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Showing posts from October, 2008

De Dolore Animalium

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Can you see it in his eyes? Yesterday, our cat had surgery, during which the vet removed a mass from his abdomen the size "of a small lemon" along with the adjoining lymph node. We are now waiting on the pathology report to tell us whether the mass was malignant or just one of those things that happen, on occasion, to grow in the intestines of cats.

We should have known earlier that something was wrong. Tom (our cat) had been losing weight for several months; he is now only 2/3 of the cat he was in June. But he had long been somewhat overweight and we were not initially concerned. Nor, when we left him with the vet while we were in Europe in August, did a blood test that the vet did then show anything wrong. Tom had stopped eating the first few days he was boarding, but after some antibiotics and a hamster that had escaped from the upstairs pet store and, for reasons known only to the hamster, wandered into Tom's cage, he (Tom, that is, not the hamster) seemed to re…

Lord Peter*

Every so often, unpredictably and in no particular order, I reread the whole of Dorothy L. Sayers' series of Lord Peter Wimsey novels. I cannot remember ever intending, once I had read them all, to sit down and systematically read them all through again. It's just that, suddenly, I'm in the mood for one of them in particular--this time I think it was The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928), the last time I think it was Murder Must Advertise (1933)--and, gradually, over a week or three, I make my way through the lot. This is not the way I tend to reread, say, Elizabeth Peters' or Terry Pratchetts' novels. With theirs, I tend to start at the beginning and read all the way through to the end (although, in the case of Pratchett's books, I may do this in lots--first the witches, then the guards, then Death & Susan, then the wizards), but with Sayers' stories, the compulsion to read is somewhat different and I'm never really sure, until I get to…

Back to the Future

I'm going to give the last word on this topic to the same newspaper that ran this article about me and my colleagues some years ago (yes, just after I had gotten tenure; I'm sorry I ever mentioned it in my interview with their reporter. It had nothing to do with the story). They have this to say about Senator Obama. I think this shows that even the most conservative of us can change. Thanks Chicago Tribune!

Oh, and thanks, Sean, for the tip on looking in the Wall Street Journal. I found the link to the Trib's Obama endorsement there. I would never have seen it otherwise; after what they said about me, I have, unlike Obama, refused to acknowledge that they exist. He's a bit better about building consensus than I am, even, you will note in what the Trib says about his economic policies, with the economists in the Chicago School which, we should never forget, "puts faith in markets."

No more electioneering from me. There are books of Hours out there yet to…

Odor of Sanctity

Some people would pay good money for this experience. My tongue is black; I've spent the last two days huddled on the couch when I wasn't in the bathroom; I've lost eight pounds since Thursday, albeit most of it water; and everything that comes out of me now--yes, everything--smells sweet. No, I haven't been at a spa undergoing colonic irrigation and sauna baths, although my body temperature did crest at something over 103 degrees Fahrenheit. I've had the flu. What interests me most, other than the prospect that being so sick may really have knocked off a pound or two, is the smell. I've been reading for years about late medieval mystics who starved themselves, living only on the Eucharist, but I had always thought that the reports of their bodies smelling sweet was simply one of those hagiographical tropes. Now I'm not so sure.

Yes, what came out over the first fever-filled, whole-body-aching night (boy, was Thursday night interminable) smelled the …

What's in a name?

I knew it was a mistake involving myself in political commentary*, but having taken the plunge, I guess I have to keep swimming, at least until the election.

One of the things that has mystified me for years is how the label "liberal" came to be associated with support for government regulation of business, e.g. environmental and worker protection measures, or even (heaven forbid) financial transactions. I know that my colleagues in political science would have an answer to this, and I suspect it goes back to sometime in the 1980s, when Berke Breathed did all those comics about the General [my bad: the Major; it's been a long time] and Milo hunting liberals in the meadows of Bloom County. But knowing the little that I do about the history of the concept of liberalism as it developed in the 19th century, I must confess myself rather confused.

This is the way John Stuart Mill (as Wikipedia puts it, "one of the first champions of modern 'liberalism'") saw …

Family Matters

I really wish my father were here. Then I wouldn't have to depend upon my friends (that's you, M.B.) and anonymous readers (that's you, Sean) to pat me on the head and tell me how naive I am. "Taxes are bad because they take money from the people who have earned it and make it impossible for them to start new businesses, hire workers, and generally benefit the economy all around." My father loved this argument when he was talking about trying to get his auto shop to make some (any) money, but for the last fifteen years of his life, he worked for the surgery department in a public university and spent the greater part of his time at the V.A. hospital, being paid by, um, the government. He was also, in his younger days, adamantly opposed to any government-supported health care system; by the time he died, he had revised his thinking on this somewhat. The bureaucracy, waste and corruption of the insurance system had convinced him that the poor--whom he spent th…

Fear Itself

This is not the time for posting. I'm at work and should be thinking about books of Hours, but I haven't been able to sleep properly for days now, and I don't know what else to do but write. If I seem incoherent with fear, I am.

What is going to happen to our country? I've been turning various post titles around in my mind--"My Fellow Americans", "Bread & Circuses", "Apocalypse", "WWJD"--and none of them seems to have an answer. I am afraid of how my country is going to vote. I am afraid of what I see in the comments that viewers have left on the video of the Alfred E. Smith roast on YouTube. Such anger, such lack of decency. Are these really the people whom I pass on the road every day? My fellow Americans?

It's hard being a Christian and believing two impossible things at once. On the one hand, these creatures, these animals who snarl at each other and hurl insults like "Racist" and "Terrorist&quo…

Joe the Plumber

Me, writing political commentary?! Stranger things have happened, like, for instance, having a candidate for president who is intelligent and articulate and able to put issues before what the other candidate's campaign is saying about him personally. So, I watched the debate Wednesday night with increasing hope and concern: is it possible that America might go so far as to elect a president who, while rich*, was also at the top of his class in school? Or are we going to fall yet again for the dumbing down of our politics to the level of personal grievance and feelings? It all hinges on Joe the Plumber. But who is he?

I don't mean in real life; everyone knows that now. Even on Wednesday, Senator McCain didn't really care about who "Joe" was or his staff would have bothered to find out, for example, that "Joe's" full name is Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher and that he isn't even licensed by the Association of Plumbers, Steamfitters and Service Mec…

To Market, To Market

"A Prayer for him that buyes and sels. O Good God, what is our life but a common Mart, wherein we sel away our bodies to shame for the price of momentarie pleasure, & barter away our soules to sinne, which were bought at the dearest rate (euen thy Sonnes blood?) What are all our labours, but desperate voiages, made to purchase wealth? And what are the riches of a worldly man when they are gotten, but (as thy Prophet singeth) The weauing of a spiders webbe? The spider makes fine nets to …

Words to Live By*

It's just a little phrase, innocuous enough for all that it has become a cliche, but it's been bothering me now for days. I see it everywhere: in magazines, on billboards, on the Internet. People say it to each other more or less without thinking, typically as a way of comforting each other. Still, I don't know why it bothers me so much. It is, after all, a promise of something pleasant. It's what we say to each other when we've been working hard. It's what I would say to myself this evening, taking a break from fencing practice after spending the weekend driving to and from Ohio for the competition, if only I weren't so annoyed by it. My father-in-law even wrote (actually co-wrote) a book with the phrase in the title. What is this insidious phrase, you may ask?

"Treat yourself tox." There it is. How many times have you heard or read this phrase in the last few days? "Treat yourself to a massage." "Treat yourself to new l…

Competition, Morning of, Day Two

I feel old. Okay, so I spent yesterday fencing against women at a minimum 20 years younger than myself, but it really isn't that. Or only that. It's that three years ago, when I was 40, I was in the best shape I had ever been in my life, thirty pounds lighter than I am now (albeit probably fifteen pounds underweight, to judge from the way my body reacted), able for the first time in decades to run with pleasure, able to keep up with even the college-age fencers in footwork, able to fence a fifteen-touch bout and stay with it hard throughout. And then my father died and I grieved for a year. I stopped coloring my hair, in part because it was falling out, in part because everyone kept telling me how beautiful the white was with my face. My yoga center closed and I could not find a class elsewhere that fit with my schedule, so I fell back on books to keep my home practice alive. And now, three and a half years later, for reasons I really do not fully understand, I feel old…

Competition, Morning of

My thoughts are all in a jumble. What does it mean to be ready for a competition? Although possible in the general scheme of things, it is highly unlikely that I will win. Again, although possible, it is highly unlikely that I will place high enough to earn a new rating. So what is my goal? To fight as hard as I can? But sheer aggression is unsettling. I need to be calm enough not to push, patient enough not to try for an attack when I have not set it up--i.e. teased my opponent sufficiently to make her think I'm going to do one thing when I'm actually planning another. But if I spend all of my time planning, then I will not pay attention to her set ups and she will, quite literally, catch me off guard. Should my plan be to work on a particular action? Again, this seems somewhat limiting. I need to be able to respond to what my opponents are doing and if I get too fixed on one plan, then I will simply keep doing the same thing over and over again. At which point, m…

Prayer on the Eve of Leaving for the NAC

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*With thanks to Donna for introducing our Adult Formation class to Sybil MacBeth's Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God.

Prayer for October

"The Chalice of Time"

Lord, I have time, I have plenty of time,
All the time that you give me,
The days of my years, the hours of my days,
They are all mine.
Mine to fill, quietly, calmly,
But to fill completely, up to the brim,
To offer them to you, that, of their insipid water
You may make a rich wine
Such as you made once in Cana of Galilee.
I am not asking you, Lord,
For time to do this and then that,
But your grace to do conscientiously,
In the time that you give me,
What you want me to do.

--Found on the last page of an article that I just received on Interlibrary Loan from Mount Carmel 31.4 (Winter: 1983), p. 191, signed DSO.*
*I'm not sure who "DSO" was, but apparently the prayer was written by Michel Quoist.

Facere Quod In Se Est*

It sounds like such good advice: “Just do the best you can.” It is the implications that are somewhat worrying.

Yes, it’s the beginning of the tournament year, and I’m back where I was in July, wondering what the point is. Okay, so one of the reasons that I lost that pool bout 4-5 was because my weapon failed on the last touch and my parry-riposte, clear as day to look at, did not register on the box. (My opponent remised, and there we were.) What was I doing letting things get to 4-4 in the first place? Well, I had been behind 1-4 and come back, but never mind. I lost the last touch because I did not know how to clean my tip properly, and that, plus one thing and another (both of my other weapons failing because the body cords were loose and so my attacks registered nothing but off-targets), I only won 3 of my 6 pool bouts, putting me in the middle of the field (16 out of 32) for the D-E round. And then I lost my D-E to the girl who had seeded 17th.

So there I was sitting at the …