Saturday, December 13, 2003

It’s cookie baking weekend. And I am not there.

I could begin by reiterating that the Cookie Bake, in its current form, is not my fault. But that would contradict my general policy of accepting blame when possible, since I am less troubled by guilt than the other females in my family. If it makes them feel better to blame me, I will let them and go on my merry way.

So here is their story: Once upon a time, when Karen was a little girl, her mother wanted to trick her (that is, the mother’s) sister, who was not particularly fond of children, into babysitting. So she asked Karen’s aunt, whose skills at baking were well known, to come and bake cookies with the children. Then she and Karen’s dad sneaked out and went Christmas shopping.

And the next year Karen brightly asked, “When are we having our traditional cookie bake?” Thus it was canonized.

Well, yes, maybe so. I have a fatal habit of getting a single simple and romantic ideal, like feeding a stray cat, and only discovering later that I have opened a restaurant for cats and all other mammals of moderate size. Because in my family ideas never live alone. Other ideas flock after them, spawned by their interaction in the network of our all-too-fertile brains. It’s synergy at its most dangerous.

Somehow that simple afternoon that produced, say, 24 dozen cookies, grew to The Annual Cookies To The Death Marathon Weekend.

It grew gradually, of course. One year we tried one new variety, and it became somebody’s favorite. The next year somebody else saw a cool idea and tried something else. And again it stuck. Naturally if you have a semi-immediate family of fifteen to twenty people, you have fifteen to twenty favorites. And then there are the cookies whose position is so sacred that nobody even bothers to claim them as favorites. Like krumkaka, a traditional Norwegian cookie, which actually gets its own special day separate from The Cookie Bake.

Malinda and Becky both like to Organize Things. So they begin plotting weeks, nay months in advance, as to what we will have this year. Some time ago they began aspiring for a single cookie variety in every potential flavor. Not that flavor alone is sufficient. It also must be artistically decorated, with a reasonable variety of shapes.

To save time during the weekend itself, dough and even some of the cookies are made in advance. Does this simplify the work and get everyone in bed sooner? Of course not—it frees up time for more, and more elaborate, varieties. (I should note here that we have almost never done those flat sugar cookies decorated with frosting. Too simple and too much like what normal people do.)

No doubt they have a new division of labor this year. When I was still there, Malinda organized the program of the day, printed recipes and did the more complex icing. Becky did the most labor-intensive shaping and baking, while I concentrated on the mass produced varieties. Sarah specialized in no-bake or no mix kinds. We switched off mixing dough according to whose specialty in other realms was currently up.

Cookie Bake has its own attendant traditions besides aching backs and feet, of course. There is the curious assortment of eccentric Christmas music Malinda puts on the CD player. (A Goth Noel, anyone?) There are the hasty but very welcome snacks of meat and vegetables provided as a respite from endless gobs of sugar. There are the towering plates of cookies, wrapped in cellophane, to bedazzle the favored friends and relations. And there is the end result, which is a Christmas dinner which is only an excuse to provide enough protein to balance the sugar high.

And sometimes, Christmas cookies lingering until Valentine’s Day. But we try to dump them before that. After all, we’ve got a great idea for a new Valentine’s dessert . . . .

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Now, thoughts on SSM, all the better for having been honed by a lively debate a few weeks back.

I don't think civil government can do much to help marriage along, any more than I believe it can do much to help the free market along. I do believe it can do a great deal to hurt it. It's already done this by no-fault divorce, which has lowered the standard for dissolving a marriage to below that of dissolving an ordinary contract. It can do it again by defining marriage as any group of people who happen to love each other and feel like signing a paper on it. We would undoubtedly be better off if government got out of the marriage business altogether than for it to take this next step.

But I don't think that would be workable. Somehow the state has to have a way to figure out who is responsible for these children that keep popping up inconveniently. It has to have a way to allocate inheritances, charge someone with children's debts, hold someone responsible for their support. This has nothing to do with the state interfering with the business of the family, it's just part of the state doing its job to protect individual rights. I can think of three ways for the state to handle the problem:

a. Charge only the person who's handy and obviously to blame: the mother. This is simple and avoids prying into details, but it seems distinctly unjust. It took two to tango, after all. Surely there should be some way to hold the other party involved responsible for the direct consequences of his actions.

b. Leave it all to individual contract and agreement and just have people come and try to prove them in court. This would be the pure libertarian approach, I believe. It sounds nice, but I don't think it would work. If we need a public registry to make sure people don't cheat and lie about land transactions, how much more is it needed to limit people's ability to cheat and lie about something we all know they cheat and lie about all the time? What's a court to do if a woman comes seeking child support against a man she was married to in one church, and the man brings up evidence that she was married to someone else in another church three months earlier? Who is responsible? (It reminds me of a scene in a hilarious old movie where a guy is honestly trying to prove he did not father a girl's child, but then so is the girl--who isn't actually the mother--and somebody else and they wind up with three guys claiming paternity, much to the incredulity of the interested party.) Paternity tests just aren't definite enough to settle these things.

c. As in the case of land, create a written registry whereby a woman can go and get advance certification that a man will be held responsible as her children's father. Then there's something definite the courts can look to for proof of responsibility. (As a corollary, make it fairly difficult to get those benefits outside the registry, or people won't use it. Again, we do the same thing with land.)

Now, it’s clear that if you look at marriage in this light, there is absolutely no logical reason for extending it to same-sex couples. They have no grounds for concern that babies might incidentally result from their union. If they want to go out and hunt babies up, they can make their own legal arrangements before anything happens. And if we do extend marriage to same-sex couples, we effectively divorce it from any connection with children and property succession. It becomes something the state does to provide people with validation for their personal relationships. Not only is this none of the state’s business, it will actively work against marriage as an institution that protects children’s rights because the personal validation of adults is definitely not necessarily in the best interests of children.

This marriage registry is obviously a long, long ways from the high and holy state of matrimony. That it is indeed up to the church to reinvigorate and restore. (Once it gets the egg off its own face over divorce.) It's going to provide the vast array of social benefits of marriage only in a strong society with character to support it--just as the free market can't exist in a society that doesn't have initiative and honesty. But I think there is a place for the state to keep track of who's who, so that it can charge the right people when something goes wrong.

And I don't think this involves civil government deciding what is good for children, particularly, just dealing with the realities of life in the most logical fashion. As it turns out, marriage is good for children, but that's not why it's important to the state--it is important to the state to order the disorder that children create. (In the end, too, the state is going to have to interfere between parents and children in some degree--when their life is threatened, or liberty is unreasonably trammeled. And the state is going to have to set up rules on what becomes of orphans. There will always be a gray line where the state has to decide what is good for children, which parents must watch vigorously.)

In summary, I don't think you can get the state out of the marriage business entirely without messing up its ability to properly enforce rights and responsibilities. I don't expect the state to make marriage better, but I would like it to stop making things worse by disconnecting it from its one obvious civil purpose. And I also think it's high time the church started preaching by example instead of just by political action.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Every once in a while I need to post just to make sure I still remember my username and password.


Right now I'm eating and napping for two, and that takes up pretty much all the time there is in the day. But I'm still busy thinking brilliant thoughts when I can. Read Whittaker Chambers last week and am now reading a third person's account of the Hiss case. Fascinating stuff, although I don't think I have the head for details needed for espionage.

Friday, October 31, 2003

OK, brief note on the drama we went to: Click here if you want to read its own promotion.

Basically it provided a version of the gospel that was too thin, and therefore ultimately inadequate. “You might die at any time, so accept Jesus or you’ll go to hell.” It portrayed this particular message effectively in an emotional sense, and I suppose might be effective in getting conversions of a sort among people who enjoy being emotionally moved. Personally I resent it (even when I think the emotion justified), so in that sense perhaps I’m not a competent judge of its effect on such people, but even among them I doubt how long they would stay true to such a “conversion.”

But intellectually the drama left me almost ready to ask the classic anti-God question: “How can a loving God do this to people?” The impression was of ordinary Joes, doing their thing, suddenly discovering that because of an oversight they are condemned to eternal torment. There was little impression that these people deserved what they got. Which, if God is just, must be the case—and if we truly knew our own hearts, we’d know we deserved it ourselves. The real problem was that the law was left out. Punishment without judgment can only be capricious cruelty. There was some attribution of various “sins” that had kept people from accepting Christ (alcohol and partying, mainly), but none that truly reflected God’s law.

Hell was also depicted in a manner that is contrary to the Bible, but commonly presented in cartoons—a sort of concentration camp run by Satan.

What I would like to see now is a drama that really showed the ultimate issues, in a way that made heaven and hell the natural outgrowths of human choices, not the arbitrary imposition of a divine dictator. I can think of two forms. One would be an adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, in which souls must choose between clinging to whatever “good” or evil thing is to them more important than accepting the rule of God, or surrendering it and being able to enter into the ultimate reality of heaven. But the landscape of Lewis’ heaven might be too much to stage—it might work as a radio type drama. Although it is not explicit in the Bible, I tend to agree with Lewis’ interpretation that ultimately those souls who go to hell go there because they want to—because in hell they can continue in some sense running their own lives rather than reaching the ultimate joy through submission.

The other would be a courtroom drama in which the accuser of the brethren would be pleading as to why certain souls deserved eternal damnation. (I don’t think Satan runs hell, but he apparently keeps tabs on who deserves to go there.) People could serve as their own counsel, pledging their absence of various overt crimes, or various good deeds. Then the prosecutor could—perhaps via video footage (my siblings and I for some reason believed when small that our entire lives would be replayed verbatim at the gates of heaven—not true as far as I know, but useful for a play)—break apart their pretensions. Show the smoldering hatred that was kept back from murder only by an even more damning pride. Uncover the self-righteousness that poisoned their best deeds. Expose the lust, the covetousness, the bitterness, that poisons the souls of ordinary nice guys (and gals). Except for some defendants, who would have willingly accepted the court appointment of an Advocate, and who would find that all their tapes had been erased.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Thus far, two churches visited.

Church A: Unfamiliar denomination, further into town, know some of the people through music. Nice service, classically-trained musicians, beautiful old church building. Nebulous doctrine and correspondingly nebulous sermon.

Church B: Semi-familiar denomination, 1 minute drive, didn’t know a soul. Pole barn style of building, service the sort of blend between “traditional” and “contemporary” that occurs when a pastor is trying to change things to the latest trendy church-growth methods without disturbing the old guard too much. Reasonably definite doctrine; sermon was OK but was all part of a prepackaged deal that the church is going through, so don’t know what it’s like when the pastor preaches his own.

We went back for an evening drama (on which more later if I get really inspired). The pastor’s wife seemed surprised to see us and came over to talk, explaining why they did things the way they did things. Some points that came up either in our discussion with her and with each other later on and as I’m writing stuff down right now:

1. Tradition for the sake of tradition is bad, but change for the sake of change is worse. And worse yet is change in style of worship for the sake of attracting a certain segment of the population. Traditions undoubtedly had some sort of reason for them when they started—it might be good to find it out before discarding it. And a church should never be making changes so it can increase its numbers, or even concerned about them except as a symptom.. Worshipping God and serving people are the appropriate focuses of a church. Any other focus is going to happen to the detriment of the proper focus. (I doubt that this church would claim this was its focus, but it was mentioned numerous times in the sermon and in private conversation.)

2. There is a big gap between what is inherently evil and what is appropriate and conducive to corporate worship. Big band music is cool, but no matter what lyrics you put to “Boogie Woogie,” it would not be suitable for public worship. Sure, I think one can boogie to the glory of God, but there are lots of activities I can do to the glory of God that I wouldn’t dream of doing in the weekly gathering of believers. So merely saying that “God likes all kinds of music” (repeated several times at the church) is a long way from proving that a particular style of music is going to focus the gathering’s attention directly on God and his attributes.

3. Both the traditionalists and the contemporists (for lack of better terms) tend to come back to a similar basis: how this or that music and style makes them feel. Which is irrelevant. Worship is not feeling good about God. It is ascribing worth and value to God. And frankly, I don’t see how much worth and value one ascribes to God with the “Jesus is my boyfriend” sort of songs. (A fair amount of hymns don’t talk much about God’s worth and value, either.) Nor does repeating the same phrase over and over a gazillion times seem an appropriate method of worship (warnings about “vain repetitions” come to mind here—it’s hard to keep your brain in gear when you just keep repeating the same thing.)

4. Categories are not really that helpful. For example, “moving your body is bad” versus “moving your body is good”: if someone finds raising their hands in the air or clapping expresses their worship to God, fine. Hip-dancing with your saxophone during the invitation is a different matter entirely. A good general rule might be that actions drawing attention to one’s self are inappropriate in worship. People should be looking at God, not at you. Another unhelpful category is “hymns” versus “choruses” or “contemporary” or what have you. What makes one something versus the other? The question should be Biblical accuracy, divine focus, and excellence in style. (I cannot believe God is glorified by bad grammar in people who should know better.) ;

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Having been rebuked by our sole reader for a long delay in posting, we attempt to resume.

Being young is seriously overrated. I am starting to suffer from severe generational envy, looking at people whose children are grown, whose careers are established, whose personal items are no longer stored in boxes in the living room, and who actually have some sort of clue what they are doing every day.. The only compensating factors for being young seem to be health, energy, and good looks, and I have never had much of the first two, and whatever I have of the third (DOB: I think she has plenty) doesn’t get the house cleaned up.

Actually, we have at last realized the benefit of having friends in one’s own age bracket, because spending all one’s time with older people makes one feel hopelessly falling apart. We came away much encouraged from a visit Monday night with another young couple. We are not the only ones whose first home was mostly decorated with unpacked boxes! Now if we could only find a church and actually get some friends who did not live an hour away. On the church hunting issue, more later.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Can't believe I published without noting the greatest news of all: I can see the living room floor! And sit on the couch! Somehow managed to consolidate more boxes down than I thought I could, then camoflauged the rest with extra quilts. The living room is certainly not quite where I'd like it to be, but I don't have to blush for shame when the mailman comes to the door.
I wrote a thoughtful and profound post on same-sex marriage on Tuesday, IE locked up, and it is now gone forever, and I haven't had a chance to write it again. If I still have any thoughts on the subject after life and health insurance class next week, I may rewrite them (in Word) and paste them over.

Certified copy of marriage certificate has arrived! Now I can get Ohio licenses and ID in my new name and all that cool stuff. Only it would have been a lot handier if it had come yesterday.

Went on first grand shopping expedition alone yesterday. Got an elusive green garbage can and expandable silverware tray. And a lot of groceries to sustain us through life and health class. Including a frozen turkey, which I put in the sink in hot water and turned it on and left it running and forgot all about it as I went outside for another load, greeted DOB when he arrived home, etc. Came back in and found water running all over the floor, into the remaining boxes we haven't unpacked yet. DOB was very nice about helping clean up the mess, but I can't believe I still do things that stupid. Oh well, if I didn't I might not have anything to write about.

YR convention on far side of the state this weekend, followed by life and health class all week, so this blog is dormant almost as soon as it begins.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Household ramblings

The garbage disposal has stopped chopping altogether. I don't remember putting anything inappropriate down it. Whatever I did, I'm sorry.

I will never look askance at anyone who doesn't get their thank-you notes out immediately and all to the right people. Right now I would be doing well to find the thank-you notes.

Today I took a walk in the neighborhood for the first time. It's a tidy little neighborhood, with modest brick homes on neatly trimmed lawns. The sky was blue, the clouds were fluffy, the air was crisp and I like living here. Just the thing to rejuvenate me for another attempt at the pile in the living room.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Random housekeeping observations

I saw DOB off to work for the first time today. (Thus far he's either worked in the home office or I've gone with him.) I couldn't quite shake the feeling of being either a little kid playing house or of acting in a 50's movie (the latter enhanced by his handsome black fedora, "Stewart.")

After the arrival of 26 boxes of wedding gifts and a reception on Saturday, the house is worse than ever, but hopefully this is the high-water mark. I will go break boxes down shortly.

The one advantage to a small house is that I have to do the dishes and keep the cleared areas neat, or I cannot eat or sleep. The disadvantage is that I cannot move anywhere without tripping over boxes.

The dryer is sounding again.

Things I have plenty of:
Elegant glass serving dishes
Wall decor
Bath towels
Kitchen towels
Small appliances

Things I could sure use more of:
Counter space
Cabinet space
Floor space
Wall space
Space space

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Don't think this guy will move the Supreme Court, but sounds like a worthy protest anyway, if he can keep things under control. Allowing open carry but not concealed is ludicrous anyway--does anyone really think they'll allow everyone to walk around like John Wayne? Instead they'll just prosecute those who openly carry for breaching the peace or inciting panic. If they're going to ban guns, they should be honest about it, not do it by a morass of conflicting laws.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

In Which We Encounter the Garbage Disposal

Neither DOB or I have had previous experience with garbage disposals, having been raised in composting families. But we think the neighbors might object, even though compost smells better than cigarettes. Thus, we continue battling the contraption.

It backed up for the first time shortly after we arrived after our honeymoon. We called the landlord and were given instructions to use a toilet plunger to unstop it. Fortunately we had been given a toilet plunger as a wedding gift by a thoughtful (even if adolescently-minded) sibling, and had not yet had any trouble with that end of the plumbing. So we unstopped it and went on our merry way.

It backed up again. We plunged it again.

It backed up a third time, right in the middle of cooking a substantial Sunday dinner (potato peels, alas, were too much for it). This time even the plunger could not tame it, especially not once we turned on the dishwasher and it spewed filthy water and chewed up bits of potato peels and not so chewed up bits of things we had sent down several days earlier, not only half-filling the sink with this mixture but shooting it over freshly-washed dishes. DOB having an aversion to dirty potato bits on his clean dishes, we abandoned the dishwasher and both sinks for the evening and used the bathtub for necessary tasks.

Late the next day the plumber finally arrived, took things apart, and disengaged several plum pits from it. Apparently these are not supposed to go down it. Also it wants way more water than either of us have the patience to give it.

Right now we are at a truce. We don't give it plum pits or anything particularly huge or gloopy, and it doesn't do more than spit and wimper and then swallow stuff down. And when I'm in an especially good mood I turn it on while I'm rinsing dishes. Today I narrowly rescued it from having to chew up a dishcloth, so I hope it shows some gratitude.

QOC ##==>

In Which We Create a Blog

Actually it is mostly I, Queen of Carrots (hereinafter QOC) creating it, because the Duke of Burgundy (DOB) is making the rest of his business phone calls for the day. And dinner is getting cold. But not too cold, we hope.

Thus far our Duchy extends only to one small and slightly smoky (due to a neighbor) two-bedroom apartment in Ohio, but we plan to extend it much, much farther. Herein we shall expound on the terms upon which we shall govern the world once we get there.