Miss Woodhouse's Musings

…about life, the universe, and everything. Don't panic!

Nothing That Is Not There

Warning: this post contains the musings of a university English major. Read at your own mental risk! :) –Miss Woodhouse

For the few of you out there who do not yet know about my feelings towards American Literature, I have some very strong ones: I don’t like American Literature. I’m currently taking an American Lit class only because I would LOVE to graduate sometime this century.

Nonetheless, I believe in giving everything your best effort as much as you can. So, let it come as a little shock when I say that reading the poetry this week was almost bearable. Almost.

I found myself somewhat taken with a poet I have not ever read, Wallace Stevens. In particular, I really enjoyed his poem entitled “The Snow Man.” I’ve reprinted it here for your reading pleasure:

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place.

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

This last stanza really captured my attention. The poem, though nicely balanced and arranged, is somewhat bleak. The landscape described is blank, desolate, frozen, and harsh (did you notice how Stevens used the words “crusted”, “shagged”, and “rough” to hint at harshness without coming out and using the word?).

The speaker in the poem reveals how he is looking at the world- not only is it harsh, but he hears mournfulness and misery in the sound of the winter wind. For some reason, these thoughts displease him, and he yearns to think like a snowman. In his mind, the snowman can see things as they truly are without the bias of human presumptions. Everything leads up to that final line as the speaker declares that since the snowman is himself nothing he can see the “Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.”

It doesn’t seem to bother the speaker (as it bothers me) that in looking to the snowman for an unbiased view of the world, the speaker is effectively placing his own bias on what he imagines the snowman to see. In reality, the speaker can find nothing worthwhile in the world around him, and the snowman becomes merely a vehicle by which the speaker can justify and rationalize the perception of meaningless life.

Life may be nothing, but for the speaker, nothingness must actually exist. If nothingness is not real and tangible, then the speaker realizes that he is most likely missing out on something huge in life. This appears to scare the speaker, thus he chronicles his winter quest to justify (ironically) the existence and purpose of nothingness. He creates this blank landscape, finds a blank “mind”, and creates a situation where nothing actually exists. He thinks that this will make him happy, that if he can achieve this goal he will no longer hear mournful wind and see harsh landscapes. Everything becomes nothing, and nothing is everything. The only problem is that this world that the speaker creates is quite…well, depressing.

So, I’ve shared how I read and interpret this poem. Why don’t you all take a moment or two to jot down in the comments what you see in the poem? I promise to respond!

Thanks to this transcript of All Things Considered for affirming that my interpretation is not completely off the wall!

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The 69th Week

“Seventy weeks have been declared for your people and your holy city” the Lord tells Daniel the prophet. This message comes during a time of captivity, a time where Daniel’s people (the Jews) are out of the Promised Land and in the control of the Medo-Persian empire. Yet, even in these dark times, as Daniel prays and repents God gives him detailed information for what is to come: a time “to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place.” (Dan. 9:24).

Okay, big deal, right? We all dream of a day to come when good things will overtake the evil in this world. However, God’s word doesn’t stop there: “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks…” (v. 25).

Wait! Did you catch that? This goes quickly, so allow me to explain. In prophetic terms, these weeks refer to 7 year time periods. God first tells Daniel that there are 70 weeks, seventy periods of 7 years, that are important to the Jews. Now, I’ll let you in on a secret- that last week, the 70th week, is still to come. Many of the events I wrote about a few days ago are contained in that last week (wars, famines, etc).

But those first 69 weeks are gone. Those 483 years have passed, but what does this mean? Why is it important to start counting out 483 years after the Jews are allowed to return home? What good can this possibly do?

Here’s where the Bible goes from amazing to awesomely cool. Daniel’s people were only in the Babylonian captivity for 70 years. After 70 years, Cyrus sends out a decree allowing them to return to their land and rebuild Jerusalem (the city had been destroyed when Nebuchadnezzar took them into captivity). Had the Jews of the time heeded the prophecy given to Daniel, and had they started keeping track of the next 483 years, they would have know to the day when Jesus would enter Jerusalem on a donkey and start the Passion week. To the day. If that’s not awesome, I don’t know what is!

They could have known beyond any doubt just from this that Jesus was Who He said He was- the Messiah, the Promised One, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world.

So, today I take up the song and the cry of those crowds long ago, those few who recognized Jesus for Who He truly was, and I declare: “Hosanna! Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (Jn. 12:13).

Hosanna in the highest!

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Working 9 to 9

Well, what a week at work! For those of you who do not live and die by the movements of the little green goddess, Tuesday was free pastry day (!) and some of the Southeast was upgraded to a new POS (point of sale= register) system. Oh yes, and have I mentioned that our new manager isn’t officially at our store yet? I’ve not seen her in weeks.

So here we are- the rogue store. We control our orders, our work hours, our products, our reports. We’re not even able to get a hold of our District Manager. Good thing that they can trust us- well, most of us. But I digress.

The new POS rollout was severely under-promoted. They told us to go watch a five minute training module, which I did. According to the module, the way I ring up drinks changes drastically. This is not a bad thing. Our old software was a pain, but this looks user-friendly and pretty to boot.

It all seemed straightforward.

This is where things started to go wrong.

By the time I got to the store on rollout day, Thursday, the shift looked puzzled and exhausted. Apparently, the new system changed not only our POS, but how we open the store, clock in, markout product, do deposit, check sales, moniter tills, clock out, and close the store. And oh yes, there were no instructions on how to do any of this new stuff.

Have I mentioned yet that we don’t have a manager? Thankfully, the helpdesk called the store and walked us through the new system. Crisis somewhat averted. It will be a long learning curve. One of my shifts pointed out that normally when there’s someone new in the store, all the other partners know what to do and can help. Right now, we’re all learning with no one to show us how it’s done.

Anyway, all that and I haven’t even gotten to my 9-9 story! It all starts the morning after rollout (and keep in mind that we maintain a steady stream of customers and still aren’t comfortable with the new system):

Friday, March 26, 2010

9am– showed up at store to do some tutoring. Helped talk the register person through a few orders.

10:30– tutoring over, go in the back room to help a partner troubleshoot the training module.

11:30– asked to clock on early in order to help out the two shifts.

1:30– third person on the floor leaves, rest of the afternoon will be two people on the floor. Of course, we get slammed.

3:30– new shift comes in to replace the old one. They cannot figure out how to close out a till. They finally realize that the till doesn’t exist. Whew!

3:45– the new system is SKU based. Guess what? Starbucks just took the SKUs off all our packaged and bottled merchandise! Fun times.

4:00– My replacement is stuck in traffic.

4:30– finally can clock off. 

4:45– leave the store, fielding questions and comments from coworkers as I go.

6:30– call the store to ask a partner a quick question. Realize that shift is near tears. Ask what is the matter- apparently a customer just threatened to call corporate on her and the barista for not putting whipped cream on his chai. He took names, got his refund, and stalked out. Uh-oh.

6:45– stay on hold while shift tries to call someone in authority. Have I mentioned that we can’t get a hold of our manager or district manager?

7pm– Mum and I run into my Starbucks on our way to pick up dinner. Mum brings little bags of candy to the shaken shift and baristas. Morale is somewhat restored. Corporate is finally called, they now know what is going on. They agree that the baristas did everything right, and they say they will defend their actions. DM and SM are still unreachable.

8pm– just finished dinner. Shift calls, nearly in tears again. Cleaning tablets for the machines were zeroed out of our order, and we have none. Their third person just left the store, and they need the product ASAP. Not cleaning the machines tonight will result in the espresso machines locking up in the morning. Not good.

8:10– other stores aren’t picking up the phone. I get in the car (in the rain) to find product.

8:30– product gained, head to the store. Still raining. Still can’t find our manager.

8:45– give grateful shift the cleaning tablets. Notice, sitting at a table, the barista who is clocked off. He locked his keys in the car. In the rain. At the gas station near our store. In front of the pump. *headdesk* Listen to his story, offer him a place to stay if needed.

8:50– Take shift up on offer of free drink.

9pm– Return home. I need a few days off!

So there you have it- that’s what just my day looked like. I’m not alone. Almost everyone at our store is giving 200% to keep things running smoothly. So, the next time your barista looks a little stressed, keep in mind that they may be having a day like this themselves!

Have a good week, and drink more coffee!

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Ring Around the Rosy

Last week I jumped the gun and posted a picture of my “pocketful of” Posy. So this week, I have to post something about rings for Photo Friday. At least, that’s my excuse for posting this photo.

The truth is that my laptop is currently on its way to Sony to have the fan fixed. Do you know the sound of ice in a blender? That’s what my laptop sounds like. It’s not good.

Anyway, the laptop is gone, and with it all my current “artsy” pictures. However, I had this picture on my iPod so I emailed it to myself. There’s an existential activity for you!

Boring intro aside, I do love this photo. The bottom ring was given to me by my parents when I turned 15. The top ring is one I found for myself when I turned 21. I wear them both everyday, and get lots of compliments on them both.

The picture is a result of my playing around with the manual focus on my camera. The result, surprisingly, was a nice, sharp picture. The black and white effect only adds to the contrast.

As usual, click on the picture to see it full size (you really want to do this!). Have a wonderful weekend!

And because I’m a bookworm:

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. –J.R.R. Tolkien

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Ploughshares and Pruning Hooks

Today in Precept class we talked about war. Joel 3:9-10 talks about the very end of time, around the time of the events taking place in Revelation 19. (If you’re not familiar with Revelation 19, please take a few minutes and refresh your memory. This post will make more sense!) The nations are at war, the soldiers are gathering. In these verses in Joel, the Lord tells them to “Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare a war; rouse the mighty men! Let all the soldiers draw near, let them come up! Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears.” (NASB)

This is the ultimate call to war, a call to take your means of growing crops for food and life and turning them into weapons of war. The implication is clear—if you do not prepare to defend yourself, then you will not need to worry about growing food. You won’t be there to eat anymore.

Matthew 24:6-7 warns us that the end of time will be bloody and violent, “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars…For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” Revelation alone details 10 wars that take place in about 7 year’s time:

1. First seal, the rider on the white horse who comes conquering and to conquer (6:2).
2. Second seal, the rider on the red horse, who comes to take peace from the earth (6:4). Well, war will take peace from the earth.
3. Fourth seal, rider on an ashen horse name Death, who had Hades following him (6:8). They kill a quarter of the earth with sword, famine, pestilence, and with wild beasts.
4. Sixth trumpet, fire and brimstone come out of the mouths of 200 million horsemen (9:16-17). Read that number again: 200 million. 200,000,000. Wow. Moving on….
5. The beast makes war with the two witnesses (11:7).
6. The dragon makes war with the archangel Michael and his armies (12:7).
7. The dragon makes war with the followers of God (12:17). (The beast and the dragon are other, prophetic terms for Satan, just so you don’t think I’m trying to write the plot of a fantasy novel and pass it off for Biblical truth!)
8. The beast assembles armies to make war against Christ and His followers (19:19). *spoiler alert* This does not go in the beast’s favour.
9. 10 kings of the nations go and destroy Babylon (16:19).
10. Gog and Magog gather for war by the order of the beast (20:8). Fire comes down and destroys them. By the way, this is the only battle that does not take place in the 7 year time frame, this happens after the Satan is bound and Christ rules for 1000 years. We’ve a while yet to wait for this battle.

It’s a lot of war, a lot of fighting, a lot of death. Right now I can hear you all thinking; “What kind of God would bring this destruction to people? What is the point? What good does this all do?” I don’t want to get into the first two points because they are vast and deep subjects to explore. If I were to go there now your eyes would glaze over and your head would nod and you’d start snori….

Ahem. Basically, suffice it for now to say that God would not be true to Himself if He didn’t bring judgment at some point. However, it’s been almost 2000 years since Revelation was given to John, longer for the other prophecies. God intends for man to know what is going to happen so we can make an informed decision: will we trust in Him or not? We know the future, we can control our fate. Do you want to be on the winner’s side, or do you want to experience the punishment dealt out by the victors? It’s your choice, but I choose to be on God’s winning side.

The last question is worth examining. What good does all this do? For the answer, let me take you to one of my favourite prophetic books, Isaiah (though Joel’s a favourite too). There? Good! In 2:4 there’s a very interesting verse describing what life will be like after God establishes His kingdom for good; “and they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war.” It’s the exact opposite of the verse in Joel.

What a wonderful thought! In these days of war and uncertainty, it’s nice to think about peace. It may be hard in these modern time to understand all this business about ploughs and pruning hooks, so I’ll try to update it for you. Imagine an Air Force bomber being unarmed and turned into a mail carrier. Envision a tank rolling through neighbourhood streets playing “Turkey in the Straw” and selling ice cream. Things normally meant for military combat are instead converted for peaceful, everyday use. Can you imagine how secure these people will feel? Just the sheer amount of peace and lack of fear that allows you to turn your weapons into tools blows my mind.

More than this, they won’t even learn war. No sane nation, even a peaceful one, goes without some sort of combat training. There are always people learning to fight, just to be prepared, be ready, be safe. These people will not learn war—they will not fight nation to nation. This is absolute, utter peace—a peace the world has not known since sin entered the world, and death through sin (Rm. 5:12). It is just a wonderful, hopeful picture.

That is why I believe. This is what I live for: ultimate peace that comes from the ultimate source, God. One day, in His time, it will happen. Until then, I just hold on preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter the gates into the city…He who testifies to these things says “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. –Revelation 22:13-14,20 NASB

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The People You Meet At Starbucks- 2

Remember a while ago I started this series on stereotypical customers? Well, here’s part two! This week on Miss Woodhouse’s Musings, we will take a look at the behaviour patterns of the typical, new small-business owner:

Busy, busy, busy. At least, that’s what they’d like you to think about them. They spend the entire time in line and waiting for their drink busily talking on the phone (I’ll out them here: it’s usually to an old college buddy!). Then, they spend hours hunched over a laptop, clicking away with abandon (playing war games- I kid you not). At some point in their visit, an unsuspecting guest standing at the handoff plane will fall victim to their “oops, I dropped my business card, but why don’t you hang onto it and call me if you need my expertise” routine. Seriously, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this move come into play!

Common drinks ordered by this type of customer: basic nonfat latte or a plain, small coffee. They are new to business, after all, without much disposable income. The store is their office, our tables are their desk, our customers their target audience. Heating, electricity, wifi, furniture, and advertisement- all for the price of a coffee. It’s a great deal!

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Focus

Today’s Photo Friday features my puppy. I named her Posy, after the littlest Fossil girl in the book Ballet Shoes. If you haven’t read the story, you should. It’s very sweet.

Anyway, the picture is of her looking out the window. She’s a terrier, so she likes to track squirrels- devotedly, focused, unendingly. Almost obsessively. But she’s a cutie, and I love watching her watch the squirrels.

As always, click on the picture for the full size!

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Touch of the Irish

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! For those of you who don’t know me, I claim an interest in this holiday based on my hair alone. (Think Riverdance type curls.) Driving snakes off the island is just a wonderful fringe benefit. The fact is that I love pretty much all things Irish. The excessive drinking is a little out of my line, but barring that…yeah, I love it all!

Last Paddy’s day, Starbucks came out with a partner shirt that I flipped over. On it is a vintage shamrock and the words “Go Green” on a banner over it. It. Is. So. Cute.

There’s not much more I can think to say about today. Wear green, talk with a brogue, drink responsibly, and enjoy some great music! I’ve included a few of my absolute favourite songs to get your shamrock parade started.

May the road rise up to meet you

May the wind always be at your back

May the sun shine warm upon your face

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.


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It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye

My manager quit this week.

We all knew that this day was coming eventually, but across the board all the partners thought that it would be later rather than sooner. Monday she turned in her two-week’s notice; Tuesday she worked her last shift. I’m still reeling a little.

The reaction has been varied to a degree, but the first gut reaction from all of us was shock. Do you know that look people get when they are hit in the stomach so hard that they lose their breath? That’s the look we all had on our faces as the news traveled from person to person.

I understand why she is quitting. Life at Starbucks gets more challenging by the week. There’s never enough labour to go around, expectations seem to rise exponentially, and morale is dropping like a barometer during a hurricane. Physically, we are all exhausted. Emotionally, we are strung out. Mentally, we have been pushed to our limits and beyond. Through everything, our manager was there to keep us informed, help us learn and understand, and to make sure that we didn’t kill each other.

Now, we’re on our own.

Shock has been replaced with acceptance, even happiness that she is finally going to be able to call her life her own again. Happiness that she doesn’t have to deal with the hassle. Happiness that she will be able to pursue some of her other interests. She gave everything to the store. She was salaried to work 40 hours each week- often she worked 65 hours, sometimes more. She never asked us to work any harder than she did. If there was something to be cleaned, she would clean it. If we were shorthanded on the floor, she’d leave her administrative duties to lend a hand. She’d drive the 45 minutes from her house at night just to take inventory so we didn’t have more to do at night.

We’re going to be okay though. One of the most important things she did was make us into a team. At first this concept was fodder for a bunch of jokes. Every note from her (and there were oh so many!) contained the word “team” in it at least once, usually more. One of the running jokes was that if you wanted to post a note that everyone would read, you had to use the word “team” to make it look official. However, at some point we stopped laughing at the idea of being a team, and instead started acting like one.

We have each other’s backs. We don’t turn someone in when they’re doing something wrong- instead we try to help them correct the problem themselves. When tragedy hits, we’re there with meals. When people have to leave the store, we’re there with cards and gifts. We know what school classes everyone else taking. We know each other’s family and close friends. We have most of each other’s partner numbers memorized. All this is pretty much our manager’s doing.

She could turn any night into a party. If she had to stay late to keep an eye on a special event, do an order, write a schedule, or count merchandise she would order out pizza or Chinese food. Then, we would take advantage of any slow moments to grab a bite together in the back, talking and laughing about stupid things.

Most importantly, she made us work hard. She took over our store from a poor manager. The store was filthy, not known for being overly friendly, nor for making exceptional drinks. Within months, we were the cleanest store in the district, were ranked the highest store in the district by customers for a year straight, and were in the top three stores in the region (that’s over 90 stores in competition!). She won manager of the quarter last year, and totally deserved it. Even though we are tiny and relatively low volume, we are now the store to beat- it’s a real coup to be friendlier, make better drinks, or sell more promotional items then we do.

That’s what will get us through the next few weeks while we wait for a new manger, and what will sustain us through the first few months of a new person in charge. We have each other- no matter what happens, we can turn to each other and talk things over, try to make sense of everything. So far, we are doing amazingly well on our own, and I have no doubts that we will continue to do just fine. It’s an adjustment, but she trained us to survive on our own. We are independent for now, and it’s going to be okay.

So, goodbye friend. Even though we may not want to admit it, we’ll miss you in the store. We’ll miss the notes, the impromptu parties, the conversations about bowling. Don’t worry about us; we’re going to be just fine.

Go, Team!

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Yellow

It’s Photo Friday! This week is another flower picture, as you can see. Any help at identification would be much appreciated. (Click on the picture to see it full size!)

What am I?

I have this picture set as my iPod screensaver. I love the colour contrast, and the unusual flecks of orange on the flower itself. So there you have it! Feel free to leave any comments, or to tell me what kind of flower this is.

Update: with many, many thanks to John, this picture has now been identified as a Canna Lily. After extensive Google searching…erm, research, I concur!

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