Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Feast of John Donne

Today is the feast day of John Donne, priest, poet, raconteur...ok, I added the last bit, but I bet it's true.

I have to admit I prefer his worldly writings to the divine ones which all seem incredibly grim: lots of purging and burning and dying. And so, if you don't mind, I'm going with one of the non-religious poems to celebrate this feast day. It's much more festive that way.

BREAK OF DAY.

STAY, O sweet, and do not rise ;
The light that shines comes from thine eyes ;
The day breaks not, it is my heart,
Because that you and I must part.
Stay, or else my joys will die,
And perish in their infancy.

The world of the female flutist

Today's featured obituary is of Frances Blaisdell, "girl flutist," as the headline put it, quotes and all, who was one of the first women to play flute professionally in a major symphony orchestra.

Here's the part that really got me: Her father "was in the lumber business, but his own love was the flute, and he started teaching her to play when she was 5. He wished she were a boy and called her Jim."

OK, how many men in the lumber business do you imagine have the flute as their first love?

I think nowadays most people think of the flute as an almost totally feminine instrument, James Galway notwithstanding. I remember going to a National Flute Association Convention back in the day; it wasn't exactly a world of opportunity for matchmaking, let's just say.

I just find it very interesting how it seems that men and boys abandon things that seem to be tainted with femininity. Boys playing flute nowadays have to deal with all sorts of crap. What is that about?

Wonderful obit, btw. I recommend it.

Monday, March 30, 2009

That must have been some liturgy

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Competitive yoga

I just got back from the first session of my Introduction to Yoga class which was a lot tougher than I thought it was going to be. If this is an introduction, I simply cannot imagine how much more difficult things are going to get. I appreciated it, when the teacher explained how we were going to curl our toes under and lift into downward facing dog, when I heard someone else in the class mutter, "Oh, Jesus." Yeah, like that.

They made it absolutely as gentle as possible. If you couldn't sit on the floor, sit on blankets. If you couldn't touch the floor, bend over and touch blocks. And at the end -- such a treat! -- we all got to lie on our backs as the instructor came around and put bolsters under our legs as we breathed in and out. That's exercise I can believe in.

But I noticed the most alarming thing: I couldn't stop competing. Was my posture better than others? Was the assistant correcting me less than she was correcting other people? Was I BETTER THAN everyone else? For a class of something I'm bad at, in a discipline that (from what I can tell) has absolutely nothing to do with comparing myself with anyone else. If I'm like this here, how must I be in areas that I know well and can do well? This yoga is going to be a good discipline for something other than exercise, I can tell already.

Chronicle blues

After reading today's article in (yes) the New York Times, I don't see how the SF Chronicle will be able to continue. I thought the Times did a great job of capturing how the Chronicle is different from other major market newspapers. They wrote about the Chronicle I know and the Bay Area I recognize. I was pleased about that.

But it's very sad, too, to think this newspaper will very likely go under. I think it will be a huge loss to the Bay Area and to newsgathering in general.

I'm with Armistead Maupin whose quote ends the article: “I read it every day — I’d hate to go without it,” said Mr. Maupin, who left The Chronicle staff years ago. “But by way of confession, I should add that I read online. I’m part of the problem.”

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Pride and Prejudice genre

OK, so, yes, I bought Pride and Prejudice and Zombies instead of waiting for the Contra Costa library to get it, and then putting it on hold, et cetera, et cetera, which I should have done, given that there's a high likelihood that Elizabeth Bennett still ends up with Mr. Darcy, although some people get their brains eaten, which doesn't happen in the original, as far as I can recall.

But that's not what I want to write about.

The thing I wanted to point out is that there's Pride and Prejudice-based novels EVERYWHERE! I couldn't believe it. I was just wandering aimlessly through the fiction section and there were sequels to P&P; mystery novels solved by Mr. & Mrs. Darcy; novels explaining what happened to Lydia Bennett. And, of course, zombies. Everywhere I turned it seemed there was another version of Pride and Prejudice and, to tell you the truth, I'm not sure why. What is it about Pride and Prejudice that makes it the mother of all chick lit, Bridget Jones and all? I shall ponder this. And now...Regency-period zombies!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Quote of the day

These are my men.

Oakland Police Captain Ed Tracey at the funeral of the four Oakland police officers killed last Saturday.

Story here.

Quote of the Day; Feast of Charles Henry Brent

The Church of the Majority

BY far the largest and strongest portion of the Church is invisible. Its life is altogether hid with Christ in God. The good people of all time are a multitude which no man can number occupied yonder in doing God's work without division of interests. Their relation to us is organic. They cannot live without sharing their life with us. We cannot move without touching them. As they love us, so they pray for us; as we love them, so we pray for them, for prayer is love melted into worship. Nothing retains to better advantage the lives of yesterday in the life of to-day than prayers for the departed. If to them our prayers were nothing more than a caress of love, who would dare withhold them this devotion?

Charles Henry Brent, Bishop of the Philippines, and of Western New York, 1929, whose feast day is today.

This is an excerpt from a book(let) called With God in Prayer. It's quite lovely, except, perhaps, for the Christian Code of Conduct which says, "Look on girlhood as God's chosen vessel of crystal purity. Use womanhood as an inspiration to nobility of thought." But it was 1907; what did I expect?

This quote, though, seems so apropos, given all the infighting in the church. So good to remember that the vast majority of the church is invisible and simply doing God's work without much fuss.

The warm up

Some people are all bent out of shape because opening day falls on Good Friday. They say, among other things, that "This means that a huge number of potential customers will have to make the choice between their religion and their hobby."

I'm not sure which is which, however, which is why you should update this Proper Liturgy for Opening Day for 2009.

The Baseball Fan observes with great devotion the days of the Baseball Season, and it became the custom to prepare for Opening Day by a season of reflection and prediction. This season provided a time for converts and seasoned Fans alike to share with each other their allegiances and analyses so that conversations, whether appointed or joyously unexpected, could begin with mutual understanding and awareness.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of Baseball Fans everywhere, to the observance of a truly great Season by self-examination and objectivity; by reflection, contemplation, and self-awareness; and by reading and studying Street and Smith's Baseball Annual, the sports pages, baseball blogs, and websites, and, perhaps, conversing (at arm's length) with baseball handicappers of renown. And, to make a right beginning to the Season, let us now kneel in silence to determine the results of our studies and our hopes for the Teams, and to set forth those results below:


2008 Baseball Season Predictions
Winners of Divisions and Wild Cards, League Champions, and World's Champion

AL East:
AL Central:
AL West:
AL Wild Card:
AL Champion:

NL East:
NL Central:
NL West:
NL Wild Card:
NL Champion:

World's Champion:

The picture, incidentally, is from an interesting 2006 article about a man who went from being a pro ball player to the priesthood.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

If only I lived in San Diego...

...I could have gone on this Snuggie Pub Crawl. Surely there will be one in the Bay Area. Even in more conservative San Diego, "We are accepting of all blanket types."

Good stuff from the boring bits at the end of Exodus

Not that I read this or figured it out, but I'm glad somebody did.

The last part of Exodus is a total slog with detailed descriptions of the building of the ark of the covenant -- and its curtains, and its basins, and the composition of the incense, et cetera, et cetera. That I remembered. What I never noted was this:

In [chapter] 30, God anoints Aaron and consecrates the priests. It's a big deal, with fragrant spices, sacred oil and a sense of the holy that is almost tangible through the pages. And after it's over, do you know who God focuses on next? Do you know who comes second? The artists.

I had to read that a few times until I believed. There in the desert, as God establishes His people, as He sets into motion His very heart, the artists fall directly after the priests. Maybe that's mind-blowing only to me, but I find that stunning. Of all the professions, of all the people in the desert, it is the artists He speaks to next.
I just think that's very cool. Had to share.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Quote of the day

Sure, they're enjoyable, but can that be justified? We're in a time of world economic crisis! The country will be in debt until the apocalypse, and that itself is only a few years away! And what do you want to do in the face of all this terror? Read fiction? You callous, selfish little bastard.

From an essay in the Guardian called Why Books Won't Change Your Life by Alastair Harper.

h/t Lorin who linked it on Facebook.

On sources

There is an editorial by E.D. Hirsch, Jr. in the Times today about standardized testing. I think it caught my eye because of the baseball bit, but I thought this was interesting. The writer reports on a study from 1988:

Experimenters separated seventh- and eighth-grade students into two groups — strong and weak readers as measured by standard reading tests. The students in each group were subdivided according to their baseball knowledge. Then they were all given a reading test with passages about baseball. Low-level readers with high baseball knowledge significantly outperformed strong readers with little background knowledge.

I thought, Wow! That's really important! And the conclusion Hirsch draws is that "The experiment confirmed what language researchers have long maintained: the key to comprehension is familiarity with the relevant subject. For a student with a basic ability to decode print, a reading-comprehension test is not chiefly a test of formal techniques but a test of background knowledge." Which neatly supports some of my own prejudices.

So I thought I'd write about this on the blog and say, "See?" But there was a problem: there's no link to the study. There's no reference or footnote to find it. There's no actual way of telling exactly what that study shows, or if it even exists.

So I did what anyone would do: I googled. And I found something that might be the study referenced, but a) I can only get to the abstract; and b) there are some very pertinent differences.

Here's the abstract:

The purpose of this experiment was to determine the effect of expert knowledge and metacognitive knowledge on strategy acquisition using an ecologically valid task. Fourth- and fifth-grade boys were poor readers and baseball experts were trained in the use of a reading strategy (asking why questions), with instruction being embedded in either baseball or nonbaseball stories. The boys were tested for strategy use, recall, and accuracy of monitoring 1 to 3 days after training, then again after 2 to 3 weeks later. Boys trained using baseball stories demonstrated greater strategy use at both post-tests than boys trained using nonbaseball stories, indicating that knowledge base aided in the acquisition of a reading comprehension strategy. Boys with higher declarative metacognition scores demonstrated better strategy acquisition and increased literal recall. All types of recall were higher for baseball stories.

[emphases in bold mine]

So, similarities: an experiment on reading comprehension involving baseball. Differences: a different grade level, only poor readers, using baseball stories for instruction on strategy, rather than using the baseball story as the test story itself.

All of which casts doubt for me on the validity of this editorial.

Where is this study? What does it say? What was its methodology? And have there been follow-ups? One study over 20 years ago does not a scientific conclusion make.

I hate feeling that I have to be skeptical of everything I read in the papers.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

What it looks like/what it is

So here I am, sitting at my parents' kitchen table, eating a burrito and drinking a beer, half-watching the World Baseball Classic (Korea is SLAMMING Venezuela -- including my beloved Marco Scutaro -- 7-0 in the 2nd inning) while I do some web browsing, and I come across a blog called Stuff Christians Like. The topic under discussion is...subtly finding out if you drink beer, too. Clearly these folks are not Episcopalian.

I'm reading through the 54 comments (seriously) that are (seriously) discussing things like "In our culture with children/teens/adults drinking & getting drunk, a Christian drinking could be a stubling block" and "here where I live, in the ULTRA conservative Bible belt, there are LOTS of weaker "finger pointers", so, NOT even worth it in my small town. They'll gossip and slander about someone having a glass of wine."

Most painful is the anonymous posting by a pastor who LOVES a glass of wine as he is cooking and says Guiness Stout is "pure deliciousness," but drinks them on the q.t. "It's funny - the edict has been handed down to me and my wife at our church that we MUST BE teetotallers. OK fair enough. I'm not into offending anyone. On the other hand, I find it amusing to discover more and more folks (fine, servant-hearted, true believing folks) in our congregation who enjoy a beer at the barbecue or while out fishing; who enjoy an occasional glass of wine at a meal; or even *gasp* the occasional shot of vodka."

No. Not "fair enough." I think this is a huge problem. Perhaps the big problem with much of Christianity: the huge emphasis on appearing to be Christian.

A while back I preached a sermon in which I pointed out that Paul was a deregulator. That didn't work so well for him, either; see Corinth. But he believed in it anyway. And all of these suggestions that Paul made to help people get along within their communities have become the very laws he deplored.

Goodness knows deregulation is not the easy way to go. But the problem with sticking to a template for appearing to be Christian is that you are always going to find someone who doesn't fit. And then what happens? Or you've got someone who fits the template perfectly but...there's something not right about them. What about then?

A couple of days ago, I heard a podcast with Christine Wicker who wrote a book called The Fall of the Evangelical Nation. It was very painful as she described her inability to return to church, but was not quite able to articulate why. Personally, I suspect it is because she knows exactly how to look Christian, but she doesn't know how to be herself in church. That's my hunch.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Feast of St. Joseph

Let's give Joe his props today. He's a good guy, you know? I bet Jesus missed him when he died. And I'm betting Joseph died in fairly early days because there's no way he wouldn't have been at the foot of the cross along with Mary. I'm imagining the Pieta with Joseph holding the body of Jesus, and it changes things for me.

I tried to find a good picture of Joseph and Jesus and they're all so...stodgy. Nothing to break me out of the old image of Joseph. Then I tried googling "father son." Then I found this picture.


Like I said. It changes the picture for me.

Joseph was a really good guy. He deserves a day.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The best and the brightest

“We cannot attract and retain the best and the brightest talent to lead and staff the A.I.G. businesses — which are now being operated principally on behalf of American taxpayers — if employees believe their compensation is subject to continued and arbitrary adjustment by the U.S. Treasury.”
- Edward M. Liddy, chair of AIG


Well, aren't I just chopped liver, then. I and everyone I know who didn't work at AIG. I thought we were quite bright, but apparently we weren't the brightest. The brightest all went to work in the financial sector.

The best, too. Silly me for thinking that "the best" might include people with integrity, people who take responsibility for what happens, people who don't expect everything to be cushioned and comfortable no matter the circumstances. People willing to make sacrifices. (I like Bryan Appleyard's comment that "bankers' bonuses were so catastrophic precisely because they insulated bankers from a free market in anything.")

Here's the thing: they really believe that! They really think that they have the brightest and the best! Personally, I would be very satisfied with "bright and good," with an emphasis on strong values rather than extreme cleverness.

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,
dawn on our darkness, and lend us thine aid;
star of the east, the horizon adorning,
guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

Against torture: a petition

This morning I learned of a petition you can sign online that calls "for an impartial, nonpartisan, and independent Commission of Inquiry. Its purpose should be to gather all the facts and make recommendations. It should ascertain the extent to which our interrogation practices have constituted torture and "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment". Understanding the causes, nature and scope of U.S.-sponsored torture is essential for preventing it in the future and eliminating it from our system without loopholes. U.S. law will determine the extent of any criminal culpability."

You can find the petition here.

You can learn more about this Commission of Inquiry here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Can you believe they mocked this on "Wait, wait, don't tell me"?

The country's first television channel dedicated to funerals and mourning could start broadcasting as early as this summer, after the CRTC granted a broadcasting licence for a regional Quebec cable channel called Je me souviens.

The French-language station would broadcast obituaries, notices of hospitalization and messages of thanks and prayers.

"Some 55,000 people die each year in Quebec. But you can't reduce their life to a tiny death notice in the newspapers that says very little about them," said Gerald Dominique, who is behind the project. "I think we owe it to them to talk a bit more about what they have done during their life, what they've accomplished."

You can read the whole thing here.

St. Patrick

If you have a little time today (and it won't take much), I encourage you to read The Confession of St. Patrick. Just to get a little taste of the man first-hand: his self-consciousness about his lack of education, his eagerness to please. "But," as he says at the end, "I entreat those who believe in and fear God, whoever deigns to examine or receive this document composed by the obviously unlearned sinner Patrick in Ireland, that nobody shall ever ascribe to my ignorance any trivial thing that I achieved or may have expounded that was pleasing to God, but accept and truly believe that it would have been the gift of God. And this is my confession before I die."

Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Meaning of Life

I heard this poem while walking the dog and catching up on old podcasts of The Writer's Almanac. I thought it was pretty profound.

The Meaning of Life
by Nancy Fitzgerald

There is a moment just before
a dog vomits when its stomach
heaves dry, pumping what's deep
inside the belly to the mouth.
If you are fast you can grab
her by the collar and shove her
out the door, avoid the slimy bile,
hunks of half chewed food
from landing on the floor.
You must be quick, decisive,
controlled, and if you miss
the cue and the dog erupts
en route, you must forgive
her quickly and give yourself
to scrubbing up the mess.

Most of what I have learned
in life leads back to this.

Against torture

I wish I had done more, said more, acted more.

The Washington Post describes a now not-so-secret report from the Red Cross describing how we, the U.S., tortured prisoners. Not that it was such a secret.

I just wish I'd been noisier about it.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Comedians as prophets

Watching Jon Stewart's interview with Jim Cramer just now made me wonder if the prophets were, perhaps, funnier than we think. It certainly seems like comedy is a terrific position from which to critique the culture around you. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert do it night after night after night.

Not that Stewart was funny in the interview. He was everything people have been saying: pointed, powerful, and completely devastating.

And perhaps he was devastated himself by the whole thing. I don't think he was kidding when he ended the show by saying, "I hope this interview was as hard to watch as it was to do."

He sounded a bit like Jeremiah tonight, did J.S. I'm sure he wouldn't appreciate that - either of them, I suppose I mean. But still, when Stewart told Cramer that Cramer of all people should understand the kind of "shenanigans" that Wall Street traders get up to, it reminded me of Jeremiah saying,

For from the least to the greatest of them,
everyone is greedy for unjust gain;
and from prophet to priest,
everyone deals falsely.
They have treated the wound of my people carelessly,
saying, ‘Peace, peace’,
when there is no peace.
They acted shamefully, they committed abomination;
yet they were not ashamed,
they did not know how to blush.

Perhaps this is hyperbolic. "Prophet" is a loaded term. But I'm glad Stewart is doing what he's doing. I think he's fighting the good fight.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Happy Pluto Day! (in Illinois)

By an amazing coincidence, I just started reading The Pluto Files last night and learned, among other factoids (or "dwarf facts," I suppose they should be called), that the discovery of Pluto was first announced on this day, March 13, 1930.

Today I learned that it has been "RESOLVED, BY THE SENATE OF THE NINETY-SIXTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, that as Pluto passes overhead through Illinois’ night skies, that it be reestablished with full planetary status, and that March 13, 2009 be declared “Pluto Day” in the State of Illinois in honor of the date its discovery was announced in 1930." Read the whole thing here.

California got into the act back in 2006 when Pluto was first demoted to dwarf planet with California Assembly Bill HR36 relative to Pluto's Planetary Status. I'm bummed it's not on the official state legislation link. How could they not pass legislation that states,
WHEREAS, Downgrading Pluto's status will cause psychological harm to some Californians who question their place in the universe and worry about the instability of universal constants; and ...

WHEREAS, The California Legislature, in the closing days of the 2005-06 session, has been considering few matters important to the future of California, and the status of Pluto takes precedence and is worthy of this body's immediate attention; now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Assembly of the State of California, That the Assembly hereby condemns the International Astronomical Union's decision to strip Pluto of its planetary status..."
et cetera, et cetera, and so forth.

Happy Pluto Day to you. Your place in the universe is secure.

From the inbox

Got this email last night, subject "Endless Possibilities," addressed to me and Children's Education Director, and feel compelled to share.

"I'm thinking Alternative Service, shakin' up the music, getting the Episcopalians to rock out! Youth Group possibilities? Fund raiser? (Meliss, didn't I see a HS picture of you with glasses?) Do you think we can book them? Laura, connections?"



Update: I HAD planned to keep this anonymous, but since Mike Melendez planned to pin the blame on his daughter, he needs to be publicly disgraced as the propagator of this outrage.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Pastoral Quote of the Day

If you have to eat shit, might as well use a really big spoon.

Words to live by, I say.

On the liver

As you know from reading this blog, assuming you read it regularly, one of the things I love about obituaries is what I learn about how recently thinking has changed, within a person's lifetime. Today, I read the obituary of Dr. Charles Lieber who first proposed -- in the 1970's! -- that it was alcohol consumption that caused cirrhosis of the liver and not a poor diet.

No one believed it. “'His concepts put him under a lot of pressure, but he defended his positions brilliantly and gentlemanly in very heated discussions with some of the brightest scientists in the world,' Dr. Schenker said in an interview."

The thing I feel bad about are the poor baboons "who had been fed the equivalent of a fifth of liquor every day for up to four years" and whose livers, naturally, completely deteriorated. I suppose that's one way to prove the point. But a lot of humans had voluntarily given themselves cirrhosis of the liver and yet people couldn't connect the dots. "The co-discoverer of insulin, Dr. Charles H. Best, ... contended that alcohol was no more toxic than sugar water." My goodness, it takes a lot to convince us of what we don't want to believe.

Friday, March 6, 2009

T-ball

It's been a while since I pulled out an obituary, but this one caught my eye: "Man who championed T-ball dies at 93."

Jerry Sacharski, a recreation league director who pioneered T-ball as an organized youth sport in the 1950s because he couldn't bear to turn away young children who clamored to play baseball, has died. He was 93.

I love that. Rather than stick to the playbook and say, "Nope, you're too young to play," he figured out HOW. Rather like letting little kids take communion, it seems to me. Good on you, Mr. Sacharski.

The latest from Zimbabwe

Driving home, I heard in the top of the hour news report that Morgan Tsvangirai, the new prime minister of Zimbabwe, was in a car wreck that killed his wife. A truck driver hit his Land Rover, the middle one of a convoy. Are we highly suspicious? I sure am.

Look! It's the lectionary! Coming in the clouds!

I've been completely entranced by Wordle, a website that allows you to make, in their words, "beautiful word clouds."
Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.

So I entered the texts for this week's lectionary readings and here's what happened.

For Genesis:
title="Wordle: OT Lectionary"> src="http://www.wordle.net/thumb/wrdl/620258/OT_Lectionary"
alt="Wordle: OT Lectionary"
style="padding:4px;border:1px solid #ddd">


For Romans:
title="Wordle: NT Lectionary"> src="http://www.wordle.net/thumb/wrdl/620262/NT_Lectionary"
alt="Wordle: NT Lectionary"
style="padding:4px;border:1px solid #ddd">


For Mark:
title="Wordle: Gospel lectionary"> src="http://www.wordle.net/thumb/wrdl/620268/Gospel_lectionary"
alt="Wordle: Gospel lectionary"
style="padding:4px;border:1px solid #ddd">


Personally, I think these are pretty cool. But I probably ought to do more actual reading and thinking right about now if I'm going to come up with a sermon.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

You remember that thing I was saying about experts?

Jon Stewart, you are my god. Or at least one kick-ass prophet.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Experts say...

In my morning blog reading, I was tickled by this entry from Thought Experiments:
Writing about Jonah Lehrer's book on decision making in The Sunday Times, I didn't mention the findings of Philip Tetlock at Berkeley. He studied pundits and discovered they were, to a rough approximation, always wrong when making predictions. He took 284 pundits and asked them questions about the future. Their performance was worse than chance. With three possible answers, they were right less than 33 per cent of the time. A monkey chucking darts would have done better. This is consoling. More consoling still is Tetlock's further finding that the more certain a pundit was, the more likely he was to be wrong. Their problem being that they couldn't self-correct, presumably because they'd invested so much of their personality and self-esteem in a specific view. (That makes me think of so many people, almost everybody, in fact.)

I find it delightful that the pundits are wrong more often than chance! Something to bear in mind as you watch the news. Or "news."

Sunday, March 1, 2009

In today's bulletin

Bless the Lord who forgives all our sons.

Apparently either our daughters need no forgiveness or they are past saving.

Culling

I wish I could say this was a Lenten discipline, but it was more a side effect of scheduling. Every year in March the Oakland Museum Women's Board puts on a White Elephant Sale -- actually THE White Elephant Sale, "the biggest, the best and certainly the most enjoyable rummage sale in Northern California." And the way to get in early is to donate!

I thought I had gotten rid of everything I had to be got rid of last year, just before I left for Uganda. But, no! Look at this! This is the back of my car, and it's the second trip I took to donate goods to the WES. Books, clothes, kitchen items, bric-a-brac...Where does it all come from? (You may be noting the problem: I'm donating to the White Elephant Sale in order to get into the White Elephant Sale where I can acquire stuff.)

As I went through my apartment, each time I thought I was being ruthless, I realized I could be more ruthless still. I don't think I was merciless however. There was one item I looked at and asked, "Why am I holding on to this?" and the answer was, "Because I think it's beautiful and it makes me happy." That seems to me to be reason enough. But it amazed me how many things I was holding on to because I thought I should. They were hard to get rid of, but they're (mostly) gone now. I'll be curious to see if I miss them.