Way back in the day, I took a lot of programming classes. I like programming–it’s concrete and creative with more than one right answer but clear right answers–when you get it right, you know it, because the thing does what you want it to do. GIGO is an old programming idea: garbage in, garbage out. If your input is no good, no amount of programming can fix that.

It’s not just for computers, though. It is absolutely true of my brain. Put garbage in, garbage comes out. If I want my writing to work, I have to expose myself to writing that works. Lots of poetry makes me poetic; lots of newspapers makes me journalistic. I strive for a good mix–some weeks are more successful than others. And of course, in the end, I still have to sit down and write. No amount of good input can make the words come out. This has been a week of blogs and more than my usual number of conversations. But it’s time to write now. Just. Sit Down. And Write.

First the food.

Way back in another lifetime in another universe, I was engaged. We had very little money and lots of student debt and were forever looking for ways to keep our costs down. This is one of those ways, passed from my then-fiance (we never did get married) to me and onward to you. It is, I will warn you, not particularly healthy. It is ramen-based. But it is a vast improvement over the undoctored ramen. Really. And even if you substitute a non-MSG-laced broth (ie, toss the “flavor packet” and boil the noodles in stock of your own devising) it’s still cheaper than almost anything that your stomach will believe is a full meal.


Recession-proof Ramen

needed per person:
one packet of ramen noodles
one egg
substitute broth (optional)

Prepare the ramen as directed by the package. When it is very nearly cooked, take it off the heat, break the egg(s) into it, and whisk vigorously. Slurp out of the pot with the aid of a fork, or attempt to act civilised by pouring it off into a large bowl first.

Warning: it splatters.
High in fat (ramen noodles are fried before packaging) and protein (yay, eggs!). If you add vegetables it begins to resemble actual soup, but in Maine in the winter that can be an expensive proposition.

Now on to microlending. Usually a tactic for banks in the US to magnanimously apply in countries where the dollar is so strong as to make exchange almost laughable, I wonder what would happen if we did something like that here, with each other, because the banks won’t lend us money? With the circles for support for repayment and allathat. To get businesses started and things. Just thinking.


And while I’m thinking about the economy. I’m thinking we’re moving from an economy of stuff to an economy of brains. Which hurts my head, because shouldn’t stuff be worth something? But if there’s plenty of stuff (I contend that the problem is not lack of stuff but bad distribution of either stuff or people) then there’s nothing to drive an economy as such. But knowledge can be forever generated and consumed.

We all have foods we prefer when we are sick; most of us learned to want whatever our parents gave us as easily-digestible.

And with sore throats my family always serves hot lemonade. Most people think it sounds disgusting, and then they try it and are hooked. Super simple:

ingredients: honey, lemon juice (plenty of each), water

boil a kettle of water
take a tall glass and put in the bottom two fingers of honey and on top of that two fingers of lemon juice (the honey is denser so you can see what you’re doing; if you start with the lemon juice the honey mixes with it).
pour the boiling water on top.

note: if it tastes bland, add more honey. This is counterintuitive, but it works. It should be so strong that it almost hurts to drink it.

I’m really sick right now and can’t do much of anything, but this is too much to set aside and then forget.

I think about race and racism a lot. It’s in my bones. It’s in my skin. It’s in my daily experience. Even, or maybe especially, here in Maine. But in the church context it can’t be about me, because if it’s about me then not only is any conversation happening for the wrong reasons (like quitting smoking because your best friend said so) but anything bad that happens becomes about me (continuing the smoking example, it’s like blaming your best friend for the fight you got into with your spouse because you were irritable from nicotine withdrawal), even if it’s not really about me. It makes starting the conversation hard. It’s why white allies are so vital to the process, especially in churches, especially when the blatant racism is muted and what’s mostly left is subtle, systemic, invisible-to-most-people racism.

And common wisdom is that even this kind of speaking up is a risk, that I shouldn’t say anything precisely because it should be about the community, started by the community, supported by the community.

Okay, but I have a resource. So I’m not organizing any conversations at church. You can do that if you want, and it is my personal belief that the church is an excellent place to make these conversations happen for us and for the whole community. I am suggesting you read this elegant, gentle, true, informative, and accessible piece by Mary Anne Mohanraj–a writer I know a little and respect a lot–because, people? We all have to start somewhere.

For all the people whose poll-watching for two years of US campaigning left them desperate for political intrigue, this is way better than Obama’s cabinet picks:

Ever since I served in Canada, I’ve tried to make a point of keeping track of Canada–major issues, political events, that sort of thing. But what with Mumbai’s crisis and the economy and the rollout of a number of new church projects, I’d sort of lost track. So imagine my surprise when I popped over to catch up on Yarn Harlot‘s writing and saw her PPPs at the bottom of a post: “If you’re Canadian, can you believe what’s happening?”. I promptly felt guilty for letting my Canadian tracking slack, and popped over to the Ottawa Citizen for a look at Canadian news.

Turns out Prime Minister Harper, recently reelected with one of the lowest-ever Canadian voter turnouts (precariously close to some of our US HIGHEST voter turnouts) has lost the confidence of Parliament. Now ordinarily, when a PM is messing up, the House of Commons calls a vote of no-confidence, in which everyone votes on whether or not they think the PM should remain the PM. If the PM loses, this means another election.

Strange things sometimes happen as a result. In India in 2000 there was such a vote, the PM lost, they had an election, and THE SAME PARTY won, meaning that they ended up electing the guy who had just lost the vote of no-confidence.

All this is much more exciting than our usual politics because in most countries with a parliamentary system, they have lots of parties. So apparently in this case the Liberals (moderately liberal) and the NDP (more liberal than the Liberals) have gotten the support of the Bloc Quebecois (did I spell that right?) which is a party whose primary goal has historically been the secession of Quebec and whose liberal-conservative identity tends to be a little hard to discern, at least for an outsider like me. This makes them a coalition majority, more than capable of unseating the sitting PM if they all vote together. And they’re all upset about Harper’s handling of the economic crisis and apparently over the government’s plan to pull funding for all political parties.

That’s all normal politics in a parliamentary system. Here’s the kicker: apparently Harper is asking the Governor General to suspend parliament so that he will not be subjected to a no-confidence vote.

What?! Who’s the GG? The Governor General has a job that we don’t really have here in the States. The GG is the Queen’s representative in Canada. She (in this case) is also the head of state. In the US we roll “head of state” and “head of government” into one job, and we call that person the President. In Canada they figured that cutting ribbons and representing the country at formal affairs and being commander-in-chief of the armed forces really might require a different set of skills than wrangling with Parliament over the latest economic relief package (although they do sometimes cross over–Harper is going to cut a ribbon at a new Toyota plant this week). So they split them up. The head of government is chosen by the parliament (by tradition and by default, the leader of the party that wins the majority of the seats in the House of Commons). Technically the head of state in Canada is still the Queen, but the Queen gives power and permission to the GG to take care of things without consulting her all the time. You can read more about her here. She is appointed by the Queen at the recommendation of the Prime Minister, but then serves independent of the PM and at her majesty’s pleasure, although terms tend to correspond with the terms of Prime Ministers. (Wikipedia offers more here.

So one of the GG’s primary jobs is to see that there is always a functioning government in place in Canada, which is why Harper is appealing to her to suspend Parliament.

At any rate, some very interesting things are afoot with our neighbors to the north. That will teach me to get behind on my reading. If you want a really in-depth, thorough primer (and you don’t mind some knitting content) read the comments on this post.

We had some sad news on Sunday. Dear friend of the congregation and pillar of the Hancock Point community Daphne Crocker passed away on Sunday morning. She had been quite ill but was still sweet and joyful and wise and friendly, and lived determinedly until she was done. We will be among many who miss her. Read tributes here and here.

I try to avoid major politics here; I know we all have different approaches to things. But this song is funny and well-written.

Yarn Harlot, that is. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is a former doula turned professional knitter and writer-about-knitting. She also writes a highly entertaining and very sweet blog. As part of her latest book tour she went to London for a few days; on her last day she went for a wander and wandered right into a cathedral. The whole travellogue is wonderful; her description of her atheist faith is beautiful; the comments from four self-identified UUs is icing on the cake. We (your clergy) work so hard to get people past the odd sort of shame that seems to hang over liberal religion, that it’s very gratifying to see evidence that some people are really claiming the beauty of this faith.

If you have any affinity for art, architecture, or travel, go look. Aside from a few random pictures that include a stripey sock, there’s nothing very knitter-specific there, just a whole lot of beautiful photographs and accompanying prose. Yum.

I’ve posted several times about furoshikis, the Japanese squares of fabric that can be transformed into carrying bags and wraps of all kinds. A little while back I noted that there was a book, and promised a follow-up if I could get my hands on it.

I found it. Gift Wrapping With Textiles by Chizuko Morita was, unbelievably, in the Bangor Borders. Now that I’ve had it for a few months, I feel qualified to comment.

The truth is, almost all the really useful wraps are demo’ed on YouTube or diagrammed on the Japanese Ministry of the Environment furoshiki. There are a few good additions in this book, notably a large folio carry (think framed art), the long tube wrap (think rolled posters), the kimono wine wrap (not as useful as the ordinary bottle wrap, but prettier), and the backpack (uses two furoshikis, and really only good in a pinch). Everything else is either a reapplication of a basic concept or cute/pretty but not useful as such (and here my New England pragmatism peeks through). The instructions are generally good, especially the section in the beginning about the different sorts of knots and how to tie them. there are a few places where the wording is a little tricky, but nothing insurmountable.

If you’re planning to convert your life to a furoshiki-only existence, get this book. If you want a lot of instructions about decorative wraps (the title is, after all, about gift wrapping) with flowers or rabbits or kittens worked into the tying, get this book. Otherwise, see if you can get it at the library.

From one of the many email lists I follow:

What use is there in a blunt truth thrown like
a stone, which breaks the heart? There is
no virtue in truth which has no beauty.

– Hidayat Inayat-Khan, Sufi teacher

We honor the search for truth–both individual and collective. Alas, many of us still struggle with finding ways to express that truth without breaking hearts. How do you make truth graceful?

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