RochelLeah's RealLife

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Important and Depressing Healthcare Issues in Africa, a New Book on Yiddish, and a Timely Salute to Kugel-- all from the New York Times

Nightmare for African Women: Birthing Injury and Little Help - New York Times

To Provoke in Yiddish...

Kugel Unraveled

Monday, September 26, 2005

20 Things I Wish I Could Do, but Can't (Yet)

(NOTE: I wrote this a while ago but left it in draft form for reasons I cannot remember...)

A friend (who won't be mentioned due to the privacy of her post) inspired me to start considering all the things that I cannot do that make me feel inadequate. I'm not talking about character flaws, but rather learned skills.

Thus, I "outing" myself as inadequate in the following ways:
1. I cannot ride a bicycle.
2. I have not yet learned when to shut up.
3. I cannot ride a skate board or roller blades.
4. I am an unskilled ballroom and swing dancer.
5. I knit slowly.
6. I have a hard time managing paper--like mail, notes, etc.
7. My spoken Hebrew is currently pathetic despite former fluency.
8. I read modern Hebrew really slowly.
9. I have not yet mastered the proper formatting of research papers, as outlined in The Chicago Manual of Style.
10. I cannot hand sew well enough to fix the fallen hems of several pairs of pants I own.
11. I cannot operate a sewing machine.
12. I am really unskilled with the proper melodies for prayer (I can't sort out all the different musical systems for the different times of day and festive days in traditional Judaism).
13. I lack many basic financial and money-management skills.
14. I am only now learning HTML. And I can only do a few things with it, so far.
15. I cannot build my own computer.
16. I cannot remember the names of all the weekly Torah readings, in order.
17. I can no longer speak Spanish.
18. I cannot skillfully debone and skin a fish.
19. I cannot build my own bookshelves. (Pre-fab doesn't count.)
20. I play DDR really badly.

How much work can one woman do for two classes in one week?: A Kvetch

I am only taking two classes this semester. Why, might you ask...? This week I have to:

  • Read two more chapters of the awesome book How Our Lives Become Stories, by Paul John Eakin
  • Complete a short-answer homework on the first two chapters of the aforementioned book, which I should have had read for last week but read this weekend instead.
  • Write a short autobiographical account of a life-changing event.
  • Read an entire book: The Evolving Self, by Robert Kegan
  • Compose a class presentation, teaching the material covered in Kegan's book
  • Read chapters 5-7 of Peter Berger's seminal work, The Sacred Canopy
  • Finish reading chapter eight of Meredith McGuire's text on Sociology of Religion
  • Read other assorted articles for the Sociology class
  • Compose (if I have the time) a 4-6 page paper on a sociological concept (I've chosen "bad faith"), so that I don't have to write another paper during the Jewish holidays of the next month
OK--I've started three of the items on the list. And I've known about the deadlines for two-and-a-half weeks. But still... ARGH!!!! I can't figure out which life event to write about, and I missed class this morning because my intestines are staging a rebellion of some sort without letting me know what will appease them.

Luckily, I already have the material for this week's class for the 10th graders (we'll be covering Jewish views on the death penalty). However, I do still have to prep for the Liturgy class tomorrow.

Gotta get back to work.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Psalm 29

For a change, I actually made it to synagogue on both Friday night and Saturday morning this week. Friday night services were great... the prayer-leader did a fabulous job and everyone in attendance was singing quite joyfully. When we reached Psalm 29 ("Havu L'Adonai B'nei Eilim..."), I popped out of my seat as usual and joined gleefully in with what is one of my favorite liturgical melodies (from the Carlebach tradition). The next morning, though, I had a totally different experience. The rabbinical student filling in for the congregational rabbi shared some rather moving words regarding the continuing plight of our American brothers and sisters in the Gulf states. Almost immediately afterward, we rose to return the Torah to the ark, once again singing Psalm 29, and I was close to tears:

"The voice of Adonai is over the waters; the Glory of God roars, Adonai, over the many waters... Adonai sat [enthroned] over the Flood; and Adonai will sit as Ruler forever. Adonai will give strength to God's people; Adonai will grant shalom to God's people."

Theologically, the idea of God still being present and ruling during the Flood (of Noah's time) is supposed to be reassuring; the chaos of the Flood was still part of God's plan and not in defiance of it. Somehow, this time, it doesn't sound so reassuring.

More later....

Friday, September 16, 2005

Nextbook: A gateway to Jewish literature, culture, & ideas

Nextbook: A gateway to Jewish literature, culture, & ideas | Liturgics | Liturgics

A fascinating web site of liturgical resources for Jews and Christians, including music.

You Know that You Are a Nerd When... (Dedicated to Grad Students in Religion)

(Some of the following symptoms are limited to scholars of religion. Fear not--one may be certified in academic nerd-hood without meeting all qualifications...)

1. You have favorite books of the Bible--one each in Torah (the Five Books of Moses), Prophets, and Writings. (Mine are Exodus, Hosea, and either Ecclesiastes or Job--I waffle.) For Christians, add one Gospel and one Letter.

2. You lust for multi-volume book sets that you cannot (at the moment, and perhaps ever) afford: the OED, the JPS Bible Commentary or New Interpreter's Bible, a fancy Talmud set, etc.
3. You know more than ten people who can read three or more languages each.
4. There are languages in which you can read ancient texts but not engage in conversation with anyone currently living.
5. You know jokes that require knowledge not possessed by your significant other and/or best friend. (Yesterday, I heard an amazing joke about Philo. I'm going to have to place a long-distance call in order to tell it to good friend who will "get" it.)
6. You actually go back and read the notes you've made in the margins of books.
7. You own books with titles that cannot be understood without having read other books.
8. You can name two or more research databases.
9. You have looked at library holdings which require you to put on gloves and surrender all pens before approaching the book in question.
10. You are over 30, and the percentage of your life spent in school is over 66% and getting larger. (I personally have been in school for 83% of my life.)
11. You have taken an oral exam on material covered over the course of multiple years.
12. Most of what you read cannot be bought in a Barnes and Noble or Borders.
13. You have tried to purchase a book currently in print that is not carried by (and is not child pornography or a book that has been banned in the country in which you live).
14. You can define any two of the following terms: post-colonialism, heteronormative, hegemony, ontological.
15. You have contributed to, fact-checked, corrected, or edited an entry on Wikipedia.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

Another American Disappointment... Something Important I Totally Missed

Apparently, I don't pay attention very well. In class this evening, I learned that the United States has NEVER BANNED LYNCHING.

What the &#*(*@ ?!!!

Yes, it's true, Ladies and Gentlemen... There are places in the United States where it is still legal to kill someone without a court judgment against them. (CORRECTION: It's not really legal, it just isn't a separate crime that has an explicit and additional penalty. See below.)

In June, the Senate apologized for never having passed a law against lynching. Only 80 of the 100 senators co-sponsored the bill and no record was taken of those who did not vote for it.

That day (June 13, 2005), News Hour featured an interview with the descendent of a lynching victim who came to D.C. to hear the apology. Apparently, a ninety-one-year-old lynching survivor was also present.

J. pointed out to me that lynching is still illegal, since it is murder (or attempted murder, or at least some sort of assault) after all. However, some states (such as my home, California) do specifically outlaw lynching (a group kidnapping and vigilante-style assault) as a crime or civil rights violation, with a penalty above and beyond that of the assault. Moreover, those in a lynching crowd who do not actually perform the injuring or fatal actions are hard to hold liable without such legislation.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

School, Venting about Airfares, and Knitting Inventory

TOPIC 1: I am delighted to report that I have four students in the Jewish liturgy class I am teaching this fall at my school. The four students are all Master's or Certificate students. A three-hour class is really tiring to lead, but I still find teaching exhilarating. Preparing for the class is helping me polish-up my neglected Hebrew skills, and I'm looking forward to exposing my students to traditional Jewish texts. Also, I got to study an apocryphal work, Ben Sira (sometimes called "The Alphabet of Ben Sira" or "Ecclesiasticus"), which was excluded from the Jewish canon but informed Jewish liturgy (including the Amidah). It's a really beautiful piece of wisdom literature and was considered minimally threatening by the Rabbinic Sages. In other words, it's pleasantly "edgy." :)

As for my own studies, I could not be happier with my two classes (ah... I remember when I was in seminary and took four or five classes at a time...). I'm taking one class in Sociology of Religion and another which discusses Faith Development theory and its relationship to personal narrative and identity. This is the first semester in which my classes all have a clear, direct relationship to my research. In particular, I'll be learning about theories of conversion and "de-conversion"--moving from one faith to another. The research on de-conversion, in particular, is really new and could form an important constituent of my eventual dissertation.

Most of all, though, the start of school lands me back among my doctoral student buddies.

TOPIC 2: Somebody needs to explain to me why I can fly for $78, roundtrip (before taxes and fees), to Las Vegas from LAX, but it costs well over $200 from every SF Bay Area airport. It just isn't right... it is possible to fly to the East Coast for less.

1. Nearly done--Cowl-necked chartreuse sweater in Rowan Big Wool requiring attachment of sleeves. For me.

2. Still in progress--Assymetrical poncho in Koigu KPPPM. I bought the yarn for my 29th-b-day (April 2004). Reason for incomplete status--too boring to knit for long stretches of time. It will be beautiful, eventually. For me.
3. Still in progress--Baby blanket in "pieced" log cabin blocks and garter stitch. Similarly boring to work on, although I want to finish for my new nephew, P. To give some perspective, I started it for the 3-year-old nephew, A.
4. Just begun and progressing promisingly--A Knitty wavy scarf of Berroco Denim Silk, in "Mystic," tweedy purple. The yarn was bought very inexpensively (just over $5 a skein) on E-Bay. This is a fun project that is holding my attention.
5. & 6. Two other scarves that I have started and not completed. Both are kinda boring. Both are intended for my sister. Will probably end up sending one to my mother.
7. Not yet begun-Knitty's "chemo" hats (unfortunately named) in Knit Picks' "Shine" for my sister and me.
8. Not yet begun-A simple orange sweater for 3-yr-old nephew (A.) in Knit Picks' "Crayon."

Projects I am fantasizing about... (as the lovely S. would say... drool...)
A. Wool socks this winter for myself and my roommate (and maybe some other folks...).
B. A yarn wig for Halloween (or, rather, Beth's birthday).
C. Hush Hush slip from Sex and the Knitty.
D. Leg warmers from Joelle Hoverson's Last-Minute Knitted Gifts.
E. Another sweater for nephew A., from Shadow Knitting by Vivian Hoxbro. Also want to make sweaters for nephew P., brother D., and my sweetheart J.
F. Angelina Vintage Jacket and Heirloom Lace Cardigan from White Lies Designs, but in cotton and linen (respectively) instead of wool.
G. Some sort of adorable purse.
H. A fun tie for my brother-in-law.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Another Update on Cinnamon and other supplements

Last week, I added a probiotic chromium supplement (also containing cinnamon, tumeric, fenugreek and some other ingredients) to my diet. Despite carbo-binging over the weekend (OK--it was mostly one meal at Il Fornaio), I've lost one more pound since Thursday. Many people have been asking me about the previously mentioned cinnamon supplement (which I still take on days when I don't get cinnamon into my food)... you can learn about here. I have been VERY pleased with the New Chapter products. They also have a more expensive supplement called "Diet and Energy" that is much more expensive but is similar to the chromium supplement. It adds, however, adaptogens--substances believed to be helpful with cortisol-influenced weight-gain--and thermogens ("fat-burners") such as green tea. A search for "green tea weight loss" on Google Scholar will bring up tons of studies, including some at well-respected institutions such as the University of Chicago. Green tea may (although through different mechanisms) also help with high cholesterol and certain types of hormonally caused conditions and tumors.

All of these supplements are much less expensive than the current prescription treatments for insulin-resistance/Type-2 Diabetes and high LDL cholesterol. Most of them also have little or no
known side-effects.

I keep wondering why these simple nutrients are not more widely known. I would think that something as instantly effective as the cinnamon would have been mentioned by one of my doctors at least. My sister told me that no doctor ever told her about either the cinnamon or the chromium. Before she tried supplementing with them, B. asked her endocrinologist about them. He said that they are effective for some people and that she could give them a try.

If the doctor knew that they were effective for "some people," why did he not tell her about them to begin with? The University of Chicago team (in the conference paper on Green Tea linked to above) underscore how skeptical of Traditional Chinese Medicine and alternative therapies most doctors are, despite the fact that two-thirds of American medical schools teach them, including Chicago, Hopkins, and Stanford. In other words, don't let doctors' prejudices rob you of the best care for your health!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

More on the cinnamon, diet, exhaustion, and the start of school

More on the cinnamon... have taken off two more pounds and my weight is still stable. I had to moderate my use of the supplement... it made me feel a little over-energized and anxious. Instead, I've been occasionally taking the supplement and consistently adding cinnamon to at least one food a day.

I've really been feeling great, but today I noticed that I am TOTALLY exhausted. Like I-almost-passed-out exhausted. And the Red Cross rejected my blood today because I was too anemic to donate. :( I think I need to go back to taking a multivitamin and take it a bit easy over the weekend. I spent the whole week pretty much running around. Literally. I've walked up to campus three days (including the big hill) and have been running errands and meeting people.

As for the start of school, I am surprised how excited I am to get back to my real "work." There is the obvious benefit of getting my loan money in. I am still poor, but not brutally so. I am excited about my classes, including one with a faculty member who is interested in my research and is involved with similar work on what she calls "de-converting" (leaving a faith). Seeing my school friends this week has been marvelous. I've spent hours going over progress in our programs, checking in with friends, chatting about life (...the universe, and everything), faculty personalities, and how long we REALLY think our PhD's are going to take us. In particular, I talked for quite some time with my friend and colleague H., a rather endearing, exceptionally intelligent, rip-roaringly funny, and openly gay man who specializes in identity issues, Latin American and Asian culture and religion, and Queer theory and theology. In the last few months, he has settled into a comfortably domestic relationship. And he's been dodging jokes about his conformity to more conservative norms ever since. I told him that he needs a T-shirt that reads: "Just because my relationship is heteronormative, doesn't mean I can't Queer the system."

I only have one complaint so far... There is only one person enrolled in the liturgy class I'm teaching. I'm getting worried what will happen to my fellowship if enrollment doesn't go up by the time class starts on Tuesday. Plus, I've spent a HELL of a lot of time working on the course over the summer, to the exclusion of other things. So, keep your fingers crossed and tell your friends!