Monthly Archives: June 2020

(More) Life Tips

  1. If facing oncoming bicycle or pedestrian traffic, avoid the danger of dodging back and forth and then accidentally colliding by picking a straight line, looking at the ground, and sticking to your line. This allows the other person to make a plan and go around you.
  2. If trying to navigate a complex crowded area pick a large person who is going in the same direction you are and walk closely behind them. If they head off in another direction choose a new person. Alternatives to tall people and big people include mother’s with strollers, as they also tend to act like icebreaking ships to cut a path through crowds.
  3. Watching a parade? Station yourself behind a group of moms with strollers. They will keep away any very tall people who might otherwise stand in front of you.
  4. If you have to keep pulling down the hem of your skirt as you walk, it’s too short.
  5. If you have to pull down the hem of your skirt when you sit, it’s too short for church.
  6. Women’s clothes rarely have pockets. Women therefore use their bras to carry small items. Don’t do this with your cellphone, as it’s not good for the breast to have heat and possibly weird radiation pressed against it.
  7. Boldness is at least 5/10ths of success, probably more. Most people you see who appear to be really smart, successful and confident are just winging it.
  8. Being sincerely charming, pleasant, polite and friendly is a good portion of success. It can sometimes be superseded by Boldness, though. That’s how you sometimes get cranky, incompetent people in leadership positions.
  9. Pretty much anything mixed with cheese and baked will be really yummy (in other words, take your typical homemade macaroni and cheese recipe and feel free to add or substitute all kinds of leftovers, veggies, grains, meats, and so on. It’ll be a hit.
  10. Don’t waste your time passing around useless information (!), it serves no purpose except to waste other people’s time.

Not foods

I can’t stand truffles. I know I should like them – they are fancy, expensive, sought-after, and so on. But they smell horrible. They must be the kind of thing one has to acquire a taste for, like strange old cheeses, yogurt, aged meats, strong drinks, cilantro, dill and other unusual flavors. It took me ages to learn to like olives, and longer still to be able to eat sushi (which I still find somewhat revolting, but I like the associated things like pickled ginger, miso soup, and edamame, which helps).

Our only favorite pizza place has stopped delivering. I’m rather heart-broken. It was one of a very few places I really liked. I went out to the dentist today and half the shops I passed were emptied and closed, rent signs hung on their doors. It’s quite sad to see the empty streets and galleries. I suspect it will take years to recover, assuming the next months don’t bring more disasters.


A friend is long sought, hardly found, and with difficulty kept. Let those who will, allow gold to dazzle them and be borne along in splendor, their very baggage glittering with gold and silver. Love is not to be purchased, and affection has no price. The friendship which can cease has never been real.

-Saint Jerome, from a letter to Rufinus, the monk

All the little boxes

I don’t know anyone who fits in the categories provided by surveys, Twitter rants, or news articles. All of them are real human beings, with tangled lives and complicated opinions. Some of them may even appear, at a glance, to easily fit the stereotype of this or that – the drug-addled homeless man begging for change, the radical young activist enthused about confronting some kind of revolution, the stuffy old lady frowning down her nose at the neighbors. But that’s a vague impression that falls apart if one actually gets to know the person, spends time with them, and ignores ones own lazy tendency to chuck people into little boxes and then treat them with appropriate prejudice.

Half the babbling on about things people do is not thoughtful, considered speech, but just an unedited releasing whatever mental babble is circulating in their minds (this blog serves that purpose for me, especially if my husband is busy and doesn’t need to hear my nonsense). I like listening sometimes, though I sometimes run out of sympathy with other people’s nonsense, especially if it is not personal, but just repetition of still other people’s nonsense, such as political intrigues or scandals collected from the news. At least babble about your own life!

Interesting: I’m really worried that someone might watch what I do all day.

Boring: Did you hear Bill Gates is going to inject us all with microchips?

Left front foot

I took lots of riding lessons. Lesson number one was that riding is a very specific and regulated activity. One approaches the horse so, touches him so, grooms him so. One cleans the left front foot first, standing exactly so, moving ones hand so, scraping the dirt so. Only by the good fortune of it being the 1970s I was not required to wear what are now considered required items for riding a horse: tall boots, stretchy pants, helmet, gloves. Sneakers and jeans were enough. And there lies the giveaway that all the enormously expensive gear, and all the elaborate rules of riding, are just upper-class stylish expenditures and military exercises to train cavalry trickling down to the peasant class.

When I finally encountered working horses, something easily encountered when riding in Brazil, I discovered that one can actually ride in shorts and flipflops, with a saddle made of a folded blanket or a girth made of leftover twine, on a horse whose loose shoe can be hammered back in place with a rock found alongside the road.

I then discovered that actually nearly all the thousands of dollars I spent on specialized sports gear over the years was ridiculously wasted. One doesn’t need a different pair of shoes for each activity, nor a special pair of pants for hiking, different from the ones used for bicycling or swimming or fixing the roof. The vast majority of people in the world* don’t have the money for that, and those of us who do are spending it like water in order to show people how cool we are. Outside of a very tiny percentage who are participating in competitions that oblige the use of matching outfits, there is simply no need.

*And not just in foreign countries. I was once at the bus station going back to college, with my sneakers tied to the outside of my duffle bag and my sandals on my feet, when a five year old girl behind me in line said softly, “Mama! She has TWO shoes!!”

You never write!!

A few of examples of Saint Jerome, of great fame, making me laugh.

Offering that there is really no excuse for his own slow responses to letters:

Shall I say, ​”​I wrote often, but the bearers of my letters were negligent?​”​
You will reply, ​”​ Your excuse is the old one of all who fail to write.”

Shall I say, ​”​I could not find any one to take my letters?”​
You will say that numbers of persons have gone from my part of the world to yours.

Criticizing the pathetic letter he received from a distant correspondent:

Why is it that, when we are separated by so great an interval of land and sea, you have sent me so short a letter?

Is it that I have deserved no better treatment, not having first written to you?

I cannot believe that paper can have failed you while Egypt continues to supply its wares. Even if a Ptolemy had closed the seas, King Attalus would still have sent you parchments from Pergamum, and so by his skins you could have made up for the want of paper. The very name parchment is derived from a historical incident of the kind which occurred generations ago.

What then? Am I to suppose the messenger to have been in haste? No matter how long a letter may be, it can be written in the course of a night.

Or had you some business to attend to which prevented you from writing? No claim is prior to that of affection.

Two suppositions remain, either that you felt disinclined to write or else that I did not deserve a letter.

He would rather a cranky letter than none at all:

Wake up, wake up, arouse yourself from sleep, give to affection at least one sheet of paper.

Amid the pleasures of life at home sometimes heave a sigh over the journeys which we have made together.

If you love me, write in answer to my prayer.

If you are angry with me, though angry still write.

I find my longing soul much comforted when I receive a letter from a friend, even though that friend be out of temper with me.

Even having nothing to say is no excuse:

…never at a loss for an excuse, you will perhaps declare that you had nothing to write. Had this been so, you should still have written to inform me of the fact.

Saint Jerome almost gets annoyed:

Now, unless I am mistaken, I have already sent you ten letters, affectionate and earnest, while you have not deigned to give me even a single line.

The Lord speaks to His servants, but you, my brother servant, refuse to speak to me.

Believe me, if reserve did not check my pen, I could show my annoyance in such invective that you would have to reply…

All quotes from The Complete Works of Saint Jerome, on Kindle, or free at this useful site of old Christian texts.

Saint Jerome near his hermitage, with friendly lion, books, and mystical vision of Christ Crucified.


The delicacy, detail, and sheer inspired joyfulness of God’s creative work is amazing. Take the toucan. You could just make a toucan, right? You could even give it a colorful bill and a wily personality. But do there need to be dozens of elaborate variations? It reminds me of the exuberant self-expression of a girl making Valentine cards for her friends – more lace, more glitter, curlique lettering on the front, hearts to dot the i’s, and a special assortment of candies arranged in a little box to accompany it.


I found myself singing a children’s song this afternoon, and it was nonsense, and I figured it was probably silly words added on to a pre-existing melody. It goes like this:

Do your ears hang low, do they wobble to and fro, can you tie them in a knot, can you tie them in a bow…

That’s all I remember.

But as I was singing it, making a cup of tea, I wondered if it might have been an old marching song or hymn. And then I remembered another, that I’m pretty sure is an old military marching song, with nonsense lyrics added for children:

There were ants, ants, wearing rubber pants in the store, in the store, there were ants, ants, wearing rubber pants, in the quartermaster’s store.

I learned that when I was seven. I remember the day because I had (and still have) no idea what a quartermaster’s store is, though it’s probably the supply storage on a ship or something. But at the time we used to sneak out of the playground at recess to buy penny candy at a tiny shop down a side street, and that store came to my mind each time we sang the ant song.

Anyway, more uselessness released into the diabolical internet for your enjoyment.

The ugliness of evil

I’d often noticed that devils and demons in medieval art are particularly grotesque – they often have faces on their behinds, or asses for faces, and a hodge-podge of limbs, as if they were put together senselessly or blindly, without the harmony and order so vivid in the beauty of Creation.

It had not occurred to me, however, what a friend pointed out: that the same in more recent art are often rather romantic, admirable, or even beautiful. Sometimes that conflict is intended to disturb the savvy viewer, who knows that that which appears attractive is actually deadly. But sometimes the depiction is meant to encourage a certain sympathy for evil, as if finding evil repellent is just a silly misunderstanding.

I don’t know if this difference is always evident – but below a selection of images of St. Michael that I happened to have on my laptop for another project a while back, with a variety of manners of depicting the Holy Archangel’s conquest of Satan, at God’s command*:

*Except the one eastern-style icon, which just shows a noble portrait of the robed archangel.