Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Into Great Silence

If things have been rather quiet from us of late, it's in part because both halves of the Darwin clan spent the first half of the week virtually without internet. I'm now in Columbus, starting my new job and living in one of these furnished "corporate housing" apartments, and the rest of the family is in Cincinnati at MrsDarwin's ancestral home -- where the truck with all our worldly possessions just arrived yesterday and buried everyone in boxes.

One of the things I can tell is going to take the most getting used to in this divided existence we'll be living during the week for the next couple months until we find a house in Columbus is the utter silence of living alone in an apartment -- something which, now I think on it, I have never done before. Coming home to the apartment Monday night, especially after the whirlwind of preparation and moving over the last two weeks, was disconcerting. I'd only got half-way through putting away my first load of groceries and setting out food to make dinner when I realized that the silence was pressing in hard from every direction. I could hear the neighboring apartment's TV like distant voices. The rain against the windows. The quiet murmur of the refrigerator. Even the internet, which can serve as a sort of ascii-only pub at which at least some of the regulars are always in, wasn't up yet. As I sat down with food, I found myself switching on the TV and watching a sitcom (something I haven't done in years) just to avoid the utter, oppressive silence.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Hello from OH


We are here, kinda. The cars arrive today (in a few minutes, actually) and the Stuff shows up tomorrow or the next day or whenever. The kids take great delight in rattling around my dad's big old house -- we're certainly disrupting the bachelor routine of Pops and my kid brother. The cats are traumatized and cry all night, when they're not trying to jab a claw into my air bed.

Ohio in the fall is a good place at a good time. The trees are molting gorgeously, and the weather the day we arrived was made to order: breezy, cool, and about as un-Texas-like as September gets. Also un-Texas-like are the rather chilly evenings. We've spent our married life in Southern California and Central Texas, and so are woefully under-blanketed. Nor do we have the requisite pajamafication that an old house demands. Baby, having blown out on both her flannel blankets on Saturday, spent the evening wrapped in a big towel.

Darwin has already started work up in Columbus. He'll be driving back to see us in Cincinnati on the weekends and once during the week. This is working fine -- at noon on the first day. We'll see how we all feel about it on Friday...

Internet access is a bit sporadic until the computer gets set up, so we'll be in and out.

And our thanks to Jennifer and her husband -- not only for her kind words about us, but for her hospitality on our last night in Texas. We couldn't have asked for a more congenial send-off. I must lay to rest, however, the impression that I normally swan about in a fancy outfit and white eyeshadow, as per the photo Jen posted. No, dear readers, most days I look like this:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

They're coming to take us away...

Today is it: they're packing us up for the Great Journey North. Never has the house been so clean. Never before has all the laundry been folded. Two years after we laid the floors and week before the move out, all the baseboards and transitions and shoe molding were nailed up. It's looking good here -- can't wait to see the pix after the house is painted and new carpet and faucets installed. Anyone want to buy a house near Austin, TX?

We lose home internet today or tomorrow, so posting may be light. That's all right, because all we'd be saying anyway is either, "Are we mad?" or "Are all the people mad?"

But before we go dark, let us call out a few of the fine Texas bloggers that we'll miss:

Jen of Conversion Diary
Dorian of Scrutinies
Opinionated Homeschooler
Brandon of Siris
Julie of Happy Catholic
Nicole of Words, Words
Tito and John Henry, contributors to The American Catholic
Kyle of Journeys in Alterity
Christopher of Sanctus Christopher

Friday, September 17, 2010

Prohibition -- The Lights Are Going Out

I read a reminder that as of 2012, the incandescent bulb design we've all known for so many years will become illegal, and we'll move into a yellowish future of little spiraly things. Even the designers of the ban seem to understand the idea of the lights going out -- first they'll take away out 100 Watts, then our 75s, then our 60s. By the time they take away our 40 Watt bulbs in 2014, we'll all be so used to it, we won't know the difference.

Oh sure, the new bulbs give light, and they're spiraly, and they last a long time and collect dust in fascinating ways. And I'll get that little surge of evil when I throw them in the trash instead of taking them to the hazardous waste dump, but I know that after a few years of prohibition I'll become desperate. I'll go to an unmarked door in a run down brick building and give a password, and enter a windowless brick room lit entirely by bootleg incandescants hanging bare by their cords from the ceiling. Their glowing filaments will burn little green and blue squiggles into my vision, and I'll sidle up to the bar, take off my fedora, and ask for a Scotch on the rocks. When I'll lean back and watch as the gangsters and their molls dance in the harsh white light of bare incandescents.

"Hey buddy, you look like a guy who can appreciate a good light, you know wad I mean? You have any interest in a case of 120 Watts? I got a guy who brings them over by the truckload from Mexico. Real stuff, you know wad I mean? You could heat your house with these things."

And I'll picture my house, blackout curtains down, with those round, curving bulbs radiating brilliant white light from every socket. But it's not to be. Going to the speakeasy is one thing, but bourgeois virtue prevails, and I'll shake my head. When the g-men raid my home, there will be no incandescents found.

And now we're done

Simcha has written. If this isn't the last word in the pants debate (did I just say "pants debate"?), it ought to be.

A few women in various comment boxes said that we must wear skirts because Mary did — that even if Mary were on earth today, she would never wear pants. They KNOW this.

Okay, you ladies who know what Mary would do. If you can’t imagine Mary wearing pants, then try this: imagine Mary wiping her nose, or yawning, or having heartburn. Imagine her giving birth. Or heck, imagine her having to go to the bathroom, but not being able to get up yet because she didn’t want to wake up the baby, who was nursing and allllmost asleep. . . and then He bit her! He always does that just as He’s falling asleep. Oh, and now He’s poopy again, and she still has to go to the bathroom.

Weird, eh? Not used to it, are you? But there’s nothing immoral about these images. If they bother you, because it’s not what you’re used to. It’s not what you’re surrounded with. Just like you’re surrounded with earnest, hard-working, kind, sincere women who have chosen to wear skirts, and so it seems utterly natural and obvious that Mary, too, would wear skirts.

...So would Mary wear pants? I don’t know, and neither do you — she was a strange and unpredictable woman, like no other. But she was a real woman. If you think that Mary actually always wore blue, always had a look of fond melancholy on her face, and always held her arms at a 45-degree angle from her sides, then you are paying homage to a statue, and not to God’s real-life Mama. And if there’s anything worse than a woman in pants, it’s an idolator. That’s in the Old and the New Testament.

O real life Mama of God, intercede for us. Help us to understand each other. And if I ever sit down to write another post about pants, please make the roof fall in on me before I hit “publish.”

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Problem of Pants

Yes, dear readers, if you needed proof that there are Very Silly People out in the Catholic blogsphere (and you didn't really need that, did you?) one need look no further than this sort of thing. What is the great threat to the world, to your morals, to your eyes, to your wife's virtue? PANTS! Don't believe me?
1.Regardless of your size, shape, or age, the attractiveness of your female figure is virtually always enhanced, while adding to your modesty, when you wear a dress.

2. Do this for us, the minority of chaste men who merit the gift of enjoying your beauty in such a way as to be grateful to your creator without temptation. Make it so it is good for men to look upon you, rather than requiring us to look away (which is a tragedy).
4. Sadly, and we understand you may not be aware of this, but almost every style of pants reveals private information about your figure (by way of contour) what only your husband (and if not him, no man, including your sons, if you have sons) should perceive.

5. Thus, even a woman endowed with the most spectacular genetic form, in the bloom of her youth, can be given the illusion of ugliness, if not cheapness, by wearing pants. Likewise, pants rarely do anything but exaggerate extra volume on our figures.
Or more briefly: Ladies, you'll be much more pure and beautiful if you wear skirts (which holy men like yours truly will en-joy) whereas if you wear pants men will lust after you, because they'll make you look bulgy, you fat cow.

You know, I have to break it to you, but this whole question of whether skirts or pants is inherently more pure is just silly. Some women are hot, some are less so. Some outfits are hot, some are less so. Some guys are leches, some of us flatter ourselves we can enjoy a nice view pretty disinterestedly, and some are obliv. And all this goes on whether women wear pants or skirts.

Of course, who better to handle these difficult situations than the always-entertaining Simcha, who for those wanna-be patriarchs out there who are worried some lady they see on the street may be out in pants against her husband's wishes (because, you know, that would be terrible) has developed the pants pass.
Does it get better? I think not.

I am hereby issuing MrsDarwin (and, what the heck, all women -- What, that's bigamy? It's big of them too. Let's be big for a change!) a pants pass, a dress pass, a skirt pass, a high priority mini-skirts pass, and for use within the domicile, a lingerie pass. However, I'm taking her capris pass and putting it through the shredder. A man has to put limits somewhere, and by the power invested in me by my Y chromosome, I declare capris to be an offense against God -- but primarily against man.

Conforming to Type

Office life continues to ebb and flow around me even as I begin to disconnect from it.  My floor is going from being a marketing and ops floor to being an IT floor.

I always find myself wondering, when two groups bump up against each other like this, if people adopt a style of dress, fitness, etc. suitable to their departments, or if somehow different functions within a company attract not only different abilities but different looks.  It would make plenty of sense to me, for instance, given the relative cultures of the Marketing and IT departments that people in marketing would tend to spend more money on clothes, dress up more for work, etc.  But the differences seem to go deeper than that.

This seemed to stand out the most several years back when I sat in a building with large groups of both sales and customer service people.  Both jobs involved being on the phone with customers all day, but the types couldn't have been more different.  The sales people mostly looked like they spent all their time outside of the office partying or at the gym.  Most of the customer people looked like they spent more time on the couch. 

Perhaps it's that the propensities which draw people to one line of work or another tend also to guide their other activities.  Or maybe it's the other way around. 

Oh, and me?  Well, I look a little square to be in marketing, and don't spend as much money on my clothes and car as many marketing people do.  But then, I'm a marketing analyst.  I guess there's a little of IT in those of us who are more analytical.  And, in the most disinterested fashion, I will observe that the scenary is better in marketing and sales than in IT or finance.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Changing Jobs

So I'm leaving my job and heading for a new one.

Getting to this point has taken so much work, that it's only now (as I start writing up "everything I do" for my manager to make what I expect will be a futile attempt to get someone to do it in India, as goodbye parties are scheduled and people drop by to ask in hushed tones, "Are they hiring any other positions?", as I find myself doing monthly tasks and thinking, "This is the last time.") that I find myself gradually adjusting to the idea that in two more weeks I won't be here anymore.

Although I've changed roles a number of times, I've worked at the same company (mostly in the same building) for almost seven years now. At thirty-one, that's a rather major portion of one's life. When we moved out here and I started at the company, I was 24 and had two kids under two. A lot has changed since then.

At least in our modern world, a job is seen as a pretty transient thing. My employer could have told me I was out of a job at any time. Although the company tends to give a couple months' severance, that's not at all required. And similarly, while I've given them the traditional two weeks notice, in theory I could have simply said, "So long and thanks for all the fish," and walked out the door immediately.

And yet, for all that either could have, in theory, walked away with no notice at any time, in fact the bonds between employee and company run deep, perhaps oddly deep given that it is "only a job". Work friendships may not always be the deepest, but we spend far more time with co-workers than with most other friends. And even when a job seems three parts drudgery to one part interest, it becomes part of our daily mental landscape. The longest I'd worked at any one company prior to this was about three years, and even there I to this day remember a great deal about personalities, products, and daily routine. I have the feeling that this company has sunk even deeper into my consciousness.

As a result, the whole thing still has a certain air of unreality. It often throws me when large changes in life come quickly. Somehow, the fact that the offer of the new job came so quickly, a ten minute call outlining compensation, start date, etc., makes it seem much less real than the long process of talking to various employers, interviewing, etc. It probably won't be until several seeks into the new job that it finally sinks in that this really is where I work now.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Columbus Day


That is all.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Birmingham, sight unseen

Seven years ago we picked up and moved from Los Angeles (approximate) to Austin (approximate). We knew a bit about the area, having visited twice, and we had friends in town with a large extended family who embraced us and took us and became surrogate grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins for our children. This network laid enough foundation for us that was easy to get established in our new town. Not so easy, however, is moving somewhere completely unfamiliar with no one on the ground to orient you.

The family of a good college friend just moved to Birmingham, AL, for job reasons. She knows no one in the area and hasn't been in town long enough to find her way around. There are compensations that come with moving to a new place sight unseen: the ability to reinvent yourself (if that's what you want to do), the satisfaction of realizing that you can survive and thrive in an unfamiliar environment, the joy of having a nice big house in an area where homes are much cheaper than where you used to live (my friend moved from California; 'nuff said).

Still, self-reliance is a mixed bag. Being the strong one all the time grows wearisome. And that is why we have friends on the internet to give us the scoop. If you know anything about Birmingham, if you live in Birmingham, if you love Birmingham, help a sister out. Tell all.

Also, if you've moved to a new place sight unseen, share your tips for coping and thriving.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

This place, right now

View Larger Map

Yesterday I was driving in a part of Austin I've never visited, coming up 1st St. from the south. We crested a hill and the city lay before us, steel and glass framed by trees. And I was overwhelmed by a sense of place -- this city, right now, our city; this, our view.

Later we approached I-35 and were confronted with the choice: north to Waco, south to San Antonio, exit only. Once again we were oriented in space, and possibilities opened up. I was seized with a desire to drive to San Antonio in response to the invitation of the south-bound sign. But we turned left and headed resolutely north.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Song, by John Donne

Go and catch a falling star,
Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me where all past years are,
Or who cleft the devil's foot,
Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
Or to keep off envy's stinging,
And find
What wind
Serves to advance an honest mind.

If thou be'st born to strange sights,
Things invisible to see,
Ride ten thousand days and nights,
Till age snow white hairs on thee,
Thou, when thou return'st, wilt tell me,
All strange wonders that befell thee,
And swear,
No where
Lives a woman true and fair.

If thou find'st one, let me know,
Such a pilgrimage were sweet;
Yet do not, I would not go,
Though at next door we might meet,
Though she were true, when you met her,
And last, till you write your letter,
Yet she
Will be
False, ere I come, to two, or three.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

We're already winners!

Darwin was given a box of instant coffee by an Indonesian coworker who just returned from visiting his relatives back home. The coworker was more generous than he knew; inside the box was a packet that contained a 2000 Indonesian rupiah bill!

We've won 22.22 cents.

Seven years ago today, we received another surprise gift, unexpected but welcome. Unlike the rupiah, this gift was priceless.

Happy birthday, Julia!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Coolness by Association

Thanks to the repository of useless knowledge that is the internet, I learn that today, Sept. 2, 2010, is 90210 Day: 9/02/10. This is, of course, absolutely unsignificant, and yet the date acts much as Proust's madeleine, bringing back to me memories of my early teenage years.

This is not because I ever watched Beverly Hills, 90210. I don't believe I ever saw an episode in its entirety, and it was seldom that I even saw clips. But it held a kind of allure for me at age 14 or 15, because it was the Hot Thing. I read about it in the papers, I heard commercials for new episodes on the radio (remember when radio was big enough business that TV advertised there?), and people talked about it. I wanted to know what the buzz was about, and I had a sneaking feeling that I was missing out on something. Certainly it seemed like the characters on the shows, regardless of their Hollywood problems, had achieved some ineffable level of coolness. Could mere association by viewing grant me coolness by osmosis?

Time has wreaked its usual havoc, and the actors and characters of 90210 have all slunk off to obscurity. I live a far more rich and beautiful life now than any scriptwriter would have the courage or imagination to portray. Popular shows come and go, but I myself endure. And that's pretty cool.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Patent Nonsense

Perhaps someone will think this marks me at pathetically sympathetic towards business -- not exactly anyone's darling these days -- but reading this page one story in the WSJ, my first reaction was, "What a total a-hole."
Raymond E. Stauffer was shopping at a New Jersey mall when he noticed something peculiar about the bow ties on display at Brooks Brothers: They were labeled with old patent numbers.

Mr. Stauffer, who calls himself a "sharp-dressed man," also happens to be a patent lawyer. He sued Brooks Brothers Inc. in federal court, claiming it broke the law by marking its adjustable bow ties with patents that expired in the 1950s.

He figured the retailer would have to pay a nominal amount for violating a law that bars companies from marking products with erroneous patent numbers.

A federal appellate court ruling on Tuesday breathed new life into his case by upholding his right to sue—and could pave the way for hundreds of similar suits against major companies to move forward. A separate ruling in December raised the stakes in such cases, potentially exposing product makers to huge liabilities.
I mean, if you feel strongly about the topic, write Brooks Brothers' legal department a letter. But honestly, suing them because they continued to list an expired patent on a bow tie?

And of course, this sets off a litigation gold rush:
Already, lawsuits claiming false patent markings have been brought against companies that make turkey pop-up timers, toilet plungers, fabric softener, flashlights, staplers, Frisbees, kites, telecommunications equipment, bubble gum and a toy called The Original Wooly Willy.

Defendants include companies such as Procter & Gamble, Bayer Healthcare LLC, Cisco Systems, Scientific-Atlanta, Merck & Co., Pfizer Inc., 3M Co., DirecTV, Medtronic Inc. Merck said no one was available to comment. The other companies didn't respond to requests for comment.

Marking a tube of toothpaste or paper cup with a patent that is out of date or doesn't exist has been against the law for years. It is considered anticompetitive. Until late last year, the most a violator had to worry about was paying a $500 penalty for misleading the public.

But in December, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington ruled that defendants could be held responsible for up to $500 per offense.

Lawyers for product manufacturers now fear clients are liable for up to $500 for every tube of mascara or box of garbage bags marked with an expired patent—an error that turns out to be quite common.
I mean, seriously, can we say waste of time?

Natural Does Not Equal Good

"Unnatural, mummy? You tell me, what's nature's way? If poison mushrooms grow and babies come with crooked backs, if goiters thrive and dogs go mad and wives kill husbands, what's unnatural?"
Richard, The Lion in Winter

One of the claims to which people seem peculiarly susceptible at the moment is that if something is "natural", it must be good. "Natural" foods are believed to be uniformly healthy. The finding that some particular behavior (say, polyamory) is found in nature is taken to be some sign that it is a good thing.

I think a fair amount of this results from our culture having lost a sense of tragic vision in regards to nature -- we naturally assume that unless some active force comes along and makes things bad, that they will be good. This could not be farther from a traditional view of nature. While neo-pagans are sure that being "in tune" with nature would be a blissful and pleasant state, real pagans of the ancient world saw the natural forces that were bound up with their gods as capricious, sometimes cruel, and almost always unconcerned with the impact of their actions upon mortals.

We as Christians see nature as having been created by God and being something that He saw as good. Yet in a fallen world, I don't think we'd be far off in taking a fairly tragic vision, similar to the ancients, of how we relate to nature and what "nature's way" is.

This also comes up in the current debate over same sex marriage, where I've on a number of occasions had people tell me that if attraction towards members of one's own sex is "not a choice" but instead something "natural", then obviously same sex marriage must be a good thing and what God intended. It would be cruel, it is argued, if God allowed some people to have such an inclination but did not allow it to be fulfilled through marriage.

I don't know if I'm just particularly heartless, but I find this mode of argumentation entirely unpersuasive. It seems to me that there are lots of strong, sometimes seemingly irresistible, desires that we have which it would not be moral to fulfill.

A tragic vision seems an essential means of coping with the world as we find it. More Greeks and Norse, please.