Low-grade cabin fever raving

Had a disturbing message on my answering machine when I got home tonight. I heard the voice of an older woman, very muffled, saying something incomprehensible about snow, and being late for work, ending with “Help me out, here.”

I think.

I don’t know who she is, and I don’t know who she was calling when she accidentally dialed my number. Whatever help she wanted she didn’t get, and it’s all over by now.

But I still feel guilty.

It was almost as cold today as yesterday, but it didn’t feel as bad. That’s one of the great things about cold weather. Even a small improvement registers palpably. I remember a year when we spent several days around 20 and 30 below, and when we got back up to zero it felt positively spring-like.

It also snowed a couple inches, which pleases me because it protects the roots of my sick tree. (Yes, hard as it may be for southerners to believe, snow does actually protect the ground from hard freezing. It has an insulating effect).

I’m in low spirits tonight, and I have a dentist appointment coming up, so that’s about all I’ve got.

I’ll share this link for adult footy pajamas, shared with me by an online friend.

I could go off on a rant about the infantilization of our culture, but…

They look kind of neat, really. Especially on a night like this.

Ha! We don’t call this cold in Spitzbergen!

You want to talk about cold? It clawed its way up to 1° F. today. That was even colder than yesterday, when I had trouble starting my car after it had sat for about three hours in bright sunlight while I was in church.

And yes, I did go all France on the Viking Age Society on Saturday. I hope the guys are still alive.

I even lowered my sartorial standards today. Instead of a hat I wore a stocking cap, along with my faithful Air Force surplus arctic snorkel parka (the undisputed finest winter coat ever designed, imho). Instead of a coat and tie I wore a sweater and tie (a Norwegian sweater, of course). The sweater has a nice collar with a zipper. It converts into a turtleneck, and I made use of that option.

Man alive, it’s cold.

The air sucks the moisture right out of your skin, freeze-dries it, jets it into the stratosphere, and blows it to Greenland, where it falls to earth with a gentle tinkle.

And yet the days are getting longer. The sun shone cheerfully as I drove home from work.

They try to make us believe that this isn’t suspicious—this counterintuitive annual pattern where the sun shines more but the air gets colder anyway.

I know the truth. Haliburton conspired with the oil companies and the international bankers to artificially import cheap Canadian air, in order to raise oil and natural gas prices, swelling their obscene profits.

You can’t pull the wool over my eyes.

Actually, you can.

In fact I’d be grateful. Wool is nice and warm.

Worldwide Group Writing Project

“Crowdsourcing” may be a good word for it, but it’s probably a bad idea. Penguin has launched a novel writing project in the style of Wikipedia, allowing anyone–anyone–to contribute and edit the novel.

“Day by day, night by night, fantasies and tales emerge. Collaboration is about to unveil and sparkle, witness the amazing power of a WikiNovel.”

Did the guys who came up with this idea ever spend time with writing stories as a group? It can be fun, but it can’t be serious unless everyone in the group is committed to serious writing. A million writers the world over won’t be serious. “Big Bababoobey Ooby flexed his pinky . . . “? Give it up.

In this post on their blog, the administrators describe their difficulties with vandalism.

Coffee Taste Testing

(I’m blogging too much tonight, but nevermind that. Please read this.) What do you think of Consumer Reports? Great source for unbiased product testing? Uneven results in some things? I like the CR goals, but I don’t view them as a bible on products like I used to–a strong recommendation for everyone, but their choice may not be the best for me.

Now CR has turned it’s trained reporters on the common man’s cup of joe, and the result? The Boston Herald reports:

McDonald’s latest caffeinated endeavor, Newman’s Own Organics Blend coffee, is better than both Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks, says Consumer Reports magazine.

“We compared the rivals with Starbucks, all in basic black – no flavors, milk or sugar – and you know what? McDonald’s beat the rest,” the magazine said in its March issue.

The CR tasters visited only two stores in each company for the report, which may be too small a sample for a subjective survey like this. Bloomberg.com reports the tasters comments:

McDonald’s coffee was “decent and moderately strong,” while Starbucks was “strong, but burnt and bitter enough to make your eyes water.” . . . Dunkin’ Donuts brew was “weak, watery, and pricier than Starbucks. It was inoffensive, but it had no oomph.” Burger King, meanwhile, served a beverage that “looked like coffee but tasted more like hot water.”

I’ve had some pretty bitter coffee at Starbucks, which I assumed came from an overbrewed pot, not the company beans. Generally, Starbucks is good, but I don’t care to buy my coffee there. They irritate me.

Have you tried McDonald’s coffee in the past year? Was it better than you expected? If I ever buy coffee there, I expect to get the dark hot water variety. Maybe I should try it. I have drunk Chick-fil-a’s dark roast several times over the last several months. If MacDonald’s was just as good, I’d be impressed. (by way of The Boars Head Tavern)

Andrew Klavan in World Magazine

Your Writers Group points out an interview with one of Lars’ favorite authors, Andrew Klavan, in World Magazine (subscription req.).

He quotes Klavan saying, “I’m a novelist, remember, not a preacher. I trust reality to express Christ’s presence, because I think that’s what it actually does.”

In introducing the interview, Marvin Olasky writes, “It shouldn’t be an unusual combination, because an understanding of man’s sinfulness, along with a glimpse of God’s holiness, often makes us realize our desperate need for Christ. And yet Christian fiction has a reputation for being too nice to take on vice.”

Clive Cussler Sues Over Sahara Movie

Adventure Author Clive Cussler is arguing in court that the script to “Sahara,” based on his novel, was so bad it has hurt his career. His lawyers claim that Crusader Entertainment altered the screenplay without his consent, essentially ruining his main character and the story. Crusader Entertainment is countersuing, claiming Cussler exaggerated his sales to win the film contract.

I can understand suing over alterations without consent, if that’s a contractual agreement, but making a lousy movie based on my book? That’s Hollywood–get over it. And Crusader’s claim may have merit, but on the surface, it looks like whining to me.

Can’t Imagine It’s Enforced

Blasphemy in Massachusetts: Chapter 272, Section 36. “Whoever wilfully blasphemes the holy name of God by denying, cursing,” etc.

And if you raise a ruckus in church, section 38 will send you jail too, so watch it.

After posting this yesterday, I asked myself if anyone would want this kind of thing to be enforced. We won’t improve our neighbor’s character by forcing them to keep select vices, like blasphemy, to themselves. Disrupting a worship service is another matter, which I don’t think automatically falls under free speech protections. It is proper for a society to protect places from unruly citizens, so if it were a crime to heckle a minister in my state, I wouldn’t mind. Not that I would press charges on it either.

But common vulgarity or blasphemy as is restricted in Section 36 above shouldn’t be unlawful. Neither should stating that homosexuality is perversion.

Mr. Dawntreader with G.K. Chesterton

Dawntreader is taking notes on Chesterton’s thoughtful essays in Orthodoxy:

Evolution is a good example of that modern intelligence which, if it destroys anything, destroys itself. Evolution is either an innocent scientific description of how certain earthly things came about; or, if it is anything more than this, it is an attack upon thought itself. If evolution destroys anything, it does not destroy religion but rationalism.”

In short, thinking is meaningless if it’s all just chemical processes given to us by random survival instincts.

Tourism by the book

Today’s post isn’t about Norway exactly. It’s about Norway and other places too.

I’ve traveled overseas several times, and I’ve always gone to Norway. Other countries I’ve visited have either been on the way or on the way back from Norway.

It’s not that there’s no other country I’d like to see. It’s just that my traveling money is limited (often nonexistent), and I have to prioritize.

But I must admit the list of countries I really want to see is fairly short.

Denmark, because it’s another ancestral country, and I haven’t been there yet.

The British Isles, because of all the books and movies and literature.

Israel, because of the Bible.

And… hmm. I wouldn’t turn down a free trip to a few other countries, but I won’t feel cheated at the end of my life if the list above covers my life’s tourism.

I’ve often wondered about my complete lack of interest in the exotic. I hear people saying, “Oh, I want to visit China and Indonesia and Brazil and all those far-off, unfamiliar places.”

And I don’t see it. Why, I wonder, am I only interested in my own culture and heritage, and nobody else’s?

The obvious answer, in our time, is that I must be a racist, but I think there’s more to it.

My interest in travel, I’ve realized, is almost entirely connected to my reading. I want to see the places where the stories happened. That’s why I couldn’t appreciate my one canoe trip to the North Woods with my brothers. There wasn’t any beloved story associated with it. (Also paddling and portaging is a lot of work,)

Visiting the American West, on the other hand, is something I want to do. Lots of stories there, historic and fictional.

My interest in seeing a place is directly proportional to the stories I’ve read that come from there. That’s why I’d like to see England, but France and Germany leave me cold (I know The Three Musketeers is French, but, as C. S. Lewis pointed out, it’s not a story in which the landscape plays much of a role).

I’m not saying this is the right way to look at travel, or that my approach is better in any way than yours.

I’m just saying that’s how it is with me.

And what am I blogging for, except to explain myself in exasperating detail?

Book Reviews, Creative Culture