28 December 2007

Christmas Letter

The annual letter is complete, and will be e-mailed shortly. Maybe I'll even post an edited version of it.

23 December 2007

More Snow

We thought perhaps that we'd get to Mt. Pleasant just ahead of winter weather.


This is being posted from the Quality Inn Highlander in Iowa City -- 50 miles from our destination. But we had a lovely suite (the last no-smoking room available in the hotel). So we got to sit by the "fire," had a leisurely breakfast and morning, and are ready to go.

17 December 2007


You learn something of the brokenness of the world when you shovel snow. Not (simply) in some undisturbed-now-despoiled, aching-all-over, making-little-headway, sweating-profusely, your-wife-can-shovel-more-than-you metaphorical kind of way, but in a straightforward the-world-is-a-broken-place kind of way.

You learn that you disdain those who, for no reason of physical disability, use snow blowers instead of their backs, and that you disdain more greatly those who can't be bothered even to attempt to clear their walks. You learn which houses are vacant due to eviction, deportation, or some other reason. You learn how little you know of your neighbors most of the rest of the year. You learn that families that seemed happy are broken, but hold out hope for restoration though that hope seems faint. You learn, when you make small talk and ask if there is anything you can do, that part of you is sincere, but most of you isn't. You learn that people get lung cancer, though it's their own damn fault from smoking all those damn cigarettes. You marvel at that attitude, and you wonder how families cope with such news, and you wonder when you'll go out to shovel snow and be the only one shoveling; when you'll be reminded again that the world is still broken.

And you learn that when you shovel snow early in the morning there's a good chance you'll need to shovel again later in the day. But you go and shovel anyway, despite the brokenness you'll encounter.

16 December 2007

Every Language

Granted, every language has rules and exceptions to the rules. Nonetheless, I'm pretty sure I chuckled when I read the following more than a decade ago; I also chuckled when I read it Saturday morning. From C.L. Seow's A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew (Abingdon, 1987) (sorry, I can't quite reproduce all the transliterations exactly):

"Segolates are nouns which were originally monsyllabic, with two different consonants at the end (i.e., *qatl, *qitl, *qutl).... Through a process of vowel harmony, we get nouns that are so dominated by sĕgôl that the original distinction between *qatl, *qitl, and *qutl is no longer made in the independent singular nouns. Regardless of the original vowel, these nouns generally appear as qétel, except that *qutl nouns always appear as qōtel, and many *qitl nouns will appear as qētel."
Good stuff.

05 December 2007

Blast from the Past

Just now, as I was configuring a device, I wanted to erase the entirety of the line I'd just typed. So without thinking I hit Shift-Backspace. Which accomplished nothing. If only I had been using my TRS-80...

04 December 2007


First, I can't believe I just used that as the title of my post. Ugh.

Second, this morning at 7:16 EST, Dasha posted a comment on my "Walk Score" post. Then, having thought about a response on-and-off during the day, tonight on Marketplace I heard of a recent study indicating that people in the US like to walk -- and that Gen-Xers should rejoice because this is the first major trend attributed to Gen-Xers instead of Baby Boomers. Hence, "Convergence."

Now some more on walking and driving. A careful re-reading of Dasha's comment makes me suspect that it's comment spam, but it's surprisingly articulate comment spam, so I'll respond nonetheless. First, to move the conversation out of August, I'll post Dasha's comment in full.

"I believe that walk score is cool, but nowadays more and more people prefer to drive cars. Homes are often located in an area where some establishments are easier to get to by car than on foot. I've recently found a type of service on drivescore.fizber.com which is called Drive Score. It shows a map of what establishments are in your neighborhood and calculates a Drive Score based on the number of places within a convenient driving distance. It doesn’t mean that drive score is better than walk score – they are equal and both necessary in the modern world!"


1. This morning my drive score was 68. Tonight it is 75. Hmmm ... You can tweak the settings somewhat, and get walk- and bike-scores also.
2. I surely don't understand why my proximity to a TJ Maxx or Victoria's Secret should influence my drive score, especially given that I'm only 3.25 miles from a Wal-Mart Supercenter (never mind the fact that we shop mostly at Goodwill -- and there are two of those closer than the Wal-Mart Supercenter, one of which is conveniently located beside a CVS pharmacy and a Martin's supermarket). Some further playing reveals that if I exclude the TJ Maxx, Victoria's Secret, and Home Depot, but leave the Wal-Mart and the Gym my score is a 79. If I take away a Gym, my score drops to 73. If I keep the gym but remove the Wal-Mart, my score is 74.
3. "It doesn't mean that drive score is better than walk score - they are both equal and both necessary in the modern world!" They most certainly are not. Equal, anyway. Yes, we in the West live in a society that pretty much requires that we own or have access to a vehicle. This is especially true for those in rural areas. But necessity, or, as stated earlier in the comment, preference, are not in and of themselves justification for walking and driving being equal. In terms of environmental impact, physical and mental health, and societal (that is, community) health walking is vastly superior.

And necessity itself is a little questionable. Most of us choose to live in ways that continue to require the use of cars. No one forced me to go watch Beowulf; I chose to go (only tolerable because of 3D, FWIW). I choose to shop at TJ Maxx instead of Goodwill (ok, I don't, but you get the idea). And because I get in the habit of doing such things I come to view having a car as more a necessity than it really is.

Example: 9:00pm, and I discover we're out of milk. Uh-oh. That means no cereal tomorrow morning. My first response? To jump in the car and drive to pick up a gallon of milk. The store is only a mile down the road. But I have other alternatives that I generally don't consider. We have bread in the freezer -- perhaps I could just have toast. We have eggs in the refrigerator -- perhaps I could have eggs. We even have powdered milk in the pantry -- why not use that? I don't have to get milk, and if I did not own a car I would not even consider it. On the one hand, car ownership is horribly, horribly freeing. On the other hand, it's absolutely constricting.

Just my $.02.

By the way, Dan took a principled stance yesterday. Way to go, Dan!