Friday, April 30, 2010

"We're lost. I don't think Gandalf meant for us to come this way."

I don't know why, but the words of The Lord of the Rings keep coming into my head as I try to wrap my head around just how awful the Gulf oil spill is. I think about what happened in the Mines of Moria because the dwarves became too greedy and dug too deep.

So I am devastated in anticipation of the oil slick reaching the coast of Florida on Monday. This isn't to say that I am any less devastated about the oil slick destroying miles and miles of protected wildlife refuges in Louisiana and Mississippi already.

But the place that I know most intimately is Pensacola Beach and the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The National Seashore extends from Florida to the barrier islands off Mississippi's coast, where we collected shells that turned out to be hermit crabs with Grammy when I was a young child after taking the ferry out to Ship Island for the day.

Here is the picture of the first time my sisters and I were ever on Pensacola Beach. Our family had just moved there from rural Mississippi, and it seemed like such an amazing place:


I have been in love with it ever since.








I don't think there is a better place on the planet to take a nap in the sun:



The World Below the Brine
The world below the brine,
Forests at the bottom of the sea, the branches and leaves,
Sea-lettuce, vast lichens, strange flowers and seeds, the thick tangle, openings and pink turf.
Different colors, pale gray and green, purple, white and gold, they play of light through the water,
Dumb swimmers are among the rocks, coral, gluten, grass, rushes, and the ailment of the swimmers,
Sluggish existence grazing there suspended, or slowly crawling close to the bottom,
The sperm whale at the surface blowing air and spray, we disporting with his flukes,
The leaden-eye shark, the walrus, the turtle, the hairy sea leopard, and the sting ray,
Passions there, wars, pursuits, tribes, sights in those ocean depths, breathing that thick-breathing air, as so many do,
The change thence to the sight here, and to the subtle air breathed by beings like us who walk this sphere,
The changes onward from ours to that of beings who walk other spheres.
-- Walt Whitman


The Tide Rises the Tide Falls
The tide rises, the tide falls,
The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
Along the sea-sands damp and brown
The traveller hastens toward the town,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.
Darkness settles on roofs and walls,
But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands,
Efface the footprints in the sands.
And the tide rises, the tide falls.
The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls
Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;
The day returns, but nevermore
Returns the traveller to the shore
And the tide rises, the tide falls.
-- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow



I have loved this beach for as long as my memory recalls. It has been men go to place to think, read, or cry. Its clear waters have brought me clarity. I have watched dolphins ride waves parallel to the shore. I have carefully tread past sea turtle nests. I have been thankful for peace and thankful for beauty there.
Please pray for this place to make it.

Moderating Influences

Believe it or not, I am less-likely to get riled up about things these days I might have in former years. However, that doesn't mean that there are not things that make me frustrated and extremely angry, because I feel very strongly that I am right and that if you disagree with me, you are either devoid of a greater sense of humanity or the public good. Now the list of things that I feel this way about is increasingly more limited as the years go by, but that just means that the passion is intensified for the remaining topics. It just so happens that in the past few days, a few of these big issues have been in the news. So, my usual desire to avoid confrontation and steer conversations away from controversial topics has been subverted. I need to be someone that just lets it go, but whenever I do that, the words of William Butler Yeats come dancing back into my head:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

That is my fear about always trying to be the polite person that avoids controversy. I am afraid that bad information will be disseminated, ill-informed people will believe that they are unconditionally right, and that I will be one of those people that didn't do or say anything.

So that is why when I still hear people today saying "Drill, baby, drill", and that their greatest fears about the Gulf oil spill is that this will stop future offshore drilling, I get really upset.

The second issue of recent attention is my sincere belief, and the significant support that comes from the scientific literature, about the need to vaccinate our children. I think everyone should watch the Frontline PBS documentary from this week. There are a number of troubling parts to the vaccine debate that I see - a lack of concern for what is a "public good" anymore, the idea of consumer-driven medicine instead of expert and scientific driven medicine, and the fact that the war against vaccines is another form of the war on science. The Internet has been good for many things, but the fact that average citizens feel empowered to question the expertise of doctors and scientists based on bad information that is proliferated on the web is one thing that makes me very very sad. For the life of me, I don't know why the CDC would intentionally harm children, but yet there are plenty of nutcases out there who think that is exactly the case. Many of these nutcases are upper middle class white people who think that they know more than experts, but probably have never attempted to read a serious scientific journal article. I believe that their presumed "knowledge" is really just based on an underlying selfishness, because they have this primal fear of their kid being the autistic one. Thus, they justify a lack of compassion and concern for others in their community, vulnerable populations like newborn children or others with auto-immune diseases who cannot be vaccinated and who rely on herd immunity for protection, with good old fashioned selfishness, cleverly masqueraded as "parental choice."
And that is all I am going to say about that, for the time being.

How do I feel today?

If you guessed very, very sad then you would be right. I am so sad, because right now, some of the places I love the most are facing threat of destruction because of our own greed and desire to extract every possible drop of the liquid gold of the earth in the Gulf of Mexico. I am sad because critical ecosystems most likely will be destroyed and countless numbers of endangered species will be lost in Louisiana alone, at the very least. I am sad because the beach that I love above and beyond any other beach in the world is under threat.

We can survive hurricanes. So can sea turtles, shore birds, and pods of whales. However, those species cannot survive oil slicks. They lack the natural instincts to do that. I cannot imagine the white sands of the Gulf Islands National Seashore sullied with oil grit and debris.

It makes me sad, but it also makes me angry. It makes me angry on behalf of all of the sea turtles, birds and even jellyfish that cannot be angry because they will have to fight for survival. The sad thing is, that I am currently a DC resident, those creatures of nature have the same level of voting representation in Congress that I currently have. But that will be changing soon. And you better believe, that one of my future litmus test policy positions will be whether or not a particular politician believes in more offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

One mistake can destroy an ecosystem, Sarah Palin. JUST ONE. One mistake can destroy the livelihood of thousands of people who depend on the coast - fishermen, shrimpers, oyster harvesters, tourism dependants. I would like to ask Sarah Palin and these other politicians just what kind of "Security" offshore drilling brings America when there are millions of people who live along the Gulf Coast today in fear of what is going to happen next. I certainly don't feel more secure. I just feel sad - more sad, in fact, than I ever felt for a hurricane that threatened destruction, because this is no one's fault but our own. Entire ecosystems will pay the consequences for our insatiable greed.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Knightley's Revenge

Today, I was walking Knightley past the Supreme Court, when one of the Capitol Hill Police stopped us so a car could exit from the Supreme Court garage. It was a larger BMW, with the windows tinted completely black, and by the police officer's reaction, I knew it was one of the Supreme Court justices. Knightley knew it too. I am not joking or making this up. He started dry heaving and then THREW UP right there by the Supreme Court driveway. This was entirely bizarre as both before and after the incident, Knightley acted completely well and not like he has been suffering from any sort of illness. It wasn't a particularly warm day, and Knightley has never thrown up on a walk that we have taken before. I tried to diagnose what was wrong with him and then I remembered...

United States v. Stevens: The Supreme Court recently struck down a federal law that forbade the sale or possession of depictions of animal cruelty, ruling it was overbroad and vague. Yes, it was classic First Amendment jurisprudence (I don't care, I don't see how or why any depiction of animal cruelty for the sake of entertainment should be protected), but that doesn't mean that Knightley appreciates that decision. He was thinking about those poor doggies, subjected to dog-fighting as depicted in the terrible film that the defendant was charged with selling. Knightley was thinking about being a Supreme Court justice for Halloween, seeing as how he looks so distinguished, but now refuses to stoop to that level. Well, unless he went as Justice Alito, that is. It turns out, that is the only justice that Knightley isn't mad at right now (seeing as how he dissented in the case). That is also why I am sure that it wasn't Justice Alito in the car that Knightley threw up at the sight of.

I wanted whatever justice that was in that car to wind down the window and inquire about the poor dog throwing up on the sidewalk. I would have said to the Sir or Madam, "Look what you're doing," in the same voice as when I was eight years old and telling Melissa that she was holding my cat Coco the wrong way.


You may say that I am absolutely crazy for thinking that my dog is aware of all of these things, and you probably are right that Knightley probably isn't consciously aware of any of this. But dogs just know; they just know.

Monday, April 26, 2010

That Dog Loves Tennis Too




I have already mentioned that tennis is one of our family's greatest pastimes. Well, it appears Knightley has picked up on the family hobby too. Two of his new favorite games involve tennis balls. Firstly, he loves to go get cans of unopened tennis balls out of my tennis bag. He gets them out, gets the plastic cap off and then knows how to pull the metal tab to unseal the can. After he unseals one can, he goes back to the bag and grabs another can of tennis balls. Secondly, after he has assembled a large stack of tennis balls, he chooses one with which to play. David will put a tiny ballpoint pen mark on the ball and then will throw about 12 balls down the hall as Knightley chases them down. He sniffs around until he finds the tennis ball that has the mark on it (which is the one he was playing with before) and then brings that one ball back to David.
My dog is a genius. Or rather, he just knows how to find his ball. I am just convinced he is a genius dog.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

What happens in Colonial Williamsburg...

I just returned from a few days in Colonial Williamsburg for the Southeastern Association of Law Libraries Annual Meeting. I learned while I was in Colonial Williamsburg, that it is now a felony to refer to Colonial Williamsburg as just Williamsburg. It's true. They put you in the stocks in the village common if they overhear you forgetting the word Colonial in front of Williamsburg.

I immediately appreciated the tall hardwood trees and rolling hills that are my favorite feature of the Mid Atlantic states. Colonial Williamsburg is still colonially beautiful.


This is the only picture that I took of the historic area. It is the Ye Olde Governor's Mansion from back in the pre-Revolutionary War days when Colonial Williamsburg was the capital of Virginia. I think that in Ye Olde Colonial times, they just referred to it as Williamsburg, but I could be wrong in that assumption.
Instead of touring all of those historic buildings as I did when I was a mere intern in 1999, I rather opted to drink copious amounts of Ye Olde Homemade Root Beer.


The conference was a success, in my humble opinion. After all, the success of any professional meeting can be judged by whether or not the cops are called at some point in time.

Sadly, the cops (or rather, the conference center security task force) where not called to the scene because of the librarians blatantly violating the "SHHHH" rule, but rather because of a fire alarm scare. The librarians milled around outside for a while until we were able to return to the conference party, where the director of the William and Mary Law Library played the hits of the seventies with his old law school garage band.

A politely excellent time was enjoyed by all, in spite of the roving hordes of high school kids running wild through the hotel on their end of year field trips.
On a sidenote, I picked up a copy of A Land as God Made It: Jamestown and the Birth of America by James Horn (director of the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation) and I haven't put it down since I have gotten home. It is a great book discussing an era of history that most people assume knowledge of based on the film Pocahontas (or Avatar: Part I, as I call it). Fortunately, this book is slightly better researched. Also, I have been meaning to learn more about the historical development of the Tidewater Virginia colonies because a significant portion of family tree came to the United States via the Virginia Tidewater colonies in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. When I purchased this book, the cashier at the book store told me that James Horn has a new book on the lost colony at Roanoke, that historians now say is the preeminent work on what happened to those people. It is called A Kingdom Strange: The Brief and Tragic History of the Lost Colony of Roanoke and it is an understatement to say that I am overly excited to read it next. To understand how excited I am to read it, you have to understand how fascinated I have been with the lost colony of Roanoke ever since I was in elementary school. It absolutely is one of my favorite historical mysteries, and you have to understand - there is nothing I live more than a good historical mystery. I forsee many conversations about lost colonies in North Carolina in my future...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Times, They Are Changing

Today, I am heading down to Williamsburg, VA for the Southeastern Association of Law Libraries conference, where I am presenting with a couple of my colleagues from Georgetown. I will not return until Saturday evening.

But there are big, big things on my mind. Big changes are brewing and by early next week, I may be able to speak more specifically.

If you recognize the building that I posted in my last blog entry, then chances are, you probably already know what I may be talking about.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Happy Place


I am here today and tomorrow (although the above picture was actully taken in 2003).
Anyone who tries to convince me that there is a better place in America in the month of April than somewhere in the Southeast is on a fool's errand. There is nowhere better than the Southland in the Springtime. (And I don't just say that because it reminds me of the old Indigo Girls song. I say it because it is true.)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

In Answer to Your Question

Yes, in that last video I posted the pants that I am wearing make my legs look really fat. It is especially annoying considering that my legs are the one part of my body that have never been fat. It also explains why on nine days out of ten I choose to wear skirts or dresses instead of pants.

And yes, so far I have lost 10+ pounds on my Freshology diet. The problem is that I gave into buttercream at an office baby shower yesterday. Even with my new, refined eating patterns I still cannot say no to the smell of buttercream icing.

And finally, yes, if you don't think that the sight of Knightley with all of his fur rolling over is adorable, then there is something wrong with you.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Happy, Well-Trained Dog

School Choice and Segregation - Walthall County, Mississippi versus Washington D.C.

I said I was going to write a little more about this ruling that came out today regarding the schools in Walthall County, where my parents reside. The brief summary of the ruling is that the court ruled that the school district had to stop letting white children transfer into the one majority white school in the county, which happens to be the Salem School, the school closest to where my parents live. The other schools in the county are located within Tylertown and are majority black. As a result of the in-district transfers, Salem had a majority white population (over 60% white), while the Tylertown schools only had 20% white children. The even more disturbing part of what the Walthall County Schools were doing was that school officials were assigning kids in elementary school to classes at the Tylertown schools based on race, so that classrooms were all white or all black. There is no defense to that.

Clearly, there was not a race-neutral reason for allowing these transfers. And clearly, enforcing the 1970 desegregation order was necessary.

However, I wish to point out that I live in a metropolitan area where the schools are far more racially and economically segregated than the district in which I grew up in within the South (and by the numbers, appear more segregated than the Walthall County school district). In the District of Columbia, White people whose children do not live in the right neighborhoods, or whose children do not gain acceptance to the one or two top high schools in the city choose to send their children to private school or move out of the city to the white bread upper-middle class suburbs of Northern Virginia or Montgomery County. Parents willingly segregate the schools here by their own choices. The only difference between here and Mississippi (and I would venture, most school districts in America, particularly the urban ones or ones with large minority populations) is that you cannot put a court order on a parent's choice of where their children attend school whereas you can put a court order on a district that allows intra-district transfers to racially realign the schools because of parent and student choice. However, as the comments on articles like the one in the Washington Post illustrate, most people blame Mississippi and target the people there as backward rednecks instead of looking at the WILLFUL segregation that exists in their own communities.

My dad graduated from Salem High in 1969, one year before the federal court's original integration order. My mother attended East Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte, NC and graduated a couple of years before the landmark busing in the Charlotte schools began. My parents are clearly the product of segregated primary and secondary schools. However, my parents made the choice to send their daughters to a high school in which we were the racial minority. Yes, in the South, that happens. I would venture to say that few students get the experience that my sisters and I had, to receive a quality education in a racially diverse school, in ANY location in America. Furthermore, when my parents returned to Mississippi, my mom chose NOT to teach in the Walthall County schools based on how they were run, and instead chose to work in a school district that reflected the racial makeup of the community. My mother also refused to work in the historically white private academies that sprung up across Mississippi in the 1970s as a refusal of some in the white community to refuse to submit to integration. Even those academies are now becoming more integrated, my mother still refuses to teach at them based on principle. The fact is, my mom is an example of the many people who live in Mississippi who are there trying to make things better and give all kids an opportunity, regardless of background. Many of the people criticizing Mississippi today that are making blanket statements about the state are ignorant of the people of the state.

There are many people in Mississippi who will welcome this ruling and are not, in fact, clinging to the racist policies of the past. In fact, the MAJORITY of white kids that were attending the Tylertown schools attended the majority black schools, as stopping the intra-district transfers only changes increases the racial makeup of the Tylertown school and decreases the makeup of the Salem school by about 7%, according to the article.

I am glad of the ruling, but I dislike the broad inferences people make about Mississippi based upon it. People will always love to use Mississippi as a scapegoat for injustice in this country. It is easy to blame a small, rural state that is considered the "other" than looking at what choices they themselves make every day.

In Which I Praise my Mama

I spent my last blog entry discussing how fantastic my sister, Melissa, is. This blog entry, I turn to my mother. It isn't her birthday, and Mothers Day is still a few weeks off, but circumstances in my life warrant me stopping for a moment and praising my beautiful Mother. Without becoming too personal, I just want to say that in the past few days, I have once again been reminded of how wonderful it is to have a mother who knows her daughters well enough to still be in tune with our needs, despite the physical distance that may exist between where we live and where she lives. She has never been a conventional Mormon housewife, and yet, her spirituality is unquestionable; her relationship with the Savior, a model for her daughters.

A big federal court ruling came down in Mississippi impacting the school district for the county, in which my parents reside. I am going to talk about this ruling more in a separate blog post, but the reason why I am posting it here is because my mother, when moving back to Mississippi, refused to teach in the Walthall County schools, and for good reason. She also refused to teach in the private "academies" that dot counties across Mississippi that were created initially because of people who refused to send their children to newly integrated schools in Mississippi 30-40 years ago (although now, said academies are finally starting to integrate). The fact is, the reason my sisters and I are who we are and believe what we believe is in no small part because of my mother and the fact that from a young age, she taught us to stand up for what we believe in. The world is a better place because Mom has been a teacher for so many years and has made a choice to teach all kids, not just those that come from privileged families.

I could go on and on on the many ways my Mother has been my role model from the start, but the reason I love my Mom so much is because I have seen her in good times and bad, and have watched her grow as a person, the same way that she watched her daughters grow. It is evidence of divine inspiration that in my life, my parents and my sisters were put in this place to grow and learn together. We have come so far.

My Mom as a single gal, living her life in Charleston, when she was just Poole and not Street.


Mom with a young, Sarah wearing Dad's Navy sailor hat and sunglasses. She is also with Rusty. Anyone who questions why Knightley is my constant companion these days need only look at pictures of my mom with her canine companions to understand from where that came:

Sarah fixin' the truck with Mom's "assistance." This was back in the days when our pickup truck was the only mode of transportation we had. Somehow my mother, more accustomed to sailing clubs than trailer parks made it through the early days of our family in Mississippi:

Mom with Sancho, another loyal friend:


Together at Melissa's wedding:



Returning back to live in Mississippi, Mom showing off her newly found love of vegetable gardening:


My mother is the best.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Schmelissa is the big 30.

Yesterday, my sister, Schmelissa, as I affectionately refer to her, turned 30 years old. To celebrate that momentous occasion, here are a few of my favorite Schmelissa pictures:

Enjoying Cafe du Monde Beignets:


Beside a giant Snoopy, her childhood constant companion:



Enjoying a fall day in Central Park:


Celebrating with me on my wedding day:


With said childhood companion, Snoopy and her superhero birthday cake (she was the cutest of us all):


How beautiful she looked on her wedding day:


Nips make you strong, Melissa. They sure do:

Chillin' out on a haystack in Mississippi, talking about the big issues of life:


I can't think of anyone else in the world with whom I would rather spend some time jumping haystacks and then discussing the meaning of life. Melissa has seen me at my worst and loved me anyway. She is the person from whom I have learned kindness and forgiveness.
Happy birthday, cutie!

Friday, April 09, 2010

Second Chance Books

Tonight's Bill Moyers Journal featured an interview with Louise Erdrich. It has been awhile since I have posted anything Bill Moyers related, leading me to believe that my Bill Moyers obsession was of days past. I have to be honest; I didn't think an interview with Louise Erdrich would be what would be what reminded me of how much I loved Bill's show. My senior year of high school we read her novel Tracks in Dr. Cunningham's class and I really hated it. I was upset, because the year before us in the place of Tracks the class had read Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, which I thought would be far more interesting to read and discuss. In my view, Tracks was snore-inducing, and I swore off ever reading Erdrich again. And it still might be so were it not that I caught the second half of the Moyers interview tonight. Erdrich read a poem from her newest collection of poems that literally made me cry (Knightley just stared at me). The poem is called "Advice to Myself" and can be found in Erdrich's compilation of some of her favorite poems Original Fire.

Lest I commit copyright infringement, I will not cut and paste the entire poem here (you can go to the link and read it all). However, I will point out a couple of lines that I found particularly compelling:

Pursue the authentic-decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don't even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos...


Recycle the mail, don't read it, don't read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.

Sigh. I wish I were a real writer. Within the lines of that poem contain so much sentiment that I never thought would be my own, and yet it is; it is there, so carefully stated and elegantly structured.

You can watch the full interview and sigh over well-stated things on the Bill Moyers Journal website.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Solidarity

Some days, like today, the best way I can describe how I feel is that I feel like Walt Whitman in Allen Ginsburg' poem A Supermarket in California. I am not a closeted gay poet from the nineteenth century, and Abraham Lincoln doesn't inspire the same kind of feelings in me as he did for Walt Whitman. However, when Ginsburg describes Whitman as a "childless, lonely old grubber, poking among the meats in the refrigerator" after spying a produce section full of "Whole families shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!", I just can understand that today.

Knightley hid my cell phone this morning while I was taking a shower. It was on my nightstand when I went in and when I came out, it was gone and Knightley was being pretty mischevious. It turns out, it is easier to feel cut-off in our modern technological society than I thought previously.

Knightley's behavior in turn reminds me of another few lines from another famous eccentric, Ezra Pound -

When I carefully consider the curious habits of dogs
I am compelled to conclude
That man is the superior animal.
When I consider the curious habits of man
I confess, my friend, I am puzzled.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Hilton Head Sporting Life

I have delayed these pictures of our other, more athletic, Hilton Head activities for awhile. Each morning began with a couple of hours of tennis (For Sarah, her morning begun two hours before that, as she, even on vacation, ran at least ten miles every day). Fortunately, at this tennis outing, all of us escaped without anyone incurring a significant injury, unlike family tennis matches of past. David and I were just sore and rusty from a long, snowy DC winter with no tennis.

Sarah and Brian, however, were still on top of their games.


Hence, after all was said and done, they were the victors. Even my new tennis dress was not enough to overcome my inconsistent backhand.

Aside from tennis, the other sport that draws vacationers to Hilton Head is golf. Melissa and I did take golf lessons back in our younger days, but since that time, I haven't played a lick. Sometime in my early law school years I swore off golf as indicative of the white male power hegemony. Since then, my attitudes towards golf have moderated considerably (particularly over hours spent watching golf tournaments with my grandmother, who in her younger days, enjoyed a few rounds of golf at the club with Grampy), but my fear of how terrible my driving shot may now be has not subsided. Thus, the only golf for us on this trip was of the miniature variety.

Not that it mattered much as Brian wiped the floor with the rest of us at mini-golf too. I guess I need to work on my short game as well...


Finally, the weather was just warm enough to enjoy a swim in the heated pools at the resort. Although we did swim some laps, all of us enjoyed a good turn down the waterslide, as Jordan exhibits below:

We had so much fun, I didn't even mind to lose at all.

A Ramble into Middle Earth

About once a year, I get the urge to watch The Lord of the Rings extended version trilogy the entire way through. This year, it just happened to coincide with the release of The Lord of the Rings in HD on Blu-ray, which I have been trying to convince David that we need to get right away. Unfortunately, he isn't in agreement (although, seeing what a good price at which it is available on Amazon, I might just go ahead and buy it myself). Anyway, whenever I get the urge to watch The Lord of the Rings once again, it isn't just the movie. I have this bizarre manic, obsessive tendency with many things that I feel like it isn't good enough just to do one thing, I have to do everything. And so, when I start to watch it, I inevitably get the urge to begin to read The Silmarillion again because I feel like it is very important to remember the entire history of middle earth (because from there, then I have to read all of the other books again). If I get to the part in the movie when Gandalf is battling with the Balrog in the mines of Moria and I haven't read in the Silmarillion about where Balrogs originated, then I think, that's it, I have to go back to the beginning. So, this is how I found myself on Monday, sitting in jury duty, pouring over the Silmarillion and going back and forth between the text and the genealogical charts of prominent elf families in the back.

This is somewhat embarrassing for me, as I don't consider myself one who loves "fantasy" literature more generally. I have only played Dungeons and Dragons once (in law school) and I did not really enjoy it. The fact that I love The Lord of the Rings so much is a credit to the world that Tolkien created that I can get that obsessed about it. I figure that in order to really understand it, I need to get all of the details right.

When I was in law school, I was dragged to see The Two Towers a total of seven times in the theater by the person I was dating at the time. That is a lot of time spent in the theater watching the Battle of Helms Deep. I was so passionate about what my expectations were for The Return of the King, based on pouring over the book and its details in anticipation for entire year, that I couldn't help but be disappointed. What disappointed me the most? In my view, Peter Jackson didn't devote enough attention to Faramir and Eowyn as he should have (they are my two favorite characters). Yes, I love Aragorn too, but seriously, I am not a particular fan of Arwen the Elf, and in general, I wish that whole love story between the two of them would have been left to the appendixes instead of taking up so much screen time. I would have been fine if she would have just showed up in the coronation and that was all the screen time that Liv Tyler got. They could have spent the extra time from taking all of that out and have been more generous to Eowyn and Faramir's story. I love, love, love Faramir (who actually, as written, most closely resembles Tolkien himself. Furthermore, Jackson screwed up Faramir's character in The Two Towers pretty well too, in a way to make me annoyed.) and think he is one of the most interesting characters in the whole story. I think Eowyn is pretty dynamic too, and she is definitely the most interesting and complicated of all of the female characters in the books.

Anyway, I don't know what the point of this post is other than to decide that yes, I want to get the blu-ray because watching the trilogy will probably continue to be an annual event for me.

Never mind...I just read the Amazon reviews and found out that it is just the theatrical versions that have currently been released on Blu-Ray. I am not wasting my money on that. Only when they release the extended version on Blu-Ray will I upgrade. What a waste of time to just release the theatrical versions. It turns out that David's reluctance just saved me considerable frustration, because if I would have raced out and purchased it, only to discover it wasn't the extended version, then I would have really been mad. It turns out that Treebeard's advice to Merry, "Don't be hasty", also applies to me.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Return of Spring

This is what perfect weather in Washington, DC looks like:


It has been that way all weekend, and on walks to the Capitol, Knightley and I have noticed the high school field trips out in force. Those high school students have also noticed Knightley, and one asked me, "Is that the first dog?" I will forgive the fact that the kid doesn't know a Cocker Spaniel from a Portuguese Water Dog when Knightley does look so important and noteworthy as exhibited below:
Doesn't he look so well-read and intelligent here sitting in front of the Library of Congress? (After all, he has successfully learned how to roll over on command in the past week)
At the end of a long walk, what Knightley really wants, though, isn't the prestige that comes from being recognized as pretty important and elegant in appearance by high schools students from Muncie, Indiana; rather, he just wants some shade and cool water, wherever it may be:

Happy Springtime from D.C.!

General Conference Weekend Trifecta

I do not own any church music CDs other than ones featuring the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I admit it, I love the Choir and they are one of my favorite parts of General Conference. Here's my secret, in my head I have a Mo-Tab Conference Weekend Playlist that I would like to hear them perform throughout the course of the sessions. If they hit all three, then I call it the General Conference Weekend trifecta. I actually don't think that it has ever happened. The hymns are my favorite three in the current in-use LDS hymn book. Here they are and the reasons why:

1. How Firm a Foundation: They already hit this one this weekend at one of the Saturday sessions. When I was a nervous nineteen year old, I spent my first Sunday in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania as a part of the Chang'ombe Branch congregation. I was still tired and jet lagged from the long flights there and I felt an extreme sense of disorientation in encountering a completely new culture. However, as the keyboardist fired up her instrument, and the familiar hymn began, I felt an overwhelming sense of calm that increased as the congregation sang all seven verses of this song. From that moment on, I felt a kinship with that congregation, because they sang all seven verses when I profoundly needed it to stop the creeping sense of loneliness that had already infiltrated my first international experience, so far from home. "The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose..." It is still one of the best lines ever written, as far as I am concerned.

2. If You Could Hide to Kolob: Look, I know this is a trendy pick among Saints who like to consider themselves a little more cerebral and who like to contemplate incomprehensible doctrine. I admit, I am one of those people. Yet, my love for this song has an entirely different, less academic origin, and derives not from a General Conference session, but a Stake Conference in Pensacola, Florida. My mother had a systematic approach to Stake Conference. Her approach meant that we arrived at the Stake Center at least one hour early in order to park strategically in the most shady spot that was closest to the entry and exit to the parking lot (If you don't know the importance of a shady spot, then you have never lived in the South). We then sought out, and obtained, the padded row of chairs closest to the chapel exit that was closest to where our car was parked. It was because to my mother, there was nothing worse than being stuck in the traffic of the parking lot after stake conference adjourned. She would rather us arrive three hours early and sit and wait for the conference to start than spend one unnecessary moment in that parking lot after the fact. This was drilled into my head so completely I will admit that now, I am nothing if not a strategic parker and I expect to be the first one out the door at pretty much whatever gathering I attend. Anyway, at one particular stake conference when I was about ten or eleven years old, President Holbert had, as usual rambled on for far too long and we were already running a good ten minutes over time. My sisters and I were starved. We knew that we could guilt my parents with this hunger (after all, we had probably been parked in those seats for five hours by now) and convince them to make a pit stop at Wendys on the way home (not eating out on Sunday was not one of our family's strong suits, since we had to drive 20 minutes or more to and from church). I could almost taste those chicken nuggets in my mouth as President Holbert wrapped up his remarks and the choir stood up to do one final hymn. The hymn was If You Could Hide to Kolob. The choir began, what had to be the slowest and longest rendition of the song ever uttered. Somewhere in the middle of the "There is no end" verses, I turned to Melissa and singing along with the choir began to sing, "There is no end to this song, There is no end to this song..." and continued on and on and on into finally there was the last "There is no death above." Ten minutes later, we were at Wendys enjoying those well-earned chicken nuggets. By that time, I didn't remember what the words to the song actually were, but I remember humming that Ralph Vaughn Williams tune for the rest of the day, and then week, and since then, I cannot get it out of my head.

3. Oh My Father: Yes, I know this is another trendy Mormon, cerebral pick, and I remember getting very excited for a song that referenced Heavenly Mother when I was in high school. But what I love, and still love about this song even more are the lines "Yet oft times a secret something whispered, "You're a stranger here." And I felt that I had wandered from a more exalted sphere." I loved it in high school when I felt differently from everyone else, I loved it at BYU when I felt like I didn't fit in, and I still love it now.

One Million Bonus Points: Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing: This song no longer is in the current LDS hymn book, but it is still my all time favorite, thanks to, once again, my mother (who as choir director for our local ward, always kept this in the repertoire). Every year as soon as Thanksgiving is over I get excited to pull out the Sufjan Stevens Christmas collection, if for no other reason than I get to listen to his rendition of this song over and over and over again. I am a sap, so every time it makes me cry, particularly as I sing out the lines, "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love" (which describes how I feel about the mortal journey that I, and everyone else is on) and then arrive at the resolution, "here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above."

If all four of those songs were ever to be peformed in one conference session, I could die a very contented woman.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

First Impressions

I am not turning this into some diet blog, because I would annoy myself even with that, but since today is my first day on Freshology, I thought that I would point out a few things.

Firstly, I would like to point out that whoever brought cupcakes to the library today and has them sitting outside of my office probably is the devil (no one else has claimed making them). I can't taste them, but I have to sit and smell them all day.

The Freshology food for my first few days came nicely packaged yesterday in its small individual servings. I've said it before and I will say it again, portion control is not my strong suit, so it is convenient that it is done this way, but unpacking all of the food that I will consume for the next three days and looking it over, I felt my stomach become personified inside of me and enter a period of mourning.

This morning's breakfast was actually delicious - whole wheat pancakes with raspberries and melon together with a side of chicken sausage. It was fairly filling. But at 500 calories, it by far was the largest meal that I am going to consume today. The beef mandarin oriental salad was about half of the calories. It was very tasty too, just small. It has to hold me over until 3:00 when I can eat my snack - two boiled eggs, whites only.

Bottom line, the food is delicious so far but feeling fully satisfied and satiated is going to be difficult. My past dieting failures have taught me that I have to entirely cede my food control over to someone else to have any success, so that is why I am hoping that this plan will work for me. I also am trying to learn moderation in all things, and where better to start than in my food consumption. To top it all off, I have to give up my Diet Coke, too.

And that is all I am going to say because I don't want this to be a food blow by blow or more of an advertisement of any sort that it already is.