Monthly Archives: January 2007

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Building things today, in the first reading and the psalm anyway. And the recessional hymn.
The first reading starts right at the beginning of Jeremiah, with the Lord this really all-powerful force and poor Jeremiah just not ready for it.

The word of the Lord came to me, saying:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I dedicated you,
a prophet to the nations I appointed you.

How scary is that? It’s not said, but it sure is understood, when something exists before you do, then it’s going to exist long after you too. How do you relate to something or someone like that?

Not that Jeremiah is especially unique in this, being destined for something from the very womb. Oh, and not just Christ himself, either. There’s Isaiah (Isaiah 49:1 – The Lord called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name), St. John the Baptist (Luke 1:15 – He will be filled with the holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb), and St. Paul (Galatians 1:15 – God, who from my mother’s womb had set me apart and called me through his grace).

But Jeremiah tries complaining anyway: “Ah, Lord God!” I said, “I know not how to speak; I am too young.”

But God’s not having any of that. And he tells Jeremiah that he’s making of him a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass. Good, solid stuff.

And the psalm, from Psalm 71, ask the Lord: Be my rock and refuge, my secure stronghold; for you are my rock and fortress.

More solid stuff.

Even better, the psalm also says: On you I depend since birth; from my mother’s womb you are my strength.

Maybe there’s a connection, between the womb and the rock solid fortress? Or maybe I’m just thinking of this connection, because of the anniversary last week of Roe v. Wade, and the March for Life, which for yet another year I did not attend.

As always, I read more about Roe, this time William Saletan’s article (a review of Linda Greenhouse’s book on Justice Blackmun) in Legal Affairs from 2005. Interesting to note in these fractured times that whatever one thinks of Roe, it was decided by a seven to two majority. So different even twenty years later, where Casey squeaked by with a bare plurality of three. That makes all the five-to-fours that we’re so used to nowadays seem positively decisive.

The opening hymn today is Love Divine, All Loves Excelling, based on everybody’s favorite tune Hyfrydol. I’m saddened to learn that it’s apparently pronounced hu-vru-dul, according to Wikipedia. And all this time I’ve been saying hiff-ruh-doll. Yikes.

Either way, it’s Welsh for good cheer. Like a toast, I guess.

The recessional hymn, Christ’s Church Shall Glory in His Power, includes the line He is our rock, our mighty tow’r. The tune is Ein’ feste Burg, German for “a mighty fortress.”

Shirley Henderson

This is pretty typical of me. I’m always charmed by some actress or another. Always have been. Favorites going back include Kate Winslet and Aishwarya Rai. All-time favorites those two. More recently there’s been Romola Garai. Before that there was Sarah Polley. Of course let’s not forget Natalie Portman, for whom I even schlepped up to NYC once to see on Broadway. Actresses all, whose very presence in a movie is reason enough for me to see it.

Lately it’s one Shirley Henderson. We saw her in the Andrew Davies adaptation of Trollope’s The Way We Live Now. Dawn’s been on a Trollope reading kick, much like me and Patrick O’Brian, I suppose. And she loves the British murder mysteries that they show on weekends on the Biography Channel, shows like Midsomer Murders and Poirot. Poirot stars the odd little man David Suchet as the fey little Belgian Hercule Poirot, and he’s the Augustus Melmotte character in The Way We Live Now. And so anyway, what with Dawn’s Trollope and Suchet proclivities lately, she put The Way We Live Now on the Netflix list and we watched it.

I watched it at first under some duress, but quickly fell hard for Shirley Henderson as Melmotte’s daughter Marie, pursued by all the useless young gentlemen of London society and especially pursued by the especially useless Felix Carbury. There’s this amazing moment early on when Felix first declares his intentions to Marie. He kisses her, and she pulls away for a moment, considering him and herself and the situation and what she should do versus what she wants. And then she grabs him and kisses him back with this ferocious intensity, this need and desire and lust and abandon. I suppose that moment, the man surprises the woman with a kiss, she gives it some consideration, and then she enthusiastically returns the kiss, it’s something of a cliche in movies, but Shirley Henderson here makes it utterly believable. It’s really intense.

And she’s really intense. She’s a little firecracker. Reminds me of my Dawn.

And then her best scene comes later in the story, when Felix’s sister Hetta has come to relay Felix’s reply to Marie’s message to him, after their plans to elope have all gone awry. And Felix, great big asshole that he is, has sent Hetta to throw Marie under a bus, tell her that he doesn’t love her and never has. (Not literally under a bus.) And Shirley Henderson has this awesome scene where she’s devastated and heartbroken and she’s weeping and lost and declares that she’ll never love again, that she’ll follow her father’s wishes and marry Lord Nidderdale but will be a curse to his entire life. Again, really intense and achingly wonderful.

Apparently Shirley Henderson was in both Bridget Jones movies, although I only saw the first one. Dawn remembers her, or the character anyway. She was also in Trainspotting — she’s originally from Scotland — and I do remember her in that, although Kelly Macdonald was of course the more noticed babe in that. Shirley Henderson played Spud’s girlfriend Gail. “Actually it’s a nightmare. I’ve been desperate for a shag but watching him suffer was just too much fun,” you might remember her saying. For those of you who are Harry Potter fans, you’ll have seen her as someone called Moaning Myrtle in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. But of course everybody’s in the Harry Potter movies. I haven’t seen them, but Shirley Henderson is a reason to see at least one of them.


So I had some Christmas money from Dad to spend. Dawn suggested a new rug for the living room, which suggestion I found utterly horrifying. First, because I like the current rug a lot, even if Dawn doesn’t. But mostly because I didn’t want to add Christmas gift money to the general household revenue fund. I wanted something special.

Luckily, whatever rug(s) Dawn had/has her eye on were/is/are apparently a lot more than what I had to spend. So she, budget director but with a heart, gave me her blessing to buy whatever I wanted. And, as it happens, there was a little something that had caught my eye.

I have at various times had on my Amazon wish list a planer. First I think I had the Delta, replaced at some point by the Grizzly. Both in the $200 range. Well, the Grizzly more like $250, since it was $225, but since it’s not sold by Amazon but rather by Grizzly, there’d be shipping charges on top of that.

But recently a Palmgren planer had popped up on my radar. I hadn’t especially ever heard of Palmgren before, or what I’d seen maybe just hadn’t much registered. I think maybe I’d noticed the benchtop jointer before. But this planer was suddenly up on Amazon for $199. They said its original list price was $529, but who knows what list price means in these cases.

Well, I suppose we can compare to the Delta and the Grizzly. The Delta is $199 from a list price of $317. And the Grizzly is just $225, with no other price, list or otherwise. (But it’s available for the same $225 at, so let’s just go with that as the list price.) My dream planer would be the Dewalt DW734, but that’s list $678 on sale for $399. Way too much.

So it seemed like the Palmgren for $199 was a really good deal, although that was for the 84114, whereas the 84112 was on sale for $129. But somehow, I don’t know, I just didn’t trust that 84112. Seemed too cheap.

I read the Amazon reviews, and checked out discussions on the Woodnet forums. There was this one guy Earl Cowles, EZ on Amazon and EZEZ on the Woodnet forums. He was really enthusiastic about the 84114, but almost too enthusiastic. Almost like being-paid-to-say-these-things enthusiastic. But he seemed to be an otherwise honest guy, having given a fairly positive but not totally overjoyed review to a Bosch miter saw on Amazon back in November. He’s much newer to the Woodnet forums, so I couldn’t really tell much else there.

Finally I just bit the bullet and ordered the damn thing, the 84114. I called my brother to see if he could accept shipment at his house first though. I usually have stuff delivered at work, but Amazon said the shipping weight on this thing was 99 pounds. I didn’t think Anita the receptionist would be too pleased with that. And I sure didn’t want them just dropping it off for me at home, not in my neighborhood. Luckily, Rob works out of his home, and he agreed to let me ship it there.

That was Sunday when I ordered it. And it arrives at his house today at 2:13 p.m. I’m going over on Saturday to pick it up.

ASH Happy Hour

We have an after-work happy hour at Mai Thai, promptly at 5:01 p.m. Actually, I’m about five minutes late getting out the door, so most everybody else is already on their way. I meet Kyra heading down as well. She needs to hit the ATM first, so we step across the street to the Wachovia. It’s not her bank, so she gets nailed with a fee. Two dollars and fifty cents. Ouch. I haven’t paid an ATM fee in like five years, not since Dawn took charge of our finances. I guess I thought it was still only a dollar to get money from a different bank.

As per usual in group drinking situations, I bus my own drinks from the bar. I learned that from Dave. And as per usual at Mai Thai, I get the draft Bass Ale, ridiculously cheap at like $3.85 or something like that. I do not like, however, that they serve the draft beer in a mug. I like pint glasses or pilsner glasses far better.

I sit between Virginia’s husband Patrick, on my left, and Helena, on my right. Helena is going to see the Kirov Romeo & Juliet on Friday. Dawn and I are seeing it on Saturday. We discuss how much I liked the ABT Othello last weekend. Helena says that her father always complains that the dialog at ballets is never loud enough. And that Giselle gives him the willies. (Rim shot & thank you & try the veal, she adds.)

Kyra bails early to meet friends at the happy hour up the street at the Front Page. I leave with Elisa, Courtney, and Kat, all of us heading to the Red Line at Dupont Circle.

Committee Meeting

Have a Adult Faith Formation Committee meeting at St. Matt’s. There’s a huge plate of cookies, and, as I haven’t had dinner, I’m sadly unable to resist eating like 47 of the damn things. I wish I had willpower to resist, but they’re just too good.

The tables in the conference room are set up in a big U shape, one table on each side and two tables at the bottom of the U. I sit on one of the sides, and I don’t know if it’s that the U is too big or that she speaks too softly or maybe it’s the HVAC blowing, but I have trouble hearing and understanding our chair Marinella. Plus she has an Italian accent. The guys closer to me I can understand, plus Maureen sitting right next to me. Marinella, not so much. I try to nod and smile a lot when she asks me something, trying to bid for time to figure out what she’s said. I hope I haven’t volunteered to bake cookies for the next meeting.

At the end of the meeting there’s still a lot of cookies left. You can’t really tell that we’ve made a dent in the giant pile. We still haven’t nailed down what the lecture series for the fall is going to be. Somebody suggests a series on the major documents of Vatican II: Gaudium et Spes, Lumen Gentium, Sacrosanctum Concilium, Dignitatis Humanae, and Dei Verbum.

MLK Day (Off)

We have the day off from work. Dawn spends much time knitting, as she’s pretty much done with scarves (and the hat she made me) and has moved on to the much more complicated sweater. This involves knitting in the round, using circular needles. Circular needles are like the nunchucks of knitting needles.

I spend much of the day painting. Painting boring old plywood. Along with patching the roof with good old Henry 208 Wet Patch Roof Cement, I’m also replacing the plywood around the skylight. The skylight’s kinda like a cupola or dormer, with four sides, on which the plywood is nailed. It’s mostly just the side on the south that’s rotting away. And that makes sense, as that side gets the most (and most intense) sun.

So I had bought four 2′ x 4′ Handy Panels of 1/2″ plywood, and I cut each to 16″ x 30″ and then paint both sides. First is an oil based primer, then an enamel topcoat. I don’t suppose I necessarily need to paint both sides, since one side will be facing inward, but I seem to understand from general woodworking concepts that like table surfaces will warp if you only finish one side. So I paint both sides.

And but it’s hard to paint both sides of a big old rectangle. You can’t just flip it over after finishing one side and lay that wet paint on the workbench or drop cloth. So I nail two little brads on each end, which brads rest on blocks, so that I can flip each piece over to paint both sides.

The brads really turn out to be too small for this purpose, but they are just barely adequate. I’m able to stack all four pieces with paint on both sides, sorta like green wood that’s been stickered to dry. I guess that’s where I got the idea. I get paint all over my hands, but happily not all over anything else, like the kitchen floor.

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

An odd coincidence today. At my first wedding, in an Episcopal church, the wedding mass included three readings. One of them was a Shakespeare sonnet, number CXVI, of course. But the other two readings were from that there Bible, one Old Testament and one Gospel. And those two are two of the readings today.

Not terribly surprising, I suppose, since both readings are about or mention somehow weddings. Not too surprising to have them at a wedding, then. And then not too surprising to find them on the same day in the Lectionary. But still, kinda funny.

And, lucky for me today I think, the first reading is a bit longer than the one my sister read thirteen years ago. This time it begins:

For Zion’s sake I will not be silent,
for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet,
until her vindication shines forth like the dawn

I naturally always like readings that mention Dawn.

But it’s the second reading today that really gets all the attention, mine as well as in the homily. It’s good old St. Paul, of course, writing to those Corinthians. (The first time.)

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God
who produces all of them in everyone.
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for some benefit.

I don’t want to step into too much here, getting in way way over my head, but I like to think that maybe we’re all of us not too far apart, Christian & Muslim & Jew. And Buddhist & Hindu. Again, not that I know this from any teaching of the Church. Heck, I may be committing grand heresy here. But I like to think of all of the world, and their beliefs, as being different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same spirit. As different workings but the same God.

Maybe it’s from thinking so specifically about Islam and Christianity last night. But then also I go do some quick Wikipedia searching, trying first ecumenicalism. It redirects to simply ecumenism, which it says is usually used in reference only to Christian denominations. So maybe not exactly the word I’m wanting.

But it’s funny, as it says that the word ecumenism derives from the Greek oikoumene, which means the inhabited world. But it looks like and makes me think of Khomeini, as in Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini, that nemesis of the United States from not too many years ago. He was born plain old Ruhollah Musavi in the town of Khomein in Markazi Province in Iran. He was Khomeini because he was from Khomein.

Is there some connection? The Greek word coming from the name of this particular town?

Seems more likely that the name of the place maybe came from the Greek word. Wikipedia tells me that oikoumene is the present middle participle of the Greek verb meaning to inhabit. Oikoumene means I inhabit. Definitely sounds like a place could come to be named that. Kind of a tautology, maybe, or more just sorta Who’s on First-ish.

Q: Where do you live?
A: I live in the place I inhabit.

And but so anyway. Even this little detour makes me feel like it’s all tied together somehow.


Dawn and I have a grand night out, dinner and the ballet.

We hardly ever go out to eat, not since we bought the house. When we rented in Adams Morgan, boy, we went out all the time. But now we’re so much more budget conscious. And of course the ballet subscriptions are a big expense, so we trade those few nights for all those nights out, I guess.

But we do enjoy some fine dining on ballet nights. Not too expensive, mind you. Tonight we go to our favorite Indian restaurant, Aroma. It’s on Eye Street Northwest. Dinner entrees there are generally in the ten dollar range. And a bottle of wine is twenty-six dollars. So we leave full of good food for not a lot money.

We see the American Ballet Theatre do Othello. We see the ABT every year, but this is my first time seeing Julie Kent herself. I don’t know why, but I think of her somehow like I think of Erin Mahoney-Du of the Washington Ballet. Maybe because they’re both tall? Although I have no idea how tall Julie Kent is, having never seen her. But she looks tall, judging by her headshot in the program. And she’s a local girl. Says she’s from Potomac MD.

I get all mixed up, however, reading the program beforehand, as to who is playing Iago. The program clearly says it’s Sascha Radetsky, but they don’t have a picture of him. Program says Herman Cornejo is playing Cassio. And they do have a picture of him. Clear as day.

And yet for some reason, after I close the program and the lights go down and the show begins, I’m waiting to see Herman Cornejo as Iago. And let me tell you, it’s a somewhat confusing first act, if you’ve got Iago and Cassio mixed up. I mean, this is ballet, folks. There’s no dialog, no talking, no speeches, nobody coming up and saying, “Hey, there, Cassio, buddy. How ya doing?”

So Iago and Desdemona have a nice little dance together, and I’m thinking that they’re actually getting along pretty well. Iago’s being really nice to her. I keep waiting for him to be mean, to show some reason why he’s going to do all the horrible things that we all know Iago ends up doing. But no sign of that. He seems to genuinely like her.

And then there’s the scene later where Cassio’s with Desdemona’s maid, being all crazy and angry. What’s that all about, I wonder. After that the act ends and I start to realize that I’m maybe a little mixed up here as to who’s playing whom. I flip open the program and see that I am.

But all of this is minor, really. I mean, we’re here to watch the women dance, not the men. I’m here to see Julie Kent, not some dude named Sascha.

And Marcelo Gomes as Othello, I suppose. He’s got on dark makeup, which kinda surprises me. Like, in this day and age, if we’re all so used to color blind casting in the theare, why does the white guy playing Othello still have to be in blackface? And again with this being the ballet and all, and nobody’s going to actually say, like, something about Othello the Moor. We all know the story, but if we don’t, we can read the synopsis in the program. We’ve got suspension of disbelief going enough here to watch the story of Iago convincing Othello that Desdemona is cheating on him with Cassio, but it’s all happening on that stage right over there, with that orchestra playing music right down there, we can see the conductor, oh and nobody actually utters a single word, and there’s no real furniture or buildings, and they’re all dancing with each other. But somehow I’m not going to buy it because this one guy isn’t black?

And yet in spite of all this I just enjoy the hell out the whole performance. All of these things now that I’m writing about, they sound like complaints, maybe, but they really aren’t. (That whole bit about suspension of disbelief and blackface is all rather tongue in cheek.) All of these little things that I notice just seem to delight me. Like right at the beginning, as the lights come up ever so slowly, there’s this … lump … on stage. It slowly resolves itself into a person. Seems like the person’s bent over, way down low. Kinda looks like somebody praying to Mecca to me. Oh, yeah! Hey, Othello the Moor, right? Got it. And then immediately in comes everybody else for the wedding, the marriage of Othello and Desdemona, and there’s somebody carrying this enormous cross, really emphasizing then this immediate change from things Muslim to things Christian.

And later there’s this very obvious cross hanging around Desdemona’s neck when Othello murders her. But no real mention of anything remotely Islamic ever reappears, so it’s not like this is meant to be like this whole comment on Islam & Christianity. At least I don’t think it is. Unless it’s supposed to be like a motive for Iago. Which, again, I don’t think it is. And Iago never tells us what his motive is, unless we were supposed to figure it out from his expressionistic dance at the end of the first act. But I thought that was Cassio at the time, so I sure didn’t get it. Only thing I can figure is he was mad about the blackface.

Another Year in Guantanamo

I notice that another year has passed, and still not a single prisoner at Guantanamo has been afforded an actual trial. Since last year, however, we have seen the Military Commissions Act of 2006, that singularly fucked up bit of Orwellian nightmare.

David Lynch used to have this comic strip, The Angriest Dog in the World, introduced thus:

The dog who is so angry he cannot move. He cannot eat. He cannot sleep. He can just barely growl. Bound so tightly with tension and anger, he approaches the state of rigor mortis.

Guantanamo and the MCA make me think of that dog.

What I mean by that is that thinking about this administration and its attendant lies and horrors makes me so angry that I can sometimes barely function, much less write coherently about them.

But then now somehow I’m also thinking about the dog itself, perpetually chained, day and night, the same in every panel. For those of you unfamiliar with the work, it’s an example of a constrained art. Each edition of the comic is the same four panels, the first three the dog chained and growling in the daytime, the fourth the same dog & chain & growling, only at night. The only thing that changes is a word balloon or two, indicating something being said by someone in the house, the house of the yard where the dog is perpetually chained.

And so we have the dog now as metaphor. Perpetually chained.

The Sounds of the City

I had noticed it yesterday, as I was nearing and then riding the street escalator at the Judiciary Square station.

Every Metro station has three levels, and the conveyance from the street to the middle level is denoted by the word street, as in street elevator or street escalator. The level of the trains themselves, and therefore the conveyances thereto, is called platform, as in platform elevator or platform escalator. That middle level is called the mezzanine. I wouldn’t have a fucking clue as to what a mezzanine was without knowing it from the Metro. I think maybe theaters, like on Broadway, have mezzanine levels, as opposed to orchestra or balcony.

And these elevators and escalators are usually not like single units. Of course there’s an up escalator and a down escalator, and many (most?) stations have a third escalator that switches from up to down in the morning or evening depending on where the foot traffic is flowing. And a lot of stations have more than one entrance/exit, e.g., Dupont Circle’s 19th Street side and the Q Street side. So in a lot of cases there’s more than one street escalator and there’s always more than one street escalator.

Well, except for Forest Glen station, which is so deep underground that they’ve only got elevators, six of them, going from the street to the mezzanine. I assume there are emergency stairs somewhere, but I’ve never seen them, and there’s for sure no escalator. And so anyway, I’m talking about the street escalator, the down escalator, on the Fourth Street side of the Judiciary Square station.

I had noticed yesterday that it was making a lot of noise. Some major groaning, it was doing. It was almost alarming. But it seemed like the groaning was more towards the top, whereas at the bottom it was really more sort of bleating. Kinda like the bleating of a saxaphone. And that was pretty cool to realize, that the escalator was playing jazz saxaphone.

Arriving at the station with Dawn this morning, I asked her, “Hear that?”

We were standing under a tree with a noisy little house sparrow singing away, so she asked, “The bird or that awful music?”

Exactly! I explained to her about the jazz saxaphone. Sadly, she was much less excited about it than I was.

But then also when I got to work today, I grabbed my big travel mug to go make a cup of coffee. We’ve got one of those individual serving coffee makers, one that uses coffee pods. As I was walking into the kitchen, I could hear that someone was making a cup already. And I really enjoy imitating the sound the coffee maker makes, kind of a low groaning grinding noise. So there was Nancy making coffee as I was walking in going “Aruuuurrrrrrr.”

But she asked me, “Are you imitating the coffee machine, or are you chanting om?”

She’s right! The cofee maker kinda sounds like that!

So that’s life today for me, where the escalator plays jazz saxaphone and the coffee maker chants om.

Go Wide?

I did not fail to notice, and most certainly pondered the possibilites, when President Bush said in his speech last night:

[Iran and Syria] are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We’ll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

And sure enough, first thing this morning, there’s this in the Times:

5 Iranians Detained at Consular Office

American forces backed by helicopters raided the Iranian consulate in the mainly Kurdish city of Erbil in northern Iraq before dawn today, detaining at least five Iranian employees in the building and seizing some property, according to Iraqi and Iranian officials and witnesses.

Well, now. That didn’t take long, did it?

Mind you, I’m not especially whining about the sanctity of diplomatic immunity with regard to Iranians. That’s a laugh, frankly. No, more I’m wondering if we are going to be trying to provoke Iran into something.

Along with surge, there was talk late last year about committing more troops to Iraq and calling it doubling down. Now, technically, doubling down is something you do, in blackjack anyway, when you’ve got a really good hand. Seems like they really meant to say double or nothing, something you say when you’ve lost.

And then there was go big, go long, or go home, the three options. And but then the fourth option is to go wide. And going wide is the part of the equation that includes Iran. And that’s what this morning’s raid looks like.


Surge has been all the talk for the last month. It’s funny, the word, surge, and it’s ubiquity lately reminds me of another word, from like ten years ago, that used to be bandied about, regarding public policy, usually in reference to funding, for like universal health care or whatever. We used to talk about the glide path.

And so I watch the President’s speech, where he in fact does not ever mention the word surge. I haven’t watched any of his speeches in a couple of years, certainly not since Mike Gerson left. And I’m fairly dismayed by the speech, by the lack of Gersonianism and by the fact that the President just doesn’t look that good.

He sure doesn’t look confident. He’s trying to sell us something here, trying to convince us, and he himself doesn’t look especially convinced. And, as expected, he doesn’t especially own up to much, but even what he does, oh, please, spare me the awful passive voice formulations.

“Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me,” he says.

I suppose it was like pulling teeth, getting him to say that much, but it’s not nearly enough. It’s like a gymnastics routine, that sentence, trying to keep the word mistakes as far away as possible from the word me. He sure doesn’t say the he’s made any mistakes. Apparently someone has though, and I suppose we should be grateful that he didn’t go all subjunctive on us, with “If mistakes have been made.”

But the second half of the sentence is in some ways even worse. He doesn’t take very much of the responsibility. He doesn’t directly say “I take responsibility;” rather, the responsibility so very gently rests with him.

Even discussing the situation in Iraq itself, even though saying, however passively, that the situation is unacceptable, he starts out by describing what happened even more passively. “We thought that … we could accomplish our mission,” he says, rather directly. But then he doesn’t say that we didn’t accomplish our mission. All he says is, the opposite happened. Like we had no control over anything. As Donald Rumsfeld infamously said, stuff happens.

At least later the President goes into some detail, but again so terribly passively:

Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents. And there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have.

Again, there were not enough troops, without noting that it was his decision at all times as to troop levels. And no mention as to who or what could have been placing restrictions on the troops.

And so then the remedies he proposes are curiously underwhelming. Another twenty-thousand troops, he tells us. He doesn’t even tell us that those are combat personnel, although at that small a number I assume that they are. I’m thinking another hundred and fifty thousand would be a bold stroke. Another twenty thousand is like, what, another fifteen percent or something?

If this were truly “the decisive ideological struggle of our time,” as the President says it is, wouldn’t he be making a much bolder stroke? If in fact, “[f]ailure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States,” as he says it would be, shouldn’t we then be trying a lot harder?

I don’t suppose that we’ve got much more in the way of troops to be sending over there in any event. And I don’t personally feel like failure in Iraq being that much of a disaster for the United States. I think we’ve already failed in Iraq. It feels pretty much like our failure in Vietnam in 1975. And our failure in Lebanon in 1983. It stings like hell. But really, that’s about it.

But it’s much, much more of a disaster for this President, that’s for sure. And that’s why he can’t admit to mistakes, much less failure. This feels so much to me like just playing for time. If he can keep juggling this war until January 20, 2009, then he can claim forever that he didn’t lose this war, that he didn’t fail. Whoever inherits this mess will get blamed for the ignominious retreat.

Day On/Off

Once again I’m at work on a day when I had planned to not be at work. Last week it was Tuesday, on the National Day of Mourning for President Ford.

Oh, I forgot to mention that I sorta saw the funeral procession. Dawn was frantically calling me calling me around 10:30 a.m. or so, from work, as the motorcade had left the Capitol, where the President had been lying in state, to make its way to the National Cathedral, where would be the funeral.

I was busy and didn’t answer, until finally like the third call or whatever I finally picked up. Dawn told me that the procession would be coming up Twentieth Street, just a block away from me. I didn’t have any special reason to want to see President Ford driven by, but then somehow it seemed disrespectful to not walk all of one block. So off I set.

About halfway down the block on M Street I met up with Matt, my boss, who told me that I had just missed him. I could hear the sirens and see the police cars and the ambulance bringing up the rear of the motorcade, but I had missed the funeral procession proper. Matt said he’d seen the unmistakeable profile of the First Lady, Betty Ford, in one of the limos.

Ah well. I kinda sorta saw it. The tail end of it anyway.

So today, Monday, Dawn and I had planned to take the day off to recover from the two days of Christmas celebration, and get done all the chores around the house that we didn’t have time to do. But we got some stuff done, especially on Saturday, and I’ve got the meeting with the consultants tomorrow that I need to finish up some stuff for, so I go into work while Dawn stays home.

Christmas at Dad and Sharon’s

The other reason for going to the early Mass this morning is that we’re due at Dad’s at two o’clock for celebrating. We’ve got to fit grocery shopping in between church and Dad’s, so the usually long ten o’clock Mass, and maybe even longer special Mass for Archbishop Wuerl, isn’t working so well for us today.

I’m especially excited because we’re giving Dad a scarf that Dawn knitted. It’s actually like a lot more expensive than just buying a scarf, because the scarf companies get like huge volume discounts on yarn, whereas we pay shockingly high prices at the local Stitch DC store. But it’s the hours and hours of work that she put into making it, making it especially for him, that makes me so excited that we’re giving it to him.

Well, not exactly we. I even put simply “to Dad from Dawn” on the tag when I wrapped it, since it was Dawn with the hours and hours of work, not me at all.

And we don’t eat a sit-down dinner either, just snacking on a constant flow of appetizers that Sharon keeps bringing out. I’m not sure if it’s easier or harder for her, not having to prepare anything complicated, but rather having to heat up and serve a lot of different things. But it works out much better for being able to just sit around and hang out and catch up and be together.

Dad takes me on a quick tour of the basement, showing me where he wants to install some electrical outlets, which activity he asks for my assistance. Should be a lot of fun. I’m expecting to be dazzled and confused by the circuitry in his house, enormous compared to mine and its little 100 amp box with ten circuits.

The Epiphany of the Lord

We’re up early for the 8:30 Mass today. We’ve got a lot to do, and the Archbishop is celebrating some special Mass at 10:00 so we’d be missing the Latin anyway. We celebrated with him on Gaudete Sunday the fortieth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, so I can’t remember now what he’s celebrating today. I think maybe thirty years as a bishop. Or maybe 20.

There’s parking right out front when we arrive, since it’s so early and I guess people are also maybe going to the bigger shindig at ten. We pull up around the same time as Shannon in the choir. Dawn notes that she must be our cantor this morning, since there’s no choir at the 8:30 Mass.

We have Father Hurley and Deacon Work. Deacon Work reminds me of Jerry Falwell, except during Advent and Christmas when he grows his winter beard. Deacon Work’s winter beard, not Jerry Falwell’s. And he, Deacon Work, has this amazing booming baritone, a real radio announcer voice, which is exactly what he used to be. Apparently he was with ABC News in Korea, doing radio reporting during the Pueblo crisis.

Again with Joy to the World. Only this time the music leaflet directs us to sing verses three, four, and five. But then I’m totally confused when everybody starts singing the first verse, and only after that then launching into the third verse. And so Father Hurley et. al. have all arrived at their stations by the end of the fourth verse, so then Paul Hardy the organist finishes so there’s no singing of the fifth verse anyway.

Apparently the readings are always the same on Epiphany, regardless of the year. So no St. Luke today, just good old St. Matthew.

But it’s more the first reading that strikes me this year, the one from Isaiah.

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem!

Caravans of camels shall fill you,
dromedaries from Midian and Ephah;
all from Sheba shall come
bearing gold and frankincense,
and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.

I don’t know why, but I am in wonder of these exotic places, Midian and Ephah. I mean, I’ve at least heard of Sheba, or the Queen of Sheba anyway, whoever she was. But where are (or were) Midian and Ephah?

Research reveals that Midian and Ephah aren’t places at all, but rather peoples.

First let’s note that we learned something about Midian at the Christmas Midnight Mass, where Isaiah said:

For the yoke that burdened them,
the pole on their shoulder,
and the rod of their taskmaster
you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.

I thought it sounded familiar.

Wikipedia says that Midian is a son of Abraham and his concubine Keturah. All well and good, but then it goes on to say in a parenthetical that Keturah is Hagar according to the midrash. Oh, goodness, now I’m confused.

Okay, let’s take it slow here. Breathe.

Midrash evidently is any number of ways of interpreting the the Old Testament, either like official rabbinical midrash or just any old interpretation of same. So we’ll just conclude as to Wikipedia’s parenthetical that some say that Keturah is Hagar, but it ain’t necessarily so.

And Genesis 25 starts out

Abraham married another wife, whose name was Keturah.
She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.
Jokshan became the father of Sheba and Dedan. The descendants of Dedan were the Asshurim, the Letushim, and the Leummim.
The descendants of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah. All of these were descendants of Keturah.
Abraham deeded everything that he owned to his son Isaac. 

And all this long after Genesis 21, where Sarah demands that Hagar and Ishmael be exiled. You know, roaming in the wilderness, lost and setting down waiting to die, water springing from the rock. 

But either way, Midian is brother to Ishmael, either half-brother if Hagar and Keturah are different women or full brother if they are the same. And apparently lots of these descendants of Abraham go on to the nation founding à la Ishmael, although the others not with the express help of God and the “for I will make of him a great nation” that Ishmael got. And note Sheba in there as well. Midian, Ephah, and Sheba are all three of them peoples, not places. And all different from the Twelve Tribes of Israel, those specifically being descended from Jacob, son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham.

Christmas at Rob & Carol’s

We’re supposed to meet up with everybody at Los Toltecos at five, but we’re late. We get stuck in traffic of 66. Why is there rush hour traffic on a Saturday?

Granted, we left a little later than we maybe should have. I got kinda stuck at Home Depot, looking for plywood and paint to fix the skylight. (The roof is still leaking. Leaking less, but still leaking nevertheless.) I take a lot longer looking at and for stuff at Home Depot when Dawn isn’t with me.

And I’m sore already from yoga this morning. I’ve graduated to Kevin’s Yoga 2 class on Saturday mornings, since Carol isn’t teaching the Yoga 1 class anymore. Lots of vinyasa flows from down dog to plank to baby cobra (or up dog) and back to down dog. Lots.

But we get to the restaurant about twenty minutes late. Could be worse. And everybody is still eating chips and salsa, and chips and guacamole, and chips and some sort of Monterey Jack queso. Dawn gets frozen margaritas, whereas I go for plain old on the rocks. Hate the brain freeze.

We caravan back to Rob & Carol’s. I have to move the car from the visitor parking space, since apparently they require some sort of visitor parking pass now as well. It’s somewhat cloudy but Orion is still prominent, big and fat up in the southeast. They sure do have better stars out here in Sterling.

Good coffee and cake and company and celebration. Poor Scilla coughs and coughs. It’s good to see Mom, who’s been here since Thursday and is staying until Monday, but today’s my only chance to see her.

National Day of Mourning

It is indeed, by official proclamation of the President, a National Day of Mourning, for the recently departed President Ford. As in:

As a further mark of respect to the memory of Gerald R. Ford, the thirty-eighth President of the United States, NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, in honor and tribute to the memory of Gerald R. Ford, and as an expression of public sorrow, do appoint Tuesday, January 2, 2007, as a National Day of Mourning throughout the United States. I call on the American people to assemble on that day in their respective places of worship, there to pay homage to the memory of President Ford. I invite the people of the world who share our grief to join us in this solemn observance.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty eighth day of December in the year of our Lord two thousand six, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-first.


I go to work. My office is officially closed, since the federal government is likewise closed and we follow them in these matters. But I’ve got tons to do and a big meeting tomorrow morning.

I do split early, however, and then drive to Home Depot for some good old Henry 208. Then I make it home in time to patch the suspect seam before it gets dark.

Drip Drip Drip

We awake to a leaky roof. What a way to start the year!

Well, we don’t notice it right away. But after breakfast, Dawn’s getting ready to take a shower and she notices water dripping from the bathroom ceiling. It’s coming from around the ceiling fan.

I drag out the step stool and take a peak into what passes for our attic. Luckily this leak is smack dab next to the access panel in the hallway ceiling. And there I see it, drop after drop coming from a nail. I stick a cup underneath to catch it.

Later we go up on the roof to see where it’s coming through. Dawn helpfully finds in the Restoration book the handy information that with flat roofs such as ours, wherever a leak is coming through below is likely the same place it’s entering on the roof. Houses with peaked roofs have much bigger problems with water travelling before coming through, making pinpointing leaks much harder.

There’s a seam where one layer of tarpaper, or whatever it is, lays over another layer, where we think the water might be getting through. Or could be around the tin cover over the roof access. Or maybe the side of the bathroom skylight where the painted plywood is rotting away.

In any event, the rain is ending later today, and my office is closed tomorrow, so I’ve got some roof fixin’ to do.