From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Break a mirror, buy another

'Count' Bela Lugosi      (Public Domain)
It’s Halloween, and the last thing you need is an egg thrown your way.

There are plenty of folks to warn you against incurring such bad luck. These “true believers” will advise you to not break any mirrors.  But what does that have to do with omelets on your windshield?

According to The Nest (of what, wasps?), our ancestors thought that the “image in a mirror was your actual soul.”  Shattering this image therefore meant that “your soul had gone astray.”

You can choose to believe this and head straight for confession.  Or, you can simply buy another mirror.

After all, it could be worse.  Much worse.  You might gaze into a mirror and see no image at all.


Copyright October 31, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, October 30, 2015

Comet Lovejoy: Goodies on tap

Take a bite out of the Milky Way!   (Photo by Evan-Amos)
Now you see it, now you don’t.  Comet Lovejoy, formerly known as C/2014 Q2 (not nearly as jolly), has recently been moving away from Earth.

Maybe that’s because terrestrial scientists have discovered its sweet secret:  Comet Lovejoy has gobs of sugar and alcohol, likely to be “stolen” by addicted Earthlings if at all possible.

And how have researchers figured this out?  CNN reports that they’ve utilized the “30-meter (almost 100 foot) diameter radio telescope at Pico Veleta… Spain.”  With this device, they were able to analyze frequencies of the material emanating from Comet Lovejoy.

Imagine having a seemingly infinite supply of ethyl alcohol…  Might not be so good.  After all, it was Stonewall Jackson who said:  I am more afraid of alcohol than of all the bullets of the enemy.

Nevertheless, Frank Sinatra was more optimistic.  He once quipped:  Alcohol may be man’s worst enemy, but the Bible says love your enemy.


Copyright October 30, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, October 29, 2015

‘Comatose’ comet ‘tanked up’ with oxygen

67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko   (ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)
Nine (make that 9.999999999) out of ten times, hearing the words “coma” and “oxygen” in the same sentence evokes images of hospital beds.

Not so this time.  Jen Pinkowski of Mental Floss reports that scientists have discovered plenty of oxygen within the coma (“cloud of gas”) surrounding comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. 

This oxygen, along with other familiar gases such as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, has been “pouring from the comet’s nucleus.”

These gases have been detected by “instruments aboard the Rosetta spacecraft, which orbits the comet.”  Rosetta had formerly deployed the Philae probe to land on the comet’s surface.

The presence of molecular oxygen “relative to water” within the comet’s “icy grains” was a surprise to many who had presupposed that highly-reactive oxygen could not survive for billions of years “without combining with other substances.”

Scientists may now have to rethink the idea that “the combination of methane and O2” hints at the presence of life.  This combination exists on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, but thus far no life has been found there.  


Copyright October 29, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Triple conjunction: Close encounters of the planetary kind

6th Century Zodiac in Beit Alpha, Israel   (Public Domain)
Although “triple conjunction” sounds kind of grammatical (and, but, or), in this case it’s actually astronomical.  One might even say it’s astronomically exciting.

Jessica Orwig of Tech Insider reports that ultra-bright-to-begin-with Venus and Jupiter will soon be passing “extremely close to one another.”  This will result in a flashy phenomenon, so intense that it will even be seen from New York City on cloudless nights.

But that's not all!  Mars will also be in on the three-part act.  Called a triple planetary conjunction, this occurs when (you guessed it) three planets closely cavort with one another.

Early risers will note that it can be most easily spotted just before sunrise.  So don’t just catch worms at that ungodly hour.  Get out there and catch a show which outshines any that Vegas has to offer.


Copyright October 28, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

United We Crawl

Ideal situation!         (Public Domain)
D’Arcee Neal, who works for the United States government as a disability advocate, “lives with cerebral palsy and requires a wheelchair for transportation.”

Michal Addady of Fortune reports that Neal had to crawl off a recent United Airlines flight while onlooking flight attendants failed to provide assistance.

Because Neal urgently needed a restroom at the time, he had asked to be helped off the plane.  His requests “were not taken seriously,” which is why he decided to fend for himself.

One of the onlookers afterwards “felt guilty,” and brought this incident “to the attention of the airline.”  The very next day, United not only apologized, but also suspended the manager who had been on duty and offered Neal $300 in compensation.

Unfortunately, this was not the first time that Neal had experienced such a difficulty with deplaning. It was, however, the first time that any airline had apologized to him.


Copyright October 27, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, October 26, 2015

Iowa champ running the right race

Marathon Runners in 1896    (Photo by Burton Holmes) 
Saint Paul compared the Christian quest to running a race.  In 1 Corinthians 9, he states:  Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

USA Today Sports reports that there is a runner in Iowa who exemplifies this spiritual philosophy.  High school senior Zach Hougland was well on his way to a “cross country state qualifying meet title” when he violated state rules by aiding “an opponent who collapsed near the finish line.”

After crossing the finish line first, Hougland looked back “and saw Mediapolis senior Garret Hinson struggling in distress.”  Rather than worry about his earthly awards, Hougland immediately came to his opponent’s aid.  After helping Hinson to his feet, Hougland was then disqualified.

Keeping an eye on the prize is commendable in any sport.  Keeping an eye on the eternal prize is better yet.

Copyright October 26, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Revenant inspires reverence

Hugh Glass     (Public Domain)
If you haven’t yet heard of Hugh Glass, you soon will.  That’s because Glass is the folk hero of a soon-to-be-released motion picture starring Leonardo di Caprio.

The actual Hugh Glass lived from 1780 to 1833.  Within those 53 years, Glass experienced lifetimes of adventure in
the American West.

Although few verifiable accounts of his early life exist, Glass is rumored to have been captured by pirate Jean Lafitte’s men.  After allegedly escaping, Glass is said to have then lived with a Pawnee tribe.

In 1822, Glass became part of “Ashley’s Hundred,” a group of Missouri River fur traders.  During this venture, Glass was badly mauled by a grizzly bear.  He was left for dead by his two partners, who took Glass’ equipment with them.

Through sheer will and skill, Glass not only survived, but also crawled more than 200 miles through dense wilderness to safety.  He accomplished all this despite “festering wounds, a broken leg, and cuts on his back that exposed bare ribs.”

Wikipedia explains that Glass had “laid his wounded back on a rotting log and let the maggots eat the dead flesh.”  He had also “set his own leg.”  Perhaps even more miraculously, Glass also managed to somewhat forgive the partners that had abandoned him.


Copyright October 25, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Buddha on Mars? Rock-hard ‘evidence’

Earth sculpture  (Photo by Michel wal)
Siddhartha Gautama is said to have been a wanderer during certain stages of life, but whether he wandered over to Mars (with or without a spaceship) has yet to be confirmed.

Those who claim that there were once Buddha worshippers on Mars often rely upon “rock-hard” evidence such as stony Martian formations.  One such “statue” has been featured in the news lately.  UFOlogist Scott Waring describes a Martian photo in which “a face and head turned to its right, with breasts and a plump stomach…” seemingly emerge from the landscape.

This “proof” may be on par with that of the Jesus images found in clouds and on burnt toast.  Both sets of “clues” may indeed signify the existence of these divine beings; however, one might say that the entire Creation does the same. 


Copyright October 24, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, October 23, 2015

Apocalyptic guide to fine dining

What's for dinner?    (Photo by Rsika)
Since quite a bit of time may elapse between the Apocalypse and Judgement Day, it helps to have some strategies in place to see you through.

Those who are still among the living will find that eating remains essential. The following grab-and-grub techniques
can therefore be key to any survival plan.

Foraging depends upon which region you’re in when it all comes down.  Say you’re on a ski trip in the frigid North... Unfortunately, you may then “end up being foraged upon” instead.  If you’re lucky enough to be in the tropics, then bananas for dinner might become the norm.

For those willing to prey upon their fellow creatures, hunting and fishing might suffice. This would far more likely consist of a diet of rodents and insects than it would a gourmet round of lobster and venison.

If you plan to sit (hungrily) around waiting for a garden to grow, then be sure to have some non-hybrid seeds stashed away.  The Daily Meal explains that “typical store-bought seeds aren’t reusable.”  While you’re at it, keep a “good metal pot with a tight-fitting lid and a handle on top to hang above a fire.”  Nothing worse than having to constantly crunch on raw potatoes...


Copyright October 23, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Football rivals: Kneeling in unity

Chinese game of cuju     (Photo by Soerfm)
Does simply kneeling on a football field and praying after a game violate “the Constitutional mandate for separation of church and state”?

It could if the coach is doing so on public school property.  Thus deemeth Superintendent Aaron Leavell of the Bremerton, Washington School District…

Not everyone agrees.  Coach Joe Kennedy’s law firm, Liberty Institute, contends that “the district has no right to ban the coach from personally praying.”  Kennedy has neither verbally encouraged nor verbally discouraged students from emulating his display of devotion.

Nevertheless, is such a public example set by a school leader while “on the job” in and of itself encouragement?  Students from both teams have, indeed, been joining the coach in this practice. 

On the one hand, this is a wonderful show of unity between opposing factions.  On the other hand, can too much public unity eventually endanger the free expression of diversity?      


Copyright October 22, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Israel: Halakhic law not democratic

Babylonian Talmud    (Photo by Reuvenk)
In considering a bill “that could herald the first step toward making Israel a country governed by Jewish law (halakha),” the Ministerial Committee for Legislation ought to think carefully.

Requiring judges to apply key components of Jewish law (as based upon the Talmud, the Mishna and halakhic rulings) would not bode well for a democratic Israeli government. 

First of all, a large number of Israel citizens are neither religious nor Jewish.  Why should they be forced to abide by halakhic law?  According to Haaretz, halakhic law has also been known to systematically discriminate “against populations such as women and non-Jews.”

Israel might wish to take a cue from its “sister democracy” across the sea.  Maintaining “a wall of separation” between synagogue and state can help to insure the vitality of a democratic process.


Copyright October 21, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Solar leak heading our way

Coronal Hole     (NASA photo)
According to Sarah Lewin of, the “sun has sprung a leak.”  In other words, there’s a gigantic hole in its “topmost layer” and “magnetic field.”

Not only that, some of the resulting solar winds are heading our way.  This “ultrafast” whoosh may produce “a days-long geomagnetic storm” here on the home planet.

Such a storm could in turn cause problems with
satellites orbiting the Earth, as well as with radio communication.  On the literally bright side, it can also make for enhanced auroras, “as far down as Pennsylvania, Iowa and Oregon.”

What causes the sun to leak “plasma and charged particles” in this manner?  Normally, it occurs during the least active time within the 11-year solar cycle, and emanates from “areas within the sun’s outermost layer, called its corona, which are lower-density and cooler.”  


Copyright October 20, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, October 19, 2015

Seeds of ‘The Little Flower’

Therese at 13    (Public Domain)
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and from tiny acorns mighty oaks grow. Similarly, St. Therese of Lisieux (aka “The Little Flower”) had roots that ran deep within the wellspring of love.

Therese’s parents, Louis and Zelie Martin, provided her with an upbringing that was bound to bear fruits (and flowers) of the spirit.  The Martins also nurtured four other daughters to become nuns.

Nicole Winfield and Colleen Barry of the Associated Press report that Pope Francis recently canonized the Martins “as a couple.”  Francis has long been a devotee of Therese, and has kept a copy of her “Story of a Soul” on his bookshelf for years.

The pontiff prays to Therese in times of trouble, and “often a white rose appears to him as a sign that she has heard his prayers.

This is the very “first time a couple has been canonized as a couple.”  It is said that Pope Francis wishes “to provide Catholic families with saintly role models who took particular care to educate their children in the faith.”


Copyright October 19, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, October 18, 2015

'Work spouses': Tighten those boundaries

Jealousy and Flirtation    (Painting by Haynes King)
If you have a wife or husband, so-called “work
spouses” can be especially threatening to the actual marriage.

Whereas isolated sexual chemistry often fizzles, emotional attachments can be far more compelling.  The “work spouse” with whom you share creative energies, meals and oodles of time can easily turn into your primary confidante.  Before you know it, home becomes a place where you just go to crash.

Those who wish to turn the tide in favor of their real marriage might find a two-pronged approach to be helpful.  Social worker Sherry Amatenstein presents the following:  tighten on-the-job boundaries by deliberately stopping that which fosters personal intimacy with your “work spouse” while making a concentrated effort to revive the joy at home.


Copyright October 18, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Terri Irwin: Unto death don’t us part

Terri Irwin     (Public Domain)
For many, it’s a feat just to fulfill the wedding vow “Unto death do us part.”  For Terri Irwin, that was the easy part. 

She continues to remain steadfast in her wedding vow, even nine years after Steve Irwin’s death.  When recently asked about dating, Terri simply replied:  I think I’ve had my happily ever after.

In fact, she may have never gotten married in the first place had she not met Steve.  ETOnline reports that “the two fell quickly in love.”  After an eight-month whirlwind romance, they tied the knot, then “filmed the pilot episode of… The Crocodile Hunter on their honeymoon.”

It’s not that Terri is against remarriage in theory.  She wishes those “who have lost someone and have loved again” only the best.

Terri explains:  …while I’m lonely for Steve, I’m not a lonely person.  She continues to “feel immense love and loyalty to Steve.”

How’s that for a happily ever after?


Copyright October 17, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, October 16, 2015

And the lioness shall lie down with the fox

Isaiah    (by Michelangelo)
While waiting for the lion to lie down with the lamb, there may be a few evolutionary hurdles to overcome.

However, Joshua Nevett of Fuzzfix hints that this Isaiah-like progression might already be in the works.  Nevett presents a series of photos that show an injured fox at the mercy of a pride of lions.

Whereas the male lion displayed no hesitation in going after the fox as an afternoon snack, the lioness surprisingly defended the helpless canine against her mate.  She got right up in the lion’s face and let the fur fly.

The male roared in frustration that his mate would take the side of a tiny fox, no less.  He then retreated, tail between his mighty legs.  

The lioness eventually bid the fox a fond farewell before taking off with her pride.  No doubt counting his blessings, the fox limped off into the tall grass.


Copyright October 16, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Money where their mouths are

(Photo by Enoch Lai)
Most people talk a good game, and many eat a good game, but few put their money where their mouths are.

The exception, however, recently ruled at Sycamore Creek Church in Pickerington, Ohio. After ordering some Domino’s pizza during a service, the congregation then tipped the delivery woman $1,000.

The Rev. Steve Markle invited her onstage to receive this generous offering.  He explained that the church believed in generosity, and had therefore wanted to present her with this gift.

This act was the culmination of a sermon series titled “I was Broke, Now I’m Not.”  One wag subsequently wrote:  Clearly, they’re hoping for the Domino effect!


Copyright October 15, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Containertopia: Today's Walden Pond

Tiny House on the move...   (Photo by Guillaume Dutilh)
Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond seemed
as much about simplicity as it was about nature.

That being the case, today’s version might very
well be Oakland, California’s “Containertopia.”  The homeless community that has sprung up right next door to it, members of which are “lugging around coffinlike sleeping boxes on wheels,” might also qualify.

Sarah Maslin Nir of The New York Times reports that Containertopia was started by a young couple, one of whom had “graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and works in technology.”

Containertopia is presently “a village of 160-square-foot shipping containers… which can be modified with things like insulation, glass doors, electrical outlets, solar panels and a self-contained shower and toilet.”  The cost for the privilege of dwelling within one of these?  A mere $600 per month.

If the monthly price-tag seems excessive, consider this:  the cost of living in neighboring San Francisco now rivals that of living in Manhattan.  Cofounder Luke Iseman states:  If we can do it [Containertopia] in one of the highest-cost places in the world, people can do this anywhere.”

It is time for building codes and zoning laws to become more “user-friendly.”  If housing costs weren’t so daunting, many more citizens could afford their very own “home sweet home.”


Copyright October 14, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Jupiter's storm may be subsiding

Giant Red Spot in 1979     (Voyager 1 photo)
Mark Twain’s “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute,” doesn’t seem to apply on parts of Jupiter.

The ancient storm on this gas giant has been raging on and on.  It had previously appeared to NASA as a giant red spot, somewhat oval in shape.

Lately, however, it seems to be smaller. Mariella Moon of Engadget reports that the “shrinking” spot now looks “more circular and more orange than red.”

These latest high-definition photos of Jupiter have been made possible by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3.  This camera has also detected “an elusive wave in [Jupiter’s] North Equatorial Belt.”

NASA’s Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy program hopes to also keep a high-definition eye on Neptune, Uranus and Saturn.


Copyright October 14, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, October 12, 2015

Sleeping fitfully? This could be why

La Siesta     (Painting by Ramon Marti Alsina)
As we age, sleeping through the night “in one solid block” normally becomes more difficult.

Erin Brodwin of Business Insider explains that this is because the “sleep section” of the human brain loses cells as years go by.  

This loss results in the changing of sleep patterns.  Not only do older people sleep less solidly, but they also sleep less deeply.  In other words, “the average 70-year-old brain shuffles quickly in and out of moderate-level sleep, spending only a few minutes in the deepest phase of rest and far more time in shallow sleep or complete wakefulness.”

Because interrupted and shallow sleep can make for irritability and memory loss, it might be wise to nap more frequently and engage in meditative practices.  These compensatory activities might help to refresh a fatigued brain.


Copyright October 12, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Big brains: A costly anomaly?

Humans Galore     (Photo by Lars Curfs) 
Live Science might be in the process of growing even livelier.  As the search for alien beings intensifies, researchers are wondering whether energy-hogging brains are an anomaly peculiar to earthlings.

Big intelligent brains can be biologically costly to the host organism.  It takes years in order to “grow” them properly, which is why humans are virtually helpless “larvae” during early childhood.

Biologists aren’t quite sure what the evolutionary payoff has been for such
elaborate cognitive “hardware.”  Because female humans are as smart as males, mating displays are probably not the primary reason.

Social competition, however, might be.  High levels of intelligence have fostered complex human interrelationships," which in turn have insured survival and dominance.  It is intelligence, after all, that has enabled humans to widely populate (infest?) their home planet.

If space aliens have also evolved in highly intelligent ways, then Stephen Hawking might be right:  Look out, Earth!  Because aggression and intelligence often evolve together, these aliens might be about as friendly as Columbus was to the Natives that he allegedly “discovered.”


Copyright October 12, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Mars: Red to green?

Actinobacteria    (Electron Micrograph by GrahamColm)
There could very well be life on Mars already.  How do we know?  We sent it there.

We're not talking secret human missions, we're talking extremophiles.  These are microbes that are capable of surviving the very harshest of earthly circumstances.

When Curiosity was sent to Mars, some microbes undoubtedly went along for the ride. NASA microbiologist Kasthuri Venkateswaren has already verified that these “passengers” included “lots of Actinobacteria and Alphaproteobacteria,” plus various others.

Will these stowaways have the fortitude to survive the journey?  We have no way yet of ascertaining that.  However, NASA’s “rigorous cleaning and decontamination” of Curiosity before the launch “inadvertently selected for the kind of microorganisms that don’t mind high radiation, extreme aridity, and low nutrient levels.”

Therefore, we might already be colonizing Mars with these tiny critters.  Will they eventually be potent enough to turn the red planet green?

Time will hopefully tell.

Copyright October 11, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, October 9, 2015

Redheads: Myths and facts

A Red-haired Judas   (Photo by Adercilla) 
Whereas Eve was at first depicted as a blonde (at St. Paul’s in London), or as a brunette (in Michelangelo’s Temptation), she was then shown with flaming red locks after the Fall.

Perhaps because it is a genetic rarity (in “only four percent of people”), and folks tend to fear that which is different from the norm, red hair has been interpreted as a sign of the devil. Judas, for example, is often portrayed with red hair and/or beard. reports that within Germanic culture from 1485 to 1784 AD, “thousands of suspected witches were nearly always stripped and searched for ‘marks of the devil.’”  Such “marks” included freckles.

Nevertheless, some of history’s greatest achievers have been redheads.  This fabled list includes Winston Churchill, Galileo Galilei, Thomas Jefferson, Emily Dickinson, Sarah Bernhardt, Mark Twain, Florence Nightingale, Antonio Vivaldi, Ulysses S. Grant, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Andrew Jackson, William Tecumseh Sherman and George Washington.

The gene responsible for red hair is known as melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R), and is “found on the 16th chromosome.”  In the United States, natural redheads form only 2 percent of the population.  Scotland tops the world’s list with 13 percent, and Ireland is a close second with 10 percent.


Copyright October 9, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Post-wedding blues: Uh oh for life?

(Public Domain)
As the excitement of the wedding and honeymoon fades, the reality of a lifetime together begins to sink in.

For some, this could be a period of “Uh oh, what did I get myself into?”  Thoughts such as these could make a person feel tremendously guilty.

However, in many ways they are perfectly normal.  After all, marriage can be a rite of passage from “adolescence” to adulthood.  With that transition comes the perception (and often the reality) of giving up independence and adventure.

Nevertheless, this transition doesn’t have to be such an either/or.  Katherine Schreiber of Greatest offers suggestions for combining the best of both phases of life.

These tips include the following: Continue to incorporate adventure into your life, with your spouse and on your own.  Do not forsake those creative endeavors that “defined” you as a single person.  Speak with your partner about marital fears, and work on them together.  If needed, seek counseling help.    


Copyright October 8, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved