Monday, August 31, 2015

Paperwork overload

Is it just me? 

When I see my physician -- very happy with my medical care, thank you very much -- I am appalled at how much post-visit paperwork goes into paying for the visit. 

I get two or three "This is not a bill" letters from my Medicare supplemental provider, each two or three pages in length, telling me how much they have/have-not paid, all in a code that is not particularly helpful. They tell me to wait and see if -- seriously, "if" -- I have to pay any part of the amount they list as still due to someone, somewhere. The connection between the various numbers appearing on the not-a-bill is not obvious.

Then I get several online bills from the physician/clinic, the one visit having been broken down into components that also do not make obvious sense to me. For example, I understand that lab work is different from the physician visit itself, but the one physician visit may be broken down into several sections. (I imagine Michael from Ur-spo could help me understand all this, but I know he has enough on his hands dealing with his own coding!) 

Then usually a week or two after I have paid the bill that arrived online, I get a duplicate bill in the mail. I once overpaid by a couple of hundred dollars -- credited to my account, so no problem in the long run -- because the bills were so confusing and I paid one version online and then weeks later paid the version that arrived in the mail. Since there are so many bills involved, I didn't realize I had already paid once because there is never just one bill for what I think of as one event.

Anyway, seems to me way too much paper, postage and staff time -- although I guess most of it is done by computer programs, which may be why no one is noticing the endless duplication -- is wasted on this. So the administrative costs of my/your/our already over-priced health care costs increase even more. Somewhere in there I will also be getting duplicate forms from Medicare to add to the mix.

Is it just me? Or is there a better way? Do all civilized nations do it this way?

And please note: I am not complaining about my health care, which I find quite satisfactory. I am not complaining about my coverage. I just think ... Well, I don't know what I think.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Wade House

Our historical site visit today was to the Wade House in Greenbush, Wisconsin, half-way between Fond du Lac and Sheboygan. Wade House itself dates to about 1850, originally built as a home by Sylvanus Wade and then becoming a stagecoach hotel or inn. Today the inn, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is part of the Wade House Historic Site, a historical museum operated by the Wisconsin Historical Society. The site includes two other buildings on the National Register, the Charles Robinson House and the Robinson-Herrling Sawmill. The historical society also operates the Wesley Jung Carriage Museum at the site, exhibiting a large collection of 19th-century American horse-drawn vehicles.

The trip over took about an hour and forty-five minutes through thick fog. It was all country roads, which meant traffic was slow anyway but we had to keep an eye out for farm equipment and such things. Fortunately we made it safely just as the fog was beginning to lift.

It was an enjoyable visit. The carriage museum is very well-laid out and more entertaining that I had expected. From the visitor's center where you enter, you are then taken by wagon to the site of the historical buildings, a ride of ten minutes or so. There is also a stagecoach ride around the site, which was fun but made me happy not to have had to rely on that mode of transportation for long trips, fog or no fog.

We were quite impressed with the place and recommend it to anyone who has a chance to visit. The Wisconsin Historical Society has reason to be proud.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Time

This morning I sent an email to a friend in Madison to see if we could get together next week for lunch. I told him I wanted to do it before summer got away from us completely, but if next week won't work, maybe we can do it sometime in September.

After I sent it I realized that next week is already September. Well, except for Monday and I mentioned that Monday was a bad day.

What is happening to the time? Or for that matter, to my mind?

Writing

Recently I sent Lee a copy of one of The Prior's Cat stories, and his response encouraged me. I have not made as much progress as I would like on Wacky in WhoVille, but I guess the secret is to keep plugging along. I don't suffer from writer's block so much as writer's sloth, I think.

Although sometimes, I do feel like this guy:


Of course, that is not necessarily because of something I wrote. It might be something I read ...

I wonder if my next computer will have one of those Spock buttons on it? Does it come standard with Windows 10-enabled machines? Or is it a Mac proprietary thing?

Friday, August 28, 2015

More memories: non-eidetic


As a child, I behaved well in school, loved to read and had a near-eidetic, or photographic, memory. This all served me well and the academic side of school was a breeze. On the other hand, I was very shy and my social status was a bit shaky. Because I was almost always at the top of my class in a group where that counted for something -- it was a college town, after all -- , I had some points going into the game. But I was not good at games themselves and preferred to play with just one or two friends. So I was a bit of a fringe presence, not really an A-list first grader. This somewhat ambiguous status lasted until my junior year in high school.

I mentioned not being good at sports and games. There was a physical reason for this as well as psychological elements. When I was born, I was noticeably pigeon-toed. The doctors told my mother that the muscles in my legs were too strong for the bones, resulting in the muscles pulling my legs in and turning my feet toward one another. For a while before I started school, I had to wear a brace on my feet that tried to force them into the proper position. This was painful and I hated it. I also was supposed to sit with my legs folded under behind me with my feet turned out while I rested my body weight on the feet. 

Later I learned that, except for forcing the feet outward, this was a traditional Carmelite position for prayer. As a child, it only made me unhappy. As an adult friar, it did facilitate focus and calm. What goes around comes around, but perhaps in an unexpected way.

Because of the problem with my feet and legs, I did not play and run around outside as much as most kids. I learned to find my pleasure sitting and looking through books, eventually sitting and reading. This of course paid big dividends academically in school, but the tendency to isolate and entertain myself cost me in the social arena.

Because of my clumsiness and shyness, I was subjected to a bit of bullying. One kid who later grew up to become part of my closest circle, beat me up regularly, even before we were in school together. His father and mine had been in college together and helped one another build the houses that we, their sons, grew up in. So we spent a certain amount of time together as kids, and it did not go well for me.

Once school started, though, this changed and we became tolerant of one another and eventually friends. Later in high school, we were rivals for the same girl’s attention, a one-sided combat that I clearly lost. We remained friends, nonetheless, often double-dating. My freshman year in college, when I was at Michigan State and Rodney was at Sam Houston State back home, I got a phone call from Huntsville, telling me that he had died in a freak construction accident on campus. It was something unexpected and it broke my heart. We were both eighteen at the time, and he had been a significant part of my life for fourteen years. I missed him more than I would have thought possible.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The End is Nigh! (Don't worry. It has been for a long long time.)




The Church of Christ in which I was raised is one of those churches that believes that Jesus is coming back real soon. We searched the scriptures for proof of this, and we had little trouble finding confirmation. I will say that we had the humility to say that we could not predict the day and the hour. After all, Jesus said that only the Father knew that [Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32], and the Father was notoriously tight-lipped about such things. But the Father had made it clear that Jesus was coming soon, almost certainly in our lifetime, and it would be when we least expected it.

So we expected it all the time.

As a result I had all sorts of fears and neuroses about the Second Coming. For one, I hoped and prayed that it would not happen while I was sitting on the toilet. We believed, in accord with scripture, that when Jesus and his angels came on the clouds of glory, the just who were living would rise to meet them in the air. I was painfully shy and afraid that I might shoot up into heaven with my pants and tighty whities down around my ankles. I would be humiliated, and I suspect Jesus and his angels would be annoyed or laugh at me. I can’t imagine that either of those would be good.

On the rare occasion when I would come home and no one would seem to be around, if it was quiet as could be, I would have a momentary fear that Jesus had come back, everyone else had literally flown the coop and I had been left behind.

I mention in passing that being left behind was going to be nothing like the absurdly popular series of books with that title. I am not sure where the authors got the idea that after the Second Coming the rest of the world was going to be a bad Arnold Schwarznegger movie. It has proved to be a profitable venture for them, spinning off into a Young Adult series and movies as well. If you are a fan, to each his or her own.  I am amazed that these things are considered Christian fiction. I see the full series on the shelves of church libraries and wonder what it means. If there is a true sign of the End Times, the existence that series could be it.

On the other hand, there were hopeful things connected with Jesus coming back and bringing the end of the world as we know it. One of these was that physical education would come to an end.

I was never athletic. I loved to swim and we had a pool in our backyard. But team sports and things like that were always beyond me. This didn’t matter much in elementary school, but once we hit junior high, it all became a problem. The coaches were notoriously paddle-happy disciplinarians. My classmates were hitting puberty and growing taller and getting muscles. In my case, puberty made me skinnier – before that I was a pudgy child, “”husky” in the politically correct marketing in Sears catalogs of the day. I grew hair in the appropriate places and at the appropriate time. But no muscles. No height. No co-ordination. No speed. Nothing.

So I hated phys ed with a hatred that was pure and burned bright. Every Friday afternoon, I would pray fervently and seriously that Jesus would come back over the weekend and I would never have to go through the humiliation of phys ed again. Monday morning always brought disappointment. But hope springs eternal in the youthful breast, I suppose, and the following Friday I would be back at my pleading with God. I am not sure why I didn’t pray every morning that Jesus would just come back that day before gym class. I guess I just thought Jesus would pick a weekend.

Even if Jesus did return, there was always the difficulty of the painful Final Judgment and Hell. I imagined the Final Judgment to be a sort of never-ending – this was eternity, right, so we actually did have all the time in the world – film festival where the life of everyone who had ever lived was shown from beginning to end with all the bad parts highlighted with brighter lights and louder sound, a bit like television commercials. It was going to be the One and Only Original Real Lifetime Movie Event.

All this was probably going to be a riot for God and the angels, not to mention the devils lurking on the side to escort the losers Elsewhere. But I suspected I would not be able to enjoy watching other people mess up because I would be dreading my own Lifetime appearance. And since there were billions of movies ahead of mine, even if I were to somehow manage to squeak by into Heaven, there was a long long long long time to be spent in fear and trembling before the Throne of God. I don’t know. Maybe this was our version of Purgatory. You were going to get to Heaven, but it would hurt like Hell first.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Mantras?

Do you have a mantra, a personal motto or principle by which you live your life, or by which you would live your life if you were more mindful about what you were doing?

I had lunch with a friend today and as we were heading out to our cars, he told me about a program he was part of for training supervisors for various state agencies after he had retired from working for the state himself. The mantra he came up with for the new supervisors was, "Train your children well." The point being that part of being supervisor was preparing the next generation to step up when the time came.

One of the other former supervisors had been head of the state police, and his mantra, which he used to tell the troopers who worked with him, was, "Take your job seriously, but not yourself."

It reminded me of a saying that one of my roommates and I came up with late one Saturday night or early one Sunday morning at Michigan State, after we had consumed a sufficient number of beers and jabbered over the meaning of it all in that way that university students do: 
"It's all very important, but it doesn't really matter."
I may have shared that before, but that's about it.

Flutter-by: Still walking ...

Phenomenal!
You've earned the Monarch Migration badge
Every year the monarch butterfly migrates 2,500 miles to warmer climates. With the same lifetime miles in your pocket, you're giving those butterflies some hot competition!

Deleted post about growing up religious

I had posted something here this morning about growing up in a fundamentalist Christian household. It was actually an excerpt from some autobiographical writings that I have been encouraged to publish, but that I have decided to keep private. After further reflection, I decided to delete what I had posted here because I thought it could easily be misinterpreted and add heat, rather than light, to an important discussion about religion in America. I will give further thought to it and maybe post something at a later time.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Monday, August 24, 2015

Further reflections on employment

Ur-spo commented on the earlier Employment post that he had never had to seek employment but that the process sounded nerve-wracking. My friend Lee wrote me about the commonalities of my experience and his when he left the military after a number of years.

I realize that one reason the process was nerve-wracking for me was that I entered the monastery after finishing the university. I had worked in high school and all through college, but those were jobs that were essentially handed to me. The university guaranteed me a job as part of the package when I went there, and even though I had to interview for a couple of them, it was not at all the same as starting from ground zero and going hunting.

Even my summer job after graduation, when I shared the apartment with Lee and a couple of other guys, I worked for the university in a job that grew out of an interdisciplinary research project I had been part of my final term in school.

Once in the monastery, it looked like I would never have to go job hunting again. Many people, of course, did go out and find jobs as professors or chaplains, but I was always pegged for what we called internal ministries, things that helped maintain the community. I worked in recruiting and training new members, as local superior and in provincial administration, in the publications ministry of the Order, taught in the Institute of the Order, was part of the staff of a retreat house of the Order, all sorts of things like that. For these I never drew a salary or punched a clock. I was always at work, in a sense. I preached retreats, gave spiritual direction, said Mass and heard confessions in parishes, which paid a stipend, but I never had to look for those jobs. I was invited to do them. The job I had with the Catholic non-profit at the University of Chicago was a post that I had taken when the director of that organization approached the community to see if anyone were willing to do it. I said yes, because I had a bad habit of taking worthy jobs that no one else wanted, and I did it for a year without pay. We did not have a model of ministry-for-pay, which may explain in part why the community was not more financially well-off.

I was so accustomed to people wanting me to work for them, in fact, asking me to work for them, that it was a splash of very cold water in the face to discover that things were not that way in the regular business world.

Of course, when I did leave and start looking for a job, I was almost 54 years old. Not the best age to begin finding a new career. And even though I had left the priesthood and religious community on very good terms, many of the logical places for me to look for work -- like retreat houses, Catholic schools and colleges -- were reluctant to hire former priests if there were other candidates available. To be honest, that was just as well. In the long run, I did better to move away from that field and find another path.
----------------
I looked for a photo of me working as a priest, but I could find nothing anywhere online and did not want to bother scrounging through old photos and scanning one into the computer, yada yada yada. What I did find online was this rather unfocused photo of me standing in front of the monastery in Brookline, Massachusetts back in about 1983. That old house -- once part of the Cabot estate -- was torn down by the man who purchased it a few years after this picture was taken. No connection, I don't think, but the house and the young man leaning against the stone wall are both but memories now. Click on the photo to enlarge it and see me in my brimming youth.

Critic

Lately it seems to me that a number of friends, perhaps because they are aging, are becoming more judgmental, critical of others and negative. 

Which made me wonder: Are they becoming more critical of others or am I just becoming more judgmental and critical of them?

Or have we all always been judgmental and negative and I am only now beginning to notice?

On a tangential note, true story: 
A gentleman asked my mother at church the other day how she was doing.

"I didn't sleep well last night," she told him. "That happens a lot lately and I don't feel good the next day."

He nodded understandingly.

"I have trouble sleeping, too," he told her. "I complained to my doctor and he asked if I watch FOX News. I said yes, and he told me to stop watching FOX News. I told him I can't, I'm addicted to it."

My mother told him she also watches FOX News and can't stop.

And thereby hangs an American tragedy.
 Do you think me telling that story was judgmental?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Employment

I have mentioned friends who are seeking employment and finding it difficult. I and other friends try to buck them up and encourage them, which is only fitting, but I know from my own experience how stressful it can be.

When I first took my leave from the monastery in 2004, I continued with a position that I had with a Catholic nonprofit located at the University of Chicago. The pay was small but adequate for my studio apartment, and the office was within walking distance. My boss at the time was supportive but he made it clear that I could only be there a year. He did provide me with ample opportunities to look for gainful employment elsewhere.

The religious community to which I belonged, by the way, had no pension plan and no policy to provide specific financial assistance to members who left, even people like me who had spent thirty years with them. They did provide me with health insurance for a couple of years and arranged with the Catholic nonprofit to provide half of my salary for the year I continued there. After that, I was on my own. I chose not to ask for further financial aid, but I am sure they would have helped me had I asked for more. It was not a wealthy group and my pride and sense of personal responsibility led me to try to make it on my own. (Cue theme from "Mary Tyler Moore Show." If I only had a hat to toss in the air!)

I started the search with the naive confidence of someone who had graduate degrees in theology, a number of articles published in a variety of journals in the States and in Europe, who was fluent in Spanish as well as English, computer literate, who had once overseen a large shrine with sixty or so employees, was a popular public speaker and so on and so on. How hard could it be to find a job with all this experience?

Pretty difficult, as it turned out. Resumes flew out over the internet, interviews were scheduled and endured, some involving overnight travel, headhunters met me at O'Hare and grilled me for hours. Each encounter seemed promising; none produced anything but disappointment. The year was fast fading and nothing had yet appeared.

My spiritual director suggested I contact someone he knew who was well acquainted with the world of retreat houses and spiritual direction. Perhaps she would be able to help. It turned out that she did not know of any place to recommend. She mentioned, however, that the organization she headed was about to transfer its offices to Chicago. Would I be interested in talking to her about a position there?

I drove to Indiana and we hit it off. Their move coincided almost exactly with the end of my  University of Chicago post, and things went well. I enjoyed the new job, which paid a reasonable salary for interesting work and even provided a small stipend toward health insurance.

But then Tom and I decided to move to the Dells, and that is another story in itself. And the job hunt started all over again. As it turned out, the group I worked for in Chicago folded a couple of years later. Even had I stayed, I would have been looking for a job again. But at least I would have been looking for a job in a large city with a diverse economy.

The job market in the Dells was/is very limited. The best I could get was a position in a small law firm as their office staff. I won't embarrass myself or the firm by saying what they paid. And it turned out to be a horrible fit. After just a few months I gave notice. That led to a year of working part time at Kohl's, filling in part time at the legal firm to help out when needed, working as an adjunct instructor for a distance learning program out of Washington and a short stint as a spiritual counselor (think chaplain) for a local hospice. The hospice job unfortunately was very part time but I was on-call all the time. Stressful, with little actual contact with patients and families. I enjoyed the pastoral part, and my superior told me I got great evaluations. But I moved on from that, too, after a few months.

A month or two later I was asked to work at the museum gift shop at the little railroad. This was the typical Dells seasonal tourism job. Full-time (I was luckier than most!) from Memorial Day to Labor Day, weekends until the end of October. No benefits. From October until the following April, I was unemployed, but I used the time to complete and publish three books.

In April of the following year, I was hired to manage the gift store at the railroad. That was not at all what I wanted to do and again it offered no benefits. They arranged to pro-rate my pay so that I would be paid throughout twelve months but only the amount that I would earn for six. They ran into financial difficulties just as the six months ended and I, along with all paid staff, was laid off. Which means I wound up being paid less than I had actually earned because I had received the reduced wage for six months but there was nothing to give me for the months when I should have been receiving what had been withheld.

Happily just at this moment, the library had a part time position open up. I was hired and before I began, a full time position opened when a staff member moved out of town. This was a union job with benefits and the best wage I ever earned. Someone in the know at the city told me that I was the lowest paid full time employee of the city, even though I had the most education and widest experience of anyone there. But I was happy. I remained there until I retired a few years later, and I continue to volunteer there.

How long had it taken me to get to that point? I left the monastery in 2004, working in Chicago for two years and arrived in the Dells in the late spring of 2006. Almost four years later, I went to work for the library. In between I had worked for the law firm, Kohl's, a small bookstore and the little railroad. For half a year I was unemployed, although I did not take any unemployment benefits and I volunteered at the library. Along the way I did some writing and free-lance editorial and translation work. None of which would have provided me with a living, had I not had a home and security with Tom.

Even though I did have a home and security (though without health insurance for six of those years), it was very stressful. I can only imagine how hard it is for those engaged in the hunt for meaningful employment who do not enjoy the safety that I had.
 

Clay it forward

One of my blogosphere friends has asked her friends to help honor her son Clay on what she calls his "eighth angelversary" this Wednesday, August 26, by doing a random act of kindness each day between now and Wednesday in his memory. He was a kind and generous young man, and she thinks this is a way to continue the kindness that marked his life. She calls it "Claying It Forward."

One of her suggestions is to tell someone how much you appreciate them, and I am taking this opportunity to tell you how much I appreciate your visits and your comments. I enjoy reading your own blogs about your life, your thoughts, your hopes, your humor. I feel connected to a much larger world because of you, and that is a good thing for me and perhaps for the world.

So thank you! And now if you would be so kind, Clay it forward.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Follow-up on Indian Ceremonial

The Ceremonial was fantastic! The explanations were appropriate and helpful without being intrusive, the dancers were great and the audience appreciative. This was billed as a one-time event, but I know for a fact that the organizers are hoping it may develop into something more.

We saw lots of people we know, meaning it was in many ways a local crowd. But the family sitting behind us was from out of town and had only heard about it when they arrived at their hotel. The mother, however, had been to the old Ceremonial as a child and took great delight in explaining what was going on to her children.

I can only say, "Pinagigi!" That is the only thing I know in Hocąk: Thank you. 

Ho-Chunk, by the way, is what the people of the nation call themselves. It means People of the Big Voice. Europeans called them Winnebagos, because that is what many of their Native neighbors called them. That name means smelly water. You can see why the Ho-chunk did not care for it. The name was not an insult, though. They got that name because many of them lived around Lake Winnebago, which was called smelly water from the strong fish odor of the lake in the summer. In Nebraska, they still call themselves Winnebagos.

Reawakening

For many years, a visit to the Indian Ceremonial at Stand Rock on the Wisconsin River was a part of every family's visit to the Dells.


The local Native Americans are mostly Ho-Chunk (elsewhere called Winnebago) but dancers and other performers from many nations came to be part of the ceremonial. 

For centuries the iconic Stand Rock sandstone rock formation marked a natural amphitheater that hosted inter-tribal gatherings on the shores of the Wisconsin River long before tourism ignited in the area. After H.H. Bennett’s photography made the formations at the Dells famous and brought tourism to the area in the late nineteenth century, the Stand Rock Indian Ceremonial, with Ho-Chunk and other Native American dancers, became an attraction for visitors. It continued for almost 80 years.


In recent years, many local Native Americans have thought that the important role they played in the history of the Dells was being lost. As a result, there have been efforts to bring at least part of the experience back, with a few shows in one of the downtown parks. This year a number of groups have banded together for a presentation at the Crystal Grand Theater in Lake Delton. The 90-minute Stand Rock Indian Ceremonial Reawakening performance will blend the art of pioneer photographer H.H. Bennett with the sights and sounds of a multi-media stage production directed by Lance Tallmadge of Wisconsin Dells.

Tom, of course, had seen the original many times over the years, but I never have. So we plan to go this afternoon. There is also a Native Art Marketplace outside the theater featuring traditional bead and porcupine quill work, basketry and woodcarving along with contemporary drawing, painting, ceramics and jewelry. We often attend powwows nearby and I imagine some of what we see will be familiar. But Lance Tallmadge is a well-known teacher and lecturer, and I expect to learn more about the peoples who were here before Tom's ancestors arrived in the 1840s.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Spoiler alert: dream story [Plus update]

I woke late this morning (almost 7:00 a.m.) to 52 degrees (11.1 C) after a dream-filled night. Actually when I was asleep, I had lots of dreams, but I woke up about 2:00 and didn't get back to sleep until after 4:00. I wasn't fretting about anything in particular or even in general, but I was awake. Hate when that happens! And today it meant I did not have time to go to the gym, do my workout and come home and shower in time to get to the library for my volunteer shift. So it will be a walking day.

The dream I was having when I finally woke up was weird. In the dream -- and I know surveys show that people are totally bored by hearing about other people's dreams, although we tend to find our own fascinating -- a woman I know here in the Dells had announced to a group of us that she had decided to run for the Republican nomination for the United States Senate. (In the real world, this is someone I have never heard express a single political opinion in the several years of knowing her, but then our relationship is pretty casual.) She was all excited and lay down on the floor to explain to us why she was doing it. She thought that the Republican Senate knew what was really going on and if she got into the Senate, they would tell her. She would finally be in on the secret. I was trying to find a way to tell her gently that this did not sound like the best idea in the world, but the dream ended with her discovering that I really thought she was crazy for even thinking about it.

In my waking state, such as it is, the only connection I can think of between this woman and the Republican Party is that she looks a lot like Sarah Palin. Maybe that's why I thought she was crazy.

Thus starts my day.

Cassidy, by the way, is definitely improving. She still has a slight limp, but she is noticeably better and whatever the problem is/was, it certainly is not keeping her from hopping up on beds. Tom thinks she may have caught her foot in the cat door and bruised it. His own rib injury is better but still aching.

Now off to get in a brief walk before heading to the library.

UPDATE: I just returned from my walk to discover that more copies of Elijah and Gratian have sold on Amazon. Nice! Now if only some of the WhoVille books would sell ...

Thursday, August 20, 2015

It makes one weep ...


A tip of the hat to Kenneth Walsh at kenneth in the (212)

Cooling our jets?

When I left for the gym this morning about 6:20, it was 56 degrees out (13.3 C) and drizzly. It is supposed to get all the way up to 69 (20.6 C) this afternoon. Not typical for August, I think, even in Wisconsin. Tom joked that he had to go to the railroad and shovel coal or snow, whichever.

We have had rain the last two nights, and that has helped ward off the drought that we were leaning into last week. Yesterday when we went for a walk, we ran into Jerry at his farm and had the rural conversation about how the beans needed the rain, how the cows appreciate the cooler weather because it keeps the bugs away and the conflicting advice one gets from the medicos about tick bites. I suppose this time next year we will have discovered the urban equivalent.

I got some writing done and am feeling somewhat relaxed. Only somewhat because yesterday afternoon while I was preparing my version of pastel azteca for dinner, Cassidy came limping into the kitchen. We have not been able to discover anything in her paws or any indication of broken bones, although she does express unhappiness when we press around on the pads of her feet. We will keep an eye on her and see if it fixes itself. Tom jabbed himself badly in the ribs when we were in Chicago, carrying a huge box with a model train set down the street to give to the Wollenbergs. That is still sore and he is projecting -- my word, not his -- his own aches onto Cassidy and assuring me that there is nothing serious.

Sundance, meanwhile, appears to have decided that it is up to her to pester us twice as much to make up for Cassidy's lying about doing nothing. Lovely!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

News

Two people I follow in the blogosphere have been looking for jobs. I think I have asked your prayers and good wishes for them before. One recently accepted a position that sounds like it will be a good fit. So thanks for your help, whatever form that may have taken.

The other guy is still looking and getting a bit discouraged. So say another word to WhomEver on behalf of Michael's friend. I know what it is like to look for a job and keep running into blank walls for what seems like forever! May he find a job that lets him use his obvious talents to teach and to learn.

Thanks!

Witch hunts

On this date in 1692, during the witch hysteria in Salem, Massachusetts, five people -- one woman, four men -- were hanged. Among them was George Burroughs, a clergyman, who confounded the witnesses by faultlessly reciting the Lord's Prayer on the scaffold, something a witch was supposedly unable to do. Bystanders claimed to see the Devil standing beside him and whispering the prayer into his ear to help, which was absurd since the Devil could certainly not recite the prayer.

At the insistence of the accusers and of the Rev. Cotton Mather, present on the occasion, Burroughs nonetheless was sent to his death.

One may make of that what one will. It was perhaps not the best moment for religion in the Americas. One regrets to say that the mentality at work in Salem in 1692 has not disappeared from our midst. The same lack of consistent logic remains at work among many who denounce in the name of God those whom they dislike and distrust for reasons that escape close examination.

A version of this historical incident was incorporated into the movie of The Crucible, only there others who were accused recited the prayer as they were hanged. Arthur Miller's play, of course, about the Salem hysteria was written in response to the anti-communist hysteria that gripped this country during the McCarthy era. The actual event of the prayer and its incorporation into the drama always struck me as a Protestant parallel to the Discalced Carmelite nuns of Compiegne, who went to the guillotine during the French Revolution singing hymns. That dramatic episode is the culmination of Poulenc's opera, Dialogues of the Carmelites.