Uncertainty—by Diana Harkness


The Principal of Indeterminacy

The Principal of Uncertainty

We cannot know the outcome;

Hope or chaos in the cosmos.


If a butterfly dies

It shakes the world.

I smashed a bee under my foot

Did the world move?

Heisenberg knew.

When he located the particle

It changed speed.

When he measured its speed

It changed position.


We brush against each other.

Our words touch and flit.

You change my position;

And I change yours.

You change my direction.

You change my speed.

And every word from every source

And every note

Of music

And birdsong

And frog song

And wind and wave song

Touch upon touch,

Word upon word

Imperceptible changes

Until we are truly

Dancing in rhythm,

To the song of the Ages.

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Christmas by Diana Harkness


Papier-mâché lamb so sweet

Cuddles with cow and ass and boar.

A child’s hand with warm regard

Places the lamb in excelsior.


While angels slice through glassy haze

Trailing shadowed threads of gloom,

Hurling barbs of soot and ash

Bearing neither light nor tune

To suffering children.


And the weak,

Who seeming strong,

 Take up the task of tuneless song,

Those weak who visioned gentler times

Leave all comfort, sweetness, light

For those to come, who now are here;


Whose eyes are blind to angels’ flight.

Who listen not for angels’ tread,

Nor hear the words that might inspire

Nor dream the dreams that push ahead.


The curtain shreds in silent scream

A mother’s heart is rent asunder.

Jingle, jingle, all the way

Let’s celebrate this Christmas wonder.

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Who Are We?

I wrote a poem, I said,

and a story, too.

He rose up.

I am a mechanic.

What do I have to do

with poems and stories?

I am a mechanic.

What does that mean?

Is that what he thinks?

What do I say?

How do I tell him?


I woke him that night

You are not just a mechanic

I said.

You are lover planner politician

You are listener cat-holder dog-man.

You are the body I love to touch,

the one I want to sleep with,

who I love to wake up to.

Is that enough

for this silent man

who argues over

government and windmills

and taxes and corruption

and guns and cabins?


And I am the one with words

who cannot find the right ones

for him.

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Word Creation

It's not just the mangled English of sloppy street language that creates new words.  Poets and other writers do it.  Just think of the word "puddle-wonderful” from the poem by e.e. cummings "In Just Spring”.  Puddle-wonderful creates a “synergy” (from two Greek words meaning “works together”) that paints a picture greater than either word used with the other.

How about the word “proglem” which I used in my technology blog.  Proglem could be used to describe a problem with computer programs and it was an inadvertent but not inappropriate coinage.  But does proglem describe those problems better or more precisely?  That is always the question.  Does the coined word give us a new perspective on the world?  Does it create a picture which is greater than the sum of the parts? Is it more precise?

I recently read an essay by one of my favorite authors (Eugene H. Peterson).  His doctor told him about the word “iatrogenic”: an illness contracted in the process of being treated for something else.  In his case, it was knee surgery from which he contracted a staph infection.  However, thinking about that word which is a combination of two Greek words, “iatrose” meaning healer and “genic” meaning origin, he coined the word “eusebigenic”, eusebeia meaning “righteous” and genic meaning “origin” to describe an illness in the church originating from self-righteous people which churches tend to create.  But enough of the Greek.  The French have also coined words such as parapluie—para meaing “for” and pluie meaning “rain”—their word for umbrella.

Returning to English, how about “putrus”.  What does that mean to you?  I placed it in a poem to try to describe the oozing putrid stuff of spring that I see on my walks.  I didn’t think it worked and replaced it with putrid.  Some new words, like Eugene Peterson’s eusebigenic are not meant to last past the opening of the chapter in his book.  Others like puddle-wonderful have lasted decades for me.  Consider the words you hear and read.  Are they old or recently created.  Do they work?  Will they stay with you for a long time.  Have you or anyone close to you coined words that are now part of your vocabulary?

And just for your further education, this process is called neologism (neo meaning “new”,  logos “word” and “ism” turns the others into a noun). Lewis Carroll in his poem “Jabberwocky” coined so many words that you’ll need to read the poem to find them all.  Many authors have coined  or generated words directly or from their characters or titles.  Here are just a few.  William Gibson “cyberspace” from his novel Neuromancer.  “Quixotic” from Miguel Cervante’s character Don Quixote.  “Catch-22” from Joseph Heller’s novel of the same name.

Let me know of any new words you find intriguing or useful.

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Food for Thought: Consider The Bagel


How do you think about food? Perhaps I should ask, do you ponder or consider your food? It is important to ponder at great depth the wonderful gift of food. My favorite food is the New York Bagel. I get mine at Block’s Bagels in Columbus Ohio and it is my customary breakfast (bagel toasted with cream cheese) and a food I could eat any time. What makes this bagel my perennial favorite and preferred food?

Unlike the grocery store’s so-called bagels or the bagels found at other bakeries, this perfect bagel starts with yeast and flour like any other bread product, but it is created not made. Expert hands form the dough into springy cylinders then curve the cylinder into a circle and secure the ends. The bagel is a bread which meets itself at its ends, so in a philosophical sense it has no beginning and no end; there is only the center, which, in a bagel, is empty. Enough of philosophy. . . After creation, the bagels rise. The bagel is left in a warm environment to rise to the perfect height and size and then, at that precise moment, the bagel and its brothers are pushed into a large vat of boiling water. This gives the bagel its hard outer shell and its soft, chewy inside. In this way the bagel is much like life: we are created, life’s pressures and heat give us a hard outer shell, able to withstand anything, but if we are cared for by our Creator we remain soft on the inside. But back to the bagel.

After boiling for a couple of minutes, the bagel is removed from the water and baked until perfect with an outer layer that is springy when fresh from the oven, but then hardens to give you the taste sensation of a crunch leading to chewy. When you cut this bagel open you will see a perfect mixture of holes and gluten. The bagel itself is not perfectly uniform—no! Save that kind of uniform “perfection” for the tasteless, textureless, mass produced, unboiled bagels.

I once tried making the New York bagel and neither my husband nor I have ever forgotten the experience. My first problem (replicating perfection is always a problem) was that they filled the kitchen. Do you know how much room it takes to make one recipe of bagels and let them rise on baking trays in the kitchen? I didn’t, but I soon found out. I didn’t have sufficient trays; I had to borrow some and there were trays on every flat surface: on the sink basins, the stove burners, the microwave, the refrigerator, and on every inch of counter space. I watched and waited but they didn’t rise much, so I decided to move to the next step: boiling.

I did not then, nor do I now, own a large vat and even if I had one, I had no way to heat it. So I filled a 3 quart spaghetti pan with water, brought it to a boil on the stove, and put in the bagels 3 or 4 at a time. Meanwhile, the bagels still in waiting, were forced to sit too long and were drying—drying out, desiccating, parching. I hoped the water bath would rehydrate them as well as raise them, but while they came out of it moist, they retained the same shape and form, albeit a little puffier.

After the water bath they needed to go in the oven, and I encountered another obstacle. I had used all my baking trays to hold the rising bagels. So I pulled out dinner plates on which to rest the boiled bagels while their brothers were boiling or in waiting. With nowhere to put the plates I held them in my hand and squeezed them between resting trays. When I finally had a tray free, I moved the bagels from the plates to the tray and into the oven. They hadn’t risen sufficiently in the water bath; I hoped they would rise in the oven. When I checked on the first batch they were still the same size. I was tempted to chuck the rest of the bagels in the trash but I am not a quitter. So I continued the assembly process: boil, set on a plate, boil, set on a plate, and when the baking sheet was finally empty, move the bagels from the plates to the baking sheet and into the oven to bake.

The end result was not pretty. Small hard baked bagels eventually filled the kitchen. They had a good scent so I tried a few but they tasted like they looked: tiny, hard, and inedible. I did what any self-respecting baker would do and into the freezer they went. They languished there until many years later we moved out of that house and the distressed freezer-odored bags of tiny bagels finally convinced me to discard them.

I learned a lesson that bagel-baking day: Some things in life are better left to experts. Today, I purchase my bagels (pumpernickel for me, blueberry or chocolate chip for my husband) by the dozens at Block’s, each one wonderful in itself, and if I arrive at the store at the right time I can see them taken from the water bath and put into the ovens, plump and perfect.

Next time you see or eat something you really love, consider it in depth. How has it affected you? What have you learned? When I toast my bagel (which takes it beyond perfection) the crunch increases and a delicate brown blush covers the cut side. If I hadn’t learned about the bagel I would not have taken such pleasure in its beauty and texture. So, with every favorite food, indeed everything, thank God for his provision—after all you did nothing to deserve this—and hold an attitude of gratitude for every moment of pleasure he has provided.

Now just a note: Even perfect bagels if kept too long at room temperature can spoil. Mold grows easily on flour and moisture. You really need to freeze them to keep the fresh. However, if I keep them too long without freezing them, I have learned that mold will not hurt you. I cut off the green mold and wipe off the white mold. But if you find any mold distasteful, here’s how to resurrect moldy bagels: wash them. Because they have a hard outer skin, you can rinse them in water and wash off the mold. Then put them in the oven on normal heat and watch them. The purpose is to dry them thoroughly, not bake them, so when they are one shade darker, remove them and let them cool completely. Then, place them in freezer bags and put them in the freezer which I should have done in the first place.

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Do I Want An Ipad?

Most of you who know have asked already know that I do NOT want an Ipad because it omits features which are critical to my work. (USB ports, long battery life, and OneNote).  But what about the rest of you.  Can you work with an Ipad?

The Ipad is so popular that many computer users are willing to do almost anything to make it work for them.  If you are set on using an Ipad, here are some apps that will make it more functional. Before you download any app you need to know how much space it requires because space is limited on the Ipad.  If you do a quick search you will find many Ipad owners searching for ways to increase available storage space.  Please note that I have not actually used any of these apps; All the information comes from other sources.

Let’s jump right in.  For pdf documents (Adobe Reader format) Goodreader is the program to use.  This app is cheap ($4.99) and small (12.5 MB).  It will allow you to annotate pdf documents, so if you like to add notes and comments, highlights and underlines, this might be the app for you.

If you want to work with Word and Excel files, there are several apps which I am listing in order of size.  Each one links to the product’s website where you can learn more.

  • Office2HD—Allows you to perform basic tasks with all current versions of Word and Excel documents. 5.1MB, $7.99
  • Documents to Go—Probably the most full-featured of these programs.  The company also developed this app for Android, Blackberry, and Palm.  9.3MB, $9.99 for for the standard version, $14.99 for the premium version (allows you to edit PowerPoint presentations)
  • Quickoffice Connect Mobile Suite—Allows you to edit Word, Excel, and Powerpoint.  The largest of all these apps at 20.9MB, it currently costs $14.99.

What if you don’t want to work through an app?  What if you could use your Ipad to access and work on your office computer.  You can with Logmein IgnitionLogmein Ignition uses your internet connection to create a secure tunnel to your office computer.  This allows you to use any programs on your computer such as Microsoft Office, your web browser (to get around the Ipad’s Flash media limitations), and other programs you need.  It won’t be as fast or smooth as sitting directly in front of your office computer, but it will allow you to perform work you may not be able to do otherwise.  Coming in at 9.9MB, it costs $29.99.

Now that I’ve given you all the workarounds for what I consider a less than functional piece of equipment, what’s the alternative?  Use a notebook/laptop computer running Windows or wait for a good Windows-based tablet.  My first tablet ran on Windows XP and had an attached keyboard.  It is still in use today (by someone else) and until I find a tablet that has what I consider critical tools, OneNote, multiple USB ports, and long battery life (>4 hours), I will not be moving to a tablet.  So Apple, Samsung, Motorola, HTC, Viewsonic and others, take note of what the working public wants!

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Resurrection and Holiday Guests

Every Christmas and Easter we have guests.  Why?  The simple answer:  it’s more fun with lots of people!  We have international guests mostly referred to us by International Friendships.  We’ve had students from Nepal, Kenya, Taiwan, Malaysia, and China.  We also have friends who are working professionals from India who join us from time to time and other friends who are from Hungary. 

Many of the international students know nothing about Easter and Christmas.  Growing up always knowing, makes it more difficult to explain to others.  A couple of years ago, I stumbled on the The Jesus Storybook Bible.  This beautifully written and illustrated book tells stories from the Bible with carefully chosen words and simple artwork.  A couple of years ago I gave a digital edition to a woman from Taiwan and her children.  This Easter I gave a selection from the book, the part about Jesus’ death and resurrection, to a man from China and his daughter.  (Note: for adults I recommend The Case for the Resurrection: A First Century Reporter Probes History’s Pivotal Event.)

For me to explain Jesus’ resurrection, means that I have to travel back to his death, and then further back to his life, and birth and the evidence for him from the beginning of creation.  That’s a long path to travel anytime and especially over lunch when I’m already exhausted from all the cooking and prep work.  And then there’s the believability factor.  How do you tell someone who has never considered it that to trust your life to Jesus means that you will be raised from the dead just as he was?  How do you even explain resurrection when Jesus own friends couldn’t believe their eyes?  And how do you explain that when you trust him, he sends his Spirit to live in you and keep you connected to him?  Who would believe that?

I think back to those days when Jesus was walking around Israel.  There had been one other temporary resurrection.  Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead after he had been dead for some time, but who else was present?  Only a few people in that small town.  And there’s no further mention of Lazarus except in one of Jesus’s stories—but in that story Lazarus is just a bit player.  There are no tales of Lazarus’ exploits after his resurrection; No evidence that he showed superior wisdom or knowledge of the secrets of the after-life.  For that matter, there were no stories of him before his death.  He appears to be a non-entity.  And, of course, that was a temporary resurrection.  Lazarus would have died a normal death later in his life just as most all of us do.

So here we stand, more than two thousand years later.  People live, die, are buried or cremated, and that’s the end.  Or is it?  Do we hold in our minds and culture the same impossibility of resurrection that they held in the first century?  Are we the same people they were?  It’s true we have modern scientific methods for sustaining life and nanotechnology and cryogenics and other stuff of science fiction.  And we can accomplish more faster with all our technology.  But all the science and technology won’t make anyone live forever.  So, what about resurrection?  Yes, resurrection is difficult to believe, but it’s equally as difficult to believe that the end is the end.  Relationships, dreams and hopes to which we have given our lives, our wealth, and our time and which should never be broken, are irrevocably severed at death, if there is no resurrection. 

If resurrection was a thing of science, I would have my friend Kevin resurrected.  He and I were close friends during high school and spent hours talking long-distance during college.  He took a wrong turn and ended up dead at 35.  The hopelessness at his memorial service is branded on my memory.  Never have I wanted so badly to see his face, to hear him laugh, to once again discuss life with him.   I would have him resurrected not only for me, but to give him the the opportunity to correct his mistakes and be a productive member of society.  Kevin’s life choices were of the sort that may have hurt only a few people.  Friends of dictators and despots and murderers of body and soul, such as Hitler and Mengele and Idi Amin, might also want their friends resurrected.  Should science give them that opportunity? 

If resurrection was a thing of hope, I would have my cousin’s son resurrected.  He died of an accident in college, never to fulfill his potential.  He might have been a great chef owning restaurants in several cities.  But we’ll never know.  He left a pain in my cousin's heart that will never leave.  There are many people for whom hope might desire their resurrection.

So how does this work?  If left up to us, the people who would be resurrected would be the same evil or good or partly evil or good people that we have now.  I have a friend who spoke to Kevin on his deathbed and even then he was not willing to change his life.  When Jesus was raised from the dead, he promised that all who became his, gave their lives to him, and let him put his Spirit in them, would be resurrected one day.  Everyone God resurrects will be good.

Imagine, if you can, a world. . . no let’s bring it closer. . . a city or a family where everyone was as righteous as Jesus.  I can’t do it.  There is no way to imagine something like that.  Let’s try something else.  Imagine the best moments of your life:  a beautiful sunset with your spouse, a day at the park with your children.  Imagine the best sight: a smile and combine it with the best sound: a laugh, a shout of joy.  Imagine that you loved your work.  All of it.  Imagine that everyone else loved their work, too.  Imagine that you were devoted to your husband or wife or son or daughter with a devotion that never wavered, never failed them. Imagine that you lived your life continually under God’s love and you loved him in return, constantly without wavering.  This, my friend, must be the stuff of resurrection.

So choose.  Will you live a life without the possibility of resurrection in the belief that the end is the end?  Finito.  Kaput.  Or will you listen to your inner urgings and acknowledge that resurrection is desirable and possible and look to Jesus for the way to accomplish it.  Yes, it’s a total commitment, but one with long-term benefits.  And look at the result.  Community with God now.  Life with Jesus’ Spirit now.  And friendship with other followers of Jesus.  Not to mention unexpected tastes of the resurrected life from time to time.  And then, one day in the future, bodily resurrection and an endless life no one can truly imagine, with death-shattered hopes, dreams, and relationships irrevocably restored.    

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