Tuesday, November 27, 2007

four dead presidents, and counting . . .

It occurred to me this morning, as I went to pick up a roll of the new James Madison dollars, that I've never shared here about my obsession with dollar coins. I can't even remember now exactly how or when it started. I think it had something to do with thinking they'd be easier to use on buses than paper dollars, which got me looking for more information and finally becoming a die-hard supporter of the things (even though I rarely use cash on the bus anymore).

A couple of months ago, I was checking out in David's (a local whole-foods type market)--I think just a box of falafel mix, so I paid cash--and the rather young cashier, after examining the coins carefully, asked, "Are you sure you want to use these?" After some contemplation, I politely answered, "Yes," foregoing the more elaborate response I was thinking: Yes, I'm sure I want to use coins that will likely be here when you and I are dead and gone, when the government that issued them is nothing more than a historical memory, rather than paper dollars that will be out of circulation in a month or two. In a store that dutifully asks whether I want a bag or not, do I really need to explain my preference for currency that will never have to be thrown away, and only replaced at the rate the coins are lost or collected? Her question was a good one--only the referent was misplaced. Ask it instead of every person who comes in using $1-bills.

The real travesty is that we even have paper dollars left in circulation. They have only two things going for them--habit, and the fact that they don't make noise in your pocket. Dollar coins, on the other hand, are much easier to use in machines and infinitely more durable. I don't know or care how the cost of initial production compares--once you factor in the rate of deterioration, it's a no-brainer which is more economical and environmentally friendly in the long term.

When I first started using dollar coins, probably a couple of years ago, the biggest problem was finding them. Initially I was able to get them from the bank in the building where I worked, but that supply dried up quickly. They didn't actually maintain a stock of dollar coins--they just collected in rolls whatever they were unfortunate enough to receive, which apparently happened at a rate slower than I was using them. I tried a couple of other banks that I could walk to on my lunch break and the bank we belonged to near home--same story. Someone I knew could get them from her bank; I tried one of their branches, and apparently it was only certain locations that had them. Eventually, I got so frustrated that I wrote my senator, who happened to be the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee, which had sponsored the bill to issue Sacagawea dollars. I asked how it made any sense to have dollar coins in circulation if they could not be readily obtained by those who wanted to use them, and what I could do as a citizen-advocate to promote their use.

To my surprise, it didn't take very long to get a meaningful response. A cover letter came back from the senator's office, with an attached response from the deputy director of the U. S. Mint. He acknowledged the problem and even cited a recent GAO study that had investigated the issue. He also pointed out that a new bill had been passed, to start a program that would hopefully improve the availability and circulation of dollar coins. Starting the following year (2007), new dollar coins would be issued with pictures of deceased U. S. Presidents, in chronological order, at a rate of four per year until the list is complete. Based on the success of the state quarters program, the hope was that this would increase activity.

I have no idea whether the program is increasing actual usage of the coins in any way. Personally, I have never received a dollar coin as change (though I must admit, the opportunity is limited, since I try to make sure I never get back $1-bills as change), and I don't think Julie has either. It has certainly improved availability at banks, which is something anyway. At least now I have no problem keeping a supply onhand, and like a modern-day Johnny Dollarseed, I do what I can to spend them into circulation. I suspect that for the most part they are either socked away by collectors or quickly taken back to banks, to get them out of circulation. But I'm doing my part, including turning in paper dollars to the bank whenever possible.

As far as I'm concerned, there are only two negatives associated with using dollar coins. It seems like most vending machines are now set up to receive them as payment, but in my limited experience change and token machines are not. So if you need quarters or arcade tokens, a dollar coin may not be of much use. The bigger problem is the noise they make in your pockets. This is especially an issue for me, since I try to carry a supply, so I never have to receive $1-bills as change. I suppose I should revel in the sound they make, but I really don't like making noise when I walk. I would like to have a belt dispenser, but so far I haven't found any designed to fit them. I thought about getting one of those plastic squeeze change purses, but settled on wrapping them in a piece of rag. It does the trick, with the added benefit of winning sympathy points whenever I have to pull it out and unwrap them to pay somebody.

I read that GAO report, by the way. The overriding message was that no successful implementation of such a program has ever established dual usage. They always phased out the paper dollars altogether. If you give people a choice, they'll tend to stick with what's familiar, regardless of the relative advantages. Our government is not yet prepared to take that kind of decisive step, probably because it's so reluctant to get rid of anything. We add, but we do not take away. And surely someone's budget would be slated for cutbacks if we actually scrapped the $1-bill. My favorite example that highlights this mentality, also from the GAO report, is what became of the advertising campaign to improve circulation of Sacagawea dollars. Someone came up with a great idea for a commercial, showing someone trying unsuccessfully to feed a tattered paper dollar into a vending machine, while someone else made a quick and easy purchase by depositing a dollar coin. It was never used, however, because the Mint and Engraving & Printing are both part of the same government agency, and it was deemed inappropriate to advertise one by reflecting negatively on the other.

So, I assume that when this program is completed, things will go right back to the way they were. (Maybe I should start hoarding now.) But for the next few years, anyway, I'll enjoy the easier access. None of this has much to do with anything, though of course I can always find a relevant Simpsons quote. When Homer is trying to help out Comic Book Guy after his heart attack, he takes him to Moe's:
Homer: Now, when you've got a bum ticker like we do, you need all the friends you can get. And Moe's is the friendliest place in the rum district.
[opens the door. Inside, Moe aims his shotgun at a bar patron.]
Moe: Get out, and take your Sacagawea dollars with you. I'll give you 'til three.
[cocks gun. The man leaves.] One! [fires]

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

happy anniversary to me

It's kind of hard to believe that it's been a year already since I officially became a catechumen. If you weren't reading my blog back then, you can catch the highlights in a couple of posts--one reflecting some of what went through my head beforehand, and one following up the day after. There was a rather frantic flurry of e-mailed dialog, mostly between me and my then-pastor, that preceded the service, up to literally hours before, as well as one emergency visit from a couple of elders. In the midst of all that, I attended the Society of Biblical Literature conference in Washington over the weekend, which may have been good in that it kept me from saying or writing more than I did. But it was a very fast-paced few days, and I was relieved to get through it.

After so much build-up, it was almost anti-climactic what actually happened in the service. I just responded when they called the catechumens forward, was prayed for like everyone else, and went back to my spot. Looking back on it a year later, it seems even less of a milestone, because I do the same thing in every liturgy I attend. In that sense, becoming a catechumen was almost a non-event. There is no inaugural ritual--only the difference between not being one and being one. It has to happen sometime, but that's really all there is to it. Not to downplay the significance of the moment--because of the build-up, because Fr. Gregory came to our house to talk with Julie ahead of time, because we worked for a while on setting a specific date, because Julie was there in the service and brought a friend for moral support, because suddenly at the last minute there was vocal protest from the Evangelical church leadership, because I really did go through a lot of soul-searching before the leap, it was still a monumental occasion.

Quite a bit has happened since then, but the pace has seemed more relaxed. I think Julie and I have reached a somewhat better place in our relationship and on this whole issue (even though we still have a long way to go, and no idea where it's going to end). I've rejoiced to see my fellow catechumens complete their journeys into the Church. Today, my name is the only one on the list that remains from a year ago. Names have disappeared, and others have come in to replace them. I'm not giving up the first slot just yet, though :-) The timing is not mine to decide. Fr. Gregory says it's a kind of dance in my situation. I suppose in a sense, it is for everyone--just some steps are more complex than others. I've never been much of a dancer, but fortunately I don't have to lead in this case. My fate is in better hands than my own.

For now, I'm still glad just to be here on the doorstep. My own Entrance will come soon enough.

Monday, November 19, 2007

in praise of "boring old mothers"

Lately I've been reading a lot of Wendell Berry (more follow-up reading from Crunchy Cons). A prolific essayist and outspokenly agrarian farmer from Kentucky, Berry has been for several decades the voice of rural American heritage against the industrializing trend of society. There's far too much of his work that bears repeating--more than I could possibly offer on my little blog. In this respect, all I can say is, read his stuff. But one passage I read last night really stood out for me personally. If that wasn't enough reason to post, I realized this morning that it may encourage my "boring old [God]mother," and others whose kids don't always appreciate what they do (or don't do). In the 1980 essay "Family Work," Berry writes:
How can we preserve family life--if by that we mean, as I think we must, home life--when our attention is so forcibly drawn away from home? . . .

We can see clearly enough at least a couple of solutions. We can get rid of the television set. As soon as we see that the TV cord is a vacuum line, pumping life and meaning out of the household, we can unplug it. What a grand and neglected privilege it is to be shed of the glibness, the gleeful idiocy, the idiotic gravity, the unctuous or lubricious greed of those public faces and voices!

And we can try to make our homes centers of attention and interest. Getting rid of the TV, we understand, is not just a practical act, but also a symbolical one: we thus turn our backs on the invitation to consume; we shut out the racket of consumption. The ensuing silence is an invitation to our homes, to our own places and lives, to come into being. And we begin to recognize a truth disguised or denied by TV and all that it speaks and stands for: no life and no place is destitute; all have possibilities of productivity and pleasure, rest and work, solitude and conviviality that belong particularly to themselves. These possibilities exist everywhere, in the country or in the city, it makes no difference. All that is necessary is the time and the inner quietness to look for them, the sense to recognize them, and the grace to welcome them. They are now most often lived out in home gardens and kitchens, libraries, and workrooms. But they are beginning to be worked out, too, in little parks, in vacant lots, in neighborhood streets. Where we live is also a place where our interest and our effort can be. But they can't be there by the means and modes of consumption. If we consume nothing but what we buy, we are living in "the economy," in "television land," not at home. It is productivity that rights the balance, and brings us home. Any way at all of joining and using the air and light and weather of your own place--even if it is only a window box, even if it is only an opened window--is a making and a having that you cannot get from TV or government or school.

That local productivity, however small, is a gift. If we are parents we cannot help but see it as a gift to our children--and the best of gifts. How will it be received?

Well, not ideally. Sometimes it will be received gratefully enough. But sometimes indifferently, and sometimes resentfully.

According to my observation, one of the likeliest results of a wholesome diet of home-raised, home-cooked food is a heightened relish for cokes and hot dogs. And if you "deprive" your children of TV at home, they are going to watch it with something like rapture away from home. And obligations, jobs, and chores at home will almost certainly cause your child to wish, sometimes at least, to be somewhere else, watching TV.

Because, of course, parents are not the only ones raising their children. They are being raised also by their schools and by their friends and by the parents of their friends. Some of this outside raising is good, some is not. It is, anyhow, unavoidable.

What this means, I think, is about what it has always meant. Children, no matter how nurtured at home, must be risked to the world. And parenthood is not an exact science, but a vexed privilege and a blessed trial, absolutely necessary and not altogether possible.

If your children spurn your healthful meals in favor of those concocted by some reincarnation of Col. Sanders, Long John Silver, or the Royal Family of Burger; if they flee from books to a friend's house to watch TV, if your old-fashioned notions and ways embarrass them in front of their friends--does that mean you are a failure?

It may. And what parent has not considered that possibility? I know, at least, that I have considered it--and have wailed and gnashed my teeth, found fault, laid blame, preached and ranted. In weaker moments, I have even blamed myself.

But I have thought, too, that the term of human judgment is longer than parenthood, that the upbringing we give our children is not just for their childhood but for all their lives. And it is surely the duty of the older generation to be embarrassingly old-fashioned, for the claims of the "newness" of any younger generation are mostly frivolous. The young are born to the human condition more than to their time, and they face mainly the same trials and obligations as their elders have faced.

The real failure is to give in. If we make our house a household instead of a motel, provide healthy nourishment for mind and body, enforce moral distinctions and restraints, teach essential skills and disciplines and require their use, there is no certainty that we are providing our children a "better life" that they will embrace wholeheartedly during childhood. But we are providing them a choice that they may make intelligently as adults.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

one small exception

I used to collect Simpsons quotes. Well, let me clarify that. I still pick up quotes just from watching. But I used to collect them more seriously. The Simpsons has got a lot of flak over the years for mocking religion. Shortly after I started watching it (belatedly, when I was in seminary), I decided that judgment was unfair. The show mocks pretty much everything, but more than most T.V. fare, it embraces religion as an indispensable feature of ordinary life. Taken in that context, what the Simpsons does with religion actually has some important positive aspects.

So, I started collecting religious quotes. I faithfully watched the two reruns that aired each night and all new episodes. Some had such major religious themes that I taped them for later study. With others, I transcribed the relevant dialog. I had an idea of someday writing a book about the topic (which has already been done, but I still think there's room for a more comprehensive project). Over time, however, I realized that I was devoting far too much time to the show. I cut out watching reruns, and then decided that I needed to put the religion project to rest. I just didn't need that pressure to keep watching faithfully. I still watch new episodes as they come out, but now I typically watch them once, and that's it. I did watch the movie this summer (though honestly, I didn't pay much attention to when it was coming out, nor was I terribly optimistic that it would be any good), and I even made the pilgrimage to the nearest Kwik-E-Mart. (To promote the movie, about a dozen 7-11 stores around the country were transformed into Kwik-E-Marts for a month; there happened to be one not terribly far from here.) I sometimes think about stopping altogether, but I think I've mostly got the habit under control :-)

Tonight, I had to make an exception. I can't recall ever having seen a reference to Orthodoxy in the Simpsons. (I deleted all the material I collected, so it's hard to say for sure.) But in the most recent episode, "Husbands and Knives," the opening scene highlights Comic Book Guy's usual foul attitude toward his clientèle. After Milhouse accidentally sheds a tear on a comic book, he says, "Nice work, Dr. Boo-hoo. Your tears have smudged Wolverine's iconic sideburns. Hence, you must buy this comic book. And the cost of your innocent accident is . . . (he checks a pricing guide) . . . $25, please."

In response, Milhouse wails, "But that's the money Yia-yia Sophia gave me for Greek Orthodox Easter."

It's not a terribly funny line--mostly just based on the obscurity of the reference--but how could I resist recording it?

Mongo or Rodan?

I probably won't be able to get away with nicknames like this when she's 14 (or six, for that matter), but right now I'm vacillating between two for Jenna: Mongo and Rodan.

Mongo was a character in Blazing Saddles, with a more recent homage in Shrek II, as the giant ginger bread man cooked up to storm the castle. Ian has pretty much always been small for his age (even for someone else's age); to date, anyway, Jenna is on the large side. At her recent four-month doctor's appointment, she weighed in over 17 lbs. Ian weighed 17 lbs. once--when he was a year old! She looks about to out-grow her car seat, and this evening we mistakenly thought she might be ready for her exer-saucer. (It was an easy mistake, based on her size, but she's still pretty floppy--she hasn't rolled over yet, and she mostly just sat there in the saucer, leaning her face against the side of the seat.)

Rodan was the screechy, pterodactyl-like creature from Godzilla. Lately, Jenna likes to hear herself talk. (How many more times will I say that about my daughter before she leaves home?) The problem is, herself talking falls somewhere between a hawk and a jet-engine. Ian complains that he can't hear the T.V. when she gets going; he's right--you really can't hear much of anything else. She might sound upset, but it's usually with a smile on her face. I've tried teaching her to talk quietly. That hasn't worked with our four-year-old; I'm thinking it won't work much better with a four-month-old.

Speaking of our four-year-old, his Sunday school teacher asked this morning if he'd eaten ice cream for breakfast. I guess he was a little bouncy in class. Nope--just nachos. We may be bad parents, but give us some credit. Now if we could just figure out where the line is between, this kid has a lot of energy and, somebody diagnose the little bugger!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Georgia on My Mind

One of the oldest Orthodox nations on the planet is the little Republic of Georgia. (Nothing secessionist going on here--I'm taking about the former Soviet Republic in Western Asia, sandwiched between Russia, Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. As far as I know, the State of Georgia is still in the Union and not terribly Orthodox either.) Last spring, when I visited St. Tikhon's, we got to talking about religious revival in Eastern Europe since the fall of Communism; one of the seminary students mentioned that Georgia has some of the most impressive levels of actual participation (vs. those who now say they believe but almost never go to church or anything), which piqued my curiosity. I haven't found much online about Georgian Orthodoxy--it has only a very small presence here in the U. S., and there doesn't seem to be much available in English about the Church in Georgia. (Any suggestions?) I did happen across a film with some minor Georgian Orthodox characters not long after that, which I mentioned here. More significantly, the English edition of Pravoslavie has been posting lives of Georgian saints from a recent book published by St. Herman's. Today I read about the 100,000 martyrs of Tbilisi, who are commemorated Oct 31, which might make them a good candidate for some kind of Halloween-alternative celebration, except that the liturgical day runs evening to evening. (Not to mention the difference between calendars.)

I've also been following the political situation in Georgia, which had its own "color revolution" a few years back, resulting in better relations with the West but greater tensions with its neighbor Russia. Now our "friendly" Georgian government seems to be cracking down on opposition protesters with an uncomfortable level of strictness. After an outbreak of police brutality, the street demonstrations were called off; a state of emergency was declared, which looks soon to be lifted. There will be an early election to sort things out--hopefully. For me, the interesting part of the story was the desire of opposition leaders that any talks with the government be mediated by the Orthodox Patriarch. That story made it into the mainstream media as well--seen here, in the NYT. (Sorry--you may have to sign up for a free login to view the article.)

And speaking of shifting Eastern elections, how about this possibility for Putin to serve a third term? Maybe the next best thing to crowning a new tsar . . . :-)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

7.5794559776 random things about me

1) That subject line has to be good for at least half credit :-)

To my dear wife, BOO, HISS! Of course she knows about me that, as much as I deserve the nickname Android (by which I was affectionately known to my Washington Bible College colleagues), I cannot bring myself to abstain from this detestable task when she, of all people, tagged only me (of all people). With that,

2) I also despise picking life verses, but if I had to pick one honestly, it would probably be Matt 21:28-31a:
But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first.
And so, like the first son, I will often begin by saying no, by giving every reason why I shouldn't, by giving every impression that I won't, and finish by doing the very thing that was asked.

3) My most recent meal was rosemary chicken and white bean soup, with bread machine sourdough--this morning--at 4:30 a.m. (No, I didn't get up at 2:00 and make it fresh--the soup, on sale and with a coupon, was $2.00 from Safeway on Saturday; the bread I made later that day.)

4) What I'm currently reading. I have bookmarks stuck in:
  • America First! Its History, Culture, and Politics / Bill Kauffman
  • The Portable Edmund Burke / Isaac Kramnick
  • The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot / Russell Kirk
  • Exposition of the Holy Gospel According to Saint Luke / Saint Ambrose of Milan
  • The Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to John / Blessed Theophylact
  • From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire / Pierre Briant
I will probably finish them in that order--the first three are library books, which I tend to read in order by size. (I'm also expecting Who Owns America? to arrive today, which will probably come on the list somewhere near the top.) I'm reading Ambrose along with the daily Gospel selections in the lectionary. I'm about halfway through Theophylact and will get to the rest as soon as I have a lull in library materials. Briant is about 10,000 pages (give or take) of .25-pt type, with margins so small that the words actually keep falling out of the book. I will finish it when the coming nuclear holocaust wipes out all the other books on earth (and several of the outer pages on this one, but probably leaving intact at least 90% of the volume).

5) I got my dad's facial hair patterning--for years, I couldn't get my beard to come up very high, and it took too long to grow a mustache that would connect with it, for the few months of each year when I was allowed to grow a beard (yes, I went to a college that forbade beards and long sideburns). At one point I gave up and grew a beard without a mustache, but I had people I didn't even know calling me Amish, so I gave that up. My ape-like body hair, however, comes from my maternal grandfather. This is supposed to be random things about me--there's probably nothing more random than the line where a haircut ends, somewhere on my neck, chosen arbitrarily to save the trouble of shaving my entire back. It's both a blessing and a curse to have my own fur coat wherever I go--I'm perpetually overheated; the other day my boss came into my office with a sweater on and said she'd have to bring a coat for her next visit.

6) I was banned for several years from cleaning the bathroom. I did nothing intentionally to avoid the job, though I can't say it was a particularly negative side-effect. Apparently I'm more efficient than germophobic--what looked to me like a convenient source for floor cleaner looked to Julie like a toilet. I tell you, sometimes she just has no imagination.

7) It's election day, or so the calendar says. I have no idea what offices are open or who's running. I haven't seen a single campaign commercial, poster, or button. I'm not voting, and you probably aren't either. The fact is, it would be irresponsible for me to vote, because I'm completely uninformed about this year's election. (I have to specify this year's, because for months now, it's been impossible to look at any news source without something in your face about next year's election. Sadly, the offices that are up this year are probably of more local significance and should therefore concern me more than next year's choice between Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

8) It's nothing short of a miracle that I've made it through this post without quoting the Simpsons. (Though there were a few places where I really wanted to.)

I'm not tagging anyone else, because I wouldn't subject my enemies to this form of torture, much less my friends. Let it lie here where it fell, in all its pseudo-randomness.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

discussing theology with a four-year-old

Disclaimer: This is probably one of those cases where it would have been better just to provide a straight transcript of the talk. Alas, I didn't have a recording device rolling, and my memory just isn't that good.

Lately Ian's been thinking a lot about monsters. I have to make a confession here: I might have played some small part in this by leading him on in thinking that monsters inhabit the woods behind our house. I didn't plant the idea--just watered it, I suppose, by not quickly denying it, and by playing dumb when he felt me touch the hair on the back of his head. What can I say? I'm by no means anxious to stamp out any sense he might have that this world is a mysterious place, even if that mystery has its spooky elements. (What fairy tale doesn't have its evil forces as well as good?) Besides, I figure he's probably going to believe in stuff like this whether I go along with it or not. What's more likely to help a four-year-old who's got it in his head that there might be monsters in his room? Explaining them away, or teaching him about the God who is sovereign over anything this world can cook up? (And wouldn't I feel bad if there really were monsters, and I'd just told him to get over it?)

So, in the past couple of days we've been having this struggle over the position of the light switch. He keeps wanting to leave the hall light on--not when he's in his room (he seems to have no real issues with thinking something might be in there while he's sleeping)--but when we're all in the living room, and he just sees that dark open doorway down at the end of the hall. I've tried the logical approach--have you seen a monster in the house? have you heard a monster in the house? (even tried smell, taste, and touch, just to make sure) so what makes you think there would be a monster in your room? See, I'm fine with him thinking there might be monsters, until it starts costing me money on utilities. The answers were all "no," but he still wouldn't be swayed--there might be monsters, just because.

Today, I tried another angle. I told him prayer would be a good way to deal with monsters. I explained that God could protect him. Ian said that God's not here--he's really far away. (OK, he's got the transcendence part--now we just need the immanence.) I tried to explain that God is everywhere, but we just can't see him. He reminded me of what I'd told him before--that even though we can't see God in person, we can see pictures of him, when he was a baby and then when he was bigger. (He does remember some of what I say.) We talked for a while about Jesus, how he was born as a baby and grew up like any other kid, and eventually became an adult. I explained that once he became an adult some people who didn't like him killed him. Ian wanted specific details about that part--how exactly did they do it? I then explained that he came back to life. Why? Hmm--good question. Because he's God, and you can't really kill God. (Not very good, I know, but I'm trying to tailor this for a four-year-old, remember.) So then he went back to heaven, but he said that he'd still be with us, that he would live in our hearts if we believed in him.

At this point, I think it was getting to be a bit much for him. I tried a fairly lame comparison. You can talk to someone on the phone, even though they're not in the room and you can't see them. Something like that, God can hear our prayers, when we talk to him, even though we can't see him. Then there was something about God coming on a plane, and I said God doesn't ride on planes, and he said it's the other god that rides on planes (remember?), and I said I wasn't familiar with that god. Then I backtracked and said there's only one God. I explained that God has angels (it's a lot easier to explain that God can send angels wherever we're in need of help, than to explain how he's everywhere all the time)--you know what angels are? Yeah, they have wings, and they're shiny. Right--so God sends them to help us and protect us from bad things, including monsters. Yeah, they can kill it with a sword. I have a sword too (a rather sturdy cardboard tube--probably from a roll of wrapping paper or something)--I can kill the monsters with it. Yeah, but you're small--the monsters wouldn't be afraid of you like they would of an angel. Maybe a small monster.

Anyway, in the end, he seemed to like the idea of adding a prayer at bedtime for good dreams and that no monsters would get him. I found one in my prayer book that seemed about right, and we used it tonight. It's not as cool as the prayer Fr. Stephen's son came up with when he was four, but it should suffice.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

a Homer moment

Headline: Kurds in Turkey Who Backed Erdogan Now Fear Civil War

mmmmm . . . curds in turkey . . .

Here's hoping we all survive until Thanksgiving! (Not least, the Kurds in Turkey.)

why I ride the bus

. . . aside from the fact that I'm the world's biggest cheapskate, and my commute is practically free . . .

A snapshot of my morning, before 6:30:

4:10--e-mail & feeds
4:20--breakfast & bills
4:35--teeth & clothes
4:45--walk through the woods to the bus stop, singing, praying, enjoying the great weather we've had this week
4:55--on the bus, listening to Trans-Siberian Orchestra* for the first time since last winter, reading on my laptop:
By the time I finish Bp. ARTEMIJE's speech, the bus has reached Scaggsville, where it really starts to fill up. I put the laptop away and slide over by the window to make room. I drift in and out of sleep until we reach Silver Spring, never really losing the plot in Lost Christmas Eve.*
5:55--back outside, across the street to the Metro station
6:00--on the bus, still listening to Trans-Siberian Orchestra* (it's a long album, and I repeat a couple of my favorites), standing as usual, just enjoying the music and the sway of the bus; it's full but not terribly crowded this morning
6:20--Medical Center Metro; one more time outside, nice quiet walk across campus; now listening to my Arabic Christmas album from Lebanon*
6:25--in my office; greet the icons and a quick prayer for the tasks ahead

What did you do before 6:30 this morning?

*--Yes, I'm listening to Christmas music! I know it's early, but I really want to learn some Orthodox Christmas songs this year, and I don't learn new songs quickly. Plus, if I can get a jump on things, it hopefully won't be a distraction during the Nativity Fast. I haven't quite decided whether I'll abstain from music in any fashion during the fast or not; if I do, that's even more reason to start now. (I probably won't, at least not altogether--if there's one thing we Orthodox do badly, it's compartmentalize present sorrow from future joy. We can't even get through Good Friday without singing about the Resurrection!) So, as of this morning, my mp3 player is loaded up with Christmas tunes, which still leaves some room for podcasts.