Sunday, March 27, 2005

Happy Easter!

During the sacrament in church today, I read through the account of the Resurrection from the four Gospels. I really love the account in John, and today particularly it made me think of the glorious day when I will meet my Master and worship at His feet.

I have been listening again today to one of my favorite hymns, one by John Rutter. It's called "As the Bridegroom to His Chosen," and the version I have is by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It is so lovely. I would like to do an analysis and explanation of all the metaphors in that hymn.

I was so lucky as to be invited to dinner with the Kureczkos, and that was lovely, as always. I will really miss that family when I leave. Right now I'm going to read for a while, and then I will call my family in Idaho Falls.

The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature. (25 points)

Saturday, March 26, 2005

good eats

For dinner tonight, I made chicken tikka masala, an Indian dish, and it's quite yummy. I just had to share.

I also went and sat outside for about an hour, since the sun was sunshinying. It was pretty cold, though.
"But it isn't easy, mind you. It takes all my brains."
"I'm sure it would." (23 points)

Sunday, March 20, 2005

ginormous update

Lots of things to talk about, since it's been so long. (Sorry about that!) Pick and choose your favorites.


First, I have to say that I'm feeling rather ashamed of myself right now, for my lack of robust faith. Ironically, all the stuff we talked about at church (which had a lot to do with this) did not move me nearly as strongly as a pair of articles by Doug Giles, called "Robust Faith". They're part of a series that he's not finished with yet, but the two he's done already really moved me to consider how limpid I've allowed my faith to become, and how desperately I need to learn to make my faith a strong, visible part of my everyday life, even in those situations where I may feel most uncomfortable doing so. If you're interested, the articles are here and here.

Psych study

I've been helping out with this psychology study on campus. They're testing the effects of different sugars on the cognitive processes. So, we fast for 12 hours before-hand; they take a blood sample, and then give us this nasty sugary drink and wait 15 minutes; they take another blood sample, and then we do some cognitive thinking tests on the computer, etc. Well, I've been noticing that this tends to give me a bit of a headache, only natural after a sugar high like that. But yesterday was especially bad. It may have been helped along by the fact that when I got home, I spent essentially the rest of the day reading an online text of a book. In any case, I had a nasty headache all day long, and all I had to relieve it was my peppermint oil. It did help, but never lasted long. I guess it's time to buy some ibuprofen.


The temperature out here has been much nicer lately -- I rarely need more than a sweater to keep me warm when I go out. It's even been more sunny, and that's wonderful! Today it happens to be really overcast, but yesterday was beautiful for most of the day (it started to rain in the evening). It's making me very happy. Oh, and I finally went and got myself new flip-flops yesterday at ASDA.


Recently, I've been reading some Georgette Heyer. The first (These Old Shades) was one that my friend Katie brought with her when she visited, and left it with me. It was all right, and I was annoyed with it even as I was engrossed in it. It was a very strange experience. Anyway, after that one, JoAnna lent me hers (Bath Tangle) to read, and I liked it much better. It was written later in Heyer's life, and it was set in a later period, and the main characters were more grown-up. I think that all contributed to me liking it better.

Anyway, I can't find Heyer at the library or online, so then I had to start reading some other stuff. Having read Heyer lately, I'm now in the mood for romances, and so I started with some Jane Austen. I finally read Persuasion, which was quite short, comparatively. It was very good, but there's nothing much more that I would want to say about it at the moment. Except maybe that it made me want to go to Lyme Regis and Bath.

After Persuasion, I then was really in the mood for some Scarlet Pimpernel. It has been a long time since I read it, and it was great, as always. I found a website entirely devoted to the Scarlet Pimpernel, Actually, I had found it long before, but this time I found that they have e-texts of all the Scarlet Pimpernel books, and even some others that Orczy wrote. I may have to read a few more of them right away.


Spring is here, and Easter is this weekend. I can hardly believe it! I don't have any plans as yet. JoAnna was going to try and convince a family in the ward that they should invite me over for dinner that day, but I haven't heard anything about it. I need to talk to the husband anyway, so I'll probably try and call him today.

Easter always makes me think of my mission and my trainer Sister Gordon, since that's about the time that I first arrived in the field. It was a very good time of the mission for me, and I can't help but think of it whenever Easter comes around. That's probably a good thing, since it also serves to remind me both why I went on a mission and why we celebrate Easter, namely, for our Savior. I plan to do some good Easter reading, about the Resurrection. Interestingly, my favorite teaching about the Resurrection is from before it had taken place. It is when the Lord is about to raise Lazarus from the dead, and he explains to Martha that, "I am the Resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die" (John 11:25-26). I suppose I love this so much because it makes me remember that Jesus Christ is the Master of my soul -- that without Him, there is no resurrection, and there is no life.

Today's quote

The old man shrugged. He had seen so much misery, so much sorrow and pain, it was difficult to be compassionate to all. There had never been but One in this world who had compassion for the whole of humanity, and humanity repaid Him by nailing Him to a cross. (50 points - one of my favorite quotes ever, from a little-known and little-read book)

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

ashley smith

I didn't listen to Rush last night (I was doing a little work on my essay instead), so I didn't hear about this until just a few hours ago. If you haven't heard about Ashley Smith, you need to read about her ordeal last weekend. What an amazing woman, and a wonderful example of a true Christian and a woman of God.
God has given us, in a measure, the power to make our own fate. (50 points)

Monday, March 14, 2005

judicial nominees, filibusters, and the "nuclear" option

I was just re-reading this wonderful article by Thomas Sowell, and I wanted to pass it along, just in case anyone else is interested. I'm very interested to see what will happen with all of this -- and I'm personally outraged at the whole situation in the Senate with the judicial nominees. But I'll spare you an elaboration of my personal opinions on this matter. Anyway, Sowell does a great job outlining the issues at stake in this struggle, and anyone wanting to think more about it would do well to read the article.

Here you go.
He who hesitates is sometimes saved. (30 points)

Sunday, March 13, 2005

politeness conference

Yesterday I spent the whole day in Nottingham for a Politeness Conference at Nottingham University. Before you ask, let me clear up a few misconceptions. No, politeness (as an academic study) is in no way related to sensitivity. No, we did not sit around and learn how to be polite to other people. No, there was nothing there about Robin Hood or Maid Marian. And no, we didn't analyze each other's politeness strategies. And yes, politeness really is an academic study -- it has been quite influential, especially in the linguistic study of pragmatics.

Politeness deals with how people display polite (and impolite) behavior. In linguistics, it is concerned with the language people use to be polite or impolite. It tries to make sense of statements like the following:
Can you pass the salt?
See, usually the person who says something like that knows that the person they're addressing literally is capable of passing the salt. So, why do they question it? Why do we put it in that way? Well, it's one way of being polite (namely, in this case, by being indirect) - it softens the blow of what the speaker is really trying to say. If we didn't make the utterance polite, we would end up saying something like, "Give me the salt." In some cases, that might be fine; but in other cases, that kind of statement might offend someone. So, this is what politeness is all about.

The conference was interesting. They were also launching the start of a new journal on politeness, so they gave us all free copies of the first issue. That made me glad, since there are some articles in there that I've been looking forward to using. However, for the most part, I was just annoyed by the sense of academic self-superiority that pervaded all the proceedings. I don't think that people in academia try to be superior -- but they really get accustomed to thinking that way. Never before in my life have been so distinctly aware of the Ivory Tower.

Don't get me wrong -- I did enjoy myself, and there were some really interesting things discussed. But I just kept wondering what the point of it all was. Who really cares whether or not 'face' is a real concept, or whether it's the same across cultures. Of course there are practical implications for it all -- such as teaching people how to be polite in other cultures, countries, and languages -- but in the long run, is it really going to matter whether or not our theory of politeness accurately reflects the way things are? It's like the classic question about the chicken and the egg -- you know, which one came first? Why does it matter? It might be interesting to theorize how things happened, but in the long run, it really doesn't make any difference which was first, because they're both here now. If we actually knew for certain that it was the chicken that came first, how would that change the way we do anything?

The older I get, the more of a pragmatist I become. And modern academia is really no place for a pragmatist.

Anyway, on a bit of a happier note, I'd like to recommend Walter E. Williams's online 'course' (a series of 10 articles) entitled "Economics for the Citizen." Dr. Williams had last fall semester off from teaching at George Mason University, so he wrote up this series of 10 articles to try and teach some basic economics for the average citizen. Very interesting stuff. Between Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell, I sometimes wonder if I shouldn't have gone into economics. (Don't worry - I'm just kidding.)

Oh yeah, and I found out the other day that Jonathan Culpeper will be supervising my dissertation. I'm excited about that, since I'm using his framework on characterization for my dissertation. That, and I just generally like Jonathan. My dissertation, by the way (or, incidentally), is about the characterization of James and Lily Potter in the Harry Potter series.
I ask a simple question, and I get a parade. (30 points)

Monday, March 7, 2005

the latest update

I just got thinking about my blog today and realized how long it's been since I posted anything (a whole week! how could I?), so I thought I'd post a little something.

I'm currently listening to today's Rush Limbaugh Show, with Walter E. Williams guest hosting. He's "interviewing" Thomas Sowell over the phone, and it's been fascinating. These are two of my favorite columnists ever. Very clear thinkers, and very clear writers. It makes me wonder sometimes if I shouldn't have gone into Economics instead. To view their columns, use these links: Walter E. Williams ~*~ Thomas Sowell.

Also, while at the British Museum recently, I was struck once more by the nature of Egyptian hieroglyphs. So I have taken it upon myself to learn some Ancient Egyptian. This is proving a bit difficult at the moment. I've got little flash cards for the 'alphabet' glyphs (the ones that stand for just one letter - this is how they 'spell' your name in Egyptian at places like this). But the other characters have been difficult to work with - on one site, the glyphs are too small to be able to really reproduce them (which is the only way I manage to learn things), and another site doesn't have the transcription for them (so that I know roughly how to pronounce them). Plus, all of the sites I've found use a completely different set of glyphs once they get past the 'alphabet', so there's no way to compare them and find missing information from one site on the next. I'm thinking I may have to wait until I get home and buy a real textbook for it before I really make much headway. I also want to learn Akkadian cuneiform sometime soon. I have mused many times that if I were not in stylistics, I would want to be in historical linguistics, reconstructing ancient languages.

Lately, I've been watching more Strong Bad Emails. I'd really quite forgotten about Strong Bad and Homestar Runner, until Katie visited. After watching a few with her, I remembered how hilarious they are. And then I played Peasant's Quest on the games page -- too fun! I strongly recommend that you check it out. Play Peasant's Quest ~*~ Peasant's Quest Walkthrough

Run the straight race through God's good grace. (20 points, plus another 20 for a movie it's in)

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

London trip

All around the cathedral the saints and apostles look down as she sells her wares. (10 points)
So, London was good. It was a weekend of disappointments, though. First, on Saturday morning we went to find 221b Baker Street, where Sherlock Holmes was supposed to live. The plan was just to get my picture taken standing outside, and then find the nearest 'smart red pillar box' (aka round, red mail-box) and take my picture by that, since that should be where Danger Mouse lives (er ... lived). However, we couldn't find any smart red pillar boxes there. In fact, there seems to be some confusion about where Danger Mouse does live, after all. In the cartoons, they say that he lives "somewhere in Mayfair", but when they show his pillar box, the sign behind it says "Baker Street", and Baker Street is not in Mayfair. Hmm. Sounds supsicious.

Well, after getting over my disappointment about Danger Mouse (which took a whole 2 minutes, I think), we then headed to find Temple. This is a section just off the north shore of the Thames and barely inside the City of London (which is only one square mile), where the seat of law in England has been since about the 17th century. It was named largely for the Temple Church, which was built by the Knights Templar in the 12th century. Unfortunately, when we got to Temple, we found it closed. Checking the guide book, we then realized that the Inner Temple and Middle Temple are closed Saturday and Sunday, but that the Temple Church was supposed to still be open to visitors. Now we just had to find a way in. We eventually did, and then wandered around a bit till we found the church. However, we then learned that the church was closed to visitors that day only. Shucks! Well, we got some good pictures of the outside of it and then found our way out again. That was a bit tricky, since we got in someplace where we apparently weren't supposed to. But, we did find our way out again, right on to Fleet Street, where we were greeted by the majestic Royal Courts of Justice. Amazing building! Wow.

By this time, we thought it was time to head back toward the hostel and the British Museum, right across the street from each other. The British Museum was well worth the trip. It's the grand-daddy of all museums, and just what a museum ought to be. Lots of great stuff from Egypt, Assyria, and Greece. They had lots of other great stuff, too, but that was the wing JoAnna and I were interested in at the time. (Oh yeah, I nearly forgot to mention that we got to see the Rosetta Stone, too. It was much smaller than I had expected.)

After the Museum, we then found 48 Doughty Street, where Charles Dickens lived for a while. While there, he finished Pickwick Papers, wrote most of Oliver Twist, and then wrote all of Nicholas Nickelby. It wasn't quite as interesting as I had hoped, although there were some neat artifacts. The displays left something to be desired, though, for the most part. I was very close to joining the Dickens Society, but then I realized that I would have to have them change my subscription (for The Dickensian) from domestic to international in the middle of the year, and they cost different amounts, and I just decided that I would wait until I get home to America and then do it.

By that time, we were both very tired and cold, so we ran back to the hostel for a while to warm up and rest a bit. While there, we checked out the guide book, trying to decide if there was something else we wanted to see while there. But nothing caught our attention at the time, and then I decided I needed to do some email about ward business. We found an internet cafe, and I sent my emails, and then we went back to the hostel again to get ready for the theater.

Right about here is where things get confusing to me. See, somehow, we lost an hour of our time. We neither of us know what happened or where that hour went, but it seems that when we got to the theater to collect our tickets, it must have been 7:30 already -- the time when the show was supposed to start. However, we thought it was 6:30 and that we had another whole hour to kill. We briefly considered finding our seats right then, but we figured with a whole hour, we might as well go find something to eat. So, we wandered around Piccadilly for quite some time trying to find good chips. Let me just say, Piccadilly is not the place to find chips. Unless you want to sit down and have a full dinner. We eventually asked the bouncer at a pub, and he told us someplace to find some. As we sat eating our chips, I mentioned to JoAnna what a nice feeling it was to know that we didn't have to worry about our seats, since they were reserved, and it wouldn't matter if we got there only 5 minutes before the show.

Eventually, we went back down to the theater, arriving at quarter past the hour. We thought we were doing quite well, with 15 minutes to spare. The usher rushed over to us to ask if our tickets were for that night, and we said they were. He told us he would take us to our seats, and then proceeded outside. I wasn't sure what was going on, since it looked like there was a door just off to our left that would have taken us where we needed to be. Anyway, as he led us around the side of the building, he commented that the show had already begun.

"What do you mean?" we asked. "What time was it supposed to start?"

"Half past seven," he said.

JoAnna and I were lost. "Yeah ..."

"It's quarter past eight," he told us.

"What?!" I checked my watch again, more closely this time, and found that it was, indeed, quarter past eight. We were both flabbergasted, having just been informed that we somehow lost an hour of our time.

Anyway, we got inside just at the beginning of The Music of the Night, and we had to stand at the back and wait for the song to finish before the usher would show us our seats.

The show was good, but to be honest, I didn't love it as much as I had expected to. Maybe it's because I was late, or because I had heard it built up so much, or because the stage was so much smaller than I had expected, or because I wasn't feeling too well (I kept shivering all the way through the show, despite the warm atmosphere). In any case, the acting and choreography just seemed terrible to me. Raoul was cute, but he seemed to be more angry with Christine than in love with her. Christine's voice was wonderful, but she was a little too old, and she also seemed to be more frustrated with Raoul than in love with him. There was far too much shouting, and not enough feeling. The sets and costumes were amazing, but most of the actors were far too melodramatic for my taste. The Phantom was far and away the best actor there, but that's rather to be expected for a man who's been doing the role for almost four years -- he knew his role inside and out, and it showed, with very little stagnancy coming through. It was his last show that night, and we got to hear his farewell speech, which was kind of cool. If I ever went back, though, I'd be willing to pay a few more quid and get a seat in the Royal Circle, which would have made for much better viewing than where we were.

Well, the next day we went to church at St. Paul's, and that was the highlight of the trip for me. The cathedral is definitely the best I've ever seen -- absolutely breath-taking. Unfortunately, they have been cleaning the ceiling and had scaffolding up in half of the Whispering Gallery, so we didn't get to test out the whispering from 100 feet away. The worship service, which was Anglican, was also nice. We sang "Fight the Good Fight" for the last hymn, which made me very happy. However, most of the service was sung by the choir, and most of it was rather ... well, boring, frankly. The sermon was preached about Paul's description of God as the "God of all comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:3). Interesting insights.

After church, we wandered down Fleet Street toward Temple, thinking we might try and see Temple Church again. However, we learned that they wouldn't be open for another 45 minutes or so. We thought we might try and see something else in the area, but nothing that was open on Sunday sounded interesting enough to us. So instead, we ended up having lunch at The George, a very famous pub across from the Royal Courts of Justice, where lots of famous people have eaten througout the years, including Dr. Samuel Johnson and Madonna. I had bangers and mash (read: sausages and mashed potatoes), which was excellent. Many scholars believe that this is the pub where Sydney Carton takes Charles Darnay for supper after his London trial in Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities. It's one of my favorite scenes, and the whole time we were eating, I kept thinking about lines like, "Do you think I particularly like you?" It was great.

After that, we just hung around London a bit. We took the Underground to Paddington Station, just to see Paddington. (We'd both heard about it quite a bit, what with Paddington Bear and Agatha Christie's The 4.50 From Paddington.) Then we took the tube back down to Westminster to see the Ritz Hotel, again just for the sake of seeing it.

By that time, it was close to the time for our train to leave from Euston, so we went up there, found our friend Denise, and all took the train home together. It was torture, just as it was last weekend. What with all the work going on with the tracks up here, it takes forever on the weekends to get between London and Lancaster. But we did get home all right, and we had a good time chatting with each other, so that was nice, too. I now have lots of pics of London, but I don't have time to put them up on my site yet, so you'll have to wait.