December 31, 2004


I think New Year's Eve is the most overrated holiday of the year. I don't even like staying up until midnight, and I completely relate to what Lileks said about how the Midwest's midnight is totally eclipsed by New York's. I'm the first one to bed; at 0005, I'm done.

The only New Year's Eve I actually enjoyed was the millennium, and that's because I spent it alone.
Well, almost.

On 31 Dec 1999, I was a senior in college, home for break. My parents had gone out, my brother was having a party in our basement, and I was invited to a friend from high school's house. I went over there and had a great time catching up with everyone. I remember vividly that we nerds all compared when we finally lost our 4.0 averages: one friend complained that he had lost his first, and we reminded him that he was at Princeton, for pete's sake. I love being a nerd.

But as midnight approached and we gathered into the living room, I just began to feel uneasy. It was 1999, the edge of a new millenium, and I had this vague feeling that I wasn't spending the evening right. I couldn't shake the thought that I would regret being where I was. And so, at 11:45, I stood up and told my friends I was going home; they looked at me like I was crazy. I made up some story that I had promised my brother to be home at midnight, and I think they bought it. I said goodbye, and it was the last time I've seen any of those people. I wish we could get together again, but I didn't want to be there that night.

I got in the car and drove home, making it to the doorstep a few minutes before midnight. But I didn't really want to be with my brother's friends either. I knew who I wanted to ring in the new millennium with: I snuck upstairs and grabbed a good friend of mine to take outside with me.

I saw my watch turn to midnight and heard firecrackers in the neighborhood to celebrate the millennium -- the most important year switch I'll ever see -- sitting outside on the steps with my pet fish. That's the only New Year's Eve I'll ever really remember because I was alone with a good friend who didn't know anything about overrated holidays or thousands of years. He just knew he liked to kiss my fingertips when I dipped them in his bowl.

Best New Year's ever.

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I swear I laughed all day Wednesday when I read about SSG Terry-speak. "Personal bandanna" is my absolute favorite; I can't wait to meet this guy in person.

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I haven't said anything about the tsunami yet. When I first heard about it, I had two very cynical thoughts: 1) wow, that's a lot more deaths than in the war, and 2) how long until someone blames this on the US (which is why I found this humorous dialogue so funny). I don't really know what to say; how can you even begin to fathom 100,000 deaths? Entire islands under water? I can't even begin to grok it.

I do keep returning to one thought though. I first began to think about it when I read Cosmos, and the thought returned to me as I read Jurassic Park. Watching that silly The Day After Tomorrow right before the tsunami hit made me think about it even more.

Man cannot destroy the planet.

The big chunk of rock that occupies the third orbit around the sun will always be there. What is on it will continue to change though. I've always thought it was awful self-righteous when people say that man is destroying the earth. I don't attribute that much power to mankind. Man might destroy his own habitat, making it impossible for man to live on earth, this I will concede, but the earth will survive anything man throws at her.

I read something else the other day that is pertinent here:

In order to survive, man has to discover and produce everything he needs, which means that he has to alter his background and adapt it to his needs. Nature has not equipped him for adapting himself to his background in the manner of animals.

Man needs the earth a helluva lot more than earth needs man. The tsunami -- heck, all natural disasters -- is a good example of the precarious eqilibrium of adapting the background to our needs. Man wants to live near the water, for the bounty and the beauty of the sea. He tames the sea with retaining walls and houses on stilts, but this time the background won the fight.

I wish when people spoke of Kyoto, they wouldn't say that we're ruining the environment. We might be ruining our environment, making it more difficult for earth to sustain human life, I don't know, I'm not an environmental scientist. But the earth will survive all SUVs and aerosol hair sprays; it just may not be an earth we can live on.

And so I went looking for the exerpt from Jurassic Park and found that another blogger already made my point three days ago. He used the same exerpt:

You think man can destroy the planet? What intoxicating vanity! Let me tell you something about our planet: Earth is four and a half billion years old. There has been life on it for nearly that long: three-point-eight billion years. Bacteria first, later the first multicellular life, then the first complex creatures in the sea and on the land. Then finally the great sweeping ages of animals: the amphibians, the dinosaurs, at last the mammals. Each one enduring millions on millions of years. Great dynasties of creatures rising, flourishing, dying away... all this against a background of continuous and violent upheaval: mountain ranges thrust up, eroded away. Cometary impacts. Volcanic eruptions. Oceans rising and falling. Whole continents moving in an endless, constant, violent change, colliding, buckling to make mountains over millions of years. Earth has survived everything in its time. And it will certainly survive us.

If all the nuclear weapons in the world went off at once and all the plants, all the animals died and the Earth was sizzling-hot for a hundred thousand years, life would survive, somewhere. Under the soil, frozen the Arctic ice. Sooner or later, when the planet was no longer inhospitable, life would spread again. The evolutionary process would begin again. Might take a few billion years for life to regain variety and of course it would be very different from what it is now, but the Earth would survive our folly. Only we would not.

If the ozone layer gets thinner, ultraviolet radiation sears the Earth... so what? Ultraviolet radiation is good for life. It's powerful energy. It promotes mutation, change. Many forms of life will thrive with more UV radiation. Many others will die out. You think this is the first time that's happened? Think about oxygen. Necessary for life now, but oxygen is actually a metabolic poison. It's a corrosive gas, like fluorine. When oxygen was first produced as waste product by certain plant cells some three billion years ago, it created a crisis for all other life on Earth. Those plants were polluting the environment: exhaling a lethal gas! Earth eventually had an atmosphere incompatible with life. Nevertheless life on Earth took care of itself.

In the thinking of a human being a hundred years is a long time: hundred years ago we didn't have cars, airplanes, computers, or vaccines. It was a whole different world. But to the Earth, a hundred years is nothing. A million years is nothing. This planet lives and breathes on a much vaster scale. We can't imagine its slow and powerful rhythms... and we haven't got the humility to try. We've been residents here for the blink of an eye. If we were gone tomorrow, the Earth would not miss us.

And so earth won the battle in Asia this week, which we're not used to seeing on such a large scale. But don't kid yourself: earth will win the war too, eventually.

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Bunker wrote about the notion that the military is "society's trash heap", and I only have one thing to add. Having taught four sections of college English, I can say that the soldiers in my classes are just like students in any other classes. There are those who work hard, those who make excuses, and those who simply don't show up. I have had numerous non-native speakers who have taken my class and excelled because they worked hard to improve the English that they barely had learned by basic training. I have had students whose foundations have really impressed me; they must have worked hard in high school. And I've also had students who don't want to think for themselves and call me every time a paper is due to ask me what they should write. I believe that's the same cross section as I had when I taught at University of Illinois, and I imagine it's the same for any class anywhere.

The one difference I see is when my students write their narrative paper on one incident in their lives that has made them who they are today. That's when things start to get serious. By and large, my students have overcome extreme obstacles to get to this point in their lives, far more so than my college friends or I have. They've survived gang shootings, jail sentences, IEDs, domestic abuse, immigration without being able to speak English, combat deaths of their friends, and extreme poverty to get to where they are today. Most are grateful to have been given the opportunity to be in college, and they take nothing for granted. They've worked hard to get where they are, far harder than most of my peers in college.

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December 30, 2004


My mother recently found out more information about the stabbing of the couple from my high school. The airman who killed both of them will face the death penalty.

The rumor around Peoria is that this airman tried to kiss Jamie at a party and she rebuffed him. So he killed them both. Obviously I was not there and do not know the actual details of what happened that night. However, if this rumor is indeed true, then this is one of the most frightening things I can imagine. If this is true, then Jamie did nothing wrong. Any wife could find herself in Jamie's situation, which is what makes this extra tragic in my eyes. If Jamie had been messing around or doing something foolish, then her death might make more sense, but she presumably had done nothing wrong. She turned down a guy who wasn't her husband, and they both died for it. I can't even begin to make sense of that. It worries me when I think about actions and consequences: getting into drugs, cheating, or hanging out with seedy friends are actions that inherently imply consequences; being loyal to your husband is not. I just can't get my mind around that one.

If the events really did happen the way the streets of Peoria say they did, then Andrew Witt should die.

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Did you know that on the application to work for the Dept of Defense Dependent Schools, the race category of "white" includes anyone "having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East"? I guess I've never thought before about which group an Arab might choose; apparently they choose the same one I do. "White". Interesting.

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The third part of that series is out: World Speaks Our Language and Attends Our Colleges

For two years, the Pew Research Center for People and the Press polled 66,000 people from 44 countries on whether children "need to learn English to succeed in the world today."
The answer was a resounding "yes."
More than 95 percent of those surveyed in Indonesia, Germany and South Africa agreed that English is necessary for children. More than 90 percent of those surveyed in China, Japan, France and Ukraine agreed.
Only one of the 44 countries had a substantial minority that disagreed — 35 percent of Jordanians said English is not a necessity.

And that attitude will make all the difference for the future of the Middle East.

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December 29, 2004


The other day, Ken of RebelRouser emailed me and said that he wanted to blogroll me but that he didn't know my story and didn't know if he should file me under military or civilian. I explained my story to him and said that I was therefore a civilian. He then emailed back with something that has had me glowing for a week:

Make no bones, you're in the military and you are not a Civilian. As far as
I'm concerned, you're a Soldier. I think this is something Americans need to
realize, and I think you are just the person let them know.

And then he invited me to join his new blog.

Now writing under the name Nasty Dawg, Ken has started a group blog called Don't Thank Me, Thank My Recruiter. He has gathered active duty and veterans from all branches and ranks to blog together, and he wanted to fill the dependent angle as well. That's where I come in.

Everything is up and running, virtually overnight, so I was the last one to report for duty. Please check out Thank My Recruiter; I think it will be an interesting exchange.

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December 28, 2004


I had to do a double take: an article about the US that's all good? Woah.
America enjoys view from the top

And it looks like it's a five-part series; I'm anxious to read the rest.

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It's common knowledge around here that I completely don't trust polls. Even ones that say things I want to hear. I certainly put no stock whatsoever in polls that say there's a 51-49% split, but I'm tempted to at least check out polls that report 60, 66, or 87% findings. I'll check them out, but they're still worth a grain of salt, because I think that people say what they think others want to hear and they consistently choose "fair" or "agree" as the default (I do this all the time when I have no strong feelings either way). So with skepticism in mind, I checked out the Military Times Poll (via Power Line).

Sixty-three percent of respondents approve of the way President Bush is handling the war, and 60 percent remain convinced it is a war worth fighting. And support for the war is even greater among those who have served longest in the combat zone: Two-thirds of combat vets say the war is worth fighting.

The soldier I spent Christmas with -- who just re-enlisted -- said that when he first deployed, he thought going to Iraq was a pretty dumb idea. After being there, he says he now sees why it is important.

In addition, despite the pressures of a wartime military, 87 percent said theyÂ’re satisfied with their jobs and, given the choice today, only 25 percent said they would leave the service.

The only soldier I know who might get out wants to do so because he's like an athlete who quits after Olympic gold: after being in Fallujah, there's nothing that could keep him satisfied. I'll give you one guess which lovable thrillseeker I'm talking about.

I know this poll has received arched eyebrows because it was mostly answered by career military, but they are the people I am most concerned about. To be honest, the views of the guy who only joined for the college benefits don't matter to me nearly as much as the ones who plan to stick around and see this fight through. I care about the 58% of those who said they're re-enlisting/extending because of "patriotism". They're the ones who are going to make sure the war in Iraq is a success.

(The last time I wrote about a poll, vitriolic nutjobs came out of the woodwork to defend the poll's findings and call me hateful names because I said that a poll with 1230 respondents and a margin of error +/- 3% might not be accurate of the population. (Which I said because the questions were ridiculously loaded, and as it turns out, the poll skewed heavily Democrat.) Let's see if those same people -- those who liked the results of that poll -- come back to tell me that I should indeed listen to the results of this poll with 1,423 respondents, +/- 2.6%. I won't hold my breath.)

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I borrowed some CSI episodes from a friend, and I'm about overdosed on the show. Last night I spilled a squirt of lotion and my immediate thought was that it would really confuse forensic experts. I need to get out more.

However, in watching the show, I started wondering if the popularity of shows like CSI or Law & Order has had an impact on jurors. And apparently it has; there's even a name for it: "the CSI effect"...

But the programs also foster what analysts say is the mistaken notion that criminal science is fast and infallible and always gets its man. That's affecting the way lawyers prepare their cases, as well as the expectations that police and the public place on real crime labs. Real crime-scene investigators say that because of the programs, people often have unrealistic ideas of what criminal science can deliver.

I wonder about the effect of high expectations. I know that I personally have read articles about the unreliability of witnesses, even in classes such as neurolinguistics. I'd be skeptical of any witness testimony. Too skeptical? I don't know. Perhaps. One mantra that CSI drills into the viewer's head is that people can lie but the evidence can't. I think that lesson might be in the back of my mind if I were a juror.

One thing that I have learned from the show, that I hope I never have to put to use, might be how to intentionally leave evidence. In one episode, one of the CSIs went on a ransom drop and kept leaving intentional clues for her fellow CSIs to find. Sometimes, when my mind wanders furthest, I think about that use of forensics.

Of course, my favorite Onion article ever was "Area Man Has Complete Prison-Survival Strategy", in which the man lies in bed and makes plans for what he would do if he were jailed. My imagination frequently runs away with me like that.

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December 27, 2004


I bet you can all guess what happened when a blogger tried to buy toy guns for his sons for Christmas. Think he could find any?

My friend and I were laughing the other day while I was looking at her refrigerator. She has several photos on display of her husband in Iraq, and she also has some drawings magneted up there -- I guess her husband mails home pictures he drew and then her two sons color them in. What I laughingly pointed out was how odd it would look in a non-military family to have a fridge covered in photos of Dad with his M16 and colored drawings of a soldier manning a 50cal in a HMMWV or a jet dropping bombs on buildings. But to us, those kinds of things are completely normal. My friend turned to her four year old son and asked him, "What's Daddy's job?" He gleefully replied, "Soldier!" They decided it was the coolest job a Daddy could have.

I don't have any kids to scar, but my fridge still bears my husband's zero target from the day he shot expert. I think it's awful cute.

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We got rain on Christmas; so did the husband. And then yesterday the Angel Balboa dumped a bunch of snow on us for Boxing Day. Whatever Boxing Day is.

I keep coming to the computer, sitting down, and saying "meh" after about ten minutes. The motivation just isn't there lately, and whatever I have to say has already been said better elsewhere. By the Questing Cat, by Jeff Jarvis, and by Varifrank. Seriously, read their posts instead of mine; I have nothing to add to their wisdom.

I did learn to crochet yesterday. I've wanted to learn for a while, so I finally got up off the couch and headed to my neighbor's. Since all of my current knitting projects are for people who might be reading this, I can't show any of my work, but crochet items are going to be all mine. I'm starting on a hat.

See, I just hit the meh point, where I just stare at the screen and my eyes start to glaze over.

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December 25, 2004


I can't help but laugh thinking that Christmas for my husband will be more like Xmas on Futurama: In 2801 the Friendly Robot Company built a robotic Santa Claus to determine who'd been naughty and who'd been nice. But Santa malfunctioned and he now thinks everyone is naughty. And when Santa thinks you're naughty he murders you.

He knows when your are sleeping,
He knows when you're on the can,
He'll hunt you down and blast your ass from here to Pakistan.
You better not breathe, you better not move,
You're better off dead, I'm telling you, dude.
Santa Claus is gunning you down!

Be careful, husband. It's Xmas.

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Before I go downstairs to watch Rudolph and open my presents, I wanted to write a little about what Christmas means this year.

What does Christmas mean this year?

For me, the best part about Christmas is giving presents, and since there's no one else in the house, I don't get to watch anyone open anything. That's a real bummer. The second best part is when Dad makes pancakes, but I don't get any of those either. So what do I get this Christmas?

I get the tranquility of knowing that my husband is safe and sound. He's made it ten and a half months with nothing worse than some close calls, and his work in Iraq is almost complete. I know that somewhere in Iraq there's a little tree covered in funny ornaments inside a very messy cormex, and that makes me smile.

I also get the satisfaction of knowing that big changes are happening in the Middle East, changes that are a direct result of American military intervention in the region. President Karzai just appointed three women to his cabinet in Afghanistan. Three women. In a country where four years ago women were forbidden to work at all. That's progress, and it's real, and it's because my own country finally intervened. You don't know how proud that makes me of my country.

This Christmas I also get the relief of knowing that we are halfway through our tour in Germany, that soon we will return home. Home, land of the Pilgrim's pride, where I'd give anything to be. I just couldn't go without my husband; I couldn't leave him in Iraq while I went to the greatest place on the planet. I have to wait it out so we can go there together, step off the plane, and know that we both are finally home.

Christmas brings a turning point in the deployment. Christmas was the furthest goal we had set for ourselves, the last milestone before redeployment.

We're almost there.

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December 24, 2004


Cracking up right about now:

"Person of the Year!" I spat. "Person of the FEAR is more like it! Red Alert! Orange Alert! Green Alert! Nipple Alert! Between the phony terror warnings and the FCC thought police monitoring everything I say, I'm afraid to crawl out from under my sink in the mornings anymore. And that ain't the half of it, sister! On Bush's watch, 150 million people lost either their lives, their jobs, or both. Half the country is being outsourced to Pakistan, and the other half has been brainwashed by cross-burning Jesus freaks. As we speak, little children - helpless little children - are being marched into religious gulags posing as public schools, where they're forced to say "under God" in the pledge, or even encouraged to practice abstinence against the very laws of nature. The air is unbreathable, the water is full of arsenic, the Bill of Rights no longer exists, and two normal, law-abiding gay guys can't even walk down the street hand-in-hand without an inbred Repug making fun of their leather chaps and sequined cowboy hats."

"Mr. Chomstein, please."

"And the hegemony...oh, the hegemony!" I continued. "The whole world hates us, our allies despise us, and we're on the brink of nuclear armageddon because Bush and his red state church maggots waged an imperialist war for oil in order to pave the way for their "Messiah" to return, surfing on a tidal wave of AIDS victims and Enron pink slips! Meanwhile, innocent women and children are stripped naked and forced to play leapfrog across Gitmo by leering, chain-smoking midgets with no gaydar, as Donald Rumsfeld sits proudly upon huge pile of Halliburton loot, humvee armor, and crudely written form letters to the families of retarded jocks. The streets have turned to rivers of blood, the whole world hates us, Clinton's record budget surplus has vanished, squirrel numbers are declining, women are sacrificing their careers for their "family", and Jerry Falwell is drilling in ANWR. Peaceblossom is gone, Yassir Arafat is dead, Kirstie Alley is fat, and Mom's eating dog food right out of the can because Bush took away her social security in order to give tax cuts to the wealthiest one percent! If that's what it takes to become Time Magazine's "Person of the Year", then job well done, Dubya! MISSION A-F**KING COMPLISHED!!!!"

I love Liberal Larry.

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I was awake for over an hour before I realized it was Christmas Eve. I guess that's what happens when you're 27 and alone. Christmas will be fine this year though; several friends are still in town, so they're coming to my house. I have a tree and everything. And Mom sent me three boxes of gifts, so I've even got presents under the tree.

I can't help but think of Christmases past though. Like the year I got the Barbie RV; I saw it and thought I was still sleeping. The year my father built me a dollhouse, and my parents stayed up all night wallpapering it. The year I asked why Santa's handwriting looked an awful lot like Mom's. The year I finally got to sleep with my grandma (my brother always got to sleep with her): she kept me awake all night with her snoring, and I was panicked that Santa wouldn't come unless I was asleep. The dorky Christmas video we made for our grandparents that we still show to embarrass each other in front of spouses and girlfriends. The Christmas two years ago when the movers came to pick up our household goods to move us to Germany.

Or my favorite Christmas memory of all: the year we got a Nintendo. My brother opened the wrapping paper, and I'll never forget the magic in his voice as he exclaimed, "There must be a Santa Claus because Mom and Dad would never buy us a Nintendo!"

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December 23, 2004


1 Blog...

10 Veterans...

and millions of uninformed Civilians.

This could get ugly.


The battle begins January 1, 2005

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CavX laments the values being portrayed on TV these days and notes that the last show to "reflect the values of the average American was probably The Cosby Show." I'll drink to that. TV is such crap these days. The only thing we watch in this household is Smallville, which represents Superman's values, so how can you go wrong there? I also never miss a rerun of Happy Days. Arthur Fonzarelli is one of the greatest role models of all times: he's the coolest guy in town, but secretly he wishes he were Richie. (Oddly enough, Lex Luthor fills the same shoes in Smallville.)

We also are big fans of animated shows (Futurama, South Park, Family Guy, The Simpsons). I remember when my brother got interested in The Simpsons early on, I thought it was a terrible show with terrible values. I mean, Homer was always choking Bart. But that was the extent of my knowledge about the show. As I've started to watch earlier episodes, I've seen some very heartening things. Homer may be a bumbling fool, but he loves his family and always puts them ahead of himself (see "Colonel Homer" or "I Married Marge"), and Fry may be a fool, but he loves Leela (see "Parasites Lost" or "Time Keeps On Slipping"). And the women on the shows don't treat the men nearly as badly as un-animated women do. I stopped watching Everybody Loves Raymond the day Debra drove Ray to rip up his Super Bowl tickets. I couldn't believe that she could be so selfish as to refuse him the happiness of going to the Super Bowl with a buddy. Modern women treat men like dirt on sitcoms, but Marge is always patient and loving. She loves Homer for who he is, not who she can make him into. Leela's not there yet -- she preferred the parasitic Fry -- but she doesn't try to make Fry something he's not; she just doesn't date him. (I'm hoping she comes around in Season 5; Nibbler needs to get to work on his promise!)

Several years ago, I had an argument with a feminist: she said that it was demeaning to take on gender-specific roles in the household, even if you don't mind. I said that I was perfectly happy with doing the dishes and laundry while my husband mowed and took out the trash, so why should we switch chores just to avoid being gender-bound? She was appalled; I was bewildered.

I'm a pretty old fashioned girl. One of my students brought in The Good Wife's Guide to show me as a joke. To be honest, I don't really think it's that funny. I think one of the best ways to success in marriage is to care about your spouse more than you care about yourself. Caring for my husband means recognizing that he works harder than I do every day, and that my stupid problems of arguing with my co-worker are nothing compared to what he faces in Baqubah. Caring for him means wanting him to come home to a clean house and yummy food. Caring for him means bringing him a beer or going to get him a cookie. The trick is that I do those things because I want to, not because he expects or forces me to. That's the key to success. My goal is to make his life better or easier, which makes him happier, which makes me happier. It has nothing to do with being trapped in gender stereotypes or forced to act like Susie Homemaker. There's nothing inherently wrong with traditional gender roles; the only problem is when someone is forced to fit a role she doesn't want. I willingly accept the role, and I'm happy to do it. TV women these days consistently seem to resent that role, and thus end up paired with unhappy husbands. They don't care about their spouse more than themselves; they care about "being equal." I'm just not interested in watching that.

So anyway, the phone just rang and I've lost track of where I was going with all of this. If I were one of my students, I'd lose points for having a weak thesis. In summary: TV sucks. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go see what's on.

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December 22, 2004


Annika does Poetry Wednesday every week, so I thought I'd share one I like. I'm sorta hit and miss with poems -- either I love it or couldn't care less -- and there are only a few that I think are really superb. This is one of them:

by John Donne

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
"Now his breath goes," and some say, "No."

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move ;
'Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th' earth brings harms and fears ;
Men reckon what it did, and meant ;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers' love
—Whose soul is sense—cannot admit
Of absence, 'cause it doth remove
The thing which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refined,
That ourselves know not what it is,
Inter-assurèd of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to aery thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two ;
Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th' other do.

And though it in the centre sit,
Yet, when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th' other foot, obliquely run ;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.

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