Thursday, March 12, 2015

Blogging Around: Of Many Diverse Things

World's Best Pencil Sharpener

I admit I was dubious over these claims by Amazon reviewers. But a pencil sharpener that has inspired 331 reviews must have something going for it.

I myself had been searching in vain for a decent manual sharpener for some time. Hey, it's the little quests in life that give it meaning. Crossword puzzles and my calendar (paper, natch) cry out for using a pencil. (Don't get me started on what sort of pencil. Those #2s just don't cut it. But that's another quest.)

I can truly testify that the claims are correct. This sharpener is fantastic, whether on the hated #2s or colored pencils that you found in a cabinet where you used to store the kids' art supplies.

The 1001 Nights Podcast

Each episode we bring you the ancient mythologies of the Arabian Nights reinterpreted by modern authors in a variety of settings and styles. These stories have been told and retold for hundreds of years and trace their roots back to ancient medieval Arabian, Persian, Indian, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian folklore. While some westernized stories such as Aladdin and the tales of Sinbad are widely known, many other wondrous myths have yet to find life in our culture.

The stories are famously told by Scheherazade to enrapture the Sultan in a heroic effort to forestall her execution and save her people.

These winding, nesting and mysterious stories are presented to you as original adaptations, never before heard or read.
This is well produced and narrated and I am hooked. The stories are compelling thus far. Definitely recommended. Get it at iTunes or go to The 1001 Nights Podcast. The stories are available there for reading as well as listening.

Pope Francis's Miracle

John Allen says that people keep saying Pope Francis doesn't act like the guy they knew back in Buenos Aires. Well, he's always cared about the poor and so forth, but this beaming, shoot-from-the-hip, joyful fellow is someone even his sister says she doesn't recognize. As Allen reports it in his new book, there's a supernatural explanation. And it's one that makes me feel God's giving us the pope He wants us to have. As Allen tells it:
Over Christmas 2013, a veteran Latin American cardinal who has known Bergoglio for decades made an appointment to see his old friend in the Santa Marta, the hotel on Vatican grounds where the pope has chosen to reside. (He lives in Room 201, a slightly larger room than the one he stayed in during the conclave that elected him, giving the pontiff enough space to receive guests comfortably).

The cardinal, who didn’t wish to be named, said he looked at Francis and, referring to the exuberance and spontaneity that are now hallmarks of his public image, said to him point-blank: "You are not the same man I knew in Buenos Aires. What’s happened to you?"

According to the cardinal, this was Francis’ answer:

“On the night of my election, I had an experience of the closeness of God that gave me a great sense of interior freedom and peace," the cardinal quoted the pope as saying, "and that sense has never left me.”

Archdiocese for Military Services (AMS)

I never heard of this but they're a real thing. Established in 1985 by Pope St. John Paul II, AMS is unique because they aren't tied to a physical place but to their Archbishop because it was established to serve the Christian faithful in the military. The Archdiocese receives no funding from the United States government. Rather, the Archdiocese is solely funded by the generosity of its chaplains, men and women in uniform and private benefactors. To find out more and to donate, visit the Archdiocese for the Military, USA.

Leashing the Black Dog

The Art of Manliness is beginning a series about depression. My own family doesn't have that particular problem but my husband's side of the family has a history of depression so I've encountered it personally in those I love. Which is what interested me enough to read their post Leashing the Black Dog. As an introduction it is mostly a personal account, but there were some facts which surprised me, such as the way depression has been viewed through history:
Today in the West and particularly in America, depression is seen as a mental illness, something that you have to cure and get rid of right away through therapy and drugs. Everything is awesome and everyone is supposed to be “happy, happy, happy.” But throughout Western history, society took a more nuanced approach to depression, or “melancholy” as it was once called. It was seen as a temperament that came with both a curse and a blessing. The goal wasn’t to cure someone of melancholy, but rather to help them manage it so it didn’t deepen into “madness” or “hysteria.”

C.S. Lewis: The Space Trilogy

This is another set of books that was continually recommended but which I couldn't make myself read. Even though I knew that J.R.R. Tolkien really liked them.

Until I found the library had them all in audio. And what a difference that made. I wound up really liking each book, though for completely different reasons. Each book has a really different vibe. Each shows that Lewis had much more imagination than I ever credited him with. And I continually wonder whether anyone who isn't Christian likes them because much of what I liked about each has to do with the sympathetic twang my soul makes to the point of the stories. (Though no one ever answers ...)

They are controversial, in the sense that people's reactions are all over the place. That is what led to Will Duquette's post which does a good job of discussing the books. Here's the short version, then you can go read the whole thing which has some good commentary on Lewis' writing.
In short, Out of the Silent Planet is precisely what it seems to be; there are no hidden depths. Perelandra fails as a tale of wonder, but repays the patient reader; and That Hideous Strength is Lewis at his mythopoeic best. And if they are not what one would normally call science fiction, well: the world we live is more complex than materialists think it is.

How I Pray

Tom McDonald's got a good series where he gets interesting people to answer questions about their prayer life. He's got a wide range of people answering thus far, ranging from Steven Greydanus to Elizabeth Scalia to Amy Welborn (and including people I actually know like Will Duquette, Jen Fitz, and Lisa Hendey). I find the posts interesting, because let's face it that's a personal question ... we all want to know. And sometimes the answers contain information that I find helpful or inspiring. Swing by and take a look see.


  1. Thank you for mentioning AMS! My husband is military, and we have seen firsthand the wonderful things that AMS does for the military community.

    Blessings to you! :)

    1. My pleasure! So glad to hear a first-hand endorsement of what looks like a wonderful ministry.