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Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Year in Review/The Year in Preview

At the end of this Year of Our Lord 2006, I would like to express gratitude to God for these outstanding (of many fundamental) demonstrations of His care for and grace to me since last December 31:

1. Godly husbands and wives for old friends, many of whom had become increasingly pessimistic about the likelihood of ever being married.

2. The thriving of my honorary nephews and blood niece. They've grown and developed so many skills over this past year--it's been a pleasure to watch!

3. Good physical and mental health for me—the colonoscopy/endoscopy in the summer came out clear, I have not suffered any major depression, and the OCD continues to be under control. Blood loss has been minimal over the past twelve months, and no bones broken that I know of.

4. Successful completion of one-third the Biohazardous Threat Agents and Emerging Infectious Diseases MS program.

5. A new living situation with a fellow female believer and a kitchen with counterspace and functional appliances.

6. Another successful year selling my jewelry, with the handiness of the credit-card machine.

7. Continuing and new friendships. God has blessed me over and again this year with the special outreach and care of friends--people who fed me, prayed for me, sheltered me, moved me (and all my junk!), cheered me, hydrated me, watched out for me, and loved me. Praise God! Thank you to all of you, dears--I hope I can be half as faithful and self-sacrificing as you have been!


And, in the vein of last year's "Beyond-Wildest-Dreams Hopes" (one, concerning the "get first article published" did come true, although not in a history journal--in a biomedical newsletter!), here are my crazily ambitious wishes for this year...

1. Finish translation of "Two Motherlands, Two Fatherlands" and sign contract with major American and British publishers for it to be produced for the English-speaking market.

2. Actually get first HISTORY article published in refereed journal.

3. Be awarded the Washington Universities Consortium grant to travel to Russia in March to work directly with the author of "Two Motherlands, Two Fatherlands" for the first time in almost 4 years.

4. Pass my History Ph.D. comprehensive exams in late Spring/early Summer and apply successfully for dissertation research-grants.

5. Complete another full-time semester in the MS in Biohazardous Threat Agents and Emerging Infectious Diseases program and be on track to graduate in May 2008.

6. Have the website featuring the art produced by my Atlanta brother and me linked by at least 25 other websites/blogs and move up to the top of the Google rankings.

7. Have a fantastic romance and fall in love and get married to a good-looking, smart, kind and gainfully-employed Christian guy and be pregnant with quadruplets by this time next year. Last year I went for triplets and forgot the gainful employment. I'm upping the ante this year.

8. Win a place at the exclusive annual summer crafts festival in Cary, NC.

9. Learn to dance. Better. Didn't happen last year--maybe this one!

9. Have lunch at an exclusive London restaurant with legendary actors Judi Dench and Peter O'Toole.

10. Buy a house.


Hmm...let us see how many, if any, of these wild near-impossibiities become probabilities and then actual events over the next 365 days!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Inner Kitty Cat

I have so much enjoyed having my little niece here for Christmas--she's a cuddly little creature (not even two, and barely that many feet tall), learning new words every day, from colors to objects to names. In the summer, when she first started talking to any extent, she learned animals and their noises, as most American (and, I would suspect, those of all other cultures) kids do. She formed an early fascination for "doggies"--when I visited in the early fall, she went around saying "woof" at intervals--then she became enamored of "kitty cats", which she pronounces "ki'y cats" (they are much less big and scary than most dogs, after all). And they are so soft! She actually got to pet one several months ago, and stood in rapture, my sister reported, her tiny hands clasped, just overcome with the thrill of it all. She doesn't have any pets at home other than fish because both her parents are severely allergic.

About five days ago, late in the evening, she, my mother, my sister and I were all in my parents' bedroom, watching her explore my mother's shoe collection (my niece loves walking around in big people's shoes--they are three times the length of her feet, and I don't know how she does it, but she manages). Eventually fatigue set in, and I laughed at something someone said, and she decompensated. "Ki'y cat, meow, meow," she said, beginning to cry. She proceeded to weep and meow pitifully for the next few minutes, until her mother picked her up and carried her off to bed. It was simultaneously hilarious and heartwrenching to hear her small "meows" of woe.

Since then, although we've not encouraged it at all, we have noticed that whenever she gets truly distressed, she mews.

I've long referred to my friends' felines as "furry nephews and nieces," but I never thought my own little baby human niece would find her deepest emotional expression in cat language. She doesn't purr when she's happy, though: she just giggles. :)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Finito

Finished grading all those European History essay papers this evening. Grueling trench-work. Georgetown undergraduates, by and large, cannot write. Atrocious grammar, occasional egregious spelling, stinking syntax, topic sentences as flat as flounders. No logical progression, and such oh-so-delightful misperceptions as thinking Sir Thomas More, author of Utopia, was a Reformation Protestant. Of *course* the pope would canonize a heretic!

My speed in reading my students' work wasn't helped, of course, by the fact that one of the books on which they could choose to focus was Jean-Jacques Rousseau's The Social Contract. Four days ago, I was ashamed that I hadn't yet read it (what with an MA in a poli-sci field and all)--now I marvel at my previous good fortune. What an irritating man Rousseau was. Apart from abandoning his five illegitimate children to foundling homes as infants.

There really were passages in the Contract that I liked, but they glimmered like diamonds in a dunghill, and didn't accord much with his other pontifications. I spent hours slogging through, pausing to type notes so I wouldn't have to subject myself to the same misery again.

Having previously realized that I couldn't get anything done, reading or grading-wise, in the same house with Little Miss Adorable (aka my 20-month-old niece), from Christmas Day on I stayed at my grandparents' in Middle Georgia (three nights), emerging from my room only to eat and play Scrabble. Returned this afternoon to Augusta, where my friend Audrey arrived from Savannah a few hours later for dinner with my family. A nice time was had by all.

I am soooo grateful I don't have to TA this coming semester!

And no, Salman hasn't called. Am not holding the proverbial breath. Anesthesiologists are always telling one to inhale deeply and count up to or down from large numbers anyway...

Sunday, December 24, 2006

50 Camels, Silks, Gold and Spices?

My dad finally did get feedback on Tuesday's dinner. Salman called him, to ask for my contact information, apparently, since he's returning to Pennsylvania on Christmas Day (has to be at work early the next). Daddy brought the phone to me, where I was holed up in my room grading Early European History final exam ID answers--ex: "Erasmus laid an egg, Luther hatched it" [can that really be the correct translation?]--and told us to talk to each other directly. Over the course of thirty minutes' conversation, we arranged to have coffee this afternoon.

I picked Salman up at his brother's housea little after three, and we went to a bookstore coffeebar, where we sat and talked for two hours. As a result we were twenty minutes late to the candlelight service at my parents' and his brother's church. For another year, small children managed not to incinerate themselves. It was lovely, but all those open flames in small unsteady hands...

In twenty minutes, I'm supposed to pick the man up for the third service of today, the carol service down at my home church, where I went by myself this morning. Should be a good time. Salman asks good questions, and I think he's got a good sense of humor. We'll see where this goes!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

And A Glass of Good Cheer

"I'll figgy your pudding!" I was muttering aloud by the time I heard the third version of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas"--complete with the sung threats to stick around until the aforementioned strange sweet was brought out--at the antique mall where I was searching (in vain) for a replacement juice glass, having accidentally broken my dear roommate's just a day or two before leaving for Christmas break. This would be the only one she had of that type, and one in a pattern I recognized from over twenty years' of antique-collecting experience as peculiar to the "atomic" 1950s. I'd looked on eBay first, of course, but also spent more than four hours going through three separate large antique malls in different states on the way back to Georgia on Monday. And came up empty on all counts--I want to quietly replace it before it's missed. Argh. Hence my starting to issue audible imprecations against the piped-in Christmas music. I'm sure that's also one reason that people didn't get in my way as I strode past booth after booth of knicknacks and dilapidated furniture...would you really want to mess with a wild-eyed woman who kept saying, sotto voce, "I'll tell you where you can put that pudding!" and the like?

Still no feedback on Tuesday evening's dinner. Not even, "She not quite forty camel--maybe twenty-five?"

After dark yesterday, my mother and I drove to Atlanta to pick up my niece, and her mom and dad, from Hartsfield International Airport. The traveling trio didn't come up the escalators into the arrivals and baggage claim area until after 11 PM. I drove home, admiring more than a dozen deer grazing along the verge of the interstate (they were very blase creaters, and ignored us little cars and the big eighteen wheelers blazing past them at 70 MPH), and we finally pulled into the garage at 2 AM. Needless to say, I haven't yet gotten the grading done for my TA-ship class. Must start and finish tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Banner Day

Today was Granddaddy's ninetieth birthday. Mums and I went down to his and Grandmommy's house in middle GA to celebrate. My brother Nate showed up just minutes after she and I pulled into the driveway, followed a few minutes later by my aunt, her son and that son's girlfriend. Grandmommy put on her usual sumptuous repast, and we all stuffed ourselves to bursting. Hope, my cousin's girlfriend, had brought Granddaddy two giant tins of homemade cookies, and at the end of the meal (while I was polishing off seconds) he quietly got up from the head of the table and went into the kitchen to help himself to two of Hope's cookies and a slice of Grandmommy's chocolate cake when the others weren't paying attention (I noticed, as I was sitting next to him). My aunt got out her camera to take pictures of him with his lovely birthday cake (with the "9" and "0" candles, not a fire-hazard number of those tiny ones), and inadvertently captured him tucking into his early dessert. Grandmommy served him a piece of his own Japanese fruit cake anyway, after we all sang. She didn't light the candles because she plans to keep recycling the numbers.

Nate went back to Atlanta and registered our joint domain name. I'll post it once we have pictures of our work/wares on the website. We hope to have a few things on board by Christmas.

This evening, my parents took me out to a Palestinian restaurant to meet the Egyptian couple they know from church and the husband's youngest brother, with whom his elder sibling has wanted to set me up for two months now. I'd been horrifically nervous about this whole unsought matchmaking process, and thought wishfully about taking on some liquid courage prior to the Arabic-speakers' arrival at the restaurant, but quickly calmed down once they came in and we were introduced. My proposed husband is actually quite good looking, without the slightly cross-eyed deer-in-the-headlights gaze that he sported in the pictures that were emailed to me. He's an anesthesiologist working at a Veterans Administration hospital in Pennsylvania. Quiet, strong accent, with a tendency to talk in a patois of Arabic and English to his sister-in-law and brother. Had never heard of Tom Clancy or Mark Twain or the term "liberal arts education." Has now been (superficially) enlightened on these subjects. A satisfactory evening, really. I am so relieved not to have that event hanging over my head!

Lessee, what else? Sold some earrings to my aunt, picked up my Christmas gift (one of them) for my sister from the jeweler's where'd it'd been reposing for months, saw THE MOST GEORGEOUS three-carat (TW) pair of earrings at the same jeweler's. Fit for a queen they were--a spray of rounds, pears and marquise-cuts set in platinum or white gold. Niiice. Great price, too. But I just don't have the money. If they are still there when I get a "real" job, after I've paid my normal expenses...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Quirk of DC Living

Susan and I had a drop-in party last night. It went beautifully--she has a real flair for low-stress entertaining, and I love to help with events, but not necessarily to take the lead in planning them. The first guest arrived around 5:30, and the last of them left five hours later. We had platefuls of homemade hors d'oerves (both sweet and savory) on the kitchen and coffee tables, bottles of wine and cans of soda on the sideboard, and a gallon of cider steaming on the stove while a Stoffer's lasagna cooked in the oven below. Yum!

Susan did the inviting, and my, what a variety of interesting people she knows! One of the bothersome things, though, is I can't blog in any detail about the folks I met, because it would be a national security issue. Be that as it may, I look forward to reporting many curious conversations, and odd encounters, in this space soon!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Refunds and Re-Routing

One of the necessities entailed in my sudden move of six weeks ago was taking the household gas and telephone bills out of my name. The phone company saw fit to charge me for the portion of the month that I had supposedly used their service, but the gas company sent me a refund check the other day. One of the kinder of my former roommates, Kevin, forwarded the check to me.

It arrived at the History Department today, and I opened it. It was for the sum of four cents. $0.04. It had cost the company 39 cents to mail this neatly-printed check to my old address, and Kevin another 39 cents to forward.

Technically, too, the refund is for all four of us former housemates. A penny each. I emailed Kevin, and told him that I wasn't going to write a check for one cent to each of the guys, and that I probably wouldn't even cash it. Particularly as the gas company misspelled my first name on the "pay to the order of" line.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Back to Regular Programming!

It's so good to be able to blog normally again. This last week was a hectic and exhausting (but extremely satisfying) end to what has been an emotionally, physically and spiritually taxing month.

The Arts and Crafts sale turned out to be a banner event, although it was essentially a one-woman show, what with me manning the tables twelve hours a day. Thank God, Kara, the undergraduate student assistant in the History Department, has such a heart for helping--she showed up at 7:15 AM two days running to help me set up, and popped in several times during the days of the show to allow me a precious few minutes of bathroom breaks. Without her, I never could have done it. We ended up with over four thousand dollars' of combined sales (my jewelry, my friend Hannah's pottery, my brother's woodwork, etc), making over $700 for the History Honor Society. The credit card machine again proved its worth.

My rooming situation with Susan thus far is working out beautifully.

Now, all I have to do this week is write a term paper on a topic I've not yet begun researching. Fun!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Jewelry Work

I was up until 5 AM this morning making earrings, and as a consequence slept until 4 PM this afternoon. Totally missed the Arlington Market, but my main concern is preparation for the Phi Alpha Theta Arts and Crafts sale, which runs for three days at Georgetown beginning Tuesday. There must be enough merchandise, and I've got to make serious money! I have to be on campus by 7:15 each day, and will be working straight through til final packup ends around 7:30 PM. Don't expect me to blog until after all is over and done, unless someone dies or someone proposes to me (preferably the latter!). Oh--I may have found a place to live! Trial period begins tomorrow evening, when I move my air mattress into Susan's apartment just two miles from campus, in Arlington. Thank (and praise!) God! Otherwise, I'd be commuting to and from Fairfax in the wee hours this coming week.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Death and Classes

I had a meeting for my Bioterrorism group over in the Medical school today. We're figuring out how to respond to a plan cooked up by another group in the class. Theirs doesn't have the finesse or the logical continuity of ours, but it's still pretty diabolical. I don't post details here because some crackpot trolling the internet for ideas might borrow it.

On the way back to main campus, I saw a dead body. Apparently Georgetown University Hospital doesn't have an underground loading dock for the morgue, and here was this body on a stretcher, neatly covered in blue cloth, being loaded into the back of an anonymous white van in the alley behind the Lombardi Cancer Center. Another student took a picture of the event with his cell phone. Most others just ignored this casual packing of mortal remains, intent on getting to their next classes on time.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Belated Birthday

Yesterday was my birthday. Number thirty-two. I had the worst migraine ever. I thought my left eyeball was going to burst out of my skull. Actually, I hurt so badly I found myself hoping it would go ahead and explode, just to relieve the pressure. Six hundred milligrams of ibuprofen didn't touch the pain. Nauseated, and light-sensitive. I'd never been in such agony before.

I'd been all self-pity earlier in the day because I didn't have anything special to do--there was nobody taking me out for dinner, or somesuch--and then when the headache hit, I was relieved that I was at my regular ladies' Bible Study, not being romantically feted by a Prince Charming (as I'd vainly wished), and could leave to go home to bed.

Today was much better. My IV group spontaneously sang "Happy Birthday" to me when I arrived this afternoon, and one dear girl stuck a candle in a cupcake and lit it. I accidently blew it out with laughter before they finished serenading me for the second time. And I had a good meeting with a potential roommate this evening.

Work was good. I'm actually getting my own phone number, since I'm a "real" Georgetown staff member now! Now if they'd just connect my computer to the printer...

Oh, and [Attention, Elder Kinswoman!] I got my flu shot today!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

4 A.M.

I'm awake at this ridiculous morning hour. I've got a bad cold again, thanks to my small niece, who woke up every hour the night before last and kept my sister in a semi-somnulent state of worry even longer. I hope both of them are asleep right now. Rita is Little Miss Energy. She hates naps, and learned, as of Wednesday, how to climb out of her crib and escape from "captivity". Gone forever are the days when my sister could assure herself that even if her small offspring were not asleep during naptime, at least she was limited to the crib space.

I had a great time in Rhode Island, but it was not restful in the physical sense. Friday, my mother, my sister and I went on an extremely fast seven mile walk. The clip was a bit swifter than our traditional sixteen-minutes-a-mile, and boy, am I sore tonight! 'Twas the first exercise I'd gotten in months, after all. And when we were indoors sitting down, Rita wanted to be read to. She was thrilled to have four adults who were all available as readers of her favorites: The Cat in the Hat, No Roses for Harry, two George & Martha five-story books, Frog and Toad are Friends, The Mixed-Up Chameleon and The Tiny Seed. Rarely did fifteen minutes went by when one or the other of us wasn't being approached by a short person bearing a book and wearing a determined expression. Sometimes, she'd take the same book to several different readers in a row--I guess they gave it a new flavor each time.

Reading The Cat in the Hat meant involving Rita, who knows the story by heart (mind you, she's nineteen months old, but sharp)--when the phrase "but our fish said..." came up, the reader had to pause for the little girl beside her to pipe "No, no!" on cue. It was hilarious.

She is nuts about books. When she's not running around, putting a puzzle together or riding on her rocking horse, she sits on her little chair at the end table which my sister has arranged in the middle of the den rug, and carefully pages through one of her large collection (half her own, half borrowed from the local public library), pointing to the pictures on each page and saying the words she knows. Several times we saw her with one of her little volumes, sitting by herself on her parents' bed and chortling over her chosen book. She's a funny girl--I hope she retains her affection for print once she learns to read for herself.

The train was sold out on the way home. The conductors made announcements to this effect. Thus it was with anxiety that I saw a spider walk around the corner of the seat in front of me and pause on the wall next to my window seat. There was no way for me to get away, and I didn't have anything to mash it with. Happily, my seatmate was cordial and able to dig out a paper napkin from her lunch bag on short notice. It was a small spider, but I don't like being so friendly with one, and certainly not when I'm stuck in an enclosed space.

Well, I'm going to take some painkiller and try to get back to sleep. Tomorrow--or rather, later today--after church I may take myself to see the new James Bond movie. Unholy, maybe, but I love action, and have never missed an installment of the franchise.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Belated Bulletin

Sorry to my myriad regular readers that I haven't been keeping up on the posts lately. It hasn't been lack of inclination or material--it's just been a total lack of time.

The woman I was subbing for at the History Dept. front desk recovered faster from the surgery than she'd expected and was back to work on Wednesday, looking chipper. Such a tremendous relief. It poured on Thursday, and knowing she was back, I called in to tell them I wasn't coming in. Sure didn't want to commute in that mess. Instead, spent more than eight hours typing on a database for my jewelry business, and formulating a survey on terrorism preparedness for my BT class. On Friday, after leading three back-to-back discussion sections on the conquest of the Aztecs by Cortez, the graduate coordinator offered me a job as the regular secretary for the department for the entirety of next semester and part of the summer, which doubles my old salary and means that I won't have to TA next term. It's not really a raise in the larger sense, because the TA stipend I lose is equivalent to the income I gain, but the hours are regular and I don't have to take home work after, which, if the adage "time is money" holds true, is a major boost. Saturday, to use a crudity, sucked. Two less-than-$20 sales. Frigid. Coat disintgrated into mildewy mass and had to be tossed in the garbage. Happy thing was the market director refunded my money for my booth space. Sunday I missed services because I was home making a giant pan of macaroni and cheese for the church dinner, which I made it to just in time. Continued work on database Sunday afternoon. Had a sudden thought about fishing the change out of the pockets of the coat I'd thrown away. Dug into the garbage for the change and discovered my car keys, which I'd tossed along with the coat. God watches over fools and little children, they say.

I may have found a place to live with a girl from my church--I'm supposed to phone her this evening, which is why I have to cut this short and get moving in the direction of Fairfax and supper.

Supposed to take the train to Rhode Island tomorrow. Looking forward to being with the fam, or a subset thereof, for Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Marriages, Arranged and Otherwise

My friend May got married on Saturday. She’s in my Bible Study, met her husband through eHarmony. She’s from northern Virginia, he’s from South Carolina. When she told us about him when they were first matched, I realized that his sister had been my little brother’s kindergarten teacher twenty-some-odd years ago. "There are strange convergences..." as a Russian lyric says.

I was one of the first people to be seated in the sanctuary, and ten minutes before the ceremony started the ushers led another member of my Bible Study up the aisle. Seeing me, she decided to sit on my row. I glanced over to admire her engagement ring—she just got engaged three weeks ago—and saw not one, but two bands on her finger. “Did you get married?!” I whispered. She nodded and grinned mischievously, “Last night.” They’d eloped. I knew they’d planned to, but didn’t expect it quite so swiftly. Two study members hitched in less than 24 hours.

Then my dad called to tell me about an Egyptian colleague of his, who, with his wife and children, is a member of my parents’ church. Apparently this colleague was talking about his brother, who is a doctor, “who is 41 and unmarried,” and when he somehow found out that my father had a 32 (almost)-year-old single daughter, and he became extremely excited. “How does she feel about arranged marriages?” he wanted to know. Anyway, long and short of it is that he is all hot to have his brother meet me—he actually wanted to have him fly up to Rhode Island over Thanksgiving, expressly for this purpose—and emailed my father pictures of the man, which Daddy dutifully passed on to me last night. The brother is actually not that bad looking, but, as my sister says, this whole arrangement does give me a slight case of the fantods. Especially since the man in question doesn’t even have a green card.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Rain, Rain, Go Away

On Wednesday, the morning after election day, the hosts of paper campaign signs were wilting in the steady drizzle that was sifting down all over the Washington area. I sat in traffic, feeling sorry for myself. I’d forgotten my cell phone, the roads were slick, my glasses were covered with a thin smoggy film from the rain and the exhaust of the cars in front of me.

More than ninety minutes later, I trudged into the department. I had a precious few minutes to spare, so I followed up on one of the housing leads sent me by the daughter of a friend of my mother. The woman who answered the phone must have had a worse day that I’d had, because she was brusque: “You’re too late.”

Crumbs.

I’d been praying for an eternal perspective, rather than mulling over my current reverses. It’s hard. I’m not happy about my financial situation, my lack of a regular living situation, or my academic condition. I’ve seriously considered chucking it all, moving away. To do what, I don’t know, but at least it would be “away.”

That afternoon, I lost it at IV. Just broke down sobbing. Told them I was exhausted, stressed out, overworked, underpaid, etc. They prayed for me, and several offered to keep an eye out for the housing I hadn’t had time to look for. I was so upset, I left early. Plus, I had work waiting.

Back in the department, at the front desk with a pile of unprocessed desk copy orders, I encountered Prof. Lehrer, who is the point-person for graduate student issues. I asked him if there were possibly any more money still in the kitty, since I was in a bad financial state. Then Ann, a recently-minted Ph.D. who knows of my housing need, came up, asked me what was wrong, and I started bawling again, telling them all I had told my IV group. Lehrer asked me how much I needed, and I told him between $18-20 an hour, which is a little less than double what I’m making now. Ten an hour was all very well and good when I was paying $450 a month for lodging, but now that I’m facing probable higher rent, plus inevitably another security deposit, not to mention tuition for next semester, it ain’t enough by far. And there is no way I can work full time and study for comps. Lehrer’s on my comps committee, and I stressed that I’d not had time to read a single book on my list for him.

The weather was much better Thursday and today. It did lift my mood. I was also “lightened” by the fact that I’d dumped all my worries on the IV group and Lehrer. Still no housing options—the selections members of the group emailed me Wednesday afternoon and Thursday were all no nearer than Fairfax, or outside my price range. And when one of my Russian history guy-buddies asked me casually this morning if I’d applied for an IREX grant, I almost started crying again: I have applied for only one wee little grant for travel to Russia for ten days this coming March, no big ones for dissertation research next year.

Of course, at the rate I’m going, I’m not going to have a dissertation to research, anyway. OK, that was mugglywumpy. But who’s to know? I also thought I’d have a husband and a couple of kids by now, too (incidentally, my favorite jewelry store down in Augusta, GA, is going out of business, taking with it, in all likelihood, the lovely engagement ring that I’ve coveted for more than four years, hoping always that I would be its recipient). I do sincerely want to finish my degree(s). And finish that book translation. And get on with my life!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Snarfy

I'm charging through kleenexes like a rhinocerous. My nose does feel like a horn. Today, it's gotten blown more than a jazz trumpet. I hate colds. Thank God for zinc lozenges and cough syrup. And hot showers and flannel sheets. Church ain't happening tomorrow for me--no sense in passing on this germ to some other poor soul. I plan to sleep in, like I did this morning. Second of three weeks in a row I'm missing the market--next Saturday is a friend's wedding. Good thing I didn't have to pay rent this month!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Chills and Cheer

You know you're in a bad state, health and insulation-wise, when you find yourself clutching a carton of refrigerated orange juice in an effort to get warm.

I'm sorely sick with a cold, but otherwise in good spirits.

Funny bumpersticker on an SUV headed home yesterday...WHEN IT ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY MUST BE DESTROYED OVERNIGHT (with the logo of the U.S. Marines).

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Breathing Space

Monday was a mess, Tuesday was troublesome only in spots, Wednesday so far has been a welcome return to relative normalcy. I am exhausted, and hope to get to bed by ten this evening, which would be three hours better than last night.

Monday. Wiped out from moving over the weekend. At the History Department, people are clamoring for attention on the phone, via email, and in person. Running out of supplies we used to have in abundance. I manage to insult Prof. G-R in front of her entire undergraduate class--by unintentionally implying that she didn't know squat about Boccaccio's Decameron. Filled with remorse. Apologize profusely afterwards. She graciously forgives me, although she is tired and strung out from caring for her bedridden husband. A dissertation defense runs into problems when their reserved room is unexpectedly reassigned, and I calm professor and attender while dredging up the correct forms. Get the departmental mail and discover that the paperwork for my employment paycheck has been returned, rather than processed(one day before checks are to be issued!). Go down to Graduate School and tell financial officer that if I get hit by a truck, my day will have improved. Group members from my Bioterrorism class begin phoning frantically, saying they can't finish the project and do I have anything to add? They show up at the front desk and work frantically to finish the thing before class starts at 4:15. At 5, the final project, still in an ugly draft form, is rushed over to be turned in. I arrive ten minutes before the class ends, having had to single-handedly shut down the department and handle several last-minute professorial crises.

Tuesday. Claudia, aka Desert Rose, is so sick with a nasty cold she can't make it to work. I leave the poor woman in the care of her cats (Mestopheles and Jennie), and drive into school, which takes over an hour. Very few people besides me are wearing costumes. I do not feel conspicuous, because I'm too busy. Discover to my pleasure that I have sold five books on Amazon. Hear to my horror that one of the lady professors in the department had been mugged that morning at knifepoint--walking by the university library. Get paycheck and find that at least some of the money has come through, so they've only messed up a month's worth due me, rather than two. Calm a frantic graduate student who didn't get a check. Discover that payroll was unusually efficient and has already set up direct deposit for her, so she's not marooned. Go to Leah's new house and have a nice lunch with her and little Noah. Rush off to Claudia's to pack books for mailing, call to cancel gas and telephone service still in my name at my ex-residence. Phone company (Verizon) very customer-friendly, gas company (Washington Gas) the opposite. The flibbertygibbet on the other end of the phone tells me they need access to the basement of the Arlington house or my account will remain open, and they "don't issue confirmation numbers," so you have to go on faith. Call ex-roommate and request gas company access. He's not thrilled. Meanwhile, poor Claudia is worse. Recommend zinc lozenges. Go to Bible Study, hand out candy to trick'er'treaters (lots of little princesses this year), eat dinner, drop off packages at post office (thank God, Merrifield's open til midnight!), and come home to repack/clean out belongings for hours before late bedtime.

Today. I've begged off the TAship European Civilization class at noon, and don't intend to go to Intervarsity. I'm the only person running the department today, and absenting myself for two hours at lunchtime would not be the best course. Plus, I was 45 minutes into what ended being a 1 hour 10 minute commute this morning when I realized I'd forgotten my laptop, which made attempting to take notes along with the children pretty futile. I need a spa massage. Oh, and the new due-date for the group project we didn't get finished Monday is this afternoon. Have I had a chance to look at it even once since 5pm the day before yesterday? Hah! And nevermind tracking down a new place to live. Somebody please be my personal secretary!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

BTW, I've Moved

I haven't exactly moved "to" anywhere as yet, just "from". I am taking refuge at Desert Rose's condo out in Fairfax, VA. All my belongings are piled in her Smurf-colored spare room. She, PerlMark, and a couple of other dear friends helped me get everything out of the Arlington house yesterday afternoon and today after church. It was a Godsend.

New housemate Byron freaked out on me Thursday. Repeatedly and unmistakably insinuated I was a liar (!), informed me I was rude (he was yelling at the time), and forbade me to have any overnight guests without his express permission (What!?). When I retorted that he regularly had his girlfriend sleep over, I was informed that because she slept in his room, not in the den downstairs, she didn't count. My only guest, my brother Bob, "had not shown proper respect" to Byron when he had visited, I was told. Bob had "stared at him" during his visit several weeks back. By this Byron inferred that I had been spreading nasty rumors about him among my friends and relatives. Not only had I not said anything derrogatory, I'd actually been quite complimentary in my description of Byron to Bob, and Bob is never, ever, rude to anybody. Even me, and I'm his sister.

I was frankly terrified by these ravings (What had first prompted this? Bread crumbs in the kitchen. They weren't my crumbs. In fact, I gently denied all knowledge of said crumbs. But he didn't believe me, and launched into a tirade.). The only thing I could think of saying to him was that he was a male chauvinist pig, but this (naturally), only added fuel to the fire. I should have kept my mouth shut. Nothing concilliatory I said before or after did any good either.

I went to my room and sobbed. At least I managed not to cry in front of him. The jerk. When I heard him leave, I got up, tried to calm down (I shook visibly for the next 24 hours, I was so scared) packed my car with all the clothes I could grab, my jewelry supplies, and some books, and did not return until Saturday, when I had my friends with me.

So now I'm looking for a new place to live. Preferrably with Christians. Girl Christians. And only one or two, max. A place where I can have my own bathroom. It needs to be cheap, too. And have parking. And be Metro accessible and/or within walking distance to Georgetown.

The silver lining to this chaos? I have seen God's miraculous provision in several ways: Christian siblings coming out of the woodwork to give me support. For example, after I left a panicked message on his voicemail, my friend Earnest actually arranged for me to stay with his aunt and uncle (for up to a month!), but by the time I talked to him just a couple of hours later, I'd already been taken under the protective petals of Desert Rose. Her very furry female kitty snuggled up to me during my restless night and purred comfortingly. It rained Saturday morning, which meant I didn't go to the Arlington market, but was able to attend the Bible Study brunch for an engaged friend (an event I otherwise would have missed), where I was one of the first to learn about another Christian sister's new engagement. The weather dramatically cleared while we were at the restaurant, and on a whim I called three male friends from church (besides Earnest, who I forgot was running a marathon Sunday, and thus wasn't available), to see if they could come help me move. All were, and met me over at the Arlington house within an hour, one bringing a delightful girl with him who was an amazingly swift packer. One of the guys went out and bought moving boxes, refusing to accept reimbursement. "It's a gift," he said. He and the others loaded my stuff into their cars and convoyed out to Fairfax, where they cheerfully unloaded everything. Ditto today.

I am trully blessed.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Metro Admonishment

“…loco!” said one Hispanic man to another on the Metro yesterday morning. All of us English-speakers around heartily agreed. She was nuts. “She” being the train operator. We were stuck in the tunnel between Arlington Courthouse and Rosslyn (a not infrequent occurrence during morning rush-hour), crammed like very well-scrubbed, professionally-attired sardines in the cars, trying somehow to stand aloof from and not make eye contact with our neighbors despite the crush, and we were being scolded like bad children by the woman up front.

It had all started conventionally enough. The intercom had come on. “Please do not lean on the doors.” This isn’t an unusual announcement. There are signs, but I guess people ignore them, and if the doors get off-track, they can jam. Or so we’re told. I’ve never actually seen anyone rest his or her weight against a door, nor have I seen one stick. But there you are.

Then again, “Please step away from the doors.”

Pause. “I’m getting a signal that the doors are not completely closed. Do not press on the doors.”

Another weighty silence. “I can’t move this train until the doors are closed. Please make sure that you are not leaning on the doors.”

By this time, we passengers were well away from the doors, as far as we could move, given the snug environment, and not just making eye contact, but also snide remarks to one another about wishing we’d brought along breakfast.

“I’m going to have to off-load this train if the doors don’t show closed.”

Ah, a trek to the station through the dark tunnel, avoiding the deadly electrified third rail. How cheery.

“Look down at the bottom of the doors and someone please call me on the box if you see a light.”

This admonition was repeated several times, as if the operator thought we were all idiots. Door-leaning idiots. She had been testy to begin with, and now she almost completely lost her cool.

“In a minute I’m going to leave this cab and come back through the cars myself and check to see that nobody’s leaning on the doors!”

Yes, mother!

A few minutes later, without any further words from the front of the train, we started moving, and pulled into Rosslyn. Thank God that was my stop. The operator was haranguing the people on the platform when I charged off and up the escalator. Where else do Metro drivers scold their passengers like children? I felt like I was six again.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Additional Busy-ness Loometh

I just realized I’m the primary manager for the whole History department for the next three weeks. The regular Chair is on sabbatical, leaving a locum to fill in. The Graduate Coordinator is in Croatia on vacation. Yes, really. Apparently it has really nice beaches. Presumably they are no longer mined. The older secretary is counting down the days until her retirement November 22—she’s in ill health (due to a lifetime of smoking and greasy snack foods) and only comes in three days a week as it is. The other, main secretary is having surgery on Wednesday, and expects to be out until November 21. That leaves me to hold down the fort, stave off disaster, and make sure that everything keeps humming along. Whew.

Did I mention that Professor G-R’s husband is going to have emergency surgery on his spine sometime this week, too? I dunno what this means for my TAship, but it might portend more work. Pray that the poor man recovers quickly!

And I need to re-glue my toe--it’s dripping blood again.

Somehow, all this doesn't really get me down. I guess I'm too busy to worry about it! Incidentally, I am so very grateful for central heat! We’ve got the radiators on tonight, and it’s delightful. The temperature outdoors had dropped to 49 by 6:30 this evening, and it’s probably close to freezing by now. I am going to take a warm shower and curl up under my down duvee for a good night’s rest. Now if I'd just win one of those long fur coats I'm bidding for on eBay...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Good Gnus

Clarendon Day was great! Perfect weather, lots of customers. I sold one of my most expensive pieces, and bunches of others. Scads of compliments, and repeat customers--both always quite welcome. I'm half way to paying off my credit-card bill (I caught up on my tithe this morning--was almost a month in arrears!). God was very gracious to me, and I hope that I'll have a bunch of new folks who picked up my card at yesterday's show come by my booth next Saturday.

I super-glued my left great toe together, and it didn't bother me all day.

One little irony was an Iranian diplomat's buying a tile from me that my brother Bob, the Wonder Chicken...I mean the nu-Q-ler engineer...made. I didn't tell the diplomat about this strange history, but I figured Bob might get a kick out of it.

Really freakishly realistic dream last night, featuring the same subject as this morning's sermon being discussed with one of the older ladies in the church, whom I ran into for the first time in months right after Sunday School. Very odd. The pastor kept repeating the word "dream" over and over again during the service, too. I guess I'm supposed to remember this particular point!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Ouch.

While repairing my jewelry displays this evening, I managed to slice open my left foot's great toe with one of those industrial packing-tape dispensers (the large metal serated-edge ones). Bled everywhere, and of course it re-opened in the shower after I'd finally gotten it to close up. My sheets are going to look like a murder scene. And I have to stand up at the Clarendon Day market all day. Motrin is a wonderful invention!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Boratic Irony

Most of my readers are probably not familar with Borat, the character created and embodied (24-7 for all I know, kind of like those outsize creatures Dame Edna and Madea--only this character is skinny, young and male) by comedian Sasha Baron Cohen, who played the gay French Grand Prix driver opposite red-blooded redneck Nascar hero Will Ferrell in Talledga Nights.

Borat is a foul-mouthed Inspector Clouseau, from Kazakhstan instead of France, and not a detective. Basically, he makes fun of Kazakhstan, which (in his presentation) is a post-Soviet republic only in terms of chronology, not attitude. The Kazakh goverment is so irritated by his shtick that they complained to President Bush about him a couple of weeks ago. He's British, but there you are. They are all hot about an upcoming feature film, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. It's rated "R" for pervasive strong crude and sexual content including graphic nudity, and language. Not something I plan to see, but I know a lot of people (including Sandmonkey) think he's hilarious, and will go.

So, for me Borat's been on the back burner. But then, two days ago, I noticed on CNN.com that the Central Bank of Kazakhstan had issued new currency...with the word "Bank" misspelled. And I thought, "Maybe Borat's got something going here." Of course, what the Kazakh government doesn't realize is that without him making fun of them, the average person outside the former USSR would not know or care that they existed, including CNN. I'm still not seeing the movie--the trailer was nasty.

Sooo Frustrated!

Argh! [Sound of head banging repeatedly on desk]

I am SO TIRED of feeling like there's a weight on my sternum, preventing me from getting a deep breath. I thought it was residual cold-symptoms, now I'm wondering if it isn't some sort of allergy. My energy is really low, too.

I am SO TIRED of grading these bloody papers! First it was the out-of-class essay, then it was the in-class essay. If I read another word about feudalism or the papacy during the Middle Ages, I think I'm going to scream! But more frustrating is Prof. G-R, who is a sweet, sweet woman in other respects, going over the papers after me, asking me to bump one up half a grade, another down by the same interval, and then, after sending me a two-page, single-spaced, typed review of just five of the in-class papers (which are each only worth 50% of the midterm--I think it'll all come out in the wash once the short answers and the IDs are graded) remarking that she'd been amused by the "neologism" (newly-invented word) "coronated" popping up again and again. For crying out loud, it dates from the beginning of the seventeenth century!

I am SO TIRED of worrying about my financial situation! I really need to clean up this weekend--it's the annual Clarendon Day festival, for which I prepaid a $60 booth fee (last year it was my best single-day outdoor sale ever)--because those stupid car repair bills are coming due (thank God for credit cards--there was no way I could have come up with the cash up front), and I'm about a thousand short. Gack. Anyway, I've been busy making earrings (over 20 pairs in the last twenty-four hours) and asking people to pray for the day. Hope the weather's good and people are in the mood for buying my wares.

The one really bright spot lately (the weather's been dreary lately, so that ain't it) has been Shakespeare. I finished going through the canon (in backward alphabetical order, if you'll recall) with All's Well that Ends Well, which is one of my favorite stories, and fairly exceptional for ol' Will, since the heroine isn't nobly born, but marries up by virtue of her own sterling qualities. It's also a tale where all the women are clear-eyed, resourceful, helping one another irrespective of class and generation, refusing to compromise their integrity or their purpose--none of this "I'm a poor weak woman" soliloquizing that appeared elsewhere among Shakespeare's characters. Oh, and appropriately enough for a drama listened to while making jewelry, there are several rings that play pivotal parts in the plot resolution. All's well that ends well, indeed!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Humility in Relationships

The dear ladies in my Bible Study reminded me last week of Carolyn McCulley, the author of the SoloFeminity blog, to which I have referred, but to which, before today, I had not perma-linked. Miss McCulley is a very wise lady. Like the author of The Upward Call, she is thoughtful, and she writes perceptively about the spiritual importance of our relationships with others. I always come away challenged, and often convicted, having read each woman's words.

Today, I was particularly struck by two points Miss McCulley raised in her most recent posts (and article on Boundless.org): Am I bitter? Am I belittling to others, particularly men?

I have been truly bitter in the past. I have deeply resented being lonely, and have seethed over not having been asked out for years. But, even before the break in that particular trend over the summer, God gave me considerable grace, attitude-wise. I haven't had a profound, ongoing spell of self-pitying misery in a long while! Oh, spurts here and there, but no crawl-into-a-hole-and-pull-the-dirt-in-after-me as in the past, thank God. The belittlement habit, though, has been much tougher to break.

Perhaps it was due to being ridiculed daily during middle school (two solid years!) about who I was alleged to have a crush on, or who had a crush on me (that burns pretty deeply after a while, which is clear from the memory having lingered almost twenty years!), but when I was in college I used to be horribly paranoid about anyone paying the slightest bit of romantic attention to me. Part of this was profound insecurity about my having any real value at all (which little confidence was regularly undermined--in a joking manner--by the guy I was in love with at the time, who was more than willing to absorb my devotion without returning it). If I was really so unworthy, I reasoned, then any guy who thought I was attractive was necessarily stupid, crazy, or both. As a result, I wasn't the best about responding in a personally-affirming way when the few fellows with the audacity to like me in college made their attentions known. Getting rejected at last by the guy I loved didn't make matters easier.

A couple of years later, in my first round of graduate school, God brought a wonderful Christian man into my life. He was smart, he was kind, and he was not crazy. And he liked me! Trouble was, I didn't like him. I mean, I didn't like him romantically. I did really respect him, and for this reason I agreed to date him. We had been going out for about five months when I finally realized that no matter how much I admired him, I just couldn't marry him--and this was the direction in which he was headed. So I dumped him. I did tell him how much I genuinely appreciated him at the time, but all that I really conveyed was rejection. To a certain extent, this was unavoidable, but I do wish that there had been a better way of ending the romance without ruining the connection. He was truly a great man, and I didn't do well by him. He quickly got a Fulbright, went abroad for a year, then returned to the States to marry a classmate of mine. That was eight years ago--they probably have several children by now!

But anyway, since then I have again struggled with bitterly belittling men, this time predominately from a sense of elevated self-esteem rather than the reverse. I am much more confident than I was when I was younger, much more self-assured, much more outgoing. This doesn't correlate with any physical or intellectual improvement in my person (in some ways, the reverse!), which just goes to show that a lot of self-perception is "all in the head" rather than based on concrete characteristics. Why the reversion to belittling? Well, for one thing, it's much easier to ridicule and disparage what one doesn't have. It's a defense mechanism twinned with the bitterness: "All right, they don't want me, I don't want them either!" And it's also a manifestation of real arrogance: "I'm better than that!" There is also a perverse sense of hoping to spite a man into action, when all I see around me are fellows too seeming-weak to pursue a girl, even for a single date.

Miss McCulley showed me that I have been lacking in humility. In a way, I think God has been working on this aspect of my character at the same time that he has been bleeding off the bitterness, but at the same time I am impressed by just how far I have to go. Although I'm no longer defaulting to looking down on guys anymore, I still get so frustrated by their inaction in initiating relationships that I frequently want to goad them into doing SOMETHING. Despite my ebbing bitterness, I DO want to be pursued!

Still, my conscience was prodded: I want to build others up, rather than tearing them down. I know from my own experience more than a decade ago that spite-tinged teasing wilts a person's relational will, rather than goading it into action. Surely men are human, too, and the same pattern holds true for them as it did for me! My prayer, then, is that God would remind me of that which he has taught me already through bitter experience, that he would show me how it is applicable to my treatment of others. I want to be loving in the fullest sense, not prideful in any. To manifest in thought, word and deed what God's grace has been to me throughout my life is the best foundation for any healthy relationship, with women or with men.

Lincoln Had a Nose

The last two days, this blog has been more of my own private space for embarassing myself in public than a forum in which to present solid ideas. I DO know the difference between the SR-71 (the Blackbird) and the B-2 (Stealth) bomber. I could sketch them right now, without reference to models. Saintly bovine, how did I manage to confuse them in my last entry? They are both black, and fly, but that's about where the similarity ends. It was the Stealth that awed me. The Blackbird was no where near as cool.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

I'll Avoid the Bad Metaphors

Let me just remark that seeing a B-2 bomber, better known as the Blackbird, fly over the market yesterday was SO COOL!!!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Paper Grading

Military planes are over Washington, screaming from one end of the District to the other, ripping open the pregnant belly of the sky with their rough knife-edged tail fins, while staid passenger jets rumble in deliberately along the Potomac corridor to land at Reagan National Airport.

A few early-autumn birds are squawking hoarsely in the sunshine outside my window, and I am indoors sipping hot tea and grading papers. Some of them are awful.

You’d think that to get into a relatively prestigious private university like Georgetown a person would have to be able to write coherently, or, barring that, at least be able to follow precise directions given them in print by an instructor. Sadly, neither of these suppositions would prove true. It is remarkable what a poor showing some of these young people have made.

One cannot lard over poor prose with nine-dollar vocabulary words. One young lady presumed to slip the word “evanescent” into an otherwise conventional sentence, right after the eight-dollar word “albeit.” Argh. We all could use a good editor now and then.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Daniel and the BioWeapons Lab

The Washington Post—I almost typed “Toast,” but that’s just the wine talking—had a feature today about malaria, and attempts to create a vaccine to fight it. The latest round cooked up by the Army was a complete failure. Thousands (mostly children) die daily in Africa from malaria, but the mosquitoes that carry it don’t thrive in much of North America, so it doesn’t get the press over here that AIDS does. The Post didn’t mention the numbers who are HIV-positive who die from malaria, but I’m sure that will bump up the numbers, if it hasn’t already.

Disease biology interests me from a purely historical standpoint. How many human events have been decided by microbes too small to be seen with the naked eye! H.G. Wells, however preachily anti-theistic and depressingly pro-evolution he may have been, was smart to attribute to the defeat of his Martians to Earth-germs. What we cannot see in the flesh may be deadly.

There have been genuine attempts at biowarfare and more “fuzzy” uses of bioweapons in the twentieth century (most efforts before 1900 were based more on blind chance than scientific deliberation, and in the few episodes where the infective agent delivery-system might have worked, the disease-proliferation is directly attributable to other, “natural” causes), most notoriously the Japanese army group that launched porcelain bombs filled with infected biting insects into 1930s Manchuria, causing countless deaths, and most lately the anthrax attacks that killed more than ten on the east coast of the United States in 2001. The concern is now (and was prior to 2001, though the powdery letters were still a surprise) that biological agents will be the weapon of choice for terror groups, given that many of the bacteria, viruses and so forth are available and inexpensive, require no extraordinary knowledge to acquire and deploy, and have peculiarly deadly effects.

Unlike conventional explosives and atomic bombs, which cause immediate, limited (that is, calculable, not necessarily small) damage, the effects of biological agents take a while to appear. For many, there is an incubation period, during which a creature may not show any symptoms, but may still be contagious to others. And there is that very factor of contagion, too. Radioactivity is not contagious—contaminants may be spread, but they cannot reproduce themselves. A biological attack could involve either an agent that cannot be spread human-to-human, like the aforementioned anthrax, or something that is notoriously virulent, such as Ebola. Hence, after a hypothetical attack, a contagious disease would arrive in waves, with the first likely greater than the second, since people affected by the initial act would have gone undiagnosed and untreated, and thus have served as vehicles for carrying the plague (and it could indeed be Plague) to others.

Biological weapons are also particularly hard to trace. There are no fingerprints on an anthrax spore, no tell-tale signs of where it was “manufactured.” Thanks to the Human Genome project and other efforts to de-code biological data, there is hope that some germs can be “typed” eventually, but given the ecological diversification of the planet, and the legal transfer of data, physical and intellectual, from one side of the globe to the other, from laboratory to laboratory, this, at best, would be only one of many, many clues needed to determine culpability for a particular act of biological terror.

If diagnosis, treatment and retaliation are so demonstrably difficult, then, much depends on our ability to outright prevent a potential attack, rather than the efficiency with which we scramble to react to one that has already taken place. [Speaking of reactions…curiously—and I find frustrating that so many worry-mongers about the possibility of intra-human bird flu fail to mention this—handwashing is the single most effective means of preventing the spread of disease. If people just washed their hands regularly, and followed many of those other basic hygiene practices “your mother always told you,” many of even the most deadly diseases—deliberately dispersed or otherwise—would have much less opportunity to move from one person to the next.] That’s where I and other larval counter-terrorism specialists come in. We are trying to tease out the likelihood of various points and means of attack, and then devise methods of stymieing them.

Thinking like a terrorist is harder than it might first appear. There’s that whole sticky issue of civilian casualties, which most of us grimace at, and which real terrorists ignore. Mothers with babies, young schoolchildren…we “normal” folks blanch to think that these might be killed or maimed. Not so with real terrorists. So, as C.S. Lewis once said of writing the Screwtape Letters, hypothesizing from the murderous point of view is a very weird feeling—it requires a contortion of the soul, and one emerges feeling bruised.

My Intervarsity group is reading the Old Testament Book of Daniel, which is, if you’ll recall, all about a scholar’s career from the time he, with three like-minded friends, first was chosen to acquire the best education the dominant culture had to offer, through their days as young professionals unexpectedly given opportunities to have influence at the highest levels of the public sphere, through maturity. Their dedication to God never wavered, and as a result, God gave them wisdom to direct the affairs of the superpower state they served, to give good advice to temporal rulers, and to maintain their faith even in episodes of severe trial and political turmoil. My hope, as I seek to honor Christ Jesus, is that he will give me similar staying-power, the same calm, the same insight, so that I can obey my God and work for my country well, loving them, and drawing strength from the Former to protect the latter.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Quilt Show Review

I returned to DC this evening, going directly to my longsuffering friend Leah's house for dinner without stopping at home. Then on to Bible Study and finally back to Arlington at 10 PM. There I had an immediate urge to clean the bathroom. You leave three guys alone in a house for almost a week and the housekeeping goes to pot. Or toilet, more precisely--with the sink and bathtub, it accumulates incredible grime. Even I, slob extraordinaire, decided enough was enough. Only thing was, after I'd scrubbed away for a while, I couldn't discern much difference. Sure, there was a little less soap scum coating the enamel, and the mold on the caulk had been beaten back (it's like kudzu, it always returns right away, but one must make an effort), but all in all the picture was disheartening. Some stains just won't come out. Drat.

Housecleaning issues aside (I'd left my room vacuumed, so that was a good part of homecoming), my trip was delightful. Tiring, yes, and I didn't get the papers graded that I'd hoped to (this is tomorrow morning's task), but wholly satisfactory otherwise. I got all the errands run I'd set out to do, and the jewelry show, though sparsely attended, paid for my gasoline for the whole six-day odyssey. And though I didn't get to see any Augusta church friends, I met my Atlanta brother's girlfriend, who is very pleasant, and makes beads (I bought a bunch to use in my new fall designs). And the quilt show Grandmommy presented, along with her testimony of God's purpose in making us, his "scraps", into beautiful designs, was an encouraging word and a magnificent spectacle. Here are the promised pictures...


The first selection. Grandmommy's in the blue suit. My Aunt Mae is on the other side. Grandmommy never has sold and never will sell one of her quilts. They are all put together with "stitches of love," and she bestows them only on members of the family or dear friends.


"Tumbling Blocks"--sometimes the blocks on which we build our lives tumble.


The latest addition to my personal collection. Grandmommy made this for me last year, and borrowed it for the show. It's an "Oriental Sampler"; no two squares are alike. Nonetheless, there's some red in every square, because, as Grandmommy explained to her audience, Granddaddy says, "It's not really a quilt unless it has red in it!"


"Texas Star"--though you can't see it in this picture, Grandmommy quilted mini versions of the central star into the yellow blocks at each of the four corners.


One of her more recent efforts. Granddaddy gave his stamp of approval to this one even though it doesn't have red in it. Of course, I guess pink is a derivative of red... Note the piles of quilts on the two foreground chairs. For a woman who didn't start quilting until she was in her sixties, her output has been impressive!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Gratitude for Grandparents

At IV Bible Study on Wednesday, just hours before heading south, I learned that the grandmother of a friend had just died in Tennessee.

Tonight I am with my own maternal grandparents in Macon, GA, spending the night at the home of my mother's youngest sister, where tomorrow morning my dear Grandmommy will be showing eight of her quilts--seven completed, and one partially-pieced--to members of the monthly book club my aunt hosts. She and my aunt just stacked the quilts in the office where I am typing, and established the order in which they're to be shown, before going out into the den to join my uncle watching a new DVD of the old "Green Acres" TV show. Granddaddy is sitting at the kitchen table, hunched over a photo album and a copy of a illustrated history of World War II which I gave him before supper.

A few minutes ago, with tears in his eyes, he told me about the sinking of the Yorktown, the enormous aircraft carrier the US Navy lost during the Battle of Midway. Granddaddy's ship, the USS Portland, had plucked 1600 of the survivors out of the water, bringing its complement of seamen to a hefty 3,000. The Yorktown was crippled, dead in the water (Granddaddy, a machinist's mate, explained the design flaw that left her vulnerable: 6 boilers fed steam into two "super boilers", which in turn fed the turbine propellers. The Japanese attack had knocked out the two "super boilers" and there was no bypass system, meaning the steam from the fore six was venting ineffectively, and the screws were still). While the survivors were being picked up, a senior officer ordered a destroyer, a smaller vessel, to pull alongside the Yorktown, to feed electricity to the carrier, in hopes that it could be salvaged.

"The 'Japs' [Granddaddy's word, not mine--he returned to Pearl Harbor on Tuesday, December 9, 1941, to find ships in flames, and so the Japanese will always be "Japs" to him, as they were during the war], "were smarter than we gave 'em credit for," so they fired a torpedo into the assisting destroyer, sending it to the bottom with "all hands and the ship's cook." Except the depth-charges the destroyer had on board were set to detonate at 50'BSL, and when the wreck hit that level these exploded, taking the Yorktown with it to the bottom of the Pacific.

There is one place Granddaddy wishes he could have been during WWII--at Normandy on D-Day. He was out in the North Atlantic at the time, hunting U-boats. (Besides Midway, he'd already been at Coral Sea and landed troops on Iwo Jima.) "Well, you can't be everywhere," I told him.

Meanwhile, next to us, Grandmommy unfolded the quilt-top she is assembling, to show it to my mother. It's got over 1300 pieces in it. Both Granddaddy and I were distracted from our sober conversation by the beauty of the green, gold and crimson cloth. "Your grandmaw is an artist," Granddaddy said, punching me gently in the arm with one of his work-roughened hands and pointing at the design. "The only mistake she ever made was marrying an old sailor like me." He looked admiringly at the quilt--he's "supervised" the making of over 100. Grandmommy loves watching him watch her assemble each new design--he always declares, sincerely, "That's the prettiest one she's made!" to any and all visitors.

If they continue to perk along, he and Grandmommy will celebrate sixty years of marriage this coming May. I love them both so much!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Busy-ness

My documented habits of sloth notwithstanding, I have been extraordinarily efficient this week (hence my light blogging, because writing about multitasking can be extraordinarily dull, both for the blogger and her readers). Right now, I am in the midst of extended errand. It involves fifteen hundred miles of driving.

I am down in Georgia for the weekend. I drove to North Carolina after my Bioterrorism class yesterday, arriving in Mebane in the not-yet-wee, but-still-quite-dark-and-quiet hour of 11:30pm. As mine hosts (Paxifist and Deacon Paul) were already abed, I let myself in with my key, whispered conciliatory things to the watch-cat on duty, showered my exhausted carcass and crashed on the couch.

This morning I hung out briefly with Paxifist and the pipsqueaks, which was great fun. We four went downtown, where Paxifist and I had fresh sweets for breakfast, always a treat! I loved cuddling the Baby of Girth, and his big brother J-Bear is an enthusiastic hugger with a contagious grin--my adorable nephews! Drove to Augusta in the early afternoon, fighting sleep most of the way by listening to Shakepeare's Coriolanus and holding my hand out the window in the slipstream. I get horribly lethargic driving in daytime--night's much preferable (I'm much more alert, and traffic's less)--even drinking caffiene doesn't help.

Tomorrow, after I vote absentee, renew my license and car-tags, run clothes to the consignment shop and stop by to see some old co-workers in a jewelry store downtown, my mother and I drive down to Middle Georgia to pick up my grandparents and a wagonload of gorgeous sewing, and transport all to my aunt's house in Macon, where we'll spend the night, preparatory to my grandmother's quilt show early (7:45!) the next morning. I hope to have pictures--stay tuned!

We're supposed to return to Augusta Saturday afternoon. My Atlanta brother and his friend come to spend Saturday night. Church Sunday morning. Jewelry show that afternoon. Church Sunday night. Monday--deep breath, load car, return to Mebane. Tuesday, back to DC. Bible Study. Wednesday--give copies of the student papers I graded to professor for distribution to their composers (I plan to grade the papers in the car to and from Macon).

And somehow, as soon as possible, I'm supposed to set up an expert editorial committee for the "Two Motherlands, Two Fatherlands" project. My friend the Russian author is sending me desperate emails asking whether this has been done. What can I say--it's "in process." Early this week, I sent off a small grant proposal asking funding for travel to Russia in March to a group in DC, submitted four chapters of my translation (plus my draft comprehensive exams reading list) to my advisor--in hopes that he would agree to put me in touch with publishers (besides falling in love with the book and volunteering to write an introduction for it)--and wrote a pleading letter to members of Georgetown's Slavic Languages department requesting that they give me advice about how to go about forming the aforementioned manuscript editorial committee. I actually would like them to be on it, but I thought I would take the subtle approach at first. I've been busy.

I need to capitalize on the momentum, though. I don't want to start well and fizzle. Prayers appreciated. Oh, and I would also like to be able to get some rest. Sleep is a great invention. I haven't been getting all that much lately.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Efficiency

I am someone who's efficient about one day a week at most. That particular day, I will accomplish everything (or almost everything) on my mental list. I will be super-dedicated, not fooling around on the Internet, not distracted by the beautiful outdoors, and usually so task-oriented that I will forget to eat.

The next three or four days, I will feel so proud of myself for being so hardworking that I will do nothing at all to speak of. I'll take naps, have frequent breaks for snacks, twiddle around online, etc. And meantime, I won't feel guilty--after all, just the other day, I was so good! Of course, I'll feel fat, lazy and depressed at the end of the day, bemoaning the fact that "I got nothing done!"

The following couple of days, the guilt finally starts to activate my sense of duty, and I'll make half-hearted little efforts to start and finish tasks, but they tend to be of the postponing-the-inevitable nature. This is generally when the housework gets done. I'm supposed to be studying, or translating, or something central to my future academic and employment career, but instead I'll vacuum my room, clean the bathroom, or do the laundry.

Finally, I kick myself into gear. This frequently takes removing myself to a physically isolated place which is quiet, with few distractions--say, the History Department on a weekend--and making myself do what I've promised others I'd do days or even weeks before.

Today has been an efficient day. I would LOVE to be efficient tomorrow, and break the old cycle. How else am I going to prepare adequately for comps???

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Zoo!

My friend Leah, her seventeen-month-old little boy, and a friend of ours and her three-year-old boy, all went to the Washington National Zoo today. I had had no idea that there is no admission fee (they do charge through the nose for parking, which affected us, since we didn't want to take the metro with the small fry)--and it's very nice. The last time I'd been was 29 years ago, so I didn't remember much.

The weather was perfect--a hint of autumn in the air, sunny. The animals were enjoying themselves. The adult pandas were munching away on bamboo, and their baby was sound asleep high up in the crook of a willow tree. The elephants and giraffe were lunching on hay in their enclosures, and the hippopotami (both full-size and pigmies) were swimming in their pools. There was an obstinate-looking capybara in one pen, and two lounging cheetahs in another, curled up in mirror-image in the shade.

The three-year-old was thrilled with everything. The flamingos, standing on one leg with their bills tucked into their back feathers, fascinated him, and he was delighted with the zebra, who brayed thunderously. And he got to touch a piece of hippo tooth, hacked from the mouth of the zoo's ironically-named Happy (who has to get his teeth pruned every so often, because they grow like a rabbit's, and on his captive diet, he doesn't wear them down fast enough).

We all had a great time. Leah (Cathy Plus One--see sidebar) should have pictures up on her blog soon.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Boycott Venezuela

While the Honorable Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan, was giving a speech this afternoon over on main campus, I was over at the Georgetown University Medical School in my Bioterrorism class. We were talking about motives for acts of terror, and as a collective exercise had to brainstorm stimuli for hatred that could be put into a plausible ideological framework. One girl in the gallery behind me suggested the incendiary remarks of legitimately-elected Venezuelan nutjob Hugo Chavez might be just such an event. That sent our instructor off on a tangent: did we know that the gasoline company Citgo is wholly owned by the Venezuelan government?

This set me to thinking. Every time you or I stop at a Citgo, we're putting cash in Chavez's pockets. May I suggest a very effective means of non-violent resistance to his rule: a boycott of Citgo? And too, this is hard evidence for the necessity of alternative fuel development if I ever heard it! Our national dependency on oil is similar to our national narcotics habit: the demand, and the money we give to those who can meet it, makes all sorts of nasty, exploitative regimes possible worldwide. Unless and until we can do without the product, they've got us, as it were, over a barrel.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Delightful Discover Card People

I’m going to give the Discover Card people some good publicity, for what it’s worth. In the thick of this late nastiness with the incompetent, overcharging Arlington Honda auto mechanics, my mom got a call down in GA from an “888”-prefixed number. As the young lady doing the phoning asked for me, but didn’t identify herself (a major pet peeve of my family), my mother told her “she doesn’t live here anymore” and ended the call. Later, the Mater got to thinking that it might not have been ye-olde-run-of-the-mill solicitation (they are on the “Do Not Call” list, after all), and emailed me the number so’s I could follow up, if I chose. Chagrined to learn I’d been disowned (I do, in fact, still claim GA as my permanent address), I decided to phone the toll-free-number people to see if I could straighten the caller out, legal domicile-wise.

It turned out to be the Discover Card people, just doing one of their periodic “checking to make sure our cardholders are happy” surveys. Was there anything they could do, they wanted to know, to make my cardholder experience a happier one? Now, I’ve been very pleased with my Discover; I’ve had it about ten years (until recently, it was my only credit card), I pay it off every month with a religious devotion, and I love the cash back, because (as I put everything on it, from groceries to gas to postage) that wee 1% really does add up. But in the middle of this past summer, I underpaid one of the monthly bills by about $400, and was dismayed to be stuck with a $75 finance charge—apparently, finance charges are based on the total amount owed for the month, not on the remainder one has left over after one has paid the majority. Gack. Having no prior experience with finance charges (thank God!), I didn’t know how this worked…and it had been a decade since I’d read the fine print in the cardholder agreement. Nothing I could do, though, except resolve never to get stuck thusly again.

Fast-forward to Thursday. I was still waiting to hear that my car was ready (for the second, and hopefully last, time), and so when the Discover Card people asked if there were anything they could do to make my life happier, my precarious financial situation prompted the bitter memory of that $75 fee to resurface. I (very politely) mentioned that “several months ago there had been this finance charge…” and the girl listened nicely, put me on hold (there was this song from Christian radio playing—it must have gone mainstream, but I found it very encouraging) and popped back five minutes later to say that she’d talked to her supervisor, and was going to transfer me to another department, which was going to “try to do something about that.”

I was totally slow: “About what?”

“About reimbursing you for that fee.”

Whoa. Wow. Yippee! “Mustn’t get too excited, yet,” I told myself. “It may not work out.”

Then, after a few minutes of wrangling with his computer, the nice young man in the other department not only reimbursed me the $75, he gave me an automatic $20 Cash Back Bonus award to be credited to my account the next time I used my card (which I knew was going to be in about 15 minutes, because I had a package to mail to Australia). I was thrilled, and told him as much.

He seemed pleased that I was pleased. I’ll bet credit card company employees don’t get to do nice things for people very often.

Isn’t that sweet?! I’d like to praise God for this unexpected blessing (maybe this whole painful car repair/slow market day issue does have a silver lining)! This is so awesome. And God bless the Discover Card people—He’s certainly used them to bless me!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Evil Car Mechanics

1:20 PM Wednesday. Intervarsity Bible Study started at 1PM, but I was in my TA-ship class until a quarter after and wanted to get the word on my car before I buried myself out of cellphone range in the basement of Copley dorm. I go up to the History Departmetn front desk to use the phone. The Arlington Honda Service department transfers me to the care of Jose, the service advisor handling my case.

“Well, ma’am,” he says, “We need to replace the wire harness.”

“You can't be serious," I think. “How much will that cost me?” I ask.

He quotes a price between $425 and $450.

“In addition to the $370 I already paid you yesterday?!” I am flabbergasted.

“Well, the fix didn’t work. We have to replace the part.”

I feel a surge of rebellion. “What would happen if I didn’t replace the part?”

Jose gives me this smooth-talk runaround that implies that death, disease, famine and ingrown toenails (even unto the third and fourth generations) would be almost guaranteed to the person so irresponsible as to ignore this problem on her car.

“Don’t I get any discount for the previous work?” This extraordinary request seems to catch him off guard.

“Um, yes-of-course-you-get-some-credit.”

“How much?” I am in no mood for vague promises.

“$325.”

This os more like it. But, still, I clarify: “$325 off the 450, or $325 total?”

“That would be total ma’am.”

“You mean, $375, in addition to what I’ve already paid?!” I get frustrated.

“Yes, ma’am.”

What the—“You mean I paid $370 yesterday and you still want to charge me $325 for fixing what I thought you’d already fixed? That’s still way too high. Can’t you do better?”

“Hold on a minute, ma’am.” An extended pause. Then, with the air of someone making a profound concession: “We can charge you just for the part—$275.”

But by this point, I get really upset, and though I manage to keep my voice even and my vocabulary under control, this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Even Southern girls get backed to a wall every now and then. “That’s ridiculous! I think you are treating me this way just because I’m a woman. If I were a man, you wouldn’t be trying to jerk me around like this, charge me more for something you said you’d already done…. I’m going to talk to my father and my local mechanic, to see how much they’d charge for this.”

The service advisor is unmoved.

“I may still do it, but I’ll call you back,” I decide.

“Well, ma’am, we need to know by three o’clock so that we can order the part.” He is so confident.

“I’ll call you back,” I repeat, and hang up. And burst into furious tears.

The History Department senior secretary and the graduate coordinator look at me in shock: “What’s wrong?”

“The car repair people are trying to rip me off,” I sob. “Oh!” I say furiously, clutching damp wads of mascara-daubed Kleenex to my eyes. “How I wish I were married to a man who carried a gun!”

That makes them both smile, and I steady myself and call my father, who kindly gives me the number to my local Honda dealership down in Augusta, GA, whose service department has always treated me fairly. The lady there is kind. “But all Honda dealers are independently owned and operated, so what we’d charge wouldn’t necessarily be the same, but I can give you the number for Honda North America’s Customer Service Helpline.”

“That would be nice.”

By the time I call Honda Central, I am bawling again. Thank God, I am able to find my Vehicle Identification Number (the first thing they ask for)—for some providential reason I had it in my purse on a card—then I talk to a wonderful lady about the issue with the evil Arlington Honda people, their lousy service and general unhelpfulness. She assures me that everything will be OK: “Don’t be upset, ma’am, it will be all right.” And she opens an investigation “ticket” which will take a day or two to process, she says.

Most of my energy has been spent, but I figure I have nothing to lose, and I don’t want to wait for resolution, so I make one last telephone call--back to the Arlington Honda service department, where my car is still sitting helplessly. I ask to speak to the manager. I can hardly believe my own daring—I don’t think I’ve ever asked to speak to a manager, anywhere, before.

I collect my shredded courage, and tell him, with tears, how upset I am, and that given my general graduate-student poverty, and the considerable sum I’ve already paid him and his cronies, I just can’t afford the gargantuan amount asked for the part-replacement, which I think is downright unfair of them to demand, anyway.

“Let me talk to Jose, and I’ll call you back in a few minutes,” he says.

Totally drained, I leave the History Department and start walking towards Copley to catch the last 5-10 minutes of IV (better a little than none, and a friend had asked me to relay a prayer request on her behalf, so I have to make some sort of appearance).

Just before I get to the front steps of the dorm, my cell phone rings. It is the service department manager calling me back.

“Hello?” I answer, quietly.

“Um, I’ve reviewed your case and this is what I’d like to do. We won’t charge you for labor, and we’ll only charge you for half the price of the part.”

“How much would that be?” I am heartily sick of non-specifics and great-deals-that-aren’t.

“$137.50. Plus tax.”

“Total?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“All right. That will do. That will be OK.”

“I hope we haven’t caused you much trouble….” The fellow goes on.

I tear up again, and answer in what I’m sure sounds like an awfully theatrical tone, “Well, this has been so hard—.”

But, believe you me, not a single tear is manufactured for effect. All of that misery comes honestly. When I finally get to IV, all the others look at me with concern—all my makeup has come off, my skin is blotchy and my eyes are bloodshot. One friend later observes, “I thought somebody’d died.”

“Well, no,” I tell her. “But it’s the only other event that can reduce a grown woman to extravagant weeping in public: an encounter with evil car mechanics. They are the devil.”

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Squirrel Terrorism Update*

Late last week, the "check engine" light on my dashboard came on. I checked my owner's booklet, which recommended taking it to a service center pronto. This did not bode well.

Monday, 10:15 AM. I deliver car to the Honda dealer/repairer nearest my house, and am informed that there will be a $92 diagnostic fee (as opposed to the $45 fee listed on the pre-printed form). Fine. Not pleasant, but acceptable.

Monday, 10:25 AM. Use feminine wiles to get Honda shuttle service driver to deliver me beyond the 1.5 mile limit. Learn about his recent trip to Russia with his wife. He talks about vodka distilling methods and mangles several Russian words.

Monday, 10:30 AM. Discover upon reading Georgetown that I've left my cell phone at home and thus am unreachable by the car people. Resigned to this, as I am stuck at school until 6:30 anyway and wouldn't be able to do anything about the car even could they contact me.

Monday, 6:30 PM. Three messages on my cell phone from Honda. What was originally thought to be an oxygen sensor issue is now diagnosed also as a "rodent chewed through wires to oxygen sensor and power steering" issue. "How much?" I want to know. The oxygen sensor alone: $365. The wiring repair: $370. I manage to keep from forcibly expelling my own viscera in shock.

Monday, 7 PM. Tell mother that the local squirrels are trying to do me in. She suggests driving more frequently, so as to improve my odds of "frying the little suckers."

Tuesday, 4 PM. Car is ready to be picked up. Four hours beyond the time when they said it would be ready, but they've repaired the wiring and think the old oxygen sensor's OK, so the total's "only" $370. Which is $351 beyond what I made at the market on Saturday, but hey, who's counting? Am forced to play the Southern Belle in Distress in order to get the courtesy shuttle to come pick me up near my house, rather than my walking.

Tuesday, 9:30 PM. On my way back from Bible Study. Amber glow from dashboard. Nooooooo... Yes. The "check engine" light is back on. Call Leah to tell her our much-anticipated trip to the zoo on Thursday with her small offspring is probably shot.

Wednesday, 10:15 AM. Back at the Honda dealer. Charm same grizzled ex-salesman into driving me to Georgetown in the shuttle. Tell him that as much as I enjoy his company, I hope we don't see one another again for a long, long time.

To be continued...

*Those Dave Barry fans out there will recognize a regular feature from his own blog, wherein he posts links to frequent news articles about the international squirrel conspiracy to disrupt and destroy human life on earth as we know it.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The E. coli Experiment

I just ate the equivalent of a huge bag of fresh spinach. Sometimes a girl’s just gotta have greens. The form in which this vegetable was consumed was a block of Whole Foods Spinach Pie, from the prepared food case. Hopefully it was well-cooked. I nuked it for a minute twenty-three seconds, then dug in. If I expire shortly thanks to a spinach-borne bacterial infection, at least I enjoyed my last meal.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

An Unreasonable Response (or) An Unneeded Apology

I had thought, upon reading Paxifist’s post on the subject, and the subsequent coverage of the unfolding uproar by the Drudge Report, that Middle Eastern Muslims were acting unreasonably in response to perceived-offensive remarks by Pope Benedict. Now that I have read the whole of His Holiness’ speech, I am not merely confirmed in this assessment, but also impressed by the extent to which his initial premise [the substance of a conversation between a Christian and a Muslim during the siege of Constantinople (1398-1402)] clearly delineates the difference between the Biblical and the Qu’ranic worldviews.

Benedict’s speech is fundamentally academic, addressed to an academic audience, and concerns the question of the interrelationship between faith and reason, particularly the role of God as outlined by Himself in Old and New Testament Scripture and the influence of Hellenic philosophy on the articulation of the same. Reformed Protestants will appreciate his brief exegesis of the notion of God as logos and how that informs the fundamentally “reasonable” nature of the Christian faith. They may not, as I did not, wholly agree with the pope’s idea that the Reformation was an effort at “dehellenisation” (one can hardly claim that Calvin, for example, was in favor of pre-Greek “primitive” theology). But his decidedly secondary remarks on the tenets of Islam—that Allah permits Himself to act “unreasonably,” in contradiction to His word (even to the extent of divinely demanding faithlessness of the faithful, if He so chooses)—are insightful, heavily footnoted (Benedict is clearly not reporting these ideas as hearsay, or as his own unsubstantiated opinion, but quoting historical accounts and respected scholars, to which and to whom he attributes their respective statements), and unequivocal.

The pope clearly has a great reverence for reason, and his argument is sequential and compelling—in fact, the focus of his speech is not Islam, but the origins of, and the university's gradual departure from, the Western intellectual tradition. There is nothing unwarranted or (as has been alleged) “medieval” about his introductory and concluding statements that reference Muslim theology—these are well-grounded, and, if defamatory, only so because they expose the darkness inherent in Islamic practice and substantiated by Islamic scripture. Too, if this were not an accurate portrayal of Muslim motivation, why has the response to the same been so exact: violent and unreasonable? And as such—even had not Benedict already gone out of his way to cite his exalted sources—why should he render an apology for articulating what is neither more nor less than the truth?

Sleepless in Arlington

I'm dead on my feet. I've had so little rest this past week, it's a wonder I'm still conscious. Or maybe I'm sleepblogging.

The market was wretched today. It rained. And I made less than $20 over rent. Plus I was horribly cold the whole time--had to borrow a wool jacket and a heavy knitted poncho from the vintage clothing sellers next to me. Everybody else was in shirtsleeves. And did I mention that the market director was being his usual abbrasive self and twitting me about my opposition to premarital sex? Good gosh!

My dreams tonight are probably going to be about film noir-star Dana Andrews battling brightly-painted Japanese fighting beetles. I watched a favorite mystery, Laura, on DVD Thursday, and last night at the first area graduate student IV dessert had a long insect-centered conversation with a fellow who's working on his entymology dissertation on the breathing apparatus of the mayfly (I kid you not.) Hence the anticipated wierd visions--it's not a bad drug trip, just a subconscious revisitation of recently-traveled intellectual territory. [And yes, businessmen in Japan have paid upwards of $90,000 for superior specimens of the four-inch fighting beetles, and presumably they (either businessmen or beetles) weren't under the influence of any chemical substances (other than maybe saki) at the time.]

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Books and Booze

We did half as well yesterday at the book sale as we had the first day. Well, considering the previous total was $1201, that wasn’t too shabby. I was absolutely waxed, hosed, exhausted beyond belief, whatever you want to call it, when we finished packing up the leftovers. Despite my previous post’s optimism about returning to sleep, I hadn’t been able to doze off until almost 5 AM, and then didn’t hit REM sleep until shortly before 6:40, when my alarm clock went off. So I really was staggering Wednesday morning, and I was reeling that evening, because I didn’t have dinner until I scarfed up the leftovers from the History Department reception, which also included a glass of white wine (quite bad stuff, really) which was pressed upon me by inebriated male friends, who were celebrating the one’s winning the annual graduate essay competition (cash award included). I wasn't permitted to attend the reception or award's ceremony because I was single-handedly manning the book sale tables outside at the time.

Shortly after my belated repast, I was roped into going to the Tombs (the watering hole for over-21 Georgetown students) for further libations, generously paid for by the aforementioned winning-essay-penning friend. The three guys, who’d all helped me with the post-book-sale packing, plus one’s wife, and me, spent the next hour or so deep in a decidedly unsepulchral environment (underground, sure, but decorated with rowing/crew memorabilia, and brightly lit), hunched around a pitcher of the house’s finest (of which I didn’t partake) and commiserating about comprehensive exams, teaching assistantships and undergraduate drinking games (one of the three was Japanese, so he shared a typical example of the same—and I found out that saying “your mom has an ‘outie’ bellybutton” in Japanese is a crude and horrible insult).

I took on a Bailey’s and a Black Russian (tasted like concentrated coffee—not a request I’ll make again), but given the weeny portions dispensed by barkeeps (plus the vast quantity of carbohydrates I'd consumed beforehand), could still deplore the elevated volume of my companions, enunciate clearly, and walk in a straight line unassisted, at the end of the evening. Not so with my fellows, one of whom was miserably contemplating the meaning of life (I cheerfully quoted the answer to the first Westminster Large Catechism question to him) halfway through his last chilled mugful of beer. The three men and one wife departed (or rather, vanished) in the time it took me to powder my nose, and I went back to the main campus library to check out a DVD of Der Krieger + die Kaiserin (literally, The Warrior and The Princess, but in its American publicist's order, The Princess and The Warrior), planning to ride the APO van home. I ended up taking a cab (the 10 PM APO shift never showed up, and there was no way, semi-inebriated or cold sober, I was going to walk home alone from Georgetown at that hour), struggling upstairs to warmly shower and retire to bed to watch the film, which was awesome. Rated “R” for certain front-loaded thematic elements, but those did not sink the quality of the whole. Franka Potente is a good actress—I had liked Run Lola Run (Lola rennt), and was not wholly pleased that her character was killed off in the second Bourne installment—but what on earth is she doing co-staring with Eric Bana, of all people, in the upcoming drama Romulus, My Father? It’s like Katherine Hepburn partnered with a cardboard cutout of Fabio. Except it is Franka’s hair that is unique—Bana’s never, ever changes.