Monthly Archives: October 2008

Bright Day

The weather is lovely. Pippa and I had cleared out the spare room so as to make room for our Brendan to stay there. We moved the futon from Margaret’s and my room into the spare room (later, we’ll explore the possibility of putting some boxes under it to elevate it), and Michael the friendly, efficient mattress-delivery man dropped off our new mattress. We went shopping and came up with some miscellanea for fixing up several household items. The mail brought an honorarium and travel-expense check for my Missouri travels, but also a very handsome Eversharp Skyline fountain pen from the bishop. Plus, I had won a snazzy Pelikan in an eBay auction, which also arrived today. It’s a terrific day.

Reader, We Bought It

Last week, Pippa and I put a fair amount of time into car shopping, calling around, test driving, even a little passive haggling, and we finally bought a 2006 Toyota Corolla LE, in deep red. Pippa ruled out the beige Corolla, and the White Corolla was an ’07 with more miles on it at a higher price, so the red one looked good to us. It’s covered by an extensive warranty, and it comes with the enthusiasm so many friends and readers here expressed for Toyotas.
My early assessment of if notes the difference in weight (and momentum) from our ’96 Subaru Legacy Outback; the Corolla really feels much lighter on the road. The engine is clearly fresher, and although no one will mistake it for a muscle car, it does fine for itself. Pippa immediately asked about the possibility of getting an iPod input installed, and that seems agreeable to me. The Corolla is smaller, and I’m a wee bit nervous about what that will entail when we make our first road trip — our family carries a lot of stuff — but so far it feels good. And honestly — when I went to the Subaru to start it up to deliver it as a trade-in, the car wouldn’t budge. That’s a sign, my friends; I’m deeply relieved that the dealer still accepted it, even sent a truck to tow it out. The moribund Subaru served us well for six years or so, and although it cost us an arm and a leg in repairs during the last year, it’s out of our hands now. The big catch comes when we try to find the new car in a parking lot.

Love That Well

I’m having a great time at Duke, but today I had to send in applications for three jobs that would pick me up for next year. It’s a difficult process under the best of circumstances, and when there are so few openings (with surely very many applicants) it’s all the more daunting. Margaret may be able to teach another year at Loyola, so we wouldn’t be in desperarte straits — I’d just rather be done with this phase of life.

When That Happens

I know I have an All Souls Day sermon kicking around my hard drive somewhere, but I can’t figure out where, which is a nuisance since I’m preaching an All Souls Day Mass next Monday morning.

Sundry Stromateis

  • Margaret and I used to feel isolated when we had to explain our un-schooling practices (it’s all made somewhat easier by Nate’s and Si’s shockingly successful transition to higher education), but even the NYTimes seems to have noticed unschooling, with gently neutral approbation.
  • The proprietor of a fountain pen site (I commend his Dollar Pens as inexpensive, light, classically-styled everyday pens) generously invited me to join his page of writers who use fountain pens. I wrote a few paragraphs about remembering my father’s Sheaffer 304 translucent-body pens, my mother’s Osmiroids, my own Rapidograph from student days, and so on. While I was writing my response, though, I realized that my appreciation of fountain pens goes beyond mere deliberate archaism, beyond family nostalgia, and involves the multiple kinesthetic and cognitive aspects of handwriting with a fountain pen. I exhort students to work on their composition by urging them to make beauty with words; handwriting with luscious inks, in fine arcs and lines, feeling the nib on paper, and selecting the best words in the best order, engages more of me than does simply typing on my keyboard.
  • Something else I haven’t remembered yet.

Jesus Shaves

One of the benefits of having two professors in the family comes when we read to one another from the answers on the exams we give. For instance: this morning I learned about the story from Luke’s Gospel in which the disciples doubt that Jesus has really come back from death — so they reach out and touch his beard.

Recherche, Recherché

Margaret and I were musing, this morning, about great events of the past — Pearl Harbor (for our parents’ generation), the Cuban Missile Crisis and JFK’s assassination for ours — and the extent to which we were aware of them at the time (I myself was quite unaware of Pearl Harbor). Our conversation wandered thence to the assassinations of 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy.
While thinking about Dr. King and his televised presence (sometimes I think I’m the only Episcopal clergyman over 50 who doesn’t claim to have marched beside Dr. King), I realized that as much as I admired him, as much as I was startled by his death, I was all the more captivated by Shirley Chisholm. Partly because of the nature of television coverage (favoring elected officials) and partly because I had gotten older, in her 1972 run for the presidency, and Barbara Jordan in her role as a member of the House Judiciary Committee that indicted Nixon, were the figures whose presence still vividly stir my admiration.

Looking At Cars

Pippa and I went to the Toyota and Hyundai dealerships today, where we spent most of our time looking at a 2006 Corolla (on one hand) and a 2009/08 Aspect (on the other). We may go look around at some other lots, too, but we should come to a decision before too long. Advice is welcome.

Beats Me

Pippa wants to know if there’s a term for the rhetorical device of establishing a rhyme scheme, then departing from it by substituting a non-rhyming synonym (or related word) for a word that would complete the rhyme scheme? Something such as,

No blogger’s benigner
Than Berkeley’s Dave Winer.
But women distress him
(Especially J. Sessum,
And sometimes Liz Lawley
And quite often, Shelley).
As fall days grow dimmer
I turn to Steve Himmer.
My troubles seem fainter
When I read Frank Paynter.
No courtier or pageboy
Is Chris Locke (the Rageboy).
While wise, kind Doc Searls
Offers wisdom in oysters.

Apologies for the doggerel, and for not including several friends whose names didn’t provoke immediate candidates for rhyming (or would have disrupted the meter).
But back to the point — is there a name for that? I couldn’t think of one.

That’s What I Mean

It seems pretty clear, at this point, that no one will offer me an administrative position; I’ve been turned down for an embarrassingly large number of such positions. In cover letters and interviews, I typically underscore the vital importance of strengthening faculty and student morale with gestures that could be as small as (well-designed) small giveaways or gratulatory recognition. Since it looks as though I won’t have the opportunity to implement such programs, I’ll just tip my tam to Elena Kagan of Harvard Law School. Nay-sayers will scoff that it’s easy to build morale when you’re working for Harvard — and I’m confident they’re partly right — but showing pride and gratitude with small gestures would go an awfully long way even at a less sumptuously-endowed institution, and in the imaginary institution of which I’m a dean or president, I’d be all over that premise.
I’d also clear my email. Which I’ll get back to, now.

From Little Acorns

It turns out that if you let your email inbox slide for a few days, all those messages to which you need to respond accumulate and multiply. After months of keeping my inbox around three items, I’ve ballooned to twenty twenty-four, so this morning I’m going to have to crack down on it.