Monday, December 19, 2005

useful Latin phrase for the day

Hoc est armarium valde magnus.

I know there's a way to decline adjectives to make them comparative, but I don't know what it is. Please include translations and corrections as comments. The answer will be supplied presently.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Best quote from Tom Keehn's 90th birthday bash this past weekend:

Tom (at the podium, into the microphone, with deep satisfaction): "All the really well-dressed ones are my grandchildren."

We did look sharp. Mom said he'd given up on getting his kids to dress formally sometime in the late '60's, and suggested that he'd appreciate fanciness. Photos here.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Blizzard Haiku

Driving to work. Kids
towing sleds along Route Nine,
waving at the plow.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Job joy

I recently had a conversation in the kitchen at my office about how, in a nuclear reactor, the cadmium rods are like a time-out chair for the electrons. "Go sit in the buffer!" said one of my co-workers sternly. "No cascade reaction for you!"

I love these people. It's great to be around geekiness in general even if it's not identical to one's own geekiness.

To do:

1. Make your house fair as you are able.
2. Trim the hearth and set the table.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Sometimes even when organizations are doing good work, their slogans are still funny.

In the parking lot of the strip mall near my office there's a clothing collection bin, like those ones you see around from the St. Vincent de Paul society or the Salvation Army. This one is sponsored by something called "Kiducation." Their slogan, as it appears on the side of the bin, is "Turning Old Clothes into New Kids through Education."

Now, I've heard of social engineering-- is this social tailoring?

Another possibility: "Turning Old Boots into Good Taxpayers through Operant Conditioning"

On a similar note.

Starbucks now sells "Ethos" spring water-- actually a really good idea; part of the price of every bottle goes to some clean-water program somewhere-- but it got me wondering whether there's a complimentary water brand somewhere-- less popular; more of a niche market-- called Pathos.

Excellent combination of books.

I'm reading Ronald Knox' The Hidden Stream-- a collection of lectures on Catholic doctrine-- and at more or less the same time Penelope Fitzgerald's collective biography of her family. Now, it turns out that Ronald Knox was Penelope Fitzgerald's uncle. (Ronald Knox! Was Penelope Fitzgerald's uncle!) And so, after reading Monsignor Knox' thoughts on "Our Knowledge of God Through Analogy"-- complete with Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur-- I read about Ronnie, aged six, picking flowers to give to his new stepmother. He seems to have been a bit Ferdinand-the-Bull-ish, and prone to wander off during games of cricket.

"I think all day, and at night I think about the past."
--Ronald Arbuthnott Knox, aged 4, when asked what he liked to do

Thursday, June 09, 2005

A conversation with my associate Miss Cole

H: "I have twenty-one records now!"
S: "Ooh! Did you get them at that place on Eightieth and Broadway that used to be Griffin?"
H: "I got three of them there, but the rest of them I got at a Mennonite thrift shop in Pennsylvania. My taste in records is more similar to the Mennonites' than the Upper West Siders'"

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Evangelical Tsuris

Maybe the problem is the mixed messages. On the one hand you have Dr. Agatston writing in calm, matter-of-fact sentences that build into paragraphs that leave you with a cooperative and alert sort of feeling, ready to renounce white bread and sugar for most of forever, and FRUIT and ALL GRAINS for the next two weeks, because his logic is just so CLEAR. C.S. Lewis has a similar effect on me: the clarity, the logic, the excellent grammar, the direct address.

And on the other hand you have the American Heart Association, and their poster that's posted up in every school cafeteria in America. I mean, the Food Pyramid is public education, practically. It can't be wrong. Six to eleven servings of grains per day, period. "Don't be silly," says the AHA, brisk with authority. The AHA is lined up in my mind--perhaps unfortunately-- next to Joshua Harris and John Eldridge: Eat plenty of fruits and whole grains. Don't date, court. Let the man initiate: concentrate instead on cultivating low cholesterol and a lack of covetousness.

And Dr. Agatston and Henry Cloud, I assume, meet after work at a Starbucks to have great conversations with people of both sexes, and drink coffee with Splenda. "Dating is not about marriage!" says Dr. Cloud, snacking on a turkey and part-skim cheese roll-up. "It's a chance to discover more about yourself!"

Clearly we need a tiebreaker. I offer this: somewhere in Volume II of the Complete Letters of C.S. Lewis, which my dad got for me last Christmas, he mentions that, having gotten a little fat, he's been told to stay away from too much bread, and from sugar in his coffee.

The dating thing might be a little more complicated.

Saturday, April 02, 2005


So, Jesus was decended from Leah, not Rachel.

Recent WebFinds

Brandywine Books


The Thinklings

Help: If what I'd like ideally is to be able to erase C.S. Lewis' That Hideous Strength from my mind so that I could read it again for the first time, what should I read instead?

Spam backwards is maps

Charles says: I'd rather eat a map than eat Spam.

Friday, February 25, 2005

The time: This past New Year's Eve

The place: a hotel room in Paris
The people: me, and my 17-year-old brother

Toby, commenting on the fact that he's taking his 3rd bath of the day: "It's also probably a good idea, since I'm sharing a room with you, just to bathe constantly."

Explaining himself: "Not, like, in general. I'm not saying you're a filthy person. I just mean now."

(The background: I had a disgusting cold)

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Another quote from Mystic, last year

No one and nothing with fluffy ears can intimidate me.

--Heather takes a firm line on a little yappy dog that lives near us.

I had a dream

on the bus on the way back to Boston from New York, and in the dream Elliot Gould had this plant, some sort of succulent like an aloe, that ate cookies. You would drop Chip Ahoys into the bottom of the pot, and the plant's roots would munch on them.

What's up with that?

Something mostly true

When I was growing up my father kept a mezuzah in his sock drawer. It wasn't the only thing he kept there. My father's sock drawer was amazing. It was, by volume, only about sixty-five percent socks. The rest of the space was taken up by various items of importance-- our passports, his cufflinks, a pocket watch, a pocket knife with "Old Timer" written on the handle. I remember gold bars in there, but that could be fantasy.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

I think that some of us are secretly worried

that once we finally get our sin gotten rid of, we will become boring. Our writing will be uninteresting, our wit will not sparkle. We will stand alone at parties by the yogurt dip, and no one will invite us to dinner. This is of particular concern if we hope in our lives to make at least some of our living by our pens: a byproduct of sanctification will be unmarketability.

There is some truth in this. A mature Christian would not write a trashy romance novel, and trashy seems to be very popular. I see no reason, however, why one might not write a really good romance novel. And here's the thing: once we get there, we will find that holiness is more interesting and compelling and fun and solemn and merry than anything we'd encountered before. What you used to think of as interesting-- or rather, the feeling you used to call "being interested," will look like a pale imitation of something that you're now seeing in full color. Your mind and your curiosity, your imagination and your sense of humor, were built into you by God. Don't you think they're there for a reason? The devil's first lie is that there's a legitimate desire in us that God can't or won't satisfy: that to be fully human, fully engaged, to experience the full range of emotion, we've got to go it alone-- we've got to grab life (or whatever) for ourselves, and not allow God to give us the good, or point us there. This is, or course, fully bogus. The adventure, the information, the joy, the fun He has for us are beyond what we could ask or hope.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A quote from last year in Mystic

Maybe it'll eat the mouse.

--Heather's rationale for not killing the centipede.

Friday, February 04, 2005

The beauty of guys

So, riding the T two nights ago, I became aware of raised voices to my left. Not angrily raised, but just...differently modulated than is usual for rapid transit. Turned out to be two guys-- as I looked over one of them jumped up from his seat to make his point more expansively. These two guys had, as far as I could tell, met on the T thirty seconds before, and before thirty more seconds had passed a third guy had joined the discussion. It was intense. Again, not angry, although my first reaction was "scary, don't lose your temper, calm down," and once I realized it was a friendly debate my second reaction was "rrr...just be quiet and sit down." But my third reaction, which I shared with another woman via grins and obvious spectatorship, was "this is great."

The debate was on the topic of Alewife station, and what happens at the end of the red line. Guy A took the position that the trains come into the station, then simply reverse direction and go back out, with their back end becoming their front end. Guy B thought that this was absolutely ABSURD, and that the trains turn around in a circle somehow. Guy C brought in a voice of moderation and claimed that there was an extra "secret track" (his words) where some trains branched off and maybe somehow turned, but maybe not. It was unclear to me.

Anyway, these guys decided to ride to the end of the red line, to go to Alewife right then, and SEE. Beer was mentioned. I'm not sure if Guy C was in on the wager, or if any of them actually did it. I got off at central. But it was a really excellent moment in my day, and made me love Boston, and cities in general, and public transportation. And guys.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

An evening in the life of a blizzard.

This is what the world is like now

And my boss called to say work was off tomorrow.

Cynthia, on her way to bed:

[in a strange booming voice]: "Well, was nice bein' with ya. [in her normal voice, somewhat sadly] I can't do it...sound like that guy. James Earl Jones? No, the other guy. Indiana Jones? He's sort of grizzly."

Christie, helpfully: "Grizzly Jones?"

Why I Am No Longer Freaked Out By Neurobiology: A Post About Gnosticism

Because once upon a time it did freak me out. It deeply disturbed me that the levels of chemicals in my brain could have an effect on my perceptions and feelings. What could it mean except that, yes, all we are is chemical soup, and the sense we have that there's a self there, a little guy swimming in the soup, is delusion.

Often one's first inclination on starting to think about "spiritual" things was that the spiritual world ought to be completely separate from the physical world. But the picture the Bible paints is of human beings as bodysouls, naturally occupying space and time, made as matter and spirit. It's not the case that our bodies are afterthoughts, simply (as Anne Lamott says) little earth suits we put on to clothe our souls, which will be discarded when we return to our original state of innocent nakedness.

Rather, the Judeo-Christian understanding of humans is that they were, in the original intention of the Author, a twofer. We are body-souls. And though the two can certainly be separated-- and at death in fact are, at least temporarily-- this state of affairs has always about it the reek of unnaturalness. Like death itself, this separation is not plan A, and will eventually be corrected.

Cynthia's Dowry

Cynthia, 25, on looking at her very first retirement account statement, for $54, speculates on her improved chances:

"Maybe this will make me more eligible as a spinster. 'I have an do I look to you now?'"

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

A Poem I Wrote on the T

I know an inn where the board is fine
and the goodman host keeps the door unbarred
Where the table is spread with bread and wine,
and the horses stamp in the stable-yard

Over the door hangs a wooden sign
The sign of the man hanging on the tree
The goodman host bellows "Come and dine!
"Dine on me, dine on me."

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The tootsie roll factory

I live a couple hundred yards from the tootsie roll factory. In my head, at least, it takes the definite article: it is the tootsie roll factory. All tootsie rolls come from here: they leave here and go to all corners of the world. When I walk home from the market I walk under the Chocolate Mint Vent. It is a large, galvanized-iron vent fifteen feet off the ground, and if you stand under it you can smell the chocolate cooking. Only once did it smell of chocolate mint, and as I know of no chocolate mint tootsie rolls I can only assume that that night there was someone inside experimenting.