Monday, March 31, 2014

Elite Blogroll

There are only two entries on my blogroll these days: Tony Woodlief's "Sand in the Gears" (excellent writing, even if I don't always accord with him), and that of a certain extremely talented designer and machinist, to whom I happen to be related: Gearheart Industry.  

Based in Atlanta, Gearheart focuses on the creation of custom-made branding irons for manufacturing and craft applications.  Even if you think you haven't the slightest use for such an iron, I encourage you to check out the Industry page--the detail and artistry will boggle you.  Believe me, you know someone who can use a branding iron, even for display only!

Kitchen Contents/Human Themes

I don’t own a cookie sheet, but the day before yesterday I was straightening my pantry and found two sets of foerster clamps.  My father used these for flipping steaks.

This made me consider how our kitchens represent us.  I have mis-matched pots and pans, inherited piecemeal from friends and family.  There is a mind-boggling quantity of tea, and three kinds of coffee (for guests—I don’t drink it).  Multiple pounds of popcorn kernels (a dietary staple) and only the spices which are useful for making baklava and apple pies.  And lots of candy, bought in bulk after this or that sweet-filled holiday.  Several bottles of dubious champagne, and another couple of brand-name rum, all from estate sales.  Two large copper mixing bowls (for the perfect meringue!) and a copper soup-pot, which I use for popping corn. 

There are a few items on the walls—a tin picture of a chef flipping a fish in a pan while a trio of hungry cats watch expectantly, a basket, an oil painting of fruit, and a multicolored tile with a sunburst design.  My refrigerator is covered with pretty magnets and receipts from the various shops where I have items consigned.  There are some bananas on the counter and lots of cheese in the fridge.  It’s probably clear that I don’t spend much time cooking, and that I eat essentially the same simple things over and over again, occasionally livening things up a bit by grabbing a “steam in bag” vegetable from the freezer and microwaving it.

Grandmommy’s kitchen has been essentially unchanged since I was a child, though the lighting has been periodically improved, the walls have been brightened with new coats of paint, and the floor is no longer cold black-blue speckled tile, but a warm tan and cream linoleum.  She’s had the same cabinets and countertop, the same mustard-color electric stove, since the time I had to stand on a stool to see above drawer-level.  Most of her pots and pans she bought almost 70 years ago, or was given by her mother, and yet they still work well.  There is no microwave (she’s never owned one), and no dishwasher—the washing-up of plates and cups is done after every meal, by hand.

Hers is a comfortable space, with a small walk-in pantry, where the shelves are kept neatly stocked with a dwindling assortment of homemade preserves (when Granddaddy was alive and they had a garden, it was packed from floor to ceiling with a wide variety of self-canned edibles), and drying dishtowels, some worn to threads, thrown over the hooks that support pots and pans.  There’s always at least two kinds of baked dessert on the counter, and several kinds of ice cream in the refrigerator freezer, and fresh savory leftovers in the fridge itself, which will be devoured at the next meal.  Casseroles, soups and other delectables are kept ready to bake, in the deep freeze on the back porch.  Grandmommy has cooking, and preparation, down to a fine art, yet considers herself to be generally “a plain cook”. 

On the shelves on either side of the window above the sink, there is a collection of oddities—a penny in a tiny blown glass bottle (a souvenir of a bank opening, if I remember rightly), a wooden butter mold, and several small salt-glazed ceramic jars.  There were once two bottled pennies, but one little glass vessel fell victim to a grandchild, and the penny was spent.

On the walls, there are a few short poems.  One is an excerpt from a prayer by 17th-century French monk Brother Lawrence:

Lord of all pots and pans and things,
Since I've no time to be a saint
By doing lovely things,
Or watching late with Thee,
Or dreaming in the dawnlight,
Or storming heaven's gates,
Make me a saint by getting meals,
And washing up the plates!

And, another of more recent vintage (1944, by M. Peterson):

Bless my little kitchen, Lord, I love its every nook.
Bless me as I do my work, wash pots and pans and cook.
May the meals that I prepare, be seasoned from above
With Thy Blessings and Thy Grace, but most of all, Thy Love.
So bless my little kitchen, Lord, and those who enter in.
May they find naught but joy and peace
And Happiness Therein.

I think anybody who’s enjoyed a Grandmommy meal has found both of these printed sentiments to have been entirely fulfilled!

What does your kitchen say about you?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Must One Lie To Be Hired?

I have never lied on my resume, nor have I ever knowingly misrepresented my achievements on a job application.

The structure of the modern hiring process, though, makes me wonder if lying about one's qualifications is not almost mandatory in order to get past the initial, mostly non-human, screening process. 

I have facility in many areas, but expertise in only a few--must I say I am all-around perfect in order to be considered for even the most humdrum work?  I filled out three job applications online today, two for lower-level administrative positions, and I was immediately informed that I did not meet the basic requirements, though I claimed, accurately, that I'd worked in such positions for 5-8 years, and was more than familiar (but not fluent) in the Microsoft Office Suite.  Who, pray, are they interviewing and hiring?

One of my friends who worked for the federal government told me not long ago that they'd had to "let go" several new hires for lying on their resumes.  I was horrified then, but now I understand the temptation (not that I will succumb to it)--why tell the truth when there's no reward for it, and when in fact being straight-forward about yourself counts against you?  And many of the questions about qualifications assume applicants know all the jargon and acronyms, whereas people like me would probably be very good at the work, but aren't (yet) familiar with the specific subdialect, and so can't respond affirmatively.

I am very discouraged.  There are no openings for Russianists at any of the government contractors whose websites I have visited (they are still hiring for Iraqi Arabic specialists!).  Our national CEO has dismissively declared the Federation to be merely "a regional power", simultaneously displaying a horribly shortsighted viewpoint and an unwarranted faith in the strength of his own eloquence.  And I am still unemployed.  And as far as I've been able to find out, NONE of the things I've consigned either online or in stores have sold in the past couple of weeks!  At least when Winston Churchill (not that I'm at or will achieve his level) was "in the wilderness" during the Chamberlain administration, he was producing publishable material--I've not written a new cover letter for the "Two Motherlands, Two Fatherlands" manuscript yet this year!  Dear Lord, let me accomplish something worthwhile.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Again, Phooey!

Instead of an email inviting me to enter their employment, this morning I got a note from the kidney people saying that they were continuing to interview candidates, and a decision should be made by the end of NEXT week as to whom they wanted to hire.  This is not encouraging, as clearly they were not so impressed that I was the right person for the job that they decided to ignore further applications from other job-seekers; in fact, they decided to delay their decision-making for a week.

My friend June is encouraging me to apply to teach English abroad, and given the way things are going domestically, that may well be where I end up.  My passport was due to expire at the end of this coming September, and so last night I filled out the renewal paperwork, got my picture taken at the local Walgreen's today, and immediately mailed off the application, my old passport, and a large check for all the fees to the expedited service at the Department of State.  Barring an unforeseen delay, I should have my new passport in less than two weeks.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Running Dreams & The Sixth Stage Of Grief

A few nights ago, I had a complex dream, in which I ran a 5K in 19:06.  Perhaps twenty years ago, when I was working out like a fiend, I would have been able to do this, but I am older and 30 lbs. heavier now, so it was an outlandish fantasy, even sleeping.  Still, it made me wonder if I was up to even running a mile, now that I have been regularly exercising for several months.  So I climbed aboard the Dr. P Memorial Treadmill (it's the machine my father had his fatal heart attack using, so I mentally designate it as such--there's no physical sign on it) the next time I went to the gym, and was pleased to see I could jog two without gasping like an asthmatic fish.  Not very fast, but steadily.  So, today, after a rest, I ran and speed-walked more than four miles (I was watching a Korean drama serial on Viki on my iPhone, so after the first two miles, I walked to read the subtitles and sprinted during the commercial breaks).  Now, I am so sore I can barely move!  I've been comforting myself with turkey bacon and sliced Parmesan cheese.

Counselors identify five stages of grief, but for me, there is a sixth: twisted glee.  I think Daddy would approve of the manifestation, since though I mimic my mother's voice and gestures, in personality I am my late father's clone.  I still appreciate kindly souls who hadn't known of his death expressing sympathy (the loss grows less acute in most respects, but will persist as long as my memories), but the fact that every other day I get at least one piece of junk mail addressed to him is irritating--particularly as he died months before this place was even built!  So, I've started to take perverse pleasure in labeling each of these wastes of paper "RTS--Recipient is Dead" in heavy black permanent marker and putting them back in the mailbox for pickup.  I wonder how many years his name will persist in the bulk mail databases?  It's a really hellish form of worldly eternal life!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Wind & Interviews

About 1% of the time I wear contacts, and 90% of the time I wear glasses (the remaining 9% is when I take my glasses off to see something close up--yes, bifocals are just around the corner--or am wandering around the house in a myopic fog trying to remember where I left them when I was preparing for a shower or bedtime). 

As usual, then, I was wearing my glasses when I stopped by the grocery store on the way home from the gym this afternoon.  A stiff wind had erased all signs of the ice-spitting clouds that accompanied my trip to an interview at a local flooring supply company this morning (last week, as part of a wholly different interview process, I trailed a testing coordinator at a medical research organization for the day--more on that in a bit), and it was sunny, if chilly, by 4:30.  I had just finished loading my fortnight's supply of breakfast cereal and turkey bacon into my front passenger seat when a particularly violent gust came along and took off my glasses.  Fortunately, they didn't break, and the scratch-resistant lenses proved their worth.  The chimes on my back patio didn't stop ringing until the sun went down.

Crystal, the lady who saw me through my second, on-site interview with the medical research firm last Thursday, was blunt--most of the people that they see participating as study volunteers are "at the sunset of their lives."  They do research with patients suffering from all sorts of ailments.  Many of these folks are on dialysis, and some are able to live only because of study-participation, because their financial circumstances wouldn't otherwise allow for them to get the necessary medications (I was impressed at the strict standards the firm has for control-groups; they demand that drug companies supply known treatments to volunteers at the same time that they are testing new concoctions--that way, everyone is getting good care, it's not like the placebo group is left untreated).  I knew the theory and basic technique of dialysis (and that most don't live more than 5 years on it), but had not actually been to a dialysis center before, though there are almost two dozen in the immediate metropolitan area.  Dialysis is a lot like chemo--it debilitates those who have the treatment (weakness, nausea, etc.), and just when they get to feeling almost normal again, back they have to go for another round.  Except people in renal failure have to be dialyzed every other day.  And some centers run around the clock, offering "nocturnal dialysis" to indigent patients who otherwise would be sleeping on the streets.  It is an extremely sad situation.

Running medical studies would be a far cry from chaperoning undergraduates through study abroad programs, or helping people decide what sort of flooring they want to install in rooms in their house.  But it could be the most rewarding, and intellectually stimulating of the three jobs I've interviewed for.  They are looking for OCD individuals like me, who relentlessly check and double-check to make sure that the proper protocols have been followed.  But there is also an intensely personal, social element to the work--you have to meet with patients daily, make sure that they know you value them as individuals, not just as glorified guinea pigs, and keep in touch with them for periods from ten months to ten years ("Now, there's job security!" a colleague of Crystal's joked).  I should find out about the results of that interview later this week.

Tomorrow I go to be interviewed by an entirely dissimilar pair: a brace of sister cats whom a soon-to-retire Navy veteran has to rehome.  We will see if we like one another.  Even if we hit it off, I won't be able to give their human "mom" an answer on whether I'll be able to adopt them until after I know my job situation.  And my friend June, with whom I've been getting together on Tuesdays and Thursdays to study for our TESOL certificates, tells me that we need to go ahead and apply for fall teaching jobs in Korea within the next month.  Only God knows what my next year will bring.  I did get re-activated as a member of my local church, so at least I don't have to go through an inquirer's class on top of it all!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Lonely In GA

One of the biggest culture shocks I've encountered on moving back to Georgia is how unwelcoming the social structure is to older singles.  In DC, although most of my friends were married, and had children, I didn't feel isolated, as all continued to embrace me as a friend to both husbands and wives and as an "aunt" to their children.  Partly, this was possible because I had known many of them since well before they married, and instead of turning insular when they coupled up, they proved true loyalty by opening their hearts even wider, to allow for both the new romantic connection and for our continued friendship.  So, instead of my circle of friends shrinking when friends married, it expanded, as I befriended/was befriended by the new spouses.  But suddenly, I am out of network.

The South (and probably the American Midwest, too) is very natalist.  At heart, I am, too--I simply believed implicitly that I would get married and have children (I thought six!).  Older singles when I was growing up were frequently deemed to either have something odd or wrong about them, or to be so engrossed in a particular higher calling that they simply didn't have time for matrimony.  The latter was an acceptable, even laudable, position.   Too, when I was young, I heard stories enough to indicate that there was at least one woman in every small Southern town who never married--that was her distinguishing characteristic, apparently.  Some were wealthy (by surrounding standards) and left sums of money to the church or civic organizations.  Nowadays, I know of several who are a couple of decades my senior, the daughters of well-established local families, who are in all the characteristic clubs and activities that mark out a lady's path in upper-echelon Southern society, from the  Junior League to benefit galas.

Perhaps I mentioned it before, but as an indication of how deeply ingrained the presumption is that people here will have families of their own, all the Sunday schools at my home church are divvied up by the age of one's children!  No one thinks this is odd.  There are the "young singles" (twenty-somethings) and the "older singles" (thirty-somethings), but nothing else.  So, I decided to join the Trinity Class from today--it's the class for couples and widows seventy and above.  Many of the people in the class were my age now when I began coming to the church as a third-grader, so it gives me a feeling of continuity.  Also, it's a class where I am actually the youngest!

I am waiting to get official word from the church session as to whether my membership will simply be reactivated, or if I will have to go through the inquirer's class again.  I really hope I don't have to go through the hoop of the class.  I told the elder that I talked to this evening that if I had to go before the session, I was going to demand that they pray for me a husband as a sort of quid pro quo.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Blessed Bees...Where Are They?

Ah, spring! A young man's thoughts turn to love, and a middle-aged woman's turn to the necessity of regular leg-shaving, lest her extremities resemble those of a gorilla. 

Despite their unorthodox candlelit planting, all five of my blueberry bushes are thus far thriving, and all are blooming.  But not a single bee, bumbling from blossom to blossom, have I spotted.  I saw one ginormous carpenter bee today, vainly poking at the vinyl siding on my house, and a couple of huge hornets, which I chased away from my porch with a combination of chemicals (from Lysol to Goof-Off--I just grabbed whatever came easiest to hand), but no ordinary honeybees.  Without bees, I will be blueberryless--the plants have to cross-pollinate.  I may be obsessive-compulsive, but I can easily resist the urge to get out a tiny paintbrush and do this by hand.  Several hundred times.  I know that there is a disease out there devastating American commercial hives, but I had hoped that the ordinary wild bees would be buzzing around anyway. 

What to do?  I fell asleep Thursday night thinking about the possibility of getting my own queen (you can order them by mail--they come in little boxes), and setting her up in a hive in my back yard.  Having my own source of honey would be fantastic!  But I was awoken Friday morning by the sound of the neighborhood-contracted yard service mowing the grass outside my window, and it occurred to me that beehives and commercial lawn mowers don't mix well.  I could visualize, too easily, some unfortunate landscaper getting stung to death by defending workers (sadly for alliteration, the drones don't have stingers), and me getting stung deeper into insolvency by a massive lawsuit.

So, for now, I am just hoping other insects will do the pollination job.  There are certainly enough plant gnats around, since I moved affected greenery outside (they are about the size of fruit flies, and had set up shop in the soil of my mother's houseplants).  Thankfully, there are few of the conventional gnat swarms--Augusta tends to be above the Georgia "gnat line"--and I've only had to confront one fly so far (I slew it with my Bug-A-Salt table-salt loaded pump shotgun, which was great fun--true to its marketing, the instrument's blast of NaCl did not "splatter fly").  Still, I am waiting for the bees to get off their fuzzy little behinds and busy themselves at my blueberry bushes!  Somebody's leg hairs ought to be put to good use in the springtime!

Brief Intro--Return to the South

She speaks, she drawls, she grimaces, she looks antique!  But doesn't the Satsuma vase turned into a lamp behind her look pretty?!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Networking Celibacy

I am not good at leveraging my contacts for personal advancement.  For example, have tried (and failed to this point many times in my ambitions) to talk up my book co-translation to friends or acquaintances, hoping that someone will be both intrigued by the story and have the means or method themselves to see it into print.  But if my selfish efforts have heretofore yielded nothing, I continue to hope that my contacts will prove fruitful to advance the causes and careers of my friends.  So, with this in mind, I wrote a brief note to a fellow former Georgetown Russianist, who at our last meeting I found had been promoted to a major role in admissions processing at a well-known medical school where a friend of mine is now trying to gain admittance.  I was pleased to receive a prompt response, but from one of his former colleagues, to whom he had forwarded my message.  It turns out that the fellow I know, in the four years since our last interaction, had left his lucrative career and taken a new name as a brother in a Roman Catholic holy order!

Far be it from me to criticize vows of celibacy, poverty and obedience chosen at forty for the cause of Christ--we PCA Presbyterians don't maintain the infrastructure to institutionalize this, but as a lifetime celibate myself, I appreciate the formal support.  Still, I found it amusingly fitting that my attempted use of what used to be called my Rolodex should come to such a monastic end.  The colleague who responded in the Brother's stead was kind, though, and I hope she will be able to help my friend.  His MCAT score is golden, but his undergraduate grades reflect inconsistent class attendance when he was a youth!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Honorary Aunthood

One of the many pleasures of long-term friendship is the benefit of honorary aunthood.  My newest little honorary nephew was born as scheduled on Monday morning, and I got to hold him when he was less than four hours old (after his father had given him basic information, with helpful visual aids, about the Pittsburg Steelers and the German and Spanish teams he would grow up to root for...):

Isaiah weighed almost 8 pounds...

...was taught virtually from birth about European "football"...

...and closed his eyes for just a few moments that whole morning--most of the time he was observing the world in a thoroughly businesslike fashion.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Toothless, The Boneless, & The Heartless (Not Brainless)

One of the reasons I did like George W. Bush was that, for a politician, he was relatively guileless.  I did not think he was a fool or an idiot (a dear liberal friend once told me that he really was an idiot, and if she’d known two decades ago he had a snowball’s chance of being elected president, she would have preempted this by dropping a barbell on his head when they were both working out at the gym in Austin), but I do think he displayed a remarkable naivete at times, born of his open personality—the most notable of which was when, on meeting with Vladimir Putin, he declared that he could see the Russian President’s “soul”.

Recently, a close friend told me that she was filing for divorce from her husband, and that she was going to attempt to explain the necessity of this decision to her pastors.  I did not hold out much hope that they would be immediately supportive.  Not that they would necessarily doubt her because she was a woman (“Oh, she’s exaggerating the issues in a typical female fashion”), but because they, being good solid—but  younger, and not well-informed—guys themselves, who really do treat women well, might not yet fathom that another man might treat his wife with so little regard.  It’s only when you understand (have experienced as a victim, or recognize such threads in yourself—that, but for the grace of God you would act upon) the depths of depravity of which humanity is capable—that you can act with prompt justice in such situations.  I think Mr. Bush's assessment of Mr. Putin was much along the lines of the youthful pastors'.

Anyone who has read this blog for a while knows that I am open-hearted.  I, too, am not a guileful person, and I have been occasionally na├»ve.  I tend to try to see the best in people.  However, I have spent the last twenty years studying Russia and Russian history, and to see my blithe reflection in the eyes of the chief of state of that Federation would be silly.  On the other hand, I think it is extremely simplistic to write him off as “evil”, lumping the man with Kim Jung Un and Hitler.  Putin is a shrewd leader, not a frothing ideologue, operating in the classic manner of the Autocrat of All the Russias, and his methods, however deplorable from the perspective of the West, have shown a finesse and understanding of the geopolitical environment that surpasses much of our leaderships’.

Firstly, I was impressed by the Medvedev/Putin “good cop/bad cop” routine that rolled over the international media’s immediate questions about the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine.  It was almost a pleasure to see the old excuse about protecting co-ethnics from threats (a rationale presented repeatedly in confrontations with Ottoman Turkey, etc., during the last several centuries) dusted off and reused.  Offering Russian citizenship to any who wanted it on the peninsula was a brilliant stroke—Sunday’s plebiscite was really an unnecessary gesture after the general rush to the passport office (to put this in perspective, it was as if the US offered automatic American citizenship to everyone in the Yucatan, and then two weeks later encouraged local leadership to hold a vote on joining our Union; Russian citizenship is almost as difficult to attain, and as regionally desirable). 

All that is missing now is some dramatic “smoking gun” provocation to legitimate Russian “protective occupation” of the rest of Ukraine.  Perhaps a few famous ethnically Russian Ukrainians will be murdered, or a small pogrom can be arranged—the imperial government employed these tactics to tamp down dissent in the borderlands in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Or an apartment block or two will explode—Mr. Putin is alleged to have used this means (acts of terrorism ascribed to Caucasian Muslim terrorists) to spur public support for dramatically escalating the campaign against the Chechens.  Rhetorically linking the Ukrainian revolutionary movement to the LGBQT rights efforts espoused by the EU and the Obama administration has certainly allied Orthodox and Muslim Russians behind their President, and made allies of Russia in countries around the Black Sea.  Mr. Putin knows that the militarily toothless EU is dependent on Russia’s oil, and will not fight to defend Ukraine’s straightforward (and mostly straight) democracy.  He knows, too, that the US will offer no stiffer resistance to Crimean annexation (and the probable absorption of greater Ukraine) than selective economic sanctions—and whereas one can more or less blockade a (smallish) country like Iran, I think it about as efficacious as Napoleon’s attempted shut-out of the British and its allies via the Continental System to think that an enormous country like Russia can really be made to feel punitive damages from the freezing of isolated assets abroad.

Despite his much-touted KGB background, I find Putin's behavior more in line with Peter the Great than the Bolsheviks, from his very selective repressions to his promotion of greater Russian power and technology.  Putin is no Stalin—literally: he is the “Man of the Way” rather than the “Man of Steel” (“put’” is the Russian word for “way”—thus “Sputnik” was “one going on the way with” aka “Companion”).  Coincidentally, the first time I visited Odessa, there was a banner at the front of the newly-renovated Presbyterian church, the verse from the Gospel of John, which reads in English, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life…”.  If only the people of Ukraine would see protection from “the Way” against this similarly-titled earthly leader--they'll see none from the West, despite our guarantees of national sovereignty when "On the Border" gave up its residual Warsaw Pact nuclear arsenal to Russia a quarter century ago.  Whatever happens, I trust that Christians there will fear only God and honor their king, whether he be Vladimir Putin or some sovereign they are able to select for themselves. 

Snow Mohawk

The two times I've come up to DC to visit this winter, there have been significant snowstorms.  Both times, I have had to dig my car out from four to (in today's case) six inches of snow, a cardiovascular workout of the sort I thought I was done with when I moved to Georgia!  Because I am short, my (formerly) white Honda sedan is left with a snow Mohawk along the middle of the roof.

Leah and Aaron and his mother just left for the hospital here in Alexandria, VA, half an hour ago (thank God they got a minivan with all-wheel drive!).  My newest honorary nephew, little Isaiah, is scheduled to make his appearance via C-section around 8 AM.  I am looking forward to meeting him!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Grim Singing & Laziness Challenged

As mentioned it a recent post, my church has a YouTube channel cataloguing recent services, and as we sang two great pieces this past Sunday, I looked forward to hearing them as an unengaged spectator online.  The sound for the pastors was fine; the recording of the choir wasn't so great, but sufficient to taste the impression of the musical beauty and lyrical strength of the selections (though a little like sampling cold leftovers from the fridge after indulging in a hot, freshly-prepared feast a day or two earlier).  What was a bit disconcerting was seeing my expression as I sang--I looked exceedingly grim, my already-strong jaw set in an iron line, the look of serious concentration on my face so severe I looked as if I were about to go "over the top" at the Battle of the Somme or take out a club and begin laying waste.  If I look this deadly serious when I'm singing the glories of the Almighty, songs I really love, what impression must I leave in less cheerful circumstances!?

My LDC wrote me that he is in the midst of two academic papers.  Not a restful three week break!  I am humbled, and embarrassed in what has become my habitual laziness to know of such examples of perseverance.  My sister is not only working full-time, she is completing her Master's in Nursing and being a mother and wife.  My LDC is studying in a foreign country, researching and writing papers in a second language, and somehow taking time to write me in a third.  Not only am I ashamed of my lack of self-discipline, I really have no room for complaint about what are minor setbacks in my job search--my sister has the responsibility of keeping severely ill patients alive, and, like Dr. Kim during his pastorate, my LDC did lead daily, before-dawn worship services when he was a minister in the military.  These folks are just a couple of the God-given models of hard work and self-motivation to challenge my slothful life--there are many, many others!

Monday, March 10, 2014

How My Garlic Grows!

The cloves of garlic I planted in large pots a week ago have all sprouted!  They look pretty healthy, though they are shaded for much of the day.  The blueberry bushes, too, have survived their first week in their new locations, and tiny leaves are pushing out of the tips of their branches.  I am considering acquiring a fig tree, though I'm not a big fig-eater, just because it'll grow quickly and produce all summer.  Turns out, I don't have room for apple trees here--or, rather, getting them will require neighborhood association approval, and I don't feel like slogging through the bureaucracy. A fig tree (bush) can be brutally pruned to stay within yard limits, whereas apple (and pear) trees have to be coddled and coaxed.  I am considering a frame for scuppernongs or grapes--nothing rectangular, but perhaps something made of heavy gauge wire that spirals upward, like old depictions of the Tower of Babel. 

Sent off my CV today to a medical clinic that is looking for managers of its treatment studies.  I have no idea what they pay, but a nurse who works there told me about the job, and I figured I'd do due diligence.  The ten schools (private, public, secondary and tertiary) I investigated had no openings, unless I wanted to be a nighttime security guard or a fry cook.  It may come to that!

I've asked my mother's "all purpose teenager" to come over tomorrow morning to help me move my china cabinet in from the garage and re-install its edge-chipped back mirror.  I'm not getting a new mirror for the time being, as I have no money (it's beveled, 41" x 51", and so will be horrifically expensive), but I did spend Saturday afternoon screwing in 24 new metal brackets to hold the heavy glass shelves.  I will be glad to have a functional cabinet again!  I can then unpack the last three boxes which are cluttering my dining room, and have the living room totally assembled.  Now if I only had a rug for the downstairs bedroom! 

Saturday, March 08, 2014

The "Great Spring Forward"

Why the United States (for the most part) commits to Daylight Savings Time is something of a mystery to me. Who thinks it "saves daylight"?  Most of us Americans have electricity these days, and so whether the winter sunrise comes one hour or more after the workday begins doesn't make a whole lot of difference.  Ditto winter sunset--we're all going to be driving home in the dark one way or the other.  So the semiannual ritual of resetting our clocks backward and then forward an hour seems silly.  And there are some states that don't even observe it.  Time zones make sense (though a girl I met last Sunday who lived in the PRC for five years learning Mandarin told me that enormous country is all on Beijing time -- as somehow the longitudinal hourly divisions proved too confusing for many -- leaving daybreak and nightfall to occur at very weird hours in far-flung parts of the country), but shifting the clock with the seasons doesn't.  Tonight, we lose an hour.  And the choir is to assemble for warm-up rehearsal at 7:45 AM. What will be, functionally, 6:45 AM.  I may nap on a pew in the sanctuary during the Sunday School hour!

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Onward & Up-Since-3 AM-Ward!

So, yesterday was more than a little rocky after I got the phonecall that they'd offered the job I really wanted to someone else, but I got through it.  For one thing, I ran into my tenth grade science teacher at the consignment mall where I have a booth (I was over there to leave off four more lamps), and she and I ended up talking for an hour.  And later, I had my second really good workout at the gym this week--I finally feel like the exercise of the last two months is beginning to pay off!  But, as I told one of the several friends who expressed their sympathy on this turn of events, one of the reasons I was so profoundly disappointed this job wasn't offered to me is that it means I have to go back to the beginning again, to try to find something, anything, for which I might be qualified.  I just want to be employed--I loathe the "dating game" of applications and interviews.  JUST HIRE ME, somebody, please...  I am not an idiot, and I'm usually cheerful.

It was kind of perverse hearing myself be so nice and positive on the phone when the lady called to tell me the hiring committee's decision--my mind went numb, (almost like it did at Daddy's pre-funeral visitation) and I smiled and sincerely expressed my pleasure that they'd for someone who was a hood fit for their office.

My mind is numb right now for another reason: I awoke at 3 AM (it is now 8) after less than four hours' sleep.  I know I have many things to preoccupy me, and I've tried several techniques to encourage unconsciousness; however, nothing's worked so far.  Argh!  Am so very tired!!

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Unhappy Result

I did not get the university job.  I feel like I've been punched in the side of the head.  Where to now?

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Church YouTube Channel

I have really been out of the loop, but I found out this evening, after an excellent visiting choir of Korean children sang and Dr. Jang-whan "Billy" Kim preached at our Tuesday Missionary Conference meeting (to which I was late--missing much of the music but getting the whole message), that my home church has a YouTube channel!  So, I can go there in a week or so and watch what I missed earlier.  It won't be quite the same, of course, but the sound and picture is great--I've checked out excerpts of previous Sundays--I could even see myself in the choir, but thankfully not hear myself howling any "off" notes!  Check out the channel: First Pres Augusta.

Still haven't heard anything about the university job.  I've been keeping busy making lamps, wearing my mask and goggles for safety while I drill through glass, metal and wood, as I am having some allergy problems now that things are greening up in Georgia, and inhaling even more noxious substances would just compound my misery.  Tomorrow, I want to get a large mirror cut for my china cabinet, to replace the one broken in the move, and two pieces of glass for table tops.  This will not be cheap, but I've put the need off for two months and I need to get the last of my boxes unpacked, which depends on the cabinet, in particular, being restored to me.  I hope I get good employment news soon.

Monday, March 03, 2014

New York Review Of Books Article On Ukraine

Timothy Snyder, writing for the New York Review of Books, has produced an excellent article summarizing the recent and present situation in Ukraine. Contacts there confirm his is an accurate representation of events.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Choir Scheduling, Part Duet

Turns out we were NOT singing in church this morning!  I would have sworn on a stack of Bibles we were, and so I dutifully set my alarm for 6:45, levered myself out of bed at the appointed hour, dressed in my almost-uniform of floorlength gray skirt, ruffled gray sweater and ruffled black shirt, and hurriedly drove into the sunrise to make it by 7:30 (the first service starts at 8:30, but on singing Sundays the choir has to get there ahead of time to warm up their voices and iron out any remaining wrinkles in that day's repertoire).  And no one was there.  Three vehicles in the parking lot and all the doors were locked.  I tapped on one and a passing deacon let me in.  "Maybe warm up starts at 7:45," I thought, hopefully. Nope!  The sanctuary was quiet and empty for half an hour, while I passed the time reading the dedication-inscriptions on the stained glass window in the choir loft and the empty silverplate urn on the dias.  The choir master, who is also the organist, rolled in at 8 and confirmed that next week we were singing--and we have another practice on Thursday (which I undoubtably would have missed without this personal reminder).  Then he turned on the "autoplay" feature on the pipe organ while he bustled around the loft getting things organized, and I was blasted back to my usual seat in the balcony, my chest reverberating with the sound.  It was a good way to start the day, but I am eagerly anticipating my afternoon nap!

Saturday, March 01, 2014

BlueBerries By Candlelight

Following the forty-five minutes I spent tonight in my backyard, hacking away at the ground with a hoe and a trowel, I have much more human sympathy for the "resurrection men" of the nineteenth century.  And I wasn't trying to exhume a deeply-buried bloated corpse, but shallowly plant the blueberry bushes I dug up from Grandmommy's yard and the farm this morning (I didn't want the roots to dry out, and they were too awkwardly shaped to stick in a bucket of water overnight).  There was no one to hold a flashlight for me, so I lit a plateful of pillar candles and set them next to the space I was trying to dig.  You can't angle a candle to focus down, and so I was constantly fumbling to see if I'd gotten the holes deep enough, without hitting any sprinkler-system pipes.  Candles are also dazzling--you look at them, and you can't see anything in the darkness around you.  I ended up holding a flashlight under my chin like a violin while I dug. I got three bushes into the ground and the ones with more regular roots into two large pots on my patio.  I hope I got multiple varieties--I won't be able to tell until they develop leaves and (hopefully) berries.

Grandmommy pasted me twice at Scrabble last night and this morning--by a margin of 69 points and 73 points, respectively.  I was not trying to throw the games--I just got lousy letters (J & Z on the first turn, and then no vowels for two turns; four "I"s), and she kept chipperly remarking, "Why, I didn't know that was going to get that many points!" as she played one multiple-scoring five-letter word after another.  Last night she broke 300, and she came close this morning.  I won the middle game of one point.

Speaking of being overrun, and the nineteenth century, it looks like we might have Crimean War 2.0 on our hands.  One has got to admire, technically, the ongoing Russian "good cop/bad cop" routine in the shape of Medvedev/Putin, but wonder how this "police action" is going to resolve itself, in terms of the independence of Ukraine both as a whole and in part.  From a geographic point of view, a ground war against entrenched Russian troops could be a challenge--those steep cliffs on the southeast and the bowl-shaped Sevastopol harbor are just a couple of challenges.  Remember "The Charge of the Light Brigade"?  The cannons to the left, right and front of the legendary doomed six hundred were firing during the Battle of Balaclava (just gave my nephew one of the namesake headcoverings for his birthday!), and though that charge did achieve at least one of its objectives, and the imperial Russians ended up losing the multinational conflict as a whole, it wasn't exactly a "win" for the nominal victors, who suffered huge casualties and significant political repercussions at home.  Which is not to say that the Ukrainians might not benefit from outside military assistance--from whom, and in what context, is of course, an essential question.  I just can't see Russia giving up its Black Sea fleet now, as it was made to do 160+ years ago.