30 April 2010

Cutting for Stone

Cutting for Stone (Vintage)I enjoyed this book's unique story and setting of doctors, Ethiopia, Indians, nuns, growing up, and family relationships. It took me forever to read though (it tries to be too many things), and I finally decided today to finish it after getting bogged down in the middle for a few days. Still, it was a good read. But I'd recommend Sweetness in the Belly over this one, if you're going to read just one book about foreigners in Ethiopia.

25 April 2010

Cry, the Beloved Country

Cry, the Beloved CountryNo, I had never read this book before, and it was about time I did. I thought it was excellent and certainly worth reading, even though I listened to an audio version with a reader who isn't my favorite (the same reader does our Narnia series, and he bugs me there too). Recommended.

20 April 2010

Listening for Lions

I thought this was a nice children's book that looked at some interesting conflicts handled them well. I felt like it skimmed over a lot of things quickly, but since it is a children's book, that's forgivable. I thought it was worth reading.

This was a last-minute pick for a local book group I'm in charge of. I think I'm going to start choosing more of the books for this group myself. We've read some interesting books, but we've also read a lot of children's and teen fiction, and I'd rather not go in that direction anymore.

17 April 2010

A Breath of Fresh Air

So I did read another book by Amulya Malladi because a friend of mine recommended her first one, saying she thought it was Malladi's best. And I liked it too, because I thought it dealt with the emotions Malladi wanted to explore better than the others have. I cared more about the characters in this book and I thought it was better-written.

15 April 2010

Olive Kitteridge

Olive Kitteridge (Later Printing Edition)Between energetic guests, an out-of-town husband, and a book I couldn't get into, I didn't finish reading anything last week except a few National Geographics, which was fun, but hardly worth blogging. So I set aside my book for another try later and read Olive Kitteridge instead, and loved it.

It's not a particularly cheery book, but I didn't think it was depressing. Instead, it was a series of little pieces of one woman's real life. I liked that it focused on her older years; so many books are about people when they are young. I also liked that Olive wasn't necessarily likable, but that you cared about her. She felt like a real person. Several of the stories weren't really about Olive, although she made at least a brief appearance in all of them, but all told a little about her. Maybe it felt a little like a grown-up E.L. Konigsburg? Anyway, it was a good book to get my reading back on track.

10 April 2010

iPad as a Dedicated Ereader- Nope

Since ereaders are my current thing, I've been over to the Apple store a few times to check out the iPad to see if it would be a good option as an ereader.

Since there's an app to allow the iPad to display pdf files, I really liked how it displayed those files. There isn't a less expensive reader out there that allows you to see pdf files so clearly and in color. You don't have to scroll around, everything displays normally. That could be a real advantage for me in homeschooling.

But that was the only advantage for me, and right now, it isn't a very big one. Most homeschooling books we use (from specific curricula to lots and lots of children's non-fiction) aren't available digitally yet. I know this will change, but right now, there isn't much that the iPad does for me that's better than a reader.

And there are a few things it does worse. I noticed right away that it's a lot heavier than my reader. I spend a lot of time walking and reading (I have a two-year-old) and I'd not like to carry around an iPad for a long time. It's also large to carry around. But my biggest problem was the glare. You can reduce the backlighting on the screen in the iBooks section, which was easier on my eyes, but when I did that, the glare on the screen got a lot worse. The screen already has a lot of glare, which isn't too noticeable when you're browsing the internet with a bright screen. But when I reduced the backlighting almost completely to a comfortable reading level for me, the glare was awful and distracting- much worse than the glare on my Sony 600 that people complain about. It also wouldn't be good in sunlight, and I read outside a lot (did I mention the two-year-old part?) There's no way I'd read on the iPad over my reader.

The iPad also doesn't do enough for our family that it could replace a laptop. It certainly would be an option if it could.

So an iPad isn't for me right now, but I'll look into it again when there's more content available that I need.
We're starting to hear from people we know in Kyrgyzstan. It's interesting to see the different reactions. I wasn't really worried about anyone, since most of our friends would have been in their homes through the worst of it, but I know some of the students we knew were involved in everything.

It's also interesting to see the different ways the media is spinning this. There's a lot about the air base in US news, and some saying that what happened this past week was anti-American or somehow supported by Russia. I don't think it was either. Even if the new government kicked the US out from the air base and gave it to Russia, I wouldn't.

And there are rumors that a parliamentary system could be set up. That's all premature, since Bakiev is still out there, but the current interim government has some good people in it.

07 April 2010

I can always tell when Kyrgyzstan hits the major news networks because my post about how to pronounce it gets a few visits. Usually no one cares. I'll add links throughout the day on the sidebar.

04 April 2010

Easter Sunday

Christ the Lord is Risen Today

In an Antique Land

I'm just finishing In an Antique Landby Amitav Ghosh. It's a different sort of book, a mix between travel writing and history and I really enjoyed it. Ghosh writes about his research involving a medieval Jew living in India and his slave. Most of the travel parts of the book are set in Egypt and it was very interesting to read about Ghosh's experiences in Egypt- especially the stereotypes many of the Egyptians he met had of India. It was also interesting to learn a little about medieval trade around the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean, and to hear a little about the fascinating documents found in the Cairo Geniza. Recommended.

02 April 2010

Ethan Frome

Ethan Frome (Penguin Classics)I like listening to audiobooks in general, but some books are better listened to than read. I think Edith Wharton's books are like that, read by the right reader. Like one of my friends said, no one does despair as well as Wharton, and hearing it is even worse (or better). Her books aren't happy, at all, but so good still. I'm not sure if I liked Ethan Frome better than House of Mirth, but I liked it as much and agree that it's probably the best Wharton to read, if you're going to read just one.

Mournful Friday

March 25, 2005--I prefer this name for this day. Good Friday has never sounded right to me. We asked a Christian in Jerusalem how they said the name of this day in Arabic, and he said al-Juma al-Haziin, which means Mournful Friday. So I call it that now.

We spent the morning walking along the Via Dolorosa (yes, I know it's far from accurate, but isn't this all symbolic anyway?) to visit the stations of the cross. The first 9 stations are in the city, and the last 5 are in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This was another day when it felt wonderful to walk along the streets of Jerusalem with such a large number of Christians from all over the world.

Many groups were carrying crosses. Others were led by priests. We didn't spend much time in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre this day, but the various sects all have rituals they perform in the Church this day.

April 13, 2006--And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him... John 19:17-18

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Mark 15:34

And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, gave up the ghost. Luke 23: 46-47

When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple: He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed. And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre. Matthew 27:57-60

Arab Christians call this day Mournful Friday or Sad Friday instead of the more common Good Friday that we hear in the West. I prefer Mournful or Holy Friday. This day commemorates the crucifixion of the Lord, and his being laid in the tomb.

I remember the Church of the Holy Sepulchre today. There are many Protestant and LDS Christians who don't like this site (partly because they have no claim on the site like the Roman Catholics and many Eastern Orthodox sects), but I love the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They call it the Church of the Resurrection in Arabic. Again, I don't care if this church is the actual site of the crucifixion, but there is a lot of historical evidence and a long tradition that makes this site the most likely site in the area.

The history of the building is absolutely fascinating, but I just love to be in the building itself and see the remnants of the faith of so many Christians over almost 2,000 years. One of my favorite places in the church are the stairs leading down to St. Helena's Chapel where countless Christian pilgrims have carved crosses into the stone over many centuries. I love to see this visible symbol of the devotion of those faithful people.

The first time I was in Jerusalem, the dome over the traditional tomb of Christ was being repaired (and had been under construction for decades). The rotunda surrounding the tomb was rather dark. But when I went back a year later, the dome had been completed. The rotunda was filled with light. It's now one of my favorite places in the church.

There are many hymns that are appropriate today. "There Is a Green Hill Far Away" is one of our family's favorites now (the boys like it since it is short), but I'll always remember singing "There Is A Green Hill Near at Hand" instead. We also like "Upon the Cross of Calvary." But it is "O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown" that I remember singing at the Garden Tomb to commemorate this day.

O Savior, thou who wearest
A crown of piercing thorn,
The pain thou meekly bearest,
Weigh'd down by grief and scorn.

The soldiers mock and flail thee;
For drink they give thee gall;
Upon the cross they nail thee
To die, O King of all.

No creature is so lowly,
No sinner so depraved,
But feels thy presence holy,
And thru thy love is saved.

Tho craven friends betray thee,
They feel thy love's embrace;
The very foes who slay thee
Have access to thy grace.

Thy sacrifice transcended
The mortal law's demand;
Thy mercy is extended
To ev'ry time and land.

No more can Satan harm us.
Tho long the fight may be,
Nor fear of death alarm us;
We live, O Lord, thru thee.

What praises can we offer
To think thee, Lord most high?
In our place thou didst suffer;
In our place thou didst die,

By heaven's plan appointed,
To ransom us, our King.
O Jesus, the anointed,
To thee our love we bring.

01 April 2010

Maundy Thursday

From last year

There's so much that you can talk about on Maundy Thursday. The Garden of Gethsemane is so important, but there's something about Jesus washing the feet of the disciples that I love. Here are two old posts about this day:

March 24, 2005

On Thursday morning of Holy Week, we went to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which happens to be one of my favorite places in Jerusalem. We went to watch the Greek Patriarch performing the Ceremony of the Washing of the Feet. The Church was crowded with people so we climbed up on the roof to get a better view.

It was a fairly long ceremony because the Greek Patriarch had to have his heavily decorated robe removed; he wore a much simpler white robe for the ceremony. He washed the feet of 12 of his clerics while prayers were recited. I can still hear the sound in my mind. Afterwards, he sprayed the crowd with the leftover water from the ceremony.

We didn't see the Latin Patriarch celebrating the washing of the feet, but it is a much simpler process inside the Church (if the weather is decent, the Greeks do it outside). Afterwards, The Latins go to the traditional site of the Upper Room on Mount Zion.

The Armenians don't do their ceremony in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at all; they use the Cathedral of St. James in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem. The Copts use the Church of St. Anthony in the Coptic Patriarchate. The Coptic Archbishop washes the feet of the entire Coptic congregation.

April 12, 2006

And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and knelt down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. ~Luke 22:39-44

Out of all the days of Holy Week, Maundy Thursday seems to be the most overlooked, but it is one of the most important days, possibly even more so than Easter Sunday because Thursday night was the time Jesus Christ suffered for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane. Without that, the Resurrection wouldn't have been worth nearly so much.

I've spent a lot of time in the traditional Garden of Gethsemane. There are two separate sections, both filled with old olive trees. Neither sections are particularly big, and it doesn't really matter to me if the traditional sites are the actual places where Jesus actually stood. There is a large church on the site, the Church of all Nations. It's not my favorite church in Jerusalem (Dominus Flevit on the Mount of Olives is one I like much better), but it is a lovely building.

But my favorite place there is to the garden. Once when I was in the garden on a Saturday morning in October, one of my roommates introduced me to the hymn "Reverently and Meekly Now." These are the first and fourth verses. I also like to remember "How Great the Wisdom and the Love" today.

Rev'rently and meekly now,
Let they head most humbly bow.
Think of me, thou ransomed one;
Think what I for thee have done.

With my blood that dripped like rain,
Sweat in agony of pain,
With my body on the tree
I have ransomed even thee.

At the throne I intercede;
For thee ever do I plead.
I have loved thee as thy friend,
With a love than cannot end.

Be obedient, I implore,
Prayerful, watchful, evermore,
And be constant unto me,
That thy Savior I may be.