Sunday, August 31, 2008

Chanting the Weather

Geoff posted these on his blog--a well known Anglo-Catholic joke...


First Sunday Back

Mass went well this morning. Nice to be back. People were glad to see me. The pace is really going to accelerate this week and next and we have a lot of work to do. I'm very excited about all the new stuff happening! I even have a baptism to do soon!


Friday, August 29, 2008

Michael Phelps

From the Onion...
Michael Phelps Returns To His Tank At Sea World

ORLANDO—Fourteen-time Olympic gold medalist and SeaWorld main attraction Michael Phelps returned to his seven-million-gallon water tank Wednesday to resume his normal schedule of performing in six shows a day for marine park crowds every day of the week.

Phelps, the 6'4", 200-pound aquatic mammal, and the first ever SeaWorld swimmer to be raised in captivity by foster swimmers (Mark Spitz and Dara Torres), was recaptured by trainer Bob Bowman in a hoop net baited with an entire Dutch apple pie following Phelps' final Olympic event last Sunday. Phelps was then tethered to the rudder of a container ship bound for St. Petersburg, guided down local waterways, and introduced back into his home habitat, the tank in SeaWorld's 5,500 seat stadium, known to park officials and visitors alike as "Phelps' Happy Harbor."

"Michael seemed really excited to be back," said Bowman, adding that the male swimmer became playful upon entering his tank, breaching the water and sounding repeatedly. "He just started swimming freestyle and backstroke, and only stopped to slide belly first onto the tank's platform so he could be fed dozens of fried egg sandwiches." (source)

I'm glad he got home safe and sound.


Nanny Ad on Craig's List

The New York Times ran a piece about this very funny, and very honest, posting on Craig's List for a nanny...

Live in Nanny Needed for 4 kids (Pls don't call them "Precious Ones") (Upper East Side)
Reply to:
Date: 2008-08-19, 9:04PM EDT

My kids are a pain in the ass. Just in the past hour, i have had to tell each one to do something more than once. oldest: can i have soda? it's just a sprite? please? can i? no, no and no.
the next one...don't even get me started. seriously.
the twin six year olds: one wanted dessert before her dinner was over, one kept wanting to know why I wouldn't let nine year olds swing her around by her limbs. (the fear of a dislocated shoulder did nothing.)
Please help me.
I can be a tad difficult to work for. I'm loud, pushy and while I used to think we paid well, i am no longer sure. i work from home, so you get the pleasure of being hounded by me all day long. and, you get to pretend to like me, because i am deeply sensative. (but well dressed and a know it all, a winning combination I assure you.)
If you cannot multi task, or communicate without being passive aggressive, don't even bother replying.
If you are the type who doesn't notice crumbs on the table, skip to the next post, because crumbs are a deal breaker. they put me over the edge.
i have all sorts of theories on how to stack my dishwasher, and if you are judgemental about ritalin for adhd, or think such things are caused by too much sugar, again, deal break city.
You do get a separate entrance excellent studio on the ues. you do get air conditioner and internet connection and cable. even hbo. and showtime. you can bring your spouse, roommate or partner, but sorry no kids. If you ask, can i bring my kid, the answer will be...anyone? anyone? No.
If you can cook, all the better. otherwise, i'll teach you all sorts of things about pasta. (Here's a freebie, butter and parmesean, mmmmmm)
If you know anything about chess and violin i will be impressed.
We are not snobs, which is good. but then again, my kid sometimes swears to make a point. (We're working on it, but halfheartedly, because, well the apple doesn't fall far from the fucking tree.)Although I am told they are all very bright, they have not mastered the use of the oh so complicated napkin. This is a napkin Junior, say it after me...Nap Kin. Good boy.
i am not looking for Super nanny, or anyone who wants this job because they will love my kids as if they are their own. you won't. really. they are infinitely lovable, but trust me, they're mine and you will move on when your journey with us is over, and save for some funny stories and a delightful email every now and again, you won't grieve. Nor will we. (okay, we did all grieve a few of our past sitters, oddly they were all named Sarah or Kate, or Nikki. And Leah. Leah was delightful, even if she did drop my twin babies off our couch during a family gathering. Good times.
I don't want someone who has a lot of theories on the right way to raise kids, because in the end, I'm just a woman doing my best. I'm willing to learn from you, or anyone, but not so much about how i should parent my spawn. teach me to knit. introduce me to yoga, the white stripes, russian literature or the best place to get a burger in the village at 2Am, but do not tell me to put star stickers on a good
boy chart. stickers irritate me.
If you are fundamentally unhappy with your life, you will be more unhappy if you take this job, so do us all a favor and get some treatment or move to the Rockies, but do not apply for employment with us. Also, if you suspect all wealthy women are frivilous, we are not for you. I do not want to hide my occasional bergdorf shopping bag.
If you smoke, please quit. don't apply either, but please quit. i have known too many people diagnosed with cancer this year. Even if you are a judgemental nanny 911 wannabe, no one should have to endure some of the things I have wittnessed.
You gotta be able to drive with a valid license, but if you've ever hit a human,move to the next post.
You won't have to drive in the city, but if we go to our weekend place together, or if you make it to the summer and still work for us, we need you to run into town to get some pink milk, so be able to drive a mini van.
Can you swim? Swimming is good.
If you do drugs or drink enough so that you are grumpy in the morning and grumpier at night prior to that next cocktail, call AA, and peruse craigslist childcare positions when you have a year sober. I'll probably be looking again, and now is the time for you to focus on yourself anyway.
I need a team player. I need someone to back me up when it comes to remembering when the library books are due, and whether i have rsvped to that birthday party yet.
Help me dear G-d keep track of our skim milk supply and also, also, also, what should I make for dinner tomorrow night?
the hours are 7 in the morning to 8:30 in the morning. We'd be in it together, getting the kids out with clean faces, brushed teeth and some food in their bellies. Doesn't that sound easy? Doesn't that sound doable?
Then come on back for a fun filled afternoon 2:15-8:15 of activities and playdates and snacks and dinners and homework and riveting conversations about global warming, hannah montana and guitar hero.
When you do get to go home (to that swanky studio and possibly a significant other or buddy) your time off will be respected. If I would like you to give extra hours, i'll ask. if you say yes, you get paid 15/ hour. if you say no, I will not fire you or hate you. Except if it is a school holiday or if i have a sick kid, then i might ask, and unless you have a final exam worth 2/3 of your grade or tix The Lion King, you may need to help out.
Okay, if you're still reading this ad, it means:
a) i am a halfway decent writer and maybe i really will get that book deal i'm yearning for
b) you need a job desparately
c) you think this just might be destiny, and that you could be one of the few, the proud, the potential babysitter of our dreams.
D) you want all the information about job requirements, so that you can write me emails about how I should stay home with my kids otherwise they are going to grow up to be sociopaths. (If my pen pal is out there, wassup? Found love yet? No? How 'bout that.)
best of luck to all of you in your search for a job. Seriously. Job searching sucks. No two ways about it.
RLS (source)

Here's a picture of the actual family...

Ah, the joy of raising kids...

Naturally, the post got a lot of attention around the web, and she did manage to attract and hire someone with it:
The nanny, selected among at least 15 serious applicants, three of whom came for in-person interviews, turns out to be Christina Wynn, a 25-year-old University of Virginia graduate who is relocating from Washington, where she was working for the lobbying arm of a large corporation. (source)

Personally, I kind of like people who are cranky-honest--at least you know where you stand!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Videos By Matthew

Matthew, the Director of Music at COTM, made two music videos to promote the church while I was away. I put them up on the COTM website, but will cross-post them here for those who are interested. In both cases Matthew conducted the choir, of course.

Akakomborerwa from the "Shona Mass"
Composed by Lee R. Kesselman

The 23rd Psalm
Composed by Bobby McFerrin

I'm amassed a big library of videos from church services and events in the last year and I really need to work hard to carve out the time to edit some of them together myself! Thank God I'm not the only creative and tech-savvy guy around here.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Back in the Saddle

I officially started back to work yesterday. Lots and lots of phone calls and e-mails to return, but the most important thing to do yesterday was have a monster staff meeting: 5 1/2 hours worth! But in that time we were able to accomplish a huge amount of planning. Most of the calendar through Christmas is now drafted as far as church program go. We also made a lot of other decisions about various projects. The neat thing for me, as the leader, was how everyone came to the table with great new ideas. The summer break gave time for stuff to ferment and the results are just great. I'm especially thrilled about some of the stuff we have lined up for kids and youth!

This morning was Clive Foster's funeral. It went extremely well and I'm sure that the family were pleased with the turnout (nearly a hundred even though it was the middle of a work day). The reflections that the family gave were excellent and I thought my sermon was strong. The liturgy was smooth and powerful in the right ways. The staff at Humphrey Funeral Home were excellent--I would recommend them to others. They know exactly what clergy need and provide it before you can even ask. I think it was a really great way to send off a former COTM Warden.

The mural looks fantastic--there is only about a week of work left on the mural itself. Today we made some critical decisions about what to do with the lighting. The only other substantial piece (so far as actual renovation goes) is selecting the new carpet. In terms of promotional work, our current thinking is to make a big push in October with local press and perhaps a dedication/consecration service of some kind. Stay tuned!


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Sneak Peak at the Mural

Here is a close-up of God the Father in the Mural underway at COTM...

Notice that He's wearing a cross. Susy (the artist) and I are discussing whether this is good or not. She says in "feels right" because she always imagines God and the cross together. Others have suggested that for humans the cross is a symbol of hope but for God is a symbol of suffering. It's a deep question, theologically: what is God's relationship to the cross?


Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Prodigal Priest...

Regular readers will probably realize that I've been taking my last week of vacation seriously. I really tried to avoid the church as much as I could. Alas, there were two important matters that did require my attention at the parish, but mostly I've just been taking care of errands and resting.

The big news is that we found a place to live. We decided to rent another apartment as we were having no luck finding a place in our price range anywhere near downtown. Renting we could spend a lot less and get something very nice and very close to the church. What we found was 20 McMaster Avenue. It's a house that was divided into two units. We'll have the ground floor and part of the second floor: 3 bedrooms with two full baths. We also have exclusive use of the backyard. You can see pictures on Betsy's Blog.

I think the cats will like the place, too. A few days ago Denise got out without her collar. Her collar has a bell on it that makes hunting more difficult. Sure enough, when she came back from her unhampered patrol she was holding a live mouse! She was so proud of herself. She strutted over to a corner of the kitchen holding her new toy, put it down, and then laid down next to it. The mouse sat there, stunned, for a few seconds and then made a run for it. Quickly but casually, Denise stood up and batted the mouse back and forth between her paws. By this time James caught on and wanted to play, too. When he got a opening he grabbed the mouse in his mouth and dashed away. I followed, and he seemed to realize that I was going to take his new toy away, so he stayed out of reach. Eventually I managed to get the mouse away from him and took it outside. Both cats were quite pleased with themselves.

Then, today, Denise brought a live pigeon into the house! It was still alive, but probably injured since it didn't seem to be able to fly. Betsy and our neighbor friend managed to get the bird outside. Sadly, we don't have pictures of either kill, although I'm very proud of Denise's skill. I'm sure she thinks that she is doing a great job defending us from the wild animals of Toronto.

BTW, I finished the video game "Grand Theft Auto IV." Well written, engaging. But it's definitely not for kids! Next up: Madden '09. My vacation isn't over quite yet...


Monday, August 11, 2008

The House Hunt Continues

So we did, as it turns out, get pre-approved for a mortgage. The problem now is that it's virtually impossible to find a house in that price range that we would want to live in! Forget about living near the church or the University, even when we expand the geographic parameters of the search we just aren't finding much. Our Realtor is of the same opinion. So it seems increasingly likely that we just don't have enough money to buy into the Toronto Real Estate market right now. So... we leaning towards the rental option.

Today we looked at a rental house (actually, half a large house) that we really liked. It's even closer to the church than our current place on Farnham, the rent is a cheaper, and it's only a little less house (which is fine with us). Perhaps even more imporantly, we really liked the owner of the house. He's had it since the 1970's and obviously takes great pride in it's ongoing care and feeding. He also has a plan for it's continued improvement. He let us know that he really likes us, too, and that's a good thing. So we have one or two more places to look at, but it's going to difficult to beat this place....


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Leeks and O.J.

Betsy and I are doing the "Leek Fast" from the book French Women Don't Get Fat. The idea is that we both need a little detox after all the meat-and-oil food we had in Turkey. I like Leeks, but the leek-broth is a far cry from the freshly squeezed O.J. I was enjoying in Istanbul Cafes. Sigh.

I know, I'm not supposed to work, but one or two things at COTM have brought me by for a quick check. The mural is coming along nicely. Amazing to see it come to life. It's going to be fantastic.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008


The trip back was long and difficult, but we made it. On Monday morning we managed to get in a last-minute trip to the Grand Bazaar to get gifts for various people before leaving town. Haggling is a must, and not as difficult as you might think. Typical pattern seemed to be approx. 25% to 33% off whatever the list price was. We got several old copper plate etchings and some tiles. I was also very pleased to find an inexpensive inlaid koran stand that will be perfect for the Contemplative Eucharist or any other situation where I was to read while sitting on the floor.

Packed up the flat in a hurry and then off the airport to wait for our flight to London. Easy Jet is one of those discount, no-frills airlines. I ended up sitting next to a man that was really too big for the seat. I was glad, glad, glad to arrive in London (at the Lutton airport). We missed our bus and had to wait for the next one, so we grabbed a bit of nosh and checked out the chapel at Lutton. Yes, Lutton airport has a chapel (so does Heathrow). They even have a full-time chaplain. The chapel was set up to be a multi-faith resource. Judging from the guestbook, it sees plenty of use.

We took the bus to Heathrow and spent the night in a shabby (but cheap) hotel with thin walls and a crummy mattress. Tuesday morning we took another bus to Heathrow and then parted ways (we booked our flights at different times and couldn't get on the same flights as a result). I went to Ottawa, Betsy to Newark. We were then both delayed many hours by thunderstorms over Toronto. I spent the time eating Airport food, sipping a drink, and reading Salmon Rushdie's new book, The Enchantress of Florence. It's a good book--very much in the style of magic realism. It's an entertaining fairy-tale for adults about the encounter between the world of renaissance Florence and Mughal India. Lots of magic and sex and humor and reflections about God and art and such good stuff.

At one point my flight from Ottawa to Toronto on the tarmac for about 2 hours while we waited for the weather to change. When it did, the flight was blessedly short. Just 40 minutes in the air. Met up with Betsy at the baggage claim. At that point it was like 5 A.M. Istanbul time, so we were pretty tired and ripe from traveling.

Cab home. Quick to bed. The cats cuddled with us in bed--glad to have us back. Today we are going to do some errands and recover. The house is in wonderful shape thanks to our house-sitters. We are glad to be home. Nice to be able to drink the water straight from the tap, etc. Incidentally, Betsy is feeling much better.


Sunday, August 3, 2008

Last Full Day in Turkey

Went to Christ Church in the morning. There were more people than I expected: about 50 expat types, few or no Turks. But then there are Turkish-speaking churches in the city (one is even Anglican). It was what I might call a high-ish low mass. No Deacon (although there is a candidate for Orders in the congregation) and a few other nit picky details mean I won't quite call it a true "High Mass" in the Anglo-Catholic sense of those words, but I'm sure my congregation back home would have found it very high. They did use plenty of incense and formal choreography and manual gestures of different kinds.

Since the organist is away right now for the summer Ian lead the hymns with his voice (which is very good). The acoustics of the church are excellent. We sang from the New English Hymnal (the same used at SMM, incidentally) and prayed from the Traditional Language Rite as contained in Common Worship 2000 (a recent Church of England liturgical revision). The sermon, given by a licensed Lay Reader, was good and the rest the service was a solid and sometime; touching affair. I always love seeing parents help their kids receive communion and light vigil candles.

Amazing to think that when Ian took the post of Chaplain to the British Consulate twenty years ago this building they have was virtually condemned. He managed to get the money together to make to make it safe, but there is still much to be done for the preservation and restoration of this historic building. Nor is just an outpost for a couple-dozen english-speaking expats and their culture: Christ Church has been an important center for refugee care for years.

Incidentally, one of the people I met today was the widow of the British Consular General (Roger Short) who was one of the twenty-five people killed in the 2003 bombing of the British Consulate here in Istanbul. It was a brutal attack that also wrecked the newly refurbished Anglican Chapel on the Consulate grounds. That has been rebuilt, but only after a fight that went all the way to the British Parliament (the powers-that-be wanted to rent the chapel out as party space to a nearby hotel). Considering the recent shooting at the U.S. Consulate and the bombings elsewhere in Istanbul, I have to say that I was feeling a bit uneasy today as I visited a dodgy part of town to visit a historic church (now a mosque with Betsy).

The caretaker at this particular mosque was actually quite friendly. He let us in and pointed out significant parts of the site with his limited English. Mostly he could just say, "Byzantine original." The church is in very sad shape, but an ongoing restoration project will hopefully correct that. As is customary here, I gave a donation for the mosque--20 Lira (about $18 CAD) which was more than the cab ride. But I want to leave a good impression and pave the way for others.

Speaking of the Consulate, we did walk by the American and British Consulates today. The American one looked like a bunker. The windows have been boarded up (to protect from snipers, I suppose) and there is a huge wall (like 20 feet) around the perimeter. Their precautions are justified, I know, but it was depressing to not even be able to see the American flag. The British Consulate had a more sophisticated set of defense-works that involved human and vehicular barriers of various sorts, yet the Union Jack was flying high enough to be seen over all the concrete and ballistic glass.

Again, I was feeling uneasy being nearby either place. But the prevailing wisdom is that the country dodged a bullet last week when the ruling party barely escaped being outlawed. If they had been outlawed riots were possible. I haven't written much about this before because I didn't want to alarm anyone, but this is certainly not the safest part of the world I've ever been!

Anyway, we saw some other monuments today and also met with the only Turkish Anglican Priest I know of. He had faced a lot of hardship here, but does not regret his choices. We had milkshakes as a Finnish cafe with his family.

Betsy's illness comes and goes. I hope it doesn't cause too much trouble on the airplane trips. In the morning we go shopping and then in the evening we fly as far as London. We'll spend the night in a hotel by Heathrow and then fly to Canada the next day.


Saturday, August 2, 2008

More Pictures from Istanbul Adventures

The Chora Church -- Betsy in front of a Virgin and Child Mosaic

The Chora Church -- Me in the orans position in what was once the main chancel. Notice all the different kinds of marble used in construction.

The Chora Church -- Jesus turning water into wine

The Chora Church -- Jesus and the Miracle of the Fishes and Loaves

The Chora Church -- A Scene from the Life of Mary (the Registration for the Census)

Christ Church (Crimea War Memorial Church)--the main Anglican Church in Istanbul--with Hagia Sophia visible in the background

A Byzantine (liturgical) Chalice

A Byzantine Relief-Icon of the Virgin and Child

A segment of the giant chain that once protected the river channel known as the "Golden Horn" from sea invasion

Inside the domes of The Blue Mosque

A Trip to the Hamam

Sorry for the lack of postings yesterday--Betsy has been sick the last two days and that has hampered our operational effectiveness somewhat. But we did manage to see the Archeological Museum and the Blue Mosque.

For lunch we met with Ian Sherwood (Anglican Chaplain to the British Consulate). Needless to say, he has had a colorful twenty-year cure here! We met again in the evening for a cocktail party he had in the Rectory. There were a bunch of expat friends of Ian's, mostly Brits and Americans. Many of these folks have lived for various periods in places all over the world. One American business woman we met has been abroad for fifteen years. She and the others told us their consensus that Istanbul is an amazing city, but difficult to live in. Everything just takes a lot more work to accomplish. There are also some things one never gets used to, the bad smells and dirty streets among them.

Even more interesting was my trip to a historic Hamam (Turkish Bath) known as the Çemberlitaş Hamam just before supper time.

Çemberlitaş Hamam's "hot room"

This particular turkish bath was built in the 16th Century and is one of the city's most beautiful. It's located just across the street from the "burnt column" erected by Constantine I. The entrance is not particularly interesting. Once inside, I was at a reception desk. A young English-speaking expat-type let me select my experience from a menu. I chose the "Traditional" bath which includes a soap massage.

From there I entered the "cold room." This is the only co-ed part of the bath. Here is a place to sit and have a tea or juice after your bath. But first an attendant took me to a tier of changing rooms above the "cold room." I was handed a token for my soap massage, a unopened box with a pair of bathing mits, a towel, and spa slippers. I changed into the towel in the cubicle. (You are not really supposed to be naked in the "public" spaces in the bath.) I emerged in my towel and slippers and locked the cubicle behind me. I felt pretty comfortable that my stuff was secure, especially since the attendant is right there watching and I had the key.

From there I was ushered downstairs through the "warm room" into the "hot room." I gather that normally people linger in the "warm room" for a time, but I think today the place was doing a brisk business and wanted to move people along. At the moment I didn't know enough to protest.

In the "hot room" my glasses immediately fogged up and I realized how stupid I was to even bring them this far. An attendant took my token. I later realized that I had become, at this moment, his responsibility. The "hot room," pictured above, is an octagonal room as hot and wet as you would expect. I could see that men were choosing to either lie down on the heated slab in the center or sitting around the periphery. Thinking it would be a little cooler around the periphery, I picked a spot and sat down. I then realized that the entire floor, not just the slab in the center, is heated. Everything is marble and it's all warm or hot.

I watched the other bathers. People were using shallow silver bowels to pour water from sinks onto themselves as a kind of rinse. This made sense to me, so took a bowl and rinsed myself with water from the sink embeded in the wall next to me. It felt good, in the heat, to feel completely drenched in warm water. I sat there letting the heat penetrate.

A group of American college-aged guys rambled in, annoying some of the locals with their loud awkwardness. I tried to pretend I had nothing in common with them. I had seen them before on the street--back then they had been looking at the Hamam entrance uncertainly while their girlfriend's tugged at their elbows. No doubt the girlfriends were next door in the women' section of the bath.

After about 20 minutes stewing I was motioned over by one of the bath attendants. He was a hairy, pot-bellied guy wearing a towel (blue for attendants, red for clients). I would have preferred a beautiful but surprisingly strong Swedish or German lass, but I guess like is attracted to like. Ah, well.

First the guy rinsed me off with warm/hot water. Then he had me lie down face up on the hot slab. He put my glasses and keys aside and opened the box of massage mittens. Mittens on, he massaged my head, chest, and arms a bit. Then he came over with what looked like a huge ball of soap suds. He kind of dabbed this on me to cover me with sudsy foam. Next, the massage began in earnest.

I've heard horror stories about how rough these guys can be, especially at they attempt to make joints and backs crack. But in truth I found this all very mild. I think they go easy on the tourist-types. Still, the two EMT backboards I noticed on my walk through the "cold room" tell me that injury is not at unknown happening. As it was, I never felt like he was going to break me.

After massaging my chest and arms with the soap and mitten he had me flip over so he could do my back and legs. After that he led me over to the periphery of the room and had me sit next to a sink. He applied shampoo to my hair and more soap to the rest of my head, massaged it, then rinsed it off with warm water. He escorted me through the "warm room" to a side room with private shower stalls where he instructed me to take a quick shower to scrub the parts he didn't get. Done with that, I traded towels for a fresh set and was ushered back to my changing room.

Dry and changed I met my attendant downstairs in the "cold room" to give him his tip and then enjoyed a nice glass of freshly squeezed orange juice while I let my body re-acclimate. Total cost (including public-transit across the Golden Horn, tips, etc.): 50 Lira (approx. $44.39 CAD/USD). This is relatively expensive as these places go, but the price buys the beauty and history and the fact that about 50% of their clients are foreigners for whom this is their first Hamam experience. Total time (walking-in to walking-out) was about 50 minutes. I think they rushed me through faster than usual because of the higher-than-normal rush of people.

Another thing to do differently: I think I would have enjoyed it even more if I had someone to talk to during the bath. Originally I had wanted to go with our Greek friend from Yale, Vasileios, but he was occupied with family in town. Also, he was worried about getting too harsh a massage (as he did last time). But as I said, they were gentle with me. I suppose one can also give feedback of the "eeeiiii" variety during the proceedings. I understand there are some Turkish Baths in Toronto--I'll have to find out if they are the real deal or something scuzzy....