Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A very California Christmas.

During our first or second Christmas in California, we spent an afternoon exploring San Clemente and brought home a dried starfish that has adorned the top of our tree every year after.

Yes, it's California, but we live in the desert. It gets cold at night.

So many presents! Now that we're all older, my sisters and I are able to give each other things that we really like. Angelica got me an exercise shirt and earrings, Rachel yarn and hair clips, and Shannon the bracelet and earrings above. Very thoughtful. My gifts to them were mostly handmade: to Angelica, an old nondescript book hollowed out to make a secret compartment and the hat she's wearing; to Rachel, a scarf and a Point Loma shirt; to Shannon, a hat and scarf set.

Grandma made lamb for dinner, and after some more potica (see previous entry) we drove out to Oceanside.

The jetty was covered in sea life. We scrambled over the rocks, shooting pictures.

And so we ended the day where we began it--with starfish.

Monday, December 24, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . .

The mountains are covered in snow, and there's potica in the kitchen.

After a childhood of significantly white Christmases, I'm satisfied to glance out the window every once in a while and gaze on all the snow I could desire with the comforting knowledge that it's a mere 25 minutes away. Snow-covered mountains are a vast improvement over snow-covered urban Midwest city.

I think Christmas tastes like minced walnuts and rum extract. I don't have many heritage foods I can claim (dumplings? cabbage? Gigi's ausukes?), but potica (pah-TEETZ-a), Slovenian nut bread, defines Christmas with Grandma Barr.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Girl in Hyacinth Blue, by Susan Vreeland.

In February, PLNU is hosting their annual Writers by the Sea conference, and Susan Vreeland will be one of the featured speakers. My English prof mentioned we’ll have to read something by a conference author next semester, so I decided to get it out of the way during break.

In striking similarity to Tracy Chevalier in Girl with a Pearl Earring, Vreeland weaves a story around Jan Vermeer and his art. Vreeland’s painting, though, is imagined, a canvas supposedly lost to history. Her novel begins in the present with its latest owner before traveling backward through time and culminating with Vermeer’s daughter, the sitter for the purported portrait. Each chapter is a self-contained chronicle of the painting’s effects on the people who encounter it.

“I couldn’t keep my eyes from the girl in the painting. What I saw before as vacancy on her face seemed now an irretrievable innocence and deep calm that caused me a pang,” admits a 19th-century possessor after she commits a decidedly un-innocent act. Many characters project their feelings onto the subject, a young girl seated before a window with sewing materials idly surrounding her.

Through the painting, Vreeland explores the power and impact of a masterpiece. One man squanders his relationships in his tortured devotion to the painting. A woman unwillingly sells it at her husband’s insistence, which irreparably mars her opinion of him.

What is the true power of a masterfully executed work? A painting, after all, is just delicately applied pigments. Could a mere image hold such overwhelming irresistibility, that it could drastically transform the lives of real people? True, not all its owners sever relationships over it. For some, the portrait functions as a minor player in their domestic drama, the memory of a lost love, or the means of obtaining a substantial sum of money. But for many, the painting illuminates the hazy, undefined areas of their lives, casting light on unnamed longings or personifying inner conflicts.

Because the viewers often create their own meanings, is the artist’s intent irrelevant? Vreeland does not make any declarations. Often in the novel, the art serves merely as the catalyst for the varied reactions of those who behold it. Most significant, though, is the fact that the portrait changes these individuals. The power of the work of art comes in its mystifying ability to impact the beholder. Vreeland seems to say that in this way, a painting can alter the world.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The works of my hands.

When I get back to school, my hall is holding a belated gift exchange of winter accessories. My secret recipient mentioned she'd like a hat, a scarf, or gloves, so I thought I'd fashion her the two that I know how to make.

I've been crocheting like crazy for the past two weeks. It started at school, when I discovered two skeins of yarn in my closet while searching for adequate Christmas present materials. I derive great pleasure from creating something useful and appealing out of a ball of string. The rhythm of the repetition and the mental exercise of understanding a pattern are addicting. Like cooking or sewing, I've found that crocheting imparts a delightfully affirming sense of domesticity. It's the dawning realization of those of us raised post-feminist movement: when you don't have to do it, it can be a lot of fun.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I've never valued my free time so much in my life.

And that's all I have, of course--free time, that is. No homework hanging over my head, no reading I should be doing, no places I have to be or people I have to see. I'm going to savor it for all it's worth.

We picked up my grandma at the airport on Friday right after I finished my last obligation, a couple of hours at the library. Saturday we dressed up for a Christmas party and took our annual in-front-of-the-tree-with-Sherlock picture.

Sunday I devoted my morning to the Times crossword, my afternoon to walking the dog, and my evening to church. Monday I read a book, crocheted a scarf, and rediscovered my grandma's dumpling soup and apple strudel. Yes, I'm going to savor it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Close to midnight: A paean to James Agee.

As I returned the Harvard Business Journal to its slot on the magazine rack, I glimpsed an irresistible headline on the December issue of Harper's: "Enter the Ford: Lost fiction by James Agee."

James Agee is magical. His hypnotic prose elevates the most pedestrian to levels of highly charged symbolism. He writes of things I harbor distaste for, illiteracy and carnivals and rural accents, and he stirs in me sympathy and wonder. The South of Faulkner and O'Conner scandalized and repulsed me; Agee's mesmerizes me.

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men was as superb as its title would have it; A Death in the Family gorgeously executed. It is to the latter that the omitted chapters in Harper's belong. I stood amidst the magazines and soaked him in. I don't know how he does it, though I suspect the mind-mimicking run-on sentences have something to do with it. I don't know if analyzing and deconstructing his methods would destroy the delight of the whole. But I do know, especially this late at night, that to behold his work, to stand and savor it, inevitably leaves me in awe.

I'm just trying to comprehend that I have really, truly, nothing pressing to attend to at the moment.

This may in fact be the first such moment of this semester thus far. I was surfing the Internet in the dorm this afternoon and my friend, walking by, asked automatically, "What are you doing, homework?" It was then that I realized I will have no homework for three weeks. Three weeks! Imagine that. I spent an hour tonight playing more or less guiltlessly a surprisingly addictive vocabulary game.

True, I have two more finals tomorrow, 8 am to 10 am and 10:30 am to 12:30 pm, but I think I've studied for them sufficiently. I don't forsee any problems there. I breezed through my Psych final on Tuesday, despite the fact that my professor, after having told us on Thursday that the test would comprise just twenty questions from the last chapter of the text, sent us an e-mail Monday night encouraging us to study for the thirty-five additional questions that he had neglected to mention. Hmmm. Good therapist, I'm sure, but lousy prof.

I worked until six like usual Tuesday night, then grabbed dinner before returning to the library for a World Civ study session, my third in a week. We were feeling rather helpless at the end--it was so much information, and there was so much still that could be discussed. How could we know whether we'd be prepared? I went to bed that night with Herodotus, and woke up with him too, for that matter. This policy served me well. By the time I finished my oatmeal, the Persian Empire was actually making sense.

The exam was hard (six essays, two hours . . . go!) and painful (my writer's cramp lasted through lunch and my first shift at the library). But I'm thinking, hoping, I did well. It's a testament to my prof that I could now sit down with questions like "What does the Bhagavad Gita say about peace and harmony?" or "Asoka wanted to create a Buddhist empire; Charlemagne a Christian empire. Describe the goals, programs, and long-term effects of each" and actually have something to say. It was a good course. If I get an A, it'll be a great course, potentially one of my favorites.

My fridge is defrosted. My dirty clothes are piled up. My finals are almost over. I'm ready to go home.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The most wonderful message that could have entered my inbox on this, the eve of finals:

"Your files have been sent to our typesetting department."

My twenty-five hours of copyediting were not in vain. Sitting in the caf poring over the monstrous CMOS during dinner and dealing with the publisher's supercilious assistant to the assistant on the phone weren't a waste, either.

Now I just have to survive the week, and then I'll be home for Christmas. Three days, four finals . . . Ready? Go!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

It's been a good few days. Why this vague feeling of apprehension?

So my Thursday was basically classes from 7:30 until 1:30, work until 5, a break for dinner, a study group from 6:30 until 8:30, and then sitting in my hallmates' room until 10:45 when open dorm ended and I could finally take a shower. Not the best day ever. Friday was more of the same until 4:30, when my entire hall went out for dinner to mark three birthdays and two going-aways. We went to Pizza Nova, where the twenty of us were served surprisingly promptly and attentively. I split a margherita pizza and devoured the garlic balls.

I went to bed at nine and slept almost until eight. Apparently it had been a long week. I went for a run, then came back, showered, and went to brunch. Determined not to do anything significantly productive for once, I surfed the Internet until I couldn't anymore, then bantered with my roommate for a while, and finally succumbed to the World Civ texts that were calling to me from my backpack, where they had been lying since that study group. I started compiling appropriate excerpts that should help my groupmates and me when we get together on Monday. Three thousand years of human endeavor is a lot to be responsible for, especially when you have to write six coherent essays about it in two hours on Thursday.

I joined in on a surprise party this evening for one of those birthday girls. We ate chocolate-covered strawberries and played charades. It was a good time. Later, I made some couscous with black beans and steamed veggies for a light dinner, and now I'll be going to bed. Not knowing whether or not my professor's manuscript has been accepted is killing me. Oh. That's why.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Warm, inside and out.

Last night was the first night this year that the heater worked in my dorm room. I can't express the intense pleasure I had when, upon waking, I stuck my arm out from under the covers and, instead of the usual icy impersonal draft, I felt the dry toasted air of the heating vent. I luxuriated in the cabiny warmth for a full fifteen extra minutes.

I carried the warm feelings with me as I walked to Spanish class. Before we began class, my prof asked me to step outside. Any trepidation I might have harbored was immediately dispelled: she told me that, because I had received As on all the tests and hadn't missed a day of class, I could completely skip the final. Yes!

In World Civ, we got back our test scores from the first part of the final that we took last Friday. Mine was 18.5 out of 20, which was as good or better than everyone I had studied with, all fairly good students in their own right.

And tonight is the last time I will have to work until midnight and then get up for a 7:30 am class. I have to get up for the 8 am final next week, but that half-hour makes all the difference in the world.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Strange to say, a typical weekend.

I went to the cider celebration last night, an annual Christmas concert here on campus. It was superb. I can't believe the sounds the human voice can make when it's used right. My roommate was in the choir, and everyone looked a lot prettier than the picture would have it.

Today I went to the RA group interview meeting, which involved the better part of the morning. Then, I finished my professor's manuscript for the second time. I spent this entire week trying to achieve a satisfactory knowledge of the Chicago Manual of Style (quick—what's the difference between a hyphen, an en dash, and an em dash? I didn't know either until this week) so that the publisher will accept it. Here's hoping.

Afterward, to decompress, and try to warm up—it's cold here!—I rode my bike out along where I usually run, down through the naval base. Since it rained yesterday, it was windy and clear and brilliant.

The Shelter Island marina

Downtown San Diego, through the naval barbed wire

An exciting shot of me

The sunset that I was privileged to watch on my way back

Friday, November 30, 2007

It's amazing what you can accomplish in 24 hours, when you only sleep for four.

So on my break Wednesday night, I discovered a voice mail from Josh and Lisa, who were down here at a Christian camping conference! They spent the rest of my library shift with me, and afterwards we went out with Steve Leader, RD of Goodwin Hall and good friend of Josh's brother, to Denny's, which was the only place we could get coffee (and pie!) at that hour of the night.

This is the only (terrible) picture I have, but that's what happens when you neglect your camera all night.

Well, I don't know how everyone else felt the next day, but I was strangely euphoric. Lisa was right--four hours of sleep, and I was golden. Well, okay, so maybe two traveler's mugs of coffee and one ibuprofen might have helped (this combination, incidentally, works better in tandem than either alone, according to a recent double-blind study--I don't take chances). I totally went to the 7:30 class that I detest, and the 8:30 class, and the 10 am class, for that matter. My 11 am was cancelled, so I lingered at lunch, then went to work and persisted with my prof's manuscript (it came back, and I have a lot to do, and it will be a great story when it's all over, I'm sure).

I worked until 5, then trudged over to Nease to retrieve the kitchen key that I had faithfully reserved earlier in the day. Well, the key was not there, and the RA couldn't get the master key to work, and it turns out the kitchen is on a different lock than the master is, so I tracked down the last person who had the key, but then the real key wouldn't open the door, and even though it was almost 6 and I should have started cooking at 5:30 and I had only had four hours of sleep and hadn't eaten since noon, I didn't say anything I would regret. I just found graciously reliable Elizabeth, and we hiked down to Young Hall, in the dark, with all our cooking accoutrements.

Everyone got the location change message in time, and we still served at 7. Dinner was delicious and amazing and enjoyable. Two of the girls who came had never had cabbage before, and a non-mushroom eater tried the ones that were in the peanut sauce. That's what I call success.

Peanut garlic chicken (white meat--what a concept, a concept the caf does not seem to understand...)
Steamed brown rice
Cabbage onion saute
Elizabeth's heritage apple crisp (Young style-- apparently pancake mix is an excellent substitute for flour)

When I told everyone how much (or rather, little) sleep I had had, they immediately insisted on taking care of clean-up. I enthusiastically accepted and took pictures instead.

And here is a picture of me after dinner, just because I have one and because I like my headband, aptly a gift from our Chinese exchange student, since after this I led a China World Civ study group from 9 to 10, for the exam we had today. I went to bed at 10:05.

Monday, November 26, 2007

What a difference a day makes.

This is what the sky looked like when I left my dorm this morning.

And this is what it looked like when I returned.

In between was a long, long day of frustrated effort and three weeks' impending work making itself painfully known. But at least it was beautiful outside.

Friday, November 23, 2007

I bought a camera on Thursday.

Our family one had broken, and I thought it would be tragic to pass Thanksgiving without any pictures to remember it by.

Mom set the table with her wedding china.

The first course was butternut squash soup.

Dad followed an online NY Times tutorial to carve the turkey perfectly.

Shannon delighted in the artistic tableau she made.

We think it's hugely hilarious to pose with the wishbone.

We drove out to our land in Anza after we ate.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Important life lessons I learned this weekend.

How to sleep in until 10 am:

Go out to dinner with the newspaper staff for Thai. Order pad ped with grilled eggplant. Attend the PLNU homecoming variety show, smirk at the tuba player's bad taste in humor, and eat a piece of celebratory cake. Go to the Driftwood editor's house and play Risk until 2 am. Drape a blanket around your bed to make a snug, dark cave. Sleep.

How to run a new route:

Map out a 3 1/2 mile loop from campus to Shelter Island and back. Grab the mp3 player your sister recently loaded with exciting music. Enjoy the easy jog into bucolic blissful suburbia, down past docked sailboats, through the quaint bayside downtown. Reach the foot of Talbot St. and realize that it is All Uphill From Here. Go at it anyways. Play California by Phantom Planet, summiting the apex of the highest point just as the drums swell into the chorus ("California...California...Here we come!"). Break out some triumphant yoga moves in Nease's backyard.

How to [generously] feed eight people for $11.32:

Get a ride to Henry's from your next-door neighbor and her obliging upperclassman boyfriend. Purchase 3 scoops of cornmeal, 1.72 lbs. hot pork sausage, a can of crushed tomatoes in basil, 1 yellow onion, a bag of brussels sprouts, a head of cauliflower, 2 potatoes, and a pumpkin pie on sale. Silently curse the powers that be for cancelling open dorm that night so that everyone would go to the homecoming game that you and your dinner guests are skipping out on for various reasons. Get a ride from the aforesaid boyfriend down to the boys' dorm, where the kitchen is always open. Chop, steam, sauté, and simmer. Serve the savory goodness:

Italian sausage
Crushed tomato sauce
Steamed cauliflower
Sautéed brussels sprouts
Pumpkin pie

Go to bed at 9:15 and sleep luxuriously for 10 or 11 hours (optional).

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

So I officially finished editing my professor's manuscript.

I sent it to him, and he forwarded it to his publisher, and it's official: I am a completely legit editor. It took me seven hours to do the initial edits, and six to enter them and format everything in Microsoft Word. That's more than $15 an hour - twice what I make at the library. In fact I made it, in large part, while working at the library. If only I could edit full-time . . . but hey, that's what I'm going to school for.

What I really loved were the comments my prof scribbled in the margins while going over my improvements. In one section, he had referred to figures like Aristotle and Socrates as "Big Name Scholars," and I had accordingly crossed out the superfluous uppercasing. "Keep these capitals" was followed by, "lowercase all - you are right." What delicious deferment to my good judgment!

I had the pleasure of typing myself into the acknowledgements. My prof's endearingly impulsive addition: "Kaitlin Barr, a student in my World Civilizations class, saved me fixed helped edited the final draft."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

In the library.

So maybe I'm not quite as enamoured with our collection after yesterday, when a friend came to the front desk while I was working and asked for something interesting to read, and catalogue searches for Girl With a Pearl Earring and The Scarlet Pimpernel both came back void (The Princess Bride, however, popped right up). Still, nothing can eradicate the joy and satisfaction that the 19th century British literature section has brought me these past few months, as I've stolen chapters out of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall in a corner on the third floor.

I love Anne Brontë. She is so grounded, so accessible. Just look at this precious exchange between her hero and heroine:

"Why have they left you alone?" I asked.

"It is I who left them," was the smiling rejoinder. "I was wearied to death with small talk--nothing wears me out like that. I cannot imagine how they can go on as they do."

I could not help smiling at the serious depth of her wonderment.

"Is it that they think it a duty to be continually talking," pursued she, "and so never to pause to think, but fill up with aimless trifles and vain repetitions when subjects of real interest fail to present themselves? or do they really take a pleasure in such discourse? . . . I kept up my attention on this occasion as long as I could, but when my powers were exhausted I stole away to seek a few minutes' repose in this quiet walk. I hate talking when there is no exchange of ideas or sentiments, and no good given or received."

The story is an appropriately convoluted one of imprudent marriages and the resulting emotional tragedy. Brontë explores one's duty and responsibility, especially in light of poor choices. Her heroine ministers as best she can to her husband, dying of complications of alcoholism:

"Think of the goodness of God, and you cannot but be grieved to have offended Him."

"What is God--I cannot see Him or hear Him?--God is only an idea."

"God is Infinite Wisdom, and Power, and Goodness--and LOVE; but if this idea is too vast for your human faculties--if your mind loses itself in its overwhelming infinitude, fix it on Him who condescended to take our nature upon Him, who was raised to heaven even in His glorified body, in whom the fulness of the Godhead shines."

All the ends--moral, romantic, theological--are eventually tied up nicely in the compulsory Brontëan style. It was wonderful, and I'm sad it's over. Now, it's on to Love and Freindship (that's right; I said Freindship) by Jane Austen.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Yesterday was an unexpectedly nice day.

And not just because the sun was shining when I woke up. I coasted down Catalina to church like usual, but this time I finagled my bike into my friend Melissa's station wagon after service and we went grocery shopping.

I met Melissa the first or second week I came to Calvary Chapel Point Loma. She's a recent UCSD grad who majored in biology and is currently working in a biotech lab doing something involving nucleotides that I couldn't begin to comprehend. She spent a month touring Europe over the summer and just moved into her apartment down the street from the church a month ago. And she's incredibly nice.

We walked around the new Vons, awed - a bicameral layout joined by an open-air market area, grind-as-you-go peanut butter machines, savory artisan breads to sample - at the dexterous display of marketing genius. Then we headed to her place.

We decided to improvise a version of her mom's Hawaiian chicken and also make dessert for the evening college Bible study. I butterflied the chicken breast and she made me rich, chocolatey espresso in a tiny pot her hostess gave her in Italy. We dipped French bread in olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette while the cupcakes baked. Just before the chicken was done, I steamed some fresh green beans.

We savored our meal and finished it off with the freshly frosted cupcakes, agreeing that everything tastes better when you have someone to share it with. Afterwards, she drove me home, and we pledged to do it again sometime.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

You're not going to believe this, but...

I got every single class I wanted. Every one. Life is good again.

Right before I left the library last night, I sent a half-hopeful e-mail to the Lit 203 professor whom I had been told myriad times by many people I needed to take, the same one whose 48 spots were occupied by 50 people as of mid-afternoon yesterday. That jarring sense of post-midnight incapability did not make a nice bedfellow.

Wired and nervy, I got out of bed an hour earlier than usual and compulsively checked my e-mail. Apparently a little bit of flattery goes a long way, because that professor had graciously and promptly responded, informing me that he had cleared me to register. The roiling tempest abated somewhat.

But I was still unsure about the rest of my schedule. I endured 7:30 am Old Testament and dropped by my World Civ professor's office to see if he had finished evaluating my edits (nope) before 8:30 am Spanish. After escuchando a that squawking woman for an hour, I bounded back to my dorm and switched books. I spent all of 20 minutes in Psych, making it to the library just in time for my 10:30 web registration.

I got into most of my classes, but two were blocked - their prerequisite is College Comp, but since I'm going to be in Honors Comp next semester, I haven't been able to take college-level English yet. Thus began the mad dashing.

I went first to find my academic advisor, the head of the Lit department, but his office was empty. Sighting some other English faculty nearby, I appealed to them, but all they could do was direct me to the course's professor, who, despite the office hours posted on her door, was absent. With some time left before my next class, I went to Student Relations to turn in my RA application. I checked back in the English department, again unfruitfully, then made my way toward Communication.

After sitting through five or six informative speeches, I resumed my search once more, and finally my persistence was rewarded. I corralled my advisor, had him clear me, and then asked him if I could register then and there on his computer. And just like that, the best schedule ever was created:

Elementary Spanish II - a different prof this time, one whose first language is English
Masterpieces of World Lit III - a core class! With the highly recommended professor!
Honors in College Composition - the one I qualified for with that test I thought I failed
Introduction to Music - super easy, and marked well on
Masterpieces of World Lit I - another core class! Who cares who's teaching it?
Newspaper Workshop - I've spent this semester checking it out; I'm making it legit now

And the crowning achievement: Tuesdays and Thursdays I begin at 8, but MWF I don't have to be anywhere until chapel at 9:45.

Then my small group leader brought burritos to our meeting this afternoon. I was giddy with relief and Mexican food, and I laughed harder than I have possibly since I've been here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Oh, good and bad, like everything, I guess.

So I'm really discouraged about my classes for next semester. I can't register until tomorrow, and one of the classes that I really wanted is already filled; a lot of the others are getting there. A girl I work with was nice enough to offer to register for the one course and then withdraw right before I could get on, saving the spot for me. But it was too late. It sucks to be a freshman.

To make myself feel better, I went jogging this afternoon. Apparently I self-medicate with physical exertion. It's unavoidably autumn around here, brown leaves and grey skies, the whole bit. But it's not bitterly cold - even in a tank top and yoga pants, it only takes a few steps to feel peachy warm.

I followed my new favorite route: a mile and three-quarters out and back along the point, down Catalina Boulevard into the naval base. Unlike a lot of Point Loma, the slope is gradual. I don't have to plunge suicidally down Hill St. - the street sign is missing at one end; apparently someone thought it was redundant - or hike back up on tiptoe halfway through.

A mile or so's steady pace out, and I am embraced by a naturally preserved ocean vista to the west and a sweeping view of downtown San Diego to the east. The Coronado Bridge spans the water and the landmass gently curves toward Mexico. Bucolic sailboats ply the bay. On a clear day, the picture is sharp and immediate. Today, it floated wistful and distant.

I jogged back, showered, ate dinner, and came to work. So maybe this melancholy is a bit of pathetic fallacy on my part. I just wish I could get into those classes.

Monday, November 5, 2007

More on food: An ode to my father's cooking - or, a testament to how much my family loves me.

My sisters conveniently had a soccer game here in Point Loma on Saturday, so everyone came by afterward and we went out - we had hot chocolate in OB, they bought me groceries, it was great. And remnants of their visit lingered until lunch today, for my dad had saved me pieces of the two of the most delicious wedge-shaped items a person could eat: pizza and pumpkin pie.

Not just any pizza, but homemade whole wheat-cornmeal pepperoni-pepperoncini pizza. Even though it had narrowly survived a trip to San Diego and then spent two days in my fridge, it was still amazing. I can only imagine what it was like fresh out of the oven. The pie, too - superb. "Almost as good as Grandma Barr's," he told me. And it was, which just shows you how much they love me; food that good normally doesn't leave the table at home, let alone make a two-hour pilgrimage.

Friday, November 2, 2007


So I determined this week's menu the way I used to do it at home: make whatever was on sale at Henry's into a palatable, coherent meal.

Seasoned pork tenderloin before...

...and after.

Granola apple crisp

Pear-apple walnut chutney to go with the pork

The baked sweet potatoes and the apple crisp

The requisite happy, fed people

Me editing my prof's manuscript (woohoo!)

Elizabeth and me posing for Natalie

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It's really going to happen.

So to the insanity of yesterday I feel I should add that after work I hopped in a car with the editors of the Point Weekly and had dinner at PLNU President Bob Brower's house. That would be so much more exciting if the best thing that has ever happened to me ever had not happened.

I met with my prof and it's for sure. I'll get paid a minumum $200 to look for style discrepancies, and I got the green-light to edit for content. I couched it tactfully: "When I read it, I could hear your voice, because I'm in your class and know you, but I don't think the reader can hear you." I told him I wanted to make it sound more like him.

I'm going to go edit my prof's manuscript now. I have never been happier in my entire life.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Be still, my beating heart.

I crept unwillingly out of my covers this morning, staving off the early beachy chill with yoga pants and a hooded jacket. I chewed an apple pensively as I meandered toward my 7:30 am Old Testament class, uneasy over the three impending midterms and speech (how did this happen?) that had loomed in the back of my mind all last week, having been postponed because of the fires.

But once I saw the first, I relaxed and remembered how much I love test days. I got out of class ten minutes early and took my time making breakfast and selecting a proper outfit for my speech. In Psych I finished the midterm there and rather leapt out of my seat to redeem my much-deserved thirty minutes of freedom. In Communication I uploaded my PowerPoint, and everyone else's, and delivered a five-minute informative "Knowledge is [Executive] Power" as well as I could expect myself to. I'd been practicing it all week and in doing so had memorized the thing. I stuttered occasionally as I always do, my tongue overwhelmed by the task of choosing the most effective words to express my thoughts. But the words escaped eventually.

I ate a banana and strode to Psych Convocation for midterm number three. Assured that puzzling over my answers would not likely improve my score, I dashed off the Scantron and exited as awkwardly as one wearing "interview casual" in an auditorium seating 300 freshmen and leaving first could possibly exit.

Then I came to work and checked my e-mail. My World Civ professor asked me to edit his book (quoted below). I would be paid out of department funds. Be still, my beating heart.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Words appearing in bold are not mine.

This week's required reading in World Civ was a book written by my professor, not even in print yet. A lot of it deals with obscure historical issues, not terribly essential information, and as a whole it could have benefitted greatly from a kind but incisive editor's red pen. Nevertheless, I found the following passages insightful and encouraging.

From Jesus, History, and Mt. Darwin by Rick Kennedy:

Today only twenty or so people in succession separate us from the eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. Wendell Berry, in his novel Jayber Crow (2000), has Jayber, an aging village barber, reminisce:

"History grows shorter. I remember old men who remembered the Civil War. I have in my mind word-of-mouth memories more than a hundred years old. It is only twenty hundred years since the birth of Christ. Fifteen or twenty memories such as mine would reach all the way back to the halo-light in the manger at Bethlehem. So few rememberers could sit down together in a small room."

Our modern schools do much to undermine the closeness of history. Our history textbooks encourage us to think of ourselves as separated from the past. We are taught to assume the past to be a foreign and exotic place. A vast distance is supposed to exist between us and the eyewitnesses to the resurrection. Trusting the reported events in the New Testament is considered a “leap” of faith, something risky, possibly unreasonable. But Jayber Crow is right. A small room of people is all that is needed to link us personally to the eyewitnesses. No leap is necessary.

Eyewitnesses were the first rememberers. The gospel and letter writers were either eyewitnesses or early hearers of eyewitness reports who wisely created a strong bond between oral and written testimony that could pass across deserts and seas and on into the future. Confident knowledge of the event of the resurrection could pass through time and space by human links of people trusting each other's memories with the additional support of the New Testament as a memory aid. A testimonial succession of rememberers could reach through the centuries to us. To reach us only twenty or so trustworthy and non-gullible people are all that is needed...

...The nice thing about Jayber Crow’s historical insight in Wendell Berry’s novel is that it bridges the gap between both The Port-Royal Logic and John Locke’s Essay. Even if you agree with Locke and think historical credibility diminishes in proportion to the number of people it passes through, Jayber Crow points out that the story of Jesus only has to pass through twenty or so people to get to you and me. Credibility can’t have diminished that much even by this time. On the other hand, if you think of twenty or so people who have attested like a notary to the basic facts of the written gospel story, we can claim, at minimum, the confidence of a real estate deed coming down to us through time.

My grandmother a few years ago gave me a Griswold #8 frying pan when she was packing to move into a place where she would not have to cook. She told me that my grandfather gave that frying pan to her on their first Christmas together. She was born in 1911 and the pan would have been given in 1931. I am forty-four years old now and my kids not yet in high school. If I pass that frying pan and story on to a future grandchild, that pan and true story could easily still be passed on almost two centuries after the fact having only gone through two people: me and my grandchild. A good and true story can be easily carried over hundreds of years by just a few people who want to tell a true story. To help my memory, my grandmother also wrote down the story. Even if my memory of the story gets fuzzy, I can attest to her written testimony as what she had initially told me. As Christians founded upon the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus, we only need twenty or so conscientious people linked through time to give us the confidence of listening to the eyewitnesses. And to give us greater confidence, we have written attestations that have been passed along to keep the testimony on track.

Jayber Crow is not offering a Christian apologetic; rather, he is simply meditating on how history is so close and personal. Our schools want to make history too hard. They want us to over-think it by half. Jayber is not promoting gullibility; rather, he stands in the Classical tradition of knowing history, that history is linked to us by humans. John who stood at the base of the cross calls to us in his first letter to trust him as a testifier to what he has seen, heard, and touched so that we can have fellowship with him. He calls not from long ago and far away, but only from across a small room of friends and family...

...Christianity’s intellectual foundation—the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection—is weak at universities. It is weak in the way ancient human history is a weak academic discipline. Both depend on social methods of knowledge. Being weak, however, does not mean wrong. There is a story of Peter in the sixth chapter of John where some of the disciples desert Jesus because of hard teachings. Other disciples are grumbling, and Jesus upbraids them: “Does this offend you?” He then turned to his core twelve and asks “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Peter answered “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Peter’s answer is not full of triumph; rather, it recognizes that our hope is in weakness; the weakness of words from one who, himself, became weak...

...Ancient history has no hope in academic rationalism. Where else can it go but to cling to reasonableness? Ancient history accepts the reality of paradox, inconsistency, and human weakness. History recognizes that truths can be unsuccessful, that tragedy and irony often prevail, that what is quirky and odd can be more influential than what is respected and normal.

Natural history is rational. It is powerful. But should its confidence wash over into history negating the quirky fact that we have strong eyewitness and hearsay testimony that Jesus rose from the dead? Is natural history so powerful with its inferences drawn from observation that it has veto power over facts learned from ancient sources?


There is a rational argument that destroys our historical knowledge of Jesus. I have an academic friend who grants that eyewitnesses experienced the resurrected Jesus, but then he says that seeing the resurrected Jesus doesn’t mean they actually saw the resurrected Jesus. “The critical issue,” he wrote me in an email “is whether credibility extends to the truth of their claims or only to the truth of their reports.” I grant him his point. It’s a tricky point: Seeing Jesus doesn’t mean Jesus is being seen. By extension: when Peter, on top of the mountain, heard God tell him to listen to Jesus, Peter may actually have been listening to himself tell himself to listen to himself.

It is a tricky argument, and Greekish academic traditions always allow for the truth of the tricky. At its core, the argument undermines human perception of anything. Can any of us know anything? Can any of us get outside of our own minds to know anything outside of our brains? Is it possible for a creator God to actually communicate or act in a way we humans could confidently assert as true? What is a scientist observing when he observes something? His or her own mind?

Ancient Greeks enjoyed conundrums and circular reasoning such as “All that I know is that I know nothing.” Our minds can tie us in knots. Greek rationalism is wise to always allow for the tricky. Greek reasonableness is also wise to encourage people not to get bogged down in the tricky. All university disciplines can collapse into a toilet swirl if we allow our minds to play the rationality games that our minds are capable of. Nobody can convince an obstinate skeptic of anything, even the existence of the world around us. All I can say is that I stand in a long Aristotelian and university tradition of optimistic and social reasonableness that offers alternative, practical, maybe-not-fully-persuasive methods of creating credibility for assertions about things we perceive and we believe other people perceive too, now, in the past, and probably into at least the near future. Darwin and I stand together in this tradition.


I follow Peter who listened when God told him to listen to Jesus. Like Peter, my reply to the question of abandoning Jesus is "to whom shall I go?" Peter recognized that he has to cling to someone or something. There is no personal, independent truth in himself strong enough to save him. Like Peter, I see no hope for me in myself. Like Peter, I cling to words—words communicated with all the limits and frailties of human communication. Worse! Peter at least got to cling to words straight from Jesus. I have to cling to words translated, words written down in Greek, words passed from eyewitnesses through hearsay. Jesus looks at me and asks if I want to leave him like so many others. My answer is that I cling to him through his words as recorded.

I cling to his words in two ways: a church way and a university way. Among the fellowship of believers, I share the tradition and collective experience of two thousand years of believers who, at the core of Christian orthodoxy, believe in the Holy Spirit’s oversight over the writing of the whole Bible and that when its authors declare themselves bearing communications from God I must listen as carefully and conscientiously as if Jesus stood with his hand on the shoulder of every author. The Bible is an extension of the incarnation, the stooping down of Truth into mere words. God communicates, but God humbles himself to communicate through chosen authors and helps us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to read and listen. I believe this in a church way, sharing in a fellowship of prayer and belief. On the other hand, in universities, where the traditional standards of academic disciplines rub against each other, I cling to Jesus’ words and deeds as history, as well-attested reports.

History departments, by tradition and common practice, pride themselves in “practical realism” and recognize their “post-heroic situation.” We, by traditional rights, have a role in universities as the discipline most oriented to studying human words reporting past events and people. Modern archeology and the social sciences have been developed to avoid the weaknesses of words; however, traditional history is a social study not a social science. The stronger university disciplines strive to discover things that are independent of the frailties of people. History departments, however, are mired in people, especially the words of dead people.

My dad was a weatherman, a type of natural historian. Everybody laughs at the errors of weathermen. But when my dad predicted the future, a fleet of warships immediately changed course. Dad was using history in the form of past measurements to look for patterns that could be turned into probabilities of future events. Meteorology is a field of natural history strong enough to persuade admirals that disbelief is too big a risk. I teach ancient history, a job more laughable than a weatherman’s. My job is rooted in, with, and through people. Eighteen-year old students dismiss my analyses. I can’t imagine having the power of argument capable of convincing an admiral to change the course of a fleet...

We did it again!

The chefs:
Me, my roommate Natalie, and our next-door neighbor Elizabeth

The menu:
Whole wheat spaghetti in crushed tomatoes
Italian sausage
Iced tea
Vegetable mushroom sauté
Garlic bread
Roasted butternut and acorn squash (pictured above)
Chocolate chip cookies

The result:
Seven full, happy people!

I think we're going to try and make this a regular thing. I made a Facebook group out of it, so it's pretty much official:

The Dinner Club - Because Nease won't let us into the kitchen for breakfast! Or lunch, for that matter...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Another article! but no one's around to enjoy it...

So the campus is half-deserted, and no one's going to see it, but I wrote my first legit news article for the Point Weekly last week. You can view it here.

When I did a weeklong journalism boot camp stint at the Press-Enterprise three years ago, I fearfully approached teenagers at the Galleria and the Barnes and Noble to interview them for my story on the 2004 presidential election. Intimidated and terror-stricken, I garnered meager, barely passable quotes and wrote a so-so article redolent of mid-adolescent linguistic flourishes. Months later the paper ended up running a piece retaining my byline and lead, but nothing else remotely similar to what I had written. Disgusted, I vowed never to enter journalism. Well, okay, so I had already made my mind up by the end of that week. I knew, when an award-winning photographer gave us one of those speeches where he listed the thankless tasks and unrecognized efforts inherent to his profession, asking us if we could hack it, and then finished with something that was supposed to be inspirational, like, "But if you want to be a journalist, it's the most rewarding job you could have," and I was as far from being inspired that I could possibly be, I knew that journalism wasn't for me.

It still isn't for me. But I love the newsroom vibe, and I want to edit as much as I can, and so if, when hanging out with the PW, I get roped into writing an article every once in a while, it's all right. What a difference this time, though, compared with my first experience. I waltzed up to people I'd never properly spoken to before to get my quotes; I determined quickly who best to answer my questions and promptly scheduled an interview; I perfunctorily navigated Physical Plant and pleasantly questioned the director of transportation without so much as a single qualm, rather awed by my unaffected equanimity.

And the story came out fairly well. I even took the accompanying picture. I got the requisite nods of adequacy from my editors I required, and I got to see my name in print again. I never get tired of that.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Last night's menu:

Chicken stir fry
Vegetable sauté
Steamed rice
Iced tea
French bread with garlic oil
Pumpkin pie with hand-whipped cream

That's right; for $18 and one hour's teamwork, we fed seven people the best dinner I'm sure we've all had since we've been home. While I was surfing yesterday morning, my hallmate Elizabeth went shopping. After I got off work, we hiked down to Young Hall with our supplies and took over the kitchen there (which, I might add, is completely open, all the time, to anyone who happens to waltz in- if only I had know this when I was writing that column!). The boys and girls we were feeding joined us; we chopped, measured, and mixed, and finally ate jovially, thankfully, giddy with commiseration.

"Soooo good," was the general rejoinder. I didn't realize how much I missed making dinner at home, having my hands smell like garlic and onion, filling a tableful of people. And, as Elizabeth said afterward, "I don't feel sick to my stomach like the Caf makes me sometimes."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Still living on a peninsula.

Nero fiddled; I surfed. Classes have been cancelled for the remainder of the week, so I took advantage of this as early as possible. The water was balmy and clear, and if it wasn't for the slight haze over half the sky, you'd never know San Diego is furiously ablaze.

I worked at the library all afternoon, and tonight I think a girl from my hall and I are going to go down to the boys' dorm and cook dinner for a bunch of us. Just another day in paradise.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Postcard from Vermont!

True story: I decided to spin the combination lock on my mailbox anyways, even though all that peeked out of the window was the same bank statement addressed to my box-mate that had been sitting there for three days. I glanced behind it, and lo and behold, greetings from the Tates! Thank you so much!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Knowledge is [Executive] Power: Informative Speech for Com 100

Informative Speech
“Knowledge is Power: Secondary Candidates in the 2008 Presidential Election”

I. Introduction
A. Attention-getter: I’d like to ask everyone who will be eighteen or older by November 2008 to raise your hand. Well, if you didn’t know already, this means you will be able to vote! How many of you are registered to vote? I'll have forms after class if you want to get started. As voters, we need to be informed about all the issues that are going to come into play when we tap on those touch-screens next year.
B. Thesis Statement: The nominations are beginning earlier than ever, and as Dr. Lindsey Lupo, assistant professor of political science here at Point Loma, said on October 8, 2007, the accelerated races put lesser-known candidates at a disadvantage, since they don’t have the money to compete with the famous faces: Hillary, Barack, Rudy. The smaller candidates don’t have as much time to get their campaigns rolling, so it’s harder for them to make themselves known.
C. Relate: This means it is more important than ever for voters like you and me to inform ourselves of the candidates and the issues that will come into play in the next few months.
D. Preview:
i. First, we’ll look at a Republican candidate whose 100-lb. weight loss often overshadows his political accomplishments.
ii. Then we’ll cross the political line to meet a Democrat who differs from the other candidates in more than just his Mexican heritage.
iii. Finally, we’ll look at an Internet-based bipartisan movement that believes Americans want a third choice.
Transition: So about that weight-loss success story - of course I have before-and-after pictures.

II. Body of the Speech
A. Mike Huckabee
i. After demolishing a chair in his office just by sitting in it, Huckabee decided to do something about his health, later writing a book about his journey: Quit Digging Your Grave with a Knife and Fork: A 12-Step Program to End Bad Habits and Begin a Healthy Lifestyle.
ii. But besides being a disciplined, dedicated exerciser and healthy eater (Max, 2007), he is a former Baptist minister and governor of Arkansas with typical conservative positions: against gay marriage, abortion, and raising taxes; for the war in Iraq, Israel, and strong national security (Huckabee, 2007).
iii. But he considers himself a “paradoxical Republican.” He cares deeply about health care, music and art education, and the environment (Winslow, 2007). He is also passionate about immigration and lower-income citizens.
iv. Does he have a chance of winning? Former president Bill Clinton considers him the “dark horse” of the candidacy campaign. "He's the best speaker…he's extremely conservative, but he's not mad at anybody about it" (Pierce, 2007).
Transition: Perhaps we will see another governor from Arkansas in the White House, but this time a conservative one. Now on to the other end of the political spectrum, and the other end of the country, with the Democratic governor of New Mexico: Bill Richardson.
B. Bill Richardson
i. As a governor of a border state, he has a strong stance on border security but supports creating a system for immigrants to earn their citizenship (Richardson, 2007). As a Hispanic, he could gain many Latino votes. As a former energy secretary, he has the experience to deal with climate change. He supports the death penalty and the right to own guns (Economist, 2007).
ii. He claims he is the only Democratic candidate who will bring all the troops in Iraq home immediately, should he win (Richardson, 2007). He also wants to scrap No Child Left Behind and nationally raise teachers’ salaries (Richardson, 2007).
iii. Because there are so many prominent contenders in the Democratic race, his best chance is probably vice-president (Economist, 2007).
Transition: We’ve seen a Republican and a Democrat. But there is a grassroots movement working to combine the two.
C. Unity 08
i. Unity 08 is a group of politicians and activists who believe Americans are frustrated with the two-party system (, 2007). They consider the American people moderate, and believe that by allowing voters to get involved they can elect candidates who truly reflect Americans’ views and positions (Simon, 2007). According to their website on October 13, they had 113, 077 total members.
ii. They are conducting surveys over the Internet to determine what Americans are concerned with: Iraq and the fight against terrorism, education, health care, climate change, energy independence, immigration and corruption in Washington top the lists (Broder, 2007). Unity 08 will conduct a party convention over the Internet in June 2008, once the other parties’ candidates have been determined (Miller, 2007).
iii. If Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York, decides to run as Unity08’s candidate, he could win. He has enough economic resources and political clout (Kraushaar, 2007). But he has not announced his candidacy, and Unity08 has not generated enough interest yet to be considered an actual threat to the two-party system, according to Vaughan Ververs, a political columnist, in an October 2, 2007 post on
Transition: But things change, and they change quickly in politics. So no one can be written off yet, especially this early in the race.

III. Conclusion
A. Review:
i. First, we saw how Mike Huckabee’s conservative values but progressive views in health care, arts and education, and immigration could propel him to the front of the Republican race.
ii. Then, we looked at how Bill Richardson’s Hispanic heritage and strong stance on troop withdrawal could give him an edge in the Democratic primary.
iii. Last, we explored how Unity08’s appeal to moderate voters could create a viable third party in the upcoming election.
B. Restatement of Thesis: Voters need to know that there are many viable candidates in the 2008 race, not just the ones who make cable news headlines every night.
C. Tie-back to Introduction: So raise your hand again if you’ll be eighteen by next November. Now you have a little more information to make an informed decision next year.

It was the cutest thing.

One of the guys in my World Civ class, from New Hampshire, was telling another, from Massachusetts, about his trip home over the weekend, how the leaves are all at their peak now. "It was classic New England," he said. The other wistfully replied, "I wish I could have been there."

At which point the first opened his notebook and pulled out a perfect red maple leaf. He presented it to the latter. "You deserve it."

He accepted the thin gift solemnly and tucked it into the back of the copy of the Bhagavad Gita he was holding. They then proceeded to talk about the Red Sox.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

This is what my new shoes look like.

That's right; this is what my new shoes look like. I've worn them three days in a row and I haven't had a single comment on them. They are the greatest shoes ever.

Okay, perhaps that's overstating it a tad. But after the long, torturous journey it took to get them, I feel justified in exaggeration. It's a boring story involving Wal-Mart, Payless, Target, Nordstrom, a little place called the Closet, and multiple trips to Big 5 Sporting Goods, but it ends with a pair of the above size 8 Shasta men's hikers. They're not shiny, plastic, oddly-colored, or weirdly shaped; they'll wear well and match all my clothes. Moreover, I hike all over this campus every, every day. It rained all weekend, and the marine layer is beginning to get serious about sticking around. I need practicality and comfort. I now have them.

It was a genuine search to discover what I wanted, though. My family happened to accompany me on many a shoe reconnaissance. I couldn't tell if they were a help or a hindrance. They wanted to see me happy, and they did their utmost to assist me. But when they asked me what I was looking for, all I could offer was, "I'll know it when I see it." My dad encouraged me to choose what I liked, not what everyone else liked, as everyone else's opinion was there for the taking. When I was down to two pairs, the group was divided into two camps, and I, momentarily paralyzed with indecision, finally went with what I determined to be the most logical.

Which brings me to the excruciatingly obvious metaphor. If I ever start thinking about a significant other (hey, no takers yet, but this is college, after all), is that what it's going to be like? A vague, methodless pursuit of something, make that someone, I won't know until I see? A painful, drawn-out family deliberation? Don't mock me. I'm serious. I went to the trouble of finding that picture, didn't I?