Monday, June 30, 2008

Swedish school confiscates boy's party invitations

If a boy is inviting people to his birthday party, shouldn't he be allowed to invite his friends (subject to parental approval, of course)?

School officials in Lund, Sweden say no. They say an eight-year-old boy has to invite all his classmates, including the boys who don't get along with him.

Because, you know, otherwise it's discrimination.

We know this because when he handed out invitations, he didn't invite two boys, whereupon the school officials confiscated the invitations.

The boy's father has been reduced to filing a complaint with something called a "parliamentary ombudsman."


Raise your hand if you're glad you don't have a child in that school.

Raise your other hand if you're glad you don't live in Sweden.

(I thought the civil rights movement was all about encouraging people to judge other people on the basis of their character, instead of on the basis of irrelevant factors beyond their control. What in the world happened to that worthy goal? And how did mindlessness, of all things, take its place?)

We have babies...

We have a small herd of mule deer that makes itself at home in our yard from time to time. Last year there were a couple of fawns. This year there are a couple more. Yes, that's a buck keeping watch over them. I'm amazed how often the does take off and let him babysit, but he seems to be good at it.

I also saw one of the stray cats, Gremlin, acting frantic near the front porch yesterday, and meowing in a peculiar way. So I went to investigate. From underneath the wooden porch came the sound of very young kittens crying for mama. So we're back to meows beneath our feet. (I thought I had this area sealed off. I guess I was mistaken.)

By the way, those trunks in the pictures belong to lilacs. Every other place I've lived, it is the custom to remove a quarter to a third of the older shoots every year in lilac bushes, to keep them forever young and bushy. Around here, the custom is to prune off everything but a handful of the oldest branches, and train the lilacs into multi-trunked trees. I don't know how old these are, but they certainly go back decades.

The most important aspect of beauty

Over at A Maiden's Wreath, Mamselle Duroc writes, in The Making of Beauty, Part 2:

In Part 1 I talked about Style, Poise, and Confidence, saying that they were all extremely important to real beauty, regardless of your height, weight, or shape.

But I concluded by mentioning a fourth item, saying that it was far more important than all the others, and always achievable, even when nothing else is.

Imagine yourself ill and dying, wasting away. What physical beauty you had has long since faded in your sickness. You're thin as anything, you're pale and haggard, you look more like a skeleton than a living human being. Style is unattainable, and even a little pointless. You're not able to put on a nice pair of earrings every day, and you don't need cute shoes because you're bedridden. Poise? It's hard to be poised when you're too weak to move. Good posture and gracefulness aren't feasible. As for Confidence, you're far to shattered to face the world with your head held high. You can't even lift it.

Yet there is one quality that a woman can always have, no matter what her circumstances. Our blog's patroness, Zelie Martin, had it as she lay dying of cancer, and her famous daughter St. Therese of Lisieux had it as she lay dying of tuberculosis.

It was Love...

Read the whole post.

I stumbled across The Maiden's Wreath while, of all things, looking for something about G.K. Chesterton. I wound up at The American Chesterton Society, which has a blog, which had a post titled Young Catholic Ladies "Get" GKC, which led me to this post, in which Mamselle Duroc notes that one of the great things about Chesterton was his reverence for women.

The "About the Blog" entry reads:

A Maiden's Wreath is a blog for young Catholic ladies who incline towards the old-fashioned and traditional. The purpose is to provide inspiration and encouragement to grow in virtue and holiness.
Sounds good.

It's a group blog, quite well done from what I've seen from browsing around today. And they also accept submissions. Please pass the word to any young ladies you know who might be interested.

Chesterton on adventure

According to G.K. Chesterton, too much control means less adventure, in novels as well as real life.

Book note: Chosen Soldier, by Dick Couch

A blogger over at The Point is writing a series of posts about Chosen Soldier, by Dick Couch.

Posted so far:

I'll Never Mock that Beret Again

'Chosen Soldier': 'Our most essential warrior'

Chosen Soldier: Liberators or Occupiers?

The Saturday Review of Books...

... was probably up at the usual time, but I'm having technical difficulties, so I'm just getting to it...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Links: Get 'em while they're hot

I've been adding links like mad to the sidebar again.

On the other hand, some of the old links I haven't visited in months. For a couple/three of them, I'm no longer sure what they go to. There's the name - but I can't associate it with anything. (Not a good thing.)

I've started to check out old links, and have been deleting a few, and I intend to delete several more, to get the links list down to a more sane length. And, of course, some of the newbies might not survive 'probation'.

Browse now, or forever hold your peace.

Is that a Friesian...

... doing dressage? (Via this post, which has more horse and rider photos, most of them more the sort of horse I expected to see at a dressage competition.) As if I have a clue about dressage competitions??? :) I don't know for sure that it's a Friesian horse, but it looks like it to me. (And if it's the same horse as the one in the second half of this post, we have our confirmation. ... pause while your hostess googles... Ah, here we have more evidence, at a "news" page at Mary Kehoe Dressage...)

Oh, look - here's another one, and this one's definitely Friesian. (Via The Friesian Horse Association of North America.)

And here's a YouTube video from a dressage performance. It's a bit slow in places, but a real treat when the horse gets to extend his trot and otherwise show what he's got.

And here's another YouTube video: Beautiful dancing Friesian Stallions in Germany.

Another YouTube video: Friesian Horses Running in Snowy Pasture.

Another YouTube video: Friesian Horses Running Free. It features a couple of mares and their foals getting a bit of a run.

OK, I see I could spend a lot of time doing this, because there appear to be lots and lots of Friesian posts and videos and websites to check out. Parents, please note: Some of the Friesian horse videos I found on YouTube weren't suitable for well-mannered folks, much less children. You'll want to pick the videos your kids see, I think.

P.S. For more on horse breeds, see the Breeds of Livestock website hosted by the Department of Animal Science at Oklahoma State University.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Summer reading picks: church edition

Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City has a list of recommended books for summer reading. They are obviously C.S. Lewis fans around there, but also list "Patrick O’Brian’s novels of the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic wars," and "Anything by Jane Austen," and the "Miles Vorkosigan series by Lois McMasters Bujold, for sci-fi fans," and lots of other books, nonfiction as well as fiction, for all age groups. It's a pretty wide-ranging list.

A note: They recommend the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters. I am a fan of the early Amelia Peabody books. I had to stop reading them in public because I kept collapsing in laughter and embarrassing myself, not to mention the people around me. Overall, I found them great fun (and that's saying something, because I have an aversion to all things mummy-related, and Amelia adores mummies, and so they keep popping into the storyline, to my distress). However, to me the later books didn't seem to stick to the same standards, and I found them disappointing, and occasionally offensive.

Does your church have a reading list for the summer? Or do you know of a worthwhile list online at some other church? Let us know in the comments, please.

Book note: Recipe for Murder, by Lisa Harris

Recipe for Murder by Lisa Harris (Heartsong Presents Mysteries, Barbour Publishing, 2008) is an enjoyable cozy mystery featuring a couple of lively older sleuths (amateurs, and rookies at that). Widow Pricilla Crumb is in her 60s, and cooking at her unmarried son's hunting lodge in Colorado. She invites widower Max Summers, an old friend of hers, and his daughter to the lodge, because she wants to play matchmaker between her son and Max's daughter. Meanwhile Max, retired after 35 years in the Air Force, is becoming strangely attractive...

Pricilla is a busybody, but a responsible one. She even confesses to murder - when she thinks she killed somebody accidentally with food poisoning after perhaps not checking an expiration date. When she finds that she's innocent, and finds that she doesn't have a lot of faith in local law enforcement, she decides to uncover the killer. Max, thinking she's in over her head (a good guess), joins forces with her.

The book is full of humor. On top of that, Max and Pricilla and their children remind me of people I know. (How nice, to have regular folks, and families, in a mystery.)

Pricilla is a mystery fan, which adds to the fun.

Lisa Harris has a website here. She blogs at Heart of Africa.

There's an interview with her here, in which she talks about Recipe for Murder, and its evolution. It sounds like there are sequels waiting in the wings. Oh, good.

I am on a cozy mystery reading jag, and so is a friend of mine. Any suggestions on what to add to our to-be-read stacks? (If you're also looking for suggestions, a reader left several recommendations in the comments at this post.)

So, what do a baseball bat and...

... a 300-foot ocean-going research vessel used by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography have in common? See this video to find out.

Too cool.

I'm not sure you could pay me to get on the thing. But wow. What cool engineering.

Rest in peace, Irena Sendler

I did a post on World War II Polish heroine Irena Sendler back in March 2007: Suitable For Mixed Company: A tribute to a brave and caring lady.

She died last month at the age of 98. See a Glenn Beck video tribute to her here.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Still laughing, almost four centuries later

I'm a fan of Dutch Masters in general, and Rembrandt in particular, especially the paintings that are laced with humor or good cheer.

So I'm tickled by this story: Rembrandt Laughing.

How many artists today would even try to make a self-portrait this engaging? I ask you? Thank goodness Rembrandt wasn't of the 'sullen is cool' school! How much the world would have lost had he chosen to be 'more sophisticated' (so-called).

The Federal Landlord Map

It's hard to understand how much land the U.S. government owns in this part of the country - but this map helps put it into perspective.

Congratulations to Mark Mossa, SJ...

... who is now an ordained priest. More pictures here.

Two reports from the Sons of Norway convention

Lars Walker and Connie Peterson both went to the Sons of Norway District One convention in Mankato, Minnesota. If they met, I don't know. (It seems unlikely.) Lars recounts his adventures here, Mrs. Peterson here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A mystery garden

I finally bought flowers and planted them in the front flower box and flower patch yesterday. It's a small patch out under a lilac tree by the front gate, but a large box - the box is as wide as the living room that sits on the other side of the wall.

The good news is that I only spent $12.87 total on flowers.

The bad news is that the selection was limited this late in the season.

The good news is that there were still some healthy plants left.

The bad news is that some of these didn't have proper stickers. Some of them I don't even know what sort of flowers they are, much less what color the blooms will be. I wound up buying what looked healthy, that looked like it had a sort of leaf that suggested it could survive in semi-sun, and didn't cost too much.

At first, I tried to sort plants by potential height and spread, and color, etc., but I finally gave that up, since I don't have a clue on some of them. In the end, I just jumbled them up any which way and stuck them in the soil, more or less evenly spaced, but staggered, for artistic effect.

I have done this before.

Sometimes it works.


Not always. Perhaps not even often. But sometimes it works. Really.

Wish me luck. Overnight, bugs took some of the leaves down to veins on one variety. We have deer in the neighborhood now, too. So now it's a waiting game. We'll see what survives, and then we'll see what it is, and then we'll see how well it goes with whatever else happens to survive.

And then we'll see if I need to move anything, to make it workable.

This could be interesting. :)

Honey rolls

Our current favorite roll 'recipe' is loosely based on the following recipe from the back of a Western Family Bread Flour bag. I put 'recipe' in single quotes, because I tend to get a bit free form when I cook, especially when I bake bread. At any rate, I've never made the glaze, I've never tried the heart-shape business, I usually make the rolls smaller than they suggest, I sometimes make crescent rolls, but I sometimes make buns along the lines of hamburger buns, to use to for deli sandwiches.

I almost always substitute whole wheat flour for some of the bread flour (sometimes just a quarter cup, but usually more than that), I never measure the flour (I just keep adding until it feels right), and I don't measure the honey (who likes to scrape away at a measuring scoop or cup that's got honey stuck to it?) and rarely use a whole quarter cup. I don't follow the orders or techniques given, and I usually use what is called the sponge method (you make a batter, and let that rise, stir it down, and then add more flour to make a regular dough - from there you follow the directions for the regular dough). I don't always use 2% milk, either - I've used whole and I've used skim, and everything in between. (Did I mention that I'm pretty free form when I bake bread?)

But, all in all, otherwise I stick pretty close to this recipe. ;)

Well, OK, I also mix brands a lot. But it's their recipe, and I've gotten good results with their products, so, if they want to specify Western Family, who am I to quibble?

Heart Shaped Honey Rolls


1 cup Western Family 2% milk

1/4 cup Western Family honey

2-1/2 tsp Western Family yeast

1/4 cup Western Family butter, melted

2 egg yolks, beaten

4 cups Western Family bread flour

2 tsp Western Family salt

2 Tbsp Western Family granulated sugar


2 Tbsp Western Family honey

1/2 cup Western Family butter, melted

2/3 cup Western Family powdered sugar

1/2 tsp finely chopped lemon peel


Warm milk and honey slightly. Add yeast and let stand until foamy. Blend in melted butter and egg yolks. Transfer mixture to large bowl.

Blend together bread flour, salt and sugar; add to yeast mixture. Mix until mixture forms dough. Knead dough until smooth, about 10 minutes. Place dough in a large, oiled bowl and cover. Place bowl in a warm place until dough doubles in size.

Punch down and form into 12 evenly sized balls. Make a 1/2-3/4" cut into center of the ball from one side to make the heart shape. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Cover loosely and rise until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake rolls until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. While rolls are baking prepare glaze. Combine honey, melted butter, powdered sugar and lemon peel. When rolls are removed from oven, liberally brush with glaze. Serve warm.

Makes 12.

I usually don't use a greased cookie sheet, if I have baking parchment paper on hand. It's a luxury, but it makes for better results, and easier clean-up. I usually bake the rolls spaced out in shiny, rectangular cake pans, instead of on cookie sheets, the theory being that maybe they won't overbrown as easily that way. (This is just a guess. But it seems to work. For me.) And we don't necessarily serve them warm; they're just fine at room temperature. I freeze most of them. They thaw wonderfully in the microwave.

These are tasty enough and moist enough I often eat them plain - no butter or anything. They work great with peanut butter. Or ham. And lots of other stuff.

Anyway, for all my experimenting with variations, these days this is the main recipe from which I vary - and early on I did follow it to the letter (except for the glaze, and the cutting to make heart shaped rolls), and the results were very good.

Flat bread, Norwegian style

Here's a recipe and tutorial for Norwegian Flat Bread, aka Flot Brod. It comes with a historical side note:

...The immigrants made a lot of these, wrapped them in towels and took them along with them on the ships for food. They stay fresh pretty long and after they are not fresh, you can dip them in coffee to soften them up or chew them – they are still food!
I haven't tried making this yet, but it looks do-able. I think I'll only eat them fresh, though (or try freezing some). Pioneer spirit is fine in its place, but...

Fatherless and feeling like "throwaway people"

Via Gina Dalfonzo at The Point, Juan Williams writes about The Tragedy of America's Disappearing Fathers (Wall Street Journal, June 14, 2008).

Williams quotes author Walter Dean Myers, who sometimes holds writing workshops in juvenile detention centers, and so has listened to, as well as read, the tales of many young people who don't know their fathers:

When fatherless young people are encouraged to write about their lives, they tell heartbreaking stories about feeling like "throwaway people." In the privacy of the written page, their hard, emotional shells crack open to reveal the uncertainty that comes from not knowing if their father has any interest in them. The stories are like letters to unknown dads – some filled with imaginary scenes about what it might be like to have a dad who comes home and puts his arm around you or plays with you.

They feel like they've been thrown away, Mr. Myers says, because "they don't have a father to push them, discipline them, and they give up trying to succeed . . . they don't see themselves as wanted." A regular theme of their stories is that they feel safer in a foster care home or juvenile detention center than on the outside, because they have no father to hold together the family. There is no one at home.

Coming at it from another angle, Joe Carter over at The Evangelical Outpost doesn't know who his father is, but he knows who his Father is. (via Wittingshire)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Do we have a right to laugh or tell jokes?

People have been Arrested for "Joke Speech".

Habitual apologies for unavoidable problems

At the post office today, I was the second person in a two-person line (it's a small town and a small post office). The older-but-not-elderly lady ahead of me was one of those people who clearly has trouble figuring out how things work. She tried valiantly to buy some stamps, but the task was beyond her. She couldn't make herself understood, and she couldn't understand the clerk. Having given it her best shot solo, she dug in her purse and fished out a ruled sheet of paper upon which someone had scrawled in faint pencil what she had been sent to get.

The clerk, bless her, patiently deciphered the message as well as she could (from the effort involved, I don't think the letter writer was a whiz at communications either), and then got a booklet of 20 stamps for her. The clerk then told the customer that it would be 'eight-forty'. This had no visible effect on the customer. So the clerk tried saying 'eight dollars and forty cents'. That worked. I guess abbreviated money talk wasn't in the lady's repertoire. But 'dollars' and 'cents' meant something.

The customer dug in her purse and came out with a twenty dollar bill, which she shoved across, asking, "Is that enough?"

The clerk assured her it was, and also made sure she didn't leave without her change.

Throughout the rather lengthy transaction, the clerk was polite and patient without being patronizing. I would like to note that we have some terrific people working at our post office. They have their ups and downs like the rest of us, but mostly they're terrific.

During the proceedings, every time the customer saw me out of the corner of her eye, she turned to me, mumbling her apologies and telling me she was hurrying. Each time, I assured her I wasn't in any hurry and there was nothing to worry about; that I was fine, that she was fine. But then she would catch me out of the corner of her eye a little later, and turn to me - and even though I wasn't fidgeting, and was smiling, and was perfectly content to wait, she'd apologize all over again. She wasn't skittish or cowering, like some people who apologize a lot, although she was something close to skittish or cowering. She didn't look like an unhappy person overall, but she was unhappy and worried about making me wait.

I tried to move directly behind her so she couldn't see me, but that made it worse, because then she got nervous about me and kept twisting around to see where I was. So I moved back where she could see me and endured her apologies.

I got the feeling that it has become part of her existence to habitually apologize for taking so long; that it has become part of her very being.

I don't like to think how she got that way.

Folks, could we agree that some people need longer than others to figure things out?

Could we agree that it's crazy to ask a person to hurry if he or she can't?

Could we agree that it's probably cruel into the bargain?

As she left she apologized to me again as she was going past, and I reached out and touched her arm and said something along the lines of "It's OK. You didn't cause me any trouble at all." But I'm not sure it registered.

I couldn't help but feel that she has been told too often that she's being bothersome, and so that's what she thinks she is, even when the evidence is to the contrary.

This is not good.

Teacher as midwife

S. M. Hutchens considers the ways and purposes of teaching, and compares traditional methods with 'progressive alternatives'.

He uses his daughter's training as an instrumental music teacher as the launching pad, and notes that as a music teacher she has some advantages over some of her academic colleagues (not least that "she will be working in a context where any advance on what is written is known by everyone present to be a mistake, and not only a mistake, but a mistake that makes everyone look bad").

What is it about Musical Theater?

Russell Roberts is hosting a discussion on the joys of attending good musical theater.

Update: Roberts has a follow-up post: Pennies From Heaven.

A monument to Adam Smith

Did you know that an imposing statue of Adam Smith is set to be unveiled in Edinburgh, Scotland, this July 4?

'Postbarbarian' culture

In Barbarians Such as the World Has Never Known?, Anthony Esolen serves up some food for thought. Here's the beginning:

I hesitate to use the word "barbarian" to describe our current state of amnesia -- or, worse, our current pleasure in deriding our civic, intellectual, and spiritual forefathers. That's because barbarians did not do that. The change from nomadic tribesman to citizen does not mark the beginning of chronicles and memorials and feasts to honor the legendary heroes of one's people. What changes is the form of the memorial -- in stone, perhaps, rather than merely in orally bequeathed poetry -- and the reasons for celebrating the virtue; no longer mere courage in the battlefield, but courage shown for the sake of one's country. In other words, there is a fine continuity between celebrating the strength of Achilles and celebrating the bravery of Horatius at the bridge.

So how should we describe this new thing in the world, a people without roots, tumbleweeds that flit and float from fad to fad, attracted by bright toys and flashy sleaze? Postcultural, certainly, but also postbarbarian. The barbarian has not been civilized yet; but what we have now are people who used to be civilized, and that seems to me to be a different thing entirely. Right now I'm poking around in old schoolbooks, readers from the 1800's, for instance. The literary quality of the pieces included in Holmes' Fifth Reader is impressive (selections by Shakespeare, Dickens, Macaulay, Browning, Henry Clay, John Marshall, for example). Even the dated pieces by writers we no longer recognize are not all that bad. What strikes me most powerfully, though, is the assumption by the anthologist that the young reader will be edified, literally "built up," by his encounter with the great writers of England and America. The reader is expected to know, or to want to know, who General Anthony Wayne was, or what John Marshall was like in his personal habits, or how Henry Clay rose from penury and ignorance to his long career of service in the Senate. More than one kind of memory is exercised by these pieces; and it is not true that the students were encouraged never to question the complete wisdom of all those who came before them. That surely was not possible, two decades after the Civil War. Honor is not the same thing as supine submission.

I suggest reading the whole piece.

I also read old books and textbooks, and am continually amazed at the depth and substance of the older books compared to what is generally aimed at youth - or, for that matter, adults - today.

On the other hand, I've mentioned this before and I'll mention it again, the classics section and the history section at our bookstore get regularly depleted, mostly by teens and twenty-somethings who have become convinced (probably correctly) that they're intellectually malnourished and need a dose of something not handed to them in school. Rootlessness might be epidemic, but some of the victims are actively seeking a cure, in other words.

Ours is a store stocked mostly with used books. Try going into a store like that someday, and watching people grab onto books written before they were born, and then clutching them like treasure. Many of today's young folks get every bit as much pleasure in seeking and studying voices from the past as some of the rest of us, believe me. They, too, want to know where they came from, and what's better and what's worse about their cultural environment compared to what's been in place before.

I think C.S. Lewis hit it dead on when he said that every age has its blind spots. What makes us luckier than most folks in history is that we can learn from age upon age, culture upon culture - assuming, of course, that the locally operative 'powers that be' don't erase the past, or skew it out of all recognition and therefore rob it of all benefit as an example of real life, or smash people who go in search of alternatives to the party line, or...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Living and learning in a museum

So, if your parents are the live-in caretakers of a living history museum, and they decide to homeschool you... ("Beye himself: Student lives, works and attended school at Stuhr Museum," by Harold Reutter, The Grand Island Independent, June 8, 2008.)

The newspaper headline is somewhat misleading, since Aaron Beye's parents are also homeschooling his younger sisters. He's center stage because he's heading off to college soon.

For background: The Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer.

hat tip: Homeschooled, museum-schooled at Principled Discovery

Book note: The Expeditionary Man, by Rich Wagner

I haven't seen a copy of the book yet, but I was over on the Zondervan website looking something else up and noticed it there. The write-up looks interesting:

As a Christian man, how do you prioritize between what you are driven to do at work and church with what you are responsible for at home? Rich Wagner debunks the myth of a “balanced life” and shares a biblical model of becoming a hands-on leader of his family.


Your career is compelling. Your ministry at church is God’s calling. But do you realize how these outside activities capture your heart and steal your time and energy from your family? Adventure becomes what you want to do, while family is what you are supposed to do. Now author Rich Wagner offers a bold alternative.

In this personal and revealing book, the author challenges Christian men to harness their career ambitions and limit their ministries while their children are at home. Wagner shows how the pull of business success and the call to church ministries are compelling–even seductive. But if you allow your heart to be captured by career and church, you put your kid’s spiritual lives at risk. Far too many Christian children grow up with the vision of a loving Father in heaven, but live with the reality of an earthly father who seems more devoted to outside interests than he is to them. As a result, many children in Christian families today drift away from their faith as they become adults. Wagner reveals how accepting his challenge will not only result in spiritually healthy kids, but also give you the true adventure for which every Christian man yearns.

The author and his family are heading out on a coast to coast bike tour soon. See for more information on the book and the tour.

P.S. Certain of my friends and relatives should note that these folks plan to go up Mount Evans in Colorado as part of this tour. (I guess they do want this to be an expedition!) And certain others of my relatives are hereby requested to wave at them on my behalf as they go through Gunnison. Thanks.

Insert error

In the early '90s, I (naively) accepted a low-budget, state-funded job to write a small local history, something between a booklet and a book.

In this history I included a short passage about a star-crossed missionary couple that came West in 1839.

It was one of those probably-ought-to-be-simple chores that was anything but. On the one hand, I didn't want to plagiarize, but on the other hand I didn't want to introduce new meanings by rewording what little I had to work with. One particularly dicey problem was trying to write up an accident that the wife had. The information I had was that she was seriously hurt when her horse stepped in a badger hole. This may not strike you as a problem as far as retelling goes, but I grew up in horse country, and I was aware that there are several ways of getting hurt in that sort of scenario. Your horse can trip and you can fall off. Your horse can fall and fling you. Your horse can fall on top of you. Your horse can stay upright but panic and ditch you while doing violent maneuvers while out of its head. You can get caught in the stirrup but no longer be in the saddle; at this point the stirrup magically changes from a useful feature to part of an injury factory, the other main components of the disaster workshop being the horse and the landscape. Your horse can trip or jump sideways just so and sling your face into a handy tree limb, with unhappy results. Etc. Etc. Etc.

What I had managed to find in records seemed (one thing with another) to indicate that the horse had fallen. But whether the unfortunate rider got flung, or smashed, or what, was anybody's guess. Not that it mattered, overall, but I didn't want to introduce details that might not be right. I figure that history can get skewed enough without my help.

I didn't have a lot of time to spend on it, but, unfortunately, a small curse seemed to settle on me. No matter which way I went about it, I seemed to be accidentally describing one specific type of crash or another, or one type of injury or another, or I inadvertently placed the accident more specifically along the route than I could justify. Finally, I hit upon "After crossing the Payette River, Mrs. Griffin's horse stepped in a badger hole, and she was badly injured in the ensuing fall."

It wasn't good writing, perhaps, but at least it didn't change history as it had come down to me.

So, finally, I slogged my way through the project and sent it off to the enthusiastic bureaucrat overseeing the project.

When I got the booklet back for review, I found that the friendly bureaucrat's copy edit team had changed "ensuing fall" to "following autumn" - which was off by a season or two, since the Griffins had left the Whitmans and Spauldings in March of 1840, to make their way back to Fort Boise.

That they had started the trip in March was in the same paragraph as the "ensuing fall" business. It should have been obvious, in other words, that I wasn't using 'fall' as a less-academic-sounding version of 'autumn'.

I also thought it should have been evident from the context - horse steps in hole, calamity follows - but obviously I was wrong. I guess I should be glad that March hadn't turned into Two-Step or Double-Time or Journey or something like that. I mean, 'march' has more than one meaning, just like 'fall' does.

Alerted to the horrible possibilities, I read the ms with a fine-tooth comb, and with increasing dismay. The proofreaders had added in railroad lines I hadn't talked about, and otherwise larded the project with factual tidbits I couldn't footnote, and found surprisingly hard to verify.

So I contacted the friendly bureaucrat, and asked him what sources had been used for the additions. I stressed my willingness to change to the new data if it came from a better source than I'd been able to scurry up in the short time between assignment and deadline. The message I got back was that some academic sorts had been asked to proof the text, and they'd put in what they felt like adding. This was fine with me, them being experts and me being nothing but a reporter doing freelance work outside my usual field, but I wanted to check their sources against mine.

I couldn't do it. They'd put in things from memory...

Which, you know, sometimes works.

But since their names weren't on the book and mine was, and since we were on deadline, I put my foot down, and took their pet remembrances out, at least the ones I couldn't back up with written sources at my disposal. At least I hope I got them all out...

I was then (and still am) convinced that a good editor is above rubies. But I am now equally convinced that the editing process can be hazardous to your mental health, not to mention your reputation. Not to mention your ability to tell a story. Not to mention the historical record.

I see that Susan Wise Bauer has been having similar adventures as she watches one of her books move toward printing. Oh, my.

Fear of suffering and the culture of death

Jennifer F. has opened a discussion about Fear of suffering and the culture of death.

A roundup of Catholic daddy bloggers

Danielle Bean and her readers are looking for Catholic daddy blogs to read.

When bureaucrats are unleashed to make the population healthier...

... your waistline can become public property.

(And so can you, if you don't measure up.)

Friday fun: How to counteract a bad hair day

Jennifer Rothschild was having a bad hair day so she decided to try something new...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Classic aircraft kept in flying condition

Did you know there's a Commemorative Air Force?

From its website:
The CAF was founded to acquire, restore and preserve in flying condition a complete collection of combat aircraft which were flown by all military services of the United States, and selected aircraft of other nations, for the education and enjoyment of present and future generations of Americans.
Also from its website:
“A generation which ignores history has no past and no future” – Robert Heinlein
hat tip: Public can view, fly in restored Flying Fortress » (June 12, 2008)

Meal ministry

The Canyon Lake United Methodist Church in Rapid City, South Dakota, has been providing a Wednesday night supper to make it easier for families to attend services that evening. From there, they've added what they call a Build-A-Meal program, to help ensure that people have nutritious meals tucked away in their freezers. See Meals in Minutes, by Jomay Steen, Rapid City Journal, June 12, 2008, for more information on how the program is set up.

Book note: Austerity Britain, by David Kynaston

Amy Welborn is reading David Kynaston's history of Britain after World War II, Austerity Britain, and is finding it fascinating reading, especially the parts about unintended consequences of government programs meant to help people.

The Simple Woman's Daybook

This looks like a fun weekly meme, of the slow down and smell the roses variety.

Hat tip: By Sun and Candlelight, via the sidebar at Semicolon.

Robbed of freedom for our own good?

Via The Paragraph Farmer, The Anchoress has some quotes, comments, and links containing warnings against tyranny, especially (but not exclusively) the sort that creeps into control while promising to protect us. She uses G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis quotes to set the stage, then addresses current news that should give us pause.

Related: the Stupid Citizens post at Wittingshire.

Amish-themed fiction is booming

According to Hitching a Ride on the Amish Buggy - 6/2/2008 - Publishers Weekly, Amish-related adult fiction by Beverly Lewis has reached 4.5 million copies sold, Wanda Brunstetter's Amish novels have topped 2.2 million copies sold - and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Several publishers and authors have gained readers with Amish fiction, and more titles are scheduled for release later this year and into 2009.

Boy scouts hit by tornado

The bad news is that four teens from Iowa and Nebraska were killed when a tornado roared through the Little Sioux Scout Ranch in Iowa. The good news is that Scouts in Tornado Help Save Lives: Putting Their Skills to Test, Boy Scouts Trapped in Tornado Sweep Take Heroic Action (reported by Marcus Baram, Good Morning America,, June 12, 2008).

My condolences to the families and friends of the dead and injured. My thanks to the boys and adults who kept the toll from being even worse.

My thanks to ABC News and Good Morning America. I've been tracking this story on various places on the Internet, and the Baram article is the best I've seen so far.

Update: Sophia Tareen of AP wrote 4 victims of deadly Iowa tornado were model youth.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A memory to hold, someone to mourn, bills to pay

Some mothers who have lost a baby before birth (or shortly after) are working on ways to help other mothers get through a similar loss, sometimes (in part) by making sure the mother has something to hold in her aching arms when she leaves the hospital. See A memory to hold, by J.J. Harrier (Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, June 7, 2008). The article highlights a local campaign in Alaska called Hunter's Hugs (inspired in part by The Angel Teddy Bear Foundation) as well as other programs and projects designed to help families that lose infants.

As someone who lost a twin sister the day we were born, I am all for acknowledging that babies who die in the womb or shortly after are family members whose loss hurts. My parents tried to cope by not naming my sister, and by donating her body to science, but for reasons I won't go into here I don't think that's a great idea. I understand that they did what they thought was best at the time, and thought they were making the best of a bad situation. Let's leave it at that for now.

I was impressed by this from the Frontiersman article:
As her mother comforted her in the hospital during her three-day stay, [Hunter's Hug founder Cari] Lester received a blue box from the Mat-Su Regional Medical Center staff with several keepsakes they had collected: a lock of her son’s hair, his footprints stamped on a card, a fabric heart and grief support pamphlets. Lester said the gesture was heartfelt, but there was nothing in the box to help her with the pain she felt leaving the hospital empty-handed.
Kudos to the hospital for providing keepsakes. There are places that would try to claim he wasn't a person yet, and try to leave it at that. Sad to say. So, "Yay!, Mat-Su Regional Medical Center."

From the same article:

[Wasilla Mayor Dianne] Keller said after [her unborn daughter] Erin died, a flood of medical bills came her way from the funeral home and hospital. She said she hopes the federal government will eventually offer a tax deduction for families of lost unborn children, adding that she is working with congressional delegates to change the current system.
P.S. While I was writing this, I was interrupted by a friend. I mentioned what I was writing about, and also mentioned the mother's comment in the Frontiersman article that “Going through this, you want to hit, throw and cuddle something all at once” - and he said that the adoption and foster care agency he used to work with, in a large city I don't see any point in naming, tried putting babies into foster care with mothers who had recently lost their own, but found that without constant supervision by a third person the babies tended to get hurt, so they stopped doing that. What did work pretty well, he said, was a program they put into place after a minister approached them about supplying Bibles to mothers who were leaving the hospital without their baby. Dealing with freshly bereaved parents isn't something that I would have thought a foster care and adoption agency would see as a core mission, but I guess (from what my friend said) that they jumped in with both feet and had a team that usually got called out once or twice a day, just to deal with a family coping with the loss of a preborn or newborn, and to make sure they had a Bible if they wanted one.

Previous semi-related post: Remembering those who die very, very young, which links to information about photographers who donate their time and talents to families facing the loss of a baby.

Extending the season by farming in Alaska?

When I think of extending a crop's growing season, I think of plants grown further south, or even in the southern hemisphere. Silly me.

First try to guess what can be grown in Alaska for export, then see Next great crop in Alaska is a beauty by Victoria Naegele (Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, June 5, 2008).

Writing for your target audience

When I saw this cartoon I wasn't sure whether to laugh or weep. Ah, yes, the crazy world of publishing and promotion!

hat tip: The Point: Hope, love, ponies, and Oprah

Sharpening the focus

From a post by Andrée Seu:
Nowadays I think of the teachings of Scripture as similar to the pixels of a picture. The contents of God’s mind would burst the seams of my wineskins. But he “translates” his mysteries into tiny components of the image, arranged side by side for me to read and meditate on each one. The more I read of his Word, the more pixels I gather, and the higher the “resolution” and sharper and more accurate the perception of Truth.
(And this in a post about singing 'dicey hymns.' :)

hat tip: Phil at Brandywine Books

Book note: MIA: Missing in Atlanta, by Debby Giusti

Author Debby Giusti grew up as an "Army brat," and then became an Army wife, and then became an Army mom. So it's probably no surprise that the hero of her third book, MIA: Missing in Atlanta, is an Army captain home from a tour in the Middle East.

I finished reading the book yesterday. It's a page turner. It's grittier than you might expect for something labeled inspirational romance. It shows Christians walking the walk in some very tough circumstances: rescuing teen girls from pimps, helping the homeless and other poor people, and dealing with drug addicts and alcoholics, that sort of thing. It deals, in other words, with some very bad situations and subjects - but it does so with compassion and without resorting to language I don't allow under my roof, but without getting sugary.

In short, Captain Jude Walker met a young woman while stateside for leave, and they hit it off. But when he went back overseas, their correspondence became strained, and then she sends a strange warning and is heard from no more. And so, the next time he gets stateside with time to call his own he goes looking for her. The trail doesn't go at all where he expects it to - whereupon he finds out that a tour of duty in a combat zone hasn't prepared him for the mean streets of the bad parts of Atlanta. He throws in with people working at a teen shelter, who are veterans of this battleground, and things get lively from there, let us say. Except where they get deadly.

It's a fast read, with some good twists along the way, and Jude comes across as decidedly human instead of impossibly heroic. But he is definitely a warrior, and gutsy.

The book is dedicated to (among others) the soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), and "all the brave men and women in uniform who defend our nation."

Giusti is one of the bloggers at Craftie Ladies of Suspense, which is where I found out about the book.

She also has a "Looking Back" post at The Seekers, in which she shares with wannabe authors some of what she wished she'd known earlier in her writing career.

Monday, June 09, 2008

A boy's-eye view

Here's a nice, short mother-son chat, with a surprise ending. (Or not so surprising, perhaps, if you've known a few boys...)

Poem: Death at Suppertime, by Phyllis McGinley

This is a Phyllis McGinley poem I hadn't seen before: Death at Suppertime. It's about children's programming in 1948, but it's got food for thought for today, I think.

Low carbon footprint

Sometimes cartoons say things better than mere words. Like this.

hat tip: Carl, via Dr. Sanity

Book note: Mysterious Incidents at Lone Rock, by Rajendra Pillai

Believe it or not, I just read a Christian murder mystery starring a Hindu policeman. And liked it, overall.

The first part of Mysterious Incidents at Lone Rock (Heartsong Presents, 2008), I didn't think I was going to like it, but it picked up as it went, and turned into a pretty good little cozy, all in all, plus I found myself rather liking the central sleuth, Chintamoni Roy, better known as Chinni.

So, I went in search of information on whether this was perhaps the launch of a new series, all the more so because the prologue has the narrator (a Professor Richard Harrison) claiming that this case happened over thirty years ago, and that Chinni was 'a new friend at the time'.

So far, so good.

Then I find that the Heartsong mysteries are only available through their book club, which only sends out new releases (as far as I can tell), which means (as far as I know) that to get your hands on a copy of this title you're going to have to find a used book. (Like I did.)

Yargh. I dislike flash in the pan publishing. :(

Anyway, this is a cozy in the true sense. The language is clean, there isn't gore, there are some nice red herrings, there are mysteries within the mystery, and, tah dah, we even have our hero having everyone assemble on the premises for the dramatic unveiling of the solution.

Chinni is a decent and considerate man. If he unearths something that would probably cause 'disharmony,' he doesn't use it if he doesn't need to. At the same time, he doesn't flinch from asking anything he thinks needs asking. And, just to make it more fun, he thinks crime solving is much like algebra, and should be approached as such (to the occasional distress of his more conventional colleagues).

Here's hoping Chinni Roy gets another case. And a publisher that will keep the book in print for people to discover in due time.

(And - is this too much to ask? - a publisher that would make the books available sooner or later to bookstores, because, you know, bookstores have trouble finding good, clean mysteries to stock these days.)

Speaking of authentic cozies, feel free to recommend some in the comments, particularly if you know of any that have been recently published. I am so tired of bad language and worse attitudes in contemporary fiction, and I love to encourage the nice guys, both secular and Christian.

Books note: With a Little Faith, and Faith Alone: Stories of an Amazing Dog, by Jude Stringfellow

I haven't seen the books, but I'm charmed by the dog.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Ten recommended history books

Albert Mohler touts ten recently published books at Ten for the History Books -- Summer Reading [Part 1] and Ten for the History Books -- Summer Reading [Part 2].

If there's a book you think would be a good add-on to his list, please drop a note in the comments. Thanks.

Update: For background on The Forgotten Man (one of the recommended books), see The Legacy of the 1936 Election, by Amity Shlaes in the September 2007 issue of Imprimis.

Monday, June 02, 2008

If your airplane goes kaput in flight...

... how lucky is it that every passenger on board is a skydiver, with a parachute?

Here's more, from Joe Hornaday of the Greensburg Daily News (Greensburg, Indiana).

The engine was spewing thick smoke and oil so the pilot couldn't see where he was going, the instrument panel went out, the flaps failed, the plane deadsticked, and the pilot still found the runway? The plane went off the runway and flipped, but the pilot got out of the wreckage himself? Yinga. I'm impressed. (Also happy that nobody was seriously hurt. Yikes.)

Not quite clear on the concept

A neighbor came across the street to visit with my husband, who was working outside. A while later, his young son decided to join them.

'Uhm, did you look both ways before crossing the street?' my husband asked the boy when he got across.

The boy's eyes got big. 'No! I forgot!' he exclaimed, whereupon he ran across the street without looking, set up on the other side, carefully looked both ways, and came back, proud of himself for getting it right this time.

"I can see we need to work on this," his father said, once he recovered enough to talk.

Progressives versus Puritans

From the essay "Puritans and Historians" by Mark A. Noll in the book Christianity in America: A Handbook, c. 1983 William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, published by Lion Publishing, Herts, England:
Only in the last century has "Puritan" become a synonym for joyless, repressive, and often hypocritical fanaticism. This interpretation arose during the Progressive Era of American history when so many intellectuals felt so confident about understanding the real roots of human behavior, which they deemed to be largely economic and psychological, and when they were hailing so surely the march of civilization from superstitious darkness to democratic light. The carnage of World War I, the moral crisis of the 1920s, and the economic collapse of the 1930s disabused most scholars of the idea that they were living in a new Golden Age. These shocks also created a climate in which the Puritans, who had understood something of human evil, the complexity of human existence, and the deeply engrained longing for the divine, could be studied more objectively. Yet the popular image of Puritanism created by the Progressives lingers on...

A look at two "Washington insider" books

From Tale of Two Books, by Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. (, June 2, 2008), which compares What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception by Scott McClellan, and War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism by Doug Feith:

A man who was not present at the wartime councils that led up to the invasion of Iraq is entitled to his views – irrespective of how they differ from those he held at the time. It is, however, altogether another matter to regard McClellan’s current depiction of the subject of the Iraq war as somehow illuminating of what went on “inside the Bush White House,” let alone as dispositive concerning whether the President deliberately misled the American people on the timing and content of his decision to launch the invasion.

The irony is that, even as she erred in this respect, Ms. Noonan recognized what really is needed: “more serious books, like Doug Feith’s.” Readers of this column will recall that Mr. Feith, the former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and another friend and colleague, has written War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism. It is the definitive account of the considerations and deliberations that led to the liberation of Iraq and other actions taken in the wake of and in response to the September 11 attacks. An objective reader will see the case for war was thoughtfully arrived at and persuasively made, not “a fatal misstep” or “strategic blunder.”

The difference between the two ostensibly “insider” accounts could not be more stark. Where McClellan was not a participant in the decision-making he finds so objectionable, Feith was. Where McClellan fails to document any of his pronouncements, Feith documents all of his – including, notably, via a website devoted to making declassified papers and other decision-related materials readily accessible to historians and interested citizens.


It is not as though Mr. Feith has been uncritical of the Bush administration. War and Decision lets the chips fall where they may, including with respect to errors made by the author himself...

Rationing freedom

From Environmentalists Pick Up Where Communists Left Off, by Charles Krauthammer (, May 31, 2008):

Just Monday, a British parliamentary committee proposed that every citizen be required to carry a carbon card that must be presented, under penalty of law, when buying gasoline, taking an airplane or using electricity. The card contains your yearly carbon ration to be drawn down with every purchase, every trip, every swipe.

There's no greater social power than the power to ration. And, other than rationing food, there is no greater instrument of social control than rationing energy, the currency of just about everything one does and uses in an advanced society.

Book note: Waterwalk, A Passage of Ghosts, by Steven Faulkner

James M. Kushiner recommends the true life father-son adventure Waterwalk.

From the publisher:
Tired, hungry, lost, lonely, fogbound, shipwrecked, unable to make their way in the darkness, Steven Faulkner and his teenage son Justin are having a great time. They are on an epic journey, retracing the historic 1673 route of French explorers Marquette and Joliet along the Lake Michigan shore to Green Bay, up the Fox River, then down the Wisconsin River to the mighty Mississippi. A poet with a sense of humor, Faulkner brings the majestic American heartland to life in one of the finest books ever written about a river journey. A modern travel classic in the tradition of Blue Highways, this book will appeal to anyone who has a sense of adventure.

How is freedom born? A new film explores the question.

I see that Acton Media has a film coming out this month that looks like it addresses some important issues and provides some useful historical context. See The Birth of Freedom - A Documentary on the History of Freedom for more information, to view the trailer, or to arrange a screening. (Warning: the trailer includes images of torture and war dead and other nasty stuff. It's in context, but it might not be suitable for children.)

The official website also has a useful list of primary documents and websites, information on important people, and relevant court cases.

hat tip: Acton Institute

Update: The film is just shy of an hour long, if that makes any difference to you if you're hoping to set up a screening.