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Friday, March 31, 2006

Interestin' Folks

Brother Earnest is a former Black Panther, a middle-aged man now installed on one of those Medicaid-approved power scooters, with a gregarious nature and armfuls of yellow flyers outlining his calling and qualifications an a "Full Time City Activist." He rolled up to the History Department at about 9:30 Wednesday night, his crooked feet encased in new suede fleece-lined slippers, his bandage-taped chair loaded with papers, its arms hung with an assortment of plastic grocery bags in various states of decay. He indicated that he wanted to talk to me, and I decided that as the evening was young, and there were plenty of people in the building, I could safely open the door. He asked if we had a microwave, and I volunteered to heat up his TV-dinner pizza for him, and offered him a bag of popcorn, too.

Food exchanged, we ended up talking for a good half-hour--about Russia, about race relations. Current stuff. He told me about how he was a witness to a Black Panther firebombing and had to "go into exile" (in Rock Hill, SC) as a result, when his grandparents pointed out that he and his brother were getting involved in some scary stuff. He said he was supposed to represent a group of people needing rent control in front of district officials this morning.

Brother Earnest had a bit of the showman and salesman mixed in, but he didn't ladle compliments on so thick that it interfered with the flow of conversation. He was obviously well-informed, so what was odd to me was that when I referenced "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God," he didn't give any indication of recognizing that allusion, even from a literary point of view. Maybe Black Panthers didn't go in much for the Bible reading. He did confide that his great adversaries were the "conservatives," and said he'd spent the 80's working against them, and "they're still here!"

Tonight, prior to seeing the German-language film Goodbye Lenin in their company, I got to meet and chat with a subset of Chi Alphans, members of another Christian group on campus (which seems to be mainly formed of internationals, if the folks I met were representative): A lovely blond German girl who worked at one time for the FDR's version of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, opening Stasi files to the victims of the GDR regime--she said that some 6000 intellectuals (mainly college professors) in the West who spied for the Stasi for ideological reasons have never been unmasked; a lady from Kazakhstan who grew up in a town not far from the hub of the Soviet space program--as a little girl, she used to watch the evening-launched rockets burn upward until they disappeared into the blue-black curve of the sky, and felt the weather change as the turbulence from their passage kicked up winds across the landscape. Another interesting detail this second lady mentioned was that the place where the Soviets conducted their chemical and biological warfare testing in the middle of the neighboring Aral Sea, which has the Russian name Vorozhdenye Ostrov (Resurrection Island), has a different name in Kazakh: it is called the Island of No Return. Two contrary perspectives, eh?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Deharmonized!

I have the curious distinction of having been kicked off of eHarmony. Not that I was subscribing anymore (talk about cash down the drain!), but I was still “on the books,” or, rather, the servers. About 1 AM this morning (I got carried away doing a Russian-English translation—I know it sounds geeky, but it beats eBay) I got three snippy little email messages from them saying that they had been doing a routine check of my listing, and found I had violated eHarmony policy! They were suspending my account immediately! They demanded a written explanation for my behavior before I would be allowed use their service again! You could practically feel the hyperventilation coming through the ether.

My egregious fault? Mentioning my blog address (I know, I know, any shameless ploy to broaden readership…). Well, it’s been, what, two years since I read their little rules? I didn’t even have a blog when I first began to dump money down that particular bottomless pit.

“Well, the hell with it,” I thought. I briefly indulged in the fantasy of telling Dr. Neil Clark Warren that the next time I heard his wimpy nasal voice on one of those irritating commercials I was going to kick his rabbity teeth so far down his gullet he was going to have to clear his throat to take a dump. Which probably explains why I never did so well on his matching service, come to think of it. My aggressive and contrary nature coming to the fore. Besides middle-of-the-night crassness and questionable language. I blame it on the Tom Clancy novels, Die Hard movies and John Boy & Billy radio show. But I swear—St. Jane (Austen) herself would be driven to distraction by these people—“violating eHarmony policies” indeed.

Random marriage proposal anyone? I’ll mail an engraved invitation to a certain smarmy internet “relationship” system manager with a note: “Stick it in your ear.” Maybe it’s not Christ-like, but gosh, right now it sounds so satisfying.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Law, I Feel Faint!

Nineteen hours of sleep in the last 24 (yesterday’s noon to 9 period I’ve already blogged, and then 1:30AM to just before noon today). Glorious rest as a result of another weird migraine—the impetus for the MRI over Christmas. These headaches just flatten me. The headaches themselves, thanks to the minstrations of Tylenol and other over the counter painkillers, don’t usually get too bad, but they are accompanied by dizziness, and extreme weariness, which require me to sleep for two days in order to resume normal activities.

It’s hard to explain the feeling—people look at me astounded when I say that I can sleep for the equivalent of two generous nights at one go. But I am wiped out—there’s no “staying awake until bedtime” for me when one of these episodes hits. It’s a very Victorian lady’s complaint, come to think of it—taking to one’s bed in the middle of the day, having had a dramatic “spell.” I’m one for the romantic complaints, I suppose. Go on, dear, and pass me the smelling salts and laudanum.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Thwarted

From class, Leah's delicious Tuesday dinner, and my Bible Study, all in one fell swoop--had a evil headache, took medication to quiet the same, and ended up sleeping for eight solid hours. And I can feel the headache lurking in the skull-space around my brain even now, so I think I'm going to have to re-administer chemicals and go back to bed for the whole of the night. My cellphone's ringer was off, as I had been in class this morning, and my landline was on low, so nothing from the outside world was getting to me. I had set my alarms, but managed to sleep through one (the "if you get up NOW, you can make it to class on time" one), and the other I found mysteriously set for 5 o'clock. I don't think it went off. Maybe it did. I hate headaches--they interfere with the delights of life.

My landlord, too, has been thwarted. Alissa got the letter he sent by regular post, but she threw away (in the outside trashcan) the registered-mail pickup notice for the second copy of the same. I'm not going dumpster-diving to get it. My landlord did ask me or Kevin to pick up the registered letter if she didn't, but he didn't provide for this particular contingency. Alissa is not dumb--she knows what a registered letter means--and she can now claim she never got either version of the "pay up or get out" missive.

Rethinking Singleness?

In Pride and Prejudice, heroine Elizabeth Bennett says of Lydia and Wickham, her teenaged sister and that sister's ne'er-do-well husband, "How little of permanent happiness could belong to a couple who were only brought together because their passions were stronger than their virtue."

Ann Louise, of The Vulnerable Church, recently posted about the tension between desire and virtue that many of us Christian singles experience. Like Ann Louise, I have long wanted to get married, and have prayed for years that God would bring the right person into my life. And the ongoing un-fulfillment of this request has made me miserable at times--if it's not meant to be, why doesn't God remove the desire? But Ann Louise points out that even this frustration can have a worthwhile spiritual purpose.

Next Monday, I have been invited to attend a discussion by various Christian intellectuals on the subject of "rethinking singleness." There is some controversy these days in the Christian community about the very morality of singlehood--we mull the meaning of the Paulianian pronouncements about its being better to marry than to burn versus the content of his wish that all people were as he (living in a seemingly single state), and periodically consider questions of the role that parents should take in orchestrating the matrimonial prospects of their adult children.

I was initially reluctant to talk about this subject in mixed company. It's all very well for me to be vulnerable about my heart's desires in the presence of my women's Bible Study; it's quite another to keep emotion in check on such a sensitive issue amidst a forum of strangers. My occasional hurt and reflexive resentment at not being pursued by a godly man may rise to choke me, or choke off reasonable, non-accusatory remarks, in the presence of other godly men. I pray that I will speak truth lovingly, and come home not too depressed afterwards (sometimes I cry in the car after such wrenching encounters, and this is not good for driving safely!).

Monday, March 27, 2006

Need

I need an accountability partner. I keep wasting hours and hours on eBay every night. Mind you, I'm not buying things, I'm just browsing. And browsing. And fooling around. I could be making jewelry, and instead I'm frittering away my life. Help!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Tiny Teeth

And...one of Her Imperial Cuteness grinning for the camera.

Torah-Reading Niece

My brother Nate photo-shopped this new picture of our niece (aka "Little Miss Adorable" and "Our Little Genius"), adding the halo and the scroll. The book she was actually "reading" (insofar as an 11-month-old can read) is still visible under the Torah. That's her wonderful mommy in the background. I am sooo looking forward to spending Easter with them!

There The Vultures Will Gather

On my way home from church this afternoon, I came across a macabre tableau set in a springtime atmosphere of life, in a sunlit landscape of greening bushes and rosy outbudding trees. Seven or eight giant black-feathered blobs with plucked necks and heads were hulking on the side of the George Washington Parkway, spooning up beakfuls of middle-sized, furry rodent like a group of girlfriends sharing one hot-fudge sunday. I may never eat dessert again. (Hah! As if!)

Last night’s dance was delightful—it was held at a large, recently-refurbished 1930s ballroom that had been built to look like the inner courtyard of a Mexican hacienda. You could imagine Astair and Rogers tredding the hardwood floor. There was a live big band playing the classics (from Ellington to Sinatra), the room was crowded with hundreds of couples swing dancing (some dressed in period costume), and a regular stream of unattached men came by asking me to take a turn with them. I said "yes" every time I was offered a hand, spun until I was dizzy, stepped “one-two-three” to exhaustion, and was guided throughout by partners of all ages, heights, styles, and levels of skill. My toes and heels were trampled on (by other dancers—not my partners!), my voice grew hoarse (I didn’t talk that much, but nonetheless…), I smiled until I thought my face would split (I made a consistent effort to be charming, but I was also genuinely happy). It was great. There’s something about dancing that makes me feel feminine in the best sense of the word— getting to move in graceful patterns, being twirled about, smiled at, thanked for my company, the pleasure of falling in step with a considerate male leader. I shall have to go more often (these events are held every Saturday)—there is a one-hour lesson before each dance, and so although I knew the basics of yesterday’s chosen style, I was able to practice, and add a few more bits to my repertoire, before the frolics of the evening began. An entirely satisfactory evening, in other words.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

That Green Shampoo Bottle...

That Nate spiked with Nair on the assumption that it was Alissa's, was actually Kevin's (my downstairs housemate who is only home on weekends, which explains why the bottle had been in the bathroom for a year). Thank God I made Nate throw it out. Kevin had cancer last year, but he doesn't need to look like a chemotherapy patient involuntarily.

A Pox on Weatherpeople

Both "weather.com" and "weather.gov" claimed that it would rain today. I checked multiple times. Yes, it was definitely going to be precipitating in Arlington, VA-- they were unanimous. So I turned off my alarm, thinking it was useless to try to go to the market today. And the sun's been out since dawn. I am disgusted. I could have been making serious dough selling my jewelry (after almost three months of really poor weather and correspondingly bad sales), and instead I'm forced to sit inside doing academic things (the horror!), answering multiple phone calls from my landlord (who claims he is starting the process to have Alissa evicted, and that he's found a man who swears he can fix our stone-cold oven...both of these things I'll believe when I see the results), and wondering what I'm going to wear to a dance I'm supposed to attend tonight (jeans, probably; and sequined slippers--there's no rain to ruin them!).

Friday, March 24, 2006

Speaking in Tongues

Yesterday, our IV group discussed spiritual gifts (in the context of I Corinthians 12:1-11), which naturally led to a (very brief) chat about what "speaking in tongues" meant. Coincidentally (or, providentially, as I believe a sense of humor is also a gift of God) Tulipgirl has a link to this cartoon on "when the reformed speak in tongues."

AIDS and Influenza, Fun and Fatigue

One hour before midnight last night, I felt totally relaxed and happy...and I was at school doing research on what I'll call "piggyback pandemics" (that sounds so pleasant--a better term would perhaps be a "viral one-two punch"): the probable scenario in which pandemic influenza (avian or some other variety) spreads throughout the known immunocompromised populations around the globe. Basically, if you've got HIV/AIDS and you contract a second severe viral illness, I expect your chances of survival are pretty slim. Cheerful topic to explore, no?

In the midst of my searches, I found the following article: "Structural properties of a multifunctional T-shaped RNA domain that mediate efficient tomato bushy stunt virus RNA replication." What the heck? My key words were "AIDS" and Influenza."

Good day yesterday, despite my initial conviction that it was only a matter of time until I drop-kicked my housekeys down a storm drain and started giggling helplessly at the absurdity of it all. It was one of those sunny, cheerful days where I kept doing one goofy thing after another. First I mis-directed an email (a "dear John" letter from the Collective Ignorance Association telling me that they'd reviewed my job application and weren't bowled over) to a member of my department's faculty (who reportedly asked my TA-ship professor, "Do you have any idea why I'm getting this?"), and then accidentally sent the the mother of an acquaintance in New Jersey the heartfelt explanatory email saying what had happened. At that point, I said the heck with it and quit--at the rate I was going I would have next sent a declaration of undying affection to a complete stranger in Timbuktu.

The day was beautifully bookended by discussions of the Boxer Rebellion. What historian could ask for more? Went to dinner (a Chinese place with the catchy name "Wok and Roll" in DC's Chinatown) and a movie [a special "advance" showing of the trilingual "Joyeux Noel" (Merry Christmas) in an arty theater downtown] with a friend from IV, and then back to campus for research before catching the APO van shift that dropped me off at my door just before midnight. Full day. I think I'm going to take a nap now--slept well last night, but just not long enough (had to get up early for my TA-ship only to walk into the classroom and find a man on a ladder with his head in the ceiling. It was somewhat disconcerting).

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I Know I'm Not Supposed to...

I know I'm not supposed to let circumstances affect my mood, but sometimes everything is just going so well I can't help but be cheerful.

Yesterday, for instance, was wonderful. Oh, of course I got stuck in traffic on the way to school (I had a dozen books to drop off, so walking wasn't an option) and was late (for the first time ever) to my TA-ship, and the weather was less than stellar (overcast and cold), but I felt great, and it was as if the whole world was smiling. I got out of my afternoon class at a reasonable, made it to Leah's for dinner early (delicious onion burgers with gouda--yum!) and was actually on time to Bible Study for the first time in weeks, maybe months.

Today has been great, too. My Principles of Biodefense class went on a fieldtrip to the Washington Hospital Center, got an engrossing multi-hour presentation from a head ER doctor, and had to evacuate when the fire strobe-signal that he suggested we ignore ("it goes off all the time") actually turned out not to be a false alarm. Sirens galore. And the weather, though still cold, has been beautiful.

I'm really grateful for the prayers on my behalf that so many people have prayed! God has given me relief from many of the symptoms that have made my life so miserable the past couple of weeks, and I feel altogether better. I do hope I get another good night's sleep tonight, too--I function best when I've been able to get real rest.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Muffinless

I want a muffin. The student-run coffee shop has no muffins. “We don’t usually have muffins on Monday,” they said. A muffinless Monday. How very sad!

I awoke to my housemate Nate cursing a blue streak this morning, punching a grey slime-streaked metal snake down our only bathroom’s tub drain, which was thoroughly plugged. It had been draining fine when I took my shower last night, but apparently Alissa stopped it up this morning. She was gone, but her TV was blasting at high volume.

Later, Nate knocked on my door. “The green shampoo bottle—that isn’t yours?” “No.” “Well, don’t use it.” I didn’t ask why—I thought he was claiming it as his own. A few minutes later, unbidden, he told me that he’d spiked the contents with Nair. He thought it was Alissa’s bottle. I didn’t disabuse him of the notion (it’s been there for a year at least, if my memory is any judge—I don’t think it belongs to anybody).

But once at school I called Nate’s cell and told him to discard the bottle, on the pretext that there is little that prejudices a jury more in a plaintiff’s favor than the sight of her unnaturally bald head. Alissa does richly deserve punishment, but I’ll not be a part of it and I’d rather Nate weren’t either (sometimes think he has the common sense of a goldfish—chemically scalping your enemy is just stupid when you are sharing living space with the person).

If the bottle’s still there when I get home, I’m trashing it—and if anyone asks, I’ll tell them the truth—that it had a horrible chemical smell and had been sitting in one place for so long that there was mold growing behind it.

Trying to protect one roommate from another—I feel like the mother of a bunch of mad, bad children.

And I still want a muffin. I wonder if they have them at Whole Foods?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Three Guys and a Girl

A Shintoist, a Jew, a Mormon and a Christian went to the student center broadcast of a basketball game...and we watched Georgetown whup Ohio State's butt. I still wish I knew why the undergraduates were doing "spirit fingers" everytime we had a free-throw, though. We four sat in the back, yelled and clapped. And made jokes about Amish rioting. It was fun, and totally random.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Bowled Over

Today was the Georgetown University Phi Alpha Theta Annual History Bowl, which our chapter puts on for area high school students. Between nine and eleven schools (one from Baltimore) send teams every year, and we on the PAT executive committee spend months preparing for the event--writing hundreds of questions on European history, raising money, determining the logistics of how, when and what to set up.

I was at school by 8:05 this morning, unloading dozens of donuts from our faculty sponsor's car. Then it was on to rounding up tables for the food, and pasting "do not disturb" signs up and down the tournament hall and setting up and testing the electronic buzzer systems. I was a reader for the first round (of nine), then was asked to create award certificates for the eventual winners (which took a while, because the old certificates were in an alien format and I had to recreate them from scratch).

After lunch, since I wasn't on the schedule for the afternoon rounds, I curled up on a wonderfully butter-soft couch upstairs and took a nap. The rest of the executive committee woke me up after the tournament was over. They had decided not to use my carefully-prepared certificates after all, so I guess I could have started my nap in the morning, really! Darn.

I'm having a moderate flareup of a chronic illness (a genuine one, not a joking one like my previous blog-entry explored), and as a consequence have been both severely under the weather and unable to sleep all this past week--just a few hours a night at most, which has led to further complications during the day. So I was grateful for this afternoon's nap! Here's hoping tonight's slumbers are even more restful.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Recurrence of Foot-In-Mouth Disease

I'm the victim of a hazardous syndrome, as I proved once again today. But it ended up being a blessing, a protection from a secondary infection plaguing my department. I speak of Foot-In-Mouth Disease and George-Bush-is-Satan-itis, respectively.

This morning, the folks at the BTAEID program sponsored a mini-job fair in the inner court of that temple to modern education known as the Intercultural Center, or the ICC, for short. The history department is on the sixth floor, convenient to such goings-on, and so after I'd been a dutiful TA this morning, I deposited my paraphernalia in a professor's locked office, printed out nine copies of my most recent resume on Georgetown-watermarked paper, and hoofed it down to the ventricle (or rather, the court) as fast as my high-heeled Anne Kliens would carry me. The first few schmoozings went OK. I smiled, conducted basic chitchat of the jobseeker sort and exchanged my resumes for business cards of the relevant recruiters. Feeling pretty good there for a minute. Then I spotted the director of the BTAEID program sitting at another table next to a recruiter, and made a beeline for this part of the action. There, I made the proverbial meal of shoeleather. At least it was Italian and appropriately green for St. Patty's Day.

The recruiter was there for the Homeland Security Institute, which that guy I know turned down in order to work for Al Jazeera, the Arab news channel. Only when I told the fellow this, I said he'd gone to work for Al Qaeda. Oops. And I didn't catch on for a good three minutes as to what I'd said--the gaping mouths on the other side of the table (the recruiter's and my academic advisor's) should have clued me in to this, but I was oblivious. Hooboy.

Then I went upstairs and took up my duties as History Department Assistant Secretary. Not an hour goes by before a professor and the graduate coordinator and the secretary whom I assist come chuckling up to the front desk talking about an email forward, a poem entitled "Make the Pie Higher" made up, as its introduction helpfully informs recipients "ENTIRELY of ACTUAL quotations from George W. Bush, arranged for "aesthetic" purposes, by Washington Post writer Richard Thompson." It's an artfully assembled conglomeration of our current Chief Executive's manglings of English during his time in office.

Both women, and the middle-aged professor, went on and on about W's stupidity--the secretary, who is a sweet Christian lady, said she'd been talking to her husband about how POTUS must be mentally retarded. They looked to me to toss in my own few pavement-chunks, and I was able to shrug and say, "Well, I'm not in a position to cast aspersions considering I just confused Al Jazeera with Al Qaeda in a conversation downstairs." Oh, but the professor was quick to point out that mine was just a slip of the tongue, not an ongoing issue.

Ah, but how does he know? If I were in a media spotlight 24/7, for going on seven years, I imagine I would have let drop more grammatical bombs and mixed more metaphors than the President has. And besides, if he's so dumb, how did he manage to get elected President? Twice. We all should be such idiots.

I don't think Mr. Bush is the brightest man we've ever had in the Oval Office. But he is manifestly capable of recognizing that quality in others--witness his cabinet appointments, for example--which I think is much more essential for a good administration. And whatever his malapropisms, at least he's not so smart about vocabulary that he thinks he can re-define the "to be" verb, as his predecessor presumed to do.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Spring Has Sprung!

I love sunny, windy days! Today was glorious, since I wasn’t flying anywhere—Mums said her plane up to Rhode Island rocked so much in turbulence that she barfed once she knew they weren’t going to crash—although I did want to grow wings from my shoulders and soar upwards, like a new-hatched Pegasus. Instead, I settled for riding the carousel outside the Smithsonian Castle, whirling around on the wooden back of a noble white steed which surged up and down in time to clunky fairground music. That nostalgic whirl was the only pause I took as I walked from Arlington to the Library of Congress (hadn’t done it in a while, but just couldn’t pass up the excellent weather and the prospect of a free afternoon—my BTAEID class was cancelled). I took a route through the Arlington Cemetery (where I teared up as usual, reading the headstones), across Memorial Bridge, around the Lincoln Memorial and along the Reflecting Pool, skirting the WWII Memorial and the Washington Monument (where the flags were standing out stiffly from their poles, the fabric crackling like fire in the pure wind) up the Mall and around the Capitol Building. The LOC people had somehow put the wrong book on my reserved shelf—a 1960s mystery novel I hadn’t requested—but who am I to question the wisdom of such pleasant fate? I read it before turning it in.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Happy Pi Day!

I almost forgot! It's too bad my oven has been busted for almost a year now, or I would bake something to celebrate...

New Employee

A guy I know has followed his heart and gone to work for Al Jazeera. His other employment option was the Homeland Security Foundation.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Mormons and Muslims

Let me remark with reverent facetiousness that the Angel Gabriel must have been pretty busy over the years relaying visions to Mohammed and golden tablets to Joseph Smith and who knows what to other people, all in direct contravention of the Biblical conclusion reached by the good fathers at Nicea, and the scriptural warning against accepting different gospels.

I got button-holed by a guy in my department last night (I was working on Russian translation in one of the few quiet spots I know, which is the 6th floor of the Intercultural Center on weekends and evenings) who is a Mormon. James is a Canadian, but loves US politics, and wanted to know what my opinion was of Mit Romney, presidential candidate-wise; as most of my readers are aware, Mr. Romney is also a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Our conversation naturally devolved into a theological discussion.

James taught Mormon theology for three years, and so I was sending Nehemiah-esque "arrow prayers" to the Almighty asking for wisdom--I didn't want to start splitting hairs with him over irrelevancies, or get into a pointless argument about doctrinal issues that wouldn't distinguish fact from passionate opinion. Talking about the character of Jesus, incidentally, didn't get anywhere--he nodded, smiled, "We believe that, too!" no matter what point I raised. But as to a book being considered co-equal with the Bible, and how that book allegedly inspired by God be in disagreement on multiple points with the Bible--there, he agreed, we differed fundamentally. I cannot claim any credit for thinking of this on my own; it was for me a totally incidental remark as my brain slowly sifted through the discrepancies between Mormonism and Christianity (and, yes, I did and do make a distinction between cultural and born-again Christianity). But I am grateful that it came up. We parted cordially.

Like the Book of Mormon, the Q'ran is claimed to be the words of God himself, only Muslims consider it more holy, exact, and worthy of respect than LDS members assume for their supplementary gospel. But, again, if the Bible is indeed the word of God, the other cannot be--they disagree repeatedly, not just on historical points (the sacrifice of a son made by Abraham, for example) but also on descriptions of the character of God himself, how he can be pleased, and the role and person of Jesus. We various believers can coexist in a democratic civil society as individuals, having freely chosen to believe the claims of one faith's proof-text over the other, but pan-monotheist ecumenicalism is logically impossible. Spare me the sentimentalist nonsense that "we all believe in the same God." We don't.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

General Reader Requirement!

Everybody, whether they be periodic or regular readers of my blog, should visit this article, first posted as a link by my dear friend Ann Louise of the Vulnerable Church. Besides being extremely well-written, this post speaks to my own experience from both an intellectual and a spiritual perspective. If you are a kindred spirit who would like to be encouraged , and/or would like to understand me and mine better, please do read it. Have a lovely Sunday, everybody!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Heading Back to DC

Having successfully navigated down here to Georgia in one swell foop, I hope to duplicate my record by making it all the way back to DC tomorrow, in time for me to get enough rest to be at the market bright and early on what the weather forecast says will be a warm and sunny Saturday.

Grandmommy's Jokes

My dear Grandmommy has run a Sunshine Program at her local nursing homes for many years. She goes over once a week and visits with the residents, and all are invited to come to assemble in one of the recreation rooms, or the cafeteria, where she tells them jokes and leads a short devotional before distributing homemade goodies--something she's baked, or fruit in season from her Garden of Eden-like backyard, where fig bushes compete with apple and pear trees, scuppernong vines and more than a dozen blueberry bushes to yield prodigious harvests.

Grandmommy loves telling good jokes and funny stories, and over the decades of her Sunshining, she's assembled clippings from newspapers and magazines, handwritten snippets and carefully-transcribed manual-typed pages into joke-scrapbooks, one of which she lent my mother yesterday. A sample that has retained its humor value (for many others the hilarity, heavily dated, has vanished as the paper yellowed):

The Traveler's Prayer (composed by Art Buchwald, undated)

Heavenly Father, look down on your humble, obedient tour servants who are doomed to travel this earth, taking photographs, mailing postcards, buying souvenirs, and walking around in drip-dry underwear.

Give us this day divine guidance in the selection of our hotels, that we may find our reservations honored, our rooms made up and hot water running from the faucets. We pray that the telephones work and the operators speak our tongue.

Lead us, Lord, to good inexpensive restaurants where the food is superb, the waiters and the wine included in the price. Give us the wisdom to tip correctly in currencies we do not understand. Forgive us for undertipping out of ignorance and overtipping out of fear. Make the natives love us for what we are and not what we contribute to their worldly goods.

Grant us strength to visit the museums, the listed as "musts" in our guidebook, and if perchance we skip a historic monument to take a nap after lunch, have mercy on us for our flesh is weak.

Dear God, keep our wives from shopping sprees and protect them from "bargains" they can't afford or don't need. Lead them not into temptation for they know not what they do.

Almighty Father, keep our husbands from looking at foreign women and comparing them to us. Save them from making fools of themselves in cafes and nightclubs. Above all do not forgive them their trespasses for they know exactly what they do.


Elsewhere, in Grandmommy's spidery handwriting: A lawyer and an IRS agent were asked to come see a dying preacher. "Why did you want us to come?" they asked him when they arrived. The preacher folded him hands on his chest and replied, "Jesus died between two thieves and that's how I want to go."

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Those S.O.B.s!

I'm reading the 9/11 report. It's like reading about Auschwitz, or the Soviet camps at Kolyma--it makes me very, very angry at the perpetrators' deliberate murderousness. All I can think is, "Those sons of bitches!" (I wish there were some way to curse the memory of evil people without referring to their parentage, particularly to their mothers!) But it also is so close in time and space that it sends chills up the spine--I flew out of Logan Airport five days before the attacks. I had friends in New York and Washington on that day, and now live within three miles of the Pentagon, where the stone on one side is just the tiniest bit lighter than on the others. I have had flight training, and know the pleasure of pulling back on the yoke, throttle in, talking to various air traffic controllers and twiddling with the transponder to make myself visible on their radar, the great privilege it is to soar through the sky with steel wings and come to rest safely back on the ground. And I am daily in contact with people who work for various government agencies, federal groups which reacted so slowly and ineffectively to the unfolding disaster two and a half years ago, who even now guard their "territory" like junkyard dogs, but shun attributable responsibility like whipped curs. I want to know what happened, where and how the "failure of imagination" in the governmental community occurred, so that I can be a part of making sure such a thing never, ever happens again. Insofar as this prevention rests on my real, but necessarily limited, effort.

Monday, March 06, 2006

My Mom, Musclewoman

Mums is a lean, mean exercisin' machine. She rode "only" an hour on her bike this morning (as opposed to her regular two) and was lamenting the fact as we headed off to the Y for her group class (which she occasionally instructs). The woman is an endorphin addict, has metal barbells in the corner of the computer room going up to thirty-five pounds, and was briskly doing pushups off a twelve-pound set until she went to bed half an hour ago.

We went to the Gap this morning, and while I was trying on pants, she told me how I could tighten my glutes. Many women's mothers won't shy away from telling them their butts are big, but mine is one of the few that will give a three-point program on how to fix the issue. Because I'm unmotivated, perhaps I will simply take to wearing a sign that reads "Wide Load." But I do think the slacks we settled on look nice.

Mums is disgustingly healthy, and bounces cheerfully like an animated gray mushroom--a springy fungi, if you will. Eventually I'm going to get shamed into getting in shape--between her and my whippet sister, I'm defintely the heavy weakling. And I do want to be able to really enjoy the outdoors this summer--hiking and swimming in particular. Despite living in Lexington, VA, for three years, I never made it up House Mountain, or rafted through Goshen Pass. Time to remedy the omission.

This lovely, breezy afternoon (76 degrees, balmy--I love the south!), following our respective workouts at the Y (me on the eliptical trainer and then the treadmill reviewing my Dictionary of Russian Slang--boy heidi, those folks can be gross!--and her in her class) we went for a multi-mile walk, so I'm feeling a wee bit virtuous. More sore. And because she FedExed the Girl Scout cookies to my little brother in the frozen north (he doesn't need to lose weight, but the New York winter is freezing his buns off anyway), we don't have any temptation in the house. ARGH!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

WWG (Worshipping While Garlicky)

Garlic...how I love it! Garlic--how it causes me to reek. It's like alcohol, in that nothing can really mask its consumption--breath mints, wierd potions, colognes, and so forth are to no avail. It's in the blood. I had a garlic bagel for lunch, and I can now feel it oozing from every pore.

The grand finale of the annual First Presbyterian Missions Conference was tonight, and I was meeting and greeting folks I hadn't seen in ages, all the while exuding pungent herbal aromas. Well, as my father would say, "There it is." And it wasn't like I didn't know what I was getting in to when I ordered the bagel. Like an alcoholic who thinks that just one won't hurt him, so am I with garlic cloves. And before I know it, one firey snort from my nostrils could slay all the vampires from here to Calcutta.

BTW, CGW, your dad is very nice. And Ol' King Cole sort--jolly! I met him BEFORE lunch. He was one of two speakers in my Sunday School class this morning. The first was from Honolulu. Really suffering for the Lord on the beaches of the Big Island.... Not that folks in the mountains of Colorado are fairing much better--misery, sheer misery being forced to hike at the Garden of the Gods in summertime and ski on the nearby slopes in the winter. But as a person who has endured delicious champagne breakfasts in a five star hotel on the Black Sea her last short-term mission trip, I can commiserate with your plight.

Seriously, though, the morning and evening services today were wonderful. Lusty singing of the great old hymns, firm recitation of the Apostle's Creed and Lord's Prayer, and rivetting sermons from Don Richardson, the author of Peace Child. Anybody who sniffingly thinks of missionaries as culturally insensitive boors bulldozing native customs and superimposing Western norms ought to read this and another Richardson book, Eternity in Their Hearts. What we Christians should all look for--even among our own people--Richardson said, is those "cultural compasses" that point the way to the Cross.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

In GA

Eight-and-a-half hours solid of driving. Two brief stops, abt. 5 minutes each. And I'm safely arrived and unloaded at my parents' house. They are at their church missions conference tonight, but I arrived too late and too travel-weary to attend.

Providentially, I had twelve hours of sleep last night (was lying on my air mattress, fooling around on my laptop in the late afternoon yesterday when it occured to me that I could actually go to sleep right then and there. So I did), and was feeling bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning. I initially didn't want to waste the market day, and went over to the Courthouse Plaza set up. But because of the high winds, everybody opted to go home before the opening, so I thought I would go ahead and see if I couldn't get my car loaded up and get out of town.

I took a slightly different route southwards than I usually do, which cut an hour off the trip in and of itself, and traffic was moving quickly the whole way. It's shirtsleeve weather here. It is so good to be back in the south! And being in a clean house with clean bathrooms is soooo wonderful. I'm going to go take a celebratory shower, and maybe eat a kiwi fruit or three.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Excellent, & Merely Good, News

The Excellent News is that Paxifist had her baby--I told her I was sure he was going to come early, and lo...which means I probably won't be spending tomorrow night in Mebane (where I will be is still a mystery). The Merely Good News is two A-minuses...one on my Radiological Safety exam, and the other as the final grade for my Spring 2005 (yes, a year ago folks!) class on Atlantic History. The professor finally submitted the form this week after THREE fall/winter 2005 re-writes of the final paper by yours truly--and frankly, A-minus is a whole lot better than I had expected to receive. Gosh, I am so grateful to have that out of the way!

Vermont Has An Official State Muffin

Oh, for crying out loud! When I told one of the computer guys in the department today about Louisiana's Official Meat Pie, he shook his head in wonderment: "Don't they have enough problems?"

I was delayed getting to class yesterday by a man in the process of suicide by fork. He wasn't stabbing himself with one--that would have been much too efficient! No, he'd obviously been stabbing one into a lot of edibles, with the result that he'd become so profoundly obese that he had to use a motorized scooter to get around. I had already been waiting impatiently for the Georgetown shuttle for about ten minutes when this gentleman rolled up, neatly turned his little cart toward the curb, and rested his weary elbows on his great mass. That he would need to be loaded using mechanical means did not immediately occur to me.

The shuttle, a full-sized passenger bus, stopped in front of us, and as the ambulatory passengers climbed aboard, the driver crawled wearily from behind the wheel, strolled back to the middle of the vehicle and began folding up seats across from the wheelchair lift. Many levers and buzzers later, the lift was finally on the ground, waiting to receive the scooter and its prodigious load. It rolled on forward. The lift groaned, and the entire bus tilted dramatically toward the curb. And the lift stuck. The driver fiddled with the controls, lowered the lift. Made another attempt. The bus shifted. The lift stuck. And again and again. I looked at the clock on my cell phone: class had started. I sat still, reminding myself that this was indeed a circumstance beyond my control. The lift went down again. The fat man drove his scooter off, turned around and backed on. The gears groaned, the bus rocked, but finally he was aboard. The driver oozed back to his seat. And we were on our way. Finally.

A large, robust red-faced man with an auburn military buzzcut and an unbelievable wee white waxed mustache (curled up in antigravity semicircles toward his nose) was regaling the Biodefense class with his adventures in overseeing the national vaccine stockpile when I arrived. I was not surprised to learn that he had once been a firefighter, nor to see that he was wearing a gold claddagh wedding ring and a small Celtic harp tie-tac: he was full of outsize Irish joie de vivre. I asked him, afterwards, if he owned a kilt, and he said he'd actually been a drummer for a year in the Atlanta Pipe Band. Loves his job, his wife and his cat. I think he would drive me insane if I were a university official and he showed up on my doorstep and started blithely and unopposably requisitioning my buildings like he did at LSU after Hurricane Katrina, even if it was for good and sufficient reason.

I had planned to leave this evening for North Carolina, on the way to Georgia for Spring Break (for me, a working vacation of sorts, as I'll be writing and translating), but I got little sleep last night (up late editing and grading midterms, and then I had to be at school early this morning), my room is a disaster and I haven't begun to pack. So...I'll try to be in Mebane by the time Paxifist gets in from work--and then we can go to that estate sale we've been discussing (surely tickets won't be necessary by the midafternoon!)