Saturday, July 31, 2010

Think the BP oil spill is a major environmental disaster? Perhaps it's time for us to look at our food!

What with three children and several grandchildren who exhibit major reactions to various foods (but particularly wheat); and what with my rheumatoid arthritis diagnosed only just over a year ago--and rather quickly identified as strongly influenced by the ingestion of wheat (not to mention other foods); what with the discovery over this past year of just how difficult it is, in the modern world of processed foods, to acquire almost any food that has not been tainted or tampered with in some manner . . . : I have become more and more aware, especially this past year, of issues related to food and food production.

And with all of these thoughts fairly near the top of my mind, perhaps you can understand my fury at reading this story about Monsanto.

Be prepared to have your blood boil . . . and find your food buying habits slowly alter (as ours have) as you realize there really is something wrong about our modern food production system. . . .

Friday, July 30, 2010

How rich are you?

I was reading a thread on the Sonlight Curriculum forums yesterday about the demise of the middle class. I will confess, I was dismayed to read about how little some of these people are getting by on each year. But then I did a little research this morning using a tool Sarita brought to my attention earlier this week: The Global Rich List.

As the people who that site together explained in a recent blog post,
[T]he Global Rich List, launched in 2003, continues to surprise people with their unexpected financial ranking in the world - which makes them feel instantly better about their income, and in turn puts them in a much happier place to think about giving some of it to a good cause.
 Where do you stand? I think you'll be surprised!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Life . . . and death

I visited Amy and Phil this weekend. Somehow this post by Amy, which I just read a few minutes ago, a post that mentions my visit, seemed peculiarly appropriate to summarize my day.

My sister Miriam asked me this morning to copy about half of my posts about Gracie Lou for her. --There's something about death.

Then, this evening, we went over to Dave and Jonelle's house to celebrate Natalia's second birthday today. --There's something about life.

And then, there's Amy's post--a combination of both.

I guess, maybe, I'm feeling a bit nostalgic tonight.

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Happy birthday wishes by classically trained musicians . . . offered to an esteemed mentor

From a birthday tribute concert for pianist Claude Frank at the Curtis Institute of Music: a surprise encore arranged by at least one of Frank's students.

A couple of notes:
  1. You'll need to turn up the volume if you want to hear the "apology" at the beginning . . . then turn it down when the music begins at about 1:02.
  2. Understand that this is presented at a formal classical music concert. Enjoy the music for what it is. You will soon recognize the joke. --Very creative. (By the way: I am told that all the great classical composers--Mozart, Bach, etc.--would play these kinds of musical jokes or games with one another on a regular basis.)

Viewing on Facebook? "View Full Note," then click on "View Original Post" to see the video.
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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Honoring moms and dads . . .

Our son Luke and his wife Brittany stopped by last night. While they were here, Luke said we needed to watch a couple of videos. After watching them, I agree with him: they ought to brighten your day..

First, for moms: A heartfelt, highly melodic, and beautifully harmonized ode by Stanford University student Adam Cole to his mother for the amazing biological heritage she has given him. [As you listen, you may wish you had studied your high school (or was it college?) biology a bit more seriously!]

And then . . . an over-the-top rap video about suburban "Dad Life."

"Get down" [or whatever the modern equivalent phrase may be]!

Feel like adding a little more brightness to your day?

Check out "Jessica's Daily Affirmation Song" . . . as sung by Adam Cole and his bluegrass band Nimbleweed . . .

. . . and, then, maybe, view Jessica's original affirmation from which the song was inspired:

For more Nimbleweed bluegrass music videos, check out Adam's YouTube webpage. Best songs in my opinion?
What wonderful feel-good music!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Octopuses, octopi, octopodes . . .

I ran into this video on the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary website as I was looking for the appropriate word for a geographical equivalent of anachronism.

[While we're on the subject: An event or object that is out of its appropriate time context is called an anachronism. For example, if a novelist were to suggest that "George had just begun flying his Piper Cub from St. Louis, Missouri, to Berkeley, California, on the morning of April 23, 1823 . . ."--that would be an anachronism. So what is the appropriate word to describe an event or object placed in the wrong geographical context? For example, say, a flea on the tail of a polar bear that is living above the Arctic Circle.--What would you call that? Answer: an anatopism. --For what it's worth. (My first guess was, perhaps, an anageographism or an anageologism. Too bad: I guessed wrong!]

Anyway. I saw this 1:58 video over on the side of the Merriam-Webster web page and thought it was hilarious. Enjoy!

What is the appropriate plural of "octopus"?

By the way, there are a bunch more videos like this on the "Ask the Editor" video archives page on the Merriam-Webster website.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Images from the opposite ends of life

I've never noticed this before, probably because I don't normally read these two sections of scripture in quite such a juxtaposition. But last year, in reading the whole Bible in one year, I felt the mid-section moved so slowly, I re-sequenced things and wound up reading Ecclesiastes 12 and the first few chapters of Song of Songs one right after the other this morning.

I may also have been helped to see this because we watched 17 Again last night. I am a bit more attentive, this morning, to the passage of time and its impact upon one's life.

Ecclesiastes 12 describes old age in highly imagistic terms:
Remember your Creator
   in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
   and the years approach when you will say,
   “I find no pleasure in them”—
before the sun and the light
   and the moon and the stars grow dark,
   and the clouds return after the rain;
when the keepers of the house tremble,
   and the strong men stoop,
   when the grinders cease because they are few,
   and those looking through the windows grow dim;
when the doors to the street are closed
   and the sound of grinding fades;
when men rise up at the sound of birds,
   but all their songs grow faint;
when men are afraid of heights
   and of dangers in the streets;
when the almond tree blossoms
   and the grasshopper drags himself along
   and desire no longer is stirred.
Then man goes to his eternal home
   and mourners go about the streets.

Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,
   or the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
   or the wheel broken at the well,
and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
   and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

--Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 (NIV)

And then, almost like a bookend, I read The Song of Solomon or Song of Songs Chapter 2:

Listen! My lover!
   Look! Here he comes,
leaping across the mountains,
   bounding over the hills.
My lover is like a gazelle or a young stag.
   Look! There he stands behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
   peering through the lattice.
My lover spoke and said to me,
   “Arise, my darling,
   my beautiful one, and come with me.
See! The winter is past;
   the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
   the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
   is heard in our land.
The fig tree forms its early fruit;
   the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
   my beautiful one, come with me.”
Not sure where I'm going with this. It just struck me how the language of these two passages is so similar, even though they obviously have to do with different ends of life.

I guess, while I'm at it, I should comment on another thought that popped through my mind as I "listened" to these two sections of scripture. I was reminded of a song I have heard on my favorite Pandora station: "Garden in My Room" by Merril Bainbridge.

There's a garden in my room
Would you like to take a look?
There are fascinating things you'll find there

And if you care to come inside
There is nothing I will hide
Come where there is sweet perfume
In the garden in my room

There's a garden in my room
Would you like to take a look?
Rest your body on my velvet roses

Once you've tasted my delights
Many days will turn to nights
There is nothing you won't do
For the garden in my room
Kind of scary lyrics, actually, aren't they? "There is nothing you won't do for the garden in my room"? Yow!

And that reminds me of a few other passages I read only a couple of weeks ago in the Book of Proverbs. Say, like Proverbs 5:
My son, pay attention to my wisdom,
   listen well to my words of insight,
that you may maintain discretion
   and your lips may preserve knowledge.
For the lips of an adulteress drip honey,
   and her speech is smoother than oil;
but in the end she is bitter as gall,
   sharp as a double-edged sword.
Her feet go down to death;
   her steps lead straight to the grave. . . .

Keep to a path far from her,
   do not go near the door of her house,
lest you give your best strength to others
   and your years to one who is cruel,
lest strangers feast on your wealth
   and your toil enrich another man's house.
At the end of your life you will groan,
   when your flesh and body are spent.
You will say, “How I hated discipline!
   How my heart spurned correction!
I would not obey my teachers
   or listen to my instructors.
I have come to the brink of utter ruin
   in the midst of the whole assembly.” . . .

Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress?
   Why embrace the bosom of another man's wife?
For a man's ways are in full view of the Lord,
   and he examines all his paths.
The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him;
   the cords of his sin hold him fast.
He will die for lack of discipline,
   led astray by his own great folly.

--Proverbs 5:1-5, 8-14, 20-23 (NIV)

Or Proverbs 7:
My son, keep my words
   and store up my commands within you. . . .
Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”
   and call understanding your kinsman;
they will keep you from the adulteress,
   from the wayward wife with her seductive words.

At the window of my house
   I looked out through the lattice.
I saw among the simple, . . .
   a youth who lacked judgment.
He was going down the street near her corner,
   walking along in the direction of her house. . . .

Then out came a woman to meet him, . . .
She took hold of him and kissed him
   and with a brazen face she said:

“. . . I have covered my bed
   with colored linens from Egypt.
I have perfumed my bed
   with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.
Come, let's drink deep of love till morning;
   let's enjoy ourselves with love!
My husband is not at home;
   he has gone on a long journey.
He took his purse filled with money
   and will not be home till full moon.”

With persuasive words she led him astray;
   she seduced him with her smooth talk.
All at once he followed her
   like an ox going to the slaughter,
like a deer stepping into a noose
   till an arrow pierces his liver,
like a bird darting into a snare,
   little knowing it will cost him his life.

Now then, my sons, listen to me; . . .
Do not let your heart turn to her ways
   or stray into her paths.
Many are the victims she has brought down;
   her slain are a mighty throng.
Her house is a highway to the grave,
   leading down to the chambers of death.

--Proverbs 7:1, 4-8, 10, 13, 16-27 (NIV)

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Wisdom of the ages -- about money

I've been frustrated.

On the one hand, Sarita and I have been urged to make plans for what wealth we have accumulated so that it (the wealth) will go where we [think God might] want it to go. On the other hand, it seems as if ever since we received that counsel and began acting upon it, the funds we have put aside have been devastated by the stock market crash and the ongoing inability of even "the best" advisors to avoid handing us losses in today's investment climate.

I just received another reminder last night as our investment advisor sent us a bunch of performance statements and, once again, every account suffered losses this past month. . . .

So today I was reading in Proverbs and noticed something that had never caught my eye before:
Do not toil to acquire wealth;
     be discerning enough to desist. (Prov. 23:4)
I took that to be saying (in the context of so much else that the writers of the Proverbs say), "Work hard and long enough to meet your and your family's needs (cf, for example, Prov. 16:26), but don't try to pile up wealth. It's not worth the trouble.

What "the trouble" may entail includes strife and discord (see, for example, Prov. 15:16; 16:8, 19; 17:1; 19:1; 21:9 & 19; 25:24; etc.--all of which generally add up to, "Better to have little--and peace and quiet, than to have much accompanied with yelling and strife"), but "the trouble" may also entail "simple" loss and/or emptiness, or what Solomon called a "chasing after the wind" (ubiquitous in the Book of Ecclesiastes). In Proverbs 23, where I began this meditation, the author follows his admonition about desisting from the pursuit of wealth with this explanation:
Do not toil to acquire wealth;
     be discerning enough to desist.
[Because w]hen your eyes light on it, it is gone,
     for suddenly it sprouts wings,
     flying like an eagle toward heaven. (Prov. 23:4-5)
And all of this together, for some reason, is reminding me of Jesus' words of wisdom in Matthew 6:19-34 (NIV):
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. . . .

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Safe driving

I received this from our insurance agent last night. I had never heard of this particular law before!

If a patrol car is pulled over to the side of the road with its lights flashing, you have to change to the next lane (away from the stopped vehicle) or slow down by 20 mph below the stated speed limit. Every state except New York, Hawaii, and Maryland, and the District of Columbia has a version of this law.

For more detail, see and Snopes.