Notes from underground

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Archive for the tag “America”

Bees, wasps and hornets

On the alt.usage.english newsgroup we’ve been having a discussion on bees, wasps and hornets, and it seems that the names of these insects vary a great deal from country to country.

In my youth I used to be terrified of insects like the one in the picture on the right, which used to come buzzing into our classroom during morning lessons and distract us from anything our teachers were saying.

When I was at Mountain Lodge School in Magaliesberg we used to call them “hornets”, but I later heard they were called “mason wasps”. This picture comes from an American web page here, where they are called “mud daubers”.

I’ve looked for pictures of mason wasps on the web, and they don’t look much like the insect in the picture. As far as I can judge the picture shows the insect pretty much life size, at least for the ones we have around here.

They seem to be solitary insects — unlike common South African wasps, they don’t live in colonies. They come into our house about November-February, and buzz around looking for places to build their nests. And if not chased out, one will come across the nest, weeks, months or sometimes years later — in a fold in a curtain, or when pulling a book off a bookshelf. Their nests, as the American name implies, are made of mud.

What I would like to know is what they are called in South Africa. If they are not hornets, and not mason wasps, then what are they?

I’ve never been stung by one, and am not as scared of them was I was when I was 9-10 years old, though I still discourage them from nesting in the house because I don’t like finding books whose pages are glued together with a mud construction.

I know more about America than the average American

A few days ago I wrote a blog post critical of American notions of justice, of its legal system, and the attitudes of its lawyers. I had a few qualms about it, since I’m not American, and the longest time I spent in America was two weeks, back in 1995. What do I know about it?

Well, more than most Americans, it seems.

Hat-tip to A conservative blog for peace for the ISI civic-literacy quiz:


Are you more knowledgeable than the average citizen? The average score for all 2,508 Americans taking the following test was 49%; college educators scored 55%. Can you do better? Questions were drawn from past ISI surveys, as well as other nationally recognized exams.

The result?

You answered 29 out of 33 correctly — 87.88 %

Americans’ views of God shape attitudes on key issues – USATODAY.com

Americans’ views of God shape attitudes on key issues – USATODAY.com: “Surveys say about nine out of 10 Americans believe in God, but the way we picture that God reveals our attitudes on economics, justice, social morality, war, natural disasters, science, politics, love and more, say Paul Froese and Christopher Bader, sociologists at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Their new book, America’s Four Gods: What We Say About God — And What That Says About Us, examines our diverse visions of the Almighty and why they matter.

Based primarily on national telephone surveys of 1,648 U.S. adults in 2008 and 1,721 in 2006, the book also draws from more than 200 in-depth interviews that, among other things, asked people to respond to a dozen evocative images, such as a wrathful old man slamming the Earth, a loving father’s embrace, an accusatory face or a starry universe.”

It would be interesting to see how that compares with other countries and regions of the world. And I’m reminded of the Orthodox theologian Christos Yannaras, who said

Starting from such a concrete and existential concept of sin, the Orthodox tradition has refused to confine the whole of man’s relationship with God within a juridical, legal framework; it has refused to see sin as the individual transgression of a given impersonal code of behavior which simply produces psychological guilt. The God of the Church as known and proclaimed by Orthodox experience and tradition has never had anything to do with the God of the Roman juridical tradition, the God of Anselm and Abelard; He has never been thought of as a vengeful God who rules by fear, meting out punishments and torment for men” (Yannaras 1984:35).

You might be an American Evangelical if…

You might be an American Evangelical if:

10. T-shirts with Christian catch-phrases are a part of your evangelism strategy.

9. Your car is equipped with the ever-popular license plate frame that reads, “In case of rapture, the car is yours!”

8. You’re convinced Jesus was a Republican.

7. Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind book series is gospel truth.

6. Your favorite authors are Stormie Omartian and Joel Osteen.

5. Anyone who disagrees with you has taken the wide path.

4. You’re convinced Sarah Palin has a bright future as a political candidate.

3. Your notion of God’s purpose for your life happens to correspond nicely with upper middle-class suburban life.

2. You can’t fit anymore music on your ipod because it’s full of songs by John Tesh and Michael W. Smith.

1. You feel this post is alienating and abrasive, and your first inclination is to unsubscribe from this blog.

With acknowledgements to Christians in Context: from orthodoxy to orthopraxy.: Top Ten Marks of a Mainline Evangelical.

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