Stump me!

OK, all you out there: I am bored, still wheezy, and stressed out because my kids are still sick. And that means I can’t sleep and that means I am getting punchy.

My brain is in sore need of some exercise and distraction, so I will hereby be your personal Carnak and take any and all trivia questions–go ahead, ask me whatever.

I am super-duper-overeducated in the areas of dogs (duh), other animals, reproduction (any species), theology, church history, Bible, lots of other literature, some theatre/performance art, teaching and educational theory, communication theory, and biology/ecology/genetics/blah blah.

I deliberately avoid knowing anything about the Civil War. Bores me to tears. Sorry. So any inquires about Antietam will be referred to Wikipedia.

So if you’re burning with the desire to know what the name of the bronze snake that Moses held up over the people to cure them from their plague was (it sounds sexy in Hebrew, but it just means “Bronze One,” like we’d call something “Brownie” or “Blacky”), or why they got the plague in the first place, exactly what a plague is, how that corresponds with the medical definition of a plague, and whether I’m worried about the fact that a few mice with the bubonic form are missing from a federal lab right now, I’m here for you.

Alternately, I can address Lamarckian evolutionary theory as it intersects with Joseph’s “magic” striped stick, spotted sheep, woe/weal passages in the ancient Near Eastern covenants, behavior relating to fecundity, and tie it up with a nice bow of why canines evolved the breeding “tie.”

Difference between a schism and a heresy? Check. Difference between a Kotzebue and an M’Loot? Try me. Does “Eskimo” really have forty words for snow? Was the Flood forty days and forty nights? Why do Chinese Crested and Xolos have tusks? Why do you not need a permit to import warthog tusks as long as they are for personal use? What on earth is a personal use for a warthog tusk?

All these and more, all here for you. The weirder the better. Please. I wait with bated breath. And my magic 8 ball, which will be referred to whenever I don’t know the actual answer.

Ah yes… It is decidedly so.


13 thoughts on “Stump me!

  1. This is perfect! My 4 year-old had been bombarding me with questions that I can’t answer. Even the ones I can answer don’t satisfy her. Here are a few:
    1. Does God know what I’m going to do before I do it? (We discussed predestination. Then we got into a half-remembered lesson about the teaching of Calvin vs. the teaching of Wesley. Now she wonders where those beliefs came from and why some people believe in predestination and some don’t. She’s about two thoughts away from inquiring about how free will fits into this. )

    2. What does the Bible say about where we were before we were born because I know I was somewhere before I was here?

    3. Why do we have uppercase and lowercase letters? Why don’t we have uppercase and lowercase numbers?

    4. Why do grown-ups have so many forks at a table setting? Who decided what was the right way to set a table? (Followed by a rant on how if kids needed that many utensils it would be wasteful.)

    I have about 20 others from her.

    My questions is – Is it possile to responsibly clone dogs? If so, could it become more responsible than responsible breeding?

  2. What’s your interpretation of the bible on the topic of pets in heaven?

    While there’s the argument that only humans have souls, and animals don’t have souls, the bible does say there is animals in heaven.

  3. Oh, such great questions!

    I am going to tackle the last one first. Because forks are rockin, baby!

    Good manners–and this includes formal place settings, which used to be part of many families’ daily life–are all about helping people feel comfortable and keeping them out of embarrassing situations.

    If you only have one fork, then when you’re done with, say, the oatmeal course, and your lovely servants come to clear the bowls that used to hold oatmeal, you’ll have to do something to keep the fork so you can use it on the ham sandwich course or whatever is coming next. And then, dear reader, what shall you do? Stick it behind your ear? And won’t the ham sandwich taste like used oatmeal?

    Providing multiple forks allows each course’s fork (or knife, or spoon, or all three) to be carried away with the used plate and still leaves you with the utensils you need to keep on eating without causing a fuss.

    Did you know that in ancient Rome, they solved the problem by removing the whole TABLE? Tables had removable tops, and the entire table would be prepared in the kitchen and then carried in by servants, so an entire table course would be put down as the used one was carried away.

    Second: The question isn’t why we have uppercase letters; it’s why we have lowercase ones.

    All the oldest alphabets are capital-only, and many (probably most) of the world’s alphabets are one form of capitalization only. Certain very important languages–Greek was probably the first–evolved lowercase letters because there was a whole group of people who did nothing but write letters, orders, records, and so on for the administrative class. These scribes were the first to learn to write with pens instead of by pressing or scratching shapes, and when you write with a pen you figure out ways to write letters so you don’t have to lift the pen off the paper or parchment. The lowercase letters were actually a kind of shorthand for easy writing, and after a long time people began to use a mixture of lowercase fast-writing and uppercase big-letters-for-emphasis. And once that happened everyone saw how useful it was and it spread all over the world.

    We don’t need different forms for numbers because the “words” you make with numbers don’t have important or unimportant bits. It works better to have the whole “word” look the same.

    When I was little, I used to play all the time with a couple of cylinder seals that were in my father’s office; I would roll them around to see how the little cut marks would make a pattern. Then one day my dad told me they were maybe four or five thousand years old. They were from long before there were lowercase letters; even from long before there were pens!

    Third: The Bible says that God made us in our mom’s belly, and as far as I know we didn’t exist before then. I’ll tell you a secret, though: That feeling that you have that you haven’t always belonged here is because you DO belong somewhere else. You belong in heaven, and someday when you are a very old lady and have done a great many wonderful things and a few scary things and loved so many people, you will go there, and when you get there you will say, “So THIS is where I belong! Down on bad old earth I always felt a little scratchy, like a bad sweater, like I didn’t fit in my sheets. And now I am where I belong, and I get to stay here forever.” And that is a very, very good thing, and I am so glad that you have that little feeling.

    And last: When God looks at you, he doesn’t see you like you see yourself. He doesn’t think of yesterday or tomorrow. He sees you the way you have been and will be and when you were a baby and when you’ll be an old lady, all at once, so he probably thinks you look something like a small white carrot!

    What God wants is for you to be the very best carrot, one that does amazing good big things, so he does lots of little stuff to make sure that you get where you’re supposed to get, and you learn what you’re supposed to learn.

    And one of the biggest lessons he wants you to learn is that you don’t have to worry, that he sees your whole life and he will take care of you. You CAN do what you want; he won’t stop you and, yes, I think he does know exactly what you are going to do. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want you to think about stuff and try to make your hands and your mind and your heart gentle and caring and good, and most of all to feel happy and safe in your heart because he can see your whole life, all the way until you have babies of your own, all the way till you’re a tiny little old lady and you have many grandbabies and three cats, and he will ALWAYS be there for you, no matter what.

    Kisses to all four-year-olds who have such great questions!

  4. Cloning dogs: I think it’s very definitely a grey area, ethically. In order to get the goal animal, you are typically creating many, many embryos that will die, and an uncomfortable number of puppies that are sick or deformed or both. A lot of animals die, and I think you could argue that some of their lives are quite tortured before they die, in the quest for one or two perfect copies. And even the perfect ones generally die young; chromosomes don’t do too well when you make them start over from middle age or even old age.

    I am also worried about the state of mind of someone seeking to clone a dog; to date they have all done it to re-create a beloved dog who meant more to them than any other. They are VERY unlikely to get what they are seeking. Dogs are shaped in personality and even appearance by far more than their genetics; beginning with their position in the uterus and blood flow to the brain and other major organs and moving to the experiences, stressors, and life they lived. You are getting an identical twin of your dog, but it is NOT your dog, and may end up totally different in every important way.

  5. On animals in heaven: The Bible really doesn’t say. That’s on purpose, I think–the Bible is there to tell OUR story, not theirs. They have their own stories and it could very well be that they know perfectly well where they’re going to end up.

    Here’s what I do know, and is clear in the Bible: God loves animals very, very much. He allows humans to use their skills and strengths and even their stored energy as food, but he despises any ill treatment of them and is clear about our responsibility to never waste or hurt them. He is aware of every single one of them and he knows when they die; each death is an important event to him–far more important than it is to us, even for the animals we love dearly.

    He even created angelic animals in heaven, where nobody needs to eat or drink or sleep. These animals go with him wherever he goes (they do jobs for him but they’re also part of his retinue), so if I can surmise his state of mind without being disrespectful, I think he just plain enjoys their company.

    We also know that the whole creation, the whole world and every creature and even the trees and the rocks, knows him and in some way communicates with him and about him.

    And, finally, we know that he created and he honors the love we have for animals.

    So, honestly, I don’t know whether there will be animals in Paradise or whether we’ll have to wait until the New Earth is created for us to see animals again, and I don’t know if we’ll be seeing the same animals in a resurrected form or new animals at that point. But I DO believe, and feel very comfortable that this is supported biblically, that animals have an eternal meaning and a place in redemption that is very profound. And I would not be uncomfortable saying that they have a story and a destiny that doesn’t end with the end of their earthly lives. I HOPE that there will be a personal meeting and recognition someday, but I know that if there is not, it’ll be because God figured out an even better way to do it.

  6. Ok, no deep questions. How about a breed guess?

    Mainly, for Keira, as she looks different now that she’s an adult and not a 3 month old puppy.

    Copious photos can be found here:

    and here:

    On that second link, she’s playing with our friends’ two dogs. You could breed guess them if you want. They look very identical, but aren’t if you look at their faces. And you can repost the photos if you’d like.

    Ok, I’ve gotta go back up and read the other posts!

  7. What kind of small dog would I like? I mean small, like under 20 lbs. Ulysses is trying to make the cat into his pack, trying to follow her around and join her escapades, and he needs a doggie friend. Not to be speciesist lol.

  8. Skye: Papillon. I adore them. They’re bold, incredibly trainable, get along with bigger dogs but aren’t afraid of dominating them (which is what you need) and they’re fantastic with older kids. Perfect size, too. And you can do serious training/competing with them; they’re world-class tracking dogs, agility dogs, obedience dogs. I once heard a judge say he’d been bitten by every breed of dog in the toy group except the Papillon; he said they were the merriest and most joyful of the whole bunch.

  9. Julia: LOVE the Christmas pics! Definitely a mixture of many breeds, not just one, and maybe another species (I swear there’s a copious dash of baboon too). I still think she’s predominantly herdy, and I can definitely see Australian Cattle Dog and probably Shepherd, but something with pendulous ears is in the woodpile.

  10. Love, love, love your answers! Thank you. I’m sure we’ll be discussing forks at dinner tonight. I may never google again. I’ll just come ask you stuff.

    Another dog question. My DD is convinced she’s ready for her own dog. She’s four, nearly five. She wants her own protection dog. Ha! I told her that we all have to start with obedience and at least two other dog activities before we’re good enough to handle protection dogs. She’s most interested in the local therapy dogs group. I’m not sure what else to explore with her and I’m looking for breed suggestions as well as activity suggestions. We will always have at least one German Shepherd. We have at least a year to decide. What’s the best breed for us?

  11. Thanks Joanna! We just brought the girls to our studio and let them go wild. As you can see! lol

    I love that we got such good shots of their body language, especially the interaction where Keira pissed Aggie off, they tussled and then worked it out ending in kissy faces from both of them!

    Keira will herd other dogs, the instinct seems to be triggered when she’s with two dogs and they split apart in a big area.

    Thanks again!

  12. Well, you must be somewhat of a psychic, too. I am referring to the name that you have on this post on Sunday… since Stump didn’t win until Tuesday night. Impressive. Hope you and Honour are better by now.

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