Monthly Archives: February 2006

Mardi Gras

There were a couple of folks at work giving out beads for Mardi Gras. Late in the day it was the executive director, who happens to be named Marty. It’s short for Martha. Although I guess thinking about it, it’s not short for Martha, since it’s exactly the same length and number of syllables. I guess I need to say that it’s the diminutive form of Martha.

Anyway, as she gave me the beads, I was thinking how her name sounds similar to Mardi. So I told her that, in her honor, we were spelling the name of the day with a T instead of a D, making it Marty Gras rather than Mardi Gras.

And as soon as I said it I realized my grave error. As did she, but luckily she thought it was very funny.

In other news, my dashing young protege Kate is a little down today. She traditionally spends Mardi Gras in New Orleans. She apparently had written an argumentative paper for a freshman comp assignment, arguing that the university should schedule spring break during Mardi Gras. And then she actually sent the paper to the school administration for their consideration. And during her senior year, spring break was scheduled the same week as Mardi Gras, and so she went to New Orleans.

This year, what with Katrina, and what I gather might be personal budget reasons, she did not go to New Orleans. She plans to spend the evening at the bar Lulu’s Mardi Gras, which is just a couple blocks down the street from us, and then head to Arlington to view the Clarendon Mardi Gras parade. But, she says, not the same.

I used to go to Lulu’s for swing dancing. I think Tom and Debra used to be there. There was a bartender named Dan, whom we used to tip utterly lavishly for the first few drinks, and then he’d start comping us. Dan and his wife took some sort of personal interest in and care of a bartender there, a young woman who had been a stripper named Tawana at Archibalds.

I ask Kate if she’s going to be dragging her sorry ass in to work late on Wednesday, but she says that she won’t be out that late.

First Date

Dawn and I had our first official date on February 28, 2002.

I had been dating this woman Laura, and we broke up on Sunday night, the 24th, just after getting back to my place from the opera. Macbeth was the opera, but I don’t remember the opera company that did it. Some Russian company usually famous for ballet, I think. Kirov or Bolshoi. Bolshoi probably.

Dawn and I had been having lunch a lot. I had been trying to figure out some way of screwing up the courage to break up with Laura, but I wasn’t especially finding the courage. Then, quite handily, she broke up with me. We talked it over and she was trying to let me down easy, and then at one point she seemed to be having second thoughts. So I assured her that she should really trust her first instinct, and that I would be okay.

So that was Sunday night, and I waited until Tuesday to tell Dawn. I was savoring it, like you do with wine. Like swirling and tootling it around your mouth. I finally casually mentioned it to her in an email on like Tuesday afternoon. And then I just as casually asked her if she’d like to have dinner or go to a movie sometime. She said she just might like that.

Dawn stopped by on Thursday night and we had dinner, before she went to the ballet. That was Thursday, February 28, 2002. We got married the following April. And now we go to the ballet together.

She’s great, that Dawn.

Monday Aches

My back is very sore today. I spent a good deal of time yesterday installing the wainscoting in the stairwell. I had been planning on using the Liquid Nails that we bought to attach the boards, but, after reading about installing wainscoting at the This Old House website, I decided to go with their recommendation of horizontal runs instead. And I’m really glad I did, because it worked really well. And after screwing up some 4d nails, my brilliant wife Dawn suggested using the staple gun that we bought. It also drives 5/8″ brads, which worked great.

So while Dawn sewed all afternoon, I worked on the one side, the south side, of the stairwell. And I finished it. And I have up already the horizontal boards on the upper part, the west side. And I know it took me more than four hours, because Gone with the Wind was on TCM the whole time I was working. Or not working, actually, like when I would stop to watch a scene or ask Dawn what was going on.

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

I will espouse you to me forever:
I will espouse you in right and in justice,
in love and in mercy;
I will espouse you in fidelity,
and you shall know the Lord.

The first reading is from Hosea. And it’s just lovely, isn’t it?

Father Caulfield tells us that the spousal relationship works really well as an analogy for our relationship with God. He stresses, though, that it’s an analogy, that it’s not exact. For some reason that makes me think of what Janeane Garofalo says in The Truth about Cats and Dogs, “You should love your pet, but not love your pet.”

But it’s a good thing for me to think about, since I always have trouble loving God. I know how to try really hard with the loving my neighbor thing. I love in Matthew when Christ says, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” But God? I can accept that an omnipotent being created the universe, created all that is seen and unseen. But imagining that omnipotent being loving me, and trying to love back, is very hard.

Maybe that’s why I think about love but not love your pet? I don’t know. Maybe it’s easier to think of myself as akin to a pet to God, rather than being made in God’s image? Again, I don’t know.

But “I will espouse you in fidelity, and you shall know the Lord,” is stil just plain lovely.

Dad & Rob

I dropped Dawn off at yoga and then went to the Washington Sports Club at Third and D Southeast, figuring parking would be easier there than downtown. Parking wasn’t especially or remarkably good, but I found a space around the corner half a block away. Not bad. But I especially did not like the club itself. It’s all tiny and cramped and they don’t have the right step machines. I don’t want to go back.

Afterwards I went to lunch with my father and brother. We met at Sweetwater Tavern at Rt. 50 and Gallows Rd. We were originally planning to go to Grevey’s there, but they apparently had a fire and are closed for ten days.

We talked to Rob some about his health and his series of recent and upcoming appointments with various medical professionals. Next up is a gastroenterologist in mid-April. Some sort of upper and lower test, esophagal and intesinal. Or, coming from the north and the south, as I call it. Dad talked about some sort of similar test, where he had to drink some sort of shake before the test, and he had the choice of a couple of flavors. He chose banana, and now he can’t stomach eating bananas because they remind him too much of trying to force down this awful shake.

Dad brought up politics, as usual. We talked a little about the Dubai Ports World thing and the Vice-President shooting an elderly man in the face. Rob especially mocked NBC’s David Gregory for his dust up with Scott McClellan, characterizing David Gregory as expecting to have been personally called immediately after the shooting. Dad compared it to Chappaquiddick, noting that in Cheney’s case the proper authorities were notified immediately, Cheney not doing what Dad called “the Kennedy two-step.”

Dad somehow also related this two-step to the “Ginsburg Rule,” which rule is apparently Fox News shorthand for nominees to the Supreme Court not having to answer questions posed by the Judiciary Committee.

Dad also tells us that the oldest guy on the court, whom I noted was John Paul Stevens, wants to retire but only during a Republican presidency, since he was appointed by a Republican. I don’t understand this at all, though, since Stevens is most emphatically not a nutty winger a la Scalia or Thomas. I noted that maybe being appointed by Gerald Ford (Republican lite) has something to do with this. Dad’s vitriol towards Ginsburg and his apparently benign view of Stevens somehow disturbs me.

More Main

My sister had to wash the pots and pans when we were kids.

My brother and I took turns each week setting and clearing the dinner table. Setting the table was by far the preferred chore. Clearing the table afterwards involved trash and scraping the dishes and loading the dishwasher. The pots and pans didn’t ever go in the dishwasher, and Main did those.

I think about this now, in light of the fact that Dawn and I don’t have a dishwasher and I do all of the dishes. Dawn does the cooking, so it’s fair really that I do the dishes. I don’t have the inclination to plan and execute meals anyway, so this works out so much better.

I have something of a system to doing the dishes though, but this really is more indicative of my general preference for routine, rather than exhibiting any sort of planning capabilities. I like to rinse off all the dishes in the sink and stack them in a dishpan. Then, when the sink is empty and itself cleaned, I soap and scrub the dishes, with the water turned off, placing the dishes back in the sink. Then when everything is scrubbed, they all get rinsed off and stacked in the drying rack. Someone came across recently and showed me a picture of me when I must have been like four years old, doing the dishes. I had on an apron and was using a white plastic dishpan just like I use today. The point of the picture was that I was pretending to be my grandmother, my Nana, at the sink with the apron and the dishpan washing the dishes. So even though I don’t have any explicit memory regarding such, I like to think that I do the dishes the way my Nana taught me to do them.

Main tells me that she was happy to do the pots and pans, since there were relatively few of them, compared to the other dishes. I remember one time when I was five or six, so she must have been eight or nine, when she convinced me to help her do the pans. She explained that she could do them in two minutes. So we’d each do half, with her taking the first minute and I would then finish up. She may have been bamboozling me. You think? And I also remember around this same time, she’d do this trick where she’d scoop up a handful of soapy water and suck it into her mouth, without retching or spitting. I remember this specifically as some sort of trick, that she wasn’t really tasting any soapy water, but I couldn’t figure out what she was doing with it otherwise. She doesn’t remember any of this.

Happy Birthday, Main!

My big sister, Marianne Lawler, celebrates her twenty-ninth birthday today. Not for the first time.

She’s so clearly the most together of the three of us kids. She’s helping Mom get her house sold and buy a place down in Florida to which to retire. In fact they leave tomorrow for Florida to pick out colors and patterns and textiles and whatnot other options for the new house. I’m so glad she’s doing this for (and with) Mom. I could never figure all this out.

And I suppose I could never decide what should be done, even if I could even figure out what could be done. And then make it happen. That’s why Main is so great.

She’s pictured above with her daughter, my neice, Erin Danielle Lawler, who will be twenty-nine for the first time in a few years. The picture was taken actually on Rob’s birthday (my older/her younger, brother) in 2003. It was at the big party for his fortieth.

Main describes herself as a practical girl.

Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, Apostle

Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

I’ve noted previously I think how much I like that Jesus re-names Peter.

And I like Peter, generally, a lot, a whole lot, because he seems like such a fuckup so much of the time. He gets scared and can’t walk on the water. He wants to stop the Passion even before it begins (earning him the “Get thee behind me, Satan” rebuke). He falls asleep at Gethsemane.

And, of course, he denies Christ three times.

But he does all right in the end. And in today’s first reading he says, ” Tend the flock of God in your midst, overseeing not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly.”

The Displaced Person

Finished the book, A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories. The final story is the longest, and the most devastating.

It’s even kinda hard to determine who the displaced person is in the story. On its face it refers to the refugee himself, the Pole, Mr. Guizac. But Mrs. Shortley certainly becomes displaced by events. The owner, Mrs. McIntyre ultimately becomes displaced. But, generally, let’s go with the title referring to the character who himself is called in the story the displaced person.

Although I love love loved the conversation where Mrs. Shortley is explaining to the guys what exactly a displaced person is, e.g., someone with nowhere to go, and I don’t know maybe it’s Sulk who points out that the displaced person is here, on the farm, which technically is in fact somewhere.

Mr. Guizac also is definitely the most overtly Christ-like figure in the stories, near as I can remember. The priest says that Mr. Guizac has arrived to redeem them. Later it’s either Mrs. Shortley or Mrs. McIntyre who declares that Christ was a displaced person.

The ending is, like A Good Man is Hard to Find, fairly obvious and logical in coming, and however much you’d like it not to happen, how much you really want to stop it, or maybe just stop reading to stop it, it happens quickly and brutally.

President’s Day

I remember when I was a kid, in like first and second grade, how we used to have two holidays in February. First Washington’s birthday and then Lincoln’s. We’d make construction paper cutout silhouettes, of Washington and Lincoln and ourselves.

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

The first reading is from Isaiah and makes me think again of Rilke. Like how in the Duino Elegies he stops and asks things, e.g., “Do you not know yet?” Here, in Isaiah, the Lord asks “Do you not perceive it?” It being new things, in the desert a way, in the wasteland a river.

Paul is totally incomprehensible for once. Not yes and no, but yes. Huh?

But one of my favorite Gospel readings, from Mark, where the four men lower the paralytic down through the roof. It’s a wholly cinematic moment, one I always picture, with the crowds and shouting and yelling, and these guys totally imposing themselves on the Lord for the love of their friend, climbing up and ripping a hole in the roof and lowering him down. Way to go, guys.

And so Monsignor explains to us our importance, as a community, for one another and to the church. One man couldn’t have carried the paralytic up to the roof, maybe not even two. It took all four. It takes all of us.

Mister the day the lottery I win …

or, “Tell him what he’s won, Jay.” “Monty, it’s a brand new car!”

And for us, it’s a new used car. We’re very excited.

Dawn went to yoga class and I went to the gym. We then went to Whole Foods and bought eggplant. Then we went and got the Taurus washed at the Mr. Wash across the street from Wes Greenway’s Alexandria Volkswagen. We had a 1:00 p.m. appointment with Terry Davis, but we showed up about ten after twelve. He was nice and gave us his full attention right away.

We were looking for either a Jetta wagon or a Ford Focus wagon, from either Carmax or someplace else with certified vehicles. Well, I had hoped we could find a Volvo V40, but Dawn hates them, so that was out. We couldn’t find any Jetta wagons at any local Carmax, but we had spotted one, on, at a VW dealer in Alexandria. It’s a 2002 and was $12,950 with 48,021 miles on it. It was a bit cheaper than others. Not sure why.

Terry got us into it right away and explained a few of the features to us. Then Dawn and I took off in it. I drove at first, taking a right off of West Glebe onto Mount Vernon Avenue. I pulled into the Birchmere’s parking lot and took some tight turns. Then I gave the wheel over to Dawn, who pulled us out and about and around back to the dealer. “We’ll take it,” we said.

Was another two hours before we got out of there, after accepting $1200 for the Taurus and signing our name many times for Kevin the finance guy, who used to work in NYC in Bldg. 7 of the WTC and lost his job after 9/11.

We tried to go to the DC inspection station, but they were closed and shut up, even though we got there at 2:52 p.m. and they ostensibly close at 3:00 p.m. on Saturdays.

Dawn loves driving now. We’ve named the new car Mary, which I think of as being short for Rosemary but Dawn thinks it’s just Mary.

It has a sunroof, heated seats and a CD player. It has an alarm system, operated by a remote that also locks and unlocks the doors. It has roof rails. It’s got more storage space than our house.

The Artificial Nigger

Of all the stories in this Flannery O’Connor book that I’m reading, this has to have been the most powerful one I’ve read. There’s a couple left in the book now to go, but boy did this one pack a wallop.

Maybe it’s the title, but I don’t know. I’m not sure how to really take the use of the word nigger in all the stories. I generally disapprove, and generally instantly dislike whoever uses the term. O’Connor makes it a little easier when she makes so many of the characters dislikable anyway.

But The Artificial Nigger starts out making Mr. Head such a grand, fine character — The moonlight waits for his permission to enter and cast a dignifying light on everything. The chair is attentive and awaits his order. His trousers are like the garment of some great man. O’Connor describes him physically thus:

Sixty years had not dulled his responses; his physical reactions, like his moral ones, were guided by his will and strong character, and these could be seen plainly in his features.


His eyes were alert but quiet, and in the miraculous moonlight they had a look of composure and of ancient wisdom as if they belonged to one of the great guides of men. He might have been Vergil summoned in the middle of the night to go to Dante or better, Raphael, awakened by a blast of God’s light to fly to the side of Tobias.

She introduces him to us in the most glowing terms. He has moral will, a strong character, ancient wisdom. So it’s really much harder then to dislike him. I think I even began the story with the understanding that the title referred to him, that he was African-American and would be later the victim of the inevitable O’Connor-esqe tragedy. But then when he points out the black man to the unfortunate Nelson, and refers to him, the man, as a nigger, then all is different.

So maybe that’s part of O’Connors trickery, when the story turns out to be a journey, and about Mr. Head’s fall from grace. We feel that fall better, we internalize it better, because we’ve been set up to admire him from the beginning. Mr. Head loses his way, he loses our sympathy and Nelson’s sympathy, and then he loses his very humanity when he profoundly and disgustingly denies his kinship to Nelson. Like Peter denying Christ.

But then they re-establish their kinship, and Mr. Head regains his humanity, over the small statue, the titular statue.

“An artificial nigger!” Nelson repeated in Mr. Head’s exact tone.

The two of them stood there with their necks forward at almost the same angle and their shoulders curved in almost exactly the same way and their hands trembling identically in their pockets.

Mr. Head looked like an ancient child and Nelson like a miniature old man. They stood gazing at the artificial Negro as if they were faced with some great mystery, some monument to another’s victory that brought them together in their common defeat. They could both feel it dissolving their differences like an action of mercy.

So, um, yeah, great. I’m supposed to be pleased then that they can again establish their great bond together in their racism? This is a happy ending? Why does it have to be racism that bonds them? Is this O’Connor’s way of being snarky toward her own southern heritage, or towards non-Catholic southerners?

But then maybe the racism is the point. It itself is their sin. And O’Connor goes all out in the end, explaining the horror of sin and the serenity of mercy with astonishing power and beauty.

Mr. Head stood very still and felt the action of mercy touch him again but this time he knew that there were no words in the world that could name it. He understood that it grew out of agony, which is not denied to any man and which is given in strange ways to children. He understood it was all a man could carry into death to give his Maker and he suddenly burned with shame that he had so little of it to take with him. He stood appalled, judging himself with the thoroughness of God, while the action of mercy covered his pride like a flame and consumed it. He had never thought him self a great sinner before but he saw now that his true depravity had been hidden from him lest it cause him despair. He realized that he was forgiven for sins from the beginning of time, when he had conceived in his own heart the sin of Adam, until the present, when he had denied poor Nelson. He saw that no Sin was too monstrous for him to claim as his own, and since God loved in proportion as He forgave, he felt ready at that instant to enter Paradise.

And then the train pull away from them, disappearing “like a frightened serpent into the woods.” Like the serpent from the Garden, of course. Only this time defeated. They have received mercy and temptation leaves them alone. And Nelson declares that he will never return to Atlanta, to the place of their fall from grace.

Vice President Shoots Elderly Man in Face

Sadly, no one is surprised. I mean, you can just picture Dick Cheney doing a thing like that, can’t you?

Oh, and this happened on Saturday afternoon. The Veep’s staff then left it up to the owner of the property to notify the media. You know, I mean, whatever, if she really want to say anything at all.

So she called the local newspaper the next day.


Dawn and I attended the 11:30 Mass on Sunday. I had volunteered to be at the Faith Formation table after that Mass for the Parish Council Ministries & Committees Fair, being that I’m a member of the Adult Formation Committee. Since the Mass was in English, I had the usual orans dilemma.

Usually we’re at the Latin Mass, and I have to hold the book during the Pater Noster. So there’s not really any option for holding out my arms in the orans posture. But, during the English liturgy, I’m not holding any book. And Dawn says we’re really supposed to adopt orans, although she usually forgets until about halfway through. I never forget, but I usually wait for her to see if she does it. But I never really want to do it, but I feel guilty because I feel like I’m supposed to do it. I felt a little better last week when I looked over at all the nuns in church and specifically noted only one or two of them using the orans.

So today I did some Googling during my lunch hour. And I’ve got good news.
The bishops of the Church in the U.S. are members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The USCCB is itself a member of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy.

So apparently, according to Adoremus, the Society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy, in 1995 the USCCB’s committee on the liturgy, the BCL, debated the ICEL’s proposed revision of the Sacramentary, the prayers for the Catholic Mass. Among many, many other things of course, the BCL considered recommending that the entire congregation adopt the orans posture during the Lord’s Prayer. After some debate, with some bishops objecting to the laity adopting the orans posture rather than reserving it for the clergy, the BCL made the orans a “permissible option” for the congregation.

The ICEL then in 1999 sent their proposed revision to the Sacramentary, including the orans for the members of the assembly, to the Holy See for approval. In the meantime, the BCL posted on their website that, while it was not yet approved, soon the Sacramentary would provide for the orans gesture.

His Holiness Pope John Paul II approved in 2000, and the Holy See issued in 2002, the new edition of the Roman Missal, after having rejected the ICEL revision regarding the orans.
The USCCB now simply says: No position is prescribed in the present Sacramentary for an assembly gesture during the Lord’s Prayer.

So officially it’s okay to hold hands, but I’d really rather not. And I find the orans posture personally distracting. With my hands clasped in front of me I feel like I’m praying; in orans, I feel like I’m holding my hands out. So now I know I don’t have to it. Hooray!

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The OT reading is from Leviticus and is heartbreaking. The Lord requires that the leper be cast out.

As long as the sore is on him he shall declare himself unclean,
since he is in fact unclean.
He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.

I’ve thought it was understood that so much of the rules of the ancients that to us today seem weirdly arbitrary are in fact rooted in commonsensical ideas for their time. Mostly I’ve thought this is terms of the Jewish dietary laws, what makes certain things kosher or not kosher. Similar the halal as well. Prohibitions against eating certain foods or requirements that foods be prepared a certain way — to us today merely quaint, charming, arbitrary — were in ancient times quite necessary to avoid serious illness and death.

Clearly related to this then are, as described above, laws relating to the cleanliness or uncleanliness not of food but of people. The Lord says that the leper will be brought before the priest, and the priest shall declare the leper unclean. And the leper must rend his garments and cry out that he is unclean, to warn away others. So, again, it’s understood that in order to protect the public health from an otherwise not understood physical affliction, both contagious and horribly disfiguring, the religious orthodoxy states that God himself declares that those with the disease are to be cast out. Basic triage and sensible public health policy. But how heart-wrenchingly sad for the afflicted.

So, happily, the Gospel of Mark, where the leper is not dragged before the priest, but comes to Jesus on his own. And Jesus very simply cures him.

Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand,
touched him, and said to him,
“I do will it. Be made clean.”

I love the beauty and poetry of this passage, so very different from the dry rulemaking of Leviticus.

And how different too is pretty much everything now that the Messiah has arrived. Here we see him even breaking the law, out of pity and kindness. So much for all those dry rules. Hey, from now on, let’s just go with loving God and loving our neighbor. Even the outcast. Heck, especially the outcasts.

Snow on the way

We go to Safeway on Saturday morning, just like we do on many Saturday mornings. Ah, but today there’s a snowstorm a-comin’. Everybody is at the store today.

It’s funny actually. The aisles aren’t especially crowded. It’s just that the lines for the registers are ridiculously long. I make a special stop in the magazine aisle, grabbing National Geographic, Esquire, Consumer Reports and Fine Homebuilding, and I grab a Star for Dawn. We should have brought our books.

I end up only reading Fine Homebuilding. It’s from Taunton Press, same as Fine Woodworking, to which I subscribe. I’ve never really looked at Fine Homebuilding before, figuring it’s way out of my league. Like I figure it’s more about restoring fine antique homes rather than just old row houses like we’ve got. But it’s surprisingly accessible and enjoyable. Hey, there’s a graphic on the differences among oilstones, waterstones, diamond stones and ceramic stones. That’s right up my alley.

Unfortunately all the copies are incorrectly glued and are all falling apart. Otherwise I would have bought one. I’ll have to see if Borders nearby at work carries it. Although I did just renew my subscription to Fine Woodworking and just newly subscribed to Popular Woodworking. Don’t know if the budget will allow another magazine.

Diamond Bench Stone, pt. 2

My biggest problem now is with getting the angle right for the bevel. I’m using the basic generic honing guide, the single-roller one you can get just about anywhere. I can just jam the blade in the guide and get any old angle, but the problem is trying to get an angle that I want and, even more important, being able to repeat that angle.

But I think what I remember from high school trig will help out here. We all remember soh-cah-toa, don’t we? The sine of an angle in a right triangle is the length of the opposite side divided by the length of the hypotenuse. From our diagram above, we get sin θ = b / c. And here b is the height that the honing guide holds the blade and c is the length of the blade that sticks out of the guide. And a of course is the sharpening stone. So

sin θ = b / c

Or, for our purposes

c = b / sin θ

Let’s imagine that the height b is 5/8″ and we want a bevel angle of 25˚. So, 5/8 divided by the sine of 25 is 1.47887598947 inches. Let’s call that 1 1/2″ okay? For a 30˚ bevel angle, c would be exactly 1.2500″.

I just need to set up a block or something and scribe some measurements on it to be able to repeat the angles. And measure the height of the honing guide exactly, rather than using 5/8″ as we did in our example.

And there are two different places the guide holds blades, sort of an upper area for plane irons and a lower for chisels. Have to note different c lengths for the two different settings as well.

But better that than the Veritas Mk.II for $48.50, huh? Although the Mk.II does have a better way of making sure the blade is set square to the stone …

Diamond Bench Stone

I got a new sharpening stone and am so pleased with it. It’s a DMT DuoSharp stone, an 8″ model, with the coarse grit (325) on one side and extra-fine (1200) on the other.

I had been getting nowhere with my oilstones, a small starter set that I got at Woodcraft for like 8 bucks. Granted there’s a soft and a hard Arkansas stone, along with honing oil, in the set, but the stones are only an inch and a half wide and three inches long. Really too small for a plane iron that’s two inches wide.

So I was trying Scary Sharp as well, which worked just fine on the iron from my antique Stanley Bailey#4 smoother, but it took a long, long time to flatten the back. And I’ve got 11 chisels and — how many planes? Let’s see, the recently manufactured Buck Brothers jack and then the antiques: the #4, #29 transitional fore plane, #9 1/2 block plane, and cute little #75 bullnose rabbet plane — five planes. I was dreading all of that slow sandpaper sharpening.

Plus I’m still working on the grinder. I bought an antique Carborundum Co. grinder, but the wheel was way too coarse. So I bought a good aluminum oxide wheel at Woodcraft, but I can’t get it balanced right on the antique grinder’s arbor with the plastic bushings. So I’m lacking in the grinder department right now too.

Hence the diamond stone. I figured the coarse side would help with flattening the back and establishing the initial bevel and the extra-fine side would finish off the rest. And it’s working pretty well. It’s super fast compared to the oilstones or the sandpaper, although, again, the bevel part really needs a decent grinder.

Flannery O’Connor

Still reading A Good Man Is Hard to Find and other stories.

The second story is The River, about a child, variously named Harry and Bevel, who, fairly neglected by his parents, spends the day being sat by a Mrs. Connin. She takes him to her home (where he steals a valuable antique children’s book about Jesus) then down to the river, where the Reverend Bevel Summers baptizes him. Later Harry returns to the river by himself and drowns himself searching for the Kingdom of Jesus, before the cancerous Mr. Paradise was likely about to molest him.

Next up is The Life You Save May Be Your Own, in which the one-armed Mr. Shiftlet arrives at the home of Lucynell Carter and her developmentally challenged adult daughter Lucynell Carter. Mrs. Carter convinces Mr. Shiftlet to marry the younger Lucynell, whom Mr. Shiftlet then abandons at a diner and makes off with Mrs. Carter’s car.

Remember in the title story, where the unpleasant people ended up being brutally murdered.
I think maybe these stories are supposed to be funny? They don’t seem at all funny when I’m reading them. But summing them up like this, all these damaged people coming to ignominious ends, it all seems really black, really somehow over the top darkly humorous.

Next is the least horrifying so far, A Stroke of Good Fortune, in which Ruby comes to the realization (horrifying to her, at least), while climbing the stairs to her fourth floor walkup, that she is pregnant. Then, in A Temple of the Holy Ghost, the twelve year old girl and her two visiting fourteen year old cousins puzzle over the mysterious transgendered person in the freak show at the fair.

I finished that story on the Metro, then turned to the next story and closed the book quietly and nonchalantly. I was somewhat dismayed, unable to read The Artificial Nigger in public.


In The Princess Bride, Prince Humperdinck makes a pronouncement regarding the pursuit of Princess Buttercup and Wesley/Dread Pirate Roberts. “Unless I am wrong,” he says, followed by a parenthetical,”and I am never wrong,” and then something about the the fire swamp.

I think about that sometimes, when I’m trying to figure something out. I really admire his confidence, but there’s also a slight gesture towards humility. Granted it’s only a nod, a conceit that only makes him more of an arrogant bastard. But it’s a charming gesture.

My version is different but, oddly, paradoxically, no less arrogant. “Unless I am wrong,” I say, “and I am always wrong,” and then I go on to say what I think something is or means or is going to happen.

So, unless I am wrong, and I am always wrong, deconstruction is taking a text, noting the underlying questions that the text is purporting to answer, and then determining that the questions themselves are incoherent.

I’m not sure how this is useful though.

Super Sunday

I read an interesting tidbit in the Washington Post yesterday morning:

In the past 20 years, football has sharply widened its lead over baseball as America’s favorite professional sport, according to a Harris Poll in December. Fans choose football over baseball, basketball and auto racing combined, the poll found.

Huh. I don’t know what it means, more than what it says, when “fans choose football.” Meaning fans choose football as their favorite sport, is what I would guess. What it means in terms of team revenue or league revenue or television audience or player salaries, is still left quite undefined.

I know that I like football, certainly more than basketball or auto racing, neither of which I like or follow or can or will even watch. Auto racing? Good grief.

I used to watch baseball, a little, some, at least more than I do now, but have never followed a team much. I actually live only a couple blocks from a Major League Baseball stadium now, but only went once to (not) see a game that got rained out.

But I don’t even especially follow football, just watch it with Dawn. I like watching it, but will live if we miss a game.

Dawn makes fun of me for calling the game as I watch it, of my need to comment on every play, as if I actually knew what I was talking about. I think I get that from my mother. I always enjoyed watching football with her, and we sort of chatted to each other and with each other via comments around and about what was going on in the game.

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

We didn’t have the Latin Mass today. Instead we had Bishop Francisco González leading the celebration of the Jubilee Mass for Religious. Bishop González himself was celebrating fifty years of religious life, as were many nuns in attendance. Others were celebrating forty years. I think they said one priest was celebrating seventy years as a priest. My goodness.

Bishop González spoke of having enterered the seminary at the tender age of eleven. He also said that all of the children in his family, himself and his brother and sister, all entered religious life. He didn’t recommend that for all Catholic families, though.

Appropriately enough, the Gospel today is from St. Mark, and I think it says something about religous life.

(Jesus is off praying in a deserted place)

Simon and those who were with him pursued him
and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages
that I may preach there also.
For this purpose have I come.”

Simon and the others come searching, looking for guidance, looking for God, looking to God. And to that Jesus says, well okay then, let’s go. That’s why I’ve come.

And that’s what Bishop González emphasized, about himself and all his religious brothers and sisters, that they were called, and they said yes. They said, well okay then, let’s go.

Romeo & Juliet

Back again to the Kennedy Center for ballet, this time ABT doing Romeo & Juliet. For our night we get Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky. An interesting dynamic is that they are married in real life.

Dawn complains about Mercutio, saying he doesn’t stand out much from, and thus might as well be, Benvolio. She raves about the orchestra. I’m generally a Julie Kent or Gillian Murphy kind of guy, but I sure love Irina tonight.

Dawn tells me that apparently Juliet is something of a signature role for Alessandra Ferri, who is totally my favorite babe on the ABT website. Dawn says she doesn’t travel much, so I knew we wouldn’t be seeing her in Washington. Dawn also notes that the picture I’m so in love with is pretty old. I see now in her bio that Alessandra Ferri joined ABT as a principal dancer twenty-one years ago, which puts her age to be about 90 or so.

It also strikes me as pretty funny, adapting Shakespeare, considered the greatest writer in the English language, with the adaptation being completely devoid of words altogether.

Friday Fondue

Friday is always fondue and movie night.

We often have trouble finding the fondue at Safeway. I mean, we know where it is, but we often find our Safeway is out of stock. Safeway actually has their own brand of fondue, and we like it just fine. Sometimes they’ll have this Tiger brand, and that’s okay too. Safeway’s country and gorganzola versions we don’t like.

We tried making the fondue ourselves from scratch once, with gruyère and emmental, but it was pretty runny.

We do make the bread from scratch though. Well, as much as baking bread in a bread machine is considered making bread from scratch. I’ve done it so many times now (every Thursday, with few exceptions, for the last couple of years) that I know it by heart: 1.5 tbl sugar, 1 tsp salt, 250 ml water, 1 tbl olive oil, 3.25 cups bread flour, 1.25 tsp yeast. Set for 1.5 lb French setting and let ‘er rip.

When I was a kid we used to have fondue twice a year. This was in the seventies, when apparently fondue was all the rage in the suburbs. We got to choose whatever we wanted for dinner on our birthdays, and my brother and I always chose fondue. So I like to remember that my family had fondue every March 15 and May 27 throughout the seventies.

But back then we’d have meat fondue (Fondue Bourguignonne) as opposed to the cheese fondue (Fondue Neuchâteloise) that Dawn and I have now. For cheese fondue you just dip the bread in and then take it out, but the meat you’d have to let cook for a while. I remember we’d each have two fondue forks, and everybody’s would get crossed in the fondue pot. You had to coordinate with everyone else.

What a social meal it was really. Perfect for a birthday dinner.

A Good Man is Hard to Find

Was looking for something to read night before crawling into bed and spotted Dawn’s edition of Flannery O’Connor. I’d read the title story before, but that’s all I’ve ever read of O’Connor. And I didn’t remember it much, so I brought it into bed with me.

My goodness. That story is just pure meanness.

You kinda like Grandmother at first even if she is a worry wart. I mean, the two grandchildren are little twits and hey what are the chances of meeting the Misfit anyway? But then she’s all hey look at the little nigger child there on the side of the road. (Whoa! That word! And aparently I’m going to have to get used to it, reading this book.) And then and then it’s all her fault that they get off on the dirt road looking for the house that isn’t even there, and then she’s the one who scares the cat and causes the accident.

And then she’s the one who recognizes the Misfit, who then allows that it really would have been better for everyone if she hadn’t. So then there’s the awful and agonizingly drawn out marching into the woods two by two. And the Misfit’s summation of Christ’s raising of the dead:

If He did what He said, then it’s nothing for you to do but thow away everything and follow Him, and if He didn’t, then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can — by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him.

No pleasure but meanness, he says.

My goodness.

I remembered the story a little better after I read it. I know that’s kind of “well, duh,” but I guess I mean I sorta remembered thinking about it after I read it years ago. I don’t know why but it made me think of St. Paul. I think maybe I had some sort of confusion between Diogenes and Paul. Something between Diogenes carrying the lamp looking for an honest man (a good man?) and St. Paul being blinded by the light on the way to Damascus.

Maybe some sort of confusion between Diogenes and Damascus? Or the two stories both involving some kind of light? Who knows. It doesn’t really make any sense, I guess.

What strikes me now is how unpleasant the whole story is. How mean the whole story is. And how crazy fucked up the Misfit is, but he does express a kernel of truth about Christianity in his crazy fucked up way.

If what happened in the Gospels really did happen, as we Catholics (including Flannery O’Connor) believe, then that changes everything. And logically, if it all didn’t happen, then what’s the point really?

My brother is a veteran of the Gulf War, so he’s by definition a veteran of a foreign war. But he refuses to join the VFW because they make you take an oath where you swear to, among other things, a belief in God. And he can’t do that.

I don’t think that he believes that there definitely isn’t a God, but he can’t swear that he believes that there is either. But he’s against abortion and stealing and murder and whatnot. And I wonder, where does that come from? Where does morality fit into a world without God?

I can understand as well I suppose the social contract version then, but Rob doesn’t really speak in those terms. He’s really a right and wrong, black and white kind of guy. Or like another man famously said, “I don’t do nuance.”

So back to morality. Morality without God. How does that work?

State of the Union?

Oh, hey, I forgot.

In years past I’ve always been a big fan of the State of the Union address. Sort of the same way I’ve been a fan of the party nominating conventions every election year. I like speeches.

But I skipped this President’s speech this year. He just makes me so mad.

I used to read his speeches, and they usually have read very well. Because they’re written by Mike Gerson, of course.

But now that we imprison people without access to lawyers, now that we torture people, for cryin’ out loud, I just can’t stand it.

I am a little sad that I missed the great moment where he chided Congress for not passing his Social Security “reform” package last year and the Dems all stood up and cheered. Heh.

And he apparently made some reference to some type of human-animal hybrids being a result of stem cell research? The hell?