Friday, 21 September, 2012 Quick Takes

This week I set out to write one quick take per day until Friday. It didn’t quite work out that way. Fascinating results below:

1. Saturday night: (Premature?) aging is proceeding apace over here. It is 11:30 pm and I am trying to get to bed while outside the air outside (windows open because the weather is perfect) rings with the yelling from droves of CUA students processing to and from off-campus parties. If I had a hose, I’d be tempted to turn it on them.

2. Tuesday lunch: Elizabeth Foss is blogging about her Napa Valley trip. After last week’s Quick Takes, her pictures are killing me.

3. Wednesday night:  I think I may be out of touch with the culture of contemporary 3-year-olds (?)

Babysitting tonight, I was compelled to trap the younger (18 mos old and trouble, trouble, trouble) of the two brothers I was watching between my knees so I could use two remotes at once to manipulate the incredibly large and complicated TV system into playing a video. To mollify the trapped party I started singing “London Bridge Is Falling Down,” substituting his name for “lady” in the chorus (guaranteed to work for a whole 20 seconds.) Immediately, I had the (apparently) wonder-struck 3-year-old in my lap. “What is that song?!” “Sing it again!” “I want to hear it again.”

I think even when I was 3, “London Bridge” was old news…

4. I do not remember the words to “London Bridge” past “Take the key and lock him up.”

5. Thursday morning: In the garden I am growing a (one singular) pepper. I do not know what type it is, so I am uncertain whether/when to pick it.

It looks like a banana pepper. If it is, what do I do with it? All the banana peppers I’ve ever eaten have been pickled…

6. Thursday evening: So, I started out to slowly change my garden page to reflect my garden (not that the inspiration pictures of the Arboretum weren’t lovely.) I ended up making a little garden section. It’s probably not fascinating to anyone but me and is still under construction, but take a gander if you will and leave constructive criticism.

7. Japanese food was made to fight colds (I have the start of one.) Miso + wasabi. Medicine.

More coherent Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.


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Friday, 14 September, 2012 Go West Quick Takes

Better Coast Quick Takes

1. Recently I seem to have caught a raging case of “West is best,” a weird form of homesickness, if that’s what it is. I am pretty darn acclimated to the East Coast and my life is here now. I don’t feel driven to buy plane tickets and head back, but I would like to point out all the superior things about California and specifically the Bay Area that I currently miss:

Picking blackberries

2. The wild amaryllis (or “naked ladies”) that bloom every year around the time when school begins again:

3. Real hills. Everywhere.

Crockett, CA photo taken yesterday. (See, the sky is often clear in CA.)

Above the color late summer; below the color of late spring.

Walnut Creek/Lafayette, CA taken from Mt. Diablo.

Suddenly when I look at the CA pictures that pop up in my facebook feed, I am really struck by the hills for the first time in my life. When I lived in the Bay Area, the hills were beautiful, but unremarkable.

4. Redwoods

5. And manzanita

6. Fog that pools like the sea between the hills



7. Superior drivers’ education. No, really. After having my life repeatedly threatened this week, both behind the wheel and on my bike, here are 4 items taken from the CA drivers’ handbook (DC doesn’t put out a drivers’ handbook, so that explains a lot) that based on my observations, DC drivers are unclear on:

-Obey all traffic signals

-Yield to traffic and pedestrians already in the intersection or just entering the intersection. Also, yield to the vehicle or bicycle that arrives first, or to the vehicle or bicycle on your right if it reaches the intersection at the same time as you.

-Pass traffic on the left. You may pass on the right only when:
• An open highway is clearly marked for two or more lanes of travel in your direction.
• The driver ahead of you is turning left and you do not drive off the roadway to pass.

-Treat a bicycle lane the same as other traffic lanes.
• Do not turn into the lane if there is a bicyclist in the bike lane.

Right                                  Wrong
Vehicle properly passing a bicyclist.                  Vehicle improperly passing a bicyclist.

Just saying.

Read more Quick Takes at Camp Patton this week!

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Tuesday, 11 September, 2012 Nine Eleven

I was reading Abigail’s reminiscences on this anniversary this morning and thought I would share my own.

9/11 was also a significant day for me for reasons other than the attack. I was less than a year out of undergrad and it was my very first day of teaching.

While in college I had no intention or desire to be a teacher. Education was the “family business” and I had refused to even consider it, but a job teaching Latin for a local (Evangelical, so that was a little strange) homeschooling co-op more or less fell in my lap. And while I wasn’t thrilled about teaching, I did like Latin and felt I couldn’t refuse a job that had been practically handed to me.

I didn’t own a car and since I was living at my parents’ house (in the SF Bay Area) I had to cross a bridge (automatically lengthens any trip) to get the town where the co-op was so, I was leaving the house before 6 that morning.

My mother had recently become an avid reader of the Drudge Report, which I strongly disapproved of (at the time, Drudge was full of tin-foil-hat reports of UFO’s and the like), as she already liked a good conspiracy theory a bit too much. I was not surprised to find her huddled at the computer with Drudge open as I headed out, nor did I give her even an ounce of credence when she turned and said to me: “they bombed the World Trade Center and now they’re bombing the Pentagon.”

Full sentences are a challenge for me before 10:00 am, let alone at 6 in the morning. I didn’t know what to make of that statement, and anyway she was reading Drudge again, so I said, “Ok, Mom. I have to go now.” and left.

After 2 and a half hours on public transit, I got to the co-op, where I was greeted by the head teacher with, “Oh, good, you came. We were trying to decide whether to go ahead with school today or not and weren’t sure we could reach you.” (Fewer ever-present cell phones 11 years ago!) Still I had no idea what exactly had happened.

I taught my first classes and headed back across the Bay to my second job waiting tables. (That’s what I miss the least about 2001: having 3 jobs.) Everyone was glued to the television, and I was promptly given my shift off and sent home as it seemed unlikely there’d be much in the way of business that evening.

I never saw much footage of the attacks; my parents didn’t own a television at the time. All I’ve seen is the shot of second plane hitting the towers.

It is so strange to me to hear people out East recall how clear and beautiful that day was.  Although I’ve now acclimated to the mid-Atlantic and my body no longer seems to crave the climate I was born in, that the clear weather that day was so remarkable serves as intellectual reminder that the West really is different. And it brings just a touch of longing.

It was a clear day in California, too, on September 11, 2001. But that was nothing to talk about; no one I knew in CA ever remarked on it. It’s clear like that in the Bay Area all September and October and November and any day in the other 4 warmer months after the fog has burned off.

We were very insulated from the reality of 9/11 in CA, padded and protected by the distance from the destruction and the reality of thousands of deaths in just a few minutes. Instead, Flight 93 and its passengers took their well-deserved place in Bay Area disaster-response mythology, (this is what comes of living with earthquakes, fires and floods) where they still, I am glad to say, reside, larger than life.

And I remember the children of the family I rode to the train station with in the afternoons after the co-op school was finished for the day, counting the flags people put out, the way we counted Christmas lights in the car on the way to church when we were young.

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Friday, 7 September, 2012 Quick Takes


Like our lovely hostess, I am an introvert. This week I spent Sunday through Tuesday entertaining my sister (on Monday one of her friends, as well), I spent Tuesday and Wednesday evening with one of my housemates, last night I made dinner for my housemate and a friend, aaand I have plans to see friends Saturday and Sunday.  I already feel wrung out. Next week you may find me hiding in my room.

2.I fear being recognized as a creepy stalker revealing publicly how many blogs I read and how avidly, but, really, I love the Catholic blogo-sphere. Even though it sometimes serves to deepen and emphasize the various arguments and resentments among Catholics, more often it teems with the life of the Catholic mind, to wit (ha ha): blogging help and “tech-y” stuff, literary analysis, drink-spewing-out-the-nostrils humor, perspective from a linguist and an engineer, pop culture, serious considerations on living out the Catholic faith in many circumstances – none of it cloying or uniform and all of it at a level of writing I wish I could half-way achieve.

This is why I don’t buy print magazines anymore.

3. In the garden:

First (and likely last) fruits

A squirrel (I suspect) stole the larger one before I got around to picking it. Sadness is an untasted tomato.

4. Apparently the place to grow Italian parsley is not in a sunny garden bed.

Parsley in the ground – rock for scale.

It appears to prefer the garage roof.

Parsley on the roof.

5. I really need to order kale seeds for the fall.

6.  There’s a post kicking around in my brain, and maybe if I write out the beginnings now, I’ll put it in full-length form some day.

Speaking of the dark side of the Catho-sphere, I realized in chatting with my housemate yesterday evening (what to wear to a wedding rehearsal dinner) that the word “modesty” now automatically makes me cringe. This is not just because I intemperately read intemperate posts on the subject – I’ve encountered my fair share of the (invariably female) Catholic “modesty police” in person.

However, I don’t want to discuss modesty (here’s a great post if you need one), but rather to explore why the scorched earth wars knife fights discussions amongst Catholics on this particular virtue get so “internet-fighty”  (as the husband of a friend of mine says) so quickly. And whether such discussions in their present form are necessary/good at all. Briefly:

Modesty as a virtue is not restricted to a dress-code or “modesty in dress.”

When discussing matters of dress with fellow Catholics, I think it is unhelpful, unfair, uncharitable, and unrealistic to assume that those fellow-Catholics don’t or haven’t given thought to how they live and feel no need to resist conforming to this world. I don’t think it’s just to assume that your co-religionists blithely consult current culture (especially Cosmo magazine!) for guidance on these matters. It’s possible some do – but I think it is more fair, charitable, helpful and realistic to start by giving people the benefit of the doubt.

It is also problematic to assume that there’s only one correct way of setting oneself aside from the destructive elements of this world.

In my experience, the Catholics I encounter – in person and on the interwebs – even those whose catechesis has been lacking, do have a sense of responsibility to be “in this world but not of it.” Rather than harp on and on about pants, or skirts, or cleavage, or headcoverings, or swimsuits, why not discuss how we (as individuals guided by the Church) manage to be in the world but not of it and how we might encourage our children and those we meet to do the same.

And maybe this does not need a full-length post.

7.  I should incur some sort of blog penalty for writing on modesty and not contributing much that is positive, but at least I’ve avoided ranting about politics!  However, I have many, many bad blogger habits and so I hereby resolve that next week,  I will not only put up Quick Takes, but go and comment on other blogs too.

More Quick Takes at Conversion Diary