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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Boo!

Garrison Keillor, at the Writer's Almanac, has a couple of paragraphs about today's holiday/celebration/abomination/whatever it is. As always, Keillor is worth reading or listening to.

Pumpkins are members of the Cucurbitae family of flowering plants, along with squash, cucumbers, melons, and others.

Here's my post on the color orange, and here's my post on the color black, both from over a year ago.

Thanks for reading!

* * * * * *

Addendum: A couple of hours later:

I should have pointed out that, on this date in 1517, Martin Luther wrote his 95 theses, which were, I guess, the beginning of Protestantism.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Chance and 20th Century physics, 2

The previous post on this topic is here. In it, I discussed the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, and quantum physics in general. Some thinkers have believed that the unpredictability of sub-atomic particles is the explanation for free choice in the human brain.

Albert Einstein, who was, of course, one of the pillars of twentieth century physics, including quantum physics, is renowned for many things. One of them is that he said something like "God does not play at dice." (in German) Another is his long argument with Neils Bohr, another of the titans of twentieth-century physics, about quantum physics. (The Wikipedia article on Bohr includes a photo of Einstein and Bohr, engaged in this long argument.) These facts are often taken to mean that Einstein believed that everything can be predicted, at least in principle, or that he disbelieved in quantum physics. Apparently this is not completely correct.

I have recently read a book which deals with the subject of Einstein, indeterminacy, Bohr, and quantum physics, Einstein Defiant: Genius versus Genius in the Quantum Revolution, by Edmund Blair Bolles. Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press, 2004. (The two geniuses are Bohr and Einstein.) Bolles puts Einstein's saying this way: "I, at any rate, am convinced that He is not playing at dice." Quote is from p. 252. Bolles' source is Max Born's Born-Einstein Letters, translated by Irene Born. New York: Walker Publishing, 1971. Bolles says that the statement was in a letter to Born, also an important physicist.

Bolles argues that what Einstein really meant was that indeterminacy, or unpredictability, does not imply that there are not real causes, even for the actions of sub-atomic particles. Some of his colleagues were, it seems, willing to believe that all we could do is predict these actions statistically, not individually, and that what happened to an individual particle was simply a matter of chance. Einstein apparently agreed, except that he would not have agreed with the last clause. He believed that, if we could just perceive them, there are real influences, even on sub-atomic particles.

I suppose that Einstein's view, if correct, means that quantum uncertainty cannot be the foundation of human free will.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Thanks for 40 years

We have been married 40 years, as of today, and we thank God for the privilege.

Diary of an Old Soul, October 29 - November 4

29. What though things change and pass, nor come again!
Thou, the life-heart of all things, changest never.
The sun shines on; the fair clouds turn to rain,
And glad the earth with many a spring and river.
The hearts that answer change with chill and shiver,
That mourn the past, sad-sick, with hopeless pain,
They know not thee, our changeless heart and brain.

30. My halting words will some day turn to song--
Some far-off day, in holy other times!
The melody now prisoned in my rimes
Will one day break aloft, and from the throng
Of wrestling thoughts and words spring up the air;
As from the flower its colour's sweet despair
Issues in odour, and the sky's low levels climbs.

31. My surgent thought shoots lark-like up to thee.
Thou like the heaven art all about the lark.
Whatever I surmise or know in me,
Idea, or but symbol on the dark,
Is living, working, thought-creating power
In thee, the timeless father of the hour.
I am thy book, thy song--thy child would be.

NOVEMBER 1. THOU art of this world, Christ. Thou know'st it all;
Thou know'st our evens, our morns, our red and gray;
How moons, and hearts, and seasons rise and fall;
How we grow weary plodding on the way;
Of future joy how present pain bereaves,
Rounding us with a dark of mere decay,
Tossed with a drift Of summer-fallen leaves.

2. Thou knowest all our weeping, fainting, striving;
Thou know'st how very hard it is to be;
How hard to rouse faint will not yet reviving;
To do the pure thing, trusting all to thee;
To hold thou art there, for all no face we see;
How hard to think, through cold and dark and dearth,
That thou art nearer now than when eye-seen on earth.

3. Have pity on us for the look of things,
When blank denial stares us in the face.
Although the serpent mask have lied before,
It fascinates the bird that darkling sings,
And numbs the little prayer-bird's beating wings.
For how believe thee somewhere in blank space,
If through the darkness come no knocking to our door?

4. If we might sit until the darkness go,
Possess our souls in patience perhaps we might;
But there is always something to be done,
And no heart left to do it. To and fro
The dull thought surges, as the driven waves fight
In gulfy channels. Oh! victorious one,
Give strength to rise, go out, and meet thee in the night.

The above is excerpted from George MacDonald's A Book of Strife in the Form of The Diary of an Old Soul (Public Domain, 1880). For further information see this post. These are the entries for/from October 29 through November 4.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Jane Langton: goodness in fantasy

Jane Langton's The Fledgling was a 1981 Newbery Honor book. It is set in modern Concord, Massachusetts, where Thoreau became famous. Georgie is a girl of about 8 or 9 who loves geese, and wants to fly. She develops a relationship with a goose, and flies. It's a good read, for youngsters, or adults. It's about wanting to fly, and wishes. But the book is also about character, or goodness. Here's Langton's contrast of Eleanor, Georgie's step-cousin, who is being raised by Georgie's mother, Aunt Alex, and her stepfather, with Georgie:

How different they are, thought Aunt Alex, Eleanor and Georgie. Altogether different. And it isn't just that Georgie is younger. Georgie is different from Eleanor all the way through, from the inside out. Why, look at her, right now. She doesn't even know that she exists. She's just eyes and ears, that's all she is, just looking and listening. She doesn't think about herself at all. The world outside her rushes into her, and that's what she becomes. She doesn't think to herself, "This is me, Georgie." Instead she pulses with the sunrise and the rain and the geese flying over the house. She's in them, not outside them. She's more like a bird or a flower than a girl named Georgie.Whereas, Eleanor! Oh, Eleanor! Just look at Eleanor! Eleanor is all Eleanor! And everything outside Eleanor becomes Eleanor too -- sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts! She sucks us all in! There isn't anything else but Eleanor in all the world! Jane Langton, The Fledgling. New York: Harper, 1980. pp. 117-8 Aunt Alex is Georgie's mother. Eleanor is her husband's niece, and the two of them are raising Eleanor and Eddy. Georgie is her husband's stepdaughter.

A nosy woman has moved into the house next door. Alex's husband can't understand why she keeps coming around so much. Alex understands:
One day when Uncle Freddy was protesting a new Prawnish assault, yet another rap on the glass, some further pressure from next door, Aunt Alex had explained to him fiercely. "It's your goodness that attracts her, that's what it is. She can't stand it. She has to poke it and pinch it and squeeze it and try as hard as she can to squash it entirely. Only she can't. And it drives her mad. Jane Langton, The Fledgling. New York: Harper, 1980. pp. 119-120.

Langton is also the author of "The Weak Place in the Cloth: A Study of Fantasy for Children" (Fantasists on Fantasy, edited by Robert H. Boyer and Kenneth J. Zahorski. New York: Avon Books, 1984. pp. 163-179. Originally published in The Horn Book Magazine, October and December 1973, pp. 433-441). In this, Langton says that fantastic worlds "on the other side of the cloth" may be reached in eight different ways. Langton, herself, in this work of fantasy, uses one of her methods, a magic being which breaches the cloth between the real and the fantastic. That magic being is a goose.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Prayer: Conversing with God

Christianity Today recently published a list of "The Top 50 Books that have Shaped Evangelicals." They say that the list is still under debate. The top book is Prayer: Conversing with God, by Rosalind Rinker. It was originally published in 1959, but has been through several printings since. I had never read it. The book is out of print, but good libraries should have it, and used copies are available on-line, for example from Amazon's affiliated sellers. The book is small in format, and brief, only 72 pages, plus an appendix.

I read the book. I can't say that it changed my life, but it is a great book. Probably one reason that it hasn't changed my life is that, as CT indicated by the listing, it has shaped evangelical thinking. How? Probably in two ways: taking the King James English out of many people's prayers, and in introducing conversational prayer. (Rinker is not violently opposed to KJV English, but says that it's not natural, and that use of it in the twentieth century is mostly pretty ignorant of the actual use of "Thee" centuries ago.)

Conversational prayer is unstructured group prayer, compared to praying around a circle, another common method. Rinker contends that conversational prayer is more open to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and more involving, than other methods.

I think Rinker is correct here.

Something that, I hope, did change my prayer life, is Rinker's idea that we pray for things we don't really believe that God can do. It might be better to pray for smaller, more believable things, in step-wise fashion. She gives an example of a Christian couple who moved into a new place. They prayed that the husband would meet the man next door today. He did. The next day, they prayed that he would find out what the man was interested in, during the next day or two. It was football, and they prayed for free tickets for two. Then they prayed that the husband could discuss Christ on the way home from the game, and then they prayed that the couple would accept an invitation to ask them over for a visit and Bible study, and then that they would accept Christ as savior. All these prayers were answered, thus, one step at a time, over a few weeks. Probably, if they had just prayed that they would have a Christian influence in their community, or for their neighbors, nothing much would have happened. (pp. 61-2)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Sunspots 79


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


Politics:
Nothing interesting to someone else, but a LOT of attack ads.

Computing:
The Blueletter Bible (a free source, with several versions of the entire Bible available, including Greek, as well as public domain commentaries) now includes the ESV as one of their versions.

Science:
He Lives blog has again made a strong case that the Intelligent Design movement is not science.

Nature News reports on research that indicates that there are genetic factors that influence the success or failure of in vitro fertilization.

Slate offers the first installment of a quiz on how much you contribute to global warming. (Free membership needed)

Literature:
E Stephen Burnett has posted the second of three posts on Christian speculative fiction. In the second, he says that two of the best, Lewis and Tolkien, didn't worry about the message much, or at all, just about telling a good story. Burnett was unhappy with how Christians often treated the first Narnia movie.

Don't forget Project Gutenberg. They have just posted the full text of Sir Walter Scott's The Heart of Mid-Lothian, and have already posted thousands of other older works.

Christianity:
Understand, Christianity is all about Christ. . . . The whole movement is all about Jesus Christ. And the last thing Jesus told His followers to do before he hightailed back to heaven was to go and make disciples. . . .
Maybe it's my movie background, but I happen to think a person's last words are pretty important. I see them as the ending of a great movie or the crescendo of a great speech. Everything that comes before builds up to those final words. . . .
It doesn't take a nuclear physicist to figure out the Savior meant what he said. He said GO. . . . the last and obviously most important thing He told His followers to do was to go and make disciples of all the nations. Stephen Baldwin with Mark Tabb, The Unusual Suspect. New York: Warner Faith, 2006. pp. 168-9.

Sports:
Sara has an interesting idea on how to get on TV at sports events.


This week's Christian Carnival is here. (For information on locating these Carnivals, see here.)

When I don't tell where I found an item above, I either found it directly, or was probably pointed to it by the Librarian's Internet Index, SciTech Daily, or Arts and Letters Daily. All of these sources are great.

Thanks for reading! Keep clicking away.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Diary of an Old Soul, October 22 - 28

22. Against my fears, my doubts, my ignorance,
I trust in thee, O father of my Lord!
The world went on in this same broken dance,
When, worn and mocked, he trusted and adored:
I too will trust, and gather my poor best
To face the truth-faced false. So in his nest
I shall awake at length, a little scarred and scored.

23. Things cannot look all right so long as I
Am not all right who see--therefore not right
Can see. The lamp within sends out the light
Which shows the things; and if its rays go wry,
Or are not white, they must part show a lie.
The man, half-cured, did men not trees conclude,
Because he moving saw what else had seemed a wood.

24. Give me, take from me, as thou wilt. I learn--
Slowly and stubbornly I learn to yield
With a strange hopefulness. As from the field
Of hard-fought battle won, the victor chief
Turns thankfully, although his heart do yearn,
So from my old things to thy new I turn,
With sad, thee-trusting heart, and not in grief.

25. If with my father I did wander free,
Floating o'er hill and field where'er we would,
And, lighting on the sward before the door,
Strange faces through the window-panes should see,
And strange feet standing where the loved had stood,
The dear old place theirs all, as ours before--
Should I be sorrowful, father, having thee?

26. So, Lord, if thou tak'st from me all the rest,
Thyself with each resumption drawing nigher,
It shall but hurt me as the thorn of the briar,
When I reach to the pale flower in its breast.
To have thee, Lord, is to have all thy best,
Holding it by its very life divine--
To let my friend's hand go, and take his heart in mine.

27. Take from me leisure, all familiar places;
Take all the lovely things of earth and air
Take from me books; take all my precious faces;
Take words melodious, and their songful linking;
Take scents, and sounds, and all thy outsides fair;
Draw nearer, taking, and, to my sober thinking,
Thou bring'st them nearer all, and ready to my prayer.

28. No place on earth henceforth I shall count strange,
For every place belongeth to my Christ.
I will go calm where'er thou bid'st me range;
Whoe'er my neighbour, thou art still my nighest.
Oh my heart's life, my owner, will of my being!
Into my soul thou every moment diest,
In thee my life thus evermore decreeing.

The above is excerpted from George MacDonald's A Book of Strife in the Form of The Diary of an Old Soul (Public Domain, 1880). For further information see this post. These are the entries for/from October 22 through 28.

Sunspots 78


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


Politics:
Ken Schenck, a professor of New Testament, on why he doesn't think present-day Israel should get any special privileges from Christians. Among other reasons, he says there are more Palestinian Christians than Israeli ones. He says that 85% of Israelis aren't even practicing Jews.

Review of Andrew Sullivan's The Conservative Soul in the New York Times Book Review (free log-in may be required) by David Brooks, who has some important things to say about what conservatism should be. (So does Sullivan, a Reagan/Thatcher conservative, who is more concerned with where the Republican Party has gone wrong.)

Computing:
OpenOffice, a free alternative to Microsoft Office, has a new release.

Science:
(I'm not sure this belongs in the Science category. Maybe philosophy. Anyway. . .) Review of The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, probably the most widely-read critic of religion in English, in the New York Times Book Review (free log-in may be required). Jim Holt has some serious criticisms of Dawkins.

Literature:
Deborah Cullins Smith has written a splendid piece on writing fantastic (and other) literature that really appeals to non-Christians. She mentions Madeleine L'Engle as an example. Sample:
But if you choose to write fiction, particularly spec-fic, remember that the reader is buying your book to escape into another world. Create characters that will take the readers by the hand and coax them down Alice's rabbit hole. Build worlds that capture them so completely, they're ready to pack up the family space ship and fly away.

Christianity:
Bonnie, at Intellectuelle, on the role of church buildings in worship and congregational stewardship.

Some thoughts on praying in the Spirit .

This week's Christian Carnival is here . (For information on locating these Carnivals, see here.)

When I don't tell where I found an item above, I either found it directly, or was probably pointed to it by the Librarian's Internet Index, SciTech Daily, or Arts and Letters Daily. All of these sources are great.

Thanks for reading! Keep clicking away.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Hiatus

We are traveling, and I probably won't have web access, or time, to post for a couple of weeks, more or less. I may get out a Sunspots, and another Diary of an Old Soul. Maybe not.

Thanks for reading.

Diary of an Old Soul, October 15 - 21

15. In youth, when once again I had set out
To find thee, Lord, my life, my liberty,
A window now and then, clouds all about,
Would open into heaven: my heart forlorn
First all would tremble with a solemn glee,
Then, whelmed in peace, rest like a man outworn,
That sees the dawn slow part the closed lids of the morn.

16. Now I grow old, and the soft-gathered years
Have calmed, yea dulled the heart's swift fluttering beat;
But a quiet hope that keeps its household seat
Is better than recurrent glories fleet.
To know thee, Lord, is worth a many tears;
And when this mildew, age, has dried away,
My heart will beat again as young and strong and gay.

17. Stronger and gayer tenfold!--but, O friends,
Not for itself, nor any hoarded bliss.
I see but vaguely whither my being tends,
All vaguely spy a glory shadow-blent,
Vaguely desire the "individual kiss;"
But when I think of God, a large content
Fills the dull air of my gray cloudy tent.

18. Father of me, thou art my bliss secure.
Make of me, maker, whatsoe'er thou wilt.
Let fancy's wings hang moulting, hope grow poor,
And doubt steam up from where a joy was spilt--
I lose no time to reason it plain and clear,
But fly to thee, my life's perfection dear:--
Not what I think, but what thou art, makes sure.

19. This utterance of spirit through still thought,
This forming of heart-stuff in moulds of brain,
Is helpful to the soul by which 'tis wrought,
The shape reacting on the heart again;
But when I am quite old, and words are slow,
Like dying things that keep their holes for woe,
And memory's withering tendrils clasp with effort vain?

20. Thou, then as now, no less wilt be my life,
And I shall know it better than before,
Praying and trusting, hoping, claiming more.
From effort vain, sick foil, and bootless strife,
I shall, with childness fresh, look up to thee;
Thou, seeing thy child with age encumbered sore,
Wilt round him bend thine arm more carefully.

21. And when grim Death doth take me by the throat,
Thou wilt have pity on thy handiwork;
Thou wilt not let him on my suffering gloat,
But draw my soul out--gladder than man or boy,
When thy saved creatures from the narrow ark
Rushed out, and leaped and laughed and cried for joy,
And the great rainbow strode across the dark.

The above is excerpted from George MacDonald's A Book of Strife in the Form of The Diary of an Old Soul (Public Domain, 1880). For further information see this post. These are the entries for/from October 15 through 21.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Trees in the Bible (repost)

Trees are a major theme in the Bible.

Close to the beginning, there were the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. At the end, there's the Tree of Life. The same Tree of Life? Maybe. Maybe not.

In between, a lot of trees. Here are a few:

Noah's ark was built from trees.

Moses had a staff, perhaps made from a tree.

Sacrifices were burned on wood.

David and Solomon had the builders use wood in the Temple, and in the palace.

Absalom was killed while hanging in a tree.

Psalm 1 compares a righteous person to a tree.

Zacchaeus climbed a tree.

Christ presented the Sermon on the Mount from a boat, presumably made of wood.

Boats played an important role in the New Testament. Jesus traveled on them, some of the apostles were fishermen, and Paul and co-workers made journeys in them.

Christ hung on a cross made of wood.

Why trees?
Probably several reasons.

There are a lot of them.

They are symbols of permanence. Living permanence, unlike that of rocks.

They are solid.

They provide housing for other plants, for animals, and for humans. For humans, the housing provided is usually after the death of the tree--they make excellent building materials.

They provide shade.

They have character. There are patterns in branches, in individual leaves, in bark, and in the grain, when it's exposed. No two trees are exactly alike in appearance.

They bear fruit.

They have flowers.

They can be climbed. We like to go higher. We like adventure. We like to see things we wouldn't otherwise see.

Their roots are anchoring systems.

They capture energy from the sun.

No doubt there are other reasons why God used them as symbols, and why they are prominent in scripture.

Taken from a post of February 4, 2005, from this blog. Thanks for reading.

I expect to post from MacDonald's Diary of an Old Soul tomorrow, but probably won't be able to post, or read blogs, much, if any, for about two weeks.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Author and authority: Jasper Fforde

Jasper Fforde is the author of The Eyre Affair and Lost in a Good Book, which I have read, as well as other novels that I have yet to see. Both of these works feature Thursday Next, who is in a sort of secret service in the UK, in an alternate earth (There are some differences -- Thursday is surprised to find that we use jetliners, rather than grav-tubes, for long-distance travel, but there is a great deal of similarity) in the 1980s. (See here for an interview with Fforde. See here for his web site, which is a lot like his books, and here for the Wikipedia article on this author.)

As might be expected from the name of the heroine, Fforde's writing is light-hearted. His books make no attempt to be serious science fiction, like that of, say, Joe Haldeman. You don't have to suspend disbelief to read Fforde. You just read, but you often chuckle as you do. Many of the characters have humorous names. The villain is Jack Schitt, for example. The bureaucracy that Thursday works for gets funding for advertising various branches of the Goliath corporation, which owns nearly everything. Employees of the corporation are required to perform brief acts of worship upon entering the headquarters.

Characters in these books can navigate through time, and even enter fictional works, with the right equipment. Characters in the fictional works in Fforde's fictional works can enter the same real world as Thursday Next inhabits, at least for short periods. As I say, it's all in fun. But there are interesting ideas raised, and there are a lot of literary references. It helps reading, although it isn't necessary, to know English literature. (I'm pretty sure Fforde has made up some of the British literature in the books, but certainly not all. There's Dickens, and, of course, Jane Eyre.)

What interesting ideas? Well, I quoted passages on dying and love in a previous post. Then there's the question of how much freedom fictional characters can have:
"Goodness me no!" exclaimed Marianne with a delightful giggle. "The chapter is over, and besides, this book is written in the third person. We are free to do what we please until tomorrow morning, when we depart for Devon. The next two chapters are heavy with exposition -- I hardly have anything to do, and I say even less! You look confused, poor thing! Have you been into a book before?"
"I went into Jane Eyre once."
Marianne frowned overdramatically.
"Poor, dear, sweet Jane! I would so hate to be a first-person character! Always on your guard, always having people reading your thoughts! Here we do what we are told but think what we wish. It is a much happier circumstance, believe me!" - Jasper Fforde, Lost in a Good Book: A Thursday Next Novel (New York: Viking, 2002) p. 280. Thursday Next talking to a character from a book entitled Norland Park.

"I know what you're thinking," he said sadly. "No one thinks much of Daphne Farquitt, but she sells a lot of books and she's always been pretty good to me -- apart from the chapter where I ravish the serving girl at Potternews Hall and then callously have her turned from the house. I didn't want to do it, believe me." - Jasper Fforde, Lost in a Good Book: A Thursday Next Novel (New York: Viking, 2002) p. 299. Thursday Next talking to Vernham Deane, who says he's the "resident cad of The Squire of High Potternews." (p. 298) Daphne Farquitt is an author made up by Fforde.

As usual, I don't want to give away the plots of these books, and they have plots. They're great entertainment. I plan to read The Well of Lost Plots soon. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Potatoes

Rebecca has suggested that October be considered potato month in the blogosphere. I'll play along with a few facts about potatoes, mostly from my fallible memory, and also using the Wikipedia article on the subject.

The part of the potato that we eat is an underground stem, or tuber. The "eyes" of potatoes are buds. Potatoes may be easily cloned, by cutting the tuber in pieces. Each piece with an eye, when planted under the ground, can produce a new plant. Although potatoes do have flowers, fruit, and seed, these are not much used in propagating potatoes, except by potato breeders. Potato tubers are an excellent source of starch. They also provide some minerals and vitamin C, and the starch contains complex carbohydrates, which are considered important in the diet.

Potatoes were first domesticated in the Andes mountains of South America, which is one reason that there is no mention of them in the Bible -- they are a New World plant. They have been spread world-wide. China grows more potatoes than any other country. Potatoes, in the region where I live, are sometimes called Irish potatoes, perhaps to distinguish them from sweet potatoes, which are not closely related -- they belong to a different family, and are roots, not stems. Potatoes were widely grown in Ireland -- perhaps too widely grown. Growing too much of any one crop, or monoculturing, can be an invitation to insect pests and plant diseases, which can spread easily under such circumstances. (There's a lesson in that, for example with wheat in some parts of North America.) There was a serious famine in Ireland, called the Irish Potato Famine, which, among other things, contributed to the migration of many Irish people to the New World.

Potatoes are a member of the Nightshade family, as are tomatoes, eggplants, nightshades, petunias, and other plants. The flowers of all these have similar characteristics. (Here's a photo of potato flowers) Many of these plants have poisonous parts. Potato fruit may be poisonous. When I was a boy, my parents believed that parts of a potato tuber exposed to the sun during growth (which could be told by the green color) were poisonous. I don't know if that is true.

Potatoes, in my view, are one of God's provisions for humans. Will there be french fries in heaven? scalloped or baked potatoes? I don't know. Perhaps so.

I expect to be traveling for several days, beginning in the near future, and don't expect to post much, or be able to read or comment on your work much.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Sunspots 77


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


Science: Nature News articles on the Nobel Prize announcements in Chemistry (for the structure of an RNA polymerase), Physics (for measuring the radiation left over from the Big Bang) and Medicine (for study of RNA interference with gene expression). Then, of course, there are the ig Nobel prizes.

The wealthy Templeton Foundation, which is sympathetic to Christianity, didn't get any research proposals from Intelligent Design scientists, who were asked to submit some.

Anthony Zee, apparently a serious academic physicist, has suggested that the Big Bang could contain a message from a creator. (The second link is to a National Public Radio RealPlayer audio file, which begins with a 10-second commercial.) I think we have already received one, or, rather, several!

Archerfish are really good at zapping their prey with jets of water.


Literature:
Connie Willis splendid speech on the importance of books in her life. Among other things, she tells why she is married because of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy.

E. Stephen Burnett begins a series on what makes speculative fiction Christian, which looks like it will be important and readable. Part 1 says that Law and Grace are foundational to all Christian fiction. Burnett promises that there will be more, including criticism of some Christian fiction which is basically propaganda, in later installments.

Christianity: A brief, brilliant post on God as author and also editor. "Not only is He the Greatest Author, but also the Greatest Editor-in-chief. He knew when to add details and when to omit them, leaving us to ponder, to question, to seek His voice and His will to answer those questions He knew would linger after the last chapter. We answer those questions ourselves by seeking His guidance and pouring over His clues He left. In this life, we'll never know for certain if we answered them correctly."

This week's Christian Carnival is here. (For information on locating these Carnivals, see here.)

When I don't tell where I found an item above, I either found it directly, or was probably pointed to it by the Librarian's Internet Index, SciTech Daily, or Arts and Letters Daily. All of these sources are great.

Thanks for reading! Keep clicking away.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Diary of an Old Soul, October 8 - 14

8. Lord, in my silver is much metal base,
Else should my being by this time have shown
Thee thy own self therein. Therefore do I
Wake in the furnace. I know thou sittest by,
Refining--look, keep looking in to try
Thy silver; master, look and see thy face,
Else here I lie for ever, blank as any stone.

9. But when in the dim silver thou dost look,
I do behold thy face, though blurred and faint.
Oh joy! no flaw in me thy grace will brook,
But still refine: slow shall the silver pass
From bright to brighter, till, sans spot or taint,
Love, well content, shall see no speck of brass,
And I his perfect face shall hold as in a glass.

10. With every morn my life afresh must break
The crust of self, gathered about me fresh;
That thy wind-spirit may rush in and shake
The darkness out of me, and rend the mesh
The spider-devils spin out of the flesh--
Eager to net the soul before it wake,
That it may slumberous lie, and listen to the snake.

11. 'Tis that I am not good--that is enough;
I pry no farther--that is not the way.
Here, O my potter, is thy making stuff!
Set thy wheel going; let it whir and play.
The chips in me, the stones, the straws, the sand,
Cast them out with fine separating hand,
And make a vessel of thy yielding clay.

12. What if it take a thousand years to make me,
So me he leave not, angry, on the floor!--
Nay, thou art never angry!--that would break me!
Would I tried never thy dear patience sore,
But were as good as thou couldst well expect me,
Whilst thou dost make, I mar, and thou correct me!
Then were I now content, waiting for something more.

13. Only, my God, see thou that I content thee--
Oh, take thy own content upon me, God!
Ah, never, never, sure, wilt thou repent thee,
That thou hast called thy Adam from the clod!
Yet must I mourn that thou shouldst ever find me
One moment sluggish, needing more of the rod
Than thou didst think when thy desire designed me.

14. My God, it troubles me I am not better.
More help, I pray, still more. Thy perfect debtor
I shall be when thy perfect child I am grown.
My Father, help me--am I not thine own?
Lo, other lords have had dominion o'er me,
But now thy will alone I set before me:
Thy own heart's life--Lord, thou wilt not abhor me!

The above is excerpted from George MacDonald's A Book of Strife in the Form of The Diary of an Old Soul (Public Domain, 1880). For further information see this post. These are the entries for/from October 8 through 14.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Sunspots 76


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



I don't expect to be posting much, or looking at your blogs, for the next several days. We've got company coming.

Computing:
Yotophoto is a search engine for free photos. You can search by keyword, or search by color, entering a color to match, or a hex value.

Science:
A science philosopher has compiled an annotated list of 26 different ways to define "species," all in recent use in the biological literature.

Literature:
On the first fantasy (parable) in the Bible. (It's in Judges)

I am adding The Lost Genre Guild to the list of feeds I subscribe to. (The previous item is a post at that blog.) Their work is mostly or entirely on Christian Speculative Fiction.

Christianity:
From He Lives, a splendid post on Genesis 1. Sample: "Of the 1189 chapters in the Bible, the first two are about man being in fellowship with God. One is about man falling out of fellowship. The remaining 1186 are about redemption."

The pastor of a church a few miles from here reports 402 baptisms in one day .

This week's Christian Carnival is here. (For information on locating these Carnivals, see here.)

When I don't tell where I found an item above, I either found it directly, or was probably pointed to it by the Librarian's Internet Index, SciTech Daily, or Arts and Letters Daily. All of these sources are great.

Thanks for reading! Keep clicking away.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Cornelia Funke: More on choice by fictional characters

I previously used a post about Cornelia Funke's Inkheart to muse about the possibility of real people becoming part of a work of fiction, and the reverse. The second book in the series, Inkspell, takes this possibility even further. In Inkspell, most of the action is based in a fictional work by Fenoglio. (So, Funke's book describes a world which includes Fenoglio, who has written a book with a different world in it. Fenoglio, and most of the other characters, enter this fictional2 world. Have you got that?) Here's a relevant sample:

If anything, she was even more beautiful than his description of her. But after all, he had sought the most wonderful of words for her when he wrote the scene in Inkheart where Dustfinger saw her for the first time. Yet all at once, now that she suddenly stood before him in the flesh, he felt as lovelorn as a silly boy. Oh, for goodness sake, Fenoglio! he reproached himself. You made her up, and now you're staring at her as if this was the first time in your life you'd ever seen a woman! Worst of all, Roxane seemed to notice it. Cornelia Funke, Inkspell, translated from the German by Anthea Bell, New York: Scholastic, 2005. Quote is from p. 412.

The story doesn't stay exactly like Fenoglio wrote it, either. Characters go on after the events described in the book. One of them dies, for example.

Fenoglio isn't the only person who can translate people, and other things, from our mundane world to another. The protagonist, an adolescent girl, discovers that she can transport things, including herself, into the world that Fenoglio originally imagined. The book was written for a youthful audience, but is a good read for an adult.

As usual, I don't want to give away the plot. But I will say a couple of things about it. There is little or no sign that this is "Christian speculative fiction," but one character gives his life for another's. Lots of loose ends are left, and things seem to be getting worse, at the end, which cries out "sequel!"

If I create a fictional world, does it really exist, in some other plane, or a parallel universe? Do I have control over it? These themes rear their heads in this work by Funke.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Diary of an Old Soul, October 1 - 7

October 1. Remember, Lord, thou hast not made me good.
Or if thou didst, it was so long ago
I have forgotten--and never understood,
I humbly think. At best it was a crude,
A rough-hewn goodness, that did need this woe,
This sin, these harms of all kinds fierce and rude,
To shape it out, making it live and grow.

2. But thou art making me, I thank thee, sire.
What thou hast done and doest thou know'st well,
And I will help thee:--gently in thy fire
I will lie burning; on thy potter's-wheel
I will whirl patient, though my brain should reel;
Thy grace shall be enough the grief to quell,
And growing strength perfect through weakness dire.

3. I have not knowledge, wisdom, insight, thought,
Nor understanding, fit to justify
Thee in thy work, O Perfect. Thou hast brought
Me up to this--and, lo! what thou hast wrought,
I cannot call it good. But I can cry--
"O enemy, the maker hath not done;
One day thou shalt behold, and from the sight wilt run."

4. The faith I will, aside is easily bent;
But of thy love, my God, one glimpse alone
Can make me absolutely confident--
With faith, hope, joy, in love responsive blent.
My soul then, in the vision mighty grown,
Its father and its fate securely known,
Falls on thy bosom with exultant moan.

5. Thou workest perfectly. And if it seem
Some things are not so well, 'tis but because
They are too loving-deep, too lofty-wise,
For me, poor child, to understand their laws:
My highest wisdom half is but a dream;
My love runs helpless like a falling stream:
Thy good embraces ill, and lo! its illness dies!

6. From sleep I wake, and wake to think of thee.
But wherefore not with sudden glorious glee?
Why burst not gracious on me heaven and earth
In all the splendour of a new-day-birth?
Why hangs a cloud betwixt my lord and me?
The moment that my eyes the morning greet,
My soul should panting rush to clasp thy father-feet.

7. Is it because it is not thou I see,
But only my poor, blotted fancy of thee?
Oh! never till thyself reveal thy face,
Shall I be flooded with life's vital grace.
Oh make my mirror-heart thy shining-place,
And then my soul, awaking with the morn,
Shall be a waking joy, eternally new-born.

The above is excerpted from George MacDonald's A Book of Strife in the Form of The Diary of an Old Soul (Public Domain, 1880). For further information see this post. These are the entries for/from October 1 through 7.