Saturday, August 11, 2007

Choices, choices, choices, in other words, let's not do anything at all

And my sweetie's home, huzzah hurrah, after a long delay in Dallas where there was a change of equipment for his flight, followed by a change of crew, one member short, she arrived, whoopsie, the co-pilot was caught coming in from Mexico and a computer was down in customs ... but eventually they took off, and he arrived, sooooo nice.

But today's blog is about something else entirely. It's about the deleterious effects of too much choice. No, no, not, not on the young, not on "this generation", gawd I haven't hit old fartdom that hard ... yet.

Today's blog is about the deleterious effects of too much choice on me. And I wonder about you.

I first noticed this at the UUA's General Assemblies. If there's one great thing on, I'll go. Two great things, I'll choose one and go. Three great things, I'll dither, but probably choose one and go. Four great things and ... well, it's just too painful to decide so I'll go back to the hotel and rest. Or take a little trip to Mount Hood. You know the sort of thing, perhaps.

And I've just worked out that's where I am with my quilting. Got the Mystery Quilt to assemble, get quilted and finish; got the quilt for my eldest granddaughter to finish the binding on; got the quilt for my second granddaughter mostly cut, and some assembled, but have finish the assembly and then do the applique, which I've never done before; got the quilt for the new baby to get started on, have the pattern, have the fabric, need to get going, babies don't wait; the quilt for my eldest grandson, designed, but no fabric even purchased yet; have the lap-quilt for my daughter-in-law to do the next three stages of cutting and assembly on; have the quilt for the orphanage in Juarez to finish designing and cutting before assembly and quilting; and, of course, the Christmas table runners to make for everyone, let alone the lap quilt I have already designed in my head for friends.

Is this profligacy of choices why I've been watching the odd old Perry Mason, and the crazy ladies on the BBC's How Clean Is Your House? Hmmm. I do suspect so. Nevermind, in a couple of weeks vacation will be over. That'll turn the tide, won't it?

Friday, August 10, 2007

And it came, and it came and it came until finally it came

What a beautiful storm we have just had. Take the artist's impression, just above my writing, and darken it by a factor of, oh, several thousand. Then place that in front of the mountains out my front window (top picture). I watched those grand, 9,500 foot mountains in the late afternoon as they disappeared behind the blackest of black curtains of rain, with black skies horizon to horizon advancing upon us.

The mailman hadn't yet arrived. And I have to get on my mobility scooter to run a block to the cluster boxes at the end of the street. Finally the mailman came. I dashed (glad the thing will do 12 miles an hour, and not the 4 most of them do ... fitting since I once drove rally cars in England) and just got back into the house as the first drops fell.

What a crashing, pounding thunder lightening heavy rain evening we had. Glad all our skylights held! When people think of the desert, they don't really think of such things, but they are very common in fact.

With my bones hurting, and David still away with his son, I was in no mood to cook -- until you are impaired, you probably never think how much standing and walking is involved with cooking! -- so it was out to grab a bite from somewhere with a drive-up window.

Since the streets here are the drains, driving through the downhill intersections was quite an adventure. (There were flood warnings out.) Even the car park at the fast food joint was deeply flooded -- folks were coming out to cars parked neatly when they went in, now found water halfway up to their knees.

Home fine - all in all a lovely evening, if you see what I mean.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Ain't It Odd How Talk Changes; Isn't It Weird How Language Develops; It is Not Unpeculiar How Human Speech Forms Evolve

I'm sure you've heard all kinds of reports, been told in your studies, noticed yourself, that language changes. Language is not a static thing, as any college sophomore struggling through Chaucer in Middle English soon learns.

One of the weirdest changes afflicting British English at the moment is the complete misuse of the word "prevaricate". Even the most precise writers like Faye Weldon and John le Carre (if I remember right) have joined the parade.

How on earth could you misuse the word "prevaricate", which means "lie" as in tell one, or usually several, untruths?

By confusing it with the word "procrastinate", meaning to put off, delay, not do something you could, and maybe should, be doing.

Now I grant you, often when we are procrastinating we wind up prevaricating -- "Yes, I've started on it but it's quite difficult, you know", "I was just going to", "I rang but you weren't in", that sort of thing.

But common British parlance now uses the word prevaricate for the delaying, for the putting off itself.

Makes me feel like someone who writes letters to the newspaper signed "Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells".

Partly because I hold procrastination so dear myself, I suppose. I was delighted to know that procrastination has even been the subject of scientific study (what we don't do for those grants!) And it seems there is even a formula, discovered by Piers Steel of the University of Calgary after much study (did he ever put a day of it off, I wonder). The formula is:

To learn how strong your desire is to complete a task (U), you factor in your Expectation of Success (E), multiply this by the Value of Completion (V), divide by the Immediacy of the Task (I) multiplied by the Personal Sensitivity of Delay (D).

U = ExV/IxD in other words.

I've had a lot of fun looking back over my ministry putting various situations through the formula. Quite accurate, it would seem, for me anyway.

Personally, I'm more kinesthetic and visual than mathematical, though. So I just think of some of my procrastination like the ostriches above, but luckily most of it looks more like the smiling picture below that. And one great thing about being retired is, you no longer have to prevaricate if you procrastinate!

Though no one will read your blog if you procrastinate so long you don't write it!

The German's call it Schadenfreude, I just call it laughing at something that is no laughing matter, except it is

Deep under the earth near Geneva, Switzerland lies the CERN particle accelerator. (See picture one, which shows an added mark where the large and small loops of the accelerator run for miles and miles under the surface of the land.)

The new structure of the machine, subject to four engineering reviews between 1998 and 2002, is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) (see picture two for part of it) which aims at nothing less than to re-create the conditions of the Big Bang at the beginning of our universe 14 million years ago (ie smash together protons at nearly the speed of light).

It was scheduled to begin doing this in November. Now, well, maybe next Spring. Because, alas, a little basic error in the designers' mathematical calculations led to a not so little explosion in deep under the earth which lifted a 20-ton magnet (like the one in picture three) off its mountings, filled a tunnel with helium gas, and forced an evacuation.

Now all the 24 such magnets located around the 17 mile accelerator must be stripped down and fixed. And the helium? A simple little matter of using pipes filled with liquid helium to cool the tunnels to the required -268C for the process. Boggles the mind if all you've ever done with helium is fill a few balloons and make your voice go crazy.

Those of you who know me know I love all this stuff for real ... cosmic theology and all that.

But I did have to laugh. I mean, don't you see the irony? Researching the Big Bang when wallop, a big bang!?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

So That's Why I Moved To New Mexico!

Your Inner European is Spanish!
Energetic and lively. You bring the party with you!

So That

Monday, August 6, 2007

Not Only Is What You See What You Get, But What You Already Have Is What You See

"What you see is what you get" they say, usually meaning someone is genuine, exactly as they appear. Though don't necessarily take this as a compliment -- they may be meaning the person referred to is too uncultured, too gauche, too crass, to observe even the little social niceties that make life go so well.

I am fascinated by how often "What you already have is what you see" also, even moreso, seems to be the rule. Like, sorry guys if you can't identify here, but every mother will know what I mean, like how when you are pregnant (especially if you don't particularly want to be), or when you want desperately to be pregnant and it isn't happening, pregnant women are everywhere. I mean, everywhere.

I can't really believe that there were all that many more women suddenly pregnant when I was. But it sure looked like it. (Actually, there were all that many more women suddenly pregnant in one congregation I served, come to think of it. I got pregnant, then three other women did too, and our much loved organist resigned. Well, she already had four children, and didn't really want any more. She felt it was too dangerous to stay around! Three weeks later she was back. Not only had it been too dangerous, it had been too late. Thus it was one little congregation grew by five!)

Anyway, just as you see what you already have (the dishonest person lives in a world of only sharpers, the depressed person in a world of only tragedies, the way nastiest person on Design Star accuses everyone else of having a rotten personality, etc. etc.) - now I am seeing death.

My husband David got a call yesterday from his son. David's first wife had died suddenly and unexpectedly at home, with a neighbor calling the police when she hadn't seen her for several days. David has flown out to be with his son, their only living child, to be companionship in dealing with all that follows such an event.

And then I'm reading along, something light in a time of low concentration, and damn, I discover one of my favorite authors, Michael Dibdin, died in April, just before his sixtieth birthday. Damn, damn, damn.

As for me, I'm OK, just very very very very sore - my helpmeet is away, and while I can pretty well manage for myself when I have to, the pain level soars, too little rest, too much tearing of tendons by my inner Iron Maiden of osteophytes. Never mind, if I have to have death on my mind, I'm off the watch my tape of tonight's episode of The Closer. Love that woman.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Newsflash ... everybody is not a rat ... it is not all terrible ...

So much harsh news - from war zones, from famine and starvation draughts, from monsoon floods, from sports with drugs in baseball and cycling, and purposeful blocking of a "too-successful" Formula I motor racer - on and on it goes.

So I thought I'd bring you some more than good news ... some beautiful news, in fact. It's all about Fordhall Farm. If you look here you'll see the whole story.

A brother and sister (see above) were faced with losing the farm they inherited from their parents, a farm which had begun to work organically before any of us had probably ever even heard the term. This beautiful, natural, care-filled farm (see above) was about to churn through the market and get industrialized, pesticided, antibiotic-ed, soil depleted, animal factoried, you name it, not only was the loss of their home and farm staring them in the face, but the loss of a better way of doing things. Better for them, for us, for the earth, for the world, for hope, for the future.

They hit the internet. Ain't it a wonderful tool? They used it to tell their story. And sell shares in their farm. It worked! 8,000 folk and counting now own this farm, a true co-operative. (See some of them volunteering on the farm above.)

If this story doesn't warm your heart, your fears are right, you are dead.

Oh, and say a prayer for them, too, won't you (even humanists know what to do, you can think good thoughts, can't ya?) because foot and mouth disease has just been discovered again in England. Their farm is a long way away -- but last time (2001) it managed to ravage the whole country. I love their story, and my theology is a whole lot less important than sending them good energy whatever you call it! That's how I feel, anyway.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

It Would Be Good If It Were True Any Longer, But It's Not, At the Moment Anyway ...

When a person moves to the desert, as we did, what do you think they move there for? Escape from the snow, oh yea, as a minister I've done too many funerals for men who were out shovelling the snow. Indeed, one fine gentleman of not too many years was simply sweeping, with a broom, about half an inch of light powder when it did him in. The extremely cold air that often follows such storms, you see, gets in the lungs and ... well ...

OK, so we don't have much snow. And when we do get an inch or so, gone by noon, it's alternately hilarious and terrifying to watch the "locals" drive in it, no snow tires, no experience, hilarious from a distance, terrifying if you actually have to be out in it.

What the h$%^ is she doing talking about snow in the middle of summer? Well, there's something else lots of us move here for. It's called "It's not the heat, it's the humidity (or even humididity)".

It is true. High temperatures are a lot easier to take when the air is dry, and there's a marvellous desert breeze. If you perspire it's evaporated straight off you, cooling you down in the process, just the way the body is supposed to work.

Until global warming, that is. Suffering through another week of diabolical humididity, I might as well be in Florida this summer. Thunderstorms everyday - and even if it doesn't actually rain, though it has every day for ages, the clouds and humidity hover and exhaust.

Now there's always been a "monsoon" season out here - hot dry days with thunderstorms in the late afternoon or evening. But this is all day, every day, with no hot dry about it.

In other words, welcome to the rainforest. Not what I signed up for when I moved to the desert, but you know, ::singing:: "You can't always get what you want ... "

Which reminds me, did you know I once MC'ed for a show where the Rolling Stones were performing? Well, Mick Jagger and his group anyway, at the University of London when he was still a student there, if my memory is not totally gone.

The things we don't know about our ministers!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

I Have a Thing - and Can It Get Me Into Trouble ...

Yes, I do, I have a thing about the stiff, perfectly balanced, stuck in place so solidly they can not move, floral arrangements often favored here in the States. I've tried to find an image of exactly what I mean without success, but the first picture here is a close approximation.

I don't like this kind of arrangement.

Maybe it's all those years spent living in Europe (20 years of my adult life in four segments spread over 40 years: Switzerland, England, Holland, England again), but I prefer floral displays to look like a most varied bunch of flowers you've just picked from the garden, and plunked in a vase (again, I couldn't find exactly what I mean on-line, but the second picture is at least an approximation). For those of you who watch PBS, the floral display that begins the mystery program Rosemary and Thyme, well, that's it, really.

I haven't thought about this much of late, florists here do very stiff, formulaic displays so I've given up on flowers in my house, something I was never without in Europe, but a phone call with my son this morning reminded me.

Discussing what I might like for my birthday, I was saying no flowers (because of how they would come!) ... when up popped into my mind a scene from many years ago in the church I was serving.

I got a phone call telling me that this was the year for the Odd Fellows (a sort of fraternity for adults, I suppose you could say) would be visiting our service. It seems they went to a different church each year for Odd Fellows Sunday, or some such.

Ever the agreeable soul, I said, sure, come along. (Anything to fill the empty pews in that beautiful old New England congregation seating 400, current congregation well less than a quarter of that.)

But when I got to the church Sunday morning, the place was still empty but the flowers had been delivered the day before. EEEEEEEEK! As stiff a formal display as you could imagine, a sort of carpet of flower heads, all the same height, they hadn't even had the sense to vary the dimensions!

Well, I would soon fix that. So up I stalked (sorry, bad pun) and started rearranging. The flowers made a pair of nice, height varied displays, though they were all the same bloom, and not enough greenery, so it still wasn't the best, but it sure was better.

Soon the congregation arrived, including the Odd Fellows. Massive consternation. Several members raced to the front, and began wildly rearranging my rearrangement, back into the stiff, flat horror it was before.

Only then did I notice the letters IOOF (International Order of Odd Fellows) the red flowers made against the white flowered background.

At least they never came back, there's that to be said for having a "thing".

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