Thursday, September 28, 2006

It figures: or, the scheme and the limerick

Fear not, here goes nothing, say I.
Ask not; await not my reply.
It’s not a catastrophe;
It’s only anastrophe,
Syntactically slightly awry.

--proper credit is owed to someone, possibly an "omnipotent online dictionary." I heard it from Becca. Today was definitely anastrophic.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Quote of the day

"After I get out of here, I'm going to go play with my mental blocks."


Saturday, September 23, 2006

The woodcutter's daughter's tale

I awoke this morning later than my wont, much encumbered with the cat. I petted her a time, arose, and made a pot of coffee and a hearty breakfast before retiring to peruse a chapter of the Holy Scripture and then the Saint Athanasius. You may inquire how a mere woodcutter's daughter would come into an acquaintance with such as these, but I was blessed with a better education than most in my time, whether male or female. After reading, I sat back and Contemplated Life, much as a friend of mine once did in Madrid.

I was aroused from my contemplations, not by a Spanish drug deal in my vicinity, but by the voice of my father inquiring if my mother was ready to go. “Go?” I shouted. “Where?"

“Hiking!” he replied. “Do you want to come?”

I certainly did, so I replied in the affirmative and clothed myself appropriately with much haste. Woodcutters, as you can probably imagine, do not ordinarily go for strenuous hikes with no purpose beyond the pleasure of the walk, but my father makes his living helping to reckon the finances of our local alchemists and weapon-makers, and only chops wood on weekends, and therefore has not partaken of that sad dislike.

The day was a beautiful particularity of late September at its best. The air was cold, particularly when the wind blew, but the sky almost clear and the sun hot. Across the valley fresh snow glistened on the highest peaks. Wildflowers bloomed. This is a good year for the yellows and purples: chamisa, mountain asters, sunflowers. We stopped at a trail near a mesa and hiked along its base, orange cliffs against blue sky. We took pictures—many, many pictures. I filled my memory card; though admittedly it already bore the results of two prior expeditions.

Upon our return home, Dad purposed in his heart to take out half a juniper tree in our front yard. It had been mostly dead for several seasons, and furthermore this year winter is setting in cold and early. So he pulled out the great saw and, when it was quite prepared, I joined him. We cut down the dead half, sliced off the branches, and generally took it apart.

It took us the full afternoon. Our front yard filled with piles of brushery. When we cut logs, we discovered that junipers have red hearts, much like cedar! They smelled like cedar also. When we expressed our surprise to Mom, she said, “Oh yes, juniper is related to cedar. I thought you knew."

We came in an hour or two before sundown and I started making Cornish pasties for dinner. I have long desired to try my hand at them, and some time ago in my researches found two different recipes. They were pretty similar, except for different amounts, so I sort of melded them and did my own version. I did use store-bought pastry, for the lateness of the hour and the hunger of my long-suffering parents, but the filling I made with beef, potato, carrot, onion, and celery—and they were very good. I understand in the high medieval era, pasties were a royal dish, but pretty soon the Cornish miners started making them because they were easy to transport into the mines for lunch. For a while they'd put meat in one half and fruit in the other, for dessert. You really can put anything in a pastry. I highly recommend them.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The mushroom lady returns

As I fiddled with phone calls and paperwork this morning, I heard the mushroom lady back in the opertory, explaining to the good doctor how to pickle a mushroom.

“You poot it in boiling water--”
“So you don't actually boil the mushrooms?”
“No, no, just poot them in it--”

In due time she left, and Dr. M came up to the front desk laughing. Yesterday the dental lab guy came along early in the morning for a long chat. He left a box of doughnuts (very good doughnuts, I might add) and in exchange Dr. M gave him a good pickled mushroom. He loved it. The lab guy also pickles mushrooms—we have a jar of his shaggy manes in the fridge—but he wanted her recipe. So this morning Dr. M asked her for it.

“I asked her to write down her recipe, and she did—in Russian! So when the lab guy comes, I'm going to give it to him.” He went away chuckling.

The lab guy came and retrieved it. I gather his response was, “Great! There's just one problem—I don't speak Russian!”

By now I'm understandably curious about the mushrooms. The good doctor, also, has determined I need to try them. So we go to the back room and he brings out the jar.

“I usually eat them with a paperclip.” He goes to the shelf with the denture-pokers and scrapers and prodders and pencils, and pulls off a paperclip bent into a big U. “It's a sort of fancy cocktail fork. This is how we sterilize it.” I grin and watch him pull out the gas burner. A flame about two inches tall shoots up, and he heats the ends until they're good and black. He flips off the burner and pokes the paperclip down into the cold pickle juice--“So you don't brand your tongue”--and handed jar and clip to me.

I stabbed an edulis bolitis, curvy white top on a stem almost as broad and round, dripping, dill leaves still clinging to it. It was good. It was enough to make me turn hobbit.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Nothing new under the sun

In the most recent edition of Scientific American, the article “Darwin on the Right: Why Christians and Conservatives Should Accept Evolution” (Michael Shermer, October 2006) explained that:

The watchmaker God of intelligent-design creationism is delimited to being a garage tinkerer piecing together life out of available parts. This God is just a genetic engineer slightly more advanced than we are. An omniscient and omnipotent God must be above such human-like constraints. As Protestant theologian Langdon Gilkey wrote, “The Christian idea, far from merely representing a primitive anthropomorphic projection of human art upon the cosmos, systematically repudiates all direct analogy from human art.” Calling God a watchmaker is belittling.

Remarkably enough, I was reading Athanasius this evening and came across this.

Others take the view expressed by Plato, that giant among the Greeks. He said that God had made all things out of pre-existent and uncreated matter, just as the carpenter makes things only out of wood that already exists. But those who hold this view do not realize that to deny that God is Himself the Cause of matter is to impute limitation to Him, just as it is undoubtedly a limitation on the part of the carpenter that he can make nothing unless he has the wood. How could God be called Maker and Artificer if His ability to make depended on some other cause, namely on matter itself? If He only worked up existing matter and did not Himself bring matter into being, He would be not the Creator but only a craftsman (On the Incarnation, 1).

The question, of course, is whether intelligent-design creationists do think God is a tinkerer or carpenter. May it never be! There is an alternative to a god of the available parts, besides evolution, which Shermer did not discuss. Let me make mention of the doctrine of creation ex nihilo, which Athanasius used against Epicureans, Platonists, and Gnostics, and which young-earth creationists use against theistic evolutionists:

...But the impiety of their foolish talk is plainly declared by the divine teaching of the Christian faith. From it we know that, because there is Mind behind the universe, it did not originate itself; because God is infinite, not finite, it was not made from pre-existent matter, but out of nothing and out of non-existence absolute and utter God brought it into being through the Word. He says as much in Genesis: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (On the Incarnation, 1).

Nor has Shermer's so-called “Protestant theologian” read enough Tolkien. I know nothing of Langdon Gilkey, but I think he has not the mythopoetic mind. There is a direct analogy between God the maker and we the sub-makers; not that we have created a god after the Modernist image, a soulless watchmaker,* but our Maker has made us like Himself and so that we might become more like Him.

Though now long estranged,
man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
Disgraced he may be, yet is not dethroned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned,
his world-dominion by creative act:
not his to worship the great Artefact,
man, sub-creator, the refracted light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind (“Mythopoeia” 55-64).

It is [Athanasius'] glory that he did not move with the times; it is his reward that he now remains when those times, as all times do, have moved away (Lewis, Introduction to On the Incarnation).

Blessed are the timid hearts that evil hate,
that quail in its shadow, and yet shut the gate (“Mythopoeia” 81-82).

*Shermer goes too far in his contempt of watchmakers. I bet he has not read Longitude, nor ever lacked a timepiece.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Quote of the Day

Overheard in my waiting room:

Mrs. C: "How long have you been married?"
Mrs. G: "58 yrs."
Mr. G: "Well, 58 here in a couple months."
Mrs. G: "How long have you been married?"
Mrs. C: "60, just a couple weeks ago."
Mr. G: "Well, you started before we did."
Mrs. G: "My little sister has been married 61 years…"

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Quote of the day

"I'm not here for you, I'm here for your magazines."

This morning, decently early, a woman wandered into our office and started surveying the side-tables. I asked her, "Would you sign in, please?" and she responded with that flabbergaster. She had an appointment next door, and their waiting room was full and anyway she liked our reading material better.

So I laughed and told her she was welcome. She made herself at home, smear of chamisa pollen across her chin, bike helmet and gloves, lime-green sweatshirt, tennis shoes, and all. She asked if this was a dental office and then settled in with a copy of "This Old House."

Pretty soon she asked to borrow a phone book, and then a sticky note to write a number on. I supplied both--highly entertained--and then she almost forgot to give back the sticky note pad. I reminded her, and she laughed and said, oh, she didn't need sticky-notes; it was duct tape she'd been out of that morning.

Then she collected her things and sat outside on the wall, well within hearing range through the screen door, and over her cell phone discussed buying stocks. She kept recommending things she'd read about in magazines.

Eventually she betook herself to her appointment. She was a character.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Just be a hero already

I'm re-watching the Lord of the Rings movies. Tolkien himself is so good, I'd forgotten how irritating the movies' king-angst is. Aragorn just isn't sure he can take the kingship; he's not sure he can get out of Isildur's karma; he loves Arwen but he kind of thinks she should go to Valinor; he's not sure about anything until finally Elrond, who doesn't like him much anyway, tracks him down in the middle of the wilderness to give him the re-forged sword. Theoden has king-angst once he discovers his son died, and then again at the battle of Helm's Deep. Even Faramir has a version of angst, though his is the unloved-younger-prince angst. They gave Peter Pevensie king-angst in Narnia, too.

Meanwhile, my sermon this morning was on covetousness, idolatry, contentment, and complaining. The general connection is that if your first love is God, you won't covet things, and you'll be content and not complain. If you're not content, it probably means God is not first. Conviction!!

Whiny kings are just...despicable, actually. So are whiny saints. I think we're supposed to sympathize with them as "human." Who wants to be that kind of human? We've been mocking the Israelites in the wilderness a long time. Give me a good thane, an Athanasius who "stood firm when the fashion shifted all around him, and as his reward he remains when the fashion has shifted away" (Lewis).

I'll try not to be a whiny saint, either. Forth Eorlingas, and let us make an end as will be worth a song.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Wired magazine wrote an article about the wiki-phenomenon: online publications anyone can access, write, and edit.

I'm ambivalent. Wikis strike me as ultra-democratic, with all the freedom, abuse, and Tocquevillian logistical problems that go with that. Bakhtin and the anti-authorship crowd would approve. On the other hand, Wikipedia at least does seem to work, and I'm always consulting it about something or other.


Rowling and Macbeth

I daresay a number of you have found this already, and as I recall we talked about it, but I thought it was still interesting. :-)

"If neither boy [Harry or Neville] was pre-ordained before Voldemort’s attack to become his possible vanquisher, then the prophecy (like the one the witches make to Macbeth, if anyone has read the play of the same name) becomes the catalyst for a situation that would never have occurred if it had not been made. Harry is propelled into a terrifying position he might never have sought, while Neville remains the tantalizing ‘might-have-been.’"

--J.K. Rowling, FAQs,

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Quick update

Quick updates from my quadrant of the universe:

--I went to my grandparents' house for the weekend. We had a good time, I think; we watched a lot of episodes of Remington Steele and Hogan's Heroes, and it rained all day Sunday, and we kept going to Clovis.

--The Bible bookstore in Clovis has many good features, including a good CD collection and a coffee shop, but its book section made me grumpy. The fiction made me grumpy because it was mostly romances and fantasy serieses involving dragons (I love dragons, but there were far too many of them. Whatever happened to "solitary creatures"? These dragons were practically a hive mind). The "theology" shelf made me grumpy because it was very short and the only book on it I wanted to read cost too much.

--I shot my dentist today good and proper, right in the heart with a rubber band. It wasn't as cool a shot as he made at me last week, though. He was sitting at his desk in his office, and got me clear over at the front desk. I think I was on the phone.

--It did not rain today over my lunch break. It's far enough into the season, too, that the shadows fall differently than they did in June, and now I get a sunbeam at the picnic table. So day I over lunch I sunbeamed, read T.S. Eliot, and wrote doggerel. O that I were a poet....

--I climbed a cottonwood yesterday and today my back muscles complained with a most satisfying soreness. I feel like I accomplished something.

--Bible study dinner was pretty entertaining. We told zipline stories, lake stories, boat stories, cousin stories, uncle stories, restaurant stories, and physicist stories. For instance, I learned that it took eleven theoretical physicists, an assistant, and a girlfriend to divide the check at a restaurant. The girlfriend, I think, mostly sat back and laughed. In response, I told how many church staff members it takes to change a light bulb. Four: two pastors and two secretaries, at least when the bulb is high up in a fixture in a very dark ladies' bathroom. :-)