I learned I have a lot more family than I thought I did today.

Today was also the first time I’d ever been in a Catholic church (at least as far as I remember). I noticed something strange about it.. As expected, there were images everywhere. In every direction were multiple crucifixes, statues, paintings, and stained glass images. There were fewer depictions of Mary than I’d expected, only three that I saw. There was a stained glass Mother Theresa on the front window. On the back wall was a set of paintings depicting the life of Christ, beginning with the angel and Mary. What was weird was that the last two images were of the crucifixion and a rosary. (There was also a painting depicting the coronation of Mary, but I didn’t see that until we left. That was incredibly weird.) Around three walls were another set of images beginning with Jesus’s trial and ending with His burial. There was no image in the church that had anything to do with the resurrection. No resurrected Christ, empty tomb, nothing. How strange considering it was the resurrection of Christ which defeated death and set us free. How strange to focus so much on Satan’s brief moment of triumph rather than God’s eternal triumph. What was the focus of the platform was not an empty cross, but a crucified Christ. The whole room was full of Jesus’s death. It was very disconcerting. 

For Catholics this is the Year of Mercy, and in honor of it, special doors are standing open at cathedrals and major churches throughout the world, doors that are usually closed.  There are red carpets, lintel inscriptions, ceremonies, pilgrimages. The doors are meant to be a promise of openness from our church, and an invitation to form or reform our relationship with God.

My dear little church isn’t important enough to have such a door. Its not a cathedral. It’s not a major landmark on the tourist trail. It’s just a bright, airy place, recently renovated, with a community still growing into its new shape. We’re just getting used to the new stained glass windows, and the walled garden is only now underway where there used to be waste ground. My pastor tweeted a picture of it this morning, all sand and dirt and new-laid paving stones.

Gardens. You can tell the core of the Christian narrative, the story arc of mercy, in three gardens: Eden, Gethsemane, and the garden with the empty tomb. And Lent is the time to work on the gardens of our hearts, to weed out the bad and prepare a space for the good, for the bright blooming of Easter. Even leaving aside seasonal considerations, it’s a fitting time to be building the garden of our church.

I had an extra errand to run today before Mass (I go when I can; our daily Mass is luminous). So instead of approaching the building from the front, as I usually do, I cycled to it from the back, where the door to the garden stood open behind piles of sand and mulch.

I nearly fell off my bike, there behind my simple suburban church.  The door. To the garden. Stood open.

Notions of importance and ceremonies aside, lintels and carpets notwithstanding, may the doors you seek be open, and admit you to the gardens you need to spend time in this Lent.

Melissa Harris-Perry Narrowly Escapes An Attack During Iowa Caucuses

I don’t know if he was there to kill me.

Monday night I was sitting in a hotel lobby in downtown Des Moines with my back to a wall of windows, my eyes fixed on the TV, my attention wholly focused on early caucus results. I didn’t notice until he was standing right next to me, much closer than is ordinary or comfortable. When he started he speaking it was like he was picking up in the middle of sentence, finishing a conversation we had begun earlier, but I couldn’t remember ever meeting him.

“…So what is it that you teach?”

“I am a professor of political science.”

“My wife is a professor of communications.”

“Does she teach here in Iowa?”

“What I want to know is how you got credentialed to be on MSNBC.”

I am not sure if it is how he spat the word credentialed, or if it is how he took another half step toward me, or if it is how he didn’t respond to my question, but the hairs on my arm stood on end. I ignored it. Told myself everything was ok.

“Well. It is not exactly a credential…” I began.

“But why you? Why would they pick you?”

Now I know something is wrong. Now his voice is angry. Now a few other people have stopped talking and started staring. Now he is so close I can feel his breath. Before I can answer his unanswerable question of why they picked me, he begins to tell me why he has picked me.

“I just want you to know why I am doing this.”

Oh – there is a this. He is going to do a this. To me. And he is going to tell me why.

I freeze. Not even me – the girl in me. The one who was held down by an adult neighbor and as he raped her. The one who listened as he explained why he was doing this. She freezes.

I freeze. He speaks. And moves closer. Is there a knife under the coat? A gun? Worse?
And I can’t hear all the words. But I catch “Nazi Germany” and I catch “rise to power.” But I can’t move. I am lulled by a familiar powerlessness, muteness, that comes powerfully and unexpectedly. It grips me. Everything is falling away. Until in my peripheral vision I catch sight of a ponytail, the movement of an arm, the sound of familiar young voices and I remember… my students.

My students are sitting just a few feet from me. I am not alone in this Iowa hotel lobby. I have traveled here with 22 of my undergraduate students from Wake Forest University. We are here on the first stop in a journey to understand the democratic process. I am in this lobby because I am waiting for them to come back from seeing their very first Democratic caucuses. Remembering them rouses me.

Instead of sitting still as he tells me what he is going to do and why, I jump up. I move. I put space – a table – between him and me. My friend jumps too. It is breathtaking how fearlessly – almost recklessly – she throws herself between he and I. Together we raise our voices and make a fuss. He turns. He runs out. He jumps in a car. He drives off. We try to explain to hotel security what has happened and how I receive hate mail and even death threats, how I have had people show up at my workplace, how this might be serious. They listen politely, but this is the Iowa caucus, and I am not a candidate, so they go back to their evening. And we go back to ours.

I don’t know what kind of harm he was prepared to do. Perhaps the only threat was a barrage of hateful words – or maybe he planned to do something worse. I have faced both. Both seemed plausible in this encounter.

I had little time to fret because moments later a dozen of my students came tumbling into the lobby, barely able to contain their enthusiasm, literally bursting at the seams with stories of what they had seen and experienced in their caucus locations.

I don’t know if he was there to kill me. I know they were there to save me.

It was seeing my students out of the corner of my eye that broke the trance of survivor submission into which I’d slipped earlier. As he’d invaded my space with angry, incoherent cruelty, I heard a voice in my head roar, “Not in front of my students!” I did not think, “No! Get away from me!” I thought, “Not in front of my students!”

Ridiculous though it may be, my dominant fear was that if this man maimed or killed me my students would fail to achieve the learning outcome of the Wake the Vote program, which is charged with helping them hone tools of democratic deliberation, perspective-taking, conflict resolution, and civic engagement in diverse settings. It was the fear of a ruined lesson plan that propelled me out of my seat and away from the potential attacker.

It is not an exaggeration to say my students may have saved my life.

Teaching is the great calling and privilege of my life. It has saved, redeemed, reset, and transformed me repeatedly through the decades.

Most don’t know any of this happened, because as soon as they returned we got down to the business of watching returns, discussing results, predicting strategies, and learning together.

Teaching is the great calling and privilege of my life. It has saved, redeemed, reset, and transformed me repeatedly through the decades. Looking for a path for a student, I have discovered new trails for myself. Hoping to stoke their enthusiasm, I have uncovered hidden joys. Students have challenged me because I was wrong and I have had to change. They have pushed me when I was exhausted and I have found new energy. They have been bored and I have had to innovate. They have succeeded beyond my imaginings; thus I share in the accomplishments of hundreds of lives and am not bound to the achievements of a single existence.

Monday, just hours before my students performed their unknowing act of heroism, my university bestowed a breathtaking title of honor. Wake Forest University has named me the first Maya Angelou Presidential Chair.

Dr. Maya Angelou came to Wake Forest University in 1982. A decade later I took my first course with her. That same year she invited me to work in her office, responding to fan mail. In that role I had a front row seat to history when she delivered her poem, “On the Pulse of Morning” at the first inauguration of President Bill Clinton.

I was 18 when I met Dr. Angelou. I knew nothing, and I didn’t even have enough sense to know I knew so little. She simply could have graded my papers and sent me away, but instead, she made me her student and she became my beloved teacher.

For her students Dr. Angelou’s generosity was unparalleled and her expectations were unyielding. Her door and her hand were always open. From her students she accepted no mediocrity and among us she found all comparisons odious. She taught us seriously and laughed with us uproariously. She loved us enough to let us fail and had enough faith in us to show us her own failings. She never judged us as harshly as we deserved. And it is because of her that I believed it was possible to be a teacher and a writer and a parent and a public intellectual. It is from her that I learned that responsibility of a teacher to keep making new horizons visible so that your students can chart a course for shores even you have never reached.

Now, I carry the name of my teacher. Always, I am carried by the gift of my students. It is all I ever want and hope to have. I strive to be worthy of it every day.

FEBRUARY 2, 2016

by Melissa Harris-Perry

 Ravens’ fear of unseen snoopers hints they have theory of mind | New Scientist

Fears over surveillance seem to figure large in the bird world, too. Ravens hide their food more quickly if they think they are being watched, even when no other bird is in sight.

It’s the strongest evidence yet that ravens have a “theory of mind” – that they can attribute mental states such as knowledge to others.

Many studies have shown that certain primates and birds behave differently in the presence of peers who might want to steal their food. While some researchers think this shows a theory of mind, others say they might just be reacting to visual cues, rather than having a mental representation of what others can see and know.

Thomas Bugnyar and colleagues at the University of Vienna, Austria, devised an experiment to rule out the possibility that birds are responding to another’s cues. The setup involved two rooms separated by a wooden wall, with windows and peepholes that could be covered.

Journal reference: Nature Communications,  DOI: 10.1038/ncomms10506

I know what you are thinking. John E Marriott/Getty

lot download - rustic wedding barn

by popular demand, here is the wedding venue i made for ebony and cohen. it’s a converted barn turned into a bar, all set up for your sims’ wedding. there’s a dancefloor, dj setup, wedding arch, kitchen, bathrooms and of course, the romantic outdoor bar. the lot is classified as a bar and should work as one - but be aware that your sims may (rudely) leave the wedding to watch the tv in the kitchen. also, the arbor interferes with the functionality of the dancefloor, so make sure you remove it if you want your sims to dance.

lot size: 20x20
price: $62,316
lot type: bar

cc list:
wallswindowsdoorbarstring of lightsoutdoor lamphorseshoes etcberries signswingbrown cartsaddle, trougharbor and lightstree stump

indoors - general
walls and floorshanging lightsstring of lights - brownstring of lights - blackbeamsrugs / plants here, here, here, and heredeer headpianoarrow shelf medicine bottlessuitcasescandle bucketbirdcagelarge chalkboardwheel lamphand signladdercrate shelfclear bottlesstepladdertableschairs / bride & groom chairs

platesmenus, napkins / wine here, here and herecakeslarge candlessmall candlessalt & shakersmistercanisterspearsmilk jugsbouquet / plants here, here, here and here

bathrooms and kitchen (not shown)
countersfridgesinkstoolstilesbathroom sinks / mirror

how to download:

  1. search for my origin id mrssippysims on the gallery (make sure you have the ‘custom content’ box ticked under advanced options) OR
  2. download at dropbox and extract the files to your tray folder (my documents > electronic arts > the sims 4 > tray)

enjoy and please tag me in any pictures if you use this lot in your game!

The Assignment

      Room 612 was cursed it had to be Arthur could think of no other explanation why his superior’s office with the best intentions manage to become steadily dreadful every time he step foot init. It was untidy, stacks of papers took the place of where people should, majority of the floor space, on his boss’s chair, the neon green chesterfield sofa, which was a blessing because it was most uncomfortable. Tea cups and new paper clippings had conquered the mahogany desk. Each wall donned various hideous post modern paintings that pulse or spun endlessly making even casual on lookers dizzy.

Arthur was marveling at the newest addition of wall to wall windows behind Mr. Hutchinson’s work space. Someone clearly thought that it was too hard to see at the dirty mismanaged brick back of the local muggle halfway house with the previous two uneven windows that inhabited a year earlier. When Mr. Abdul large heavy set man dress in blue robes busted in. A assortment of enchanted colored files trailing behind while permission slips and formal requests buzzes about like a swarming files being sign and initial by a bewitched quill he parted the the chaos with his free hand to better see his subordinate . “Ah! Mr. Kirkland! Your here already? I thought we wouldn’t be seeing you for at least another day or two. How was your trip?”

“Chilly and wet It’s been ages since I’ve traveled this far by broom I forgot how cold flying can be and how brutal English winters are. ”

Mr. Abdul eyed Arthur’s wardrobe a ratty decade out of fashion dark blue green robe litter with moth holes matched of with a proper witch’s hat in the same condition. “Well of course good grief man where’s your coat?”

“I don’t have one I chucked mine years ago didn’t have much use for it. Thankfully I’d saved this or I would of freeze in my thobe.”

“Ah well you better invest in a proper one it’s cold in New York.”

“New York? I thought you wanted to see me about the Manzar case because I just would like to say Monhobi was compromised and we where given bad intelligence by those blokes in foreign affairs-”

Abdul put up a hand to stop him. “I know Thomas’s report made crystal clear. All in all we where quite impress on how you where able to handle that disaster. So impressed that we think you would be a splendid fit for your new assignment in New York.”

“What is it?”

“How much British news are you able to get in Aub Dubai?”

The change in subject threw Arthur “Not much I can’t spare my owls to spending a day or more having it fly all the way to England and back just for the paper.”

“I figured as much well long story short the Magical Congress has a right mess on their hands by this fellow here” Mr. Abdul snatched a red file from the parade behind him and presented it’s contents. 

Arthur gaped at the head shot, He knew the man in the photograph he hadn’t changed much from their last encounter. Same short blonde haircut, square glasses, near prefect teeth the only real difference was that he had traded the reminding of his baby fat for laugh lines. They where highlighted as the photo looped his smile. Arthur fumed internally at the fact that he was still handsome.

Abdul began explaining “This is Alfred Jones, age  28, Muggle born, leader of both Wizarding Awareness and the Magic Rights movement. Two campaigns that are hell bent on exposing our world to Muggles and integrate the two. For years Mr. Jones has been a manageable nuisance but over the last few months he’s tripled his number in supporters. Over half of them wizards and witches themselves. Public displays of witchcraft are becoming rampant. Frighten ignorant Muggles are terrorizing the magic population. Muggles are occupying once wizard only spaces upsetting the locals It’s gotten to a tipping point, that the Magical Congress has ask the Ministry for assistance.”

“So your outsourcing me to the yanks to help with damage control.”

“Yes but your task isn’t damage control its to nip it at its source we want you to complete a full sweep on Mr.Jones.”

Arthur was puzzled “A sweep sir? This man clearly needs to be locked up you need a Auror not a Obliviator .”

“Would love to but we can’t Mr. Jones hasn’t actually broken any laws.”

“What? But you just said that-”

“Mr. Jones isn’t the one doing any magic, his supporters are. Can’t really he had his wand destroyed some time in his teens. All he does is talk, protest, march, and raise awareness of the magical community.”

“That still breeches the Statute of Wizarding Secrecy.”

“True but the secrecy is a international law and we know how difficult that is to enforce. Americans have freedom of speech as a fundamental right and it would greatly harm national relations of our two countries at the mere hint of censorship. Not to mention that there’s a heated debate within Congress about if Mr. Jones can be even be classified as a citizen of the wizarding sovereign which has open the a flood gates about magical citizenship. Mr. Jones is such a high profile case now that if we to act unjustly it very likely he’ll become a martyr for the cause enraging and strengthening his base.”

Arthur felt slightly overwhelmed himself and he wasn’t even part of the congress “That is quite the mess.”

“But! he is a threat if not the threat of exposure to the wizarding world and dealing with such threats is a Obliviator job, your job. So get some rest buy a cozy coat and arrive at this address by Thursday morning. All the details you need are in here.” He handed over the red file to him "Make us proud Kirkland!“ And Arthur was promptly shooed out of his office.

——-Author Note——-

I was in the mood do some writing this week I decide too so mess around with HP AU. I don’t know if I will continue writing takes me forever and a half (it’s embarrassing how long I spent on this tiny piece) 

Also I’m sure the grammar sucks and there are all kinds of errors. I don’t have a beta nor really wanted to bother with one I just wanted to write.