Word Nerd Wednesday: Peter Mark Roget

Roget's Thesaurus

Anyone who spends time reading books, learning about books, and writing about the same is, by definition, a lover of language and the words upon which our language is built. This might be rather presumptuous, but I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that anyone who has stuck with me throughout the duration of this online experiment is equally fascinated by language and what we can learn from it.

While riding in the car, soaking up the smooth sound of Mike Rowe unraveling the mysteries and histories of familiar personalities, this particular episode of his podcast piqued my curiosity in a way that few have: Call It What You Will.

Click the link to listen to it. It’s less than 10 minutes -most of the episodes are- and nothing I offer hear could compare to the enjoyment of hearing Rowe’s delivery of this little known story. Nonetheless, long after I disconnected from my car’s BlueTooth and embarked on the other activities of the day, I remained infinitely curious about the genius who provided us with the first Thesaurus of note in 1852.

oroiginal roget's thesaurus

After cursory research, I determined that Roget is worthy of infinitely more than a short feature on an obscure, little-known, barely read blog. This, however, is all I have to offer. This, and a strong suggestion that you look into Peter Roget at your leisure.

Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869) was a British physician, lexicographer, and natural theologian.  The fact that he was a natural theologian, documenting all the ways the natural world supports the existence of our Creator, was an aspect of his history that I was wholly unfamiliar with. Once considered, the connections seem obvious; at least to me. A physician who is a natural theologian and lexicographer, concerned with words, what they mean, and how they are used.

Roget experienced his share of tragedy in life, as many of us do, and with that, he was drawn ever more deeply into unraveling the mysteries of the natural world, of seeing the order of God in what was often the chaos of life. With each observation, he produced more and more pages of words, information, and inventions. Here are just a few things we can attribute to the work of PeterMark Roget:

  • Discovery of nitrous oxide’s usefulness as an anesthetic
  • The slide rule, which calculated the roots and powers of numbers and was the forerunner to the calculator
  • Original author of articles and research for Encyclopedia Britannica
  • Numerous papers on optics and “optical deception”

In 1840, Roget retired from medicine and dedicated the rest of his life to compiling the volume that earned him the dubious honor of being the subject of this post; Roget’s Thesaurus.

I hope you enjoyed this initial ‘Word Nerd Wednesday”!

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Faves: Auditory Enrichment

One of the things I have been doing over the past several months is listening to podcasts while I work. These are comprised of various types of listening; from sermons to news and politics, some informative broadcasts and also educational encouragement. Podcasts have evolved into my first option for engaging the mind and contemplating ideas. They are, for me, more cognitively enriching than reading articles online.

I still have a list of favorite, friendly blogs but overall, I find podcasts more enjoyable. I can listen to several while my kids are in school (they go to school a couple of days a week) and still get lots of household tasks accomplished.

I’ll confess that I’ve wondered if the trading of screen time for podcasts is tantamount to exchanging Cheetos for Smartfood, but decided that since I get a lot more done listening than while indulging other forms of distraction, the podcasts are here to stay for a bit. I listen to random podcasts on occasion but have subscribed to eight, in particular, and I listen to these regularly. This Friday Fave will highlight my current favorite podcasts. I installed the Castbox app on my phone, which makes it much easier for me to see when my favorites have a new episode as well as dig around for others that might be interesting.

Here, in no particular order, are the podcasts I subscribe to along with a little bit about why I enjoy each one.

Proverbial with Joshua Gibbs: This one is a part of the Circe podcast network. Unsurprisingly to anyone who has read here for any length of time, this is my favorite of the three Circe podcasts on the list.  In his podcast, Gibbs “explores the wisdom of the ages as it comes to us in proverbs, by which [he] means wise sayings a man may live by if he’s not so arrogant as to think himself special”.  He opens every weekly episode with that quote, and I have yet to tire of it.

The Commons: Part of the Circe Institute’s podcast network, The Commons is thoroughly focused on topics related to Christian classical education. It helps me to remember why we have chosen the education path we’ve chosen. Especially when the road seems hard.

Ask Andrew: Ask Andrew is also offered through the Circe Podcast network. In it, Andrew Kern asks specific educational questions that Circe readers submit. Again, Circe is dedicated to Christian classical education.

The Candace Owens Show: I really enjoy listening to this young commentator who covers a range of topics from a thoughtful, countercultural, unapologetically conservative perspective. She always has interesting guests, too.

Voddie Baucham via SermonAudio: I have always enjoyed Voddie Baucham’s scripturally systematic, intellectual approach to teaching. I always learn new things and am challenged in new way by listening to him.

Primal Blueprint: This is a podcast produced by Mark Sisson, author of Mark’s Daily Apple.  He doesn’t always host the podcast, but it’s still chock full of good information about health and nutrition.

The Ben Shapiro Show: I hardly think I need to get into a lengthy description of this one. Almost everyone knows who Ben Shapiro is. He is so smart and intellectually honest that he manages to produce a hugely popular video show and podcast in spite of his rather annoying voice.  It took some time, but I got used to it. For the uninformed, he discusses the hot political topics and headlines of the day from a libertarian perspective.

The World and Everything In It: This is a daily news and issues podcast that reports and analyzes from an explicitly Christian perspective. Somehow, they manage to do it in a way that doesn’t feel like proselytizing. They are thoughtful, honest, and balanced.

The Way I Heard It: Mike Rowe’s amazing voice and stellar storytelling ability combine to offer uncommonly known insights into people and events most of us are familiar with. His website describes it as “a series of short mysteries for the curious mind with a short attention span”. Yep. It sounds like a podcast for me!

Those are the eight podcasts I am subscribed to and listen to on a semi-regular basis. Some of these I listen to more consistently than others, of course. Now on to the important question:

What are some of your favorite podcasts and which ones do you think I might enjoy but haven’t yet heard about?

Have a great weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brave New World Revisited

brave new world ps

Brave New World Revisited by Aldous Huxley. Originally published n 1958. 144 pages.

When his classic novel,  Brave New World, was published in 1931, Aldous Huxley’s imaginary world was one he foresaw unfolding many years into the future. It was set in the 26th century, in fact. By 1958 however, the world he saw emerging little more than a quarter of a century after his book was published seemed to be hurtling toward his very grim, sterile vision. And so, he penned a postscript: Brave New World Revisited. To offer some context, let’s do a short recap on the plot of Brave New World.

Brave New World, set in a futuristic age,  largely revolves around the World State city of London, 2540 AF (After Ford). In this well, brave new world, war has been eradicated, biological human reproduction has been replaced by hatcheries, the sexual revolution has come to full fruition with the destruction of the family, and the masses are kept happy through hedonistic indulgences and addiction to a drug known as soma. Life without struggle has been achieved.

Of course, there’s always a wrinkle waiting to tear at the fabric of utopias, and World State London is no exception. There are pockets of the world where religion still exists, the struggles of life go on, reproduction still happens the old-fashioned way, and the messiness of family life continues as it always has. This bit of reality eventually invades World State London, and things get interesting.

However, it’s the state of things in 1958 that motivates Huxley to revisit his fantastical Brave New World prophecies. In Brave New World revisited, we note Huxley’s alarm at the exploding post-war population. He notes the difficulty inherent in trying to control the reproductive habits of humanity and he is concerned about the ability of the world’s resources to sustain this increasing population of humans. Wherever I may diverge from Huxley on that particular subject, he offers a lot of highly instructive commentary which is relevant to life in the 21st century. On the subject of the masses being overly entertained:

“A society, most of whose members spend a great part of their time, not on the spot, not here and now and in the calculable future, but somewhere else, in the irrelevant other worlds of sport and soap opera, of mythology and metaphysical fantasy, will find it hard to resist the encroachments of those who would manipulate and control it.”

He touches on the banal danger of some of the most popular music of the times:

“Nonsense which it would be shameful for a reasonable being to write, speak or hear spoken can be sung or listened to by that same rational being with pleasure and even with a kind of intellectual conviction.”

On the subject of wresting  control of the masses via the carrot rather than the stick:

“In the light of what we have recently learned about animal behavior in general, and human behavior in particular, it has become clear that control through the punishment of undesirable behavior is less effective, in the long run, than control through the reinforcement of desirable behavior by rewards, and that government through terror works on the whole less well than government through the non-violent manipulation of the environment and of the thoughts and feelings of individual men, women and children.”

There were certainly areas of thought where I found Huxley’s arguments wanting, but none of that changed the fact that he made some excellent observations about the current state of his world and the ultimate trajectory of ours.

Revisiting Brave New World was a welcome opportunity to explore these ideas in a very short book, easily read over the course of a leisurely weekend. The real question lingers:

How close are we to Huxley’s Brave New World? Will we eventually live in a world so unfamiliar that even reproduction has been taken over by what Huxley refers to as the Power Elite?

As for the book, because it induces the opportunity to think about the world in which we live, I give it:

4 out of 5 stars

 

 

 

 

Friday Faves: Apple Season!

“Pumpkin spice” is advertised everywhere we look from September through Thanksgiving (and I’ll admit I made these “pumpkin spice” energy bites yesterday), but for me, the real treat of the fall season is a crisp, sweet, tart apple.

Sidebar: The quotes around the words pumpkin spice are because in reality, there is no such thing as “pumpkin spice”. Flip over any package of the stuff, which is ubiquitous on spice aisles this time of year, and you’ll find a list of ingredients that you already have in your pantry. Or at least you have them when you cook as much as we do: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and possibly allspice.

While these are indeed used to flavor pumpkin pie, they’re also used for sweet potato pie, some apple pies (minus the ginger, of course!), butternut squash recipes, and many more that I won’t bother to list. My point is that the pumpkin spice gimmick has been a cash cow for the food industry when most home cooks already have the stuff in their cabinets. You can even flavor your own coffee with it for a fraction of what Starbucks charges! But as usual, I’ve digressed from the topic at hand, which is the happiness apple season brings me!

For today, I was trying to decide how to list my favorite apple varieties. I concluded that I’ll list my top five -in no particular order- along with what I use them for. Not all apples shine best in the same ways!

Granny Smith: a great baking apple. These were cultivated in Australia in 1868 by a “granny” named Maria Ann Smith. Something about Granny Smiths makes just about anything you bake with them taste phenomenal. I suspect it’s that bit of tartness juxtaposed against the sweetness of the other ingredients it is baked into. I will occasionally eat a Granny Smith just because, and one of my daughters only ever wants to eat Granny Smith, but I consider it best as a baking apple.

Pink Lady: Cultivated and principally grown in Australia (in 1973), pink lady apples are a cross between tartness and sweetness. They are a little crunchier and a little sweeter than Granny Smiths, and they work well when making drinks such as apple lemonade. We’re big around our house about making eclectic drink combinations for Sunday dinners.

Gala: Cultivated in New Zealand during the 1930s, these are my favorite economical snacking apple. The perfect combination of crunchy and sweet makes them a favorite to slice and eat along with a salad for lunch.

Honeycrisp: Hands down, the apple I most look forward to this time of year! These apples, cultivated in the 1970s in Minneapolis, taste like a very decadent treat. They are more expensive than most other varieties of apples, but in my book, every bite is worth the added cost per pound. Cooking Light explains here why Honeycrisps are so expensive.

Those are my favorite apples along with some random trivia about when and where they were cultivated. We don’t experience much resembling a change of seasons down here, so we have to take our bits of fall however we can get them. For many Southerners, that’s pumpkin spice. For me, it’s all about the apples.

Do you enjoy the apple season? If so, which are among your favorite varieties? There are so many, after all!

My Reading Life

I pilfered this idea from Rod Dreher, who posted his answers to these questions after reading Clive James’ answers to them at The Guardian. I thought it was an excellent idea, and contemplating the answers made me think deeply about my own reading life, so here goes:

The Books I Am Currently Reading:

I’m currently reading three books. The first is Dorothy Sayer’s Mind of the Maker. The second is Brave New World Revisited by Aldous Huxley. The third is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I’ll probably finish them in that order, so stay tuned.

A Book That Changed My Life:

Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one that immediately springs to mind. It was an excellent opportunity to be reminded that as Christians, we would do well to be thankful for our mutual fellowship. We should be looking for common ground rather than reasons to bite and devour one another over minutiae. It really is a classic exploration of Christian community. A second one might be The  Heart of the Five Love languages by Gary Chapman. It really helped me reconsider how I interact in my marriage and personal relationships.

A Book I Wish I’d Written:

I can’t really think of a book I wish I’d written, although the books that I immediately thought of when I read the question are the ones by authors who drew on their local culture: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, The Lion’s Paw by Robb White, and  Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski, all set in Florida during overlapping periods, are the kinds of books I wish I could write. I am not inclined, however, towards fiction writing so I can’t say definitively that I wish I’d written any of them.

A Book That Had the Greatest Influence on My Writing:

For right now, I’m thinking it’s probably How to Be Unlucky by Joshua Gibbs. I’m sure this is partly because it’s still relatively fresh in my mind, but it’s also because I really appreciate his ability to write about faith in a genuine way without over spiritualizing every facet of life.

I haven’t yet determined whether or not this speaks well of my spiritual state, but I want to be called higher (and to call others higher), from down here among the wrestling rabble, not from the pretense of on a lofty plane, of having arrived. I hope, when I can sort my thoughts enough to produce an entire volume, I can find the sweet spot Gibbs hits in his writing.

A Book I Think Is Most Over/Underrated:

Persuasion, by Jane Austen, hands down. Unless I’m in a conversation among die hard literature types, I never hear any mention of this novel of hers. And it is among my favorite Austen books, second only to Emma which I love for its humor.

A Book That Changed My Mind:

Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell was the first book I read that made me think completely differently about economic policy and politics as an integrated subject. It was partially the beginning of my abandonment of liberalism and the discarding of incongruent thinking on the subject of, well…basic economics.

The Last Book That Made Me Cry:

Books don’t generally make me cry. While I can’t think of one which fits that specific bill, I can think of one that moved me emotionally as I read it. A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis is a book that lays bare the stages of grief in a way that almost anyone can appreciate.

The Last Book That Made me Laugh:

My Man Jeeves and Other Stories, by P.G. Wodehouse. Wodehouse is among the best humorist writers and reading his books are guaranteed to make me chuckle.

A Book I Couldn’t Finish:

Fierce Angels was the latest one. I just couldn’t swallow all the intersectionality and oppression talk. Sometimes even I, who can wade through quite a lot of muck for the sake of information, have to throw in the towel.

The Book I’m Most Ashamed Not to Have Read:

I tend to think that if I haven’t read a book yet, it’s okay. It’s even okay if I never read it. However, I used to feel kind of icky that I’ve never read The Odyssey. Oh, well. Maybe one day.

My Earliest Reading Memory:

The Dick and Jane books in first grade. I could already read when I got there, so it was a drag reading these.

My Comfort Read:

The Bible, followed by almost any Jane Austen novel.

The Book I Give As a Gift:

I recently gave How to be Unlucky as a gift to a friend, and a Frog and Toad collection to an expectant mother. I don’t have a go-to book that I give as a gift. I’m a gift card kind of gal and a gift card to Barnes and Noble frees the giftee to choose whatever they want to read.

The Book I’d Most Like to Be Remembered For:

I don’t have an answer for this one as I haven’t published a book yet. Time will tell either way…

Now to the important part: Tell me all about YOUR reading life by answering some of these questions in the comments!

 

On Books and the Unchanging Nature of Things

old and new

The wonderful thing about books is that if you’ve read a sufficient number, you quickly realize that King Solomon was right: There truly is nothing new under the sun. Cultural shifts occasionally offer the illusion that we’ve cooking up something new, but once you take a bite, it’s readily apparent that this just another case of, “New Look! Same Great Taste!”

I just started reading Dorothy Sayers’ Mind of the Maker, originally published in 1941. In light of our current political, social, and cultural trajectory, this quote from the first chapter stood out to me:

The more closely the moral code agrees with the natural law, the more it makes for freedom in human behaviour; the more widely it departs from the natural law, the more it tends to enslave mankind…

This corroborates what we already know, at least some of us. Our tendency to enforce utopian ideals by fiat, despite their blatant incongruency with the ingrained laws of the universe, is not a new one. It hasn’t worked before, and despite the technologies that have shrunk our world, it isn’t working now, for obvious reasons:

The moral code depends for its validity upon a consensus [8] of human opinion about what man’s nature really is, and what it ought to be, when freed from this mysterious self-contradiction and enabled to run true to itself. If there is no agreement about these things, then it is useless to talk of enforcing the moral code.

It’s not that we don’t know these truths. We do, but it sates the soul when those who have gone before, and are smarter, more articulate and presumably more wise than we confirm what we can see and sense in our hearts as true.

Behold the power of a great book!

* I’m still reading this particular book, but have learned that it is a part of the public domain in Canada. Ergo, although I’ve already spent money on it, there is online access to it. Weirdly, we are supposed to consult the laws in our country before reading it or something, so consider this your public service announcement.