Tag Archives: Oxford

Are Women Human? Astute and Witty Essays on the Role of Women in Society Quotes by Dorothy L. Sayers

I picked up Are Women Human? by Dorothy L. Sayers expecting a rather lengthy and involved discussion on feminism that I would need to re-read several times to fully grasp. Instead I got a volume of barely 75 pages composed of two essays and an introduction so full of common sense that it hardly took any time to read at all. Though groundbreaking as one of the first females to graduates from Oxford and well-known for her work as a writer of fiction and academia, Sayers did not have much to say about feminism. In fact, I would say this volume fulfills more our need (as readers) to have her say something than her need, or even desire, (as an author) to say anything about what it means to be a woman. 

The essays were originally published with several others by Sayers in 1947. While they are somewhat dated, they remain quite relevant today. Many of the issues women struggled with then apply to both men and women today. Sayers’s main point is primarily that men and women have more in common than not and that each should be allowed to find the role that suits them best. If a woman is good at business, she should do it because that is what she was made to do. However, if a woman desires to have a family and be a traditional housewife, that too should be regarded as good because that is what she is meant to do. The same standards apply to men and women equally. She gets a bit more snarky in the second essay, “The Human-Not-Quite-Human,” but her point remains the same. 

One of my favorite parts comes from her discussion of women wearing “trousers.” While this isn’t something controversial today, I think this passage illustrates her style, and humor, well: 

“Let me give one simple illustration of the difference between the right and the wrong kind of feminism. Let us take this terrible business…of the women who go about in trousers. We are asked: ‘Why do you want to go about in trousers? They are extremely unbecoming to most of you. You only do it to copy the men.’ To this we may very properly reply: ‘It is true that they are unbecoming. Even on men they are remarkably unattractive. But, as you men have discovered for yourselves, they are comfortable, they do not get in the way of one’s activities like skirts and they protect the wearer from draughts about the ankles. As a human being, I like comfort and dislike draughts. If the trousers do not attract you, so much the worse; for the moment I do not want to attract you. I want to enjoy myself as a human being, and why not?” 

 


2015 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 1

Based on the vast number of good books I read this year, I have broken this post into three parts to help readability. As usual, books are not laid out in any specific way, but in the random order ordained by Goodreads (and myself!) See any favorites?

Enjoy!

Contempt of Court: The Turn-of-the-Century Lynching That Launched A Hundred Years of Federalism by Mark Curriden and Leroy Phillips

Rarely do you find biographies so readable and uniquely connected to everyday life. Contempt of Court covers the trial and lynching of Ed Johnson, an African American accused of raping a white woman in 1906. Despite strong evidence to the contrary, a judge found him guilty and sentenced him to death. The U.S. Supreme Court intervened and eventually went so far as to hold those connected to his lynching in contempt of court. This case was the only time the Supreme Court ever heard a criminal case. United States v. Shipp did more than decide one man’s guilt or innocence. It declared the Supreme Court had authority over a state criminal court case. This both reflected and launched a new age of federal involvement. Very worth reading.

Strong Poison (book 6), Gaudy Night (book 12), and Busman’s Honeymoon (book 13) by Dorothy L. Sayers

These are all books in the Lord Peter Wimsey series. To be honest, I love them all and if you haven’t discovered the brilliance that is Dorothy L. Sayers, you really need to. Her mysteries are intellectual and intriguing and Sir Peter Wimsey is wonderful. However, these three were my absolute favorites. (If you know the series, you’ll realize all these books involve Harriet Vane. She is fabulous.) What is great, though, is that they are all wonderful in equally different ways. Strong Poison involves a cold case, where the murder happened months earlier and now Sir Peter must piece together the clues. Gaudy Night takes place at Oxford and is very soul-searching and academic. Busman’s Honeymoon is everything a fangirl could want for the couple she’s been shipping for 6 books. Oh, so good. I want to go re-read them right now.

The Science of Success by Charles Koch

Easy to understand and filled with helpful principles, this is an “abbreviated” predecessor of Good Profit. It was designed for more internal use and that comes across. Certainly worth reading for a better understanding of Market Based Management and Koch Industries. There are lots of interesting stories and it really is a good grounding in MBM. However. Good Profit is now out. Go read that one.

The Queen’s Thief Series by Megan Whalen Turner

If you want to be technical, only The King of Attolia (book 3) and A Conspiracy of Kings (book 4) got 5 stars from me, but the entire series is totally worth it. While the first book, The Thief, feels a little slow, it has a terrific twist at the end. Plus, the series picks up and gets better and better and BETTER. It has adventure, battles, romance, plot twists. The series will break your heart a million different ways, every one of them worth it. I can’t really give plot descriptions without giving something away, so just go read it already. (There are some mature themes, so I recommended for high schoolers on up)

Guys Are Waffles, Girls Are Spaghetti by Chad Eastham

Chad Eastham’s book Guys Like Girls Who… played an influential role in my life in high school. It was great reading him again. Guys Are Waffles, Girls Are Spaghetti is aimed at teenagers and talks about the different ways guys and girl function. It covers a myriad of topics like brain development, emotions, and relationships. Funny, serious, and easy to read, the book is a mix of stories, facts, and zany quips.  Even “outside” of the intended age group, I found it very helpful. Highly recommended, especially for teenagers.

Plain Kate by Erin Bow

A dark, twisted children’s book that breaks your heart but is eminently worth it. The story is very reminiscent of a Grimm’s Fairy Tale. “Plain” Kate is a woodcarver, left on the streets to fend for herself after her parents die. Her woodwork is beautiful, but many whisper that she is a witch. In order to escape the accusations, Kate makes a bargain with a mysterious man: her shadow in exchange for her heart’s wish. Gypsies, magic, and love all come to play in this lyrical story.

Disclaimer: I do not recommend this book to just anyone, and certainly not the intended age group. Plain Kate involves witchcraft, raising the dead, and sacrifices. While many of these things are treated in a negative light, I know many of my readers will not like it.

 


2015 Reading Challenge – The Mind Blowing Ones

It is the most wonderful time of the year! No, not because the kids are jingle belling (is that even a thing?) or because everyone is telling me “be of good cheer!” (definitely not a thing) but because….drum roll please!

I have once again completed my reading challenge and now can sit back, dust off the blog, and write about my favorite things…namely, good books. And bad books. And maybe, depending how into things I get, all the books in-between. This year I read 162 books. That number does not include re-reads or manga or the loads of kdramas I watch (I really should get credit for those. Subtitles are an undervalued form of reading!)

No, I mean, 162 genuine, brand new, never-before-read-by-Amy books! That totals roughly 49,580 new pages. As usual, it is a mixed grouping of fiction and non-fiction, spanning many genres. Unusual, however, is that I had more 5 star than 1 star reads. Of those 5 star reads, several far exceeded my usual 5 star rating. All 5 stars are good, but these were particularly challenging and/or view shaping for me. Originally I was just going to highlight them in the greater 5 star blog post, but I read so many good books this year that the post became ridiculously long! To balance that I have split “the exceptional few” from the other amazing ones. So keep an eye out for my next blog post with the other 5 star reads!

Mind Blowing and View Shaping 5 Star Reads from 2015:

Good Profit: How Creating Value for Others Built One of the World’s Most Successful Companies by Charles Koch

Coupled with my own experience with Market Based Management, Good Profit easily stands out as one of the most impactful books I read in 2015. What drove Koch Industries’ expansion from a $21 million company in 1967 to the $115 billion one it is today? Charles Koch writes about forming an MBM culture and creating long term value for society. This book is immensely readable and practical. Good Profit is more than one man’s business reflections. It is an analysis of what success means and how companies can work for the betterment of their “customers, employees, shareholders, and society.”

I love a lot of quotes in this book, but none more than Charles Koch’s conclusion:

“The greatest gift we can receive or pass on is the opportunity to find and pursue our passion, and in doing so, to make a difference by helping others improve their lives. To be truly rich is to live a life of meaning.”

 

Why Not Women? A Fresh Look at Scripture on Women in Missions, Ministry, and Leadership by Loren Cunningham and David Joel Hamilton

A very powerful book about the role of women leaders in ministry. While I am not sure I agree with everything in it, Why Not Women? shook up a lot of things I took at face value and really encouraged me to study the subject deeper. I love how footnoted this book is. Entirely readable but still academic. The authors analyze the Greek passages where Paul talks about women and provide some fascinating analysis into what he actually meant. What I especially appreciate about Why Not Women?, however, is how much the authors focus on Jesus’ radical, culture-breaking treatment of women. They go into the history of women’s roles in Greek, Roman, and Jewish culture and illustrate how different the Christian church was. Whether you agree with its conclusions or not, Why Not Women? is worth reading because it is a book full of grace that goes a long way in restoring the identity and value of women, in the church and out.

(Thank you, Anna, for this fantastic Christmas present!)

 

Surprised By Oxford by Carolyn Weber

To extremely simplify, this is the coming-to-faith memoir of a woman at Oxford University. However, it is so much more than that. Surprised by Oxford is a book that breathes. It questions and answers and leaves unanswered, offering many ideas for the reader to wrestle with in its wake. I love this book for its references to Oxford, places I know and love like St. Ebbes Church and New College. I love it for all the quotes from Wordsworth and Lewis and many other authors. I love it for Carolyn Weber’s conversion experience and her willingness to be honest, vulnerable, and unafraid to express her love for God. Most of all, I love this book because it reminds me of why I love learning. It reawakens joy in me. This is a thick book, 400 some pages, and not one you consume in a sitting! But it is so worth it as a book to sit and chew over and highlight and re-read and learn from.

 

Entrepreneurship For Human Flourishing by Peter Greer

Balancing Surprised by Oxford’s 400+ pages, Entrepreneurship For Human Flourishing comes in at just over a 100 pages. It is a tiny book, easy to read, but very powerful. Peter Greer challenges the distinction between “non-profit” and “for-profit” work in helping third world countries.  He share stories of individuals who used their “for profit” companies to provide jobs, expand education, and bring life to communities. Though this book was good, I don’t feel the need to re-read it like I do the others on this list. I felt it deserved a place among the “exceptional” books, however, because of the overall influence of Peter Greer as a speaker on me. Though I’m blessed to work for an amazing non-profit, I have really changed my views on how I perceive for-profit v. non-profit organizations. One is not “holier” than the other, and as this book points out, for-profit businesses can make an incredible difference fighting hunger, poverty, etc. in ways beyond the scope of a traditional non-profit. This is a great read for students.

 

The Moral Case For Fossil Fuel by Alex Epstein

It is generally agreed that fossil fuels are a “necessary evil.” We’re dependent on them for now, but they aren’t that great and we should find an alternative. However, is this necessarily the case? The Moral Case For Fossil Fuel argues that far from being a danger, fossil fuels make our lives better and are improving the planet overall by making it safer and richer. Alex Epstein uses his background in philosophy to explore the moral case for using fossil fuel. He weighs the advantages, including the environmental ones, of using fossil fuel and contrasts it with the asserted detriments. He concludes that in order to improve lives we are morally responsible to use fossil fuels, and lots of them! Frankly, I love this book. I think everyone should read it. It is fun, easy to understand, and an extremely important voice in our current “war on fossil fuel.”


3 am: Oxford Update 9

“I will NEVER forget this week. Every moment was so…” insert tears, “so special. Like, we cannot forget. We’ll need a reunion. And if Todd doesn’t text you, I’ll…I’lll….ohmygosh, this week. So incredible.” More tears.

The two girls on the bus from Oxford to Heathrow Airport in London were a tad emotional. I’m fairly sure their mascara is still all over the seats. They were Americans who had spent the last week in Oxford, mission work I think. And obviously, it had been:

“So incredible.”

I wasn’t trying to overhear their conversation, but when two girls are sobbing their eyes out in the seat in front of you…common decency demands some attention, right? Plus, they were really funny. It was the best week of their lives, nothing would ever compare, what would they do now? How could life ever be the same?

The 4 am bus is an interesting place. You don’t take it unless absolutely necessary. The silence was the strangest part of the walk from my flat to the bus stop. Oxford is a bustling city. Tourists jostle with students. Carolers, street performers, and tour guides strive to outdo one another for attention. Even late at night, lines of scantily clothed and fairly drunk pub and club-goers keep the place hopping.

But not at 4am.

At 4 am the train rumbling by does not offer background noise, but a strange interruption. At 4 am no friendly janitor cleans the local daycare and offers a sense of security despite the late night. At 4 am the shuffling shadows outside of the hostels offer no reassurance. It’s kind of creepy.

At 4 am the businessman climbs aboard the bus and settles down without a word. The tourists stress over ticket prices and double check that their bags are properly stowed. Some chatter nervously. Others immediately fall asleep. Families wave farewell and disappear into the darkness. Oxford slowly fades.

And that is goodbye. Not with tears or exclamations, but a quiet unrest in the early morning before dawn. I don’t feel the surge of emotion of my near neighbors. This is goodbye, but I have been whispering ‘adieu’ on every street for the past two days.

The bus makes good time; we’re at the airport by 5:30. Baggage check doesn’t open till 6 am. My passport doesn’t want to scan, but there are no attendants around to ask for help: a final testament to British customer service. When they do start trickling in, they glare at the line of waiting passengers balefully. The coffee has clearly not kicked in. Anyway, they get their revenge. Its 6:20 by the time they start checking suitcases.

4 hours until my flight.

Security is the next hurdle. I set off the metal detector. The invasive pat down following still fails to finds the watch I absentmindedly slipped in my pocket. Whoops.

However, the excitement has only begun. My carryon gets flagged. The TSA agent motions me over. Any reason why my backpack scanned for trace explosives? No? She starts removing items…a hairbrush. An i-pod…

My underlined, pocket size copy of The Koran.  The War Against Jihadism. Machiavelli’s The Prince. A whole semesters worth of ideological and political books from my tutorials and the Summit Oxford readings.

This puts a new angle on things. The agent waves over her boss. You can tell she is the boss because her heels are higher. And her badge says so. Did I understand what was happening? Every item needed to be scanned. Nothing registered for trace explosives. Eventually, they take down my passport information and send me through. I wonder if they’ll notify my plane, or better yet Chicago. Will I be on the record as a potential terrorist? That might make this flight more exciting.

My plane is on time but there is no boarding gate. I am still 3 hours early. The airport is beginning to fill up. I’ve brought books. First is Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson. Apparently it was made into a movie with Amy Adams in 2008. I have no idea if it is anything like the book. Written in 1938, the plot follows Miss Guinevere Pettigrew, a down and out governess suddenly swept up into a world of glamour, night clubs, and parties for a day when her application as a nursery worker gets mixed up with a request for a personal maid. A fun story, slightly ridiculous, and very fluffy but it passes the time quickly.

By the time I board my plane, I’ve started my second book, The Lost World by Sir Arthur Con Doyle. “Before Jurassic Park….dinosaurs existed in The Lost World.” A romping adventure story with danger, dinosaurs, and dreams of glory. Description got a little tedious at times, and the terminology a little old fashion, but overall worth it. Similar to something by Jules Verne.

My flight was relatively calm. The in-flight movies were Now You See Me which had a good twist but was otherwise so-so and Jack The Giant Slayer which was painful. There were some TV shows I forgot immediately. The girl sitting next to me was my age visiting the US from Switzerland. She had graduated from high school in Minnesota and mostly tried (and failed) to sleep during the flight. Every time she started dozing the flight attendants walked around and woke her up asking for her drink order. As the plane came down for a landing, America’s Top Chef started playing. By this point the volume was off so we bonded over trying to follow what was happening in the show based on the judges’ expressions. It wasn’t pretty for the filet mignon.  Someone got voted off, but as everyone was hugging and crying we couldn’t tell who. I think it was the chef who stayed a perpetual shade of deep red.

Our fellow passengers were slightly less noisy than the flight over, but a few made for some excellent people watching. The woman in front of me ordered a glass of wine every time the attendant came by for drinks. I’m amazed she could stand by the end. The man two seats behind me was a former US Army ranger involved in a noisy conversation with an American English teacher who worked in the Middle East. She liked making loud comments like, “Well, Jordan is SO beautiful but dangerous. Not that I was afraid…” Finally, my personal favorites were the two middle aged women with spray-on tans (no-one gets that tan in England…or that orange) who loudly complained when “Section A was seated before Section D.” They were both wearing ripped jean mini-skirts and t-shirts that weren’t designed to be one-shoulder, but had become so. Mainly because the poor shirts kept getting yanked down.

Customs was a breeze. Apparently, they missed the memo about me being a potential terrorist. Signe and my Mom met me outside of security.

Initially, the weirdest thing about coming home wasn’t the snow. I was prepared for snow. It wasn’t seeing my Mom again; I couldn’t wait to hug her. It was my cell phone. Or more precisely, the texts on it.

My texts.

When I came back from my first semester at college, I half expected everyone to be struck by how different I looked. Taller, maybe, or bolder. Something to show how much I had matured over the past months. I knew how much I’d changed, how could others miss it?

This time around, though, it was me who missed it. I knew I would change. Everyone told me what a fabulous experience it would be, how I would grow. And I knew I had…in some areas. Intellectually I was stronger, more confident in my ability to reason and debate. But the texts from three and a half months ago surprised me the most…they were nothing special. Goodbyes, mostly. Bored, nervous, jumpy texts.

Yet they revealed a whole different mindset.

In three and a half months, I tackled a new country. Toured London and Bath on my own. Bought my own groceries, cooked my own meals, made friends. I joined a church family. I showed “particular aptitude” for political theory. I stretched my reading ability and discovered it could go farther. I survived computer crashes, getting my debit card eaten, even sleeping on a mattress for several weeks (minus the bed frame). Not only did I gain confidence intellectually, but in everyday life experience. I learned to say ‘trousers’ and ‘chips’ and ‘term’. At 18, I moved to Tennessee knowing almost no one. Now, at 20, I tackled Oxford.

You don’t think in those terms when dealing with everyday life. Where to buy postcards? What bus to catch? Did I buy minutes for my phone this month? Then you’re home…and Mom is grocery shopping and cooking, there are enough blankets and none of them are moldy, the fire alarm doesn’t go off when you make toast. And there are the texts. Texts that can’t begin to understand what a few months will do.

I guess that’s why I didn’t – and don’t – feel the need to bawl about my “incredible” semester like the girls on the bus. For me, studying in Oxford wasn’t one passionate, emotional week of intense experiences. It was days of waking up and drinking coffee and hoping the hot water would last another day. Some moments were incredible, like seeing Les Mis in London or the unveiling of the C.S. Lewis memorial stone. Others were quieter and more repetitive. And, with all due respect to those same girls, I think my experience will last longer because it went deeper. I’ve been in their position, swearing eternal allegiance and perfect memory. Turns out, neither really last. But habits, emotions, day to day experiences change us. And that’s coming home for me. Different but better.  I love being home, I love seeing my family, but I’m looking forward to going back to school. I am looking forward to writing papers and reading books. I’ve seen what I can do…and I look forward to going farther.

Potential Terrorist  (Potential Terrorist And Mother)


My Library Card No Longer Works :( Oxford Update 8

There is a lovely walk from my flat to the main part of town. Thought I would share it today!

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Some of my favorite graffiti…

Graffiti 01 (“SORRY FOR RUINING THE WALL”)

Graffiti 02 (“ha no”)

Graffiti 03 (“Have a good day”)

Graffiti 04 SOMEBODY painted over my favorite graffiti, quite rude. What it used to say was “Still no cows : ( .”

Thames Path

Thames Path

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House boats are a neat aspect of the Thames Path

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Thames Path

Thames Path

Duck

Sleeping Duck Yes, people, you now know what a blinking duck looks like.

Thames Path

Went to Christmas dinner at New College hall…this is me in my “robe”

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Today I returned to Blenheim Palace with friends for the Charles Dickens Christmas Festivities

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Only one more week left in Oxford. I will miss this place! Said goodbye to my friends at the Focus table on Thursday, they’ve been incredible this term. Our access to the Bodleian Library ended today 😦  My tutorials are over. One more week of Summit Intensive. One more week of going to Eynsham. It has been such an incredible past few months. Thank you to everyone who made this possible. I have been so blessed.


Aubergines, Clock Tower, and this guy named C.S. Lewis: Oxford Update 7

Three more essays to go.

It’s hard to believe the term is already in seventh week. Christmas lights have started brightening city streets, while protesting Americans try to stay true to the Thanksgiving spirit (apparently often confused with the 4th of July by Brits…Americans sort of have a thing for celebrating their separation from England) Life has been busy for me, though mostly filled with reading and essay-writing. It is pretty incredible to realize you are attending the same university as John Locke and Thomas Hobbes. Y’know, just some of the greatest political theorist in the English language….no big!

Speaking of incredible, guess who died fifty years ago? I got the opportunity to attend a C.S. Lewis symposium on Thursday in London, followed by a service at Westminster Abbey on Friday where a memorial stone was dedicated in Poet’s Corner to Lewis. An incredible, once in a lifetime opportunity! A lot of the foremost Lewis scholars were present (many of them familiar faces to us Summit students, they spoke at the C.S. Lewis Conference put on by Summit Oxford) as well as other notables like C.S. Lewis’s stepson who read from The Last Battle during the ceremony.  And, as I actually remembered to bring my camera and a memory card, my usual excuse for not updating this poor, neglected blog is no longer viable.

Thus! I present to you…

Proof that I am alive:

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Proof that I have a flatmate (and she is incredible!):

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Proof that your bad hair day can always get worse…

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And finally, what you really want, the latest edition to Westminster Abbey…

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The conference, the ceremony, everything was was an incredible experience. London is beautiful. I love the city! Took a few more pictures…

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ImageCannot say I understand this particular marketing choice…

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Image (MARY QUEEN OF THE SCOTS! BRB – FANGIRLING!)

Image(That right there, folks, is the face of smexy….)

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I’m off to go write an essay on Benjamin Constant and Alexis de Tocqueville, enjoy your Thanksgiving everyone!


Tony Stark Got It Right: Oxford Update 6

The tutorial system in a nutshell:

Tony Stark

Hello everyone! What have I been up to lately? Well, mainly this:

Book 1

And this:

Book 2

And this…..

Book 3

Just a little bit of reading. I have studied Niccolo Machiavelli’s idealistic republican leanings, Edmund Burke’s vehement dislike of the French revolution, the debate in Spain over Native American property rights in the 1500s, and am currently on the Reformation/English Revolution’s influence on Thomas Hobbes’s writing, particularly of Leviathan. So lots of reading but also lots of writing, which is partially to blame for the lack of recent updates.

My Mom has requested more pictures, but as I am usually cloistered up in my room (ask any of my flatmates) or walking to the New College Library to borrow more books, I have taken any more pictures lately. However, I have discovered the Oxford University meme site on Facebook…. While some of them may not make 100% sense, I hope they give a taste of being an Oxford student! I’ve added some description for clarity (or something thereabouts)

Click on them to make them bigger and hit back on your computer to return to the post. Please enjoy!

Oxford Meme 6

Oxford Meme 2 Truth.

Oxford Meme 5 Tesco is the local grocery store

 Books in the “closed stack” have to be ordered up from the underworld. Like seriously. Can take dayssss. But that is the price for visiting a library with every book published in England since before the United States was founded.


Like any library, this is an extremely echo prone room with a ban on liquid.

 Reference only. Starting to form a love hate relationship with those two words!