George MacDonald Bicentenary Conference

2024 is the 200th anniversary of George MacDonald’s birth (1824-1905). The George MacDonald Society and the Marion E. Wade Center of Wheaton College are sponsoring a conference, “George MacDonald and the Prophetic Imagination,” May 29-31, 2024.

As with the centenary celebration in 1924, this bicentennial conference explored MacDonald’s imaginative vision through formal papers and presentations integrated with music, drama, art, and conversation over mealtimes. With eschatological hope and ecumenical hospitality arising from the love of the Father, it was a community-forming event as much as an academic conference. As one coming from dust-in-the-wind Oklahoma, who greatly appreciates allergy-free clear water, it felt to me as restorative as swimming in a clear mountain lake. As Malcolm noted in the final session, its ramifications will ripple out over years to come.

Here’s Malcom’s evening keynote from the second day of the conference.

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Sayers on suffering

Dear [friend in a dark time],

You might be interested in a letter written during WW2 by a leading British radio personality (Dorothy L. Sayers). She spoke to fellow Brits about a Christian perspective on suffering.

I know you yourself are Catholic. But I would add that I think it may actually be fortifying for those in other faith traditions as well. I hope its Christian perspective won’t be off-putting for our Jewish friends, because the same principle — that the life of God is a pattern of suffering, and so all history shares in it — resonates with equal power and depth within the Jewish religious tradition. Substitute “story of the Jewish people” for the “story of Christ” or “going to Jerusalem” for “going to Calvary” and you have the same point.

Something like this — a robust attitude toward our calling to suffer in unity with the sins of our fellow humans, citizens, and communities — may paradoxically become welcome news in dark times. It is good news for those who suffer that by doing so we are sharing in the very life of God. In this way lies hope.

Some quotes from Sayers’ letter:

“They could not understand why earthly hopes should turn out to be illusory, human ideals issue (in practice) in hideous travesties of themselves, ‘progress’ turn round and go backwards, the old brutality burst up under the crust of civilization, and chaos appear to have come again. It was not only that they suffered – they were dumbfounded, and the bottom of their universe had fallen out.”

“All living is a desperate adventure, and there is no point at which we can sit back and say ’the war is over.’… You are perpetually walking along a razor-edge of peril.”

“You are going to Calvary. Everything that is of God in you is going to be crucified; and everything in you that is of corruption is going there to crucify the good part.”

“In great things and small, it is all the same story: the men who fell before Dunkirk without the weapons that could have saved them were bearing in their bodies the sins of the whole world – the neglects and egotism and the self-seeking of the rulers and voters and citizens… who let that situation come about; whether they knew it or not, they died as God died for the sin and folly of those to whom they were bound in the unity of the flesh…. The weariness of waiting in queues, the stuffiness of the black-out, the irritation of saving fuel and paper, are little hourly crucifixions by which the innocent redeem the waste and destruction of the guilty. We take each others’ sins – Hitler’s, the Government’s, the Church’s, yours and mine – everybody’s – up into our own lives, and by great or small acts of suffering make the damage good… It is the pattern of the life of God.”

“You have got to choose between crucifying God and being crucified with him; no other choice is open to you or me or any man.”

The entire letter (9 pages, printed) is published in Suzanne Bray, ed., Dorothy L. Sayers: The Christ of the Creeds and Other Broadcast Messages to the British People during World War II (Dorothy L. Sayers Society, 2008), pp. 76-84.

In 1943, Sayers wrote in reply to a letter she received from Stephen Grenfell, a junior employee of the BBC. At this time she corresponded regularly with the Religious Broadcasting Department of the BBC. Given the positive reception of her own earlier radio talks, and the relationships she had developed there, her views helped shape religious radio programming during WW2. Portions of this letter, with Grenfell’s permission, were anonymously broadcast on air. (See Suzanne Bray’s comments on the letter, pp. 22-23.)

The original of this document, and the letter from Grenfell which prompted it, are kept in the remarkable Marion E. Wade Center Special Collection at Wheaton College, in Illinois. They have an enormous collection of Sayers correspondence and other primary source materials. The co-director of the Wade, Crystal Downing, is a Sayers scholar.

Dorothy L. Sayers is best known for writing the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries and for her translation of Dante for Penguin (which kept the rhyming pattern and relentless pace of the original). She was a noted mid-20th-century playwright, and delivered a number of broadcast talks for the BBC during WW2. Her friend C. S. Lewis re-read her play on the gospels, The Man Born To Be King, every Lent for the rest of his life. Sayers was among the first women to receive a degree from Oxford — awarded five years after the fact, for when she completed her course of study with first class honors, Oxford had not yet begun to award official degrees to women. An excellent biography is Catherine Kenney, The Remarkable Case of Dorothy L. Sayers. (Here’s Sayers’ Wikipedia page.)

I hope these words of Sayers’ and the example of her faith during WW2 might paradoxically be of some encouragement to you in these difficult and dangerous times.

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Elaine Hagenberg’s choral anthems

Elaine Hagenberg

Candace and I listened with rapt attention to “You Do Not Walk Alone,” a moving choral piece by Elaine Hagenberg, at the OKC Civic Center “For All the Saints” Irish concert last week. It prompted us to browse Elaine’s website and discover her many other compositions, which we are so thankful to begin to make a part of our lives. We are now searching out her music on various albums and collections — such as “Modern Choral Anthems” performed by the Beckenhorst Singers (Apple Music). What a beautiful gift to the world she is.

You Do Not Walk Alone

Love That Will Not Let Me Go

Deep Peace (related post)

As the Rain Hides the Stars (related post)

My Song in the Night


This is My Father’s World

All Things New

Explore many more compositions, with lyrics, sheet music, and other resources at

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Bruce Ritchie on James Clerk Maxwell

Video of the Inverness book launch event for Bruce Ritchie, James Clerk Maxwell: Faith, Church and Physics (Edinburgh: Handsel Press, 2024); #2024-br-1.

My video recommendation (above). For those who want more, below is a longer video review (21 mins). But watch Ritchie’s lecture from the book launch first!

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Goodbye Dropbox my old friend

After many years of relying upon Dropbox as my go-to cloud solution, I’m saying good-bye due to an issue arising from intractable mis-set file permissions. After five hours on the phone with an Apple Support supervisor named James, he determined that the problem was found with files accessed via the Dropbox integrated Finder app. Bottom line: If you share files between two computers, do not use the Dropbox integrated Finder app with a university-issued computer.

It seems that university security policies were applied to all files on my Dropbox account, probably because I had the Dropbox integrated Finder app installed. Permissions problems arose making those Dropbox files virtually unusable when accessed from a non-university computer which shared that Dropbox account and similarly used the integrated Finder app. Even when copying my files from Dropbox over to the Documents folder of my non-university computer, using the integrated Finder app, the files remained unusable due to the permissions problems.

Here’s the story, and the obscure fix that eventually proved successful:


I have long been a huge fan of Dropbox’s integrated Finder app, which makes accessing files on Dropbox as simple as using the sidebar in a Finder window. In contrast, I find Dropbox’s web interface very cumbersome.

Over the last year I have kept several terabytes of files on Dropbox so that I could access them both from my university computer and from my own computer. As hard drive spaces on university computers shrink, working with cloud storage becomes more critical. To be clear, I was using Dropbox not for backup(*), but to share files from two computers (my own and the university-issued one), as well as from my iPhone and my iPad. In other words, I adopted a cloud-centric approach to computing that let me work from whichever device seemed most appropriate for the task or the occasion.

But sometime last year, the university replaced my university-issued computer with one that had some new security or user group policies applied. Some combination of the university policies and files stored on Dropbox resulted in all of the files on Dropbox accumulating extra permissions that looked like this:


With these permissions, I became unable to save, move, or delete files. Copying files was possible, but not simply moving them or deleting the originals once they were copied. Using the Get Info dialog box (and unlocking the little lock in the lower right corner), I could manually set the permission for the first “everyone” from “custom” to “Read only.” Then the file could be modified, saved, moved, or deleted (in most cases). But I have many thousands of files and setting permissions manually like this is simply not a viable option. In addition, the option to delete the extra users (e.g., the extra “everyone” accounts) appeared dimmed or disabled (even after unlocking), so it was not possible manually to clean up the permissions as one would wish.

Permissions problem

There should be only one “everyone,” set to “Read only.” The “custom” setting for everyone is likely the result of a security policy applied by the university to my university laptop, which carried over to Dropbox files because of the Dropbox integrated Finder app.

For files to function properly, permissions should look like this instead:


My own computer, which I use for non-confidential research and personal files, is a 16-inch M2 MacBook Pro with updated Sonoma OS and a very large capacity internal hard drive. I am the administrator and it has never connected to university networks nor has ever been managed like the university-issued laptop I use on campus.

MBP info

When my new university-issued computer came with just half a TB hard drive, I decided to move my (non-confidential) research files entirely to my personal laptop, and abandon my cloud-centric approach. I have invested in a nicer phone and am no longer using an iPad. And I have spent a total of about two of the last six months in rural areas where there was no reliable wifi, so working from my computer’s hard drive instead of the cloud would have been more convenient. So I copied all my files over to my own internal hard drive. I will work simply from my personal computer rather than from the cloud with multiple devices. (This takes me back to the old Mac as a hub days — remember iLife? — which I gave up for a cloud-centric approach many years ago.)

So I dragged all of my Dropbox files over onto the internal hard drive of my personal computer, via the Dropbox integrated Finder app. And all these permissions issues did not go away; the extra permissions came over with the files even when they were relocated to my Documents folder.

On the phone with Apple support, we tried all kinds of methods to correct the permissions without success. The “Apply permissions to enclosed items” command did not work. Nor did a variety of commands issued in the Terminal app, some of which are shown below (click to enlarge). We executed those commands in Recovery mode as well, but still no success.

Terminal commands

I’m grateful that James, the Apple Support supervisor that evening, did not give up. About five hours into the call, he suggested I re-download the files from the Dropbox website, using my web browser rather than the integrated Finder interface. Voila! Downloading a test file from the Dropbox website resulted in the removal of the unwanted permissions. The very same file shown above (when copied over in the Finder), now looked like this (when downloaded through Safari):


Permissions fixed! On the basis of that test, I had a path to follow. Over the last few days, I re-uploaded all of my files with bad permissions back to Dropbox, and then downloaded them via the Dropbox web interface. It was time-consuming due to bandwidth limits, sync times, and maximum allowed items to download at once, but all of the files are now on my computer’s internal hard drive with correct permissions.

Unbelievably, I am now good to go and lost no files (**Mellel) (***Pages).

One more thing: The old directory of files, which I had transferred over to my internal hard drive via the Dropbox integrated Finder app, still needed to be deleted, and it was consuming an inordinate amount of space. When trying to delete the files, a dialog box appeared exhorting me to first set the permissions of each file manually before trying to delete them!


Ha! Obviously this would not work for a directory containing many thousands of files. James again came through — in a second support call, this time “only” three hours long! We turned off syncing with iCloud Drive, and then deleted the files through signing into iCloud on the web. iCloud on the web could ignore the permission restrictions and delete the files. Magnificent. (There were some tricks to this, and we also deleted the “home/iCloud Archive” directory just to be sure, but eventually it all worked.)

I’ve learned a valuable lesson: the university’s security policies and the Dropbox Finder app do not play nice with each other. I will no longer even attempt to share my research files with the university computer, but will work simply from my own computer’s internal hard drive. Of course I will continue to use the university computer for Office apps and Teams, university email and documents, and tasks that require confidentiality such as student records and correspondence, but nothing more than necessary. For university file sharing I’ll use Sharepoint (or a University-owned Dropbox account via the web interface only, but neither shared with my personal laptop). I’m adopting a “Two Worlds” approach to computing, with my presentations, writing projects, digital scholarship, and other research solely on my personal computer. My nice new North Face backpack can carry both laptops, although due to its extra weight, I’ll leave the university laptop on campus whenever possible.

Thanks to the university security measures not playing nice with the Dropbox Finder app, and the Dropbox web interface not playing nice with some file formats, it’s time to say goodbye Dropbox my old friend.

* For backup, don’t use Dropbox. I hadn’t, and luckily, because I use Airdrop. Dropbox takes over the Downloads folder on a Mac if given permission to conduct backups, making AirDrop impossible. If you have used Dropbox for backups, first disable it and then you will be able to use AirDrop again. Instead of Dropbox, for backups I use BackBlaze, and external hard drives with Time Machine and Carbon Copy Cloner. With the money I am saving from canceling Dropbox, I’m raising my iCloud storage level so that my newly enlarged Desktop and Document folders can fully sync to iCloud Drive. My university-issued laptop does not connect to my iCloud Drive (I’m keeping it quarantined in its own small self-contained world), but through iCloud my phone and personal laptop will still work together.

** Mellel: Upon completing the downloads described above, almost all file types were working. But Mellel files did not make the roundtrip to Dropbox and back again. Mellel offers two formats: I save Mellel documents as packages, which speeds up the autosave process. (I have not tested the other format.) My Mellel documents have worked when copied to and from Dropbox via the integrated Finder app, but when downloaded from Dropbox through the web browser, the Dropbox zipping process involved evidently made them unable to open. The same downloading process that stripped away the unwanted permissions also stripped away something of the file format. The downloaded files do have the correct permissions, but they display this error message when I attempt to open one:

Mellel error

Curiously, here’s a workaround: If I compress the Mellel file to create a zipped version of it, then decompress the zip, the file appears with the name “dropbox_download.mellel”! (The name incriminates the culprit here.) Yet success: the document now has correct permissions; I can now restore the original filename; and it now opens normally in Mellel. Hooray!

Mellel fix

Mellel is my favorite word processor for longer projects and these files are very valuable to me. Thankfully they do not number much more than a hundred, and this workaround to fix them is not difficult. (If you haven’t tried Mellel give it a look; for academic writing nothing is better.)

*** Pages: Older pages documents, from about 2012 and earlier, were also corrupted by Dropbox’s zipping download process. While still on Dropbox, the files with corrupted permissions could be opened after manually correcting the permissions. If saved, they would be upgraded, still on Dropbox, and then they would download fine. But if not opened and upgraded while still on Dropbox, then they would be damaged during the browser-mediated downloading process and be no longer openable by Pages or any other app. Sometimes they would pick up a “.pages-tef” filename suffix, which seems to refer either to an older version of Pages or possibly Pages for iOS. (While I did work with Pages on an iPad, I think most of these files were older versions of Pages for the Mac, so the -tef extension added during the browser-mediated download is a mistake.) The trick of compressing and decompressing a file that worked for Mellel documents does not work for these old Pages files (the archive utility hangs up and cannot complete its attempt to decompress them). If opened in some other text editor, these old Pages files display a name like the Mellel files that incriminates Dropbox; something like “dropbox_download_…” (I don’t remember exactly).

So far, I have not encountered this problem with old Keynote and Numbers files but I would not be surprised if it creeps up at some point, especially with files created before 2012.

So my path for recovering older Pages (or iWork) documents is to save an external hard drive of a backup from last summer before these problems arose (before the security policy was applied). That backup will contain all of my older files. (But if one didn’t have a backup, one might still download one’s Dropbox files onto an external hard drive directly from Dropbox using the integrated Finder app, which transfers functional Pages files but with bad permissions. Then one would keep that on an external hard drive for future use, when one could manually correct them as needed even though one wouldn’t be able to get rid of the extra permissions accounts. Or, if one could find them all now, before canceling one’s Dropbox account, then one could upgrade them on Dropbox and then re-download via the Dropbox website to avoid the file permissions problem. That would resolve the problem.)

In summary, files transferred to my computer through the Dropbox integrated Finder app carried the bad permissions. Files transferred to my computer through the Dropbox web downloading interface did not carry the bad permissions, but were corrupted if their file types were older (e.g., Pages) or packages (e.g., Mellel). Cloud computing is hard, and neither method of accessing files on Dropbox works without issues.

If I want cloud computing to work “like a Mac,” I’d better stick with iCloud.

(Except with iCloud, documents are continually being offloaded to the cloud even when hard drive space remains clear. I often work in places without wifi available, so this is quite inconvenient — and for a month last fall, I was in a remote location where I couldn’t even use my phone as a hotspot. I have “Optimize Mac Storage” in Settings checked, which is supposed to keep files on the drive until it begins to run out of space. I hope Apple will soon add a “Keep item available offline” feature to iCloud.)

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Marilyn B. Ogilvie Celebration

Marilyn B. Ogilvie, portrait by Mike Wimmer

Above: Marilyn B. Ogilvie, portrait by Mike Wimmer in the Marilyn B. Ogilvie Room, Bizzell Memorial Library, 5th floor, University of Oklahoma History of Science Collections.

Marilyn B. Ogilvie, a specialist on women in science, served as the second curator of the University of Oklahoma Libraries History of Science Collections from 1991-2008. 

These are the remarks I offered in tribute to Marilyn on December 9, 2023, when the University Libraries held a reception to celebrate the unveiling of a portrait and the dedication of a named room. It was such a delight to see her again among many friends! At the end of the program, the Libraries officially opened the Marilyn B. Ogilvie Room, which houses historic instruments. We also unveiled a portrait of Marilyn painted by Mike Wimmer, one of Oklahoma’s best-known portrait artists. 

Speakers included:

  • Mike Szajewski, Associate Dean of Special Research Collections
  • Denise Stephens, Dean of Libraries, University of Oklahoma
  • Kerry Magruder, Curator, History of Science Collections (this talk)
  • Stephen Weldon, Chair, Department of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine
  • David Wrobel, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Tributes from the floor: Kenneth L. Taylor, Bill Ogilvie, and Robert Henry.
  • Marilyn herself!
  • Tyler Paul, OU Development


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Scripture and Science exhibit

Scripture and Science exhibit sign

This week I had the joy and delight of visiting the Museum of the Bible (MOTB) in Washington, D.C. My purpose was related to the Scripture and Science exhibit, which opened in January 2023 and will close at the end of January 2024. (Cf. the online version of the exhibit now available.)

OU Copernicus
The OU copy of Copernicus, 1543.

More specifically, I was bringing the OU copy of Nicolaus Copernicus, De revolutionibus (1543), for display in the third and final rotation of the exhibit.

Orientation video
Orientation gallery.

As seen in this photo, the exhibit entrance is on the far right edge (click the photo to enlarge it). Upon entering, an orientation video appears on a large screen in this initial space. After the video, one passes (on the left) into a hallway toward the “Universe” gallery. Straight ahead against the left wall is the Copernicus display, the first object encountered by visitors to the exhibit. This Copernicus case has held three objects in succession: in October, for the 3rd rotation, the OU De rev (annotated by a group of 16th-century astronomers in Paris) will replace a manuscript copy of the Commentariolus of Copernicus from the National Library of Austria (for the 2d rotation), which in turn replaced a copy of the De rev annotated by Galileo from the National Library of Florence (for the 1st rotation). It is a privilege to display the OU copy here for the remaining duration of the exhibit.

Two Books video
Two Books video.

The video shown in this initial space superbly introduces the entire exhibit, framing its approach in terms of the overarching theme of the Bible and science as the “two books,” one of God’s words and the other of God’s works. Watch the video online or download a zipped .mov file.

MOTB Entry hall

The MOTB grand entry hall displays signs for the exhibit.

Unpacking the Copernicus Measuring the Copernicus

We deposited the Copernicus in a secure room on Monday, the day of transport from OU. On Wednesday, after giving it time to acclimate to the new conditions, we prepared a condition report and measured it for mounting.

Ted Davis

Enjoyable conversations with Anthony Schmidt, Head of Exhibits; Wes Viner, early modern curator; and Ted Davis, the historian of science shown here, were highlights of the week indeed!

Buzz Aldrin communion chalice

In browsing the entire Museum, I didn’t expect to be able to touch a block from the Temple Mount! It is on display as part of The People of the Land exhibit, by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

A few other highlights of the Scripture and Science exhibition for me include:

Dante, Divine Comedy
Dante, manuscript of the Divine Comedy; Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze.

Galileo manuscript
Galileo manuscript of telescopic observations; Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze.

Hebrew book
A discussion of Copernican cosmology in Hebrew; Jewish Theological Seminary of America (New York).

Francis Collins Bible and Nature
Francis Collins’ Bible, and his copy of an issue of Nature reporting on the Human Genome Project.

Buzz Aldrin communion chalice
The Communion chalice which Buzz Aldrin used on Apollo 11, 1969.

ET phone home
The “phone home” apparatus from the movie ET.

If these few objects intrigue you, watch the video and explore the online version of the exhibit. If you can make it to DC before it closes in January, it will be well worth your time! Would that it were possible to make it a traveling exhibit, both across America and internationally. It is certainly worthy of long-term attention.

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Alan Gogoll

This is not. humanly. possible.

Alan Gogoli (website) “is an Australian acoustic guitarist and composer most known for the invention of his two-handed simultaneous artificial harmonics technique he has called ‘Bell Harmonics’, which is featured in many of his original songs such as Mulberry Mouse…”

Darn, I guess he won’t be touring near here any time soon. Thank you, Alan, for the wondrous music.

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New beginning

“New Beginning” Mark & Steffi

The Chapman stick

So beautiful

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I have not lost my marbles
They ran off on their own
They rolled right off the table
And headed out the door

One went up to Alaska
To see the polar bears
It made friends among the reindeer
And loves the winters there

I found one in Iona
On Scotland’s western shore
It swam over with some dolphins
And lives with puffins there

My marbles will keep on rolling
Traveling around the world
Until they rise up to the heavens
To make a new home there

If I ever get to space travel
And make it to the Moon
I’ll find a huge jar of my marbles
Waiting for me there

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