Monday, February 8, 2010

Hot Chocolate & Lorna Doones

     Looking for a guilt-free snack in the evening? Here’s mine: Sugar-free diet hot chocolate and Nabisco’s 100-calorie pack of Lorna Doones. This combo is only 3 points on Weight Watchers (1 for the hot chocolate; 2 for the cookies). Curl up with this treat and a good book, and you’re set. Since I constantly have to keep an eye on my weight, I am open to any suggestions. So, what are your guilt-free treats?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

San Francisco’s Answer to the Westboro "Baptist" Church

     When the perennial purveyors of globe-trotting hate, AKA The Westboro “Baptist” Church, showed up at our downtown Episcopal Church in Reno a few years ago, we simply filed out of church and turned our backs on them and were mute – that ticked them off, I can tell you. I have to put “Baptist” in quotes since they are not affiliated with any recognized Baptist group.

     I’m wondering now, though, whether we should have followed the lead of some pranksters who dealt with the protestors in San Francisco by using humor. They created hilarious signs like “God Hates Signs” and “I Was Promised Donuts!” and infiltrated the protestors while blaring music from Lady Gaga (a particular favorite of the Westboro group, I understand.)

     I’m reminded of Martin Luther’s quote: “I often laugh at Satan, and there is nothing that makes him so angry…”

     Read the full story and see more pictures and a video here: “San Francisco’s Answer to the Westboro Baptist Church” .

Anne Frank’s Chestnut Tree

     Other than the Bible, it is said that the diary of Anne Frank is one of the most widely read works of non-fiction in history. Outside of the office building in Amsterdam where her family hid from the Nazis, a chestnut tree grew. Anne mentioned it in her diary on Feb. 23, 1944:

     "From my favorite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind. 'As long as this exists,' I thought, 'and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts I cannot be unhappy.'"
     The tree is, however, close to the end of its life. In order to preserve Anne’s memory, saplings grafted from the original chestnut tree have been awarded across the globe – eleven are coming to the United States. The nearest sapling to my home here in Nevada is now planted north of the San Francisco bay area at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, California‎.

     Who would have thought at the time, that the diary of one bright young girl would forever change how we would see the consequences of World War II. One little chestnut sapling still grows to testify to what happens when people marginalize others, treating them as less than fully human… less than fully made in God’s image.

     You may read the full story here: The San Francisco Chronicle – “Anne Frank's spirit lives on in chestnut tree”.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Books Intravenously! The Amazon Kindle!

Learn more about the Kindle!     Perhaps I exaggerate by saying the books come intravenously, but for a book-lover, the Amazon Kindle is pretty close. I tend to rarely turn on the TV except for the news – it is not that I do not like watching TV, I just tend to forget about it. As a kid, I loved both reading and watching TV, but somewhere after high school I lost the habit of being glued to the tube. I am just more likely to pick up a good book than take the trouble to flip through channels or check a TV Guide. I still love the feel of a real book in hand, but now when I come across a book I would like to read, I can pick up my Kindle and have it delivered wirelessly within a couple minutes – nothing like a bit of instant gratification. You click a button and momentarily, you are in the Kindle book store on Amazon browsing through over 400,000 titles, most of which sell for $9.99 or less. By using the small keyboard at the bottom, you can search by title, author, or key word. It has limited ability to surf the web – mostly websites that are mainly text – still, it allows me to check my E-mail, read the news through Google Reader, go to a website with the daily office (Mission St. Clare) , and Google things; I do not need much more Internet than that while on the go.

     One of my favorite features is the E-Ink display. It is crisp and without the backlighting you see on a computer monitor. That makes it much more restful for the eyes. In the evening after grading papers and computer work, my eyes tend to be tired. All I have to do is press a button and the font size enlarges to a more comfortable size for reading. I hear the Kindle has the ability to hold about 5,000 books on it. I have nowhere near that many, but still quite a few, including the entire Bible and the Book of Common Prayer.

     For most folks, I think it is a little pricey at $259.00, but perhaps with competition from Apple’s IPad and other E-book readers, the price will continue to come down. I know I have saved a great deal of money compared to what I would have spent on both full-priced books and the attendant shipping costs. The text to voice feature is nice, but many of the latest books are not text-to-speech enabled – some deal cut with the publishers of audio books, I hear. I was going to continue reading a novel by listening to it through headphones while getting some dental work done last week when I discovered that particular book was unfortunately not enabled for text-to-speech. One claim made by Amazon is the Kindle is very sturdy and can be dropped without sustaining damage – not accurate in my experience. I dropped my first one and part of the screen just at the top had dark lines across it; I was able to live with it awhile until I dropped it a second time and the dark lines covered half the screen. To be fair, both times I dropped it onto the cement floor in my garage, which is not quite the same as falling onto a carpeted floor inside the house. As it was outside warranty, Amazon offered to replace it for only $100.00, but I chose to buy the latest version as a replacement. Needless to say I am being very careful with it.

     I would love to tell you that most of my titles are like the Bible, or the Book of Common Prayer, or a book I have downloaded at the recommendation Get hooked on the Stephanie Plum mysteries!of my bishop entitled Transforming Congregations by James Lemler. ("Oh yes," he said with fingers crossed behind his back, "that is me; always improving my mind.") I must confess, however, that the truth is I have a lot of fun reads too (Anyone for some good Stephanie Plum mysteries?) since it is so easy and inexpensive to download them. I am impressed by big screen TVs, but after seeing some of the price tags on them, investing in my favorite form of entertainment by purchasing a Kindle seems like a real bargain.