Hear that?

I have read The Lord of the Rings probably a dozen times. I’ve read the appendix, I’ve read The Silmarillion and The Children of HurinI’m not unfamiliar with Middle Earth. Just look at (the second copy of) my book! It’s been read!

LOTR fellowship

Right now, we’re listening to The Fellowship of the Rings as a family. Despite the fact that I’ve read it a dozen times, and that he’s one of my favorite characters, I just realized something about Tom Bombadil. Tom, famously, is a man(?) of song and rhyme, but I only now discovered just how much a song-master he is– that everything he says has a rhythm and rhyme, not just those things Tolkien wrote in verse. Every sentence sings:

“This is Goldberry’s washing day” he said, “and her autumn-cleaning. Too wet for hobbit-folk–let them rest while they are able! It’s a good day for long tales, for questions and for answers, so Tom will start the talking.”


“Hey there!” cried Tom, glancing toward him with a most seeing look in his shining eyes. “Hey! Come Frodo, there! Where be you a-going? Old Tom Bombadil’s not as blind as that yet. Take off your golden ring! Your hand’s more fair without it. Come back! Leave your game and sit down beside me! We must talk a while more, and think about the morning. Tom must teach the right road, and keep your feet wandering.”

Perhaps it’s obvious to you, and you think I’m a bit slow on the up-take.  But if you don’t see it, try reading the two passages out loud. Do you hear the song in his words? Just hearing his voice gave a new richness and depth to an already beloved character.

This is something I’ve long known when it comes to proof-reading. I tell my girls (and sometimes they listen!), “Read your work aloud, because your eyes will miss things that your ears will catch.” Sometimes hearing our words will also help us realize we didn’t communicate something clearly.  (And no, I don’t always take my own advice when it comes to blogging. Do as I say, etc.) Hearing, in other words, gives us another perspective. Hearing reveals a familiar story in new ways. This doesn’t mean I’m going to switch to only audiobooks, but I certainly might revisit some old favorites by reading aloud or audiobook. Who knows what I’ll discover next?

Have you ever had a revelation where you experienced something familiar in a new light?


Planned unproductivity

I’ve been trying to rearrange my schedule so that Sunday is an actual day of rest instead of another day to get stuff done. It has been my day to go to the grocery store, which I’m sure you’ll agree is very important. I know my family thinks so. But going full throttle seven days a week is not only foolish, but it’s violating one of the Big Ten Rule From God. So: how to not do stuff on Sunday.

The number one way to wreck your productivity is to take a nap. And not one of those “chug a cup of coffee and lie down 20 minutes” jobs, a glorious, unregulated, no alarm and no plans nap. A nap that leaves you wondering whether it’s day or night, or the next day. A nap that makes you feel like you’re four again. A nap like that will completely wreck all your plans. Unless of course, your plan was to take a nap.

to do nap

I still have a few items on the to-do list, but I’m steadily moving them to other days. And I’ll make sure I plan a big nap in every Sunday to keep it holy. I’m pretty sure that’s what God had in mind, yes?

Two nice things

This funny/sweet commercial, giving the Thai advertisers a run for their money. (Okay, maybe not. Those Thai commercials wreck me. But good effort, Similac!)


The other nice things is a huge sale at Audible for members through January 27. (You can get a month free trial membership if you don’t have one that includes 2 free books.)

So that’s two nice things. Anyone want to do a nice thing for me and clean a bathroom? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Didn’t think so. Happy Saturday!

Fine Arts Friday: the substitution of art

My mother keeps sending me pictures of her beautiful snowfall–from the desert.* Meanwhile, we have just had twenty-four hours of cold rain, and no snow for the entire winter. In fact, we’ve had very few days cold enough to snow should precipitation occur. I want a snow day! But where reality fails, art prevails.

I’ll just have winter in my mind.

Bruegel ice skaters

Winterlandscape with skaters and bird trap, Pieter Bruegel 1565. Click through for larger images that you can zoom in and see the amazing detail.

A poem on winter by Emily Dickinson. I like her use of dashes.

It sifts from Leaden Sieves —
It powders all the Wood.
It fills with Alabaster Wool
The Wrinkles of the Road —

It makes an Even Face
Of Mountain, and of Plain —
Unbroken Forehead from the East
Unto the East again —

It reaches to the Fence —
It wraps it Rail by Rail
Till it is lost in Fleeces —
It deals Celestial Vail

To Stump, and Stack — and Stem —
A Summer’s empty Room —
Acres of Joints, where Harvests were,
Recordless, but for them —

It Ruffles Wrists of Posts
As Ankles of a Queen —
Then stills its Artisans — like Ghosts —
Denying they have been —


There’s nothing like curling up under a pile of blankets with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book on a snow day. Right now, we’re listening to The Fellowship of the Rings. And if you’re listening to a book rather than reading it yourself, you can crochet! Or, in my case, crochet, undo, re-crochet.

But now we get to the crux of the problem: all this cuddling up to enjoy the (imaginary) snow day requires  time to sit down and enjoy it, instead of running all over the place from appointment to appointment. And that’s why I need a snow day.

Have you had a snow day this year? What are your favorite snow day activities? What’s your favorite winter art?

*Technically, it’s a semiarid region, so desert-like, not actual desert.

The pro-life movement and camp followers*

Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

Today, hundreds of thousands of pro-lifers from all over the country will gather for the 41st year at the March for Life to speak out for life and against the horrors of abortion. There will be people who were at that very first march in 1974, but those will be vastly outnumbered by the thousands of young people–teens and college students–for whom 1973 is ancient and tragic history.

Aside from the March for Life, there are pro-life groups in every state–the oldest being Virginia Society for Human Life which started in 1968. In addition to the political and educational groups, there are hundreds of crisis pregnancy centers and maternity homes to help mothers choose life for their babies. There are student groups and church groups, those involved in politics, and those involved in collecting diapers, maternity clothes, and layettes.

The pro-life movement is many things, enduring, dedicated, humble and compassionate to name a few. But perhaps the most notable thing about the right-to-life movement is that it is truly a grassroots movement. It did not begin in a conference room, but in church basements and living rooms as people began to ask themselves what they could do to protect children. The first groups formed in cities and states, not in Washington. Of course, it has grown, and now the National Right to Life is a powerful voice for life in the nation’s capital, and other groups of all types speak for the voiceless. But even now, it is a group fueled by the passion and dedication of average Americans, not professionals, and certainly not politicians.

Of course, in our country abortion is a political issue, and thus you have to deal with politicians. But aside from a handful of unique people (Chris Smith and Henry Hyde come to mind, there are a few others), it is not a politician’s movement. While politicians are necessary in the efforts to save children, there are very few who can be considered right-to-life leaders. Most of them will cast a pro-life vote when called upon and perhaps attend their state right to life group’s annual event. Of course, they’ll gladly take pro-life citizens money and votes.

But it is the pro-life citizens who are the ones who are in the business of changing hearts and minds to build a culture of life. It’s the volunteer and the activist who educate their friends and neighbors, who do the hard work of research and strategizing, and then who give “brave politicians” slow, fat balls right over the plate: “Hey, how about we not force tax payers to fund abortions? There’s an easy vote. Let’s not let minors have major operations without their parents’ knowledge or consent. Can I get an “aye” on that? Or this doozy: what do you say we make delivering a baby almost completely, stabbing her in the back of the head and sucking out her brains illegal? That sound doable?” (Bill Clinton vetoed that bill twice.) Especially in recent years, they aren’t required to cast many difficult votes, they just knock the balls off the tees that pro-lifers have very helpfully set up for them.

Pro-life politicians aren’t required to be particularly brave on abortion. Case in point, the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is a bill that looks at the latest science on what we know about fetal development, and says “How about let’s not dismember unborn children who can feel pain. That’s barbaric.” In fact, America is one of only a handful of nations that allows abortion after 20 weeks. It’s not rocket science and it really shouldn’t be difficult for a politician who calls himself or herself pro-life to not only vote for, but also to speak out in support of the bill.

Which brings us to today. The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act was scheduled to be debated on the floor of the House of Representatives, but it’s been dropped because . . .? (Honestly, if you can’t get the votes on legislation that’s favored by Americans by two to one, what good are you? “I’m pro-life as long as I don’t have to do anything about it.” What a bold, principled stand.)

Pro-lifers have been marching and praying and providing for mothers and children and calling and educating and generally working to establish the culture of life for more than forty years. If need be, they’ll be marching for another forty, fifty, or God forbid, one hundred years. But if the politicians who claim to be pro-life don’t do their piddling little part, we can find someone else to follow the camp. It’s not like it’s a difficult job.


*Yes, I’m calling politicians prostitutes. I just want that to be clear.

Frontiers and discovery


Vesuvius scroll

It may look like firewood, but it’s actually a book.


Yesterday I linked to a newly discovered copy of the Gospel of Mark that had been papier-mâché into a mummy’s head. This is thought to be the earliest existing copy.  Today, I read that scientist think they may have discovered a way to read scrolls carbonized when Vesuvius buried Pompeii. How cool is that?

Researchers have found a key that may unlock the only library of classical antiquity to survive along with its documents, raising at least a possibility of recovering vanished works of ancient Greek and Roman authors such as the lost books of Livy’s history of Rome.

The library is that of a villa in Herculaneum, a town that was destroyed in A.D. 79 by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius that obliterated nearby Pompeii. Though Pompeii was engulfed by lava, a mix of superhot gases and ash swept over Herculaneum, preserving the documents in a grand villa that probably belonged to the family of Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, the father-in-law of Julius Caesar.

Technology has already helped us discover the lost city of Tanis and several lost pyramids, plus given rise to a new field: space archeology!

Sometimes it seems as if we’ve discovered all that’s discoverable without a warp drive, that all the frontiers are closed. It is true that no one is going to find another continent, but even on earth there are unexplored regions. However, even the most inaccessible regions like the deep ocean are not entirely mysterious, thanks to new technologies.

But beyond the geographical regions, historical and scientific discoveries are being made all the time. Where one kind of frontier and exploration has closed, many more have opened, and the desire to learn more about these frontiers leads to the development of new technologies (or the new application of existing tech), which leads to more discovery. In fact, the Age of Discovery will never end for those with imagination, initiative, and some really cool tools.


Terrible Tuesday: Goals

My goal: to cross the January 31 finish line if I have to drag myself across. Seriously, January, what’s your deal? This is why February only has 28 days, we all need a break after January.

Interminable month links!

A.A. Milne reads Winnie-the-Pooh.

On it’s face, using the Bible to make a papier-mâché mask is tacky. However, it has resulted in the discovery of earliest known copy of the gospel of Luke, so yay for arts and crafts!

Hero baby. Baby hero?

A Superbowl game for those who don’t want to watch the Superbowl: be the last (hu)man to hear who won the game.


If organizing was on your resolution list, here are 50 ideas to organize your home.

The source of petrichor discovered! And filmed!

Breathtaking images: Gems under the microscope.

NASA released the largest ever image of the celestial neighbor the Andromeda galaxy.

Freedom to be a fool

After the attack on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, many people were reluctant to give unreserved support for the victims because they’ve printed offense and outrageous things about many religions. In fact, some people said, in essence, sure killing people is awful but they got what was coming to them. The pope went on about punching people in the nose, and in general people missed the point.

Support for freedom of speech does not require you endorse the speech. In fact, you can abhor the speech or find idiotic and still support its expression.


Case in point, the editor in chief of Charlie Hebdo thinks religion should be banned from the public sphere and that, “Secularism allows all believers and not-believers to live in peace and that is what we defend.” Ah, the peace of “Shut up.” No, thank you. (Also, those lovely secular paradises of the Former Soviet Union, Cuba, and a host of other totalitarian states seem to refute your argument, n’est pas?)

I supported the release of The Interview and was appalled at the companies involved for running scared, but the movie is most likely a mindless piece of tripe, and Seth Rogen is an idiot. (No, I’m not spending my scarce entertainment resources on that.)

But both the writers at Charlie Hebdo and Rogen have the right to say and print stupid things and not fear for their well being. “Say what you want, but you run the risk of being killed and we’re not going to do anything about it” is not support of free speech. At best it’s apathy; at worst it’s hypocrisy.

The whole point of civilization is that we don’t allow people to go on rampages raping, looting and killing for any reason, even hurt feelings. Saying, “You can’t say anything offensive about religion” is stupid because every religion is blasphemous to every other religion, and that includes atheism. A civilized society–a free society–says you don’t have the right not to be offended, but you also don’t have to fear for your life, liberty or property is you offend someone else. Support for free speech for idiots like Rogen and that editor is also support for free speech for those I mostly agree with, for those I somewhat agree with, and for me. And when anyone gets upset, they just have to scratch their mad place, as my mom says. If that scratching means boycotting, protesting, writing angry diatribes, or whatever speech you want, have at it.  And I’ll support you, even if you’re an idiot.

Lewis on letting go

better things Lewis

This is a variation of a very popular C.S. Lewis quote. Lewis is, of course, highly quotable, but the context of the quotes is where the real meat lies. Lewis had an enormous correspondence, and one of his pen-pals was an American woman Mary Willis Shelburne. His letters to her are collected in the slim but wonderful book Letters to an American Lady.  This is the context of the above quote, from a letter dated June 17, 1963–just 5 months before his death.

Pain is terrible, but surely you need not have fear as well? Can you not see death as the friend and deliverer? It means stripping off that body which is tormenting you: like taking off a hair- shirt or getting out of a dungeon. What is there to be afraid of? You have long attempted (and none of us does more) a Christian life. Your sins are confessed and absolved. Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave it with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.

Remember, though we struggle against things because we are afraid of them, it is often the other way round—we get afraid be- cause we struggle. Are you struggling, resisting? Don’t you think Our Lord says to you ‘Peace, child, peace. Relax. Let go. Underneath are the everlasting arms. Let go, I will catch you. Do you trust me so little?’

Of course, this may not be the end. Then make it a good rehearsal.

Yours (and like you a tired traveller near the journey’s end) Jack

Lewis famously enjoyed life’s little pleasures, his pipe, his pint, good company and good books. He loved life and the beauty and wonder of this world, and you can tell it in his writings. But you can also see how he held it lightly, particularly toward the end. I think he had very little difficulty with the letting go.

It’s bizarro land!

4th amend

The Justice Department does something I like! It’s madness! Attorney General Eric Holder announced the (almost) end of a program called Equitable Sharing, when state law enforcement seize private property under civil assets forfeiture and turns it over to the feds, who then kick back up to 80% to the state and local law enforcement.

I’ve written about civil forfeiture before, but basically it’s when the government seizes your property accusing it of being used in a crime, without charging you with a crime and therefore needing to prove your guilt in a court of law. Because you aren’t charged, they don’t have to obey the Constitution or state laws regarding due process. If you want your property back, you can spend money hiring lawyers and prove it’s innocent. Needless to say, this hits (is targeted at?) the less well off hard, because they don’t have the resources to fight.

Of all the civil forfeiture laws, the equitable sharing program is skeeviest because it lets state law enforcement evade state laws limiting or regulating assets forfeiture. Federal cops helping state and local cops get around state and local laws is slimy. Full stop.

So bully for Eric Holder for stopping (most) of this program. Now to stop the rest of civil forfeiture. Excelsior!

If you’re looking for more information, The Institute for Justice is the go-to place for fighting civil forfeiture and fighting for reform.

Look, a celebratory dance by a Dover police officer! Let justice prevail!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...