Thursday, July 31, 2008

I have a sofa now in our living room and new sheets for my bed

So I celebrated just now by taking a nap at my desk.

Don't ask; I don't know either. :)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Jolly good of those Brits!


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Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I was just getting ready for the noon Mass when the earthquake hit today. 5.4, pretty big! (I'm in Lakewood, CA, and the earthquake's epicenter was in nearby Pomona.) It lasted quite a while and the second floor apartment where I live swayed around. A lot. It seems very wrong for what is normally solid to wave like that!

I'm not the least bit afraid of earthquakes, except when they're happening. The shaking really wasn't bad but I'm always terrified of the possibility that it'll suddenly get worse.

I've been in three big earthquakes: Whittier Narrows when I was a third-grader, the Northridge quake when I was in college, and now this one. None damaged any possession or loved one of mine, thanks be to God!

It's all right with me if we don't have any big aftershocks with this one...

That's the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 pictured above. :)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Just because I liked it

Here's the collect of yesterday's Mass from the 1962 missal (11th Sunday after Pentecost):
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui abundantia pietatis tuae et merita supplicum excedis et vota: effunde super nos misericordiam tuam; ut dimittas que conscientia metuit, et adjicias quod oratio non praesumit. Per Dominum nostrum...

O almighty and everlasting God, who in the abundance of Thy kindness art wont to go beyond our merits and our prayers: pour down Thy mercy on us: forgive us aught whereof our conscience is afraid, and grant us all we dare not ask in prayer. Through our Lord...

Saturday, July 26, 2008


I need a mousepad, so I thought I'd look on I searched for "Catholic" because I'm predictable like that, and I was a bit disturbed by some of the offerings... I don't want to be rolling my mouse over the face of the Shroud of Turin!

But here are some I liked that I didn't feel would be sacrilegious to use. :)

My older brother

"Benjamin always liked to stir the pot," says our mom. Especially when he was young he was a troublemaker. One day when he was perhaps ten years old, he got together with his friend Robbie and they thought it would be a good idea to conceal themselves by the side of the road and throw their shoes at passing cars. They'd hide in some bushes, wait for a car to come, and then each would lob a sneaker at the car. Then they'd hide again, while the car slowed down and the confused driver looked around for the source of the attack. Fun game.

Then along came a truck. They were ready-- as it passed them, they fired off one shoe each. And the truck screeched to a halt.

The driver got out. The boys cowered in the bushes, absolutely petrified. The driver walked back down the street and picked up the two shoes that had been thrown at his car. He didn't even look at the bushes, didn't try to find the source of the trouble. He tossed the two shoes into his truck bed, got into the cab, and drove off.

"Weren't you wearing two shoes when you left?" Mom asked when Benjamin and Robbie turned up at the door wearing one shoe each.

That was one smart truck driver. :)

Friday, July 25, 2008

My younger brother

They say that when it comes to birth order, "younger children may be pampered and spoiled, which can also affect their later personalities." Also, a youngest child "places others in service."

Not to change the subject, but I recently Facebooked my brother Caleb, who's the youngest of four. "I see your birthday is coming up!" said I.

He replied: "Yes my b-day is coming very soon!!! I need some new socks to whom it may concern. Just regular white socks....BUT they must be extra extra extra soft! If you don't want to sleep in a huge pile of those socks then they are not good enough for my feet."

40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae!

In honor of which I link to the encyclical,

one of many recent articles on the subject,

and a really good theological review by Elizabeth Anscombe in 1972.

I grew up not knowing why the Catholic Church is against the use of contraception and assuming that I'd use the wonderful Pill myself one day if needed. My first shock on that subject came a few years ago when the man I was dating said, "Did you know that the Pill is abortifacient?" Turns out it works not just by preventing ovulation but by preventing the implantation of eggs that do manage to ovulate and get fertilized anyway. The embryo gets sloughed off in menstruation instead. For those who accept that human life begins at conception, this is an extremely important thing to know, and yet I never learned it, either in health class or in church or from friends or family. (I'm told that it is printed on the informational insert that comes with the Pill, so I hope women read carefully.)

I think that was what led me to read some of the few Protestant writings against contraception (all kinds, not just the kinds that cause very early abortions), and I was soon sold on the idea of NFP as the best way to limit the number of children. This was well before I thought of becoming Catholic, but I'm proud now to be in a church that teaches what's best no matter how she's despised for it. (Frankly, it also makes things easier for me in one very practical way. When I was Protestant I knew if I ever met a great man who wanted to marry me, I'd have to convince him that periodic abstinence is great, really! But now that my definition of "great marriageable man" includes "faithful Catholic", that issue's automatically settled.)

Another thing I didn't know was that the Christian denominations all used to agree that contraception is morally wrong. The anti-contraception laws on the books in America were put there by Protestants. The Anglicans broke ranks in their 1930 Lambeth conference, and in the following decades pretty much every Protestant denomination reversed its teaching. (As for the Orthodox, my understanding is that some of their bishops hold steady against contraception and others waffle.) People assumed the Catholic Church would change its stance as well, and so there was great controversy in 1968 when Pope Paul VI reinforced it instead.

Obviously with the invention of the Pill there was great pressure on the various denominations to say it was fine. I don't think they would all have suddenly agreed that 1900 years of teaching against contraception had been a mistake if not for the social changes in the world at large. This fact by itself proves nothing about whether they were right or wrong, but we can say that absolute truth does not alter with changing circumstances-- if it was inherently wrong in 300 and in 1570, then it's wrong today.

The breakdown in sexual morality precipitated by the Pill also proves nothing about whether its use is inherently immoral. But I would argue that these two circumstances-- that Christians used to oppose contraception, and that abortion and broken families have become terribly commonplace since the opposition ceased-- are powerful reasons for every serious Christian to at least find out for himself and make sure he understands the arguments against contraception.

(Actually, though I say "every serious Christian," Pope Paul VI addressed his encyclical to "all men of good will" and based his arguments not on revelation but on natural law.)

I like having a blog. I can't lecture people with this stuff in normal conversation but this way I can get it off my chest. :)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Inquires about becoming a nun

My roommate just showed me a Christmas newsletter sent to her by the novice directrix (note my awesome use of the old feminine -trix suffix) of a monastery of 16 cloistered Dominican nuns. It was so funny I asked if I could blog it.

For context: most religious orders accept only postulants who are young, cheerful, committed Catholics, and in good physical and mental health. There are very practical reasons for this; just think about the close-knit communal life. So anyway, here's an excerpt from the letter.

We are still celebrating the 800th Anniversary of the Founding of the Nuns. Our first celebration with our Dominican brothers took place on our patronal Feast of Corpus Christi. The former vocation director came and I took the liberty to ask him what to do with all these binders I have of communications with so many women who have inquired about becoming a cloistered nun. He told me to purge all the inquires and to save a few sentences on each so I wanted to share some of the "best" with you:

Inquirer: "I am convinced that I have a true contemplative monastic calling, but I am also a psychiatrically challenged individual. I am wondering if your Order accepts people with such disabilities?"

Inquirer: "Is it ever possible for a woman divorced and with children and grandchildren to become a nun?"

Inquirer: "My first marriage was a mistake, made probably in desperation for a forty-three year old.... a few years later I met my deceased husband who was on his way to Alaska.... After we were married we moved to Alaska and lived here for the thirteen years of our marriage until he died of a brain tumor.... While I am in good general health, I do have knee problems and have to take care of my back... Your web site on the Internet is very interesting and informative but in reading about the formation process of the Dominicans, I realize how old I would be by the time I finished..."

Inquirer: "The truth is that I cannot find my path.... I feel a desire not to speak unless praying or chanting... Do you think this sounds too strange, or that maybe I am called to be a nun?"

Inquirer: "Hello! I am not sure you would remember me but I e-mailed you last year about possibly living the cloistered life.... I find myself in a situation today writing to you yet again for the same reason, only by my own foolishness have complicated my life by getting married just a few months ago... Anything you can say would be most appreciated... I am now 28 and the most miserable ever. Thank you and God bless you. I am sorry for all my troubles."

Inquirer: "I may have contacted you before. My memory is rather poor. I am interested in becoming a Dominican nun, but may be too old. I will attain 50 years of age in December."

Inquirer: "I would like to: #1. Become Catholic and #2. Become a nun. I have had basically no religious training of any sort.... so, a blank book. I am 55 years of age."

Inquirer: This inquirer was 28 and since she lived in Seattle, I called her at 7 p.m. and when she answered, she replied: "I am ill at the moment so could you call me back during regular business hours."

The novice directrix told my roommate that if they accepted everyone who wanted to come, their monastery would be full. :)

I feel bad for the poor impulsive girl who got married. The second-to-last inquirer really piques my curiosity. If she knows nothing about Catholicism, how does she know she wants to be a nun?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Know what's yummy?

Frozen champagne grapes. Icy little dots of grapey goodness.

A side benefit is that each tiny grape needs to be plucked from its stem, so I naturally eat slowly, and that means I feel like I've eaten more simply because I've been eating for so long.

Spoken by a dinner guest as she was leaving our apartment:

"Well, may God bless you and continue to give you more in abundance, so that I can eat it."

Such great friends have I. :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Incensole acetate, an incense component, elicits psychoactivity by activating TRPV3 channels in the brain

Or: does incense make you high?

Here's a journal article (seen on Fr. Z's site) that says there's a component of incense that "causes anxiolytic-like and antidepressive-like behavioral effects in wild-type mice". In other words it makes mice seems less anxious and less depressed. How you can tell when your mouse is less depressed, I don't know. I'd have to pay for access to the full text of the article to find out.

Anyway it's a far cry from a mouse study to knowing how incense affects human beings. But there is this weird thing. Every time I go to the traditional Latin Mass at St. Mary's by the Sea, the incense makes my head all tingly. It only happens at that one parish. I've inhaled lots of incense in lots of other churches since becoming Catholic, and it's lovely, but doesn't give me a buzz. But at St. Mary's they must use different incense, or else there's some powerful psychosomatic effect going on, or perhaps (I just thought of this!) it's because it's such a little church, which puts me much closer to the altar and makes the incense smoke stay more concentrated. Anyway, it's very pleasant.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Another summer, another sunburn

This one's an amusing collar shape. I went walking in the park at high noon yesterday with friends, having carefully applied SPF 50 to my face and arms. But I'd forgotten the back of my neck and I was wearing my hair up because the day was so hot and muggy.

It doesn't hurt much, except in the sense that it hurts just to look at it. My poor white skin, what have I done to you?

Once when I was a teenager we spent a day on a lake in South Carolina with my uncle. Mom was being very tiresome, reminding me every hour to put more sunscreen on-- naturally I ignored her. The painful result doesn't bear much description, but eventually the happy stage was reached when pain was mostly gone and only the fascinating fun of peeling skin remained. It was coming off my legs in sheets. One day in the shower I saw that water had been seeping under the peeling layer and by the force of its own weight was slowly expanding that layer out away from the thigh until I was carrying maybe a third of a cup of water in a bulging pocket of dead skin. Weird!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Heard in the courtroom

On the first day of jury selection we all arrived at 9 AM as instructed. All but three people. Two I suppose went AWOL, terrified at the prospect of a two-month case, but one, a Miss Jackson, called in to say she'd be late.

We couldn't start till everyone was there, so we hung about the hallway and waited... and waited... and waited. The bailiff came out of the courtroom every few minutes, scratching his balding head and hopefully calling out "Miss Jackson?" as he paced up and down the hall.

Finally he told us she'd called again and was on her way into the building. By then it was 10:20 AM and 56 potential jurors had waited all that time for her. A man suggested to the bailiff that he make her be the first juror on the panel. "Okay," said the bailiff, laughing. I didn't think he was serious.

Our latecomer arrived and the bailiff entered the courtroom, saying to no one in particular, "First up, right?" He soon emerged with a list on which were the names of the first twelve jurors to be called up. I had read in an informational pamphlet that this list was randomly generated by computer.

"Juror Number One..." called the bailiff, "...Miss Jackson!" Everyone burst into applause as she made her way in, followed by eleven others and then the rest of us. "I didn't know he could do that!" said the man next to me.

Miss Jackson made the cut, and yesterday she was sworn in as Juror Number One on the very long and boring case.

Be nice to the bailiff, folks. That's a tip.

When jury selection had finally begun on Wednesday, every seat in the audience area was filled with the dozens of potential jurors. They'd even wheeled in an extra row of chairs for us. The plaintiffs' three lawyers had one table and three defense lawyers had the other, but since there were about eight companies being sued and each had sent its own representatives, the courtroom was overcrowded and most of the defense attorneys had to stand in corners and against the wall.

After the plaintiffs had finished questioning the first twelve jurors, a kindly-looking and rather fat lawyer for Westinghouse stood to start the questioning for the defense. "Well," he began, surveying the packed courtroom, "since I take up more space than most people, let me see where I can stand..." He found a spot nearer the jury box, which put him right in front of, and facing away from, the extra row of waiting potential jurors. To them he said: "I apologize for the view."

The Westinghouse lawyer had many questions for the panel, and then he came to this one: "Are any of you concerned that during the trial I'm going to talk a long time, and then each one of these lawyers is going to get up and talk a long time, and it's going to take forever?"

The judge raised his hand.

"This case concerns events that happened decades ago," explained an A.W. Chesterton lawyer to Miss Jackson. "Now, I know you weren't here in the 50's and 60's... and possibly the 70's?"

"Not till the mid-eighties," said Miss Jackson.

"That's just disgusting," muttered the lawyer.

"My name is Speziale," began another lawyer. "I represent Foster-Wheeler and I'm from New Jersey. So the first question that a guy named Speziale from New Jersey has is, does anybody have a problem with that?"

Nobody did.

The first round of questioning was done. Lawyers from both sides began to use their peremptory challenges to dismiss jurors, and new ones were called up. "Mr. Mitchell!" came the summons.

A young man in the row in front of me stood up, and suffice to say I had a sudden urge to yell, "Say no to crack!" I shared a commiserating look with the juror next to me, who'd had the most unfortunate view. Mr. Mitchell, clad in t-shirt and baggy jeans, made his way to the jury box.

"Mr. Mitchell, how are you?" asked Ms. Ferrise, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs. "Fine," said he.

Ms. Ferrise in her tailored suit tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and peered at her photocopy of his questionnaire, which all of us had filled out on Monday or Tuesday as part of the initial selection process.

"Ah, Mr. Mitchell, you said that... may I?" she suddenly asked, indicating the paper. "You wrote here that," and she spoke slowly as she made out his handwriting, "'I don't... care... about... other people's problems... I have enough... of my own.'"

The courtroom burst out laughing. "Is that right?" asked Ms. Ferrise.

"Yeah," said Mr. Mitchell, brazening through embarrassment. "I've got a lot on my mind, I don't want to sit here and listen to other peoples' problems!"

"Is there anything about those problems that would hinder your ability to give a fair trial to either my client or the defendants?"

"Well, I'm just trying to work this summer, figure out what I'm doing next year, if I have to be here I won't be able to work as much..."

"But as you sit here at the fine age of..." she flipped to the front of the questionnaire, "eighteen, is there anything in your background or experience that would make you feel biased toward one side or the other?"

"I don't know," he mumbled, "it would be hard to listen when I'm worried about supporting myself."

"It says here you live with your parents?" continued Ms. Ferrise.

"Yeah, but I'm trying not to lean so much on them, trying to make my own way..."

"Now when we asked if you feel that jury awards are too high, you wrote here, 'What the hell is a jury award?'"

We all laughed again. "Yeah, I didn't know that that's the money they give the plaintiff."

"You also wrote," she peered at the questionnaire again, "that you have a short attention span and don't feel you could listen to a long case?"

More laughter. "I have a hard time listening to long stuff..." he said.

"And is that due to some physical condition or could you do it if you had to?"

"I could do it. I guess I was trying to get out of it," admitted Mr. Mitchell.

"Well, what we need to know is, as we sit here today, are you impartial to both sides, and can you make a decision based only on the evidence and the judge's instructions?"

"Yeah," said Mr. Mitchell, effectively cowed by his superior opponent.

She later dismissed him from the panel. But she'd made it clear whose decision it was.

"What do your parents do?" an attorney for GE asked another young man.

"What do you mean?" he asked, sounding alarmed.

We laughed. The lawyer explained his meaning to the young juror.

"Oh... my dad has his own business?" said the young juror timidly. "And my mom stays at home, she doesn't really do much."

"She might disagree," smiled the lawyer.

A woman took her seat in the jury box. "Miss Chan, how are-- are you okay?" asked Ms. Ferrise, switching tracks. "I just saw you take a deep breath, is that because you're thinking, 'Oh no, I'm up here now'?"

"No," said Miss Chan, who nevertheless sounded nervous, "I'm just chewing gum."

"Oh," said Ms. Ferrise with a reassuring smile. "I believe we allow you to chew gum."

"What was that?" asked Judge O'Brien, who looked wonderfully just like a gruff Irish judge should look.

"She was chewing gum, Your Honor."

"After that," said the judge.

"Uh, I said I had assumed, apparently erroneously, that we're allowed to chew gum...." As Ms. Ferrise trailed off she turned her head toward the potential jurors with a wide-eyed persecuted look. "I stand corrected."

I think she was playing the jury for sympathy, but anyway, it was funny. :)

The lawyers were discussing something with the judge in his chambers, and we jurors took the opportunity to begin to chat.

"Please keep it down," requested the bailiff, the only remaining authority figure in the courtroom.

"What are you going to do, fire us?" asked the juror in front of me as he stretched out his legs.

The short bailiff walked over with a smile, pointed to the jury box, and murmured, "I'll put you up there!"

"Go ahead!" laughed the man. "I'd like to get it over with!"

He was never called.

Ms. Ferrise was interested in whether any potential juror held stock in any of the companies on the defense side. One woman owned up to owning stock in General Electric. It turned out she did a great deal of buying and selling and investigating companies. "Why don't you have a stockbroker?" asked Ms. Ferrise.

"What can he do that I can't?" rejoined the woman, and described how she would research environmentally-friendly companies and choose which ones to invest in.

"How much time do you spend doing this?"

"Oh, it's not much, only about two hours a day."

"I would think this case would have a big impact on the overseas oil trade," continued the confident do-it-yourself investor.

Even Ms. Ferrise looked surprised. "When you say big, do you mean in terms of magnitude or its impact as news?"

"As news. The plaintiffs are from Iran. The companies are American. Why has the case been brought here?"

I think the woman was unaware, as I was, that more than 800,000 asbestos claims had been processed in U.S. courts through 2006. Anyway, she was dismissed.

One lawyer for a contracting firm was asking every juror if they'd ever had contracting work done and how they felt about it. Up came a juror who had studied architecture.

"Architects work with contractors," said the lawyer. "Did you learn anything about them in your courses?"

"I learned that contractors don't like architects and architects don't like contractors," replied the budding architect.

The contractors' lawyer dismissed her.

The rotund Westinghouse attorney was concerned that jurors would see the three plaintiffs' attorneys and the two dozen defense attorneys and feel this was unfair. He'd give some variation of the question to each juror. "You understand we're each here to represent our own company, that these are all separate cases? We're not a team. You understand I don't care about the other defendants? There are three lawyers here for the plaintiffs and two lawyers for Westinghouse. If you award damages from all the other companies and let Westinghouse go, that's just fine with me. You understand I don't care what happens to all these other companies?"

Finally Mr. Speziale of Foster-Wheeler addressed the jury, "You understand none of us cares what happens to Westinghouse?"

Late on the second day of selection. Juror after juror was being winnowed out.

"Good afternoon," Ms. Ferrise began with the latest one. "Your husband's an attorney."

"Yes," said the juror.

"In fact, he's an attorney for General Electric," continued Ms. Ferrise.

The juror was dismissed.

"I'm not quite sure you understood our question about jury awards..." Ms. Ferrise began with another juror.

"Yeah, I thought that was the money the jury gets paid, so I said, 'No, it's not high enough!'" said the woman.

"A lot of people thought that," smiled Ms. Ferrise.

That juror had to stay.

Yes, I was writing down everything that made me laugh. They wouldn't let us read and I couldn't focus to pray, so what else could I do? :)

After two days of questionnaires and jurors' excuses, and two and a half days of questioning, a panel of twelve was sworn in. Then they needed four alternates. I was first up and first dismissed (and I don't feel like telling how that went because frankly, Ms. Ferrise owned me), so I can't say how long they took filling out the alternate spots. I'm just glad I wasn't there to see it. Imagine being the fourth alternate on a two-month trial on one of the hundreds of thousands of asbestos claims in the country. Both boring and inconsequential!

But my four days of service were fun. :) Or would have been, if I hadn't had the doom of being selected hanging over me!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Doom averted!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to the plaintiffs' attorney who dismissed me from the case right before lunchtime today. I am saved two months of boring jury duty. :D

It was a civil lawsuit; a man who's dying of cancer is suing about eight different companies for asbestos exposure. Perhaps it's good I didn't know until just now that mesothelioma is nearly always linked to asbestos. If I had known I wouldn't have been so skeptical of the plaintiff, and it was my skepticism that got me off the case. Mind you, I still don't know how it could be shown that all eight companies are liable. May justice prevail, and I'm so glad I don't have any of the responsibility for making that happen.

Say, isn't this great weather for July? I have the front and back balcony doors open in my apartment and there's a very nice cross-breeze.

Life is beautiful.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The ongoing impendage of the doom

Roughly ten jurors dismissed today, and ten more questioned. The herd of about 57 is rapidly being culled (and these are all jurors who survived the first cut about being able to serve for two months). Many are biased toward one side and are being excused. Some are excused for no reason I can see. Some I'm surprised haven't been excused yet. I've yet to be called up to the panel and I hope I won't be; it would be awkward to be questioned in front of so many about my views, especially as those other jurors who are biased have the opposite bias to mine. They're just wrong, of course. :)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Doom continues to impend.

Lawyers for both sides spent all day today questioning the first panel of twelve potential jurors for the two-month case. They finally finished at 3:20 PM and we were sent home not knowing how many of those twelve will be dismissed. I think jury selection alone will take us through Friday. It's somewhat interesting, at least. :)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

I have finally seen the LA Cathedral in person

Of course I didn't wait for a personal visit before I gave myself the pleasure of making fun of it. But today after jury duty in an LA courthouse I got a bit lost and found myself only a block away from the monstrosity. So I figured as a Catholic I ought to go visit my cathedral.

Honestly, it was even worse than expected. The concrete's uglier up close. Inside it's more like a bunker than anything else, and the approach from the back side of the cathedral is much more forbidding than the front side you always see pictured. The statue of "Mary" looked just slightly better than in pictures (she was leaning forward, welcoming), but it's still very bad. Only the other day an Asian seminarian told me that he's offended by suggestions that the statue will make Asian cultures feel included. "That's my mother you're talking about! My mother does not look like that!"

Against my will, I liked the tapestries in the cathedral very much. All the saints were great. But I wonder why Teresa of Avila and Therese of Lisieux were both wearing all white? They were Carmelites! And St. Augustine's heavy jaw and prominent eyebrows make him look like The Governator. Tell me I'm not the only one who's noticed this. :)

My chief annoyance is that it's supposed to be a cathedral. There's a kind of architecture and art that lifts the mind and heart to God, and our cardinal spent $189.7 million not doing it. No wonder there were so few people there to pray. I saw one person in the Eucharistic chapel and none in the main body of the sanctuary.


Got summoned for jury duty last year, but I had moved to Orange County and told Los Angeles County they had no claim on me. "Send us proof you moved," said they. But the proof they wanted was somewhat difficult to get. "Forget it," thought I, "I'm not obligated to prove to you that I'm telling the truth."

Then I moved again, to Lakewood, just on the other side of the county border. At the same time I discovered at my parents' house a letter addressed to me: "You scofflaw, you didn't show up for jury service! You have now been ATTACHED and COMPELLED to appear on the following date! We threaten you with fines and jail time! Et cetera!"

Now that I am back in LA County, it's my civic duty and all. So I made the drive to downtown Los Angeles today (took an hour and twenty minutes to get from church to the jury room, most of which was rush hour driving.) Once there I learned that since I live more than twenty miles from the courthouse, I could have my service relocated. "Nah," I figured, "let's just get it over with. How bad could it be? Most trials won't run longer than a week. I might not even get on a panel and then they'll let me go after only one day."

But they sent me out to another courthouse to interview for a panel. I saw by the notice outside the room that it was a civil case, which seemed promising-- I'd been afraid of a rape trial or something else with images I don't want in my brain.

They called us forty-five potential jurors into the courtroom. The lawyers for both sides were standing and facing us as we walked in, and it seemed to me that they looked a bit... apologetic. We sat down. And the gruff old judge with an Irish name informed us that the trail is estimated to last... up to FORTY DAYS! That's going to be EIGHT WEEKS, or roughly TWO MONTHS OF MY LIFE SPENT DRIVING IN ICKY RUSH HOUR TRAFFIC FOR MORE THAN TWO HOURS EVERY DAY AND THEN SITTING THROUGH AN INCREDIBLY BORING CASE WHEN I SHOULD BE LOOKING FOR A JOB ALREADY!!

All but fourteen of the forty-five jurors were soon able to plead themselves free, mostly because their jobs wouldn't pay them for jury time and they couldn't afford to go salary-free for two months. Being jobless and lacking a dependent relative or a planned vacation, I had to stay.

We remaining fourteen filled out a questionnaire and were instructed to report tomorrow at nine. My only hope is to be excused based on my responses to the questionnaire. It's possible that my honest answers will make the plaintiffs not want me, but if they're really hard up for jurors I might be stuck. May God's will be done. :)

Sunday, July 06, 2008

"Imagining Christ" at the Getty

If you live in Southern California, you must go. :) It's just one room, the one where they always show medieval manuscripts, and they've turned 'em to new pages that all have portraits of Christ. Here's the website, which probably won't work after this month:

Last November I saw the Dead Sea Scrolls at the San Diego Natural History Museum, and ranted a bit on this blog about the viewpoint that had been imposed on the display. There was some deconstruction of those weird beliefs of the past, and I didn't like it.

What I love about the Getty is that their displays of religious stuff (and there are amazing treasures in their collection) don't deconstruct anything. They don't offer postmodern commentary or opinion about the artwork of the past and the beliefs that inspired them. And there are no leading invitations in the art descriptions saying things like, "What do you think? What is your viewpoint about this?" as if to put non-religious visitors at ease, as if people are such babies that they need help processing their exposure to a different worldview.

What the Getty does in their displays is to tell you about the people who produced the religious art or made use of it, and what they believed. Period. They give you the information relevant to the work and let you form your own commentary. They don't annoy me. :)

And they really got the Catholic theology right; half their captions were about the Real Presence and said things like, "One of the central beliefs about transubstantiation was that Christ was not symbolically but truly present on the altar." Yeah, some of the vocabulary usage seemed a bit mushy, and there was a mistake or two (under a manuscript showing Adam and Eve the caption says they were forbidden to eat of the Tree of Life) but on the whole the captions were much more doctrinally correct than any given issue of The Tidings. :)

One thing you won't get from the exhibit is that all this continues to be the Catholic belief and practice; it hasn't changed. The Getty display makes it seem as if this was all just the exotic custom of the medieval past, long since died out, instead of stuff you could find in the Catechism today. But I figure that's fine, since the display isn't about the present, but about the time the manuscripts were made.

Several manuscripts were sacramentaries with Latin prayers for the Mass, and I was thrilled to be able to recognize little bits, since the 1962 Missal isn't much changed from the 14th-century Latin. I'm bummed my picture attempts didn't come out (no flash allowed) and the Getty page linked above cuts out the text and only shows the pictures, so I can't show you what I mean. But I think once or twice the Latin on the page was the canon of the Mass, and I'm pretty sure I recognized the part about Christ after supper taking the chalice into his holy and venerable hands: Simili modo postquan coenatum est, accipiens et h unc praeclarum Calicem in sanctas ac venerabiles manus suas...

If I were a better writer I'd find some way to make you experience how cool it was for me to see all this really old stuff and completely relate to it and the people who made it because we're all part of the same Church. :)

It's interesting to know a bit about when different forms of devotion began to become popular. Christ was rarely depicted as crucified in Christian art until about A.D. 400, if I remember correctly. Before then, Christians were still very near the time when they'd been seriously persecuted and crucifixion was very much a live concern for them. So the theory is that showing their Savior crucified just was too much, or rubbed them too raw, or seemed inappropriate, or something. But eventually the crucifix etc. caught on. Even then, though, Christ apparently was usually portrayed as pretty calm while being crucified. It wasn't until medieval times that they really got into depicting him suffering, with bloody wounds and all. The Getty captions tell me it was part of a movement to feel more of a personal connection with Christ by contemplating his Passion.

(Take what I write with a grain of salt; I'm just going on memory.)

Here's an amazingly detailed picture from one of the manuscripts, showing the Mass of St. Gregory the Great. Check out the vestments, like a cross between Gothic and Roman. I like them! I'm also a big fan of angels with brightly colored wings. The medievals had it right-- why the heck should they be boring white? I'm not necessarily hardcore enough to advocate a return to the tonsure, though.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Yosemite wedding pictures

I don't have internet access at my new apartment yet (the horror! the horror!) but while I'm here at Mom and Dad's printing Yosemite wedding photos for them, I can blog a few of my own. :)

I took this shot from Inspiration Point. You'll notice there was some construction on the road, but folks who are familiar with Yosemite will notice something else. Something... missing. I'll see if anybody gets it. :)

Hint: there were lots of fires nearby and the valley was full of smoke.

Price gouging in Yosemite: this vanilla shake and rather small chicken sandwich cost $10.51.

Other photographers capture wildlife in majestic poses. I get deer marking their territory.

On the left is the sign the Ahwahnee Hotel posted for the unwashed masses who approach from the campgrounds to walk across the south lawn and visit the hotel. To the right is the sign they posted for their own guests.


Mom and I left from Curry Village around 6 AM every morning to walk to Yosemite Lodge, there to eat breakfast in the beautiful glass-walled dining room. One day I led her off the beaten path for a nice walk by the river. It was hard to find a trail and the walk took twice as long. We ended up with a big muddy patch between us and the bridge we needed to cross, so Mom stepped lightly across. I blanked on everything I ever learned about physics and common sense, and tried to run across. Don't ask me what college I went to; I'm embarrassed enough as it is. This is what my legs looked like after I sank ankle-deep in the mud. Fortunately those shoes were old and I just threw them away at the end of the trip.

If you want something done right... My cousin Greg photographing his own wedding. :) His bride's about to walk down the aisle.

Glacier Point tourists gathered to watch. They photographed us and we photographed them! I told my friend Adonela that I don't expect to have random strangers interested in my wedding, but she pointed out that if I get married at St. Peter Chanel I'll probably have someone crashing the wedding Mass, as she's done herself.

Aunt Becky's about to hit them with the "Be fruitful and multiply" verse. :) There's Half Dome in the background, which incidentally is what was missing from the first shot. Normally you see it clearly from Inspiration Point, framed between El Capitan and the Three Brothers, but the smoke obscured it that week.

Awww. :)

I'm proud to be part of the sibship. :) Clockwise from top left: Abigail, Rachel, Benjamin, and Caleb.

Much hilarity and excitement when Benjamin's awesome girlfriend Amanda caught the bouquet. She wasn't trying hard; it went right to her. Benjamin missed the scene but we sure let him know about it when he entered the room a minute later. "I leave you alone for two minutes--!" said he.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A Yosemite wedding

Last Saturday in the amphitheater on Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park, right across from Half Dome, my cousin Greg married his sweetheart Amy. I don't have pictures yet so here's someone else's wedding in the same place-- Greg's looked a lot like this. The scenery's almost unreal, isn't it?

Observations from the wedding:

1) Tourists! As soon as the wedding party started shaping up, strangers who happened to be visiting Glacier Point gathered behind the amphitheater, and we saw them taking pictures as the ceremony proceeded. One man actually videotaped most of it. There were only about twenty-five guests, so rubberneckers really boosted the number of people watching. :)

2) My two brothers are really handsome. They were both groomsmen, and wow, a tux does a lot for a man. It also helped that they had Gentleman Mode turned on for the occasion and were behaving very chivalrously. Perhaps that's one reason women like Jane Austen movies: the men dress and act like they're in a wedding party all the time.

3) Greg is an inveterate photographer, and we had been laughing about how frustrating it would be for him not to be able to photograph his own wedding, in such a great location too. Should've given him more credit. He had his fancy big camera in his hand while his bride was walking down the aisle, and got the shot.

4) My Great-uncle Dean, the retired missionary doctor mentioned in June 8 post below, performed the ceremony. He's about 87 and his wife is 91, and they flew out from the east coast for the wedding. It's cool to have a preacher in the family.

5) There was much Scripture reading at the service. A bridesmaid read some verses, followed by a groomsman with more verses, followed by the mother of the bride with more verses. (They had to do with God's faithfulness and love, and His grandeur revealed in nature.) Finally my Aunt Becky, mother of the groom, stood up with her worn family Bible and read the Scripture passages that she had chosen. "And I'd just like to close with one more verse," she finished. "It's from the book of Genesis, and it says, 'Be fruitful and multiply.'"

That brought the house down. :)