Always ethereal, always eclectic, I write as the mood strikes, when there intrigue reveals itself. Usually that means something controversial or adventure of some sort.

I've tried really hard to be unprovocative, but have as yet been unsuccessful.

Sunday, 24 September 2006

Mr. Smith Comes to Washington

Congressman Adam Smith, U.S. Rep for the area South of Seattle came to share at Olympic View Friends, about 1/2 hour South of where I'm staying. Please remember this is accurate to the best of my recollections, and I'm not a trained journalist. Since there were only about 25 in attendance it allowed pretty much anyone with a question to receive a detailed answer. And since Congressman Smith is on the Committee for Foreign Affairs, he knows a thing or two.

Although he is a moderate Democrat and to the right of me, I found him very reasonable and honest. He shared about his fervent hope for a new President, not, he said, simply because he's a Democrat, although there is that too, but because he feels this current President is completely lacking in the abilities to do the job. He spoke of how, for many years, America has been respected around the world, and now has lost that respect, so that 77% of the EU now think poorly of what we're doing in the world. For this reason, he wants to see a new President, be they Republican or Democrat. (Though he might have stronger feelings one way or another in a couple years.) He's of course also looking forward to the mid-term elections, with the hope of gaining control of Congress, so that Congress can begin to institute checks and balances in Washington, and not simply be a rubber stamp to the President's desires. In response to audience suggestions, he disagreed and stated that Chavez and the Iranian President are more extreme than George Bush.

He knew a lot about the Middle East especially, and spoke extensively on this topic. How we need to continue to support Israel- though Israel has made many mistakes, it has the right to exist under U.N. resolution. (He didn't get around to how that U.N. resolution gives the right to exist to Israel only if there is an independent Palestinian state, but he did support a 2-state solution.) How we need to support a non-nuclear Iran. How we should withdraw from Iraq, but slowly, as we're part of security there. However, he strongly questions that we are truly making the regime more stable at this point. And he seemed to indicate some regrets in supporting a carte blanche for George Bush's invasion of Iraq. While Afghanistan was clearly a threat, it seemed that he was saying everyone was caught up in the need to support the President and protect the US from terrorism after 9/11, but a lot of opportunities for diplomacy were wasted in our rush to war.

I had the opportunity to ask two questions of him, and albeit poorly articulated questions, the answers were quite good. The 1st was, considering that Iraq is largly a post-WWI construct imposed by the winning Western powers, and doesn't conform to any large extent to the boundaries of ancient Mesopotamia, and considering all the turmoil there now, why not just create three states, a Kurdistan, a Shi'i state, and a Sunni state? He said that actually he would favor that, and mentioned a Congressman has recently proposed something similar. Congressman Smith said that probably a workable solution would be something like Bosnia-Herzegovinia, with a weak central government and three largely independent sub-states. However, of course, Turkey is the big block to this, as they don't want an independent Kurdistan on their Southern border. He reposited that an independent Kurdistan might actually make the Kurds happier, as they would have something of their own now, and might stop trying to be so independent in Turkey. But a big hurdle is also that a contested area for the proposed Kurdistan is in central Iraq, and oil rich, so there would be much fighting over that.

My 2nd question was, considering the Christian doctrine of loving our enemies, how could he see us as a nation loving Al Qa'ida? He first off made it clear that, while he respects the viewpoint, he's not a pacifist, and believes Americans need to be protected. Then he said as a Christian, he would want to love Ossama bin Laden/Al Qai'da, but seemed to indicate he meant in his heart. But as policy, we needed to protect the U.S. On the other hand, a good way to practically love Al Qai'da (and this was the part of his answer I was most impressed with) would be to help the region out economically, so that those tempted to join Al Qa'ida or those who have joined would have an alternative, and not see the U.S. in such a negative light. This would serve them, and protect the U.S. as well.

Overall, I was very impressed with this Congressman. Since at the moment I'm staying in his district, I asked his aide to help me with the ongoing issue of trying to ascertain if Homeland Security violated my rights by searching my computer when I landed. I was told she would personally look into it and get back to me this week. Two days later Congressman Smith's office contacted me just to let me know that they were still looking into my case. As a small person under a big government, I was very touched.

Saturday, 23 September 2006

My Life as a Carny

I spent four days at the Puyallup Fair. I needed some extra funds these days, and no work was coming in with Kelly Educational Staffing, and I thought it might be a hoot to see what it's like to work a carnival. It was definitely...interesting.

The Puyallup Fair is often called "The Fair", as it seems it's the biggest in the area around here. I mean huge enough and permanent enough that they have lines painted on the sidewalk telling you how to get around and where the exit is. This is a county fair with gigantic buildings- barns- put up everywhere. Where businesses everywhere record their providence not as much by the years as the century they've been in business at the fair.

Many tight things at this fair. At times I felt like I was back in a souq again. I wonder if people like fairs because, for just a moment, it brings them back the close-knit markets we once had in the West. Music played on the corners, like the Peruvian band above, or some young men improvising drums from water bottles, frying pans, and a hanging stop sign. One stall had some Full Gospel Businessmen who had a pretty neat setup- 2 questions that would tell you whether or not you were saved. But when I approached them I found they were oinkafre oref, more interested in giving their spiel then in listening to what I or others had to say in response to the questions. The fair had tons of exhibits, rides, and hawking of wares, like the Smart Car, common in Europe but just entering the U.S., cute, strange, and getting 60 miles to the gallon. And beautiful display contests. My favorite was the one above, with a moving clock, composed entirely of fruits and vegetables. As the nights got colder I spent more and more time at the electric and wood stove displays next to the jacuzzis, as they had real fires in the stoves.

Also present were some rather Scary Purple Dancing Thingis. As you can see, I really can't be more specific than that.

I spent the most of my free time with the animals. They had an exotic animals barn, with Watusi Cattle, 4-horned Jacob's Sheep, emus, reindeer, and yes, zedonks.

What's a zedonk? I'm glad you asked. Zebras and Horses can of course mate, they being separate species through geographic isolation rather than anything morphological. And likewise horses and donkeys. (Leading to the great comment: You're behaving like a mule. But at least your father is like a stallion.) Though I'd never heard of it before, evidently a donkey and a zebra can also mate, producing some rather surprising results.

Here you can see see the zebra and the zedonk caressing each other, perhaps nibbling off parasites.

There were also more traditional animals, including these draft horses, some of them clydesdales. I'm in the picture for perspective. I prefer to call them trunkless elephants.

But the most wonderful, of course, was when I got to spend some quality one-on-one Family Time with the pigs. I had some good conversations with a couple in the main barn, scratching and petting them. I have missed them so much! It was my first time in years to be around them. One of the piglets, to demonstrate again their superb intelligence, escaped out a wire hole. Another was working on the gate latch to open it while I was talking with her.

And that was the carnival. But where I spent almost the entire time was the Ducky Derby, a game where you reach in an pick a duck. I would have been happy to spend more than four days there, but we were required to stand the entire time, with I think a slight carpal fasciitis as a result. The company, Funtastic, hires pretty much anyone, including felons- so you were given $100 to make change, and then could not put your hands into any pockets at any time unless you were changing for a customer. While an understandable precaution, this increased the stress of standing, and naturally didn't create a lot of empowerment. I think I didn't quite fit in there. Those I was working with were surprised to find I read on every break, and spent their time talking about beauty treatments and alien presences. Actually, it wasn't until the final and fourth day that I realized that all of the other 9 people working at my booth were women. My observational skills need a lot of work. Evidently there were a lot of men working the beginning of the carnival, but they all got fired for stealing.

The Ducky Derby is a very complicated game. You must reach in, and grab a duck. If you do so, you win. Obviously, this is a game that very small people enjoy, and therefore what the game lacked in suspense was made up for in seeing the joy of the little children as they won different prizes. Some older folks coming by couldn't believe how easy it was, so I'd demonstrate, pretending that the ducks were very heavy. Every duck had a S, M, or L written on it, indicating the type of prize you would receive- all stuffed animals. As long as I could stand, I seriously enjoyed it, because of the little children playing a game they could win, and get a prize for. Eventually I developed a patter, like the sellers do in Hay Hassani, Morocco, where I used to live, "$2, $2, $2, $2, Play the Ducky Derby, Everyone's a Winner, Guaranteed to Win, Ev-ery Time!"

Finally, after four days, I finished my time, and found the most wonderful booth in the world. They sell $200 electric massagers, which are the closest thing to a human massage in the machine world. But they also have free samples, where you can sit in the chair for 15 minutes letting the machine kneed down your back. I availed myself of this little bit of perfection twice, pressing in to increase the strength of the massage, letting it drop down, until the rest was all pleasure and peace.

Friday, 22 September 2006

Ramandan Mubarak! Mubarak al Washer!

Oh Happy Day! It's Ramadan again, one of my favorite times of the year. An opportunity to pray and fast from food, water, and marital sex from the first moment you can distinguish a white thread from a black thread in the morning, until sundown. I'm only sorry to not live in a Muslim country for the first time in 3 years, and so will miss much of the festivities. They say you never eat so well as during Ramadan, as there is a tendency to gorge oneself at night.

If you think the word is familiar- No one knows where the word Ramadan comes from, but it is similar to the root for "scorching heat", and therefore might refer to the intense time of endurance from food and water. Arabic words are almost all based on a trilateral consanental root, in this case, R-m-d. During the Moorish occupation of Spain many Arab words entered or influenced the Spanish language, such as the word ramada, meaning "shady resting place", and therefore etymologically similar to Ramadan. And Marion Isbell thought the word would be a good name for his hotel chain.

Muslims all over the world look to when the first sliver of the moon appears to know that Ramadan has begun. Depending on cloudiness and smog, this leads to a Ramadan beginning on any of three days in different locations. Of course, with modern astronomy, the beginning of the new moon can be precisely determined to the minute, but this has remained a controversial practice, as it depends on some methods that Mohammed (pbuh) didn't use. But American Muslims have recently agree to begin determining their dates together using modern science, to allow more uniformity in the community.

Customs vary from country to country, but often the fast is broken with something called Ftur, or breakfast, at sunset, when dates and a light repast are consumed, before the much larger meal later in the evening, often very late at night, around 10. Then, before daylight, another meal is consumed- the point is to legalistically not eat during daytime. This of course leads to many kids being inordanently tired the following day. As much as possible many Muslims will sleep during the day to reduce the hours of hunger awareness. Some countries enforce fasting with heavy proscriptions; others rely on social stigmatization for those breaking fast. It is considered obligatory for Muslims and one of the 5 pillars of Islam. Mosque attendance increases substantially during the month, with many men staying up late into the night with the hopes of chanting the entire Qur'an in one month. Prayers are especially auspicious on the Night of Power, the 27th night of Ramadan (or any one of the last 10 nights of the month, depending on which traditions you follow)- with nights determined in the old Hebraic way, "evening and morning of the 1st day", so that this evening marks the beginning of Ramadan.

In a sense the month is a religiously timeless event, operating in Kairos time instead of Chronos time, for it unlike 'id al Kibir, the Great Feast, Ramadan does not correspond to any historical event, other than by tradition the first verses of the Qur'an were revealed during this month. It is completed with 'id al Saghir or 'id al Ftur, The Small Feast or Feast of Breakfast, a two day event of visiting family and enjoying food together, often a national holiday in Muslim nations. For the previous month Muslims have been fasting for a variety of reasons: to identify with the poor; to gain njar, points with God; to focus on needs in prayer; to focus on God; to build up endurance; or simply because it was commanded. So the meaning often corresponds to Christian methods of fasting- although of course the traditional Christian practice of fasting is without food only, day and night, for days at a time. And of course there is no mandatory traditional practice for Christian fasting, but rather whatever God calls you to. It is expected that Muslims should treat each other well and with kindness during this time of striving, though in practice, tempors are often short due to lack of food and larger stomachs from the previous night's gorging.

The primary ethic of Islam is obedience; the highest calling is to be a slave (of God). Therefore, the main purpose of the fast is because you're supposed to, though other purposes are not excluded. This contasts with Christian practices, in that the primary ethic of Christianity is love; the highest calling to be a friend (of God). And therefore the main purpose of the Christian fast is to gain a closer relationship with God, though other purposes are not excluded. I have found over the past years that this month is by far my greatest time of prayer and intimacy with God, being able to have a regular regimen to focus on Him and enjoy His presence in the timelessness of forever. So I am excited.

Sunday, 17 September 2006

War is Peace

In my 100th post, I'll take a break and let someone else share for most of it. AP reports that:

"The emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war," the Pope said. "He said, I quote, 'Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.'" Using the terms "jihad" and "holy war," the 79-year-old Pope said violence was "incompatible with the nature of God."

A medieval reference in an academic lecture by Pope Benedict XVI unleashed a wave of denunciations, outrage and frustration across the Muslim world Friday, with officials in Turkey and Pakistan condemning the pontiff, Islamic activist groups organizing protests and a leading religious figure in Lebanon demanding that he personally apologize. Angry Muslim leaders flung what they saw as allegations of violence back at the West. "How can (the Pope) imply that Muslims are the creators of terrorism in the world while it is the followers of Christianity who have been aggressive against every country of the Islamic world?" prominent Saudi cleric Salman al-Odeh said. "Who attacked Afghanistan and who invaded Iraq?"

Palestinians attacked five churches in the West Bank and Gaza over the pope's remarks Tuesday in a speech to university professors in his native Germany. In West Bank attacks on churches, Palestinians used guns, firebombs and lighter fluid, leaving church doors charred and walls scorched by flames and pocked with bullet holes. An Iraqi insurgent group threatened the Vatican with a suicide attack over the pope's remarks on Islam, according to a statement posted Saturday on the Web. "We swear to God to send you people who adore death as much as you adore life," said the message posted in the name of the Mujahedeen Army on a Web site frequently used by militant groups.

I guess they showed him.

Friday, 15 September 2006

A Sad Day Indeed

If you haven't yet heard, not only did they rob us of having 12 planets, not only did they remove the possibility of certainty of what is and is not a planet, but now, they've even taken away Xena. (By "they", I mean of course the traditional Rich White Men.) Yes, Xena, once the 10th, I mean 9th, I mean 12th planet of the Solar System, along with her moon Gabrielle. That which would have gotten men everywhere interested in astronomy- now gone. Replaced with the goddess of chaos and strife, Eris, because the astronomers can only fight over definitions to planets and not come up with a reasonable idea. And to add insult to injury, Gabrielle the moon of Xena, also gone, now giving us Eris' daughter, Dysnomia, the spirit of lawlessness.

At least this allows for renewed job opportunities for Revisionary Source Criticism of Paul, for when he spoke of the spirit of lawlessness, he didn't actually mean antichrists or those who lead you astray. No, he was actually talking about the moon of the 3rd dwarf planet, speaking prophetically, and, in the tradition of Qur'anic proofs, showing the validity of the Bible. Yes, Paul was warning us to beware the dwarf moon, for it approaches. And by interpretive extension, may the reader understand, beware being born under this moon, for this is an inauspicious beginning. Now there are some who would argue that what Paul was actually pointing to was the coming of the antichrist at the time when Dysnomia would be discovered. For consider that it is 9 billion miles form the sun, and 9 billion miles is merely 3x3 billion miles, and 3 is 1/2 of 6, making for 3 1/2s of 3 6's. But most feel that this is a more conservative theological fringe and not to be taken as seriously as the astronomical predictions by Paul. After all, isn't astrology well affirmed in the Bible?

For those wondering about my repeated return to this theme, yes, I was going to shortly be changing the tagline of this blog to indicate that it covers my travels in America...and slightly further astray. But now- with the departure of Xena, I seem to have absolutely no more interest in astronomy.

Tuesday, 12 September 2006

A Fitting Tribute

This was my first real 9/11 anniversary. The first one was in Alaska when I was training to be an observor for NMFS, and we took the afternoon off to go to a rememberance, but it felt rather removed, since I was only staying there on land for 3 weeks, and it wasn't where I lived. During the next three anniversaries I was in Morocco, and the day passed by nearly unnoticed. So this was a different day, getting a bit more what most Americans have experienced over the last 5 years. I woke up to hear Cheney declaring that he still found the 9/11 attack unexplainable, and he still appears to not understand the motives of those who attacked the world on that day. I listened to George Bush give his 9/11 memorial in the evening, talking of how we should continue to be afraid, and continue to fight for war. He gave a list of all the good things he has done during his term. It was a long list. He spoke about how America's new mission abroad was no longer to promote stability and peace, but rather freedom and democracy. And there was also a remembering of the Americans who lost their lives going to war in Iraq.

Here's why I love my church. Yesterday during the Meeting for Learning we discussed the concept of finding that of God in every person. If we are made in God's image, all people, then there is that of God in each person, and it is our duty, and our joy, to find that of God in each person- Ossama Bin Laden, or even George Bush. It is hard for each of us to find that of God in certain people, and who those certain people are is different for each of us. But if I can't find that of God in my enemy, then how can I truly find that of Him within myself?

During Meeting for Worship we lifted up prayers of blessing for many, including Bush, Rumsfield, and Ossama Bin Laden. Would that God would bring Bin Laden to a place where his deepest desire is peace and love for his enemies, as he feels the love of God for him. That as he recognizes how much he can be forgiven, he can learn to forgive. Then history would remember him as a man of peace as much as Nobel, the inventor of dynamite. He would be changed so radically that his greatest drive for the remainder of his days would be peace between all peoples. That would be indeed a fitting tribute for those who died that horrible day.

Monday, 11 September 2006

Mars Not a Planet

There appears to be growing disgruntlement with the IAU's definition of a planet. A large group of astronomers, about equal to the paltry amount that were present for the original vote, have launched a protest movement, against the definition as well as the way it was defined. The vote took place with an extreme minority of astronomers, against the proposal of the tasked working group, and without significant discussion, as usually occurs in science. But the definition itself has issues. Astronomers are pointing out that by this definition, even Jupiter isn't a planet, as it hasn't cleared it's orbit of all the asteroids. Perhaps the Earth isn't a planet, as the moon is present- the definition is inherently vague.

And even if a Mars-sized object were found beyond Pluto, it wouldn't be a planet under the new definition. This is because it wouldn't have cleared it's orbit, the key difference between a planet and a dwarf planet under the new guidelines- it hasn't gotten rid of all the other objects in it's orbit due to it's gravity. We know this because there is just so much space out there, the further you go from the central star, that you have to be really massive to clear out everything from your orbit. This results in the rather unscientific, inprecise guideline that, the further out you are, the more massive you must be, in order to clear everything from your orbit, and be a planet.

The result of all this: in attempts to define, and in ignoring the working group, the IAU seems to have thrown the definitions in disarray. Now some are recommending that students not be taught there are 8 planets, or 12- but rather that, ironically, the controversy be taught, as, unlike other controversies in science out there, this is actually a scientific argument, where scientists are arguing about the best approach. It gives students an opportunity to understand how scientific disagreement actually works, and how it gets results. They can learn what the different positions are, and what the different evidence is, and learn how to argue both sides in class, to see the merits of the different scientific viewpoints.

The alternate conference for the Pluto-supporters will be held next year, and we'll see where that goes- but the IAU meets only every three years, and so doesn't have a formal setup to change it's vote in the short-term. Science doesn't work quickly at times. But we are dealing here not so much with what's out there, but how to anthroporphically define it- how do we as a (scientific) society wish to define a large object in space? In the Genesis myth, Adam named the animals, but he didn't create them. Whatever we call it, it will still be there.

Sunday, 10 September 2006

The One Where Aimee Tipped Me Over

After our great time canoing, yesterday me and Aimee decided to try kayaking in Union Bay. Agua Verde is conveniently located near the Arboretum, albeit a bit more expensive than the Yahoo site indicates. But cela vie, we were already there...

You have to put on special clothes before you climb in, so that you can be appropriately bibbed into the kayak. It was my 1st time kayaking ever, and I was suprised to discover that they've installed rudders since the Inuit used them. Rudders that don't really work that well when directed by your feet...

After a wrong turn, Aimee finally got me set on target, and we went through the Narrows, out to the beautiful arboretum, which I've visited terrestrially before. If you look it up on Google Earth you'll see the drawbridge up, and small dots around the water- those are the kayakers.

I had it in mind to try the tipping over thing, once my camera and cell phone were safely in a plastic bag. I found out a couple things. Water in Union Bay is not as clean as it looks. Also, lots harder to right yourself once tipped than it looks like in the movies. Aimee came over and helped me back into the canoe, holding on to hers as we twisted my canoe around.

Our route took us through lots of lilly pads that you could snag through, and even some lilly flowers. Even more fascinating was how close you could get to the birds when you were on the water, seemingly unpreturbed by large floating mammals in the shape of crocodiles. I came right up to small flocks of ducks numerous times, some of them walking along the lilly pads without concern for gravity. And once, once right up to a heron, close enough to analyze it's feathers and long reversed feet, and see the gripping toes designed to wade through the mud.

To get in and out of the Arboretum's waters you have to paddle underneath the 520 Freeway. Coming back, I discovered shooting through the freeway supports is not as fun as it looks, as the spiders hanging above the water with their webs are large enough to be waiting for food the size of a kayaker. Finally, weary from chafed feet against the rudder breaks, and arms filled with lactic acid, we returned, refreshed, after seeing some of nature from a different perspective.

Saturday, 9 September 2006

The Seattle Souq

A souq is the main market in the Arab world. Seattle's got one too, called Pike Place Market. If you've never been, and you are in the NW, you must make the opportunity to go. It actually has much of the feel of a Middle-Eastern Souq, though the main languages are English and various Asian languages. I visited back there with my mom recently, and we both felt it had the feel of San Francisco.

The souq is about 5 stories tall, built into a hill, inside multiple buildings, so that you enter at sealevel on one street and exit at the top of the hill. It would probably take days to truly visit all the shops there. Street vendors and shop owners specialize in beauty as well as merchandise, and like a legal Derb Ghallif, you can buy pretty much anything there, if you search long enough.

Specialties include a variety of seafoods, like these Dungeness Crabs, and the most famous place in all of the market, the Fish Throwing Place, where you order their seafood, and then, with song and dance, the vendors throw the large salmon or bags of shrimp at each other over customer's heads as they prepare it for you.

As in Jamma f'Naa in Marraksh, there are a mulitude of acts to see as well, some sad, some spectacular. I don't know what the guy below is playing, but I call it the big

stick with the long string, and it sounds like an Asian-Appalacian mix. The gentlemen above had some righteous Gospel harmony, and I only wish I could audio them so you could listen. My mom wanted to simply stand for an hour listening to them. And the guy below demonstrates and reveals card tricks. If you look close you might figure this one out...

Press Play Twice, and then turn the computer over on it's side to the right. Or, maybe it's easier to turn your head. It's up to you.

But the main reason we went to the souq was to get a present for my sister-in-law, who's birthday it had been. I stopped in at the Jasmine Thai-Moroccan restaurant at Pike Place Market (rather the perfect place for my old roommate, Collin), existing because the guy is Moroccan and his girl-friend Thai. Limited fare, but cheap, reasonably Moroccan, and open in the day. And the guy remembered me from when I visited there a few years ago, and it was so good to speak Arabic again with him. And get to introduce my mom, 'cause I'd never gotten to introduce family members while I'd lived in Morocco, and that's important.

There's 4 Moroccan restaurants in Seattle, and I've now been to three. Kasbah I went to a year ago, and the food is excellent, the atmosphere authentic, with easy access to large dishes to corporately eat out of. The Marrakesh, which I ate at recently, I sadly can't recommend. There is belly-dancing, which in the Arab world is done only before women, husbands, and tourists. And in front of the latter, becomes a sad objectifying parody of the real thing. The waitresses knew no Arabic or anything of Moroccan culture, and didn't even know what a tas was (the hand-washing bowl), even after I described it, and they had just finished dispensing it. The lack of authenticity was confirmed later when the Moroccan proprieter confessed to me that I'd spent more time in Morocco than he, as he'd spent maybe three months there his whole life, going back only on short business trips to gather supplies. If in Seattle, visit Kasba instead.

But the really nice thing about Jasmine is that, right across the alley (a people alley, not for cars), is the only Moroccan store in all of Seattle, which, I've got to say, is pretty impressive to even exist in an American city. They sell a wide array of goods, as you can see, from lamps to clothing, drums and pottery dishes, glass tea cups and purses. The latter is what I picked up for Trina. Now, being that it's America, with a higher standard of living, and you have to pay taxes and for shipping, you have to expect higher prices on these items. And Saleh, the owner, wasn't present, with whom I'd bargained off the tax a year ago buying a pottery tajine dish (that wouldn't therefore break on an airplane). So I'm rather proud that I managed to get the initial price of 160 dirhams knocked down to 140. (Honestly, I think I might have gotten better, but another customer said, "140 Dirhams? I think that's the best you're going to get.")

It was really great to be able to spend that kind of time with my mom, in an atmosphere she enjoys. The afternoon was complete as we left, with a requisite Seattle protest against the Free Trade Association.

Friday, 8 September 2006

l'pour Mary

I moved from staying with Adrian above the airport- well, Union Bay, with seaplanes regularly flying into it, is an official airport. With some beautiful density patterns too.

Now I'm with Kent, Trina, Sonny, Calvin, Samba, Jasmine, and Daisy in SeaTac. Samba, Sonny, and Calvin pictured below. Jasmine's too much of a scardy-cat, and Daisy is relegated to the back room 'cause she's a dog.

But this post is for Mary, 'cause it's all about food. Specifically, my sister-in-law, Trina's, birthday party, for which a French chef catered in their home- everything made from scratch in the home. And when I say a French Chef, I mean some of the finest food I've ever had. Started off with a salad with raisins, and then the main course: succulent roast beef slices, with potatoes in a blackberry cream sauce that tasted like it had a hint of chocolate but actually was beautifully blended with garlic, and a side of plush asparagus. Trina and Kent's financial advisor gave the meal as a gift for Trina, along with having the opportunity to share about her business to potential new clients.

I never even began to imagine you could do that with blackberry sauce. Sadly, no snails. But the piece de resistance- you can smell the difference in home-made caramel. The chef dripped it into sheets, and then twisted it into a tower that glistened in the lights of the candles. It was far too good to eat.

But we were forced to, and complied, and...Oh. I have never had something like this. Sweet, yes, but not too sweet. Every little bit of the different flavors of the cake distinct, and not overpowering each other, but rather merging into a complimentarity worthy of giving praise to the doctrine of the Trinity. Every time you bit into the cake you felt you were sinking into a morass of flavor. It was such a depth of perfection you didn't want seconds- the perfect amount of desire was fulfilled in one slice, and though you may want another helping later, on another day, it would be a true injustice after eating to not sit and contemplate what you had just consumed in open worship. I have never liked caramel, until today.

I do not think we shall see a feast the likes of this again, this side of eternity.

Monday, 4 September 2006

Retreat into the Imagination of the Possibility of Creation

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We had our Fall Retreat with my church this past weekend: every year, up at Quaker Cove, on an island offshore of NW Washington. There is a great outdoor Risk game there attached to one of the cabins. Last time I was there, some 4 years ago, there was a giant stump that you could crawl into and climb up the interior to the top, some 20 feet high. Now it has sprouted new growth, wildly, everywhere, and looks like a true tree.

You know it's a good retreat when the main speaker, John Braun, begins the session looking at the lies we tell ourselves, individually and corporately, lies like the myth of redemptive violence, the myth that free trade will help the 2/3rds world, and the myth that Global Warming is false. Actually, the final topic, along with John's discussion at the end of the retreat on focusing on nature, touched me deeply. He spent a long time going over the evidence from An Inconvenient Truth, showing how we have ravaged our planet. As I struggle to understand how we can appreciate Christ's presence in nature, John shared on how creation became a devotional motivator for him, where everytime he saw a mountain, he used it as a committed reminder to worship God.

I think I will try to use the ocean in the same way- to begin to remember to praise God everytime I see it. It has been heavy on my heart of recent to be able to worship God through his creation. As well as to spend more time with Him. As I have contemplated the mystery of his power and might in evolution, I want to celebrate how awesome our God is, that he doesn't fit into a box, that He can invent in such...inventive ways, through such complexity, leading up to a future, we know not what, but a spectacular edifice that only He could build, and greater because of it's mystery and the eons it took to create. As I read The Diversity of Life I was overwhelmed with what we have done to our planet. We soon will have much less to celebrate, for there will be many fewer species to recognize a creator through. I want to be part of preserving that creation. To help keep the species diversity we have, but even more so, to catalouge it, to know what we have. We are only aware of some 1-10% of the species on our planet, and they are disappearing in the 6th Mass Extinction Event in planetary history, faster than ever before, for the first time all because of one species. They may disappear faster than we can even be aware of them- and thus we lose out on the opportunity to praise God for what He has done. I want to be part of insuring our opportunity to praise Him, but I'm not sure how. This weekend affirmed that pull on my heart.

I had the opportunity to go canoing with Aimee in the Sound. Unfortunately, no pictures, for fear the boat might tip with the digital camera inside. We came close to it a number of times, as Aimee repeatedly rocked the boat. She may try to claim that I was the one doing it, but honestly, why would I attempt such a thing? We saw herons and a bald eagle, grebes and cormorants, and even some sea lions bobbed up near the canoe as we paddled, shadowing us to determine what we were about.

Every year at this retreat we have a (Un)Talent Show. This year began with Logan giving us Sea Shanties on the accordian, continued with strange songs by Dick, with a bit of vaudville humor by Philip. I sang Suburban Josephine from Servant, a song my mom helped write, and I was quite erudite in my silliness. For some reason, I have long wanted to do that song, to be non-serious, on stage, in a Talent Show. I regretted never doing so at the pre-field orientation we had before going to Morocco. Doing so here was...cathartic. We ended with Skip and Rebekah giving us the competing views of Casey at the Bat- two different theological interpretations of the same event from both teams, both viewpoints true.

Shooby doowa, doowa doowadoo, doowa doway-hey-hey-hey
Shooby doowa, doowa doowadoo, doowa doway-hey-hey-hey

She thinks she can remember what her calling should have been
To serve the Lord was her desire when she was only seventeen
But she fell in love with someone else who she could touch and see
Lord only knows what she could have been,
Oh poor sister Josephine

Laundry floors diaper chores feed the kids by noon
She has to get her hair done quick cause her hubby gets home soon
For better or worse she took the plunge
And her plans all changed it seems
'Cause now she lives her life at home as Suburban Josephine

Suburban Josephine, suburban Josephine
Lord only knows what she could have been

Avon ladies and Amway Men are pounding on her door
She needs another vacuum cleaner to massage her brand new floor
Soap operas for breakfast her idols on the screen
A forty-one inch living TiVo dream for Suburban Josephine

Suburban Josephine, suburban Josephine
Lord only knows what she could have been

One day while watching the Price is Right she saw some friends fly by
(Come on Down!)
Right past her kitchen window and up into the sky
(Yip yip yip yarooom)
Suddenly she remembered what she had already learned
That one day in the twinkling of an eye Jesus would return

Suburban Josephine, suburban Josephine
Lord only knows what she could have been
Josephine (x3)