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Thoughts & Visions




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Thoughts & Visions


  Wednesday, January 11th, 2017


Barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), a member of the grass family, is a major cereal grain grown in temperate climates globally. It was one of the first cultivated grains, particularly in Eurasia as early as 13,000 years ago. Barley has been used as animal fodder, as a source of fermentable material for beer and certain distilled beverages, and as a component of various health foods. It is used in soups and stews, and in barley bread of various cultures. Barley grains are commonly made into malt in a traditional and ancient method of preparation.

In 2014, barley was ranked fourth among grains in quantity produced (144 million tons) behind corn, rice and wheat.

  Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

But the fire has a flame which the wind quickens, so that the flame becomes a blazing fire. Thus the word is in the voice and the word is heard, and the fire has a flame and it is praise to God, and the wind moves the flame and it is praise to God, and the word is in the voice and it is praise to God, and the word is heard and it is praise to God. Therefore, all of creation is praise to God.

—Hildegard of Bingen

  Monday, January 9th, 2017

It is not a question of palate, of custom, of expediency, but of right. As a mere Christian Minister, I have had to make my decision. My palate was on the side of custom; my intellect argued for the expedient; but my higher reason and conscience left me no alternative. Our Lord came to give life, and we do not follow Him by taking life needlessly. So, I was compelled, against myself, to eschew carnivorism.

—Reverend J. Tyssul-Davies

  Monday, January 9th, 2017

Creatures of the Same God

How we explain the fact that animals, who have no free will, live in a state of fallenness subject to the evil of predation is no easy matter. Elsewhere I have given an account of the problem and, with the assistance of C. S. Lewis, explored some possible answers. Some Christians have difficulty in believing in cosmic disorder, let alone a source of cosmic evil, present in the world before the arrival of dinosaurs and human beings. That view certainly has its problems, but it is theologically essential if we are to believe that predation is not willed by the Creator. The alternative is dire beyond words, for it involves accepting that the “natural world” is actually God’s creation as first intended and, as a corollary, that death, disease, decay, and predation are actually God’s will for all living beings. Is this compatible with the God revealed in Jesus Christ? I shall try, humorously (and therefore very seriously), to indicate what the “anti-Gospel of Jesus our predator” might actually look like:

Jesus, according to the Predator Gospel, would be the butcher par excellence. He would be the one who, far from desisting from animal sacrifice, actually encouraged his disciples to excel in it. Instead of driving out the sacrificial animals from the Temple, the Jesus of the Predator Gospel would drive them in. The line that most characterises his ministry would not be “the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” but rather “the good shepherd slaughters—with gratitude—as many sheep as he can.” Far from beginning his ministry, according to Mark (1: 13), “with the wild beasts” and thereby symbolising reconciliation with nature, the Predator Jesus would be “with the wild beasts” with bow and arrow. Instead of commending the rescuing of a fallen animal from the pit, Predator Jesus would point to the inevitability of God’s far-reaching plan of death, disease, and decay.

Since predation is [according to ecotheologians] God’s blessing, the predator Jesus would offer a singular example in the human realm too. Far from consorting with sinners or excusing prostitutes, the Predator Jesus would be the first to cast the stone. Instead of healing the sick, the Predator Jesus could only approve of the efficacy of God-given ecological systems. Instead of raising Lazarus from the dead, the Predator Jesus could only comment that death is God’s blessing. Instead of preaching the good news of the coming kingdom of God, the proclamation would run [in the words of Matthew Fox]: “Eat and be eaten.”

As a sideline, Bishop John A. T. Robinson, on learning that he had cancer, told newspaper reporters that “God is in the cancer as he is in everything else.” A thousand times “no,” I say. How could a New Testament scholar have lived so long with the Gospel stories of Jesus and simply failed to grasp the existential reality of the demonic? If biblical scholars cannot see the evil of cancer (an organism that lives only by causing its own death, and that of its host), then we should not be surprised if they do not also respond to the innocent, even Christ-like, suffering of animals.

—Andrew Linzey

  Saturday, January 7th, 2017

Garam Masala

Garam masala (Hindi: गरम मसाला, Punjabi: ਗਰਮ ਮਸਾਲਾ,Urdu: گرم مصالحہ‎, Bengali: গরম মসলা garam (“hot”) and masala (a mixture of spices)) is a blend of ground spices common in India, Pakistan, and other South Asian cuisines. It is used alone or with other seasonings. The word garam refers to “heating the body” in the Ayurvedic sense of the word, as these spices are believed to elevate body temperature in Ayurvedic medicine.

Once you taste the difference that this simple powder makes in your cooking, you will find it worth the investment of cupboard space. As a rule (one that certainly gets broken at times), Garam Masala is only added at the last step of cooking, almost like a fresh herb, because it tends to become bitter if cooked too long.

  Sunday, January 1st, 2017

Isaiah 11

There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
His delight is in the fear of the Lord,
And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes,
Nor decide by the hearing of His ears;
But with righteousness He shall judge the poor,
And decide with equity for the meek of the earth.

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze;
Their young ones shall lie down together;
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole,
And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.

They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea.

  Sunday, January 1st, 2017

Honourable men may honourably disagree about some details of human treatment of the non-human, but vegetarianism is now as necessary a pledge of moral devotion as was the refusal of emperor-worship in the early Church…Those who still eat flesh when they could do otherwise have no claim to be serious moralists.

—Stephen R. L. Clark

  Friday, December 30th, 2016

Thoughts from Dad

9/1/05: The circle symbolizes what God is in fact: perfection—an inadvertent suggestion, perhaps, that God, like two points on a circle, is actually closest when seemingly farthest away.

It you can’t be indispensable, at least strive to be missed.

4/13/06: Yet another instance of God’s mercy: only a few can achieve artistic greatness (like Shakespeare or Beethoven), but all can achieve moral greatness—the most important of all. That’s because the former requires genius, which only a few possess, whereas the latter requires will, which all possess. That’s why, in the words of a writer whose name I’ve forgotten, the only disappointment in life’s not to have become a saint.

3/24/04: Some scoff at the human propensity to ask unanswerable questions. “An exercise in futility!” they sneer. But getting nowhere can be diverting (consider merry-go-rounds) and invigorating (consider treadmills). Well, asking the unanswerable is both diverting and invigorating to the mind. Also the fact that we thus ask not because we choose but because we must suggests that we are meant to do so, in turn suggesting that we ask not in vain, that the triply-locked door to ultimate knowledge on which we persistently pound will eventually open. Exercise in futility? Say, rather, an exercise in utility!

  Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

Healing Our Hearts

The hard part of emotional and compulsive eating is that in trying to avoid big heartbreaks, we break our own hearts every day. We eat more than our bodies want, we binge on foods that make us sick, we carry weight that makes it hard to move around. We tell ourselves mean stories about our thighs, our arms, our bellies. The cost of having the “when I am thin, everything will be fine” fantasy is that we end up trading the heartbreak of being alive for the heartbreak we cause ourselves.

Hearts are made to be resilient. Think about it: Is there one thing that’s happened to you that you haven’t survived? Here you are, right now, reading this article despite all the heartache you’ve had in your life. Something in you is still awake, alive, eager to learn, ready to be moved. And once you know that your heart is resilient, once you accept that part of being here on earth is, as a friend of mine says, living among the brokenhearted, then you can take in the huge streaks of delight, joy, and happiness as well.

—Geneen Roth

  Thursday, December 15th, 2016

Luke 1:78

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.

  Friday, December 9th, 2016

Magnificat of Friendship

My soul flowers in the light of your love, my God
and my spirit sings Alleluia in the reality of your joyful presence,
because you have chosen my kinswoman and me with the
summons of your eyes.

Yes, we are known now and for all time. We are known as women,
Holy is your name.
The tenderness of your hand rests on us as we journey in your way.
Your power in my life has led me into the embrace of loving arms.
You have exposed my lonely pride that I might turn my head to your
nurturing breast.

You have revealed the hollowness of achievements and have opened in
my heart a space filled with simple, loving moments.
My hunger you have satisfied,
my excess you have ignored.

You are my help as I remember your tender love for me,
…for we have touched each other you and I…
and we have made promises…

I remember your tenderness for all that you have begun in me
and in those with whom I walk
and I respond with all that I am becoming
in this hour and in all times to come.

—Ann Johnson

  Thursday, December 8th, 2016

Hail Mary

Full of grace, the Lord is with thee;
blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of death.

  Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

Water Chestnut (Eleocharis dulcis)

The Chinese water chestnut or water chestnut (Eleocharis dulcis) is a grass-like sedge native to Asia (China, Japan, India, Philippines, etc.), Australia, tropical Africa, and various islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. It is grown in many countries for its edible corms.

The water chestnut is not a nut at all, but an aquatic vegetable that grows in marshes, under water, in the mud. It has stem-like, tubular green leaves that grow to about 1.5 m. The water caltrop, which also is referred to by the same name, is unrelated and often confused with the water chestnut.

The small, rounded corms have a crisp, white flesh and may be eaten raw, slightly boiled, or grilled, and often are pickled or tinned. They are a popular ingredient in Chinese dishes. In China, they are most often eaten raw, sometimes sweetened. They also may be ground into a flour form used for making water chestnut cake, which is common as part of dim sum cuisine. They are unusual among vegetables for remaining crisp even after being cooked or canned, because their cell walls are cross-linked and strengthened by certain phenolic compounds, such as oligomers of ferulic acid. This property is shared by other vegetables that remain crisp in this manner, including the tiger nut and lotus root. The corms contain the antibiotic agent puchiin, which is stable to high temperature. Apart from the edible corms, the leaves can be used for cattlefeed, mulch or compost.

The corms are rich in carbohydrates (about 90% by dry weight), especially starch (about 60% by dry weight), and are also a good source of dietary fiber, riboflavin, vitamin B6, potassium, copper, and manganese.

  Monday, December 5th, 2016


The nocebo effect is when a negative expectation of a phenomenon causes it to have a more negative effect than it otherwise would.

  Monday, December 5th, 2016

What is the Hum?

The Hum is a low, faint rumble or murmur that is in some places barely perceptible and in other places easily noticed. I noticed the Hum many years ago, and have long pondered its sources. I do not have a PhD in acoustics, but I’m a mechanical engineer and studied graduate level acoustics in college, and I have conducted sound tests of hydraulic pumps in acoustic chambers with sensitive measuring equipment. This is an important part of engineering; the study and reduction of noise. Pumps, gears, engines, fans, saws…engineers can make them quieter, but there is a limit.

In short, the Hum is the sum of all acoustic energy within earshot, and within earshot can be a surprisingly long distance and include thousands of sources! Each source contributes very little, but all taken together is sufficient to produce a ubiquitous sound without a discernable source direction. It is noise pollution similar to light pollution. A single street light does not cause an orange glow on the clouds, but many thousands together do. To hear the Hum best, lie in bed late at night (or go to the basement) with all windows and doors shut, and all noise sources in the house turned off, wait until the refrigerator/furnace/AC cycles off. Search your hearing at its faintest, way down. You might think, “That’s just the faint din of traffic.” That’s the Hum! The same can be heard way out in the country, seemingly far out enough to escape it. There is something about that frequency range that travels well.

The main contributor is motor traffic, but includes trains, planes, ships, motorcycles, roof fans, thunder, humming electrical wires, wind, crashing waves, helicopters, mowers, blowers, etc. All this noise together is what’s called pink noise; it spans a broad range of frequencies. Inside a building the walls filter out loud masking noises and higher frequencies, but lower frequencies penetrate. When outside the Hum is still in the ears but because of other sounds the Hum is masked, much like odor masking. The stronger sounds mask the weaker. We’ve all had the experience of waiting on a red light and another car pulls up with powerful stereo thumping rap music. The car traps the high notes but radiates the bass notes in a way that you can’t recognize the song but you can hear the noise.

Another example of such a thing: when I camp in a quiet woods thick with mosquitoes, I notice that I can not identify the sound of any particular mosquito; indeed I can not perceive a mosquito a few feet away. But because there are so many of them all around me they I hear a noticeable wing buzz from no particular direction, similar to the cosmic background radiation.

The Hum is often described as the sound of a diesel engine, which I believe is indeed the major contributor. Heavy trucks at freeway speed are sources for more than just engine noise. Consider a large semi pulling a typical 53-foot trailer whose sides and top are made of a thin, stiff board material. These panels are essentially big drum heads, and are excited by the engine vibes, the turbulent air and roadway irregularities. Stand in view of a freeway with an expansion gap in the pavement. Note that when a big rig passes over the gap, the panels sound off like mega woofers. Boom-boom! That is a lot of acoustic energy, and it travels for miles. At any freeway rest stop take note of the noise coming from passing vehicles, it is incredible. While you are standing there, flip through a road atlas of the USA and try to imagine how many thousands of miles of roads we have in this country alone and how many vehicles are on the move at any time. Bridges are rumble sources too, just stand on a bridge during traffic and you can feel it vibrate underfoot.

Have you noticed how loud light piston-powered propeller aircraft are? The noise is mainly from the prop tips, they are moving so fast. A business jet climbing out after take off is as loud as thunder. At any moment there are hundreds of planes in the sky ferrying people around the globe. They plow through the air over 500 mph with their big engines roaring. That they are so high lets their sound carry quite far.

I love the distant rumble of thunder. At any time there are hundreds of thunder storms on earth; the sound of thunder can travel for many miles and especially well across water, which covers ¾ of the earth. Globally there are about 50 lightning strikes per second, which is a lot of acoustic energy. I suspect that distant thunder might be the main source of the Hum in locations far enough from traffic.

The Hum is near the threshold of hearing, and is easily masked. In some places it is so low that a person’s own heart beat will make it seem to throb. That is one element that makes it so mysterious; the Hum is so difficult to examine scientifically and that puts it on the level of subjective perception. We can not do experiments on the Hum, such as eliminating certain sources of noise and then remeasuring.

Having the Hum is the price we pay for living in a mobile, motorized world.

—John Boles