Well, they'll probably be the last ones of 2006, unless something spectacular happens that I have to post about. But... probably not, so here you go:
Friday, December 29, 2006
Thursday, December 28, 2006
An update on my mother-in-law: She's been in and out of doctor's appointments for most of the day, and is scheduled for treatment tomorrow. She has what's known as AMD, or Age-related Macular Degeneration. There was inflammation and bleeding behind the retina, some of which has leaked through and done some damage to the retina itself. She is suffering from headaches, and her vision in her right eye has degraded over the course of today. As a note of providence, the machine needed to make the correct diagnosis was installed in the doctor's office... yesterday.
I'll post more updates as I know them.
Today I got to meet some of the interesting members of Deborah's extended family. They invited themselves over on the pretext of teaching us how to make kim-bop, which is apparently sushi rolls without the sushi. It was fun, but it wasn't what we had originally planned for the day. One of the biggest surprises was getting to see Katana again ("Like the sword, not the motorcycle" — what, you have something against Suzukis?) and have her be taller than me, at age 11. Last I saw her, before Deborah and I were married, she was being carried around; now she passes for a high schooler easily. Weird.
They left, and we had a relatively humdrum day (none of us were feeling too chipper; I think we've all shared our cold viruses) reading and hanging out. When I awoke from a nap, I discovered that another set of relatives had arrived, and we were trying to talk great-grandma into taking care of their enormous dog.
They left when we mentioned we were going out to eat. While I was still recovering from the previous conversation (ordering a new video off of eBay to replace one that was fragged by the airport X-ray machines) my mother-in-law said, offhandedly, "Hey, do you know what makes your eyes do that, see all these flashes?" Somewhat alarmed, I did a Google search for "Amsler Grid" and showed it to her. Not good. No central vision in her right eye. I talked her into calling an eye doctor, despite the hour, and she made an appoinment for the next morning.
We capped off the evening by trying to go out for scallops. Well, some of us made it — the rest of us waited at home for Paul to come back to get the second carload, but he got lost on rural New Hampshire's wandering, unmarked back roads. I could sympathize, though; last time I was here, on the motorcycle, I would stop after each turn, turn around in my seat, and memorize what the turn would look like for the trip back. And that was just to got to the store!
What a day!
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
It took an hour and a half just to open stockings. With twelve people, we had a lot of Santas. Presents went well into the afternoon before we took a break for lunch.
After lunch, we got back down to business with the presents. We kept that up for another three or four hours...
We took another break, and started preparations for Christmas dinner. The turkey had already been cooking, but there were squash to brutalize (my job) and potatoes to mash, and dishes to wash, and...
By the time we got back to opening gifts, it became apparent where my mother-in-law kept disappearing to: her room, to wrap more presents! There was serious talk about continuing tomorrow. About 8 p.m., though, we finally ran out of presents, an could finally sit down to feast. I rarely indulge in a traditional American-style feast, so it was very enjoyable for me. I'm still full, in many senses; it was a very full day for all.
Monday, December 25, 2006
We made all our connections — barely — but our luggage just couldn't keep up. Fortunately the folks at United had spare car seats for just such an occasion, and our car seats and luggage will catch up with us sometime tomorrow. All the other presents were in our luggage, though, so a few things will have to wait...
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Today, Paul, May, Deborah and I got together and exchanged all the presents that wouldn't easily fit in a suitcase. The gist of that was that Fiona and Aiden got a few early Christmas presents apiece.
Two gift exchanges down, one more to go!
I saw this one while I was looking for some sesame seed oil. At first, I glanced over it, and my mind said, "Hey, that wasn't the usual faux-Aisian font they usually use on soy sauce..." and upon a second look, I recognized the font as being faux-Hebrew, and chuckled that they would misuse such a font... and then I read the thing and realized they were perfectly serious about having a Hebrew font on a bottle of soy sauce — something about a Jewish boy marrying a Chinese girl, and making lots of good condiments together.
America, what a place.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
This is the second Harry Potter-themed post today. Hmm....
This is a project that has very much taken on a life of it's own, and, in a way, I wanted to document it somehow just because it has been fermenting in my imagination for so long. It's a Christmas present for May (who is totally into [a] fantasy books and [b] dolphins). It's four days until Christmas. I'm counting on the fact that May doesn't read my blog...
After all that, I hope she likes it!
- Are a Harry Potter fan;
- have a relatively quick internet connection, and
- have time to go clicking on stuff semi-randomly for about five minutes
Is it any coincidence that tonight is the longest and darkest night of the year? Given the title, I would guess not. Hmm.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
I'm always delighted to find another piece by C. S. Lewis that I haven't seen before. This one was sent to me a week or so ago by a friend. If it doesn't seem like Lewis' usual style, I have been assured by several people at work that it is a very good imitation of the writings of the ancient historian Herodotus.
A Lost Chapter from Herodotus
by C S Lewis
And beyond this there lies in the ocean, turned towards the west and the north, the island of Niatrib which Hecataeus indeed declares to be the same size and shape as Sicily, but is larger, though in calling it triangular a man would not miss the mark. It is densely inhabited by men who wear clothes not very different from the other barbarians who occupy the north-western parts of Europe though they do not agree with them in language. These islanders, surpassing all the men of whom we know in patience and endurance, use the following customs.
In the middle of winter when fogs and rain most abound they have a great festival which they call Exmas, and for fifty days they prepare for it in the fashion I shall describe. First of all every citizen is obliged to send to each of his friends and relations a square piece of hard paper stamp with a picture which in their speech is call an Exmas-card. But the pictures represent birds sitting on branches, or trees with a dark green prickly leaf, or men in such garments as the Niatribians believe their ancestors wore two hundred years ago riding in coaches such as their ancestors used, or houses with snow on their roofs. And Niatribians are unwilling to say what these picture have to do with the festival, guarding (as I suppose) some sacred mystery. And because all men must send these cards the market-place is filled with the crowd of those buying them, so that there is great labour and weariness.
But having bought as many as they suppose to be sufficient, they return to their houses and find there the like cards, which others have sent to them. And when they find cards from any to whom they also have sent cards, they throw them away and give thanks to the gods that this labour at least is over for another year. But when they find cards from any to whom they have not sent, then they beat their breasts and wail and utter curses against the sender; and, having sufficiently lamented their misfortune, they put on their boots again and go out into the fog and rain and buy a card for him also. And let this account suffice about Exmas-cards.
They also send gifts to one another, suffering the same things about the gifts as about the cards, or even worse. For every citizen has to guess the value of the gift every friend will send to him so he may send one of equal value, whether he can afford it or not. And they buy as gifts for one another such things as no man ever bought for himself. For the sellers, understanding the custom put forth all kinds of trumpery, and whatever, being useless and ridiculous, they have been unable to sell throughout the year they now sell as an Exmas gift. And though the Niatribians profess themselves to lack sufficient necessary things, such as metal, leather, wood and paper, yet and incredible quantity of these things is wasted every year, being made into gifts.
But during these fifty days the oldest, poorest and most miserable of the citizens put on false beards and red robes and walk about the market-place; being disguised (in my opinion) as Cronos. And the sellers of the gifts no less than the purchasers become pale and weary, because of the crowds and the fog, so that any man that come into a Niatribian city at this season would think some great public calamity had fallen onto Niatrib. This fifty days of preparation is called in their barbarian speech the Exmas Rush.
But when the day of the festival comes, then most of the citizens, being exhausted, with the Rush, lie in bed till noon. But in the evening they eat five times as much supper as on other days and, crowning themselves with crowns of paper, they become intoxicated. And on the day after Exmas, they are very grave, being internally disordered by the supper and the drinking and reckoning how much they have spent on gifts and on the wine. For wine is so dear among the Niatribians that a man must swallow the worth of a talent before he is well intoxicated.
Such, then, are their customs about the Exmas. But the few among the Niatribians have also a festival, separate and to themselves, call Crissmas, which is on the same day as Exmas. And those who keep Crissmas, doing the opposite to the majority of Niatribians, rise early on that day with shining faces and go before sunrise to certain temples where they partake of a sacred feast. And in most of the temples they set out images of a fair woman with a new-born Child on her knees and certain animals and shepherds adorning the Child. (The reason of these images is given in a certain sacred story which I know but do not repeat.)
But I myself conversed with a priest in one of these temples and asked him why they kept Crissmas on the same day as Exmas; for it appeared to me inconvenient. But the priest replied, It is not lawful O Stranger, for us to change the date of Crissmas, but would that Zeus would put it into the minds of the Niatribians to keep Xmas at some other time or not to keep it at all. For Xmas and the Rush distract the minds even of the few from sacred things. And we indeed are glad that men should make merry at Crissmas; but in Exmas there is no merriment left. And when I asked him why they endured the Rush, he replied, It is, O Stranger, a *racket*; using (as I suppose) the words of some oracle and speaking unintelligibly to me (for a *racket* is an instrument which the barbarians use in a game called *tennis*).
But what Hecataeus says, that Exmas and Crissmas are the same, is not credible. For the first, the pictures which are stamped on the Exmas cards have nothing to do with the sacred story which the priests tell of Crissmas. And secondly, the most part of the Niatribians, not believing the religion of the few, nevertheless send the gifts and cards and participate in the Rush and drink, wearing paper cars. But it is not likely that men, even being barbarians, so suffer so many and great things in honour of a god they do not believe in. And now, enough about Niatrib.
Monday, December 18, 2006
A few days ago, I received an amazing gift: a CD of pictures. Not any pictures, mind you, but more than 800 scans out of our family photo albums, arranged by date, with descriptive filenames. I can't imagine how much time was spent sitting there, listening to the scanner's whine to produce that.
I will, of course, share.
Part of what was interesting here is that the file name included a bit of information I never knew: the name of the girl next to me. It turns out to be Chisuzu Tanaka. Why didn't I know it? All I can figure was that either she was very shy or I was (and the latter doesn't seem very likely). I seem to recall asking her in both English and Spanish (If you don't know one, you must know the other, obviously!) but not getting any answer.
Meanwhile, check out the details here... my amazing sense of style (plaid shorts with a tie-dye shirt and black socks), the similarity to any other shot you might see of a kid on the way to his first day at school... the fact that it's anywhere but North America...
I hadn't realized how much the Costa Rican landscape was burned into my memory.
Monday, December 11, 2006
The photo I posted last week of the mist on the lake has proved to be very popular, and I've consistently gotten two requests from quite a number of people:
- Can I get a bigger version, to use as desktop wallpaper?
- Can I get a version without those poles and wires?
I'm happy to oblige you all with both. Click on the small photo here to open the large, edited version in all its 2 megabyte glory.
I'm not going to muck it up by putting a copyright notice on it, but I know most of the people who visit here, and I trust that you all will be wise in this matter. Credit where credit is due? Thank God for his amazing creation.
Edit: Apparently Blogger doesn't want to store a 2 MB file; if you're discontent with the size of the 140 k file linked here, email me and I will send you a larger version.
I've eaten a Red Savina. Just one. I ate the whole thing. 577,000 Scoville units, give or take a few. I saw things. I went deaf for 5 minutes. I was rendered incapable to do anything but pant and drool for about 20. And here they come with one that's more than 60% hotter?
I hereby update my Christmas Wish List....
Thursday, December 07, 2006
A few photos from my (very early) morning commute. None of these bear viewing at full size; they all look better when viewed at a smaller size. I'm still trying to figure that out.
The article is here.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
You've just poured yourself a cup of coffee. There's half a cup left in the carafe. Do you leave it? Or do you make a new pot? What would Jesus do? (Assume, for a moment, that Jesus was up all night praying, and wanted some coffee with his morning figs.) Jesus undoubtedly wouldn't leave someone else stuck with only half a cup. But then, Jesus probably wouldn't waste half a cup of perfectly good coffee, either. Aaaagh!
So here is my solution: leave the coffee, but draw the water and have everything ready for the next person who comes along and wants more.
I guess we'll find out what my co-workers think!
So, it looks like there's still going to be a bakery of some sort on that corner, but it won't be called the Clocktower. The baked-goods-buyer in me felt relieved, but the rest of me was left wondering if the Bergers still have enough to retire on.
Monday, December 04, 2006
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Funny, I don't remember it being quite so scrawny last year...
Ah, that's better!
The cat lay here, totally content, the whole time we were walking around the tree, putting on the lights, being stepped over five or six times per minute. What trust. What contentment.