Sunday, December 21, 2008

random connections

This lolbird

and working on this jigsaw puzzle

set off this song on the continuous-loop-soundtrack- in-my-brain-of-just-about-every-song-I've-ever-heard:

I think I'll put on some Christmas music, or else I'll be singing They Might Be Giants for the next week.  Not that that's necessarily a bad thing.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

for the child on your Christmas list

I recommend The Christmas Alphabet, one of the more beautiful pop-up books I've seen.  I've been thouroughly enjoying reading it with our three this season--I've yet to read it again without noticing something more about the intricate cut paper artwork that Robert Sabuda's created here.  Indeed, nearly anything by Robert Sabuda is worth having.   Follow the "Customers who bought this" links on Amazon . . . you'll find it worth your time.

some warped holiday humor

Click on the image to get a larger version, or just go here. But the sign by the register says "Today's Special: Ground Vixen."

To fully appreciate this one, start with a toddler whose favorite book is Jack Kent's Twelve Days of Christmas. Sing daily until your semi-verbal toddler can recognizably sing it herself. Make sure you do this in lean times, when the grocery budget is tight and a brace of roasted partridges would be a great treat.

Monday, December 15, 2008

some musing on free speech

Neil Gaiman put up a piece last week on the First Amendent. It's had me thinking. He starts off with this: "If you accept -- and I do -- that freedom of speech is important, then you are going to have to defend the indefensible. That means you are going to be defending the right of people to read, or to write, or to say, what you don't say or like or want said." This makes me more than moderately uncomfortable. It sounds an awful lot like "the ends justify the means" to me. Still, Gaiman is an intelligent, articulate man and I read his piece all the way through. He's coming from a thoroughly secular viewpoint. From a country (England) where they don't have a first amendent, but do have things like the "Obscene Publications Act" where any customs officer can sieze things from you if he thinks you shouldn't have them. He points out that "The Law is a blunt instrument. It's not a scalpel. It's a club. If there is something you consider indefensible, and there is something you consider defensible, and the same laws can take them both out."

The case that sparked this latest manifesto on his part involves pornagraphic comic books. It's got the whole conversation going again with the usual suspects for viewpoints. What is pornography? (SCOTUS Judge Potter Stewart: "I can't define it--but I know it when I see it). What is erotica? (Is there a difference between the two?) What is art? What specifically is the role of the government in regulating these things?

I don't have any grand or spanking new opinions on this can of worms. I admit a bias toward less regulation--I don't generally think that it's the government's job to micromanage an individual's moral behavior. That said, I think that pornography is a blight on human society and far too easily available. Saying that we must defend the indefensible sounds an awful lot to me like "the end justifies the means," which is a dangerous place to go . . . Every election I'm tempted to vote libertarian . . .

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

7 quick takes friday

1.  I think something died in our dishwasher.  It was a nice quiet machine last week.  Now it sounds like a piece of construction equipment with digestive problems.

2.  I can make my daughter's day just by letting her "press the button."  Dishwasher, coffee pot, whatever it is.  It gives me hope that I'm not completely screwing this parenting gig up.  

3.  I am shopping for a basic tea pot.  Big enough to hold several mugs worth.  Ceramic or pottery, under $75, maybe with a pretty picture of flowers or something on it.  I thought this should be easy.  Turns out it's not.  I hope that the intended gift recipient is not reading this, though the way that the shopping is going, it probably won't matter anyway.

4.  Count me among the crew of those who have ZERO Christmas decorations up yet.  Project for today:  get the family room cleared of all the things that need to go into storage so that there's room for the Christmas stuff to come out.  (Though that's been the project of the day every day this week).  

5.  But maybe it'll get done today, because I'm actually sort of caught up on laundry today!  (A rare, fleeting occurence).    And I'm only knee-deep in dishes, not neck-deep.

6.  I'm loving all the recipes cropping up in blog-land this time of year.  My personal contribution is Honey Butter, an easy no-cook gift.  My husband says that he thinks at the wedding feast in New Kingdom, we'll take turns cooking for and serving each other . . . working our way through all the great cuisines and dishes of all times and places.  Yum.  

7.  I think preschools ought to go back to using slates and chalks for writing practice.  I'm rather horrified at the amount of paper that comes home--daily!-- with my preschooler that goes right into the recycling bin.  I'm mentally multiplying that by 180 school days and 30 children at our preschool alone . . . 

HT:  Jen at Conversion Diary

UPDATE:  I should have expected that Amazon would be the place to go for teapots, as well as for everything else in the world these days.  I'm quite pleased with the results of that Christmas shopping venture!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

as long as we're doing recipes

here's one that we often make up in large batches around the holiday for gifts.  
Honey Butter
1 1/2 cups real butter
1 cup margerine (Imperial)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed (plus a smidge)
4 tsp cinnamon
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat with electric mixer until smooth.   Yield:  3 1/2 to 4 cups, whipped.
Or, if you have some industrial sized bowls and mixers, the recipe in the proportions that I was originally given it:
6 lbs. butter
4 lbs. margerine
3 lbs. honey
2 lbs. brown sugar
2/3 cup cinnamon
2 ounces (4 Tbsp.) vanilla

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

so I haven't tried making this yet--

but I don't want to lose the recipe, and it looks so good that I don't know how it could go wrong.  

Courtesy of The Anchoress:

Brandy Alexander Pie

1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tspn salt
3 eggs, separated
1/4 cup cognac. Don’t be cheap, use the good stuff.
1/4 cup creme de cacao
2 cups heavy cream
1 tspn sugar
1/2 tspn vanilla
1 9″ graham cracker crust
chocolate curls for garnish

Sprinkle gelatin over the cold water in a saucepan. Add 1/3 c of the sugar, the salt and the egg yolks. Stir to blend.

Heat over low flame while stirring until the gelatin dissolves and the mixture thickens. DO NOT BOIL.

Remove from heat and stir in the cognac and creme de cacao. Chill until mixture starts to set slightly.

Beat egg whites until stiff. Gradually beat in the remaining sugar and fold into the thickened mixture

Use 1 cup cream to make whipped cream and fold into the mixture.

Turn it all into the crust and chill for several hours or overnight.

Before serving, whip second cup of cream with tspn of sugar and 1/2 tspn vanilla and use to garnish pie, then sprinkle with chocolate curls.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

personality surveys

I think that I may have mentioned the Meyers-Briggs personality typing system before.  It lays out four general and sixteen specific personality  types from combinations of four toggle attributes.  It's a good system, and I think that the researchers got things mostly right.  One of its major strengths is also one of its major weakness though.  David Kiersey emphasizes in his book "Please Understand Me" that people's basic personality types do not change and that it is futility to try to change people into what they are not.  And while he is right that you cannot change a cat into a dog, he leaves unaddressed the question, can a cat turn into a better cat?  Something more in tune with its essential cat-ness?

Fortunately, Kiersey's isn't the only book out there trying to systemitize human nature.  Don Riso and Russ Hudson have spent careers working with the enneagram, and laid out nine personality types.  More interestingly to me, they have laid out for each of their nine types nine layers of functionality--ranging from extremely healthy to extremely dysfunctional.  They investigate the different ways that people "integrate" (become healthier) and "dis-integrate" (become less healthy) and how that looks different for different types.  

These two systems, taken together with a good dose of good theology and discretion seem to me to provide a great base for self-understanding and relationship building.  I have no use for Riso and Hudson's assumption that our personalities are primarily determined by how our relationships with our parents were screwed up as very young children.  I think Kiersey is more right that our general bent is stamped on our DNA.  I agree with Riso and Hudson, however, that while each of us have particular driving fears and weaknesses, that we do not have to accept those as inevitable.  That in fact each of us can "change" and grow in such a way as to become more fully ourselves.  

Of  course, none of these secular psychologists have much use for Jesus, or for sin and redemption language.  But I figure it like this.  God made each of us to be someone very particular.  We can indeed grow more and more into the people that God intended and intends us to be.  The wisdom and recognition and fear-conquering that is necessary for that growth, truly comes through Christ.  Additionally, each personality type will gravitate towards particular areas of sin.  This is a true marker of personality, on the one hand, but it is not a true indicator of who we are supposed to be.  

I highly recommend both Please Understand Me and Personality Types for . . . well, anyone really.  Particularly, I've heard a from numerous people over the past year and more who have looked up after an extended amount of time in churches where there were very specific and restrictive ideas about gender roles and marriage, and have realized that those teachings had done nothing to help their own growth as a person or as a spouse.  In order to love our husband or wife we must first know them . . . if we are to help each other grow into the individuals and body that Christ calls us to be, shouldn't we first understand what will be helpful for growth?

(Side Note / Addendum:  Also valuable for parenting--if nothing else, starting with the assumption that my children are going to be whoever they're going to be, and that it's within my power to break and harm them--but not necessarilly change them--is very humbling, and useful for bringing any number of parenting issues into focus.)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Update on Stewardship

Jennifer at Conversion Diary has an excellent post up on the core of stewardship being knowing what you've said YES to so that you can know what to say NO to.  I recommend you read the whole thing.  Implicit  in it is the recognition that our actions and inactions affirm certain priorities and valueless.  Something comes first in each of our lives . . . and we are better off choosing what that is going to be rather than lettering circumstance and happenstance set it for us.

my single biggest weakness as a writer

is focus.  I'm a big picture thinker, and as a writer I'm always instinctively trying to make my camera angle just a little wider, make the view a little more panoramic, to draw a few more connections and cross-connections . . . My first writing teacher in college chewed me out for this, trying to get me to trim the fat and simply strike the passages that were excess baggage.  It was then and is still now a difficult exercise for me.  I have probably as many drafts on my blog as I do actual published posts.  Some of those are certainly pieces that I started and which turned too personal for me to want to publish.  But most of them are things where I started to try to connect two or five or ten disparate ideas, or engaged on a long preamble to where I was trying to go and then ran out of steam or time or interest before I finished.  Maybe in future I should just start posting warning labels:  Attention:  Context and preliminary thoughts may be missing.

Monday, December 1, 2008

comic score day

any one of these three could have made my day--to get all of them at once makes it a pretty good monday.

I think the dryer elves at our house must be transforming adult socks into baby ones. I can't come up with any other explanation for where the generous supply of good socks that we bought for my husband went, or where the flood of tiny socks that fit none of our three children came from.

Before lolcats was Sylvia, with her cats providing their own captions. As a cat person, I suddenly have a strong desire to send a kitten--an entire litter of kittens--to the Obama family.

the world needs this GPS. :)