As we prepared for our annual Lessons & Carols service a weekago, a fellow chorister shared this reminder from Allan Sherman, one of my favorite commedians from the past.
Because it's sometimes hard to understand the words, here's a visual aid.
We would now like to salute all of the beautiful singing groups all over the world.
When the Norman Luboff Chorus
Sings a song like this (like this, like this, like this),
Every single note is gorgeous,
But they sometimes miss.
No one's perfect, no one's perfect, no one's perfect, and
That includes Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians, and The Ray Charles Singers who were made famous by their frequent appearances on The Perry Como Show, and The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and The Robert Shaw Chorale.
When the chorus sings behind you,
All they do is hum (hum).
Every hum is like an angel,
Then one hum goes bumm!
Far above the other singers,
In the treble clef,
A soprano sings in B flat,
But the key is F.
No one's perfect, no one's perfect,
We have learned tonight.
So you'll be astounded
When we hit this last note right.
For the record, it's not easy to sing so beautifully discordantly.
Here's an interesting video about toilet paper I just came across (17 minutes @ regular speed, language warning). It begins with the extreme statement that the average American uses 141 rolls of toilet paper a year. You may recognize that as a useless, inflammatory statistic. First of all, I question any statement that tries to give itself credibility by being more precise than justified. To say 141 conveys no more information than "around 140" but looks more scientific because of the extra significant digit. But I'm quibbling. The real issue is that toilet paper rolls come in a variety of sizes, so that number could easily be off by a factor of three, even if you only count household use; office and public bathrooms often use industrial-sized rolls. So all this number really means is that Americans use a lot of toilet paper.
This makes me suspect the other numbers in the video as well. So why am I posting it? Well, the history of toilet paper, and toilet paper alternatives, is interesting. Though come to think of it, I quarrel with some of that, too. The idea that excrement is "gross" was not the invention of clever marketers, as any reader of the Old Testament will attest.
Still, it got me rethinking the idea of a bidet, one of the ones that attaches right to your existing toilet. Actually, I've been envying the Japanese their fancy toilets since we visited there in 2006, but that's both more money and more work than I'm in the mood for. But I always thought of a bidet as a luxury item for occasional use; it never occurred to me that it could replace toilet paper. (Think how handy that would have been in 2020.) And I'd never heard of "bidet towels," which make a lot of sense. I mean, you don't save toilet paper if you use it to dry off afterwards. Then again, Japanese toilets do the drying for you, too: wash, flush, and blow dry.
This isn't the post I had planned for today, but it seems timely.
Lift Up Your Hearts! is an eclectic blog, and I don't apologize for that. With death and disaster (largely self-inflicted, I fear) threatening on every side, sometimes I feel I should do more screaming from the rooftops. I try to seek and speak the truth and proclaim what I learn, with sources if I can, so that others may be aware and make up their own minds about important things.
Maybe it is trivial in such a situation to write about genealogy, or making beautyberry syrup, or the antics of our grandchildren, or random thoughts. But then again, these are the "sensible and human things" and need to be remembered.
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Earlier this week I both took a Covid test and wore a face mask for the first time in a long time. I hadn't been planning to do either.
I really didn't think I had Covid. I had a wicked sore throat, and barely any voice, so I wasn't going to church anyway, but I finally decided to take the test. If it turned out negative, Porter could reassure choir members that I hadn't exposed him—at least not to that—and if it were positive, I would have the reassurance that I was being given an immunization better than any vaccine could.
Taking a Covid test is a lot less stressful if you really don't care about the result.
As I had expected, it was negative.
For some reason, that knowledge didn't help either my throat or my voice. Covid-19 must not be the only virus game in town. At least I had the "it's not Covid" reply at the ready should anyone ask.
The face mask? That was because I had to go to the grocery store. I know masks are no longer considered particularly useful at stopping the spread of viruses, but it was completely effective for what I asked of it: encouraging other people to keep their distance, and shielding me from their dirty looks should I be afflicted by a sneeze or a cough.
The only really scary part of the experience was how normal the mask felt after the first few minutes.
EReaderIQ is my good friend, and it ought to be Amazon's, given how much of my business they've sent the company's way. I partially understand that Amazon might be annoyed that I'm buying these Kindle books because eReaderIQ informed me that they were on special sale, but the reality is that I've spent a whole lot more money on amazon.com than I would have otherwise, even if most of my purchases have been in the $1 to $4 range.
One of the things I've been having fun with is accumulating books that I particularly enjoyed in my childhood. There are those I can't remember well enough to find again, even though I know I found them special at the time. And there are those that aren't available as e-books, or inexpensive second-hand books. But I've been finding enough books to keep enriching someone's coffers, though quite often the authors themselves are dead.
One such author is Walter Farley, with his Black Stallion series. A friend and neighbor of mine had her own pony, and induced me to vary my science fiction reading with some horse stories. This was one series I fell in love with, and I've so far picked up three of the first four for $3 each.
Sometimes rereading old favorites reminds me of why I loved them; sometimes the pleasure is marred by things I didn't notice sixty years ago. Rereading the Black Stallion books has done both.
As a child, I loved adventure stories with young people as the heroes. I still do. The Rick Brant books and Robert Heinlein's "juveniles" were another two series that I loved. (Heinlein's adult books were a mixed bag, some good, some awful—but I loved the ones with youthful protagonists.) Looking back, I'm a little surprised it didn't bother me that it was mostly boys who had all the fun in these stories; females tended to be overly-protective mothers or weak, silly girls. But it didn't bother me; I strongly identified with the boys and ignored the girls. (And no, that doesn't mean I had any gender confusion in real life, any more than I thought I lived on Mars or could leap tall buildings in a single bound.)
On rereading the Black Stallion books, I can see clearly both gender and cultural stereotypes that were common during the 1940's, which is when the first five books in the series were written. But I don't find it objectionable; it all seems pretty reasonable for the time. If I read a book set in a particular time and place, I want it to reflect the culture and values of that location. There is little more annoying in a book than finding 21st century American values in the mouths of characters who are supposedly from a very different time and culture.
The Black Stallion Returns, for example, is primarily set in Arabia, and perhaps someone who really knows the culture of that time would find inaccuracies, but to my knowledge it is close enough, perhaps even with educational value. Certainly the culture and people, while acknowledged as different, are treated with respect.
And the culture back home? That's accurate, too. There really was a time in this country when children grew up with loving, supportive parents, where men and women married "till death us do part," and where children—boy children, at least—were given a lot more opportunities for adventure than they are now. Even if not quite to the extent that the characters in these adventure stories experience. That last part is where "suspension of disbelief" is required, but not the setting. That's the world I grew up in. Even if I hadn't, I think I'd rather read books like these than the depressing books that are marketed as "realistic fiction" today.
I'm curious to see how many of the Black Stallion books make it to the "can't pass this up" price range. I know I missed many of them as a child, being limited by a very small village library. Even the nearest "big library" wasn't all that large, and we didn't get there very often. There was no Inter-Library Loan, and buying books was rarely within the budget. I'm hoping I may have the opportunity to read some new-to-me stories.
Culturally, it may have been a more satisfactory time when I was young, but having such access to books as we have now is to me almost immeasurable wealth.
Yesterday we were driving home from a Saturday outing of museum + Cheesecake Factory, when we saw a small group of people waiting to cross the street near a local park. Travelling together, wearing clothing that identified them as a group, they reminded me of schoolchildren on a field trip, or perhaps tourists being led around a foreign city. The only weird thing was that more people than the leader were carrying banners—and wait! Were those swastikas on the flags?
As far as I could tell from the news reports this morning, the group did nothing more sinister than walk through the park, shouting "We are everywhere" and throwing out a few "Heil Hitler"-style salutes. There was enough angst and anger from politicians that I'm certain anything nastier would have been all over the news.
What would we have done if we had been walking through the park, as we sometimes do? Probably gawked a bit, then ignored them. (I'm "ignoring them" here as best I can while still telling the story, in that I'm not posting any photos or videos.) I know a priest—"a better man than I am"—who would probably have brought them cold drinks and told them about Jesus. That's how he treated the people from Westboro Baptist the time they picketed his church.
All I know is that there are a lot of people in this world with crazy ideas, but if they're American citizens, they have the same rights as I do. (And if they're not, they still have human rights.)
If we don't believe in freedom of speech and the right of peaceable assembly for those whose ideas we hate, we don't believe in them at all.
I began this blog almost 20 years ago, a fact that astounds me. In those years I have written some 3200 posts. Where have those 20 years gone? Have I accomplished anything good through those posts?
Perhaps it's time to revisit what I wrote about why I began to publish my thoughts.
Lift Up Your Hearts! can most charitably be called "eclectic." Some blogs are political, some personal journals, some accumulate interesting articles and news stories, some keep far-flung families in contact, some are formed around a specific cause or issue. I aim to be jack-of-all-trades, and if that means being master of none, I see nothing wrong with that. It depends on your audience. Five-star restaurants require highly-trained and gifted chefs, but I'd take my mother's home cooking and the family dinner table any day.
Fine. But why? Why do I put so much time and effort into blogging? What do I hope to accomplish?
I post first of all because I can't stop my mind from writing, and it's helpful to give concrete expression to the phrases, paragraphs, and essays that are constantly churning within my brain. The blog is a particularly satisfactory way of getting my thoughts into print: the primary audience may be small, but they're loyal readers, and occasionally people stop by from all over the world and find something useful. I can write what I want, when I want, with no pesky editors, stockholders or advertisers to interfere.
Because I write primarily for family members and friends who actually enjoy hearing about the details of our lives, there are a number of posts that are personal and of no interest to the general public, whoever that may be. I make no apology. You don't like it? Don't read it. This is not high school English class. There will be no homework grade and no final exam.
Then there are the random posts of odd bits of news, posts from other blogs, and anything else good or ill that has struck me as worth sharing. There's a lot of data out there, with a very poor signal-to-noise ratio. If I find something good, important, or thought-provoking, I want to increase its visibility.
It is obvious to me that most of the best ideas I've had, and the good decisions I've made, especially in the areas of childrearing and education, came because someone else was willing to share them. I take some credit for implementing and expanding ideas, and for having a few of my own, but I'm keenly aware that most of what I've done right I owe to someone's book, someone's conversation, someone's example. What's more, there have been many, many ideas about which I've thought, "Why didn't I know this years ago, before it was too late? Why didn't someone tell me?" For this reason I have not hesitated to pass on good ideas when I think the recipient might be receptive, or at least interested. I love to give books that I've found helpful, though I almost always add the caveat that I don't necessarily approve of everything the author has to say. Sometimes there's much I don't like, but always there's at least something I find so valuable I want to share it. Do I expect everyone to appreciate what I find valuable? Of course not. Am I offended if they ignore what I find important? No. Do I direct certain books or articles at specific people because I think they "need" them? Believe it or not, I don't. I share what I find good, useful, enlightening, or helpful. I want to make information available, in hopes that fewer people will look back and say, "I wish someone had told me about that before."
Blogging provides many more opportunities than giving away a few books, and that's another reason I write. This is the one area where I think of a wider audience; someone, somewhere out there may care about what I have learned about xylitol, or epidurals, or math curricula. Again, I don't apologize for writing what some may not find interesting; if you don't like it, skip it. But if you find something valuable in it, and especially if you have something to add to the discussion, I greatly appreciate comments. Let them, however be polite. While I don't hesitate to publish comments I disagree with, I also don't hesitate to delete comments I deem offensive; I am the sole judge of "polite" for this blog.
One thing all my posts have in common is commentary. You get my opinion on politics, education, and health; on books and movies; on bike trails and genealogy. More often you get my opinion-in-progress, as writing is as much my way of forming thoughts as of expressing them. What you won't get is something directed as a weapon against you—certain public persons excepted, although even then I prefer to challenge ideas, not people. I write from my own accumulated knowledge and experience; whether you agree or disagree, your own experiences are more than welcome. My best work still comes from those who are willing to share.
Disclaimer: I'm a grandmother, not a doctor, lawyer, certified teacher, or other expert. I offer my experiences and opinions, not professional advice. Check with your own advisors, do your own research, and use your own common sense.
The blog never did become the discussion forum I had envisioned, but I'm not sorry about that. I had hoped to recreate on a larger scale the wonderful intellectual discussions I had enjoyed—especially when we lived near the University of Rochester—with people who cared about some of the same things I care about, whether or not we agreed about them, supporting each other in areas of agreement, learning from each other in areas where we differed. And indeed I have experienced some of that here, but the political and social climate of today plus the anonymity of the Internet is not conducive to the kind of helpful discussions I was hoping for.
By now you must be wondering if this is a swan song, and I'm about to announce the end of my blog. Not at all. I still need to write. The phrases and paragraphs continue to well up and swirl around in my brain whenever I am awake—and probably in my sleep as well. What's more, I need to write to an audience: For years I kept a journal, and now find it an invaluable source of information, but as an outlet it was less than satisfying to be talking to myself. I've tried publishing newsletters for family and friends, and while I have certainly enjoyed creating them, they were more for news than for thoughts. The blog has been perfect as a thinking aid.
I am not quitting this valuable format. I have, sometimes, considered a different platform, perhaps one a little more private (e.g. subscription-based), but haven't moved in that direction yet. I just keep going along as things are.
However, I have other writing projects that are crying out for more of my time. They don't serve the same purposes, but their own purposes are important, and they need my attention. Time is limited; just so is my "writing energy" limited. To focus on these other projects, I need to curtail some of my work here. Which is difficult, because writing here is one of the great joys of my life.
I'm not stopping. I don't even want to blog less frequently, if I can help it. There's more data than ever out there, with an even worse signal-to-noise ratio. If I find something good, important, or thought-provoking, I still want to increase its visibility. As a rule, I'd rather not just have someone's bare recommendation of a book, movie, podcast, video, or article, but want to know more about why the person recommends it. But I'm planning to violate my own rule, and do a lot more of pointing my readers to something I've found valuable, with maybe some commentary but a lot less, with fewer quotations and fine-tuning, which take a lot of time. After twenty years, my regular readers know enough about me to either trust, or not trust, my recommendations. What's more, I trust my readers to judge what's valuable to them at this point in their lives, and am content just to put the information out there.
For good or for ill, commentary will only be reduced, not gone. I still have plenty to say and opinions to flesh out here. For now, I'll just see how this experiment goes, and if it spurs progress on other fronts.
My heartfelt gratitude to all who have found my writing useful enough to hang in there for so long!
This Florida girl may have (re)learned that the Connecticut sun isn't as wimpy as it first appears. After some days when the temperatures often made it desirable to sit in the shade, and life was busy enough to keep me spending time both indoors and out, suddently we had an absolutely perfect Connecticut summer day: sunny and breezy with lower humidity and temperatures in the 70's. We also had lots of great company that tempted me to spend most of the day conversing on the sunny deck.
The next day there was a bit of pink on the tops of my knees and feet, and—perhaps with a little imagination—my cheeks.
Our daughter's high school friend—who happens to be our dermatologist—wouldn't approve, but I'm pretty sure I made a week's worth of vitamin D that day. :)
Mid-July is a good time to pay my annual homage to Saint Willis Carrier. He's not a Catholic saint, nor an Anglican saint, nor a saint in any of those faiths that I know of which are in the business of canonizing folks. But I'll bet they all revere him, and he's most certainly a Southern saint.
If you, too, appreciate Carrier's invention, not to mention his entrepreneurial traits of knowledge, skill, grit, determination, inventiveness, connection, and being in the right place at the right time, you may enjoy Eric Schultz' article about him, excerpted from his book, Innovation on Tap: Stories of Entrepreneurship from The Cotton Gin to Broadway's "Hamilton."
I liked Bed, Bath and Beyond. The prices were usually a little higher than elsewhere, but there was always a good coupon available that more than made up for it. Hands down my favorite part of their service was the warranty policy that gave me a brand-new toaster oven every time mine wore out, which happened at least twice over the years. There was no nonsense of a one- or two-year warranty, or even five. If it failed, they cheerfullly handed over a brand-new replacement. You can bet I preferred to buy my small appliances there, even though I never actually had occasion to replace any but the toaster ovens.
All that to say, I'm really sorry to see Bed, Bath and Beyond go.
You wouldn't believe from the size of my stack of BB&B coupons that I actually have thrown many away. But the local stores always honored them even if they were many years past their printed expiration date, so it seemed prudent to have a good stack on hand.
Now I guess I can finally recycle them all—a small bright spot in the gloom.
The 20th anniversary DarkHorse Podcast is full of apparently random interesting topics. If you have the time for the whole hour and 40 minute show, you can skip to about minute 11:30 to get past the ads. There is discussion of sea star wasting disease, then a very long section on telomeres and how both the New York Times (no surprise) and the New England Journal of Medicine (more concerning) recently managed to ignore critical information that was known 20 years ago.
I enjoyed those parts, but if you just start at 1:13:00 you'll get 26 minutes of really good stuff, I think. From finding truth in the words of people with whom you have serious disagreements, to the complex problem of moving forward without losing the good of what you've left behind, to why dishwashers that use less water might poison the environment by forcing the use of more and stronger detergents.
My favorite part, however, and the part I think some of our family members will appreciate, is the discussion of Elimination Communication at about 1:28:10, and the idea of the new mother's "babymoon" period just before that. (They don't use either of those terms, however.) Not that our famly will find anything new there—and it's been known for years among the homeschool/home birth/breastfeeding/raw milk/organic food/homesteading/etc. crowd. What's so interesting to me is that it shows up in this podcast, totally unexpectedly. In their naïveté about the subject, Bret and Heather get some things wrong (as their listeners were quick to point out) but they get a lot right, too, and at least they are aware of it, which most people are not.
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It was a beautiful launch last night, just after sunset. I only recorded a small part, first because I wanted to enjoy it unhindered, and second because the flight path made it appear to turn downward, thus taking it behind the trees. Porter, using a monocular, could see the engine array instead of just a bright light.
We miss far more launches than I document. When we remember, we set an alarm, because it's too easy to be distracted, even if we're home to step out the front door and watch. The great news is that these days we don't have to wait several months for another chance!
That will be our opening hymn this morning, and it's one of my favorites.
Happy Easter to all!
Here's another treat for you from Heather Heying's substack, Natural Selections: Stark and Exposed: It's the Modern Way. I'll include a small excerpt, but first, I'll quote a passage from Chapter 8 of C. S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength, the third book of his Space Trilogy, because that is what immediately came to mind when I was reading her essay.
The Italian was in good spirits and talkative. He had just given orders for the cutting down of some fine beech trees in the grounds.
“Why have you done that, Professor?” said a Mr. Winter who sat opposite. “I shouldn’t have thought they did much harm at that distance from the house. I’m rather fond of trees myself.”
“Oh, yes, yes,” replied Filostrato. “The pretty trees, the garden trees. But not the savages. I put the rose in my garden, but not the brier. The forest tree is a weed. But I tell you I have seen the civilized tree in Persia. It was a French attaché who had it because he was in a place where trees do not grow. It was made of metal. A poor, crude thing. But how if it were perfected? Light, made of aluminum. So natural, it would even deceive.”
“It would hardly be the same as a real tree,” said Winter.
“But consider the advantages! You get tired of him in one place: two workmen carry him somewhere else: wherever you please. It never dies. No leaves to fall, no twigs, no birds building nests, no muck and mess.”
“I suppose one or two, as curiosities, might be rather amusing.”
“Why one or two? At present, I allow, we must have forests, for the atmosphere. Presently we find a chemical substitute. And then, why any natural trees? I foresee nothing but the art tree all over the earth. In fact, we clean the planet.”
“Do you mean,” put in a man called Gould, “that we are to have no vegetation at all?”
“Exactly. You shave your face: even, in the English fashion, you shave him every day. One day we shave the planet.”
“I wonder what the birds will make of it?”
“I would not have any birds either. On the art tree I would have the art birds all singing when you press a switch inside the house. When you are tired of the singing you switch them off. Consider again the improvement. No feathers dropped about, no nests, no eggs, no dirt.”
“It sounds,” said Mark, “like abolishing pretty well all organic life.”
“And why not? It is simple hygiene. Listen, my friends. If you pick up some rotten thing and find this organic life crawling over it, do you not say, ‘Oh, the horrid thing. It is alive,’ and then drop it?”
“Go on,” said Winter.
“And you, especially you English, are you not hostile to any organic life except your own on your own body? Rather than permit it you have invented the daily bath.”
“And what do you call dirty dirt? Is it not precisely the organic? Minerals are clean dirt. But the real filth is what comes from organisms—sweat, spittles, excretions. Is not your whole idea of purity one huge example? The impure and the organic are interchangeable conceptions.”
“What are you driving at, Professor?” said Gould. “After all we are organisms ourselves.”
“I grant it. That is the point. In us organic life has produced Mind. It has done its work. After that we want no more of it. We do not want the world any longer furred over with organic life, like what you call the blue mold—all sprouting and budding and breeding and decaying. We must get rid of it. By little and little, of course. Slowly we learn how.
That Hideous Strength was written in 1945, but this doesn't sound nearly as ridiculous as it did when I first read it in college. "By little and little" we have come closer to this attitude than I could ever have believed.
From Dr. Heying's essay I will leave out the depressing part that brought Lewis's book to mind—but I urge you to read it for yourself. Instead, I'll quote the more uplifting end of the story.
Go outside barefoot. Stand there, toes moving in the bare earth, or grass, or moss, or sand. Touch the Earth with your bare skin. Stand on one foot for a while. Then the other. Jump. Stand with your arms wide and gaze upwards at the sun. Welcome it. Do not cover your skin and keep the sun’s rays at bay.
Learn to craft and to make and to grow and to build. Work in clay or wood or metal, in ink or wool or seeds. Build dry stacked stone walls. Mold forms with your hands and your tools. Add color to walls, to fabric, to food. Throw. Weave. Carve. Cure. Ferment. Fire. Braze. Weld. Create that which is both functional and beautiful.
Get cold every day. Go outside under-dressed or open your windows wide for a spell even sometimes in Winter or take a cold shower or immerse yourself in cold, cold water. You will be shocked. And you will be awake. And you will know that you are alive.
Also enjoy being warm. Be grateful for it. Come inside and find a cozy corner. Wrap yourself in a soft woolen blanket. Have a familiar by your side. Run your hands through his fur. Drink warm elixir from a handmade mug. Be present. Consider the past. Build the future.
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As part of my recent long-term efforts to "get my affairs in order," I ran into this passage from one of my old journals.
Sunday, July 7, 1985
Today we went to the Episcopal church I'd wanted to try. I guess I'm just not an Episcopalian at heart. I love the way they do Communion (at the altar rail, common cup, with wine, and frequently). But otherwise it was too formal and "high church," yet without the splendor and dignity I remember from St. Paul's. Besides, the sermon was addressed to rich businessmen, which fit in with all the expensive cars in the parking lot.
Although I did not mention the name of the church, I'm certain it was the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Longwood, where, as it happens, we have been happily worshipping for the past 11 years.
The St. Paul's Church referred to is not the St. Paul's Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Winter Park, which we attended in the 1990's, nor the Episcopal church of the same name we so joyfully visited when we went to Chicago, but the St. Paul's Episcopal Church of Rochester, New York, where we fell in love with worship in the 1970's. St. Peter may be a very popular figure, but St. Paul certainly has his admirers as well.
Anyway, despite what I wrote in my journal, from the 90's onward I've come more and more to appreciate high-church services, with their emphasis on sacrament, worship, liturgy, Scripture, prayer, constancy, poetry, and beauty. The formality that used to make me uncomfortable I now recognize as the freedom of worship that comes from knowing the steps of a lovely dance, and I thrive in it. Not to mention that I can walk into a Catholic or Angican church in a foreign country and feel at home, because I know what's happening, even if I don't know the language.
My happiest worshipping years were at the St. Paul's in Rochester, where I first discovered liturgical worship (and my two favorite hymns, St. Patrick's Breastplate and Hail Thee, Festival Day!); the St. Paul's in Winter Park, when it was newly-formed and experimenting with liturgical worship (back in the days before the church, in my view, lost its way); and the all-too-few years when our present church enjoyed a more Anglo-Catholic approach to worship (read: more intricate and beautiful dance steps).
The individual steps toward change may be barely noticeable, but looking back 40 years can make you realize how far you've come.