Seven Quick Takes No. 10

Be sure to visit Jennifer at Conversion Diary for more stimulating "quick takes."

1. I got my dog! Okay, so she's a little hard to take on walks seeing as she can't move by herself, but isn't she cute? We're going to an actual dog show tomorrow out west of the city, just to meet some real Corgis, but I've had to agree that we are not actively looking to adopt at this time. Life lesson for the week on how couples make decisions: nobody wins in a dog fight.

2. We're going ahead with our kitchen remodeling though. Can you say, middle-aged? It's a little disconcerting standing in what you thought was a fairly stable arrangement of windows and walls hearing a contractor talk about lifting window sills and moving heaters so as to open up the space for countertops as much as possible. It's going to be wonderful after the remodeling to be able to make toast and tea at the same time, but I have to confess a bit of anxiety about (gasp!) watching someone take out all the plaster on the walls down to the original brickwork so as to put the new wiring in. Deep breath!

3. Speaking of middle-age, it's funny how bad people generally are at estimating one another's age. I've mentioned this before, as I'm sure you remember. One of my graduate students has been complaining on Facebook about how he is all-too-often taken for an undergraduate, and one of my fellow fencers who also teaches here was chagrined to be asked yesterday whether she was picking up a class roster in her name "or the professor's." On the other hand, one of the younger fencers at practice last night was surprised (I think) to learn that although I had been at Columbia in graduate school, no, I would not know somebody who had been there as an undergraduate in the 1970s (when I was, say, eight). Clearly, everybody over 30 looks the same to those under 30--and vice versa, I suppose.

4. Perhaps we're so bad at it because we are constantly asked to believe that people in their late 20s look like high schoolers, while somebody in their late 30s could have a child of 28. Okay, so it's biologically possible, barely, but why is it so hard for casting directors to pay attention to how old the people they are casting as parents and children actually are? That being said, I am happy to report that we've finally started watching Friday Night Lights, only three years after my sister started working on it as a script supervisor. Much as I find it difficult to watch programs about a) Texas and b) football--having suffered through my fair share of Texan high school pep rallies and, to my mind, mind-numbingly dull football games--I'm actually really enjoying it. Go, sis! And, okay, although some of the "kids" are definitely too old for high school (mid-to-late 20s), most of the parents are at least plausibly aged.

5. On the remodeling front, somehow, miraculously, the work on campus seems to have gotten finished more or less on time. It was quite a shocker a week or so ago coming back to campus after the weekend to find that, yes, the new pedestrian walkways through the middle of the main quad were now in place when all that had been visible for the better part of three months was a hole in the ground. How is it that work can appear to be going on for months and months and months with no visible change and then, practically overnight, in reality in about three days, things can go from "never going to be finished on time" to "done"? Good news: there's going to be a cafe downstairs from my office for the first time in over ten years. Even better, this one will actually have decent seating. I hope they do chai!

6. And speaking of digging in the ground, wouldn't it be cool to find this? All my medievalist friends on Facebook are over the moon about the find: "The largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found."

This is the piece that really knocks me out:

It has been suggested that the hoard, found in the Midlands, therefore, in the region of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia, which may still have been pagan at the time that the objects were buried, is a collection of trophies taken in battle. Which makes the inscription on this gold band all the more poignant: "surge d[omi]ne [et] dispentur inimici tui et fugent qui oderunt te a facie tua," that is, "rise up, o Lord, and may thy enemies be scattered and those who hate thee be driven from thy face." This is a passage taken from either Psalm 67:2 or 10:35. The latter reads, in full: "When he had lifted up the ark, Moses said, 'Rise up, Lord, and may your enemies be dispersed and those who hate you be driven from your face.'"

7. Which brings us to some bedtime reading. Hearken to Granny Weatherwax, on faith:

'She turned to face him, suddenly alive. "It'd be as well for you if I didn't believe," she said, prodding him with a sharp finger. "This Om...anyone seen him?"

"It is said three thousand people witnessed his manifestation at the Great Temple when he make [sic] the Covenant with the prophet Brutha and saved him from death by torture on the iron turtle--"

"But I bet that now they're arguing about what they actually saw, eh?"

"Well, indeed, yes, there are many opinions--"

"Right, Right. That's people for you. Now if I'd seen him, really there, really alive, it'd be in me like a fever. If I thought there was some god who really did care two hoots about people, who watched 'em like a father and cared for 'em like a mother...well, you wouldn't catch me sayin' things like 'there are two sides to every question' and 'we must respect other people's beliefs.' You wouldn't find me just being gen'rally nice in the hope that it'd all turn out right in the end, not if that flame was burning in me like an unforgivin' sword. And I did say burnin', Mister Oats, 'cos that's what it'd be. You say that you people don't burn folk and sacrifice people anymore, but that's what true faith would mean, y'see? Sacrificin' your own life, one day at a time, to the flame, declarin' the truth of it, workin' for it, breathin' the soul of it. That's religion. Anything else is just bein' nice. And a way of keepin' in touch with the neighbors."

She relaxed slightly, and went on in a quieter voice: "Anyway, that's what I'd be, if I really believed. And I don't think that's fashionable right now, 'cos it seems that if you sees evil now you have to wring your hands and say 'oh deary me, we must debate this.' That my two penn'orth, Mister Oats. You be happy to let things lie. Don't chase faith, 'cos you'll never catch it." She added, almost as an aside, "But, perhaps, you can live faithfully."'

--Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum (New York: HarperPrism, 1998), pp. 242-43.


  1. On the issue of truthfulness, you would probably enjoy, if you have not already seen it, Stanley Hauerwas Burke Lecture on Turth in Dietrich Bonhoeffer. THe complete lecture is on You Tube.

  2. 1. Oh, cute! How big is she?

    3. Yeah, my personal favorite is "which high school do you go to - unless you are already in college?" (I am 27). Mostly happens to high school fencers. And on the other hand, it is funny to have seen a person who had been in this situation with me to be extra cautious now with a college fencer I brought to the club last Saturday: "You are in college, right?... ...Are you a student?"

    5. Right, and the result is messy and careless. Well, maybe it is a style, but I expect this "pavement" to wear down in no time - and require another summer of construction work next year.

    6. What a wonderful discovery! I can understand people being over the moon about it.

  3. @Jim: Thanks, I'll have a look at this.

    @Rina: 1. About puppy size, not really as big as she looks in the photo.

    5. I *think* that it's supposed to be a style, sort of rustic. I hear they are going to do Harper quad next summer. That will make three or four summers in row (I'm not sure, I've lost count) that they've dug up the pavement/roadway in that quad alone. I'm thinking redoing the roads/pavements is simply an annual event now, like resodding the lawns.

  4. And I like the question still frequently asked by my (adult) children: "Mom, what do you want to be when you grow up?"

    Cute dog. Betcha don't have to carry a pooper-scooper!


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