Thursday, January 31, 2008

Knowing why and when and where to flee

Via Wittingshire, you can take a quiz about the last day of Pompeii: Would You Survive?

I was (according to the quiz) one of the theoretical survivors. Let's not go into how much of that was by dumb luck and wild guesses, shall we?

Why good people do evil things (like kill babies)

As some of you know, I used to be pro-choice, but now am pro-life. The blogger "Et tu?" also used to be pro-choice, and is now pro-life. Don't miss her post on what made her change her mind, and how hard it was to make the changeover. She brings some good insight to the discussion, I think. (And also some history.)

The Rebelution's Keep Moving Forward series/ Book note: Do Hard Things

The Rebelution challenges teens to not give in to low expectations. Check out, for instance, Keep Moving Forward: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four. Even if you aren't a teen.

From Part One:

Most of us, however, are not so passionate, tending to get comfortable just living life and getting by — neither giving our current activities the energy they deserve nor dreaming of anything better than what we already have. We stop exerting ourselves and get comfortable halfway up the ladder. Or, to use a different analogy, it is as if we are sitting on a stepping-stone in the middle of a stream. We’re comfortable, yes, but we were never intended to get cozy on a stepping-stone. Our ultimate goal is to cross over to the other side.
From Part Four:

...our hope is that you would learn to throw yourselves 100% into the small things God has in front of you, but to not get so comfortable there that you miss the next thing, the bigger, better opportunities He brings your way when you keep your eyes open for them. We want you to be like someone who has been faithfully exercising, but is constantly looking for opportunities to use the strength that he or she has developed to serve others in a productive, real world situation.

One of our mother’s favorite sayings is the line, “Hustle while you wait.” She might tell us that after dinner when we are all sitting around waiting for dessert but the table hadn’t been cleared. She would get the dessert all served out but often wouldn’t bring it to the table until everything was completely cleared. ‘Hustle while you wait’ meant that something good we wanted depended on our quick and cheerful execution of a task immediately in front of us.

Not familiar with The Rebelution? From the official book description of Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations, due out April 15, 2008:

The next generation stands on the brink of a "rebelution."

With over 14 million hits to their website, Alex and Brett Harris are leading the charge in a growing movement of Christian young people who are rebelling against the low expectations of their culture by choosing to "do hard things" for the glory of God.

Written when they were 18 years old, Do Hard Things is the Harris twins' revolutionary message in its purest and most compelling form, giving readers a tangible glimpse of what is possible for teens who actively resist cultural lies that limit their potential.

Combating the idea of adolescence as a vacation from responsibility, the authors weave together biblical insights, history, and modern examples to redefine the teen years as the launching pad of life and map a clear trajectory for long-term fulfillment and eternal impact.

Written by teens for teens, Do Hard Things is packed with humorous personal anecdotes, practical examples, and stories of real-life rebelutionaries in action. This rallying cry from the heart of revolution already in progress challenges the next generation to lay claim to a brighter future, starting today.

Go ahead. Do a dance step or two, or stand up and cheer. I understand. Really, I do. (And nothing would make me happier than to see this book become a New York Times bestseller. Heh.)

Browsing through the links

I'm spending some time this week going through my links list, visiting sites I haven't been to in a long time. I've found a few places that have changed a name and/or a site, or gone out of business (I've removed those). And can Nathaniel be turning two already? Where does the time go? Wasn't it just a few months ago he was fighting for his newborn life?

At Cheat-Seeking Missiles, I found a couple of interesting posts right at the top. Fade-Out On The Campaign TV Spot looks at changes in how national political campaigns are run, now that television ads are so expensive, and now that there are more (and better) alternatives. Creationism Bragging Rights takes a mostly-humorous look at recent claims about machine-made life. He says what the scientists are really claiming (when you cut through the hype and spin) isn't that they're on the verge of creating life. As he puts it, they're talking about hijacking it. There's a difference.

When you get through laughing at Laer's punchline, though, please go read the article that prompted his post: Giant step toward artificial life, by Sabin Russell, Chronicle Medical writer, San Francisco Chronicle, January 25, 2008. Except for the rather unfortunate "there is the matter of bragging rights of mythological proportions. Mere mortals have yet to lay claim to creating life" segment, it's really an interesting, informative, and rather well-balanced article, I thought. And it does give space to concerns about what's going on.

Update: Sallie is leading a discussion on Jane Austen movies. She also has a long and thoughtful, very good post in which she revisits a post from May of 2005 on deciding what's important, and acting on it. I'm in a simplify-and-cut-back phase right now, and appreciated the inspiration.

Update: Patrick Deneen takes a look at "the breakdown of a covenant of respect and honor," and "the growing evidence of shamelessness among our middling debtor class."

On the Democratic contenders

Anthony Esolen notes:

Truth to tell, I'm cheered by Barack Obama's victory over Mrs. Clinton. So are a lot of people who call themselves conservatives, and that demands some explanation, given that on social issues, on taxes, and on immigration, Mr. Obama's positions are impossible to separate from Mrs. Clinton's. What is going on here?

Read the rest.

This year I can't see myself voting for either Democrat, but I find Esolen's comments interesting. I'm not sure he has any grounds for his admittedly slim hopes that Obama might help return the Democratic Party to stances, values, and focus more in line with its worthier days, but here's hoping he's right. Certainly I can't see the Clintons doing it.

Fooled by randomness

I like lessons that leave me with a useful mental picture, or a humorous way of reminding myself to watch out for common mistakes. I'd say this fits the bill nicely.

From Cafe Hayek: Snapping his fingers (a post mainly addressing the stimulus package):
There once was a man on a Manhattan street corner snapping his fingers over and over again. What are you doing, someone asked. Keeping away tigers, he said. You don't think that really works, do you? It's working so far, he answered.

Hah. There you go, I said to myself, when I read that. I spend a fair amount of time looking at things and wondering if something has really helped, or if it was coincidence, or what. Now I can look at a situation and ask myself if it's real, or finger snapping to keep away tigers. Heh.

Russell Roberts filed that post under Fooled by Randomness. Fooled by randomness? Uffda. Been there. Done that. Expect it will happen again despite my best intentions. Ahem.


To know who said this (and when):

"Do not let us be hair splitters. Let us not ask ourselves whether the Americas should begin to defend themselves after the first attack, or the fifth attack, or the tenth attack, or the twentieth attack. The time for active defense is now."
And this (and when):

"...if you treat the Americans well they will always want to treat you better."
And this (and when):

"I prefer to collaborate with my allies rather than with my enemies."
...pop over to Expat Yank and check out the sidebar.

(A hint: one is by Winston Churchill.)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I'm from the government and I'm here to help (raise your kids)

This post is going to haunt me for a while, I think. I've tried for a couple of days to come up with useful commentary, but, well, I need to think about this a while longer, I guess.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Margaret Truman Daniel, dead at 83

The multi-talented Margaret Truman Daniel has died at age 83 after a short illness. I have mixed feelings about many of her books (see my rambling thoughts on her remarkable biography of her mother, for instance), but there's no denying her intelligence, talent, skills, insider's insight, and spirit. My condolences to her family.

Saturday, January 26, 2008


Phil at Brandywine Books shares some advice borrowed from Paul Borthwick's book Simplify: 106 Ways to Uncomplicate Your Life.

Tim Challies on his first book

In Reflections from a First Time Author, well-known evangelical blogger Tim Challies discusses book writing, and publishing today. (Via Albert Mohler's review of Challies's book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment.)

Give this man a Daddy Award

Daddyhood, in four minutes of music.

Welcome to the era of sailing ships

Sort of.

Side note: I think the currently-fashionable panic about CO2 is offbase, and based more on vogue than science. But I do like the projected savings in operating expenses. And I like that this new technology saves fuel. (When the wind cooperates, of course.)

hat tip: Expat Yank

Terrorism by any other name...

The UK government has decided to rename Islamic terrorism, designating it henceforth as "Anti-Islamic Activity"?

Mark Steyn considers this and other recent actions as excessive deference to Islam (not to mention Orwellian, not to mention self-defeating). His argument here: First They Came for Piglet (National Review Online, January 26, 2006).

The Saturday Review of Books... up at Semicolon. Link a review of your own and/or read reviews written by other bloggers.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Changing attitudes about abortion

In Have your views on abortion changed? (Mommy Life, January 21, 2008), Barbara Curtis writes:

As someone who was in on the early days of abortion - and had one myself - I can say that never in our wildest dreams did we think that abortion would become a form of birth control ending up in 1.5 million deaths per year and wiping out 1/4 of the next generation. Why aren't feminists worried about the message that sends about women and children - that our lives and decisions are worth so little?


What I'd really like to take to the Blogs 4 Life conference is a message of reality and hope. How are blogs affecting the way readers perceive abortion and other life-related issues? How has the Internet/how have blogs changed the way you think about abortion?

I'm asking because some of my readers have shared that they have been led by stuff they've read here to question their preconceived notions about abortion. Many were unaware of the number of babies aborted. Some had never considered the psychological implications for a generation growing up knowing that their parents had the power of life and death over them. Many are awakening to the fact that the Boomer Generation in its selfishness has created a huge societal problem as it grows to demand longer and better living - with Social Security benefits paid for by a population base shrunken - not by pestilence, famine or flood, but by their own hands.

Read the rest

Canada's cheap lives

January 28 marks the 20th anniversary of R. vs. Morgentaler, which struck down abortion laws in Canada. This week, National Post writers will be looking at the legacy of the ruling. In the first installment, The Day Humanity Became Cheap, "David Frum argues that the decision served to cheapen the value of human life."

hat tip: The Black Kettle

Welcome to the Wild West

On our sidewalk, deer tracks overlap boot prints, and cat tracks...

We never have figured out who scraped the sidewalk for us right before this latest dusting of snow. I was changing into work clothes to head out to clear off the few inches of snow that had built up, when someone with a motorized scraper drove up onto the sidewalk and did the job for us, and then drove off without so much as saying howdy. Whoever you are, thanks.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Historic Sunday School Books online

From American Memory (The Library of Congress), "Sunday School Books: Shaping the Values of Youth in Nineteenth-Century America":
This collection presents 163 Sunday school books published in America between 1815 and 1865, drawn from the collections of Michigan State University Libraries and the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University Libraries. They document the culture of religious instruction of youth in America during the Antebellum era. They also illustrate a number of thematic divisions that preoccupied nineteenth-century America, including sacred and secular, natural and divine, civilized and savage, rural and industrial, adult and child. Among the topics featured are history, holidays, slavery, African Americans, Native Americans, travel and missionary accounts, death and dying, poverty, temperance, immigrants, and advice.
The home page for the collection at Michigan State University is here.

The people who "happen to be there"

I like this C. S. Lewis quote.

Photos of Lincoln's Second Inaugural found

Photographs parading under mislabels have now been determined to be from President Abraham Lincoln's second inauguration.

By the way, have you ever read the speech he gave that day? Not just the most famous bit...
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
... which is the end of it, but the whole Second Inaugural Address?

Baptist church gains in Vietnam

From "Vietnam church gains legal status, leads national outreach," (Baptist Press, Jan. 17, 2008):

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam (BP)--Vietnamese Baptists met at Grace Baptist Church in Ho Chi Minh City Jan. 10-11 to celebrate the church's receiving official government recognition and to organize a new national confederation. This historic development is expected to encourage future evangelism and church-planting efforts in the country.

The Vietnamese government made this possible by granting a certificate of religious practice to the church. The 400-member group met to create Grace Baptist Southern General Confederation. It adopted a constitution and elected officers for the new organization, which will organize and represent new churches across Vietnam.


The church sits alongside the main airport road in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. Formerly called Saigon, the city was renamed in the 1970s at the end of the war... The church is completing an expansion of its building, prompted by a road-widening project. A new multi-story building is fronted with a dramatic spiral staircase and topped with a cross.

Grace Baptist Church is an outgrowth of Southern Baptist missionary work that began in Vietnam in the late 1950s. Missionaries left the country when the Vietnam War ended in 1975. Since then, the Vietnamese government has not allowed missionary presence.

But that foundational work continued to grow. Today, Baptists are widely acknowledged as the fastest-growing church group in Vietnam. There are now some 5,000 Baptists in 90 congregations in a dozen cities and provinces across the country. Only some of them are allied with Grace, church leaders said.

Read the article

Popephobia (and its countercurrent)

Perhaps you've heard that Pope Benedict XVI canceled a speech at a Rome university this week, because of threats from students and faculty?

Michael Ledeen taught at that university back in the 1970s. In a post at The Corner at NRO, he provides some background, and also notes that he's not the only Jewish intellectual speaking out in support of the Pope in the wake of the incident.

hat tip: Bookworm Room

Who owns your body?

As Melanie Phillips explains in Organs of Coercion, when a government feels it has a claim on your vital organs, it's not necessarily a good thing. (/understatement)

And no, this is not science fiction. It probably should be, but it isn't.

Can spring be far behind?

Our Seed Savers Exchange catalog arrived in the mail yesterday. I must say, seed catalogs do make winter more fun. (Not to mention spring, summer, and fall, if you're a gardener. :)

Never underestimate the power of inspired music

There's reportedly a Johann Sebastian Bach boom sweeping East Asia, with surprising results.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Considering freedom

Via Bookworm Room, Richard Disney showcases a 1948 cartoon which educates against "ISM." (That would be the snake oil -isms peddled by those utopians who promise great things in exchange for freedom.) The video is between nine and ten minutes long.

Over at the New York Times, Jeffrey Rosen provides a review of the new book Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment by Anthony Lewis.

If you didn't follow the link the other day in the Thermostat Policing post, I'd like to highlight the end of Don Boudreaux's Rampaging Regulators post:

I quote again the final lines of Thomas Sowell's greatest book: Knowledge and Decisions:

[Freedom] is, above all, the right of ordinary people to find elbow room for themselves and a refuge from the rampaging presumptions of their "betters."

The link inside the above quote takes you to a May 2004 Cafe Hayek post, which has the quote coupled with the sentence which leads into it:

Freedom is not simply the right of intellectuals to circulate their merchandise. It is, above all, the right of ordinary people to find elbow room for themselves and a refuge from the rampaging presumptions of their “betters.”
Hear! Hear!

BTW: Boudreaux has a follow up post to Rampaging Regulators.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Appearances versus reality

You would think that after the Dewey Defeats Truman embarrassment suffered by the Chicago Tribune (noted in this Wikipedia article on the United States presidential election of 1948), there wouldn't be a paper on Earth that would court making the same mistake. But no.

In a follow-up post, Robert shows that an attempt to explain why they goofed didn't help matters much, if at all.

Robert quotes his mother in the second post, and I think she might have a point that pollsters and pundits might want to keep in mind:
The media never understood that most women over 50 don’t go to political rallies. But they do vote. So while the Hannah Montanas were filling Obama’s rallies and the media loved that, when push came to shove their mothers and grandmothers turned out in bigger droves to vote not for the media’s rock idol, but for the mature lady: Hillary.
Friends, let's not get into commentary about how mature she is or isn't, please. Not here, at any rate. The point I think is a valid one. If you put too much stock in political rallies, you'll miss the voters who typically don't go to rallies, and that's most of us, at a guess.

Do you ever wonder if our news industry would be healthier if television had never been invented, or, more precisely, if somehow television news hadn't become obsessed with video footage? I don't know about you, but one of my peeves with many folks in television news is how often they run footage or put up a picture that doesn't go with a particular story, but apparently strikes them as similar enough to illustrate the piece.

OK, OK, so it's not just television. Back in my newspaper days, I was assigned to do a feature on birdwatching opportunities in the area. The news editor illustrated my piece on white pelicans with a photo of a brown pelican. He never could seem to figure out why I thought experienced birdwatchers (not to mention a sizable percentage of third graders, just for instance) might find that jarring, to put it politely. Argh, even. His contention was that "a pelican's a pelican." (Perhaps it's time to modify the saying about "Close enough for government work"?)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Men acknowleging their lost children

More and more men are calling themselves "post-abortive men," according to "We Had Abortions . . . . I've Had Abortions" -- A New Voice in the Abortion Debate at

Mohler's post has links to and excerpts from a January 7, 2008, article in The Los Angeles Times by Stephanie Simon, which ran under the title "Changing Abortion's Pronoun." (registration required).

Do you know Roe?

Here's a quiz on Roe v. Wade.

The sponsors are trying to gauge what the public thinks (or assumes) Roe v. Wade said and did, versus what the law does say and has done. So pop on over and take a few minutes. Results will be announced in eight days.

How did I do? I, ahem, needed the refresher course... Let's leave it at that, shall we? (One nice thing about this quiz is that after you finish, it gives you a chart showing not only what you got right and what you got wrong, but giving the correct answers. Run your mouse over the box to bring up whatever you want to read in more detail.)

January 22, 2008 marks the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

The value of trust

While parts of Africa are struggling to overcome "low trust" governance, are Western governments taking their "high trust" status for granted? Robert Tumminello discusses that and more in this post. (Which also somewhat alters how I think about The Sound of Music...)

Are young people in Britain...

...less free than any generation since the Middle Ages? Author George MacDonald Fraser asserted that in this excerpt from The Light's On At Signpost (excerpt published as "The last testament of Flashman's creator: How Britain has destroyed itself" in the Daily Mail, Jan. 5, 2008)

Mr. Fraser died Jan. 2 at the age of 82.

hat tip: Frank Wilson

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Calls for unity...

...have two major problems, Dennis Prager notes.

Noted in passing in the same article:

Ironically, one reason America became the freest country in the world was thanks to its being founded by disunited Christians -- all those Protestant denominations had to figure out a way to live together and make a nation.
American History 101 does need to be dusted off from time to time, I guess...

hat tip: Bookworm Room

Monday, January 07, 2008

Blogging and bad neighborhoods

Rabbi Avi Shafran writes about basic Jewish values, and the dangers the blogosphere poses to them, in Blogistan (Jewish World Review, January 2, 2008)

Previous related post: The ethics of blogging

Thermostat policing

Heads up, Californians. According to Cafe Hayek: Rampaging Regulators, there are government officials in your state trying to make it mandatory for new or modified heating or air conditioning units to be remote controllable by government officials, so they can raise or lower your thermostat setting as they see fit, during "emergency events." You have until the end of January to file comments on the proposal.

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien on marriage

In this article about what tithing is about, Jordan Ballor has this:

The focus on the good brought to ourselves in the act of tithing is one that corrupts the purpose of the giving itself. C. S. Lewis provides an analogy to the proper view of marriage that fits here. Lewis said that you don’t get married to become happy, but rather to make the other person happy. Your own happiness is a by-product, a consequence, of maintaining the proper end. If, by contrast, you get married simply in order to make yourself happy, your true happiness is made that much more unlikely.

In the same way, whatever benefits we claim to receive from tithing, whether spiritual, emotional, or financial, these are not to be the reason that we give...

Meanwhile, over at Wittingshire, there's Tolkien on Soul Mates, from a letter J.R.R. Tolkien wrote to his son Michael.

Another call for the best of blogging in 2007

Is there something you read on a blog last year that you'd like to put in the spotlight? Gina Dalfonzo wants to know about favorite blog posts of 2007.

What killed the dinosaurs?

I like Frank Wilson's commentary on this, by the way.

But if you follow the link in his post you'll read about a new book called What Bugged the Dinosaurs?: Insects, Disease, and Death in the Cretaceous, by George O. Poinar, Jr and Roberta Poinar.

Oregon State University press release on the authors and their theories here.

Added: Phil at Brandywine Books recommends a dinosaur book for kids, Encyclopedia Prehistorica Dinosaurs: The Definitive Pop-Up. I list it here because he notes that he has problems with the section on why the dinosaurs died.

Frats for gentlemen

When I was in college, a coed who valued her reputation - not to mention her safety - generally steered clear of members of fraternities. Perhaps things are changing? At least in some places?

From NPR : From Togas to Yoga: Fraternities Try to Alter Image:

Sigma Phi Epsilon has taken on a new agenda, and it goes by the name of Balanced Man. The principles: leader, scholar, athlete and gentleman. There's a lot of talk about being gentlemen.

They have thrown out the defining first step of fraternity membership: pledging. That means freshmen like Chen don't have to scrape out the pumpkin seeds — or do unspeakable things with them. Chen says that if there were hazing and endless keggers, he never would have joined.

"I came to Georgetown. I'm paying $50,000 a year. I kind of want to accomplish something outside of, you know, having a good story to tell my grandkids about what not to do in college," he says.

Sigma Phi Epsilon isn't the only one trying the "classy frat guy" style. According to the North American Interfraternity Conference, half of its 350,000 undergraduates are in these "re-imagining the frat"-type programs. With names like Men of Principle and the True Brother Initiative, the programs prop up civility, scholarship and virtue.