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Monday, November 20, 2017

November Travel--Part II-Boston

We boarded Amtrak 172 at 11 am on Friday at Penn Station along with a mass of travellers funneling into one escalator.  Fortunately we were able to find two seats together and the four hour trip went quickly and smoothly.  Our iphone map instructions were confusing  when we exited the station.   We followed the blue line and were very happy to see the last letters of the big HILTON sign ahead.
Later after wandering and trying to follow our iphone suggestions, we fond Legal Sea Foods and had a wonderful dinner. We reminisced about the old Legal Sea Foods in Ianman Square.  It has definitely gone upscale from those days.  Again we did some wandering to find the Hilton but we're back in the hotel.

I am not good about hotel noises.  Tonight it's the elevator across the hall but still loud and very busy.  Ear plugs should help!
That was a rough night.   In the morning, I was so bold as to ask for a different room.  The clerk was very kind about it (I was amused that she called me "Miss Mary" just like my former students!) and put us into a quiet corner room.

We didn't do much all day. We met an old friend to chat and later met one of Jim's colleagues for drinks and a snack.  We watched Notre Dame beat Navy--not as easily as they were supposed to do.  We didn't need a big meal and so we had the great idea of going to Star Market where we picked up enough fried chicken, salad, and fruit for two days--along with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc for Jim.  Good thing we are not "foodies!"

 The new room gave me a great night of sleep.  Jim had an early am breakfast meeting.  I went to the 9:30 mass at St. Cecilia's Church right next door.  The music was lovely and the priest had a good message on the parable of the talents.

Holden Green
We met with another old friend--a former graduate student--for a chat,  Jim went off to another meeting and I summoned my courage and called for Lyft to take me to Harvard Square.  It went smoothly enough and I had my sentimental journey through Harvard Yard.  I climbed the steps to Widener Library where I worked for Folklore and Mythology for a year.  I walked up to Memorial Church where we often worshipped.  I walked to Holden Green, our home for three years.  It was still there and the memories of the families that lived in each unit came back quickly.  I had a big lump in my throat!

  Savenors, the corner grocery where Mrs. Savenor sat on her stool by the cash register and Julia Child sightings were recorded, was still there too--but as an upscale butcher.
Van Gogh's Three Pairs of Shoes
I walked back to the Harvard Art Museum--the Fogg--and enjoyed touring the main floor exhibits.  I treated myself to a cup of decaf espresso--turned into Cafe Americano- and a muffin and then took Lyft back to the hotel.  That driver couldn't stop talking but I still rated her five stars.

I had some quiet time in the room while Jim was at another meeting.. We ate our leftovers from the day before and then walked to the Notre Dame reception which is always hot and noisy and full of folks to talk to.  I managed to stay the whole time even if I went out into the hall a few times for some air!

It was a long walk through passageways and malls back to the hotel.  I had a craving for something sweet which was not available at the reception.  So it was a Dunkin Donuts treat--perfect--and then eventually another good night of sleep.

We are now on the Amtrak from the Back Bay Station to Philly--a 5 1/2 hour ride with dubious internet connections.  Ready for Phase III of our trip--time with Laura's family in Gladwyne.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

November Travel Part I--New York City

November--just before Thanksgiving--is always the time of Jim's annual Society of Biblical Literature convention and this will be his 44th one in a row.  He said last year it might have been his last but here we are again!   This year the trip is extended however to include pre-convention speaking at Boston College and Yeshiva University and post-convention time with family for Thanksgiving.

Jim left on Sunday, spoke at BC, and then took the train to NYC.  I left home yesterday and we met up at the Krispy Kreme donut shop at Penn Station.  I got confused getting off the train at an unusual place and had to ask an Amtrak policeman where it was!  But we found each other--and were so glad to see each other again--and could walk to the hotel together.

Hilton Garden Inn Times Square South--"only" 50,000 Hilton points a night--and now I might know why.  Noisy construction is going on across the street so there will be pounding all day.  The "white noise" of a fan bothered me last night until I put a pillow over my ears.  The view from the 17th floor is of a working garment factory--we are definitely in the Garment District.

No plans for today at all.  We shall see what evolves.
We walked to Times Square, we walked to get lunch at Pret A Manger, and we walked to the NY Public Library--104 minutes of walking according to my Fitbit.  After all of that, we were happy to eat at the hotel bar again and watch sports on TV for the evening.

I have been to all the major museums in NYC with the exception of the new Met Breur (the old Whitney).    I'm not a shopper.  I am beginning to think that NYC doesn't hold the attraction for me it once did.  And that makes me sad in a way!  The thought of coping with the subways is daunting.  I have observed previously that I was often the oldest person I saw on the trains underground.

So the highlight of our day was really our trip to the New York Public Library where we found the reference desk on the third floor and Jim made his inquiry for the 10th edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica's index.  It took three librarians to help him and not one asked for his credentials.  We could have waited for the volume or picked it up today but Jim chose to have them scan the relevant pages and email them to him.  Amazing if it all works out.

The view from our 17th floor room is of several floors of a so called "sweat shop," a garment factory.  I have been watching people cut patterns, sew fabric, and one poor fellow ironing quickly with repetitive motions.  I wonder what they are making and who owns the place.

Other vignettes today--the man ahead of me at 7-11 buying breakfast--a Red Bull and a huge cookie.  The barrista at Gregory's Coffee who, when I asked her, said she gets up at 3:30 am to get to work at 5:30 am but she's "used to it." The stooped over man standing on the sidewalk with a puddle in front of him--his drink or his place to urinate.  It's the big city and a long way from Deerfield Loop in Granger!
The "Vessel" (a sculpture)
A bonus of the day was being able to meet Dan briefly at 10 Hudson Yards.  He had flown into Newark on the red-eye from San Francisco that morning.  He had several meetings but was able to take a break and see us.

We took Uber to the Lucerne Hotel at 79th and Amsterdam Avenue where Yeshiva had booked us a room for one night.  The Lucerne is a step up from Hilton Garden Inn which means that  instead of free bottles of water, you could pay $6.75 for a bottle in your room.

At 5:20 Jim left for Yeshiva Unversity where he had dinner and gave a presentation to about 15 scholars.  I walked to Lincoln Center for the concert The Routes of Slavery--but after some confusion, I learned that my concert at the Rose Theatre was not a part of that campus.  I walked another six blocks and saw "Jazz at Lincoln Center."  I found i!.  But no--it looked like a shopping mall--and it was.  The theatre was on the 5th floor hidden away but actually seating hundreds in tiers.

  I made it in time for the pre-concert lecture.  I had thought that if the concert was not great I would leave at intermission.  However, the music was lively and dance was colorful and the narration about slavery was profound and my seat in the first row on the edge was right under the action.  I stayed and loved it--except for the encores when I was ready to go!  Jordi  Savall  is known for bringing musicians together and these folks were from ten countries and three continents.

Jim met me walking back and we had tacos and drinks at 11 pm at Playa Betty's on Amsterdam Avenue.
November 16, 2017

.  My breakfast was a NY one--a roll with egg and cheese.

The Sick Room
We took a short exploratory walk in the morning ending up at Bloomingdale's Outlet Store which I rejected quickly.   Our major jaunt was across Central Park to the Met Breur for the Edvard Munch exhibit.  I had renewed my Met membership just in time--the card came on Saturday.  The exhibit included several rooms with themes like Despair, Nocturne, Passion, and Self-Portraits (which he called self-scrutinies).  There was no "The Scream" except for one lithograph. Almost all of the works came from the Munch Museum in Oslo.

We had supper with Dan at Whitmans in Hudson Yards.  This involved our first subway trips which we did not handle with perfection.  We neglected to see the Uptown sign, slid our cards through, and then realized our error.  We had great and greasy burgers with Dan and he told us of his adventure of the afternoon--descending 26 floor by stairs because of a fire on the 22nd floor.  After supper, he helped  us combine our Metro cards at the new Hudson Yard subway station and get us on our way.  We're now back in the hotel, ready for Thursday night football, and planning on leaving NYC in the morning for Boston.
 About 17,000 steps  each of the last two days according to my Fitbit!  Jim was congratulated by Uber for being rated five stars by each of his three drivers on Wednesday.  First ever purchase from a food cart when we got rolls and coffee at the corner near our hotel.  And now on Amtrak to Boston.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A New Vocabulary

This fall while taking the class in Feminist Theory I have learned many new words and new meanings or specific meanings for words I thought I knew.  I have been at times exasperated at the rather obtuse and complicated vocabulary in our readings but I am also beginning (sometimes) to appreciate the need for words that have a richness of meaning for the field.

Let's start with "intersectionality."  Feminism needs to recognize diversity.  Concepts of oppression do not act  independently of each other.  You need to think of race, class, age, disabilities, economic status, radicalization, language, as well as gender.

And then there's "standpoint."  Knowledge is socially situated.  You start with inquiry from the "marginalized."  (There's another word--marginalized!)

And "performativity."  Performativity produces a series of effects.  Nobody is a gender from birth.  Performance is what produces the individual. (from Judith Butler)

And "discourse."  The language you use--how you talk about something

And "discursive constructions."  Discourse can create reality--example, referring to  transgender as a disorder.  I always thought discursive meant rambling, but not in this context.

And "Othering."  Dehumanizing--making an object of someone.

And "praxis."  Practice, as distinguished from theory.  Why not just say practice?

And "identity politics."  This is highlighting just one aspect of one's being.  Can there be a "feminist standpoint?"  Coalitions are what are needed.

And "heteronormativity."  This assumes desire is for opposite sex.  Is this performative?

And "historisizing."  This is making something seem as if it is history or real, such as trying to historicize stereotypes.

And "fields of power."  Juridical power produces what it claims merely to represent.  We are born into certain constructions of power--interpersonal, disciplinary, cultural, and structural--that can be found in family, classroom, workplace, government, police, etc.  And what is "juridical?" Just relating to administration of law.

And "geneology."  How did man and woman come to be?  What is the origin of these concepts?

And now we're getting into "queer theory" and the definitions of transgender.  More to come.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Few Days in South Haven

60 Lakeshore
We have rented 60 Lakeshore several times over the years but not recently.  Our last posting in the guest book was from October 2014.

The cottage was built before 1900 I think and enlarged bit by bit.  It could sleep 14 with six beds stacked in very small rooms on the second floor.  However, it has just one bathroom!  The location is wonderful in the off season--right on North Beach.  During the summer, it would be very busy with cars parked in front and plenty of traffic.  There have been some problems with mobs of teenagers gathering there on summer nights.

But in October, it is quiet and lovely.  Most of the time!  Within a half hour of our arriving on Monday, there was plenty of excitement.   I was resting in the back bedroom when Jim called to me to look out the front.  There was a boat in flames with smoke billowing out of the top just off shore.  An emergency vehicle had sped by and soon there was a fireboat shooting water or retardant on the burning boat.  It took a while to get the fire out; the boat drifted ashore north of us.    Later that evening I googled "boat fire in South Haven" and learned that two boaters were rescued by a couple in a passing boat.  They had no flotation devices; they had no choice but to jump into the cold water.  The woman apparently could not even swim and just hung onto a buoy.

The rest of the three days were spent in walking, reading, eating, and this year, watching the Cubs on TV.  Jim golfed on Wednesday with friends from Grand Rapids and South Bend--the former "pastoral support team" from a few years ago..  He had been concerned about an RA flare-up on his hand but with the help of Aleve, he was OK for play.
The view from inside

Monday night we ate at a new restaurant in town--Kitchen 527.   I had a pretty spicy Tiger Shrimp and Gnocchi dish; Jim played it safe with a burger.  Restaurants in South Haven come and go as the ones that stay open are really profitable just half of the year.  However, the ever popular Clementines had a 15-20 minute wait even on a Tuesday night so  we went to Black River Tap and Grill for burgers for both of us.  And then for night number three, it was takeout pizza from The Vineyard.

Kal-Haven Trail
The second night I had insomnia and ended up on the couch for about three hours of interrupted sleep.  I had been overwhelmed by some obligations that occurred to me earlier in the evening.  Yet the next day was such a day of peace in this restorative spot.  I spent time recording bits from Frank Cunningham's Vesper Time, a serendipitous find on a shelf in the cottage.   He talked about his 8th decade as being one focusing on memory, intimacy, diminishment, acceptance, and gratitude.  I felt I had to recognize that it is OK to feel diminished in ability to take on obligations and just to accept that as part of aging! The next night I fell asleep trying to watch the Cubs.  They won anyway without my help!  (after three losses, they had to win to stay in contention in the NLCS)

We told ourselves we would do this more often.  The next three months will be busy but we could have a wintry stay in February  and we could try 60 Lakeshore again in May instead of our usual condo.

What is Really on my Mind!

Lord, Have Mercy
I wrote this post ten days ago.  I have hesitated to post it because I don't want to offend those I love but who disagree with me.

I haven't blogged about the political situation in our country since March during Lent.  But it is on my mind constantly.  I am angry and worried.  In the midst of despair,  I will start with one very positive story.

I think this is how it happened.  Last fall, after the election, D knew that her colleague L really appreciated our church.   D began attending worship and the Women's Study on Tuesday mornings.  In the last few months,  her husband P who has been attending with her, began participating in the Lord's Supper.  D did not come forward because she was never baptized.  Last Sunday D and her 2 year old daughter were baptized and P reaffirmed his faith.  I wept.  I find it so affirming to my own faith to have D and P make this commitment.  D really has been hearing the gospel for the first time in recent months and she has found faith.

And another positive is the many times I have prayed for our country and for wisdom for its leaders because we are in grave danger of going wrong in so many areas.  I don't know when I have ever prayed as often for peace and justice.

I am angry at all those Christians who voted for a man who has been married three times, who used vulgarities to speak of women when he bragged of his sexual prowess, and who regularly sends out insulting and name-calling tweets from the White House--to North Korea, to Democrats, but also to his fellow Republicans. He has tweeted words that have had to be bleeped out of news reports.  He has lied about  President Obama's wire-tapping the Trump Tower, about the size of the inaugaral crowd, and just last week about how Senator Corker, a Republican,  begged for his endorsement and  wanted to be Vice-President, both of which Corker denied.  Senator Corker has referred to the chaos in the White House and the danger of WW III if it was not kept under control.  He is not running for re-election and feels free to speak what he says almost all Republicans in the Senate are thinking.

The country is getting more and more divided along racial lines.  President Trump's tweets seem to encourage this division with his contrasting reaction to hurricanes in the mainland USA and Puerto Rico, with his misunderstanding that kneeling during the National Anthem is a protest against racism,  not veterans, and his defense of  the Confederate monuments which serve to remind "people of color" of a very sad past.

Every day the newspapers are full of news like this.  I take little pleasure in reading the news any more.  I have taken the news app off my phone so I am not tempted to check it so often.

In some ways, I cannot fault President Trump.  He has been a reality show star and he continues in that vein.  I fault those who voted for him who knew what they were getting into when they did.   Some hated Hillary Cliinton so much that they couldn't possibly vote for her. I fault the evangelical Christians who voted "pro-life" as their main issue when to me "pro-life" means so much more than "anti-abortion." 

It is possible that President Trump will find some common ground with the Democatric leadership on improving the Affordable Care Act.  I don't see much hope for gun control or immigration when Building the Wall is still on his agenda as expensive and foolish as that is. It is possible that evidence will be uncovered linking him with Russian influence in the election but that is all pretty murky.  I wonder what I will be blogging on December 31, 2017.
I just read Margaret Atwood's 2017 introduction to The Handmaid's Tale.  I don't think I have the emotional strength to read the book right now.   Her last few words apply to this blog!

"In this divisive climate, in which hate for many groups seems on the rise and scorn for democratic institutions is being expressed by extremists of all stripes, it is a certainty that someone, somewhere--many I would guess--are writing down what is happening as they are experiencing it. ...Will their messages be suppressed and hidden?  Will they be found, centuries later, in an old house, behind a wall?  Let us hope it doesn't come to that.  I trust it will not." 

Friday, October 6, 2017

New Glasses

In July 2016 I got a prescription for new glasses.  I shopped for frames several times and could not make up my mind.  As the months went on,  I decided I might as well wait for a year and get another prescription.

September 2017--I kept losing my glasses because I had to take them off to read--or to eat--orcook-or to do anything close by.  And then I couldn't see well enough to find them!  So it was back to Troy, our optometrist, for another exam.  My presccription had changed with less strength needed for distance so that would make a difference for the close work too.

I hate buying glasses.  I hate making that major decision.  But I made myself go to Eye-Sight, a place recommended by Dana, the stylish director of the local library where I volunteer.   The salesperson and I pulled out several pairs of glasses and decided on the very first pair we looked at.  I asked them to take a photo and  said that I would go home,  think about it and bring in my prescription later.

They were great salespeople!  They told me they could get my prescription faxed.  They did not take insurance but could knock off 20%.  I told them to go ahead.

Yesterday I picked up my new glasses.  The good news is that I can see better.  I keep reaching to take them off to read, to eat, to look at my cell phone--but I don't have to do that.  I can see very well.  The bad news is that I don't think I like the way I look.    I feel as if I look too old in them.

This morning I told my walking friend that I wasn't sure about them.   She looked at me and said they were a bit severe.  Severe!   I wish she had lied and said they looked great!

So what shall I do about this dilemma?  Troy says that my cataracts are bad enough for Medicare to pay for surgery.  Then I would not need any glasses!  But I am not eager for surgery.  I could buy a cheap and fun pair at Wal-Mart for when I want to be more upbeat. However,  I paid far too much for these already. Or I can just get used to these and be thankful that I can see so well and stop being so vain.

I told Jim I will just have to smile a lot so that I don't look too severe! 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Templeton Prize Awarded to Al Plantinga

The announcement was made a few months ago.  A 1.1 million pounds sterling prize would be awarded to Alvin Plantinga for his contributions to "affirming life's spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works"--the goal of the Templeton Foundation.

I will quote the first line of the program tribute:  "Alvin Plantinga is an American scholar whose rigorous writings over a half century have made theism--the belief in a divine reality or god--a serious option within academic philosophy."   His Warrant Trilogy published by Oxford University Press in 1993 and 2000 stated that "religious beliefs are proper starting points for human reasoning and do not have to be defended or justified based on other beliefs."    His five minute acceptance speech distinguished between two types of beliefs--one that accepted that George Washington was our first president because we had read about it or been told about it--and the second one (in his quirky style) was a belief that you had an annoying itch in your left leg.  I think he was saying that belief in God is like that second type of belief.  You know it and no one has to tell you that and it is not irrational.  That's seems pretty deceptively simple, he stated, and I am not sure I understand how that can be the basis of many books and words and lectures--and a Templeton prize--but there it is.

We were surprised to be invited to the Templeton Prize Ceremony but we accepted this invitation.  As Al said he was not sure he deserved this honor but he was not going to turn it down!

Our connections with Al are through several channels.   Jim studied logic and modern philosophy with him at Calvin College in the 1960s.  Years later, when Jim was appointed to the Department of Philosophy and Religion at North Carolina State University, his colleagues in philosophy were impressed to hear that he had studied with Al Plantinga and may have given him more respect because of it!

In 1991, when Jim was appointed to Notre Dame's Theology faculty, he became a colleague of Al's. .  But more importantly, we worshipped together at the South Bend Christian Reformed Church and became friends.

The memory of Al that comes to mind for me more than any other is worshipping with him during the often sparsely attended evening services we used to have at our church.  There were opportunities for prayer requests and Al often asked for prayers for his family or his many acquaintances.  Somehow that always struck me that this world renowned scholar was humble enough to ask for prayers for people he cared about.

The event itself this past Sunday at the Field Museum in Chicago was an adventure.  We took the South Shore train into Chicago and stayed at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel--where we were upgraded from our "hip and historic" room to a business class room on the 20th floor--spacious and with a lovely view.  We met our friends Julie and Nathan Hatch in the lobby and had pizza and drinks with them--catching up on families and the years gone by since they too were at Notre Dame and our church.  A shuttle bus took us to the Field Museum where we listened to six speeches, three chorale numbers by the Calvin College Alumni Choir, two videos, and one piano solo by Al's brother Leon.  A reception followed in the large museum hall--home of T Rex.

Al apparently had been taken to the hospital at 1 am with what he thought was heartburn.  The hotel staff was concerned because it could easily be heart issues instead.  In typical Al fashion, he may have neglected to  bring his usual meds along for the weekend.  In any case, he was released at noon and was able to participate in fine fashion in the evening.  This information was not publicized but we chatted with family members while waiting for the shuttle.

A great aspect of the evening was reuniting with many graduate students who had been members of our church during Al and Kathy's years there--some coming from Grand Rapids, but also from Florida, California, and the Netherlands.  Al has had an amazing legacy of influencing generations of philosophers and he stated that he hoped this prize would encourage them towards "greater creativity, integrity, and boldness."