Autumn Photos

This is my first autumn anywhere that the leaves actually change, and I finally got around to documenting it for posterity. I’m personally quite happy with this photoset, but it’s probably just general childlike awe at the novelty of leaves turning colors. At any rate, enjoy!

You can see the entire photoset here.


Habanero Queso

Birthday party tonight was enjoyable. I promised everyone Texas-style snacks, so that’s what we had: chips with salsas, guacamole, refried beans, and queso. Oh, how I’d missed queso. I made it Brad-style, with habaneros, since I figured that it would be nice to have at least one dish that was spicy, and the mildness of the cheese tempered the habaneros’ heat very nicely. It turned out well, so here’s the recipe; the fruity notes from the habanero had my fellow Texan puzzled but pleased. No pictures this time, sorry, though I do have a different picture post in the making.

Now off to eat leftover chips and queso. Like the best Thai food, you know queso’s perfect when it’s so spicy that each bite is pain, but so smooth and cheesy that you can’t stop yourself from eating just one more.

Brad’s Habanero Queso
(serves 15-20)

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All you need is love?

I want to cry. Maybe if I close my eyes and wish very hard, I will not have heard the following (paraphrased) argument from an Ivy League graduate:

“Because everybody has to buy food, we have grocery stores targeted at both poor and rich people, so every income level has a place to shop. Right now, lower-middle-class people have poor to no health care, but there aren’t enough of them to make it worthwhile for insurance companies to cater to them. If we eliminated government-provided health care to the poor, then insurance companies would see that there was a big market, and they would make insurance packages catering to every income level, so everyone could afford some kind of insurance. Oh, and if people couldn’t afford insurance that covered their illness, they’d just die, whoops. Oh, and for those too poor to buy any insurance, charities would hopefully cover them, except that this coverage wouldn’t have the same anti-free-market effect as government coverage would.”

I really, really want to cry. Partly because I’m starting to give credence to the possibility that Ann Coulter is not, in fact, a comedienne sitting in her bedroom, laughing hysterically at the people who take her seriously.

On a serious note, things like this are a test of the fact that altruistically-justified pride and anger are often the worst temptations of the liberal intellectual. I need the humility to remind myself that when I hate people for their perceived lack of charity or logic, I’m on no more solid ground than they are.

So that’s why firefighters wear masks . . .

At church this morning, I spent the first half of the service coughing when I tried to sing, and I wondered why. Well, blowing my nose just now, I discovered that what’s inside is black.

Apparently it really is possible to get coal miner’s lung when you accidentally start a fire that fills the top third of your apartment’s air with black smoke so thick it’s opaque.

(To be fair, the fire was . . . not entirely my fault? A hard, oddly-colored substance used to cover the bottom of our broiler drawer but had never given us trouble. Yesterday, I came home and turned the oven on to bake something; little did I know that my roommate had stored several dishes of food in the oven for dinner later that night. By the time she came home and noticed, not only was her food burning, but the oven heat and burning food had managed to ignite the possibly-plastic substance, which literally filled the oven with flames and generated massive amounts of smoke. I managed to get the fire out without calling the fire department, but there’s soot on just about everything in the house at this point, apparently including my breathing passages.)

On another note, gentle readers, am I a complete nerd for planning to dress up like Caddy Compson for Hallowe’en? I even have an amusingly pretentious costume idea in mind! Heh.

Personal tangents.

Sorry I’ve been so silent the last week. I spent last Wednesday in New York: wandering the city, meeting online friends, visiting MoMA, and reinjuring my feet (same place as the injury Ziklag gave me, argh). Then, on Friday, the boyfriend came in to town and stayed through this afternoon, when a group of friends and I dropped him off at the airport and stayed for dinner and conversation at my friend’s mom’s house.

I’m feeling emotionally exhausted. Not that the weekend wasn’t absolutely lovely; but between the emotional interactions with boyfriend and friends, the intellectual engagement of classes, and the additional mind-stretching involved in a crash course in the mechanics of a power plant (with tangents into electrical engineering and physics), I just want to curl up into a ball and listen to the rain. And did I mention that yesterday alone involved two discussions, two lectures, two writing assignments, and an exam?

On another note, I was musing, during the drive back today, about personality types. In terms of D&D alignments, I’ve always been Good, but I feel like I’m increasingly shifting from Chaotic toward Lawful – not out of any particular respect for rules in themselves, but out of a deepening sense that people are thoughtless enough that the law usually has a better idea of what they ought to do than they do. Likewise, in Myers-Briggs terms, while I’ve embraced my Introverted and iNtuitive preferences, I’ve been working to use a Judging approach and Feeling principles to influence my Perceiving, Thinking tendencies.

One of the problems that brought this to mind is that it sets my Feeling ideals against my Introverted instincts: I want to keep relationships with people a priority, but the process of building those relationships frequently drains and frustrates me. Most immediately, I’m torn between the instinct to put together a birthday party (because birthday parties filled with friends are What People Do) and the knowledge that I’d likely be happier recharging my batteries on my birthday with an evening of solitary cooking and DVD-watching. As I was saying to Noah, when one is an introvert – until one’s known a friend so long that there isn’t any sense of artificiality in interaction – even time spent with friends can become extremely draining.

Like I said above, though, I’m emotionally exhausted at the moment, which doesn’t help my reasoning. I hope you’re all well; I’ll try to respond to comments and posts shortly.

(CJ said it’s raining in D.C., Shari says it’s raining in North Carolina, and it’s raining steadily here. I’ve been listening to “Pour Oublier Je Dors” on repeat.)

And I know, I know there is joy endowed.

Disclaimer: As they say in Israel, “al ta’am v’al reach, eyn l’hitvakeach” – “on taste and on smell, there is no argument.” The music you enjoy may be vastly different from my tastes, and that’s okay.

I ordered Redemption Songs from Amazon for a friend, and when the post office apparently lost it in the mail, they quickly shipped me another copy, which I gave him. A few days ago, the original finally managed to make its way into my mailbox. I debated whether I should feel morally obligated to go through the hassle (on my part and Amazon’s) of returning it, given that they didn’t even ask me to do so.

Pragmatically, I decided that I’d listen through Amazon’s clips from the CD to see whether I even wanted it. The first Jars of Clay album was and is incredible, especially for its time, but I have a deep-seated cynicism about the quality of self-identified Christian music. It’s not that none of it’s good – Starflyer 59 or Pedro the Lion are great counterexamples – it’s that, by and large, it’s at least as shallow and superficial as secular top-40 music, with a smaller initial pool of talent. At any rate, I pulled up the page and started to listen.

Well. It’s not that I found the album bad, per se. And I’m not even sure if it’s a good thing to be such a musical snob. Nevertheless, in the last year or two, I’ve been introduced to a lot of really excellent music, songs that are musically inventive and lyrically insightful and exquisitely performed, music so powerful you want to just put on the best headphones you can afford and listen with your eyes closed. While, from the segments I heard, this would be a nice, above-average worship album, I decided that, even aside from the guilt of quasi-stealing, I’d rather read the lyrics for my worship, and buy Seven Swans for my acoustic theology.

(Speaking of which, if anyone wants to get me a birthday present, it’s on my wish list . . . )

A further addendum: this article has a much more eloquent version of what I’m trying to say. “By implying that the sole value of Christian music is God-centered lyrics and reducing the music to a mere delivery system, the Christian recording industry simultaneously dismisses the aesthetic value of the music and undercuts the authenticity of the message. To sing about the glory of God and his creation while neglecting to fully express our capacity for beauty is a disservice to the very message being proclaimed.

I do think that Jars of Clay has a considerably higher respect for aesthetics than many of their peers, but . . . that’s really not saying much. And I wonder sometimes if it’s even possible to revive yet respect the old songs. When we brightly sing “And all three hours His silence cried / for mercy on the souls of men. / Jesus our Lord is crucified,” with a pleasant guitar rhythm, to what degree are we wrestling with the ideas of sorrow and mercy and death? Better to spend a pensive song, as Sufjan Stevens does, meditating on the implications of the line “Take instead the ram / until Jesus comes.”