A Grain of Salt (What Does That Mean?!)

Photo found here: http://www.grainofsalt.com/2010/10/what-does-with-a-grain-of-salt-even-mean/

“Take that with a grain of salt,” says your friend regarding somewhat dubious news. “I’d take that draft rumor with a grain of salt,” says the NFL Draft Expert, who says a lot of things. (Most of which apparently need salt…)

But what does it mean? Why do we say that? Where does it come from? What is the origin of that phrase, “Take it with a grain of salt”?

Let’s find out!

Taken With A Grain Of Salt

Apparently, we head (figuratively) all the way back to the first century. In the year 77 AD, a Roman author named Pliny (the Elder) shared the story of a Roman general, Pompey, in his book Naturalis Historia1, which included a “recipe” for an antidote against all poisons. (Impressive!)

In sancutariis Mithridatis, maximi regis, devicit Cn. Pompeius invenit in peculiari commentario ipsius manu conpositionem antidoti e II nucibus siccis, item ficis totidem et rutae foliis XX simul tritis, addito salis grano: ei, qui hoc ieiunus sumat, nullum venenum nociturum illo die.

(After the defeat of that mighty monarch, Mithridates, Gnaeus Pompeius found in his private cabinet a recipe for an antidote in his own handwriting; it was to the following effect: Take two dried walnuts, two figs, and twenty leaves of rue; pound them all together, with the addition of a grain of salt; if a person takes this mixture fasting, he will be proof against all poisons for that day.)2

Since the year 77 AD, some have (wrongly) used the Latin phrase, “cum grano salis”. But as you can see in the text above, Pliny wrote “addito salis grano”. (“With a grain of salt” just sounded better in English, so… we made it say that in Latin, too?)

There are two different views on what Pompey (or P. the E.) meant. One, the salt was an essential part of the potency of the antidote. Two, the salt just made it palatable enough to swallow, and thus receive the antidote’s protection against “all poisons”.

A third take on the usage of the phrase is as follows:

The Latin word salis means both “salt” and “wit”, so that the Latin phrase “cum grano salis” could be translated as both “with a grain of salt” and “with a grain (small amount) of wit”.3

Interesting! So it had a double meaning, as it does now. And, since we use it to mean something like, “this should be understood with some degree of skepticism, or doubt”, one could equate skepticism to wit, no?

Lastly, the first usage of the phrase, “This should be taken with a grain of salt” was found in a commentary on the book of Revelation, by John Trapp, published in 1647.4

And there you have it! But, since all of this information was pieced together from the articles referenced in the footer of this post, well, I think it should probably be taken with a grain of salt.

😉

  1. Read the full Latin text of the story here, if you’re awesome enough.
  2. This Latin/English version was found in an article at WordOrigins.com
  3. Thank you, Wikipedia!
  4. You can find anything online these days!

The Simple Life

I have two friends who host a podcast called “Cultivate Simple“. It’s about working toward living simply, intentionally, in every area of life. They certainly are quite good at this, but I always chuckle at the title as I am also aware of the multitude of actitivies and responsibilities and events that dot their schedules. (To the point where these ‘dots’ often commingle into much larger ‘blobs’.)

Not too long ago, as I discussed our family’s schedule for the week with Jen, I saw many of my own dots chaotically infringing upon one another, and my own blobs growing unmanageable and out of my control.

And I longed for simple.

My heart nearly begs for simple. Maybe even my body. After a full day of celebrating Cameron’s birthday, I crashed on our bed—out like the proverbial light—much, much earlier than I would normally bed down for a night.

And though that longing is present and making itself known, here I am, amidst six growing-older children, a wife who loves to keep relatively full schedules, and running a couple of my own businesses, too.

Where and how do we find simple in the middle of all that life is? Is it possible to have a quiet, peaceful, serene, simple existence?

Perhaps my definition of simple is all wrong.

Simple. Simplicity.

simple |ˈsimpəl|

adjective ( -pler , -plest )
1 easily understood or done; presenting no difficulty : a simple solution | camcorders are now so simple to operate.
plain, basic, or uncomplicated in form, nature, or design; without much decoration or ornamentation : a simple white blouse | the house is furnished in a simple country style.
[ attrib. ] used to emphasize the fundamental and straightforward nature of something : the simple truth.

2 composed of a single element; not compound.
Mathematics denoting a group that has no proper normal subgroup.
Botany (of a leaf or stem) not divided or branched.
(of a lens, microscope, etc.) consisting of a single lens or component.
(in English grammar) denoting a tense formed without an auxiliary, e.g., sang as opposed to was singing.
(of interest) payable on the sum loaned only. Compare with compound 1.

3 of or characteristic of low rank or status; humble and unpretentious : a simple Buddhist monk.

4 of low or abnormally low intelligence.

Well I don’t think number four is the one I’m looking for. And I’m sure the mathematical and botanical applications are not … applicable here, either. So, am I looking for ‘low rank or status’? ‘Humble and unpretentious’? Yes. But do I live in such a way that is so other-than-that as to cause me to long for ‘simple’? Probably not.

So if I go with these definitions of ‘simple’, I think the second definition under number one might be the thing I am wanting most: “plain, basic, or uncomplicated in form, nature or design; without much decoration or ornamentation.” If you know me, you’re likely aware that I’m not much for ornamentation. I definitely lean toward “plain” and “basic”. (Ha! basic!)

But how—and why—am I lacking that? Where did this train run off the rails?

There’s a problem many of us have: saying ‘no’. Whether it’s out of fear that we might hurt another’s feelings, or whether our own reputation might be somehow sullied—we’re not great at saying, “No.”

There sure is a lot to which we can say ‘no’! There are probably dozens of physical and spiritual and relational and educational opportunities of which we could partake; and in our family, multiply that by eight! No, there is no shortage of chances to exercise our No Muscle.

But instead, we just keep saying yes.

Now, I may have an even more difficult time as I have inherited something of a defect. You see, I look at life as though it might be more conquerable than it truly is. I tend toward optimism, as I have said before. This will often—nearly 100% of the time!—causes me to misjudge the time it might take to do something, usually by at least half. It is quite likely, I believe, that such poor estimation of the duration of various tasks is a direct result of this inherited defect (from my dad) that we call “Cramming Ten Pounds into a Five Pound Bag Syndrome”.1

And boy do I have that… bad!

I don’t intentionally add things to our schedule for appearance (reputation) or for my own sense of accomplishment or anything of that sort. I think if I’ve crowded my schedule, it’s often because I either have those rose-colored, sure-I-can-fit-that-in view of my day or week ahead, OR because, I just forget that I don’t want to do that!

Thus, I frequently return to this place of longing for simple.

My podcasting friends hold solidly to the line of thinking that “simple” does not mean not busy. (Though I would say that they often long for down time, too.)

But isn’t there something to doing less?

I think much of this comes back to technology. As we increase the efficiency with which we do things (via technological advancement) we are able to do more, do it better, do it faster … and honestly, I think this makes us less. We are stretching ourselves beyond what we are designed to do. I will certainly continue this thought in a future post (it’s been ruminating for quite a while now), but to elaborate here would not be… simple.

And simple is what I’m hoping to rediscover.

We do lead a fairly simple life in some ways: we have one vehicle, we live in a relatively modest home, we are not extravagant in our spending, we are not members of many organizations, we like 80s TV shows… simple.

But I think there’s more. And if I do rediscover it in some areas, I’ll be sure to share those discoveries here.

Until then, I need to wrap this up so I can get ready for today’s three events. (Oh, and make breakfast for everyone, gather the laundry, send emails, prep dinner, pay bills, read the library book due back tomorrow, discuss several upcoming events with Jen, mow the lawn, play a word game or two, maybe play a game with Alex, brush my teeth, feed the fish, and save the world.)

Simple!

  1. This reminds me of the other verses I found when I was writing the post Messes. Right before where it says “children are a blessing from the LORD”, it says: “It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.” Admittedly, one thing that keeps me busy is needing to make money to feed our family. Perhaps God was gently nudging me here?

It’s All Fun And Games Until Somebody Loses… the iPad?

donkey-kongMondays are video game day at the Campbell Household. We, the parents, try to limit the hours (and days) of video game entertainment here. (This is a learned behavior; after seeing that much less stringent limitations on video game time producing mean-spirited, selfish children, if not mindless automatons.)

As it so happens, today whilst I was cleaning up some virtual directories here at Ye Olde GregsHead (dot net) I came across a few video games I’ve shared throughout the years of this blog’s existence. I thought perhaps it might be fun—in that it is Video Game Day—to share them again (in one place) with you!

There’s the Penguin Game (which is quite surprisingly addictive…) and a funny little Christmas-themed game, as well as a Hulk Smash game (a favorite of our good friend, Chi).

In addition to those, there are a few other games that I have come across online, not to mention this entire site which seems to have every Nintendo NES game every sold ready and available for play through your favorite web browser.

Plus I found this Risk-like game a couple years ago that has been fun a time or two.

Do you recommend any online games? Do you play games on your computer? (The boys’ game of choice is Madden ’08, as that is the only one made for Mac. It has been known to catch my fancy a time or two, as well.)

Of course, my favorite games are word games! I have always been a big fan of Boggle in the real world. I also have fond memories of playing Scrabble with my Grandma when I was a young lad. Nowadays I can frequently being found playing either of those games against a distant opponent via a web browser, or more likely an iOS device. (Oh yeah, it’s your turn, Mom…) 🙂

Well, if you are looking for a brief distraction here on Video Game Monday… consider yourself well-supplied!

How Do You Watch TV?

old-tvAre you a current TV show watcher? Do you watch one or more new and/or current television shows as they air new episodes weekly? I don’t qualify as (anywhere close to) an avid current TV Watcher, but I do enjoy a few currently running shows.

One characteristic of many current shows (at least, the ones I watch?) is that they have a continuous and developing plot line. If you do enjoy watching newer shows every week (following that unfolding story) well, unfortunately you often are left hanging.

For example, I just learned that a show I started watching towards the end of its first season was not renewed for more episodes following its second season. They probably thought they would be renewed because there was really no resolution whatsoever to the various plot lines.

This happened to me a few years ago when I began watching the Sarah Connor Chronicles, a now-defunct TV series based on the Terminator movies. It was canceled after its second season, leaving every plot line dangling helplessly in the unpredictable winds of ratings…

I also learned this week that another show I had been watching this past year was not renewed beyond its first season. Their story was somewhat resolved as they were notified of the non-renewal with enough time to rewrite the last few episodes to be more of a series finale. Whew!

So what’s the deal here? Is the most frustrating part that the show doesn’t run very long? Or is it just frustrating that they leave you (permanently) hanging when a show is canceled before it’s story is “finished”?

OR, is it possibly the most frustrating that the networks who carry these shows only use live TV as their metric for which shows are “successful” and which are not?

Yep. It’s that!

I never watch live TV. EVER. We have kids! We have a schedule! Who can sit down in the evenings and watch a TV show? (And who wants to do that without being able to forward through the commercials?) I think Jen and I have watched a combined three episodes of live TV in the past… maybe six or seven years?

I watch any current TV shows via Hulu or iTunes (if I really like it). Don’t you? Do you watch regular TV at the regular, scheduled time? We don’t even have cable here… just Netflix, Amazon Prime, and then free Hulu (and other internet content). (And of course, can purchase or rent things via iTunes, Amazon, et al.)

Really… when will these guys change their paradigm? Their thinking is very outdated. Live TV should be one of the factors in determining audience, but the main or only one? That article said one of the shows canceled from last fall had a huge DVR audience. How can they cancel a show because its viewers watch it later, on their own schedule?

Craziness.

And that doesn’t even factor in the online services like Hulu and Amazon/iTunes. I’d assume plenty of people watch current shows via Hulu, despite the fact that the content providers try desperately to make you not want to. Some shows are available on Hulu a mere eight days after they air initially on TV, some are thirty days delayed. (Some are only one day delayed. That’s nice.) Also, some shows are only available in standard definition, while others are available in HD, but only on certain devices. (And not on a computer… which is how we watch TV in our house!)

Ugh… It really does make me angry sometimes, the short-sightedness of these people. The greed and lust for power, control. Yuck.

(These people of course being the Time Warners, NBC Universal, Paramount… and so on. I’d rather not give them more time here.)

The ridiculous way that content is still delivered is mind boggling to me. You have to pay an outrageous monthly fee to receive hundreds of channels—that you mostly do not want—in order to watch a few shows you’d like to see every week… and then those get canceled because you use your DVR to watch them on your schedule?? What in the world?

And what of iTunes and Amazon, where you can pay $20-$40 or so to subscribe to a season’s worth of shows (downloaded and/or available very soon after their air date… which, is also an archaic practice…) Do those count towards the content providers’ ratings system? When someone is willing to pay money to watch a show… it should count double. Or triple!

Eventually everyone will catch up. Everything is always about money. Always. So, once someone discovers a way to satisfy the consumer’s desire for direct access to content and a way to maximize the monitization of that content, then we’ll have the new paradigm.

For now, it’s frustration for we who have moved on to a new model while we wait for the old school content providers to “catch up” (or, give in)… or… there is a reason that piracy is a problem. (And it’s not because people just want free stuff! It’s equally or more because of these ridiculous ways of thinking by the “old school” content providers.)

I’ll stick with Hulu and Netflix (old TV shows are still awesome!) and the occasional iTunes or Amazon purchase.

That is, until I come up with a way to bring the whole system down myself! Who says I can’t be the one to invent the next breakthrough technology? 🙂

Scattering, or Gathering?

Recently I was catching up on some podcast listening and enjoyed hearing Wayne Jacobsen’s response to an article by John Burton. I am unfamiliar with Mr. Burton, but in general, his interpretation of observable trends does seem to differ from mine—at least, his conclusions certainly differ.

His article is titled: “You are NOT the church: The scattering movement : What about church online?” (… long title!)

I feel like it’s a bit of a Straw Man argument—the “I’m the church” section of his article (does anyone really think that he or she, as an individual, is “the church”? I have not come across that philosophy…)—but other than that, I do understand where he’s coming from: I just disagree.

He contends that the trend towards Jesus followers removing themselves from the 501c3 “churches” and emphasizing daily life being the Church (living loved by God, and actively loving his people around you) is a “scattering” of the Church: God’s people are being wrongly divided and the Church is being lessened by it.

Listen to Wayne’s closing comments from that episode:

I think there’s not a ‘scattering movement’ going on, John Burton, I think there’s a gathering movement. Honestly, I think our Sunday morning institutions with their political ambitions, with their different names and distinct doctrines—with all the things they do—they have more to do with scattering the church in an area, and people who are leaving some of those things are actually being invited to a greater gathering; a gathering that’s greater than my preferred style of worship, or my human leader I want to follow; a gathering that’s more important than ‘do we agree on all of these little, narrow doctrinal minutia’.

It’s based on people who are learning to live loved by the Father, and then live as lovers in the world, caring for people. I see that church in amazing ways.

I concur with Mr. Jacobsen. It’s apparent to me that many people who desire a more real, everyday life with Jesus and his Church are not finding that in the organizations that culturally we think of as “churches”, but realizing a much more full life (“I came to give you life, and life to the full”—Jesus) when not tethered to (beholden to) those named entities.

Obviously, no experience or label is universal. And, these are my thoughts from my experience. However, they seem to fit what I observe, and I wonder if we, the Church, continue to miss out on the fullness of life that could be had as first, followers of Jesus, living completely dependent upon him and his lead and sustenance in our lives, and then second, as he intersects our paths with followers with whatever frequency he should choose as head of his church, we encourage and build up one another as those opportunities come: no agenda, or self-sustaining plan to accomplish that end of our own making.

I certainly admit that such a view of God’s Kingdom could be heavily influenced by my own personality. (I bristle at most “plans”. Knowing I have “things to do today” often weighs me down to the point of not being able to do anything!) But I keep coming back to the fact that Jesus didn’t name anything. He didn’t establish a structure to train up and “contain” his Church. He builds and directs his Church… no?

Again, it all comes back to Jesus.

So, please have a look at that article, and enjoy the response to it via Wayne’s podcast episode. And I welcome your thoughts/discussion here as well.

Twitter RSS

TwitterQuick techie update here, since it’s on my mind…

Are you a Twitter user? I am not. Well, not really. I never really had any need for it, though I would and do often recommend it to my web clients. It’s a great way to keep in touch with clients, send out short updates, links, multimedia, etc to people who follow you or your product.

But as an individual, it just seemed… well, not for me.

However… I do follow people via Twitter. Folks who share newsy updates, sports-related tidbits, etc. I finally broke down and set up a “Buffalo Bills” account for myself to follow (and yes, even interact with) the Buffalo sports world. That’s been interesting. (Even have gotten to interact with Bills Hall of Famer, Thurman Thomas, which is neat…) But still not really for me.

The way I prefer to follow regularly published updates (to any service) is via RSS. Using Mail.app in Mac OS X, I simply add the RSS feed and I get any RSS item to my inbox with all my other email. (Links to the full web content included with the RSS item.)

BUT, Twitter changed all that when they dropped support for RSS feeds with the release of their new API last month. (September 5th, I believe.)

I wondered why I was seeing the dreaded triangle with the exclamation point icon in my inbox. After a small amount of research today, I ascertained that my method of obtaining updates is (at least slightly) antiquated.

Yes. I am old-fashioned.

(Wait… can you be “old-fashioned” if you use RSS? Hmm…)

Well, after a bit more research, I learned there is still a “backdoor” way to get a timeline via RSS! (Yes!)

It’s quite simple. Use the URL below, and just replace the Xs with the username of the person whose timeline you wish to receive as an RSS feed. It’s that easy!

http://api.twitter.com/1/statuses/user_timeline.rss?screen_name=XXXX

We’ll see how much longer that backdoor option remains open. But it works for now.

Thanks to SEO-Alien.com for the info.


UPDATE: Jun 12, 2013

(From the dev.twitter.com homepage:) Having trouble with your app? API v1 is retired and no longer functional. | Read more →

The Defeat of the Vile Black Sludge Monster!

The battle was fierce, lasting a few days, culminating with a full day of intense action. The Monster would win one battle, and then another. (And then another…) But I was resilient. I persisted, pushing through adversity after adversity.

At one point, after several humiliating defeats in the protracted fray, I began to feel my will to fight slipping away. It was then that I reached out to a fellow soldier who had passed through many such battles before me. He gave me just the tactics and inspiration that I needed for the final push.

In the end, through sheer power of will, I was victorious over the evil, vile, Black Sludge Monster and he was banished to that horrid place from whence he came; disintegrated into eternal oblivion!

Actually…

I had a really bad drain clog in my bathroom sink. I finally decided to have a go at unclogging it. I fished a wire hook down the drain, only to come up empty. So I removed the trap under the sink… gross!! Bad smelling, cloudy water with flaky black stuff in it dumped out into the bucket I had there to catch whatever came out. I cleaned all that out and replaced the trap.

When I ran the water, it was still clogged. And, now, thanks to me moving the trap, the seals no longer held. Very bad leaking!! Ugh. Now I had two things to fix!!

It was too late to get to the store before bed time, so I just left the sink undone and instructed my fellow cohabitants to desist from any sink usage until further notice.

Then this happened.

So, after a brief health emergency break, I finally got to a hardware store for a new trap. I replaced the trap and… voila! Oh wait… It’s STILL LEAKING!!!

Frustrated, I decided that I had to get some office work done, so I left the still-clogged, leaking drain and reminded everyone to use it as little as possible. (At least it was leaking less?)

As I complained to my friend and co-worker over instant messages about my predicament, he suggested I try to focus on the clog first instead of the leak. Perhaps the leak was simply because the clog wasn’t letting the water go where it is supposed to go. Good thoughts.

So, properly inspired, I headed back for a final push.

I had read a blog post by his wife (she’s a famous blogger!) about drain care not more than a few days earlier, so what he was describing was familiar, and I had intended to do that after fixing the leak. As she describes in her post, I boiled a large pot of water, poured it down the drain (it SLOWLY drained down) then I dropped a good amount of baking soda down and poured vinegar in after it.

FUN! Do you remember making tiny volcanoes this way when you were younger?? I forgot how much fun this was! 🙂 And it sure did seem like it could eat/clean away anything in its path.

Sadly… our problem was a tad bigger than a one-trick fix.

A second pot of boiling water did not show any progress. (In fact, I think it was slower.) So I tried again. Baking soda/vinegar/boiling water. Still slow. Painfully slow. A third time… a fourth…

NO GO.

Finally, slightly exasperated, but still properly inspired, I filled the sink with regularly hot water and grabbed my plunger. I covered the air flow hole with my left index finger and began to plunge…

Three quick pulls later I heard a marvelous, wondrous sound! A loosing of the terrible drain demon and a pleasant sucking sound…

AND THE WATER DRAINED DOWN!!!!!

Oh, joy! Oh wondrous, fabulous joy!!!

Then I looked in the tub.

!!?

It seems that the Black Sludge Monster can not be defeated quite so easily! This horrible, awful (copious) abundunce of dark, thick, black sludge was sitting in my tub around the drain. Lots of it.

I ran the water in the sink to see if the clog was really gone, and the water disappeared down the drain immediately. That was good; one great victory one. Glancing again at the tub, though, I discovered that the water was being directly routed toward the tub drain. As the water entered the sink drain, it came up the tub drain. (Really! As fast as it went down it came up!)

Oh boy…

So, after sucking up the gross stuff with my wet/dry vac, I went to work with what remained of my baking soda and vinegar supplies on the tub drain. Boiling water (ridiculously slow drain—though the tub drain had been free flowing before I plunged the sink drain), followed by baking soda, vinegar (fun!) … short wait, then more boiling water.

Nothing. VERY slow drain.

OK… I’m done with this, Black Sludge Monster! BACK to where you CAME FROM!!!!, I screamed.

Grabbing my weapon (plunger), I filled the tub with a little more water, plugged the air flow with a wet rag and went to work. Slightly more stubborn than the sink, it took a few more aggressive plunges but…

VICTORY WAS MINE!!!

That lovely sucking sound, followed by watching the stopped water flow quickly down a beautiful swirling spiral, through the newly sparkling clean drains (thanks to the massive amounts of baking soda and vinegar used on them!) and out of my house!

I tested both the tub and sink drains and they both performed marvelously.

The Black Sludge Monster put up a dastardly valiant fight, but… I was victorious!

Thanks to perseverance, good (smart, inspirational) friends, and …

My plunger!

🙂