Friday, March 28, 2008

Initiative lessons, part two

Sure, you want your kids to have initiative. But sometimes that means putting up with their ingenuity... :)

And, hey, I think Wonder Boy did good, don't you?

Book note: Sadie Rose and the Impossible Birthday Wish, by Hilda Stahl

I live in an old house. There are 18 inches of hanging space in the closet in the main bedroom, and an extravagant 21 to 22 inches in the second bedroom, which was added on years later. It's a good reminder that until recently most Americans (as I understand it) didn't have but a handful of clothes at any given time, especially of the sort that warrants hanging carefully on a hanger.

If you don't live in an old house, you can get the same message from reading old books, or books with historical themes. I recently read Sadie Rose and the Impossible Birthday Wish. The copyright is 1992, but the setting is pioneer Nebraska. Sadie Rose, the heroine, is coming up on her 13th birthday. Spoilers follow. She has two dresses, an everyday one and a good one. The good one is too small for her. For her birthday, what she wants, but the family can't really afford, is hair ribbon. Not a lot. Just enough for her two braids. One set of two ribbons, in other words. On her birthday, she gets her first "long dress," one about ankle length, made over from a dress someone else wore. She gets a few other things, but oh, those ribbons seem impossible. Spoilers end.

This is Book 9 in a series. I haven't read the others, but found that this one held up just fine as a stand-alone. It's Christian fiction, aimed at 9 to 12-year-olds, with a view of teaching them about patience and compassion. Sadie Rose and company manage to get into enough adventures and misunderstandings to keep it from being syrupy, and it's got some nice historical tidbits (OK, how would you keep dirt from falling out of a sod roof into food on the table? Did you ever think of that being a potential problem in a soddy?) but it's still in that class of Christian fiction that some people find too focused on the acquisition of virtue. (Or, at least, it felt a bit too much that way for me, perhaps I should say.) Still, it's better than many, and Sadie Rose is no wimp, bless her heart, and she's a likeable kid, but not perfect by any stretch.

I'm open to recommendations for other kidlit, both Christian and secular, that shows how people routinely used to get by with far less stuff than is generally considered normal today, not to mention far less entertainment, etc., but didn't whine about it. Suggestions?


The things we think are important...

What you see isn't always right, with teens

Several years ago, we had a problem with teen boys gathering near our combination bookstore and gas station after the neighboring grocery store closed for the day. They'd park their pick-ups and cars in a huddle, and stand in front of them, trying to look tough as the rest of the community went by. For all intents and purposes, they'd taken over the grocery store parking lot (which adjoins ours). They were making people unhappy. They were making me unhappy, too. But I gritted my teeth and decided to wait them out, figuring they'd get bored with the game someday, figuring it would be asking for trouble to confront them.

One day, someone muttered angrily to my husband that 'somebody ought to do something' about those kids. My husband looked across at the kids, studying them, then said he thought the person was right. He grabbed his cane and walked alone over to the pack of teens. I watched with my heart in my throat. The next thing I knew, the kids were crowding around him, looking very happy, and shaking his hand.

My husband came back and I asked him what in the world had just happened. "I deputized them," he said. "You did what?!" I said, before I caught myself. He smiled. "The main thing wrong with those kids is that no one has given them any responsibility. I told them we'd been having a little trouble over here and I'd appreciate it if they kept an eye out for us while they were here." I was dubious, but he assured me it would work.

And it did. He was right. I was wrong. The kids weren't looking for trouble, really. They mostly wanted to be grown-ups, and weren't getting enough opportunity to practice, or enough encouragement in the right direction. So they were building facades.

I think that's true of a lot of teens. And it's one thing I tend to forget.

Amanda Witt has another angle on the subject.

Update: My husband offers a mild correction. What he was giving those kids was responsibility and authority. I consider that an important point. Some of the worst experiences of my life grew out of situations where I had responsibility without authority.

Book notes: The Ten-Year Nap, by Meg Wolitzer

For what it's worth, the New York Times book section has a feature article on a novel starring upper-middle-class women who decide to stay home to raise their kids. From Writing About Women Who Are Soccer Moms Without Soccer, by Motoko Rich, March 25, 2008:

It’s got hot-button issues written all over it, all right. But Ms. Wolitzer, 48, sidestepped the polemical debate that has characterized many nonfiction contributions to the motherhood genre.

“I’m not writing the Big Book o’ Motherhood and Work,” said Ms. Wolitzer, who has been a working writer since she was 23 and now has two children, Gabriel, 17, and Charlie, 13, with her husband, Richard Panek, also a writer.

What she wanted, she said, was to capture the nuances of characters who happened to have children and happened not to work.

Some of them miss their jobs; some don’t. Some feel guilt; others don’t. Amy Lamb is a former lawyer who worries constantly about money. Jill Hamlin once pursued a career in academia and then in film, but now stays at home and worries that she doesn’t connect with her adopted daughter. Roberta Sokolov, who once wanted to be an artist, is jealous of her husband, who, after years of slogging in a pays-the-bills job, lands a gig running a children’s puppet show.

All the women have thoughts likely to have readers nodding vigorously in recognition.

Before she began the novel, Ms. Wolitzer confessed, she judged those mothers who stayed home full time. But as she wrote, she realized that paid work wasn’t always fulfilling.

“The notion that everyone has a calling, that everyone has a talent, that everyone has a passion, isn’t true,” said Ms. Wolitzer, whose graying curly hair and laugh lines betray her age, but whose baggy leather jacket and battered brown leather satchel recall her years as a writing student. “I didn’t understand that.”

All right, I'd like to quibble with the attitudes in that last paragraph, and I'm a bit concerned that a book about a group of women doing ten-year stints at fulltime motherhood is called "The Ten-Year Nap," but at least the New York Times is quoting somebody who noticed (however late in life) that paid work isn't necessarily all it's cracked up to be, and that different women have different priorities and goals.

From the article, I'm not sure if the book is what we'd consider 'family-friendly,' in more ways than one, but I hope it's at least an icebreaker amongst the 'a smart women is letting the sisterhood down if she doesn't devote herself to a fancy career' set. I've had enough of their fang-baring at women not in their clique, haven't you?

There are bikes, and then there are bikes

When I was a kid, I grew my way through a few bikes, but they were all of them practical. They had fenders to keep off the mud splatters, and they had baskets. I did not consider myself properly set up unless I had saddle baskets as well as a handlebar basket. The saddle baskets were rigid wire like the regular basket, but deeper, and straddling the back wheel as they did, they had a lower center of gravity. I could carry an astonishing amount on a bicycle. My violin posed a problem. On my way to lessons, I had to carry it on the handlebars instead of in a basket, but otherwise, those baskets could handle pretty much whatever I wanted to carry.

In Japan, I likewise had a practical bicycle. I was visiting a friend over there, and she happened upon a couple of bikes that had been thrown away, that she thought could be fixed up easily. So she brought them home, and with a bit of elbow grease and ingenuity, we were set. We horrified our Japanese acquaintances, by the way. "But those bikes are gomi," they said. Trash. Garbage. Rubbish. Something someone has thrown away. "So?," we crazy Americans cheerfully said, "just call us The Gomi Sisters." At that point I think several of our friends decided that they would never understand Americans.

But anyway, my recycled Japanese bike was sturdy and had a basket, and it made my life easier. Where we were was well set up for using a bicycle for going to the grocery store, and it was customary to shop daily. Considering the kitchen in my friend's apartment, and its lack of storage space, it was also along toward necessary to shop nearly every day, by the way.

So, the last few years, I have been looking, without success, for a similar bike, with which to do my grocery shopping these days. Does anyone around here carry a sensible bike? No. I can buy a bike and a trailer to go with it, by which fancy and somewhat expensive set-up I can use the bike for shopping, but, so far at least, I have not been able to find a basic, one-speed, workhorse of a bike, with fenders, and with baskets. There seems to be a horror of baskets these days. And of fenders, for that matter. Sigh.

You would think, with the cost of driving a car being what it is these days, and the push to use less fuel, that stores would be crawling with practical bicycles, ones that you can use on shopping trips. But, no. At least not around here.

While on the subject of bikes, this is interesting. And fun, albeit in a slightly wacky way. But I can't see how useful it would be, if you had groceries to pack home, etc. The Hyperbike (aka Body Rite) official website is here. What they tell you at the official site, but might not be clear from the television interview, is that the bikes shown in the videos are prototypes.

Friday funny

From Jokes - and how to tell them, by Sonny Fox (Young Readers Press, 1965):
Jim and Jack were fishing in the lake for the first time. They happened upon a spot where the fish were really biting. "We better mark this spot so we'll know where to come tomorrow," said Jim. The next day they were talking about their hidden cove. "How did you mark the spot, Jim?" asked Jack. "I put an X on the side of the boat." "What a silly thing to do," said Jack. "Suppose we get a different boat?"
Of course, it ought to be Ole and Sven instead of Jim and Jack, in my opinion...

Favorite lines from Narnia books sought

Phil at Brandywine Books is hosting a Narnia book giveaway. List a favorite line from the Narnia stories in the comments at this post, and you're entered in the drawing.

Hmmm. I've been re-reading The Screwtape Letters this week. Do you suppose he'd notice if I stuck in a quote from that instead? (Just joking, Phil! Just joking! Of course you'd know the difference.)

January sure has been long this year...

It is snowing. Again. Winter put in a stirring performance this year around here, and it seems intent on making curtain calls. In a man-made and man-run theater, we'd have audience members bailing out the exits by now, and stagehands hauling out the hooks to drag the spotlight-drunk star off the stage. But since we don't run the show, and since I can't afford a trip to, say, Hawaii, I'm settling in to enjoy the snow. I might as well, I guess. Two to four inches is predicted during this encore. I might have to dig the snow shovel back out from the shed. A few weeks ago I naively thought we were done with this sort of thing for the year, and happily packed the shovel away.

We have, by the way, a baseball tournament in progress down the street. Baseball, if you haven't noticed, is not an indoor sport. Teams have come from all around the state just to play a summer game, and are, off and on at least, playing it in swirling snowflakes. Such a deal. It will make for good stories when they're middle-aged, if nothing else, I guess. "When I was your age, son, I played baseball in the snow. And we won. So stop your bellyaching... What's the younger generation coming to, anyway?"

It was just our luck that a cold winter coincided with a spike in heating oil prices. Is spike the right word? It doesn't seem strong enough, somehow... Anyway...

I grew up in a social niche where 72 degrees was room temperature. I think somebody in government recommended it as a good temperature, and somehow it came to be the most common temperature, and from there it became the expected temperature, and from there it became the temperature at which all self-respecting people (at least all the self-respecting people we knew) kept their houses year-round. I remember, as a kid, that amongst our friends were people who would lower their thermostats during the winter, but didn't want anyone to know about it. There were also people who closed off part of their house during the winter to save on heating costs, but likewise didn't want anyone to know. Common sense, apparently, was out of fashion.

I don't know what we were thinking. I can't remember the last time I had the thermostat at 72, nor the last time I didn't close off rooms I wasn't using. It's no hardship, and it saves enough money to make a difference. You wear a few more clothes in the winter? So what? You have to get acclimated to a lower temperature every fall? So what? As for the closing off of rooms, it makes it all the sweeter when spring comes around, and you can stretch out again.

Of course, I'm blessed with a cheerful temperament, and I enjoy outsmarting circumstances, and frugality is one of my favorite sports. Some people, I notice, are happier pretending to be put upon. I don't get it, but there it is.

A few months back, an acquaintance at church was telling me about where she lived, in a tumble down part of town. She was saying that the house she rented was really pretty comfortable, despite what people thought about houses along that street. She was also gushing with nice things to say about her landlord. I've had that landlord as a landlord in days past, and he really is a nice man, and johnny-on-spot when it comes to reported problems. If you'll work with him, he'll work with you, and he goes out of his way to keep rents down.

So, the other day, I had occasion to look up the acquaintance, and found that she was days away from moving to an apartment elsewhere in town. Now that she'd decided to move, she had not one good thing to say about the place she was leaving, but chief among her complaints was that she'd had to spend $900 on heating oil so far this winter. She was pointing out the cracks along the doors, and bemoaning the lack of insulation. She also tried to light into listing little things she thought the landlord should have done for her, but didn't. That wasn't flying well since we both know the man, so she shifted back to being really upset about the heating bill. "This place just sucks oil," she said.

Well, I've lived in places like that. I currently live in a place built back before much (if any) insulation in the walls or ceiling was considered necessary, and before windows were insulated, and there are cracks around our windows and doors, too. We put tape here, and foam there, and plastic sheets up, and it helps, but it's still a bit tricky to keep it heated, especially if you're trying to stretch your dollars. So I started in with pleasant commiseration (what are friends for?), and was starting to tell her about how we just bundle up a bit and turn the thermostat down, etc., and how it helped us a lot. I'm not sure what I expected, but I got a startled stare from her.

And then it sunk through my thick skull that while I was warmly dressed in a sweater, she was in a short sleeve shirt. Her oil stove was in the same room as us. Set at 72. I guess she never got the updated memo...

I didn't know quite what to say. From what I could pick up, she'd spent the winter being frantic about her heating bills, and yet she hadn't done the most basic adapting to reduce the bill.

She's on welfare. We're not. I wonder if that makes a difference, or if she's simply a few decades behind me, and thinks it's shameful to not have a room temperature of 72. Or what?

Oh, well. She considers me a self-respecting and respectable person. I can only hope that I helped her feel OK with the idea of turning down the heat.

Before you laugh too hard, or tut tut too much, I'm nearly willing to bet you've got some counterproductive social standard hanging around in your life, messing up your goal to be a sensible person. After I read this post a week or so ago (specifically, the last part of it), my husband and I have been cheerfully recounting all sorts of things we used to hold as important, or necessary, that we don't consider "imperatives" anymore.

For instance, my mother's rule was that when you took clothes off in the evening, they went into the clothes hamper. It makes no sense to me to wash clothes every time you wear them, if they aren't dirty. It's more work, it uses more water, it uses more electricity, it uses more detergent, and it's harder on the clothes. But, I kid you not, it was a struggle to overcome the idea that I was doing something wrong by quite sensibly wearing a dress or shirt or slacks or skirt more than once without laundering.

And what was that nonsense we had back in the day that if two girls showed up to the same event wearing the same dress or outfit, that we were expected to run crying from the room? Or that we had to have a new dress for every "event"? I can't make sense of either "imperative," but I recall feeling something akin to horror if someone's clothes were too much like mine, or if I couldn't get a new dress for a dance or other special occasion. If I remember correctly, it was generally considered less humiliating to stay home than show up in a dress you'd worn before.

Excuse me? Where in the world did that come from? And why didn't the grown-ups sit us down and chew us out for behaving deplorably?

Oh, wait. We learned it, for the most part, from our mothers...

So where did they learn it from? And why? I've long since tossed those attitudes overboard as rules not worth keeping, by the way. (A lot of the rules we learned in the '60s and '70s, are, to my mind, not worth keeping, but that's another story.)

Anyway, I'll bet you've suffered a few such glitches in common sense at one time or another in your life just because 'everyone else is doing it'. Yes? C'mon. What are some silly rules you used to follow that you've opted to not 'honor' anymore?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Latin today: an update

Mary Beard asks Do we need Wikipedia in Latin? Because there is, surprisingly, just such a thing being built. From another link in her article, there are ways to get news in Classical Latin in Finland. (Or on the Internet, I guess. I can't read Latin, or speak or understand it, for that matter, so I'm not quite sure what to do with the website.)

What I find almost funny is that she chronicles these and other instances of Latin being used - for instance:

I’m pretty keen too on the general idea of using Latin in books meant for modern classical scholars. If you are a publishing a collection of ancient Latin inscriptions, you might just as well publish the commentary and explanation in Latin too. After all, anyone wanting to consult a Latin inscription is, by definition, bound to know the language – so it can be more inclusive to publish the commentary in Latin than in one particular vernacular, whether English, Swedish, or Japanese. It’s the lingua franca argument.
- but at the same time concludes:

The whole point about Latin is that it is a wonderful language, with wonderful literature worth reading on any evaluation of the world culture. But it is also well and truly dead. It doesn’t help the cause of Latin one bit to pretend that it is remotely worthwhile inventing new Latin words for “web” or “wind turbine” or “EU”.

So sorry if I’m being a killjoy, but I’m hoping that Vici dies a death.

Uhm. I'm not sure killjoy is the right word. Snob, maybe?

What in the world is wrong with more and more people learning Latin, and finding ways to keep practiced in it? Or keeping it up to date? Of making it another world language, even if on a smallish scale? English can handle the competition, at a guess. (And this is not to mention that studying Latin seems to help people become better at using English.)

For that matter, what would be wrong with just a handful of devotees using it, without it catching on in any big way?

Or with enough people using it that some more of it sloshes over into English, adding a bit of precision or color here and there? Not to mention fun?

I guess that if people keep using Latin, it will probably evolve the way other living languages do, and that might make it harder to get a handle on classical works? But how would that be different from any other language? Not a whole lot of people can read untranslated ancient English without training and/or good footnotes, either. So?

She reminds me a bit of those sad, distressed official wannabe protectors of the French language, who are forever shouting "Stop!" (more specifically, the French equivalent deemed most proper by the current panel of language police) when they find nearly everyone else around them delightedly shoving French both higher and lower as they pick up new ways of saying things from each other and from the rest of the world.

I'm not saying that all the language changes that get invented are good. Uhm, no. I have several word origin books, and several history of English books, and it has not escaped my attention that words tend to degrade and dissolve in meaning as time goes on. It's not all that uncommon for them to take on contrary meanings, for that matter. I sometimes take a stab at protecting a word or phrase from being misused into uselessness or confusion. (Sometimes I find it impossible, however. Not all that long ago, I found myself diving out of the crossfire when one group started demanding that the word tragedy be used only under certain circumstances, and another group was stoutly defending another, utterly incompatible, exclusive definition of the word. Harboring respect for the leaders of both camps, I picked up my marbles and went home, as the saying goes, vowing only that I would try to remember to think twice before calling anything a tragedy.) But to declare a language not only dead, but rightfully and properly dead, in the face of an enthusiastic and growing fan base for it? It seems a bit too much like standing on the seashore telling the tide what to do, doesn't it?

For what it's worth, I also find Beard's statement "After all, anyone wanting to consult a Latin inscription is, by definition, bound to know the language" questionable. Don't rookies who are in way over their heads ever make a brave or comical or deluded go at it? What is this attitude that there are modern classical scholars and then there is the rest of the world? Do scholars in her world spring fully formed from the womb? Or are her 'Latin inscriptions' (I'm not sure precisely what she means by that) something that is zealously guarded by some equivalent of an ever-vigilant three-headed monster, and only friends of the beastie's master get access to them? What?

Is she serious? Or joking? I guess I might have asked that earlier. Perhaps she thinks that looking down her nose at anyone who uses Latin without belonging to her little circle, or without their reluctant but gracious consent, is a variety of sophisticated jest?

For that matter, I'd like to clarify that I'm not angry with Beard, or offended. Mostly I'm perplexed. Tinged with amusement.

Perhaps I should have some pity. It must be rather difficult, being an academic sort in a day and age when academia can no longer control the flow of information and ideas to the extent it used to, even a generation ago. I can see where it might make anybody inclined to be defensive and dismissive. I'm not saying it should. I'm saying I can see where a person could get that way, if she wasn't careful.

hat tip: Frank Wilson

Not as ripe for harvest as they thought

Oops, indeed.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

One thing and then another

I've been having one of those weeks where I can't seem to find time to get online. We're fine. Just busy. I'm expecting things to slow down in a few days. In case I don't get back before then, Happy Easter!

"Horton Hears Political Correctness"

Patrick Deneen took his kids to see the film adaptation of "Horton Hears a Who" and found it not quite true to Suess, and not kind to homeschoolers, either. Let him explain.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Holy Week, Easter, St. Patrick's Day, and 'friendly' older men

At A Hen's Pace: Holy Week, Easter and St. Paddy's Day says that St. Patrick's Day was officially March 15 (Saturday) this year, to move it out of Holy Week. Don't tell that to people who are happily wearing green or pretending to be at least part Irish today, OK? People are having too much fun.

And, no, I didn't know it wasn't "officially" St. Patrick's Day today, until I read that post. I almost wish I had known. I helped out at a senior center luncheon today, and some of the older ladies who'd forgotten to wear green needed all the help they could get, fending off pinches from older men happy for the excuse to chase ladies around or sneak up behind them and pinch.

(I was wearing green. I got a marriage proposal. Or a proposition. I'm not sure which. "I'm single, too!" was how the stranger enthusiastically opened the conversation. The gents were certainly feeling frisky.)

No, wait, I might be leaving you with the wrong impression. It wasn't entirely over the top at the luncheon, the chasing about was mostly all in fun, only a few of the men were participating in the hijinks, and my suitor cheerfully gave up the chase as soon as I told him I had a good husband. A few men were playing at being wicked, and showing off a bit to each other, but they were being careful to be considerate about it, is about what it amounted to. In fact, one of the gents, seeing that one of the volunteers was upset, dug a necklace of green beads out of his pocket, and gallantly bestowed it upon the lady, so she'd be properly off limits the rest of the day. Good on him, as some people might say.

And, by the way, the post at At A Hen's Pace explains that we don't have to worry about Easter (and therefore Holy Week) falling this early again in our lifetimes. I don't know about where you live, but we've had an exceptionally cool and snowy March, so it's not just that Holy Week is so early, it's that it's so early in a year in which spring is kind of late, so to speak. Brrr.

We had snow on the ground this weekend. It's melted, but we've got a fresh batch coming down as I type this.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Gospel music today: Ernie Haase & Signature Sound

Gotta love the Internet. I hadn't heard about the group Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, but I stumbled across some videos featuring them at YouTube a couple weeks ago, while I was enjoying videos of The Cathedrals. (Ernie Haase was a member of that quartet, too.)

Oh, my, have I been having a great time listening to these guys... The official website is here.

From reading around here and there, I guess I'm late to this party. I guess EH&SS has been rather big and acclaimed for a few years now. Shows what I know... :)

Craftie Ladies of Suspense giveaway

The Craftie Ladies of Suspense is a group blog written by several authors of Christian romantic suspense. This week, they are compiling names of people who leave a comment at their blog, and tomorrow they will draw to see who wins four of their latest books, plus unspecified extra goodies. So, if you're interested, go leave a comment. Let me know if you win.

The Saturday Review of Books...

... is up and growing at Semicolon.

Alvin Fernald / Clifford B. Hicks update

I wrote a review of Alvin's Secret Code, by Clifford B. Hicks, the other day. I've received a comment to that post that has some information for fans of the books starring Alvin Fernald:

Kathryn --

A great review of a really great book. (Of course, I'm prejudiced!). My dad is 87 and is not particularly internet enabled but I will send him a copy today - I'm sure that it will please him very much. If you or anyone is interested in the Alvin series, you might want to check out Dad still loves to hear from kids and adults who have read his books. He is in relatively good health and his mind functions at 110%. He no longer writes professionally, but he still writes very well.

Thanks, again!!!

Gary Hicks(Son #3)

Thank you, Mr. Hicks. I'm glad to know about The Wacky World of Alvin Fernald website, and I'm delighted to hear that your father is alive and doing well.

A note to my readers: contact information for the author is available at the linked website.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The bar has been lifted on productions of Swan Lake

Or would that be the barre?

This clip from a Chinese production of Swan Lake is incredible.

Coordination test

This is utterly trivial, I know, but it's kind of fun.

Sit on a chair, or stand up holding onto something. Move your right foot in clockwise circles.

Still keeping your foot moving in clockwise circles, draw a numeral 6 in the air with your right hand.

What does your foot do?

Let me know if you ever learn to keep your foot going smoothly in circles while you draw that 6.

Happy Birthday ditty

Tennessee Ernie Ford sings Don't Be Ashamed of Your Age.

That the men in this number can do it with (mostly) straight-faced gusto speaks well of their acting ability, I think. Also their senses of humor.

What to keep, what to shed?

A few weeks ago, our landlord was kind enough to warn us he is trying to sell this lot to someone who would tear the house down and put up something else, offices or commercial, or perhaps a parking lot. The point is, we might be forced to move. We understood this was a possibility when we moved in. We opted for the low rent that was offered along with the uncertainty. But somehow, with the passage of time, the possibility of having to move seemed to fade.

In our dining room is a stack of stuff, to be sorted into "stuff to sell" versus "stuff to give to a friend (if he wants it)" versus "stuff to take to the thrift store." It's not the first stack that's been there. It won't be the last. Well, actually, I'm hoping to move the cull pile out of the dining room once I get another room organized, but the point is that moving stuff into a cull pile and then out the door is something of a lifestyle for us these days. Some things skip the cull pile, and go straight to the trash. My life has become one where I measure success by pounds and armloads of possessions I no longer possess.

I'm enjoying this, on the whole. Over the past few years, we've been slowly, slowly whittling our possessions down to only those things we're using and/or love. We already have considerably less stuff than we did during our last move. It feels good. My goal is to have an uncluttered house, and a more simple lifestyle, whether we move or not. I'm embarrassed half out of my skin that I somehow accumulated this much stuff in the first place. I'm not entirely sure how it happened, either. We have jokes around here that stuff breeds more stuff when we aren't looking, but we don't quite believe that. Not literally, at any rate.

Having the prospect of a move staring us in the face has made it easier to look at things with a different eye. Those afghans I've had since college, I don't even like them anymore. Why are they still here? That odd saucepan under the stove, when did I use it last? How many travel mugs do we need? How many hats and mittens? It's also kicked things into a higher gear, which is probably good.

Since we've been hauling stuff into the house from storage sheds so we can sort in comfort, it doesn't much look like we're making progress. But I have a simultaneous goal of getting out of storage sheds. We're getting there, I think.

There have been some funny moments, like when we found no one wanted to keep a certain bulky chair in the dining room, but hadn't wanted to say so because it was assumed someone else had a sentimental attachment to it. No. We don't want the chair. We have dodged it and squeezed around it all this time simply because of a misunderstanding.

I have also been trying to cull my personal library. This has slowed things down considerably. I have gotten rid of precious few books, but I've been reading like crazy. How can I decide whether I can part with a book unless I read it, or reread it as the case might be? Or, at the very least, browse through it...? :)

Rabbit ears, not cable

Last weekend, we sat down and tried to decide if there was any good reason to keep our cable television subscription going. We were hard pressed to come up with one. I get most of my news from the internet, my husband gets most of his news from radio. There are other, and better, options for entertainment. Certainly there are better options for education. We just don't watch television much any more. But that old bill kept digging money out of our pockets, money we could use elsewhere.

So, Monday my husband called and canceled. To show you how much this affected our lives, it wasn't until last night that we thought to check if the service had been disconnected. It had. We unhooked the cable, and put on the rabbit ear antenna, to see what there was in the way of broadcast TV around here. We find we still have 3ABN (a Seventh-Day Adventist channel) and OPB (Oregon's public broadcasting channel). If we're ever in the mood for mental whiplash, we can channel surf back and forth between those two, I guess. ;)


For the record, I walked through a snowstorm to do some errands this morning. This afternoon, we had a hail storm. Last night, my husband met some travelers who'd had to pull off the highway to sit out a storm not too far down the road from here.

Spring has a toehold around here, but it's still prone to slipping.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

"Seven Modern Misdeeds" are not "New Deadly Sins"

From Littering Not New "Deadly Sin," Bishops Clarify (Zenit, March 11, 2008):

LONDON, MARCH 11, 2008 ( Reports that the Vatican has published a new list of the seven deadly sins of modern times that includes littering and economic inequality is simply not true, affirmed the episcopal conference of England and Wales.

The conference released a statement today clarifying that an interview published Sunday by L'Osservatore Romano with Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, regent of the tribunal of he Apostolic Penitentiary, was misinterpreted in the media as an official Vatican update to the seven deadly sins, laid out by Pope Gregory the Great in the sixth century.

"The Vatican has not published a new list of seven deadly sins; this is not a new Vatican edict," said the conference. "The story originated from an interview that Bishop Gianfranco Girotti gave to the L'Osservatore Romano in which he was questioned about new forms of social sins in this age of globalization."

Read the rest

Books for widows and empty nesters

Debra is seeking recommendations for good books for newly widowed women, and also for empty nesters.

Family friendly movie rentals

Via Baptist Press's Culture Digest, Faith and Family Flix rents DVDs, without subjecting you and your kids to the trashy stuff. They have an affiliate program, too.

Strolling around their site, on the rates and plans page, right beneath the "sign up now" button, I found this: REMEMBER...WE SHOULD NOT SPEND TOO MUCH TIME PLANTED ON OUR BEHINDS WATCHING MOVIES!

I think I'm beginning to like these folks. :)

From glancing at their blog, I see they're still working out a few bumps, and are working on increasing inventory. They're also taking suggestions on which movies to add.

From the About Us page at the blog:

We are the family and friends who founded Faith and Family Flix in 2007. Steve is the Dad of 8 kids with his wife Ginny. John is the father of 4 (with one on the way) with his wife Rebecca. Other authors will be joining us as we go along, we will add their information to this page later on.

This blog is part of the community that we are hoping will form around FFF. Together we hope to share insights on our movie watching experiences. Along with this blog there is a review system in place on the main FFF web site. Logged in users can click the Reviews button at the bottom of the movie detail page for each movie. We encourage all users to review the movies they have seen and provide our wider membership with good information to help them choose titles to add to their queues

Love2Learn at the Movies has a review of the service.

Initiative lessons

Learning to notice what needs doing, and doing it without being asked, is a valuable life skill. This family makes sure that their kids learn this while they're still kids.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Human dignity and bioethics essays published

Via Peter Lawler at No Left Turns, there's a new report out from the United States government: Human Dignity and Bioethics:Essays Commissioned by the President's Council on Bioethics.

Unauthorized reading material gets astronaut yanked

South Korea has had to pick a new first astronaut for their country, after Russia got upset with the initial choice. From the BBC:

Yi So-yeon, 29, is to replace Ko San, 31, on a Russian flight to the International Space Station in April.

Russia's Federal Space Agency requested the change because Mr Ko broke training centre rules, a senior official said.

South Korean officials played down the breaches, which involved removing reading material from the centre.

On one occasion, Mr Ko sent a training book back to South Korea - something he said was by mistake.

On another, he received a book from a Russian colleague that he was not meant to read, said Lee Sang-mok of South Korea's Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.

"The Russians emphasised the importance of abiding by the rules, as even small mistakes can bring about grave consequences in space," Mr Lee said.

Mr Ko, who beat more than 36,000 other applicants to the position, has been training in Russia since last year.

He will now serve as the back-up astronaut when Ms Yi flies with two Russian cosmonauts to the International Space Station in early April.

It's really hard to refrain from trying to fill in the blanks, or, more precisely, making wild guesses as to what might have really happened. On the other hand, if the people involved want to play down the squabble (whatever the particulars), perhaps I should drop it...

Book note: Decline and Fall, by Bruce Thornton

Peter Robinson interviews Bruce Thorton, author of Decline and Fall: Europe’s Slow Motion Suicide at Uncommon Knowledge (NRO TV).

A run a day, for years (and years, and years)

Via Each day, a run and a prayer: Pastor's running streak nears 28 years (by Mark Morical, Bend Bulletin, January 14, 2008) - did you know that there are people who claim to have run at least a mile a day for decades?

The number one active running streak listed at United States Running Streak Association, Inc. as of March 1, 2008 (the latest info available), is that of Mark Covert of Lancaster, California, a teacher and coach who has logged at least a mile a day since July 23, 1968, for a total of 14,467 days (39 years plus 222 days).

There are nine men in the 35+ years category. Can you imagine?

The website also has a retired running streak list. As of post time, there are 22 runners on both the active and retired lists. I guess that means that they missed a day or more and had to start over.

I have mixed feelings about this. In the article on the pastor, it noted that John Watts talked his wife into letting him go for a mile run before he drove her to the hospital after her water broke when she was in labor with their first child. He was afraid, he said, that her labor might last more than 24 hours. (Wouldn't it have been better, at a guess, to get her to the hospital and then take his jog? Does this 'gotta get a run in every day' mindset mess up how people think? I have to think that it could.)

On the other hand, if you're a good runner, a mile a day wouldn't take very long, would it? If you were smart about fitting it in, and kept your priorities straight, I guess you could keep from becoming the sort of person who would run out on people when they needed you, just so you could keep a 'streak' alive.

From the Bend Bulletin article:

“More than half my life I’ve been running every day,” he says by way of putting his amazing streak in perspective. “The last time I didn’t run, Jimmy Carter was our president.”

Just how does Watts maintain his impressive routine despite his demanding job — he oversees 41 churches, driving about 30,000 miles each year throughout Oregon and Idaho — and his responsibilities to his family?

“At first, it was really hard to get used to when we were first married,” says Helen, who married John a little more than a year before his running streak began. “Now it’s just something he does, and I’m really proud of him for sticking with it. It seems a little crazy, but he works it out so it doesn’t conflict with family or work.”

“Getting used to the smelly laundry is the worst of it,” she adds, laughing.

The Watts kids — in addition to Kelsey there’s Heather, 16, and Collin, 11 — have never known their father to skip a day of running.

On Christmas Day last month, some last-minute gift wrapping caused Watts to miss his early-morning run, and by evening, he still had yet to go. But he had some encouragement.

“The kids told me I had to run,” Watts says, smiling.

Watts does not advocate starting a running streak. Everyone’s body is different, but most need a day of rest once in a while, he says. Watts will limit himself to the minimum mile run if he is sick or injured.

“I’m not sure if it’s something I should be proud of or embarrassed about,” Watts admits. “It’s a little obsessive. It’s not something I’d recommend. The sensible thing is to listen to your body and rest. So far I’ve gotten the rest I need by just running a mile.”


For most of the past 28 years, Watts has run free from injury and pain. That’s not so for the only other Oregonian on the USRSA list. David Hamilton, 53, of Portland, has run every day since Aug. 14, 1972, good for eighth place on the active list.

“It’s a physical ordeal for him,” Watts says of Hamilton. “Some of these guys, they’re going to have to die before they quit. I tell myself, if it ever becomes a burden I hope I have the sense to stop.”

But that’s not likely to happen anytime soon. Watts speaks of running 100,000 miles in his lifetime, or about four times around Earth. He has already run 67,000 miles, or 2.69 times around the planet.


His wife thinks he can do it, but she adds: “He’d probably be due for an oil change before that, though.”

“The day he can’t do it (run one mile), it will be a huge blow,” she predicts. “It will be sad for him, and it will be due to something way beyond his control. That will be sad for all of us.”

John, interestingly, doesn’t think ending the streak will be that difficult.

“I actually don’t think it’ll be that big of a deal,” he says. “I don’t think it’s going to be hard.”


For Watts, it’s not so much about reaching a goal. It’s just part of his lifestyle.


“I like being in shape. Running every day is enough that you’re never out of shape. I like the pattern and the predictability. So much in life is not stable or predictable. I love being outdoors. It’s nice to be out at least once a day.”

Read the full article

I can't argue with the "it's nice to be out at least once a day" bit.

"This could be a bit dodgy"

For the record, there are still Brits with that lovely knack for understatement, combined with bravery and a sense of duty. See First woman DFC wears her uniform with pride - Times Online (March 8, 2008), which honors Flight Lieutenant Michelle Goodman, 31, who has earned a Distinguished Flying Cross for some gutsy helicopter flying in Basra last year.

Assaults on British identity and pride

Melanie Phillips asks What's the point of citizenship classes when we've already surrendered our national identity? (Daily Mail, March 10, 2008).

Well, no, the headline writer at the newspaper probably came up with that bit. On her website, the same article is entitled Britain's broken heart.

In any case, it's worth a read. The government in the UK is discussing ways to improve a sense of belonging, but Phillips thinks some of the ministers have some of their arguments backwards.

Aimless, gainless lives

Dame Carol Black has been taking a look at The 'terrible legacy' of the children growing up in families who haven't worked for generations (by Olinka Koster, Daily Mail, March 10, 2008):

Dame Carol, the National Director of Health and Work, has been charged with investigating the incapacity benefit system.

Nearly 3million Britons currently claim long-term incapacity benefit, and one in five children is growing up in a family where one or both parents rely on out-of-work benefits.

The figures heighten fears Britain is breeding a "Shameless generation", named after the Channel 4 television programme which charts the lives of the dysfunctional Gallagher family, comprising the father, Frank Gallagher and his eight children.

Despite Government claims that it has eradicated youth unemployment, figures showed that there are 1.24million "Neets" in the country - youngsters aged between 16 and 24 who are not employed, in education or on a training course.

The number of Neets has risen by 15 per cent since Labour came to power in 1997.

Dame Carol said: "There are too many people with no expectation that their lives are going to get better, no structure, no shape.

Full article here.

Friday, March 07, 2008

The beginning of spring around here...

... is generally a 'two steps forward, one step back' sort of affair. This week was a steps forward week, on the whole. I saw the first wood violet in bloom in the lawn. Just one. The bird song is different, louder, more populated. The tree in the neighbor's back yard is in bud. The apple tree out back here is in what I call pre-bud. You can't quite classify the changes as buds yet, and sometimes you can't quite be sure you're seeing changes, but my spring hungry heart grasps at every swelling and texture change that might turn into a bud, and sometimes is rewarded with something approaching certainty. Today, to my astonishment, I found a live caterpillar in the lawn, under the barren, dead-looking plum trees. I picked it up and it curled into as tight a curl as it could manage. I carried it inside to prove its existence, before carrying it carefully back to where I'd found it.

The grass is greening up in places, and growing, not gangbusters, but growing. The air is taking on new smells. We're not to full spring yet, by any means, but we've been handed the early signs.

A pair of Canada geese flying overhead cracked me up with their honks. I don't know what they were trying to tell each other, but no two honks seemed the same, and they kept up a constant back and forth the whole time I could keep tabs on them. It definitely seemed to be a conversation, and if you'd told me that the gander was protesting that he wasn't lost, I'm not sure but that I'd be willing to believe it. Their flight was straight and strong, though, gobbling up the miles.

It's supposed to rain tonight, and then drop below freezing. How anything survives weather like this beats me, but spring after spring, new life gets tossed into conditions like this. Calves. Colts. Seedlings. The first soft leaves of perennials taking another go at it. The first flowers of the year, which have a tendency to look more fragile than summer flowers. Go figure.

"happiness without the pursuit of"

This could explain a lot.

It would be funnier if I didn't know people like that.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Book note: Alvin's Secret Code, by Clifford B. Hicks

When I started this book this weekend, I soon got the feeling that it wasn't written so much for twelve year old boys like the hero of the story and his buddy, but for people who are living with twelve year old boys, or, better yet, those who have survived the experience. Having finished the book, I've revised that notion. I've decided it was well-written for both adults and kids.

Mr. Hicks turned out a good book: snappy, intelligent, full of adventure, with a plot that includes a look at history with some of the nastiness left in (slavery and murder, for instance). Balancing the suspense and serious life lessons, some of the book is laugh out loud funny.

An excerpt from near the beginning:

Shoie was about to toss the scrap of paper aside when he glanced at it. "What's this, old bean?"

"What's what, old man?"

The two boys frequently called each other "old bean" and "old man."

"What does this scrap of paper mean? Looks mighty mysterious to me."

Alvin looked at the scrap of paper in Shoie's hand. Suddenly, a sixth sense told him that Secret Agent Q-3 had found something important, much more important than a root beer cap.

On the piece of paper was scrawled a message:



The message didn't make sense - but that's why it did make sense to Secret Agent K-21 1/2.

"It's a secret message," he said quietly, trying to keep his voice matter-of-fact. "A message in a spy's secret code."

"Wow!" Q-3 straightened out the piece of paper.

"Don't let anyone see you put it in your pocket," said Alvin out of the corner of his mouth. "You can't tell who might be watching. Pick up a handful of grass and pretend you're putting it in your pocket instead."

"A handful of grass? Why would I pocket a handful of grass?"

Alvin was ready with the answer. "There's nothing else to pick up," he said, "so it has to be grass."

The book not only presents kids with codes and ciphers to try to break, it teaches them how to make codes and ciphers, including some complicated ones.

Alvin Fernald, the central character, is basically a good kid, with a lot of brain and curiosity and guts, but a knack for landing smack in the middle of disasters (some of his own accidental making). He's not perfect by any stretch. His idea of cleaning his room is to shove everything he can out of sight in his closet, for instance. And one of his ideas of fun is to throw rocks at a hornet's nest in hopes of making it fall on a bull. But overall he's a decent sort, out to do the right thing when he can. He likes to be helpful. And, for a kid, he can show some common sense when it counts. He's also definitely a member of his community, with grown-ups he can, and does, call on for help. (Not necessarily as soon as he ought, sometimes. But close.)

This one goes back on my shelf for a re-read someday.

It's one in a series of books about Alvin. I think I'll be keeping my eyes out for the others.

Alvin's Secret Code by Clifford B. Hicks was first published in 1963.

Try to name the worst maritime disaster...

... in terms of lives lost.

I couldn't.

But millions of Germans can.

More on that ship and sinking here.

To be sure, the death toll for that sinking is an estimate, as are the death tolls from several other incredibly deadly maritime disasters, so there is some question which was actually the one with the most casualties. Let us agree they were all horrific, shall we?

The Crimson River Quartet

I do like a good men's quartet.

America, Europe, Russia - and the management of danger

From an article at

ANYBODY who dabbles in transatlantic affairs has come across one giant stereotype: Americans admire risk-takers, whereas Europeans (at least in the rich, stable parts of the continent) are instinctively risk-averse, expecting the state to shield them from all sorts of dangers, including their own folly. Move a bit farther east to the ex-communist world, especially Russia, and you enter a place where things seem to have gone from one extreme to another: from an all-demanding, all-protective state to a free-for-all where life is full of deadly dangers, about which even the prudent can't do very much.

Like most windy generalisations, this transatlantic contrast has a grain of truth...


In any case, by comparison with most other parts of the world, and with any other era of human history, the United States and western Europe are converging in their attitudes to danger. Most kinds of risk have been successfully removed from everyday life. Women hardly ever die in childbirth; miners generally make it back above ground; fishermen usually return to shore; and having a drink of water no longer means dicing with cholera. Of course, some people—bungee-jumpers and rock-climbers—take risks freely; but the unwanted perils that once haunted people's lives are mostly a thing of the past.

What Americans and Europeans alike are now attempting to do is squeeze out the last few drops of risk, with results that are often counter-productive, because risk is simply transferred from one place to another. That is true in an obvious sense when, for example, companies dump toxic waste or use risky technologies in countries whose regulation is relatively lax. But there are also more subtle ways in which efforts to eliminate risk can simply move the danger along. Some good instances come from behaviour on the roads, where people may act more recklessly as safety measures (their own and other people's) make them bolder.

Read the rest (especially the last paragraph, please)

hat tip: Frank Wilson

Beatle-based silliness in South Korea

Oh, my. Dawn Eden links to a video of a four year old boy who really knows his Beatles songs. If you can watch without collapsing in laughter you're tougher than me. And who knew the Beatles were still big, and in South Korea of all places?

I was about that age when the Twist became popular. One of my earliest memories is of my sister and me being talked into doing the Twist at a great-uncle's house, and the grown-ups passing the hat around after they stopped laughing. I didn't 'get' the laughter, but we did get to keep the money that had been dropped into the hat. I think it was the first money I ever 'earned,' and I remember it made me feel rather grown-up and important.

I've often wondered if they'd planned to pass the hat around, or only hit upon the idea when they realized they'd upset little girls by asking them to do something and then laughing at them when they did. My fuzzy, faded, undoubtedly-altered-by-the-passage-of-time memory seems to support the 'oh, my goodness, we didn't mean to make them cry, do something!' theory.

Not that I blame them for laughing. A little girl twisting with gusto would probably be hard to watch with a straight face. Two at once could push anybody over the edge.

The Korean kid, bless his heart, seems to be enjoying himself, and taking it pretty much in stride, despite the adults going nuts around him.

The USS New York christened

Some of the steel from the World Trade Center ruins has been used in an amphibious assault ship for the United States Navy, christened the USS New York in ceremonies this weekend. From "Ship Built With WTC Steel Christened," by Becky Bohrer, AP, as published at, March 1, 2008 :

When the attacks occurred, the ship was planned but had no name. Then-New York Gov. George Pataki asked the Navy to commemorate the disaster by reviving the name New York. That required an exception to Navy policy of assigning state names only to nuclear submarines.

The steel from the towers is now part of the ship that splices through the water, leading the way.

"It resurrects the ashes, so to speak, to do great things for our nation," said Bill Glenn, a spokesman for Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, the ship builder.

Along with the steel from one of the worst terrorist attacks in the U.S., it also survived one of the nation's worst natural disasters: Hurricane Katrina.

The ship motivated many of the Avondale shipyard workers to return to the job, even though many lost their homes in the 2005 storm.

(via Rick Moore)

There's more at the official Navy website: New York Christening Powered by Memories, Resolve. The ship is due to be commissioned in September 2009. It "will be the Navy's fifth amphibious transport dock of the San Antonio class." (Speaking as a civilian and a landlubber, I wouldn't have had a clue what an "amphibious transport dock" was, if someone hadn't provided a picture, or a good description. It makes it sound like a big raft, or something like that. Which it definitely isn't.)

Hats off to the Avondale shipyard workers, and everyone else who has helped bring this project this far.

No, on second thought, make that three cheers.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Journalism examined

I was a newspaper reporter for a number of years. Most of my colleagues were human beings first, citizens second, and reporters third, which is just about how I think it should be. But some folks I worked with, or was in competition with, were what a television newsman friend of mine called blankety-blank extentions of blankety-blank microphones. He had little routines he did to illustrate the concept. For example:

Man standing in earthquake rubble sticks microphone in woman's face: Excuse me, Mrs. Jones. I understand that's your husband's dead hand sticking out of that pile of charred wood that used to be your house. Will you tell our viewers what you're feeling right now? (said with barely disguised pleasure at being first on the scene)

It matters what you think journalism is supposed to be. (Or blogging, for that matter.) People who are just 'out for a story' can not only forget that people have feelings, they can forget that publishing information out of season can get somebody killed. (Or, worse yet, some of them know that, but figure it's not their business to care.)

Please read True Journalism v. That Which Definitely Isn't, at Expat Yank, for more on this topic.

Update: This post at SFO Mom has a lighter tone (as well it might, considering it's about focus and not endangerment), but it does look at an aspect of the 'what is journalism supposed to be?' question.

When you've got flu in the house...

... of course you should protect those near and dear to you. Even if they're stuffed animals. :)

We have been battling the flu, or something very like it. If I had a magic laundry basket I'd put it into play, too.

While we're on the subject of germs, this week (just before the flu hit) at the post office I ran into a friend we hadn't seen in a while. He asked how my husband was doing. I said he was still on oxygen 24/7 but otherwise pretty good. We live near the post office, so I suggested that the friend stop in and say hi and see for himself. So he walked home with me, and I left the gents to get caught up with each other. I guess the visit was going pretty good until the friend mentioned that one of his kids was really sick and might have whooping cough, and they were waiting to see if the family was going to have to be quarantined.

I wasn't there, but I understand that right about then the friend had a classic "oh, my goodness, what am I doing?!?" moment. And then he left, rather hastily, from what I understand, apologizing as he went out the door. He is not, you understand, someone who would visit someone with lung problems if he'd remembered that little detail beforehand. For that matter, I'm not sure he'd have visited healthy people if he'd remembered that little detail beforehand. We just kind of got carried away because we hadn't seen each other in a long time, I guess. It just took a while to get from "Hey! Good to see you!" to "What's happening at your house?" Oops.

Since I'm already self-quarantining as much as possible because of the flu, it's kind of like serving consecutive sentences. As these things go, in other words, it's pretty good timing. Unless of course we were incubating flu at the time of the gentleman's visit, and sent that home with him... (Yarg. This time of year and illnesses! Yarg.)

Did you know that cases of whooping cough have been surging in recent years?

Input wanted: teaching virtue through literature

Maureen Wittmann wants some help:

I'd like to talk about teaching virtues through literature. And I would like your input.

Here are the seven virtues:

Humility (modesty)

Kindness (admiration)

Forgiveness (composure)

Diligence (zeal/integrity/labor)

Charity (giving)

Temperance (self-restraint)

Chastity (purity)

What books would you recommend to go with one or more of these virtues? Let's get a list going for everyone in the family -- preschool, grade school, middle school, high school, and adult.

She says she'll be posting the compiled list for free download here.

Go here to make suggestions.

hat tip: Karen Edmisten

From the rez to vice prez

Sorry. Couldn't resist the post title. I know it's tabloid-ish, but... Anyway, to cut to the chase...

The blogger at Life After Jerusalem: A Little Election Trivia points out that not just white men of European ancestry have been President or Vice-President in the United States.

More on Charles Curtis here.

And rather a lot more on his life and times here.

Wikipedia article here.

After serving in the House of Representatives and the Senate (where he became Senate majority leader), Curtis ran for President in 1928. Failing to get the nomination, he was chosen to balance Herbert Hoover's ticket, despite having said harsh things against Hoover. The pair reportedly had very little to do with each other after winning the election, but, still, Curtis was elected to the back-up position, only a heartbeat away from the presidency (as the saying goes). And this was a fellow who did part of his growing up on an Indian Reservation and had an early career as a jockey.

A conversion story through books

In From atheism to Christianity: a conversion story through books, Jennifer F. lists and discusses some of the books that helped her during her move from atheist to Catholic.

The effects of suffering

C.S. Lewis's book The Problem of Pain is one of those books I keep meaning to get my hands on and read. But I haven't yet. So when I'm wondering if John Marks, author of Reasons to Believe: One Man's Journey Among the Evangelicals and the Faith He Left Behind, has ever read it is strictly because of this review of his book (which is all I know of his book so far), in contrast to reviews like this one of The Problem of Pain, at Findings (via Semicolon).

I love the Lewis quote at the top of the Findings review, by the way.

Update: I see that writer2b, at Findings, had an earlier post on The Problem of Pain, World without chloroform, which includes this Lewis quote:

Lay down this book and reflect for five minutes on the fact that all the great religions were first preached, and long practised, in a world without chloroform. At all times, then, an inference from the course of events in this world to the goodness and wisdom of the Creator would have been equally preposterous; and it was never made. Religion has a different origin.
Food for thought.

Update: I just came across another reference to The Problem of Pain, at the Union University Tornado Updates blog. I can't seem to figure out how to link to a specific post, so let me try giving you the teaser in its entirety:
February 27, 2008 - 5:11:00 PM JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)--C.S. Lewis in "The Problem of Pain" says that God often uses the experiences of suffering as a megaphone to awaken us. Suffering and pain, Lewis said, are often the essential means by which God brings about dependence, fortitude, patience and forgiveness in His children, while also arousing acts of mercy and compassion. Read More...

This week's Saturday Review of Books...

... is up and growing at Semicolon. Add a review and/or read a few.