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Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Sunspots 515

Although this is posted on April 1, none of it is designed to be an April Fool's joke:

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:
Christianity: Christianity Today reports that so-called "Heaven Tourism" books will no longer be carried, or sold, by a major Christian bookstore chain, and why.

The Environment: Relevant discusses six commonly-used items that we shouldn't be using, because of their effect on the environment.

Health: Two articles on the dangers of loneliness: here and here.
(and geopolitics)

Michael Gerson warns that humanity is not ready for the next really big epidemic, and Ebola isn't it.

Politics: FiveThirtyEight has published an extensive analysis of the Republican candidates for US President, and concludes that Senator Ted Cruz cannot win. He will draw plenty of media attention, though.

Science:  From Science, an interesting study on how life may have originated from non-life.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by Gilbert K. Chesterton, 16

I have explained that the fairy tales founded in me two convictions; first, that this world is a wild and startling place, which might have been quite different, but which is quite delightful; second, that before this wildness and delight one may well be modest and submit to the queerest limitations of so queer a kindness. But I found the whole modern world running like a high tide against both my tendernesses; and the shock of that collision created two sudden and spontaneous sentiments, which I have had ever since and which, crude as they were, have since hardened into convictions. First, I found the whole modern world talking scientific fatalism; saying that everything is as it must always have been, being unfolded without fault from the beginning. The leaf on the tree is green because it could never have been anything else. Now, the fairy-tale philosopher is glad that the leaf is green precisely because it might have been scarlet. He feels as if it had turned green an instant before he looked at it. He is pleased that snow is white on the strictly reasonable ground that it might have been black. Every colour has in it a bold quality as of choice; the red of garden roses is not only decisive but dramatic, like suddenly spilt blood.

Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here.  Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Psalm 66:20 poster

Psalm 66:20 script
The above poster is an attempt to do justice to Psalm 66:20, which says "Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer, nor his loving kindness from me." (World English Bible, public domain.)

The photo is some member of the rose family, perhaps a crabapple. I'm not good at distinguishing between peaches, pears, apples, cherries, and the like.

Thanks for looking! Blessed be God.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sunspots 514

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to
someone else:

Christianity (and Mathematics): He Lives has addressed the question, posed by some, about 1 Kings 7:23, which implies that the Israelites thought that the circumference of a circle was 3 times its diameter, not pi (3.14159...) times its diameter.
Computing: Gizmo's Freeware gives an annotated list of 18 free Android games that have been downloaded more than 100 million times each.
Education: Relevant reports on a study that says that US Millennials "aren't very skilled."
First Things has a short essay on why studying the humanities in college is important, and how university officials, who say that, aren't really being specific enough.

History: King Richard III of England is to be re-buried. He died in 1485. Read more at the History Blog.
Humor: "The 50 Funniest Puns in the History of Funny Puns." Sample: A plateau is the highest form of flattery. Thanks to a niece for drawing my attention to this web site.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A. W. Tozer on beauty

Tozer on beauty 
Photo: waves on Lake Hartwell, off US 29, Anderson County, South Carolina. The picture is also a link to itself, on my Flickr photostream. If you wish, you can download a larger version of the graphic. Click on the down arrow, just below the picture, and at the right margin. My graphics are free to use, so long as the use is non-commercial, and doesn't significantly alter the message of the pictures.

A. W. Tozer was a pastor and author. The quote above is taken from his The Pursuit of God, which is in the public domain. (The book is available free, here, in several digital formats, and also available from Amazon, for 99 cents.) 

Tozer wrote, as follows:
It is my own belief ... that every good and beautiful thing which man has produced in the world has been the result of his faulty and sin-blocked response to the creative Voice sounding over the earth.

Thanks for reading, and looking. Read Tozer.

Monday, March 23, 2015


I don't think I saw Disney's animated version of Cinderella when it first came out. But I did see the comic book that accompanied it, and can still remember my fascination with the talking birds, mice, and Lucifer the cat, over six decades ago. I suppose that that Cinderella was re-released, and I did see it, perhaps with my wife and children, at a later date.

My wife and I saw the new version recently, starring Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Derek Jacobi, and others. We liked it a lot. The story was very similar to the one in the animated version, although Cinderella was more athletic -- she rode a horse, and did it well. Also, the birds didn't put her gown together in this version.

Cinderella's mother made the girl promise to do two things, namely be courageous, and be kind. Cinderella obeyed, even when her servitude to her stepmother and stepsisters made that very difficult.

In the end, of course, the prince fell in love with her, and she ran away, at the final stroke of midnight, as her magically provided horses, coach, footmen, and coachman morphed back into mice, a pumpkin, lizards, and a goose -- which scene is probably the most appealing to little kids. Nonetheless, eventually the prince identified her with a glass slipper, the only item of attire left from her fairy godmother's magical preparation for the ball, and which would fit no one else in the kingdom.

The sets, including the views of the harbor, the castle, the forest, and the surrounding mountains, were spectacular. The costumes were splendid. Lots of details clicked, such as the way the clock struck. There was a clear struggle between good and evil, and good prevailed. Cinderella's last statement to her stepmother, who showed no evidence of repentance, was "I forgive you."

A fine film. I recommend this article, from Speculative Faith, which combines a review with a reaction to some negative reactions on the part of others. Here's another article, by the same author as the first one, E. Stephen Burnett, also on Cinderella.

Thanks for reading. See Cinderella. There's probably not much hurry -- it's doing very well in theaters, so it will be around for a while.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by Gilbert K. Chesterton, 15

I could never mix in the common murmur of that rising generation against monogamy, because no restriction on sex seemed so odd and unexpected as sex itself.
Keeping to one woman is a small price for so much as seeing one woman. To complain that I could only be married once was like complaining that I had only been born once. It was incommensurate with the terrible excitement of which one was talking. It showed, not an exaggerated sensibility to sex, but a curious insensibility to it. A man is a fool who complains that he cannot enter Eden by five gates at once.

Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here.  Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sunspots 513

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:
Christianity: Ken Schenck on what happens at the end. He says that Christians shouldn't argue over the millennium, or absence thereof, because it's mentioned in only one chapter of the Bible, and that chapter is probably highly symbolic. He doesn't know what heaven will be like, but doesn't believe it will be boring.
Literature: Rebecca Luella Miller, of Speculative Faith, writes about violence in (Christian) speculative fiction. As she notes, often Christian writers, publishers and readers don't like overt sex or foul language, but don't seem to have the same abhorrence for violence. Should we? As she points out, there is a lot of violence in Tolkien's works.
Christianity Today compares Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" books with reality.
Politics: Election campaigns in the UK are remarkably quiet, and brief, compared to those in the US. National Public Radio tells us why.
NPR also reports on why it's difficult, almost impossible, for the poor to become part of the upper middle class.

NPR says that a Lego fan built Lego representations of the female Supreme Court justices, now and previously. She suggested that the company make it a set for use by (and sale to) others, but they rejected the idea as too political. The article pointed out that the Supreme Court was established, with the idea that it would be above politics.

And NPR lets us know why Congressional, and Presidential, budgets really aren't budgets.

Science:  BBC News reports that scientists have discovered that chameleons use a previously unknown mechanism to change some of their colors. I thank one of my brothers for bringing this to my attention.
NBC (and others) reports on Tonga, a new volcanic island in the Pacific.

NPR reports on research to use cockroaches as guided explorers in dark narrow places.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by Gilbert K. Chesterton, 14

. . . it cannot be a coincidence that glass is so common a substance in folk-lore. This princess lives in a glass castle, that princess on a glass hill; this one sees all things in a mirror; they may all live in glass houses if they will not throw stones. For this thin glitter of glass everywhere is the expression of the fact that the happiness is bright but brittle, like the substance most easily smashed by a housemaid or a cat. And this fairy-tale sentiment also sank into me and became my sentiment towards the whole world. I felt and feel that life itself is as bright as the diamond, but as brittle as the window-pane; and when the heavens were compared to the terrible crystal I can remember a shudder. I was afraid that God would drop the cosmos with a crash.

Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here.  Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by Gilbert K. Chesterton, 13

It is no argument for unalterable law (as Huxley fancied) that we count on the ordinary course of things. We do not count on it; we bet on it. We risk the remote possibility of a miracle as we do that of a poisoned pancake or a world-destroying comet. We leave it out of account, not because it is a miracle, and therefore an impossibility, but be cause it is a miracle, and therefore an exception.
Just as we all like love tales because there is an instinct of sex, we all like astonishing tales because they touch the nerve of the ancient instinct of astonishment. This is proved by the fact that when we are very young children we do not need fairy tales: we only need tales. Mere life is interesting enough. A child of seven is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door and saw a dragon. But a child of three is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door. Boys like romantic tales; but babies like realistic tales—because they find them romantic. In fact, a baby is about the only person, I should think, to whom a modern realistic novel could be read without boring him.

Children are grateful when Santa Claus puts in their stockings gifts of toys or sweets. Could I not be grateful to Santa Claus when he put in my stockings the gift of two miraculous legs? We thank people for birthday presents of cigars and slippers. Can I thank no one for the birthday present of birth?

Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here.  Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sunspots 512, part 2

This blog typically posts a selection of links each Wednesday, entitled "Sunspots." That was true yesterday.

Some important web pages have come to my attention, and here is another edition of Sunspots, annotating them.

FiveThirtyEight, which is not a religious site, but examines various statistical matters, considers the question of religion among prisoners in the USA. The professed religion of prisoners has significant differences from that of the population at large, and the article considers possible reasons for such differences.

Relevant interviews a missionary to Muslims, who points out that Christians have reacted strangely to ISIS/ISIL/whatever. The death of Coptic Christians was widely publicized, but the deaths of larger numbers of Muslims, also by ISIS, has not been. The missionary also said that ". . . prior to the breakout of ISIS . . . missions agencies and churches were actively teaching that Coptic Christians, Chaldeans, etc. are not real Christians and needed to be converted by evangelical missionaries in order to become 'real believers'!"

Two articles, here and here, on contraception, in Christianity Today. They get below the surface, for example pointing out that Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was not in favor of abortion. The articles indicate that it's a complex matter, and some simple answers aren't logical, or don't take the facts into account. One of them refers to an article in Atlantic, by a pro-lifer, on the question of whether the so-called pill is an abortifacient or not. This article, also, avoids pat answers. (If you are interested, I have posted on abortion, sticking mostly to what the Bible says, and not considering the medical and scientific questions, but such matters as whether abortion really is murder, according to the Bible.)

Christianity Today also reports that most evangelical Christians say that the Bible is not the major source of their opinions on immigration to the USA. (Only about 10% said that it is.) The article does not suggest a correct position on the matter, but just considers what is influencing us. Why am I not surprised by the result?

Thanks for reading. You should find any of these articles to be thought-provoking.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Sunspots 512

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:
Christianity: (sort of) Google has a map of present-day Israel, and surrounding countries, with information on sites of historical interest also marked.
Computing: OneTab is a browser add-on that converts all your browser's tabs to links, which can save clutter, and release some of your computer's resources. It can also be used to restore any or all such to tabs. (The web site apparently automatically recognizes which browser you are using.)
Health: National Public Radio says that we are spending a lot less, proportionally, on food than our grandparents did.
Humor: Addam Schwartz, of the Philadelphia Inquirer, pokes fun at recent studies that claim sitting is bad for our health.
There's a YouTube video, less than 2 minutes long, that says that you and I have been eating bagels incorrectly.

NPR reports on the fairly long history of knock-knock jokes.

Science: NPR reports that it may snow in the northern tier of states, but there are dust storms in parts of Africa, and they can be worse than snow.
Wired praises the aluminum can.

Marketplace reports that FEMA has a Waffle House Index, which tells them how bad things are after a storm. Really.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by Gilbert K. Chesterton, 12

Satire may be mad and anarchic, but it presupposes an admitted superiority in certain things over others; it presupposes a standard.

Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death.

 My first and last philosophy, that which I believe in with unbroken certainty, I learnt in the nursery. I generally learnt it from a nurse; that is, from the solemn and star-appointed priestess at once of democracy and tradition. The things I believed most then, the things I believe most now, are the things called fairy tales. They seem to me to be the entirely reasonable things. They are not fantasies: compared with them other things are fantastic. Compared with them religion and rationalism are both abnormal, though religion is abnormally right and rationalism abnormally wrong. Fairyland is nothing but the sunny country of common sense.
But I deal here with what ethic and philosophy come from being fed on fairy tales. If I were describing them in detail I could note many noble and healthy principles that arise from them. there is the chivalrous lesson of “Jack the Giant Killer”; that giants should be killed because they are gigantic. It is a manly mutiny against pride as such. For the rebel is older than all the kingdoms, and the Jacobin has more tradition than the Jacobite. There is the lesson of “Cinderella,” which is the same as that of the Magnificat—exaltavit humiles. There is the great lesson of “Beauty and the Beast”; that a thing must be loved before it is loveable. There is the terrible allegory of the “Sleeping Beauty,” which tells how the human creature was blessed with all birthday gifts, yet cursed with death; and how death also may perhaps be softened to a sleep.

Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here.  Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Wild hogs, aka wild boars, aka wild pigs

My wife and I recently saw, for the first time for either of us, a wild hog. It was road kill, on Georgia 181, just across the Georgia-South Carolina border, near Hartwell Dam. That got me to searching for information about these animals. I have linked to four such sources, below. In one sentence, their numbers are expanding rapidly, there doesn't seem to be any way to stop this, and they can do a lot of damage to property and the environment. Some of the problems are because hunters want hogs brought in so they can be hunted.

A Fox News local TV station in Alabama has an article about a boy who killed a giant hog, weighing over a thousand pounds, and was over nine feet from nose to the base of the tail. There's a photo.

The State newspaper (Columbia, SC) has an article on what the animals are doing in South Carolina, and how hard they are to control.

The Charleston, SC Post and Courier has a similar article.

There's a fascinating article, in the Atlantic, about the history of the animals, hunting them, a wild hog festival in Georgia, wild hogs and Republican domination in local politics, and many other things.

None of the above articles are current, (one was from 2013, the others somewhat older) but all were of considerable interest.