pray as you experience life

Some months back my church posted the following on Facebook:

quote‎Pray‬ as you actually experience life,
rather than as you might wish it to be.

prayer: what worksI like this a lot. After all we can’t fool God. Every Sunday the priest reminds us: “Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid…”

It’s tempting to act as if things are as we would want them to be, and we certainly ought to be focusing on our goals and moving those things forward. At the same time, it’s important to acknowledge where we really are.

Now implementing that, there’s the challenge.

Sacred Music Friday: Here I am Lord

Choir of Hexham Abbey, Here I am Lord

thoughts on cosmology

I try hard to keep this straight in my mind: what is the difference between dark matter and dark energy?

If I have paid proper attention to public radio’s Science Friday, I think I have a handle on this. Dark matter accounts for the missing matter of the universe, based on astronomers’ calculations. Dark energy accounts for the expansion of the universe.

In her book Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs (review coming when I’ve finished it) author Lisa Randall points out that dark energy is uniform throughout the universe, but dark matter is lumpy, existing in different consistencies in different places.

There was a time when cosmologists thought that the expanding universe would snap back and create in essence a new Big Bang. Very consistent with Hindu cosmology.

More recent thinking, as I understand it, says that there is not enough energy to do that. Rather, the universe will keep expanding until it cools off into nothingness. “Not with a bang, but a whimper.”

Depressing, except for the fact that we won’t be around to see which theory is correct.

And in any case, we have more pressing matters to address here and now. While the drought is perhaps abating in the northern part of California, it is still an unpleasant reality here in the Southland.

Then there’s that presidential election of 2016.

Waiting, Linda Ellerbee, for you to say, “And so it goes.”

Ash Wednesday

Lent already. We’re only a third of the way into February and it is Ash Wednesday. Easter is early this year: 27 March, so Ash Wednesday and Lent are early as well.

I have long thought of Lent as being a long, drawn-out season and Advent being a short, fast season. But I looked at the liturgical calendar a while back and I realized that there is only one more Sunday in Lent than there is in Advent. Sure doesn’t seem that way. I guess it’s the different nature of the two seasons.

So here we are. The journey begins.


The Rise & Fall of Great Powers

Rise and Fall of Great PowersThe Rise & Fall of Great Powers: A Novel
Tom Rachman
The Dial Press (June 10, 2014), 385 pages
Kindle edition $11.99, Amazon trade paperback $10.52

I read this book because of the good reviews that it got and because I enjoyed Rachman’s The Imperfectionists, a novel about an English-language newspaper in Europe obviously modeled on the fabled International Herald Tribune.

The novel is the story of a woman named Tooly who is, to use the cliché, in search of her identity. The novel cycles among three time periods: 1988, when she was a child; 1999, when she was college-aged (though not in college); and 2011, when she is an adult.

Tooly, her proper name being Matilda, was raised by a man named Paul who dragged her around Asia during her childhood as he engaged in various computer contract jobs. Every so often a mysterious woman named Sarah swoops in for a short while, entertains Tooly, and then disappears. Tooly is mentored by a con man who trains her in her skills. She befriends a man named Humphrey, apparently a Russian immigrant.

The Rise & Fall is about Tooly’s life with these odd people and her trying to figure out what her origins are and who these people in her life really are. The book was listed in NPR’s 2014 Book Concierge (their “guide to 2014’s great reads”), and got great reviews. It didn’t work for me. Had I not invested $11.99 in the book, I probably would have stopped reading it a quarter of the way through. While I was sad to have left the world of Unaccustomed Earth, I was all too happy to get out of this one.

It may be time to return to nonfiction for a book or two.

how I learned to stop worrying and love the election cycle

It had been seeming very important to me that Hillary win the Democratic nomination, thinking that she had the best chance of beating whoever the Republican nominee might end up being. Turns out that’s not so. At least not on this day before Clinton & Sandersthe New Hampshire primary. A passing mention on CNN sent me over to my primary source for polls: Real Clear Politics.

Nationally, as of last Friday, both Clinton and Sanders had a lead over Trump, but Sanders held a larger lead. Clinton is tied with Cruz and trails Rubio. Sanders is ahead of Cruz and tied with Rubio.

Given that, my perspective right now: Let the primaries and conventions play themselves out, and then support like hell whoever the Democratic nominee turns out to be.

There is too much at stake here. If nothing else, two words: Supreme Court.

That’s the bottom line.

Photo Credit: Marc Nozell. Creative Commons license: Clinton, Sanders. Sanders image cropped.

Sacred Music Friday: Magnificat

On Tuesday I shared a version of the Song of Simeon by the Filipino group Hangad. Here is their energetic setting of the Magnificat.

I’m not a geezer, but…

…I certainly remember most of the items in the Facebook meme at the bottom of this post. Most of them are relics of the late fifties and early sixties.

  1. Cap Guns. Yeah, but sometimes it was more fun to hit caps on the sidewalk with a hammer.
  2. Home milk deliveries in glass bottles. Our milkman, Bill, walked straight into the house and put the milk in the refrigerator for us.
  3. TV test patterns in the early morning. I got up early on Saturdays and watched the test pattern before programming started for the day.
  4. Curb finders for your car. I depended on those in my 1965 Ford Galaxy.
  5. Stamp books and redemption centers. Green Stamps and Blue Chip stamps. We had to drive thirty or so miles to Riverside or San Bernardino for the redemption center.
  6. Phone booths. Of course.
  7. Aluminum ice cube trays with pull handles. We had those in our freezer.
  8. Subway tokens. Well, I knew about them from television. We didn’t have subways ninety miles east of Los Angeles in the fifties and sixties. Still don’t, except for the sandwich shop.
  9. Crazy Eddies. (Who, or what, is that?)
  10. Earl Scheib’s auto paint jobs. “I’ll paint any car any color for $29.95.”
  11. Mobile rides that came around the neighborhood. (Say what?)
  12. Free road maps at service stations. More convenient than going to the auto club.
  13. Seltzer bottles. I knew them from the Three Stooges, but not up close and personal. My family didn’t drink hard liquor. (Unlike moi, who enjoys his scotch.)
  14. Doctors who made house calls. I was the recipient of at least one.
  15. Cigarette vending machines. In restaurants.
  16. Flash cubes. I never owned a camera that used flash cubes, but I had relatives who did. They were nice because you could take four pictures before needing to change, unlike flash bulbs that you had to change every time.


non-pasta spaghetti

Why is it so often true that when you do something for the first time it works out well, and then the spiralizersecond time you struggle? That was the case with my new vegetable spiralizer.

The first time I used it I spiralized zucchini for stir fry. Worked great. The second time I used it I had difficulty. There are a few reasons, I think. First, I need to be sure that the bottom of the vegetaspaghetti1ble where I place it on the base of the spiralizer needs to be flat. Second, I don’t think that I cleaned the cutting area as well as I should have after the first use. Third, I was using one of the julienne settings, rather than the spiralize setting. Seems that you need to use more pressure on the julienne settings. I switched to the spiralize setting on the last piece of carrot, and it seemed to go much more smoothly.

What did I make this time? Veggie spaghetti with zucchini and carrots instead of pasta. Desspaghetti2pite my struggles, the result was quite good. And, of course, the unrefined carbohydrates of the zucchini and carrots are much more healthy than the refined carbohydrates of pasta. Though the hot Italian sausage on top and the sourdough garlic bread on the side completely negated that effect.

Oh, well. It was a tasty dinner, and we confirmed that we really enjoy the taste of the vegetables cut super thin like that. I do think it was a good purchase, and I’ll simply stick to the spiralize setting from here on out.

Song of Simeon

I sometimes wonder about the lectionary selection for a given Sunday or holy day. What were those lectionary elves (to borrow a term I love from an Episcopal priest) thinking? Even more arcane is the church calendar. Why would the presentation of Jesus at the temple be on 2 February? After all it comes on the calendar after the Baptism of Jesus. But 2 February it is, and I wanted to observe it today because it contains, to me, one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible.

The author of Luke tells us that Simeon “was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel,” and that “It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.” When he sees Jesus in the temple Simeon says:

quoteMaster, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.

There are, of course, many beautiful musical evocations of this passage. Here is one of them, with an added message about the power of the Social Gospel.