Saturday, October 6, 2012

14 Quick Takes (Vol 6)

What? I'm making up for lost time! I'm relatively confident these will actually be somewhat quick, as opposed to my usual Friday fare... Okay, at least some of them will be.


So today is Plaidurday, invented last year by some guy "to celebrate plaid. To bring together all the wonderful plaid-wearing people of the world." Too hilarious a holiday for me not to celebrate!

...Except I was rather surprised to discover that I own almost no plaid. I mean, I know, I wore it day in and day out for eleven of my twelve years at Catholic school (preschool required no uniform), but I like to think I've gotten over that. However, my entire stock of plaid consists of a gingham shirt, two hats, and some underwear. I might have to go shopping before next Plaidurday.

My sister's been telling me for weeks that her school is ranked by the Princeton Review (or somebody equally impressive, give me a break, I'm no guidance counselor) for being one of the Prettiest College Campuses in the USA. It's not so much that I doubted her as that I wasn't sure what to expect.

It's pretty. This particular photo (which, of course, doesn't do justice to the real view) shows part of a section of campus known as The Colonnades. Unsurprisingly, this impressive colonnade is whence these dorms get their common name.

Speaking of my sister's school, one of their eateries makes these fantastic muffins--which are really just the socially acceptable form of eating Chocolate Cake for Breakfast...

Anyway, as part of their meal plan, they get a certain number of free food items from the non-cafeteria eateries on campus, called "swipes" because the food costs one swipe of the card.

...which resulted in my sister offering all weekend to swipe me a muffin. Totally legit. Did not get old!

On second thought, that might've been a "you had to be there" moment, but at least it gave me a reason to link you to one of Bill Cosby's most memorable comedy sketches...

While I've mentally returned to my sister's campus, I can't help but recall how wonderful it was to see my family this weekend. Not only was it delightful to be in their company again all together, with no one else to distract us, something possibly more important: it felt so profoundly normal!

Probably it felt this way because the routine of a college visit became familiar to me during undergrad, when they visited close to every semester, but there's something wonderful about an adult visit with your family wherein it's just good old-fashioned family time, no distractions; wherein your adulthood is neither negated nor ignored, yet the stresses and changes of adult life are not present. It was fantastic. I miss them already. :)

But it's back to reality! My newest freelance client, in metro Atlanta, wants me to come into the office for about 30 hours each week. It's great to have the structure and the social element of an office environment (not to mention the consistent work), but wow does transitioning to a normal work schedule take a toll on you! I'd forgotten quite how tired those first few weeks are.

However, there are other fun perks to this job. I don't want to give away too much detail, but suffice it to say that I've been organizing a sort of inventory of saints for them. The inventory was put together piecemeal over several years and by various people, and as a result, it's an impossible-to-navigate mess. A simple example: St. Matteo and St. Matthew have separate categories, as do St. Cecilia and St. Cecila. Don't even get me started on the collection of Saints Catherine!

Because of this project, I've gotten to dabble in translations of names. Some are simpler: The Latin Jacobus produced both Jacob and James. Emmerich (or Emeric) = Imre* = Henry. Eduvigis = Hedwig! (Believe it or not, I backed into Hedwig via Spanish and Polish, two languages in which I have very limited competence.)

*I swear, the name Imre came up in some fiction I've consumed within the past several months. Or perhaps something that sounds very similar? My sincerest gratitude to anyone who can figure it out...

Most entertaining website that I came across in the aforementioned search to confirm saint names in various languages? This one.
Seriously tempted to buy one of these for my gambler uncle for Christmas, just because...

So, between my trip out to see my sister and my return to a commuting lifestyle, I have found a way to solve my aforementioned literary dilemma: Les Mis from! It's actually been pretty fantastic (notwithstanding nearly two hours about the Battle of Waterloo, most of which I lacked the military jargon to understand, and whose entire purpose, I think, was one five-minute scene that helped to firm up the despicable character of Old Man Thenardier). I'm about 18 hours in, and it's a 60 hour book, so I have some hope of finishing it by mid-December...

I forget this whenever I'm not reading very much: My life is always better with fiction. Movies and TV aren't the same at all. I suspect part of this comes from the fact that most of the fiction I'm reading is at least a generation or two old, so it's of some quality, having stood the test of time. But I think it's largely just that encountering the world and its truths in that particular medium takes me out of myself and causes some reflection.

Speaking of reflection, I realized quite suddenly this week (and with some surprise) that I positively disbelieve in the Hegelian dialectic. For those of you who did not take that class with me (or, perhaps, at all), it is from Hegel that we derive the notion that society is always improving, that "progress" is inherently good. Hegel posited that the new ideas popular in society form into a sort of "thesis," which is followed by a backlash, by people trying to turn back the clock--the "antithesis"--and the two slowly meld and become the "synthesis," which essentially means progress. (I'm no philosopher, but that's how I understand it, anyway.)

I looked with ambivalence on the idea when I first learned of it, but it wasn't until this past week that I realized that I completely disagree. Shaped as my worldview is by a desire for virtue and the belief that original sin has dogged humanity since the beginning of time and will until the Parousia--albeit perhaps in different forms--the idea that life in previous centuries was so bad, and things are getting better and better... it just took me by surprise how patently ridiculous is the whole idea.

After all, that's what blogs are for, right? Making the internet read whatever you feel like sharing with it?

If any of y'all are still reading, you're quite the troopers. While I'm still talking about surprising moments while reading Les Mis... *~*SPOILER ALERT!!*~*

Okay, I'm only a few books in; Jean Valjean and Cosette have just moved to Paris at present. So I've really only encountered Javert in Montreuil-sur-Mer. I've also gotten the full dose of the Thenardiers. I remembered coming into things that both are pretty terrible characters, but that was all I remembered.

Well. The Thenardiers actually didn't make me all that angry, as book characters go. But Javert! During the scene where he arrests M. Madeleine at Fantine's bedside, I actually dropped at least one F-bomb on him--out loud! I was SO furious at him!

With a bit of reflection, I've concluded two possible reasons for the intensity of my reaction: 1) The Thenardiers barely pretend to be "good people," whereas Javert thinks he's being righteous in his utter lack of mercy (or human courtesy). 2) Or perhaps the crux of the matter is that the Thenardiers treat everyone more or less equally (the difference only being the best method to bleed a man dry), whereas Javert has a very strict code wherein some people are sub-human.

The more I think about it, the more I vote for explanation number two. Bonus points for Jennifer Fulwiler's latest article, conveniently timed for my musings. I must be influenced by Hugo's views on society creating its criminals (which I want to say Dickens also spread?), because I have no sympathy for people treating them any differently. Or maybe by Catholic social teaching, which explicitly abhors anything that denigrates any person's human dignity. But let's cut off this rant before it begins...


I believe I promised last week to report on my marshmallow brownie experiment. When I put it in the oven, I was entirely certain that I had messed up by putting WAAAAAAAAAY too many marshmallows in the brownie. Instead, what I pulled out of the oven was actually boiling on the top. The marshmallows had all melted and risen to the top, and taken a lot (though not all) of the chocolate chips with them. The result was that the top layer of brownie was almost caramelized (sticky but not hard), while the bottom 2/3 was much cakier than usual. It made a good brownie (I love me some foolproof desserts!), but it wasn't at all what anyone expected.

Another update: The bunch of us who built the St Francis Scarecrow went to visit him at the Atlanta Botanical Garden last night! It was an enormous amount of fun (and they waived the $18 ticket price for all of us, whoo hoo!). St Francis was nestled down below the path, but near the front of the maze of scarecrows. (I use the word scarecrow loosely. Most of the "scarecrows" submitted bore little to no resemblance to the traditional scarecrow; they were just sort of themed statues cobbled together out of stuff...)

Note the button on his lapel that says "Ask me a question, I'm Catholic."
Don't note the three of our gang who are (presumably illegally) behind the gate...

But he looked great in the Garden, and whenever one of our gang dawdled inconspicuously near St Francis to eavesdrop, they noticed that people were stopping to take a closer look at him, which we found encouraging. One pair of ladies nodded approvingly, one saying to the other, "And on his feast day, no less!" while they clinked their classes and drank to St Francis. What a perfect Catholic moment!

Like all good things, this must come to an end, despite the fun I've had writing it. At the Botanical Garden last night, I kind of checked something off my bucket list:

Meeting a carnivorous plant! It would have been way cooler if we'd actually seen any of the pitcher plants eat anything, of course, but it was still cool (especially since the quail in the other exhibit eluded our sight, though they were quite vocal).

Anyway! That's more than enough of me for two weeks. The rest of these Quick Takes (which are still probably quicker than mine) are at Jen's home page. Until next time!

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