Friday, December 21, 2007

Ay, caramba!!

Ok, ok. More words:

So, I'm training for the Tom King Classic 1/2 Marathon on March 15th. Should be pretty cool. You start out in Titan Stadium, run a BIG loop that includes some time along the Cumberland river (= pretty and flat), and then you end up back in Titan Stadium. The finish line is the 50 yard line, and they project your image up on the Jumbotron when you cross it. Yes, that is exactly why I'm running this particular race ... how cool to see yourself fifty feet tall? Oh, and hopefully not terribly sweaty, but still smiling after 13. 1 miles.

Anyway, the "official" start date for training is Monday, December 24, but I've been doing a little running to just keep in shape until then.

So, on Thursday, December 20, the Birmingham track club held their "Running of the Lights". It had been rainy and gloomy all day, and the wind started blowing that evening, so my friend "running Lisa" and I ALMOST decided to stay home and eat cheese. Mmm, cheese ... but I digress. Instead, and in spite of the cold, we went out and had a great 3 mile run from Independent Presbyterian Church on Highland Avenue, down "the big hill" (a direction I much prefer - our usual route takes us up it), down Clairmont to Triangle Park and then up a GARGANTUAN hill to Cliff Road, then back to the 33rd and back down to the church. This was of course, and most delightfully, followed by margaritas, chips, queso and guacamole (and accidental lemonade) at Rojo. Yum. It was such a great run, and then so much fun to just hang out with everyone at Rojo. Track club people are the coolest. AND we earned cosmic karma points (I'm sure) for (almost) running in the rain (it was just misting by the time we ran) and up a huge hill.

If you're interested in joining us for the race in March, we would love the company. If you're curious what training for a 1/2 marathon entails, go here.

Y'all be good now, y'hear, and have a very Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2007

New Template...

Sometimes I can't help myself. Sometimes it means staying up until 4 in the morning moving all of my furniture around because I've gotten bored with it, and sometimes it's just clicking a little button and changing the template on my blog. I like the new. And lately I've been really into green.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The pretty people

Well, I'm pretty sure I'll never be one of the "distinguished few", but what a ride it would be ....

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Sometimes things just work out...

A good friend suggested that I read "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott. It's her reflection on writing and life, and is filled with wisdom and humor. So, after class let out on Monday, I made my way over to Books-A-Million. When I got up to the register, the clerk mentioned that my membership would run out in five days, so I renewed. And guess what? They happened to have a special running and I got a free BAM tote bag.

If you're a writer or want to be a writer, "Bird by Bird" is a good place to start. Or if you're like me and just get stuck sometimes, it's good to read Lamott, because you realize there's someone else out there who gets it -- and can tell you how to get back out of it. And if you're having a particularly lucky day, you get a free tote bag as part of the bargain.


Friday, November 02, 2007

The Top 10!

A friend sent me this list of the top 10 most inhospitable venues in the world. He's an LSU fan, and proud of the distinction; but check out #1 --- all these years I've thought Texas A&M was the only school with a "12th man". Go figure.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I love language

I really do. Everywhere you look, there's some fun little tidbit to learn. Did you know that the Germans "carry" their clothes? So do the Spanish, who "carry" or "convey" their clothing.

But Chinese is the most fun of all. Take the word "guo" as an example. It can be pronounced four different ways: with a high, steady tone; with a rising tone; with a low tone that falls and then rises; or with a falling tone. And here's what it can mean:

high, steady tone: 1) someone's surname; 2) a loud, swallowing sound; 3) a crucible; 4) the name of a mountain; 5) the name of a river; 6) cyrtophyllus [what?!?]; 7) outer city wall; 8) pot, pan; boiler.

rising tone: 1) country; state; nation; 2) cap worn by women; feminine; 3) to slap; 4) to cut off the left ear of the slain; 5) hollow; 6) name of an ancient state.

falling/rising tone: 1) fruit; result; 2) outer coffin; 3) monkey; 4) cooked rice for making cake; 5) Eumenes pomiformis [Again, what?!?]; 6) wrap around; 7) grease-pot under a cart.

falling tone: 1) (experienced action marker); 2) to cross; 3) to go over; 4) to pass (time); 5) to celebrate (a holiday); 6) to live; 7) to get along; 8) a surname; 9) excessively.

Seriously. You have to love a word that can mean either crucible, monkey, "to cut off the left ear of the slain" or "to live" -- depending of course on tone and, I would presume, context.

For more fun with Chinese go here.

Monday, October 22, 2007

This is too good....

not to share. Thanks, TEXAS!!! And here, for all of you who happen to not read her blog, is the link to how to know if an engineer is in love with you. This probably also applies to polymer scientists.

For all the saints ... and "all dishevelled wandering stars"

Go Saints!! You gotta love it when your home team wins. I know it's become less infrequent as of late, but I think there's a part of the me that will never forget the years of losing seasons, even when we had the likes of Bobby Hebert and Morten Andersen on the field. But now it's a delight watching Drew Brees and Reggie Bush out there, and I hope Sean Payton can keep making the team better and better.

But that cheer is not just for a football team. As corny as it is, it's to all of the saints, who are present to God's call within them and the needs they see around them; to all those who live out a selfless love so that we can see how it's done and perhaps, in some small way, follow in their (and in Christ's) footsteps.

Friday, October 19, 2007

It's a glorious day

The sky is an impossibly beautiful blue; it's FRIDAY!!!; 44 German students from Weimar visited my class this morning -- a great success :-) ... and I've had some REALLY tasty coffee this morning. I'm still living out of three different apartments, which is a bit odd (and confusing ... I never know where anything is! Like the movie I'm supposed to show on Monday...), but I'm fine. God is in His heaven and all is right with the world.

So, here's another poem I'd like to share --- not because of the title or the name of the main character. That's just how this poem made it's way to my attention in the first place. It's because the final line is sublime:

Who Goes with Fergus?
(by William Butler Yeats)

WHO will go drive with Fergus now,
And pierce the deep wood's woven shade,
And dance upon the level shore?
Young man, lift up your russet brow,
And lift your tender eyelids, maid,
And brood on hopes and fear no more.

And no more turn aside and brood
Upon love's bitter mystery;
For Fergus rules the brazen cars,
And rules the shadows of the wood,
And the white breast of the dim sea
And all dishevelled wandering stars.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Getting ready for winter...

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

by Robert Hayden

Yeah, it was one of those....

So, there's moving and then there's MOVING.

moving = packing all of your stuff into more boxes than you ever thought necessary, hauling beds and dressers and BEAUTIFUL solid oak 6 1/2 foot bookshelves you just had to have at some point up and down stairs and then packing them all into a truck after which you drive them halfway across town (or across the country) and then re-enact the whole scene again, only in reverse this time.

MOVING = all of the above + a fire in your kitchen (the stove exploded; we don't know why; the fire report said, "no human involvement"), which means you move it all AGAIN, into the conveniently vacant upstairs apartment while you wait for your new apartment to be cleaned and repainted. After which you will move everything back downstairs into your original "new" apartment. The second move involved cleaning everything individually to get the smoke and soot off. (Dad thought referring to my "new" apartment as the smutty apartment would be funny, and would help differentiate it from the other new temporary apartment.)

For pictures and perhaps a video (still having technical difficulties?) you can check out my brother's blog. I had neither the energy nor the heart to document it all.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Simple truth...

It's not often that I hear something on the radio that makes me want to jump out of bed and blog right away, but today is an exception. Here's what I heard on StoryCorps this morning:

"Be such a man and live such a life that if everybody lived a life like yours, this would be God's paradise."
--- Ed Trinka

Amen and amen.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

And some pictures....

Outside the building. There are 16 units here. Mine is the one on the ground floor, closest to the camera.

The oh, so cute little kitchen. There's space for the washer next to the stove/oven and the dryer will fit the other side of the refrigerator. And can you see the dishwasher?? How luxurious...

The bedroom. You can see the balcony through the window.

The living room.

View from the living room, through the dining room, and into the kitchen. The door to the bedroom is to the left just as you leave the dining room, and the door to the bathroom is exactly opposite. Oh, and this apartment has Central heat/air. Woo hoo!!!


After weeks of combing through the classifieds and apartment listings of all types, I have finally found a new place. It's much smaller than my current apartment, but really cute with hardwood floors, a balcony, and lots of natural light. It's in a hip and fun part of town, too, so I'm really excited.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Ha Ha Ha Ha!!!

This is GREAT.


hoo, boy. This is just getting more and more fun.

ok, I get it!!

It's been a weekend of quiet messages.

On Saturday, I saw a short film about "Grandpa Bill". He's 76 years old and lives in Leeds, Alabama. Years ago, when his wife died, he moved in with his sister. Knowing he needed to get more exercise, and find a way to fill his time, he decided to start going out to clubs in Birmingham. So, Grandpa Bill has become fixture in the jumpingest joints in town, where he parties until the sun comes up. Then he goes home, eats some popcorn (because he loves popcorn), goes to bed, and then gets up and works in the yard at his sister's place. He wears a hearing aid, and says that he enjoys the clubs, because he can hear the beat and dance. When asked, how he decided to start going out to the clubs, and if it made him nervous at first, he replied, "you don't know what you can do until you try it. Just get out there and start moving to the beat."

At church on Sunday morning, the sermon was about prayer. After reading Acts 1:12-14, the pastor pointed out that the disciples (and Mary and all of the women!!) went to the upper room to pray and wait for God's gift of His Spirit. They didn't have any idea what shape it would take, they were simply faithful in following Christ's command to go back to Jerusalem and pray. So they prayed without ceasing, every day, until that gift came. They were faithful in small things, without knowing what the result would be. They were faithful every single day.

On Monday, I picked up Gerald Sittser's Book, "The Will of God as a Way of Life". It's been on my shelf for years. I can't even tell you how many times I've moved it. I've flipped through the pages, and have read parts of it over the years, but hadn't looked at it in ages. So, while I was waiting for a friend to show up, I just flipped through, and this is what jumped out at me: "Experience teaches us, prepares us, and seasons us for what lies ahead. If we are attentive to God in this present moment - which ... is the primary will of God for our lives - we will begin the glorious process of that discovery." [Sittser is talking about discovering our calling.]

And then today, I came across this.

So, ok, I get it. The message is to take that small step, faithfully, every single day; to be attentive to God in this and every present moment; and to pray. Every day. Without ceasing. Because otherwise it is all too overwhelming and there is too much. How are we supposed to make a difference in this world, where the need is so great?

The most powerful message is to be attentive to God in this present moment, because if we listen to His voice today, and step into the circle of light just two feet away (as Ann Lamott's pastor once told her), we don't know where it can take us. But won't it be a great journey!

As Ann would say, I wish you all "Traveling Mercies" and God's blessings for us all.

Still have miles to go before I sleep...

Monday, October 01, 2007

Coming to a theater near you ...

The 9th Annual Sidewalk Film Festival was this past weekend. Here are a few you should check out, if you get the chance:

1) For the Bible Tells Me So -- a documentary exploring the biblical view of homosexuality and its impact on gay and lesbian teens and their families. It contrasts literalist and contextualized readings of the main scriptures used to decry homosexuality, and tells the stories of Christian families with gay or lesbian children.

2) Low and Behold -- Turner Stull, a young man trying to figure out what to do with his life, travels to New Orleans to work as a claims adjustor in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The movie does an excellent job of demonstrating how much was lost; much of the filming was done in the lower 9th Ward. Incredible performances by Barlow Jacobs and Eddie Rouse, Jr.

3) Last Stop for Paul -- an incredible travel movie about Charlie and his friend Cliff, who decide to travel around the world in 2 weeks, in order to honor Cliff's friend Paul. It made me want to hop on the next plane to Indonesia ...

4) American Fork -- an amazing movie about Tracy Orbison and his dreams for a better life. The star, Hubbel Palmer, also wrote the screenplay. It is a stunning depiction of life in small-town America, and the yearning for something bigger and greater that tugs at each of us.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Bard by way of Eliza....

IMG_1681, originally uploaded by ADionne27.

Oh, what fools these mortals be,
So tragic and so funny.
Ships of bones that sail the sea
For lands of milk and honey.
The promise of perfection sighs
Into each mortal ear;
Never to be realized
That's how it is down here.

Wayward world I weep for thee
Spinning 'round the sun;
Wellspring of diversity,
but all roads lead to one.
What man has loosed upon the sea
Cannot be undone;
Oh, what fools we mortals be
Each and every one.

-- Eliza Gilkyson, "Land of Milk and Honey"

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I believe...

that our country is only as strong and as healthy as the weakest and sickest of its members. Until we help them, we cannot help ourselves. For this reason, I think we need to invest in our future by investing in them, and bringing the poor out of poverty, providing a good education to every single child in this country, and by setting up a system of universal healthcare that won't exclude those who need it most. Rather than impoverishing our country, I think that by doing this, we will together be able to rise to new heights. But if we neglect the poor and downtrodden, more and more people will be sucked into that black hole, until, eventually, we, too, suffer the same fate.

Either we all march up together, or nobody will end up marching.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Other auspicious events....

The Cute One was born on this day, exactly 31 years ago. She made a rather dramatic entrance, refusing to wait even one more day, despite the German doctor's best attempts at making her stay put until she was "done". She's been delighting us all with her quick wit and good humour ever since. Not one to sit still terribly long (unless there's a REALLY good episode of CSI or Dr. Who on TV), she's intrepidly roaming somewhere in Vietnam right now (with the-patient-one-who-might-be-a-saint-or-something-very-close-to-it, aka The Engineer).

Have a great Birthday and try to stay out of trouble!! You are loved and missed.

In case you can't get the music to work!!

Rebirth of our nation...

Thanks to Dad for sending an excellent article today. Tom Engelhardt interviewed James Carroll about what happens when "American Exceptionalism meets Team Jesus". It is a lucid description of what's gone wrong in the last few years, but not without a few hopeful thoughts for the years to come.


All I could see from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood;
I turned and looked another way,
And saw three islands in a bay.
So with my eyes I traced the line
Of the horizon, thin and fine,
Straight around till I was come
Back to where I'd started from;
And all I saw from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood.
Over these things I could not see;
These were the things that bounded me;
And I could touch them with my hand,
Almost, I thought, from where I stand.

And all at once things seemed so small
My breath came short, and scarce at all.
But, sure, the sky is big, I said;
Miles and miles above my head;
So here upon my back I'll lie
And look my fill into the sky.
And so I looked, and, after all,
The sky was not so very tall.
The sky, I said, must somewhere stop,
And -- sure enough! -- I see the top!
The sky, I thought, is not so grand;
I 'most could touch it with my hand!
And reaching up my hand to try,
I screamed to feel it touch the sky.

I screamed, and -- lo! -- Infinity
Came down and settled over me;
Forced back my scream into my chest,
Bent back my arm upon my breast,
And, pressing of the Undefined
The definition on my mind,
Held up before my eyes a glass
Through which my shrinking sight did pass
Until it seemed I must behold
Immensity made manifold;
Whispered to me a word whose sound
Deafened the air for worlds around,
And brought unmuffled to my ears
The gossiping of friendly spheres,
The creaking of the tented sky,
The ticking of Eternity.
I saw and heard, and knew at last
The How and Why of all things, past,
And present, and forevermore.

The Universe, cleft to the core,
Lay open to my probing sense
That, sick'ning, I would fain pluck thence
But could not, -- nay! But needs must suck
At the great wound, and could not pluck
My lips away till I had drawn
All venom out. -- Ah, fearful pawn!
For my omniscience paid I toll
In infinite remorse of soul.
All sin was of my sinning, all
Atoning mine, and mine the gall
Of all regret. Mine was the weight
Of every brooded wrong, the hate
That stood behind each envious thrust,
Mine every greed, mine every lust.
And all the while for every grief,
Each suffering, I craved relief
With individual desire, --
Craved all in vain! And felt fierce fire
About a thousand people crawl;
Perished with each, -- then mourned for all!

A man was starving in Capri;
He moved his eyes and looked at me;
I felt his gaze, I heard his moan,
And knew his hunger as my own.
I saw at sea a great fog bank
Between two ships that struck and sank;
A thousand screams the heavens smote;
And every scream tore through my throat.
No hurt I did not feel, no death
That was not mine; mine each last breath
That, crying, met an answering cry
From the compassion that was I.
All suffering mine, and mine its rod;
Mine, pity like the pity of God.

Ah, awful weight! Infinity
Pressed down upon the finite Me!
My anguished spirit, like a bird,
Beating against my lips I heard;
Yet lay the weight so close about
There was no room for it without.
And so beneath the weight lay I
And suffered death, but could not die.

Long had I lain thus, craving death,
When quietly the earth beneath
Gave way, and inch by inch, so great
At last had grown the crushing weight,
Into the earth I sank till I
Full six feet under ground did lie,
And sank no more, -- there is no weight
Can follow here, however great.
From off my breast I felt it roll,
And as it went my tortured soul
Burst forth and fled in such a gust
That all about me swirled the dust.

Deep in the earth I rested now;
Cool is its hand upon the brow
And soft its breast beneath the head
Of one who is so gladly dead.
And all at once, and over all
The pitying rain began to fall;
I lay and heard each pattering hoof
Upon my lowly, thatched roof,
And seemed to love the sound far more
Than ever I had done before.
For rain it hath a friendly sound
To one who's six feet underground;
And scarce the friendly voice or face:
A grave is such a quiet place.

The rain, I said, is kind to come
And speak to me in my new home.
I would I were alive again
To kiss the fingers of the rain,
To drink into my eyes the shine
Of every slanting silver line,
To catch the freshened, fragrant breeze
From drenched and dripping apple-trees.
For soon the shower will be done,
And then the broad face of the sun
Will laugh above the rain-soaked earth
Until the world with answering mirth
Shakes joyously, and each round drop
Rolls, twinkling, from its grass-blade top.
How can I bear it; buried here,
While overhead the sky grows clear
And blue again after the storm?
O, multi-colored, multiform,
Beloved beauty over me,
That I shall never, never see
Again! Spring-silver, autumn-gold,
That I shall never more behold!
Sleeping your myriad magics through,
Close-sepulchred away from you!
O God, I cried, give me new birth,
And put me back upon the earth!
Upset each cloud's gigantic gourd
And let the heavy rain, down-poured
In one big torrent, set me free,
Washing my grave away from me!

I ceased; and through the breathless hush
That answered me, the far-off rush
Of herald wings came whispering
Like music down the vibrant string
Of my ascending prayer, and -- crash!
Before the wild wind's whistling lash
The startled storm-clouds reared on high
And plunged in terror down the sky,
And the big rain in one black wave
Fell from the sky and struck my grave.
I know not how such things can be;
I only know there came to me
A fragrance such as never clings
To aught save happy living things;
A sound as of some joyous elf
Singing sweet songs to please himself,
And, through and over everything,
A sense of glad awakening.
The grass, a-tiptoe at my ear,
Whispering to me I could hear;
I felt the rain's cool finger-tips
Brushed tenderly across my lips,
Laid gently on my sealed sight,
And all at once the heavy night
Fell from my eyes and I could see, --
A drenched and dripping apple-tree,
A last long line of silver rain,
A sky grown clear and blue again.
And as I looked a quickening gust
Of wind blew up to me and thrust
Into my face a miracle
Of orchard-breath, and with the smell, --
I know not how such things can be! --
I breathed my soul back into me.

Ah! Up then from the ground sprang I
And hailed the earth with such a cry
As is not heard save from a man
Who has been dead, and lives again.
About the trees my arms I wound;
Like one gone mad I hugged the ground;
I raised my quivering arms on high;
I laughed and laughed into the sky,
Till at my throat a strangling sob
Caught fiercely, and a great heart-throb
Sent instant tears into my eyes;
O God, I cried, no dark disguise
Can e'er hereafter hide from me
Thy radiant identity!
Thou canst not move across the grass
But my quick eyes will see Thee pass,
Nor speak, however silently,
But my hushed voice will answer Thee.
I know the path that tells Thy way
Through the cool eve of every day;
God, I can push the grass apart
And lay my finger on Thy heart!

The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky, --
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away on either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.
But East and West will pinch the heart
That can not keep them pushed apart;
And he whose soul is flat -- the sky
Will cave in on him by and by.

--- Edna St. Vincent Millay

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Recipe of the day

So, I subscribe to the ediets newsletter, though I wouldn't dare proclaim myself to be on a diet ... mainly because I indulge in Gelato and Bluebell on the side. But every once in a while they have yummy, easy recipes and I wanted to share. Also, a number of you have been wondering whether I've disappeared altogether, so I thought I should post SOMETHING. So, here's today's recipe:

Farfalle with Asparagus and Smoked Salmon
Submitted by Myra
Pistachios, basil and smoked salmon. Three flavor delights in this wonderfully appealing pasta salad. Lemon juice and a splash of olive oil finish it off.
Serves 4 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Total time: 150 minutes
1 (8 ounce) package farfalle pasta

0.5 cup fresh steamed asparagus tips

1 ounce smoked salmon, chopped1 lemon, juiced

1 tablespoon chopped pistachio nuts

1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oilsalt and pepper to taste

1.In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta until al dente, rinse under cold water and drain.
2. Steam the asparagus over boiling water and cook until tender but still firm. Drain, cool and chop.
3. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, asparagus, smoked salmon, lemon juice, pistachios, basil, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Mix well and refrigerate for 2 hours. Remove from refrigerator and serve at room temperature.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Fun quote of the day

From the free Calendar I received at one of the first faculty meetings: "A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort."

-- Herm Albright

So, keep smilin', y'all!!

Ok, ok

I've been bad about blogging. And I don't have any good excuse, really. But just so you don't go entirely stir-crazy waiting for me to put up more pictures, you can check out pics from my trip to Asia at Wes and Annette's travel blog.

They didn't choose the most flattering pictures of me, but it's a fun summary of our time together. And though I did pass on the fried scorpions at the Night Food Street Market, they were pretty cool --- and HUGE.

So, enjoy. And I promise I'll have things back up and running here soon!!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Hello from Hong Kong!!

Well, after a delightful stay in the Yotel during my 9 hour layover in London (I popped in for four hours -- it was worth every penny of the 25 Pounds!), and a 12 hour flight over eastern Europe and Asia, I arrived in Hong Kong tired, but ready to do some sightseeing. Annette picked me up at Hong Kong Central Station, and we first came back to Annette and Wes's very cute apartment in Sheung Wan. Then she and I headed out on a walking tour of the city, starting with the Temple of Literature and War (Temple to Literature and War?) - the Man Mo Temple. We were intrepid sightsee-ers in spite of the rain, and ended our day with a great view of the daily musical lightshow from the Avenue of Stars. Ours was enhanced by a pyrotechnic show, which made it extra fabulous. They will apparently be doing that on Saturdays in the month of August.

View from the Airport Express on my way into town.

My little welcome package at my favorite Hong Kong B&B: Chez Wes & Annette

Annette admiring the local decorative arts in Man Mo Temple.

A street market in Central.

The View of Central from the Avenue of Stars. The buildings in the background light up in time to a peppy musical show. The added pyrotechnics were a delight for young and old (everyone oohed and aahed).

Thursday, August 09, 2007


It's been a really nice last day in Berlin. A bit hot at the outset, but gorgeous weather tonight. It makes me sad to leave! I'm never quite ready to go, even though I'm ready to get on with the next adventure.

Of course, I also wish I could just snap my fingers and appear at the next place, rather than going through the whole airport/security/flight/baggage claim hooha.

Among other things, today I:
* found an excellent pair of 7.99 shades.
* went to the DDR museum for the first time
* saw the Nikolai Kirche for the 10th or 11th time --- but I never get tired of the Nikolai Kirche
* saw the last snippets of a free live performance of "Dinner for One" (A German Tradition!!) at a lovely outside theater
* had authentic Bavarian food (and Apfelstrudel!!)
* had authentic Turkish food (and Mint tea!!)
* mailed almost 10 kg of books back home (fingers crossed that everything makes it!)
* caught a bit of a reggae concert
* heard live modern jazz
* saw fire dancers
* saw fire dancers drop their twirly bits and almost set a gaggle of tourists on fire
* paid for a Benedictine monk to use the loo at the main train station (80 cents)
* found out that the incredibly overpriced internet stations at the main train station won't let me look at my blog because it contains "inappropriate content" -- that was the result for every single "blogspot" site I tried. Are we all really so bad?
* hung out in Dussmann -- the happy book place :-)

It is now 12:57 a.m. and I haven't started packing yet (surely no one is surprised?) My travel time will be about 27 hours door-to-door tomorrow, give or take a few minutes. Can't wait to see the Middle Kingdom :-) --- and to travel around without charges for a few days. The Engineer and the Cute One have cleared out a closet for me to sleep in, and have all sorts of adventures planned (right?)

"The same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?" -- "The same procedure as every year, James"
And as to my packing at the last possible minute? Well, that's the same procedure as every year as well.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

It's almost the end...

... of quite a summer. We returned from Poland today and are back in Berlin, staying in Prenzlauer Berg at a pretty cool, inexpensive hotel/hostel: Hotel for You(th) [a tiny "th" is at the end of the name -- tricky!]

I'm sorry I haven't had much time to blog or share with you about some of the interesting, wonderful, horrible, "cultural" things we've experienced.

Poland was quite a mix of highs and lows, a combination of a little too much togetherness, the fact that we're at the end of 10 weeks together, and the experience of travelling in a country that is in the process of being renewed and refurbished after years of letting buildings and streets (and streetcars) go without much care.

We rented a car and drove, which was pretty wild. The car had sensors at the front back and sides to let you know if you were too close to something, and at one point all of the sensors were screaming. We drove down windy, two-lane roads, staying with the traffic-flow (btw. 100-140 km/hr), but then coming to almost a dead stand-still behind trucks or farm equipment. Polish people think the pretty stripes on the road are decorative, more than anything, and occasionally I would look up in the rear-view mirror to see them lined up three across (two lanes, remember!), and then look through the windshield to see the same thing. More than once I watched a car whiz in front of a line of cars at the last possible second, escaping death (and a huge mess!), by mere seconds and millimeters. Motorcycles thought any space big enough for them to squeeze into was fair game, and the little old men on bicycles on the side of the road would let nothing bother them --- they were going to go at their own pace and take up as much of the road as they needed, no matter how many horns were honking.

Szczecin (German: Stettin), our first stop, was an old harbor town and former member of the Hanseatic league. It was also the seat of the Pomeranian dukes, which made it of personal interest to me. The last Pomeranian duke employed Christian Schwarz, Sibylle Schwarz's father. He (the duke) died in 1637, leaving Pomerania up for grabs. Part of it went to the Swedes, part to Prussia, and part to Poland. After WWII it ended up half in Germany and half in Poland, but entirely under the purview of the Soviet Union. Stettin showed signs of development, and they have begun to make the downtown area tourist-worthy, but it still bore the marks of years of neglect. As we drove through Poland, we went to cities that were more and more developed/tourist-ready.

Our second stop was Wroclaw (German: Breslau). We stayed in the Novotel at the outskirts of town (it had a swimming pool!! And it was about 65 degrees while we were there -- but that didn't stop people from sunbathing.) We visited an amazing Jewish Cemetary, which is one of very few to escape destruction by the Nazis. And we also visited the baroque University and several churches ... there were churches everywhere you looked!! It was great to step inside the Archcathedral (there was another Cathedral in town) and just rest and reflect for a while.

Our final stop was Cracow, spiritual heart of Poland -- we visited Wawel castle, the main town square (Rynek Glowny) and the Jewish quarter (Kazimierz). We also took a day trip to the Salt Mines, and another out to Auschwitz. We also spent time on Sunday at a prayer service in the Church of St. Mary on the main square. It is the most beautiful church I've ever been inside; and I've been in lots and lots of churches.

On our way back to Berlin, we spent a day and a half in Dresden. We went to the zoo and to see the "transparent" Phaeton manufacturing plant. Pretty incredible --- car manufacturing heaven. I really don't see how they can make any profit, even though the Phaeton is not cheap. To give you an idea: you can get a package deal of a Phaeton (made-to-order) and matching speedboat and trailer for 180,000 Euros. By made-to-order, I mean: they will make the interior out of any color/type of leather you would like. And the wood trim can be made out of the tree of your choice. Just pick a tree, and they will come out and cut it down and then they will work the wood into the car. The speedboat can have the same wood and interiors, and a matching color of paint. Oh, and as to the paint, they will match any color you would like ... just bring in a sample of what you want. And the workers? Very happy. 95% of the work is done by hand, not machine, but in such a way so that the workers don't have to bend over; everything is ergonomic. They have fancy-schmancy hydrolic lifts to move the chassis into the height and position desired by each worker for the job they are doing. The building itself is out of glass, letting in natural light, and the floor of the workplace is wood -- easier on the back. I could go on and on, but you'll be happier reading about it for yourself here and here. If I ever had the kind of money that enabled me to purchase a car in this price category, this is probably the one I would get. Their propaganda convinced me. It's all about the quality -- and the fact that they let you install your own steering wheel, if you want.

Saturday, August 04, 2007


So, I got an email today from my friend Cindy. She's been watching my apartment for me while I'm in Europe.

She checked my apartment this morning, and noticed that there were several empty apartments, that a lot of people seemed to be moving out, and that the bushes (beautiful bushes!) in front of the complex had all been cut down. Then she noticed a letter on my door, which relayed the following information:

It says that the Broadway apts were sold to a condo developer and the new owner will not be renewing any leases. It continues, "Please proceed with plans to find a new place to live. The new owner will allow you to move any time with a 30 day written notice. Return your keys to Metcalf's office. Please provide our forwarding address so we can refund your deposit.

If you need a rental reference, please call 879-2177 and press zero for the operator. We apologize for any inconvenience. Metcalf was not involved in the recent sale. The Oakley Group was the selling agent."

HA! Life is fun. Prayers are appreciated. Anyone who wants to come to Birmingham on vacation and help me move will also be appreciated :-). I'll provide pizza and beer!!

This is really just to let you know what's going on. Proof that God has a huge sense of humor. Lots of love to all of you :-).