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!

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, May 1, 2023 at 10:09 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 210 times | Comments (0)
Category Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

That will be our opening hymn this morning, and it's one of my favorites.

Happy Easter to all!

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, April 9, 2023 at 7:49 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 232 times | Comments (0)
Category Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Music: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Inspiration: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

Here's another treat for you from Heather Heying's substack, Natural SelectionsStark 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.”

“That’s true.”

“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.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 21, 2023 at 4:02 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 290 times | Comments (0)
Category Health: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Children & Family Issues: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Conservationist Living: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

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.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, March 19, 2023 at 6:44 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 298 times | Comments (0)
Category Education: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Random Musings: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

The problem with mirrors:  a 13-minute discussion.  New to me, and profound.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, February 27, 2023 at 4:28 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 281 times | Comments (0)
Category Children & Family Issues: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Random Musings: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Social Media: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

I wrote recently about my pleasant encounter with Shutterfly customer service. That has not changed.

But here's something I'm not too happy about: their new Terms of Service.

I hate reading terms of service, privacy policies, and those scary forms the doctor makes you sign before surgery. I usually pass my eyes over them, but when I sign that I've "read and understood" them, well, let's just say there's more than a little wishful thinking involved. (Especially since parts of the documents are often in a foreign language.) But what can you do? If you don't sign, you don't get your software, or your life-saving operation.

However, ever since PayPal decided that their terms of service should give them the right to steal money from the account of anyone who says something of which they disapprove, I've been more than a little skeptical about what might be hidden in these documents.

Perusing Shutterfly's new Terms, I found the following:

While using any of our Sites and Apps, you agree not to:

  • Upload photographs of people who have not given permission for their photographs to be uploaded to a share site.

Think about it. You want to make a photo book or calendar or collage of your vacation photos? What kind of a story will you be able to tell using just photos of unadorned scenery and close family members? I don't know about you, but nearly everywhere I go total strangers get into most of my tourist photos.

No one, you say, is going to go after you because you printed a collage of your trip to Paris. Least of all Shutterfly, which depends on such photos to stay in business. And that's probably true, for the most part. But the language allows for unreasonable interpretations and actions, and my trust that common sense will prevail is far from robust these days. When PayPal can willy-nilly take money out of your own account, when the Canadian government can on a whim freeze its citizens' bank funds, and when people are thrown in jail for nothing more serious than taking pictures from outside the U. S. Capitol building on January 6, 2021, we have to consider not only what people are likely to do based on these documents we sign, but what they are enabled to do.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, January 21, 2023 at 4:01 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 271 times | Comments (0)
Category Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

I didn't expect to like this Wall Street Journal article about the board game, Risk. Unlike nearly all the rest of my extended family, I am not a fan of most board games, especially if they involve intricate strategy and take a long time to complete. It's even worse if I'm playing with people who care whether they win or lose. If I ever played Risk, it wasn't more than once.

But I enjoyed the article, and I understood most of it because of having been surrounded by so many people who love to play the game. The author makes a good case that playing the game taught many of us "everything we know about geography and politics."

A certain kind of brainy kid will reach adulthood with a few general rules for foreign policy: Don’t mass your troops in Asia, stay out of New Guinea, never base an empire in Ukraine. It is the wisdom of Metternich condensed to a few phrases and taught by the game Risk.

The game could be played with up to six players, each representing their own would-be empire, and could last hours. The competition could turn ugly, stressing friendships, but we all came away with the same few lessons. ... In the end, no matter who you call an ally, there can only be one winner, meaning that every partnership is one of convenience. If you are not betraying someone, you are being betrayed. Also: No matter what the numbers suggest, you never know what will happen when the dice are rolled. ... Regardless of technological advances, America will always be protected by its oceans. It is a hard place to invade. What they say about avoiding a land war in Asia is true. It is too big and desolate to control. Ukraine is a riddle ... stupid to invade and tough to subdue because it can be attacked from so many directions, making it seem, to the player of Risk, like nothing but border.

Here's my favorite:

The best players ask themselves what they really want, which means seeing beyond the board. I learned this from my father in the course of an epic game that started on a Friday night and was still going when dawn broke on Saturday. His troops surrounded the last of my armies, crowded in Ukraine. I begged for a reprieve.

“What can I give you?” I asked.
He looked at the board, then at me, then said, “Your Snickers bar.”
“My Snickers bar? But that’s not part of the game.”
“Lesson one,” he said, reaching for the dice. “Everything is part of the game.”

And finally, one amazing side note. The man who invented Risk, French filmmaker Albert Lamorisse, also created the award-winning short film, The Red Balloon.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, January 18, 2023 at 6:48 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 304 times | Comments (0)
Category Education: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Politics: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Children & Family Issues: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Just for Fun: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

I like Shutterfly, for making books, greeting cards, and other photo-themed gifts. My experience with them hasn't been perfect, but they have a good track record, both in general and in customer service when things go wrong. Recently I had a good, and somewhat amusing, experience with the latter.

On November 27, I placed an order for a set of greeting cards. It was shipped the next day. with an expected delivery date of December 5.

My experience has generally been that Shutterfly items arrive earlier than the expected delivery. But not this time.

I had ordered several sets of cards, and the ones that were to be Christmas gifts arrived in plenty of time. This order was for my own use, and there was no hurry, so I did not pay much attention to it. But eventually I realized that December 5 had come and gone with no sign of my order.

So I checked out its tracking, and discovered that it had been travelling via UPS, in partnership with the USPS, and had arrived in Orlando November 29. By 1 p.m. of that day, it was "enroute to USPS."

And there it remained.

I tried to trace it via UPS, but they said it was no longer their problem, since as far as they were concerned, the USPS had it. But no one could give me a USPS tracking number, so that was a dead end. I didn't worry; as I said, it wasn't a Christmas gift, and I could wait for it to make its slow way through the busy holiday traffic.

By December 23, however, I decided that my package was hopelessly lost, and contacted Shutterfly. The Customer Service rep was great, and immediately sent me a replacement order, high priority. It wouldn't arrive till after Christmas, but I was fine with that.

Sure enough, on December 29, exactly one month after the original order had arrived in Orlando, I held in my hand the familiar, bright orange Shutterfly package. The cards looked great, and I was happy.

Imaging my surprise, however, when a couple of hours later the doorbell rang, and I was handed another bright orange Shutterfly package, identical except for the shipping label. Inside were the same lovely cards!

Yes, on the same day that the replacement order arrived, so did the original order! Who knows where it was hiding all that time? As far as Shutterfly's tracking is concerned, it's still "on the way." But someone in the system found it, kicked it loose, and "neither snow, nor rain, nor gloom of night" came through once again.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, January 9, 2023 at 1:16 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 287 times | Comments (0)
Category Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

It's that time again: Here's my annual compilation of books read during the past year.

  • Total books: 83
  • Fiction: 65 (78.3%)
  • Non-fiction: 16 (19.3%)
  • Other: 2 (2.4%)
  • Months with most books: February (27)
  • Month with fewest books: A tie between April and October (2 each)
  • Most frequent authors: Brandon Sanderson (24), Randall Garrett (23), Brian Jacques (9). As with last year, Randall Garrett is an anomaly; he makes such a strong showing because he was the subject of a particular focus and—thanks to the way I've accounted for them—his books are generally quite short. Actually, each of the runaway leaders was part of a special focus.  Both Jacques (with his Redwall series) and Sanderson (with his seemingly infinite collection) combine very interesting stories with books that my grandchildren are currently reading, which makes them especially attractive.  These two authors made up 40% of this year's total reading.  That's by number of books; if you count pages, Sanderson is immeasurably ahead.  (That's "immeasurably" as in "I am not going to bother to do the calculations.")

Here's the list, grouped by title; links are to reviews. The different colors in the titles only reflect whether or not you've followed a hyperlink. The ratings (★) and warnings (☢) are on a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest/mildest. Warnings, like the ratings,  are highly subjective and reflect context, perceived intended audience, and my own biases. Nor are they completely consistent. They may be for sexual content, language, violence, worldview, or anything else that I find objectionable. Your mileage may vary.  Ratings in red indicate books I found particularly recommendable this year.

Title Author Category Rating/Warning Notes
...After a Few Words Randall Garrett fiction ★★★  
Anchorite Randall Garrett fiction ★★★  
The Asses of Balaam Randall Garrett fiction ★★★  
Belly Laugh Randall Garrett fiction ★ ☢  
The Benedict Option Rod Dreher non-fiction ★★★★  
The Bible: Apocrypha Revised Standard Version non-fiction ★★★★  
The Bible: New Testament Revised Standard Version non-fiction ★★★★★  
The Bible: New Testament King James Version non-fiction ★★★★★  
The Bible: Psalter King James Version non-fiction ★★★★★  
The Bible: Tanakh Old Testament, Jewish version non-fiction ★★★★★  
The Black Stallion Walter Farley fiction ★★★★★  
The Black Star of Kingston S. D. Smith fiction ★★★★★  
The Blue Book of Tales J. A. Sommer fiction ★★★★  
Dead Giveaway Randall Garrett fiction ★★  
The Destroyers Randall Garrett fiction ★★★  
Elantris 1 Brandon Sanderson fiction ★★★★★ On Sanderson in general: Excellent writing combined with wanting to read what my grandchildren like makes an irresistible combination. Elantris is one of his early books.
Elantris 1.2: The Emperor's Soul Brandon Sanderson fiction ★★★★★  
Elantris 1.3: The Hope of Elantris Brandon Sanderson fiction ★★★★  
Everything Sad is Untrue Daniel Nayeri non-fiction ★★★★ It's classed as fiction, and the style is fiction, but except for a little literary tweaking, it's non-fiction.
Fifty Per Cent Prophet Randall Garrett fiction ★★  
Frazz: Cogito, Ergo Caulfield Jef Mallett other ★★★ Short Kindle book with commentary, not nearly as good as the regular Frazz books.
Hanging by a Thread Randall Garrett fiction ★★★  
Heist Job on Thizar Randall Garrett fiction ★★  
Here Shall I Die Ashore Caleb Johnson non-fiction ★★★★★ Excellent history of Porter's ancestor Stephen Hopkins (who turns up in Colonial Jamestown, the Mayflower, and Shakespeare's The Tempest)
A Hunter-Gatherer's Guide to the 21st Century Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein non-fiction ★★★★ 90% fascinating, 10% weird, 5% dangerous
I Am Not a Serial Killer Dan Wells fiction ★★ Well-written, but disturbing and definitely does not belong on the YA shelves where I found it.
I Am Not a Serial Killer Dan Wells fiction ★★ Yes, I read it twice for purposes of discussion.
In Case of Fire Randall Garrett fiction ★★  
Inheritance Sharon Moalem non-fiction ★★★  
Instant of Decision Randall Garrett fiction ★★  
Librarians 1: Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians Brandon Sanderson fiction ★★★★  
The Little Way of Ruthie Leming Rod Dreher non-fiction ★★★★  
Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents Rod Dreher non-fiction ★★★★ Important warnings from those who have escaped totalitarian societies.
The Man in the Queue Josephine Tey fiction ★★★★★  
The Man Who Hated Mars Randall Garrett fiction ★★  
The Measure of a Man Randall Garrett fiction ★★★  
Mistborn 1: The Final Empire Brandon Sanderson fiction ★★★★ This year I re-read the first Mistborn trilogy, and found it to make much more sense on the second reading, so I raised its rating.
Mistborn 2: The Well of Ascension Brandon Sanderson fiction ★★★★  
Mistborn 3: The Hero of Ages Brandon Sanderson fiction ★★★★  
Mistborn 3.3: The Eleventh Metal Brandon Sanderson fiction ★★★  
Mistborn 3.7: Secret History Brandon Sanderson fiction ★★★  
Mistborn 3.7: Secret History Brandon Sanderson fiction ★★★★  
Mistborn 3.7: Secret History Brandon Sanderson fiction ★★★★ Yes, I read it three times this year, as I was figuring out the Mistborn world.
Mistborn 4: The Alloy of Law Brandon Sanderson fiction ★★★★★  
Mistborn 4.5: Allomancer Jak and the Pits of Eltania, Episodes Twenty-Eight Through Thirty Brandon Sanderson fiction ★★★  
Mistborn 5: Shadows of Self Brandon Sanderson fiction ★★★★  
Mistborn 6: The Bands of Mourning Brandon Sanderson fiction ★★★★  
New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional Paul David Tripp other ★★ I know people who will find this exactly to their taste, but I’m not a fan of devotionals, and this was generally too depressing for my current needs.
Or Your Money Back Randall Garrett fiction ★★★  
Prince Lander and the Dragon War S. D. Smith fiction ★★★★★  
Psichopath Randall Garrett fiction ★★  
The Real Anthony Fauci Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. non-fiction ★★★★★ Whatever your politics, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to read this book.
Reckoners 1: Steelheart Brandon Sanderson fiction ★★★★  
Reckoners 1.5: Mitosis Brandon Sanderson fiction ★★★★  
Reckoners 2: Firefight Brandon Sanderson fiction ★★★★  
Reckoners 3: Calamity Brandon Sanderson fiction ★★★  
Redwall 1: Redwall Brian Jacques fiction ★★★★★ Technically a “juvenile” series, this one, like the Green Ember books, ought to be read by anyone who needs encouragement, i.e. everyone.
Redwall 2: Mossflower Brian Jacques fiction ★★★★★  
Redwall 3: Mattimeo Brian Jacques fiction ★★★★  
Redwall 4: Mariel of Redwall Brian Jacques fiction ★★★★  
Redwall 5: Salamandastron Brian Jacques fiction ★★★★  
Redwall 6: Martin the Warrior Brian Jacques fiction ★★★  
Redwall 7: The Bellmaker Brian Jacques fiction ★★★★★  
Redwall 8: Outcast of Redwall Brian Jacques fiction ★★★★★  
The Redwall Cookbook Brian Jacques non-fiction ★★★  
The Secrets of Stonebridge Castle Blair Bancroft fiction ★★★ Blair Bancroft’s books have this in common with Brandon Sanderson’s: The excellence of the writing keeps me coming back, even though there are parts I dislike.
Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell Brandon Sanderson fiction ★★★  
Sixth of the Dusk Brandon Sanderson fiction ★★★  
Stormlight 2.5: Edgedancer Brandon Sanderson fiction ★★★★★  
Stormlight 3: Oathbringer Brandon Sanderson fiction ★★★★★  
Suite Mentale Randall Garrett fiction ★★  
Thin Edge Randall Garrett fiction ★★  
Time Fuze Randall Garrett fiction ★★★  
The Unnecessary Man Randall Garrett fiction ★★  
Unoffendable Brant Hansen non-fiction ★★★  
Viewpoint Randall Garrett fiction ★★★  
What the Left Hand Was Doing Randall Garrett fiction ★★  
White Sand (prose excerpt) Brandon Sanderson fiction ★★★ White Sand is a three-volume graphic novel. What I read is the prose story on which it was based. Somewhat interesting, but not enough to induce me to read a graphic novel.
With No Strings Attached Randall Garrett fiction ★★★  
A World by the Tale Randall Garrett fiction ★★★  
A World Without Email Cal Newport non-fiction ★★★★ As with most of Newport's books, this is too business-oriented for my taste, but he always has an interesting perspective.
The Wreck and Rise of Whitson Mariner S. D. Smith fiction ★★★★★  
Zao's Tales J. A. Sommer fiction ★★★  
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, January 3, 2023 at 6:54 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 304 times | Comments (0)
Category Reviews: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Education: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

Our church is having an event this New Year's Eve. I'm not thrilled, but we'll probably show up for a little while, since it starts early. But until the very end, it's just a party. I love the idea of starting the new year with a Communion service, but I have to confess  I don't love it enough to stay up past midnight tonight. I'd have done that for a Christmas Midnight Mass (which we didn't have) but not on this night—being on the road on a night that our society dedicates to the abuse of alcohol seems just dumb.

That said, my favorite New Year's Eve event took place 30 years ago, at another church service: the baptisms of our children. It wasn't an Episcopal church, but we made it as much like the Episcopal service as we could. Including the baptismal candles, which they have made a point of relighting every New Year's Eve since then. As New Year's Eves go, that one is unsurpassable.

For a while, we enjoyed a quiet get-together with friends on the day, but our dislike of staying up late and driving with drunks on the road made that less attractive over the years. Sometimes we're with my brother's family in Connecticut at this time of year, and that's always great: lots of good food, an evening of game playing (for those who like games), a few Top Gear videos to watch together (back when Top Gear was good), and just being with family. We don't have to drive anywhere, and are free to doze on the couch whenever we feel  like it. Good times.

But for the most part, this is my idea of a great New Year's Eve:

However you celebrate (or don't),

May  God  bless  you  greatly  in  2023!

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, December 31, 2022 at 8:22 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 324 times | Comments (1)
Category Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

Having overheard someone questioning why Coventry Carol was included in our church's Lessons and Carols service earlier this month, I knew it was time to reprise our story of why this song of immeasurable grief belongs in this season of festive joy.

Coventry Carol is an ancient song that tells a story almost as old as Christmas. The events take place sometime after the birth of Christ—after the arrival of the Wise Men, from whom King Herod learns of the birth of a potential rival, and decides to do what kings were wont to do to rivals: kill him. Don't know which baby boy is the threat? No problem, just kill them all.

This song is a lament, a lullaby of the mothers of Bethlehem, whose baby boys would be killed in what came to be called the Massacre of the Innocents. (Jesus escaped, Joseph having been warned in a dream to get out of Dodge; the others are considered the first Christian martyrs—people whose association with Jesus led to their deaths.)

Lully, lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Lullay, thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

O sisters two, how may we do,
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we do sing
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

Herod, the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All young children to slay.

That woe is me, poor Child for Thee!
And ever mourn and may,
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay

Why sing such a gloomy song at Christmas?

Several reasons, maybe. Chief of which is that the Christian Christmas is not like the secular Christmas. It is, indeed, "tidings of great joy," but it is complicated, messy, profound, anything but simplistic and lighthearted. It breaks into the midst of a broken world, and even Jesus' escape from death here is only a short reprieve. There's more to Christmas than the joy of new birth, or even "peace on earth, good will to men." We have to tell the whole story.


Twenty years ago, as the world was beginning in earnest to "ring out the tidings of good cheer," our firstborn daughter gave birth to our first grandchild.

Isaac lived two days.

It was in that season of unspeakable grief that the haunting Coventry Carol touched me as none other could. Frankly, I could not handle all the happy songs about a newborn baby boy; with Coventry Carol I felt merged into an ancient and universal grief, the grief that made Christmas necessary

Until the Day when all is set right, there will be pain and grief that won't go away just because the calendar says it's December. The last few years, especially, have wounded us all and broken not a few. This reminder that the First Christmas was not a facile Peace on Earth and Joy to the World, and that the first Christian martyrs were Jewish children, is for all whose pain threatens to overwhelm them.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, December 23, 2022 at 8:30 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 379 times | Comments (4)
Category Children & Family Issues: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Music: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Inspiration: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

YouTube is not exactly reliable when it comes to recommending videos for me to watch, but look what showed up in my sidebar tonight:

As most of my readers know, I'm a huge fan of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings books, but not of the movies for a number of reasons. Even though I feel the film story line and characterization are a betrayal of the spirit Tolkien put into his world, I can't deny that there are parts of the movies that are excellent, from the New Zealand setting to the music, and of course I adore this version.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, November 12, 2022 at 8:05 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 312 times | Comments (1)
Category Children & Family Issues: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Just for Fun: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Music: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Inspiration: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

The big news is—there is no big news.

Nicole, now a tropical depression, is marching through Georgia rather more peacefully than General Sherman did. It slipped by to the west of us, and although we were theoretically in its grip for much of yesterday, it might have been an unnamed, minor storm, or possibly the effects of a hurricane passing far off at sea. The rains gradually diminished as the day progressed, and only an occasional gust of wind reminded us that something meteorological was going on.

We even went out for lunch in the middle of it all, and noticed only a slight diminution in traffic, although some places were still closed. Not too surprisingly, these were mostly government, church, and medical facilities, institutions not known for being able to turn around on a dime and say, "Okay, it's all good, let's re-open."

There is still risk of flooding, as runoff from already-saturated ground fills already-flooded rivers, but in our own neighborhood we travelled on dry ground the roads that had been so devastatingly flooded by Hurricane Ian.

Were this a century ago, my relatives who lived in Deland would likely have thought it a pretty ordinary day, at least until they heard news from my great-grandfather, the mayor of Daytona Beach. That city, along with others on the east coast, took some significant property damage, though no loss of life.

We are grateful.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, November 11, 2022 at 6:01 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 311 times | Comments (0)
Category Hurricanes and Such: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

Nicole, having become a hurricane long enough to harrass the western Bahamas and southeast Florida, made landfall around 3 a.m. just south of Vero Beach, a little further north than we expected. I had been awakened a few times during the night by wind gusts and the steady sound of rain. When I got up for real around 4:30 (normal for me), it was clear that our decision to take in the wind chimes, orchid, and trash cans last night was the right thing to do, but everything else was fine.

Of course the day is not over yet; Nicole is currently around Davenport (where we ourselves were on Monday for a friend's birthday party), and heading our way at about 14 mph. But it's now a tropical storm again, and although we are still warned of gusts up to 70 mph, sustained winds where we are look to be less scary than predicted. (I'll take that!)

I greatly enjoyed a few early-morning hours on our back porch, watching what we've had so far from the storm. Because our porch faces west, and the winds were largely from the east, I enjoyed a safe haven with barely an occasional light breeze, while watching the trees whip around somewhat impressively.

Once again, the biggest damage to our neighborhood is likely to be flooding, but we haven't ventured out yet to investigate.  Power outages usually come after the storm has passed, so we're not out of the clear there by any means.

Many thanks to those of you who have expressed your concerns, and offered their prayers.  I expect to do at least one more update, more if anything untoward happens.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, November 10, 2022 at 7:40 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 287 times | Comments (0)
Category Hurricanes and Such: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

Nicole is not a hurricane yet, but looks to become one in the Bahamas, and come on shore around Ft. Pierce in the early hours of tomorrow morning, aka the middle of the night tonight. I fully expect to be awakened at least once by our ear-splitting weather radio, hopefully for nothing more serious than that for which it awakened us during Hurricane Ian, and again two days ago.

We were briefly out of "the cone" but are currently back in it, as the predicted path shifts. Of course, the area of strong winds is a lot broader than the cone, and we've been feeling its rain for days. They are still predicting peak sustained winds of 45-60 mph with gusts to 75 mph, which is a "strong tropical storm." Nicole should be off our west coast by 1 p.m. tomorrow, and I'll give an update when I can.

There's a reason we hadn't packed the generator up from the last storm. I hope we don't need it, but with the storm coming straight at us, the ground once again completely saturated, and rivers and lakes still at flood level or very close....

We're still pretty much prepared from last time, though we're waiting till tomorrow to bring things in from outside. My concern when I awoke this morning was for an appointment I had this afternoon at 3 o'clock. Based on today's weather, there was no reason I shouldn't have been able to take it: there's almost no wind yet, and the rain has been steady but not heavy. However, when it was clear that many businesses were deciding to close early, I chose to go in the morning as a "walk-in." I say I chose, but really, I didn't feel I had much choice. Call it a nudge from God, call it hyperactive anxiety—but I couldn't rest about it, and decided I might as well wait for hours there than be unproductive at home. As it turned out, they were able to fit me in quickly and I even made it to the library to pick up The Bellmaker, before it closed at noon.  It was definitely the right decision.

Now we wait, hoping that our decision to wait till morning to batten the final hatches turns out to be a good one, too.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, November 9, 2022 at 7:13 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 302 times | Comments (1)
Category Hurricanes and Such: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
Go to page:
«Previous   1 2 3 4 5 6 7 ... 55 56 57  Next»