Dumbledore’s Army:

I refreshing exchange on Twitter this morning between author J.K. Rowling and a fan:

J.K. Rowling Tweet Lest Potter Fan Ana Kocovic be misunderstood as homophobic, she immediately replied:

amazing answer… Yes you are absolutely right. Such an inspiration!!!

And followed up again with additional context for her question:

I wish that McGonagall and Dumbledore are couple

So, innocent question.  Teaching moment.

Ted Cruz is Runnin':

There are some things my native state of Texas shouldn’t export.

Ted Cruz is one of them.

More Matthew McConaughey, less Cruz.

But here’s Kevin Drum this morning flagging a fresh bit of news from The Los Angeles Times:

For years, business lobbyists complained about what they derided as “job killer” laws that drive employers out of California. Rival state governors, notably former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, made highly publicized visits to the Golden State in hopes of poaching jobs.

But new numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tell a different story. Total jobs created in the 12 months ending Jan. 31 show California leading other states. California gained 498,000 new jobs, almost 30% more than the Lone Star State’s total of 392,900 for the same period.

Yes, as Drum points out, that’s “bad news for Ted Cruz on his very first day as an official presidential candidate.”

Meanwhile, another embarrassing export in today’s news:  the Supreme Court is hearing a case that will decide whether the Confederate flag can be displayed on Texas license plates.  Texas, thankfully, is against allowing the flag on its license plates.

Even Rick Perry is against it (though he has a well-known weakness for secession humor).

Another Historic Low:

When Arctic sea ice peaked this winter, it was the lowest maximum on record:

Flippers Crossed:

A Gray Seal, waiting patiently.

(Or perhaps signaling for a relief pitcher…)

Photo by @BrianSkerry A Gray Seal folds its flippers and poses underwater in the Gulf of Maine. Extending from Cape Cod to Nova Scotia, the Gulf of Maine and its surrounding waters have been the economic bedrock of New England’s coastal communities, supporting a wide variety of commercial and recreational activities. Unfortunately, many factors currently threaten the vitality of the Gulf of Maine ecosystem today. Decades of pollution of our marine waterways, coastal habitat destruction, overfishing and bottom trawling have wrought havoc in the form of extensive habitat loss and diminished biodiversity. Restoring health to these important resources as rapidly as possible is an imperative. @thephotosociety @natgeocreative #newenglandoceanodyssey #gulfofmaine #maine #nikonambassador #seals

A photo posted by Brian Skerry (@brianskerry) on

It’s All Happening At The Zoo:

Fort Worth Zoo LogoMy mother-in-law once gave my wife an incredibly unique birthday present: a commissioned painting by an elephant.

A resident of the Fort Worth Zoo, the elephant is named Rasha.  She’s over 40-years-old, a proud grandmother, and, as you will see — an artist.

Some creative souls agonize over their work.  Not Rasha.

Her brush is brandished quickly and decisively, with no hint that she’s ever displeased with a stroke.

This particular session at the easel occurred in August of 2000:

“Overt Bigotry Against Muslims”:

Sadly, here we are:

Media outlets, particularly on TV, are increasingly promoting overt bigotry against Muslims, stating over and over that Islam is an inherently violent religion and that peaceful Muslims are somehow to blame for ISIS. Hateful stereotypes are treated as fair game; the question of whether Muslims are somehow lesser human beings is raised as a valid or even necessary debate.

There’s more, of course. Vox’s Max Fisher continues:

Elements of the Republican party have been hijacked, at state and national levels, by a fringe group of anti-Muslim activists who see Islam itself as a threat. While some leading Republicans resist their agenda, others embrace it; Louisiana Governor and presidential hopeful Bobby Jindal has falsely claimed that Muslims in the UK have set up “no-go zones” that police refuse to enter and where sharia law prevails, and that Muslim immigrants coming to the US are an “invasion” and “colonization.”

Thankfully, Adam Walker provides a sane counter to this rampant bigotry, writing in The Independent that a “majority of Muslims have a peaceful reading of the Koran”:

The verses that are often quoted by critics are … cherry-picked context-dependent verses. They were only applicable at a time when war had been openly declared against Muslims because of their faith. They were being driven out of their homes and routinely assassinated. “Fight them until there is no persecution and religion is freely professed for Allah”, says the Koran. But if they stop oppressing you, it warns, then remember that “no hostility is allowed except against the aggressors.

In a Washington Post op-ed, Fareed Zakaria confronts Islamist violence said to avenge blasphemy. He points out that the word blasphemy never appears in the Koran (though it certainly does in The Bible’s Old Testament):

On several occasions, Muhammad treated people who ridiculed him and his teachings with understanding and kindness. “In Islam,” [Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan] says, “blasphemy is a subject of intellectual discussion rather than a subject of physical punishment.”

As a Christian who believes that Jesus’ example is a non-violent one, I can certainly sympathize with the frustrations of Muslims who live in a culture (indeed, a world) in which, more and more, their faith is perceived to be aggressively militant.  And I pray for them: that their faith will give them the strength to continue to pursue peace.

Violence is a temptation — to us all.  Christians have wrestled with it since Jesus admonished Peter for his use of the sword.

And Christendom has struggled with its connections to state-sanctioned violence since the time of Constantine:

But let’s return to Fareed Zakaria, whose warning is surely intended for all governments — self-proclaimed “Christian” and “Muslim” — that would attempt to co-opt the worst elements of religion for secular gain:

When governments try to curry favor with fanatics, eventually the fanatics take the law into their own hands.

Full Moon Setting (From Space):

Via NASA’s Instagram account…

Faith & Doubt:

In C.S. Lewis’ classic Mere Christianity, one must only read a couple of pages into the chapter on “Faith” before encountering a refreshingly frank discussion on doubt:

Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.  For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes.

I know that by experience.

Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable.

The rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come….

This has always seemed to me to be an extremely reasonable approach to faith and doubt.

But there are plenty of Christians who feel that all doubt must be extinguished. That doubt is an obstacle to receiving blessings from God.

Perhaps the Scriptural “Ground Zero” for this belief is James 1:6-7:

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

Those who doubt should not think that they will receive anything from the Lord; they are double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Last July, a favorite pastor of mine, Greg Boyd, addressed this Scripture; and he explained (to my satisfaction, at least) why it is often misunderstood as a warning against doubt.

Hint: context matters.

 

Forward Thinking, Backward Driving:

A few years ago, I was given a box of old radio and television industry magazines.

During my initial skim-through of the material, an article caught my eye from the February 1961 edition of Radio-Electronics magazine.

The author, Manfred von Ardenne, speculated that for safety reasons, cars of the future would be driven backwards since rear-facing seating can provide superior head-to-toe shock absorption during a collision.

Picture of futuristic car from a 1961 magazine

 

Note that the driver would rely on a “panoramic” video monitor for his view ahead of the vehicle. The system would also boast infrared camera filters for improved vision in the fog.

Meanwhile, in the event of a catastrophic failure to the car’s closed-circuit video system — no worries! — an emergency periscope would be available to the driver.

Such was the technological optimism of 1961–

Elusive “Unicorns” of the Sea:

National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen says he has unsuccessfully searched for Narwhals in the Arctic for 10 years.  He finally found this group far offshore using an ultralight airplane.

It must have been a magical moment:

You can also follow his work on Twitter.