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Trying the password method. The password is that state that I’m from, with proper capitalization.

(and by “from” I mean “where I call home when I don’t mean Indiana” <=)

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The News

The news hereabouts is rather calm these days, which suits me just fine.
I’ve been celebrating “I don’t have to take quals!!” week. (

There was this:

Chicken seaweed spicy soup with “rice blood pudding”? Which cooked all day long… With big tea-bag packets of spices labeled “spices for spiced food.”
It was quite good. In a very salty, seaweed-y kind of way.

*Dorothy you may not like this part*
(When my vegetarian housemate offered me a taste of “rice blood pudding,” I kind of assumed it was “blood” metaphorically, rather than literally. But no, turns out it’s blood. Of several kinds.)

I am somewhat annoyed with Chesterton, for being unable to write a mystery story without magic, black magic, sun worship, or divine retribution wandering its way in. Not, you understand, ever as the actual solution to the mystery. Just wandering around in the atmosphere and people’s heads, and giving Mr. G.K.C. the opportunity to once more demonstrate the superiority of nice, rational Catholicism.

Is he always this big of a fan of *the rational*? I guess if I want him to give an account of himself I should read his books in which he is not pretending to write fiction. (ok, yeah, sorry G.K., that’s probably not fair…)

In “Favorite Quotes of the Summer” we have a tie.

ONE. “I thought we had 3 cucumbers, but as G. pointed out, one was a zucchini, because it had a little hat. This left me in a state of awe and perplexity. So we made some zucchini bread in a skillet too. Now it all makes sense.”

If only all the problems of the world could be made to make sense by means of zucchini bread in a skillet!

TWO. “Really. I looked at it in the Russian. It’s ‘Luzin’, not ‘Lushin’…”

I didn’t even know Lusin was Russian. I certainly couldn’t look at a name in Russian and tell you with any certainty how it should be pronounced!




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The 3rd of July

I tell you Indiana is magical in the summer. My yard is forest, my garden the best garden in the whole world. My reading/study courses are more like math at St John’s than I ever thought I’d find again.

In the morning I sit by my garden and take the sun, and mid-afternoon I take a break to go watch the kids run around squealing in the fountain. I’ve finished a book that’s neither a mystery novel nor aimed at ages 8-12. The ice cream’s still great. Sometimes dinner is followed by a family trio. I made cucumber avocado soup in a blender and people keep smiling at me as we pass on the sidewalk.
I have a godson.

On the 4th of July, somehow the magic gets even stronger – gathered all together in one place.

July4th band and chorus


I joke that I’ve been trying to get into this chorus for 3 years. It’s kind of true.

You’ve got your Swing Band, your Citizen’s Band, a Community Chorus, the high school show choir, a fair swath of the population of two Lafayette’s, and a big hefty dose of magic. A Community extravaganza.

Well, I’m here!

DSC00685 - Version 2


And it’s even more fun than I thought it would be. The best seat in the house is the middle of the chorus, behind the band. That band is good! And them percussionists be crazy. You’ve got your drum loving enthusiasts, a wonderful lady dancing away with a never-you-mind behind the marimba, and tubular bell setups involving ritual menacing across the steps between the two players and sounding like the world is coming down in a great glory about the chorus’s ears.

Meanwhile a fair crowd of senior citizens has gathered to watch the rehearsal, setting up their chairs from the outside in. Blue grey clouds are rolling overheard, with the sun streaking through underneath, lighting up the courthouse a blaze of stately yellow gold.

I didn’t think to bring a camera today. So all I’ve got is the dismantling in a lousy cellphone picture – under the gorgeous blue that followed upon the clouds and the gold. But it was glorious.



Tomorrow’s the real deal. See you there – across the brass!


In related news, sometimes you find yourself singing “God Bless America” and an Armed Forces medley – with a math professor emeritus, the Democratic state representative from Lafayette, and assorted other nice folks – for a lunch meeting of the local Kiwanis Club. Don’t you?

This was not something I anticipated my life involving. 

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Sundry European tidbits

“How’s the pigeon?”
Waitress/Chef/Owner: “The pigeon? Delicious! Excellent!! If you are going to have pigeon you have to have it here.”

Ok then. I’ll try it. (!)
“Do you want it pink?”
If that’s the question you’re asking me then clearly the answer is, “Yes!”

(not my photo - I was busy eating)

(not my photo – I was otherwise engaged at the time)

It was, in fact, delicious.

This restaurant also had 1989 Sauterne by the glass. Which might have something to do with why I was in such a good mood by the pigeon stage. <=


THESE are “mini financiers”.


(Also not my photo. I considered lining up a few and taking a photo, but then I just ate them instead.)
They are little dense almond cake things, almost on the way to macaroons, and they are amazing. Googling for a photo of them, there appears to be some consensus online that, in fact, Eric Kaiser’s mini financiers are one of the best things going in the world in BAKED GOODS.

They were also the occasion of my having to go back to the bakery to sort out a shopping gaff all in french, of which I was rather proud. And the woman was really nice and gave me extra mini financiers!! 

Do other people go to France for reasons other than food? Oh well. Give me a little walk to the bakery and I am a very happy person!


I now have too many ideas that begin with, “If I had a heck of a lot of money….”
(Oh dear!)

For example: sports cars. I am beginning to understand why people get excited about fancy cars. You are shocked, I know.
On some windy little road in Burgogne, we were passed by a parade of about 8 luxury convertibles. Zipping along with hair blowing in the wind – out for a Monday afternoon tour. Gee golly, I said, that looks like fun. All other things being equal and having a great deal of money to spend on a highly impractical vehicle. (!)

Also. This matter of traveling. I think sometimes we think of traveling as the greatest of luxuries – to go see wonders and experience great things…. But it occurs to me that perhaps we are wrong. Because what if you could have all of that, AND the comforts of home? No suitcases, unfamiliar beds, or logistical complexity. Even better, right?? The real luxury would to be have your home be about as awesome as any place you could travel to.

This is not in fact a house, it's a hotel, and we certainly did not stay there. But it sure made me think about this question

This is not in fact a house, it’s a hotel. (And we certainly did not stay there!) But it sure made me think about this.

I think the French are really good at this principle. You should see these houses on our little road in the Dordogne. Old stone farmhouse, beautifully renovated and comfy. Huge lawn with incredible rose garden, sheltered and private back patio. Collection of empty wine bottles accumulating at the side of the house by the car. Take a little walk down the road into the village to the bakery or the butchery.
Our neighbors were making fresh homemade pommes frites for a Tuesday evening dinner.

And think of all these “chateaus,” with their incredible extensive gardens!

(**Shoddy, vaguely philosophical ramble about luxury and the reputation thereof, removed in honor of the good name of vaguely philosophical rambles.** Upshot: Let’s grow more roses. <=)

DSC00565 - Version 2


Also, if I had a heck of a lot of money, I would rent Versailles for an afternoon, so we could all go on a private tour and not get elbowed by french teenagers or grouchy tourists. AND I would sit on the grass. (!!)

Versailles from the left

It’s possible that all this amounts to is that what I want out of life (aside from a bakery), is a garden, a bicycle, and a hill. <=

This kind of turned out to be sundry French reflections. Germany forthcoming… but I think I’ll bump it to another post for reasons of length. ,<=

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“A Real Mathematician”

ta da (For mysterious reasons, I am posting this about 2 months after it was written… But the fundamental sentiment hasn’t changed. <=)

I have passed my last qualifying exam. I might be a real mathematician!!

What is that: a real, live mathematician?
Well, for me it looks kind of like this:

I arose to homework hints helpfully hopping in my facebook inbox. Finish one homework, still can’t figure out how to choose ɸ so that J corresponds to multiplication by i… whatever.

So I go to “Several Complex Variables” and make the following observations:

1) I have exactly 2 staples left in my stapler. Let’s hope they both work!

2) Our professor is still wearing “dress” clothes in the second week of classes. This is an unprecedented phenomenon in my grad school experience. I feel there could be a whole study in professorial attire and it’s cultural roots and sundry implications. (But I’m not going to write it because apparently you actually have to cite sources according to some stringent format and things in the real world?)

3) I’m probably a fool to be taking this class. Everyone else in the room is probably, say, studying something related to complex variables… But it’s fun! I attempt to read whether or not my professor has come to the same conclusion in his pattern of surveying the room while lecturing. This is undoubtedly more foolish than the first foolishness, so I might as well stay in it??

Ten minutes between classes. To run for coffee or not to run for coffee? Apparently not; doesn’t actually fit in ten minutes. mope.

In my second class I am bored; that’s new. Kind of makes one question the universe (or at  least the scheduling of this semester’s classes??)

Then I ate lunch, checked facebook, sang Don Giovanni (what else do you do with an empty house!?), and wondered why the math department seemed deserted at 2pm.

In the afternoon I read about winding numbers and homotopies and what happens when you put the two together. Then I went to class and we talked about winding numbers and homotopies and how it all comes out the same. Conclusion: I don’t care that much. Is this a problem? Have I reached the stage where I don’t have to take classes I don’t want to take? Or am I wrong, and there is only the transition to taking the classes one’s advisor wants one to take? If I don’t have an advisor yet, am I off the hook??

Sometimes, when one is vaguely brain dead and it’s cold outside, one takes to wandering the halls of the math building. Then one might observe that a professor has a flyer for “the best Chinese Opera Theater in Singapore” on his door. You know, math conference, math conference, Purdue online courses program… and Chinese Opera Theater. It does a good job of talking it up. I might consider going to try it out… except that it’s in SINGAPORE! !?

Another professor has a flyer about “How to go to Confession.” Now, I’m a fan of going to confession! But somehow I just don’t think that’s the kind of thing you learn about from your math professor’s office door. On the other hand, what do I know; maybe it is??

The math department is much less deserted at 5pm. Why should that be!?

I have started a jigsaw puzzle. It is ALL TREES. I think it may take me all semester, which is a comforting prospect. I’m working on tree trunks. Then I lay on the couch under a blanket for a while, because it’s cold and it’s Friday.

In the evening, I went to a concert featuring a “local artist,” at a coffee shop with a mission statement and slightly perplexing art, and attended by a significant assortment of retro sweaters. I sat right next to the drum set and watched the exchange of banjos and guitars and the fog swarm up the window wall; and considered the possibility that the world might not be wholly a bad place. Also came to the conclusion that the artist, a friend, is a person I instinctively trust, somehow. If she’s for it, I’m for it. If she’s gonna sing about it, it must be worth singing about.

I thought it was wonderful. And I don’t think that’s entirely because of my drum beat, post quals, fog watching zen thing.

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Warm fuzzies for the liturgically inclined

Traditional-leaning Catholic blogs give me warm fuzzy feelings.

Cute kitten pictures I can generally take or leave, but give me an argument in favor of the solemnity of the liturgy or teens video blogging about their faith, and Oh, how the cockles of my heart expand! Give me polls about reinstating meatless Fridays all year round, returning to a longer fast before communion, or (!) abolishing the whole “shake hands in the middle of mass” thing… Teens complaining about sloppiness in communion servers, cancelled flights to discernment retreats, or the impossibility of arguing with protestants who don’t know what they’re talking about. Be still, my beating heart.
(Incidentally, on that last one, see Fr Stephen’s recent post on the Theotokos and the difference between prayer and worship: )

Detroit catholic church

cute kitten


Is it something about not being quite so alone in the world? There are other people out there who care about what I care about, enough to write about it in frivolous ways? More than the whole 200 hundred or so Orthodox people in this swath of Indiana between “practically Chicago” and Indianapolis, or the yet smaller subset of those who want to have a casual conversation about theology and liturgical practice of a sunny afternoon.

And actually, it’s kind of hard to have an argument about Orthodox liturgical practice because, ah, there’s the way we been doing it and the way we been doing it and that’s about it. Or, maybe people argue about it somewhere, but it’s not really productive. I figure: it’s great the way it is, modulo parish oddities, so why quibble? If your parish oddities get you down, either step up and do something about it or get over it. (Um, in my opinion….) Either that, or if I turn out to disagree with you it’s going to be much more painful, because it hits too close to home.

(On the other hand, if you’re pretty sure that of all the groups of people in all the world, traditionalist Catholics are those with whom you are least likely to get along, (and you’re wondering if we can still be friends ,<=), try not to be too alarmed. I can understand how that would be.)

{SIDE NOTE!! This is how it’s DONE, folks!

Start there, then you can move on to the previous iterations of “About”, and then to “This is my last post on the atheist channel”, and then if you’re still going (and I was), to “The gift my weirdo debate friends gave me” and “Why I am Catholic”.

(Ok, ok, so this uber-metaphysical really honest debate method is ONE of the ways it’s done. Or at least, if you’re going to be rational about it, this is the way it’s done. And by “it” I don’t think I mean “conversion”, or something. I mean LIFE. And “intellectual honesty” – whatever that is, but both DS and CS seem to think it’s really important.
Or maybe I just mean, “if you’ve ever wondered why it is that a steady stream of St John’s College students become Orthodox, this is how it happens” …) }

If you were kinda thinking that this blog might have something to do with math… uh, yeah, sorry about that. I’ll probably work back ’round to it? And for the record, the word “math” appears at least twice in the opening paragraphs of that last blog I linked to. Right after “Orthodox” – a combination to which I am peculiarly susceptible.

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Maybe it’s Called Integrity?

I haven’t written for awhile, because composition has exceeded my capabilities. This is something I jotted down months ago but have had cause to come back and think about recently.

I love people who live their own lives; wildly, fully, almost painfully. Because they cannot bear to do anything else – they must see this through. It’s a kind of integrity, a seriousness. A complete openness to being that person and where that might lead. And joined to that, a vulnerability to stand up and be that person in public. 

I’ve been thinking about this sort of life lately as a commitment, an overwhelming, deeply held, extremely personal commitment. Not a deliberate choice to commit to blad-y-blah, but a million daily, tiny choices to be true to that wild inner call. Or, I suppose, to a compelling external necessity.

I’m drawn to it in all sorts of people. I wrote the above in response to a poet, who seemed to have made some great internal wrestle and come out, I almost want to say, in complete submission to *being-a-poet-ness*. And to be slightly sheepish about it, but not the least apologetic.

I admire it in monastics, clergy, and saints, in Miss de Vine in Gaudy Night, and in  “the Squire” in Lark Rise to Candleford. In two friends who are creative nearly to the point of impossibility. In my jaw surgeon, and anyone passionately good at their job. In Lord Peter Wimsey, whose specialty it is to be unable to name or even quite respect the standard to which he holds. In both “Bertie”-who-would-be-George-VI and Lionel Logue. (I can hardly watch The King’s Speech because I cry too hard and land in a life crises. A man who has to overcome himself in order to be himself.) In anyone willing to submit themselves in inessentials to themselves in essentials.

(So it’s kind of like duty? But not like a rational, for the sake of being proper or virtuous duty. More like a “I wouldn’t want to live with myself if I didn’t do this”? Or in fact, “I would not be myself it I did not do this”?)

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been thinking about. I was going to tack a few quotes on, but this got longer than expected. I’ve gone and put them in a whole glorious quote-crazy post of their own, below.

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A Dorothy Sayers Quoting Spree

Otherwise known as the quotes associated with the post above.
Dorothy Sayers, the great:

“The only Christian work is good work, well done.” (Creed or Chaos)

“I expect you come across a number of people who are disconcerted by the difference between what you do feel and what they fancy you ought to feel. It is fatal to pay the smallest attention to them.”  –Miss de VineGaudy Night

and again,
“But between one thing and another, how is one to know which things are really of overmastering importance?”
“We can only know that,” said Miss de Vine, “when they have overmastered us.”

and again,
“I am quite sure that one never makes fundamental mistakes about the thing one really wants to do. One always makes surface errors, of course. But a fundamental error is a sure sign of not caring.”

Lord Peter:
“Harriet, do you really prize honesty above every other thing?”
“I think I do. I hope so. Why?”
“If you don’t, I am the most blazing fool in Christendom. I am busily engaged in sawing off my own branch… If I am honest, I shall probably lose you altogether. If I am not- ”
“If you are not,” said Harriet, “then I should loose you, because you wouldn’t be the same person, should you?”
“I don’t know. I have a reputation for flippant insincerity. You think I’m honest?”
“I know you are. I couldn’t imagine you being anything else.”
“And yet at this moment I’m trying to insure myself against the effects of my own honesty. ‘I have tried if I could reach that great resolution, to be honest without a thought of heaven or hell.’ It looks as though I should get hell either way, though: so I scarcely need bother about the resolution.”

Miss de Vine, on Lord Peter,
“That is a man able to subdue himself to his own ends.”

Apologies – excessive quoting. I cannot convey to you all the ways in which I love Gaudy Night. Each time I re-visit it I seem to understand another layer. I could open Busman’s Honeymoon and start in on those, but then this post would probably end up longer than my entire blog….

Unrelated. Harriet on writing; because who knows if I will ever quote this much D.S. again.

“Isn’t the writing of good prose an emotional excitement?”

“Yes, of course it is. At least, when you get the thing dead right and know it’s dead right, there’s no excitement like it. It’s marvelous. It makes you feel like God on the Seventh Day – for a bit, anyhow.”

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What’s a Granary?

This is a Granary:

I’m not entirely sure why you care…. or why I care, for that matter. But one might ask, “how does it work?”. I’m so glad you asked!!


Along comes a truck. This might be a small, grey, dump truck looking vehicle driven by a trim old man in jeans and a button-down shirt, or a bright green tractor driven by a girl my age who looks ready to head to thy gym, pulling two spiffy, orange wheeled-bin things. It pulls in off to the right of the picture, around the big silo castle, and onto a huge built-into-the-road scale beside the building. See the white truck in the picture? He’s sitting on the scale.

Then it trundles off around the silos again to a stretch of covered road on the far side. Out comes the farmer/driver/girl, works a lever on the side of the traveling bin full of grain, and down, down! into an opening in the road goes a stream of lovely golden…. well, I don’t know. Is it wheat? barley? corn? I suspect it’s wheat. We drove by a lot of newly mowed wheat fields.

Back around to the scale comes the truck to be weighted again. Then he/she/it parks boldly in the middle of the open space somewhere and goes running inside to claim a piece of paper, which presumably certifies that so and so has deposited so many pounds of such and such grain. And then off they go! Presumably, to do it all again. All of a Sunday afternoon.

What happens now? How does the grain get out from under the road? Why is there steam coming out of one of silo-things?? I don’t know. The mystery continues.

granary picnic

Another nice feature of granaries is that they make lovely picnic spots for foolish folk who got off the highway on the vague evidence of a picnic table ambiguously placed on the map. Grass, shade, mystery entertainment, and a glimpse into the life of Jewell, OH.

That’s all folks! Happy August.

(You can also check out “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About About the Wheat Harvest”. Which, though it throws no further light on the granary business, promises to fill in the prequel: how the wheat got into the rolling bins in the first place. ,<=)

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