Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Hunger Drives Me On

Thanks, folks, for the well-wishes concerning last week's illness!  I am feeling considerably better, and I've had several consecutive workouts that have been great.  Not today, though--I didn't get around to going to the gym because I got preoccupied with job applications.  They are a time-suck, but I need to reassure myself that what is within my power I am doing to find work.

I've applied for eight or so positions since Monday morning--three with one company [which demanded the exact day of the month I'd started/ended each job--and if I didn't know it (who on earth keeps track of such things?!), they had a specific rubric as to how I was to represent my ignorance], another three doing library/museum/historian work at various government agencies, a five-week summer gig as a resident Russian language tutor in North Georgia, various tutoring jobs.  I am exhausted.

The wire that was fixed behind my upper front teeth came out tonight, and I have to go to my orthodontist to get him to re-install one...  I didn't suffer through two sets of braces to have my smile be less than stellar!  It was a weird sensation--I've had this "permanent retainer" for twenty years, and it was attached to each of my incisors, anchored on my canines--and this morning one of my front teeth started feeling loose.  Turns out, thank God, it wasn't the tooth, but the retainer that had separated, and the glue on several neighboring teeth failed simultaneously--a dental version of the "One Horse Shay".  I hope the good doctor doesn't charge much for the new retainer--I already have an absolutely enormous credit card bill from my dentist's having sealants put on three of my bottom teeth in the last month.  Of course, my mouth hasn't required any investment in a long, long time, so I guess it was due, but really, couldn't it have held off until I was employed!?

Ira edited my publisher query letter for our manuscript last night, and I'm planning to send it off with a chapter and the table of contents tomorrow.  Even if the growing tensions between Russia and the United States don't open up an employment opportunity for me, maybe they'll be a blessing for the book's publication possibilities!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Under The Weather

I've been feeling under the weather now for about a week, with corresponding difficulty sleeping.  Various medications have thus far not effectively addressed the issue, and I admit I am starting to get a little scared that I've got something seriously off, plus I am just sick of being sick.  Yuck.

On a positive note, I am about 2/3 way through my TESOL course.  All I have left are several sections on lesson-planning (about 60 hours' worth of study, if my calculations are correct).  My hope is to take a Cambridge Teaching Knowledge Test at their center in Miami, since the one in Atlanta doesn't offer it.

Tomorrow I will be 39 1/2.  

Friday, April 25, 2014


I haven't written about the Korean ferry to Jeju Island capsizing almost two weeks ago now with all those high school students aboard, mainly because I, like so many others, was initially hoping that more could be rescued, that the list of the missing would not be entirely identical to the list of the dead.  I kept thinking about the capsized ships Granddaddy saw when he came back into Pearl Harbor just two days after the 1941 attack--some people were alive for weeks in the hulks, though at the time they didn't have the technology to get them out. But there is no possibility of more survivors now that the wreck is on the seafloor.  It's just an awful situation--in scope comparable to US losses on September 11, though in this case human negligence was most likely to blame, rather than deliberate evil.

Those poor parents and families.  Especially in a case like this, where people's mistakes and poor decisions were responsible for so many deaths, there is a tendency (as in every human culture) to want to assign blame, but South Korea is also a culture both where collective anger can be expressed with unfiltered viciousness and where to the average individual being shamed is tantamount to social death (factors which contribute to the country having the highest suicide rate in the developed world)--which has already led to the school's vice-principal hanging himself.  I dearly hope that more do not allow themselves to be similarly crushed under loads of guilt and sorrow.

Our pastor chose a rather unusual topic for his Easter sermon--about Jesus' physically bearing our griefs and sorrows (not a light, upbeat subject, but somehow more comforting to me), an assurance that our human suffering is not meaningless.  I hope that South Korean Christians are able to express comfort to their fellows who have lost loved ones--encouraging them to go in pursuit of justice while serving as a sort of bulwark against the indiscriminate casting of blame--giving them access to Hope that does not disappoint.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Wee Mishap

Had just gotten in from the gym late this afternoon, and decided to peel and peanut butter an apple for supper.  I used my shiny new peeler-corer, which left the naked apple in one unending spiral around an empty center, like a fruit Guggenheim museum.  Not easy to butter or eat.  So, I pulled one of my good Cutco knives out of the block on the counter to cut it into semi-circles. And I accidentally included my left thumbtip in the separating stroke:

Bled all over the kitchen counter and the bathroom.  Right off, I had had the idea of super-gluing it back together, but even superglue doesn't stick well when you're bleeding that briskly.  And you can't unwrap a bandage with just one functional hand--when you try to steady it with the injured one, it gets all wet with blood while it's still in the package.  So in the end I just squeezed my poor thumb in a paper towel for half an hour, and took a whopping dose of acetaminophen (it hadn't really hurt at first, but then, boy!). Once I'd mostly stopped bleeding, I re-positioned the partly-cut-off part (it'd gotten a little eschew during the drying-up process) and super-glued it in place.  It's stiff and funny-colored, and doubtless I'll lose a bit of it, but my stepdad came over and approved the gluing, so at least I got a physician's seal of approval.  Add another to my collection of memorable scars, though.

I Have Babies (Baby Blueberries, That Is)!

Aren't they, to borrow my brother's texted phrase, "totes adorbs"?!

It seems at least one insect did its cross-pollinating duty.  I wonder if any will survive (not get eaten by the birds) until maturity, so I can sample them?  

Monday, April 21, 2014

More Applications...

I applied for more than 10 jobs today, mostly at the former Medical College of Georgia, doing clerical work. I also accidentally applied for a Deanship there, because their employment system is not seeker-friendly, and while you could "add jobs to basket" you couldn't actually LOOK at them once they were in the basket, and if you tried to look at them individually from the search-generated list, you had to re-search for relevant positions every time you tried to go out to the master list.  ARGH!  I also spent half an hour entering in application data for any and all available positions at the local Costco.

I am halfway through the TESOL course--when the site claimed that it was a 180-hour course, they were in no wise exaggerating.  I need to finish soon, so I can look at available placement abroad for this coming academic year.  My hope is to let this house, furnished, to a furloughed missionary family while I take one suitcase and head overseas.

Had dinner with a group of international military folk last week, which was fascinating--mostly Eastern and Central European, but a few from the Caucasus, South East Asia, and Africa.  Most were multi-lingual, all fluent in English, though they said they were having difficulties with the jargon in their training classes--what "think outside the box" meant, for instance, not to mention an avalanche of acronyms.  One guy joked that the reason that there are fences around military installations worldwide is to "keep out logic", and the very notion that they were being instructed by fellow military folk to eschew the rote thinking that all armed forces are based on was hilarious.  I did find out that a man whose wife used to be my elementary school principal was instrumental in developing an anti-biochem warfare remedy for the American Army (he published his findings in a professional journal to do an end-run around the institutional lawyers who wanted him to patent the process--he said that the government had paid him handsomely for his research for decades, and to profit additionally from them by patenting the process they'd financed the creation of seemed truly unethical--the lawyers were beyond pissed--they'd anticipated making a fortune off this, but once it was published in the public domain, it was out of their reach).  Very cool, both for the science he described (really neat gene modifications and use of substances already occurring in nature) and for the moral integrity displayed.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Piscine Assassination

My nephew Brad inadvertently murdered a goldfish today.  Rita, who turned nine today, called my mother in tears--whether of rage or sorrow or a combination could not be precisely determined: it seems Brad had been pretending to be a grizzly bear flipping salmon out of the river with its paw, and he'd reached into one of his father's fish tanks and flipped out the unfortunate goldfish, which then expired.  Other than that, Rita seemed to have had a good birthday.

It seems my penpalship of some seven months has come to an LDC, from whom I always enjoyed hearing, and to whose notes I looked forward, has not written in more than three weeks, and I am being stubborn and refusing to be the first to break radio silence, as I have always found reasonable pretext to do in the past.  Clearly, my literary personality was not so winsome as I had hoped!  Well, there it is, as my father would say.

I applied for five more jobs in the last few days--one with a standardized test prep center, three with a standardized test grading company, and one with a bank.  Clearly, I am not being picky.  We'll see!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Why K-Dramas?

A video wherein a middle-aged American white woman attempts to explain the appeal of television serials made in a country which she has not yet visited, and whose language she does not yet speak.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Beautiful Spaces--Don't You Wish YOU Were In Dixie?

Mums and I went on a six-mile walk along the levee Wednesday afternoon. Great spring weather, clear air, and green leaves.  The colors were intense.
The Augusta Canal was dug by Chinese labor before the Civil War.

The view over the barbeque pit, across the canal, with the Savannah River in the distance.

Looking down the canal.

Spanish Moss and much more Southern can you get?

And then today, Mums and I went up to the North Augusta (SC) Greeneway (their spelling, not mine!) for a leisurely 14-mile bike ride. 

Still pudgy, despite 4 months of steady cardio-pumping exercise.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Death & The Veil

I’d gotten out of the habit of regular quiet times over the last several years—a remarkably irregular schedule and secular obsessions are partly to blame, but basically it was my lack of self-discipline.  But there’s an app for this!  I downloaded a Bible app onto my iPhone a while back, and set it up so it regularly harasses me with auto-nags about catching up on reading plans I never really started. It has a “verse of the day” feature, though, and I’ve been reading the whole chapters around them in an effort to get back into the Bible.
Encouragingly, several VOTDs lately have been from Isaiah, including today’s, which is about God swallowing up death for all time.  The verse preceding it makes a metaphorical connection which I had heard before, but which suddenly snapped into place in my brain as it hadn’t previously:  death is “the covering which is over all peoples…the veil which is stretched out over all nations” (Is. 25:7, NASB).  The Jerusalem temple veil, the appallingly heavy and thick sound-smothering rug between the holy place and the holiest, where the Covenant Ark was kept, represented death, death which was symbolically torn apart at Jesus’ death, spiritually disappeared at his resurrection.

This also got me to thinking about veils and the concept of social death, how the two have been interwoven throughout cultures and history.  One well-written compendium of some of the more horrifying researches on this topic is The Buried Soul: How HumansInvented Death, by Timothy Taylor.  As I recall, in an early chapter, Taylor examines the account by famed Islamic traveler Ibn Battuta, who encountered a barbaric Black Sea mourning ritual wherein a young woman supposedly volunteered to be abused by dead chieftain’s adherents and then was killed to accompany his body on a burning ship. Taylor argues convincingly that this was all an elaborate social ruse to take advantage of this girl’s hope to elevate her family’s standing and achieve eternal bliss, and that she was ultimately told the truth of the hopelessness of her and their condition just prior to her death, dying not just miserably but in misery.  Thus, she was not just killed physically, but socially.  After reading Taylor, you can’t help think, “How can people be so petty, and cruel?”  But this goes on all the time today: both the literal and metaphorical veiling, and the social murder. 

It’s no coincidence that women in many countries are forced to wear what look like shrouds, turned into subdued and anonymous black and blue-covered figures—sweating, burdened ghosts in bright and sun-filled lands.  Which is not to say that publicly-dead women in these contexts are entirely powerless: humanity refuses to be squelched, and within the confines of a proscribed lifestyle the wily and wise learn to exert considerable influence.  But that stubborn undercurrent of vivacity does not excuse the broader corporate issue of these individuals being denied the fullness of life overall.  True, we in more permissive societies can subject ourselves to almost as extensive degradation by excessive exposure.  Wherever we are, we all are veiled with death, stuck in its sticky web like flies.  If humans were perpetually youthful and perfect, whole in body and soul, the concealing layers that come with sags, bags and wrinkles wouldn’t be necessary, and moreover we would forego the psychological cloaking that all of us practice be we naked or clothed.

[On the subject, I would be interested to know whether there is credible evidence to suggest that people in sexually repressed contexts actually have more problems with pornography addiction and sexual crimes than those in moderate contexts.  From my own observation, Columbia, South Carolina, the heart of conservative Baptist churchdom, appeared to me to have more “nudey joints” per capita than any place I’d been before.] 

On the other hand, I remember watching a talk show interview of a famous British comedian a year or so ago, who commented that he’d gone to a strip club (in some European capital where such things were almost mainstream), and the show hadn’t been that good because the girl had bruises all over.  This was a passing phrase—it apparently hadn’t registered with him that human sexual trafficking of women and children from Eastern to Western Europe is a huge problem, that the young woman whose sensual performance had so disappointed him was bruised probably because she had resisted her on-stage “work”.  Clearly, social permissiveness can veil exploitation just as effectively as repression—people don’t notice signs of problems when they are totally concealed and they also don’t notice when there are too many similar signs—noises in a sea of other noises are simply tuned out, just as no sound in quiet raises no alarm.  It’s the loud noise against a background of peace that attracts attention.

Head coverings themselves are neutral objects—they can be symbols of humility or familial relationships, practical measures to preserve cleanliness and conceal bad hair days—but they can be misused.  Like T.S. Eliot said, “The last temptation is the greatest treason: to do the right deed for the wrong reason.”  The extreme, being required to hide the face (the eyes being the point of attention for which we humans all naturally search in photographs, paintings and other pictures of people), is undeniably associated with being an “unperson” (or even a “superperson”) within particular social contexts.  Historically, superiors hid their faces from inferiors, women from men, but all of this was and is to segregate people artificially, denying common humanity to either group, or both.  Wrong motives, be they personal or corporate, lead to injustice: people unjustly covered, others unjustly exposed. 

This all shows that Christ’s death is not just “fire insurance”, but that the implications of the Good Friday veil-tearing must percolate into everyday life—that “we all, with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the LORD” reflect his character socially, as well as spiritually.   The eternal effects of the great veil have been lifted; we must work to remove the little veils, marks of artificially-imposed social inequality, that flutter seductively throughout our world, North and South, East and West, while at the same time we clothe the poor, naked and helpless, to whose condition we so often cover our own eyes.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Booger All!

I was peacefully spackling foundation onto my face in the downstairs master bathroom around noon when: Wham! Wham! –there were two loud bangs from the front of the house, like someone had angrily slammed the front door, but twice.  My mother’s gotten good about knocking or ringing the bell before she bursts in, so I yelled, “Hey? Who’s there?” as I grabbed a pair of eyebrow tweezers and went to investigate (what I thought I was going to do with the tweezers, I don’t know—yank out an assailant’s nose hairs?).  I peeked into the garage, whence the noise seemed to originate, and noticed the top of my mother’s Toyota Highlander through the plexiglass window, and a slight bowing to the door itself.  Mums had come to change cars (she regularly switches her Highlander for her Miata, and vice versa, depending on whether she wants practical or fun transportation), and she’d backed into the garage door.  I told her that the price I was willing to pay her for the house had just dropped by 1000 bucks.    She was somewhat disgruntled, but the damage really isn’t obvious, and the door still goes up and down without trouble.

There’s a line in Frozen where the main male lead claims that all men pick their noses…and eat the boogers.  And at the end of the credits, there is a two-sentence legal disclaimer that this particular booger-related statement does not reflect the views of the Walt Disney Company, or its affiliates.  I don’t know if the disclaimer is a joke, or if they were really paranoid that a men’s group would sue.

Speaking of men and noses, I was on my way over to Mums’ house late this afternoon to deliver two bottles of barbeque sauce when I was paused next to an eighties coupe at a stoplight.  The sparkle from the heavily beringed hand of this skinny white guy in the passenger seat caught my eye first, and then the fact that he seemed to have a tool in the other hand up his left nostril.  It was a nose-hair trimmer.  I’ve seen people shaving, brushing their teeth, and applying makeup in cars before, but this was a first.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Unfrozen & Renewed

I have my new passport!  It expires in April 2024.  It's always weird to me to see future dates like that in print, and even stranger to consider how quickly they approach and pass by.

Now to finish the TESOL certificate course!  I worked on it a bit in the car as my mother drove us down to Dublin today to visit Grandmommy, but I gave up to draft a reflection on the reasons for the international popularity of K-dramas.  Not very academic or intellectual, I admit--but so much more fun!

Spring has been absolutely stunning here--it's Masters Week in Augusta, and I swear Augusta National must have sacrificed nubile young caddies on an altar to the weather gods, as blooms all over the area are at their peak, and except for rain Monday, the skies have been Baroque confections of puffy white clouds on baby blue--all they lack are the ruddy-cheeked cherubs playing lyres to the four winds.  It's quiet citywide except for the golf-mad--all non-golfers have fled for the duration, many leasing their houses for large sums to the professionals and the hoards of enthusiasts privileged enough to hold the coveted badges for the annual tournament.  Schools are on holiday area-wide, and some businesses have closed until next Monday as well.

John's azalea bushes have exploded into flame in his front yard, and Mums' tulips are nodding calmly next to the house, though they, too, have firey hearts.

Grandmommy whollopped me at Scrabble after lunch.  Her blueberry bushes were abuzz with bees and I could see that she had hundreds of nascent berries growing thanks to their busy work.  Some of the earlier bubble skirt-shaped blossoms on my bushes have just dried up and fallen off, unfertilized.  If need be, I'll have to go back to the source for berries this year!

Months and months after it was released, I finally saw "Frozen" this evening (my first personal RedBox rental!).  I thought it was sweet, with some beautiful scenes and two lovely songs, and scope for the childhood imagination (I would have dreamt of ice castles for months if I had seen it when I was young), but it didn't move me the way the older animated films did, perhaps because I am so incredibly CGI-fatigued.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Bored Narcissist: The Smoking Stand Lamp

OK, there was nothing I wanted to watch on DramaFever, nothing I wanted to read, I am too tired to study for my TESOL certificate, and it just seemed too early to go to bed, so...I made another badly-shot and worse-edited video for YouTube about the lamp that I've had in process (in pieces in the garage) for a while. And, I didn't even put on makeup or try to disguise my deepening southern accent for the first part.  

Here is the pure, unadulterated KYP in all her slightly-greasy-haired glory:


Abundance Of Boys

I have long claimed that I have a statistically unlikely preponderance of honorary nephews. On my last visit, my friend Anita challenged my assertion that almost all my friends have little boys, so I resolved to make a list to test this. Thus:

Susan: 1 boy
Paxifist: 3 boys
DesertRose: 3 boys
Amy & Larry: 1 girl
Clara: 1 boy
S Dawg: 1 girl, 1 boy
Vega: 1 girl, 1 boy
Pippa: 1 girl, 1 boy
Leah & Aaron: 2 boys
Wiggles: 2 boys

For my immediate social circle, that's 15 boys to 4 girls, which is significantly askew the usual 50/50 split.  Mind you, there was no prenatal sex-selection involved here, and American culture hasn't a bias for boy children (contrary to some Asian cultures, where sons take care of their parents, here, to quote Spencer Tracy in the original version of "Father of the Bride": "My son's my son til he takes him a wife, but my daughter's my daughter all of her life").

Anita doesn't want any boys, so I told her it was up to her to even out the percentage.  Looks like she and Tom have their work cut out!

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Newest Illumination In Motion

I'll post a couple of pictures soon, too, but in the meantime you'll have to put up with a live-action introduction to the lamps of the week:

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Georgia Pines

Georgia pine trees are awesome.  Among their springtime feats is dropping a thick layer of pale buttery pollen dust over everything.  Thank God I am not allergic to pine pollen!  I went over to Mums' today to help her with yardwork in lieu of her rather squirrelly "all purpose teenager" (my brother Bob snidely remarked that I was now her "all-purpose middle-ager"), and every stroke of the rake on the grass raised a cloud of golden powder, like I was beating a rug that hadn't been vacuumed in 40 years (have I mentioned how grateful I am to not be allergic?!).

Before I drove over, I had to run my windshield wipers for a few seconds in order to shed the opaque pollen film coating the glass.  Between the lines in all the commercial parking lots around here there are big yellow spots--anywhere a bit of grease has fallen onto the asphalt from car engines, the pollen has adhered.  It's also acting like natural fingerprint powder--you can see yellow handprints on people's rear windows when stopped behind them in traffic.  I was going to clean the stuff off my patio furniture, but there's no point for at least another two weeks--they'll be re-coated almost instantaneously.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Show Of Hands & SIETAR

June and I went to Atlanta this afternoon for the inaugural meeting of what could eventually be incorporated as a Georgia chapter of the Society for Intercultural Education, Teaching And Research. Of the twenty people who assembled, I recognized four from the national DC conference last fall, including a friendly professor from Kennesaw State, with whom I'd really enjoyed chatting.  June is more shy than I am, and the friend of hers who met us just before the gathering proved more introverted still (she looked positively terrified during the ice-breaking "identities" game, and her voice sank to virtually inaudible when we went around the group circle introducing ourselves), but June at least assured me that she had liked the group, even if her friend had been too overwhelmed to consider returning for our next monthly get-together.  I felt sorry--I had not anticipated that anyone might feel "put on the spot" by what to me is a convivial group of similarly-interested people!  I have been forced by time and circumstance to get used to talking to strangers--and I wrongly presumed that this lovely young lady whom June had told me was her long-time best friend would be likewise acclimated.  I need to learn to ask about this ahead of time, so I am better able to "run interference" as necessary.

After the meeting, June and I met up with my brother Nate and his girlfriend for ice cream.  She taught English for a year in Korea and loved it!  After shorter stints in Spain and Turkey, she returned to teach in one of the worst public school districts in the US: Jackson, MS.

Just before we left for the dark drive back home, I got an unexpected, and sad email from the owners of A Show Of Hands, an award-winning handmade art & crafts store in the Del Ray neighborhood in Alexandria, VA, where I have been successfully consigning my jewelry for years (I just got a check from them a couple of days ago).  Between the messy weather and last year's month-long government shutdown, their long-successful business has dwindled, and they are closing the shop on Tax Day, April 15.  I don't know if they chose that date for its symbolism or for its memorability, but be that as it may, I am disappointed, and saddened for them--they are both such nice ladies, and they ran the business well--they were models of "best practices" which small firms so often lack.  These are truly circumstances beyond their control which are forcing them out of business.

In the retail space next door to the ice cream shop  where we had our late dessert tonight, there was a large vacant spot--during my visit two summers ago, there was an apparently thriving clothing consignment store there, part of a local upscale resale chain.  I wonder if it and its fellows have all gone belly-up too?  Not happy economic signs, these...