Monday, February 26, 2007

So what's Brian up to these days?

In case you've been wondering what kind of work my studies have me doing lately, here is your answer:

You are looking at GUL MS GEN 116 p. 62, which is shorthand for Glasgow University Library manuscript (general collection) number 116, page 62. It's just one of hundreds of pages of manuscripts that I'll be working with over the next few months.

The Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid, who is the subject of my research, taught for a time at Glasgow University. His notes for many of his lectures have been lost, including the natural theology lectures that are a focus of my study. However, we know of five different sets of student notes of the natural theology lectures, each taken by students who were in the classroom as he was teaching. Part of my work is attempting to recreate Reid's natural theology lectures using these student notes. I have two of the five sets and still need to acquire the other three.

All the manuscripts I have so far are on microfilm. Microfilm is, of course, difficult to work with as you have to be at a reading machine in order to use it. But technology is amazing: I am able to digitize all the manuscripts, which enables me to view them on any computer.

Once I digitize the manuscripts, I have to transcribe them. What does this page say, you ask?

"Lecture XII, Nov'r 3d:
Of all these different Hypothesis these different parts seem to want evidence and therefore this Hypothesis must fall to the ground. With regard to the first we have no evidence at all our conceptions do not go on it - this manner we have no consciousness that the soul is situated in the Brain being an immaterial substance we cannot tell where it is situated, nor does our conscioussness give us the smallest information. With regard to the second that the Images of things come into the mind by means of being communicated to the brain by the organs of sense. This is evidently an Hypothesis Anatomists have transacted to the Brain times inumerall and no such Images of likeness of external objects have been joined in the brain so a drawing may be an Image of a house yet to say that this Image of the house is perceived by the mind in the brain this is absurd, but if we were to admit this, there are words which can not have any Images such as sound, & yet our . . ."

Monday, February 19, 2007

Recent Videos

Well I've been meaning to post these for some time, but you know how life is. Unfortunately sometimes the sound doesn't match up well with the video on Youtube.

Click here to see Iain enjoying his baby food. (Mom-- you'll be pleased to see that your game is a hit from one generation to another!)

Click here to find out what new object has captured his attention.

And last of all, click here to watch Iain riding the mechanical pony at the Villa Borghese in Roma.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Valentine's Day and my 26th Birthday

I had a really nice extended birthday. It started on Friday night when Lizzie and Sophie brought dinner, presents, and cake to our flat. Sophie made cottage pie (which is the same as shepherd's pie, but with beef instead of lamb) and Lizzie made me this cake! It was so sweet of them and we had a really nice time just hanging out and chatting.

I'm on the left (sportin' my new haircut courtesy of Brian!), Lizzie is in the middle, and Sophie is on the right.
On Saturday I wasn't feeling well (in fact I still have the same cold!!) so I spent the day in bed reading while Brian took care of Iain. So even though I was sick, it was still an enjoyable day. Sunday we went to church and got to hang out visiting with everybody since it was our monthly church supper day. Everyone sang happy birthday to me and prayed for me. I'm so thankful that we have such a lovely church home here. After that, we took a quick walk by the seafront and headed home because I was feeling a little rough. Brian made me dinner and we watched a movie and I called my family. They were so sweet-- they were celebrating my birthday on Sunday too even though I wasn't there. My mom made cookies or cupcakes and they brought them to the webcam and sang happy birthday to me! Then our neighbor Kaori and her little boy Kan came by to give me some chocolate and sing happy birthday too. It was really a great birthday. I felt so loved.

Here is Iain "helping" mommy make some valentine's day cards (which I have yet to mail, I'm ashamed to say!).

Here's what it looked like when he was done with it! Oh well. At least he had fun!

And here is my boy ready for church in a new outfit that Grandma sent. Thanks, Grandma!

Happy Belated Valentine's Day everyone!

Everybody loves a good story

Brian spoke at our church last night on Christianity and literature. Click here if you'd like to hear it.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Overwhelmed by wickedness

(See my previous post)
How can I even begin to respond to that? The easiest thing to do is try to drive it out of one's mind-- and quickly. But no. Too many people have done that. I have to think. I have to pray.

How my heart hurts for those children. Can any story better show the depravity of mankind? To kill and destroy and to waste the lives of others so freely, both by outright killing them and by dragging them down into the depths of degradation. As parents and as adults we strive to train children to master their faults and passions, but not these men. They crush what is good and fan into flame nearly incomprehensible evil. Woe to those men on the day of judgment. Woe to those men who have dared to do this wickedness for earthly benefits that are so fleeting and perishable. They above all others ought to know how fleeting life is. Perhaps for once I can relate to the imprecatory songs and for once I can long for the judgment of the Lord on wickedness.

My heart is so full. What must the mothers and fathers and aunts and uncles and grandparents feel who live in these lands? Who see these things with their own eyes? I can't fathom it. I can't understand it.

CNN made up a map of countries where child soldiers were active last year. I don't know how clearly it will show up, but some of the countries are Columbia, Haiti, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, the Phillipines, India, Nepal, Sudan, Myanmar, Iraq, and Afganistan. Of course, it is nearly impossible to adopt from most of these places since the conditions are so bad. It is so tragic that the places where there are the most orphans and needy children are places that you can't adopt from. Unwanted children have very little protection and this is why they are so easily exploited. How I long to take one motherless child to care for. I can't save the world, but I can care for one child. I'm keeping my eyes open for reputable agencies that work with any of these countries. If you know of any, please let me know.

Dear Father,
We feel so helpless when confronted with such evil. Please show us if there is anything we can do to help. We thank you for the governments that you have placed into power here in the UK and the USA, which, while imperfect, do not allow things like this. We pray for these countries that the gospel would shine bright for your glory. Strengthen and protect your people there. Bring stability and peace. How we long for the perfect peace of your coming. We ask that for all the covenant families longing for children, including ours, that you will fulfill that desire. I ask that we would be able to adopt children from impoverished and unstable circumstances safely. Give us courage and provide a way dear Lord. We bow before your throne and ask humbly for both justice and mercy, knowing that you alone can accomplish this. In Jesus' name alone we pray, amen.


Stolen kids turned into terrifying killers
POSTED: 9:42 a.m. EST, February 12, 2007
(Click here to read the article at CNN's site. They have other related stories and videos.)

By Ann O'Neill
CNN-- Warlords are forcing children in conflicts around the world to become killing machines -- nothing more than what one child advocate calls "cannon fodder."

Some children are kidnapped from their schools or their beds, some are recruited after seeing their parents slaughtered, some may even choose to join the militias as their best hope for survival in war-torn countries from Colombia, and across Africa and the Middle East, to south Asia.

Once recruited, many are brainwashed, trained, given drugs and then sent into battle with orders to kill.

There is no escape for what the United Nations and human rights groups estimate are 250,000 child soldiers today. These children, some as young as 8, become fighters, sex slaves, spies and even human shields.

Sometimes their guns are taller than they are. But the child soldiers can be frighteningly cold and effective, according to CNN Africa correspondent Jeff Koinange.

He said they take macho noms de guerre like "Col. Rambo" and "Brig. Chop Them Up."

"The saddest part is we, as adults, had to address them as such," he added. "Otherwise you just never knew what would happen."

The children's very vulnerability makes them attractive to the men leading militias, according to Jo Becker, who has interviewed former child soldiers in Sri Lanka, Nepal, Uganda and Myanmar for Human Rights Watch.

They are easy to manipulate and will do the unspeakable without question or protest, partly because their morals and value systems are not yet fully formed, she said. In some cultures, child soldiers -- 40 percent of whom can be girls -- are considered expendable "cannon fodder," she said.

Ordered not to cry

The journey from boy or girl to killing machine follows a horrifying route of indoctrination, including being forced to execute friends and family, international organizations report.

One girl, Angela, 12, told Human Rights Watch she was told to shoot a friend when she joined Colombia's FARC guerrillas.

"I closed my eyes and fired the gun, but I didn't hit her. So I shot again," she said. "I had to bury her and put dirt on top of her. The commander said, 'You'll have to do this many more times, and you'll have to learn not to cry.' "

An indictment against Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo asserts that one of his commanders threatened to shoot a 13-year-old girl unless she tied the testicles of a prisoner with wire. She complied and the captive died.

In Myanmar -- formerly known as Burma -- a boy who was 11 when he was recruited to the national army, had to watch as older soldiers gunned down mothers and then killed their babies. "They swung them by their legs and smashed them against a rock. I saw it," Kim Muang Than told Human Rights Watch.

Changing times

Officials with the United Nations, UNICEF and human rights groups said they are seeing promising signs, 20 years after the United Nations first addressed the issue.

Child soldiers were on the agenda for a U.N. Security Council working committee Friday. The committee discussed how rebel groups in Nepal and Sri Lanka use children to fight. Action against militias in the Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo was also considered.

Last week, 58 countries and nongovernmental agencies signed a treaty to do more to free current and potential child soldiers from peril. And, on January 29, the International Criminal Court forged ahead with its first war crimes prosecution, targeting Lubanga on charges of recruiting child soldiers The act was declared a war crime when the ICC was established in 2002.

"In the past there haven't been consequences against the commanders," said Becker, of Human Rights Watch. "This sends a signal to the groups that the world is paying attention now, you can be jailed for life and your assets can be frozen."

"I think we've come a long way," said Radhika Coomaraswamy, the United Nations' envoy for children and armed conflict. "Ten years ago this was an invisible issue."

Since last summer, groups in Burundi, Ivory Coast, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Somalia have been referred to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.

But there are many, many more. Child soldiers have been used in the past decade in more than 30 countries, according to the United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which said young fighters were active in at least 19 countries last year.

Coomaraswamy sees the Middle East, Sudan's Darfur and eastern Chad as the new trouble spots.

There are also concerns in Asia, with Human Rights Watch posting reports in January alleging violations by Maoist forces in Nepal and an offshoot of the Tamil Tigers rebel group in Sri Lanka.

"We're no longer just pointing fingers at rebel groups or government armies," said Human Rights Watch's Becker. "Now we're holding individual commanders accountable for their crimes."

U.N. envoy Coomaraswamy is taking an optimistic long view. "I think this is a little bit like the campaign against slavery in the late 19th century," she said. "There's such an abhorrence of it on an international level."

But much remains to be done, she cautioned. Funds must be found and steps taken to restore some sense of normal life for children numbed and hardened by their war experiences. In many cases, she said, their families don't want them and they are shunned by villagers.

Abandoned, they find little to eat, have nothing to do and scant hope for the future, Coomaraswamy said.

Without intervention, they could grow up to become a lost generation of migrant professional killers.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Thursday, February 08, 2007

It snowed last night!

Iain woke us up at 5am this morning, and after I put him back to bed, I peeked out the window and was delighted to see snow! There was soft covering on everything turning into a crystal fairy land. It began melting off pretty quickly, but we did manage to go outside and let Iain play in the snow before it disappeared.

This was also Iain's first go at trying out the slide at the campus playgound.

He doesn't look too sure about it.

Iain thought the snow was pretty cool. He giggled and giggled when Daddy gently tossed snowballs to him... until one hit him on the head. We're such cruel parents. Both of were completely convulsed with mirth after Brian hit him. It was really funny. I'm sure that we looked like monsters to passers-by, pelting our kid with snowballs and laughing!

You can see that he is rethinking his previous position on snow. Maybe it isn't so great after all.

Bu he is soon back to his precious smiling self and Mama got the pretty picture she wanted.

Last Day in Roma

Our last day was lovely and relaxing. It was even sunny all day! We spent the day roaming around in a park called the Villa Borghese. It used to to be the residence of a Cardinal. Here are my boys just before we checked out of the hotel.
Here we are at one of the many entrances to Villa Borghese. It was huge! It had a zoo, musuems, an aviary, cafes, a cinema for kids, ponies, bike rental, a pond with boats... it was awesome!

Iain thought the many varieties of ducks living on the lake were interesting. We fed them the last of the Italian breadsticks we'd bought for the week. They really fought over the crumbs.

My beautiful boy. He always has a smile for Mama.

Iain loved this pony ride. We have a video of it that I will try to put up. It is so fun to see him interacting with the world and enjoying stuff. There were tons of kids in the park since it was Saturday and Iain had a good time watching them race around.

After spending most of the day at the park, we headed back towards the Metro, stopping at the Piazza del Popolo and Piazza Spagna on our way.

It was a great trip!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Welcome back, Mr Wilkinson

Living in England is often quite fun. This afternoon we went to a pub and watched the England-Scotland match of this year's Six Nations rugby tournament. It was a real classic for England supporters as it marked the return of their legendary fly half, Johnny Wilkinson. His last game playing for England was over three years ago, when he kicked a drop goal in the final minute of overtime to make his team the world champions. Things like that have a way of endearing you to fans. He has battled serious injuries since then, but tonight he returned with style, leading his team to a 42-20 win and scoring this amazing try while falling out of bounds:

But the best part of the afternoon wasn't watching a great rugby game for the first time in a while, it was spending a night out with my wife & son. We enjoyed a hearty British meal, complete with treacle sponge with custard, and walked around our fair city for a while. I can't imagine a better way to spend my time.

Roman Holiday Day 4

On Friday we planned to go see the catacombs, but before we headed out there we decided to walk around the city a little. First stop: the Church of St. Peter in Chains which houses the tomb of Julius II and Michelangelo's Moses.

After that we strolled past the Colosseo and Forum again.

Here is Brian with a statute of Caesar Augustus.

And here I am with another shot of the Forum. It is beautiful even in the rain.

While we were wondering around in the pouring rain with only one functioning umbrella, Iain was snug and dry under his rain cover in the stroller. He slept through the whole storm. Since it was the middle of the day and we were far from where we needed to be, we broke down and bought another umbrella from the ubiquitous street vendors. We were haggling over the price when another one saw his opportunity and began walking towards us. Seller # 1 saw that too and quickly gave us the price we wanted. The free market is a beautiful thing.

These are soldiers standing guard at the Victor Emmanuel monument over the Italian tomb of the unknown soldier. Those guys are out there rain or shine, day or night.

Hungry and wet, we were glad to stop for lunch in a crowded little gelateria (ice cream shop). Here is Papa snuggling his boy!
And here is our ice cream. It was good, but not as good as the tartufo we had earlier in the week. It looks amazing though, doesn't it?

While the catacombs are within the city limits of Roma today, they were once on the outskirts and were pretty far from where we were staying. It took a metro ride, a walk, and a bus ride to get there. So you can imagine our disappointment when we arrived and found a sign saying they were closed! Thankfully, they were considerate enough to post a map showing two other catacombs in the area.

So we had a little walk through the rainy countryside to the catacombs of San Domatilla. Once we got there we got to a 30 minute guided tour.
There are over 100,000 people buried in just the once section of catacombs we visited. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, so I'm afraid I don't have any. The catacombs were pretty much just graveyards for early believers, but it was really interesting to see their faith reflected in their early art and in the way that they died and were buried. They weren't worried about taking treasures with them like people from other religions and they didn't worry about trying to preserve their bodies. It was so neat to be down there and to feel a kinship with those who have gone before.

We were delighted to see a rainbow when we emerged from the catacombs. This building is the roof for a chapel that was built into the catacombs later on.

When the sun came out we were amazed at the beauty of the countryside. We walked around for another hour or so before catching the bus back, just soaking up the sun and the scenery.

We headed back to the hotel early for a bit of a rest since we had decided to make the most of our last night in Roma by taking a walk by the Tiber and getting a nice dinner. Here is is Iain relaxing on the hotel bed, munching on a bread stick.

And now, here is the story of our last night in Roma. The first picture is from our hotel balcony. The big lighted building is Termini, the main train and bus station in Roma.

We walked and saw so many lovely things, but we weren't sure what everything was and it was too dark for the photos to come out well. These are the Boarium Temples.

And here is the fountain that is in front of them. The fountains at night were so lovely.

Across the street from them is a church with the Boca della Veritas (mouth of truth) in the portico. This is a huge cover or plate with a man's face carved in it. Legend has it that if you put your hand in his mouth and tell a lie, his mouth will close on your hand! We couldn't try it, so they place was locked, so now I guess all those questions I had for Brian will have to wait for the polygraph test.
Then we walked past the theater of Marcellus. This served as a model for the Colosseo. In medieval times, it was used as a fortress and there are modern offices in it now!

Here is a partial view of the Victor Emmanuel Monument. Everything was so pretty lit up at night and we had a great time strolling around taking it all in. Poor Iain. It was a bit of a late night for him, but he was a good boy.

One of many hidden piazzas. We thought about stopping here to eat, but we eventually decided to keep going. We had a great dinner just around the corner from here. I had fresh linguine with mushrooms and I can't remember what Brian had. We had an amazing dessert of what I think was ice cream cake with all kinds of syrups drizzled over it. Iain was a big hit with the staff as always. We stayed quite late, but nobody minded or was in any hurry to rush us out.

On our walk back to the hotel, we passed the Colosseo one last time.

It was a great night. It was our last in Roma and we will always remember it. We had most of the day on Saturday to look around and I will post about that very soon.