Sunday, June 22, 2008

The zoo

We went to the Lincoln Park Zoo.

I don't like zoos. I haven't liked zoos for a long time. I didn't like zoos long before I became a vegetarian. (This now strikes me as weird.) Zoos just seem like such sad places to me.

Not that every part of a zoo is depressing. The parts with snakes and frogs, for example, are not depressing. Snakes and frogs are cool critters, and also don't have very demanding emotional needs. On average, I don't think they are made miserable by conditions of captivity.

I was expecting to be depressed by the primates. I hear zoo life can be hard on primates. But as far as I could tell, they mostly looked like they were doing OK. It might help that they're mostly kept in sizable social groups, and, as social animals, can get some happiness out of just grooming each other, or supervising their hyper kids tumbling around on branches and rolling around in packing paper (which is adorable).

Four "exhibits" were very depressing, though.

The birds of prey: I have a possibly irrational level of affection for birds of prey, and I really hate to see them stuck in a cage.

The polar bears: Their enclosure was too small, and Chicago in the summer is way too hot.

The sun bears: They had a big enclosure, but one of them just kept pacing back and forth along the edge of this tiny pool.

The depressed cat: This was the worst. I can't remember if it was a leopard or a jaguar, but there was one big hunting cat pacing back in forth in a tiny enclosure. It had room enough for maybe half a dozen paces before it had to turn around to pace back the other way, and then repeat the process for probably most of the day. Plus the "Lion House" where all the big cats are kept is like an echo chamber, and the voices of all the shrieking kids reverberate to create a din that is pretty awful even for a human.
The Panther

His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold
anything else. It seems to him there are
a thousand bars, and behind the bars, no world.

As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils
lifts, quietly. An image enters in,
rushes down through the tense, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.

~ Rilke
Also I got some coffee at a cafeteria in the zoo, and even though I brought a thermos specifically so that I could get some coffee without wasting a paper cup, they insisted on pouring the coffee into a paper cup first because they apparently "count cups". I have no idea what that means, but whatever it is it pisses me off.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

One year down

So, it's been a year of marriage. This is a big deal!

On our wedding anniversary, Dawn's mom arrived in town. We went downtown to pick her up at the train station. Then we all bussed back, and had lunch at a neighbourhood Thai restaurant. Once we got home, I took a nap, while they went to the Oriental Institute. Quite a bit later (I take long naps), we all played a game of Scrabble.

A couple days later, Dawn bugged me about not giving her an anniversary present. The first anniversary is the paper anniversary, so I wrote her a nice message on a Post-It. I also folded her a paper crane using a piece of scrap paper. She'd actually doubted that I knew how to do that. I was so offended! What kind of ignorant American doesn't realize that all asians know how to make paper cranes?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Missa solemnis

Last Saturday I went to a free performance of Beethoven's Missa solemnis at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. This was maybe a rare opportunity: according to the wiki article this piece is infrequently performed (never mind for free).

The Pritzker Pavilion is open to the air; folks who pay (or who are otherwise lucky) get seats, and the rest sit on the lawn. I'm now pretty sure I prefer my Beethoven listening experiences to involve sitting on a lawn under the sky to sitting in a dark and enclosed auditorium. Picking at the grass is a great outlet for those of us with large amounts of nervous energy. And it's a considerably less hoity-toity atmosphere than the average classical music concert (which also has its drawbacks, like occasionally providing distractions from the music).

It was an especially nice effect when the sun broke through the cloud cover during the Gloria movement. (No God rays came through, though.)

Stuff Christians Like

A blog by a sarcastic Christian.

From the recent post on prosperity:
What Jesus said was true, "the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." That's because, when you're super rich, you can buy this sleep pod where you kind of sleep standing up in a cushion of tangerine-flavored air. So technically speaking, spot on Jesus.
I like.


Dawn's mom is visiting for three days. We are doing touristy things.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I can't drive 55

Well, I can, but just barely. Our car stalls if you push it much faster.

Anyway, I got my driver's license today. Another step on the path to adulthood!

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Exam week just ended, and all the seniors are moving out. A lot of them aren't too good at figuring out how to get rid of all of their stuff, which means that you can collect an awful lot of useful junk just walking up and down alleyways.

For example:
  • a small vase
  • a stress ball
  • a scarf
  • a skirt
  • a pair of Asics runners in Dawn's size
  • hydrogen peroxide
  • several spools of thread
  • a book from the university library (?)
  • like-new hardcover copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • two volumes by Frantz Fanon
  • a gift bag
  • binder clips
  • a pair of gloves
  • countless sheets of paper (some ruled, some blank, some used on one side)
  • also notebooks (partly used, but not nearly full)
  • one of those holders for soap and whatnot you hang off of a shower head
  • push pins
  • three hole punch
  • ruler
  • white board marker
  • small white board
  • package of Razzles labeled "HAPPY BIRTHDAY SHMOO!"
  • luggage
  • volleyball
  • 2 throw cushions
  • plastic knives, forks, cups
  • 2 pieces of tupperware
  • bowl
  • 2 full bottles of laundry detergent and other cleaning supplies
  • stand-up fan
  • box of chicken-flavoured ramen packages
  • pizza pan
  • oatmeal
  • stacking file crate with hanging files
  • fancy folder
  • sea salt
  • bottles: olive oil, white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar, white vinegar, peppermint schnapps
  • cans: chicken with rice soup (3), clear chicken soup, beef barley soup, chicken pot pie soup, chicken tortilla soup, coconut milk, bamboo shoots, chop suey vegetables, chickpeas, hot chili beans, pinto beans, tuna (4), kosher tuna (1), beef tamales (some of these will give me my first exposure to meat in a while--I wonder how that'll go)
  • lap top battery (for safe disposal)
That, at least, is what Dawn and I have retrieved thus far. (We plan to have another go at it in the near future.) We're not talking dumpster diving here, since all the dumpsters are overflowing; rather there are piles and piles of garbage-which-should-not-be-garbage external to the dumpsters.

If we'd needed furniture, we would've come back with a lot more stuff (potentially, absolutely everything you need to furnish an apartment). And if some of the piles and piles of clothes we found had been in a different size....

There really ought to be a convenient system in place whereby lazy departing seniors can get rid of all of their useful goods in a useful manner. (There's already a handy dandy website for advertising cheap or free second hand stuff to the university community, but that's apparently not enough.) Dawn and I figure something could be worked out with the Salvation Army or local thrift stores: sending some vans or trucks around at the end of every school year or some such. At any rate, the current system is crazy wasteful.

Plus I'm sure it's a big headache for the garbage collectors and / or the caretakers of some of these buildings. One of the piles of junk covered something like a 10 foot by 10 foot area, and was decorated with a fair bit of broken glass (nearby was an Apple monitor, which I'm sure was in perfect working order).

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sacred Harp

A few weeks ago Dawn and I investigated the sounds of a great many people singing very loudly. It turns out there were dozens of people arranged in this big ole square singing hymns in 4 part harmony. It was the annual Midwest meet-up of this Sacred Harp thingy. We thought it was neat, I looked it up, and it turns out there are weekly "singings" in the area, some just a few blocks away. And today we tried it out.

It was neat. It was also hard. I sang bass, Dawn sang treble, and these are both harmony parts, which can be tricky to pick up. It was easier for me, since I think the bass tends to be easier, and I have some experience reading music, but I still struggled. If this were Sacred Harp Hero, I don't think I would've scored very high.

But we both think we'll stick with it. This Sacred Harp stuff is some good quality Christian music (which can be remarkably hard to find nowadays--but I'll leave those complaints for some other post).

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Canada apologizes for residential schools


Wait, seriously? This wasn't done before? Boo.

(Not that I cared enough to pay attention to that sort of thing, apparently.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

For I was hungry and you gave a shitload of money to these people who talk about supporting this guy who talks about how good it would be if I got fed

So there's this new PAC doing this thing.
A fund-raiser is being held tonight in Washington for a nascent political action committee that is hoping to reach out to Christian communities on behalf of Senator Barack Obama.
Reaching out to Christian communities ain't cheap: "the suggested contribution is $1,000", and I guess that's per person.

The PAC is called "The Matthew 25 Network". As in:
The new group’s name takes its inspiration from the 25th chapter of the gospel of Matthew in which Jesus talks about how he will select people like a shepherd separating sheep from goats, saying, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
Really? When I look at the list of acts which Jesus demands in that there parable, it seems to me that voting and campaigning are conspicuously absent, never mind holding fundraisers "in which the suggested contribution is $1,000". Now, I grant that I could see someone (assuming they are sufficiently untouched by cynicism) coming to the conclusion that they can best answer the parable of the sheep and the goats by supporting the Obama campaign. After all, the American president has the capacity to affect the well-being of people throughout America, and the rest of the world as well; and one might well hope that Obama as president would use that capacity to especially good effect, perhaps even altering the sorts of economic structures (etc.) which underlie problems of poverty (etc.), in a way that the normal individual cannot hope to do, and whatnot.

On the other hand, someone who is in the habit of participating in $1000 Washington fundraisers isn't someone I'd expect to take the parable of the sheep and the goats seriously. (Classmate Mark has this idea for a great new heresy: anyone who makes and keeps over something like $150K / year is ipso facto on the way to hell.)

This isn't the only biblically branded project to come out in connection with the Obama campaign (e.g.), and I gotta say that this whole thing where you slap religious brands onto political campaigns isn't making me any happier now that it's the Democrats doing it.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Saint Matthew's "Churches"

In the Concluding Unscientific Postscript, pseudonymous author Climacus complains:
Usually people abhor denying that [an eternal happiness] exists; so they include it but, just by including it, show that they do not include it. I do not know whether one should laugh or weep on hearing the enumeration: a good job, a beautiful wife, health, the rank of a councilor of justice - and in addition an eternal happiness, which is the same as assuming that the kingdom of heaven is a kingdom along with all the other kingdoms on earth and that one would look for information about it in a geography book. How strange that simply by talking about a thing a person can show that he is not talking about that thing, because one would think that this could be shown only by not talking about it. (p.391)
Dawn and I recently received some Junkmail from Jesus which provided a perfect illustration of the object of that complaint from some scam called Saint Matthew's "Churches". Click to embiggen the following image, and pay special attention to that blue box.

I especially like how salvation is sandwiched between two different ways of asking God for money.

You may also have noticed reference to a "Church Prayer Rug" and a "Prosperity Cross". I don't have images of those scanned, but I assure you they're just as ludicrous as you might be imagining.

So, that's all pretty funny (in response to Climacus, I guess I'm more inclined to laughing than weeping). Then I found this report, courtesy of the good folks at the Trinity Foundation. According to the graph at the bottom of the page, in 1999 Saint Matthew's "Churches" brought in nearly $30 million, and their income increases every year. Who knows how much they're making nowadays.

Every once in a while, I really feel like kicking someone in the head.