Saturday, March 28, 2009

Finding Illustrations

This morning, listening to National Public Radio's On the Media program I heard three possible illustrations.

1. Blogging the Bible - a Slate columnist is blogging his way through the Bible, partially as an incentive to read it. The blogger's name is David Plotz.

2. Blogging the Stimulus Package - this one is a New Yorker project that appears to have some interesting commentary.

3. Google and Books - this story was by a Harvard University Library Director Robert Darnton raises the issue of Google putting together a monopoly on out of print electronic books and "cocaine pricing."

You can find these stories at the WNYC website under On the Media.

Sunday, March 01, 2009


Bishop David Bena of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America used icebergs as an illustration on the Christian life in this morning's sermon at St. Andrew's Anglican Church in Vestal. It went something like this:

Icebergs off Greenland come in many shapes and sizes. Large icebergs can weigh millions of tons and they are moved by deep sea currents. Small bergs are pushed around by the wind and waves. We need to be like the large icebergs, moved by the currents of God's Spirit rather than the winds and waves that push around small icebergs.

From Iceberg information, Dr. Stephen E. Bruneau Ph.D., P.Eng:

A majority of the icebergs in the North Atlantic come from about 100 iceberg producing glaciers along the Greenland coast while a few originate in the Eastern Canadian Arctic Islands. The glaciers of western Greenland, where 90% of Newfoundland's icebergs originate, are amongst the fastest moving in the world, up to 7 km per year. The icebergs we see off Newfoundland are carried south in the cold Labrador current.

Icebergs off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador range in size from massive tabular and blocky bergs in excess of several million tonnes to small bergs weighing 1% of this. Categories of iceberg sizes which are used for recording iceberg statistics range from very large (greater than 10 million tonnes and hundreds of meters long) to large, medium and small bergs and on to bergy bits then growlers, which are grand piano size pieces. Note that the average iceberg weight for the Grand Banks area is one to two hundred thousand tonnes, and is about the size of a cubic 15 storey building.

The "tip of the iceberg" expression can be explained as follows: Icebergs float because the density of ice (around 900 kg per cubic meter) is lower than that of seawater (around 1025 kg per cubic meter). The ratio of these densities tells us that 7/8 of the iceberg's mass must be below water. Usually icebergs are 20% to 30% longer under the water than above and not quite as deep as they are long at the waterline.


Bishop David Bena offered an illustration about Stradivarius violins this morning. The story is incorporated in the following excerpt. Axeman at the bcustom imagination writes about a friend's gift:

She went to the closet and brought back a small case in good outside condition. In it was the remains of a 4/4 violin that looked like it had been run over. Ever the opportunity-seeker, I asked, “would you like to play again? If I could make that happen, what is it worth to you?” She’s like, “Oh that would be great!” So I look it over a bit and thought the f-holes looked familiar, like something I’d seen on TV, or in a museum. A peek at the label inside verified I held in my hands an actual Stradivarius. The top sported a crack along it’s entire length, and something was loose inside. So I did the repairs, and have been fiddlin’ around trying to teach myself how to play the thing.

It’s neat, the story of the Stradivarius, how he made violins out of ocean driftwood, because he was poor and couldn’t afford the “good” wood the other guys used. It was decades before anyone figured out his secret. The cells are rinsed out in driftwood, so each cell of wood is an air chamber. The harmonics of this fiddle are way better than any guitar I’ve played. It just so happens, one of my bcustom guitar models is called Driftwood. Driftwood comes from the part of the southern swamp ash tree that grows under the swamp water. Just like Fender initially did the Strat before he discovered Alder was cheaper and sounds pretty good. So order one made like God and Leo Fender intended, from the real stuff

In Bishop Bena's version, God, like Stradivari, can make a masterpiece out of anything. The driftwood that Stradivari supposedly used has been eaten away inside the wood by microbes. This open space inside the driftwood is what makes it such a good conductor of sound. In a similar way, we each have an open space within us that can only be filled by God. When that open space is filled by God our lives resonate to give the sound and tone that only God can produce.

From Antonio Stradivari site:

Antonio Stradivari was born in 1644, and died in 1737, and in his 93 years, he established himself as the greatest violin maker in the history of mankind. He was born in Italy, and worked in Cremona for the majority of his life. Although he was Italian, he would inscribe his violins with Latin slogans, hence, the violins became known as Antonius Stradivarius violins, or merely Stradivarius violins, rather than Stradivari violins. His mentor was believed to be Nicolo Amati, who also came from a very famous family of violin-makers. The reason why the Stradivarius violins are so expensive and famous, is because of the quality of their sound. Many musicians have not only owned the violins, but have preferred them over any other violin. The sound of these infamous violins resonate beautifully, and produce very powerful tones. They are rich, refined, and deep in sound, and project very clearly over a distance. These violins are thought of as good-quality instruments, and musicians delight in playing them, for they are very easy to play on. They are responsive to the touch of a finger, and one does not feel like he or she needs to press firmly in order to produce a sound. Some of the Stradivarius violins differ in quality and sound, however. Not every single Stradivarius instrument sounds the exact same, or is as good as the other. There are some which are believed to be of better quality than others. No one truly knows exactly why the sound of the Stradivarius violins is so wonderful, but there are many theories as to what makes a violin a good violin. The quality of the wood is a definite factor, as well as the shape of the instrument, the thickness of the wooden plates that are placed in the belly and the back of the instrument, and the varnish of the wood. Even though no one really knows how exactly he formed his violins, or what methods he used, it can definitely be said that he incorporated advanced geometry and mathematics into his craftsmanship. He built over 1,100 instruments, but merely 650 of them survive today.