Thursday, September 30, 2004


On the road again...

I'm heading out of town for the birthday celebration for my Dad and his twin sister in Chicagoland. The two sides of the family are getting together, and this is the first time I've seen these cousins in more than fifteen years. When we were kids, we were two distinctly different sets of children with strikingly different sensibilities, and on the few occasions that our families got together, I don't remember that we got along very well. To this day, my brothers and I still have a pretty strong "us versus them" way of thinking about this side of the family -- probably because we simply don't know them well at all since they lived in Nebraska and we grew up in Virginia, where we were surrounded by Mom's side of the family. I'm more than a little curious to see how we all get along as adults.

I don't know if anyone else keeps up with Jimmy Johnson's website for the cartoon Arlo & Janis (I've got a link to it). He's been a great source of 1st-person news regarding the weather in Florida. Today he posted a link to one of the craziest things I've seen in a while, so in honor of Elaine's new blog, I'm posting the link to the Oxford English Dictionary [or Omnificent English Dictionary, according to the site] in Limerick Form here:

Enjoy! And have a great weekend!

Tuesday, September 28, 2004



Today it's not the leaves that have fallen -- it's Lara!

One minute I was walking up the stairs outside the building where I work, and the next minute I was falling up the stairs.

My right knee seems to have suffered the worst. After icing and elevating it for a while, I stood up, couldn't bear weight on it, and decided a trip to the clinic was in order.

While trying to isolate the pain, the doctor managed to manipulate the joint in such a way that I cried. Bad pain. Bad, bad pain.

Two x-rays and two more ice packs later, it appears that nothing around the patella is broken or chipped. Hurrah! The knee's bandaged, and I'm supposed to keep it elevated and iced, as is practical (considering I'm at work), and the doctor gave me some drugs - a pain killer and an anti-inflammatory.

The drive home may be a bit of a challenge. But my co-workers have been a great help in getting through the day. And Ed makes the best ice packs! :-)

Here's to healing....

Wednesday, September 22, 2004


Open Up Your Loving Arms

(It's probably all sorts of wrong to talk about Whirling Dervishes under a title that is a line from a Dead or Alive song. And, of course, now I've got this 1980s earworm gnawing away in my head....)

Lotus weekend was great, as usual. (What's Lotus? See my earlier post on the subject and/or For the past several years, I've hosted a gathering that coincides with Lotus for friends I know from a Usenet newsgroup. This year four of the regulars - J, CnC, and K - came to town for the festival. It was great to catch up with friends I hadn't seen in several months.

J arrived Friday evening. Ed joined us for dinner at the Tibetan restaurant, and then we walked around downtown to check out the music playing at the outdoor venues. We caught the end of a performance of traditional Québécois music by Le Vent du Nord ( and watched the drumming of the African Showboyz ( for a little while. Then after exploring the commercial aspects of the festival (the artists sell CDs and get to keep most of the money from the sales), we caught a performance of scratch band music by Jamesie & the All-Stars (, who had to fly into the States from the Caribbean during all the trouble caused by Hurricane Ivan.

Saturday morning J and I did a little shopping downtown. J has been teaching me to knit. I bought some yarn and another pair of knitting needles. She had also brought me some yarn from her stash that she no longer wanted, and before she left on Sunday she helped me start two scarves. Of course, I came home from work Monday evening, carefully knit a row, and still came up with two stitches too many at the end of it. I think it's hopeless, although I'd been hoping to do scarves for a couple people for Christmas presents. Oh, well!

We also stopped by the bead store and spent a huge amount of time playing with beads. I put together a necklace from some moukaite beads. (This isn't anything like the necklace I designed, but it gives you a good idea of the beautiful and bold color variations in moukaite: We met CnC for lunch, returned to the apartment to unload their stuff, then visited a quilt shop. Interesting. One day I would like to try to put together a small quilt - something decorative to hang on the wall. Right now I don't trust my sewing skills, although at this rate they're probably better than my knitting skills. *heh*

K eventually arrived. We had time to sit around and talk a bit before heading out to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in town, a family-owned Turkish restaurant. The owner is one of the most gracious people you'd ever encounter, and the food is always tasty. Ed joined us for dinner, and when the owner came by our tables he explained that he had overheard our group's earlier conversations about the food and complimented us on the way we had explained what things were to the out-of-towners. *preen*

After dinner we dashed off to the venue where the Sufi Music Foundation ( would be playing. Only we found that lots and lots of people had dashed there ahead of us. The line stretched all the way down to the corner and around the block by the time we were able to take up a spot on line. By the time the line started moving as we were let into the auditorium, it had reached the end of the block we were on and started around that corner! The performance had two parts - a music concert followed by an intermission and then the Sema ritual, which, according to a pamphlet we were given, "represents the human being's spiritual journey, an ascent by means of intelligence and love to Perfection (Kemal)."

The pamphlet further explains the symbology of the turning. "The semazen's camel's hair hat (sikke) represents the tombstone of the ego; his wide, white skirt represents the ego's shroud. By removing his black cloak, he is spiritually reborn to the truth. At the beginning of the Sema, by holding his arms crosswise, the semazen appears to represent the number one, thus testifying to God's unity. While whirling, his arms are open: his right arm is directed to the sky, read to receive God's beneficence; his left hand, upon which his eyes are fastened, is turned toward the earth. The semazen conveys God's spiritual gift to those who are witnessing the Sema. Revolving from right to left around the heart, the semazen embraces all humanity with love." (Oh, I just noticed an author's name, so let's give credit where credit is due: Dr. Celalettin Celebi wrote this pamphlet, "The Meaning of Sema, the Universal Movement.")

The performance was incredibly beautiful. If movement can be described as lyrical, then the movement of the semazen is that.

As far as the Lotus experience is concerned, the Sufi Music Foundation really deserved to have its own separate concert. The showcase concerts take place at seven or eight different venues during three different blocks of time, and the Lotus Festival tradition usually involves seeing two or three performances at different venues during a given block of time; some people stay in one venue for the entire block, but many people stay for a few songs and then leave for another artist's performance in a different venue. The Sufi Music Foundation's performance wasn't really set up to allow for this coming and going of audience members. Maybe the Festival organizers weren't aware of how this show would work, but I think the group should have been given their own night.

During the rest of the evening, we saw Le Vent du Nord, Peruvian singer Eva Ayllón (, the Australian acoustic pop band Fruit (, the Basque trikitixa player Kepa Junkera (, and the high-energy Cuban group Tiempo Libre.

Le Vent du Nord were excellent. It was especially interesting to have seen them on the street the night before and then in a church Saturday night. They managed both venues well, but I think they're a group that makes you want to get up and move to the music -- which is a little less daunting to do on the street compared to inside a United Methodist church building. *hee*

Although the website includes two guys in the lineup for the band, the three women in Fruit were the only performers for the songs I saw Saturday night. They had two guitars and a couple brass instruments, plus their outstanding vocals. I just don't remember the last time I saw acoustic guitars paired with brass. OK, maybe never.

Kepa Junkera was excellent. The accordion he plays has a distinctive sound, but the other Basque instrument, a txalaparta, allows for a really active, dramatic performance as the two percussionists play the instrument and respond to each other's antics. The whole group of musicians just seemed to be having fun, and I think that makes an impact on the audience.

So my Lotus showcase night started with a performance that was all about introspection and balance and harmony and ended with lively Cuban jazz... Pretty wild. We went back to the apartment, fixed drinks and snacks, compared notes on the performances that we hadn't seen together, and played two games of Kill Dr. Lucky (

Breakfast on Sunday morning was brown sugar cinnamon bread French toast, bacon, scrambled eggs, coffe and orange juice. And more conversation before folks started packing up and heading out. Rather than face an empty apartment, I met Ed and crew for Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Fun!

Friday, September 17, 2004



It's been one of those weeks you don't want to repeat because so many stupid, annoying things happened. At least it's behind me now. Forward and onward....

I got the translation mentioned in the previous post. The most unusual phrase I had to translate would probably be "fusion seafood."

I submitted a project proposal for a story-plus-critical article in a book collection. I hope to hear about that soon. Whatever the decision, the story part of the project, at least, will be written. I believe I may have another venue for it if this person decides she doesn't want it.

I've been working on a family history project - something to take to the get-together in Chicagoland that my side of the family is having with my dad's sister's side of the family at the end of the month. We're celebrating the milestone 65th birthday of my dad and his twin sister. While I was home in August, I grabbed a number of old photos, so I've been scanning those and working with one of my brothers to create a PowerPoint presentation. That's been fun, actually. And there's something reassuring about the photos... I'm not sure how to explain it. I was just struck by the fact that the largest envelope of photos, once I'd broken the whole mess into categories, was of those that include my dad with the three of us. Sure, part of that comes from the fact that Mom always played photographer. But it's also a testament to how Dad was always there for us. That's just - well, pretty cool.

The Lotus World Music Festival (see earlier post) is this weekend. I'll let you know how the Whirling Dervishes are!

Friday, September 10, 2004


Dancing Down the Street

In recent weeks, I've made a conscious effort to do some volunteer work, picking up a couple things to do that allow me to exercise some skills that just don't get used - and won't get used - on this job.

I've always believed that volunteer work is a really good thing to do. Working in the career lab at the business school and teaching English composition, I often encouraged students to seek out volunteer opportunities as a way of investing themselves in their time at university and of actively doing something to put good stuff back into the community. Yet aside from volunteering as a candystriper back when I was in junior high school and different volunteer gigs that came up in the small church my family attended when I was growing up, I hadn't really done much to practice what I was preaching to those students.

So I've got a few volunteer jobs under my belt now, and I have to say I'm a little disappointed. The first big commitment I made originally required an hour-long training session the week before the event started. As it turned out, I had to contact them to find out that there would be no training session. The lack of organization only increased from that point. Ultimately, I was able to do the job that I had volunteered to do - and that's the important part - but much of the event was poorly planned or poorly executed and, unfortunately, this had an effect on the experience had by the people we were trying to help. In my student services background, this sort of slapdash work has never been acceptable, so, yeah, that really bugged me.

Now I'm working on an English to Russian translation. The coordinator has two documents that she still hasn't given me, and the deadline for this project is Tuesday morning. And, as of yesterday, she's out of town for the weekend, so I probably won't get these documents until Monday morning. Just by nature of its content, this last bit that I have yet to see is probably going to be the most difficult part of the materials to work with (because things like "creamy Romano salad dressing" just don't translate well!), and apparently I must have it ready to turn over to her on Tuesday morning. Gee, I sure hope that I don't have anything else to do Monday after work....

I have another volunteer commitment coming up in November. It's a little bigger deal, involving travel to another campus and being out of town for a couple days. I've been looking forward to it, but I'm also feeling a little anxious about it. I don't want to find myself in the middle of another poorly planned, poorly organized event, especially in a city I don't know well at all.

Maybe I've just chanced upon projects that need a little tweaking in the way they're organized. Still, based on my generalized experience so far, it seems that people who work with a cadre of volunteers take for granted the commitment of energy, time and other resources that the volunteers have made. Yet working as a volunteer isn't about being less professional, and it also shouldn't involve being treated less than professionally.

Despite this string of experiences, my belief in the importance of volunteering hasn't been shaken so much that I'm ready to quit before I really, truly get started. Each experience gives me one more reason to keep looking for that full-time job where I'll manage my own cohort of minions and cadre of volunteers - and to strive at managing better than some of the folks I've worked with have done.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004


Random Acts of Reading

Jeff posted something thoughtful about reading, and my comment for his weblog got long-winded, so here it is as a post. (Note to self: Add the link to Jeff's site already!)

I majored in English and Russian undergrad, and I took enough English classes to meet the requirements for the major twice over. (Lots of room for electives in my schedule and no one encouraging me to finish college in three years instead of four.) The English Department offered a three-course Irish lit cycle - a survey of Irish literature, James Joyce's major works, and Joyce's Finnegans Wake; I took them all, naturally.

Flann O'Brien was a lot of fun. At Swim-Two-Birds is still one of my favorite novels. That was also the semester that I took a couple survey courses - Irish lit, African American lit, and some Russian stuff. Between the two classes offered through the English Department, I had something like 21 books to read. Big, heavy books. But it was a blast. The themes and motifs that overlapped from one literary tradition to the other fascinated me.

I think that "The Dead" tells a tale that you appreciate more as a reader as you grow older and gain more experience in life. Some things are just like that.

My favorite story from Dubliners is "Eveline" - and I love it more because of the situation told in the story than because of any prose that stands out to me as particularly lyrical. I used it as a text in a class I taught on the character of The Dangerous Woman in literature, and I found myself really fighting with my students to make the case for Eveline as dangerous. I guess they were expecting femme fatales to be recurring figures.

I read Ulysses from cover to cover. We devoted most of the semester to it in the major works class. I wouldn't have wanted to read it on my own or in a class with a different professor at its helm as Mark Hawthorne was simply wonderful. He gave us reading notes for each chapter to affix to the book (and mine are still stapled to the first page of each chapter), and this helped so much with understanding the text. I'd still rather sit down and re-read Ulysses than try to contemplate some of the crap that passes as the experimental and avant-garde today.

Say what you will about how Tolstoy near-flawlessly depicts the feminine voice in Anna Karenina, I was more impressed with Molly's chapter in Ulysses. (Check out Kate Bush's musical version of those infamous 8 paragraphs.) Joyce then so neatly outdid himself in Chapter 8, the washerwomen's chapter, of Finnegans Wake. That prose just blew me away when I first read it - and then repeatedly as I re-read it - and it still makes my list of greatest things I've ever read.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


Modern love gets me to the church on time

I'm heading back to Virginia for the weekend to do my duty as my cousin M's maid of honor on Saturday. Sometime around 3PM on Saturday, I'll be all gussied up in a long black dress with something interesting done differently to my hair and cosmetics on my face (that hasn't worn make-up in at least eight years, maybe longer), ready for the 5:30PM service and trying to keep M from getting too nervous.

I expect that I won't look much like myself at all. (Different friends have asked me to be sure to return with photos because they can't imagine me so attired. Hm. I don't know if that's a sign to dress up more often or just a general comment on my preferable, more or less casual attire and demeanor.) But at least everyone will be looking at the bride and not so concerned about me. Yay!

I still don't have a speech/toast ready for the reception. This worries me a little.

The weekend at my parents' house will be lively, I'm sure. M's wedding also coincides with my Dad's 65th birthday. He's getting private guitar lessons as his birthday present.

Ed and I are returning to the regularly scheduled 2,000-word critique, so I plan to grab some time upon my return to town Monday to get some writing done. Driving will give me lots of time to think through some ideas.

There's a part of me that doesn't want to leave.

I'll catch up with you folks next week. Have a lovely weekend.

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