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


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 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 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


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


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???