Friday, July 18, 2014

Our Definitive Post on the Federalist Papers

As seen in Tyler-Rose's hilarious review of the search terms that bring people to our blog, people sometimes search "the federalist papers" and end up here. 

I have no idea why.  Tyler-Rose and I thought we recalled publishing a post on the Federalist Papers, but this proved to be mere patriotic fancy, as we could find nothing whatsoever in our archives to do with them. 

So, to remedy the situation once and for all, and since I happen to know a bit about the Federalist Papers and since it's still rather close to the 4th of July, I give you: 

The Feather and the Rose's Definitive Post on the Federalist Papers

(Definitive of their place in our search terms, that is.  Not, goodness me, definitive of the Papers themselves.) 

So, what are the Federalist Papers? 

The United States' Constitution had to be approved by at least nine states before it could be ratified.  Debate over whether the Constitution outlined a sound government for the new country was often carried out in newspapers.  The Federalist Papers are a collection of 85 articles which contributed to this public debate. 

In the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison argue in support of the new Constitution under the pseudonym "Publius."

Federalist 51 contains what is perhaps the most famous passage in the entire series.  Madison here discusses the need for a structure of government that takes into account the self-interest, and even vice, inherent in its all-too-human officials: 

Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.  The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place.  It may be a reflection on human nature that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government.  But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?  If men were angels, no government would be necessary.  If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.  In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this:  you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. 

The Federalist Papers in their entirety are available online here, from the Library of Congress. 


So, now you people have a reason to end up here by searching "the federalist papers."  Enjoy! 


Or, in the parlance of book-review-bloggers: 

5/5 bald eagles.  Highly recommended to anyone interested in political philosophy and/or the founding of the United States.  

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Beautiful Standing Desk

***Warning: may contain Tyler-Rose whining about her ailments like an 80-year old***


The Writing Life lends itself very easily to becoming almost completely sedentary if we aren't careful. I'm sure there are some of you who are just bursting full of enthusiasm to go and work out or play the organized and sweaty sport of your choice.

But somehow I feel you might be the minority. As writers tend to also be introverts, we often prefer calm indoor activities that aren't going to drain our Energy Bucket* too quickly. Lovely things like writing some more, brewing tea, reading great books, cooking, watching movies that make us weep, gardening, writing again, maybe some yoga, day dreaming.

A lot of those activities are not only slow moving, but also are easiest to do sitting down for the duration of the activity. If you're writing, you require a surface. Most convenient surfaces occur at about mid-thigh height and have chairs of various cushinesses pulled up in front of them making it very tempting to just sit down in them since that is after all their purpose.

However, I rode horses when I was younger and injured my back by doing several fabulous swan dives out of the saddle.** By the time I got to high school, sitting in the wretched one-size-fits-only-the-exactly-average-sized-male desks with the one armrest that kept my writing arm permanently at boob level*** caused me daily agony.

I've had a lot of doctoring since then, so now I can usually make it through the day without having to lay on the floor with a chunk of pool noodle under my neck.& However, if I spend the amount of time sitting that is required for me to finish my word quota for the day, I will be sore, achy, and probably have weird shoulder pains developing by the end of the day.

And I'm not even twenty-five yet. The idea of what my forties might be like often sends me into paroxysms of pure terror.

I can defeat most of the roaming back pain by putting my laptop on a surface high enough for me to stand up at while I work. Then I get the added bonus of feeling superior and healthy because of everything we've been hearing lately about sitting down all day every day being pretty much one of the worst things you can do to your body.

Even this will cause me problems after a while, though. If the keyboard is at the right height for my hands, then the screen is so low that I have to look down while I work, which really isn't good either.

But never fear, because . . .


Tyler-Rose's laptop on a stack of books.
The angels are singing.

Side view of the above with my bookshelves in the background.
Can't you see the light of heaven
shining down on it?

The unfortunate thing is that to create this wonder I had to commandeer both my mother's usual spot at the tall desk and her keyboard, as well as her squishy wrist support strip. Sadly, this means that my beautiful arrangement will evaporate like Cinderella's coach at about 5:30 this evening.

I'm buying myself a keyboard on Amazon right now, though, so I will soon be able to reconstruct this magnificence in a more permanent location.

I also found DIY instructions online for how to construct a standing desk on top of a regular desk for about $22. I will be building this the very instant I set foot back in my frigid, evilly non-ergonomic dorm room at the end of the summer.

My back is so happy right now.


* If you consider yourself an introvert or are an extrovert who is lucky enough to love an introvert, and haven't read the introvert article with the explanation of how Energy Buckets work, you need to. Right now. THEY UNDERSTAND US! *tears of joy*

** One time I fell off right into a pond. That was epic. I think I gave my poor mother a heart attack.

*** That's about nine inches above the level where a writing surface that fits a woman of my size should be.^

^ Generally, I keep my feminism fairly sedate, but good heavens, if you ask me about FURNITURE SIZES I will give you a speech you will never forget.

& Susan knows.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Forgotten Word: Adventures in Turkey

Far, far away--or at least, far from where I type this--

From a hill near Urfa, Turkey, the picture looks off into the misty distance of thre Syrian border.

--there is a small Turkish city called Sanliurfa. 

Sanliurfa, Turkey
The old city center was especially gorgeous. 

Sanliurfa, Turkey

The fish pool in Sanliurfa, Turkey.

A brilliantly blue fish pool in Urfa, Turkey, bordered by white columns.
Urfa was the farthest east we went during my trip to Turkey.  Most people there spoke very little English, and it felt more like stepping into another world than any place we visited. 
Despite this, in the bazaar there, my friends and I found, of all things....
Wait for it. 
Wait for it. 
An English major.  We found an English major in the Urfa bazaar. 
A white sheep looks quizzically at the camera from where it stands on the green lawn.
We ended up talking to him because--well, first, we glanced at the soap he was selling--but then he greeted us in perfect English, complete with a crisp British accent.  In a place where we really had to use the rudimentary Turkish we had been scrambling together over the past week, that was rather startling. 
The poor man was desperate to practice his English--especially since there was no one in Urfa to speak with him--so we talked for a while as we sniffed our way through the soaps. 
As it turns out, he was a Syrian refugee (Urfa is rather close to the border.) who had been studying English literature and teaching English at a university in Syria.  The unrest in his country forced him to flee to Turkey, however, and made his future plans impossible:  He had been planning to move in with his uncle in England and attend a British university as a PhD candidate. 
I usually think about the grisly cost exacted by war.  The death, the violence, the disruption of families.  This encounter made me realize that that isn't all.  These people have plans and hopes and dreams just like the rest of us, and war ruins those, too. 
None of this had diminished the man's love for literature, however.  We asked him what his favorite books were, and he immediately listed Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and Atonement.  He said he loved these books because they had been a comfort to him during the crisis in his country. 
And then--to finally circle around to the title of this blog post--he used a word...a glorious, luminous, perfect word, to describe those novels....  It was a word I never would have used, something only a non-native speaker would have selected.  And it was perfect. 
And we can't for the life of us remember what it was. 
I think it started with a "b."  Katie the Roommate wasn't so sure about that.  We spent probably an hour in our hotel room trying to think of it that night, once we realized it had slipped our minds. 
I don't know what it was.  I don't think we'll ever remember.  But I hope that somehow, someday, Adam the Syrian refugee will get his PhD in English literature and have a chance to use that word again. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

What happened on the Fourth of July

On July 2 of the year 1776, the Continental Congress voted for independence from Great Britain.  On July 4, they unanimously approved their method of making this decision known to the world:  the Declaration of Independence.  (full text here--complete with eagles)

The Declaration is, plain and simple, treason. 

But the signers believed they owed allegiance to something greater than kings.  Thus, the second paragraph of the Declaration: 

We hold these truths to be self-evident,

that all men are created equal,

that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,

that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.---

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,---

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The year before, Alexander Hamilton (at the age of nineteen) had written of the claim such truths have upon us in "The Farmer Refuted"

The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records.  They are written, as with a sun beam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power

The Declaration of Independence is at once an act of rebellion and an act of obedience.*  The signers rebelled against a man and the laws of men, but before truth and justice and a duty to their own humanity and that of their countrymen, they fell to their knees and offered up their lives. 

Happy Independence Day, and may we ever defend Liberty. 


For something a little more light-hearted and downright hilarious, allow me introduce you to Lady History(Be sure to check out "the captioned adventures of George Washington."  Her Yankee Doodle fife solo is also precious.) 

*I cannot take credit for this way of describing it.  I have had some very good teachers.