3 November 2006 - Friday
I have decided that it is time for me to discontinue The Elfin Ethicist. In fact, I knew several months ago that I would end it around this time.
I began blogging early in my undergraduate career, while I was still a teenager. (That was probably a mistake.) Over the months, The Elfin Ethicist has revealed my moments of creativity and boredom; fear and optimism; irritation and joy; pretentiousness and silliness; and immaturity and, I hope, some growth in understanding. My audience has changed as I have changed, and the site seems to serve a different purpose now from what it once did, if any at all.
Interestingly enough, my subtitle is more appropriate than ever.
Because The Elfin Ethicist bears the scars of my undergraduate years, because it no longer has a clearly defined target audience, because of my desire for a clean break as I begin my graduate studies, and because I anticipate having little time or confidence to post this year, I am stopping now.
Of course, I do not anticipate leaving the blogosphere entirely. I will still be reading weblogs and commenting occasionally. And someday, I may start writing for the web again.
Goodbye, everyone. It's been interesting.
1 November 2006 - Wednesday
Being a good neighbor
A couple of weeks ago, I decided I should buy a large bag of cheap candy. I consider myself, after all, a reasonably civic-spirited sort of chap, and it occurred to me that I might get Halloween visitors this year. They might expect candy.
However, I am also a citizen of deep moral conviction. I simply could not encourage the youth of this city to participate in such a wicked, not to mention dentally dangerous, celebration. And I don't particularly like visitors anyway. So last night, I turned off both my inside lights and my porch light to discourage anyone ghoulish from dropping by.
So now I still have this great big bag of candy. Civic-spiritedness should work out this well for everyone.
30 October 2006 - Monday
Selected scenes at Syracuse
For once, the weather was good for photographs this morning, so I took a few pictures of my part of campus -- while we still have leaves left.
The university's department of public safety uses this building.
Continue reading "Selected scenes at Syracuse" below the fold . . .
7 October 2006 - Saturday
But have you read Vizzini?
Barista 1: "You ever read The Republic, by Plato?
Barista 2: "Sure."
Barista 1: "I just got through reading it."
Barista 2: "Good book, huh?"
Barista 1: "Yeah, lotta good stuff. Smart guy."
8 September 2006 - Friday
I get a student ID card with "Grad" written on it, and all of a sudden I get to keep library books for 16 weeks.
28 August 2006 - Monday
First day of classes
This afternoon, I had my first graduate class ever. But it doesn't really count. It is just an undergraduate course with an option for graduate credit.
My first real graduate class begins in about an hour.
24 August 2006 - Thursday
Our department had hazardous materials training today. The new history grads (joined by the new geography grads) gathered in a conference room to hear a talk by someone from the university's environmental health office.
What sorts of hazardous materials are handled by history and geography TAs, you ask? Well, mostly Windex and Static Guard, to judge from the lecture. I am happy to report that I now know where to find a material safety data sheet for them both, in case of an emergency.
In fact, I'll show you my lecture notes:
I. Don't sniff the glue.I feel very safe now.
II. But if you do, be sure to check the material safety data sheet.
III. Wait until a university win to buy your T-shirts. [The bookstore offers discounts based on how well our team scores.]
IV. Watch out for nuclear reactors. [Apparently, a custodial team once ran across one we didn't know we had.]
19 August 2006 - Saturday
I am finished with TA orientation, which kept me busy at the university between Wednesday and Friday. Although I will not work as a TA until next year, the training was helpful not only as preparation for my eventual role but also as a good introduction to graduate life in general. Department-specific orientation activities will begin later next week.
The weather has been warm and sunny -- too warm for me, since I resent having to wear short sleeves. Of course, all the natives love the heat, even while predicting (with their typical perverse pride) that this year's warmth will mean an especially harsh winter. Today, however, the sky is gray and weepy, and the air is humid but cool.
Turandot was on the radio this afternoon. I treated myself to that and a bar of dark chocolate, between trips to the cellar to take care of the laundry.
10 August 2006 - Thursday
Please stand by
This is a post to let everyone know that I am doing quite well in my new Yankee apartment, where I am awaiting the fall semester. I hope to post some pictures of my beautiful surroundings, as well as some brilliant thoughts on historical topics, when I get a better Internet connection. This space is likely to be quiet for a few more weeks, though.
28 July 2006 - Friday
In a few hours, I will be heading toward my new grad-student life. I'll have some Internet access along the way, but I probably won't be able to post anything here for many days. In the meantime, please remember to check out the thirty-sixth History Carnival, which Laura James will host at Clews The Historic True Crime Blog on 1 August.
Until next time!
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
-- a certain hobbit
23 July 2006 - Sunday
So far, I have packed four boxes of books, each box weighing 20 to 50 pounds. I anticipate filling another three or four boxes. That represents only a fraction of my library, but I am being picky. Complete Works of X takes priority over Selected Works; anthologies beat individual compositions; primary literature trumps secondary literature; and scholarly writing sweeps all else from the field. I want no dead weight on the shelves of my new home.
Oddly enough, leaving behind so many books is cathartic. It serves as yet another visible and reassuring sign of growing up; I can trace all of the volumes left on my bedroom shelves to specific earlier phases of my life. Many of these abandoned books will be useful to me again someday, but for now, most of them are barely even interesting as a distraction. I did not expect to find the separation so pleasing -- like losing baby teeth, getting a new backpack, or outgrowing a favorite shirt.
14 July 2006 - Friday
Back in East Texas
I'm back one more time in the vicinity of my alma mater, spending the weekend with friends for old times' sake and in order to watch some plays at the Texas Shakespeare Festival. We saw Coriolanus tonight; I think it lived up to its reputation as one of the apocryphal (read "campy") plays. With Pericles, School for Husbands, and Harvey to go, everything should be much more cheerful from now on.
4 July 2006 - Tuesday
Hymn in Honor of Our Ancestors
Sirach 44:1-15 (NRSV)
Let us now sing the praises of famous men,
our ancestors in their generations.
The Lord apportioned to them great glory,
his majesty from the beginning.
There were those who ruled in their kingdoms,
and made a name for themselves by their valor;
those who gave counsel because they were intelligent;
those who spoke in prophetic oracles;
those who led the people by their counsels
and by their knowledge of the people's lore;
they were wise in their words of instruction;
those who composed musical tunes,
or put verses in writing;
rich men endowed with resources,
living peacefully in their homes --
all these were honored in their generations,
and were the pride of their times.
Some of them have left behind a name,
so that others declare their praise.
But of others there is no memory;
they have perished as though they had never existed;
they have become as though they had never been born,
they and their children after them.
But these also were godly men,
whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten;
their wealth will remain with their descendants,
and their inheritance with their children's children.
Their descendants stand by the covenants;
their children also, for their sake.
Their offspring will continue for ever,
and their glory will never be blotted out.
Their bodies are buried in peace,
but their name lives on generation after generation.
The assembly declares their wisdom,
and the congregation proclaims their praise.
29 June 2006 - Thursday
My ethical philosophy
According to the Ethical Philosophy Selector:
1. St. Augustine (100%)Via Parableman.
2. Prescriptivism (90%)
3. John Stuart Mill (90%)
4. Jean-Paul Sartre (88%)
5. Kant (88%)
6. Aquinas (87%)
7. Ockham (81%)
8. Spinoza (52%)
9. Jeremy Bentham (51%)
10. Nel Noddings (49%)
11. Ayn Rand (44%)
12. Epicureans (43%)
13. Plato (41%)
14. Aristotle (32%)
15. Stoics (20%)
16. David Hume (16%)
17. Cynics (10%)
18. Nietzsche (9%)
19. Thomas Hobbes (0%)
2 June 2006 - Friday
Today I got a nice, shiny new university email account. I decided to celebrate by updating my AHA membership information so that it will be correct when the next directory gets printed.
It won't be long before I, swamped with work, will look back wistfully at this carefree summer and wonder why I was stupid enough to sign up for years and years of additional schooling. For now, however, the prospect of independence and access to university resources is what keeps me sane. A funny paradox.
29 May 2006 - Monday
WPA poster, c. 1937
25 May 2006 - Thursday
Thought the first:
I keep starting on new books and articles. At this point, I think it might be wise to try to finish something before I start the next one. But which one to finish first?
Thought the second:
The National Geographic Bee is on right now in the other room. I probably shouldn't watch. Those little kids make me feel so stupid.
14 May 2006 - Sunday
Happy Mother's Day
I didn't forget it. Honest.
Jaroslav Pelikan 1923-2006
My first contact with Pelikan's work came in the form of this lecture: "The Predicament of the Christian Historian."
No historicism about the West and no exoticism about the East could excise that specific history, the history of Jesus and of the movement that came out of his life and message, from the history that had produced the members of [Adolf von] Harnack's audience at the University of Berlin in 1900, who could be and were ignorant of it but who could not be and were not unaffected by it in a fundamental way. As he put it in his opening words, "The great philosopher of Positivism, John Stuart Mill, once said that the human race cannot be reminded often enough that there was once a man named Socrates. He is right, but it is more important to go on reminding the human race that a man named Jesus Christ once stood in their midst."
But there was a more substantive and fundamental reason as well: the history of Jesus and of his message carried that force also because his sayings and parables uniquely "speak to us through the centuries with the freshness of the present." ...
Was it "the Christian historian" as historian or "the Christian historian" as Christian, perhaps even "the Christian historian" as theologian, who was speaking in pronouncing such judgments? It is the predicament of the Christian historian to live in that tension; for, as I have suggested elsewhere, every historian must be a polyglot, speaking one or more of the dialectes of "past-ese" and simultaneously communicating to contemporaries in "present-ese."
10 May 2006 - Wednesday
For those in the Austin area:
This Friday (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and Saturday (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.). I've been there the last two years, and I have no intention of missing it this year. UT Press will be selling lots of brand-new (and some slightly damaged) textbooks for cheap, all outdoors under a big tent, which somehow makes the hunt more exciting.
From 24 May to 8 September. I'm not as impressed with this year's lineup as I have been with some previous seasons, but I'm sure that won't keep me from enjoying it.
8 May 2006 - Monday
The Great Longview Marketing Tour
Amidst the chaos of preparing for a wedding and a graduation, a few of my college friends and I found time last week to accomplish something we had wanted to do for years. Gallagher, Martinez, Wheeler, and I piled into a car and set out on the Great Longview Marketing Tour, documenting the quirky advertising we had noticed during our stay in East Texas. We'd been driving by these signs week after week for four years; we decided we had to share them with the world before we lost the chance forever.
Click on the thumbnails to get the full effect.
Continue reading "The Great Longview Marketing Tour" below the fold . . .
7 May 2006 - Sunday
It is done! I am now a former LeTourneau University student, bearing a BA in history-political science and a BS in business administration.
I am full of contradictory emotions. I may never see some of my friends again (and two of them are now united in a way that will take some getting used to), and I have left a place that had almost come to seem like home. But I am also free to start a new life in a new place. For the moment, I am back in rural Central Texas, hoping for a little peace and quiet. For the Wheelers, I wish a similarly peaceful summer and a marriage that will grow ever stronger.
29 April 2006 - Saturday
Seven days to degree
And now I'm totally done with my undergraduate work. Just now, I completed my last business assignment (a team presentation to a local nonprofit organization). I've earned my degrees.
28 April 2006 - Friday
Eight days to degree
I just got out of the last class lecture of my undergraduate years.
11 April 2006 - Tuesday
Going to Syracuse
-- Mark Lilla, The Reckless Mind
My visit to Syracuse University required careful planning. After a few false starts -- originally, I hoped to use spring break for the trip, but our schools had picked the same week for vacation -- I found a relatively clear week in my schedule. I raced to complete that week's assignments early, drafting a research paper in record time the night before I was scheduled to leave. That Monday night, I boarded an Amtrak train in Longview, joining my mother and younger brother, who had come up from Austin on the same train to accompany me. Their willingness to come along would turn out to be a great help.
Normally, I love trains. I love being able to see the countryside pass by, and I actually like the long overland trip much more than a shorter airplane ride. This journey north, however, tested my patience.
The trip from Longview to Chicago was mostly uneventful, but not entirely. Late Monday night, I awoke to the protestations of a drunken lecher two rows up, who was being put off the train for making a nuisance of himself. He charged the conductors with racism, to the amused exasperation of the black women sitting nearby. Then he promised darkly that he wouldn't leave the train unless he were carried off by paramedics (he was having a heart attack, he decided). Fortunately, the man meekly followed two Arkadelphia police officers off the train at the next stop. The rest of the trip was pleasant.
The second leg of the journey, however, was considerably less smooth. The train we boarded at Chicago was smaller and less comfortable, with narrow seats and out-of-order bathrooms. Furthermore, we were sitting directly behind an incredibly irksome passenger -- a large, loud, irrepressibly obscene man with a cell phone and a DVD player. He was traveling from Chicago to New York City, so we had to deal with him all the way to Syracuse. To make the experience more interesting, the passenger seated directly beside me also had a mobile phone; he chattered on it nonstop during the night.
Even after we arrived in Syracuse, the trip kept getting complicated. Shortly after detraining, I ended up in an emergency room to investigate some pain that had been getting worse and worse during the journey. The problem didn't turn out to be very serious (as far as the hospital could tell), and I felt much better the next morning, when I was scheduled for interviews at the university.
I think Syracuse is going to be a good city for me -- a nice size and atmosphere for my needs. When I was there, of course, the weather was beautiful; I was warned strongly not to get used to that. (I believe the annual average is 115 inches of snow, with nearly 200 inches in one recent year.) Whatever the climate is like, the people I met there were uniformly warm and accommodating, easily matching what I expect here in the genial South.
I probably shouldn't go into much detail about my meetings at this point, since I don't know the individuals involved very well yet. I will say, however, that I met with several faculty members and students in history, and that they all made me feel very welcome. The professors even shepherded me from office to office themselves, introducing me to each other. They answered my questions freely and, I may say, satisfactorily. When I went back to my hotel that day, I was pretty sure I had already come to a decision.
Unfortunately, the medication prescribed as a precaution by the ER doctor made me violently ill that afternoon; I stayed in the hotel moaning and vomiting rather than exploring the city. On Friday morning, I felt much better but still not well enough to walk about much, so we stayed in the hotel until it was time to catch our train back home.
In other words, after all that work, I got to spend just a few hours at the university, or indeed, seeing the city at all. But those hours were enough.
I have mailed the school my paperwork, declaring my intent to register and accepting my university fellowship. Starting this fall, then, I will spend the next few years at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, studying in the department of history.
Now I have to figure out where I'm going to live when I get there. Oh, well. Minor details.
27 March 2006 - Monday
I'm off to visit Syracuse now. I'll be back in a few days.
4 March 2006 - Saturday
I'm back! And now I must try to catch up on many different things around the apartment. The trip to Chicago was useful but very tiring. I got off the train just a couple of hours ago, so the world is still rocking back and forth; I shouldn't stay at the computer long.
If you've had any difficulty commenting here, I apologize. The blog technicians have been busy dealing with our spam problem. Things should be working properly now. You'll notice a slight difference in the commenting procedure, but I think it should be easy to figure out.
11 February 2006 - Saturday
I've heard back from two graduate schools so far. One, citing the universally high credentials of its 8,000 applicants, politely declined to admit me. The other, however, had already promised a very comfortable financial award. The details I have been given so far make the offer sound luxurious; my academic advisor assured me that I have his permission to spend the rest of this semester daydreaming.
Actually, I am trying to decide whether I want to spend this summer studying German or Latin. On the one hand, I plan to focus on modern intellectual history, so German makes a lot of sense. On the other, I am getting more and more interested in the premodern foundations of modern thought, so Latin could be more valuable. Also, there's something inherently cooler about dead languages.
Speaking of coolness, my graduate school picks are located in the northern regions of the country -- more specifically, near large lakes. I think this native Texan is finally going to get to deal with snow.
28 January 2006 - Saturday
There is something apocalyptic about this campus in the nighttime.
We are located near a chemical plant and a heavy-machinery factory, so we get plenty of light pollution. On a cloudy night like this one, the southern horizon glows a dull red -- especially when the plant lights its flare.
We also hear strange, inhuman noises. We often hear a sound like a far-off giant's front door slamming. I suspect it comes from the factory. Closer at hand, young men drive through our neighborhood with their car stereos at full power, rattling windows. Sometimes these cars backfire ... but sometimes the sounds we hear come from weapons.
I rarely notice the eeriness of all this during the work week. On a Saturday night, however, a trip outside becomes an adventure. Every faceless human shape that passes, inspires a sense of loneliness. Every locked building suggests wasted potential.
Then I return home and start reading. Tonight, Locke and Rousseau.
Tomorrow, I will go to church. The front wall of the sanctuary at St. Mike's is all glass; the congregation gets a splendid view of deep green pine trees. The altar is covered in white cloth. We recite the creed and pray together, thanking Christ for the morning.
26 January 2006 - Thursday
Advantages of tolerance
Reading from a collection of the Marquis de Condorcet's writings this morning, I came across a letter he addressed to his daughter. Condorcet wrote this in 1794 while hiding from the Terror. (He was on the run after publicly criticizing the Jacobin constitution.) The letter is full of fatherly advice, the advice Condorcet wanted to leave his child but doubted he would be able to impart in person. I especially like his admonition to be nice and "indulgent" whenever possible:
My child ...Iain McLean and Fiona Hewitt, trans. and eds., Condorcet: Foundations of Social Choice and Political Theory (Edward Elgar Publishing, 1994), 288-289.
If you want society to give you more pleasure and comfort than sorrow or bitterness, be indulgent and guard against egoism as a poison which ruins all its pleasures.
By indulgence, I do not mean the ability, born of indifference or thoughtlessness, to pardon everything simply because you do not feel or notice anything. I mean the indulgence based on justice, on reason, on an awareness of your own weaknesses, and on our happy inclination to pity men rather than condemn them.
This will enable you to find happiness in the many good but weak people who are not tiresome though they have no shining qualities, who can distract you even if they cannot occupy you, whom you can meet with pleasure but leave without pain, and who do not count when we view our lives as a whole, but who can pass the time and fill a few empty moments. ...
Because of your duties, your main interests and the things you feel strongly about, you may not always be able to associate only with people you have chosen to have around you. And then, situations which would have cost you nothing if you had been more reasonable and more just, and had made indulgence a way of life, will require painful, daily sacrifices. Instead of a slight constraint, they will become a true source of unhappiness.
It's a nicely practical argument, founded on self-interest as well as the concept of fairness. This is what you would hear if your father were an Enlightenment philosopher who wanted you to play nice. The essence of the advice: overlook irritations, be charitable to everyone, and be humble. I like that advice; it could already have saved me a lot of difficulty in my short life, had I followed it more often.
4 January 2006 - Wednesday
Yes, actually, I am
Watching the game, that is.
31 December 2005 - Saturday
Happy new year
Down with 2005! To the health of 2006!
25 December 2005 - Sunday
Which is to say, merry Christmas and happy Hanukkah.
3 December 2005 - Saturday
Explain me this
When my roommate pulled up the weather forecast this morning, this is what he saw:
30 November 2005 - Wednesday
Things are looking up
I celebrated the first day of Advent on Sunday.
My stomach can handle ordinary food again.
Dr. J moved back the due date on the Paper of Awe.
I have a workable thesis and outline for said PoA.
I made a good grade on the last Financial Management exam.
I saw frost on my lawn this morning.
I finally seem to have Firefox on my side again. I uninstalled it, deleted all the related folders, and reinstalled everything with version 1.5, which has just been released. So far, so good.
23 November 2005 - Wednesday
The really annoying thing? After three days, my cold has completely thrown off my sense of taste.
13 November 2005 - Sunday
So all of a sudden, Firefox hates me. I hadn't been doing anything different lately. I've uninstalled and reinstalled it to no avail. This is frustrating; I'm running regular Mozilla at the moment, but it isn't nearly as much fun.
10 November 2005 - Thursday
I have been avoiding personal updates lately, but I think I should post this one.
My maternal grandfather died two weeks ago. Because of my responsibilities here, I decided that I was unable to attend the funeral -- a conclusion I regretted but tried not to think about too much.
My mom sent me a link I would like to post here. Granddaddy's death made the local section of the San Angelo Standard-Times: "Parks director dies: Rogers, water lily visionary passed away Friday." (You can get a username and password at BugMeNot.)
The 34-year parks superintendent, whose drive and vision led to the creation of the International Water Lily Collection and the expansion of the Concho River park system from 19th to Bell streets, died Friday after a decade-long battle with Alzheimer's disease. He was 83.San Angelo may appreciate his water lilies, but I think Granddaddy would rather be remembered for his long service as a Baptist pastor. For my part, I mainly remember his taking me out into his backyard to scatter birdseed; entire flocks of birds knew exactly where to find food when he called.
''He was the best parks director San Angelo ever had,'' said Kenneth Landon, curator of the internationally renowned Civic League Park water-lily collection, one of the last projects Rogers spearheaded before he retired in 1989.
I will miss him. To adapt Solzhenitsyn slightly:
We had all lived side by side with him and had never understood that he was the righteous one without whom, as the proverb says, no village can stand.
Nor any city.
Nor our whole land.
5 November 2005 - Saturday
Mon semblable -- mon frère?
My cousin Jared, in calling me "most boring blogger in the blogosphere," has a point. This site is looking really sad.
There are several reasons for my lethargy. I would rather not elaborate on some of them here; others I can explain simply as "senioritis" (I will get my undergraduate degree in 181 days). Fundamentally, though, this blog has come to reflect my academic interests -- interests that only rarely coincide with my school work or routine life these days. I am simply not having fun here anymore; my ennui is reflected in this blog.
17 October 2005 - Monday
A thousand lost golf balls
A present from myself arrived in the mail today.
15 October 2005 - Saturday
Fading light, converging paths
Continue reading "Fading light, converging paths" below the fold . . .
11 October 2005 - Tuesday
Thanks to my mole on the library staff, who tipped me off to their presence on the book sale tables, I now own 22 issues of The Journal of American History from the 1990s. I paid $5.50.
10 October 2005 - Monday
In light of recent events
3 October 2005 - Monday
I am very tired of anthropocentric worship music. I refuse to sing another chorus that celebrates my own determination to love God.
I do not mean to condemn all self-awareness in our church music. Certainly, a believer's relationship with Christ should be personal and immediate. Divine grace provokes a response in us, and our love entails a commitment that goes beyond propositional assent.
Yet the primary purpose of worship is to fix our attention on God -- precisely because God is immutable and we are not. Our feelings are transient even when they are directed properly.
My complaint was inspired by today's campus chapel service, which consisted entirely of praise choruses. It was actually put together fairly well; even so, I had to abstain from some of the songs.
25 September 2005 - Sunday
The light of day
I'm disappointed. The rain stopped completely by Saturday evening; Sunday arrived clear and hot, though with a breeze. I had hoped the weepy skies would last the weekend out.
In any case, the day flew by. I did accomplish a few things -- nine more ILL requests and a somewhat irate e-mail to a professor, for example. At day's close, my conclusion is that I need a vacation.
I don't have traditional senioritis. My focus on the core of my studies is sharper than ever. But I am finding that as this focus narrows, I am interpreting more and more aspects of quotidian life as purely annoying distractions.
24 September 2005 - Saturday
Stormy weather and time travel
Rain has been pouring since I got up today. The wind is driving it at a steep angle, so people have trouble staying dry at all when they venture outside. My front yard has several low places -- one might say the entire yard is a ditch, actually -- so it is watery. Fortunately, the apartment itself is on higher ground.
The electricity went off a few times this morning, but it has been on for me this afternoon. Right now, I am copying more notes from my Tocqueville books and listening to popular music from World War II. I have a playlist with two and a half hours of vintage recordings.
Sitting at my desk, I face a small window. I have the blinds open so that I can watch the action outside. The storm does not seem threatening at all; there does not seem to be any thunder or lightning. Dry and cool indoors, I find the weather charming.
Time for tea.
21 September 2005 - Wednesday
Rain to come
In pure selfishness, I'm looking forward to the prospect of rain in East Texas this weekend. With Rita headed for the Texas coast, we should receive substantial precipitation here. It may make the night of the symphony interesting, of course. Saturday evening, we'll all be dressed to the nines -- tramping along from our cars to the performance hall and then back again. I will be entertained.
My selfish attitude appalls me, though, when I think of the people who are on the road right now, fleeing homes in Galveston and other vulnerable areas. Some of these evacuees will end up at LeTourneau. The administration is already asking us to volunteer any extra dorm space we have, and instructions have been issued for sheltering family members here. Students are also being asked to avoid travel this weekend.
None of this, though, is of much concern to me. My apartment is not likely to be needed for evacuees.
The symphony is not likely to be canceled. The streets are not likely to be closed. I did not plan to leave town this weekend. If Rita does to us what Katrina did to us, the biggest annoyance to me will be a temporary lack of milk in the cafeteria. Gasoline prices will probably rise, but I do not have a car at the moment.
Oh, well. I have books to read and papers to write. Rain is welcome here; I am warm and safe.
Update: I should mention that I have some relatives living south of Houston, just a few miles from the Texas coastline. All but one, I'm told, have already reached safer areas; my uncle had to stay to look after a chemical plant.
Further update: Things could get a little more interesting for me after all. After a course correction today:
Weather.com predicts wind at 44 miles per hour on Saturday afternoon. That's considered a fresh gale. And I'm now told that the symphony has been postponed.
6 September 2005 - Tuesday
Learning the language
I am resuming my work as an English tutor this semester. My first section of English Review was this morning; I have a section that meets on Thursdays as well. I am pleased to find that these classes are smaller than the ones I had last semester. (I speak of these classes as mine; in fact, each has another tutor on hand as well as a professor.)
English Review comprises a set of some two dozen sequential modules (e.g., "Avoiding Fragments," "Semicolons and Colons," and "Pronoun Reference"). Students are assigned some or all of these modules based on their score on a proficiency test. A student completes a module by writing a short paper that demonstrates competence in the relevant area of grammar or style. The instructor or one of the tutors reviews each of these papers in class, pointing out any problems that need to be corrected.
This is a nerve-racking experience for the students, of course. They have to read their papers aloud, often to a tutor younger than they are. Sometimes every sentence has an error that must be corrected, and sometimes students make the same errors over and over despite their best efforts. I'm sure it is terrifying.
5 September 2005 - Monday
This semester is going to be ridiculously busy, I'm afraid. I am taking only 16 hours of courses, but I am working a little as an English tutor, and I am barely hanging on in several volunteer capacities. Besides this, I have decided that sleep is a little more important than I thought as a sophomore.
Wheeler and I are now going to watch -- after a week of trying to find a time that would work for both of us -- another episode from The Decalogue. Martinez and Caleb are joining us, it seems.
26 August 2005 - Friday
I anticipate light blogging over the next few days as I move back to campus and begin the new academic year.
My last year as an undergraduate, in fact.
Is that not grand?
19 August 2005 - Friday
Dirt, grass, and rubber
My trip home from LETU today took a little longer than I anticipated.
About halfway through the trip, out in the middle of the country, I heard a sudden, loud sound. I had the impression (correct, as it turns out) that something had snapped. Whap- whap- whap- whap- whap went the car. I lost control of the steering; the car careened to the right into the ditch.
Judging by the lack of skid marks, I was off the pavement before I could even hit the brakes. When I hit the brakes, though, I hit them hard. I shouted a short, strident prayer and repeated it. I saw a highway sign and a barbed wire fence flash past; I missed them by a few feet. The car spun 180 degrees, cutting deep tracks in the soft soil. The whole thing must have taken about three seconds.
Among the things that came to mind afterward was the thought of signatures. (A running joke among my friends, since someone else's close call a few years ago, has it that no one is allowed to die without getting the others to sign off on the departure first.)
Aside from some scuffs and slight damage to the bumper, my little car seemed to be unharmed. I couldn't see the tires well; they were embedded in clay and tall grass, but seemed to be intact. Later, however, with the car out of the ditch, it became clear that one of the tires had lost part of its tread. Local automotive professionals diagnosed no other problem. With the tire replaced, the car worked perfectly for the rest of the drive. My mom followed me home in the family van, just to be safe.
As we arrived home, a pretty pink sunset was just dissolving into deep blue night.
18 August 2005 - Thursday
One year left
As I expected, I have not been blogging, except for that cryptic link below, during this vacation from vacation. I am on the LETU campus temporarily. Even with most of the students still away from school, there are enough people around to keep me away from the sort of activity I consider most productive. Blogging, interestingly enough, can be a very productive activity.
Being around people is lovely, of course. I do wonder, though, how we shall make things work this fall. Most of my best friends are seniors now; we need to be jealous of our time. Then again, with so few months left to spend together, we will want to avoid being alone for long.
Let's spend the time in ways that matter.
9 August 2005 - Tuesday
Four representations of solitude
8 August 2005 - Monday
Peter Jennings was the single most important reason I do not sound like a Texan.
And he never completed high school. I hadn't known that.
28 July 2005 - Thursday
Fantasy literature and I got off to a rocky start.
Remember how self-aware Peter Pan is? Remember the scene where Peter breaks the fourth wall, telling all the kids in the audience to applaud in order to save poor little Tinkerbell's life? "Clap! Clap! Clap!" Mary Martin begs us. And of course, all the kids clap.
'Cept me. Even today, when the mood strikes, I sometimes say to myself, "I don't believe in fairies" -- just for the satisfaction of causing one to drop dead somewhere.
I really enjoyed the play. But I repudiated the fairies.
23 July 2005 - Saturday
There's plagiarism, and there's desperate plagiarism. Here's how somebody got to this blog recently, via Yahoo: "Write a reflection paper on my long slow journey about my four years at Metro State College and describe the classes."
Well, I'm pretty sure I can't help you with that one. But if you happen to be in Bulgaria, and happen to google "oomph!" ... I'm slightly more relevant, apparently.
Anyway, I went to Half Price Books in Austin today. I was looking for a copy of The Education of Henry Adams. I found one. I also found:
Hildegard von Bingen -- a CD with 11 of her compositions. I was overjoyed.
Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence
Pierson, Tocqueville in America
Taylor and Haas, German: A Self-Teaching Guide (Have I ever mentioned how inconvenient it is to have nothing but Spanish and Greek offered at LETU?)
Collins Robert French Unabridged Dictionary
2 July 2005 - Saturday
I arrived in Longview yesterday not long after two o'clock. It was still raining lightly; I had just driven through a thunderstorm in Henderson.
Guessing that the liberal arts offices at LeTourneau would still be open, I headed to Heath-Hardwick Hall. I found several people there, including Judy Walton, Dr. Watson, Prof. Payton, and Dr. Hummel. Even Dr. Olson showed up briefly. She seems to be feeling better -- well enough, at least, to pass around grandbaby photos.
I was in plenty of time, of course, for the first event on my schedule: supper courtesy of St. Michael and All Angels' Episcopal Church. The get-together was irresistibly high-concept. First, we would have a fish fry. Afterward, we would watch Finding Nemo under the stars. (The event was well-attended by small children, who seemed to take the continuity in stride.)
I probably ate too much; fish fry is a powerful experience. The movie, of course, was hilarious. Even better, though, was listening to the Drs. Watson talk. ETBU's Dr. Watson is as much fun as ours (her husband), who entertained us with stories about some of the less-well-received sermons he's preached.
Tonight's event will be A Midsummer Night's Dream. I look forward to it.
18 June 2005 - Saturday
So that's what happened to Rome
Went to see Batman Begins today. Could do a lot worse, I think.
10 June 2005 - Friday
After a few close calls earlier this week, I emerged from my bedroom late this morning to find our air conditioner dead. As the day wore on, indoor temperatures climbed into the 80s. We kept the lights off and the fans on most of the day. We ate a cold supper. Mom told war stories about her family's "evaporative cooler" in West Texas in the days before Freon became a household item.
We reached only one repair service by telephone. We were told that we would have to wait until Monday unless other clients canceled. Things looked grim. We consoled ourselves with ice cream and popsicles. We considered the old-time solution to a lack of home air conditioning -- taking refuge in a movie theater -- but didn't find any films we liked.
My father, however, came home with some theories about what might be the matter. I heard him thumping around in the attic for a while. Finally he came down and asked whether it felt cooler. It did. My extremities started turning opaque again. It's still stuffy in here, but I hope to find the situation much better in the morning.
30 May 2005 - Monday
Cérémonie du "Memorial Day" au Cimetière Américain de Suresnes, le 30 Mai 1920. (Memorial Day ceremony at the American Cemetery at Suresnes, May 30, 1920.) Library of Congress.
Click on the thumbnail for a larger version.
29 May 2005 - Sunday
Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1836
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.
The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the Conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.
On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.
Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.
26 May 2005 - Thursday
The day the ambience died
This morning at school, I finally retreated to the indoor student lounge instead of spending the day on the wooden deck outside. The atmosphere in the lounge -- with a constant drone of vending machines and a dingy greenish light from fluorescent bulbs -- was much less pleasant than the sunshine I had been enjoying. I didn't get to watch the squirrels and grackles, or enjoy the breeze, or get a bit of a tan. There was one key difference, however, that made the move worthwhile.
In the abstract, I have no quarrel with smokers. I really don't care to get excited about their personal habits one way or the other. The problem is that my allergies are dreadful. I have nasal allergies that make me highly sensitive to second-hand smoke and skin allergies that make it unwise for me even to touch an unlit cigarette.
The outdoor deck at ACC is where the smokers (and they are legion) go for relief between classes. It has the only outdoor seating at the school, so everybody has to share it. I have a mild reaction to the place even when nobody else is there; when more people arrive, the place can be unbearable for me. Since I get more and more sensitive with continued exposure, this probably means I won't be able to use the deck at all in a few days.
I had the same problem last summer. At some point, I simply stopped going outdoors at break time -- the air was far fresher inside. Worse, however, was the fact that my class had several smokers in it. When they came back inside after the mid-class break, they brought lingering smoke with them. I found it difficult to breathe for the rest of the period.
The move I made today will probably be permanent. I simply don't want to deal with the problem at all anymore; yesterday, I was itching all evening after spending two hours in the "fresh air" that morning.
I don't want to dislike smokers. I really don't. It's just that I have to avoid them and the ground they've stood on recently. It's annoying.
22 May 2005 - Sunday
Central Texas wildflowers
A few photographs I took recently.
Continue reading "Central Texas wildflowers" below the fold . . .
19 May 2005 - Thursday
It had to be done
So I went to see Episode III. It was OK ... not particularly interesting.
But I did see it before Melby did ....
16 May 2005 - Monday
The Paramount's summer season
The Paramount is a cozy, beautiful old theater nestled among the buildings of downtown Austin. Each summer, it plays a lovely selection of classic films -- a rare opportunity to see them on a real screen. This summer's lineup may be found here.
I'm particularly interested in the Bergman films on the list. I've already missed several of them, but I still have a chance to see Wild Strawberries (among others) this week, if I get a move on.
In June, I may go see Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons, and perhaps the Marx brothers' Duck Soup, which I've never seen before. Some of the other members of my family sounded interested in The Philadelphia Story in July ... and so forth. Unfortunately, Lawrence of Arabia doesn't arrive until September, when I will be back at school.
14 May 2005 - Saturday
G. K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday in print.
Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion on NPR.
Pixar's The Incredibles on DVD.
13 May 2005 - Friday
As promised, I visited the UT Press tent sale in Austin today. All of my purchases were "hurt" (ever-so-slightly damaged) new paperbacks, at three dollars each:
Francesco Casetti: Theories of Cinema, 1945-1995And a freebie:
V. Propp: Morphology of the Folktale
Joel Sherzer: Speech Play and Verbal Art
Elizabeth Warnock Fernea and Basima Qattan Bezirgan: Middle Eastern Muslim Women Speak
Alison Futrell: Blood in the Arena: The Spectacle of Roman Power
Mohammed 'Abed al-Jabri: Arab-Islamic Philosophy: A Contemporary Critique
M. M. Bakhtin: Speech Genres and Other Late Essays
Richard H. Immerman: The CIA in Guatemala
Emory C. Bogle: Islam: Origin and Belief
12 May 2005 - Thursday
A trip into town
I was getting a strong agrarian vibe from the crowd in the local public library today; the influence of Austin (thirty miles away from us) seemed to be at a low ebb. There was, however, one aging fellow in running shoes and a colorful headband. Ah behyet hyee tahks lahk theeyis.
I borrowed James Joyce's Dubliners and the St. Augustine volume of the Great Books series, for good measure. Then, at the book-sale tables in the foyer, I purchased two old National Geographic books about the USSR for a dollar each.
I cannot express how much I'm looking forward to that UT Press sale tomorrow.
11 May 2005 - Wednesday
Sizzling weekend plans
This week, University of Texas Press will hold a book sale in Austin on Friday and Saturday.
We're looking at a minimum discount of forty percent; I could get a new graduate-level textbook with slight damage for just three dollars. My acquisitions at the same sale last year were marvelous.
You know, this would make a good date opportunity.
9 May 2005 - Monday
The secret lives of groomsmen
Friday, 12:30 p.m. My father and I have lunch at Papacita's. (Dad drove up to Longview in the family van in order to cart home the bulk of my possessions.)
Friday, 3:30 p.m. Thanks to Dad, I am ready to check out of my apartment on time. None of my roommates are.
Friday, 7:30 p.m. At Al's Formal Wear, I try on a tuxedo for the first time in my life. I survey the results with satisfaction. I look spiffy. The vest and tie are periwinkle.
Friday, 7:50 p.m. I look askance at Rachel and Sharon, who are poring over a catalog in Al's as they wait for us guys to finish with the tuxes. They seem to be plotting something.
Saturday, 10:30 a.m. The graduates walk at commencement. When Ardith walks, Heather calls out, "That's my roommate!" The audience laughs.
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. Gallagher, Moore, Ziggy, and I crash the Hoyts' party at the park. Sharon provides us with cake. Moore chugs lemonade from the carton, to the great amusement of the Hoytlings.
Saturday, 10:30 p.m. In the office of the Ice Cave, the groomsmen begin a spontaneous Weird Al sing-along that will last the better part of an hour. I think philosophical thoughts about the meaning of friendship.
Sunday, 11:00 a.m. I eat pecan pancakes at IHOP with several members of Scholl's family, including his mother and grandmother, who are simply marvelous people.
Sunday, 11:40 a.m. Gallagher and I leave Scholl in his mother's custody. He makes vague promises about a beard trimmer.
Sunday, 12:40 p.m. Arriving at church with my tuxedo, I take a moment to eat a sandwich. Moore has already arrived, but he is still playing a computer game on his impossibly tiny laptop.
Sunday, 2:00 p.m. Gallagher's tie has finally been affixed to his collar. ("Al" made a slight error when sending us the tuxedoes.) The photographs begin. We will have to round up the groomsmen all over again several times before the photography is done. Some misguided soul seems to be under the impression that groomsmen are supposed to run errands or something. I know better. I am here to make the photographs look good. I stay put and let Morgan keep taking my picture.
Sunday, 3:25 p.m. A close call in the foyer of the church: we lock Scholl in one of the church offices to keep him from seeing Anna before the ceremony begins. He looks nervous. When he threatens to run away, we offer to break his legs.
Sunday, 3:35 p.m. It begins. Anna and Scholl look terrified during most of the ceremony. Drs. Woodring and Kubricht will later tell us that we groomsmen look funereal.
6 May 2005 - Friday
I have to admit that there is something oddly satisfying about being able to see my carpet again. And yet, my apartment seems so empty now ... I've cleaned it for the summer. Soon I will dismantle even my computer setup, finish packing, and drive back to my hometown.
5 May 2005 - Thursday
With the end of this semester, 156 credit hours.
Summer classes and two semesters left.
Projected total: 194 credit hours.
28 April 2005 - Thursday
All the news we have time to print
My congratulations to Michaela and Spencer on getting out an excellent edition of the YellowJacket today. Page A5 includes a feature by your humble servant.
9 April 2005 - Saturday
Despite the astounding workload I face in the next three weeks, I spent yesterday evening at Hootenanny, my school's annual variety show. The performance went well, I thought; I enjoyed myself quite a bit more than I did two years ago, when I last attended the event. LeTourneau has some pretty talented students.
The show left me strangely tired, however. My senses overload easily, I suppose, and the smoke machine used in one of the acts probably triggered a mild allergic response. Furthermore, I still find myself drained of energy by most large gatherings.
That may be useful, however. I need to stay away from people for the next few days in order to get my work done. Perhaps Hootenanny was the emotional stimulus I needed to make the cloistering less painful.
26 March 2005 - Saturday
An acquaintance of mine wasn't in class on Thursday. Her father died of a heart attack on Wednesday.
I learned on Friday that a friend of a friend had lost his grandfather to pneumonia.
One of my favorite teachers will preside at the funeral of one of his friends on Monday.
Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)
Not, I'll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist -- slack they may be -- these last strands of man
In me ór, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.
But ah, but O thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me
Thy wring-world right foot rock? lay a lionlimb against me? scan
With darksome devouring eyes my bruisèd bones? and fan,
O in turns of tempest, me heaped there; me frantic to avoíd thee and flee?
Why? That my chaff might fly; my grain lie, sheer and clear.
Nay in all that toil, that coil, since (seems) I kissed the rod,
Hand rather, my heart lo! lapped strength, stole joy, would laugh, cheer.
Cheer whóm though? The héro whose héaven-handling flúng me, fóot tród
Me? or mé that fóught him? O whích one? is it eách one? That níght, that yéar
Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God.
25 March 2005 - Friday
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,Isaiah 53:12, ESV
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.
18 March 2005 - Friday
George Kennan: 1904-2005
When I was fifteen or sixteen years old, I was still devouring World War II history more than anything else. I came across a reference in American Heritage to "the Long Telegram" and "the X Article." I could probably date my interest in (or at least my familiarity with) international relations to that moment.
A couple of years later, in my first university-level history class, I wrote a paper on Kennan's version of containment, arguing (as I recall) that the Vietnam intervention was inconsistent with Kennan's approach.
I don't make heroes out of many people these days. But I would not entirely mind being not entirely unlike George Kennan.
20 February 2005 - Sunday
LeTourneau University's Memorial Student Center at sunset.
19 February 2005 - Saturday
I desperately needed the break from campus that I got tonight. The last few days have been intense, and I'm under the weather again. Fortunately for my sanity, the Longview Symphony Orchestra performed this evening. The program included Elgar, Beethoven, and Christopher Theofanidis (Rainbow Body--composed in 2000 and based on Hildegard von Bingen's "Ave Maria"). Theofanidis' work was particularly captivating. I need to find more of it.
30 January 2005 - Sunday
Just in time
I bought a new umbrella today. I needed a replacement for the one I lost a few days ago. The old umbrella was navy; this one is black, the color I wanted in the first place. It is the same model otherwise: opens with the push of a button; is large enough for two people, as long as they are on . . . friendly . . . terms; has a blunt tip (why people enjoy putting metal spikes on gear meant to be used in thunderstorms, I do not understand).
It took me some time to find this umbrella. I searched various sections of Wal-Mart for the umbrella department, with little success. I found some golf umbrellas in sporting goods, but these were much too grand for my needs. Finally I gave in to the thought that had been tickling the back of my brain. I headed to the jewelry and handbags section. Surely the umbrellas wouldn't be . . . but there they were.
I had hoped that Wal-Mart's marketers understood the Tao of the umbrella. The umbrella--at least, the manly black umbrella--should be given a lofty station. The umbrella should be displayed prominently in menswear or even office supplies. The umbrella is the epitome, the reification of masculine civilization. Hang up your ultra-compact pink umbrellas near the baubles and trinkets if you must, but give the plain, virile Umbrella the respect it deserves.
The timing of my purchase was fortunate. After sunset, the heavens released a gentle but steady stream of rain. Martinez and I treated ourselves to a long stroll around campus. Each of us carried an umbrella. It was a lovely way to mark the beginning of a new week.
22 January 2005 - Saturday
The soundtrack of my life includes a lot of coughing right now. One of my apartmentmates decided it would be a good idea to contract a fever and lose his voice. (The klaxonic gasping of his stricken girlfriend had entertained us for a week before spawning imitations.) Living on campus and desiring a certain amount of companionship, none of us can do much to avoid the pestilence; even those of us who are not spitting up alveoli have noticed suspicious symptoms. I applied disinfectant generously to several surfaces around the apartment today, but this was largely a symbolic gesture.
I have noticed that weekends disappear much faster when I have a lot of reading to do. Saturday should not be ending already.
19 January 2005 - Wednesday
In addition to working as student grader for the history department, it appears that I will be working as an English tutor this semester. I'm a little nervous, but I also look forward to this as a chance to develop crucial skills. At some point, I need to find my inner wells of helpfulness and tap 'em, if I plan to work in education.
I made a discovery tonight. Apparently, my habit of bowing slightly during introductions can create the impression that I am not entirely native. I've been told before that I seem vaguely international, but this is the first time I've been able to trace that impression to a particular physical mannerism. I never gave it much thought before. Now that someone has pointed it out, I'm pretty sure I bow a lot. The effect is probably strengthened by the fact that my accent gets more ambiguous when I become nervous, especially when meeting new people.
1 January 2005 - Saturday
A lovely party
That keeps going and going
Awaiting its host.
Welcome to 2005
I have returned from a Sunday school get-together. We roasted hot dogs on an open fire early in the evening. Indoors, we played charades. My team won. Somebody asked me whether I have a girlfriend. People always ask me that. Then we went back outside. We stared into the glowing goals of our bonfire at midnight as fireworks erupted in neighboring yards. It was a hopeful sort of night.
29 December 2004 - Wednesday
Have you ever noticed that some people have distinctive ways of walking? Sometimes it is possible to identify someone at a great distance, even when details such as height and build are difficult to ascertain, by observing the way they move.
One of my friends walks very slowly, as if preoccupied. She walks a very narrow track -- her feet stay close together. Her arms and shoulders remain very still, with a backward slouch. She keeps her hands at her side but faces the palms toward the back.
Another friend has the same habit of keeping his hands at his side with the palms facing backward. When he walks, however, he slaps his feet down as if shuffling through a puddle; the effect is more dramatic because he wears sandals. He keeps his head down and slouches forward. His arms and shoulders swing limply.
Another friend walks with his legs wide apart, toes pointing outward. He knees bend only slightly; his entire body seems to swivel from one side to the other as he puts first one foot down and then the other. He takes small steps, however.
Another one takes small steps but lets his knees do a little more of the work. He keeps his head high as he walks, even tilting it upward. His shoulders roll a bit with each step, and his arms, which hang outward rather than straight down, swing back and forth without any bending of the elbows.
Another friend, however, barely moves his upper body at all as he walks. He has short but frequent strides.
Then I have a friend who takes very long steps, inclining his body forward and his head downward. He usually keeps his hands in his jacket pockets. None of his joints seem to move at all except his hip joints; he lifts his legs from the waist.
I can identify any of these friends a long way off, even when detail is very hard to pick out. Funny how the brain works.
24 June 2004 - Thursday
History is boring
I wept twice in the last two days while listening to the radio.
Yesterday morning, a story on Emmett Till sent me reeling. In 1955, Till (a fourteen-year-old black) was murdered in Mississippi. Apparently, he was kidnapped and killed by the husband of a white woman at whom he had whistled. When the battered body was found, it was placed in a sealed coffin. Till's mother, however, had the coffin unsealed. Despite the grotesque mutilation of the body, she staged a open-casket funeral. Thousands of people viewed the corpse, and Jet Magazine published a photograph. I will not describe the horror of it here, but I have seen that photograph. But the thought of a mother . . . .
This afternoon, I heard a story about the return of a fallen soldier's remains to his family. I lost my composure when I heard that the soldier's father placed one of his own medals from Vietnam in the coffin.