Friday, March 28, 2008

What The Prof Is Reading Now

One might well think - today - that mere Christianity extends no further than the pews or the pulpit. But when we observe believers actively living and engaging the culture around them, from library excursions to Starbuck's forages, we realise that the opportunities to further and enliven the Kingdom are all around us.
Augustine's City of God is without a doubt, one of the greatest monumental works of religious inspiration. Although some writers have indicated that it was written as a sort of literary tombstone to Roman culture, Augustine's principles shine radiantly through, as he deals with the corruption of the Roman's pursuit of earthly pleasures: "grasping for praise, open-handed with their money; honest in the pursuit of wealth, they wanted to hoard glory."
Augustine contrasts his condemnation of Rome with an exaltation of Christian culture. The glory that Rome failed to attain will only be realised - he reminds us -by citizens of the City of God; the physical manifestation of the heart of God...the Community of Believers.
All throughout the work, he contrasts (often starkly) "Your Virgil" and "Our Scriptures," showing the disparity between the pagan and Christian cultures.
As one scholar points out, "Even if Augustine's prose strikes modern ears as a bit bombastic, and if his polarized Christian/pagan world is more binary than the one we live in today, his arguments against utopianism and his defense of the richness of Christian culture remain useful and strong."
Overall, the work is beautiful and encouraging, rich and full of vibrant Christianity. One must, however, be prepared to wade into the thick mire of learned Classicalism if one will obtain the true wine from the fruit he offers. Some of his analogies, and some of his colloquialisms will send you scurrying to latin references (or to the Oxford English Concise), but you will never feel so firmly sure of the final state of the Christian Church, as when you delight in the City of God. It's just another reminder that God is not absent in the Coffeehouse.
"The human mind can understand truth only by thinking, as is clear from Augustine." - Saint Thomas Aquinas

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"So bright and early prepare I the roast,
Delighting in prayer the Heavenly Host,
Considering the brew savor'd most,
Thankful for all in every toast."

- FireScribe

Monday, May 21, 2007

"Man was put here to glorify God.


Then, to drink chai."

- Ancient Proverb

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Old Dead Quote
This Month's Quote From A Dead Guy

“Wheat in a barn is better than chaff in a church. - Just so. A few poor saints in the meanest room excel all the unconverted nobility and gentry of the district when assembled in the most magnificent cathedral.”

-Charles Spurgeon, The Salt-Cellars

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Talking The Talk

Here's the scenario: you walk into a NY coffee shop and the girl in front of you steps up to the counter to order and says, "I'll have an extra hot doppio non-fat americano."

You feel a little uneasy as you wonder if you'll be able to get a regular coffee or end up with watery foam that you accidentally ordered last time.

Your palms begin to moisten, you feel hot and flushed as you make your way to the counter. A cheery girl with black-framed glasses smiles at you and asks, "What can I get for you today?"

You nervously reply "I- I'll have a tall medium-roast."

You squeeze your eyes shut and grimace waiting for the reaction.

"Sure, that's $1.22."

Yeah! You did it. Congratulations: You have made the first step in breaking through the "coffee lingo barrier."

You are not alone in your difficulty with ordering. Coffee has come a long way since the 9th Century. It is the second most-traded commodity (next to oil). Coffee production is expected to rise from 6.7 million tonnes in 2000 to 7 million tonnes by 2010.

Here's a little list to help you familiarize yourself with the basics of coffee lingo, so the next time you step into the coffeehouse, you can sound like a Barista as you say, "I'll have an Espresso can Panna, heavy on the nutmeg, and give it wings."

Americano - a shot or two of espresso that's poured into a glass and filled with water. One of the strongest coffees available.

Barista - A person who makes coffee drinks as a profession. It is respected job in Italy.

Breve - Cappuccino made with light cream.

Cafe Creme - A velvety smooth coffee, brewed fresh from the bean which results in a thick moussy crema ( crema is not cream, it's actually an indication of their freshness of the bean, see below).

Cafe Latte - A shot of coffee, filled with steamed milk, and topped with milk foam.

Cafe Mocha - Chocolate syrup (or hot chocolate in some cases), topped with espresso, steamed milk, whipped cream, and chocolate sprinkles.

Cappuccino - One-third espresso, one-third steamed milk, and one third frothed milk on top to contain the warmth.

Chiaro - An espresso drink prepared "clear" by adding more milk.

Crema - The tan foam that forms when you brew espresso. Crema makes a "cap" which helps keep flavours and aroma of the espresso within the cup.

Demitasse - A French term that means 'half cup'. Also refers to a small coffee cup.

Doppio - A double shot of espresso.

Double Dry Short - A double shot of espresso in a short (small) cup with no foam.

Dry - No foam.

Espresso - A one-ounce shot of rich black coffee made and served immediately. It is created by pumping hot water through fine espresso grounds at about nine atmospheres of pressure.

Espresso Lungo - A shot that is pulled long for a bit of extra espresso, produces a more bitter flavour not more caffeine.

Espresso Macchiato - Espresso with a minimal amount of steamed milk on top.

Espresso can Panna - A shot of coffee topped with whipped cream.

Froth or Foam - Milk which has been made thick and foamy by steaming it.

A "Harmless" - A double shot of decaffeinated coffee and non-fat milk.

Quad - An espresso drink with four shots of coffee.

Ristretto - The strongest and most concentrated espresso drink. Made with half the amount of water, but same amount of coffee as a regular espresso.

Monday, April 16, 2007

What The Prof Is Reading Now
The Call

Os Guinness, the Author of The Call writes that, "No book has burned within me longer or more fiercely than this one. The truth of calling has been as important to me in my journey of faith as any truth of the gospel of Jesus."

The China-born, Oxford-educated author, says that our passion is to know that we are fulfilling the purpose for which we were placed here on earth. Any other standard (success, wealth, power, position, friendships) grows hollow if we do not satisfy this deepest longing.

As Walker Percy wrote, "You can get all A's and still flunk life."

Reading Guinness is (thus far for me) acknowledging that you are part of the endless human search for the purpose of life. This search, he writes, has been sharpened by the choices offered in modern Western Society, and the fact that ours is the first great civilization in history to have "no agreed-on answer" to the question about life's purpose. Capitalism, politics, science, psychology, etc., fall short when challenged by the ultimate question, "Why?"

Guinness, an Episcopalian and senior fellow at the Washington-based Trinity Forum, writes that the core of our existence is the truth that the Caller calls us to himself so decisively that "everything we are, do, and have is invested with a special devotion, dynamism, and direction lived out as a response to his summons and service."

Guinness also writes that the true view of Calling was really publicized in Martin Luther's book, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church. "Writing as an Augustinian monk, he recommended the abolition of all orders and abstinence from all vows, contending that the contemplative life has no warrant in the Scriptures, and reinforces hypocrisy and arrogance."

The recovery of the holistic understanding of calling, Guinness argues, was paramount for Luther.

Abraham Kuyper, the great Dutch Prime Minister, once said: "There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, 'This is mine! This belongs to me!'"

Guinness won my approval, not only because I could hear blatant echoes of Lewis (and some MacDonald too), but because he tackles the true questions of Life, and doesn't cut corners. He wants to get down to the pith of why we are here, where we are headed, how we can find meaning in Life, and how we can ultimately fulfill the greatest destiny possible, if we will listen; because he reminds us that a Man from Nazareth says, 'Heed my call; follow me.'

Monday, October 16, 2006

How To Be A Good Christian
Pipe Smoking
Also see: ARTICLE

I knew that would get your attention.

Seriously; here's one of the best poems on the subject. We are all familiar with it, but in this case, familiarity is only an indication of its excellent quality.

Johann Sebastian Bach - 1725

"Whene'er I take my pipe and stuff it
And smoke to pass the time away
My thoughts, as I sit there and puff it,
Dwell on a picture sad and grey:
It teaches me that very like
Am I myself unto my pipe.

Like me this pipe, so fragrant burning,
Is made of naught but earthen clay;
To earth I too shall be returning,
And cannot halt my slow decay.
My well used pipe, now cracked and broken,
Of mortal life is but a token.

No stain, the pipe's hue yet doth darken;
It remains white. Thus do I know
That when to death's call I must harken
My body, too, all pale will grow.
To black beneath the sod 'twill turn,
Likewise the pipe, if oft it burn.

Or when the pipe is fairly glowing,
Behold then instantaneously,
The smoke off into thin air going,
'Til naught but ash is left to see.
Man's fame likewise away will burn
And unto dust his body turn.

How oft it happens when one's smoking,
The tamper's missing from it's shelf,
And one goes with one's finger poking
Into the bowl and burns oneself.
If in the pipe such pain doth dwell
How hot must be the pains of Hell!

Thus o'er my pipe in contemplation
Of such things - I can constantly
Indulge in fruitful meditation,
And so, puffing contentedly,
On land, at sea, at home, abroad,
I smoke my pipe and worship God."

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

What The Prof Is Reading Now
That Hideous Strength

Although this is the final book in Lewis' acclaimed Space Trilogy (Out Of The Silent Planet, & Perelandria), for a good bit of the book (in fact, all of it can be read alone) a totally new concept is introduced, along with a new cast of characters. While a review of this book might describe the dark forces which were repulsed in Out Of The Silent Planet, & Perelandria, a deeper Anglo-Celtic influence is felt in this account than in the first two.
For instance, word is on the wind that the mighty Wizard Merlin is back in the land of the living after many centuries of absence.
New Seers arise, given prophetic abilities and supernatural skills from times long-since forgotten. A sinister "technocratic" organisation is gaining power throughout Europe, and a mysterious fog is setting in, like the dawning of an eternal night.
There is much in this book that will appeal to lovers of History, Rhetoric, and the Classics (I mean here the Classic languages and dogmas). Lewis (in typical style) is not without dialectic humour (as Aristotle puts it: "good humour, the bloom on dialectic itself.") and a certain degree of British witicism.
There is much moral emphasis placed on the dilemmas in the book, and one must certainly come to grips with one's own presupposed ethical convictions after a good read.
The book is simultaneously spell-binding and intellectually stimulating. If it can be possible to give Mr. Lewis too much praise for this piece, may we be so guilty. He has constructed (certainly not for the first time) a Masterpiece to rival the greatest of the Classics.
Lewis leaves no stone unturned in his examination of morality and society. All facets of our lives are examined, from the moral implications of our worldviews, to the sexual inferences of our collective cultural bias.
Here you will find danger and intruigue, love and horror, mysticism and dark imagery, struggle and hate, man and you will find the Summa: wherein lies the Answer to the Question.

Friday, September 15, 2006

He Who Findeth A Friend
Isn't That What Friends Are For?

I recently had a friend point out something I do that he didn't like. At first, I balked. Wouldn't we all?
No one likes to hear what they are doing wrong. But then I thought about it for a bit, and I was truly thankful that he was honest with me...because I'd rather know about my problems (and fix them) than to run around like somebody with toilet-paper stuck to their shoe, while everyone points and laughs behind their back.
And as I thought, the passage came to mind, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend."
How true.

Then a new revelation dawned on me: where would we be without friends?
Now, as my close friends know, I'm not big on lots of friends. I'd rather have one or two good friends, than one or two hundred "just-so" friends.

So I concluded, after thought, that friends are beneficial because
I. They point out your mistakes (& we all need this),
II. Their purpose is to help (A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity)
III. They are just plain good to have around.

Yes, after reviewing my friend list, I could only come up with three reasons...ok, just kidding. These three reasons seemed to be the tops.
I am a selfish friend, I admit it.
Sometimes I want my friends to be there for me, but I don't feel as inclined to make sure I'm there for them when they need me. It's easier to get and not give, but more blessed to give than receive.

So I'm making a September Resolution (no...that's not usually done in most circles): Firstly, I will give hearty counsel to friends (Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel)...this means not nagging them, but genuinely helping them when they need it.
Secondly, I am going to be there in the most difficult times. The easy times are when we can go at it alone (not that we want to), but it's when the going really gets rough that we need friends.
And finally, I am going to be just good to be around. i.e., I'll stop locking my co-workers in the bathroom (yes, the lock is on the outside, isn't that awesome?). And I'll pay Sandy back that ten dollars I owe her...even though she's forgotten.
Because, hey: Isn't that what friends are for?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

What The Prof Is Reading Now
Till We Have Faces

I had briefly skimmed Till We Have Faces several years ago, because a copy wandered into my hands, but I was working on some other pieces at the time, so I never really sat down and digested it.
I purchased a copy some time back, but it lay curling in the back of my car until I did a deep-clean, and then I finally set down for a serious read...and I'm glad (of course) that I did.
The book opened inconspicuously enough, but soon (as the plot thickened and the characters developed) I found myself once again admitting that Lewis could use fiction to lay bare the soul in ways that his distinctly apologetic works could not.
As one reader remarked on the book: "The cast of characters in The Great Divorce, for example, or in the 'Space Trilogy' invariably remind us of people we know - and give us insights into what makes them tick. Nowhere in Lewis' works is the soul explored better than in Till We Have Faces, Lewis' masterwork of fiction and a stunning psychological and spiritual odyssey."

Lewis retells and enriches the myth of Cupid and Psyche (originally called The Golden Ass), although a lack of familiarity with the myth in no way diminishes from the enjoyment of the book.
In Lewis' capable hands, the tale sorts through issues such as family, jealousy, faith, the unknown, and ultimate meaning, culminating with a "face-to-face" scene of intensity and wonder which explains the book's title.

Those who are looking for the kind of overt Christian symbolism that characterized the Chronicles of Narnia will be disappointed with TWHF. While the theology in TWHF is pagan, at least on its surface, Lewis does a masterful job of intertwining the traditional beliefs of the main characters - some greek rationalism - with rumours of a much more intimate and beautiful way of knowing the gods (a Theistic hope).
The climactic scene itself plays off the Biblical phrase, "Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face" - I Corinthians 13. So Lewis does lead the reader toward the One who is love, but he uses the carrot of intrigue and spiritual longing rather than the steamroller of in-your-face-symbolism.

I will be honest in my reporting of TWHF, and say that it is not my favourite fictional work of Lewis', if simply because he is not at liberty to build the world as he pleases, but has to follow some ground-rules already laid down for the era of the story, the culture, etc.
However, Lewis manages to pull it off with ease; leaving us with no stiff taste of a retelling, as is often the case with such stories. Overall, I would rate it as a masterful piece, full of Lewis, and that is what makes it a classic.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Implications of Autumn
The Best Is Yet To Come

For me, it is not so much the here & now that impress. It is not the grandeous awe of the moment, but the intangible promise of the next. It is not this life, but one not yet known, which I yearn.
Pilgrims feel this way.
Strangers feel this way.
Pilgrims & strangers of the world have another world to which they go, & it is this world which they yearn.

Whitman once said:
"O we can wait no longer,
We too take ship O soul
Joyous we too launch out on trackless seas.
Fearless for unknown shores on waves of ecstasy to sail."

C.S. Lewis once wrote:
"All joy (as distinct from mere pleasure, still more amusement) emphasises our pilgrim status; always reminds, beckons, awakens desire. Our best havings are wantings."

The desire for this just-beyond has been expressed from the furthest regions of heathanism to the deepest Christianity, but its only answer lies in the promise of Salvation. The desire itself is one of intense longing...
Lewis says "This hunger is better than any other fullness; this poverty better than all other wealth. And thus it comes about, that if the desire is long absent, it may itself be desired, and that new desiring becomes a new instance of the original desire...The human soul was made to enjoy some object that is never fully given - nay, cannot even be imagined as given - in our present mode of subjective and spatio-temporal experience."

Autumn, I find, expresses in the best manner, this desire for what I know lies just beyond what I can humanly touch. It is not the full burst of Spring, which is new life, though we all experience this spring in our spiritual selves if we have met with new life through God.

It is not the pregnant weight of Summer; the representation of a mature at its zenith, with full power, though we all experience this as we grow.

Autumn is not Winter; exhausted and spent, weary of its toils, & finished at long last, although we will experience Winter as we age, and come to an end on this earth.

Autumn is the sigh in the breath of the World. It is the steadfast prayer that looks toward the Dawn with keen anticipation of the Light.
Autumn is the Christian Joy in the ressurection: a promise that things here will grow older, and though many hearts may be in the Winter of their life, we may look forward to something beyond.
& Autumn is the longing that awakes within us the knowledge that we were meant for something Lewis put it,
"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Prof's Financial Advice
What To Do When Your CD's Mature

Being a part-time banker myself, I am often answering the question, "what do I do when my CD (or CD's) mature? What do I do with the money?"

I hate to deviate from the common theme of the page, but the issue is stuck in my mind right now. I have had to answer this same question, perhaps forty different times today.
Many people reinvest their CD money into other CD's, especially because short-term rates recently have been rising. Although CD's, even very short-term ones, can be appropriate as part of your overall portfolio, I don’t believe it’s a good strategy to own too many CD's without also owning some longer-term bonds.

Most people own bonds and CDs for the income they provide. You could be putting your long-term goals at risk by owning too many short-term investments. But if CD rates drop and your CD matures, you may have to invest your money at a lower rate, which will reduce your amount of income.

Investment Alternatives

Before automatically reinvesting in CDs, consider some alternatives to help provide income:

Equities that Pay Dividends – Stock investments that historically have paid and increased, dividends can help provide rising income over time. Ask your investment representative about stocks that are believed to offer good value today. Dividends can be increased, decreased or totally eliminated at any point without notice.

Ladder Bond Maturities – Even though short and long-term interest rates are close together right now, it may not stay that way. Many people own short and long-term bonds but neglect the middle of their ladder. I believe that many intermediate-term bonds offer attractive rates with less volatility than those on the
longer end of the ladder (& I like solidity and dependability). By buying bonds with different maturities, you will have money coming due at different times and can be exposed to a variety of interest rates.

Plan Ahead
Most people never ask the investment question until they have to. If you have money coming due in the near future, plan now to make the choices that make sense to you.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

I would say that the best Christian History magazine I may have ever picked up would be HERE.
This is actually an archival page, & there is a chance it could move on me...hopefully not. But they cover some really great issues & people.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Allegorically Speaking
Or Not

Perhaps the single most common question about The Chronicles of Narnia asks whether Lewis wrote the series as an allegory. Even if your Biblical knowledge is limited to a few Sunday school classes in third grade, most people would agree, you probably notice that Aslan has many similarities to Jesus Christ. If Lewis added that symbolism on purpose, does that mean that everything in Narnia represents something in the Bible?

C.S. Lewis makes clear that he did not write the Narnian Chronicles as a Biblical "allegory." But you may be asking: How can this be true given the obvious symbolism used throughout the series?

In order to understand Lewis's side of the story, you need to understand the difference between allegory and something he called supposal.

The Gory Details Of Allegory

An allegory is a literary device in which an Author uses the form of a person, place, or animal to represent an abstract idea. For example, an eagle can represent the abstract concept of "freedom," or a Witch can represent "evil."

Much of History's Literature is allegorical, for instance, Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy, represents humanity as the protagonist journeys through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, revolves around concepts like Faith, hope, and mercy, as they become real-life characters in his saga of a man (named Christian) fleeing the wrath to come. So too, Lewis's first book written after his Christian conversion was The Pilgrim's Regress, a Bunyanesque allegory that describes his road to the Christian faith.

In The Allegory of Love, Lewis writes that when you use allegory, "you can start with [facts]...and can then invent...visible things to express them." He adds, "What is good or happy has always been high like the heavens and bright like the sun. Evil and misery were deep and dark from the first."

A broader definition applies when an Author represents real people or places in a fictional context. George Orwell's Animal Farm is a well-known example of this allegorical type. As a way of addressing the issues surrounding the Russian Revolution, Marx, Lenin, Stalin, and other real Historical figures are represented as pigs on a farm.

The Chronicles of Narnia is not in this genre. Lewis did not write the series as an allegory, i.e., using his fantasy setting to represent abstract concepts or real people. In terms of literary style, the series bears no parallels to allegorical works like The Divine Comedy, Animal Farm, or even Lewis's own The Pilgrim's Regress.

In fact, Lewis explicitly warns readers against trying to make a one-for-one match between Narnia and the real world. In a letter to a class in Maryland, he writes, "You are mistaken when you think everything in the books 'represents' something in this world. Things do that in The Pilgrim's Progress but I'm not writing in that way."

Supposedly, There Is A Supposal

Although Lewis makes it clear that The Chronicles of Narnia is not an allegory, he does not deny that symbolism was written into the series. But to understand his approach, you need to recognize that Lewis differentiates allegory from something he calls supposal. In a letter to a girl named Sophia Storr, he explains the difference:

"I don't say, 'Let us represent Christ as Aslan.' I say, 'Supposing there was a world like Narnia, and supposing, like ours, it needed redemption, let us imagine what sort of Incarnation and Passion and Resurrection Christ would have there.'"

Allegory and supposal are not identical devices because they deal with what is real and what is unreal quite differently. In an allegory, the ideas, concepts, and even people being expressed are true, but the characters are make-believe. They always behave in a way reflective of the underlying concepts they are representing.

A supposal is much different; the fictional character becomes "real" within the imaginary world, taking on a life of its own and adapting to the make-believe world as necessary. If, for example, you accept the supposal of Aslan as true, then Lewis says, "He would really have been a physical object in that world as He was in Palestine, and His death on the Stone Table would have been a physical event no less than his death on Calvary."

Aslan is not an allegory of Jesus Christ. Instead, He's a supposal. Lewis emphasizes this point in one of his letters:

"[Aslan] is an invention giving an imaginary answer to the question 'What might Christ become like if there really were a world like Narnia and He chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as He actually has done in ours?' This is not allegory at all."

Much of The Chronicles of Narnia is built on the concept of supposal. For example:

Suppose Christ came into the world of Narnia as Aslan. What would He be like?
Suppose Aslan created Narnia out of nothing and centuries later brought it to a conclusion. How would these stories play out ?
Suppose evil were introduced into Narnia. What would that be like?
Suppose a person or talking animal could freely obey or disobey Aslan. What would life in Narnia be like?

If we understand this vital difference between allegory and supposal, it should make us value the Imagination a bit both Lewis and McDonald spoke of: "purifying the Imagination."
This is a process the Puritans understood, and most of us have forgotten. It involves the beauty of a supposal, with the truths of an allegory.
Don't understand? Maybe it's time to purify the Imagination.
Don't know how? Start with Lewis.

Do we read, or read those who have read?
Source & Secondary

I sometimes get stuck on the issue of Works, & Works of Works...i.e., Do we read the primary work, or do we read what someone else said about it?
In some cases, my thoughts are mixed: for instance, the Scriptures.
There can be no substitute for reading the real Thing. However, if we overlook the writings of our Fathers concerning the Scriptures, & ignore the creeds & catechisms which they drew from these Scriptures, we are full of vain ignorance, thinking that we have nothing to learn from the generations before us.
There was a reason each Council sat down & discussed an issue, or resolved a Heresy. If we would give heed to these men & their lives, we would do well.


We do not say this to negate the importance of the original Author. In fact, while material may be read to suppliment the original piece, as I said before, they should not (usually) supercede the original.
In his essay, “On the Reading of Old Books” in God in the Dock, C. S. Lewis explains a phenomenon of material exchange, still prevalent today:

"I have found as a tutor in English Literature that if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, about “isms” and influences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said. The error is rather an amiable one, for it springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator. The simplest student will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what Plato said; but hardly anyone can understand some modern books of Platonism. It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that first-hand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than second-hand knowledge, but it is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire."

Good point.
Let us not forget what others might say about what we deem important. But let us also remember who said it first.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Prof isn't just good at bleeding red ink on your Saxon Grammar paper; he is also great at getting you the deals you need.
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Who says your Professor is your enemy?

Monday, June 26, 2006

What The Prof Is Reading Now
How The Scots Invented The Modern World

Who formed the first literate Society?
Who invented our modern ideas of democracy & free market capitalism?
...The Scots.
I have only just picked this book up, but already, Historian Arthur Herman has shown that in the eighteenth & nineteenth centuries, Scotland made crucial contributions to literature, science, philosophy, education, commerce, theology, medicine, & politics.
Fantastic read, even if I do disagree with some of his bits on Calvinism...he presents it in lights which are often harsh and mean (which...perhaps it may sometimes be, to a limited extent), without ever properly examining the beauty and depth of the Reformed Faith which was so prevelant in Scotland at the height of Presbyterianism; although he does discuss the positive political ramifications of John Knox's influence.
It is interesting to note two things regarding Knox and his influence.
The first is the effect he had on the political state of things. His influence on the people created what may be considered one of the strongest democratic situations in the modern world. This was mostly due to his encouragement that the people ought rather to obey God than man. This engendered the idea that the King's power lay, not in his own right, but was vested in him by God. Each man was responsible for his own conscience, and not answerable to a priest, but to God on an individual basis.
This idea ultimately ran over into the political and economic realms, where individual voice and vote began being heard. Knox had, inadvertently, created a democratic system through his religious efforts.
The second thing to note concerning Knox's influence is the state of the Kirk (Church). The Kirk (or respective local Kirks) in Scotland had always been always tightly-knit, especially on the local level, because many remote areas were so cut off from the outside world. This meant de-centralization in religious and political circles, and emphasis on the local level. It was almost as if an entire Kingdom existed within one small area, so that the Scots had nowhere else to go for their needs than their own towns. The Kirk truly was a predecessor to the local governmental infrastructure of post-colonial America. Perhaps this is why many Scotch immigrants found it easy to transition from the Auld Countrie to the New World.
Overall: an excellent read, providing entertainment along with a superb amount of Historical information, giving proper honour and credence to the greatest Nation in the Worlde...

"When Britain first at Heaven's Command
Arose from out the azure main,
This was the charter of the land,
And guardian angels sung the strain:
Rule Britannia, Britannia rulese the waves!
Britons never shall be slaves."

- James Thompson

Friday, June 23, 2006

From Mocha to Martinique
Some History on Coffee, taken from Henry Wessells

The German botanist and physician Leonhart Rauwolf of Augsburg traveled to Jerusalem (1573-1576), and upon his return published Aigentliche beschreibung der Raiß ... inn die Morgenländer in Lauingen in 1582. Rauwolf's account of his journeys represents the earliest printed reference to coffee in Europe.

Venetian traders in Istanbul were also aware of the beverage, and the Italian physician and botanist Prosper Alpinus took note of coffee on his voyage to Egypt in 1580, and published discussions of coffee in De Medicina Aegyptorum Libri quatuor (1591) and De Plantis Aegypti Liber (1592). The latter volume, on the flora of Egypt, includes the first published illustration of the coffee plant.

The first mention in English (as chaoua) appears in an edition of Linschooten's Travels translated from the Dutch and published in London in 1598. A more recognizable form of the word can be found in Sherley's Travels (1601), in a passage describing "a certain liquor which they call coffe." The spelling was still in flux, for in 1603 the English adventurer Captain John Smith (founder of Virginia) refers to "coffa" in his volume of travels.

The Venetians were in fact the first Europeans to import coffee, in 1615. The Dutch first shipped it directly from Mocha in Arabia the following year, although regular importations were still some decades away. Articles for preparing coffee were among the household effects carried by the Pilgrims on the voyage of the Mayflower in 1620, but not until 1670 was coffee sold in Boston.

Early mentions of coffee are to be found in the works of Francis Bacon, in Historia Vitae et Mortis (1623) and Sylva Sylvarum (1627), as well as in Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy (1632). The first botanical description of coffee in English was published by Parkinson in Theatrum Botanicum (1640).

The use of coffee spread rapidly throughout Europe after mid-century. Venice was the site of the first coffee house, opened in 1645, and one was opened in London in 1652. In Lyons in 1671, Philippe Sylvestre Dufour published De l'Usage du Café, du Thé et du Chocolat. Dialogue entre un médecin, un Indien, et un Bourgeois, the first substantial work on coffee in French. The first coffee house in Paris opened the following year.

One of the most important and widely read works on coffee, although somewhat later, is Jean de la Roque's Voyage de L'Arabie heureuse ... (1716), which recounted the history of French expeditions in the Red Sea from 1708 to 1710 and a second mission to the port of Mocha and the court of the King of Yemen during the years 1711 to 1713. La Roque described the coffee tree (with engraved plates), and provided a critical discussion of the history of the introduction of coffee into France in the latter part of this work, entitled Un Mémoire Concernant l'Arbre & le Fruit du Café. The Paris edition was followed by one published in Amsterdam the same year, with newly engraved plates. Gründliche und sichere Nachricht vom Cafée und Cafée-Baum, a German translation of the portion of the work concerning coffee, was published in Leipzig in 1717. An Italian translation of the entire work appeared in Venice in 1721, and English editions in 1726, 1732, and 1742. A notable Italian work dealing with the origins, cultivation, roasting, and preparation of the coffee, Ambrosia Arabica overa della Salutare Bevanda Cafe, by Angelo Rambaldi, was published in Bologna in 1691.

The Dutch were the first to experiment with growing coffee outside Arabia. Early plantations in Ceylon from the 1650s were followed by efforts to establish coffee in Java in 1699. A coffee seedling from Java was successfully transported to Amsterdam in 1706, and a plant grown from a seed of that tree was presented to Louis XIV of France in 1714. It was in this period, 1715 to 1725, that coffee was first grown in Surinam in South America, on the Caribbean island of Martinique, as well as on the island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean. Coffee was introduced to Brazil from the settlement at Cayenne in French Guiana in 1727.

Need A Light?

The pipe is not merely a wooden or clay tool which some men use to while away their is a tool which corresponds to the soul. & not merely the soul, but the rational area of it.

This explains - consequently - why we tend to think of wise and ancient figures smoking long-stemmed pipes, stroking antiquated beards: the Oxford don, surrounded by massive volumes of dusty books, puffing away contentedly as he theorizes on the meaning of life or the hyperconductivity of some natural element: or even the prestigious Sherlock Holmes, who, in Doyle's original stories, actually smoked various sorts of tobacco, yet is nearly always portrayed with a pipe.

And yet, as I think on the value and emphasis of the pipe, I realise that perhaps one of the reasons pipes are so nostalgic is that, unlike cigars and cigarettes: a pipe endures.

Similarly, the questions of the philosopher far outlast the passing concerns of physical desires (cigarettes) on the one hand and human ambitions (cigars) on the other.

Further, while the cigar is entirely masculine, the pipe has both masculine and feminine elements (the stem and the bowl). This - in contrast to other forms of smoking - corresponds to the philosopher's activity, which is - if it may be put thus - both masculine and feminine: masculine in its pursuit of Lady Truth, feminine (I say this with abashment) in its reception of anything that she discloses.

& Finally, the effect that the pipe has on others is analogous to the effect of philosophizing: the smooth & simultaneously exhilerating fragrance of a pipe, like good philosophy, is a blessing to all who partake.