December 31, 2014

Easy resolutions you can keep for your health

From the UK comes The 25 easy resolutions to transform your health:

Put your toothbrush in the dishwasher
Toothbrushes can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Scientists at Manchester University found that the average toothbrush contains ten million germs, including a high percentage of potentially dangerous bacteria such as E. coli.

Stop using armrests to get out of a chair
This will strengthen your muscles and help protect you against falls in later years. Place your feet firmly on the floor, tighten your stomach muscles, clench your buttocks and ease yourself slowly up to a standing position without using your hands for support.Each lift equates to a squat - the perfect exercise to tone the major muscles in the thighs and buttocks. Double the effect by also lowering yourself into every chair without using your hands

Drink cocoa at bedtime
The antioxidants in cocoa can improve memory in older people by improving blood flow to certain parts of the brain.

Turn the heating down by a degree
Being slightly chilly has been shown to increase levels of 'healthy' brown fat, a form of body fat that burns up calories and fat reserves, and helps keeps blood sugar levels stable.

Blow one nostril at a time.
Continually blowing your nose through both nostrils can push mucus back into your sinuses, triggering the possibility of a secondary infection.

Get regular kicks with a coffee
Drink up to four cups of coffee a day. Whether it's instant, espresso or decaffeinated, experts believe the phytochemicals - or antioxidants - in coffee offer some protection against diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
It also appears to improve cognitive function. The stimulating effect of caffeine can increase neuronal firing in the brain, improving reaction time, memory, mood and brain power.

Eat a portion of leafy veg A day
Eating just one daily serving (around two tablespoons) of green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale or broccoli could be enough to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 14 per cent….Increase that to one and a half servings per day and studies show you can double that reduction to 30 per cent. One theory is that green vegetables are a rich source of magnesium (along with some beans, peas, nuts and seeds), which appears to help regulate blood sugar.

Keep your eye out for Celtuce ., a new vegetable to try

An obscure Chinese vegetable that is as of yet hard to come by may well become the new kale in the months to come. The celtuce - which is known as wosun in China, where it is a popular ingredient in many dishes - is a translucent green type of lettuce that can be sliced, roasted, pickled, pureed for sauces or used as a garnish, among many other uses.

All About The Cool Obscure Veggie Of The Moment

One bite told me I'd never eaten anything quite like it either. The texture of the vegetable -- and the waiter assured me it was a vegetable -- reminded me of cooked leek. But it also had the homogeneity of a noodle and some of the crunch of shaved jicama. Its bright flavor was a little like a mix between bok choy, celery root and water chestnut, but was far milder than any of those. By the end of the plate, I was a celtuce fan.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:01 AM | Permalink

December 30, 2014

Miscellany I forgot to post last week

Excited shelter dogs on their way to a new home   and more here:  They can practically smell the freedom

 Excited  Shelter Dogs-1

Is this REALLY an early Mona Lisa? Painting claimed to be by a younger Da Vinci - and showing younger version of the same woman - goes on show in Singapore, its first public display in 400 years.
 2 Monalisas

A group of historians claim Leonardo da Vinci painted the work, dubbed the 'Early Mona Lisa', more than a decade before his masterpiece portrait and depicted the same Italian merchant's wife.

It was unearthed before the First World War but lay hidden in a Swiss bank vault for 40 years, while a consortium carried out secret tests before unveiling it in 2012 - though many experts still insist it was one of a litany of inferior copies…..It has earned the seal of approval, at least partially, from modern experts including Renaissance historian Giorgio Vasari, art historian John Eyre, research physicist Professor John Asmus and Professor Alessandro Vezzosi, one of the most influential living experts on Da Vinci.

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'It's like goosebumps on your brain': Maryland Maria draws YouTube audience of millions for her whispered voice which induces mysterious physical sensations. Millions listen to her hushed whispers on videos that can instill tranquility and even overcome insomnia.Scientists say the videos induce a physical sensation known as autonomous sensory meridian response which feels good.  Maria made her first ASMR video in February 2011

The mystery of the magical 'Ulfberht' Viking sword. Made by  German 'supermonks' believed to have forged the superstrong weapons of metal so pure  so pure it baffled archaeologists, who thought the technology to forge such metal was not invented for another 800 or more years, during the Industrial Revolution All of the mysterious weapons are inscribed with a single word - 'Ulfberht'.
 
Thomas Woods in Chapter 3 of his 2005 book, How the Catholic Church Built Civilization, focuses on the immense contributions of the monks who

taught metallurgy, introduced new crops, copied ancient texts, preserved literacy, pioneered in technology, invented champagne, improved the European landscape, provided for wanderers of every stripe, and looked after the lost and shipwrecked.

In particular,

The Cistercians were also known for their skill in metallurgy. “In their rapid expansion throughout Europe,” writes Jean Gimpel….Every monastery had a model factory, often as large as the church and only several feet away, and waterpower drove the machinery of the various indus- tries located on its floor.”  At times iron ore deposits were donated to the monks, nearly always along with the forges used to extract the iron, and at other times they purchased the deposits and forges. Although they needed iron for their own use, Cistercian monasteries would come in time to offer their surplus for sale; in fact, from the mid-thirteenth through the seventeenth century, the Cistercians were the leading iron producers in the Champagne region of France.

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"Oh my God, it's Mom" A great C-Span moment.  Two brothers on CSpan with differing poitiical views face off.  Next caller.  who doesn't want them arguing when they visit her for Christmas.
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Why the Colosseum hasn't collapsed: Roman concrete used 'secret' ingredient to stand the test of time - and now engineers want to copy it
According to an x-ray analysis of concrete, the mortars used to bind the concrete were made up of 85% volcanic ash which formed a crystalline structure that prevented cracks.  The process of production was also far more environmentally-friendly

Mysterious Boston woman is top Amazon reviewer  She is 5-foot-2, drives a Honda CR-V, and has very detailed opinions on printer cartridges, tax preparation software, and five flavors of Burt’s Bees lip balm.

Drunk birds sober up in Environment Yukon holding tank  Bohemian waxwings get tipsy on fermented berries

How a Massachusetts man invented the global ice market  An entrepreneur’s 1806 scheme to sell chunks of frozen New England ponds still shapes how we live

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:23 PM | Permalink

Miscellany 2

The Benefits of Being Cold by James Hamblin in The Atlantic
Year-round warmth is a modern luxury, and one that could be affecting body weight and health.

Money to Burn. Fed Scores in Bid to Keep Cash From Trash

The Fed destroys more than 5,000 tons of U.S. currency a year—billions of dollars in torn, dirty or worn-out bills that are withdrawn from circulation and shredded…It’s now succeeding in bringing the dollar out of the dump, recycling more than 90% of its discarded bills. Power plants burn them for fuel. Compost piles turn them into fertilizer. Some of them even end up in manufactured goods.

The Everything Book.  Reading in the Age of Amazon    "solid-state devices filled with culture"

Inside the Kindle lab ..From the start, Amazon has defined its hardware mission narrowly: to build devices that disappear in the hand, with uniquely useful features, for a low price. "We would never make a gold thing, because that’s too distracting," Green says. "There are many companies that create pieces of jewelry. We’re not going to do that, because that's an added cost that takes away from the actual content."
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Great writing ought to get into people’s brains," Katz says. "And how it gets there shouldn’t be a matter of religiosity."


How to Sit in a Victorian Bustle YouTube

Photographer Beth Moon Spends 14 Years Of Her Life Documenting World’s Oldest Trees

 Ancient-Trees-Portraits-Of-Time-Nature-Photography-Beth-Moon-1

San Francisco Schools Transformed by the Power of Meditation.  School day extended by 30 minutes for 2 periods of meditation resulted in better academic performance and a 75 percent decrease in suspensions.  Important life skill learned.  So when will it, like silent periods for prayer,  be banned?

Government bans sprinkles on ice cream.   Next on the list, Christmas lights

Ship of Light in Amsterdam, A 3D Ship Projected onto Curtains of Water
 3D Light Ship P

Photo © Janus van den Eijnden

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:10 PM | Permalink

My best movies of the year

I love good movies but there's a lot of dreck out there,  so I depend on reviews and recommendations to help me choose what I want to see.  With streaming video, we have more choices of movies from all around the world and recommendations become even more important.  With that mind, here are the 'movies' I most enjoyed this year, some of them several years old; but I hope they  help you find a good movie you otherwise wouldn't have known about or considered.

Parade’s End, 2013  5 part BBC/HBO.  Amazon Instant Video
Written by Tom Stoppard, based on the novels of the same name by Ford Madox Ford with Benedict Cumberbatch as Christopher Tietjens.

A brilliant government statistician from an aristocratic family, Christopher Tietjens marries the beautiful and sexually manipulative Sylvia believing he is the father of her child.  She recklessly, even vindictively carries on affairs, yet he refuses to divorce her despite being attracted to the young suffragette Valentine Wallop.  He is the 'last Tory'  and is too honorable to be unfaithful to his wife.  As WWI begins, Christopher goes to fight in France, leaving both women behind.  When the war ends, he must decide with whom he will spend the rest of his life.    Widely praised as one of the finest things the BBC has ever made,  Benedict Cumberbatch's acting is faultless and often achingly moving, a painful juxtaposition of emotional stiffness and deep, crippling vulnerability"

Ida, 2013 Polish, directed by Pawel Pawlikowski.  Netflix
In 1960s Poland, Anna, a young novice nun is told by her prioress that before her vows can be taken, she is to visit her family. Anna visits her aunt Wanda, a judge and former prosecutor associated with the Stalinist regime, who dispassionately reveals that Anna's actual name is Ida Lebenstein, and that her Jewish parents were murdered during the war. Ida decides she wants to find their resting place. She and Wanda embark on a journey that both sheds light on their past, and decides their futures.  A stunning and beautiful movie in black and white.

Top of the Lake  2013 -7 Episodes  Netflix
A television miniseries written by Jane Campion and Gerard Lee, filmed and set in New Zealand.  Elizabeth Moss (of Mad Men fame) is a detective investigating the disappearance of a 12-year-old girl, Tui Mitcham.  Beautiful, mysterious and riveting.

Rake, Australian mini series 2010 Netflix
Cleaver Greene is a brilliant but self-destructive lawyer in Sydney and is the lawyer you would want if you were ever in deep trouble.  Even as his life is spiraling out of control,  "He's a lawyer who acts for those clients whose cases appear utterly hopeless, a man always on the wrong side of conventional wisdom, his energy kinetic and his charisma inescapable."

"An elegantly paced comedy of rather bad manners, which is also an off-beat character study and a seemingly unfolding relationship drama. He wraps these up in a rather ironic narrative that echoes the legal thriller and the courtroom drama, gently parodying both."

The Chorus (Les Choristes) French, 2004.  Netflix
Pierre Morhange, a widely successful orchestra conductor,  returns to France when his mother dies.  He reminisces about his childhood inspirations when he and his former classmate Pépinot read the diary of their old music teacher Clément. In 1949, a young Pierre  is the badly behaved son of single mother Violette .He attends the boarding institution for "difficult" boys, Fond de L'Étang ("Bottom of the Pond"), presided over by strict headmaster Mr Rachin.  A new teacher Mathieu brightens up the school and assembles a choir, leading to the discovery of Pierre's musical and physical talents and a transformation in the children.

Deadwood, HBO, 2004-2006 - Amazon streaming video
Set in Deadwood, South Dakota, this American western mixes real characters like Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Wyatt Earp with fictional ones to chart the growth of Deadwood from camp to town as the inhabitants band together to create a civil society on the frontier, bringing order out of chaos.

With the exception of the profligate profanity throughout (a deliberate anachronism), the series is true to history, depicting violence, racism, prostitution, greed and the often corrupt politics of frontier life along with bravery, self-sacrifice, love and loyalty.

Calvary, Irish, 2014, still in theaters.
Brendan Gleeson is sensational as Father James, a good priest who is told in the confessional that he will be killed in one week's time because of the sex abuse the unknown parishioner suffered at the hands of a bad priest.  As the week unfolds in the spiritual desert of contemporary Ireland, he cares for and confronts his parishioners  and is met with condescension, even contempt, as he soldiers on to his own personal Calvary.  The end, though grim, is filled with hope as his daughter (he became a priest after the death of his wife) visits the murderer in jail.

Fleming, The Man Who Would Be Bond, BBC America, 2013 Amazon instant video
The young Ian Fleming who would go on to create  James Bond in a series of novels was a dissolute playboy with a dead war hero father, a successful brother and a disappointed yet ambitious mother who urges him to make something of himself and secures for him a job in naval intelligence as WW2 looms.  His imaginative, unorthodox  approach brings results when nothing else does and Fleming becomes  exceptionally skilled as a master of espionage.  In time, he becomes the commanding officer of a new unit of Intelligence Commandos to best the Nazis and is asked by the Americans to draw up a blueprint for a similar agency of spies.  All the while, he carries on a twisted love affair with the already married Ann O'Neill and mistress of the editor of The Daily Mail.

Throughly engaging and well-acted, I don't know how much is true, but if it is, his life was as fantastic as any of his novels.

Broadchurch, 8 episodes British ITV, 2013, Netflix.
In a Dorset coastal town, an 11-year-old boy is found dead on a beach.  The series focuses on the search for the boy's murderer and the impact of grief, mutual suspicion and the media have on the town.  In the U.K., it won universal praise and enormous ratings success however, the Americanized
version, Gracepoint on Fox, made barely a stir.  Broadchurch is emotionally resonant in its depiction of death's aftermath, the acting of the entire ensemble is terrific and the music is haunting.

Olive Kitteridge,
HBO, 2014
I read and loved the book which won a Pulitzer Prize for its  series of thirteen interconnected short stories.  I found the character of Olive compelling, unforgettable and a Yankee to her core - crusty, sometimes even cruel with her tart remarks, other times immensely funny, often depressed (her father committed suicide and she discovered the body) with occasional bursts with unexpected love and generosity.  Frances McDormand is brilliant as Olive and Richard Jenkins superb as her tender, kind husband.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:52 PM | Permalink

Quote of the Day

"You do not read good books so that you can scramble up some tricks, so that you can write clever things about them, so that you can do well on a test and secure a prestigious job and then die.  You learn about the language and about what writers do, so that you can read good books and learn to love them, because they are companions who will tell you what they have seen of the truth, and they tell you it in a way you will not soon forget."

Anthony Esolen in Read Literature to Learn and Love the Truth

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:09 AM | Permalink

December 29, 2014

Quote of the Day

"Writer Rebecca Walker was mesmerized when she saw the Dalai Lama speak on this topic. As Walker relates, His Holiness “was talking about the myth of independence.

If you are so independent, he asked, who grows your food? Who sews your clothes, builds your house, makes sure that water comes out of your showerhead? How were you even born?

The fact is, he said, we have not done one single thing alone, without the help of a small army of others, and yet we walk around talking about the necessity and supremacy of independence. It’s completely irrational.”

Jean M. Twenge from The Narcissism Epidemic

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:23 PM | Permalink

The Case for God

It's hard to ignore all the studies.  The latest study by the Austin Institute is yet another study that shows that Religious people are much happier than others.

The study found that people who attend religious services on a weekly basis are nearly twice as likely to describe themselves as “very happy” (45%) than people who never attend (28%). Conversely, those who never worship are twice as likely to say they are “very unhappy” (4%) as those who attend services weekly (2%).    …..Building on prior research, this broad survey of American adults comprised a representative sample of 15,738 Americans between the ages of 18 and 60.

From the study summary. The link between religion and various psychological states has been the subject of many social scientific studies, many of which have found a connection between self-reported happiness and religious practices.  Research has suggested that religious faith may be adept in its ability to offer significance and meaning to life, that religious coping mechanisms can improve physical and emotional health, that faith can be a powerful motivating force, and that congregants may receive emotional support from others in their congregations.

Walter Russell Mead,  Most people believe in God because they feel that life means something.

We are born, we move through life; if we are lucky we grow old and die. As all this happens, we feel things. We feel connections to other people – to family, friends, lovers and spouses, fellow citizens of a nation, fellow members of our species facing a common fate on a single and fragile planet, the animals that share our lives and our world. We see astounding acts of heroism and devotion, especially in everyday life. We see parents sacrificing for the sake of their children, young people caring for aged relatives, firemen rushing into burning buildings to save people they don’t even know, inspiring teachers who earn very little money but seem contented and fulfilled, volunteers giving spare time and money to their communities in many ways, judges who give honest verdicts without favor or fear – and on and on and on.

We also see beauty all around us: sunrise, sunset, the play of light on water, starry nights, the subtle colors of a grassy field, the awesome presence of a mountain range, dazzling tropical fishes, roses in a garden. We often feel there is some kind of connection between the beauty of nature and the beauty of human life well lived; many of us seek to respond to the beauty we see around us by creating beauty (whether as art, in gardens or in our daily lives) of our own.

Moral beauty, physical beauty, feelings of love and devotion to people and causes that take us beyond our selves: for most of us, the part of our life that feels truest, most real and most fully lived revolves around these things.

Our lives in the world point us towards something beyond the facts of our lives.

Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God writes Eric Metaxas in the WSJ.  The odds of life existing on another planet grow ever longer. Intelligent design, anyone?

Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life—every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. ….In other words, the odds turned against any planet in the universe supporting life, including this one. Probability said that even we shouldn’t be here…..

The fine-tuning necessary for life to exist on a planet is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces—gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the “strong” and “weak” nuclear forces—were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one value and the universe could not exist. For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction—by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000—then no stars could have ever formed at all.

Add another blessing to the earth, Scientists discover Earth’s ‘Star Trek’-style invisible shield

The shield, which forms a barrier to particle motion, was found in the Van Allen radiation belts…The radiation belts, which are held in place by Earth’s magnetic field, are two doughnut-shaped rings that are packed with high-energy electrons and protons……
“It’s almost like these electrons are running into a glass wall in space,” said Distinguished Professor Daniel Baker, director of CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, who led the study.  “Somewhat like the shields created by force fields on Star Trek that were used to repel alien weapons, we are seeing an invisible shield blocking these electrons. It’s an extremely puzzling phenomenon.”

Msgr Pope's Meditation on the Van Allen belts: The Earth is a Rare Jewel.   

He comments on the Metaxas article in The Rarity of Earth and How Astronomical Are the Odds Against Complex Life in the Universe.

I think today that many who bristle at “intelligent design” do so more from a visceral and perhaps anti-religious stance than from a truly scientific one. As said above, I am not asking scientists to declare that science can prove God exists. That is not the purpose of science. Neither am I asking them to accept the Judeo-Christian concept of God….

The more we learn of the incredible complexity of life and of ecosystems and their irreducible complexity, the more reasonable it seems to posit an intelligent cause to it all, or to theorize that the many necessary elements were intentionally brought together by some outside force that is intelligent or purposeful. I do not ask scientists to suddenly line up to enter RCIA, only that they draw reasonable conclusions even if they are only provisional (as are most scientific conclusions).

Joy Overbeck gathers quotes from scientists

“I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. God to me is a mystery, but is the explanation for the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing.” (Astronomer Allan Sandage, celebrated for his exacting measurements of the size and age of the universe)

“To me, the concept of God is a logical outcome of the study of the immense universe that lies around us. God exists as the Supreme Being who started this creation the evidence is all too pervasive for me to think otherwise” (Thomas C. Emmel, who received a doctorate in population biology from Stanford University)

“How such already quite complex structures may have come together, remains a mystery. The possibility of the existence of a Creator, of God, represents to me a satisfactory solution to this problem.” (Professor Werner Arber, Nobel Prize winner in physiology-medicine, on the vast complexity of molecular biology)
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:29 PM | Permalink

Celebrate all 12 days of Christmas

All the stress-filled days leading up to Christmas full of shopping, decoration, cooking, baking, choosing and wrapping presents deserve more time at their end for relaxation, celebration and visiting friends and family than just one day.

Let’s Bring Back The 12 Days Of Christmas

Now, I really think people should celebrate the 12 days of Christmas because it’s the liturgically proper and beneficial way to mark the season. It just makes sense to have a preparation time followed by a celebration appropriate to God taking on human flesh to save us.

But it also has a ton of other benefits:
No stress
Less expensive
Children enjoy it more
More fun, more variety
True respite

"My children recently discovered that some people only have one day of Christmas and they thought it was the saddest thing they’d ever heard."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:11 PM | Permalink

December 25, 2014

Celebrating Christmas

Joseph Bottum Joyous Surrender: A Rhapsody in Red (and Green)

Christmas isn’t tasteful, isn’t simple, isn’t clean, isn’t elegant. Give me the tacky and the exuberant and the wild, to represent the impossibly boisterous fact that God has intruded in this world.
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Break out into song, if you can. Break out into sentimentality, if you can stand it. Break out into extravagance and vulgarity and the gimcrack Christmas doodads and the branches breaking under the weight of their ornaments. Break out into charity and goodwill. But however you do it, just break out. What other response could we have to the joyous news of the Nativity that God has broken in, smashing the ordinary world by descending in the flesh?

Raggle the rescue dog stars in the Christmas cards sent by her owner photographer  Peter Thorpe.  Here's the 2014 card.

 Raggle-Christmas Mouse

An album of Snowflakes and snow crystals by Alexy Kijatov on Flickr

Apple's Christmas video shows how to create thoughtful, emotional gifts that transcend time.

A Pittsburgh hospital sends newborns home in tiny stockings

 Christmas Stocking Babes

The Man Who Saved Christmas

in the publication year of A Christmas Carol, 1843—written when Dickens was only 31—“there were no Christmas cards, no Christmas trees at royal residences or White Houses, no Christmas turkeys, no department-store Santa or his million clones, no outpouring of ‘Yuletide greetings,’ no weeklong cessation of business affairs through the New Year, no orgy of gift-giving, no ubiquitous public display of nativity scenes (or court fights regarding them), no holiday lighting extravaganzas, and no plethora of midnight services celebrating the birth of a savior.”

How the Catholic Church Saved Hanukkah

100 years ago today, war paused for the Christmas Truce

After months of war and 1 million already dead, an estimated 100,000 troops on both sides just stopped fighting. Ordered by no one on either side, it was never official, but rose up spontaneously from those same trenches. Men who had spent the days before plotting how to kill each other now plotted ways to show their seasonal spirit.
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It really happened, though, as dramatic as anything ever before in the annals of war. First-person accounts in letters home from British, Belgian, French and German soldiers testify to what an extraordinary series of events it was. One wrote, “It all happened spontaneously and very mysteriously. A spirit stronger than war was at work that night.”

Light projections from St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney, Australia

 Australia Cathedral Lightprojection

You've never seen a Nativity scene like this as the Piano Guys get together with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to sing Angels from the Realms of Glory.  Be sure to watch all the way to the end or you'll miss the thousand angels.  YouTube link

 Sharethegift

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:03 AM | Permalink

Christmas

How deep the dark.  Why is Christmas a Night Time Event?

Heather King in Magnificat  'God is at  home.  We are in the far country'

"The Magi appear. The star hovers in the East. The star that points both heavenward to God, and earthward to a family. The Holy Family. Mother, father, child. The family, soon to be on the run, hunted by brutal murderers. The family, perpetually under siege. The family, our sanctuary and our exile. The family, fount of all that is good in us, and all that can become so terribly wounded.

Right from the beginning, Christianity is “a religion you could not have guessed,” as C.S. Lewis observed. “It has just that queer twist about it that real things have.” The Savior of the universe born with a bounty on his head. The Lamb of God, fresh from the womb, already up against Satan’s powers and principalities. Christianity is never sentimental, even toward babies. Joseph and Mary already had in their midst the Cross. Christ already had in his eyes the reflection of Mount Calvary.

Christianity has at its center joy, but joy is born of brokenness, limitation, tension, paradox. The shepherds, who have never left their pasture; the wise men, who have traveled from afar. A God of drama, of theater, of sensuality, of extremes: light and dark, poverty and wealth, anguish and hope. In the humblest of dwellings, three Maji materialize bearing gifts: gold, and frankincense, and myrrh; the sweet fragrance of incense. What must Mary and Joseph have thought? What could such an event have signified?

A religion born of dreams: the angel Gabriel who appeared to Mary, the dream of the wise men in which they are warned to return home by another route, the dream of Joseph, as soon as they depart. The dream of every human heart: to love and be loved; to not die alone. "The star was seen by everyone but not everyone understood its meaning,” notes Cromatius of Aquileia in his Commentary on Matthew's Gospel.

The Epiphany. The star that sheds just enough light so that we can take one more step, and then we must look to the star again. So like our lives that we, too, live in exile and fear, but also in hope. So emblematic of the strangeness of Christianity; its incongruities and contradictions. Never what we think it’s going to be, never what we think we want it to be. Always a fresh twist, a new pain, a new joy. Always a God whose ways are not our ways. Always, just when we think we’ve found a foothold, the order to flee to Egypt.

The star shines in the east. How quiet the night must have been all around them. How deep the dark.

'God is at home,' observed 13th-century mystic Meister Eckhart. 'We are in the far country.' ”

A most remarkable story.  Saved by Christmas

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:13 AM | Permalink

December 24, 2014

Christmas in Harvard Square

What happens when 21 young boys from my parish church of St Paul's walk to Harvard Square to sing a few Christmas carols?  Absolute delight.

 Hsq-Reacts Boyschoir

YouTube link  "The Little Road to Bethlehem" from Christmas in Harvard Square

With their album Christmas in Harvard Square high atop the Billboard and Amazon charts, we who have the extraordinary blessing to hear them every week couldn't be prouder. I can't embed the videos so here's a link to another video previewing the album

 Boyschoir In Choirloft

Just read a few of the almost all  5 star reviews at Amazon :"This is possibly the best holiday album I own. Notably because the sound recordings were done so well. The sound quality is unbelievable - especially for choir music! " and "am filled with awe at the sound of the pure and angelic voices."

The LA Times: ….."this gorgeously sung and recorded set of sacred choral music from the 14th through 20th centuries, mostly from England, Ireland, France and Germany. Some selections are exceedingly well known, others fairly rare — many containing moments of otherworldly beauty."

The Wall Street Journal: "The boys—led by the choir’s director, John Robinson —sing in the school’s spacious church, and the vaulting allows their angelic voices to rise gloriously among the rafters. Rare Christmas fare includes “Mater Ora Filium” and “Once In Royal David’s City” as well as several classics, like “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Angels We Have Heard on High.” Uplifting, hypnotic music that melts holiday stress."

As a last minute gift for yourself or others, go to iTunes to download or Amazon for a CD and a free MP3 

 Albumcover Christmas

I myself will hear them tonight at 'Midnight' Mass at 7:30 at St Paul's  in Harvard Square.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:49 PM | Permalink

December 19, 2014

Health Roundup: Ibuprofen, breakthroughs, depression and more

Surgical Tool Gets Strongest Warning    Morcellator Used in Hysterectomies Can Spread Undetected Cancer, FDA Says.

Is Ibuprofen the key to a longer life? Study finds ibuprofen may provide 12 extra years of good health

To those with a headache, it already works miracles. But ibuprofen could also hold the key to a long and healthy life. In a series of experiments, the popular painkiller extended the life of yeast, worms and flies by around 15 per cent. What is more, the extra years were healthy ones.  In human terms, this would equate to an extra 12 years of good quality life. Put another way, people would be in good health for longer.

It is not clear exactly how the drug slowed down aging, but it appears to be something to do with it stopping cells taking up tryptophan, a compound found in eggs and chocolate and turkey.

Other studies have shown that ibuprofen can make your lungs feel younger and keep skin cancer at bay.

Major breakthrough for paralyzed people after drug that restores movement shows 'extraordinary promise'

New drug, known as intracellular sigma peptide, or ISP, helps damaged nerve cells regenerate, allowing vital messages to be passed to muscles….

Rats with badly damaged spinal cords given drug daily for seven weeks while their ability to walk, balance and control their bladder muscles were monitored. The vast majority of rats got something back in terms of function. Some went from barely moving to being able to walk like healthy creatures.  Overall, 21 of the 26 animals improved on the drug – an unparalleled success rate.

'Off switch' for pain discovered: Brain receptor could hold key to alleviating suffering in cancer patients

Researchers from Saint Louis University in Missouri managed to block a pain pathway in rodents with chronic neuropathic pain. They did this by turning on a receptor, known as A3, in an animal’s brain and spinal cord to counteract intense feelings of discomfort.The technique could one day be used to alleviate suffering of cancer patients.  It would be better than current medication because it doesn't have side effects like addiction and increasing tolerance to drugs

What Does It Cost to Develop a New Drug? Latest Study Says $2.6 Billion

The Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, a nonprofit think tank that maintains nearly $2.6 billion is needed to get a new drug from the lab to the launchpad.

'My teeth were turning to mush':

Bleaching your teeth more often than is recommended can erode tooth enamel permanently.  It can also lead to receding gums,  painful hypersensitivity and mushy teeth.

Could depression be an INFECTIOUS DISEASE?

Depression should be re-defined as an infectious disease rather than an emotional disorder, argues one scientist, Dr. Turhan Canli, of Stony Brook University. 'It is time for an entirely different approach," he writes in the journal Biology of Mood and Anxiety Disorders.

The condition could result from a parasitic, bacterial or viral infection and future research into the condition should search for these micro-organisms, he argues  If his theory is true, he hopes a vaccination to protect against depression could be developed in future.

The relationship between the sun and melanoma is unclear, despite what dermatologists tell us

There is a link between excessive sun exposure and melanoma, the form of skin cancer that carries a high risk of death.  But the link is not clear cut. Melanoma occurs in the mouth, the anus and on the soles of the feet, areas that get little or no sun, as well as on the face, which may get a lot. So the relationship with the sun is not obvious. And despite what dermatologists tell us, the evidence shows that in the UK people are less likely to get melanoma if they spend weekends mostly outdoors, where they inevitably get more sun exposure.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:30 AM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Food and Diet Edition

Why Exercise.  Could you BREATHE away those excess pounds? 80% of fat leaves the body via the lungs, say experts (so the more you exercise the better)

More than 80% of body fat leaves the body through breathing out.  Human fat cells store triglyceride, made up of three atoms: carbon, hydrogen and oxygen  To shed fat, you have to break down the atoms in triglyceride via oxidation.  When 10kg of fat is oxidized, 8.4kg leaves the body as CO2 via the lungs

Overweight  A Lack of Bacteria Can Make You Overweight  Genetics and Microbes in Your Gastrointestinal Tract Offer Clues to Metabolism and Obesity.  Researchers at Cornell University have identified a family of microbes called Christensenellaceae that appear to help people stay lean—and having an abundance of them, or not, is strongly genetic.

Eat Potatoes How a chemical compound found in spuds is shown to prevent weight gain

Don't bother counting calories… it's the type of food that matters: Items high in fat may actually be good at keeping the weight off  High-fat nuts, olive oil, fish and full-fat milk could help keep you slim. And supposedly healthy low-fat foods may be the real diet villains.  Expert says focusing on calories may 'mislead and harm public health'

Authority Nutrition 9 Lies About Fat That Destroyed The World's Health

1. Back in 60s and 70s, many prominent scientists believed that saturated fat was the main cause of heart disease, by raising the "bad" cholesterol in the blood. This idea was the cornerstone of the low-fat diet. Because of a few bad studies and misguided political decisions, this diet was recommended to all Americans in the year 1977.  However, there wasn't a single study on this diet at the time. The American public became participants in the largest uncontrolled experiment in history.

This experiment didn't turn out very well and we are still suffering the consequences. This graph (at link ) shows how the obesity epidemic started at almost the exact same time the low-fat guidelines came out.

A low carb/high fat diet  might be better for diabetics

A few years ago, Dr Unwin began to suspect that the advice favoring complex "high–carbohydrate foods" such as wholemeal bread, pasta and rice might have the reverse effect to that intended, by acting to increase the blood sugar level in those with diabetes. Accordingly, he proposed that all the patients in his practice who had been newly identified as having type 2, or "pre–", diabetes should adopt a high–fat diet.

The results, published in the journal Practical Diabetes, are truly astonishing – an average weight loss of 9kg with a reduction in waist circumference from 120cm to 105cm. There was also a striking improvement in both their blood sugar levels, with only two still in the abnormal range. Seven patients were able to come off their medication.Their blood pressure also improved and the average cholesterol reading fell from 5.5 to 4.7 – seeming to disprove the persistent rhetoric of the past 20 years implicating "high–fat" foods as a cause of raised cholesterol.

The obesity pill that could replace exercise by turning 'bad' fat to 'good'

Harvard Stem Cell Institute at Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital have identified two compounds that can turn white or 'bad' fat cells into brown 'good' fat cells in the body.  They believe they have made a breakthrough in the battle against the bulge.  They said the discovery could be 'the first step towards a pill that can replace the treadmill'.
When a person eats too many calories without burning them off, they are stored as white fat cells by adult stem cells. That is what causes people to pile on the pounds.  The new study found two small molecules that convert fat stem cells, which would normally produce white fat, into brown-like fat cells.  These brown fat cells burn excess energy and subsequently reduce the size and numbers of white fat cells.

One of the two molecules is already approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis, but scientists warned a pill is some way off.  They warned the compounds could damage the immune system.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:50 AM | Permalink

December 18, 2014

Passwords: the secret life and body parts

In the New York Times Magazine several weeks ago was a fascinating article  The Secret Life of Passwords

by Ian Urbina. We despise them – yet we imbue them with our hopes and dreams, our dearest memories, our deepest meanings. They unlock much more than our accounts.

SEVERAL YEARS AGO I began asking my friends and family to tell me their passwords. I had come to believe that these tiny personalized codes get a bum rap. Yes, I understand why passwords are universally despised: the strains they put on our memory, the endless demand to update them, their sheer number. I hate them, too. But there is more to passwords than their annoyance. In our authorship of them, in the fact that we construct them so that we (and only we) will remember them, they take on secret lives. Many of our passwords are suffused with pathos, mischief, sometimes even poetry. Often they have rich back stories. A motivational mantra, a swipe at the boss, a hidden shrine to a lost love, an inside joke with ourselves, a defining emotional scar — these keepsake passwords, as I came to call them, are like tchotchkes of our inner lives. They derive from anything: Scripture, horoscopes, nicknames, lyrics, book passages. Like a tattoo on a private part of the body, they tend to be intimate, compact and expressive.

There was the former prisoner whose password includes what used to be his inmate identification number (“a reminder not to go back”); the fallen-away Catholic whose passwords incorporate the Virgin Mary (“it’s secretly calming”); the childless 45-year-old whose password is the name of the baby boy she lost in utero (“my way of trying to keep him alive, I guess”).
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When I described keepsake passwords to Paul Saffo, who teaches engineering at Stanford and writes often about the future of technology, he coined the term “crypto haiku.”
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“Keepsake passwords .  In our authorship of passwords, in the fact that we construct them so that we (and only we) will remember them, they take on secret lives. Many of our passwords are suffused with pathos, mischief, sometimes even poetry.

On the other hand, we are at the dawn of development in using parts of our bodies as the authenticator for our unique identity instead of passwords. 

As usual, Apple leads the way with fingerprint sensors in the newest iPhones and iPads.  Now there are companies where the password can be your heartbeat, your iris, the veins on your palm. 

Read more at CNN - How your body will be your password.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:27 PM | Permalink

December 16, 2014

The Total Depravity of the Radical Islamists

A week of radical Islam striking the West began on Monday when a 'known wolf' Islamist terrorist and self-appointed 'Sheik Haron Monis took hostage ordinary citizens going out for coffee in the Lindt cafe in Sydney.  After 17 hours, he was killed when the Sydney police stormed the cafe.  So were the hostages cafe manager Tori Johnson and barrister Katrina Dawson and both were killed as they tried to protect others:  Katrina was killed trying to defend her pregnant colleague and Tori, after seizing the terrorist's shotgun, it went off killing him, triggering the police to storm the cafe before the terrorist set off his suicide bomb thus allowing others to escape.

 A Hostage Runs To An Armed Tactical Response Police Officers For-A-12 1418749507816

IBD.  The Plague Of Radical Islam Strikes Again, In Sydney

Monday's Sydney cafe attack is a reminder, as if we needed one, that radical Islam continues its lethal war on Western civilization. It remains critical for the West to get rid of this plague…..The flag of radical Islam enables lone-wolf lunatics like Haron to justify their attacks — and thus fuels them.  And the attacks are growing more common.
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Contrary to what you might hear, this isn't about a lone madman acting on insane impulse. It's about how Islamic radicalism continues to find new ways to attack the vulnerable West.

WSJ  ISIS has called for 'lone-wolf' Islamist attacks around the world

Then Tuesday  Children forced to watch their teacher being burnt alive in Taliban massacre at Pakistani school in which up to 130 children were slaughtered .Wearing security uniforms, nine militants entered the school and massacred at least 126 people, mainly children

The International Business Times reports that the Peshawar school attack was the Taliban's 'revenge' for Malala Yousafzai's Nobel Peace Prize

Malala, the youngest ever Nobel Prize winner, was shot by the Pakistani Taliban in 2012 for advocating education for women in Pakistan. She was attacked on a school bus in the Swat valley, in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, of which Peshawar is the capital.

A few days before the Peshawar attack, the Taliban warned that Malala had forged a pact with "Western satanic forces" and the Nobel committee gave their award to her to "promote Western culture and not education".

We also learned this week that ISIS using bombs containing live SCORPIONS in effort to spread panic, in tactic used 2,000 years ago against Romans  Canisters packed with poisonous varieties of scorpion are being blasted into towns and villages, which explode on impact - scattering the scorpions and causing panic among the innocent local population.

And they published a book on how to rape slave girls.  ISIS publishes shocking guidebook telling fighters how to buy, sell and abuse captured women

Islamic State (IS) has published a shocking guidebook for its fighters on how to rape slave girls – even if they have not reached puberty.  The Arabic manual, titled Questions And Answers On Taking Captives And Slaves, instructs IS fighters on how to buy and sell women and girls who have been captured in war as booty. The document, published by the Research and Fatwa Department of IS, gives its fighters the green light to turn captured women into slaves and concubines, and even give them as gifts to one another.

It was circulated on the Twitter accounts of senior IS leaders and on Friday was distributed by masked IS fighters outside a large mosque in Iraq’s second city Mosul, which is controlled by the group.
The document has been obtained by the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute and translated into English.  British terrorism experts, who have studied the document, have concluded it is genuine.

Remember back in 2011 when a Muslim cleric said that saying 'Merry Christmas' is 'worse than fornication, drinking alcohol and killing someone'?  Here he is an the video that's going around again.

And still some people deny the existence of evil.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:52 PM | Permalink

Why did so many people fall for Rolling Stone's UVA campus rape story?

Glenn Reynolds in USA Today.  The great campus rape hoax

Americans have been living through an enormously sensationalized college rape hoax, but as the evidence accumulates it's becoming clear that the entire thing was just a bunch of media hype and political opportunism.
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the truth is that there's no epidemic outbreak of college rape. In fact, rape on college campuses is — like rape everywhere else in America — plummeting in frequency. And that 1-in-5 college rape number you keep hearing in the press? It's thoroughly bogus, too. (Even the authors of that study say that "We don't think one in five is a nationally representative statistic," because it sampled only two schools.)
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The truth  is exactly the opposite. According to the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics, the rate of rape and sexual assault is lower for college students (at 6.1 per 1,000) than for non-students (7.6 per 1,000). (Note: not 1 in 5). What's more, between 1997 and 2013, rape against women dropped by about 50%, in keeping with a more general drop in violent crime nationally.
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This kind of hysteria may be ugly, but for campus activists and bureaucrats it's a source of power: If there's a "campus rape crisis," that means that we need new rules, bigger budgets, and expanded power and self-importance for all involved, with the added advantage of letting you call your political opponents (or anyone who threatens funding) "pro rape." If we focus on the truth, however — rapidly declining rape rates already, without any particular "crisis" programs in place — then voters, taxpayers, and university trustees will probably decide to invest resources elsewhere. So for politicians and activists, a phony crisis beats no crisis.
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Even one rape is too many, of course, on or off of campus. But when activists and politicians try to gin up a phony crisis, public trust is likely to be a major casualty. It's almost as if helping actual rape victims is the last thing on these people's minds.

Christina Hoff Sommers, the factual feminist, has a new video Here's Why Rolling Stone's UVA Story Went Viral.    NPR implicated.. Public perception about 'rape culture' began to change in 2010 when NPR teamed up with the left-wing Center for Public Integrity to produce a report which described a hidden wave of rape on campus.  Sommers calls the report as the 'worst kind of advocacy research' full of anecdotes and misleading statistics'  such as the claim that 1 in 5 woman could be expected to be raped on campus.  These investigative journalists never thought to investigate what serious researchers and criminologists have exposed as a specious statistic.  People who were skeptical of the story were denounced as 'rape apologists'.  Sommers said the story was not factual but a male-demonizing gothic fantasy nurtured by several decades of hard-line feminist theory.  Rolling Stone is to blame for publishing the story, but It was NPR, the Center for Public Integrity and the U.S. Office of Civil Rights that made it all seem so plausible

EIGHT Campus Rape Hoaxes Eerily Like The UVA Rape Story

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:02 PM | Permalink

Turning the tables

From Gay Patriot Turning the Tables on Wedding Cake Fascists

A Christian group went to thirteen gay-owned bakeries and requested each of them to bake a cake promoting traditional marriage; and of course, recognizing that they were obligated to serve any customer regardless of ideological differences, they happily obliged.

Nope, just kidding. All thirteen not only refused, but some were very nasty about it.

Christian Man Asks Thirteen Gay Bakeries To Bake Him Pro-Traditional Marriage Cake, And Is Denied Service By All Of Them

Christian bakeries that refuse to make pro-homosexual marriage cakes are getting sued left, right, and center. They get fined, they get death threats, and they lose their businesses. ….

So Shoebat.com decided to call some 13 prominent pro-gay bakers in a row. Each one denied us service, and even used deviant insults and obscenities against us. One baker even said that she would make me a cookie with a large phallus on it just to insult us because we are Christian. We recorded all of this in a video that will stun the American people as to how militant and intolerant the homosexual bakers were. Even after we completed our experiment we got a ton of hate messages saying that we were “hateful” for simply giving them a taste of their own medicine by asking for a cake with the slogan “Gay Marriage Is Wrong” to be written on the cake.

Video at link

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:35 AM | Permalink

Detroit today UPDATED

 Detroit Aerial Scrubland

Aerial photos show how downtown Detroit has been turned into a tiny urban island, surrounded by abandoned housing blocks

The photos taken by pilot and aerial photographer Alex MacLean, and first published in the New York Times, show the empty parking lots in the city bordering rows where only one or two houses are left.
Following the recession in 2008, the metropolitan area was covered in rubble left from demolished homes as the the foundations in between the remaining properties.
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Detroit, once the industrial capital of the nation, was voted the most dangerous city in the country in 2012, for the fourth year in a row.
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The city ravaged by dwindling blue-collar jobs, the decline of the auto industry and rising unemployment.  It has lost more than 200,000 residents in the last decade - and 1.3million since the 1950s - as citizens have fled the blighted city for better-off suburbs with lower crime and better education.
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It's now a tiny urban island surrounded by empty lots.

It's also been governed by Democrats for the past 51 years.  Arnold Ahlert describes How the Democrats Destroyed Detroit.

In March 2013, the Governor appointed an emergency manager for Detroit, but it was not enough to forestall bankruptcy which Detroit declared in July, 2013.  In November of this year, Federal Judge Rhodes approved the city's bankruptcy plan.  On December 11, all finances were handed back to the city.

UPDATE: Dozens Of Suspected Killers, Rapists Released In Detroit Due To Warrant Backlog

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:08 AM | Permalink

Christmas in an Iraqi refugee camp

It's a level-three emergency -  the UN's highest classification of a humanitarian crisis.  Over three million Christians have been "displaced", two million of them Iraqis.  When ISIS came, they fled their homes without any possessions, even winter clothes, and most of them to Kurdistan. 

The autonomous region in Northern Iraq is being pushed to breaking point by sheer number of new settlers
Families are safe, for now, from any immediate danger but dropping temperatures pose another serious threat.

They take refuge in their faith and in the preparations for Christmas.

 Christmas-2014-Iraqi Refugees

Christmas in an Iraqi refugee camp: Moving pictures show nativity scene set up by some of the thousands of Christians fleeing ISIS

 Christmas Refugees Praying

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:39 AM | Permalink

December 11, 2014

"The press….just doesn't get religion."

In the Federalist, David Marcus writes Seven Things Atheists Get Wrong

In a spectacular and telling failure of journalism MSNBC reported recently that Pope Francis “broke with Catholic tradition” by asserting that the Big Bang theory is real. Instantly, the Internet responded with the name Georges Lemaitre, one of the creators of the Theory of Universal Expansion who also happened to be a Jesuit priest. He is also the first entry on a Google search of “Catholic Big Bang.”

That the MSNBC author did not bother to do one search before making a pronouncement about the faith of a billion people displays abysmal incompetence. But it also reflects very skewed and dangerous ideas about the nature of religion widely held in the media and creative class. As atheist Sam Harris put it in his article “Science Must Destroy Religion”: “the conflict between religion and science is inherent and (very nearly) zero sum.” This confrontational attitude, which is unnecessary and harmful, springs from a slew of misconceptions about religion as a human phenomenon.

1. Religion Is About Morality, Not Creation Myths
2. Religion Is the Foundation of All Morality, Not Merely an Expression of It
3. Religion Was the Foundation of Society, Not an Addition to It
4. Atheists Do Believe
5. Science Can’t Teach Us Right from Wrong
6. Religion Complements Science, It Doesn’t Oppose It
7. Ignorance of Religion Is Ignorance of History, For Atheists and Everyone

This brought to mind GetReligion.org which has as its tagline a quote from an old friend of mine, Bill Schneider, "The press….just doesn't get religion."

Terry Mattingly, the editor of the site, is a journalist who covers religion news.  He and other like journalists write about "the holy ghosts" in many mainstream stories which are  the  "facts and stories and faces linked to the power of religious faith. Now you see them. Now you don’t. In fact, a whole lot of the time you don’t get to see them. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t there." They are just not explored because regular journalists can't see them or fail to see their importance.  He gives examples of such ghosts in What we do, why we do it.

Joseph Epstein wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal called Human Nature and the Fruits of Faith in which he tells atheists and agnostics, "Forget dogma—living a richer, fuller life is the true goal of religion."

He focused on William James, the Harvard professor and brother of Henry James and what he said about the nature of religion.

In his Gifford Lectures, James decided to exclude religious institutions or religion in its institutional settings. He chose not to argue, or even discuss, theology. He set aside the question of immortality, which he wrote about elsewhere in an essay called "Human Immortality" (1897), where he concluded that it would be "blindness" to rule it out as a possibility. He concentrated instead on the effect of religion on the individual, of its stirrings in the human heart….
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James remarks that "it makes a tremendous emotional and practical difference to one whether one accept the universe in the drab discolored way of stoic resignation, or with the passionate happiness of Christian saints." Religious sentiment, he asserts, "makes our highest happiness. Wonderful is its power to charm and to command. It is a mountain air…It makes the sky and hills sublime, and the silent song of the stars is it."
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The love of life, at any and every level of development, is the religious impulse."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:33 PM | Permalink

There was a time when things got done

Insty puts it together.

FROM THE COMMENTS OVER AT ACE’S some Pearl Harbor Day thoughts.

During the 3-½ years of World War 2 that started with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and ended with the Surrender of Germany and Japan in 1945, “We the People of the U.S.A.” produced the following:

22 aircraft carriers,
8 battleships,
48 cruisers,
349 destroyers,
420 destroyer escorts,
203 submarines,
34 million tons of merchant ships,
100,000 fighter aircraft,
98,000 bombers,
24,000 transport aircraft,
58,000 training aircraft,
93,000 tanks,
257,000 artillery pieces,
105,000 mortars,
3,000,000 machine guns, and
2,500,000 military trucks.

We put 16.1 million men in uniform in the various armed services, invaded Africa, invaded Sicily and Italy, won the battle for the Atlantic, planned and executed D-Day, marched across the Pacific and Europe, developed the atomic bomb, and ultimately conquered Japan and Germany.

It’s worth noting, that during the almost exact amount of time, the Obama Administration couldn’t even build a web site that worked.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:51 AM | Permalink

Blind spots

I was really glad to read What if I Told You That Vehicles Don’t Have Blind Spots? via Lifehacker

 Blind-Spot-Infographic

The Fix
I was taught a simple way to set my mirrors correctly and I’ll pass it on to everyone here. Sit inside your vehicle on level ground, while keeping your head level and looking forward. Now, lean to your left until your shoulder touches the inside of your door and then keep leaning until your head touches your window.

This may seem awkward, but stick with me. In this leaned over position to your left, now look into your mirror and adjust it to the normal picture you’re used to, picking up a small amount of your door. When you return to center you shouldn’t see the side of your car at all in the mirror. Now, lean your body and head over to your right, just above the center console and set the right side mirror to display what you saw in your left mirror while you were leaned over.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:27 AM | Permalink

December 9, 2014

In Praise of Melancholy

From last week's Brain Pickings, Maria Popova examines the importance of melancholy

[T]e modern happiness industrial complex seems bent on eradicating this dark, uncomfortable, but creatively vitalizing state — something Eric G. Wilson explores with great subtlety and wisdom in Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy .

I can now add another threat, perhaps as dangerous as the most apocalyptic of concerns. We are possibly not far away from eradicating a major cultural force, a serious inspiration to invention, the muse behind much art and poetry and music. We are wantonly hankering to rid the world of numerous ideas and visions, multitudinous innovations and meditations. We are right at this moment annihilating melancholia.

Considering what lies behind our desire to eradicate sadness from our lives, Wilson admonishes that our obsession with happiness – something he considers a decidedly American export – "could well lead to a sudden extinction of the creative impulse."

To be clear, I myself am deeply opposed to the Tortured Genius myth of creativity. But I am also of the firm conviction that access to the full spectrum of human experience and the whole psycho-emotional range of our inner lives – high and low, light and darkness – is what makes us complete individuals and enables us to create rich, dimensional, meaningful work.

It is important, then, not to mistake Wilson's point for romanticizing melancholy and glorifying malaise for its own sake – rather, he cautions against the artificial and rather oppressive distortion of our inner lives as we forcibly excise sadness and inflate happiness. He writes:

I for one am afraid that our American culture’s overemphasis on happiness at the expense of sadness might be dangerous, a wanton forgetting of an essential part of a full life. I further am wary in the face of this possibility: to desire only happiness in a world undoubtedly tragic is to become inauthentic, to settle for unrealistic abstractions that ignore concrete situations. I am finally fearful over our society’s efforts to expunge melancholia from the system. Without the agitations of the soul, would all of our magnificently yearning towers topple? Would our heart-torn symphonies cease?

He is especially careful to delineate between the creatively productive state of melancholy and the soul-wrecking pathology of clinical depression:

There is a fine line between what I’m calling melancholia and what society calls depression. In my mind, what separates the two is degree of activity. Both forms are more or less chronic sadness that leads to ongoing unease with how things are – persistent feelings that the world as it is is not quite right, that it is a place of suffering, stupidity, and evil. Depression (as I see it, at least) causes apathy in the face of this unease, lethargy approaching total paralysis, an inability to feel much of anything one way or another. In contrast, melancholia (in my eyes) generates a deep feeling in regard to this same anxiety, a turbulence of heart that results in an active questioning of the status quo, a perpetual longing to create new ways of being and seeing.

Our culture seems to confuse these two and thus treat melancholia as an aberrant state, a vile threat to our pervasive notions of happiness – happiness as immediate gratification, happiness as superficial comfort, happiness as static contentment.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:03 PM | Permalink

December 5, 2014

Weekend Miscellany 6

The Detectives’ Lunch Club

Word soon got out and detectives from all over the country flooded the office with requests. Before long, the Vidocq Society upped its meeting schedule from four times a year to nine. Today, the 82 chartered members hail from all areas of the crime-solving trade. There are DNA specialists, experts on cults, psychoanalysts, Naval Intelligence men, polygraphers, and long-retired FBI special agents. They convene every month, except July, August, and December—even veteran sleuths need a vacation—in the upper reaches of the Union League, a stately old building in the heart of Philadelphia. And at each meeting, over a lavish multi-course meal, they hear the details of a single unsolved case.

From DeMilked, 23 Breathtaking Ice and Snow Formations  like these Baikal Ice Emeralds

 Baikal Ice Emerald

An amazing video if you want to know  What Sound Looks Like

An Hungarian art historian was watching a Christmas movie with his daughter when what did he see but a long lost Hungarian masterpiece in the background in a scene of the movie Stuart Little.   Researcher spots Sleeping Lady with Black Vase by Robert Bereny being used as a prop in Hollywood children’s movie

 Stuart Little  Still

Pantone's Color of the Year 2015 - Marsala

 Marsalapantone2015-1

The Motions Of Kayaking, Canoeing, And Swimming Captured With LED Lights And Long Exposure

 Led-Light-Water-Motion-Exposure-Stephen-Orlando-14

7 Minutes on Queen Victoria

Photographer Elena Sumilova captures the bonds between children and their pets

 Children+Pets Elena Shumilova

Artist Sacha Goldberg delights with Portraits of Superheroes in Flemish Style

 Spiderman In Flemish Style

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:46 PM | Permalink

Sexodus and Stepford Students

Two articles over the past week witness the toxic legacy of feminism and political correctness. 

An important, if depressing,  read.The Sexodus, Part 1: The Men Giving Up On Women And Checking Out Of Society by  Milo Yiannopoulos

So what happened to those boys who, in 2001, were falling behind girls at school, were less likely to go to college, were being given drugs they did not need and whose self-esteem and confidence issues haven't just been ignored, but have been actively ridiculed by the feminist Establishment that has such a stranglehold on teaching unions and Left-leaning political parties?

In short: they grew up, dysfunctional, under-served by society, deeply miserable and, in many cases, entirely unable to relate to the opposite sex. It is the boys who were being betrayed by the education system and by culture at large in such vast numbers between 1990 and 2010 who represent the first generation of what I call the sexodus, a large-scale exit from mainstream society by males who have decided they simply can't face, or be bothered with, forming healthy relationships and participating fully in their local communities, national democracies and other real-world social structures. 

Stepford Students.  Brendan O'Neill writes Free speech is so last century. Today’s students want the ‘right to be comfortable’

I was attacked by a swarm of Stepford students this week. On Tuesday, I was supposed to take part in a debate about abortion at Christ Church, Oxford. I was invited by the Oxford Students for Life to put the pro-choice argument against the journalist Timothy Stanley, who is pro-life. But apparently it is forbidden for men to talk about abortion. A mob of furious feministic Oxford students, all robotically uttering the same stuff about feeling offended, set up a Facebook page littered with expletives and demands for the debate to be called off. They said it was outrageous that two human beings ‘who do not have uteruses’ should get to hold forth on abortion — identity politics at its most basely biological — and claimed the debate would threaten the ‘mental safety’ of Oxford students. Three hundred promised to turn up to the debate with ‘instruments’ — heaven knows what — that would allow them to disrupt proceedings.
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It’s hard to think of any other section of society that has undergone as epic a transformation as students have. From freewheelin’ to ban-happy, from askers of awkward questions to suppressors of offensive speech, in the space of a generation…..

This is what those censorious Cambridgers meant when they kept saying they have the ‘right to be comfortable’. They weren’t talking about the freedom to lay down on a chaise lounge — they meant the right never to be challenged by disturbing ideas or mind-battered by offensiveness. …We’re witnessing the victory of political correctness by stealth. …This is a disaster, for it means our universities are becoming breeding grounds of dogmatism.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:13 AM | Permalink

December 2, 2014

Quote of the day

The Suffrage of the Insufferable by Theodore Dalrymple

One of the merits of Christianity at its best is that it reconciles the infinite greatness of man with his infinite littleness. On the one hand man is created in the image of God, and each and every individual is unique as an object of God’s love and concern; on the other, he is as nothing by comparison with his maker.

If you take away the second consideration, what you get is unlimited self-conceit.  …if a man has no inner sense of limitation, no mere constitution is going to restrain him.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:09 AM | Permalink

Fabulous news about energy

David Harsanyi writes Everything Liberals Have Told Us About Energy Is Wrong

In a chilling 2010 column, Paul Krugman declared: “peak oil has arrived.”

So it’s really not surprising that the national average for a gallon of gas has fallen to $2.77 this week – in 10 states it was under $2.60 – and analysts predict we’re going to dip below the two-dollar mark soon. U.S. oil is down to $75 a barrel, a drop of more than $30 from the 52-week high.

The Institute for Energy Research estimates that we have enough natural gas in the U.S. to meet electricity needs for around 575 years at current fuel demand and to fuel homes heated by natural gas for 857 years or so – because we have more gas than Russia, Iran, Qatar and Saudi Arabia combined….

Every warning the Left has peddled about an impending energy crisis over the past 30 to 40 years has turned out to be wrong. And none of them are more wrong than the Malthusian idea that says we’re running out of oil.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:02 AM | Permalink

This is bizarre but it's worth remembering just in case

The shepherd's trick 

A letter to the editor in The Times today details an unusual lifesaving technique from a quick-thinking shepherd.

Sir, Atul Gawande's article "How a checklist saved a little girl's life" (Opinion, Nov 22) reminded me of an event in the late 1970s, when an infant fell into the garden pond of one of my neighbours. On hearing an anguished scream followed by pleas for help, I and an elderly neighbor dropped our gardening tools and struggled over the hedges and fence that separated us from the commotion.

The three-year-old girl was at the bottom of the pond; I jumped in, pulled her out and passed her lifeless body to my neighbour. He lay her down, got hold of her ankles, lifted her up and began, in a lunatic fashion, to swing her around his head. Horrified and paralysed, the child's mother and I watched as, moments later, water poured from the child's mouth and nose, and she gave a loud cry.

I asked my neighbour where he'd learnt to do such a thing. He said he'd been a shepherd for 30-odd years, and when lambs were born "dead" it was the standard way of making them breathe and of ridding their mouth of birth debris. But for the grace of this old shepherd, Aaron, that child would not be alive today.

Kottke comments: "Genius. I wonder if this centrifuge move might be more effective in helping lighter drowning victims breathe than CPR"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:27 AM | Permalink

December 1, 2014

A Memorable Assignment

OregonMuse at Ace of Spades tipped me off to the The English Assignment which I found it hysterical and which illustrates better than I could ever do, the differences between teen-age boys and teen-age girls.

Sharon Melnicer asked her Grade 12 English students to pair off with the person sitting to their immediate right.  One would write the first paragraph of a short story and email to their partner who would write the second paragraph,  continuing back and forth in tandem until the story was done.  Here's  what two students Maria and Neil turned in.

(First paragraph by Marla) "At first, Betty couldn't decide which kind of tea she wanted. The chamomile, which used to be her favourite for lazy evenings at home, now reminded her too much of Bruce, who once said, in happier times, that he also adored chamomile. But she felt she must now, at all costs, keep her mind off Bruce. His possessiveness was suffocating, and if she thought about him too much her asthma started acting up again. So chamomile was out of the question. She'd switch to chai."

(Second paragraph by Neil) "Meanwhile, Advance Sergeant Bruce Harrington, leader of the attack squadron now in orbit over Zontar 3, had more important things to think about than the neurotic meanderings of an air-headed, asthmatic bimbo named Betty with whom he had spent one sweaty night over a year ago. 'A.S. Harrington to Geostation 17,' he said into his transgalactic communicator. 'Polar orbit established. No sign of resistance so far …' But before he could sign off, a bluish particle beam flashed out of nowhere and blasted a hole through his ship's cargo bay. The jolt from the direct hit sent him flying out of his seat and across the cockpit."

They were doing just what their teacher wanted them to do.  However,  its main them, The Feminization of --Well, Everything is not so amusing.  How many boys are turned off reading because as one commenter put it :

We allow a feminized educational system to force-feed [Margaret] Atwood, [Maya] Angelou, [Alice] Walker, et al. to teenaged boys whose instincts at that age are  profoundly bored with emotive introspective feminista literature. They want action, adventure, bold canvases, far horizons, male protagonists: all the things these books do not have.

Then we're surprised and shocked to learn that we've turned off those boys to reading for the rest of their adult lives, to the considerable detriment of their cultural and educational prospects.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:24 AM | Permalink