Friday, February 29, 2008
But, last evening, just as my husband arrived home from an evening meeting (half-way across our state), he was greeted by our dog. . .who had thrown up her dinner in the entrance way to our house. Then, she proceeded to go out to our sun porch and repeat the process. So, I had two big messes to clean up. Since my husband was tired, I told him to go ahead to get some rest while I cleaned up. After I was done, I tried to help settle the dog down in some comfortable place. Since she likes to sleep on a couch, I tried to get her up on the couch. In picking her up, I obviously hit some tender spot, because she yelped. I felt awful--and I kept wishing that she could vocalize and tell me how I could help her. She was suffering.
Animals clearly experience suffering. One of the essays I have my students read is about animal rights--and, one of the arguments made there is that since animals feel pain, they should not be purposefully subjected to procedures that intentionally cause them pain, e.g. experimentation. It is always interesting to listen to the students discuss this issue, as they struggle to establish some rational balance--some things we do will cause animals pain, but there is a utilitarian end that helps justify the pain.
What about the suffering that the human animal experiences? I recently heard Terry Gross interview Bart Ehrman. Ehrman has just published a new book entitled God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question--Why We Suffer. He has wrestled with this question which is one of the oldest facing any religion. It goes like this: if God is all-powerful and loving, why is there pain and suffering in the world?
I listened to the interview with fascination, because as I thought of some of the classic answers to this question, Ehrman would knock them down. For example, one of the answers is that suffering is the consequence of choices we make, and that it is a necessary component of our having free will. Ehrman says--fine, if you make the choice that causes your suffering, but what if the one suffering is an innocent bystander. One by one, he knocks down these various reasons as to why there is suffering. Well, I will just have to get the book and ponder his reasoning.
Then, almost as a companion to hearing that interview, my daughter proposed that I get and read a book with her--one that she would be discussing in one of her grad school classes: Susan Sontag's Regarding the Pain of Others. In fairness, Sontag is not looking at the problem of suffering. She examines photography and art that depicts pain and then looks at how we respond to such works. She argues variously that some photos make pain real to us, but that they can also inure us to pain.
A final ingredient in my mix of pondering is a movie we saw last year: Zwartboek (or Black Book). Now technically, this movie isn't just about suffering. The plot revolves around the Dutch resistance during World War II and a young Jewish woman who agrees to become the lover of a Nazi military leader. True--many people in the movie do suffer and experience pain. What fascinated me, though, was the question about what people are willing to do to help alleviate the suffering of others--Rachel, the heroine of the story, agrees to become the Nazi leader's lover because for her, the end justifies the means. Her actions are self-sacrificing, but they can also be seen as questionable at times.
It's a bit of a stretch--putting this movie along side the two books which are distinctly on suffering. In some ways, for me the problem of suffering gets wrapped up with the problem of evil. There does seem to be a connection--at least, sometimes evil causes suffering. I suspect Ehrman probably rejects that explanation--I will have to see when I read his work.
Enough of this amorphous thought process--for now, the dog is on the mend; my brain is in a whirl (per usual) and the computer is working, albeit not as a laptop but as a desktop tethered to an external screen. Maybe that's why I am musing about the problem of suffering.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Well, a couple of days ago, after I undocked it, the screen suddenly went black. PANIC. So I re-docked it, and the LCD shone as brightly as ever.
Then, yesterday, I took the laptop to a meeting, opened and turned it on. . .and it slowly faded to black.
Brought it back home, docked it and it was fine. It seemed to be when I closed it, while undocked, and reopened it, was when the problem occurred.
Well, last night, the LCD screen faded to black and stayed. . .that. . .way.
GASP. Air, I need air. Stand back. H-E-L-P!
Well, that woke me up early, and now am using my husband's computer that will soon be going to work with him.
Next steps? Stay tuned.
My husband went shopping, first on the Internet, then to a store that sells office supplies. There he purchased an external monitor, which I set up this afternoon, so I am now back on the Internet. The next step will be to call the manufacturer of my laptop--the replacement for IBM--and see what it would take to fix it, and where it needs to go to be fixed.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
OUR EXCLUSIVE REPORT
--Pearl Harbor Bombed
--Tsunami Hits Indonesia
--Planes Fly into World Trade Center
--Princess Di Killed in Paris Crash
Friday, February 22, 2008
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
So we drove west on Sunday, stayed overnight then returned home on Monday. During the portion of the trip that it was my turn to drive, I was merrily flying along that great original superhighway, the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Since it is such an old road, most places the four lanes are right side-by-side. To keep traffic safe (and separate), the turnpike is lined with jersey walls—those concrete dividers. I hate them because they give you a claustrophobic feeling when you are in the left lane. Add to that the fact that small animals run to the center of the road and then get trapped—well, you get the picture.
So, as I was driving along, I scanned the roadway, and suddenly saw an abandoned teddy bear*. Who deposited it there? Was it inadvertently dropped out the window by a toddler, who didn’t know that was the last she would see of Teddy? Or did a malicious sibling dangle it out the window, taunting a brother or sister, only to lose the grip on Teddy who fell to the road? Who knows?
But it did remind me of a long ago childhood trauma. Like most children, I had a favorite stuffed toy—really a kind of floppy doll. I carried it everywhere. It is even immortalized in this photo where its stuffing was coming out. I am sure my mother (or one of the wonderful missionary women I called “aunties”) stitched it back together.
I have no recall of any name I might have given this doll. But I do know its fate. I lost it. And I even know where I lost it—on one of the trains in Africa. We were going on a family trip—probably for a vacation. We went several times to South Africa, visiting Cape Town or Durban. And the best means of transportation was by rail. The old-fashioned style trains had separate compartments; our family of (then) four would occupy a compartment with seats facing each other. The seats converted into one upper and one lower bed on each side. In the center was a pull down table and also a small sink. Quite efficient—and great fun as a way to travel.
Well, somehow I lost the doll on just such a train trip. I had it when we boarded the train. And when we left the train, the doll was nowhere to be found. Forever lost. Just like the teddy on the turnpike.
I really wasn’t deeply traumatized, but the fact that I can recall this doll, and know how I lost it, suggests some deep imprinting on my child brain.
Anyone else out there who lost a favorite stuffed animal? Hmmmm?? So, tell.
*the photo of the teddy is from a website--I did NOT grab my camera, stop the car in the left lane of the turnpike and take a photo!
Saturday, February 16, 2008
2 large Spanish onions, diced
1 pound linguica, sliced (Portuguese sausage).
You can substitute chorizo or, I used kielbasa since I could not find either linguica or chorizo
1 pound fresh kale
4 cups of chicken broth or stock
1 tsp. black pepper
2 T. thyme, dried
4 large potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 pound canned red kidney beans (or 1/2 pound dried)
12 oz. V-8 vegetable juice
12 oz. canned stewed tomatoes
1) If using dried kidney beans, pre-soak and cook according to package directions.
2) Dice onions 1/4" thick and cut sausage into thin slices. Place both in a large stockpot and cover with water. Let simmer for 20 minutes.
3) Wash kale, remove the spine from leaves, then roll leaves and slice thinly.
3) Add kale, chicken stock, pepper, and thyme. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the beans and potatoes to the pot.
4) Pour in V-8 juice and stewed tomatoes. Cook on low heat until vegetables are tender. Let soup continue to simmer for several hours on low heat. This soup may be refrigerated and keeps well for serving days later.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Despite my husband’s best efforts, I began this day—the occasion of my 63rd birthday—just a tad earlier than I had planned. My teaching schedule—Tuesday and Thursday first thing in the morning class—necessitates I get up early on those days. So, today, my birthday (and a Wednesday) he had hoped I would sleep in. But I was awakened an hour (at least) earlier than I had planned by the phone ringing. He had set out to walk the dog, after waiting a couple of minutes past the time he should have been called, if his work were delayed today. Of course, as soon as he headed out, the call came in—hence, my being awakened.
So, I have a jump on thinking today. For whatever reasons, my family has never made a “big deal” of birthdays. Oh, we acknowledge them—send cards, and gifts—but we don’t do all-out-splash parties. When our children were little, we had a few special birthday parties for them. Some of these parties were actually quite memorable—one for our son where we “booked” our local Y and had a swimming party. Since he was born in January, that was quite a nice touch. Swimming for a mid-winter party. For our daughter, an October baby, we once attended a local performance scheduled for Hallowe’en—the performance featured spooky stories and “ghosts.” Since the performing company used a darkened theater, and trailed gossamer cloth across the audience, the effect was quite “real.” So much so, that one of our daughter’s friends began weeping uncontrollably in terror.
I have had two “special” parties—both arranged by my husband. When I turned 50, he had planned a surprise (and it was) party—with our friends, and family at a local restaurant. One of the special touches was that he had arranged to have table flower baskets, enough for each guest couple (or single) to take along home. He also arranged to have a lute player there—I love this soft gentle music.
Then, when I turned 60, he arranged a somewhat smaller party, but also at a favorite restaurant, and this time not a surprise. No sense in giving the honored birthday person such a fright as to set off a cardiac arrest (it has been known to happen).
I was born just before the end of World War II. That makes me just ahead of the wave of baby boomers, which usually is pegged to begin with January 1, 1946. I guess I think of myself as a boomer—and when I read descriptions of boomer characteristics, I puzzle over whether that describes me or not. To my knowledge, there is no name for the generation immediately before boomers. My parents’ generation has been dubbed “the greatest generation.” Rather puts succeeding generations in their place, that!
Herewith some of the characteristics (source http://www.thestrategicedge.com/Articles/babyboom.htm ):
- more optimistic economically—not having experienced the Great Depression
- better educated—men stayed in college to avoid the Vietnam war and women, seeking equality, sought a college education
- women worked outside the home in greater numbers—while raising young children
- more comfortable with technology, growing up within the age of computers
- individualistic generation, with a focus on self and a tendency to reject authority
- hectic lifestyles—leisure time infringed upon by the various demands of life.
Well, I can identify with most of those characteristics! One quick example: I always felt rather like a pioneer generation as regards working outside the home, but I also had wonderful role models in my own mother and in my mother-in-law.
Of course, one of the main reasons why this generation was named “boomer” was the sheer number of babies born. Spurred by the return of soldiers at the close of World War II, the boomer generation produced 78 million children. A veritable wave of babies. Now, as we reach our 60s, the boomer generation is affecting all sorts of areas in our economy—from the sheer purchasing power of that many retirees, to the impact on social security and Medicare—boomers still set new records.
Photos from my 50th birthday party. . .yet, another use of the new toy!
Sunday, February 10, 2008
So, here are a few early samples.
Jeremy, Johanna & Geoffrey (our son)
Four generations--my father-in-law, his father, my husband, & our son (c. 1975)
Our son & me--two shore "birds"
All the photos here are at least 30 years (or very nearly). Isn't technology wonderful!?!
Friday, February 08, 2008
Each semester, when I get my schedule, I keep my fingers crossed that I will be placed in a SMART™ classroom. A SMART™ classroom is equipped with a computer, projector to display the computer screen, along with DVD and VHS players, as well as overhead projectors. Even though I have gone through the requisite training, and use the SMART™ technology all the time, each semester there seems to be no correlation between my use of the equipment and what classroom I am placed in. You see, not all classrooms have this technology—and, truth be told, not all professors use it. But I do.
When I saw my schedule for this spring, I was most disappointed that the room I was assigned to did NOT have the technology. So, I checked the schedule, and emailed two professors who were placed in SMART™ classrooms. Eventually, one agreed to switch with me for the semester.
So, the semester began with a kind of comedy of errors. We met in the originally assigned classrooms the first day, and informed students to report to the NEW classroom for the second day. First, the secretary forgot to make the needed signs, so I made them up, and stuck them outside each room. Then, the other professor did not think to KEEP announcing that the classrooms had been switched; he announced it the first day, but said nothing the second day.
I had THREE students who managed to miss the first day, so they trudged into the assigned room on the second day, sat through class never saying a word. Only, it wasn’t my class—it was the OTHER class they sat through. I emailed my colleague and asked if, by chance, he had three extra students. Why, yes, he did.
So on the third day, two students appear; the third wanted to stay in the other class, so we worked that out. Then one of the two delayed students missed the next two classes (i.e. he attended ONE class out of five). Finally, he showed up at my office with a DROP slip in hand. The third student, who is a transfer student, has come intermittently, showing up some days, not on others, and generally arriving late. Not a good way to start.
Then the first paper was due. And, for the first time since I have been teaching here, we had an ice storm on that day. I have a very strict no-late-papers policy. I have found students to be incredibly creative. . .when it comes to reasons why their papers are late. So I say—if your paper is late, you lose a letter grade for each class day it is late. But, since there was an ice storm, and normally very responsible students didn’t make it to class, I relented this time.
After I had received and graded the papers, I noticed one student had no grade next to his name. Hmmmmm. Missing paper. So when I saw him in class, I asked—am I correct that you have not turned in a paper? Um, yes, he replied. So, I lifted an eyebrow and said—well? He mumbled something about not being able to get into the assignment. I just said—well, you know it loses a grade for each day late, AND you have to do all the assigned papers. Yeah, I know—he said.
The first assignment is this: take a controversial topic of your choosing; then write two papers—one brief paper explaining the topic to someone who knows nothing about, then a second paper arguing a position about the topic. One student picked the autobahn as his topic. He did not do well on the papers, so when I met individually with him –I asked, what’s the problem that you were writing about? Blank look. I asked if he had ever been on the autobahn—no, he just saw a special on it and thought it looked cool. As I talked with him, I understood that the real issue for him was that he believes there is no need for speed limit on U.S. roads. But he didn’t quite convey that.
One unusual development is that my class is not “full”—technically, I could have up to 26 students. Only 20 signed up, and since I had one transfer to the other class, and one drop out already, I now have 18. While that is a great number to work with, given the typical attrition rate, I expect to end up with even fewer students. Maybe Miss Mac Cheese from last semester has spread the word—don’t take her; she’s tough. She makes you write!
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Several weeks back, I posted about the mystery of missing birds. Then I saw the peregrine (which I have seen many times before zooming through, but never roosting, watching and waiting), and the mystery was solved.
Well, on a recent Saturday morning around 10 a.m. I was sitting at my computer, doing the usual check of emails, websites, blogs I like to read when the phone rang. As it happens, my husband was at a Saturday meeting, and I though it might be him, calling to see if I was awake (ahem, I do sometimes like to sleep in. . .but never until 10 a.m.). Anyway, the phone rang.
So, I answered with my usual “hello.” Nothing fancy, no “This is the ***** residence.” And no unusual pronunciation of Hello, either. I had an aunt from western Pennsylvania who always answered “Yellow” in a kind of up-tilt of voice. And my mother-in-law, who had worked as a telephone operator back in the days when they had such things, always answered as she had been trained—HUDDO.
Anyway, I answered plain Hello. The voice on the other end said, tentatively, “Is this M & * Bank?” No—I said. That number is the same as this one, except it has a different area code. Ahhhh—you might be wondering. Why would I be so forthcoming with such information instantaneously? Well, we’ve gotten such calls before. Many times.
Since I was so helpful, the voice on the other end said—well, the Internet lists it as this number and area code. AHA. Mystery finally solved! But, why would the M & * website give the wrong number for one of its branches? Oh no, said the voice—not the bank; it’s on the Yah** site that way.
AHA, AHA! Now we are getting somewhere. I had all along suspected (after all, it is a mystery) that it couldn’t be the bank that was giving out wrong information. And it didn’t make sense that the Internet sites that are telephone directories would have it wrong. Now, it was solved—a search engine somehow coded in the incorrect information.
So, off I went to the Yah** site, did a search, and BOOM back came our home address and phone number as a location for an M & * bank in our area. And Yah** even offered to “map it” and give directions. Thank goodness, we never had anyone show up at our house. Double thank-goodness since we have had a rash of petty bank robberies lately. I think if a bank robber did show up, I would say—excuse me, sir, we don’t serve any customers here who wear baseball hats, hoods, or stockings over their faces.
So, I wrote a review on the Yah** website at the so-called bank listing, and said—THIS INFORMATION IS INCORRECT. Then I gave the business a one-star rating.
Now the next objective will be to see how long it takes either Yah** or M & * to change their information. (As of when I posted this blog, Yah** still has our phone number and home address listed as the local M & *.)
As I said, mystery solved.
Have you solved any mysteries recently?
Monday, February 04, 2008
EIGHT REASONS FOR MY BEARD, YEA NINE
by David C.
1. I wanted to.
2. My wife's Christmas present to me. She finally gave me permission.
3. This is my Christmas present to my wife.
4. I’m old enough now. Eighty eight years old and if I want to I may!
5. This is my mid-life crisis. I’m a late bloomer.
6. I’m re-inventing myself
(or is that one too politically loaded to use?).
7. For a long time I’ve wondered what I would look like and feel like with a beard. Now I’m finding out.
8. My father and grandfather had beards. My son and grandsons have beards. Why can’t I have a beard?
9. I wanted to.
And if I don’t like it, I’ll shave it off.
I took the photos on a recent visit to my father and step-mother. When I sent the photos by email to my father, I copied my brother and sister. Within minutes, my siblings answered, both expressing astonishment at our father's beard--neither had ever seen him with a beard. So, we have all had a bit of enjoyment out of this late-blooming effect!
1. All right, Mr DeMille, I'm ready for my close up.
2. Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn!
~Gone with the Wind
4. Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.
5. I'll be back.
6. I could dance with you till the cows come home...On second thought, I'd rather dance with the cows when you came home.
7. Get busy livin', or get busy dyin'.
~The Shawshank Redemption
8. Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.
~2001: A Space Odyssey
9. Little girls, I am in the business of putting old heads on young shoulders, and all my pupils are the creme de la creme. Give me a girl at an impressionable age and she is mine for life.
~The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
10. I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.
~The Wizard of Oz
Friday, February 01, 2008
Come to think of it, there are other wonderful single lines from movies. Here are a few--can you name the movie?
- All right, Mr DeMille, I'm ready for my close up.
- Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn!
- Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.
- I'll be back.
- I could dance with you till the cows come home...On second thought, I'd rather dance with the cows when you came home.
- Get busy livin', or get busy dyin'.
- Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.
- Little girls, I am in the business of putting old heads on young shoulders, and all my pupils are the creme de la creme. Give me a girl at an impressionable age and she is mine for life.
- I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.
OK--enough. You and I both know this list could go on almost forever.
When I started reviewing this year's movie binge my husband and I took, I began with Charlie Wilson's War, the first one we saw. Michael Clayton was the last one we saw, and these two movies share a straight-forward story, tautly told. Charlie Wilson's War is a bit more playful. Michael Clayton is deadly serious.
Michael Clayton is a legal thriller. The opening scenes show us a climactic event, where people are literally sweating what appear to be terms of a deal. We meet Michael Clayton (George Clooney) who is a "fixer" for his law firm. He cleans up messes clients of the firm make. He has been sent to retrieve a partner Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkerson) in the firm who has had a spectacular meltdown where he stripped naked in the middle of a deposition.
Suffice it to say, partners aren't supposed to do that. So Michael tries to fix the situation. Just as he appears to wrap up this situation, he is sent on a call to help another client who has had a hit and run accident. Michael drives out to the Westchester county countryside, cleans up the mess, and then leaves. As he is driving away, he stops his car in the early morning, walks up a hill in seeming reverie of the weight of events. Suddenly, his car below him explodes.
The movie then goes into flashback to lead us up to the explosive moment. Why did the partner Arthur meltdown mid-deposition? What case was he working on? Why do we see Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton), a corporate lawyer turned CEO, in full crisis in a women's bathroom? Why does someone try to blow up Michael Clayton's car? As the movie unfolds over a brief two hours, you learn the answers to all these questions.
The movie is wonderfully woven, with a tour de force performance by the three actors nominated for Academy Awards--George Clooney, Tom Wilkerson, and Tilda Swinton. You will stay riveted through the entire movie, puzzling out with Michael Clayton the moral dilemmas of working just to fix things, not working to make things right.