Saturday, January 29, 2005

Notes from Grandpa

Whenever my Grandma dictates an email for my Grandpa to type and send to me, he adds a little note of his own at the bottom. Here's the latest:

"Mass. is a loser state with Senators like Kerry and Kennedy. - Grandpa."

(In other news, FavoriteBoy helped me clean my room today, and it looks great.)

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Baby, it's cold outside.

And by cold, I mean... BLIZZARD!!!

WOW. This morning I woke up around 4:30 with the wind making my windows creak loudly. I got up to get a drink of water. I looked out the window and couldn't even see the trees just beyond my apartment building. All I could see was a sheet of white streaking past my window. I checked, which told me that the temperature was in the low teens but would feel like -10, with wind speeds around 30 mph and occasional gusts of up to 50 mph. There was a special severe weather warning flashing across the top of the page, and when I clicked on it, it said that the state of Massachusetts has declared an emergency. The roads are not currently safe, and people were advised not to venture outside or their lives could be in danger. I have to say, all this is kind of exciting... as long as I'm watching the snow whiz by from the inside of my safe, cozy, warm apartment. But anyway, the conditions are more reasonable now than they were at 4:30, and I'm thinking the bad weather is no longer enough of an excuse to keep me from walking down to the music building to practice... oh well.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Christians in the Media

Tolerance is a personal decision that comes from a belief that every person is a treasure. I believe that America's diversity is its strength. I also recognize that ignorance, insensitivity and bigotry can turn that diversity into a source of prejudice and discrimination.

To help keep diversity a wellspring of strength and make America a better place for all, I pledge to have respect for people whose abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity or other characteristics are different from my own.

This is the "Tolerance Pledge" from the new SpongeBob music video, which has attracted a great deal of attention in light of Dr. Dobson's outspoken disagreement with the show's underlying beliefs and motives.

Michael Ventre calls Christians of a certain variety "CRACKPOTS" - "creepy, rigid, arrogant, cruel, know-it-all, pompous, obnoxious and treacherous" (oh, how clever). Of course, his decidedly intolerant adjectives for these sorts of Christians come only after his statement, "Since I am a compassionate and tolerant person, I hate to generalize about any particular group. Because people are so wonderfully diverse, proudly independent and gloriously unique, any racial, ethnic or religious pigeonholing would be deeply insulting, not to mention inaccurate." Right.

Hugh Hewitt points out the irony, too: "the critics of Dobson are hardly extending him even a chance to state his views much less tolerance for his right to hold them or to even speak on the subject."

The type of journalism displayed by Ventre is so absurd that it can hardly be called journalism at all. Jeff Jarvis offers his opinions, too, based on an LA Times editorial; he calls Dr. Dobson a "religious nutjob." (Come on, guys, since when do we believe or trust the LA Times?)

All these attacks that I've been reading share a common thread - in addition to the fact that the reporting of the facts leaves a lot to be desired. That common thread is this: rather than create a reasonable position supported by clear evidence, these folks are all just slamming Christians, employing enormous overdoses of sarcasm.

Dr. Reynolds offers his own ideas on the situation here and here.

For some other ideas and opinions, check out The Evangelical Outpost. "I have a great deal of respect for Dr. Dobson but conservatives – and Christian conservatives in particular – need to stop attacking fictional characters. Fictional characters don’t exist and so cannot truly be representative of any particular point of view. Strawmen arguments are bad enough when they are made of straw; they are even worse when they are made of sponge." While this last sentence is clever, I'm afraid I might just have to humbly disagree with TEO. It seems to me that fictional characters can be perhaps far more powerful than real people. After all, how many children do you know who take Linda Ronstadt, Rosie O'Donnell, or Jane Fonda very seriously? On the other hand, most children's minds are filled with and highly influenced by Tom Sawyer, The Little Princess, and Winnie the Pooh. For better or for worse, Sponge Bob has the opportunity to infiltrate the mindsets of thousands of children, most of whom haven't developed the ability to view simple TV shows with a critical mindset, testing for veracity, moral values, and other things implicit in the program. Is it possible that the very things that many parents consider the most harmless could, in the end, prove dangerous? (What do you all think about this? Comment!)

I have actually never seen Sponge Bob at all, much less this new music video, so I cannot offer my own point of view on the show itself. But the issue of how Christians are represented in the media should be of interest to us all, and I think this whole issue is worth some reading. I hope the links I've put in here are helpful or of interest.

Friday, January 21, 2005

And here is FavoriteBoy making a funny face. (Ehh, he definitely might object to this picture... heh. But I like it!)

Whee! The photo-posting continues because Blogger is that cool! This is me with FavoriteBoy before the Christmas Gala. (Erm, I hope he doesn't object to having his picture posted on my blog...)

Blogger is cool because it lets me post photos! Yay! This is a great picture taken by yours truly. It's my Dad and myself, taken when he visited me last semester. Don't we look great?

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Update on my classes so far: Instrumental Methods is fun, Writing and Rhetoric is wretched (See? My adjective has cleverly added to their cute title alliteration!), orchestra is super, choir is okay, chamber music will be enjoyable (Bach and Brahms... what more could you want?), violin lessons have been good so far, and Instrumentation and Arranging starts tomorrow.

Last night I had a violin lesson. I played Dont No. 4 and the 1st movement of Scotch Phantasy. The lesson was interrupted midway by the fact that my highly unusual teacher decided that a good thing to do amid four-degree weather would be to open the window. His efforts were to no avail; the window appeared to be frozen shut. After many and varied attempts (flipping the lock levers up, flipping them down, putting one up and one down [???], and putting them both in the half-way-up-and-half-way-down position [?????]), he finally called campus safety and asked them to send an officer over to get the window open. The officer arrived, banged on the window, went outside, scraped snow and ice away and banged some more, and then came back inside to demonstrate that voilĂ !, the window would now open. At this point, my teacher expressed enthusiasm which was in my opinion utterly disproportionate to the task which had been accomplished, thus affirming my suspicions that he is just a little bizarre. He exclaimed, "Good! Good!", and then turning to me, "Sweetie, I'm just so encouraged." Now what was all that about?

In other news:

This morning I got a phone call from a woman who wants me to teach piano lessons to her six-year-old daughter. I'm excited, and a little nervous too, because it's been so long since I've taught piano. I'm hopefully going to pick out some method books and stuff tomorrow. Yay!

Today I got a flute. My current assignment for Instrumental Methods is to learn fingerings and basic principles of tone production.

Also, FavoriteBoy got a job as organist at a Methodist church in Salem. We went last Sunday to check it out, and he starts playing this coming Sunday. It's a very unique church, but I have to say that in the end, I liked it. It's not at all what I expected of a Methodist church (they've got the Spirit, for sure), but the pastor was interesting and funny and I actually felt engaged and involved in the whole prayer time, which is rare for a non-liturgical prayer that goes for over ten minutes. Also, the entire congregation seems to be filled with staunch supporters of the GOP; at least half the prayers were for President Bush, and the congregation murmured with amens throughout. So yes, attending this church will be an interesting experience, but I am not altogether opposed to the adventure.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

1) Back at school. Yay!

2) Classes started today. Boo!*

3) First violin lesson today. Yay-ish-ness?

4) Elijah is going to be so cool.

5) I am going to practice lots this year.

6) Check this out. Cool.

7) Check this out, too. My high score is 60,900. (Using the web version.) Comment if you play. Tell me if you beat my high score. Then I can waste even more time playing this game, once I start getting competitive!

8) Chapel today was actually good. (I want to make a particular note of this because it's not often that this happens.) Like, really good. I actually remember what it was about. And Greg Carmer was the one who spoke, introducing this semester's chapel theme, and he mentioned Michael Behe! So that's cool, of course.

9) I don't really like school that much. I love being here at school, and I love my friends, and I love living in my wonderful apartment, and I love the music department, and my violin teacher is super. What I don't love is, well, most of my classes. I don't really mean to whine about it; I realize that the vast majority of people only have a few really exceptional professors or really wonderful classes in the course of their college education. I'm just saying that I realized something lately: I get frustrated with things at school because what I'm really looking for in my college education is a homeschooling version of college. I really just want to teach myself all the subjects for which the homeschooling method of learning would be possible. That would be so great. I guess I've been spoiled by homeschooling.

10) I had other things to say, but I seem to have forgotten them. Well, ten is a good even number on which to end my life-in-bullet-form list. That's all for now, folks.

*I almost never buy textbooks for my classes. It's just against my principles. Except for science-y and math-y things, textbooks are usually just lame. So all it takes to really ruin my day is not only having to go to my stupid stupid stupid STUPID Writing for Dummies course, but then looking up the required books on eCampus and discovering that the list price for the textbook is about $70. Which means that the campus bookstore will be selling it for about $170. And while I could buy it from eCampus for $45, it wouldn't get here in time for me to do my first few assignments. So this is a dilemma. (Of course, the assignments are to read the textbook. And I don't read textbooks. That kind of fits into the same category as buying textbooks; it's just against my principles.) Ugh... life is so unfair when it comes to the purchasing of expensive textbooks that I'll never read again in my life. What a waste. Hmph.

Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Fashion Dos and Don'ts

I now have my outfit for my Junior recital this spring. I love it. Yesterday I tried it on for my mother, my father, and my friends the Hilds. They all approve. It will be great. It is just the thing for me. It is not quite normal or predictable, but it is elegant and classy and nice and very cool.

This morning so far I have I made a paper snowflake, had coffee in my Wheaton College mug, and wandered through the house being so strange that my mother can't figure out why I am so hyper.

The other thing that I did this morning was to unearth some old vintage things that I discovered over the summer in an old house that my family helped clean out. Here is something that is wicked cool: Fashion Dos and Don'ts for the Plump Girl. It's from the 40's, and apparently it's "by Colette, the internationally known stylist, dress designer, and fashion authority." It's full of great sketches - all of them classic 40's - and fabulous advice! If you ask me, it would do us all good to heed the words of Colette! And to make things even greater, I have three other books beside this one for plump girls: one for "The Short Girl," one about "Hats, Hair-do's, and Makeup," and finally, one simply entitled "How to be Beautiful." Well good! I've been wondering. Let me share with you all some priceless advice from Colette.

First, a few of my favorite excerpts from For the Plump Girl (all these words are accompanied by very helpful illustrations):
1) If short heavy type - Don't wear your jacket or coat open because it draws attention to the inside figure. Do have the long tuxedo front for most slenderness in sizes 40 to 44.
2) If bust is large, hips small - Don't accentuate the bust with broad horizontal lines. Do reduce the bust contour with vertical lines, vestee effect.
3) If short, pudgy - Don't gamble on the fitted, long-haired jacket. Do flatter your figure in short-haired, straight slim fur jacket.
4) If weight is unevenly distributed - Don't choose big, novelty stripes. Do wear tiny or, at most, medium-sized stripes.
5) If you are definitely stout - Don't try to wear what is intended only for the sylph-like figure. Do choose the redingote ensemble. For spring, the navy wool coat with navy-and-white dotted crepe dress is most flattering.
6) If short heavy blonde, fat round face - Don't go for knits. Avoid all clinging fabrics and two-piece things. Do choose redingote ensembles and straight full-length coats. Hats with upward lines.
7) If you are fat - Don't have all-around skirt fullness. Do have concentrated skirt fullness - center-front or side-front fullness good.
8) If 5 Ft. 2 In., 160 lbs., flabby - Don't shake corsetless no matter how hot the day. Avoid exposing large arms, legs, hips. Do control silhouette. Black sheer, longer skirt and sleeves slenderize. Expose only plump chest in flattering square neckline.
9) If you are a plump young gardener - Don't bulge in sleazy overalls. Do leave fat spots to the concealing mercies of the dirndl and a soft blouse.
10) If you have spreading hips - Do choose soft slacks and cover up with long jacket always. Don't wear pants or overalls that are merciless to the broad beam.
11) If you've a squarish figure - Do uncover your waistline. Don't choose the square silhouette. Gives you a dumpy, squat look.
12) If you're pleasingly plump - Don't wear severe, straight lines. Do express your personality in round lines even though plump. Highlight your plump chest and round arms.

And those are just some of my favorites.

(My friends, I wish you could see these wonderful sketches... they illustrate Colette's points perfectly.)

Now, a few excerpts from How to be Beautiful:
1) "If acne is marring your appearance, making you uncomfortable and unhappy, as it is so many others, remember that it's not having acne but keeping it that is the disgrace!"
2) "If you are a married woman, it's your duty and privilege to make a home for your husband, to be a charming hostess to his friends as well as your own. You'll play this part best only if you look your best. To be well-groomed is an important part of your responsibility."
3) "Because it is a time for adjustment, the first years of marriage are said to be the most difficult. You cannot just stop using beauty aids when you get married, but will you expect your husband to get used to seeing you with cream on your face and curlers in your hair? Why disillusion him when it is just as easy to apply your cream when you ake your bath and to put your hair up in curlers during the day? It isn't a matter of keeping these things a secret from him, but it is just simple psychology that the finished product is more appealing than the process."
4) "Personal cleanliness and personal daintiness are essential to a happy marriage. Without them there can be neither allure nor respect. Get in the habit of taking at least one bath a day. Make it a practice to use a deodorant and an anti-perspirant all year around."
5) "A lovely complexion is not difficult to acquire and maintain. All it requires is the investment of a little time and the intelligent application of simple, proven methods. Whatever your age, you can and should have an attractive, healthy skin. It is important to your happiness and success."

Well my friends, that's just some of the marvelous advice that Colette has to offer!

Wow, this is the best book I've ever had!

Sunday, January 2, 2005

Church today was the best, best, best ever.

First, Pastor Ron led us in prayer for everyone affected by the tsunami: for resources to rebuild, for hope, for comfort, and more. Then we also prayed for Iraq: for peace, for the elections, for wisdom for all in authority, and more.

You know, we will forget about the disaster wreaked by this tsunami. It will leave the headlines and the news reports, and we will forget. But for everyone affected... they can not forget. It will take them generations to rebuild what has been lost. So pray... please pray. And try to keep your heart soft to things like this; even though news reports are always talking about sad or disastrous things, every event like this drastically changes the lives of very real people. And um, if you're interested in helping in whatever way you can, visit World Vision or the International Mission Board. Every dollar helps.

So yeah. Church was good. After the time of prayer, the message was about shifting priorities (not surprising for the beginning of 2005). The focus was on this, the most important commandment: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is One. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

And that, my friends, should be everyone's number one priority in the coming year, and in every year. If we do that, well, then everything else falls into place. Most people (myself included) make resolutions about external things - get fit, manage money better, get organized, etc. - but if you make internal changes, letting God change you from the inside out... those changes will then affect every aspect of your life.

Here are some thoughts from the sermon about taking care of each of these areas - my heart, my soul, my mind, and my strength/body.

Take care of my heart: Guard your heart; it affects everything you do. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. How pure is my heart? Everything matters... what I look at, what I listen to, what I think about... everything. To have a pure heart, I have to rid my heart of everything un-Christ-like... and wow, that's hard. Taking care of my heart, making it molded to the heart of Christ, is way too hard for me alone.

Take care of my soul: I need to take time not only to read the Bible and other good books, but also time to just sit with God... time to be still. I think part of taking care of my soul also means getting to where I feel the things that God wants me to feel in response to any given thing.

Take care of my mind: this means not only devoting my mind to study and other good use, but also being discriminating about what I allow into my mind - about what I read, whta I listen to, what movies I watch, and everything else that goes through my mind. These shape what my mind becomes, and who I become... I need to have a super-duper God filter on everything. Every piece of information that enters my mind will remain there... so why allow anything in that is not of God?

Take care of my body: this means watching my eating, exercise, and rest. (Rest... not something that most college students take seriously enough, I guess.) The majority of Americans are malnourished and out-of-shape - they eat unhealthy foods and don't exercise enough. But you know, I need to be strong and durable enough to excell at whatever God brings my way in life! And that means being healthy and trying to maintain a surplus of energy. Anyway, this is an area where I don't know quite what to think; on the one hand, I usually go running several times a week and eat a fairly healthy and balanced diet. On the other hand, I know I could always do better... so I wonder where the balance is? At some point is it okay to decide that even though God's overarching priorities are the same for everyone, within that He provides a great deal of variation of individual interests, and exercising doesn't have to be everyone's number one priority? I wonder if I am doing okay in this area or if I should keep doing more? I don't really know.

Anyway... Pastor Ron concluded with this verse: Faithful is He who calls you, and He will also bring it to pass. (1 Thessalonians 5:24) What a verse... this is so full of promise. Together - God plus me - we're going to begin making these changes inside of me... He has called me to take a step in the right direction, and He will be faithful.

I love God. I love church. And I think maybe this year can be great.