It's been long.

So long that the contact info entry to my calendar that I had dated as some future date was actually 2 years ago. 2.5 years since my last legitimate updated. Checking my friend's page, I see that some of you are still updating, but I don't know how actively. I might start using this again. It's nice to have a place to say stuff that's not where everybody I know locally can see it. (I self-censor on facebook.)

Second birthday

Last week was my birthday. Again.

Apparently, the last time I updated was right after my first birthday this year.

I don't think most people noticed that I had just had a birthday recently. I think I got three comments about having a second birthday in three months. And one person who was suspicious of my last birthday didn't express suspicion this time.

My conclusion: most people don't pay attention to birthdays. I am kind of impressed that 3 people were aware enough to remember wishing me a happy birthday recently.

I won't change my birthday on Facebook again until after my real birthday. I don't need people to wish me Happy Birthday 3 times in a year. So, only those who know it, I guess.

Right now?
Right now, at lengthCollapse )

March birthdays are more fun than August birthdays

Last month, I wondered how much attention people paid to facebook birthdays. So, I proposed an experiment.

I'd let my birthday pass, change the day to a month later, and see if anybody remembered that they'd wished me a happy birthday the month before.

But, rather than waiting for August for this to happen (I figured I'd forget by then), I decided to do it sooner. So, I changed my birthday on facebook to the next 7th that happened--March 7, and then I'd change it to April 7 to see if anybody noticed.

I expected to get some birthday greetings today, since I usually do. But not nearly the number that I did. I don't know if it's because it's March instead of August and people are around and not gone for the summer, or if it's because I've added a lot of college students over the past year, but I got 40 in August (including late and early ones) and 56 so far today. (OK, after counting, I guess it's not that much more, but there's still time in the day.) But, more than that, I've had people wish me a happy birthday as I walk into St. Paul's, and even had somebody yell it out of a car on the street as she was driving by. This doesn't happen for summer birthdays.

I also had two siblings note that it's not my birthday, and 3 other people who realized something was amiss. I think the only people who noticed that my birthday was just 7 months ago were people who already knew I had an August birthday or a summer birthday. Or maybe Erin, whose birthday greeting carried a caveat.

It's the most memorable birthday I've had in years, and it's not even my birthday. I almost feel bad about changing it when people (maybe) learn that it wasn't my birthday today.

Missing you

I should spend more time here. Some of you I only see on LJ, and I know there are people who read my LJ who don't read me on facebook (or who are on facebook irregularly enough that everything scrolls). I really should spend more time here.

And there are things that this is more suited for that facebook isn't.

It looks like I haven't updated since coming back from Andrew's wedding over Thanksgiving. That gives me a place to start, I guess.

Probably the biggest thing to mention since then is that a small group of people here have started regularly praying the Liturgy of the Hours. It started mid-Advent with just me and one other guy. (We both live in the apartments by St. Paul's, so it's convenient to us.) We met regularly--every morning for the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer, and every evening for Evening and Night Prayer. We started the last week of the semester, continued over Christmas break (in the unheated chapel--brrr!) and have kept it up since. Occasionally, one or the other of us (or, sometimes, both) would miss it. This is usually because early on, we'd oversleep for our 6 AM prayer (7 AM on weekends), but occasionally because he'd go out in the evenings or would return late from Caldwell and not make it back in time for the 8 PM (9:15 since the semester started, to accomodate my late class) prayer time.

The group of people who pray with us has slowly grown. It started out with just the two of us, but for a couple of weeks over break, another woman who lives in the area and often comes here (she's an Oblate of the Benedictines, or something, so she meets with Fr. Hugh a lot, and comes for Mass and Adoration) prayed with us. Once the semester started and more students were around, we got another guy to join us for morning prayer, and when we go to do evening prayer, we can usually find another 2-3 people who are hanging out at St. Paul's to pray with us.

I've had my copy of the Office for about 15 years now. I often start it (for Lent, at the beginning of the school year, or at other infrequent times), but it rarely lasts more than a week or two. I miss a morning or an evening because I'm up too late and am tired, or I'm too tired to get up early, and then I miss another, and then I stop doing it. The fact that I've been doing this now for 3 months, then, is pretty significant. It just takes a sense of obligation or responsibility to others. I'll do things for (or with, or because of) others that I don't do for myself, or alone.

I'm not sure why, but almost all of the people who pray with us have been guys. With the exception of the woman who prayed with us a few weeks over break, we've had a woman join us exactly two times. The three (or four, sometimes, when Fr. Hugh joins us) people who pray in the morning, and the 2-5 people in the evening--all guys. I wonder why this is. I wonder if it's because the women here aren't attracted to this type of prayer, or if it's because of the guys who do it, or what, but it's an interesting phenomenon.

I think that this prayer has made a difference in my life, mostly because of the regularity it puts in my life. We pray at 6 AM every morning, so I'm up then. That gives me from 6:30 until 9:30 or noon (depending on the day) to be productive--and I am. I've gotten a lot done in those morning hours, although a couple times recently, I've had to take a nap because I was too tired. (Getting up at 6 AM hasn't done much to send me to bed before midnight or later.) And I've enjoyed the Office, too, although I don't always look forward to it when it's getting close to that time. I really like the Canticle of Mary, and am enjoying going through the Psalms. I hadn't spent much time with the Psalms, so a lot of these Psalms are new to me (or produce a "so, that's where those prayers/hymns/responses come from!" reaction). Also, the second reading (usually taken from an early Church Father or from the documents of Vatican II, but for a saint's feast, can be something from or about the saint) in the Office of Readings have been interesting, too.

It's really the only time I prayer. I've never been good at formal prayer--not prayer before bed, prayer before dinner, Bible study, or anything like that. I make it to Mass on Sundays (mostly), and occasionally to daily Mass (but not this semester), and I spend a little time in Adoration here when I'm free during that time and I remember. But not a lot of time. That's not to say I do nothing. In a sense, I view my life as a prayer. And, while I don't do formal Bible study a lot, I do think about things and read about things.

Other than that, things are mostly the same. I am still going down to Corpus Christi twice a week, and I've got a calculus class and a liberal arts math class I'm teaching this semester. Still doing quiz bowl--our team won the sectional tournament at Portland earlier this month, and will be going to the national tournament in Chicago in April.


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Bridget had a copy of the book. Maybe for a book club or something. She read it and gave it to Mom. Mom read it. I saw it when I was in NC for Thanksgiving, and inherited it. I read it on the plane ride home (and then stayed up late Saturday night to finish it). I'd been wanting to read it because I'd heard all kinds of good things about it.

I was unimpressed with it.

The plot was pretty good. I'll give it that. Which is probably why it makes a good movie. (Well, unless I'm as unimpressed with the movie as I was with the book.)

The characters weren't bad. Believable, and interesting. Except at the end when Salander becomes a disguise artist and manages not only to disguise her appearance (that part isn't unbelievable) but speak fluently in other languages, even so far as to speak a foreign language with a foreign accent. She had been characterized as a survivor and a computer genius (and there had been previous hints of her changing her appearance), but the language thing came totally out of the blue, and there was nothing in the background we were given about her to indicate it, so I had a tough time swallowing it. Blomvkist and Berger were both relatively well fleshed out, I thought. Salander, a bit less so. I'm not sure that he knew exactly what he wanted to do with her--she seemed somewhat of a blank canvas that he used to paint his Deus ex Machina on. (And I refuse to believe she is the top hacker in Sweden when she only runs around with other people's hacks.)

But I couldn't stand his writing. It was blunt and boring. There was at the same time way too much technical detail (naming programs and websites used to do things, and giving all the details of the new computer Salander wanted to get) and too little detail (too much hand-waving about hacking, for example, especially given the technical details he gives about computers elsewhere). Besides those boring interludes in the narrative, there didn't seem to be a whole lot of description. Some physical description (especially of Salander), but very little tone or background description. I don't know much more about Sweden than I did before--it gets cold in the winter and there's lots of snow. Some of the stylistic problems I have with the book may be due to the translation, but I'd guess it's present in the original.

I'd recommend it, I guess. It's a page turner, but because of the prose, it took me a while to really get excited by the book. It really wasn't until I was about halfway through that things started to click.

I'm not sure if I want to read the rest of his books. The characters weren't fascinating enough (Salander is too flat, despite his attempts to flesh out her past and her motivations, and Blomvkist was only rarely engaging a character) to draw me to the next book.

A slow day at Corpus Christi

It's a slow day at the education center today. No teaching. (We had two people pass their last GED test on Tuesday!) So, instead, I'm just watching and chatting with people around here.

Right now, there's two people in here. One's drawing and coloring at the computers, and chatting with us. The other's taking a pretest so we can see where he's at, and muttering the whole time.

Earlier today, a guy came in wearing a foot-long crucifix. (He always wears it; it stretches from his navel to his collar bone. It's the size of something you'd hang on the wall, but he has it on a yarn cord and around his neck.) He's in the area a lot, so I've seen him before, but he hadn't come in here before. He was somewhat surprised this place existed, some sort of sudden appearance (maybe like 9 1/2 King's Cross?). His crucifix has a stack of holy cards wedged behind the figure of Jesus, and it is highlighted in red with magic marker or something. He wandered around for a but, talking mostly to himself, and then left again.

Tony's something of an artist. His medium is just stuff he finds around here--paper, pencil, pen, markers. People ask him to draw something, so he does. I suppose that's what passes for commissioned art around here. And it's usually pretty good. (It's usually somewhat religious, too, with angels, or Christ crucified, and other elements (dragons!) woven in.) I think that there's a framed piece of his hanging on the wall here--probably one of the first decorations that was put up. I was talking with another volunteer (Boise just got its first hostel, and at $21/night, which is not a whole lot more than my monthly rent.) When the subject of rent came up, Tony said that he sleeps on a porch at somebody's house. Where is home, he was asked? "It's where I am. It's under my hat and on top of my shoes." That was such a neat way of describing his situation.


It's late. Or early, I suppose. I had a few short nights this week, so I fell asleep kind of early yesterday. After running around all day doing errands (not exactly what I expect my Fridays to be like, but knowing I have Fridays off, I often put errands off until then), I got on my computer to do some stuff, and kept nodding off, so I just called it a night and went to bed. Without supper. And I woke up around midnight, so my sleep cycle is, again, messed up. I'll probably get to bed again soon, and get a couple of hours of sleep in before my Saturday plans.

I've been going down to the Corpus Christi House for 3 weeks now. It takes about half an hour to walk down, and half an hour back. I go down twice a week--on Tuesdays, when another regular tutor doesn't come, and on Thursdays, when the guy I am helping with Calc III on campus doesn't have class, so doesn't meet me. (This means that every day, I've got something that gets me up relatively early--either to leave here at 8:30 to get to Corpus at 9, or to meet the student at 9.)

The first two weeks, I tutored a woman who is trying to pass the math GED test. (I'm unfamiliar with the GED other than what I've learned here. Is it essentially the same everywhere in the country?) I wrote about that in my last entry, and it's about the same. This week, though, she was a no-show. On Tuesday, she wasn't feeling well, and on Thursday, neither she nor her husband had been seen, and nobody knew where she was. This is the sort of thing that's not exactly unexpected at a homeless shelter. I was told that it would be even worse this week, since it's the first week of the month. We'll see.

So, instead, I helped another guy on Tuesday with the reading comprehension part of the test. His hardest thing was trying to understand the words--the reading comprehension part has a lot of reading, and a lot of the readings (and questions) used fancy words that he didn't know. (The last passage we read was an art criticism, and it was full of words like De Stijl, and Piet Mondrian and retrospective and lush and hedonist. Some of the words he understood when I broke them down (like retrospective), and others, when I told him similar words. (I told him just to ignore all the capitalized words in the second paragraph--the art styles and artists weren't terribly crucial to anything the questions asked.)

And then, on Thursday, he didn't show up, either. There were 3 or 4 volunteers, and no students. (One guy was there at the computer, writing a letter to somebody, and another was getting ready to go take his writing test that afternoon, but that's really it.) I spent those two hours combing the sample test for technical words that might be more likely to come up (in questions) than other vocabulary in the stories, to make a vocabulary list for him.

But it's been an experience. I'm not getting a whole lot of exposure to the homeless community--there are probably half a dozen regulars or so that I'm seeing, hearing, and getting to know. (There are many more who hang out at the day shelter next door, or hang out on the sidewalk nearby, but not as many come into the education center.) But I am hearing stories and other people's experiences. And I'm doing something worth doing.

It's an interesting community, though. There are lots of types of people in it. Some of the people are mentally ill or drug addicts, of course, but there are other people who seem somewhat normal. A surprising number of people with advanced degrees, I'm told. (I've had a conversation with one guy who used to be chemical engineer, and who is now interested in alternative energy.) As I walked home on Thursday, I thought about it, and realized how easily that could be me there. If, for whatever reason, I found myself homeless in Boise, I could easily make it work. The day shelter offers showers, and I could probably condense my belongings to something that's portable. (Easily done, just by getting rid of all my books! Everything else would fit in my car.) As it is, I'm nomadic with my office. I carry my office with me--my laptop, satchel of papers to grade, textbook, and notebook. The abundance of wireless makes it easy to set up my office anywhere. I don't think it would be too hard to make it work while homeless. And, knowing me, once I got to the point where I could make it work and get everything done, I'm not sure how motivated I'd be to go through the process of trying to find an apartment or something. I think that, aside from the drug problems or mental illness, I can appreciate, to some extent, where the people in this community are coming from.

(Interestingly enough, I was talking to the guy who organizes young adult ministry in Boise, and he said that he actually had been homeless in the past. Due to circumstances outside his control, he was living out of his office and car for the better part of a year. And, oddly enough, it was during this time that he met and started dating the woman he'd marry. She never found it odd that they never went to his place.)

I got paid this week, so I paid my rent for October. Still haven't paid for September. So I'm not homeless, yet. Maureen lent me money to fly to North Carolina for Andrew's wedding, so I bought that ticket, too.

An update!

My brother Andrew told me that my first post was no longer in the future, so I had to go fix that. Now it's dated for my 40th birthday, which is still in the future.

The semester started a few weeks ago. 4 weeks, to be precise. I get paid biweekly, so I was expecting a paycheck 2 weeks ago. It didn't arrive, but I kind of half-expected that, because it often takes a pay period to get everything settled and into the system. So, I should get a paycheck today, right? Nothing in the bank last night (it's usually deposited Thursday evening), and nothing today. Time to go to the office and ask about it. It turns out that my paperwork was never processed, or something. So I'll get paid for the first time in 2 weeks. That's what, about 1/3 of the way through the semester?

I joked on facebook about this, about how the volunteer tutoring I've been doing is just as lucrative as what I get paid to do. :)

Speaking of volunteer tutoring, I recently started going down to the Corpus Christi house to help out with their GED program. Corpus Christi is a Catholic Worker house whose mission is to serve the homeless in Boise. I knew that there was a CW house in Boise, and when I first got here, I looked it up and knocked on the address listed (a residential address up on the Bench), but got brushed off. (Well, I think they said something about going downtown, but they didn't seem very interested, and I didn't know where they were downtown, so I didn't pursue it any further. I don't know if they thought that maybe I was a homeless guy looking for their shelter they run, or what.) I've been wanting to do something like this for a while--since I first got to Boise, I guess. (When I applied to Maryknoll after leaving Arizona, their response was that I was lacking volunteer work, even though I had just spent 4 years teaching on the reservation. I was paid for that, so I hadn't listed it as volunteer.) The problem is that once the semester starts, my hours get filled up, and I get into a regular schedule of what I have to do.

So, anyway, towards the end of the summer, I decided to try to find something again. I went to the Boise Rescue Mission's webpage and e-mailed them. The first e-mail I tried bounced, and the second one never responded. Then I asked Chuck, and he suggested the Corpus Christi House, and the same thing. The first e-mail bounced, and I never heard back from the online application I found. For a few days, at least--finally somebody contacted me. It turns out that Corpus Christi had just started an education program a few months earlier, and so they could use some people to tutor. Good timing for me, I guess. Had I tried last year, or even at the beginning of last semester, there wouldn't have been this sort of thing to do.

I went down there last Friday to look around. The woman in charge (an Americorps volunteer from Arizona--when I met her she was wearing an NAU shirt) of the education center showed me around Corpus Christi. (They are in two adjacent buildings.) The outside of CC had a fresco made of broken tiles on it. Kind of neat, and similar art inside, too. Very Catholic Worker type art. In the interior lobby, there were a few people lounging around. They had two bathrooms with showers for people to use, and a "quiet room" that also doubled as a medical exam room when they got somebody to do them. In the kitchen area are several tables, and a "day storage" set of shelves where people can put their stuff for the day. Out back was an outside area where people can spend time when the weather is nice. (Which it often is, in Boise.) There are also a few computers available for use (ideally for use in applying for jobs and stuff, but when I was there, one guy was playing solitaire, and the other was used by somebody checking e-mail, or something). There was also a kitchen prep area, but I'm pretty sure that CC doesn't serve meals. They close from 11 to 2 (as does the Education center) when some other shelter in the area serves lunch.

The Education Center, like the Corpus Christi House, serves the homeless community. On the wall, they've got a "success board" with pictures of people who got their GED, and pictures of people in process, with the tests checked off they managed to pass. All but one of them are missing the math test. That, and writing, are the two big blocks to passing the GED. So, twice a week, I walk downtown (about half an hour walk) and tutor for 2 hours. I've been spending my time so far with the same woman. We've mostly been going through the sample test and talking about all the stuff she missed (most of it, it seems). I don't think she ever learned geometry, although her math instincts aren't terrible, so she can puzzle through things once she knows what she has to do. It's going to take a long time, though, just working 4 hours per week. We've only gone over half of her pre-test. I'm enjoying it, though, along with the other people I tutor for free on campus. Why should I get paid to do something when I can do it for free?

So, aside from not being paid, the semester's been going well so far. And hoping that I'll be able to pay the bills which will be coming due over the next few weeks.