Thursday, May 26, 2005

My personal favorite from among the 17

Ponte Santa Trinita', Florence
Originally uploaded by gwilmore.
This picture was perhaps my favorite among all the ones I took during the Italy trip. On Flickr, I have captioned it with an appropriate Dante quote. You will need to look up the translation, but the passage is about the Arno, on whose banks Dante grew up. (I left out the part that follows, in which the whole Arno region is denounced as a cesspool of iniquity.)

A few of our Italy pictures

Duomo e campanile di Giotto
Originally uploaded by gwilmore.
With the help of my friend John Power, who is the high priests group leader in my ward, I spent a couple of hours last evening uploading some of our Italy pictures -- 17, to be exact -- to Flickr. We took about 250 pictures during the trip, of which perhaps 50 either did not turn out the way we wanted, or were essentially duplicates. From the remaining 200 or so, I selected a few of my personal favorites to display on Flickr, so anyone who wishes can now have a look at them. I hope you find them interesting and enjoyable. Most are accompanied by comments, which I will be revising during the next few days; so if you check these out today or tomorrow, you may want to do so again later.

This particular shot, which includes the Duomo and Giotto's Campanile, was taken by me, and I was quite pleased by the way it turned out.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

A feast for the eyes, and for the spirit

Originally uploaded by creativity+.
I love sunrises and sunsets, and this one was a dandy. Enjoy!

"But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create . . ."

-- Isaiah 65:18.

The Pope's language watchdog

I have been trying to decide what to do with my time this summer, after my wife and daughter leave for Utah in a few weeks to escape the heat in the Phoenix area. One serious possibility is that I may purchase a copy of Wheelock's famous treatise and start learning Latin, a language which has long fascinated me. I'll have plenty of time to devote to it, after all; and because Latin is much more concise than English, perhaps it will even make me a little less verbose than I am now, although that may be expecting a bit much. Also, because I love Spanish and Italian as much as I do, I figure I might as well invest some time in acquainting myself with their common source.

I found this article in today's Deseret Morning News and thought it worth passing along. This is about one of Pope Benedict XVI's aides, who is a sort of Latin factotum for the Vatican. I will let the article speak for itself.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

My now-famous Tuscan bean and rice soup

In today's post, I am fulfilling a promise made several weeks ago to Cindy Madsen. Because I know she does not spend much time on the Internet, I will leave it to Barney to make sure this gets to her.

During my trip to Utah several weeks ago, I had two occasions to make some of my Tuscan bean and rice soup, both of which are recounted in this post. I promised Cindy that I would send her the recipe, adding that I had thought of sending it to her long before, but decided to wait until after I could visit Utah again myself and prepare it for one of the Madsens' post-General Conference get-togethers. In other words, I wanted to introduce it to them myself, in person; and last month, I finally had my chance.

I do not claim to be one of the world's great cooks, but my culinary efforts have generally tended to be quite successful. Deep down inside, I must have some sort of artistic bent, which perhaps manifests itself whenever I try to cook something -- at least, when I cook something on my terms. My wife would tell you that if she asks me to fix some macaroni and cheese for our kids, I'll balk at the idea; but that on the other hand, if she asks me to slave over a hot stove for several hours, making some Hungarian paprika chicken, I'll tackle the project with gusto. There is nothing creative, after all, about a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese -- and besides, would someone such as Dante ever have eaten it? (Then again, during his exile, perhaps he would have. In Paradiso XVII:58-60, his ancestor Cacciaguida voices the dark prophecy that he, Dante, "will come to know how bitter as salt and stone is the bread of others," so perhaps even Kraft macaroni and cheese would have been better than some of the other components of his diet -- at least until he came to Ravenna and fell under the protection of Guido da Polenta.) Not surprisingly, my own favorite cuisine is Italian, followed by Chinese, Greek, and Mexican. The only one of the four national cuisines in which I have ever seriously dabbled, however, is the Italian.

One of my favorite books is Dante in Love, by Harriet Rubin. On page 233 of the hardbound edition, she has this to say:

"Waverly Root in The Food of Italy asks, 'Does a well-fed race produce more geniuses than others?' Perhaps he was thinking of all the explorers, artists, musicians, and strategists raised on Italian plenty. Even America has an Italian name, We ourselves are nouveau Romans. So, did Dante eat well? More than a bit of beef and a sip of wine? Did all the sweetness he sought come from the endless rhymes in his mouth? Dante presumably tasted Paradise in Ravenna as nowhere else. Guido was a generous host, and Ravenna is an ocean of feast: hogfish, eel, lemon sole, grey mullet, red mullet, dogfish, squill, calamari and mazzole. The Pineta', the pine forest, yielded pine nuts for desserts; the shells added fragrance to fires."

With that in mind, I discovered this recipe in an Italian cooking magazine about 18 months ago, and immediately fell in love with it. I especially like to prepare it for occasions when we have company. I also like to fancy that perhaps Dante himself ate this during his day, although I know that is impossible, because tomatoes were not eaten in Italy until about the 16th century. (Apparently people had theretofore regarded them with superstitious dread, because the core of a tomato bears some resemblance to the cross.) Whether he ate this soup or not, it is available for all of us to enjoy in our time, and has the advantages of being highly nutritious and very easy to prepare. And creative, of course. The only problem with it is that three days or so after you eat this stuff, you may start to get hungry again, as it is quite filling.

So here it is. This recipe will yield 6 servings, but I nearly always multiply the ingredients by three and make a large batch. This takes me about an hour and a half to prepare, and it tends to go quickly. I recommend serving it with Italian bread.


8 oz. Italian sausage (preferably spicy)
3 (16 oz.) cans of low-sodium chicken broth
1 (28 oz.) can of diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup uncooked rice
1 (15-1/2 oz.) can of Great Northern or pinto beans, drained and rinsed (I personally prefer it with pinto beans, although I have prepared it both ways).


Brown sausage in a 3- to 4-quart saucepan over medium high heat for about 6 minutes, then drain fat. Stir in broth, tomatoes, salt, pepper and oregano; bring to a boil. Stir in the rice and beans. Cover and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the rice is fully cooked. Serve immediately -- and with Italian bread, as I recommended above.

Try this, and let me know what you think of it. I predict that you will want to make it again and again.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Bard goes to Madison Avenue

I concur with T. S. Eliot's view that Shakespeare and Dante divide the world between them (there being no third), although I also agree with Matthew Pearl's corollary that Dante's half is growing larger each year. But this post today is all about Shakespeare, who, according to at least one wit, should be invoked by advertisers to sell products. His view, which I think is a wonderful idea, appears in today's Jewish World Review. Read this, and be amused. (I wish my high-school English teacher, the much-loved Nell Thomas, could see this!)

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Case for a Creator reviewed

Julie, at Happy Catholic, has posted this review of Lee Strobel's latest book, The Case for a Creator. All of Mr. Strobel's works figure prominently on my list of books that I want to get around to reading sometime in the near future, and this one looks like it will be very interesting indeed. A hat-tip to Julie for a fine review, which of course is something to be expected on a site as good as hers.

While reading her article, I reflected back on an experience I have always cherished. Back in 1970, when I was in the process of deciding whether to cast my lot with the Mormons and be baptized into the faith, the missionaries gave me a little book, written by Dr. Henry Eyring, titled The Faith of a Scientist. Dr. Eyring, who passed away in 1981 at age 80, was an internationally-renowned chemist, and the father of Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Council of the Twelve. (Incidentally, he was also a brother-in-law to President Spencer W. Kimball.) My high-school chemistry textbook featured an article about Dr. Eyring, and mentioned specifially that he was deeply religious, and generously devoted his time and means to his church. I have always been easily drawn to people who manage to combine intellect with spirituality, so Dr. Eyring quickly established himself as one of my first Latter-day Saint heroes. (Later, on two different occasions, I had the privilege of meeting him.) In essence, the book was a sort of personal testimony about his inability to find any real conflict between true science and true religion, both of which, in his view, concerned themselves with the eternal verities of the universe. I read the book several times, and of course eventually joined the Church as well, comforted in the assurance that a church good enough for someone like Dr. Eyring would also have a place in it for me.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Comincia il Giro d'Italia!

The Giro d'Italia is set to begin this weekend. This is an annual bicycling race, similar to the Tour de France in scope and duration, although perhaps not as famous as the Tour. In fact, I myself first heard of the Giro only three years ago, because it was going on while Sheila and I were in Italy in May of 2002, and I saw a few bits and pieces of it on television during our trip. Now that our Dish Network subscription includes RAI, the Italian TV network, I plan to follow it as closely as I can, and in the process perhaps pick up some new vocabulary as well. This event has become one of the highlights of my year, for three reasons: first, because I myself am an enthusiastic cyclist; second, because just about all things Italian interest me; and third, because it takes place during the same month of the year we took that trip, and thus always brings back some fond and happy memories.

This map of the Giro course appears in the online edition of Gazzetta dello Sport. (The text is in Italian, but go ahead and check it out anyway.) After a few days of preliminary events, the race proper begins this coming Sunday, May 8, at Reggio Calabria, at the toe of the Italian boot, and ends three weeks later, on May 29, in Milan. The total distance to be covered is just over 3498 km (about 2162 miles), which is divided into 22 stages, and covers all sorts of terrain. This is obviously no undertaking for the weak or faint-hearted.

I encourage all of you to follow the race. I realize, however, that I may be the only person among us who has any real interest in the Giro; but at least all of you know about it now.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Update to my profile

I hate having my picture taken, but I also thought those of you who have never met me personally might want to be able to associate a face with my name. (But then again, maybe you won't, after looking at my mug, which might best be described as a radio announcer's face.) In any event, the high priests group leader in my ward is a skilled photographer, and this evening he took a picture of me, which I have uploaded into my Blogger profile, making it available to one and all. I thought he did a first-class job with it, and this little project helped him as well, because he wanted to do some experiments with exposure. Over a period of about an hour and a half, he took about 30 pictures of me in various poses and from various angles, and this was the one we both liked the best. It seems appropriate that we chose one of about three shots in which I posed with a book, since I am a voracious reader and nearly always have one in my hand, or at least readily accessible.

Well, for better or worse, all of you now know what I look like. This image is about 30 minutes old as I write this post, so it is certainly current. I hope seeing this will not dissuade anyone from continuing to participate in my blog. :-)

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Bruce R. McConkie on teaching the gospel

Elder Bruce R. McConkie is one of my favorite heroes, even though I have always enjoyed poking fun at the way he spoke. (That oddly-modulated bass voice of his lended itself exceptionally well to my admittedly limited powers of mimickry.) Thus, I read with great interest this interview with his son, Joseph F. McConkie, which appeared in today's edition of Meridian Magazine, one of the websites I am almost certain to visit at least once during the course of each day.

I would never be presumptuous enough to claim any kind of parity with Elder McConkie, but he and I both share a deep love of the scriptures, which in my case has only grown stronger over the years as I have spent literally thousands of hours immersed in them. In this, I can feel a strong sense of affinity for the man. I liked the story in this interview of the answer Elder McConkie gave when asked how he had become so well-grounded in the scriptures, and I concur with his response, although I might not have answered the question in precisely the same way had it been posed to me. Just a couple of weeks ago, someone in our Sunday School class asked me how I had learned the scriptures as thoroughly as I had, and I answered by affirming that anyone willing to make the effort could do the same thing I had done, and that there was nothing extraordinary about it. Continuing, I told the class that I read out of the Standard Works every single day, systematically -- usually, but not always, early in the morning -- and have not missed even one day in 8-1/2 years and counting; and of course, I have read all of the scriptures from cover to cover, multiple times, in all three of my languages. I've had to wrestle with some bad habits during my lifetime, so I figured, why not cultivate a really good one for a change? It's one of the best things I have ever done, and my efforts in this regard have been well-rewarded indeed.

Monday, May 02, 2005

A great conversion story

Latter-day Saints love good conversion stories, but as this post by Julie at Happy Catholic proves, we certainly do not have any monopoly on them. I told her I liked the story so much that I would gladly post it on my own blog; and in my mind, there are three things that really stand out about her story, which make it well worth sharing here.

First, the saga of the house sale is one more illustration of something we often hear from the pulpit at sacrament meeting and General Conference, as well as from the title of one well-known book within our LDS culture -- namely, that faith does indeed precede the miracle, and not the other way around. Or as our own Book of Mormon puts it, in Ether 12:6, ". . . faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith." In this connection, I am reminded of President Boyd K. Packer's story about the time he faced a difficult decision in his personal life, and was counseled by President Harold B. Lee that we sometimes have to take a few steps into the darkness before the light will follow us. (Although I am not providing a link to it here, he related this story once again in the talk he gave during the most recent General Conference. I first heard it several years ago, and have had occasion to reflect on it again and again.)

Second, the ripple effect. Her personal decision had a profound effect on a number of lives, without any conscious effort on her part. Everything we do has a way of affecting others -- a point made in a memorable fashion, for example, in the movie "It's a Wonderful Life." We should all strive to do what we can to affect others in a positive way, and in our best moments, we often manage to do so without really trying. I'm sure Julie never expected this result, but hey, in my book, she done real good!

The third thing is the reminder that the most important -- and lasting -- knowledge we gain is through the promptings of the Spirit, rather than through our sometimes overly-vaunted secular learning. Paul says as much in the second chapter of First Corinthians. I think it is very significant that Julie, who is evidently as much of a bookworm as I am, acquired the most important knowledge she has -- and certainly that which she appears to cherish most -- without the aid of books. (I assume she was already a student of scripture, but that is not the kind of book learning I refer to here.) This is, of course, entirely incomprehensible to an atheist, to whom nothing can be known except through our five senses and our unaided intellect (which, incidentally, led to such horrors as the French Revolution, spawned as it was by the so-called Age of Reason.)

As always, feedback is welcome, although in this case she deserves it far more than I do. I admire Julie's enthusiasm for her faith and her willingness to share it with others, and I submit that she has set a good example for all of us, whether we be Latter-day Saints, evangelical Christians, or Catholics.