A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

Monthly Archives: May 2006

Eiffel Tower and Polish Pilgrim

I went to the top of the Eiffel Tower today. It was pretty crowded, but well worth the wait for the view of Paris. But the coolest thing in my opinion was the apartment the M. Eiffel had at the top. I think I read about this before, but they’ve placed effigies of Eiffel and his daughter Claire entertaining–get this–Thomas Edison, who, in the English translation, is listed as an ‘American physician and inventor.’ My co-worker Livia said I should look at the tower as a high-tech marvel of its day, and certainly the idea of having Edison at the top indicates this. Plus, there were many posters describing interesting facts about the tower, many of them scientific. I was really quite impressed with the engineering feat; it’s no small thing, even today.

M. Eiffel in his studio

My plan afterwards, such as it was, was to walk along the Seine to the Nortre Dame train stop and return to the airport. But it started to rain very hard, and I was caught in it. I was able to duck under the canopy of a restaurant, where I noticed this guy who was also caught in the rain:

Polish pilgrim

Sensing that it would be interesting, I invited him to have coffee with me. Actually, he ordered a non-alcoholic beer while I had a cafe au lait. His name turned out to be Wocial (VOchal), and he is from Poland and speaks very, very little English, no French or Spanish or German, nor did he seem to understand my poor attempts to use churchy Latiny words. I speak no Polish, so it was great fun trying to communicate. We managed to talk about family (he’s married and has three children; a politician, a hairdresser or barber, and the third does something else. He’s on a pilgrimage (well, I knew that from the clothes); almost understood me when I told him I was an ‘Anabaptist.’ I never quite understood his pilgrimage, but the bar keepers laughed hard when he came in. Thanks to Karel Capek, he knew that I have worked with robots; I showed him my NASA business card, and he told me he’d seen the Discovery explosion on TV. He asked my opinion of Bush; things get real simple when you can only gesture thumbs up, thumbs down.

2005 Sacred Harp Frequency data

I posted this note to the Sacred Harp list today:

Hello all,

I’ve put the results of my frequency analysis of the 2005 Denson book tune choices, as recorded in the Minutes and Directory of Sacred Harp Singings for 2005, on the Sacred Harp section of my website:


The method was more or less the same: I tried to count just tunes chosen from the Denson book as recorded in the minutes book. It’s not perfect, but it gives a feel for how things are.

There are definitely more books turning up at singings; I’d love to do a better job of getting to all these, but I don’t think I’ll be able to, lamentably.

On a personal note, 2005 is the first year my name will appear in the minutes book. It gladdens my heart to be numbered among you. Thanks to Chris Thorman for providing data to me.

As always, comments and corrections are welcome.

Glossary for the confused

Need to know more about Christianity and its many ‘technical’ terms? holyoffice explains it all to you:

The Emerging Church: This is a term that refers to churches attended exclusively by white people in their 20s and 30s who have at least one tattoo or body piercing. Their distinguishing characteristics are a refreshing, “up to date” interpretation of Christianity, and a reluctance to directly answer questions.

He also explains the code from Vinci:

Q: How do we know these non-canonical works are more accurate than the canonical ones?
A: Because the people who regarded them as sacred came out on the losing end.

Q: So, in that case, is the “real” foundational document of the U.S. government actually the Articles of Confederation?
A: Yes! I was just saying that to the President of Congress the other day.

(via ll).

Please, please, please, don't do it

RIP, Liz Purchase

Dear Liz,

How we loved you. You were such an example to us when you started the “Bread Box,” a local restaurant and meeting place, to provide nutritious, home-made food inexpensively. And you did it when you were in your late 60’s–as part of your “outward journey” to serve God in the world, which also included your leadership in the local Bread for the World group.

When Yofi, our beloved cat, scratched our new baby’s face out of jealousy, and we had to find it a home, you took Yofi in, and made her fat and happy.

It seems like it’s been a long twilight for you, and though we are sad you are gone, we have the firm hope that you are feasting in the presence of the Jesus you served. And, if pets go to heaven, please say hello to Yofi for us, and tell her no hard feelings.

Obiturary. Thanks to Dean for the pointer.

Leo in motion

Here’s a picture of Leo, who lives downstairs. He’s real fast, so it’s hard to catch a picture of him:

My friend Leo

He tried to teach me to smile, but I don’t think I’ll ever smile as big as he does.

1688 Anti-slavery petition rediscovered

From The Mennonite Weekly Review:

The manuscript of the first protest against slavery in North America — written in Germantown in 1688 by a group that included Quakers and former Mennonites — has been rediscovered more than 50 years after it was last seen.
The document was uncovered this spring in the vault at the Arch Street Friends Meetinghouse in downtown Philadelphia, according to Randy Nyce, director of the Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust.

Geek'd out

What is the equivalent of testosterone for geeks? I mean, besides testosterone? I went to the Nutch meeting at the Rite-Spot Cafe (a delightfully greasy spoon not far from my house, actually), and sat around a loud, long table with (fellow) geeks talking about search and map-reduce and clusters and regression testing and spidering. The noise level became VERY LOUD and so I left to come home and sleep (though I’m writing this instead).

Folks there (that I met) from local.com, shopping.com, Yahoo! and the Internet Archive project. The later was represented by Micheal Stack, next to whom I happened to sit, and I’m glad I did.

How to die well

We attended the memorial service for Esther Chistophel this weekend. What a lovely service, and we learned a bit more about her last days and hours. She went to a hospice, where family and friends were welcomed. She was attended by most of her extended family. On her last day, several family members came to sing at various times. So did our pastor’s wife, Leanell, whom Esther love to hear sing. Someone rolled her bed out onto the back porch, where she could feel, she said, the soft spring rain on her face.

The Echoes of Grace, the gospel choir she and her husband sang in, came to sing for her as well. As they were unpacking the electronic piano, her son Kevin noticed she had stopped breathing. Someone said that they needed some music, and so the Echoes of Grace choir sang three songs as she saw, no doubt, ‘bright angels waiting to receive her:’

I want to live a Christian here,
I want to die a-shouting.
I want to feel my Savior near,
While soul and body’s parting.
I want to see bright angels stand
And waiting to receive me,
To bear my soul to Canaan’s land,
Where Christ has gone before me.
–Words to New Harmony.

Her husband, Eldon was, in fact, much consoled–so much so that he sang in the choir as they repeated the songs for us on Saturday.

So, how to die well: be faithful for a long time, sing much, make many different friends, use hospice. There were elements of chance/grace in all this: her illness was one that lent itself to dying so, and the family had fair warning. Still, I was deeply moved by the longtime faithfulness of Esther.

(A short note for fellow shape note singers: Esther learned to read music using the seven-shape system that the 1963 Mennonite Hymnbook was printed in–although she would have learned to sing earlier than that. She and Eldon did come to part of the Kalamazoo Annual Sacred Harp singing, and they enjoyed it.)

Ruth Christophel and Esther Christophel

I want to record the passing of two dear friends.

Ruth Christophel was a very dear woman, the oldest and sweetest person in our small Mennonite church, the wife of the founding pastor. She lived a long full life, and desired to go home to be with Jesus.

Esther Chistophel was a good friend to many, including Bess and me: we almost always sought her out for a word or two at church services, because she was so kind and loving and interested in the world around her. I’m sure I’m not the only one who burst into tears on hearing of her death. Her printed obituary says this:

Esther was [a] homemaker who lived for her family and those in need. She was a member of Pine Grove Mennonite Church, where she had taught Sunday school, was a former song leader and sent cards to shut-ins and the sick. She was also a member of the former Kellogg Community College Eclectic Coral, now known as Echoes of Grace and she volunteered at the Marian Burch Adult Day Care Center. Esther had a very outgoing personality and made new friends easily; and she enjoyed photography and vegetable and flower gardening.

Among those she cared for was her mother-in-law Ruth. Among the many sad things in the timing of her death is that after years of caring for her mother-in-law, she will be unable to spend her later years with her beloved husband Eldon, nor he with her. I can’t imagine the grief of losing both your mother and your wife in a fortnight’s time.

May God console Eldon and the extended Chirstophel family in their grief. I imagine Esther singing in God’s vast multi-ethnic choir, excited and joyful about the new tunes she is learning, the new ways of praising the God she loves.