Tuesday, February 28, 2006

New things for Northern Virginians to be depressed about

Story ideas stolen from The Agitator
1. This morning, I are breakfast at Bob Evans.  Five minutes after I was done with my meal, I stuck my credit card out where passersby could see it and read the newspaper was I waited for my waittress to pick it up. 
Fifteen minutes later, no waittress.  I'm wondering what's up.  About then it occurs to me, Bob Evans is one of those restaurants where you take your money to the counter. 
Luckily, I wasn't paying cash because judging by this story, if you leave your cash on the table at a crappy breakfast restaurant and walk out, it can get your ass killed.
(And even if these kids DID dine and dash, are we really to the point of killing people over $26 restaurant checks?)
2. With all the things the VA legislature is doing wrong right now, (like, oh, say, passing an anti-gay marriage amendment so clumsily written that if it passes, domestic violence laws will no longer apply to straight unmarried couples*.) the Washington Post obviously chose the most pressing to write about in an editorial this morning.  A seatbelt law.
If I end up a libertarian, blame my state.
(OK, AND the people on UU theology who keep asking what's so great about free speech anyway.)
*Not meant to imply that the law would be less evil were this not the case, but at least it would be better written.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Chutney would be so sad...

This morning, I read Chutney's post about how disappointed he was that
Pizza Hut's "pizza club" is not a real social organization.

Today I was in a department store and looked up to see a sign reading
"Buy six and get one free! Join our Bra and Panty club!"

And I laughed...

ExcomUUnication? (Sorry.)

The Fred Phelps discussion on the UU theology mailing list has progressed to one about the nature of freedom and who is and who isn't welcome in a UU church.

One guy wrote:

Creed: A formal statement of religious belief
Covenant: A formal agreement between two parties with each assuming
some obligation(s).

We (UU's) do not have a Creed.

But we do have Covenant's between our congregation's and the UUA and
between our local church's and ourselves.

Slavery would be a violation of my local church's covenant of
membership and of "most" UU churches.

The result would be not a Vatican style "excommunication", but a
democratic boot out of the UU family for being a "promise

To violate the covenant, would be to violate membership at my local
UU church.

Is this true? Can UU churches do this?

I guess what I'm asking is "when congregational polity fights creedlessnesss, who wins?"

The political view I hold that I think would be most abhorrent to the average UU is that I don't believe in hate crime legislation.

I don't strictly believe in reducing punishments because of motive. (E.g. Jury nullification. If Janie comes home and says "Daddy, the man next door just raped me" and Daddy get his gun and kills the guy, I do think that it is still second degree murder, first degree if Daddy waits awhile. I doubt a jury will agree with me, but I still think so.) That said, this isn't the hill I would choose to die on.

(I do make an exception for insanity or people so mentally retarded that they didn't know what they were doing. There trying to figure out what was in their heads is fair enough.)

But in dealing with someone of normal intelligence and capabilities, I ABSOLUTELY don't believe in adding additional time for hate crimes. I'm sorry, when it is the judge's job to figure out what a person was thinking, then we are effectively giving people additional jail time for what they think. At that idea is pretty disgusting to me as a UU, an American and a child of God.

I don't think any church would collectively find this view so disgusting as to kick me out, but if they did, would I have any recourse?

Just curious.


G'night Barney, sleep well...

Aww... That sucks. Don Knotts died.

Too bad. He was a funny guy.


"We're arresting monks? Oh yeah, send in the SWAT team..."

I realize by tomorrow morning, this news story will be depressing, but I can assure you that at 4:00am, sending in a SWAT team after monks is pretty hilarious.


TheCSO clarifies CC's Phelps post

Last night, I saw Joel's comment and thought to myself "to answer this properly, I'm going to have to write a little essay. Ah, screw it. I'll write it in the morning." I woke up a bit ago and couldn't get back to sleep so I came in here to write and found that my beloved CSO had already written said essay. He posted it in the comments, but I thought it deserved a place on the main pag of the blog.

Because, like it or not, we have a two-party system in this country. Whichever party is closer to the views of a nutjob gets tarred by what they do. The Democratic Party gets associated with every nutjob liberal cause out there, because they're closer to it than the Republicans are. Look at the "legalize all drugs NOW" people. The Democrats don't want to be associated with them, but they are - because they're closer to that groups views than the Republicans are.

Since Phelps' views are *closer* to the Republicans than to the Democrats, the Republicans get stuck with him as a matter of public opinion. He's *their* problem. That's not fair, that's not right, but that's how the American system of political parties works.

I don't see this as a general attack on all Republicans. It's a criticism of Democratic party tactics, nothing more. They should just issue a cursory denouncement for the record that no one will read, then sit back and watch the fireworks.

There *is* a certain minority in this country who basically agree with Phelps. Statistically, most of those people are Republicans. That's NOT saying that all, or even most, Republicans agree with him - just that of the people who DO agree with him, far more are Republicans than are Democrats. That, too, makes him the Republicans' problem.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

After two snarky posts, a happy one

Yesterday, in a used bookstore in Michigan, Linguist Friend and I found a copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica 11th edition. He had promised me one for a wedding present a year and a half ago and it has taken us this long to find one. Mine is the reduced edition (meaning the print is like 8 or 9 point) but has leather bindings. A few of the bindings will need work. It's not the most beautiful encyclopedia I've ever seen. But it still has articles written by Swinburne, Rossetti, and T. H. Huxley. I whipped out my cell and called Edie to consult. She said the price was reasonable and we should get it. So we did.

It is so freaking beautiful, kids. We're afraid to mail it, so it's actually going to stay here until this next time linguist friend visits me. (He likes to drive. I can't take it back this trip as I flew.)

I had wanted my own copy of this almost 100-year old encyclopedia for years and years and I finally have one. Some might argue that this is a little silly. As with anything else created before Mickey Mouse*, the 11th edition is public domain, and indeed, putting it online is a big project at Project Gutenberg. Soon everyone will have access to the 11th edition, though it will officially be called "the Project Gutenberg encyclopedia" as the people currently publishing the Encyclopedia Brittanica quite understandably don't want people getting confused and believing that their encyclopedia is available online for free.

I don't care. I still love my copy.


*Disney is the primary enthusiast for copyright restrictions and pays a lot of money to keep them coming. When congress lengthens the amount of time a copyright lasts, you can bet that Mickey Mouse was just about to become public domain.

A look at protesting from the other side

Anyone who has been reading this blog for more than a couple of months has probably read me writing about my distaste for political protest. ((Let's look at that word: "Distate." I don't want to ban it, I won't do anything to stop you from doing it. I just don't like it and think it damages more causes than it helps. So don't write me and tell me I'm a fascist, m'kay?. (My dislike for how we throw the word "fascist" around these days deserves a whole 'nother post.))

When I tell people that protesting is usually a dumb idea*, I'm usually talking to liberals and tend to get accused of not liking it because I'm more conservative than they are. So it's nice to be able to talk about it when conservatives are doing it.

On the UU theology mailing list, I'm getting a chance to look at the protest argument from the other side of the political aisle. A UU from Finland posted an article saying that The Rev. Fred Phelps is back to his old tricks of protesting funerals.

Responses on the mailing list have been along the lines of "What is it going to take to ban them?" and "OOoh this free speech thing. I used to be a defender of it." (Are even UUs starting to say this? That also deserves a whole 'nother post.) And indeed, several states have been moving toward legally banning funeral protests.

As a civil libertarian I'm more or less against banning funeral protests, though the right to protest funerals is not a hill I would typically chose to die on. Besides, these funeral protests are the best thing in the world for liberalism.

Naturally, "how can we stop these horrible protests" is exactly the wrong response. Liberals suck mightily at working together, conservatives do not. If the Democrats could run a political party half was well as the Republicans can, there would be no Green party. I'm sure the conservative extremists seem just as implacable to the Republican party as liberal extremists do to the Democrats, but the Republicans manage to keep a majority of their extreme members just happy enough to stay in the party. The Democrats can't.

Any fissure we see in the Republican party should cause all Democrats to get some popcorn, grab a ringside seat, and shut up.

Needless to say, the Rev. Fred Phelps and his protesters come off as redneck assholes on TV. They look angry and nasty and like no one you would want to join ever. Their arguments are completely illogical to anyone who isn't in love with their cause. They actually look more alienating than hippies, which is saying a lot in my book. Most beautiful of all, they are protesting MILITARY funerals. The military is typically a huge Republican voting block. And here conservative extremists are insulting their dead brothers.

So, no, don't ban these protests. Just sit back and watch and hope Phelps alienates as many Republicans as he possibly can before the Republicans stop him. (And they will. Because they've watched Liberals for years and they know how the public reacts to protesters who act like offensive assholes.)

But the next time someone in your Union or liberal organization says ""Hey, let's close down all the bathrooms in the Chicago airport. That will make people pay attention to us! When little kids, pregnant women, sick people and old people who have to go so badly they are in pain beg us to please let us use the bathroom, we will say "no!" Because nothing gets a cause on the news like pointless cruelty to incredibly sympathetic victims,"" you might want to think about how Fred Phelps is looking on the news these days before jumping on the bandwagon.

Someone stuck up "threatening to close down the bathrooms at the Chicago airport" up at Peacebang one time as an example of a "funny activism story."

What we should really be doing is sending it to Fred Phelps as a suggestion.


*It uses a fuckton of volunteer resources, a cause often as not one comes off in the media looking worse than it did before and political leaders don't listen to them anyway. (Yes, I know what Nixon said. He was lying.)

The Harvard Club wants me, oh yeah, they know they do

Somehow, perhaps through my subscription to the Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Harvard University has gotten the idea that I'm an alum. I get regular emails telling me I should attend events like:

El Rufian Castrucho (Castrucho the Hustler) by Lope de Vega

at Gala Hispanic Theatre in Spanish with English surtitles

Date: Sunday, Mar 12, 2006

Time: 2:00PM - 4:00PM ET

cost: $15.00 members/$25.00 nonmembers

and always inviting me to click on the link and join their club.

Of course, there is a fee if nonmembers attend. Part of me wants to pay it for myself and the CSO, show up, and see if we can pass. (What? I know all about Harvard. I've seen Legally Blonde like four times.)

But the truth is, I'm not really one for joining organizations like this one. If my real undergraduate institution, St. Andrews College in North Carolina, had a similar club, there's no way in hell I'd be a member. Linguist Friend (whose Harvard credentials are a damn sight better than mine, meaning they exist) isn't a member of his local Harvard club, though I doubt the one in Ohio is terribly active.

Like with Mensa, something about those clubs creeps me out. It's like a nice but very dumb guy I knew at SA who, after his graduation, got an email address that was something like SAPCgrad@aol.com. All you need to do is look at his email address to know that he thinks "a graduate from St. Andrews" is the best thing he will ever be. Membership in The Harvard club is not that extreme, of course, but it's not a great sign, IMHO.

I have the email I need to send to Harvard to correct the mistake all written in my head. It's brief but a little bit funny about how I couldn't even get in to Barnard.

But somehow, I haven't quite sent it.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

Now that's good psychology...

CC got a Rorschach test today (long story.)

When I came home, I was telling theCSO about it. I ended up pulling up the site that helps you cheat on your Rorschach test* (No, I don't know what the world is coming to either, but thanks for asking...) and showed him the plate that looks like a frustrated penguin wearing a bowtie. (Plate three, upside down)

The CSO and I saw a lot of different stuff. I liked how on the "mother plate," I saw women in silly hats. As a kid, I had a big argument with my mother over a hat that she loved but I thought unattractive.

Of course, I saw the plate about my dad as a giant plush racoon mascot, so maybe I was having an off day.


*If you read the whole thing, you violate any future Rorschach test you might take. I made sure not to read it until tonight.

Please tell me this is a plant.

I really don't want to believe that actual Democrats are behind Why Mommy is a Democrat.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Opposite Ends

Last night, I taught my class, focusing on strategies for attacking the quantitative section. The first math class, where I focus on strategies, is always hard. Next Tuesday, I will be starting with arithmatic and taking them through test content. But the nature of teaching strategy is that I am using some math lots of them won't be familiar with. I say things like,

"I'm showing you how this strategy can work on an exponent problem. Try to focus on the strategy. If you don't completely remember how to do exponents, no biggie, we will do that next week."

It seems counterintuitive and leads to some worried faces the first math class, but it also means that as they are relearning the content, they will be practicing the strategies and using them. Also, strictly manipulating the numbers is not the point of most GRE quantitative questions. Frequently, it is about reading a word problem and figuring out what the question is asking for. THe hardest math on the GRE, after all, is tenth grade math, but you have a lot of questions like:

A family pays $800 per year for an insurance plan that pays 80 percent of the first $1,000 in expenses and 100 percent of all medical expenses thereafter. In any given year, the total amount paid by the family will equal the amount paid by the plan when the family's medical expenses total which of the following?


The only math this sucker requires is percents and addition. The math itself would be junior high school level if I gave it to you in an equation. But you have to know how to approach it.

The proper, speedy, approach to this problem is to plug in the answer choices and work backwards. But lots of people don't know to do that or how to do that until they learn it from someone like me.

Happy Feminist said once, "I tend not to think that there are legal jobs that are morally superior to others. After all, our legal system is predicated on the notion that we are all equal before the law and that we all deserve some measure of fairness and justice," later adding the qualifier that those who represented the poor and took less money for doing so were giving more.

She actually said that awhile ago. I've been running it through my head in relation to GRE prep. Education is a good thing, so all teaching is equal, right?

I'm tempted to say, "no." Test prep has to be the lowest form of teaching. Sometimes, I take a returning student who left school two decades ago to raise her kids and remind her of what she already knows. Those are frequently my favorite students. But mostly my students are upper middle class kids who partied too much in college and now want to get politics degrees.

I'm going to visit Linguist Friend for a weekend to recover from the last two weeks and I called him up to make logistics plans. He mentioned that another professor in his department is trying to convince the department to accept a student with mediocre grades, a poorly-written personal statement and low GREs.

And I realized, with some sadness and some glee, that my job was sneaking guys like this past Linguist Friend, coaching these people into getting scores high enough to get them in.

This is not to say that there is not some nobility in test prep. The SAT, after all, was originally concieved as a "test of innate ability." In the 1950's, the large number of Jewish immigrants created a "Jewish problem" at Harvard. Much the way Asian students are sometimes (and wrongly, of course) viewed today, Jewish students were considered ridiculously hard workers who made the most of what intelligence they had. Surely it couldn't be that working class Jews were just as intelligent as the more typical Harvard man?

So the Ivy Leagues (it started at Columbia) used tests with lots of logic problems that theoretically couldn't be studied for. By no coincidence, these tests often used words like "regatta" in the verbal questions that would be far more familiar to the sort of student they wanted.

And then the founder of my company, working out of a basment office in Flatbush, showed the world that they could indeed by studied for.

Like anything else, standardized tests are like a game. As you practice, you get better at them. The SAT ended up doing the opposite of what it was supposed to, becoming a tool for overcoming discrimination. Though there were still, and are still today, some biases in the test, they don't ask kids about regattas anymore.

Anyone who wants to can pay my company an expensive but not completely ridiculous given what they've paid for college sum and learn where and how one works backwards on math problems, the six types of analogies questions and our strategy for figuring out which answer choices have to be wrong in a vocabulary question where they don't know enough vocabularly to be confident of which answer choice is right.

Whether this is a good thing all depends on what sort of discrimination you're worried about.


I don't care, I still love mine

Here's a really spiff article on how the diamond industry made diamond engagement rings mandatory.

I'm glad my ring is antique and predates this advertising campaign.


What I read today at the service

Linguist Friend suggested I put this up:

I was reading an essay yesterday about how America has lost its sense of community. It was standard stuff. The gentleman who wrote it said nobody knows the old skills, we don’t know out neighbors. You’ve probably read such an essay yourself at some point.

Last night, as I tried to write out what I would say this morning, the issues the essay raised had me thinking about my grandmother. Juanita Williams really spanned two worlds. Born a Texas farm girl before the great depression, died an accomplished woman in a suburb of the most powerful city in the world. My grandmother had a job long before it was fashionable for women to have one. She loved to try new things.

But the Welsh say “What’s bred in the bone will out in the flesh” and the old ways of life were definitely bred in my grandmother’s bones. She liked technological things, but her favorites were always the gadgets that helped her to better sew and cook. She was very impressed with the George Foreman grill, for example, and bought them for many of her friends and family.

She retained those farmgirl instincts. My grandmother believed in spanking, sterilizing things, repairing torn clothes rather than throwing them away, getting every possible use out of everything, growing her own food and buying seventeen rolls of paper towels when she found them on sale.

Her closest friends were people at this church and the lady across the street. She loved to dicker at yard sales. She was ambivalent about my husband at first, but became really fond of him when she learned he has a knack for fixing household appliances. To my grandmother, marrying a man who knew how to fix things made a lot of sense.

My grandmother remembered a time when people took pride in what they did and demanded a high standard of the people around her. I used to sit in restaurants with her silently hoping the waiter paid proper attention to her instructions and brought us our food quickly and efficiently. If not, my grandmother would never hesitate to give him a lesson in the proper way to do his job.

Doing things, being active, was a very central part of who my grandmother was and it was very hard to watch her become unable to sew, then to read, then to cook. She moved around her house as though she could see, and kept her independence as long as she could. She was upset when she could no longer wash the dishes. She wanted to be active and useful.

I can’t say I’m sorry that her suffering is over, but I deeply regret the ending of a creative and useful life, a life very much lived on my grandmother’s own terms.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A bit more on Bageant

Chutney wrote in the comments section on my last post:

In the small city where I grew up, there is nothing to do except shop, drink and worship. Sounds like Bageant's home town is the same.

Nope. Bageant says he lives in Winchester, VA.

Winchester, VA is about an hour from me, meaning it's like an hour and fifteen minutes or so from the National Gallery of Art, the Studio Theater and all sorts of places where cool people hang out in Washington DC

But he doesn't have to drive up my way. There are plenty of opportunities in his town. A quick poke around the internet reveals that Shenendoah University is in Winchester, as is Shenendoah Valley UU church.

According to the Shenendoah Arts council, their exhibition of art by local African American artists opened on the third with a reception. If Bageant stayed home and watched TV that night, that's his business, but I doubt the connversation at this event was about consumer products.

In fact, next Friday at the Armstong theater at Shenendoah university, there's going to be a performance of a dance troupe from Ghana.

It costs five bucks. I suggest that Bageant take a night off from surfing the net and go.

Assuming that Bageant's tastes run more to the literary, perhaps he would enjoy joining the Shenandoah Arts council's fiction writing group that meets every other Tuesday in their board room.

Or he could try the Winchester Little Theater, where a Tom Stoppard play opens on March 3.

And he shouldn't forget the first Friday event, where Winchester's six art galleries hold open houses and serve wine and cheese.

Funny, it looks like there are quite a few people who look at the town Bageant describes as "armed and inbred" and think it could be something more.

Too bad Bageant is too busy whining to join them.


Monday, February 20, 2006

CC reads Joe Bageant and goes "meh."

I'm reading the infamous Joe Bageant essay and I'm really underwhelmed.

Robertson Davies wrote that this sort of masochism is a Canadian thing, but I see it in Americans all the time. We never get tired of hearing how stupid, and in this case "inauthentic" we are. I'm sure fans of the essay will tell me that this is my internal dialogue speaking, but I've got my house in the suburbs, and I just don't live the life Bageant describes.

E.g.: When we do "get together with friends," there is little to talk about, other than one form or another of consumption, consuming music, or movies or whatever.

Conversations I've had (offline and in person) with my friends in the last few days.

1. Many, many talks about Margaret.
2. Trying to explain Rothko, and indeed all of abstract expressionism, to some of my friends. Failing.
3. Telling Joe-the-Math-guy about the conclusions Linguist friend came to about the Virgin Mary and consent issues.
4. Talking to Pam's daughter Lisa about the nature of prayer and odd things people pray for and whether God listens.
5. Whether it is a rationalization to say that people who overapply their negative experiences with one race or another and have a loose negative impression that they would never act on, aren't exactly racists.
6. What are the racism implications of dating preferences (e.g. A white guy who only dates white women, vs. a black man who only dates black women vs. a white man who won't date white women vs. a white man who only dates asian women)
7. It's not worth it to date very attractive people. They're not very interesting because they don't have to be and are typically very high-maintenance. true or false?
8. Smoking bans: Does it suck more when the government plays nanny or when inconsiderate people slighly endanger the health of others?
9. The situation in the middle east. Does Israel deserve our support?

And I've been staying with people who live in Laurinburg, North Carolina and watch Fox news!

I'd say that if Joe Bageant feels that he has no community, instead of bitching about the internet, he might want to go hang out with some people and make some friends. I'd suggest that he whine less, though.

I'm sorry, those of us who are going to pay for the air ambulances of guys like that who go off in the woods to commune with nature don't deserve to be insulted.

((Quick semi-related rant:
People who talk about how great it is to live off the land have forgotten what it's like to starve when the crops fail. When Mr. Back-to-nature breaks his leg, my tax dollars and yours will pay for a helicopter to go haul his ass out of the woods. It means that his tent will not leak because if he has any sense he will get camping equipment made of plastic. (For all their tough talk, I don't see most of these people drinking out of a canteen made of an animal bladder.) It means that if he, God forbid, should get some awful disease and shows up in the ER, modern medicine will do it's best to save him and will succeed much of the time. ))

To Bageant's credit, he wants to go live in a really touristy country not owned by America. I don't think he's as cool as he does for wanting to chuck it all and move to a honeymoon destination, and I think showing your objection to capitalism by moving to a monarchy is sort of precious, but hey, at least Queen Elizabeth will be paying his bills, not me. (Somone should really tell him about Great Britan's stand on the war, though. Moving from the USA to a British territory to show you're above such things is just dumb.)

Fifty bucks says his plan to rough it in paradise lasts as long as his Immodium does.

As for the bit about all of us being replaceable now, it's stupid.

If we don't make it, it someone else will. If we don't buy it, someone else will. Some other faceless person will step forward to fill in our place. The same goes for the engineers who created this computer and the same goes for your own job. The machine rolls on. With us or without us.

No more genuine community where people know each other and socialize together and work together exists than a small liberal arts college. St. Andrews is practically a kibbutz. I knew my friend and former professor Margaret very well, but I also understand that my college is going to hire another professor of archeology to take her place.

To look at this more directly, in the "good old days" that Bageant romanticizes, we might have known the guy who packaged our groceries a little better, but people were still replaceable. If the town grocer died in the olden days, his son took over or his wife took over or somebody bought the store. That we are replaceable is a general rule of any economy. Which is why the only people who take a strictly economic view of a way of living are either idiots or trying to make a point while ignoring conflicting facts.

I could go on, but you see my point.

My advice to Bageant would be to build a life he likes and work for a better world right where he is. But he's going to have to quit whining first.


Sunday, February 19, 2006

That makes sense.

I've got enough going on in my personal life that I've sort of been ignoring the news. (I do this to the detriment of TheChaliceblog. I'm not sure why with millions of people putting their political opinions on the internet, when I write about politics my page hits go up, but this seems to be the case. Maybe people using search engines mispell foreign leaders' names the same way I do.)

Plus, I haven't really known what to write about. Bush's statement that we (we meaning, NATO, meaning "some other country's troops") should go into Darfur doesn't rock my world. The Cheney hunting this just seems sort of weird and sad*, and I haven't known what to make of people rioting over cartoons.

It's all one thing has some extremely reasonable things to say about the riots.


*And I can accept that people are overreacting to this hunting thing, but Cheney deserved ten times the crap he got for attending that service at Auschwitz dressed for a Packers game. (Related item: I'm at my college for Margaret's funeral tonight and a student cheerfully told me how she'd gotten a Yoda t-shirt from Walmart just for the occiasion. The response that came to mind is not printable even by the rather vulgar standards of this blog.)

Either I like this or it depresses me

Or maybe both.

Check it out yourself and feel free to vote in the comments.


Saturday, February 18, 2006

How to piss off the clerks at Best Buy

I'm always worried that theCSO is going to do something like this. He would be justified in doing it, I'm sure. But still...


Well, that's sort of disturbing...

One submits death notices to the Washington Post through an email to deathnotices@washpost.com. They respond to send you more details.

Where this gets odd is when you have several messages in a series, Gmail shortens the names of the people who sent the messages.

So this afternoon, Gmail tells me that I have an email from Death.


Friday, February 17, 2006



Died peacefully at her home in McLean, VA, on February 14, 2006. Beloved wife of the late Leigh A. Williams. Loving mother of Carolyn Smith of McLean and Barbara Vandermer of Long Beach, Maryland. Devoted grandmother of Laura Barmby of Mt. Airy, MD, and Suzyn Smith Webb, Oliver Smith, and Jason Smith of McLean. Great grandmother of Julia and Rex Barmby. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, February 21, at the Church of the Pilgrims, 22nd and P Sts., NW.

What your choice of libations says about you...

CC hearts Waiterrant.com


Thursday, February 16, 2006

Funky Dream

Since I finished the first draft of my novel, I've been carrying it around and pulling it out at odd moments to work on it.

Last night I dreamed I was doing that and a lady asked to see what I was working on. I handed it over.

She looked at the first page, then the next one.

"This is weird," she said.

She handed it back and I could see that the page read "Blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah" across the page. In fact the entire book was just the word "blah" over and over again.

That was a bad night.



A memorial service to celebrate the life of Dr. Margaret Snow Houston will be at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 19, at the Belk Student Center. Friends, guests and family are asked to dress casually for the event. Internment will be at the family plot in Rosendale, WI. Memorials are requested for the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 927, Laurinburg, NC 28353 and St. Andrews Presbyterian College, 1700 Dogwood Mile, Laurinburg, NC 28352

Can society get TOO colorblind?

I have real mixed feelings about this article. I've written before about how my take on race issues is sort of naive and squirrelly because of where I grew up. In Northern VA, whites were the majority but there were kids of lots of different races. The difference for us I think was that just about everybody who went to my school was upper middle class. Thomas Jefferson is right. When everybody has money, strife over petty differences tends to fade. There were some poorer kids, but the ones I knew were white.

An African-American girl frequently made fun of me in junior high school because I didn't have designer clothes and wore what clothes I had a little oddly. Nobody thought that was in the least strange. The truly wealthy kids vs. the merely middle class kids was more where our tensions were.

I think the prom king and queen were mixed race my junior year, but I don't completely remember. It might have been homecoming. Or my sophomore year. Wither way, it was unremarkable.

There was an issue once with somebody painting nazi graffitti on the school, but I'm pretty sure that this was less about Jews and more about how nazi imagery is the most upsetting thing a dumbass high school kid can think of.

I was pretty colorblind as a kid, to the point of being oddly so. My favorite illustration of this is that I went to school for something like 12 years with a guy named Miguel Montoya. My junior year he mentioned he was Hispanic. I honestly hadn't noticed. I didn't know that african-americans were supposed to like watermelon until I got to college.

My Freshman year at college in North Carolina, I recall my horror when somebody told me that "Pontiac" stood for "Poor old (ahem) thinks it's a Cadillac." It was the first joke like that I'd ever heard. I recall thinking "Poor old racist doesn't know a Cadillac is a shitty car, too" but being too flat out appalled to actually respond.

Some people I'm sure will tell me that my experiences come from being around people of other races who abandoned their culture and adopted the white culture. They're right. And how much keeping one's own culture vs. assimilating into mass culture is worth is a decision anyone raised outside the mass culture has to face.

(If I had watched carefully how the rich kids dressed and behaved and imitated them, I probably could have gotten away with it enough to blend. Not be popular, but blend. If I had it to do over again, I would do that and just never let anybody come over to my house. But assimilating like that is my choice and it doesn't have to be yours.)

This relates to UUism in that the people of other races who wear dockers and listen to Coldplay and play golf do come to UU churches sometimes. And they fit in just fine. We don't attract people of other races who still behave in culturally different ways though. And we don't attract recent immigrants from Europe, rednecks or any other group of white people who have a different culture.

A colorblind society is possible, IMHO. But we're never going to be a culture blind society any more than we're going to have a high school where rich kids and poorer kids don't harass each other. Whether the cultural tradeoffs are worth it is another question.

realizing that she did not write out the racial slur in the joke she was repeating not because a word in itself can be immoral, but because of her perception that it is a word that only tacky people use. Another culturally-based decision.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Weird stuff that happened today

1. I went by the testing center today. My boss there asked what was up with me. I told her my friend and my grandmother both died. She said, with total sincerety,

"Yeah, we've had two other people's grandmothers die recently. It's going around."

Yep, death of old people is going around.

2. I actually sat down on the floor at my mother's house and played a board game with my mother and brothers. Very strange behavior.

3. Last night I dreamed I was driving a pickup truck full of body bags. I didn't kill the people in them, but I was in charge of seeing them safely to their destination. I guess I was Cerberus.

4. Ok, Ok, people didn't like my old site design. The new one stays until I put something better together.

Another death

I'm going to get to put all my delightful ideas about memorial service planning from yesterday to good use.

My Grandmother, the ChaliceMom's mother, died yesterday afternoon. She was in her nineties, it's just one of those things. I wrote this about a night I spent in the hospital with her. She was my last living grandparent, and the one I knew best, which is not to say that I knew her especially well.

This death is much more complicated for me. She was difficult when I was a kid and grew increasingly so as she got older. Losing my grandmother has made me appreciate how easy to eulogize Margaret will be, Margaret never having hit me with a belt.

I looked at two bookstores for a book on funeral planning. While each bookstore had several dozen wedding planning books, there wasn't much to be found on planning a funeral. Found some OK stuff on the internet, though.

My valentines day was pretty much ruined, which wasn't a terribly big deal. It helped a little to imagine my Grandmother reunited with my Grandfather at the big USO dance in the sky.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Changed my template for a few days

I'll put the other template back up in a bit.

It was bugging me.


The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;

There was a big discussion last year on weddings and the proper way to get married.
I weighed in on a side issue then, but I didn't really do into the larger topic of people who put on goofy weddings. My own wedding was very traditional, but up until very recently, I wasn't given to judging people who wanted Elvis weddings, naked weddings, swimsuit weddings, etc. Let people get married the way they want. Duh!

I would smile and nod when my friends would complain about the tackier sorts of weddings, but I didn't get it.

This was all until my friend's family planned a "Star Wars friendly" funeral. Well, not a funeral, a "celebration of life."

I get it now.

We've done ritual in similar ways for thousands of years for a reason.

That said, Margaret loved Star Wars, possibly more than anyone else I've ever known has loved Star Wars and I know some serious fans. I'm sure in some ways she would have liked the idea of people dressing as Jedi at her memorial service. In some ways, they are saluting her flag.

Stil, the idea of mourning next to someone in a Darth Vader mask has left me rather depressed. "I don't want to celebrate," I was thinking to myself for much of yesterday, "I want to be sad."

I guess when we're figuring out how to say goodbye to someone, we each have different approaches. Right now, I want to mourn and take my deeply felt sadness as a sign of how much she meant to me. Other people want focus on what they loved about her and savor experiences they won't have again because she's gone.

Nobody ever said that saying goodbye in just the right way was easy.

who has written a lot about death and mourning in the past week, but is just posting this for now.

Happy Valentines Day, y'all

Margaret used to send TheCSO and me Star Wars Valentines every year.

So in her honor...

CC caves and does a Johari Window

One thing I noticed on beliefnet was that a number of people had perceptions of who I was that didn't seem to match the way I saw myself.

Now this can actually be tested:

Go here and follow the instructions. I'm really curious and it will only take a minute or so, I swear.


Sunday, February 12, 2006

Well, that's good to know

I caught Desperate Housewives for the first time in a month or so and I have to say it has improved a lot from where it was last time I watched.

Lynette was the least irritating that I've ever seen her and Bree was largely back to her old self.


Thoughts on being snowed in without power

1. The world is really freaking quiet. Maybe we humans just make a
lot of noise because quiet reminds us of death.

2. It's amazing what sounds profound at 8am when you're cold.

3. Why do people run out and buy milk when it is about to snow? Any
snowstorm worth its salt will knock out power and turn off the fridge.
I guess you can put your milk in the snow, but still, what's the

4. It only seems to ever snow on the weekends here in Washington.
It's like Camelot in reverse.

5. As a kid, I loved it when the snow piled up and weighted down the
branches of the Ewe bushes. It formed ice caves.

6. Blogging from a blackberry while one's power is out from a
snowstorm irrationally gives one a sense of victory over nature. But
I'm still cold.



"And she suddenly realized that what she thought was freedom and joy
was nothing but anarchy and sloth."

--Norman Juster's "The Dot and the Line"

Wow. Great new blog.

I have to say that so far 2006 has been a great year for new blogs. I'm a big fan of CUUMBAYA, and now Sparks in the Dark is kicking additional ass.

If you're reading this and you like things that don't suck, by all means check it out.


Da-Dum Da-Dum

Though the Pink Panther remake has been critically panned, theCSO and I enjoyed ourselves tonight when we braved the snow to check it out.

It was one of those movies like "Anchorman:The Legend of Ron Burgundy" where a strong supporting cast makes a main character who would be too silly otherwise really fun to watch. Jean Reno and Emily Mortimer are particularly memorable performances.

There's a lot of slapstick, but it is one the whole fairly clever slapstick. When you put Clouseau in the room with an ancient chinese vase, you know it is going to get broken. HOW exactly it gets broken is cleverly done.

And I am a sucker for movies that let the guy who is made fun of for the whole film get some dignity in the end. This is one of those movies.

All that said, judging by what I've read around the internet, theCSO and I are the only ones in the country who feel this way, so you may want to take our reccomendation with a grain of salt.


Saturday, February 11, 2006

CC rants about the cops

The CSO likes to say disturbing things like "the police are a force of nature that you just try not to piss off."

Most of the time, I give him a "Now honey..." sort of response.

But I have to say, recent events in my area have me considering the wisdom of his attitude.

Regular readers know that I am a big fan of Radley Balko's blog The Agitator. One of the Balko's frequent themes is that small communities have taken their homeland security monies and bought SWAT teams. Now they are using their SWAT teams to serve search warrants in "No-Knock raids." And when the people inside the raided houses see guys in black storming into their house and, reasonably or not, shoot at them, the cops fire back. Thus we get pretty stories like the innocent housewife killed for pointing a gun at cops who came storming into her bedroom at five a.m.

Well, now Fairfax County has one of those.

On the night of January 24, the Fairfax County police were preparing to raid the house of one Salvatore Culosi. As they approached his house, he came out and headed toward his car. The officers were advancing on his when one of them just shot him for no apparent reason.

The dangerous crime that required a SWAT team to serve the search warrant?

He was a bookie.

An optometrist by day, mind you, but a bookie at night.

People who've been reading this blog for awhile may also recall that the cops searched my house for my brother last year. Though my brother was wanted for rape and kidnapping*, the police came to The CSO's and my house on a Saturday afternoon. Our house was messy and I was really embarassed, but I don't recall anyone having their guns drawn. Five cops searched the house. (And not nearly carefully enough, I might add. If I ever get raped and/or kidnapped, I hope the cops are careful enough to look for the perpetrator behind the Franklin Stove and in the knee-wall attics.) It took about fifteen minutes. No flash grenades, no kicking the door in, no riot gear.

Though come to think of it, no warrant. I just let them in because I had nothing to hide and I wanted them to stop following me around.

It trips me out that next time they come looking for Oliver, they could kick down my door at five a.m. Theoretically, I should be OK because the CSO and I don't keep guns in the house, but not having a gun didn't save Culosi.


*My brother met a 14-year-old on the internet who wanted to run away from home to his house. Later on, she got scared and said that he'd kidnapped her, but the emails all supported his version of the truth. Rather than charging him for rape and kidnapping, I sort of wish they had just made stupidity a crime.

Thanks to everyone who voted for me

I tied for "Best Religious Writing or Theological Commentary," which I didn't expect to do since Dan Harper's Purple Cows post kicked so much ass.

I won "Best Anecdote or Narrative-Best of Class," which I was hoping for since Anecdote and Narrative is kinda what we do here.

I really think I owe serious props to The Happy Feminist, who sort of sent in her own cavalry and had several times told people my blog was nifty and vote-worthy.


Friday, February 10, 2006

CC runs from Rabbit, Run

Last night I couldn't sleep for awhile and read Updike's Rabbit, Run.

Not a good idea. I thought this was a really depressing book. Boy, is Rabbit ever an asshat.

So, I'll ask my well-read readers:

Does Rabbit suck less in the subsequent books? Because I'm curious about how things turn out for him, but I really don't want to read it if so.


Polygamy loves Company? Please...

I take it as a good sign that I'm maturing that I can usually have some sympathy when a church objects to a mainstream media portrayal of them or something they hold dear.

I'm doubly feeling for the Church of Latter Day Saints in the wake of Big Love, an HBO production about a polygamous family of "fundamentalist Mormons." While I have to admit some curiosity about the show, I'm almost more interested to see a sympathetically portrayed conservative christian family than I am to see the logistical problems polygamy entails. (This is assume they take a reasonably non-silly approach to it. Here's hoping.)

I'm a little confused as to why the a government that guarantees religious freedom went to so much effort to wipe our Mormon polygamy when it did. My only real issue with the practice is when the marriages are abusive. (While I've heard abuse happens more in polygamous marriages, my issue is still with the abuse, not the polygamy.) The LDS church made a smart move in its public statement by criticizing the show for glamourizing polygamy and citing that it does often mean abuses. The Mormon church is asking for a disclaimer saying that the LDS church doesn't embrace polygamy to run before the show. Seems fair enough to me.

All that I've said in support of living and letting live aside, I have to say that the three matching wedding rings on Bill Paxton's finger in the publicity photo sort of creeps me out. At least let the ladies pick out their own rings...


Really great post from Sliz

Sliz has a really nice post about academics and poverty.


CC is sad today

Professor Margaret Houston, known on this blog as Margaret-who-loves-pots, died of cancer yesterday morning.

I don't know most of the people who read TheChaliceblog, but I'm pretty sure that just about all of you would have loved Margaret.

She was warm and tough and vivacious and funny and I loved her very much.

She and our friend Joe the Math guy and I spent an entire summer driving up to the city once a week to see "Star Wars:Episode One" in the theater with good sound. I don't even like Star Wars that much, I just really liked them. Joe and I were talking the other day about how it was one of the best summers either of us ever had.

One time, I wanted to set Joe up with my friend Gwen here in DC. Margaret, Joe and I met her at a museum. The theory was that Margaret and I would slip off and leave Joe and Gwen to walk around together, but Margaret had such amazing things to say about the museum exhibits that Gwen forgot about Joe entirely and spent the entire day following Margaret around.

Margaret certainly didn't intend to bogart the attention of Joe's potential date, she was just full of information and delighted to be sharing it, the way she always was.

The summer of Star Wars, I also went on digs with her to a local archeological site. My troweling was apparently sub-par, so my job was to sit there and amuse Margaret. I told her funny stories and she lectured me on what she was looking for. I talked and she talked and she heard weird stories about my screwed up childhood and she said useful things and I heard stories about her wild times in Mexico digging pots in graduate school and I said admiring things. Good times.

Margaret's sister told me the other day that Margaret lived for her students. I had to think about that one for a minute. She probably did, but she never let us know it. Margaret just seemed to always be having such a fabulous time that it never occurred to me to wonder what sacrifices she might be making. Teaching, digging pots and running the little roadside museum of local Indian Culture made Margaret happy, so that's what she did.

She was a really cool person.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Best Episode of Law and Order Special Victims Unit ever!

I should be mature and say that there is nothing at all funny about a strip club waitress taking her revenge for men's mistreament of her mailing out exploding condoms.

But come on...


Best Episode of Law and Order Special Victims Unit ever!

I should be mature and say that there is nothing at all funny about a strip club waitress taking her revenge for men's mistreament of her mailing out exploding condoms.

But come on...


So I did finally write that novel...

For what it's worth, the first draft is done.


Thoughts one has looking through a book of Renoir paintings in the waiting room of a hospice as a close friend gets her morphine drip changed

A guy I was dating once took one look at Renoir's painting Bather on a Rock and declared,

"I never knew you posed for Renoir"

(I was flattered, of course. Bather on a Rock is far more attractive than I am.)

But looking at Renoir today, I am less enthused. I thought Renoir would be a good choice for this moment. He's not a psychological painter. His paintings rarely seem to have much depth in that sense. He did beautiful things with composition and dappled light effects and all, but what's going on in the heads of his subjects is really almost never the point.

In a sense he was sort of the Mary Englebriet of his age, once famously declaring "Why shouldn't art be pretty? There are enough unpleasant things in the world." He liked to paint flowers and attractive children. Flowers and attractive children should be exactly what I need.

But it's not working for me today. Not that I had high hopes, given the circumstances, but when looking a Renoir and simply wanting to be entertained, one is rarely disappointed.

Today, I am disappointed.

If I have to look at representational work (I prefer abstract expressionism), I prefer pictures of adults. I like to imagine that I am like that guy in Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time who can intuit a person's nature from his or her portrait. But I look for some of Renoir's portraits and I am underwhelmed. I had never noticed that the expressions that I once thought of as placid are really sort of bovine. I had thought Renoir celebrated the truly female form, but as I look at pair after pair of empty eyes, I start to wonder if Renoir actually liked women at all in any sense excepting the physical.

The reclining women bother me the most.

I stare at yet another nude and I realize that those dappled light effects are really quite corpselike with their patches of pale flesh tones and greens.

I decide I'm finished thinking about this for now. I close the art book and put in back on the bookshelf.

I go back to waiting for the nurse to come back in.


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Linguist Friend: More on Mary's Consent

Linguist Friend put this in the comments section of his last post and I thought it was helpful clarification.

CC had expressed curiosity about this text on several occasions, so I took a look at what sense I could make of the Greek text in the form it has. This requires a certain amount of analysis from philological disciplines which will be dull to many people, but is necessary to know what form of the text should be used, and what it means. Since my early training was as a linguist/philologist, this is familiar territory for me. I am fallible, but I have had enough grounding here to have been invited to and carry through collaboration with the Society of Biblical Literature to publication on one occasion, although I no longer work in that area. I was rather surprised to realize that the modern revisors who created the NRSV had not escaped the influence of Jerome in their treatment of the text in question.

Beyond this is the issue of how people of the first century AD wrote and talked, and for what purposes. The people who wrote the NT were deeply imbued with the preceding oral or written texts of their peoples, as were the people who composed the Homeric poems and the Rig Veda. Thus Luke, like them, did not write like the author of a modern newspaper or history book. I need not believe that Mary literally saw and talked with an angel to attribute importance to Luke's text.

Indeed, as you say, one should not hang one's soul on the turn of a Biblical phrase. That way lies madness. I do not look at the text as if my religious beliefs depended on it, since I have never been a member of a Christian church. But it means much that I know the text when I must interact with people whose religious beliefs do depend on it, or who are in spiritual agony because they can no longer trust in those beliefs. Lack of knowledge of historical Christianity, on the other hand, is a problem both for UUs and Christians (some of whom overlap, of course).

The NT contains two versions that contain at least partial accounts of Jesus's birth and childhood, in Matthew and in Luke. They do not agree very well, and there is no reason to think of Luke's account of the Annunciation as a historical account. But, in view of the importance of Christian tradition in the world, the text is a historical phenomenon that is worth studying, like the texts of many other religions.

To reach defensible conclusions, however, first one must study it as a text, as I do here, and only then can one interpret it in terms of what the person referred to as Luke wanted to accomplish. Almost regretfully, I think that the person who has read my paragraphs on Luke 1:38 will be better prepared to evaluate the text in this sense than the person who works from the current translation and interpretation of the text of the text cited at the beginning of my note.

Linguist Friend

Funny Post

CC had the following phone conversation about five minutes ago:

CC: Hey, Joe, Pam says she has the jacket you left when you were visiting the hospice.

Joe-the-Math-Guy: Oh really? That's good to know.

CC: Yeah, she will bring it to you tomorrow. She picked it up because she thought it was mine. I called because I figured you might be worried about it. It is such a great jacket.

Joe: I wasn't worried, really, maybe mildly concerned.

CC: Either way, whatever level of concerned you were, I wanted to allay that.

Joe: Well, thank you for a layin' me.

(Mother of all awkward silences.)

CC: Should I cook you breakfast now?

Joe: Say "hi" to your husband for me.

And we rang off.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

CC away until tomorrow night

I'm visiting a sick friend in the hospital. 
No, really, I am.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Did Mary consent? Linguist Friend looks into Luke 1:38

The text of Luke 1:38 is widely interpreted essentially as in the NRSV. No textual variations or grammatical issues of the Greek text are significant. The Greek word doule "female slave" in this text is commonly translated by the English term "servant", implying a legal status that scarcely existed in the Hellenistic world. This follows a West European tradition that apparently stems from the early Latin translations of the gospels. This translation is not appropriate in view of the knowledge of Hellenistic Greek and its legal terminology that has accumulated since major studies of the language and contents of the the Greek papyri from Ptolemaic Egypt began to appear about a century ago. Revision of the translation of this passage leads to a different understanding of Mary's response to the annunciation. Mary recognizes her subordinate position and what follows from it, no less, no more.

The NRSV text here reads, reporting the supposed words of Mary speaking in response to the words of the angel Gabriel that she will bear a child who will be called the Son of God:

"Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word".

The recent New Interpreters' Study Bible (Nashville 2003) notes "although introduced without reference to her family origins (v.27), Mary now claims a place in God's household. Partnership with God transcends family ties ( . . . )." This translation and note set the stage for the issue of the interpretation of this passage.

This is a passage where there are no significant variants of the Greek which might underly different understandings. The text is not attested in the papyri of the first three centuries AD, and the standard editions of the Greek text of Nestle/Aland (27th edition, 1999) and the United Bible Society (4th edition, Stuttgart, 1994) list only one minor variant. Other very minor variants of the text which need not be considered here are provided by Tischendorf (editio octava critica major, I, Leipzig 1869).

The Greek word doulos which is translated "servant" in the NRSV and in most English-language versions is more accurately to be translated "slave". Apparently on the basis of the etymological formation of the Greek word doulos, which contains the root "tie", the term "bondservant" or "bondswoman" has been used to translate it. Frederick Danker's new edition (Chicago, 2000) of Walter Bauer's wonderful standard dictionary of NT Greek defines the term clearly as "slave as an entity in a socioeconomic context" or "one who is solely committed to another, slave, subject". The word doulos is used in its concrete legal sense in references to legal slaves and is also used metaphorically in the second sense by speakers to those of rank much higher than theirs, such as officials, nobles, or God. This interpretation is based on the Bauer/Danker article on the word in the masculine gender (with literature); the much briefer article on the word in the feminine gender, where there are many fewer passages to consider, defines it as "female slave, bondswoman". Danker interprets the present passage as "an oriental expression, used by one of humble station in addressing one of higher rank or a deity". (p.259). Thus an interpretation such as that in the New Interpreter's Study Bible above, that Mary claims by its use a place as servant in God's household, is misleading.

The Bauer/Danker interpretation is not new. The distinguished German theologian Adolf Deissmann while at the University of Heidelberg wrote an epoch-making treatise Light from the Ancient East (1908, English 1910) in which he showed the importance of the late Greek of the Egyptian papyri for the interpretation of the Greek Bible and especially for the NT. Here Deissmann in a long excursus (pp.322 ff.) points out the significance for New Testament theology of the accurate understanding of the term doulos, which occurs in the feminine form in this passage. He discusses the use of the term especially in regard to Hellenistic popular law and references to manumission (in Greek, the same word as "redemption") in the NT, which lose their point if doulos is translated as "servant" rather than "slave". The point was also made by a British scholar who in terms of linguistic expertise in Hellenistic Greek usage was at least the equal of Deissmann, James Hope Moulton, in his Vocabulary of the New Testament(1914/1930). Moulton and his collaborator Milligan cite the study by the papyrologist Wilcken (1899) which points out the extent to which various occupations in the Hellenistic world were held exclusively either by slave labor or free labor. The issue of occupation thus overlaps the issue of legal status. It follows that, in the words of the International Critical Commentary volume on Luke by Alfred Plummer, "In an age in which almost all servants were slaves, the idea which is represented by our "servant" could scarcely arise" (Edinburgh 1901, p.26). The term used in the Greek NT defines Mary metaphorically in terms of her legal status (slave), not metaphorically in terms of her occupation. Since not all slaves in the Hellenistic world were house-servants, however, from Luke's Greek term "slave" it could not be inferred that the person to whom it referred was a servant.

However, the Latin translation which has overshadowed the Greek text in a tradition which we know from Jerome and is suggested even in the notes cited above translates the Greek term by a Latin one which often refers to occupation: "ecce ancilla Domini fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum" in the Biblia Sacra Latin text of the Wuerttembergische Bibelanstalt (ed. Robert Weber, Stuttgart 1969), which lists no textual variants. In Latin, the term "ancilla" is translated in the older (and broader) dictionary of Lewis and Short (OUP 1879) as "maidservant, handmaid, female slave" with the observation that it was commonly used as the feminine of servus. The newer Oxford Latin Dictionary ed. P.Glare (OUP 1996) treats the word more from a legal point of view ("female slave, slave girl, maidservant"), but Lewis and Short make clear the usage as a designation of occupation in later Latin than is treated in Glare's Oxford dictionary of classical Latin. Deissmann (p.323) points out that the German Bible translation of Luther also softens the Greek term "slave" and creates legal confusion, just as does the English translation by translating the Greek word "slave" by the English word "servant".

These traditions in West European Bible translations seem to reflect the influence of the early anonymous translators of the Greek NT into Latin whose work Jerome revised in his fourth-century Latin version of the gospels. The Latin text hovered in the back of the mind of early West European translators, even those working directly from the Greek, and its influence is not entirely absent even from modern scholarship. By contrast, this influence is lacking in the earliest East European translation, the Old Bulgarian translation of the NT of the mid-ninth century, which was carried out directly from the Greek, probably by Greeks who were bilingual in Old Bulgarian. There, the earliest surviving Old Bulgarian manuscripts of the gospels without an exception (I checked the six editions of them on my shelves) read the equivalent of "Behold the slave of the Lord" in this verse, which is also a correct rendering of the Greek original.

The second sentence in this verse, in the NRSV "let it be with me according to your word" simply is semantically parallel to the first. Since Mary takes the role of a slave, she can do nothing but submit. Plummer's older commentary on Luke (1901) agrees with the classic commentary on Luke of J.M.Creed (MacMillan, London 1930, p.21), which states that "Mary humbly accepts the lot which has been appointed for her". The modern commentary on Luke by I.H.Marshall in the New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI, 1978, p.72) states that "The scene closes with Mary's humble acceptance of the will of God". The Greek clause here is almost identical to the Septuagint's Greek OT text of Genesis 31:34, and perhaps is also related to Gen 21:1 as Marshall suggests. However, the Greek text in Luke would be better translated as "let it happen to me . . . " (sic also The New Jerusalem Bible 1985, p.1687), with an aorist verb referring to a particular event rather than to a state, in which the only suggestion of any active wish is the optative mood of the verb by which Mary expresses her submission. The absence of the definite article before the word "Lord" in the Greek text is consistent with Septuagint/ NT Greek usage in which common nouns such as "kyrios" and "theos" referring to unique divinities are frequently treated as proper names.

Thus, a more accurate translation of Mary's speech in Luke 1:38 would be "Behold the slave of the Lord. Let it happen to me according to your word." Mary expresses recognition of her absolutely subordinate position and what follows from it, no less, no more.

Finally, it is worth noting that an almost identical issue about the Greek terminology for "slave" arises in the translation of the Song of Simeon, also in Luke (2:29), where the AV has "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart", and Goodspeed recommends and justifies a rendering as "Now, Master, you will let your slave go free, . . . " (Edgar J. GoodspeedProblems of New Testament TranslationChicago 1945, pp.77-79).

TheCSO explains "witnessing"

Actually, *proper* Christian witness (not the coercion that some Christians *think* is witnessing) has respect for reason and individual choice. Yes, it does start from the premise that a specific belief system is correct - but there is a fundamental respect for the rights of others to choose alternate paths.

If this is what we mean by "witness", then yes - I think that UU witness is a great idea. Obviously the specifics would be a bit different, but the overall ideas are surprisingly similar.

A good example of a code for proper Christian witness is the IVCF's Code of Ethics for Christian Witness:

As Christians called by the Living God, we seek first of all to honor Him and His ethical standards in all of our private and public lives, including our efforts to persuade others to believe the good news about Jesus Christ.

As Christian evangelists, we seek to follow the mandate, motives, message, and model of our God who is always pursuing and reclaiming those who are lost in sin and rebellion against Him.

We believe all people are created in God's image and therefore endowed with the capacity to be in relationship with their Creator and Redeemer. We disavow any effort to influence people that de-personalize or deprive them of their inherent value as persons.

Respecting the value of persons, we believe all people worthy of hearing the gospel of this loving Lord Jesus Christ. We equally affirm the inalienable right of every person to survey other opinions and convert to or choose a different belief system.

We believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and affirm the role and goal of the Christian evangelist. However, we do not believe that this justifies any means to fulfill that end. Hence, we disavow the use of any coercive techniques or manipulative appeals which bypass a person's critical faculties, play on psychological weaknesses, undermine relationship with family or religious institutions, or mask the true nature of Christian conversion.

While respecting the individual integrity, intellectual honesty, and academic freedom of all other believers and skeptics, we seek to proclaim Christ openly. We reveal our own identity and purpose, our theological positions and sources of information and will not be intentionally misleading. Respect for human integrity means no false advertising, no personal aggrandizement from successfully persuading others to follow Jesus, and no overly emotional appeals which minimize reason and evidence.

As Christian evangelists, we seek to embrace people of other religious persuasions in true dialogue. That is, we acknowledge our common humanity as equally sinful, equally needy, and equally dependent on the grace of God we proclaim. We seek to listen sensitively in order to understand, and thus divest our witness of any stereotypes or fixed formulae which are barriers to true dialogue.

As Christian evangelists, we accept the obligation to admonish one who represents the Christian faith in any manner incompatible with these ethical guidelines.

I stand corrected.


CC and the CSO’s guide to watchable SNL skits

Saturday Night Live actually does not suck if you have TiVo. It takes like half an hour to watch, but the good parts are still really good. For the past few months, TheCSO and I have been working on a guide for those TiVoing SNL. We like to minimize the suckage by predicting early on if a skit will be funny or not.

Here are the guidelines we've figured out;

Keep watching:
-Weekend Update. (Duh!)
-Anything about a convention
-Tina Fey
-Hardball with Chris Matthews
-Rachel Dratch as Debbie Downer.
-Will Forte as Tim Conway
-Anything where Keenan Thompson makes fun of slam poetry
-High school kids putting on some sort of show
-President Bush

Good signs:
-Maya Rudolph, unless she’s playing Donatella Versace
-Celebrities playing themselves
-Will Forte
-Parodies of news shows

Bad signs:
-Set in a restaurant (very few good skits are set in restaurants. Last really good one CC can remember was last Mother’s Day although the one with the Amtrak lady a few weeks ago was passable.)
-Set in an office
-Set in the future
-Set at a party
-Set at a hospital
-Horatio Sanz
-Parody celebrity interview shows

Just go ahead and hit fast forward:
-Set in Target
-Horatio Sanz in a dress
-Someone playing a kid
-Merv the Perv
-Set in Outer Space

Sigh, smite forehead

This showed up on Post Secret this morning.


Stoopid Architects!

Judging by the the previews for the new Pink Panther movie, that movie is entirely about mocking French people.


Saturday, February 04, 2006

Mocking CC's heritage.

CC is a big whiner when it comes to cleaning the house. She will cook, and elaborately so if she has the time (last night's dinner was baked trout with garlic-basil sauce,) but she hates to clean.

She has done some work during the week on making the house less cluttery, so she is somewhat less than thrilled when the CSO wants to work on the house all weekend.

This afternoon, the CSO says,

"OK, I'll do some laundry, why don't you work on the kitchen?"

"Aww! But I don't wanna!" (OK, I didn't say it exactly like that. But I'm sure I whined.)

"Oh," the CSO said, putting a dramatic sob into his voice. "Well...if you
really...don't...want to," sniffle "I guess...I'll do it all...myself."

"Ha!" CC said, snuggling up to him. "Well, I'll have you know that I wasn't raised Catholic, so that guilt stuff won't work on me."

"You were raised Presbyterian"" he said, taking my hands in his "Well, we'd like to appoint you to the 'Clean the damn house' committee. I know it's a big honor and you're welcome. Now, it won't be a really big time commitment, not at all. Please don't say "no," I already have you signed up..."

Oh, maybe you had to be there.


Friday, February 03, 2006

Must we "witness"?

I assume the term "witnessing" has been used by religious liberals for awhile and I've just missed it.

I've seen it several times recently and it kind of bugs me.

This kind of gets to the heart of one of my issues with the language of reverence debate. (Yes, that again.)

Part of the argument for a language of reverence is that people know what religious terminology means and it resonates with them. This is true.

My response to this is that people do know, for example, what "getting saved," for example, means. But I have a really negative impression of it. I don't want to "get saved." If a close friend announced that he/she had "gotten saved," I have to say I would worry about them. The resonance I have with the term isn't positive.

This brings me to "witnessing."

There wasn't a whole lot of conservative Christianity in Northern Virginia when I was a kid, so nobody really witnessed to me until I went to college. There I got witnessed aplenty.

After awhile, I learned to say "I've seen on Law and Order that you can't be both a witness and a judge. So you can tell me about your beliefs, but you can't decide if they are right for me."

Anyway, I guess my point is, I get the concept of adopting a term, changing its connotation and making it our own.

But why is this a term we want to use?


Fresh UU bloggy goodness.

A few new UU blogs:

Turned up this site, the website of a British Unitarian Panentheist group.

I found my little UU heart sinking a few times when I read this, where a lady talks about some of her misgivings about her UU church.

A lady who has commented on that post writes:

And as genuine, died-in-the-wool LGBT person, I am sick of hearing how I should be UU. I don't want to go to some church that just wants my lesbian chic. I want to be part of church that is a church, doing what a church should do--welcome everyone. And while I do appreciate (especially since moving to the prairie where it can be harder to discern safe from unsafe spaces) the rainbow stickers on welcoming church doors, self-congratulation about how cool and hip UU's are on queer stuff icks me out.

Don't even get me started on a 99% white congregation doing Kwaanza. That's downright racist, if you ask me.


Also, this is CrallSpace, a nifty blog run by a UU. I'm linking to a post on UU evangelizing, a perennial topic of discussion aroung the UU blogosphere.


Thursday, February 02, 2006

The High Cost of Keeping a Mistress

The CSO and I found this and thought it was pretty hilarious.


Shoutout to my homies

Last night, I found a blog run by my college pals Rob and Nicole who are Chicago political Democrat types.

In totally unrelated news, if a bunch of dead people start voting for TheChaliceBlog in the UU Blog Awards, I had nothing to do with it, I totally swear.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The national "Sliced Bread Contest" has a winner

Check it out. The Fixing UUism contest goes on. Email me your votes at chalicechick at gmail dot com.


A more positive online presence for UUism

I often find myself having the same argument on different sides. In college, there was an entire semester when I was the go-between between a professor friend and my father, who were having an argument-by-proxy on whether language creates thought or thought creates language. The professor eventually convinced me that language creates thought*. (e.g. Changing the "Department of War" into the "Department of Defense" did not change people's impressions of that government agency. It just made the word "defense" scarier.)

I think I'm doing it again.

I just finished a long argument in the comments section of one of Happy Feminist's posts about how appearing angry is a bad thing for feminism.

Yet as Left Coast Unitarian points out, there are a lot of people airing complaints about UUism. I'm absolutely one of them.

I can satisfy myself with my reasons for the contradiction as I understand them. (One example is that I doubt that many potential newcomers who saw our fairly dry criticisms of the UUA are scared off, but anger is a bad tool for recruitment so I'm not crazy about feminists who appear really angry getting on the news and making those conservatives who complain that feminism is all about bitterness appear to be right.)

But the larger question of: "Are we hurting our faith by bitching so much?" still exists. A few people, PG and Will, for example, have asked me about UUism after finding my blog other ways. (PG got an actual answer. Will, if you're reading this, you will get one.)

I guess partially the issue exists because it's hard to write about how happy you are. There's not much to say. I mean, I've written several posts about what I love about UUism.

But at the same time, if we all focussed our blogs on that, it would get dull. I read libertarian blogs and feminist blogs as well, neither of them focus so much on what they love about libertarianism and feminism. Mostly they write about critiques of things going on in their world looking at them from their own political perspective. When people within the movement bitch at each other, I generally regard it as fueled by each side's love of the movement as they percieve it. But James is probably right that newcomers don't necesarily see it that way.

(This whole conversation brings to mind my college friend Jesus Boy, who lived near the model dorm room used by the admissions office and would tell tour groups "don't come here, it's a crappy school.")

Any thoughts on this one? IMHO, it would be really cool if we had a place to send newcomers to show that our criticisms do come out of love.. If there were a giant group blog called "what I love about UUism" that we could all link to and submit our positive posts to, I would contribute to that. I would kind of hate to be part of the editing process, but I would contribute.

(Added later:

The following suggestion just showed up as a comment on The Happy Feminist:

You know, I'd love to see feminists have a Positive Day each week. A day they could write about the wonderful opportunities in their lives, how great it is to be a woman in this century, hell, even the good men they know, and how great it is to have them in their lives. I think it would be a grounding experience, good for the morale too. )


Ps. While I'm being positive, random thought about the UU blog awards--it really does suck to be running against such deserving competition. (e.g. I seriously heart my How to run a Goddamn Meeting post and yet the series Jess did on Singing the Journey is a really valuable, wonderful thing, too. They are good in such different ways.)

*This is explained most accessibly in Stephen Pinker's book Language and the Mind, which is made much more readable if you do a shot every time you spot a straw man argument.

So humanity doesn't completely suck after all

TheCSO had called to cancel my phone, but we'd found out that if the phone were cancelled, the voicemail wouldn't work. I didn't want to lose my voicemail for the day, so we planned to just go get a new SIM card and put it theCSO's old phone until my replacement arrived.

Thus we didn't cut the phone off and could keep trying it. TheCSO did, and one time someone actually answered and talked to him. The guy who found my phone found it where he works and took it home, where his brother found it when the CSO called. TheCSO got the brother's address and we pciked up the phone last night.

So that's good.


Nifty links

Stuff I found when I couldn't sleep: