ramblings and writings of a southern hobbit

Author Archive

AlbertMohler.com – The Anguish of Abraham Lincoln: A Conversation with Eric Foner

In honor of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, I thought I’d share this interview from Albert Mohler’s podcast “Thinking In Public”. The conversation is with Reconstruction historian Eric Foner. I discovered Eric Foner last semester while writing a paper for my Southern history class on Abraham Lincoln and the South during Reconstruction. I loved what I read, so I was pretty excited when I found this interview. Dr. Mohler and Dr. Foner discuss Foner’s most recent book, The Fiery Trail: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery.

The interview briefly touches on the fact that Abraham Lincoln, the man who issued the Emancipation Proclamation, was at the same time a racist. Here’s what Dr. Mohler had to say at the end of the interview:

When it comes to a sin like racism, we come to understand that Abraham Lincoln was stuck in his times, stuck in his prejudices, and stuck in his worldview.  The only rescue is the gospel of Jesus Christ.  And that’s why we have to come to understand that racism is not something that can be solved in purely secular terms.  The anecdote to racism is not political or ideological.  It’s the understanding that every single human being is equally made in the image of God.

In what ways are we stuck in the prejudices and worldview of our times? Whatever ways those are, the only answer is the gospel.


Tripping in the Rain

Singing in the Rain poster

I knew it would be a bad day when I woke up this morning and it was raining.

Ordinarily, I like rain. But rain means one other thing–my umbrella. And I have to confess something. I’m clumsy. Really clumsy.

A regular school day is bad enough. I have to carry my school bag, and for whatever reason I can’t seem to keep it on my shoulder. (It always slides off and stops where my elbow bends and cuts off my circulation.) A school day in late fall or winter is worse because I have my coat (which I can never seem to put on or off gracefully and which makes my school bag even harder to keep on my shoulder).  But the worst days are cold rainy fall or winter school days when I have my school bag, my coat, AND my umbrella.  And that’s bad. Really, really bad.

Take, for example, this morning. I came out of the dining common more or less successfully wearing my coat, keeping my school bag on my shoulder, and carrying a travel coffee mug, a brown bag with my breakfast in it, and a styrofoam cup of juice. Then I pulled my umbrella out of the umbrella stand. That’s when I knocked two cell phones on the ground and somehow got someone else’s bag caught in my umbrella.

As I stood staring at the ground, trying to figure how on earth I was going to pick up two cell phones when I was already wearing my coat, keeping my school bag on my shoulder, and carrying two cups and a bag full of breakfast, a girl behind me said, “Uh, excuse me, but can I get my  bag off of your umbrella?” That’s when my school bag slipped off my shoulder.


For those of you who have been longing to buy an authentic star trek communicator or one of Shatner’s impeccably ripped shirts from the Star Trek OS episode “Amok Time,” you’re in luck! The Shatner Store is having a sale! And I would never have known if it weren’t for Twitter, the rich microblogging source of instantly updated information that makes it easier than ever to find out what your favorite celebrity had for lunch.

It’s still not quite as popular as the ubiquitous Facebook (or perhaps my data is simply skewed because Facebook is allowed on campus and Twitter still is not), but I finally had to come to grips with presence of Twitter after seeing multiple online news articles making use of politician’s tweets as sources. That got me thinking. We know what politicians and celebrities are thinking, but what would it be like to get inside the head of some famous authors?

If they had Twitter. . .

William Shakespeare

To tweet or not to tweet–that is the question.

Jane Austen

I just spent a dreadfully dull evening at a card party. I considered amusing myself by pouring tea on the gentlemen next to me.

Charlotte Bronte

There is no possibility of taking a walk today.

Lewis Carroll

‘Tis brillig and the slithy toves doth tweet and google in the wabe.

C.S. Lewis

Rather loudly exclaimed “I do not like peas!” while at a restaurant today and heard a child reply “me too!”

J.R.R. Tolkien

Received another letter from an “S. Gamgee” today. At least it wasn’t signed “S. Gollum.” That would be a good deal worse.


Acabo de acabar de escribir un libro acerca de un hombre loco que decidía hacer un caballero. Un día, seré famoso.

James Joyce

…this evening. I hate it. Took a walk around Dublin…

I Feel Witty

Actually, I don’t feel witty.

And in this day and age, being witty is an extremely important life skill. Why? One word–Facebook.* It has been rumored that the purpose of Facebook is to help you connect with friends and family. This rumor has been circulated to mask the real purpose of Facebook: to show off one’s razor sharp wit with pithy status updates.

There’s just one problem. I can’t think of anything to witty to say. Generally speaking, when I’m Facebook I’m either at a coffee shop or I’m eating lunch in my room. I guess that explains why when I used a Facebook app to determine the words I use most often in status updates, my top words were “drinking” and “coffee.” Drinking coffee certainly is fun, but there’s a limit to how many times one can wittily and entertainingly  say “I’m drinking coffee.”

And look at what I have to compete with!*

  • Perhaps I’ll die of Oreo inhalation while I’m laughing raucously at one of my friends. Go out with a bang… that’s what I always say.
  • Well I’m bored..hmm…might as well check myspace…no friend requests, no wall posts…well I will always have you tom.
  • To all you haters out there… there is nothing wrong with sugar. Makes you taller, in fact. I recommend three heaping tablespoons of brown sugar with every meal. And chocolate syrup. LOTS of chocolate syrup.
  • My highlight of the day: Saw a coyote cross the road. He looked so happy and content. It was hard to imagine him plotting against Roadrunner.

I guess it’s part of the curse of having witty friends.

*There’s also Twitter and Myspace and Google Buzz. But nobody cares about them.

*Yes, these are real status messages really posted by my real Facebook friends.

Dependent by Design

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.– John 6:35

Every July 4th, Americans gather with watermelons, fireworks, and flags to celebrate Independence Day. We are a free people living in a free country and, boy, are we proud of  it. Not just our independence from England, but our independence in every way. Nobody can tell us what to do or think or feel. But rob the earth of its atmosphere for just five minutes and we’d all be dead before we’d have time to wonder just how independent we really are.

There are some aspects in which we can and should be independent. Parents, for example, raise their children so that by the time they reach maturity they can provide for themselves. No one thinks much of a forty-year-old man who still lives in his parent’s basement. But when you really think about it, humans are desperately dependent.

Take water for example. Only three days without water will kill you. Dehydration is serious; it can causee heat exaustion and heat stroke, cerebral endema, seizures, hypovolemic shock, kidney failure, coma, and, finally, death.*

Humans are also dependent on food. You can go longer without food than you can without water, but still, malnutrition will lead to severe physical and mental complications and followed by death.

We simply cannot live without water or food.

But why? That’s how we were designed to run. I’ve always wondered why, though, God designed us to need so many things. I think it’s to remind us of something else we need: Himself.

C.S. Lewis put it this way:

God made us: invented us as  a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on gasoline, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.*

And here’s what the commentator Matthew Henry had to say on John 6:

Christ is bread is that to the soul which bread is to the body, nourishes and supports the spiritual life (is the staff of it) as bread does the bodily life; it is the staff of life. . . . Our bodies could better live without food than our souls without Christ.*

By our very design, we are dependent on God. And every bite, every sip should remind us of it.


Hrothgar's Golden Hall

All college students have at some point been asked the dreaded question: “What do you want to do after you graduate?” For those of us who can confidently say  “I’ve wanted to be pediatric endocrinologist ever since I was three and a half and I’m planning on starting medical school after I finish my double major in organic chemistry and pediatric neurosurgery,” the question might not be so daunting. Unfortunantly, not all of us have our futures planned out with such precision.

After much deliberation, however, I have finally found the answer this very question: I’m going to start a restaurant. A really, really cool restaurant. I’ve decided I’m going to call it “Hrothgar’s Golden Hall.”

We already have rock n’ roll themed restaurants that blare rock music over the speakers so loudly that you can’t even think and that distract you with so many tvs playing music videos that you don’t notice if your food tastes bad. We already have outer space themed restauarants that require you to take a ride on a “flying saucer” before being seated and dress their servers up in funny costumes. But we don’t have any Anglo-Saxon themed restaurants. That’s why my idea is so brilliant, see.

The most important facet of a restaurant isn’t actually the food–it’s the atmosphere. And Hrothgar’s Golden Hall will have the most unique atmosphere of any restaurant known to man. The dining area will be charmingly decorated with giant-forged swords and monster limbs. Blind poets will perform stirring war songs on Thursday afternoons. Servers will be required to grow bushy red or blond beards* and will not scowl at you if you make a mess or throw bones on the floor.

It’s genius! But before I can officially open, I have to perfect my recipe for non-alchoholic mead. And convince people that it’s sanitary to have a cook with a bushy red beard….

*Female servers will be allowed to wear fake beards.

Photo courtesy of: Ruth Harris / CC BY-SA 2.0


Free online ordinations! If you’re thinking about starting a cult, this might be a good option for you–you could legally call yourself Reverend and the Universal Life Church accepts people from all faiths, including (I presume) ones that are made up on the spot. You have to be over thirteen years old and use your real name, but other than that there are no other requirements. But remember: check out your state’s legal requirements before trying to perform a wedding.

Fun with Picnik

Picnik is one of my new favorite websites. It’s a free photo editing site with tons of cool editing tools, effects, fonts, and stickers. Best of all, I can access it on campus. Here are a few picture that I’ve tweaked using Picnik. All of them are photos my sister Rose took of our backyard last spring. Enjoy!

Picture 055




After cropping the photo, I applied the black and white effect to the whole picture. I then used the black and white effect painting tool to restore the original color to the azalea bushes and the tint effect painting tool to tweak the color a bit and make it more vibrant.






I had fun making playing with this one. After cropping the photo, I applied the “boost” effect, which increases the contrast and heightens color. I used separate text boxes for each line of the quote so that I could play with using different fonts for emphasis. Since there’s such a stark contrast between the trees and the sun, I couldn’t find a color for the text that was legible across the board. I ended up using the advanced blend mode “difference” for the text blocks, so that text on dark areas was light and text on light areas was dark. The quote is by C.S. Lewis:” “A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.”

Picture 163



wagon wheel


This is the picture of the old tractor wheel just outside our front gate. I also used the boost effect for this one. I like off center subjects, so I cropped it so the wheel was no longer in the middle of the picture. To focus more on the wheel, I used the focal soften effect, which allows you to emphasize a point in your photo by softening everything around it. As a final touch, I applied the vignette effect, which darkens the edges of the photo.



blog header


I used the 1960s effect, one of my favorites, for this one. The 1960s effect tweaks the color in your photo and rounds the edges to make it look like a photograph from the ’60s.

The Great Pirate and Ninja Debate

Although the Great Pirate and Ninja Debate has been ongoing for centuries, many know very little about it. This spurred me to do some more research on the subject myself, in order to help better inform others.

The History of the Pirates

In 1986, the discovery of a jaw bone and a large stick side  by side in a paleontological dig in Ghana led to a new theory of the beginnings of piracy. Scientists discovered that the jaw bone belonged to a member of the species Australopithecus hominus, extinct primates believed by evolutionary biologists to be one of the forerunners of modern humans. Many anthropologists now believe piracy can be traced back to a clan of Austrolopithicus hominus living in modern day Ghana during the Paleocene era. A famine is believed to have hit this corner of Africa late in the era, driving the hungry clan to raid other hominid villages. With the invention of the boat, believed by many to be the accidental invention of Olaf the Cave Man in 56,000 B.C., the descendants of the  clan moved to raiding by sea.

a page from the Book of Elishamma

a page from the Book of Elishamma

More conservative historians remain skeptical of this theory, however. The earliest written evidence of piracy can be found in Jewish religious writings dating back to 1,400 B.C. The Apocryphal book of Elishamma contains the supposed writings  of a little known Jewish prophet prophesying the destruction of Adad–Baal, a Phoenician who terrorized the coasts of Israel from 1,380 B.C. until his sudden death in 1,412 B.C. Adad–Baal was the first to call himself a pirate, coining the term from the Phoenician words py, “glorious,” and raeat, “raider.”

The book of the words of Elishamma, the son of Elihiel, the son of Elhanan, the son of Ezechiel, of the seed of Phineas, of the tribe of Napthali, which he prophecied concerning Adad–Baal: Woe to thee, Adad–Baal of the Phoenecians, who hast said, I shall call myself Glorious, and hath declared, A raider shalt I be. A day shall come in which thy name shalt be a curse to all nations and at the sound of name all peoples shall gnash their teeth. Selah.

Piracy continued to be popular after the death of Adad–Baal wherever there were boats, rum, and stuff to steal. Piracy was a very ecumenical profession, attracting men and women from all nationalities and creeds. As the movement grew, however, the diversity of the pirates led to the need for greater organization and discipline. In 1721, the pirates Morgan and Bartholomew filled this need by formulating the Pirate Code, a definitive code of pirate conduct, which, though rarely followed, has remained the standard for piracy to this day.

The History of the Ninjas

The Most Esteemed Order of Ninjas was founded by Japanese martial arts master Katsutoshi Fuyu circa 1,111 B.C. Fuyu wrote extensively,  stressing the need for simplicity and rigorous discipline, and his followers adopted a monastic, ascetic lifestyle. Traditionally, ninjas begin their training at the age of three, the age at which an individual first displays “The Gift,” as Fuyu described the mystical ability to teleport and disappear that characterizes all ninjas. Very little else is known about ninjas. They are so rarely seen that some skeptics believe that the order is a conspiracy created by the Japanese government.

In his most famous book, conspiracy  theorist John Johnson argues that the Japanese government created the order to instill fear in neighboring countries. Although the book has won great popularity and has even been optioned as a major Hollywood film, little real credit is afforded to Johnson’s claim.

A rare undercover shot of the fabled Ninja Conference reputed to be held each year in Kyoto.

The Beginnings of the Pirate-Ninja Debate

Although the exact origins of the controversy are unclear, most historians point to the middle of the 18th century.  Beginning in 1795, Ninja Warlord Masayoshi Ken’ichi began writing pamphlets against pirate captain Tobias “Terrible Toby” Smith after an alleged offense. A pamphlet war was soon launched after Smith responded with pamphlet of his own, and a flurry of pamphlets were soon written and published by both sides. In the heat of the controversy, the original offense was forgotten. However, the rift between the pirates and ninjas has never healed to this day, despite a recent conciliatory movement led by a group called the “Pirinjas.”

Overheard at Work

Next to the white board at the office where I’m working this summer, there is a list of quotes. All you have to do to get on the list is say something funny enough that everyone in the office laughs and somebody types it up in the Master List of Funny Office Quotes. Here are a few of the things that have made in on the list.

  • I wasn’t sure whether I felt lame or awesomely rebellious.  (Me relating the time I brought a Dell laptop into an Apple store. **Note: This is my first funny office quote ever.)
  • Just wear your swimsuit and a wife-beater. (In answer to an inquiry about the dress code for a work party.)
  • It feels like being inside an onion, only the onion is cutting you. (In an attempt to describe what it feels like to get pepper juice in your eye while taking out your contacts.)
  • If I see one more company “going green,” I’m going to burn tires in my backyard! (During a conversation on environmentalism.)
  • Just beat the hooey out of ’em! (On childrearing.)
  • If only we had brown paper bags and markers. . . . (On clothing.)