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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"My evening-rest and sleep to meet"

Only a short post today (Caspian seems to have deemed himself dissatisfied with my work and taken back up the gauntlet anyway).

Yesterday marked one year since Jaquandor's (not his real name, obviously (although wouldn't that be cool?); he was a classmate of mine at Wartburg) infant son Quinn passed away. My thoughts and prayers with Jaq and his wife and daughter - so much unfair on so many levels. Peace.

If you'd like to read little Quinn's story, he's posted it in several parts on his blog. It's long, but I still read through it every so often.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Thanksgiving Mysteries vs. Google

Thanksgiving was a jolly time, it was it was. The family congregated at my parents' house, we ate too much, dealt with the crippling after-effects of tryptophan poisoning, watched a series of losses by football teams I was cheering for, and watched my parents' cat Steve try to figure out how to catch a bird-shaped Christmas ornament Mom had hung from a ceiling fan.

We also, as my family is wont to do, spent some time sitting around, instruments in hand, singing songs together. The Von Trapps we ain't, but we enjoy a little family jam session. Thanksgiving being sort of the starting gun for Christmas (except in the retail world, where September 1st (or, sometimes, St. Patrick's Day) seems to be) we sang quite a few Christmas tunes, and thence came the first of two Thanksgiving Mysteries.

"Mysteries" is probably too dramatic a word, really, but I'll push forward undaunted. We were singing the classic tune "The Friendly Beasts" and found ourselves wondering if we were remembering all the verses. We covered these four (Note - the page will immediately start playing a MIDI file of the song's tune. It's not objectionable (except for sounding like a $30 Casio keyboard), but if you're not in a place where music suddenly springing from your computer would be appropriate then be ye warned (if you listen to the song all the way to the end there's sort of a cool Easter Egg)) and sat around looking at each other for a bit, trying to remember if there was a fifth. It seemed like we'd usually only sung about those animals, but the song seemed too short. Finally we moved on and left the mystery unresolved. Until today. Today I have hied me to Google and solved the mystery. There is indeed a fifth verse:

"I," said the camel, yellow and black,
"Over the desert, upon my back,
I brought Him a gift in the Wise Men's pack."
"I," said the camel, yellow and black.

I'm pretty sure I've never heard it before, though, so I maintain that we weren't forgetting the verse, we just weren't aware of it. It doesn't seem to measure up to the lyric standard of the other four - the "ack" sound just isn't Christmassy, to my ears. Still, there it apparently is.

We also discussed what the proper word for a group of pigs was. This summer EWALU will have horses for the first time ever and I wanted to have some other group-of-animal names at my disposal so I could misuse them in place of "herd" and annoy people (only the loftiest goals for me). My aunt knew a startling number of them (I knew crash of rhinos and murder of crows and that was about it - she knew at least a dozen), but no one in the room was quite sure what a group of pigs was called. Mystery #2, and all in the same afternoon - exciting Saturday! So once again I consulted the good folks at Google (one of whom I actually know now; I greatly enjoy imagining that every time I do a search off goes my brother's friend Nick to check the Google library so he can run back to his computer and type in the answer) and found this delightful website (which plays nary a MIDI tune when opened). Apparently, pigs come in droves or herds, which is sort of boring but unsurprising (animals that people often work with groups of don't seem to get the cool names). But hogs come in drifts, parcels, or passels, and swine occasionally form sounders. Also, I note that a group of bears is a sleuth and a group of ponies a string, both of which will likely come up at our family Christmas.

Elementary, my dear Watson and whatnot.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Gauntlet up-taking

The real world has caught up with Caspian, bringing his excellent run at NaBloPoMo to a halt. I'm not half the blogger he is, but in hopes that I can pull off being 13.3% the blogger he is, I shall post on each of these last four days of November and allow Caspian to claim my posts as part of his NaBloPoMo run. The technical term for this is "DuoNaBloPoMo," I believe (if one of the participants is a female deer it's "DuoNaBloPoMoDoe," and if one participant is a female deer and the other a devotee of solfege it's "DuoNaBloPoMoDoReMiFaSoLaTiDoe").

Last night I was driving from Iowa City to Decorah, and for the last hour of the drive - the bit with winding two-lane roads through hilly Northeast Iowa - I was driving in rain and fog, with visibility often not much past the end of my hood. And for most of that last hour I also had at least one car driving right up on my back bumper. I don't consider myself a tentative driver, but given the conditions I didn't think 60 miles per hour was called for; apparently that made me a jerk. Apparently the courteous thing for me to do, as a fellow resident of Highway 150, would have been to hurtle blindly through the fog, knowing that I'd be able to see turns in the road in time but trusting to the good folks at Nissan (div. of Engineering, Deer-and-Random-Detritus Proofing) for anything else that the highway might hold.

It frightened me how tempting it was to give in to that pressure, too. To make an unsafe choice (indeed, a life-threateningly unsafe choice) because someone I didn't know obviously wanted me to and was angry at me for not. Someone who wasn't even a someone - just one in a series of angry headlights off my back bumper. It made me wonder where I draw the line - apparently I'm not willing to risk my life because someone I don't know wants to get back to college a little faster after Thanksgiving break. But I know that I'm often willing to bow to group opinion when activities are being planned and I'm a limp noodle in the face of someone I know who's actively angry with me - I'll make almost any concession to end the confrontation. Where's the line? When do my decisions become my own? How different would I be if I'd grown up in a different environment? If my family had never left Texas, or I'd never worked at summer camp, or gone to a state school instead of Wartburg, or even if Matt hadn't decided to study camping ministry or Jason's girlfriend hadn't needed a ride to her scholarship application?

It's scary stuff to first think about and it's mentally exhausting even once you realize that growing up with opinions and values affected by those around you isn't something that can be avoided even if it were something that should be. Not the sort of thing one wants filling their head while descending into a valley that looks like it might well harbor King Kong as idiots blind you from behind. I usually quite enjoy the drive to Decorah; last night I was thrilled to finally get there so I could drive south instead and let the back-to-school traffic have its own lane.

Apparently I'm going back on Friday, but by Friday we're supposed to have single-digit temperatures so fog shouldn't be a problem. Good thing; I can only handle so many automotive existential crises in a week.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ne'er thy name shall cease to be

I can't remember what the Wartburg library used to be called.

These last couple of months I've gotten to go back to college, in a sense. I have several friends from EWALU who are students at Wartburg or Luther and I've spent some time on both campuses (campi?), hanging out with college students in college dorms and going to student activities events and even sitting in on a class. Talk about opening up the memory floodgates; I've been in school quite a bit since Wartburg but never in college (if I can presume to refer to them as different things - if you're just at an institution for the academics, that's school. College is the rest of the experience). During September and October I've played Frisbee in the U, sat down in Whitehouse Business Center to check my e-mail, watched TV in a Grossmann dorm room. I've listened to students wail and gnash their teeth over a professor who assigns too much reading, watched the casual dating patterns that can only survive in an environment where thousands of demographically and age-ologically similar people live within a block of each other, and been invited to participate in the college nightlife (talk about making one feel old). It triggers powerful memory after powerful memory; I maintain that my time at EWALU was the most shaping influence of my late teens/early twenties, but 62 weeks at camp can't compete with 12 semesters at Wartburg for sheer volume of memories. Mostly, I find, it's the little things that I remember and smile about. I walk through Grossmann Hall and remember the Nerf Gun wars that were so very focusing and helpful to our studies during finals week 1997, or I look at the new Student Union and think of the Frisbee Golf holes that used to be where the new construction now is. Even being at Luther triggers floods of memories - last weekend I was in Decorah to celebrate a camp friend's birthday and one of his friends proudly showed me the quote board hanging on his dorm room wall. Barely even a page long. Amateurs.

It's been a fantastic outlet for memories of a very happy time, but there has been a glitch, if you will. An annoyance. Three weeks ago I was in Waverly with a camp friend who goes to Luther. We were waiting for some Wartburg EWALU-ians to finish classes so I took him for a tour of the campus. We walked past the Bob & Sally Vogel Library and I said, "It wasn't called that when I was in school here - Bob Vogel was still the president. It was... uh..."

Complete blank. I've been trying since then to remember with no luck (I sort of expected it to come to me as I was writing this post, but alas. I think it started with an M. Mc...something?). It's driving me nuts, probably more so than is strictly warranted. I want to continue enjoying this flow of college memories and continue being thankful for what a great experience it was without having those memories marred by not being able to remember something as basic as the name of the stupid library. Any of you out there whose memories are better than mine, please chime in.

In completely unrelated news, I learned today that 2006 will be the last year that October gets to be the longest month. I think that's a shame; I always thought it was cool that my birthday month was the longest month of the year. Apparently that doesn't factor into the decision-making process of the Powers That Be, though - the Daylight Saving Time shift will be moving to November next fall so October will lose its one-hour edge and settle back into a 7-way tie for longest.


Update 11/2 - Engelbrecht (scroll down to the "1970s")!!! Engelbrecht Library, it was it was! Man, that's a relief.

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