Saturday, December 30, 2006

I'm back... and things are a little different here in the Nebiverse...

Well, it looks like I got what I wished for for Christmas this year. :-)

Of course, if I had a digital camera I could show you a picture of the test I actually TOOK, at 5:20 am, Thursday Dec. 28th. It had two lines, like the one in the picture above, which, for the uninitiated/clueless, means


Baby "Galois" Wentzel is due either Sept. 3rd or Sept. 6th, depending on which internet source you consult. :-)

More later, and love to all,
PS You all should go look up who Galois is. And, for those of you who are concerned, Galois is only the pre-born nickname of our baby. Something more suitable will be selected at birth. :-)

Monday, October 02, 2006

And to all a good night...

First off, thanks for all the comment-lovin' and a special HELLO!! to my camp friends Laura and Kaitlyn-- so glad to hear from you! Alysia, too! :-)

The disappointing news is: I am putting this blog to bed until December because I DO NOT HAVE ANY TIME WHATSOEVER RIGHT NOW to write, no matter how much I'd like to. I am taking REAL ANALYSIS so all day long I fight with infintesimally small numbers that mock me and escape from underneath my pen. THE NEBIVERSE IS IN A CHRONIC AND UNRELENTING STATE OF CHAOS. Stay tuned and see if I'm still in school by December. ;-) Seriously, it's pretty bad, but with God's help I will survive!!

[mild fit of maniacal laughter]

;-) See you at Christmas, Love,

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Dear Electric Company,

For YEARS, I've had automated billing set up, where you deduct the amount of my electric bill from my checking account automatically. All I needed to view my account and see the amount of my bill was my username and password. Now, all of a sudden, you've changed your website, so that I need to provide my account number. Do you realize that the whole POINT of this paperless thing is that I'm not going to have my statements sitting around somewhere? That I haven't NEEDED my account number all these years and thus don't have a convenient place to find it??


Irritated Customer

Saturday, August 26, 2006

THESE PENS, Chris. These pens!

This, my friends, is the Pilot Precise Grip Extra Fine Black.

It is the finest writing instrument that can be purchased, at any price, anywhere in the world.

I discovered this pen at the beginning of last school year. Walmart sold them, in packages of 3 for $4.63. These pens saw me safely through Real Analysis, Abstract Algebra, Theory of Probability, Combinatorics [may its name and memory be erased], Complex Analysis, and Stochastic Processes.

These pens were true friends throughout the long nights of homework. They have a comfortable grip, a sharp point, a smooth ink flow, and ink that doesn't smear or puddle. Professors learned to dare not question my habit of doing HW and exams (!!) in pen. On the rare occasions I showed up in class without one, I had to go back to my office to get the spare. Last year I purchased 11 in black, one red, one green, one blue, one light blue, one pink, and one purple. (There was one 5-pack in there).

Then the day came earlier this summer when I went to Walmart, and lo, the pens were not there. And I went again later, and they were still not there. And then I went to a much larger Walmart, and they were not there either.

Then I officially Lost It and told Nate, "I WILL drop out of graduate school if I can not purchase these pens before school starts."

And I searched Ebay, and they were not there. And there was great Weeping.

And finally, they came up on Ebay, and for a great price too- $9.99 for a dozen!!! (Plus $4.10 for shipping.) And lo, there was much Rejoicing. They arrived today. :-D

If I, you know, happen to DIE this semester could someone at the funeral slip a few in my coffin for me? Thanks awfully,

Neb :-)

PS Why are you all staring at me like that??? Isn't $14.09 worth it for some peace of mind? A girl NEEDS something comforting once in a while, and this beats crack cocaine.

PPS I can't resist. Here are some more pictures. Pardon me if I drool a little:

Those are some mighty fine looking pens, aren't they?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Postlude and New Beginnings

Thanks to all of you who read the Rich Mullins posts. I know they were long, and of course they were really written more for me than for you, in the sense that if you aren't familiar with the music it's not going to be as meaningful. But it was so important for me to write them. So thanks for reading. :-)

Tomorrow we have TA orientation all day long in the Math Dept., and then classes start Monday. I'm trying to figure out scheduling and transportation and such. My textbooks are here, pens are on the way from Ebay, paper and dividers have been purchased from Walmart, and I even got a more comfortable office chair from Staples.

It should be a good year. :-)

the rich mullins entry- PART II

"It feels so good to write it," she said, "to let out these things I've thought about so long. But it's so hard. Writing this is the hardest thing I've ever done."
"You're always saying that," I told her. "Last spring you said that every homework assignment you did was the hardest thing you'd ever done."
"Yes," she said, "and when I say that, I'm always right."

I need some coffee.

So, something very special happened in my senior year of high school, but I'm not going to tell you about it.

I went to Wheaton College in August 1997 and by then, it didn't come as a surprise to find out that Rich Mullins had not only given a concert at Wheaton the previous spring, but had spent some time, you know, hanging out on campus and talking to students and getting to know people. His musical, "Canticle of the Plains," had debuted in Edman Chapel, and he had done some interviews for our campus radio station. There were non-freshman students wandering around campus who had been to these events and seemed rather... unfazed? I got the leftovers, the scraps... little tidbits of information were cherished, even when they sounded kind of negative. Some students were apparently offended by things he had said. I wasn't surprised. (Or maybe in the interest of full disclosure- I might have been surprised then, but I'm not anymore.)

One Saturday night in September, as I was on the phone, the other line beeped. It my mom. "Did you hear about Rich Mullins?" she said. From the way that she said it, I knew right away.

He had been in his jeep with Mitch McVicker in IL. They lost control of the vehicle, and Rich was ejected onto the highway. A truck swerved to miss the jeep, and hit Rich instead. He was 41.

At the time, his death didn't hit me quite as hard as it might have otherwise. I was distracted, only a few weeks into my freshman year, busy with friends and homework and activities. Still, my heart was very heavy. I knew that this marked the end of an age in my life.

I briefly considered (and discussed with Vivian?) hitchhiking to one of the large memorial services in IN or Kansas or Tennessee, but the responsibilities of college pulled too strongly. My head won out over my heart. There was a memorial service on campus for him- after all, many of the students had known him personnally- and I went, and I think I said something which probably sounded foolish. I can't remember what it was. Maybe I just stood up and recited the lyrics of one of his songs, I don't know. But I needed to speak.

Around this time I met a tall, strapping youth who lived on the other side of the dorm. His name was Nate and in October, he got up the nerve to ask me out. One evening, when we had only known each other a short time, we spent a while wandering around downtown Wheaton. And lo, there was a Christian bookstore, so we went in. And after we had been looking around for a long time, I noticed something- a poster advertising a birthday party for Rich. And slowly it occurred to me that the date listed was today. And slowly it occurred to me that the time listed was RIGHT NOW.

And we asked the store owner and he said sure, it's upstairs, you can go on up.

So we ventured upstairs into a tiny, dimly lit room where a band was playing for a handful of people. The band was called This Train and I think they had been on tour with Rich in the previous year. I do not remember much of what they said or played, but one song stands out clearly. They said that Rich had never really been happy with the recording of "Elijah," either on his first album or on Songs. They said they had done a new arrangement of it and played it for Rich, and he had told them, "Yes, that's right. You got it exactly right." And they played it for us.

For once, the timing of my life was pretty good. (Except by that point, Rich was already, you know, DEAD.)

Sometime after this (I think it was the following fall, but I'm not sure- time plays tricks on you as you get old), I flew to Cincinatti and Vivian drove there to meet me, and we went to a Rich Mullins Memorial Concert. I think Mitch McVicker was playing, but I can't really remember. What was important was that they were playing his songs, and that experience, for me, was like his funeral. I cried the entire time and I think maybe Vivian did too. But it wasn't the sobbing kind of crying that precludes all other activities; it was the kind where you can pray and sing and cry, all at the same time, and your face ends up very, very wet but your heart ends up Clean.

And I remember going back to Asbury with Vivian, and she took me to the fields where the horses were, and we sat outside together and sang his songs. That place was such an oasis of peace at a time in my life that was a little troubled. I still have the pictures and somehow, you can see the peacefulness in the air.

And sometime even after that, I have no idea when, I could look it up online but it doesn't really matter anyway, I remember getting in the van with Vivian (it must have been in Houston, so it must have been in the summer), and putting in a cassette called The Jesus Record, and knowing it would be the last time that we ever had the experience of listening to a new Rich Mullins album for the first time. And we just drove and listened, and I cried, and I have to say that I don't think I've ever listened to that album since without crying, at least a little bit, and if you catch me on a good day I will start to cry if you even make me think about it. Because what happened was that only nine days before he died, Rich was somewhere (a church maybe?) with a piano and a guitar and a little cassette recorder, and he played nine songs that were to be on his next album. And after his death, his friends and former band members found this recording, cleaned it up as best they could, and released it, together with recordings of other Christian musicians singing the songs in the studio.

And I don't even begin to know how to tell you how perfect this album is. He didn't have a band, or equipment, or even the hammer dulcimer that first made us listen, but what he had was the Truth, because everything he said in those songs was the straight truth about Jesus. This album reminded me what it means to thirst for the Truth, to thirst for Jesus, and the lyrics, many taken straight out of Scripture, helped to quench that thirst. How perfect that his final album was so rough around the edges, so unpolished, so lacking in everything that the world considers important and complete in everything of the economy of Heaven. Rich was, after all, a Raggamuffin, and it seems so fitting that his final work should echo that. If he had recorded this album in the studio I just can't imagine that it could have been so perfect. Because in its rawness, we can see its beauty.

The last three songs are a more perfect culmination that I could have ever imagined. When I heard them for the first time, I think I can remember thinking "How can anything this perfect actually be on this earth? How can we be this blessed?" "Heaven in His Eyes" is (in my opinion) the best music he ever wrote. Apparently he had written it a long, long time ago, I think even before his first album, but I guess he had been saving it. And "Nothing is Beyond You" has the best lyrics he ever wrote, because, really, I don't think he wrote them at all, I think they're all straight out of Psalms. And "That Where I Am, There You May Also Be" was a happy song. It was a song about being in Heaven. "It's time for me to go back up."

In the years since college, I've gone in and out of listening to his music. Now that the crust of earth in his lyrics is sealed with the gold of heaven, his songs seem all the more sacred than before, just a bit too shiny for everyday use. I can't read the last chapter of his biography, about Heaven, and I probalby won't watch this live concert video from Ebay for a long, long time. For the stuff of earth consumes my life and occupies my time, and so I listen to lesser things while I lift weights or go walking or drive to the grocery store. My tastes have expanded and I listen to U2 and Riverdance and Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Copeland and Dylan. But at some point along the way I realized that all the music I listen to has something in common, something that I first came to love in Rich's music, and that is Passion. Maybe it doesn't matter so much if you're singing about Ireland or Africa or rivers or mountains or war protests or fickle women, but you'd better believe in what you're singing, you'd better sing with passion.

Still, I come back to his music- sometimes at the strangest of times.

A few weeks ago, I went on vacation with my family to Tennessee, and we took a break from listening to the disturbing coverage of Israel and Hezbollah's war to listen to some music. As we drove through the mountains we listened to a CD called "Here in America," which was released a few years after his death. This album consists of songs done live in concert, interspersed with Rich's comments to the audience- some funny, some profound, some just a little bit odd. Right before he sang "Be With You," he said something like, "How beautiful are the mountains of Tennessee! I just love 'em. But if it would make some commie happy to blow them up, they might as well do it, because God says they're all going to crumble anyway."

"And when my body lies in the ruins
Of the lies that nearly ruined me
Will you pick up the pieces that were pure and true, and breathe
Your life into them, set them free
When you blast this cosmos to kingdom come
When those jagged edged mountains I love are gone
When the sky is crossed with the tears of a thousand falling suns
As they crash into the sea,
Can I be with You?
Can I be with You?"

And I can remember further back, and the longer I hold still the more I can remember, until it overwhelms, to remember sitting on a little ledge overlooking the Grand Canyon and listening to "Calling Out Your Name" (which was about the plains of Kansas) eleven times, and visiting Witchita in high school (where he lived for awhile) and looking for his church and his favorite sandwhich shop and a statue called "Keeper of the Plains" while listening to "Cry the Name" (which is about the canyons of NM/AZ), and I can remember being 13 and driving through the mountains somewhere North and listening to "The Color Green," and I can remember being very, very Young indeed, and swinging on the swing in my backyard, the way the sunlight dappled through the branches of our big maple, the most beautiful backyard in the world, and singing "If I Stand." And I can remember being in high school, being lonely in 9th grade and hearing "Hold Me Jesus" and being comforted, and being somewhat older in high school and listening to "One Thing" and "Somewhere" and being very, very Happy, and I could keep gonig forever with this but now it is not Time yet. Someday it will be.

And just a short time ago I read "Surprised by Joy" by C.S. Lewis, for the second time. I had forgotten what he said about joy. I think maybe if you asked Mr. Webster or Mr. OED or, they would tell you that Joy has something to do with Elation or Happiness or Blissful Contentment or Satisfaction. But that is not what CS Lewis said. He said Joy is really that stab of aching longing that comes in those rare moments in which we can almost taste the Higher world, taste it while feeling ever so acutely that we live in the jarring disconnect of a world fallen and broken and impure. For joy is really Frustration- the frustration of getting only a hint or glimpse or shadow of the Real World- the realm that is the object of our best and truest desires, the realm that is truly our Home. But without those hints, without the sweetness of those glimpses, we wouldn't have the strength it takes to press on.

I love CS Lewis because he actually says the things that were so deep in my heart when I was 12, when it was so impossible to find the words for them. It is a relief like no other to read someone else writing exactly what is in your heart. I'm going to leave you with a quote from his sermon, "The Weight of Glory," because he says it so much better than I could ever hope to:

"In speaking of this desire for our own far-off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you- the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call in beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordworth's expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out itself to be a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things- the beauty, the memory of our own past- are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited. Do you think I am trying to weave a spell? Perhaps I am; but remember your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them. And you and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness which has been laid upon us....

And this brings me to the other sense of glory- glory as brightness, splendor, luminosity. We are to shine as the sun, we are to be given the Morning Star. I think I begin to see what it means. In one way, of course, God has given us the Morning Star already: you can go and enjoy the gift on many fine mornings if you get up early enough. What more, you may ask, do we want? Ah, but we want so much more- something the books on aesthetics take little notice of. But the poets and the mythologies know all about it. We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words- to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.... That is why the poets tell us such lovely falsehoods.... They tell us that "beauty born of murmuring sound" will pass into a human face; but it won't. Or not yet. For if we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendour of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy. At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in."

Rich got In. :-) And someday, God willing, we will too.

Love, Neb

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

the rich mullins entry

"It's time to write it," she said. "Look at it this way. Think of your life backwords, starting on the last day. Don't you want to have more time to spend with it? It's time."

I just bid on ebay and won. It's a concert video from summer 1997 in Lufkin. I paid a little too much. But how can you put a price on it now?

Do you want me to start at the beginning? Are you sure?

When I was 11(?) and Vivian was 13 we liked Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant. Their lyrics rhymed and they played things like the piano and the guitar. They were also normatively groomed in photos on the cover of the cassettes (yes. cassettes.)

On our local Christian radio station we heard something New, there was this guy playing a hammer dulcimer. (intentional run-on, that; settle down.) We were intrigued. My dad bought the album. There was some guitar and piano too, of course, but this hammer dulcimer was like nothing I had ever heard. This music was Alive. Also, the meaning of the lyrics was not always immediately apparent. They were, as we say for lack of a better term, Deep. They kept one thinking for awhile. The album itself was entitled "The World as Best as I Remember It, Vol. 1," which (at that time, at least) seemed intriguing. Also, this guy, this Christian singer? He had long hair.

So we pretty much fell in love right away, Vivian and I (and my other family members too) in, as far as I can tell, exactly the same way because our behavior was pretty much the same. Rich Mullins became, in the very truest sense of the word, Sacred music to us. Why do we call some of the old musics sacred? Like Bach? Because they are so much bigger than us that they can't be taken out by those foolish tendencies we have to oversimplify, sentimentalize, or simply "move on." If that is the right definition of Sacred, then this was it. There were unspoken Rules, things that were so true and so obvious that they would never need to be said- you didn't talk while listening. You just Listened. As a matter of fact, I can remember relatively few actual conversations about Rich Mullins because we simply didn't need to talk about it or him. It was too Real for that.

"I can't do it," I said. "There's just no way I can do it. Even if I started now and worked on this every day for the rest of my life, it would never be complete, it would never be finished, it would never be right. And of all the things that could happen, that would be the worse- to write about this poorly."

Vivian and I bought more albums and kept listening. We got newer albums and then went back and got the older ones. We listened so many times that most of the lettering wore off the cassettes and we had to identify them by the tiniest of marks, like secret symbols legible only to the members of our peculiar fellowship. Radio occurrences, especially songs on albums not yet obtained, were precious. At some point the internet was invented and we discovered that, indeed, there WERE other folks out there who realized that this music was something different, something beyond... although not all were quite as passionate. I excitedly emailed one supposedly dedicated fan with a list of my "favorite" Rich Mullins songs, a list that I think included no less than 3 dozen of those illustrious titles. He emailed back and said that I needed to "get out more."

In the summer of 1994, right before I started high school, my youth group went on a week-long missions trip to Tse Bonito, New Mexico, to do volunteer work on the Navajo reservation. We took a seemingly infinite bus ride to reach this tiny out-in-the-desert town (which wikipedia, that ever-trustful reference, reports as having a population of 262 in 2000). Upon arriving, I was in for a bit of a shock. First, I heard the local pastor/missions director say ever so casually, "Rich Mullins was here a couple of weeks ago,"

(and in case you can't tell by this point, my head immediately screamed on the inside RICH MULLINS WAS HERE TWO WEEKS AGO!! THIS IS REALLY BAD TIMING!)

but then the REAL shock came by what he said next. He said that Rich was PLANNING TO MOVE THERE SOON. (Only he said it like, "And he's planning to move here soon... nice weather, isn't it?")

After they scraped my flattened and limp body off the ground, I walked around a little dazed all week. Somehow I was saved from the bitterness of the irony of the situation by some kind of divine grace. This came to me as a comfort, a metaphor for life: of course I had missed Rich Mullins. The creation continues in labor until now. All is Frustration, etc. It seemed to make sense to me, in its way. That's just how life is, above all, intricately and exquisitely frustrating. But this was an idea that would grow to fruition as the years went on.

(Before you laud my precocious maturity, I should mention that I did give outlet to my strong emotions on the matter by asserting calmly, confidently, and repeatedly that really it was no problem if we had Just Missed Rich Mullins, because I was, in fact, going to Marry him when I grew up. This embarrassed my sister to no end.)

At some point in these years, can't remember exactly when, I called our local Christian radio station. Did they have an address for Rich Mullins? They did! I wrote him a letter, I told him everything, completely poured out my heart, and sent it off to Witchita. It came back a week or two later, address unknown.

And then the day came when there would be a concert, a concert near Houston! And of course we went, and I think, like a little child at Disneyworld, I can't really remember anything from that concert because if I did remember, my mind would shine so brightly all the time with the memories that I would be blinded from the inside out. I'll tell you, in the spirit of Total Insufficiency of this discourse, that the concert was Good. The internets inform me that this event took place on Sept. 22, 1995, if that information is significant to any of you. But what I really want to tell you about is what happened right after the concert.

There was going to be an autograph session at a local Christian bookstore! So we begged and of course our parents couldn't say no to a request this big, even though it was already late. So off to the bookstore we went, and got in the amazingly long line. And waited. And... waited. The problem was that Rich and the other musicians hadn't even arrived yet to get the line started. Finally (around midnight I think), our ever-patient parents suggested that we just couldn't wait any longer, we needed to go home. I think Vivian was greatly disappointed, but I was not. I? I was a child resigned to the disappointments and shortcomings of this ever-frustrating world.

But Then. Just as I crawled into the tiny corner of the backseat of our ginormous van, I looked out the window and saw... I don't know quite how to say this... the back of Carolyn Arend's pants, like 2 inches from my face. You see, Carolyn had been in concert with Rich, and she had been wearing a very... distinctive pair of print leggings or stirrup pants or something (remember, the early 90's were quite recent) with a design that couldn't be forgotten. AND I WAS LOOKING RIGHT AT THEM.



(a moment of silence)

So there he was, in the flesh, and he said hi to us, and we were all just kind of stunned. And then we needed to find a pen so he could autograph our liner notes, and we looked for a pen, and RICH MULLINS WAS STANDING RIGHT THERE AND WE COULD NOT FIND A PEN. So he was very polite and nice, I really have no idea what he said, maybe something like "did you enjoy the concert?" and we said yes, still all frantically searching for a pen. And after a minute he was like, "Well, I guess I'd better get in there..." and at that very instant my mom or dad managed to find a pen somewhere in the van, and he wrote what he always writes, "Be God's." And then he went on.

I don't think I said anything to him, because, you see, I didn't really care about getting his autograph. I didn't want his name in ink on a piece of paper to oogle over, I wanted to talk to him, not for a minute but for an hour, or preferably for a day or a few days, becuase it would really take a long time to say what I wanted to say. What did I want to say? I wanted to say, "Thank you for transforming my spiritual life. Thank you for writing songs that give words to all these feelings we have about nature and the beauty of Creation and the glory of the Creator, these feelings that are always so locked inside of me, so pressing to be expressed. Thank you for not giving pat answers and cheap ideas in your lyrics. Thank you for creating beautiful music to go with them. Thanks for being who you are." Those aren't things you can quite get out, standing in the parking lot at midnight.

I just remembered. He was barefoot in that parking lot.

I have to go to bed but you've waited long enough for this entry, so I'll post this and then there will be a part 2.

Love, Neb

Monday, July 31, 2006

Pictures from our overnight backpacking trip

Yes, yes, you guessed it... that IS me in Vivian's backpack. I just got too tired to walk any further.

And this is my trick of pushing down on her head just to make sure it's clear to everybody that I'm an inch taller.

These are the "little ones"... who really aren't so little anymore, are they?

When Vivian was taking down the tent in the morning, she discoverd a small stash of Chris' dirty underwear and socks. Chris then attempted to practice his priaml hunter-gatherer skills:
Chris: "Man say, 'Woman take clothes down to river and beat with stick!!'"
Vivian: "Woman say, take man down to river and beat with stick."

"Seriously, I can take a good picture of the four of us... just let me try this... no, we don't need to stop and ask another hiker to take it..."

Almost back to the car... thank goodness!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

What to do when you're out of milk...

Put some cookie dough ice cream in your cinnamon coffee.



A miracle has occurred

So yesterday, I was at Firestone getting the car inspected and I decided to go over to the mall and walk around. And I was in JC Penney, and lo, there appeared unto me a rack of jeans.

Now you must understand the personal history here. Blue jeans, historically, are not made to fit my body. Blue jeans are made to fit Other People's bodies; at times I have hypothesized that either a) they are designed to fit aliens or b) I am an alien. As one person put it, "it's like they design clothes for a whole other species." If you are a person that has little or no trouble finding jeans that fit, I congratulate you in your good fortune in life and wish your Species well.

Lee jeans for awhile made a product known as "carpenter jeans," complete with ever-so-useful loop (to hold a hammer?? a calculator would have been more useful in my line of work), of which five or six pairs sustained me from approximately 1999 to 2005. They fit reasonably well and were a welcome relief from the Denim Purgatory I had been in as a teenager. (As a teenager everything I wore was really thick, really stiff denim that shrunk in the wash and just sort of made life unbearable. The carpenter jeans shrank less and had much lighter and more flexible fabric.) When these jeans had been out of production so long that it became nigh unto impossible to find them in clearance sections or at thrift stores, I despaired. I thrashed around wildly. I owned one or two pairs of the carpenter jeans' successor- The Painter Jeans, where the loop had been moved to the back of the waistband, because isn't that where we all keep our paintbrushes throughout the day? but they weren't the same. I went to thrift stores and tried on pair after pair of assorted label jeans, in a variety of sizes, none of which were confortable. I tried on a pair of Lee's latest product- ironically entitled One True Fit, supposedly a miracle fit for every woman- and they were Wrong in every way. Depressed, I nearly gave up hope. I dwindled down to a single pair, a flower-embroidered, way-too-long pair of boot-cut jeans from St. Johns Bay. (They're cute and I still have them and wear them, but the embroidered flower thing and denim under my shoes gets a little old.)

That is- until yesterday. When, lo! I approached the rack. I looked at the jeans. (They were on clearance for $11.99, which is why I looked.) I examined the denim. IT HAD SOME MIRACULOUS STRETCHY STUFF IN IT!! without looking like spandex! ha ha! Hope! I picked out a size that I thought might fit and went to the dressing room.

Choirs of angels sang! A misty light shone from above! THE JEANS FIT!!

They were the right length! They fit my legs and waist and hips! Due to the amazing stretchy fabric, they were AMAZINGLY comfortable! Look, she sits! She rises! She lies down! COMFORT!! Lack of strangling! Behold the miracle!

And then- then I turned around. And then I laughed. I laughed hard. For, lo- have you ever experienced that "gap in the back" problem with jeans? You know, there's a good space between your back and the back of the waistband? Not a problem if you're wearing a long shirt, but if you want to wear something waist-length, a little disturbing?

Friend, I can fit A CAN OF COKE between my back and the back of my jeans. (Or, as the ever-helpful Nate said when I showed him- TWO CANS OF COKE. Yes, it's that dramatic!!)

WHAT are the denim people thinking?? I have come up with some possibilities:
1) If I happen to grow a large tumor on my spine in the next year, they want the jeans to still be comfortable.
2) I might gain 10 pounds- in my lower back.
3) Automatic weapon concealment possibilities.

There are other ideas but I won't bore you. Suffice it to say, if denim makers could invent a way to take that space and put it in the front, so I could, you know, go to an all-you-can-eat buffet or Thanksgiving dinner without feeling a little uncomfortably choked at the end... that would be worth a LOT of money.

(Are you reading this, denim designers??)

:-) Neb

PS No, that's not a photograph of me wearing the jeans above, but thanks for asking. Instead of Size 2 Extra-Tall substitute Size 14 Petite and you'll have the truth. ;-) Interestingly enough, to be honest, I'd rather have my body than hers. Don't her legs rather look like stilts? It's a bit surreal.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Really Short Version of Comings and Goings

Nate was at camp! Creation was cancelled! I spontaneously roadtripped by myself to Illinois to visit my best friend Bethany! 768 miles in 11 hr 10 min of driving time! We went to the hippie grocery store! She has emails and letters I wrote her when we were adolescents! Wow, I was a piece of work back then!

Now I'm in Maryland! Tomorrow we leave for Townshend, TN! To a cabin! With A/C! And cable! And many bedrooms! But we will backpack, overnight, and potty in the woods. :-( But the cable! And A/C! :-)

Love, NEB

Saturday, June 24, 2006


Well, I am back from a week of camp and I must say that it was a far better, sweeter week than I anticipated. Based on my previous two experiences at camp, I was expecting a lot of emotional struggles and inexplicable bouts of crying, to the point of feeling ineffective and even incapacitated in terms of ministry. I contemplated not going this year. What happened instead was a week of being sustained by the sufficiency of God's grace; the irrational, strong emotions I struggled with last summer and last January were simply not an issue. I am so grateful that God was gracious enough to actually remove the things that were troubling me; I was surprised by joy. :-) I am also really thankful for friends who prayed for me before I went.

Good, deep conversations with campers happened several times throughout the week, and God gave me some things to say when the time came, as His word promises. One of the conversations in particular was really Tough; I felt like the girl I talked to was bleeding to death and I had only a band-aid's worth of wisdom or help to offer her. But I prayed with her and I cried with her a bit and I let her know that I care about her pain, and much more importantly, God cares. When I talk to the kids and try to comfort them from the things that hurt them, I actually become greatful (I don't know how to spell that word. I alternate spellings) for some of the painful experiences I've had because I'm able to share how God has taken care of me and seen me through them. God's power is amazing and I love to see kids amazed by it.

One of the things I love about camp is that in some ways we can strive to make it a place that is special in that it is free from the hurtfulness and teasing and sarcasm and strife that fills most of our environments the other 51 weeks a year. I want camp to feel like a Safe place, a place where we are free to love one another as brothers and sisters in the best kind of way. Playful teasing and edgy humor have their place, but there is a kind of sweetness that can only be found in the honest, loving, and caring relationship of Christian community. C.S. Lewis summed it up well when he wrote, "This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously." I notice that kids are hungry for this kind of environment, that when I talk to the kids in my cabin or on my sports team in ways that support this vision, they respond to it really well. Occasionally I do hear crossing-the-line teasing or petty conflicts at camp, and when I do I want to speak up and say to those people, "Don't you realize the opportunity we have here? The chance to love each other the way Christ wants us to?" Maybe I should actually speak up and say that sometime. ;-) For the most part though, the kids have really good attitudes and it's awesome to hear at the end of the week the things they've learned and the ways they've grown.

Physically I had a pretty tough week, in that I had a lot of trouble sleeping the first few nights and came down with a sore throat/cough by the middle of the week. Wednesday I walked about like a zombie all day but still couldn't fall asleep when I attempted a nap. So I took Benadryl (sp?) and got awesome sleep Wed. and Thurs. nights which helped a lot. I slept a good 11 hours last night but I still feel kind of iffy today so I'm going to take it easy. On Wednesday I'm heading to Creation to enjoy some good concerts and quality time with my little brother and sister :-).

Shout out to all my camp friends: Kristen and Laura and Katilyn (sp? I'm a bad speller today) and my friends at camp: the Humberds and Hodges and Paul and my awesome sister-in-law Adrienne. Your encouragement throughout the week was priceless. I love you all! "Serve one another in love." -Galatians 5:13

I can't wait till next year (which I hope I will be able to attend...) Laura, I already have ideas for next year's Pi skit, which will feature TWO HUNDRED digits of that illustrious digit. ;-)

Peace and love to all. :-)

Friday, June 16, 2006

A courtesy warning

Hey y'all, I'll be at camp from Sat. to Fri., so don't bother checking for updates. Okay?

:-) love, Neb

Thursday, June 15, 2006

My life, it is so exciting!!

In a sentence:

I have been exercising (=hour-long walks), doing laundry, reorganizing some things in our bedroom, reading (math books and CS Lewis, which usually makes me weepy in a very Happy kind of way), changing my name in different places, drinking coffee, eating cinnamon toast, not listening to music nearly as much as I used to (I wonder why not?? I think I got a little burned out on the Celtic/international scene), debating various theological questions, reading a commentary on Hebrews, preparing for and leading girls' Bible study (last night I asked if there were any questions at the end and got "Where do babies come from?"), sleeping, cleaning the kitchen, occasionally watching random bits of TV, paying bills, RSVPing to weddings, returning phone calls, etc etc etc.


Sunday, June 11, 2006

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

More pictures from our trip to New Hope

Hot sauce, anyone? This was a whole store devoted to that illustrious condiment.

Nate enjoyed the exciting handcrafted $1200 toy.

I liked the shiny hanging... um... thingie, not the sign advertising acupuncture.

Monday, June 05, 2006

My NEW name (has a silent "B")

Just in case there was ANY DOUBT WHATSOEVER remaining that our federal beauracracy is not so swift:

1) This morning I called the national SSA office to ask about changing my name. After successfully navigating the automated menu and a pleasant few minutes on hold, I reached A! Real! Person!!! (Because I have Mad Skillz like that.) "Does it make any difference that I've waited five years after marriage to change my name?" I ask. Nice lady on the other end: "I don't think it will be a problem." "Next question- my name is currently (first) Nancy (middle) Elizabeth (last) Bush but because I go by Nancy Elizabeth, I'd like to make my first name Nancy Elizabeth, middle name Bush, last name Wentzel. Is that possible without going through a big hassle?" Nice lady: "Oh, I really have no idea about that. You'd have to ask the local social security office."

Um... yeah. See, I TRIED to research this online ahead of time, but did not find any guidelines about federal laws for names on the ssa website or anywhere else, for that matter. I have heard that courts do not allow people's official legal names to contain numbers or symbols or anything, which I can understand, but I was unable to find any guidelines about anything else- like, what about hyphenating your last name? If you're willing to go to court and pay some amount of money I'm pretty sure you can change your name to anything you like (except as noted above) , and I think that's what couples do who want to change both of their last names to something else entirely when they get married. But why doesn't the SSA website explain the changes we can make for free, based on marriage? ie We all know we can take our spouse's last name as our new last name, but what about other options (like what I wanted to do?) If they explained it on their website they would save a lot of time answering phone calls!

And why is it left up to the LOCAL office, anyway? SSA is a national program. It should have national guidelines.

2) Documentation in hand, I headed off to our local SSA office in Allentown. Before going I rather idealistically pictured a small bureaucratic office where a couple of people drop by every day to change their names after getting married. I kind of forgot about one of the marvels of our modern society: a little phenomenon known as SSI. Lots of people in Allentown are on SSI- and they come to this office to, I don't know, I guess STAY on SSI. And apparently the paper pushing that must take place to stay on SSI takes rather a LONG TIME. Anyway I was handed ticket number 135 and kind of freaked out when I heard number 48 called, but it turned out there were 4 different numbering tracks- still it took about an hour and a half for my number to be called. You can imagine my concern when the Very Nice and Competent Lady up front said "we need an ID document with your new name on it."
Me: "But I thought nothing else would let me change my name until I got my new social security card!!"
VNaCL: "It's because [your marriage document] is five years old. It has to be recent."
Me: "Yeah, I saw something about "recent" on the website. But it didn't DEFINE 'recent.'"
VNaCL: "Yeah, they aren't specific about it so I asked. 'Recent' means two years."
Me: "It would be nice if the website actually said that! Also, the lady I talked to this morning said she thought it wouldn't be a problem!"
VNaCL: "I tell you what, I'll go ahead and put it through for you. Let's keep our voices down so no one will hear."
Me: "Okay....."
VNaCL: "Oh, I see that you want to make Nancy Elizabeth your first name. Unfortunately, we can't do that. I can legally change your middle name but I can't change your first name or your last name (except to make it the last name of your spouse.)"
Me: "Okay... that seems a little odd..."
VNaCL: "Yeah, it's pretty weird. I can make 'Elizabeth Bush' your middle name if you want."
Me: "Okay, that will work."

So now I am Nancy Elizabeth Bush Wentzel. When asked to write my name for day-to-day purposes I will write Nancy Elizabeth Wentzel (when I remember) and I guess my checks will say Nancy Elizabeth B. Wentzel...?

Now I just have to change my DL and checking account and two savings accounts and 6 credit cards and my school records and car registration and... hmmm...

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Look at all those nice, patient people out there...

What I have been doing instead of blogging:

1) Thorougly cleaning all parts of this apartment except the bedroom. The bedroom right now is a hopeless purgatory of dirty laundry, dust bunnies, and "undecidable" objects removed from the other (clean!!) areas of our home. What is an "undecidable" object, you may ask? An "undecidable" object is one which we have trouble finding a home for. Examples: one piece of gold posterboard, left over from Nate's poster session last semester. It is in perfectly good condition, so our Thrifty sides cannot condone throwing it away. Yet, it is awkward to store- i.e., doesn't fit neatly in a desk drawer with the other "office supplies" like pens and glue sticks- so right now it is cohabiting on our bedroom floor with one Tired Worn-Out Sheepskin Steering Wheel Cover. (don't ask)

2) Filing all our financial records for the past 7 months or so.
3) Undertaking a little project: Is Driving Our Car Significantly Cheaper than Driving a New Car? Answer: Why, yes! Yes it is!! Sylvia has had some Issues the past few months ($1450 in Dec. for transmission, $130 in April for oil pressure sender, $641 last week for radiator/thermostat) so I was sort of wondering, is this REALLY cheaper then driving a new (or newer used) car? I went through all our records and added up depreciation, registration, insurance, gasoline (which I estimated using a cool spreadsheet I found giving average weekly gas prices in the US broken down by region and grade), and maintenance (around $6000!! wow!!) and concluded that in the 45 months/ 62775 miles we have driven our car, she has cost about $386/month or about $0.28/mile.

According to AAA's brochure Your Driving Costs 2006, the average cost of owning and operating a new small sedan is about $521/month or $.42/mile. AAA isn't completely clear about how their model works; the website says the model is based on driving a new car 75,000 miles in 5 years, but it's not totally clear if we buy this car in 2006 or in 2001. (They use $2.405 as the price per gallon of gas- that was the average price at the end of 2005. I think this would be a gross underestimate of gas prices from 2006-2010. But it would certainly overestimate the price from 2001-2005. Maybe we should assume the AAA car is driven from 2003-2007, to average things out? If so, the figures would be a fairly good basis for comparison to Sylvia, who was purchased in Aug. 2002.) I even tweaked the AAA figures down a bit, realizing some of their numbers would be higher than ours (insurance, registration, etc.) and Sylvia was still a good bit cheaper. And, small sedans were by far the cheapest category listed- if we drove a medium or large sedan or an SUV, we'd be paying a LOT more.

So, would we be better off now (financially) if we'd bought a new car in Aug. 2002? Almost certainly not. Was there a USED car out there somewhere in America that would have required fewer repairs and been a better value? Sure there was. But 1) we're not clairvoyant and we're not car experts, so we could hardly foresee the future of those used cars we looked at back then, and 2) there's no surefire (surefire! I like that word!!) way to calculate the optimal point on the purchase price/maintenance curve for used cars. We spent about $3100 on Sylvia (including a small warranty) and close to $6000 in maintenance (including everything routine, like oil changes, tires, inspection, brakes, etc.) We could have spent $9100 on a car in 2002 whose value today would be about $4250 (assuming 15%-20% depreciation per year). While we probably wouldn't have spent all of $4250 maintaining such a vehicle, we didn't HAVE $9100 in 2002 so we would have had to take out a car loan which would have meant several hundred (over a thousand?) dollars in interest. Or we could have bought a $6000 used car which would have cost less in depreciation but more in repair bills...? And on and on, you see how it goes. I can't see any options that are likely to be significantly cheaper, and most options seem to be more expensive.

THAT'S for all you people out there who ask us why we drive such a clunker. ;-)

4) Reading: The Art of Mathematics, Boundaries in Marriage, and Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner. Well, okay, I read about the first 6 pages of that last one before Giving Up. Shout-out to any of you literary major types out there: any help with reading Faulkner? See, I feel like I ought to be able to read Faulker and enjoy it because he is writing about the South, and he is early-twentieth-century American, which are supposed to be things I can relate to (unlike, for example, the Ancient Greeks? I never did get along with the ancient Greeks.) I like the style and I am Happy that it's about the South, but somehow the reading does not seem to be a project I can continue for a full 300 pages. I tire easily. Perhaps I'm just out of practice...?

I also read blogs- um, A Lot.

5) Socializing with people we haven't had time to socialize with all year. (Hi!)

6) Enjoying our fifth anniversary here and here. :-) We had car trouble on the way down (radiator- see above) that scared me into thinking we wouldn't make it (and the hotel charge was non-refundable!! eee!!) but I Prayed a lot and tried to have a good attitude of "however this goes, I will still have a Greatful spirit." I think almost losing our chance to go made me even more thankful for the nice trip we had. :-) Dinner was awesome and our hotel room was awesome, and walking around New Hope and Lambertsville was really fun. (Happy 5 years, honey. :-))

7) Helping out with Girls' Bible Study at church and other things (like a video scavenger hunt last night.)

8) Visiting my old work buddies at NCC.

Okay that's enough (boredom for you) for now! Bye!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

"Day" One (so much for that idea)

Hey y'all, happy summer. Welcome to The Nebiverse, a tropical paradise of twirly skirts and sandals and reclining beach chairs (um, you know, the ones where you lay down...? What are those called...? I am such a dork) and little non-alchoholic non-carbonated fruity beverages in little glasses with umbrella straws.

(Technichally if you want the truth, I'm wearing the comfy grey shirt and flannel pajama pants because we're having a cooler-than-average May, a fact which makes my husband exceedingly happy, and there's hot coffee and a bagel being consumed. No pool or lounge chairs are in sight. The Nebiverse is all about truth in advertising, friends.)

So now (it's later) it's 11:33 pm and I have a headache. So why don't I go to bed and I'll "write more tomorrow" "maybe," m'kay?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Day of Jubilee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This was me, enjoying a piece of cake afterwards. :-)

Monday, May 08, 2006



Okay sorry with the all caps, I'll give your eyes a rest.

Good news: I just got great news about my Random Processes Final via email from Prof. RP- hurrah!! :-D

Bad news: THERE IS SO MUCH TO LEARN BY 10 AM tomorrow morning, it's not even funny!

Good news: By noon tomorrow this marathon will FINALLY be over.

See you all tomorrow, on Freedom Day.

:-) Love, Neb

2 Days Left (I'm studying now!)

I went to church and went out to Red Robin afterwards with Jerry and Judy and Hannah and had Chicken Milano, mmm! Then came home and napped and then... actually... eventually... started... STUDYING.


Sunday, May 07, 2006

3 Days left (Anyone want to buy some "jewelry"...?)


I read blogs and drank coffee and ate a bagel.
Then I decided, wow, I haven't exercised all semester, I should exercise! So I took an ~1 hr walk in which my pasty white flesh jiggled a lot and my body started to say (after about 20 minutes), "Exercise?!? What is this ex-er-cise of which you speak...?"

Then I came home and took a shower. Then I realized, hey, I just washed my hair! A perfect time to go get a haircut! (I get my hair cut for $11 at The Hair Butchery* 'cause I'm all Thrifty that way. It comes out shorter, and if they miss a few tufts of hair- well, I have scissors at home. Obviously at those prices they have to have you in and out the door in about 10 minutes flat, so if you want a shampoo you'd better take care of that at home first.) Then after the haircut (by the way, my hairstylist and I had a lovely little chat- I was much more talkative than usual. I opened by giving my standard "I don't really care what you do with my hair, I'm clueless, I just want it short, so do whatever you want" which always gets at least one raised eyebrow 'cause girls my age are supposed to KNOW how they want their hair, but what can I say, I'm a hippy, I don't really do that whole makeup/hair"style"/shoe shopping thing. Anyway, after that we had a lovely chat about hair etc., and she mentioned being in school, and I asked her where she was in school, and she said she was going to school for massage therapy because she hoped that giving people massages meant less talking interaction than haircutting because she really doesn't like talking to people. Then I was all like, "Oh.") I went to the grocery store and got Nice Things like chicken salad from the deli (but they don't put anything IN their chicken salad in this heathen state except CHICKEN and MAYONAISE and little bits of CHOPPED CELERY!!) Chicken salad is supposed to have EXCITING THINGS like little bits of APPLE and GRAPES and maybe PINEAPPLE and RAISINS and WALNUTS and things that you just totally aren't EXPECTING like, um... squid. Yeah, anyway, so I brought the groceries home then Nate and I worked on cleaning up our disaster of a kitchen- it was good to get it Clean. Then Nate cooked chicken enchiladas (or something like that), which were Excellent. Then I was kind of like, "Okay, um, maybe I should study for my Combinatorics Final..." so, I sat with my book open on the sofa with me, but then, you see... the TV! Something was on it! Oh yeah, it was Britcoms!! And then it was a movie called All the Kings Men (about Watergate), which was TOTALLY irresistably fascinating, I mean, come on guys, you know my obsession with early 70's politics... So then it was like 1 am and I went to bed.

But you guys saw it, right? I SAT NEXT TO my open combinatorics book on the sofa for a good three hours, watching TV. Knowledge TOTALLY can seep through the atmosphere. I am a believer. Word!

Oh yeah, the other two exciting things that happened Saturday night:

Around 9:30, there was a knock on our door. Usually Nate and I don't answer if we don't know who it is, but for some really odd reason I opened (upon looking through the peephole and seeing it was a woman who did not Appear to be a Big Thug Trying To Break In. I figured she just had the wrong apartment.) So she looks surprised to see me and says, "Hi hon, I'm selling jewelry, I have lots of stuff available, are you interested?" And I'm all like, "Um, no, sorry, we can't by anything today." And she's like, "Well, do you know where the Spanish people live near here...?" And I'm like, "I think they live next door" and she's like, "Okay, thanks."

Now, about a minute after I closed the door I realized something: she did not have any jewelry with her.

All she had was a small purse, you know, clearly a purse holding her own personal items, not the type of bag you would carry something in that you're selling. Now, if YOU were selling jewelry door to door or something, wouldn't YOU have, you know, some actual JEWELRy with you to sell people...?

And why was she looking for "the Spanish people"? (I assume she meant the Spanish-speaking people, as we do not have any esteemed residents from Spain in our building, to the best of my knowledge.)

Here are some facts for you to dwell on:
1) Our next door neighbors make very loud, very weird noises all the time. Not necessarily happy or angry noises- just weird noises.
2) They frequently spray A LOT of air freshner outside their front door (not IN their own apartment- they open the front door and spray the hallway right outside their door).
3) Now, mysterious "jewelry"-selling lady is looking for them at 9:30 on a Saturday night.

I think she was selling something- but it wasn't jewelry.

Finally, the Big Event of Saturday was that I finally saw the Special Visitor that has been inhabiting our kitchen-- The Mouse!! :-) For several weeks now we've known of her existence, and at night while sitting in the living room we've heard her enjoying the crumbs left on dishes in the sink, but every time we get up and tiptoe into the kitchen to try to get a sneak peek, she vanishes into the stove faster than we can see her. Well, last night I came around the corner to the kitchen and turned on the light very abruptly, and there she was, scurrying along the counter to get under cover! It was most thrilling.

If we could just housebreak her- we'd be all set.

*Not its real name.

And another

"5 days left" had a Blogger Weirdie- I tried to use the less than symbol on the keyboard (when I said z is less than infinity) and apparently that screwed up all the HTML for the rest of that paragraph. I didn't notice it when it first published, but I've fixed it now, and now it actually looks like I have a complete thought there, so go re-read it, please. (as much as I ever have a complete thought, that is...)

Saturday, May 06, 2006

A Brief Commercial Break

Just overheard in the Bush-Wentzel home:

"Hmm, this cup had coffee in it (sniff sniff)... Hazelnut... well, that's not too incompatible with French Vanilla tea, so it can be reused, no problem..."

The Great Clean Dishes Conservation Project Lives!!
PS Updated to add: Closer examination revealed that it was actually French Vanilla coffee, if that's comforting to any of you out there...

4 Days Left (Hmmm, maybe I should start studying for that last final... sometime...)

Hey nebiverse fans, and welcome to "Friday" in my little alternate-time-posting-universe! I'm Neb and I'll be your host, and today we'll be interviewing myself about the exciting day I had on Friday!

Hostess Neb: So, we hear you had a REALLY exciting day on Friday, didn't you?!?
Neb: Um, yeah... I guess so...
HNEB: So, tell us about all the great and exciting things you accomplished, now that two of your finals are out of the way!
Neb: Um... I had a bagel, and some coffee... and then I spent a lot of time reading blogs...
HNEB: Yes, yes, go on!
Neb: And then... um... I can't remember.
HNEB: Let me help your memory out here a little bit: right now you are SO GRATEFUL that two classes have ended and you only have one course left, and you're SO happy that you have a full 4 days to study for the Combinatorics Final on Tuesday, right?!
HNEB: Because, as we all know, you TOTALLY blew off about half the homework problems in the second half of the semester, right? Because you were "working on your other two classes"?
HNEB: But now, you are SO LUCKY that you have all this wonderful, uninterrupted time to study for the final, right? What a great opportunity! You can study thoroughly and calmly, without trying to cram the night before like you usually end up doing! What a blessing!


Two tests have been taken by me "today" (verb tenses continue to be mixed up), and moderate success has been had. Well, really, more than one mistake was made on the random processes test, and disappointment was Felt. Foreheads will be smacked by Professor RP when the grading of my exam is done and some of the mistakes that were made are seen. But all in all, worse it could have been, so trying to let go is being... tried. Um, yeah, Anyway, the Memorize Six Proofs Inbetween Exams Plan for Success was, indeed, Successful, in that proofs were comfortably recalled when the time came.

(Okay, switching tenses because I just can't keep this up anymore...)

After the Complex Analysis Final, Professor CA spoke with me out in the hallway for a moment, returning my last homework on which I had successfully solved a few problems that gave some of my classmates grief but on which I had, once again, committed the Unpardonable Sin of CA by writing z is less than a number (in this case, infinity). Perhaps the deepest truth I learned this semester is that THE COMPLEX NUMBERS ARE NOT ORDERED!!! Although, clearly, I haven't really learned it yet because I still slip up once in a while. At a few points in the semester I remember thinking, why can't our book be better organized- like, one chapter on sequences, one on series, one on integrals, etc. instead of being all swirled together- but then I discovered the

Theorem: The study of complex analysis cannot be ordered because The Complex Numbers are Not Ordered.

I also formulated the

Hypothesis: God created complex analysis on Day i.

Anyway, after pointing out my little foible, prof. Complex Analysis sat down with me on the bench outside with some paper and a pencil and just started Talking, at random, about all sorts of things... approximation theory and probability theory and Bernstein polynomials and many other Great and Mysterious Wonders, things that are far beyond me... and I have to wonder, what was the point? Did he just want someone to talk to for awhile? Did he expect that I would be interested and ask questions? Was this some kind of Meta-Test?

We do not know.

Then I eventually went home, and took Thursday night Off. I watched TV without feeling (very) guilty about it. (Texas Ranch House on PBS is an interesting but rather disastrous and ridiculous show, in case anyone is interested.)

*The End*

Friday, May 05, 2006

6 Days left (no more space on the hard drive!)

Hi, it's "Wednesday" today but I am not writing in my blog because today I am STUDYING. Because tomorrow is E-Day- back to back exams, 8-11 and 1-4. In the morning I type my last Combinatorics problem in Latex (that's the last problem I did, not the last one assigned- there is a big difference) to email in, and then I spend (are we in present tense...? I'm so confused by this little charade) far too long happily filling in the details of a complex analysis proof with 5 hypotheses and one conclusion that involves choosing 6 capital letters (6!!!) (Eric will know what I'm talking about here.) Things like "Choose N (in bold N*) such that k greater than or equal to N implies absolute z sub k minus l is less than epsilon over 3Q." (That's step five of this proof.) It is a proof about regular matrices- the necessary and sufficient conditions thereof (although we only proved sufficiency.) On the last day of class, Professor King's lecture was sort of a Mathematical Field Trip- he talked about summability theory and approximation theory and probability theory and Cezarro matrices and many other Wonders, things far beyond our understanding. I took notes out of habit.

Eventually I go to school with Nate, and head to the libary, the place where I do my serious studying. Problem: apparently the undergraduates actually stop drinking beer and start studying, at least a little bit, during finals week because THERE ARE NO EMPTY DESKS IN THE LIBRARY. I wander the floors, looking for a desk, noting that literally about half of the desks are not occupied by people but merely by possessions. (including a LAPTOP COMPUTER!! What kind of mindset allows someone to leave their laptop computer abandoned in a library?!?) Where is everyone? In the bathroom at the same time? Greeting their friends in other parts of the libary? FINALLY I find a desk that is unoccupied because it has no chair- I steal an unused chair from a nearby group study table, unpack, and settle in. I start going, slowly (too slowly) through the final exam study check list for Random Processes (which is a wicked cool class, by the way). Things that I learned in January have largely been forgotten. After a while I realize that my growing irritation is due to the fact that I am only a few feet from the door leading into this area of the library, which squeaks upon opening and has people going through it literally EVERY TWO SECONDS. (I suppose they are commuting between their slovenly occupied desks and... the bathroom? Visiting their friends?) Finally I can't stand it anymore and pack up to head to my office, which has more privacy and snacks in the desk drawers and a bathroom and waterfountain nearby and a phone to call Nate and tell him I can't to go dinner with him, too much to do. (Why don't I study there all the time, you ask? The chair is less comfortable, the lighting is not as good, and the school computer on my desk takes up too much space.)

Fast forward to several hours later- I leave with Nate to go to the last Ladies' Bible Study of the semester (on self-control), where there are donuts, which must serve as my makeshift dinner. (Why would you bring donuts to a Bible study on self-control? To practice...? I have no idea.) I get home around 9, put in three more hours of stuyding, and go to bed.

As I told Becky at Bible study- the problem with two exams in one day is that you have to figure out how to partition your brain into two parts, one side to hold all the content for each exam. As I studied Random Processes throughout the day, I felt like my brain was filling completely and there would be no more room to contain the proofs of twelve theorems required for the Complex Final. So in a strategic move I decided to memorize only 6 of the proofs, saving the other six to memorize in the two hour break between exams the next day. Would my strategy pay off, or be a disaster? Tune in tomorrow to the exciting conclusion of, "No More Space On The Hard Drive"!!**

*This is the Natural Numbers N, i.e., 1,2,3,4,... . I know how to do this in Latex now, but, computer illiterate as I am, I suspect that the Latex code for this type of N is not the same as the blogger code for this type of N...? (It's not just bold N, really, it should have a doubly-thick middle line... I don't know how to explain this to y'all unless you've seen it on a chalkboard...)

**This is a Cheesy Marketing Ploy to try to ensure brand loyalty on the part of my readers. (But you WILL tune in "tomorrow," won't you?)

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

7 days left (Just Hand Over the Chocolate, and No One Gets Hurt)*

The days are simply not passing fast enough. Also, I cannot find any chocolate in this household. Wait, I'm going to go look again... maybe, just maybe...

Ha ha! I had forgotten about the good-old standby option, chocolate chips in a bag. :-D

Well, I've turned in 4 2/3 of the ten problems in the last combinatorics homework set, which is actually a bit better than I thought I might be doing at this point. The good/bad news, however, is that Professor Cowboy is releasing solutions tomorrow, meaning (I assume) that tomorrow is the absolute deadline to turn anything in. So I'm kind of half-heartedly trying to get a couple more done tonight.

Note to the mathematical community: can you please make up your minds, once and for all, about the meanings of "monotone," "increasing," and "decreasing"? Better yet, dump these terms altogether: Strictly (or weakly) increasing (or decreasing) is unambiguous and would avoid all confusions.

Thankfully my weird dizzy spells from yesterday went away- I took a vitamin and ate an orange, which perhaps helped- so I am feeling better. Better enough to go try one last time, I suppose, to solve some Combinatorics problems.

*Winner, 2006 BlogHer Awards, "Most unoriginal and uninspiring blog post"

Monday, May 01, 2006

8 days left

Someone call Maintenance. My brain is extremely Out-of-Order today. Like, twilight zone out of order. Eating nutritious food has, so far, not been helpful. This is not a good day for this to happen, as I am tackling the last major Combinatorics problem set due tomorrow. (Out of ten problems total, I have 2/3 of one done.) I want to curl up in a small ball in the sunshine and wait for the world to stop spinning. Have you ever taken cold medicine that made you absolutely loopy? That's how I feel right now.

9 Days Left

(I'm writing this Monday but pretend like it's still Sunday, okay?)

Today we went to Adrienne's choir concert, which was highly agreeable and a great opportunity for Reflection. The choir was behind us in the balcony for a good part of the concert, so with nothing to look at I traced out the contours of the stained glass window in my mind, over and over again.

(We are sorry, due to a Technical Malfunction this otherwise promising post will have to be cut short. See "8 days left.")

Saturday, April 29, 2006

10 Days left

From my ever witty husband this morning: book title suggestion:

"Chicken Soup for the Soul that Actually Just Wants Beef Soup"

Also- there was a Great and Very Humorous Nate's Black Dress Socks/ Neb's Black Knee-highs ("Knee-hi's"?) Mix-up Incident yesterday in which my husband was heard struggling with his footwear and then exclaiming, "What are these little FLOWERS on my socks!?!?"

From some edition of the New York Times that I won't bother linking to because it's too much effort: New York City schools are actually beginning to enforce the "no cell phones" policy that many have on the books, and parents are outraged. "My daugther calls me when she gets on the subway in the morning, when she gets off the subway, on her lunch hour, when she leaves school, and when she makes it home. Otherwise, how will I know that she's safe throughout the day??" "Sending a child to school in NYC is unimaginable without a cell phone."

I understand these parents' point of view, but it makes me wonder- have schools gotten SO much less safe in the past 10 years? Ten years ago very few kids went to school WITH cell phones because they simply weren't as widespread back then. (Okay, time check- make that 15 years ago...? I don't know exactly when NYC culture was Taken Over, but my point is that sometime in the not too distant past- i.e., when the city's crime rates probably weren't much different- kids were going to school without cell phones, and parents seemed to cope with it.) My Inner Statistician wants to conduct a Study to find out- have rates of child abduction decreased since cells phones became popular? Are they really making a difference, or do parents just FEEL safer...? Again, I can certainly imagine that if I were a parent, those carefully scheduled calls would be rather comforting- but, really, let's think about what would happen if something WERE happening to the kid. To me it seems unlikely that a kid is going to get kidnapped and then be allowed to use the cell phone to call for help. So the only way a parent would know something is wrong would likely be the next scheduled call that was missed. Now, if a child fails to call when exiting the subway on the way to school, does that event occur very long before the child being missed by school officials and having parents notified? (I'm assuming that the school in question actually notifies parents promptly when a student is absent, which is probably somewhat justified for Preppy Rich Kid Schools but probably not a good assumption for Poor Kid Schools.) So really, the parents may not have gained much lead time in notifying the police or doing whatever they need to do to investigate. (Which raises another question- if a frantic parent called NYC police and said "Johnny is supposed to call me a 8:03 am ON THE DOT and it is now 8:10, he's been kidnapped, I know it! I know it!" What would NYC police do? Immediately send a police car to Johnny's last known whereabouts? Somehow I kind of doubt it. They'd probably say "let's wait and see if he shows up at school on time" and then the cell phone really hasn't gained us anything.)

And another good question would be, how have cell phones changed the choices we make about our lives? The article mentioned something about the "necessity" of cell phones in lives that now include more and more extracurricular activities, longer distances to work and school, etc. So, hypothetically, let's say that it's 2006 and no such technology exists. The cell phone has Never Been Born. What kinds of choices are parents making (urban, or otherwise?) Are they choosing schools for their kids with shorter commutes? Are they trying harder to live close to the schools they want their children to attend? Perhaps fewer after-school activities and more time simply at home (where mom and dad know they're "safe"?) Are they giving their kids pepper spray or other personal safety items for the trip to school? Or are they just, to use a phrase long dead after the 80's, "taking a chill pill" and sending their kids out into the world everyday *without* a way to keep in constant contact, trusting that they'll be alright? I really don't know, but I think it's interesting to wonder.

Friday, April 28, 2006

11 Days left

in the semester, and I will be glad to be done. I'm mainly writing this to appease all you loyal readers out there after my recent Long Hiatus, not because any inspirational genius has struck. Right now I'm in the phase of Mathematical Hysteria™ when one closes one's eyes and dreams of all the fantastical adventures that happen in The Complex Plane, the midnight dances of fauns and centaurs and tree sprites... oh wait, I've mixed up The Complex Plane with Narnia once again. Well, I can't take all of you on the trip with me, but I'll show you my vacation pictures:

And, a couple of jokes, which, if you've taken complex analysis you've likely heard a thousand times and will be bored with, and if you haven't taken complex analysis you won't find funny at all:

"Why did the mathematician name his dog Cauchy?"
"He left a residue at every pole!"

"Why is 1/z like the Catholic church?"
"They both have a simple pole in the center!"

Come fly with me around the Riemann sphere! I can almost see the point at infinity ahead. And God will reveal to us His wonders...


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Where I am! (Or is it, where am I...?)

Hi, people!! Does anyone ever even check this blog for updates anymore??? I'm at the Lehigh library, where I have been for the past several days... yeah, what can I say? The end of the semester is rapidly approaching, and I am pouring on the effort to learn things while I have the chance. I am stressed, I am not sleeping, but overall I am happy because working hard is a good feeling. (Sometimes.) The stress/happiness ratio is oscillating a lot from day to day, but when it's less than 1 we're uniformly Happy. (Yes, that's kind of a joke. It seems that we use 1/(1-z) in practially every problem in complex analysis, which, as you all know, converges absolutely and locally uniformly inside the unit circle [i.e. when the magnitude of z is less than 1.]) (turning off nerd-speak now.)

Anyway, what do y'all want from me? I have a cool(?) Easter post for this year, which I will write... sometime? Remind me later if I forget.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Also: We've found a good option for our first home purchase


Victorian Playhouse

Sorry, I can't figure out how to include a picture, but click on the link; it's definitely worth a look. ;-)

PS Did you notice, you can order it to come with cable and wireless internet? Because, you know, you just can't play tea party in a little house without wireless internet....

the pity post

I feel bad for all of you out there who might check this blog far more frequently than it's updated. So though I really don't have much to write about, here's a little mini post to keep your eyes from falling out of your head with disappointment.

There are four more weeks of school and then finals, and I really can't wait for the end. I feel a bit like a marathon runner hitting "the wall" around mile 23, when you feel that you just can't go on. (Disclaimer: school is much, much easier than running a marathon, at least for me. But it is a bit like running a marathon with your head. My head is about 100x as fit as my body, and that situation will probablly never change.)

Tomorrow morning I am going back to the eye doctor and I have decided I would like soft contacts. My trial pair this week has been quite comfortable, and I like that you don't really have to worry about cleaning them at night (you just take them out and soak them). My one concern is that things still seem blurry sometimes, in an odd way- is my perscription right? Do I have astigmatism? I don't know, but I hope the nice otometrical type person can figure it out.

I'm going to go make tea (French Vanilla, for those of you keeping track at home of The Great Tea Experiment 2006) and study for my test now.

Love, Neb

Thursday, March 30, 2006

a good quote for a day like today

Arithmetic is where the answer is right and everything is nice and
you can look out of the window and see the blue sky -- or the
answer is wrong and you have to start all over and try again
and see how it comes out this time.

-Carl Sandburg

Friday, March 24, 2006

Mike says I should post about "The hunt for the bedroom set"

I won't put in a picture because Nate says they take too long to load.

But, generally speaking, I want to redecorate our bedroom to look like a room from here.

There's nothing wrong with that, is there?

In other news, combinatorics is going to be the death of me.

Also, Steve wants you to all know that he and Mike completely disagree with me about the Waldorf-Astoria look.

Also I cannot see anything out of my contacts. I'm going Monday to get new ones.

(Mike just yawned.)

Monday, March 06, 2006

recycled. still funny.... ?

I just did our federal taxes this year and was quite pleased to see that we owe less than $300!!! This is less than we've ever owed before. To celebrate, I'm digging up an email I wrote right after Tax Season 2003. Many of you received this three years ago, but, anyway, enjoy...

Hello All,

A quick trip to the post office Tuesday morning
finally brought an end to my Annual Two-Month
Mid-Life-Crisis/Nervous-Breakdown (aka Tax Season).
We're $1012 poorer- and that doesn't include my "tax
preparation expenses" [the amount I spent on flavored
coffee, aromatherapy candles, hair accessories,
long-distance phone bills (calling good friends while
hysterical :-D), brightly colored socks, "special"
bagels, photocopying, and psychotherapy bills (j/k
about that last one.)]

My accountant friend has suggested I should consider a
career in this field. I've noticed in the 1040
Instructions fine print ("Paperwork Reduction Act")
that the IRS supposedly "welcomes" my comments about
their forms. I'd like to institute a few (rather
drastic) changes to the 1040; if I send them this
guide, do you think they'd hire me? :-D


*2002 Federal Tax Return* (Neb's Edition)


*Name and Address* (Optional; there's nothing wrong
with anonymity)
*Filing Status* (Attitude)

How do you FEEL about your 2002 Federal Tax Return?
Check all that apply:

1) I am so greatful for the efficient, competent
operations of our federal bureaucracy, and happy to
contribute to its funding.
2) The IRS does a fantastic job of giving clear,
simple instructions; it's a joy to file my taxes!
3) I feel confident my tax dollars are used in the
most worthwhile and sensible manner possible.
4) All of those hard-working, courteous IRS agents
probably deserve a pay raise.
5) Other (including any commentary on options 1-4

1) Look out your back door and count the number of
children running around.
2) Estimate how many of the occupants in your yard
might actually belong to your neighbors.
3) Subtract Line 2 from Line 1. (If the result is
negative, see Federal Form 1040 Instructions, page 62,
line 39; you may be able to take the "My Neighbors
Have Alien Offspring" Credit.)
4) Add up the total of your: pets; houseplants; cars
(but only if named, with repair bills exceeding $100
monthly); alternate personalities; imaginary friends;
named appliances (including coffeemakers and sofas);
and disfuncional/co-dependent relatives. Multiply the
result by .987654321.
5) Add lines 3 and 4. These are your TOTAL DEPENDENTS.

Include the amounts shown on your W-2. If you're
resourceful and creative enough to be self-employed,
(especially if you're working hard to quell the rising
epidemic of Math Illiteracy in this country), don't
tell us about it. Also do not feel obligated to
include bribes, lemonade stand proceeds, babysitting
earnings, bake sale profits, or drug laundering money
(as long as said drug laundering inhibits importation
from Canadian internet sources).

1) "You May Be a Redneck" Sympathy Exemption
Add up the number of underfed children, empty alchohol
containers, expired welfare checks, and unregistered
firearms on your property. If the result is more than
your gross annual income, STOP; you do not owe any
2) "Lifelong Learning" Credit (aka, Career Student
If the number of years you've spent in school is
greater than your gross annual income (in thousands),
STOP; you do not owe any tax.
3) "Low Emissions" Credit
If your personal hygiene habits are of a sufficient
nature as to not cause displeasure to those in your
immediate vicinity, multiply the annual amount you
spend on toothpaste, soap, and deoderant by 10.624 and
subtract from your income.
4) "Fiscally Responsible Citizen" Deduction
If you do not receive welfare or public assistance of
any kind, you may subtract from your income the annual
amount you spend on: housing, utilties, food,
clothing, transportation, healthcare, education, IRA
contributions, and charitable donations.
5) "Good Clean Fun" Deduction
If you have not been arrested for loitering,
vandalism, theft, assault, or DUI in the past 12
months, you may subtract from your income the annual
amount you spent on: movie tickets, sports events,
concert attendance, hobbies, vacations, or any other
legal forms of recreation.
*Tax Owed*

1) Subtract your total adjustments from your income.
2) Write your current checking account balance HERE.
3) Dig through your sofa and see how much loose change
you can come up with; write the result HERE.
4) Write the SMALLER of lines 2 or 3 HERE. This is

If the IRS sends you lemons... deduct your lemonade.

;-) NEB

Friday, March 03, 2006

Spring Break!!!!!!!!!!

If I could go anywhere for Spring Break, you know where I would go? I would go here:

And do you know what I would do there? I would NOT COUNT THINGS.

I would NOT COUNT the number of ways to make a meal using only ingredients native to the island.

I would NOT COUNT the number of ways to cross all the bridges between my island and the adjoining islands without crossing any bridge more than once.

I would NOT COUNT all the ways to partition the coconut trees into groups of two.

I would NOT COUNT the number of ways to choose a committee of size k of my pet goats and then select a subcommittee of size l from amongst the committee.

I would NOT COUNT the number of possible paths that an insect could take to go from one corner of my hammock to the opposite diagonal corner by walking along the little pieces of netting.

I would NOT COUNT the grains of sand on the beach, the drops of water in the ocean, or the stars in the night sky. I would just assume that there are Enough, and move on...

:-) Neb