Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Let California Ring, part two:

In honor of IT and her Best Beloved:

Let California Ring, part one:

in honor of IT and her Sweetie-Boo:

Thursday, October 2, 2008

We say goodbye to Grendel

I phoned up the vet this morning to find out how Grendel was. The Shabazz-man said that he would never walk again and that his condition would continue to deteriorate. I asked him if Grendel was in pain, and he said he didn't think so. I asked him, "If Grendel were your dog, what would you do?" He said, without hestitation, "I would let him go. Now."

So about an hour ago Liam and I drove over together to the Vet Clinic. Grendel was happy to see us but could not get up. He was in the bottom cage, lying on his favorite green shaggy blanket. We sat on the floor and petted him and told him how much we loved him and how happy we were that he shared his life with us. Then we told him we were taking him home. We each gave him a treat and then the Shabazz-man (His name is actually Gary Shahbazian and he is a wonderful vet.) came and gave him the shot. It was very peaceful.

Thnaks to all who said a prayer for this little dog. Your prayers have been answered. Grendel is home.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Pray for a dog

Yesterday Grendel took an alarming turn for the worst. Where as before only his right front paw was unstable, yesterday he was very shaky on all four legs and his right front paw was totally non-functional. He seemed quite unsettled. Last night I stayed awake with Grendel until he finally went to sleep. I took him into the vet today.

The Shabazz-man was not very comforting. He said it was not arthritis. He said that based on the configuration of the paw and the stiffness of the limb it appeared to be one of two things: an advanced tumor of the spine or some sort of degenerative spine disease. He was alarmed at the progression (we had taken Grendel in three weeks ago for his annual and there was no signficant problem besides a stiffness in the legs and the loss of a few front teeth)

Sp Grendel is spending the night at the Shabazz-man's and he will have X-rays and other diagnostics. If you are inclined to pray for a dog, pray that he remains pain-free. Pray that we have the strength to do what is needful. If you have a dog, give him love. Kiss him and tell him you love him. As Grendel would say, Do It Now!

I will keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Phoebe crosses the Rainbow Bridge

When we came home from vacation we noticed that Phoebe seemed to have lost some weight. We figured it was probably because the Pig (an aptly named cat) had taken advantage of our absence and crowded his way into Phoebe's food bowl. The house-sitter didn't notice anything wrong with her, so we started feeding her more often and by herself.

She didn't gain any weight and seemed to be getting weaker so I took her to our vet on Thursday (the Shabazz-man, as Grendel calls him) and he couldn't find anything visibly wrong; he recommended a blood test.

I called him up yesterday to get the results and he said that all her counts were very low and to bring her in for an X-ray. So I did, and when they weighed her they found she had lost another quarter of a pound since Thursday. Not good.

I could tell that the Shabazz-man was hoping he's see something obvious in the X-rays, but there was nothing. He decided to give her an antibiotic shot and send her home with more antibiotic and steroid combined, as well as special food, but over the course of the conversation I could tell he was becoming more and more certain that the prognosis was pretty bleak. I asked if there was any specific danger sign to look for, as we did not want her to suffer. He said no, but then said it would be a matter of weeks, not months. It was probably leukemia or bone cancer by how swiftly it progressed.

I took her home and she ate a third of the can of cat food. That seemed a good sign. She rested on her blanket on the floor. Before I went to bed I lay down next to her and told her how much we loved her.

In the morning it was clear that she was much weaker. That was that, there's no way we were going to let her suffer, so Liam called up the Shabazz-man and was able to bring her right in. I had to go to school to meet with a student. I hated not being able to go with them, but I said goodbye to Phoebe and we loaded her into Liam's car. We were both heartbroken.

Liam came into school and said that all went as well as one could expect--she left peacefully and painlessly. The vet agreed it was "an acceptable time" for Phoebe to go.

She was a sweet cat, a gentle cat, who never made any trouble. She loved being brushed. We called her "FooFoo," FooFighter" and "Fluffy." She came into our lives suddenly, from a student of ours, D., forced to give up all her cats after a terrible tragedy. She left us too soon.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Mass on the Beach!

It's time again for Holy Family's Mass on the Beach. We are off bright and early for the coast, to escape the summer heat. We have two full buses this year. I'll be bringing my camera (but not my computer) to record the festivities.

(Grendel is at Doggie Day Care)

Don't forget the sunscreen!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

This week at The Church of the Forced Antithesis

Every week when Liam and I drive to church we pass by what has come to be known by us as The Church of the Forced Antithesis. This refers to their reader board which displays a message which (one can only assume) is designed to lure people into the church. The choices are (to us, in any event) rather bizarre, tending to the fire and brimstone, wrathful God, genre. (Why would that attract people????)

In the past, I have been tempted to list these gems on the blog, but have resisted. But this week I can no longer keep silent; the message reads:

"If evolution were true, mothers would have three arms"

Where do I start? Perhaps from the denial of evolution as an accepted theory by all reasonable, educated, people?

Or the grave misunderstanding of the nature of evolution? Species do not wish to evolve in a certain way...

Or perhaps from the complete misunderstanding of what a scientific theory is, to begin with??

Or from the semiotic: what is meant by "true", anyway???

Good Grief. This is why Fresno is a byword for the unthinking conservative.

We are back

We are back from France.

We spent over three weeks helping our friends renovate their 17th century farmhouse and three lovely days in Paris.

It was wonderful. The best thing about our job is that we can travel in the summer. (Of course the flip side of not being gainfully employed for three months of the year is not getting paid for three months out of the year, but we are frugal types and can get by...)

We seriously considered ways in which we could stay in France forever (I'd rather be an ex-pat in Ireland, but it seems even more difficult.) It helps to learn the French for "I did not vote for him; I think he is an idiot." If you have a good scheme for earning an income over the Internet, please let me know.

Coming back to Holy Family after so long away (I'd only been back for one Sunday between Vietnam and France) made me realize how much my little church is's not so much the physical changes (although there are plenty of those: the rector's office is being renovated, the plaza re-landscaped, new benches in the Chapel of St. Francis and St. Clair, a splendid new set of paraments for the altar) but the growth: seeing the Rev. Michelle take her place on a regular basis (a woman priest!! Who would ever have thought it possible in this Diocese!),
We had 49 people at the 8 o-clock on a summer's day, several of them new faces. (And of course Norm joked about giving us a newcomer's packet, having been away so long.)

And now we are off again, this time only for a few days, to visit my sister Sláine and my brother Mickey in Phoenix.

Friday, July 4, 2008

After the Garden

Father Jake has closed up shop.

Neil Young said,

Where will people go?

After the garden is gone
What will people know?

After the garden....

Thank you, Father Jake.

Go meadai Dia thu!

Monday, June 30, 2008

We have a winner!

Brian R. wins a bottle of gravy from Grendel for guessing that Aghaveagh is in the Loire Valley, France.

Here is the latest castle pic:

I think I have gained five pounds on Brie and pate, not to mention red wine. My liver is groaning audibly...

The dollar is so low now that if it weren't for the friends we are mooching off of (staying in their 17th-century farmhouse and helping them with renovations) there would be no way to afford it on professorial stipendage...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Where in the World is Aghaveagh? Another hint.

OK, Fran and Padre Mickey, guess! (Other clues will come. If by chance another person happens upon this blog, you can guess too!)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Kidanpped by Pirates!!!

Well, not really.

But I did fall behind in blogging about Vietnam, so I have to catch up.

But guess where I am now?? Not Vietnam, and not the USA.

Here is a hint:

And I have not had Internet or phone access for almost two weeks, so I have been out of the loop in American news. Anything I should know??

And poor Grendel may never get to blog again, because I have the computer...

But he has a wonderful graduate student staying with him, who reports that he has almost become a Real Dog!! (and they hang out together at the Starbucks in the Tower District)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Day Twelve in Vietnam: May 24

24 May,
AM: Arrival Hue station at 8am.
Transfer to hotel.
The rest of morning will be visit to Imperial Citadel.
PM: Boat trip along Perfume river to visit Ming Mang mausoleum and Thien Mu pagoda and Dong Ba market.

The train to Hue is a dive. Ken says this is much closer to how the Vietnamese really travel; I say "no thank you." It's not one single thing: herky-jerky motion of the train, the non-functioning AC, the blaring loudspeaker (a form of torture?) or the grimly grimy berths and dubious linens or the sullen, imperious staff...but put this all together with the toilet which consists of a hole in the floor of the train, and you have a recipe for true grodiness.

We find that there is a (relatively much nicer) toilet with an actual seat in it in the car next door, and I go to investigate. As I am washing my hands, I hear a loud grating noise. Hmm.... I try the door. It won't open. I try is locked. I am trapped in the loo. I try knocking on the door, calling out, to no avail. For the next ten minutes I alternate between tapping out an SOS with my chapstick on the metal door and calling out, "Help! I am trapped in the the toilet!!!" but the noise from the train prevents me from being heard. It is really hot and the sweat pours from my face. Surely one of my party must figure out I am missing... or perhaps they will find my body days from now, a victim of heat exhaustion, or terminal grodiness. "If only she had not drunk the water!" Tragedy in the Loo: film at eleven. The innate humor of the situation keeps me from despair....after all, someone has to come by...

another five minutes pass and I go for the big guns, banging against the door with my foot. Finally the door opens and an enraged train official is on the other side, yelling at me angrily in Vietnamese. I yell back: "The door was locked!" He is not mollified. I give up and trek back to my cabin to tell the sorry tale. I use the hole in the floor for the rest for the trip, which is not much better.

And then, finally, when we reach our clean, luxurious hotel in Hue, it is like Heaven. Absolute heaven.

Day Eleven in Vietnam: May 23

23 May,
Ha Long Hanoi/ Hue Road/ Train HA LONG BAY
morning swim.
Back to Ha Noi.
19:00: Overnight on train to Hue.

In the morning after a swim, a cup of coffee and a roll we divided up into "away teams" to explore a lagoon accessible only at low tide, through a natural entryway carved out of the rock (I'll try to load a picture later). It was so peaceful! Then, brunch.

All too soon it was time to return to the mainland. Our taste of how the other half lives was marvelous. but nonetheless moments of uneasiness intruded into our luxury: the ship was often approached by small sampans rowed by local women selling cold drinks, snacks, and souvenirs. "Hello!" they called, "You want to buy something?" I admired their industriousness at the same time as I felt the gap between affluent Westerner and impoverished native emphasized. I felt guilty, as I had so many times while traveling here. Sure, my tourism dollars are helping the economy, but once again I felt the huge discrepancy between our lives. I hope I never complain about my modest professor's salary again--it could support an entire village here.

Ha Long Bay. Beautiful.

Day Ten in Vietnam: 22 May

22 May Hanoi Ha Long Road HA LONG BAY AM: Transfer to Ha Long City through the Red River Delta. PM Transfer to Bai Tho Boat for lunch with fresh seafood, then cruise Ha Long Bay. Stop at Titop Island to relax and swim. “Relax under the starlit sky before retiring to the comfort of your cabin.”

Ha Long Bay is one of the most beautiful and romantic sights in all of Vietnam, if not the world. (Liam, we will go back together one day...) As the Lonely Planet guide describes it, "majestic and mysterious, inspiring and imperious..." The name Ha Long means "where the dragon descends into the sea": the Bay and its many islands created from the thrashing of the dragon as it wriggled its way to the shore.

We drove from Hanoi early this morning and arrived at the Bay by late morning. We won't be staying near the bay...we'll be staying ON the bay, in a motorized junk By a stroke of luck, our twenty-person party has scored a boat big enough to hold all of us, and small enough not to share with any other groups. So, in essence, Private Cruise on the Victoria 4!!!. A smaller motorized ferry took us out to the main ship.

Lunch was a fabulous seafood feast, with a complementary glass of wine (and the prices ensure that this will be our only glass). When they brought out the first course, steamed crab, I nearly swooned (Avie loves her seafood!). Next we had shrimp, then octopus, and finally, broiled fish.

The afternoon was spent in gliding around the islands that dot the Bay, and we all piled into the small boat and stopped at one point to explore Sung Sot (“Amazing Cave,”), a large series of caves on one island. Then we returned and after anchoring in a quiet area, we had a swim from the main ship. I must admit I was a bit apprehensive to jump off the second story of the ship--I am afraid of heights and it requires not only the --but I felt I had to keep up the honor of the professors, as Ken had already (literally) taken the plunge.

Here is a great photo of the students jumping in:

Here is a photo taken from the water (Ken held the camera with one hand as he treaded water!) I am standing to the extreme right (discretely covered with a towel) as I attempt to gather enough courage to make the jump. (There will be no photos of me in my bathing costume...I can't risk becoming an Internet pin-up sensation)

The evening was quiet and cool. Sunset came early and the ship dropped anchor for the night.
We watched Indochine in the dining room after another seafood dinner that could not be beat. I celebrated with a glass of Jameson's (pretty pricey but worth it!) Our cabins were cozy and beautiful.

Day Nine in Vietnam: 21 May

AM: Visit to U.S. Embassy, NGO Resource Center to speak with NGOs about development in Vietnam
PM History museum, Hoa Lo prison, Water puppets show this evening.

A most fascinating and diverse list of activities for the day!

First off, we went to theUS Embassy in Hanoi. Passports were scrutinized, we went through security, and received a visitor's badge. The building we wnet into is not the main Embassy buiding, so it was guarded by local guards, not U.S. Marines. We talked with Ralph Falzone, a Foreign Service Officer at the Embassy. After a very interesting overview of his career path (including how difficult it is to pass the foreign service exam!) he gave us a short briefing on some of the main emphases of the work in Vietnam (the most significant being human rights and children's welfare). He said that due to some major abuses, adoption of Vietnamese children by Americans would probably be put on hiatus for at least two years. His own work was focused primarily on human rights. He was very personable and the Q and A was fascinating. I asked about child labor, and he said that in the villages it is very hard to regulate, mainly because so many children work on the farms, and sell trinkets to tourists. All too soon we had to leave.

The next spot was a visit to talk with two NGO (non-governmental organization) workers, Andrew, working with Catholic Relief Services, and Ted, with Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, both of whom have been in Vietnam for about ten years. Of course, they are not allowed to address faith-based issues, but they do valuable work in improving the lives of the Vietnamese through health education and other programs. Check out the links for more info.

After lunch,we went to the history museum, which was rather a disappointment, as most of the emphasis was on prehistory, and most of the later historical exhibits were heavy on (non-translated) texts and not so much on individuals. (For example, I'd like to have seen more emphasis placed on Hai Ba Trung, the two sisters who launched a rebellion against the Chinese in the first century AD.) But there were some superb bells on display, as well as another massive stele on an equally massive turtle (symbol of longevity)

Later on, a tourist activity sine qua non: the Water Puppets (in Vietnamese "Múa rối nước. We poured into the Water Puppet Theatre Than Long with about 2 million other tourists and crammed our bodies into the very tight seating (obviously not designed to Western proportions!) The loudspeaker gave a brief intro in Vietnamese, English, and French, and the band of traditional Vietnamese instruments gave a short number to begin.

What are water puppets, you ask? Good question. They are (usually wooden) puppets that float on the surface of a submerged stage, and are manipulated by means of very long poles by artists behind a curtain. The movements are very intricate. Each separate piece or story (which deal with life in the village, nature, episodes in the life at the royal court) is accompanied with music and sometimes an explanatory song (in Vietnamese). It was quite entertaining but I couldn't really see myself going back for was good to experience it once.

Here is a link--I can't make the embed work.

Day Eight in Vietnam: 20 May

20 May, Viet Tri Hanoi Road
Hosted by MCC / Thanh Thuy Women’s Union;
Back to Hanoi by bus in p.m.

More meeting with local dignitaries, more speeches, and then one of the highlights of the trip so far: a visit to two primary schools in the area. We came prepared, with candy. As we handed each child a piece, they did not eat it, but put it on the desk in front of them (three pupils to a desk for most of them, on tiny chairs). Only after they had invited all to share in the food (a necessary ritual for the Vietnamese) were they given the ok to eat them. So very solemn!
Both schools had at the front of the room, in position of honor, is a photo of Ho Chi Minh surrounded by children ("HCM loves the little children, all the children of the Nam...")
The teachers proudly put a few star pupils through their paces, singing songs and giving short recitations (none of which I could understand, all of it being in Vietnamese) and we answered by singing a couple of songs. ("The Hoky Poky" was a big hit.) The we drove off, with all of the children waving enthusiastically at us.
The next school was even smaller and more remote, and intensely hot. They turned on the fans for us (Evidently they did not need them). More candy, more songs, from them and us, and this time "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" was a winner. Our guide led it in Vietnamese.
Here is a group photo of us with the children. The local dignitary is on the extreme right as you view the photo.
Lunch was at a local restaurant where the big hit was a pet monkey. Michael and Joel became its BFF.
The food was great and very authentic, including what is becoming one of my very favorite dishes, water spinach. The chicken we ate had had a rough life, being tough and lean, but the grilled pork was spicy and tasty. How they manage to turn out such fabulous dishes in the most rudimentary of kitchens is extraordinary. A cat and her kittens wandered the restaurant.
Then we dropped off our honored guests and began the long, bumpy ride back to Hanoi. Tonight we will stay at the Van Xuan Hotel in the Old Quarter, where we had previously stashed our main luggage. (We have been living out of a small backpack for four days).

Day Seven in Vietnam: 19 May

19 May, Hanoi Viet Tri Road HANOI/THANH THUY
Hosted by MCC Vietnam.
Go to Thanh Thuy District to visit MCC rural development projected.
Hosted by Thanh Thuy Women’s Union

Today is my and Liam's tenth year anniversary. That he has agreed to let me go off to Vietnam and spend our anniversary apart is a testament to his respect and love for me. Liam, I miss you and love you very much.

After returning to Hanoi and cleaning up as best as possible in a truly dive hotel next to the train station, we were off again; this time in a bus headed for Than Thuy.

Than Thuy is a district in Phu Tho Province (for more info, see the wiki article.), one of the places where the Mennonite Central Committee is engaged in aid that "includes working with partners in projects in agriculture, income generation, women’s reproductive health, children’s nutritional needs and HIV/AIDS prevention."

We were pleasantly surprised to be housed in a very nice complex where retired government officials from Hanoi come for R and R. We met with the local province dignitaries who gave speeches about the great things the Communist Party is doing in their province. That night we had a "cultural exchange" which consisted of three hours of karaoke-style singing by the local Vietnamese (dressed in their finest), with three songs thrown in by our students (Including "Do Re Mi" from the sound of music)

(I must finish this post later as we have just enough time to catch some dinner before our busleaves forthe train station.)

Day Six in Vietnam: May 18

Sapa Lao Cai/ Hanoi Train SAPA
Long trek to visit beautiful village named Lao Chai & Ta Van,
get in local house to learn about the life of local people.
Back to Sapa town by bus.
Free for shopping at Sapa market until transfer back to Lao Cai railway station to catch night train back to Hanoi.

Very soggy day! Our long trek to Lao Chai and Ta Van was pretty wet. We were escorted all the way by the omnipresent enterprising Hmong women, always trying to sell us their handicrafts. They have hand-embroidered textiles (purses, wallets, tablecloths) and hand-made jewelry. It's hard to depict just how persistent they are...when a bus of tourists stops, they surround it like wasps...One feels very conflicted: one the one hand I have nothing but sympathy for their plight: they see us (quite rightly) as extremely wealthy and while ten dollars to us is a couple of cafe mochas, to them, it is over half a month's income. On the other hand, their aggressive sales tactics are quite uncomfortable. They seem to follow the same sales manual: first, they ask you your name and where you are from. Then they ask about children, husband, ...and then the sales pitch begins in earnest. If you get to this stage, they assume that a personal relationship exists and that you will buy from them. But if you buy anything from one, this unleashes a flood of indignant entreaties: "You buy from her, you buy from me...YOU BUY FROM ME!!! They can be very unpleasant if you do not buy from them. One of the students was quite shaken when a Hmong woman cursed her out for not buying from her. And so it is best not to respond to their insistent "Madame! Madame!" But nonetheless, I did buy some presents here.

The houses in the Hmong "beautiful villages" are dark and sanitation is minimal. Children are dressed in dirty clothes and covered with insect bites. They mainly grow rice (in long terraces lining the hills) and corn, and keep poultry (chickens, ducks and things that are larger but don't look like turkeys....your guess is as good as mine) and the occasional pigs. What I found most depressing was the small markets we passed (little more than a shed with a table) which sold bottled water and snacks to that I am sure they could never afford to eat themselves. But lest I paint too bleak a picture, I should say that conditions are much better than in previous decades and tourism has a lot to do with this, and wealth does not always equate to happiness. One of our students is Hmong, and she could speak to them in their native language. Here she was, going to college in America: it must have been amazing for them to imagine.

So, Sapa was a blend of good and bad: the tourists that keep the local economy running may be discouraged from a second trip by the off-putting strong-arm sales tactics of the Hmong peoples, but I suspect there will always be more tourists. Nonetheless I was a bit relieved to board the bus back to Lao Cai station.

Day Five in Vietnam: 17 May

17 May, Lao Cai Sapa Road SAPA
Arrive Lao Cai railway station at 6am.
Transfer to Sapa (~37km). Have breakfast at local restaurant and free for visiting Sapa market.
12:00: Have lunch.
PM: Nice walk to visit Cat Cat village and Cat Cat stream of the Black H'mong people (~5km).

It is time to leave Hanoi for a time and travel northwest to visit the areas of the Montagnards (mountain people). Our base will be Sapa, "Queen of the Mountains" and it will take an entire night's train ride toget there.

"Who is it that does not love a train?" to misparaphrase Frost.

The gentle rocking, creaking, lullaby, the ever-changing view, cosiness and comfort, safety.

We climbed on the train last night and what a pleasant surprise to behold the clean, modern sleeper cars glowing with golden-reddish wood. It is the King Express. Out sleepr c\has four couchette, a talbe with candies and crackers...the toilets are even clean, with an outside sink for washing up. A drinks cart brings tea and juice for free, beer and other alcoholic drinks for a small fee. The students play Pit with the deck I brought with me, but must switch to "silent" mode when things get a bit too noisy. (We have most of this car, but not all of it.)

I take a top bunk and after the customary ablutions settle down for the night with a good book. Soon all the other inhabitants of my cart are asleep and I spend some time watching the scenery roll past. I hated to go to sleep to miss any of it, but eventually sleep I did, and comfortably, too.

I awoke at about 5 to find it already beginning to be light outside. I dressed and stood in the corridor watching a new vista unfold. The wide brown river flows sluggishly. In the distance misty mountains cast their tranquil protective arms around the land.

We pass a brick-making"factory"--little more than a pile of clayish dirt next to a pond. A boy trudges back with a five-gallon container of drinking water (obtained from how far away?). Fields of corn right up to the tracks, scattered villages, cool, green, damp, fertile.

Soon our train pulls into Lao Cai Station (a stone's though away fromthe Chinese border) and we all pile out. After breakfast (pho again, but I never tire of it) we climb aboard the bus tthatwill take us from Lao Cai to Sapa. It is a small bus and we are crowded in together.

Woven bamboo walls, infact bamboo used for all sorts of structures, corrugated tin roofs, chickens, dogs, water buffalo, a group of puppies gnaw on a stick... and incongrously, a satellite dish perched on the roof of one house. Many houses have electricity.

Winding, winding, winding up the steep mountain road. Second gear, first gear. We gaze down from the road onto terraces cut into the sides of the hills. When we finally arrive at Sapa it looks very much of an Austrian or Swiss mountain town--only with dozens of Hmong in traditional garb!

It's main market day in Sapa, and the streets are crowded. We check into our hotel and take advantage of the shower to clean up after the long trip. The damp and the steepness of the streets reminds me of Sintra in Portugal. We eat lunch at Gerbera, a restaraunt reached by a set of stairs up from the main drag. As we feast on local Vietnamese favorites, a cat growls (no, really!) under our tables.

The "Nice walk to visit Cat Cat village" consists of a walk straight down the mountain side. (Not so nice knowing that we will be climbing back up). To describe properly the experience withthe Hmong will require another post later on--it's time for bed.

Day Four in Vietnam: 16 May

AM: traditional cooking class in Hanoi
Visit Bat Trang ceramic village

21:00: Transfer to Hanoi railway station
21.55: Night train to Lao Cai.

This morning we went to Viet Cuisine and had a Vietnamese cooking class. First off, the chef took us on a tour of the Old Quarter farmer's market--not to buy, but just to see the wide range of products available. The level of hygiene was not exactly what we are used to in the states, what with raw meat and fish and seafood being prepared right on the floor of the stalls. Takes some getting used to, esp. the smells.
We returned to the restaurant and, after we all washed our hands, they ushered us upstairs to the second floor where a horseshoe-shaped set of tables was set up. We each got a chef's hat and an apron. We learned how to make four dishes:

Fresh spring rolls and dipping sauce
Chicken with lemon leaves
Fish with Tamarind sauce
Sweet potato pudding

The spring rolls were easy once you learned not to overload them: chopped lettuce, cilantro, rice noodles, pork (stir-fried with peanut butter!!!) and a cooked shrimp (artistically arranged), wrapped in a rice paper wrapper.

The dipping sauce had fish sauce, water, sugar, garlic, and lime juice, plus one hot pepper for flavor.
The lights went out during the stir-frying phase, but came back on after a minute or so

We ate the spring rolls right after making them for our appetizer.

We had to debone the chicken quarters--I had an advantage over the students because I do this often at home, as it is much cheaper to buy the chicken quarters bone-in, so I got some praise from the chef. Then we put some plum sauce on the non-skin side, and pressed a few lemon leaves (maybe they were actually lime leaves, as they referred to lime juice as "lemon juice"). These were to marinate for about 15 minutes, and then pan-fried.

The fiash was catfish, filleted and cut into three-inch square pieces. We scored cross-hatch marks into the flesh and put finely sliced ginger on top. The tamarind sauce was already prepared, but they gave us a recipe for making it from scratch. Then you steam the fish.

The most surprising dish was the sweet potato pudding. We began by finely dicing (white!) sweet potatos and puttign them into boiling water to cook. When they are easily "mushed" they are done, but midway through this process the lights went out, and this time it was for good. So the chef finished the pudding on a gas burner. You add coconut milk, cornstarch, sugar, and finely julienned ginger to the sweet potato mixture to finish.

Then we all trooped down to the first floor to enjoy the fruits of our labor, eating by candlelight.

Everythign tasted wonderful, esp. the chicken. The chef fried the lemon leaves as well, and the crispy leaves tasted just like (really!) Fruit Loops.

This would be an easy meal to make at home (add steamed rice), and I will definitely make it for Liam upon my return.

Well, one of the students needs the computer, so I will finish later.

Day Three in Vietnam: 15 May

Hanoi Ninh Binh
AM: Travel to Phat Diem (~150km), visit Phat Diem Stone Church in the morning.
Back to Ninh Binh town for lunch
PM: Sampan rowing trip along Ngo Dong river.

A very long bus trip today, on some pretty bumpy roads. Our destination, Phat Diem Stone church, is actually part of a large complex including several shrines as well as the cathedral.

During the French ocupation, this area became heavily Catholicized, and the Cathedral itself dates to 1891. Built of massive greyish-black stone, it is an imposing and somewhat ominous edifice. On the weekday we visited, it was pretty much deserted except for a few other tourists and a couple of beggars at the gate, and a group of Vietnamese women who either wanted me to buy their their babie or (more likely) subsidize their maintenance. The church is massive, weighty, and except for the ornate altarpiece, very simple in style. Massive wooden columns hold up the vaulted ceiling, and plain benches and kneelers fill the church. We entered from the sides, which open up to allow in light (a good idea--I did not see any electric lights on inside the church.

The main idea I got from the church is the fusion of Christianity with Vietnamese culture. Although the Mdonna and Child--indeed, virtually all the statues (Peter, Paul, the four Evangelists) were all depicted with western features, nonetheless the architecture itself is an interesting mix of western and eastern. I'll try to post some pictures tomorrow as I manage to download them onto Ken's computer.

After luch we went to the Ngo Ding River for a sampan (small rowboat) trip through the three grottos on the river. We all climbed into the boats, which were rowed by the local women (indeed, Vietnamese women seem to do the lion's share of all the hard work here!). Some of them are able to row with their feet--an impressive accomplisment and a logical one considering female anatomy). Kenm, who speaks pretty good Vietnamese, chats with our rower, and we both lend a paddle. The grottos are large hollows in the limestone rock above the river, and in places are so low that one needs to watch one's head to prevent decapitation. At the midway point schools of vendor-sampans converge on us for the big sell: drinks, fresh fruit, candy...and encourage you to buy refreshments for the rowers as well.

I am reminded of that scene in Apocalypse Now when they are journeying down the river, but this is quite a different atmosphere. For one, there are no hostile locals (there will be later when the tips are not what they expect, but that is proleptic) and the scenery is lush but not overgrown. On the way back our rower brings out what she acknowledges herself is the main moneymaker for her: hand-embroidered tablecloths and other linens. We (or Ken, rather) haggle for a while, and then let the matter rest, then discuss it a bit more, he wants a tablecloth for his wife, and I want a gift for my aunt Jane-Ann in Georgia.
By the end of the ride all parties are satisfied, and I have in the bargain a lovely small spring-green pillowcase to fill with lavendar as a sachet.

Not all the others have such a good experience: their rowers are quite aggressive in their request for tips and make their disappointment very plain. Although it can be offputting, when one is objective it's is hard to fault them: what seems to us like pocket money is an entire day's wage or more to them and they have come to look upon Westerners as their bread and butter...

On the long trip back I once again find the endless lines of small shops on each side of the road fasicnating. How many com pho shops can one kilometer support? Ten? Twenty? How do they make a living???

We arrive home road-weary and when we got off the bus I find I am still moving up and down from the hours of motion. In our room it is difficult to stay awake long enough to jot down some notes from the day without nodding off.

Day Two in Vietnam: 14 May

AM: Visit to the “most important attractions of Ha Noi city: (Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, One pillar pagoda, The temple of Literrature [sic].
PM: Visit Ethnology Museum & Cyclo tour into the old quarter of Hanoi.

Good Morning Vietnam! It is Wednesday, ostensibly the second day of our travels in Vietnam, but the chronology got a little muddled yesterday.

Today we visited the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. No shorts, no
sleeveless shirts allowed. Long lines of very small schoolchildren (girls in their best pink dresses) each one clutching the garment of the one in front--fussed over, like so many chicks, by their guardians, who occasionally pour cold water down their beaks. Some groups are wearing color-coded hats. Ken talks and jokes with them in Vietnamese. The long line snakes under a thoughtfully provided canopy which shields us from the worst of th e sun. No Cameras Allowed. Keep a Dignified Demeanor. No Jokes. No wearing underwear. (!)We proceed quietly and dignifiedly up the stone steps into the cool of the Mausoleum and into a large, dark. cube of a room. No Hands in Pockets. In the center, in a large glass coffin (much like a Communist Cinderella), lies the body of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam's great Leader-Hero, bathed in golden light, improbably well preserved, waxen face, white goatee. Uncle Ho rests uneasily here. His wishes were for a simple cremation, with his ashes divided into three parts, one for each part of Viet Nam: the North, the Central Area, the South. It was not to be. Icons must serve their larger purpose.

Four guards stand, implacable, in a well surrounding the body. Two lines file past; the young children gazing with puzzlement, with curiosity, at the body.

As we emerge into the sun, we pass the four guards who will relieve the other group. (Drat! We miss the changing of the guards by seconds!) I try to think of some sort of comparandum to what we have just seen: perhaps if we had been of an age to remember the funeral of JFK, our own martyr-hero? [Would we have felt the same awe and respect? Princess Diana? The death of Pope John-Paul?] But we do not mummify our rulers and put them on display. Relics...saints...improbable stories of incorruptible flesh and the odor of sanctity..but they were never packed up and sent off for two months to Moscow for maintenance...Maybe we need more heroes.

After the mausoleum we pour out into the plaza where Ho Chi Minh declared independence in 1954: time for a group photo (I'm on the far left, in the hat). Then we visit the humble house on stilts where H.C.M. spent the last days of his life (1958-1969). The area is idyllic: botanical gardens with huge ancient trees, birds, chirping, butterflies...I want my own house on stilts.

Here is the refreshment stand with variable pricing [Price of bottled water for Westerners: 10,000 Dong (about 60 cents). Price for Vietnamese: 5,000 Dong]
Now we are off to the Temple of Literature, founded in 1070 by Emperor Ly Thanh Tong and dedicated to Confucius. Vietnam's first university was established here in 1076 and from 1484 to 1778 lists of students who passed their royal exams are recorded here. The lists of names are inscribed on stelae, and it is considered very good luck for students to rub the head of the turtles (symbol of longevity) upon which the stelae are supported. Comparisons are odious, says John Donne, but where is our Temple of Literature? (One of our students is disappointed by the false advertising, expecting a sort of manuscript museum, with actual literature)

Day One in Vietnam: 13 May: in medias res

"09.50 a.m.: Arrive at Noi Bai international Airport in Hanoi. Meet and transfer to hotel in the Old Quarter of Hanoi."

in medias res: a Latin term most often associated with Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, best translated "in the thick of things".

With my limited blogging time, I am going to skip over, for now, the plane flight and cut to the chase...

We are on a bus barrelling its way into the heart of Hanoi's Old Quarter. The outskirts of the city are an emerald checkerboard of rice paddies, interrupted occasionally by the odd patch of corn or garden plot with all sorts of vegetable. There is not a brown spot to be seen, except for the small dirt roads that connect the fields. (Dorothy, we are not in Fresno any more!). This area is still very much rural.

The simile is overworked, but appropriate: Hanoi is very much like a frenetic anthill of activity. Even more appropriate when you see the small motor bikes laden with impossibly large cargo: a huge TV, 50 dozen eggs, stacks of all manner of vegetables, large blocks of ice, and, of course, human cargo: two, sometimes, three to a bike, babies and children two, all waving in and out of the larger vehicles with what appears to be suicidal abandon. Horrendous ccidents seem inevitable, (although in reality they rarely happen) and the air is punctuated with the almost constant beep of truck and motorbike horns: warning, chiding, complaining, retaliating.

This, more than anything else, is one's first impression of Vietnam: a dizzying blur of traffic; a cacophonous symphony of horns.

With so much activity all around, one's eyes fly from one unfamiliar sight tot he next: the architecture (more on this later), the women in traditional conical bamboo hats, the small shops, the massive omnipresent billboards. It is sensory overload.

Welcome to the Nam!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Taking a Break

Just no time to keep up on the blog what with the semester slouching towards an end and the indexing on the book going far too slowly and the grading so far behind I may not ever catch up.

So I'll be taking a break for a while.

But guess what? I am going to Vietnam in May!! One of my fellow professors is taking a group of students and needs an extra adult female presence. He couldn't find any adults, but I said I would go...

Aside from too much work, all goes well. Take care of yourselves and I'll be back in a week or so, Deo volente.

Love, Aghaveagh

Friday, April 4, 2008

My lolcatz done saved my soul

How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!

what else is there to do but view the kittehs?

deez r mai lolcats. Ai dun them.

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

funny pictures
moar funny pictures
funny pictures
moar funny pictures

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Pictures from Diocesan Convention

Here are a few of the photos from the convention on Saturday.

Installation of Bishop Jerry
Our new Bishop Lamb pledges to take care of his flock
Women Priests!
Our new Bishop
The PB

There was a huge collection of vestments and other donated items from parishes across the United States and elsewhere--parishes and missions in need could help themselves. Midway through the day there were still piles left...

Truly a big tent! This is where the coffee and refreshments were served and where we ate lunch.

The inside of the lovely chapel at St. John's, Lodi

The PB signs Fresno Mark's book

An Episcodog named Molly Moo

Molly Moo and Sophie frolic on the lawn at St. John's

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Father Jake told us to go to sleep

So I will post pix from the Convention tomorrow. Thank you all for your prayers. Good night!

Look down, O Lord, from your heavenly throne, and illumine this night with your celestial brightness; that by night as by day your people may glorify your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Visit this place, O Lord, and drive far from it all snare of the enemy; let your holy angels dwell with us to preserve us in peace; and let your blessing be upon us always; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, March 28, 2008

San Joaquin Special Diocesan Convention

San Joaquin Diocesan Convention update

We are now comfortably ensconced in the Best Western I-5 Inn at Lodi, having returned from the Reception, Healing Service, and Q and A Session at St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Stockton (not too far from Lodi...).

We arrived a bit late due to a fire drill that kept us out of our offices on campus (false alarm) and a wrong turn, so we showed up as the reception was winding down—still managed to snag some refreshments. People milled around and greeted each other. I saw the PB from afar. Jan displayed the newly created banner for Grace Episcopal, Bakersfield.

St. Anne’s Church is very lovely! High ceilings, stained glass, my photo is a bit blurry but may give you somewhat of an idea. The placed was starting to fill up and in no time all the pew space was taken. Some nice young lads were bringing in folding chairs and placing them along the outer aisles. I nabbed two for Liam and me. We were pretty far from the front
It was hard to tell numbers but easily 200+: parking overflowed into neighboring streets;

The service was beautiful.
“An Order of Worship for the Evening with Prayers for Healing”:

A short lesson (Matt. 5:14-16)
A prayer for light
The Lucernaria for Easter
Phos Hilaron
Psalm 118 1-18
(these verses seemed especially appropriate:

I called to the LORD in my distress; *
the LORD answered by setting me free.
The LORD is at my side, therefore I will not fear; *
what can anyone do to me?
The LORD is at my side to help me; *
I will triumph over those who hate me.)

Gloria Patri
Luke 24: 1-12
Gloria Patri
Lord’s Prayer
Litany for healing
Prayer attributed to St. Francis.
Then the PB anointed all the priests, and they in turn offered unction to all while hymns were sung.
Then Easter blessings.

Then the Peace.

People just kept on passing the peace for about 5 minutes or so when Father Mark Hall called us back to order. He formally introduced Katharine Jefferts Schori, Bishop Lamb and their spouses, and Bonnie Anderson He made a special presentation of a gift basket of St. Anne’s beers to the PB (“PB Stout”) and to Bonnie Anderson (“Anti-Schism Ale”), quipping that “this church is just a front for a brewery.” He didn’t skip Bishop Lamb however, noting that he will soon get a “key to the sacristy where all the beer is stored.”

Then the Q and A started. The questions were all in the same vein for the most part: what might happen next, what should we do in divided parishes, how should we move forward… for clarification about the HOB vote on the deposition. The PB is a very eloquent speaker. She noted that the vast middle of the Anglican Communion is annoyed that so much time and effort is spend on issues of human sexuality when there are people dying of hunger and disease in our midst.

One person expressed our thanks to the PB, to Bonnie Anderson and to Bishop Lamp for their support. At one point we gave PB a standing ovation.
She later said, “It is you who deserve a standing ovation for your hard work.”

After the Q and A we milled around and talked. I enjoyed a glass of St. Anne’s Porter: a humble little beer, not overly complicated, but smooth and comfortable.

So the big questions whether any of the Standing Committee will show tomorrow. I’ll go out on a limb and say that I think Father Snell and Father Eaton will show up. And I hope they do. We will welcome them back in if they want to be welcomed back in.

In closing, it was an evening marked by optimism, hope, and love. A fitting beginning to the work that continues tomorrow, and a big step toward healing for this battered diocese.

More tomorrow! Pax vobiscum,


Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Now, I know that since it's Monday in Holy Week that Paddy's feast really should be moved, and that some people celebrated his feast day on Saturday, March 15 (a.k.a the Ides of March...)

But I think I will be forgiven if I celebrate today. So I have my Shamrock socks on, and I've decorated my office door with the Wearing of the Green, and we are off in about an hour's time to our local Irish pub to celebrate with our good friends Nora and Bill.

And boy, do we need it! It's been a busy week with the meeting with Bishop Lamb on Friday night (it was so hopeful and joyous and healing--I hope to write about it at greater length, preparations for History Day on campus--we spent all day Saturday with over 500 elementary, junior and senior high school students competing in several categories, and this week of course is no calmer, what with something going on every night.

My Civ students are beginning to panic about Dante papers due on Wednesday (and since many of them didn't even start reading it until now, they are finding it more difficult than they expected). They are starting to feel the full stress of the semester--so lots of activity during my office hours, including several students with personal crises. Pretty exhausting. So, I am looking forward to some downtime!

I wish you and yours a very happy St. Paddy's Day!



Saturday, March 8, 2008

Goodbye, Andy

Yetserday we said goodbye to our dear friend.

Andy was the classic Southern gentleman. He was kind, thoughtful, deliberate, and a man of staunch faith and consummate humility. I was proud to call him my friend.

He had been battling liver cancer for several weeks. When he told Liam and me about the diagnosis, he cautioned us not to tell anyone. He did not even want to have his name on the prayer list, but we were able to persuade him to do so.

His death was utterly unexpected. He had been going through chemotherapy and even though we could tell by the weight loss and by his haggard features that it had taken its toll on him, no one expected his sudden passing. He died in his sleep last Friday.

Yesterday his funeral was held at Holy Family. I was on Altar Guild and ironed the pall that would cover his casket, shedding many a tear as I did so. We have had such wonderful times at their house--I remember especially last Thanksgiving when we brought up a turkey dinner and emptied an astonishing number of bottles of wine as we sat and talked.

Linda Gail, Andy's wife, is an Episcopal priest, although she was not allowed to serve in the Diocese of San Joaquin. She has battled several health issues over the last few years and ironically (and blessedly), as Andy's health deteriorated, Linda Gail's improved. Father Keith, in his graciousness, allowed the former Bishop of San Joaquin to deliver the homily, as he is a close friend of Linda Gail. It was a very comforting homily.

Liam went over to thank Bishop Schofield after the service and they exchanged good wishes. Whatever happens in the future, I will always have a bond with Bishop Schofield--he confirmed me and when I told him I had taken the name of St. Brigit as my confirmation name he approved my choice with several anecdotes of her life. Please pray for Bishop Schofield as he looks to be in very bad health.

Andy, we will miss your gracious presence and comforting ways. Know that you are missed, but we are happy to know your suffering is over. May light perpetual shine upon you, my friend!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Why I am giving up bottled water for Lent

A "Scholars Speak" article I wrote:

I do not drink tap water. In fact, in the last few years I really can’t recall drinking tap water (except in the most extreme exigency) at all. We own a water cooler and have five-gallon carboys of water delivered to our house. We also have a water cooler at work. On the rare occasions that I have forgotten to bring my water bottle to fill up, I have bought a bottle from the vending machines on campus. (At over a dollar a pop, you don’t want to do this very often.)

I am not an extreme germophobe or even very paranoid—since I don’t really drink soda or juice, I drink a lot of water, and I just don’t like the taste of tap water. And evidently I am not alone. Go to any supermarket and you will see an entire aisle of bottled water choices, all with enticing brand names. (My favorite is “Smart Water”—if only it really worked!) We have been convinced by the manufacturers of these products that bottled water will make us healthier, stronger, even smarter (although two of the major brands are nothing more than purified tap water). Trendy restaurants even have water sommeliers to advise us on the correct choice to complement our meal. This craze can be seen at its most sublime (or ridiculous) extent in “Bling H2O,” which comes in a frosted bottle decorated with Swarovski crystals. Price: around $35-50.

As we become a nation of bottled water drinkers, however, this habit becomes problematic in several ways. First, and most obvious, is the problem of the empties. Since a lot of bottled water is consumed away from home, not every empty plastic bottle makes its way to the recycling bin, even in California, one of the few states to include plastic water bottles in its bottle bill. In fact, according to the Container Recycling Institute, 86 percent of these end up as garbage or litter. When these plastics are incinerated, they release toxic chemicals such as chlorine gas. Second, the manufacture of plastic bottles uses crude oil. I drive a hybrid, not a luxury sedan or an SUV, because I feel it is a better choice for the world. Shouldn’t I operate under the same philosophy with regard to the water I drink? Shipping exotic bottles of water thousands of miles from their point of origin (Fiji, for example, or Finland or New Zealand) to the United States uses huge amounts of fossil fuels. Even more ironic: many of the empty bottles are shipped off to be recycled to foreign countries such as China, using even more petroleum.

When I think about this habit in the context of my faith, however, another problem arises. At the end of a recent church function, a veritable mountain of empty plastic bottles filled two large bags. Used once, their contents swiftly drained, they now were on their way to the recycling bin. I couldn’t help thinking about the money. Why, when we had perfectly good, free tap water, were we, as a church, buying bottled water, with all its costs (obvious and hidden)? It is, in fact, quite literally conspicuous consumption. Jesus teaches us by example to be frugal: after feeding thousands with the loaves and fishes, he instructs his disciples to go around and pick up the leftovers. When so much of the world struggles on a daily basis to obtain drinking water of any quality, our use of these products only reinforces the gap between us and our poorer brothers and sisters: if this trend continues, if only those who cannot afford bottled water are forced to drink from the tap, will there be the same impetus to guard the safety of public drinking water?

At the end of the classic film Casablanca, Inspector Renault dumps his ubiquitous bottle of Vichy water into the trash as a symbol of his newly found patriotism. This season of Lent, I am trying to put my principles where my mouth is: I am drinking… (gritting my teeth) tap water. Each time I fill my 20-oz bottle with tap water, I’ll put a quarter into a jar. At the end of Lent, the money will be sent off to the Episcopal Relief and Development Fund. And each time I’ll think about how lucky I am to live in a country where clean, safe water is just a turn of the tap away.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

This woman is brilliant. Just brilliant.

I have been blown away by the most recent post of our dear Doxy. One would not wish to diminish her brilliance by saying "as usual", but indeed, as usual, she states her case with eloquence, feeling, and a level of perception that few mortals achieve in this transitory life.

Good Grief! I am staunchly of the hetero camp but I would marry this woman in a heartbeat!

Dear Lord,
I wish for Doxy Dearest a man worthy of her--no punches pulled, out-and-out intellectual and emotional equality. I wish her joy and happiness to drive away the sorrow of her previous experiences.

And if that is not what she desires, well, I have a dog here who desperately wants to marry her...

What I am

Click to view my Personality Profile page

Friday, February 1, 2008

Feast of St. Brigid

Today is the feast of Saint Brigid, my name saint (I took it as my confirmation name) and we are having a feast of our own in celebration, with a couple of dear friends to enjoy it with us. (Quite fitting, as she is the patron saint of hospitality.) There'll be salmon with dill sauce, asparagus, and (of course) Murphy's Irish Stout. Bon bons for dessert!

Ni bu Sanct Brigid suanach
Ni bu huarach im sheire Dé,
Sech ni chiuir ni cossens
Ind nóeb dibad bethath che.

Saint Brigid was not given to sleep,
Nor was she intermittent about God's Love;
Not merely that she did not buy, she did not seek for
The wealth of this world below, the holy one.

(from a Life of St. Brigid by the seventh-century St. Broccan Cloen)

Padre Mickey over at the Dance party has a write-up of St. Brigid that cannot be missed! Go read it. And have some butter tonight!

Oh, and make sure you hang a hankerchief from your washline for good fortune throughout the coming year!


I just started reading a fascinating new book called Planet Narnia. The author, Michael Ward, argues that the main organizing principle behind C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia is in fact the seven medieval planets--the "seven heavens" of medieval cosmology. The book was actually sitting in my husband's office at--I went in for some trifle, idly picked it up, became engrossed, and just sat there reading it.

I've only read the first chapter, but I have to say it is one of the best written books I've read all year. As a great fan of the Narniad, I can't wait to see how he proves his thesis.

So this is about serendipity. I am teaching a class on the Renaissance and English Literature--way out of my field, but the professor who normally teaches it is on leave. So I am getting to read many things for the first time. One of then is Sir Philip Sidney's Defense of Poesy, a rather obscure apologia for poets (and indeed all makers of literature) in the face of Puritan attacks.

So I sat there reading Planet Narnia, and Ward is talking about why Lewis didn't just come out and tell people that there was an overarching theme for the Narnaid: his "precedents for secrecy." As a medievalist, he was naturally steeped in the ethos of the period, and (as Ward puts it) "Secrecy and polysemy were important features of the literature of that period." Earlier he quotes Owen Barfield as saying, "He [Lewis] stood before me as a mystery as solidly as he stood before me as a friend." And then a little later Ward quotes from the Defense of Poesy:

"Sir Philip Sidney neatly expressed the prevailing aesthetic temper of the period when he wrote 'there are many misteries contained in Poetrie, which of purpose were written darkly, least by prophane wits it should be abused."

Hmm... serendipity! Quoting Sidney on the same day I am reading him for the first time myself! Then I thought I'd better get back to work, so I went to the library. As I traveled the well-worn path among the stacks to the quiet mezzanine where I like to hide out and do work, the title and author of a book caught my eye: Romanticism Comes of Age by Owen Barfield. I must have walked by it a hundred times without ever really seeing it. I pulled it from the shelf and opened it at random and read the following:

"As users of language, the poet and the logician stand at opposite poles. To the logician the sound of a word means nothing at all, while to the poet it is of the utmost importance. To the logician those words are of most value which change their meaning as little as possible when they are used in different contexts; the poet likes the meanings which change most, and is always trying to change them further himself."

Another "defense of poesy." This is why I love this job!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Moon By Night is one year old!

One year ago I created The Moon By Night and posted my first blog entry.

It's been a wonderful year. My readership has soared to five, and the majority of them visit as often as once a month!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Back from Hanford

An eventful day, to say the least!

Faithful Episcopalians from all over the Diocese of San Joaquin met at Church of the Saviour, Hanford with the theme: "Moving Forward, Welcoming All."

I blogged some comments from the floor over at Father Jake's place (the church had wifi) so I will only do a brief recap here.

The first thing was that we had far more people than we expected. We ran out of seating space early on and had to put up folding chairs. We think there was about three hundred fifty people there.

Cynthia and the Hanford people did a phenomenal job of hosting the event. There were a few mike failures and Liam did a great job of rolling with the punches when they changed the order of the PB's address (we thought it was supposed to come before Bonnie Anderson's presentation) and holding up a mike to his Mac when the sound system wouldn't work.

I searched throughout the assemblage for any sign of Brother Causticus, to no avail. (What was I looking for? I don't know, some piercingly intelligent, relatively young man with a verge) Perhaps, as Lisa pointed out over at Father Jake's, it is the idea of B.C. that is the important thing, knowing who he was may spoil that element of mystery...

A very moving theme that came out in the the Q and A is how many people in the DoSJ are waking up--finding out that they have been misled, and they are not happy about it.

Perhaps the most significant observation that crossed my mind today is the idea that we really are going to make it. Before today I had my doubts but after today there is no doubt in my mind that we will remain as a viable Diocese. And it's a wonderful realization.

So, many, many thanks to all of you who kept us in your thoughts and prayers. Please keep it up. But guess what:

The Kids Are Alright.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Holy Family has its Annual Meeting

So the Episcopal Church of the Holy Family had its annual meeting today. An overflow crowd (spilling over into the back field) met to reflect on the past year and look to the future.

We are grateful for the strong leadership of Father Keith Axberg (as one parishioner proclaimed to a standing ovation) and Marshal Johnston (our outgoing senior warden). We also unanimously passed the following resolution:

"We the parishioners of Holy Family Episcopal Church, Fresno, California,

"AFFIRM that we are and intend to remain a parish in the Diocese of San Joaquin, a part of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, and a member of the Worldwide Anglican Communion;

"ACKNOWLEDGE the leadership of our Presiding Bishop, the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, and thank her for the prayers and support she has provided our Diocese and parish;

"PRAY for the reconciliation of the parishes and people in the Diocese of San Joaquin so that we can move beyond those things that prevent and distract us from presenting our common witness to Christ's presence in the world. "


And, as a newly elected member of the Vestry of Holy Family, I pledge my heart, hands and mind to the service of this parish, and the Episcopal Church.

When the Going Gets Weird

The Weird Turn Pro.

The words of the immortal Hunter S. Thompson are especially appropriate in the aftermath of the aptly named "Saturday Morning Massacre."

So now that the quondam Bishop of San Joaquin has fired 6 out of the 8 members of the standing committee, what next? Rumor has it that the six contain all four clergy members. Since Father Snell did NOT vote at convention (perhaps as a function of his position on the dais) has he all along reserved the option of determining the relative verdancy of the pasture involved? It's time for him to put his money where his mouth should be.

Given this circumstance, and the dubious legality of this action, and the fact that it only takes a single member of the standing committee to call a special convention, one wonders if indeed the ousted members of the Standing Committee will take their apparent dismissal with equanimity. If I were them, I would immediately call a convention.

As Grendel would say, Do It Now!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I have been blessed

Yes, it was quite some time ago, but I have been woefully negligent lately owing to the start of the Spring semester.

The always-delightful Kirsten has blessed me--in more ways than one!

I hope I can meet her someday--she seems like a wonderful person and so positive. She will make a great priest. And now it appears that she will actually be able someday to come to the (now and improved) Diocese of San Joaquin and celebrate. So I bless her right back.

I bless Father Jake for all he has done for the marginalized. I bless him for his ministry in giving us a voice and a place to get info.

I bless Padre Mickey for being such a fantastic priest. I wish we could steal him away from Panama to come to San Joaquin!

I bless FranIAm for her joie de vivre and exuberant sense of humor.