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Monday, October 31, 2005

Deadline Looms

Frantically, breathlessly working on my NEH grant proposal, due tomorrow. A friend (may she be blessed beyond measure!) has agreed to hand-deliver the proposal downtown tomorrow afternoon, since there is no way on God's green earth I am going to be finished before 7pm, which is the pick-up time for FedEx, and I have to work all day tomorrow. There are same-day delivery services through FedEx and DHL, but there's absolutely no way in the known universe I'd pay $165 to have a packet of papers weighing just three pounds carried four miles. They really stick it to you when you are desperate, these delivery people.

I was up to 4:30 AM this morning submitting my application to the MS in Biohazardous Threat Agents and Emerging Infectious Diseases program (application also due Nov. 1), to which I hope to be admitted for the term starting in January. With such a degree, I would have a job after I graduate--having all sorts of specific knowledge on the awful things that bioterrorism and disease epidemics can do to the body, I would be a hot property for the national security-minded. I would hope. But BTAEID people first have to admit me, and then they have to give me financial aid. Being a secretary and an artist does not leave one flush with tuition money.

But I did have a good day at the market Saturday, despite fierce, freezing wind which turned all the vendors into frozen pillars behind their tables. I spent the whole day repeatedly picking up earring stands knocked over by gusts, and attempting to maintain circulation in my hands. I was dressed warmly--undershirt, turtleneck, pullover, lined raincoat, heavy exercise tights under my jeans. But it was still a struggle against chill, and when everyone began packing up an hour early, I followed suit.

Thank God for functional radiators.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Making Myself a Spectacle

I am a sartorial exhibitionist. Thursday was the History Honor Society Halloween Party, before which I had to work in the department reception area, so I went to campus in a cream-lace accented wine velvet antebellum ball gown. Corset, crinolines, jewelry, the works. Everybody else on campus was—on that glorious clear fall day—bundled in black coats, drab slim-fitting jeans, the unexciting wardrobe of the conventional weekday city dweller. So I really stood out.

The workmen refurbishing the neoGothic fa├žade on the front campus yelled down from their scaffolding “Hey, there’s Cinderella!” I smiled and waved.

Red Square was packed with the midday crowd of milling undergraduates, and I sailed through grandly, drawing only covert looks (again, the city mentality—don’t express interest in difference, lest you seem unsophisticated). Indoors, I did get lots of compliments (it is a lovely dress), and was able to do a bit of advertising for the party, which was our best-attended event yet.

...due to our faculty sponsor's offering all her undergraduates extra credit for showing up.

Speaking of Halloween, I heard a horror story about Silverman from a recent Ph.D. of the department. It appears that she had passed her Russian exam when she first entered the program. Years later, after she'd finished her classes, passed her comps, traveled back to Russia to research for a year and written her entire dissertation, just three weeks before she was to defend this dissertation--which was based on Russian-language primary source research, mind you--Silverman told her that she hadn't passed her Russian exam (the department had lost her paperwork for both her language exams, and she was only able to dig up the documentation for her French one) and would have to take it again. Never mind that she actually had demonstrated her comprehension in real life work, Silverman made her sit down and take a Russian test. And here I was full of all these glowing plans to finish this book translation, get the thing published, and slap a copy down on his desk, asking (rhetorically, I had naively supposed), "Now, do I pass?"

Apparently, though an angel from heaven should testify on my behalf, Silverman would still say, "No."

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

System Down

The Georgetown email system is down for the second time in three days. I don't mean just down for a minute or two, either, but for hours and hours, with no end in sight. This time, we got some forewarning--they sent out a general notice that the thing was going offline for an hour at 12:30. Now it is past 6:30, and it is still inaccessible. Some of the professors have come around to ask me whether/when it would be up (as I am The Secretary, I Know All, you see), and I told them that the Georgetown computer system and its employees resembled the Chernobyl reactor and its staffers--they run a planned test, and suddenly everything goes kerflooee. But at least we don't have to flee for our lives from campus.

It's amazing how much you can't do when your computer is not functioning--can't contact people you need to, can't send documents, can't access files, can't print anything. At least the server is up today--on Monday night the whole shebang went out suddenly, and people couldn't access the Internet at all, which just adds to the inconvenience, since a lot of folks have more than one email address, and they can fall back on that one when the school's is out.

Silverman told me this morning that I look so much happier lately. Hmmm. I wonder why that would be? Because I'm not stressing about papers, perhaps? Not worrying about how I am going to get a stack of books read in a few hours? Not being late to class?

He also told me I was a "Cheshire sphinx"--I grin and say nothing.

My former advisor, whom I had asked to write me a recommendation letter (there's this program that I'm applying for that starts in January...), told me that she shouldn't have given me a grade (I got an "A") for last Spring semester, because it was a two-part class and I only took the first half (the second half is this term, which I am obviously sitting out).

"Bloody hell," I thought, "Here goes another professor about to screw me over."

However, I kept my cool and assured her that I would eventually write the paper which is the major project for this term. And I will. Maybe next year or the year after.

I've got to say spritely and complimentary things about Silverman tomorrow in front of an audience--as Graduate President of the History Honor Society, I have been given the responsibility of introducing our featured speaker on the historical Dracula to the attendees of our annual Halloween party. And Silverman is it. The speaker, I mean.

Monday, October 24, 2005

It Never Rains But It Pours

Cold and drizzly here, a damp chill that seeps through layers of clothes and makes my teeth chatter. And of course, late Sunday night, both the heat and the shower stopped working. And I was gone from 8:45 this morning to 12:30 tonight, so I had no time to call any repairmen, and no ability to allow any into the house.

The showerhead has ceased to allow any more than a dribble of moisture to come out. At least the stalk sticks out eight inches from the wall, so it is possible to huddle between the wall-mounted taps, part-way under the dribble, so as to wet one's hair. And I should be grateful that the water, albeit scarce, is warm. But most of the hapless bather's damp body is out in the cold for the duration--the temperature inside is less than sixty degrees, given the lack of heat (the radiators remain stone-cold, despite our pushing the control-knob past eighty)--which may be a useful penitential gesture, but doesn't make for comfort after a long day's work.

It has truly been a long day. A good day, though. I went swing-dancing with a friend after my after-work Honor Society planning meeting. I've forgotten a lot of steps (my last lessons were a good five years ago), and my sense of rhythm has returned to stasis under the overwhelming pressure of my inactivity, but I did get asked to dance by several partners who apparently weren't so appalled by my lack of coordination that they were afraid to get near me. And one fellow (who was a really talented dancer) asked me twice, which made my evening. Even when I was sitting out songs, it was fun to watch people in motion--there were couples (mostly young--I would say mid-twenties to thirties) twisting and stepping in intricate spontaneous patterns that would have made Astaire proud, and a white-haired World War II veteran who was moving to the Big Band tunes like he was the same age as the lithe sylphs he guided around the dancefloor.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

This is the House Across the Road


Just listed for sale. Price: $749,000. It's backed up to a busy car-repair garage. It has 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, and the whole lot it sits on is 6970 square feet. The house itself is probably no more than 1500 square feet, maximum. They're having an open house today, and it's been crawling with prospective buyers. I think this is insane. What say ye?

Friday, October 21, 2005

You know...

...you aren’t sufficiently awake when you catch yourself about to smear toothpaste in your armpit.

You know you’re a secretary when you mistake replacement escalator steps stacked in the metro station for giant laser printer cartridges.

You know that lack of sleep is about to send you around the bend when your evening pill gets stuck in your bellybutton.

You know you are reading too many Dave Barry snake-in-the-plumbing story links when you dream that your house is being taken over by small two-steppers in red-on-yellow rings and a gregarious nine-foot python named “Rosie.”

That about sums up my life of late.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Today, I unwittingly lent my support...

to "Hoyas for Choice" (the Georgetown pro-abortion group). Or at least my chair did. Yesterday was the Phi Alpha Theta (History Honor Society) booksale at Georgetown, out in the plaza known oh-so-appropriately as "Red Square" (every college campus I know has a quadrangle so named--no wonder the Feds thought the commies were infiltrating in the 1960s...but be that as it may), and as the club's graduate president, I felt it behooved me to lend my market tent, tables and chair to the cause.

Tuesday afternoon, after IV Bible Study (which we relocated impromptu to the outdoors because the fire alarm in the building where we usually meet started going off--and it was so pretty outside!), a couple of PAT volunteers helped me unload the hardware from my car, and lodge it temporarily in the office of the on-leave History Dept. secretary (see, working in the department pays off!). Wednesday, other volunteers hauled everything down to the square, where a revolving set of club-members oversaw the sale, which eventually netted us $231.25, a pretty good amount considering we were giving the paperbacks away for 50 cents and the hardbacks for a dollar. They put everything back in the secretary's office at the end of the day--I was working at the front desk, and so didn't have time to keep strict tabs on things, but it seemed all was in order.

This afternoon, when I was putting my paraphernalia on the trolley to transfer it back into my car, I saw the PAT people had forgotten to retrieve my chair. I do need it--selling is tiring enough on Saturdays without having to stand up all the time. So I started searching--it's not an attractive piece of furniture, just an old padded folding chair I found in the basement of the house where I rent, but it is distinctive, and I knew I would recognize it.

There were a bunch of other clubs and organizations set up on the square today, and as part of my search, I glanced over the assortment, trying to spot what they were sitting on. Among the tables I saw the Hoyas for Choice folks, with their broad grins, slim figures and big purple sign, and it crossed my mind at the irony that they might have my chair--an item owned by an ardently pro-life, anti-abortion person. And lo, so it was. I marched over to the table (I generally skirt it, like the Levite avoiding the injured man in the Parable of the Good Samaritan), and politely told the girl who was sitting there that she had my chair. She stood up, and I took it. The fabric on it is mildewy, but for a moment, I actually felt that it needed to be ceremonially cleansed, to purge it from its association with its last occupant. She probably would have been similarly horrified had she known in whose chair she had been sitting.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Back to eHarmony

Well, Dr. Neil Clark Warren, ferret-like as he may be, is going to get a little bit more of my money. I'm going to try another three months of eHarmony just as soon as that smarmy soft-voiced psychiatrist's matchmaking minions send me another email coupon (there are limits to my enthusiasm, and cash is one of them).

Re-upping was a "fleece" from Saturday--I've been considering re-starting for several weeks now (three ladies in my Bible Study are now members), and I told myself that if I made over a certain amount at the Clarendon Day market, I would renew my subscription.

I exceeded the base amount by about thirty bucks (it was a Very Good Day), so I'm going to bite the bullet, step up to the plate [insert other overused platitudes here] and see what happens. I'm ready for further adventure, and even a National Lampoon-worthy date would be a change from having to listen to Alissa's maniacal laughter bursting against the background of her blasted blasting TV, which she leaves on at a high volume even when she leaves the house. Grrr.

And I could use new inspiration--I am starting to repeat myself, my vocabulary is faltering, my posts are becoming banal, and my writing is sinking into a morass of over-alliteration. Maybe romance would be a cure...

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Love

My grandparents called me last night, just to say "hi," and to share the family news. They are both doing well, although concerned about other relatives of their generation who are suffering serious physical ailments. Granddaddy mentioned in the course of the conversation that he and Grandmommy really loved one another, but mortality was going to make them go their separate ways soon (his 89th birthday is coming up this December, her 83rd is the 18th of this month). Tearing up silently, I smiled and pointed out that they would be rejoining one another after not too long--both of them are believers, and they will share God's company with other dear friends, faithful Wayfollowers, for eternity.

But oh, how difficult it is to be married for 58 years, through tough times and good, and to think about the probability of parting, even for a brief time! Christian marriage is a tremendous blessing, whose effects can be felt even two generations on--I am encouraged by my grandparents' example, and I love them deeply. I value their relationship as one of my "precious things," to be admired, enjoyed, cherished. Likewise, I am so very greatful that my own parents' marriage is Christ-centered. It is a happiness hard to express adequately, a comfort which strengthens the soul, when a thirty-year-old single adult visiting home sees her parents quietly holding hands.

I know these marriages have not been without serious troubles, but endurance, faith, effort and affection have paid off. And the admiration that my Granddaddy expresses for my Grandmommy--"She's the best woman I ever married"--is exactly what I pray someone has the opportunity to say about me, and after such a long time. Thank God for the blessing of love!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Mystery of Mail and Male

This is the second professor in a week who has turned an envelope over and over in his hands, looking at it in anxious puzzlement, wondering aloud why it was returned. The first time, the learned academe had neglected to put a stamp on it. The second time, there was no recipient's address. I have had to explain this, kindly, to each man. I swear, if the secretaries did not do basic things like checking the mail and loading paper in the printing machines, the department would rapidly grind to a standstill.

I am suffering from a major case of specialized philoSemitism. I just found out that the other really attractive guy in the department, a fellow graduate student named Dan, is Jewish. Oh, my! Between him and Professor Zimmer (who is on sabbatical this term and doing research in Charleston, SC), I am drooling. Ahem. Should merely wish both a blessed Yom Kippur (begins at sundown today) and be done with it. Talk about wishing folks were Messianic for all the wrong reasons...

I have been in charge today--the secretary for whom I understudy called in sick, the other one is home with her dying husband, and the departmental coordinator is in France on an extended vacation. Thank God the Department chair came in (he was supposed to be away today), or I wouldn't have anybody to sign financial forms (suppliants have been several). And almost every single electronic device has chosen today to go on the fritz--I've cajoled printers, computers, a fax, and one of the two copy machines to quit misbehaving and cough out the documents which the faculty need. Unbelievable, but all are functional as I write.

The only blot on the day has been the sound and sight of Silverman striding around, boisterous as usual. Why? He's the chap who's flunked me twice on my Russian exam and is thereby keeping me from moving on to my comprehensive exams, and I've had one person inquire curiously about my academic standing already today. Too, I've used my spare time to work on the fifth chapter of the book I'm helping to translate, which has also kept the injustice of it all square in mind. But I can't do anything meanwhile, so I should just be quiet and keep practicing my Russian.

Monday, October 10, 2005

New Roommate

Diane moved into Nate's old room yesterday. She's his cousin, and thus took precedence over the Ukrainian guy re: right of first refusal. Ah, well. She seems very nice, although she's tall, blond and beautiful, which would otherwise predispose me to dislike her. I know, I'm being crabby. My digestive system does not like me, and Alissa is still in residence.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

What NOT to Name Your Child

Baby's Named a Bad, Bad Thing is a mustread for all parents-to-be, current parents and nonparents. I'm only half-way down the first page and already in tears from laughter.

To borrow a line from Dave Barry, "Bust out the umlauts" WBAGNFARB.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Bookaholics

I love ABE (the Advanced Book Exchange), and the community forums are fun. For instance, there's a long-ongoing thread called "Are you a Literature Abuser..." which on first sight (misjudging a book by its cover, so to speak) I mistook for a discussion about people who trash books. It turns out, it's all about those of us who just can't do without reading. This morning, there were a couple of excellent posts, the first a quotation, the second a confession.

First, Segue uncovered an apt remark by W. Somerset Maugham:

To the habitual reader, reading is a drug of which he is the slave; deprive him of printed matter and he grows nervous, moody, and restless; then, like the alcoholic bereft of brandy who will drink shellac or methylated spirit, he will make do with the advertisements of a paper five years old; he will make do with a telephone directory.


--W. Somerset Maugham, The Bum.

Subsequently, Chowdermaker voiced the response of all book-mad individuals:


It sounds a lot like the spiel my hubby gives about our book habit. He says he has a printer's devil on his back; if you cut him he'll bleed India Ink#2; it all started with that gateway book, "Fun with Dick and Jane"; he gets books from castoff boxes and tag sales, takes out what he wants and sells the rest, which makes him a pusher, and first lets me go through them to take what I want, which makes him an enabler. It's all a long slide down, where someday he'll be found face down in a gutter clutching a stack of Russian novels.


That's where I'll be in short order...

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Donuts and "Free Food"

Tightwad Navy brother is in a science course which requires the highest scorer on the class weekly tests to purchase donuts for the rest of the group. The first several weeks, he managed just barely to escape this responsibility, but the last couple of times he has not been so lucky. Poor baby--he's going to have to budget for pastry.

The Georgetown History Department, as I've mentioned before, has a taste for fine living, primarily demonstrated in the consumption of delicious edibles on the collective budget. Today is a faculty meeting, and several professors have called on the phone or in person to make sure that food is being provided--heaven forbid they not have lunch "on the house"! The caterer has not even arrived (they are due any minute), and already knowledgible graduate students are circling like vultures, waiting for the leftovers to appear in the common area.

Well, as secretary, I'm claiming dibs.

Money and Men's Praise

Getting my first loan was surprisingly easy, but the mechanics of FedExing back the signed paperwork were an adventure. I had a twenty-five dollar shortfall thanks to a household bill-check being deposited before I’d expected it (I’m not going to get paid for the Georgetown job for another two weeks, and I needed the money to be in my account before the market on Saturday, when it may be raining and therefore miserable), and so I had to take a twenty-five hundred dollar loan. That was the smallest amount available. I made sure there were no penalties for paying off the principle early (since I plan to pay it off in two weeks, 3-year term or no 3-year term), and said, what the heck, it probably won’t be bad for my credit rating. And USAA was most obliging—no security required, so my mythical firstborn is not in hock.

FedEx delivered the packet to me at the History Department yesterday morning. I’d planned to sign the forms and hand the packet back to the guy immediately (there was a pre-paid envelope inside), but the last page said I needed a canceled check for direct deposit, and I don’t carry my checkbooks with me.

Worked (it’s fairly laidback as Undersecretary for Departmental Defense, so this mainly involved typewritten brainstorming for my NEH grant proposal in between phone calls) until five, caught the Arlington Loop bus, walked past the house three blocks from mine where the girl was found dead under suspicious circumstances two weeks ago, and got home to finish the application and hoof it over to the post office, where there’s a FedEx drop box. The sticker on the box said they pick up at 5:30 daily. It was then 5:55. Oy.

Trotted back home, hopped in my car, drove to Georgetown—knew thanks to my secretarial job that their FedEx box wasn’t emptied until 7. In the ICC, the atrium was crowded with round tables and women in hajibs, setting up for the sundown pig-out (if you’ll pardon the expression) after the first day of Ramadan. Deposited envelope, and hoofed it across campus, back to my car. The university was hosting some sort of exclusive event—there were suited men in discrete groups at the main gate and on the steps of the Healy building, and limousines gliding around to deposit their occupants on the leeward side of the John Carroll statue.

These were real limousines—not the cheesy sharp-cornered “rent-a-limo” variety, but smooth-edged Mercedes and Jaguars in understated palettes of camel and silver with uniformed drivers in front and silk-clad passengers in back. And all the time these distinguished persons were arriving, moving from one rarified atmosphere into another, students in flip flops, ragged shorts and overloaded backpacks, smoking cigarettes and talking on cell phones were strolling, insouciant and oblivious, between the cars, up and down the sidewalks. How gross it would be for any worldly Georgetown University student to demonstrate obvious curiosity about the glamorous politicos who visit our hallowed halls.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Belated Self-Recognition

My brother emailed me the other day to note that I'd been blogging a year already, and that I ought to issue some sort of poignant reminiscence about the drama of the first annum. I'm not going to. All there is to say is that I am surprised twelve months have passed, and it was sweet of him to observe that there might be something in recognizing this anniversary. I am simply happy to have a forum for public expression (albeit one that is infrequently visited), and in the next year I would hope that my efforts are appreciated by double the number of folks who currently read posts on the site. We will see.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Concern

A neighbor walked over when I was putting out the recycling this evening to tell me that the body of a murdered 23-year-old girl had been found in the swimming pool of a house just three blocks away. Oh, joy--yet another thing to be concerned about.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Frolic and Russian

The strap on my right dress shoe broke yesterday while I was dancing a vigorous Virginia Reel with an octagenarian elder at church. I kicked off my shoes and continued to do-si-do in my stocking feet. John Calvin was probably spinning in his grave. In four-four time.

We had a square dance after the picnic following the 11 AM service. Actually, we danced immediately following dessert, so everybody was on an incredible sugar high. The little kids--between seventy and ninety of them, all under eight years old--had been running around nonstop since church let out, so this was just the culmination of the collective effort to use up their natural and chocolate-induced energy and send them home ready for bed. Even the senior pastor joined in--he was one of my dancing partners in a traveling circle dance. It's very freaky dancing with your pastor, especially just three hours after he's given a sermon on Joseph and Potiphar's wife and resisting temptation.

I had so much fun! I met a great guy...another octagenarian who has been married for 52 years. He speaks fluent Russian--he also got his Ph.D. in Russian-related stuff from Georgetown! He served with the Army during and after WWII, disposing of the Axis powers' chemical weapons. He said they hauled them across Germany on trains, packed them onto anything that would float at the coast, sailed these toxic cargoes into the middle of the North Sea, and sank them. There was no Environmental Protection Agency back then. After undergraduate studies at a certain university in the NC Triangle area, he joined the NSA (just a few months after its inception), and spent the next thirty-three years there, as a computer specialist. In 1992, thanks to his contacts with other American intelligence groups and his known dynamic interest in Russia, he got the opportunity to work with Russian General Lebedev, who was interesting in setting up a telecommunications joint venture--Lebedev was then in his seventies, based in St. Petersburg, and had supervised the installation of GIS equipment at every airport in the RFSSR, so he was ideally situated to pursue this early capitalist effort.

Ironically, this man with whom I talked has never been to Russia or any former Soviet satellite country--back in the old days, this was Not Allowed for a person with his employment associations, and he's just not gotten around to it since retirement. I told him he ought to go--he looks like a little old Russian man! (I omitted the modifiers "little" and "old" when I encouraged his travel.) Fascinating guy. Oh, and he also said he'd be willing to read the book-manuscript I'm translating!

I may be getting a Ukrainian roommate. Nate is planning to move to Delaware to work for a pharmacuetical company, and has been interviewing people to take over his lease. One fellow who I thought would do was the Ukrainian who works for a DC nonprofit, writing grants for projects in Eastern Europe/Eurasia. If he moves in, I'm going to pick his brain on two counts: grant-writing and Russian. If he's willing to speak Russian with me, that would be super--do I need the practice!

I'm working a full day at the History Department today--the regular secretary has doctors' appointments. I did remember to bring my lunch. But I forgot to eat breakfast. But at least I'm rested from yesterday's rhythmical exertions--when I got home a little before five yesterday, I was so tired shucked off my clothes, put on sweats, and fell into bed...and slept until my alarm went off at 7:15 this morning.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Acceptable and Unacceptable

Fine upper-average day at the market, enough to pay rent (provided my landlord holds the check for a few days so my deposit can make it to the bank in time), but not enough to cover my tithe, too. Next week, that's my first priority--to catch up on tithe and still-outstanding mental promissory notes to the flood-recovery organizations.

Awful homecoming--last night Alissa slid $12 (two fives and two ones) underneath my bedroom door. That's all. The bill that this was supposedly to cover was $12.90 (one that I had paid on her behalf when it was already weeks overdue), not counting the other $80 newer outstanding items on the board downstairs. So, I crossed out the $12 and circled the "90" [cents], and left the other bills clearly marked. She was loudly (she is always laughing and talking at the top of her lungs on her cell phone) complaining to a friend about my irrationality and meanness this evening. Well, one of the reasons that I'm behind on my aforementioned moral financial obligations is that I've been covering her calculable financial shortcomings in an ongoing effort to keep my credit rating out of the mud. I was so hurt when I overheard her I went up to my room and burst into tears. Her Yves Saint Laurent and other expensive clothier bags are still crowding the hallway outside her door, and she's intimating lies and injustice about me on the phone to her friends. I do pray that she moves out soon. Either she goes, or I will leave. [She just left, dressed to the nines, for some function, probably over on Capitol Hill, where she works weekdays--she left the light and the TV on in her room, to burn the night away]

I was of two minds about the ninety cents--I mean, it's less than a dollar, and I don't want to be an exacting jerk. On the other hand, unless I have a really good day this next Saturday, I'm not going to be able to cover my own portion of the household gas and electric bills, which are considerable (guess why?!), so every little cent counts. I eat out on average twice or thrice a month, and then for $12 or less (usually less) each time, I don't go to movies, I rarely drive (only three times a week, to church, the market and Bible Study), and I walk most places or use the free university buses to get where I'm going. I buy primarily on-sale items at the grocers, and very little food or drink goes to waste. My sole major expense is jewelry supplies, and thanks to my Saturday marketing, I am gradually chipping away at the amount I owe to myself for them (I aim to break even on my overall expenses, which I've been tracking for the last three years, at the end of this month). In other words, I live frugally, and like I said, every penny counts. And I already provide all the stamps on all the bills the household pays (otherwise, they would never make it into the mail)!

It's a quandary. I emphatically do not want to be a modern version of the Gospel parable's unjust servant, who was pardoned of criminally huge financial obligations by his generous master and then went out and cruelly beat a poor debtor who owned him a miniscule amount. But I don't think the two situations are wholly analogous, either. Frankly, I would excuse the 90 cents, if not the whole $12.90 if it were an issue of couldn't pay. But it's a situation of won't pay, and don't care.

Still, the whole episode makes me feel lousy. I do hope she moves out soon--I have herewith experienced the infamy of the Soviet-style "kommunalka" (communal apartment) thank you very much, and I would fain be (yes, I've been hitting the Shakespeare again, Measure for Measure--ironically--yesterday afternoon) permitted to enjoy the American-style single family dwelling henceforth.