Friday, June 29, 2012

Fiction Friday: June 29, 2012: Any Cool Old-Time Hard Sci-Fi With Believable Relationships? Let Madame L Know!

Thanks, Jeff, for your very interesting suggestion for a different kind of book review. You wrote:

     "I'm re-reading (8th time, I think) a book I first read when I was 12, called Children of the Lens. Old-time "hard" SciFi... i.e., an ESTD physicist won't gag and throw it away after 15 pages. The man-woman relationships are straight out of the 50's, but there's no foo-foo stuff and no egregious unnecessary-sex-scenes-for-14-yr-old-boys junk.

     "How 'bout review some COOL stuff, like hard SciFi?"

Madame L has not reviewed any "hard" science fiction on her own or her pal Aunt Louise's blog because Madame L doesn't enjoy reading those books. Long ago, Madame L tried to read some in an effort to understand why her Dear Husband liked them, but she never got it. She didn't think they were cool at all. In fact, she thought that perhaps the man-woman relationships that were straight out of the 50's might have been one reason she didn't enjoy them.

Madame L does definitely understand why you aren't interested in "egregious unnecessary sex scenes"---for 14-year-old boys or anyone else---but Madame L thinks it must be possible to find some sci-fi books that even an ESTD physicist would enjoy but which also have real relationships.

So Madame L will be looking for books like that to review. If you, Jeff, or any of Madame L's Dear and Kind Readers, have any suggestions for books like that, please let Madame L know about them.


Madame L

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Relax---Meditation Video

I'll be out of town and preoccupied with other things besides this blog for awhile, so even though I've written a few things ahead of time that may appear (if I've done the scheduling thing correctly), mostly I won't be posting anything for about a week.

Here's a great meditation video I found, for relaxing. Actually, it's the music I enjoy more than the hand-held video.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Not a Robot? That's Okay

Sometimes I worry that I'm not doing things efficiently enough. (Sometimes I'm not even doing things I think I should be doing at all, never mind efficiently.)

But I comfort myself with the realization that I'm not a robot, and no one (except me) is standing around worrying about what I should be doing, what I should have done, how perfectly and efficiently I should have done it, or any of that stuff.

One of my writing teachers once taught us some good methods for keeping that judgmental persona away from our writing process: Tell it (which is yourself), "Don't worry, I'll revise it, I'll edit it, I'll fix it, later. I'm just writing down some notes for myself right now. So don't worry."

I think I need to apply this to other parts of my life, too. When that judgmental persona wants me to rush around in a panic to do something which really doesn't need to be done but will satisfy the inner critic, whether it's the inner housekeeping critic, inner exercise-and-diet critic, inner mommy critic, or whichever critic it is, I can say to it, "Relax, I promise I'll get around to it, but right now I'm doing something else..."

On the other hand, I need to remind myself that the inner critic is just trying to do its job, to help me follow through with those important things; so I'll try not to add an inner critic of that inner critic to the mix.

I can find other ways, besides self-criticism, to motivate myself. Here's a quote from a great blog, "Not for Robots," which I just came upon by chance. It reminds me that while hard work and perseverance and all those kinds of things are necessary, keeping a mind open to the fleeting thought, enjoying the unplanned moment, experiencing the sudden happy realization, and all those kinds of things are also necessary.

"The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not "Eureka!" but, "That's funny. . ." ---Isaac Asimov

That reminds me: If you do check out the "Not for Robots" blog and look at the quotations in the right-hand column, remember that they're not only about writing. I tried substituting different words for "writing" or "writer" in those quotes, and they all work. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Faith in Humanity in Need of Boosting?

Check out these "21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity" from Rachel Maddow's blog.

Here are a few of my favorites (but I think you'll want to see all of them):

This picture of a villager carrying stranded kittens to dry land during floods in Cuttack City, India.

This picture of a villager carrying stranded kittens to dry land during floods in Cuttack City, India.


This poll about what Snooki should name her child.

This poll about what Snooki should name her child.


The moment in which this Ohio athlete stopped to help an injured competitor across the finish line during a track meet.

The moment in which this Ohio athlete stopped to help an injured competitor across the finish line during a track meet.

17-year-old Meghan Vogel was in last place in the 3,200-meter run when she caught up to competitor Arden McMath, whose body was giving out. Instead of running past her to avoid the last-place finish, Vogel put McMath's arm around her shoulders, carried her 30 meters, and then pushed her over the finish line before crossing it.
Image by The Daily Call, Mike Ullery / AP


This sign at an awesome bookshop.

This sign at an awesome bookshop.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Training: Days 2, 3, and 4

Day 2 (Thursday): A 40-minute bike ride with Jason. Haven't ridden my bike for 2 years! But, so far, so good. (It helped to lower the seat, as Neva suggested. And Jason found some old padded bicycling gloves for me, which also helped.) I hope I'll be able to use a different bike for the Huntsman 140, though. Mine is a great mountain bike, with fat tires with lots of tread. (It's about 14 years old. I got it at auction when a bike store in our town back east was closing.)

The two bikes in their place of honor in the garage
Even when we were going downhill, not pedaling, Jason's bike, with tires about half as thick as mine and no discernible tread, went twice as fast as mine. I'll get some advice from Neva on a bike, but I'll wait until next spring to buy one. 

Oh, yeah, one more funny thing about my bike: It supposedly has 21 gears, three main ones, with the lever on the left handlebar, and seven others, with the lever on the right side. You're supposed to be able to use these together to adjust your pedaling power for every possible up- and down-hill you encounter. But it ACTUALLY has about 6 or 7 gears that I've ever been able to use, anyway. Which is okay, but just ... funny. (All right, I admit it, it's not the bike, it's me.)
Mountain bike tire--fat, with great tread

Street bike tire--skinny, less friction

And another thing about Jason's bike: It's more than 22 years old. Our next-door neighbor, who has a state-of-the-art new bike which he takes on bike rides all around Washington and Oregon, has admired it for being a --- what was the word he used? --- a "relic" --- or maybe an "antique." But, hey, it works, and all of its gears actually work.

Day 3 (Friday): Back to swimming after taking a 4-week break. Swam only 1/4 mile, and did it very slowly and using several strokes instead of my usual crawl for the whole time; but still my shoulders ached later.

Day 4 (Today): A completely different way to "train": Jason and I cleaned the chapel for two hours this morning. Nothing very aerobic about it, but I walked more than 3 miles, pushing a huge vacuum cleaner through the hallways and cultural hall for most of the time and a smaller one in the chapel and all the classrooms for the rest. Oh, and by the way, today I'm feeling the effects of the bike ride, but fortunately just that muscle ache that lets you know you've exercised, nothing more.

Tomorrow (Sunday) I'll take a break. Monday I think I'll be ready to jog/walk/run on the Lacamas Lake Trail again.

Start Wearing Purple

(Gogol Bordello)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fiction Friday: June 22, 2012: Good Reads For Kids?

Madame L wants to know if any of her Dear Reading Readers have read any of the following books, which Madame L found listed in "Educating Esme" and wants to share with the young people in her life.

If you've read them, please let Madame L know what you thought of them. Madame L will be getting them from her local library to read this summer.
  • King Matt the First, by Janusz Korczak
  • The Hundred Dresses, by Eleanor Estes
  • The Stories Julian Tells, by Ann Cameron
  • The Twenty-One Balloons, by William Pene Du Bois
  • The Wish Giver, by Bill Brittain

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Training for Salem Days

A little more than 7 weeks from now I'll be running (or jogging, maybe walking, probably a combination of jogging and walking) in the Salem Days Family Fun 5-K Run.

I saw this beauty in the parking lot when I finished.

Since I haven't been doing any running or even jogging for a very long time --- like, since last year's Salem Days 5-K Run --- I thought it would be a good idea to start training for it now.

I started yesterday at Lacamas Lake Trail, which I chose because it's a nice gravel trail (not too hard on feet, knees, and hips) and it has some up- and down- hills (which are not so high as to be discouraging), and, best of all, it has markers every quarter mile.

(Yes, I know the 5-K Run is in kilometers, but I figure 5 kilometers are about 3 miles, and where am I going to find a trail marked with kilometers, anyway?)

I decided that the walk from the car to the first marker would be enough of a warm-up; then I would jog the first quarter-mile, then walk a quarter mile, and continue like that, alternating every quarter mile, for three miles. As it happened, I'm so out of shape that I couldn't quite keep to that goal.

Here's the result of this first "training session":

First 1/4 mile (jog) in 3 minutes. Second 1/4 mile (walk) in 5 minutes. Third 1/4 mile (jog) in 3 minutes. Fourth 1/4 mile (walk) in 5 minutes. Fifth 1/4 mile (jog-walk) in 4 minutes. And so on. I found I jogged less in the jogging segments as time went on, but also started jogging more in the walking segments. And I learned some lessons:

---It really does help to set goals like this, because without them, this would have been like every other walk I take on that trail, beautiful and nice and good exercise, but not strengthening my muscles or improving my aerobic capacity.

---It helps also to be able to see the progress I'm making, like when I was about to give up and walk on one of the jogging segments but I saw the quarter-mile-post ahead, and realized I could push myself and make it there, and it felt really good to do that.

---I could feel my aerobic capacity improving even in this first training session, from the first quarter-mile I jogged, when I thought I was going to die gasping for breath, to the third quarter-mile I jogged, when I felt like I could make it to the quarter-mile-post even though there was some hilliness in that segment.

---I learned to find a steady and slow jogging pace so I wouldn't run myself out of breath; and how to take shorter steps on the uphill parts and let my stride lengthen on the downhills.

I did the three miles in about 48 minutes, plus the warm-up before and a cool-down after that.  That's about the same time I did the 5-K last year, I think --- which does show that I'm completely out of shape. So I'm hoping this self-training will help me improve for this year's 5-K but also, and mainly, be a way to get myself back to a healthier body.

I'm not going to do this every day! I would have in the past, but I'm older and wiser and creakier now. I don't think I'll do it every other day, either, at least for now. I'm learning to take better care of my body, which I used to think was indestructible. I hope I can go bike-riding this evening, and when my shoulders heal (because, yes, this is one way I learned to take care of my body: swimming a half mile every day for a few weeks!---ouch!) I'll get back to swimming laps every two or three days.

I looked it up: It's a Lorquin's admiral butterfly.
Check out this video for another example of this species:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Monday, June 18, 2012

Okay, Neva, I'll Do This With You Next Year!

And let's try for the 140. I mean, how can we do it if we don't try for it? And thanks again....

Here's an email message I just found from Neva:

I thought you all might enjoy seeing this you tube video that my sister, Laura, made of my Huntsman 140 efforts. I met my first goal of the first 70 miles before having to be "sagged" forward. I got to Eureka high school in about 5 hours, took a short break and got refueled, then rode 9 miles downhill in just over 22 minutes. That was fun. Then Laura drove me forward to the lunch stop at Saratoga Springs. After lunch I rode another 18 miles before calling it quits so that I could get to the Huntsman when the rest of the pack was arriving with the little girl, Echo. I got there just at the tail end. The ride was a blast, thanks to Angela, Coralee, Collin, Kristina, Ellen, Jim, and Laura cheering me along the way. Maybe/hopefully I'll get even farther next year. Or if any of you want to do it with me, but don't want to try for 140, just 75, we could do it together!!! :).



Sunday, June 17, 2012

Neva and the Huntsman 140, A Women's Team at Tour de France, and Title IX

Neva sent me a note a few days before the big event.

She wrote, "I probably won't actually ride the entire 140 miles, because the time limit requires that one ride faster than I can ride. But they have a "SAG" service, that will bring me forward to lunch so that I can finish with the pack, i.e. 'Bring in the Pack.' The plan is for everybody to ride the last mile to the Huntsman Institute together. Jeff Warren, the man who started it all and began a ride from Reno last Monday with friends will lead the pack. And they will bring Echo, an 8 y/o girl who lost her leg to cancer, up that last mile, "Echo's mile." They will attach a trailing bike to one of the cyclist's bikes so she can ride that last mile with "the pack." As I said earlier, at first I wanted to complete the course on my own, no matter how long it took. But now, the beauty of everybody finishing together, of getting help to bring you forward - it's really like my journey with cancer. I couldn't have done it alone."

Every time I read about Echo, and the plan for "the pack" to help her ride that last mile, I cry. This is what it's all about, isn't it: Helping each other.

So that makes me think of the amazing women who are training to ride the Tour de France route this year, a day ahead of the pack of men who will be competing. What I love about these women is that they're not competing against each other, but they're working together to conquer the route.

From The Oregonian's article: "Six women ... will ride the same 2,162-mile route, finishing each stage in a single day while keeping one day ahead of the boys. Same 25 mountain passes, same 100-mile days, same finish on the Champs-Élysées."

You can follow the women online in Heidi Swift's column at PelotonHere's one of her recent columns.

Now, about Title IX. For those of you who take for granted that women can play sports in college, earn sports scholarships, and even go to national championships, here's a reminder of what it was like in the bad old days.

Teri Mariani told the Oregonian:

     "I was a sophomore at Portland State in the fall of 1971 when our volleyball team qualified for the national tournament. What an accomplishment -- and what a disappointment.
     "In those days before Title IX, we had to raise our own money. We did everything: Washed airplanes at the airport, gave tours of funeral homes, had bake sales. It still wasn't enough. We didn't raise enough money. We didn't get to go.
     "The hard part was that if any men's team needed to travel, they got the funding while we had to sit and watch.
     "It was really different for women then. We had the same uniform for volleyball, basketball and softball. In the early '70s at Portland State, there was only one entrance to the training room, and it was through the men's locker room. As a female athlete, if you needed to get treatment, you would call the trainer to meet you in the lobby, and he would put a paper bag over your head and lead you through the men's locker room."

Wait, I didn't forget to tell you about Neva's accomplishment yesterday. Her daughter texted me: "Mom did so great! She went 88.3 miles today!"

Congratulations, Neva, thanks for letting us be part of your "pack," and thanks for the inspiration.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Cabaret, Performed by Jill Haworth

Just for fun, listen to this amazing version of "Cabaret," by Jill Haworth, from the original Broadway production. Ms. Haworth won a Tony in 1968 for this, and you can hear why.

(There are other versions of the song available on YouTube, from other productions and sung by other actors, but I think this is the best, even though the "video" part of it is just a bunch of stills.)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Fiction Friday: June 15, 2012: Sahara Special AND Educating Esme

Madame L confesses that although "Sahara Special" is fiction, "Educating Esme" is not.

"Sahara Special," published in 2004 and available for free from your local library (where Madame L got her copy) or for $6.99 from, is narrated by Sahara, who has to repeat fifth grade.

Sahara is "Special" because up until now she's been in "special education" groups. But now, held back but with a chance to be in a regular fifth-grade class with a regular teacher and no longer suffering from visits from the cloyingly pitying (and pitiful) counselor, she begins to blossom.

Oops, did Madame L say "a regular teacher"? She meant to say, an extra special teacher.

Because the new fifth-grade teacher is different from any other that Sahara has ever had, and it's because of her that Sahara can blossom.

After reading this book, which is supposedly for third- through sixth-graders, but which Madame L thinks everyone who has ever been in elementary school should read, Madame L wanted to read more by the author, Esme Raji Codell.

So, Madame L put a hold on "Educating Esme," by Ms. Codell, and read it in one sitting. Yes, it was that good, that enthralling, that wonderful. In fact, it was so good that Madame L is thinking that after she reads it one more time and returns it to the library, she'll order it from (for only $5.18---why not?!?).

Madame L loved the painful honesty and surprising humor and most of all the stark honesty of this book. No fake compassion for the poor inner-city kids, no spouting of pedagogical theories, no mincing of words.

Madame L recommends both books to every mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, teacher...You get the picture. Enjoy!

Church Sign Maker

I happened upon this church sign when I clicked "Next Blog" and thought it was amazing that a mainstream (Episcopal, even!) church would post a political message:

Then I saw how it's done, and I thought, what a brilliant idea!

(Note: If you want to make a Scientology church sign, so sorry. That one has been removed ... for legal reasons.)

Not that I'd ever write a political message on a church sign. Never. Maybe Madame L. But not me. Even though I can think of a whole bunch of people politicians who should be taking their meds.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Huntsman 140: Go Go Neva!

Here's what my sister Neva will be doing this Saturday (June 16):

And this doesn't even show the whole route. She'll be starting in DELTA! WOW! She'll be bicycling 140 miles in one day.

You can still donate in her name, if you'd like.

Or, if you're anywhere along the route that day, you can volunteer, or even just show up to cheer on the riders. If I were there, that's what I'd be doing.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Star Trails

One of astronaut Don Pettit's photos of Earth from the International Space Station
Here are some more. 

And some more, with what the astronaut wrote about them:

“My star trail images are made by taking a time exposure of about 10 to 15 minutes. However, with modern digital cameras, 30 seconds is about the longest exposure possible, due to electronic detector noise effectively snowing out the image. To achieve the longer exposures I do what many amateur astronomers do. I take multiple 30-second exposures, then ‘stack’ them using imaging software, thus producing the longer exposure.”

Monday, June 11, 2012

Little Things, With Great Love

Mother Teresa:

"We are not called to do great things. We are called to do little things with great love."

Fahrenheit 451

Does paper really burn at 451 degrees Fahrenheit?

This article has a long answer and explanation, but I say, who cares?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Fiction Friday: June 8, 2012: Some Ray Bradbury Stories

Madame L thanks Aunt Louise for writing about Ray Bradbury the other day and apologizes for getting to this "Fiction Friday" column two days late.

For any of Aunt Louise and Madame L's readers who would like to read some of his short stories but don't want to make the trek to the library (where they'll all be checked out, anyway, as everyone rushes to read his stories again) or the bookstore (where they'll all be sold out, for the same reason), Madame L hereby provides a list of a few of the great writer's stories you can read online:

All Summer in a Day (Warning: although this is one of Madame L's favorite of all Ray Bradbury's short stories, it's very sad. Don't read it when you've just been cruel to someone, or someone has just been cruel to you. Don't read it on a rainy day or a sunny day. But do read it. And when you do, think of those books on manners which Madame L just wrote about in her own column. )

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Mahna Mahna (Chaos Muppets Vs. Order Muppets)

Here's another clever way to divide the people in your own little world:  According to the Unified Theory of Muppet Types, everyone you know is either a Chaos Muppet or an Order Muppet.

Is it true? Think about everyone you know, and think about the way the balance of order and chaos is maintained in a country, classroom, political party, community meeting, family, marriage, and every other group or couple you've been involved in.

I think it might be true. For sure I'm a Chaos Muppet and Jason is an Order Muppet...and that MUST be why we've stayed happily married for so long.

Cookie Monster.
Cookie Monster is most definitely a Chaos Muppet
Richard Termine/

Dahlia Lithwick concludes her excellent article about the theory:  "I leave you now to make your own determinations, about your personal Muppet typology and whether your marriage is on firm ground. I leave you as well with this one brief parting observation: Mahna Mahna...Thank you."

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pale Fire

From Nabokov's "Pale Fire":

What moment in the gradual decay
Does resurrection choose? What year? What day?
Who has the stopwatch? Who rewinds the tape?
Are some less lucky, or do all escape?
A syllogism: other men die; but I
Am not another; therefore I’ll not die.
Space is a swarming in the eyes; and time
A singing in the ears. In this hive I’m
Locked up. Yet, if prior to life we had
Been able to imagine life, what mad,
Impossible, unutterably weird
Wonderful nonsense it might have appeared!

Not that I'm so literate or that I'm a big fan of Nabokov: I read this in one of Cary Tennis's columns at  You know how some things strike you, and you want to share them. And maybe now I'll read "Pale Fire."

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Thanks for the Memories, Ray Bradbury

I just read in the New York Times online that Ray Bradbury died yesterday at the age of 91.

The Times article said he was "the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream," and he certainly was the writer who made science fiction enjoyable for me.

I read "Dandelion Wine," "The Martian Chronicles," and (of course) "Fahrenheit 451" when I was in high school; and I think "Fahrenheit 451" was the only required-for-English-class-book I read in high school  that I actually enjoyed.

Since then, although I don't think I've read all of Bradbury's books, I've read many of his stories and have loved most of them. I know not everyone likes his writing (you know who I'm talking to!) but even those who don't care for his style or subject matter have to admit he did bring science fiction from pulp magazines to places where the rest of us could enjoy it.

(And, yes, he did know that humans can't breathe in the atmosphere of Mars! Just like the writers of "Star Trek" know you can't travel at warp speed or whatever...)

Some more from the Times article:

"Mr. Bradbury himself disdained formal education. He went so far as to attribute his success as a writer to his never having gone to college.

"Instead, he read everything he could get his hands on, by authors including Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Thomas Wolfe and Ernest Hemingway. He paid homage to them in 1971 in the autobiographical essay 'How Instead of Being Educated in College, I Was Graduated From Libraries.'"

Maybe I enjoy his stories so much because of what the Times calls "his struggle to reconcile his mixed feelings about modern life...and his feelings about "...the future, perhaps his favorite subject, describing how it both attracted and repelled him, leaving him with apprehension and hope."

Here's a NASA photo taken by the Mars rover Opportunity, which has been exploring the Red Planet for eight years now.

Too bad Ray Bradbury isn't still here to tell the new Martian Chronicles!

Here's the Paris Review interview with Bradbury.

According to that interview, his lifelong credo is “Jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down.”

And here's what Bradbury told the interviewer about why he writes (wrote) science fiction:

"Science fiction is the fiction of ideas. Ideas excite me, and as soon as I get excited, the adrenaline gets going and the next thing I know I’m borrowing energy from the ideas themselves. Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn’t exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again. As soon as you have an idea that changes some small part of the world you are writing science fiction. It is always the art of the possible, never the impossible."

He also said, "Science fiction pretends to look into the future but it’s really looking at a reflection of what is already in front of us."

And that's why I've enjoyed his stories so much.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Venus Transit

Yes, I saw it! But not directly. We tried making a pinhole camera, then using some really dark film, but couldn't get a good view without hurting our eyes.

So we saw it on So beautiful, so amazing, and I'm so glad I could see this today. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Switching to

I'll be "Googling" using a different search engine from now on---or at least from now until I learn of something better or learn that this one isn't keeping its privacy promises.


"DuckDuckGo does not collect or share personal information. That is our privacy policy in a nutshell. The rest of this page tries to explain why you should care. promises, "Google tracks you. We don't. An illustrated guide." Check it out.

Recently WSJ did a series on these issues. Here are some highlights:
Then there's a list of other privacy helps, which you may want to check out for yourself.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Venus Transit Day

On Tuesday, June 5, if you live anywhere in North America, you should be able to see at least part of the transit of the planet Venus across the face of the sun.

The show will start just after 3:00 pm on the west coast. Watching at the very beginning and very end will prove most satisfying, according to astronomers, because at those times the movement of Venus will be more obvious than when it's going across the middle.

Don't look at the sun directly, of course! Use welder's glasses (No. 14) or some other safe filter.

Here's an image from NASA of what you might see:

NASA will be answering questions during the event.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mada Plays With His Favorite Person

Sunset, 02 June 2012

Can You Spell These Words?

I loved watching news about the 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee. I even set my DVR to record the second day of the bee, but didn't have a chance to watch it.

I love that this year's contestants included a six-year-old, Lori Anne Madison; and that the winner, Snigdha Nandipati, plans to go to medical school to become a psychiatrist or neurosurgeon.

Here's the Washington Post's list of a few words for you to spell, and some words for you to have fun making up your own definitions for:

- Caryatid
- Cicatrize
- Phalarope
- Coulisse
- Jaungler
- Oubliette
- Pouchade
- Sauerbraten

 I couldn't find online a complete list of all the words used in the national contest, but here's the list of study words for first- through eighth-graders.  I think the words actually used in the contest were much harder than any of the words on this list!

I loved learning how the youngsters studied and prepared for the test: They did memorize a lot of lists of words, but they also studied the languages of origin of English words so they could tell if a word came from German, for instance, or Latin, which helped them make solid guesses about the spelling of words they hadn't memorized.

When my family moved to a new town when I was in second grade, I was placed in a mixed class of second- and third-graders, and I remember well the first day I was there: We started with a spelling test, a list of 10 words, and I got only one of them correct ("fish"). (Lots of excuses for doing so poorly on that little quiz, but, oh, well.) That was motivation for me to learn to spell better.

Then, in seventh grade, I was in a school spelling bee which I lost early-on because I got confused between two homonyms. (I can't remember the two words at this moment, but I'm sure they'll come to me later when I'm not trying to remember them.)

So, I'm still not the greatest speller in the world---certainly not up to Madame L's level!---but I love the idea of learning to spell new and strange words by knowing their etymology and something about the languages they came from.

And I love that we have so many words in English that we've borrowed from other languages.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Fiction Friday: June 1, 2012: The God Delusion

Madame L thinks it very fitting to share with the readers of Aunt Louise's blog on this day, when Aunt Louise has posted a link to the writings of Jeff Wynn about faith in science and religion, a criticism of the writings of the proselytizing atheist, pseudo-scientist, pseudo-intellectual, and philosopher-wannabe Richard Dawkins.

Madame L is referring specifically to a book by Dawkins titled "The God Delusion," which Madame L believes does fit into the category of fiction. Certainly it is not a logical or well-argued---or truthful---analysis of religion or religious beliefs.

Dawkins has written that he gave up on his belief in God when he discovered Darwinism.  Poor Charles Darwin! He was afraid it would come to this, wasn't he---which was why he waited so long to publish Origin of Species (in 1859).

But Dawkins didn't just give up his religion; he made it his personal religion to "prove" to everyone else that religion, or any belief in God, is wrong.

Poor Dawkins didn't realize that not he nor anyone can prove such a thing.

Madame L isn't the only one who thinks so; and Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other religious people throughout the world are not the only ones who think so, either. 

Madame L hopes you'll read this dissection of Dawkins's travesty, titled "A Mission to Convert," by H. Allen Orr, from the New York Review of Books. Orr, an agnostic, reams Dawkins out for two major points and many  minor ones. The two main "potential problems" are that Dawkins tries to "prove" his point by "philosophical gymnastics, not data"; and that he accuses religious believers of beginning with an unprovable hypothesis while not questioning his own, unprovable, assumptions.

For more on the convergence of science and religion, please see Jeff Wynn's discussion.

Agnostic Or Believer?

Check out this website, where some of Jeff's writings on science and religion are being posted:

You can follow the links at the bottom of that page to read more.