Sunday, October 31, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 10/30/10: Ducks and Giants, Iron, Birthday Party

1.  In the word of athletic competition, it was a mixed day:  I am happy that the Ducks defeated USC 53-32, but the Giants dropped game three of the World Series, 4-2.  The Rangers seemed much more comfortable at home and profited mightily from a three-run home run by their ninth place hitter, former Spokane Indian, Mitch Moreland. 

2.  I bought an iron at Fred Meyer and wondered if I'd ever bought an iron before. 

3.  Allie, son of Russell and Anne,  turned three earlier this week and his birthday party was today.  The Deke, Molly, Olivia, and I went.  While I had a good time talking with adult friends, the real action was close to floor with nine kids, Olivia the youngest and a first grader the oldest, having a great time playing with toys, fishing in Russell's ocean, eating cake, doing the stuff kids love to do.  My life as a grandpa keeps moving along.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 10/29/10: Irrelevant Facilitator, Teeth/Jaw Protector, Black and Tan

1.  It's been quite a while since I've been in even the tiniest leadership role in the English department or anywhere else at LCC.  Today, it was my turn, however, to facilitate an English department meeting (a tiny leadership role) and as the meeting progressed my role as facilitator became gloriously less and less relevant as other faculty took over different parts of the meeting, I smiled,  and everything went far better than if I had tried to rule, tried to reign in my fellow instructors. 

2.  On Thursday, my teeth guard arrived at the dentist and today was my first full day wearing it.  I have fallen into a habit of grinding my teeth while working on the computer, driving, grading papers, and doing other things and this guard will save wear on my teeth and my jaw.  Maybe it's weird, but I love my teeth guard.  I wore it in the car, at the computer, while grading papers in my office, and while I slept.  It works.

3.  While at Albertson's this evening, it suddenly struck me that I'd enjoy a Black and Tan, so I bought a couple bottles of Guiness Draught and Bass Pale Ale and made myself a Black and Tan. I enjoyed it thoroughly, first visually and then the taste of it,  and somewhere in my future, I'll have another since I have a bottle of each ingredient left. 

Three Beautiful Things 10/28/10: Happy Birthday Dad, Giants on TV, Sad Farewell

1.  Today is Raymond Harold "Pert" Woolum's birthday.  Had he not died in 1996, he would be 80 years old today.  Here are a couple of pictures of Dad.  The first portrays how happy he was on InlandEmpireGirl's wedding and the second is at Dick and Floyd's with a mystery man.  None of us, in our family, know who he's with in this picture.  Dad looks to me like he's just played a round of golf -- he loved that Ben Hogan cap.  He loved people in Kellogg, too.  You can see his enjoyment in both of these pictures, taken in Kellogg.

2.  Since a television signal doesn't come into our house, now when I see something on TV, I feel stimulated like I did back when the Gallahers bought a color television and I saw the opening of Bonanza in color (or maybe it was Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color) at their house or when we went to Betty Gulman's to see Cinderella in color with Leslie Ann Warren.  I had this very feeling tonight at Billy Mac's when all my friends left and I stayed, bellied up to the bar and drank ice water, and watched the last two or three innings of the Giants' drubbing of the Rangers, 9-0. 

3.  As the game was winding down, Claudia, the friendly, hard-working waitress on Thursday nights at Billy Mac's came over to tell me she wouldn't be at the restaurant next week when the bunch of us come in for our regular get together.  Due to financial difficulties at Billy Mac's (temporary we hope), she'd been laid off.  It was around 8:00 and things had slowed down at the restaurant so she took some time to tell me how much she would miss working there and miss our Thursday night table and when her shift ended we hugged good-bye, both with the hope that business might pick up again and Billy Mac's would need to hire her back. 
(This really isn't such a beautiful thing, but I want to have a written record of it.  I want to remember Claudia and our talk.  I sure hope to see her again.)

Three Beautiful Things 10/27/10: 11-7, Homer Wrap Up, Long's Meats

1.  Totally improbable, but it happened:  the Giants scored eleven runs and defeated Texas in the first game of the 2010 World Series.  I listened to Jon Miller and Joe Morgan call the game on ESPN radio.  They, like me, seemed staggered by the Giants' emphatic victory, especially the way they pounded the unhittable Cliff Lee.

2.  I don't have this happen very often:  today in ENG 107, I planned out a presentation intended to sum up different elements of human life Homer explores in The Odyssey, to look at the moral structure of the world he created, to look at the poem's metaphorical structure, to look at the ideas of blood sacrifice, purification, and catharsis, and to see how the reunion of Odysseus and Penelope not only consummates their marriage, but is a way of seeing their once fragmented world made whole again.  I also selected and read what I thought were a couple of tasty passages.  It's a two hour class.  My comments lasted barely an hour.  Class dismissed.  Sticking around felt anti-climactic.

3.  The Deke had picked up chicken and basil sausages from Long's Meat Market and tonight I fried them up with onions and it transported me back to the early days of our marriage when the Deke and I used to buy Long's meat and sausages all the time.  It was back in the L & L days when the L & L was kind of a coffee barn, barely gentrified, and Long's was located there.  Now what used to be the L & L is all fancied up, Long's moved out of Midtown to Southtown and I have neglected to go to their new location.  That's going to change. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 10/26/10: Celtics Begin Another Season, Sirloin Steaks, Restoration Through Living Deep Values

1.  The NBA season has begun and I enjoyed listening again to Jim Durham and Dr. Jack talk basketball and make the game come alive, but most of all I enjoyed that it was the Celtics and I could hear Jim Durham describe Rondo dishing out assists, KG popping sixteen footers, Ray Allen in rhythm burying threes, and Paul Pierce hitting daggers.  What I'd really like to hear is how agile Shaq is in the post and hear Durham describe how he rims in 89% of his free throws, but I don't think that's going to happen.

2.  The Deke bought three thick sirloin steaks at Long's and I prepared the electric frying pan for the steaks by sauteing a huge onion, sliced, and after seasoning the steaks, I dropped them on the frying pan and covered them with the onions.  Five minutes each side did the trick and Molly, the Deke, and I enjoyed steak and green string beans.

3.  I'm slowly but surely finishing set after set of student papers.  I finished another tonight for WR 121 and enjoyed my students insights into how living in alignment with his deepest values brought new life to Dan O'Brien's friendships, his capacity for compassion, his financial success, and his love life in Buffalo for the Broken Heart.

Three Beautiful Things 10/25/10: Homer's Personal, Hot Wings Worked, Back to Dari Mart

1.  I decided to have my World Literature students take a break from writing analysis papers and assigned them a personal paper exploring their own experience with the kinds of things characters in The Odyssey experience.  I prompted them this way:  You might write about the death of a friend, a time of longing in your life, an experience you've had with a descent into darkness/Hades, being a lout, going in search of answers to questions you have, hospitality you've extended or been blessed with, a battle you've had with a monster, an incident that helped mark your initiation out of youth into adulthood, suffering that has changed you, or an incident you've experienced with temptation or deceit or courage, an experience you've had with a mentor -- the options are almost boundless.  I haven't read the papers yet, but a few students thanked me for the opportunity to write this way and I observed at least two students weeping as they wrote.

2.  Because I'm new to it, I always get a little nervous when I try making hot wings, but no need:  they turned out really well and we had fun eating them.

3.  I'm back into the Dari Mart in the morning habit.  I know it's probably wrong in so many ways, but I get a 6:50 a.m. lift from a doughnut and a cup of Dari Mart coffee, whitened with non-dairy creamer. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 10/24/10: Tomb/Womb, Jade Palace Supreme, Tide Stemmed

1.  Bishop John Thornton masterfully worked over the metaphorical power of the tomb of Lazarus and the experience of resurrection. I thought of Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet:  "The earth that's nature's mother is her tomb ; What is her burying grave that is her womb".  The power of the metaphor of resurrection is that the tomb can become the womb.

2.  Tired, having had a busy day, we decided to order take out from Jade Palace.  I've been eating food from Jade Palace for over fifteen years and tonight's food was the best ever.  They really got it right tonight, especially the broccoli chicken.

3.  I made the adjustment, a simple one, that stemmed the tide of water coming into our basement.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 10/23/10: Win the Essay, University of Gray, Stir Fried Noodles

1.  I started to get caught up grading papers.  I found myself taking on the Chip Kelly slogan:  "Win the day."  Only, I was saying "Win the essay."  I've got to get caught up one essay at a time, one set at a time, one course at a time.  I'll get there.  "Win the essay."

2.  Russell and I went to the University of Oregon and snapped photographs.  It was my favorite kind of day for taking pictures:  gray, sort of dark, even bleak.  On days like this, I'm drawn to the out of sight and scroungy places and I can always find plenty of them at the University.  Here's an example of what I mean:

3.  Russell and I went to Yi Shen and I order stir fried Vietnamese noodles with roast pork and it was splendid.  I especially enjoyed the pieces of pork that had been fried to crunchiness.  My last three visits to Yi Shen have been extraordinary.  I'm enjoying eating there more and more every time Russell and I go.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Playing Around with Self-Portraiture

Today Russell and I went to the University of Oregon to take some pictures and I had some fun, first, with my reflection in a window on the south side of Gerlinger Hall and then with my reflection on a turquoise panel on the north side of the building.

Three Beautiful Things 10/22/10: Drop In, Admiring My Fellow Teachers, Coffee Fun

1.  I dropped in during the drop in time for Fast Lane faculty and for nearly an hour no one else dropped in so Anne and I had a really good discussion about teaching library research in WR 121 and WR 122.  Then Mary dropped in and our conversation continued and widened. 

2.  Another afternoon meeting for the full-time English faculty and another hour or so of enjoying the intelligence and commitment of my fellow instructors.  I don't know what we accomplish as far as getting our way with the administration, but our discussions are spirited and smart.  I admire the people I work with a lot.

3.  Michael and Margaret and I got together for coffee after the meeting and we talked about how we teach and what we are thinking about these days and, as always, our conversation was stimulating, challenging, and fun.  We talked seriously, often, and also laughed hard about some really funny stuff. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 10/18-21/10: Back with the Giants Again, Duck Frenzy, Carey!

I put down Three Beautiful Things, in part, as a guard against my days becoming a blur, as a way of seeing each day as distinct, as having had three things worth jotting down happen.  The past four days have been a blur.  I'll just note for myself that I've been under pressure to grade papers and it involved a ton of reading because my students each researched an article on the subject of happiness.  In order to evaluate their papers, I read the articles they found.  While some overlap occurred, not much did.  Grading these essays involved reading about forty articles as well as the papers.  It's been rewarding.  I enjoyed the articles. I enjoyed my students' papers.  But, it made the last four days a blur.  Here are Three Beautiful Things I remember happening over these days:

1.  I don't know if the Rangers and Giants can muster one more win in each of their League Championship series to win the series, but it's been a lot of fun listening on the radio (while working!) to these two underdog teams give two mighty teams, the Yankees and the Phillies, all they can handle.  Two games remain in each series.  The Giants lost Game 5.  So did the Rangers.  Each could have a clinched a spot in the World Series.  Can these scrappers win one more game or will the titanic Yankees and Phillies win two more games and play each other in the World Series as most fan predicted they would?  Oh!  It's sure fun to be a Giants fan again.  I started being a fan in 1962 (when they broke my heart), but I fell off the Giants' bandwagon during the Barry Bonds years and with this scrappy team (whom I'm trusting to break my heart, like all Giants teams have) I feel the allegiance again and I really care how they do.

2.  It was fun to have dinner at Billy Mac's while the Ducks demolished UCLA.  Billy Mac's was packed, Duck fans were appreciative, but not ear-splittingly loud, and the vibe was really fun.  I kept an eye on the Ducks while talking with friends and enjoyed the frenzy of their no-huddle, fast-paced, unrelenting offense.

3.  While enjoying being with the Deke and Molly and Olivia and friends from LCC at Billy Mac's, in strolled Carey, whom I hadn't seen for about ten years.  After a little while, she recognized me and came over to say hello.  We embraced, smiled broadly, and talked for a few minutes.  Seeing Carey again brought back some really fun memories of a household I lived in almost twenty-five years ago and when I met Carey through one of my roommates.  It was a funny/odd time in my life . . . and as odd as it was, it was sure filled with fun, good friends, and lots of laughs and Carey was one of those friends.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 10/17/10: Law Written on the Heart, Happiness and Interdependence, Odysseus is Everything

1.  This morning I read Jeremiah 31: 27-34 at the 11:00 service and enjoyed proclaiming, through the lesson, that the Lord promised a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah:  "I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts."  To me, this is one of the most profound biblical principles.

2.  I'm reading Buffalo for the Broken Heart again.  I don't know how many times I've read it.  It's clearer than ever to me that Dan O'Brien finds happiness in the living of a noble life and that this nobility begins with how a person lives in interdependence with all things:  land, water, animals, friends, neighbors, business associates, etc.

3.  As I made my way through the tenth book of The Odyssey today, I was once again deeply stirred by what a complete man Odysseus is:  he's courageous, unbalanced, faithful, unfaithful, witty, arrogant, capable of feeling deep grief, capable of coarseness; he's deceitful, a brilliant tactician, physically imposing, a great leader, a failed leader:  he's everything.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 10/16/10: Eggplant Delight, Easy Weeding, Wainright Baseball Talk

1.  Russell and I ate lunch at Yi Chen and I ordered the Eggplant Delight, a vegetable curry with brown rice and it was perfect:  just the right amount of chili pepper heat combined with the sweet soothing taste of coconut milk and a tasty combination of vegetables dominated by one of my very favorites:  eggplant.

2.  A cool and sunny morning combined with moist soil made getting some weeding in the front yard a surprising pleasure and really easy.

3.  Rick Wainright and I got into a fun discussion on Facebook chat about the long gone durability of Major League pitchers:  most of our discussion was just numbers.  For example, in 1968, Bob Gibson started 34 games and completed 28 of them.  As Rick said, "That will never happen again."  He's right.  The role of the starting pitcher and the specialization of middle relievers and closers has changed the face of baseball forever.  (We also called to each other's mind an extensive list of unlikely World Series and playoff heroes who came through with stunning home runs through the years:  Bill Mazeroski, Al Weiss, Bucky Dent, Don Clendenon, etc.)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 10/15/10: Odysseus's Virtue, Admiring My Fellow Instructors, Celebrating Patrick's New Job

1.  Going back over Books 6-7 of The Odyssey, I love what Homer does in these two books.  He doesn't really move the plot forward much at all.  In fact, the story almost comes to a standstill, except that Odysseus will get help from the Phaiakians to return home to Ithaka.  These two books, along with Book 8, deepen our understanding of Odysseus's maturing soul and spirit, his modesty, humility, strength, emotional depth, and trustworthiness.  Homer is especially cagey in the way these admirable qualities surface when, naked, Odysseus stumbles upon Princess Nausikaa, frolicking naked with her maidens at the river while doing their laundry.  He's the model of virtue. 

2.  I was part of a meeting today with fellow English instructors and our division dean to try to figure some hiring stuff out and I left the meeting, as always, deeply admiring the intelligence, character, commitment, and eloquence of my fellow teachers.  

3.  Patrick accepted a job offer with AHA!,  a communications firm in Vancouver, WA this week and he came home today and, at least in my mind, we had a little celebration.  I bought some Coronas to go with the taco-like things I made.  I combined shredded pot roast, hamburger, potatoes, mushrooms, and sweet onion with about a pint of red salsa and used this filling in flour tortillas.  I browned the tortillas and melted cheese on one side of the tortilla . . . a shredded combination of four cheeses . . . I don't know what to call this dish, exactly, but the family groaned with satisfaction with each bite and I think Patrick felt properly celebrated....I hope so.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 10/14/10: Happiness and Integrity, The Family in American Drama, Pam's Back

1.  A boisterous group of students in my WR 121 class articulated a deep understanding of how in his memoir Buffalo for the Broken Heart Dan O'Brien examines happiness by exploring to what degree his ranching practices are in alignment with his values regarding the ecological integrity of the land he works.  As his practices become increasingly aligned with his knowledge of the land's history, evolution, and ecology, his joy and energy increase.  Many of my students saw this crucial connection today between human happiness and integrity.

2.  At Billy Mac's this evening, a causal mention of how short the term is in the quarter system led to discussing how much Kate G. and I enjoyed our experiences with January terms, with having an entire month to focus on one course, which led to a spirited discussion of plays and movies related to the Jan term course I taught twenty-eight years ago at Whitworth:  The Family in American Drama.

3.  Kate, Molly, and I were getting toward the end of our meal, and maybe our evening, at Billy Mac's when Pam and Michael suddenly appeared after attending a fundraiser for Paul Holvey.  Their arrival was a welcome surprise and a whole new round of spirited conversation got going, especially as Pam told us about the fun she'd had over the last week or so in New York City.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Post #1600! Three Beautiful Things 10/13/10: Dari Mart Power, 21st Century Moment, Hot Wings Work

1.  The return to Dari Mart.  I was out the door in the fog just after 6:30 this morning and I needed a little boost so I made my first visit of the school year to Dari Mart for a glazed old fashion, a cinnamon twist and a cup of Dari Mart coffee with non-dairy creamer.  It all hit the spot and gave me the uplift I needed to prepare for my morning courses and deliver the goods in WR 121 and ENG 107.

2.  I love living in the 21st century and every once in a while the quirks and ironies of our newish century give me a good smile, even a good laugh.  Today a student came to me and said he couldn't afford to buy the book we are reading in class so I helped him see if a copy were available in the library.  There was.  He took out his Blackberry and recorded the call number.  (Note:  By Blackberry, I mean Blackberry-like might have been a Droid for all I know....)  The irony of this tickled me.  It didn't make me feel snotty nor did I think it was a sign of the apocalypse.  It was an enjoyable 21st century moment. 

3.  Molly loves Buffalo Wings.  I didn't know about the Deke, but she agreed to give them a try.  I had cooked up a batch of wings for the first time when Molly, the Deke, and Olivia were in Kellogg last weekend and I decided how I did it was good enough to feed to the family.  I had bought a two and a half pounds of Rocky's wings. Tonight I fried them in a cayenne pepper, paprika, black pepper flour mixture, and dipped each piece individually in a butter and Frank's Original Hot Sauce mixture.  I also made celery sticks and put out a bowl of Lighthouse Blue Cheese dressing.   Twelve wings.  Three diners.  Molly and the Deke loved them.  "Is this all there is?"  "Well," I said, "I can thaw some tenders and make more."  The Deke, "How about the sauce?  It's really good." "Yeah," I said, "I can make more."  So, back to the kitchen, back to the electric frying pan, back to the stove top, and soon another batch of, this time, boneless wings.  Success again.   Let me quote Molly, "Seriously, buying wings at a restaurant seems silly after tonight!"  This all made me very happy.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 10/12/10: Post- Maggie PTSD, Quick Dinner, Snug and Homer

1.  I'm happy Maggie is home and today I've lived in the post traumatic shock and fatigue of her brief disappearance.  I'm only sort of exaggerating.

2.  We needed a quick dinner tonight and fixing some fresh stringed beans of many colors, a pot of mashed potatoes with butter, and one of those pre-cooked little Trader Joe's pork roasts worked perfectly.

3.  When the Corgis are in Deke's room and when Olivia has gone downstairs to bed, Snug can come out of my room and spend time in the living room.  I can't think of when I enjoyed reading Homer more thanwith Snug at my feet while while I lay on the couch reading the tales of Nestor and Meneláos and read Odysseus' sea choking flight on a raft from the island of Calypso.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 10/11/10: Prodigal Dog Returns Home, Spaghetti Sauce, Moosehead Canadian Lager

1.  My favorite stories and movies are ones where a character leaves home and returns again.  My favorite story hit too close to home today.  This morning, Maggie squirmed out of her collar apparatus and ran away.  Deke couldn't find her.  I couldn't find her.  An hour later, she returned home and I found out about her return in the afternoon.  I think I felt a joy similar to the citizens of Ithaca when they discover their hero-king Odysseus has returned home again.  I might have felt something like the joy of the father when the prodigal son returns home -- only ours was a decidedly less prodigal dog. 

2.  We didn't feast on a fatted lamb or anything when Maggie returned, but I cooked up a spaghetti sauce for dinner that the family agreed was killer:  hamburger, sweet Italian sausage, mushrooms, sweet onions, two jars of Trader Joe's Original Marinara Sauce, and four organic Roma tomatoes.  (The day will come when I make my own marinara sauce like I did years ago, but tonight was not the right night for that.)

3.  When I was in my late twenties, I used to occasion a bar at the Eugene downtown Atrium and I can't remember the name of it.  I always drank Moosehead Canadian lager beer at this bar and had some splendid times there talking and laughing with friends.  Today I bought a six-pack of Moosehead Canadian lager beer and remembered how much I enjoy it.  It's crisp, light, a little hoppy, and easy to enjoy.

Three Beautiful Things 10/10/10: Wrangling, Homer's Architecture, Charly's Back

1.  In church today, after Hannah read 2 Timothy 2:8-15, the words, "Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening" echoed in my mind all day long and I thought long and hard about the useless wrangling over words I've heard fellow believers enter into over the years, always in the name of truth seeking.  Wrangling over words rarely seeks truth.  The wrangling I've witnessed has been about denigrating others, assuming superiority, haughtiness, and, worse of all, assuming to speak as a true Christian.  It does ruin those who listen -- it ruins fellowship, ruins trust, ruins good will, ruins a sense of equality in the body of Christ, ruins grace, and ruins the ideal of neighborly love.  If I hear the words "true Christian" or "real Christian" spoken, I try to find a way to walk away.  I hear wrangling about to commence.  (Similarly, I will not enter into a discussion if I hear the words "true American" or "real American". )

2.  As I read Homer again I marvel not only at the story he tells in "The Odyssey" and what he explores regarding the mystery and meaning of human existence, but also at how he built, how he designed his great epic.  It's a wonder of architecture as well as story-telling as well as philosophical examination.

3.  Somehow I didn't get the memo this was in the works, but what a joyous surprise:  over a year after the Deke had to leave her behind in New York state with Nathan and Adrienne, Charly is back with us and is doing just fine after her flight across the USA to Portland.  Molly, Deke, and Olivia picked up Charly at the airport on their way back from Kellogg.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 10/09/10: St. Roni, Photo Shoot at Farmers' Market, Yi Shen Curry

1.  Last week was the Blessing of the Animals at St. Mary's and I did not take Snug because he just gets too anxious, nervous, and protective around other dogs and other animals and I didn't know how he would respond to being blessed.  This morning, however, I did the next best thing to having a priest bless Snug:  I took him for a 7 a.m. grooming appointment to Roni Naccarato at PetSmart.  She sees him at seven so he won't encounter the many dogs who come with owners to PetSmart and she loves Snug and he looks and smells great after his session with Roni.  Or should I say St. Roni?  (If the light in the house is good tomorrow, I'll take some pictures of the newly groomed Snug and post them.)

2.  Russell and I had a very good picture taking outing at the Farmers' Market in downtown Eugene.   Here are some of the pictures I shot:  

3.  Russell and I went to Yi Shen and I tried a Lemongrass Curry dish with BBQ pork.  The menu promised it would be spicy hot and it was.  It wasn't overwhelming, but just right and I loved my meal.  I'll have to keep trying out new dishes at Yi Shen.

Three Beautiful Things 10/08/10: Inside Clam Joke, Buffalo Wings Underway, Ice Road Trucker Load of Gratitude

1.  Molly, Olivia, and the Deke arrived in Kellogg safely on Thursday evening and I enjoyed very much today's reports that they have been to Yoke's, Stein's, Sunnyside Drug, and might be visiting Wal-Mart in Smelterville.  Molly got to crawl inside an inside family joke.  Every time Mom makes clam chowder we tease her about whether she put the clams in or not because she forgot to put in the clams one Christmas Eve about 80 years ago.  Molly texted me assuring me that Mom remembered to put in the clams. 

2.  My first attempt at fixing Buffalo Wings worked out pretty well.  I like how I prepared the chicken, frying the chicken hot for a few minutes and then slow frying it for over a half an hour.  Mixing Frank's Original Red Hot Sauce with melted butter is sure good.  I like my wings hotter than how they are with Frank's Original Red Hot Sauce, so I added Tobasco Sauce to the last few pieces and that made them closer to what I really want.  I look forward to experimenting with seasoning the chicken before I fry it and with tinkering with the wing sauce.

3.  I've been teaching at the college level since 1977 with a year or two off here and there.  Even after all these years, when former students let me know they appreciate my work, it warms me, it reassures me, it even adds to my feeling that I'm doing what I've been called to do.  Some praise came my way today.  I appreciate it a ton.  Well, actually, I appreciate it an ice road trucker load.  That's lots of tons. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Reflections on Happiness

Several of my Facebook friends have expressed interest in my WR 121 course where the focus of the course is on the question of happiness.

After two weeks, none of my students have been asked to develop their own understanding of happiness.  Our work so far has been reading other writers' and thinkers' ideas.  I'll find out a lot more about what my students have read when their first essay comes in this weekend.  The essay looks at a view of happiness they found in their research of the question in relation to a view of happiness found in an article we all read.

The article we all read is from the Jan/Feb, 2001 issue of Psychology Today.  It's entitled, kind of absurdly, "Secrets of Happiness". 

It's not a particularly complicated piece.  In it, Steven Reiss explains how a liver transplant operation woke him up.  He began to examine what his life's meaning is and, more to the point, what his sources of happiness are.

He classifies two basic kinds of happiness:  pleasure (or feel good) based happiness and happiness based on living out one's values.

He differentiates between the two in terms of duration.  Happiness experienced through pleasure has a short duration whereas happiness experienced through living out one's values is much more enduring.

Reiss ends his article by saying that possibly the most enduring source of happiness is the practice of some kind of spirituality.  He regards spirituality as the great equalizer.  If a person finds happiness in spirituality, it doesn't matter how many things the person has or whether the person is good looking or what kind of status the person has.  The happiness one feels practicing spirituality is not dependent upon one's looks or wealth or status.  It's based on something entirely enduring.

I've only heard from a few students regarding their research and I've enjoyed what they've reported so far.

For example, happiness is not always a value-based matter nor is it always spiritual.  Those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder need sunshine or some other form of light.  It's a physical and chemical reality.  This fact complicates the question of happiness.

Two of my students have read an article pointing out that the person who experiences happiness but avoids or shuts out melancholy or sadness will not be as happy as the person who feels both the painful and the good feeling aspects of life.  I haven't read this article yet, but it's my opinion that experiencing the full range of life's emotions sharpens them all.  It's not that we can't know happiness without sadness, but more a matter that we humans are wired to feel and experience the full spectrum of life and the full spectrum includes sadness, fear, anxiety, anger, and disappointment every bit as much as happiness.  

While it's true that money can't buy the full experience of happiness, another student of mine has read an article about how money contributes mightily to happiness by giving one the means to provide what's essential for physical survival.   Without proper health care, food, shelter, and other necessities, it's difficult to even talk about happiness, value-based or based on feeling good.

So far, I'm happy with the different dimensions of this question that are coming to life.  It's inexhaustible.  I don't think the question can ever be definitively answered and I'm happy to be teaching a course that doesn't look for definitive or absolute answers, but that explores the many ways thinker and writers view this question.

Our next move will be to read Dan O'Brien's Buffalo for the Broken Heart.  While this book is, on one level, a look at ranching practices and what impact non-native animals, like cattle, have on land they are not native to, the book is also Dan O'Brien's own search for happiness and that's what we'll be working to understand.  When Dan O'Brien is miserable, why is he?  What are the nature of the changes he makes in his life and how do these changes contribute to his happiness?

Three Beautiful Things 10/07/10: Mirthful Tedium, Yuks with Past Students, Tequila and (Mild) Euphoria

1.  I busted my butt in WR 121 helping students understand the most boring, tedious elements of writing research:  paper format and documentation.  I busted my butt in fun ways.  I was theatrical, melodramatic, even falling to my knees and mock pounding the floor with my fists when a student gave a wrong answer about a citation.  I mocked myself, mocked documentation, invited students to mock me (turns out they didn't need the invitation!) but still maintained my dignity and authority and I think my students will remember much of what I presented today.  Some students thanked me.  They didn't know about documenting a paper, giving credit to others when the ideas are not one's own.  They didn't know how to format an essay.  Now they didn't have to guess and they learned it all in a two hour meeting filled with tedious details as well as mirth, laughs, dumb jokes, and good cheer.  I busted my butt in WR 121 today.  I enjoyed it thoroughly. 

2.  Stacy came by my office and told me about her 35th high school reunion -- she was in charge -- and we swapped stories and impressions about what it's like to be in our fifties and to get together with high school classmates and she told me about her success in WR 123 last spring and we had a really good talk.  I'm very happy she stopped my.  Oh! And Patty stopped by, too.  She did really well in WR 227 after she took WR 122 from me and she was inspired from our reading of Into the Wild to pick up Under the Banner of Heaven and read it, too.  She's just getting started.  I enjoy it thoroughly when students from past courses drop by and pay the old man a visit and we have some good laughs and make sure we are all doing all right.

3.  I left Billy Mac's feeling the warm sense of euphoria I get from a couple of margaritas and from gabbing with friends and eating a pretty good cheeseburger with fries.   I really like that warm euphoric feeling.  I know that tequila comes through every time, but tequila alone is far from satisfying.  The deep satisfaction and the real euphoria comes from being with friends on Thursday night at Billy Mac's

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 10/06/10: Dogs Are Already There, Uplift at the Dentist, Lector History

1.  When Odysseus comes back to Ithaca in disguise, no one recognizes him except his aged dog. This moment in The Odyssey makes me nearly cry.   I was telling Melanie about this and she said, in reference to the work we've been doing with the hero's journey,  that dogs don't need a hero's journey.  They're already there.  I nearly cried.

2. I have lousy teeth.  I know it.  They know it at my dentist's office.  I go to the dentist every three months.  Kristen treats me so kindly, does such superb work, is so nice that I look forward to my visits.  It's the same when I work with the dentist himself, Dr. Robert Stephenson.  He's a calm, straight shooter.  Today's visit to the dentist was again a pleasure.  I never in my life thought I'd say this, but here I go:  I love going to the dentist.

3.   At tonight's meeting at church for deacons, lay eucharistic ministers, and lectors, I had a good time shooting the breeze with Adrienne, Nancy, and George, getting caught up on things and having a few good laughs -- a lot of good history there.  I also realized I've been reading Old Testament lessons at St. Mary's for twenty-three years now. A lot of good history there.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 10/05/10: Olivia Walks More and More, Happiness Expanded, Green Curry

1.  When Olivia wants to get from one place to another, more and more often her first choice is to walk.

2.  My WR 121 students have fund excellent articles addressing the question of happiness and those who spoke about theirs to the rest of the class helped further our project to see how this subject can be understood in a wide variety of ways.

3.  I bought a jar of green curry simmer sauce at Trader Joe's.  I poured it over chunks of fried pork steak, chunks of eggplant, a variety of green beans, and mushrooms.  Over the top of this I poured a bunch of peanuts.  I shelled these peanuts.  We all poured the pork, eggplant, mushroom, peanut green curry over hot basmati rice and had a very good dinner.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 10/04/10: Homecoming, Drumettes and Frank's Hot Sauce, No Robbery -- And the Dryer Works

1.  Molly and Olivia arrived home safe and happy after their trip to Oklahoma and Texas.  All of the energy of a fourteen month old baby that was missing in our house is back.  And Olivia is almost really walking, now, too.  She's still a little tentative, but she's starting to feel the power of the walk.

2.  At Market of Choice, I was thrilled to find packages of chicken drumettes.  And I wasn't even looking for them.  The drumettes will be perfect for making hot wings while the Deke, Molly, and Olivia travel to Kellogg later this week.  I tossed the drumettes in my cart and then I thought back to all the reading I've done about making hot wings.  Multiple times the product "Frank's Hot Sauce" has surfaced.  I found some.  I threw it in my cart.  When I went through the check out line, the college-aged woman who bagged my groceries went almost ballistic with joy when she saw my Frank's Hot Sauce.  It triggered her telling me her life story:  her father introduced her to it, she has to have at least three bottles in the house all the time, she uses it on everything (I asked her about oatmeal...turns out she doesn't use it on everything!), and she has converted her roommates to Frank's Hot Sauce.  I was convinced I'd bought the right product.

3.  No one in our family could be home when Oldfield's could deliver our dryer so I did what I've read in article about home safety a person should never do:  I left a key under the mat.  I trusted everything would be all right.  And it was.  I returned home in the early afternoon, the key was back under the mat, the dryer was installed, and no other nefarious persons had found the key and robbed us of our Target dishes or our Fred Meyer silverware.  To top it off, the dryer works.   A beautiful thing, indeed!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 10/03/10: Dryer, Steaks, Gilgamesh

1.  I do not enjoy making big item purchases and I usually procrastinate when one needs to be made.  In fact, I find it hard to buy anything for myself.  It's just the way I am.  But, today I needed to go out and buy a new dryer for our family and went to Oldfield's and bought one I'm happy with. I bought it quickly and arranged for its delivery.  I sort of enjoyed getting this task completed.

2. Tonight was steak night.  I don't know if I've ever fried steaks, but I seasoned a couple of steaks, let them reach room temperature, got out the electric frying pan, and very carefully tried not to overcook them.  I succeeded, but they were too rare.  I tried again and they came out all right.  The baked potatoes were flawless and the Deke and I enjoyed our rib eye steaks and baked potato dinner.  (I am going to make improving as a steak cook a new project.)

3.  I re-read Gilgamesh and thought again how his descent into darkness and the new insights he learns from his journeys rings really true for me; in many ways, the blindness I suffered after my eyes were burned in the bottom of the Zinc Plant flash roaster is similar to the days and leagues of darkness Gilgamesh endures on his way to becoming no longer a boy, but a man. I didn't become a man in 1973, but I could no longer see the world as innocently or as naively any longer. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 10/02/10: Reunion with Jeff Steve Part II, Harvest Fair, Slightly Flawed Teriyaki Chicken Dish

1.  Jeff Steve and I hadn't seen each other for about twenty years before we had breakfast in August on Cougar Bay on Lake Coeur d'Alene, and today we met for breakfast in Eugene at the Keystone Cafe, a place we haunted with some regularity back in 1985-87, often with Doug.  This morning we talked about a wide variety of things and it made this second reunion of ours doubly enjoyable.  I look forward to the next time we are in the same town again.  But, thank goodness, there's always Facebook!

2.  Russell and I headed into the local countryside this afternoon and visited the Spencer Creek Grange Harvest Fair for our Saturday photography outing.  Everything was perfect:  sunny, moderate weather; friendly people having a good time; Russell won five prizes after buying six raffle tickets; and we snapped a ton of photos.  Here are a few of my favorites:

3.  Friday, I bought a jar of teriyaki sauce with a dopey name at Trader Joe's and poured it in a zip-lock bag with about ten pieces of chicken.  Today I slow cooked the chicken with my electric frying pan while out taking pictures, came home, took the meat off the bones, mixed it with basmati rice and cooked up some green beans and put it over the top of the chicken, rice, and sauce.  It was a great idea, but I didn't get it quite right.  I needed more rice.  The sauce was too dominant.  Almond slices would have been really good, too.  The chicken was splendid, but the dish itself, while edible, was a just a bit flawed.  I'll get it right next time!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 10/01/10: What Burger Rules?, Paperwork, Nothing is Just

1.  For the last couple of months I've been telling anyone who cared to listen (both people) that I thought the best burger in Eugene is the Angus Deluxe at McDonald's.  I ate one today and I no longer can stand by what I've been saying.  It's the American cheese.  Replace it with cheddar and the Angus might rise to the top.  But today I realized that a burger with American cheese cannot be, for me, the best burger anywhere.  Right now, the top spot is open.  I've got to get the work continuing to taste burgers and try to fill that top slot.  (I have not found a burger anywhere I enjoy as much as the bacon cheese burger at the Sprag Pole in Murray, Idaho.)

2.  I got some tedious and important paperwork kind of stuff done today in support of the classes I'm teaching.  It's work I always put off and I'm really glad I did it and it will make my whole fall quarter a lot easier.

3.  I finished season 1 of "The Wire".  Nothing's just.  You gotta learn to live and work with that.  Nothing's just.  "The Wire" is everything. 

Three Beautiful Things 09/30/10: Happiness Research, Truckin' the Frozen Ocean, Margarita Sublimity

1.  I'm starting my WR 121 course with an examination of the idea of happiness, and I was pleased with the understanding today's class had of the article we read and I have faith that they will research and find good articles themselves to add to it. 

2.  I started watching the second season of "Ice Road Truckers".   Lord.  In season 2, the truckers are transporting huge loads over the Arctic Circle's McKenzie River and the frozen Arctic Ocean.  Once they hit the ice, they never travel on land.  It's intense and the challenges are fascinating, especially in the ways that trucking on ocean ice differs from the iced over lakes they hauled on in the first season.

3.  I don't drink much alcohol, and so, when I do, sometimes the booze just tastes out of sight.  This evening at Billy Mac's I ordered a margarita and the tequila, lime, salt, and mix worked together to give me a remarkably deep experience with temporary pleasure. The second one was good, too!

Three Beautiful Things 09/29/10: World Lit. Excitement, Joseph Campbell Excitement, It's All Messed Up

1.  Trying to help my World Lit. students see and understand the ways ancient stories worked to understand suffering and divine reality in the world excites me in my late middle age the way preparing to play Wallace in basketball did when I was young. 

2.   I've living with the insights of Joseph Campbell for thirty-five years now.  I remember how in January of 1975, a month dominated by deep snow and Russian tea,  under the instruction of Lew Archer at Whitworth College,  Campbell's book, "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" raised my understanding about the drama of being human like no book had before.  That month in 1975 in addition to the many, many experiences I've had with Campbell since came flooding back to me today when I showed the video "The Hero's Adventure" today in my World Lit. class.

3. In  "The Wire", everyone in the police hierarchy, judge's chambers, government offices, and everywhere else knows that everything is messed up.  The bureaucracy doesn't function, broken laws go unpunished, criminals go free, and corruption rules.  It then becomes a matter of accepting the fact of a deeply corrupted and flawed world and determining what can be lived with and what can't.  "The Wire" is everything.

Three Beautiful Things 09/28/10: Students Understand, Follow the Money, Molly and Olivia Are Safe

1.  I'm grateful that students are understanding and can laugh at me when I screw things up.  Every class, every quarter, it seems like I mess up something on the course calendar, or say the wrong day for when something is due, and I did it again today in WR 121, right off the bat in our first meeting, and my students got a kick out of it.

2.  Lester Freamon is so right:  "You follow drugs, you get drug addicts and drug dealers. But you start to follow the money... and you don't know where the *&%* it is going to take you."  Whether it's Watergate, Lane Community College, the Episcopal Church, the life of a family, anything, you start to follow the money --  well, you don't know where it is going to take you.  Everything is "The Wire".

3.  Molly and Olivia arrived in Texas safely and are gearing up to be reunited for a short time with Hiram.