Category Archives: social media

What gives? Amazon won’t publish this review

I’ve tweaked this review a couple of times and re-submitted it, but Amazon responds with a no-go. You tell me. What’s wrong with this review? The book is “The King of Prussia and a Peanut Butter Sandwich” by Alice Fleming.

Russian Mennonites and Kansas Wheat, May 24, 2013
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: The King of Prussia and a Peanut Butter Sandwich (Paperback)

This is a read-aloud or a young reader’s book that traces the steps of a group of Mennonites, from Germany to Russia to Kansas. The reason for the trekking was the Mennonites’ conviction against participation in military service- a point which the book makes clear. Frederick the Great inaugurated mandatory military service which the Mennonites were unwilling to perform. Catherine the Great of Russia offered the Mennonites exemption from military service for 100 years in exchange for developing the Crimean Peninsula for agricultural purposes.

The story doesn’t focus exclusively on the religious beliefs of the Mennonites. Farming is the second track that carries this train. Perhaps the most interesting part of the book was the telling of how the Mennonite children sifted through sacks of wheat grain looking for the best specimens in preparation for the move to Kansas.

About half of the book is illustrations, which engaged the children.

“King of Prussia” fit in well with our homeschool curriculum. Appearances are made by historical figures/events Ulysses S. Grant, Kansas Grasshopper Plague of 1874 (circa the time of Laura Ingalls Wilder books), emerging nationalism in Europe. And Frederick and Catherine, too.

There isn’t actually any peanut butter sandwich in the story. The author is trying to connect the wheat of the story with daily fare of the child reading the book.

The binding is a little unusual. It has no spine because it is a staple-bound kind of book. But the book seems just a little too large to go spineless. It makes it a little difficult to keep on the book shelf because of this feature. All the same, I think that its a piece of history that is rare to find in children’s books, and it is worth owning.



Filed under agriculture, children, Homeschool, religion, social media

Grace is mediated, sometimes

Grace is mediated, sometimes, perhaps often, through our encounter with others.

– RJ Snell

Leave a comment

Filed under article link, community, morals, short post, social media, virtue

If not me, who? If not now, when?

I come to bury Facebook, not to praise it. Herein I offer sundry reasons for our separation.
1. My children. I don’t want my five children spending much time in digital social networks. It is harder to retract than it is to abstain from FB.

2. The entrenchment of uncommunication. When I was a lad, my parents and their friends would tell us that we should turn off the video games and “rediscover the art of conversation”. Facebook seems to provide the ingredients for just this thing, but somehow the alchemy does just the opposite. Instead of the art of conversation, there turns up a certain artless series of comments. Conversation is reduced to poorly devised thoughts buttressed by an eternal regression of informative web links.

It doesn’t have to be so. For a number of years I’ve enjoyed the company of a dozen or so friends in an email forum. (Two of them are actually FB friends). Via simple email, mostly in a lo-tech “dial up” digital connection, sturdy conversation is created, bringing friends together from as disparate locations as Texas, Costa Rica, Pennsyvania, Ontario, Guatemala and Florida. We call this forum “The Campfire” because digitally we are able to do what campfires enable: thoughtful social interchange, otherwise known as the art of

The promise of connecting that Facebook usage portends simply becomes a facile surrogate for genuine communion. I would drive hundreds of miles to visit with my FB friends, just so long as they don’t show me funny pictures of kittens, politicians or food. But FB connections have rarely resulted in in-the-flesh table talk, unfortunately.

3. Lack of personal control of the distribution of my content. This is a long way to say “censorship and surveillance”. FB controls the flow of information that appears on your screen. Not everything you write gets sent to your friends, and that is after taking the various restrictions and tiered lines of communication set up by users into consideration. Further, your communication is monitored; FB also encourages other users to monitor your communication. Your comments are subject to scrutiny based on key word usage, inclusion of certain persons within your social network, etc. by your comments (which might not see the light of day) you are categorized by FB and marketed to businesses and governments.

4. Facebook profits from your enrollment. They set advertising rates by the number of users and the details of their comments and personal info. I don’t really like that.

Leave a comment

Filed under autobiography, children, social media

It Goes Without Saying

I offer two perspectives on great writers. One man thinks that some writers have taken for granted some of their subject and that without knowing it, they have crafted a line of thought that doesn’t literally reflect all that they have in mind. Thus, for example, Josef Pieper writes, “In this seemingly innocent situation, which in its turn is largely taken for granted, there lies the most important and the peculiar difficulty of all textual interpretations: namely, that in a passage to be elucidated certain notions remain unexpressed because they were self-evident to the author, whereas they are in no way self-evident to the man who is interpreting the text.”

The second perspective on great writers is that, far from having gaps in the track, the writer actually has constructed two tracks of thought within his text. Leo Strauss wrote about this in ‘Persecution and the Art of Writing’. In it, he teaches that all the great philosophers since Plato have written a text that the masses will accept in a straightforward manner- the exoteric track- while the greatest of minds will find the intentional glitches within the text. They will search deeper and find what ony the bright ones were supposed to find, namely the esoteric, or hidden, meaning.

Two views. One view describes man as always reaching for intellectual communion, for sharing what one knows as best as he is able, and still finding inherent obstacles. (Pieper’s view can be further read about in ‘The Silence of St. Thomas’.) The other view describes man as intentionally veiling his knowledge, and thus (if knowledge is power) limiting the persons of power to only the select few. This view also suggests a cynical view of truth and of humanity.

Consider this. The truth will set you free. So don’t bear false witness about that truth. Rather, do what you can to elucidate it. Try to say it faithfully as best as you know, even if in your trying, because of an inadequate grasp on the truth or on communication skills, some of what you see goes without saying.

Leave a comment

Filed under community, morals, propaganda, social media

The Uncertainty of Setting Forth

You see it from time to time: people wondering on Facebook if they should cancel their Facebook account. “Friends” then leave two different kinds of comments. One kind expresses sympathy with the interest in canceling the account. “Yeah, I know what u mean. It’s so vapid sometimes. And I think I can get through life without knowing what your breakfast looks like. LOL!” Another kind reveals a dependence on the person’s important place in the Facebook world. “Awwww, don’t leave! I love your posts! I print them out and disperse them at work…. Uh, let me know if that’s ok.”

Ominously absent are the voices of the Facebookless. These people would add a third opinion, if they only had opportunity to share it. “Yeah, you might be able to get by. LOL!! Stay disconnected for a few weeks and see the world open up. If you don’t like it, you can always jump back into the stream of ads, likes and surveiled dialogue.”

Anyway, I’m canceling my account. Like the American colonists in 1776, I sense that I should give a declaration for the reasons of this action. I’m just not sure which should be my top concerns. Any suggestions? And what about suggestions of what to do with myself now?



Filed under autobiography, community, social media