had I expected all seven of the little spirits involved to be so seraphic. Most children don't react well to having draughts of cool water suddenly poured over their heads, but these all took it in stride--there were no wails, cries, or other complaints, either before or after the blessings were pronounced. Nephew was nice and cuddly all day--six months old, and all smiles, as a matter of fact--except for one nasty diaper after supper. But that was quickly disposed of--I love the new stink-suppression diaper pails, and may heaven bless the person who invented wet-wipes!

Second honorary and first genetic nephews are due within a few weeks' time, and I look forward to attending their baptisms as well.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Two Good Presbyterian Quotes Today

“Command me, oh tall one with the Presbyterian features.” M*A*S*H

“There are no Presbyterians in al-Qaeda.” From a terrorist expert interviewed by The Enemy Within film at the International Spy Museum.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Oddities

I went to the Library of Congress this morning to do research for Maklenov's class this evening. We were supposed to choose a particular zemstvo (a local self-government organization formed in provinces and districts after the emancipation of the serfs in the 1860s) and do some checking into what it had accomplished, what problems it had, etc. So I toddled over to the Main Reading Room and found about a hundred and fifty entries on the online database just using the keyword "zemstvo." After culling the list and figuring out which provinces had the most publications, I scrounged a little yellow pencil and filled out the individual slips to request the books, pressing carefully through the two sheets of carbon paper and creating a triplicate.

Slips submitted to the proper authorities, I returned to my reading desk and waited. And waited. And checked the hold shelves. No books. And checked my email. And checked the hold shelves again and again. Still no books. At 3:30, I packed up my laptop and left. I think somewhere in the underground passage between the Jefferson and Adams Buildings, I passed the cart that had my books on it. But class started at 4:15, and I had to take the Metro across town, which is a half-hour trip.

I was starving. I'd thought about stopping at the LOC cafeteria, but the sign said that visitors were permitted to eat only between 10:30-11:30, and 1:30-3. I can understand keeping us unofficial folks out of the lunchroom at noon, when all the employees are trying to get their midday meal, but why after three? The cafeteria is open until seven. Do hoards of LOC librarians traditionally take tea?

I took the Georgetown shuttle from the Rosslyn Metro Station to campus. It was a beautiful day, the warmest and sunniest we've had all year. And the undergraduates were taking full advantage of the nice weather. As the bus roared up through the Canal Road entrance, the first things to greet my eyes were two buxom, bikini-clad co-eds, sunbathing on beach towel...right under the windows of the New Jesuit Residence.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Orange Revolution Comes to Georgetown

I almost got Mrs. Yushchenko's autograph yesterday--I was right beside a woman who was getting a whole raft of souvenir signatures for everybody but her postman when the security services insisted that the First Lady of Ukraine must leave. At once. And they dragged her off, away from us pen-wielding fanatics, as if she were a recalcitrant puppy sniffing at a fire hydrant, rather than the wife of Victor Yushchenko himself. Well, I think the bigwigs did have other things to do besides schmooze with us dewy Georgetownians.

It was so cool getting to see President Yushchenko in person! Wow--after blogging bits about the Orange Revolution, there he was, just a few feet away, graciously acknowledging our applause and the occasional chants of "Yu-shchen-ko!" led by students wearing bright orange shirts and scarves. His wife, I found out, graduated from Georgetown and was working for KPMG in Kiev when they met. She's a Ukrainian-American from Chicago.

I arrived sufficiently early that I got to sit downstairs (rather than in the wrap-around balcony), and people-watch as later-comers trickled in. Professor Zimmer, of all people, soon settled in the left wing of the balcony. I have no clue why he was there. I mean, the man has lovely orange-red hair, but I know of no other Ukrainian connection. His speciality is slavery in the American South.

But one of these days I'd like to have the Yushchenko autographs--and that of Mikhail Gorbachev, my other "near miss" signature-and-a-handshake-wise. And I'd like to be able to get them without significant effort--say, from them as we are lunching together and discussing Black Sea multilateral policy, for instance... :)

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Pope

I remember when Karol Wojtyla was elected to head the Holy See, twenty-six years ago. His leadership, both before and after he became pope, was unswervingly dedicated to the glory of the Roman church and the recognition of the worth of man. He was truly used by God to end Communism in Eastern Europe, but the West stubbornly resisted his denunciations of materialism and of the accompanying selfishness which is no less damning to the soul than official athiesm.

Please pray for the cardinals who will assemble over the next few weeks to choose his successor. Pray that he will be a Godly man who is more interested in what his Maker has declared to be true and immutable than what behavioral issues the world would rather have approved by "democratic" means. John Paul II lived in light of Biblical infallibility, steadfastly enduring Nazi, then communist oppression. May we be even bolder in our post-modern societies, realizing that the Gospel of Christ is the smell of death to those who are perishing, but of life to those who are being saved!