I am going to serve marmalade to my children soon, and I need to know how the British pronounce it.
I only know the New Orleans pronunciation.
I am going to serve marmalade to my children soon, and I need to know how the British pronounce it.
I only know the New Orleans pronunciation.
Last summer, my youngest son found an English pound on a playground. But this pound had a hole drilled in it to be used as a necklace. So I resolved to make a little necklace for him using the pound.
Did I mention that was last year?
With the impulse to do something about it, gentle reader, I put it on my desk. As you know, I have a series of posts categorized Five Things On My Desk because I often have strange and interesting things on my desk for a long period of time.
To be clear, I have a huge corner desk here with a probably twenty square feet of surface area, and a couple of printers and whatnot for small things like coins to disappear under, not to mention the cubic feet of papers, magazines, unopened mail, and, what is that, a bag of AC adapters my mother-in-law gave me over the weekend for some reason? So, in my defence (as the British might spell), this little coin has been hiding under things and occasionally surfacing when I clean off the desk, only to resubmerge quickly.
But when I put three months’ of children’s certificates, greeting cards, and ribbons into binders (this is what passes for “scrapbooking” at Nogglestead), I found it again. So I thought, “All I need is a jump ring (a jewelry term because I have made some jewelry in my day, son) and a chain, and I can finally make that necklace.” Which I am sure I first thought a year ago.
But, as fate would have it, I found a gold jump ring on my kitchen counter behind the fruit bowl. Nogglestead, verily, is the Trenchcoat Schtick writ large. From whence came this golden jump ring behind the apples and oranges? I’m not sure. It could be one of the boys’ key chains elsewhere awaiting repair. No matter: The key chain is not on my desk, and the pound is, so I know which takes precedence.
So we’re off to the hardware store for a chain. Instead of a nice piece of steel links or gold links to hold it, I think a bit of light chain would be better. So I measure out 18″ of #3 in gold and pick out a connector, when suddenly I’m in a Marx Brothers (or, in my case, Marx Children) bit as Harpo pulls a chain, and it starts to completely unreel from its holder. He stops it, starts to reel it in, and brushes another reel. This reel, and one that is not close to it, start to spill their chains onto the floor as well. I hand the bag with the chain and the connector to my oldest child to hold and slowly reel in the chains. When I’m done, I find the oldest child was too cool to hold the bag, so he’s dropped it on the floor and wandered off, presumably to find sharp things to fidget spin into a hospital visit.
I pick up the bag, gather the children, and we depart. Later, I unload the bag on my workbench, and the connector is gone. I mention this to the older child, who apparently saw that it had fallen out of the bag when he dropped it, but did not mention this to me or, you know, put it back in the bag.
So we went back to the hardware store the next day to replace it. Which is something noteworthy in itself: I put the $.13 connector on the counter by itself, laid down a quarter, and got change. That will probably never happen again.
After the second trip to the hardware store, I got the chain looped in and linked, and now the laddie has his necklace.
Which remains sitting on his bookshelf, because he’s not as excited about having a necklace with a British pound on it as he was, oh, say, a year ago.
But it’s off of my desk. And it’s a project completed years later, which means this post goes in the DeRooneyfication category
I forgot to bring a magazine with me one day while taking my children to the library, so I picked up this book by a prolific Vietnamese monk.
The book focuses on the mindfulness aspect of Buddhist practice. Basically, the book is 150 pages of reminding yourself to take a breath and focus on your body and your mind in the moment. Which is not unhelpful, of course, as that’s pretty good advice. The book contains a couple bits on other Buddhist practices, but it doesn’t delve too deeply into the pure philosophy of Buddhism (the ontology, epistemology, or theology). It’s not even as focused on sitting technique as, say, Start Here Now.
So, basically, it’s take a deep breath and be aware of yourself in the present moment.
For 150 pages.
Although I’m not interested in Buddhism as a pure philosophy, I like reading about the practical applications, such as the mindfulness and a bit of the meditative aspects of it. So I’ll probably pick up books like this from time to time to remind me to take a deep breath and to be mindful. But then I’ll get sixty pages into them and think they’re being repetitive. When they’re probably just trying to be reinforcing, mantra-ish, and perhaps a bit hypnotic.
I’ve been listening to a lecture series on the Great Ideas of Philosophy, and as we’ve gone along, I’ve recognized the many of the seminal works mentioned as items on my to-read shelves. So I picked up this book because it’s not very long. Also, it’s at a turning point in history, right as the Middle Ages are ending and the Enlightenment is about to begin (although you could dispute with me the dates where this occurs, but I’m having none of it: this is my blog, and if I want to make interpreted remarks, I will, thank you very much). Also, it is only 44 pages, unlike, say, Being and Nothingness.
At any rate, the book includes the two big things one remembers from Descartes: I think, therefore I am (Section 4). That animals have no souls (Section 5).
Actually, while reading this, I had a brief conversation with a high school student who told me he didn’t like Descartes because Descartes said animals had no souls. I’d just finished the section, so I could explain in greater detail. Basically, it’s that you can build machines that will behave according to their parts, but humans are something else, as we can do things and communicate things that are outside of the physical parameters of our bodies. Animals, on the other hand, cannot. I conflate Descartes’ argument with something I recently read on the Internet about the language of animals, which says that animals can communicate through sounds, but they cannot create complex sentences that indicate conceptual thought.
I felt smart, anyway, being able to explain in more detail the argument. Without the pages and pages of explanation on the then-latest science of heart surgery prefaced with:
I would like those who are not versed in anatomy to take the trouble, before reading this, to have the heart of some large animal that has lungs dissected in their presence (for such a heart is in all respects sufficiently similar to that of a man), and to be shown the two chambers or cavities that are in it.
Well, I didn’t have advanced biology class, but I did see Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, so I was ready.
A lot of the discourse his explanation of what he’s done so far, and it ends with his talking about how he has not published a longer work after Galileo’s troubles, but he hopes that others will take what he has written and carry on other experiments according to his musings and using his method.
I’m glad to have read the discourse. As the conversation with the young man and the lecture series shows, it’s best to read the primary sources instead of relying on the summation of a thinker passed onto you by someone else. Also, the course helps put Descartes in context of when he wrote so that you’re not reading the book thinking it’s primitive and people have said this for centuries without focusing on when this was said and in what context.
So I’m pleased to have read it, and I feel smaht.
Sure, it’s a twee listicle, but I’m treating this bit like a quiz. 14 Things a Professional Organizer Says You Must Have in Your Home Office:
Come to think of it, I have a second set of paper trays in my office hutch. I wonder what I have in there?
Missing from this list: Tidiness and organization.
But if I had all that, I wouldn’t have fodder for a category called Five Things On My Desk. Which I should revisit sometime after I clear the last five things I mentioned off of my desk.
This book is a nice collection of poems from the middle part of the last century. The author has a pretty good sense of rhythm, the poems have end rhymes, and they’re nice short bits of Americana with an especial Christian sensibility. They cover things like the seasons, special events like Inauguration Day (Eisenhower, probably), and holidays. They’re about being neighborly and looking to God. The kind of thing that got published in newspapers in a bygone era, but never made it to the slicks or the anthologies.
They’re better than some of the chapbooks I read, but unfortunately, they suffer in comparison to the better of Edgar Allan Poe’s work which I read concurrently. The Poe poems are fun to say aloud, whereas these are just words.
So it’s okay if you’re going deep into the poet bench, but there’s a lot of better poetry out there. On the other hand, the poems are nice and short, and I’m learning just how much aversion I have to long poems.
You know I’ve read some of Stossel’s more libertarian current events (then current) books like Give Me A Break and Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity. This book is not in that vein: Before he was a correspondent on 20/20, he was a local consumer reporter in New York City, and this book stems from those reports.
Its subtitle is “The only consumer guide you’ll ever need.” Spoiler alert: It is not.
I used to say that the Internet really hasn’t changed things all that much, but I stand corrected. I came of age as the Internet did, so all the adult things I’ve had to do, I’ve had to do in the Internet age (although I have typed college papers on a typewriter and used a card-based library catalog). Chapters on buying a house and buying a car illustrate how much these things have changed. I generally know what I want before I go to the dealer or, although I tend to retain a realtor, I do a lot of looking myself through the MLS on Realtor.com to get a sense of prices and whatnot. So just from the research elements alone, consumers are already ahead of where they were 40 years ago.
So the book is more relevant as a historical document than anything else: You can look at it to marvel at the $5,000 cars and the 10-12% interest rates. The charts that have nine or ten major national carriers and their customer satisfaction rates (spoiler alert: The ones with the lowest survive the best). The appreciation of the new stuff that is old stuff by now (Tylenol, before the taining scare, as better than aspirin).
You probably have to have been there, alive and partially cognizant, in 1980 to really appreciate how much buying and selling has changed in the interim. Otherwise this book is nothing but one of those 1800s medical texts that people buy to decorate their homes with old books. With a disco-era pictures of John Stossel as the main decorating point.
I took a quick look at an old post (Good Book Hunting: August 27, 2007, and I zoomed in on the picture of my to-read shelves in Old Trees, and I thought, Man, I need to get to reading some of those books.
I see a bunch of them on the shelves then that I have not yet read. Mostly because they’re big and colorful and draw my attention to them even today. Also, because they’re still unread. In my defense, such as it is, I have more than doubled the size of the to-read stacks since then, and most of the books I’ve read in the interim have been acquired since then.
Also, in my defense, amongst the books I bought that day, I have read:
That’s 10 of the 23 I bought that day, so I’ve got that going for me.
Amongst the things I can identify on the shelves, I know I’ve probably read most of the McBain books present; the Ogden Nash volumes of poetry; Seawitch by Alistair MacLean; The Lord of the Rings trilogy; Hannibal: The Novel; a couple of the Gor novels; and probably more.
So I’m making progress, just probably not as much as I am making the potential for progress.
How many to-read shelves do I have today? Seven full bookshelves and a small bookshelf.
Jeez, I don’t have to foot note that, do I? Well, explanation below the fold.
Continue reading “Holiday Greetings”
A Nigerian archbishop has become president of the Lutheran church.
Archbishop Musa Panti Filibus was elected as head of the Lutheran World Federation on Saturday at an assembly held in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia.
I was all like, wait, what? I attend a church in the Missouri Synod, and I know there are state leaders and whatnot, but an international president? I’d never heard of such a thing.
Because this fellow is the head of an umbrella organization, not a “church” but a collection of churches. In the United States, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is part of the Lutheran World Federation, but the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (yes, both places I have lived have their own synods). These last are more conservative denominations.
So it’s like calling António Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations the Secretary General of the world.
But calling this fellow the head of THE Lutheran Church is good enough for journalism work. Which is below the level set by the government these days.
The author is a Taoist Jungian psychoanalyst, so you can probably expect what you’re going to get: Presentation of Elvis as an archetypal Taoist king. The book consists of an introduction that stresses this, followed by 42 “chapters” (one for each year of Elvis’s life). Each chapter consists of a theme title page with an epigram, three or four quotes from the Tao Te Ching or other Taoist thinkers, three or four quotes from or about Elvis, and a couple paragraphs expounding on the theme. Themes include things like Knowledge and Wisdom, Home (Graceland), Innocence and Play, Work, and Success and Failure (see how important the serial comma is in that list, people?).
At any rate, it’s as much a book about Elvis as it is the Tao, really. Most of the bits of Taoism are taken out of their context, but after reading the Tao Te Ching, I can say they’re probably more appealing and understanding that way, without the next line that doesn’t really follow. That is, I read it more to see what Elvis said that the author of this book pulled out more than I read to see what the Taoist thinkers said.
I think the author tried a little too hard to tie the concepts together, and given the publication date (2002), I can’t help but wonder if he missed the sweet spot of capturing an audience with relevant knowledge of and appreciation of Elvis. Even my friend who used to be an Elvis impersonator is past that now, and he held on into the early part of the century (although living near to Branson, I know there is still some need and draw for them). And about the cover: Is that a yoga (Hindu) pose?
Which is not to say there aren’t lessons in the book: It introduced me to some Taoist thinkers beyond Lao Tzu, so it’s worthwhile in that regard, I suppose.
In other news, this book quotes the one book I have ever read on Elvis, Caught in a Trap by Rick Stanley. Although not as cool as when one philosophy book I read refers to another I’ve read, the cross-reference in my head is still somewhat cool.
When customizing a store-bought cake, you might find that you don’t have any white icing, or the white icing you have is from the 20th century and has crystallized enough that you’re planning to polish it to make jewelry to give to your beautiful wife for your upcoming wedding anniversary.
Don’t panic! You can use Elmer’s School Glue to customize your cake! It’s non-toxic and washable, which means your cake will be dishwasher-safe (top rack only!).
Good Lord, Internet people, I am only kidding. Please do not actually do this. I’m not sure how much non-toxic stuff one can ingest before toxicity occurs, but it’s probably more than nothing. The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for this product is remarkably unhelpful. I did do some research on this post to see if I could find out if it would actually not be harmful if swallowed, but that fact is all No information on significant effects. Don’t eat. Don’t huff. Don’t Hoff. Don’t even read this post. It’s not funny after all.
I’ve mentioned over and over that I was listening to a lecture series on Chinese history. Welp, I finished it. I also read the guidebook that came with the course, and if you’re wondering if I counted it as a book on my annual list, yes, I did. The lecture series itself was many hours in the listening, and the guide book itself is over 100 pages, so of course I did.
It’s a pretty interesting set of lectures, especially since my Chinese history was somewhat lacking. I read a couple of Wikipedia entries after watching the movie Hero, and I’ve looked at tourist books about China (like this one), but I’ve not really delved into it except where it’s intersected with Mongol history. Well, there was this book. But I’ve only dabbled in Chinese history. Not that listening to a series of lectures is much more than dabbling.
But I did get some insights and found some remarkable things. Including:
Is the lecturer pro-Communist China? Yes, but I suppose that’s either an occupational hazard or required to remain in good standing with the current government of China in case one wants to travel there for research. He calls the Long March epic and excuses a lot, including the millions dying in the Great Leap Forward, as though the bureaucratic overreporting were not a repeating motif in centralized government systems (If only Mao had known!). But Communist China is a small drop in the history of the reason, so it does not detract from the lecture series much.
So I’ll need to read more about Chinese history to cement what I heard. Also, I’ll need to read more and hear more to become more familiar with the transliteration of Chinese names and places. Listening to the lectures and reading the guide book afterward was a bit confusing as the spellings don’t match the pronunciations very well.
At any rate, worth my time, and sometimes worth going a little out of the way so I could finish a particular lecture.
In the April issue of First Things magazine, David Bentley Hart discusses divesting himself of an extensive library:
I knew I would never be able to amass the literally hundreds of thousands of volumes that Gladstone and Disraeli each left behind when they departed this life, but at its apogee my library was around 20,000 volumes, which in our day, and within the practical material constraints pressing on me, was a fairly estimable hoard. Some of the books were rare and beautiful, many were ordinary, a great many superfluous, but I clung to all of them like a miser guarding the heaps of gold coins kept in his vault.
. . . .
In any event, it is all gone now, except for a few jagged fragments. In 2014, a natural catastrophe of an insidiously furtive and unanticipated kind overtook both me and my library, and ultimately (though in agonizingly protracted stages) the latter had to be liquidated. The bereavement of losing nearly forty years of accumulated texts, however, was not nearly as great as I thought it would be (allowing for the possibility that I am still in a state of shock). It turns out that all those texts are still out there to be read, and that many of them I did not need anyway.
Dear me, I shall miser on.
But the bulk of the piece is a reading list recommendation for a friend based on the books he had. I’ve recreated the list here, with the usual items I’ve read in bold and items I have not read but are in my library in italics:
That’s right: I’ve never even heard of most of the books listed, and they’re not the sort of thing that you find at book sales in Southwest Missouri (although, to be honest, you would be surprised at whose books you might find here).
The article has little tidbits about each, and although some look like they’re in the sort of vein my mother-in-law, the former English teacher, might like, only a few of them looked interesting to me. As you might expect, gentle reader, with my recent fascination with Eastern thought and history, those would be the classical Japanese works.
This book is the second in a row from the Executioner series that has an intricate plot, but this one was a bit more intricate than the writer could handle.
In it, Bolan is in Las Vegas. As he’s making a probe of a hard site, a bunch of ninja come charging out of the house carrying a woman over their shoulder. It’s ninja from the Yakuza who have come to hit the a Las Vegas mob boss, and they’ve carried away a woman reporter he was interrogating. Before they can interrogate her themselves, Bolan steps in and rescues her. She’s writing a series on the mob for the local paper, and somebody wanted to silence her. Turns out that she’s the granddaughter of the old Jewish mob boss who was neutered by the mafia but who was kept on as a hotel manager. He goes way back with the paper’s publisher, and the grandfather has plans of his own to cut down the mafia with his own imported mercenaries. And there’s the Yakuza moving in.
So there’s a pretty intricate plot going on with several moving parts, people with their own agendas, and whatnot. The author cuts between some of the players to get their thoughts on their next move, so it’s a bit more complicated than the books told solely from Mack Bolan’s point of view.
Unfortunately, the complicated build up is solved, ultimately, in a couple of basic Gold Eagle paperback set piece shoot-em-ups that really diminish what was going on and end it a bit abruptly.
The plot could have been so much more, but in the end (the abruptish end), it’s 180 pages of what it is, not what it could be.
Still, it’s keeping the series interesting.
She recalls how, inspired by the virtuously clean-looking homes she saw pictured in Dwell magazine, she thought: “This is it. I am a minimalist. This is how it’s going to be, everything calm from now on.” And within two weeks, she had gotten rid of almost everything she owned and painted the whole place Decorator’s White, a life reboot. She went full-on Dwell, even building a chicken coop, the de rigueur symbol of suburban simplicity, in the backyard. A year after what she calls “the incident,” she wrote her first post on her blog, The Art of Doing Stuff, about the day she realized that she just “hated every inch of her house” — and how she came to view white as “the Botox of paint colors”: She and her home “look younger and fresher for it.”
But fairly quickly, Ms. Bertelsen fell off the wagon, sneaking items here and there — a pair of flea market midcentury lamps, an Empire chandelier — back to her 1,200-square-foot home. Even more, her venture into minimalism made her realize how much she enjoyed viewing the physical manifestations of memories, reliving moments through concrete reminders. “I want to see the drumsticks from the last Ramones show I went to in 1994, or the rock I picked up climbing a mountain in Vancouver,” she said. “I want to see the titles of all the books I’ve read.”
Some people just have to try so many things out before finding what works with them, including self-renouncing behavior.
A woman I knew once said to me, after we met again after not having seen each other for something like a year and a half–apparently, a long time when one is in their early twenties–“You haven’t changed a bit!” “I got it right the first time,” I said.
My beautiful wife has these minimalist urges from time to time, but so far I’ve forestalled divesting ourselves of the personal relics I relish so. Including a VHS for an inflatable fitness ball that our unwatched videocassette and DVD cabinet regurgitated for some reason recently. I thought, “We’re never going to watch that,” so I set it aside to ask her whether I could dispose of it or not. Several days later, I did, and she assented, but then I said, “Maybe we should make the boys watch it,” as they play with the fitness ball as though it were a ball and not a piece of fitness equipment. Enamored with that idea, the videocassette is slowly migrating itself ten feet from the table beside the sofa where I put it down because that was the closest surface when the thought of showing it to the boys occurred to me as I was taking it to the trash.
No, I shall never know the collision of minimalism with anything.
UPDATE: I should note I saw this on Instapundit’s Facebook today. Yes, I am friends with Instapundit, and sometimes he likes my statuses.
I have a bunch of Reagan-themed books in case my 1980s nostalgia kicks in. This book is one of them, and to be honest, I picked it because it’s pretty slim, and I needed a quick read amidst all the Eastern philosophy I’ve been reading of late.
Although the book proclaims to be examples of Reagan’s wit, it looks to be a quick means to capitalize on his recent election (given the publication date of 1981, it was rushed to press within months of his inauguration). So the actual wit in it is ill-considered. We get some one-liners from earlier in his political career and his governorship, but many of them fail to stand alone without the context. Some of them are not much more than “Aw, shut up.” (Reagan responds to some hecklers.)
Once we get into the presidency, though, we get fuller stories with paragraphs of setup before the wit, so they’re better. I’m not sure whether that’s because the wit was more recent or because the presidential papers are more complete. But they were better.
So it’s not like it’s laugh-out-loud funny. Or even amusing for the most part. But it does provide a bit of a reminder how tough a Republican political figure and elected official had even in the good old days of the 1960s or 1980s which lends itself to perspective on the present day’s troubles. Which is something the people of the present day often lack, perhaps by design.
(I guess my 80s nostalgia has flared from time to time already: see previous Reagania Remembering Reagan and Dear Americans: Letters from the Desk of Ronald Reagan.)
A sportswriter swings and misses on a metaphor:
The Packers’ running back group is packed to the brim with distinct inexperience, unmistakable intrigue and alluring potential – creating a position with more mystery than most Poe novels.
Most Poe novels? You can count the novels that Edgar Allan Poe completed on one finger: The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.
Can’t anyone here play this game?
That’s a quote from a sports figure, he explained to the sports journalists.
(Spoiler alert: I’m reading Poe now, so I’m likely to re-read that novel again in the coming weeks.)
This book was published by Hallmark back in the day when your grandmother or great grandmother might pick up a little light book of poetry as a gift for someone and maybe take a little try at verse herself even though she left school in the eighth grade to take care of her younger siblings. And her poems were better than the stuff written by kids in the English program in college because sixth graders back then were better read than contemporary college-educated folk. But I digress.
The book is, as you might expect, a slim collection of haiku poems. They’re translated from the Japanese, so the actual 5-7-5 syllable count is off on many of them.
But they’re in the proper haiku style, where they provide an Eastern koan sort of thought designed to spur your musing or to trip your own experience with what they’re discussing instead of creating an experience for you.
However, it’s not best to sit down and read them all at once, as they’ll seem very repetitive if you do.
On the plus side, I can now say I prefer the haiku of Bosun to Basho, which will be nice and will impress anyone who earnestly asks.
Are there any haiku in the book of poetry I keep talking about publishing? Yes. And I’ll have to remember to add this one.
I picked up this book from the library not long after reading Tao Te Ching. I mean, why not? I’ve also read a couple books on Buddhism recently (Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Start Here Now, and Buddhism Through Christian Eyes) and Tao Te Ching. Why not touch on that other large Asian religion, Hinduism?
Like the Tao Te Ching, I think I might have read this book before, or at least parts of it. I did have a class on Eastern Philosophy, after all, which I denigrated at the time because Father Naus (not Nous because how cool would that have been) used to stand at the lectern, holding the texts, and saying “I don’t understand that, but maybe that’s the point.” Now that I’m a little older and have read more of them, I can understand his point of view and think maybe he’s right.
This book includes many but not all of the things called “Upanishad.” The book includes:
It’s kind of like reading the psalms of Hinduism. The Vedas are earlier works, I remember from my class, and these are later poetical reflections on them that are also canonical.
At any rate, many of them talk about the basics of Hinduism, including the form of Brahman, the eternal, and the Atman (the bit of eternal incarnation that is the individual self) (I think). Some of them refer to the gods lower than Brahman, but you don’t get a cohesive Western style of narrative or lyric. Some of them have a bit of it, but mostly they’re designed to spur reflection and meditation.
Reading this, one cannot help but compare the impression of Hinduism to Buddhism that I got from the other things I’ve read. Both depend heavily upon meditation to get in touch with the inner self, with the Brahman/Buddha nature that is eternal and present within oneself; however, Buddhism is very much about renunciation (Buddha’s first four thoughts are that want creates suffering, so renounce wants), but Hinduism, at least in some of the Upanishads, is about celebrating the things you eat and whatnot. Although I guess that one often thinks of Hindu ascetics, so there must be some strains of Hindu thought that talk about renunciation. That stuff must come from other writings.
Although I delved into this book with some relish, by the time I got two thirds of the way through I was pretty fatigued with reading it. Partially, that stems from reading other speculative primary texts like the Tao Te Ching and this book on Ancient Near East primary texts I’ve worked on a bit. But cumulatively, I have to wonder how many more Eastern thought books I will get through before my current interest in them wanes. I predict…not many.