Friday, July 30, 2010

New Series: As For Me And My House

I've been asked to write a weekly series over at Catholic Dads Online and to be one of their featured writers!

This is an exciting opportunity to be part of the larger mission of speaking to the experience of being a Catholic Dad. The site is growing and evolving, so I encourage you to check back frequently to check out the changes.

Everybody is welcome, not just Dads.

My series is called "As For Me And My House" and will be published on Thursdays. (Oh no, deadlines!) This is a chance for me to try to kick it up a notch and put out what I hope will be good and engaging content. My theme is taken from Joshua 24:15, and I designed a logo just for this series.

They say you should write what you know. As a Catholic Dad of a fistful of children (the Nodlings), I’ve come to know the daily joys and sorrows of trying to live out the Faith in our modern world. There are many options out there — voices that are clamoring to be heard, prevailing winds of philosophy, sirens of fame, fortune, and success.
My wife and I made a promise the day we got married that we would accept children lovingly as gifts from God and bring them up in the practice of the Faith. We promised to be true to each other and by our covenant to serve God faithfully. As a father, my job is to love my wife as Christ loves His Church and to lead my family spiritually.
If it does not please you to serve the LORD, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15
These are our stories.
Join me every Thursday as I chronicle “As For Me And My House“, the place where the rubber meets the road.

Subscribe to the RSS feed here.

Seeing In Context

We humans are built for context. We have natural powers such as seeing, hearing, thinking, and the like. But sometimes these powers are not enough by themselves.

Many times I have seen things with my eyes that I couldn't understand. The light photons hitting the rods and cones in my eyes didn't change, but once I figured out the context of what I was seeing, then it all made sense and I could "see" what I was looking at.

Our brains are wonderful in this way; it will happily fill in the "context" for us. Take this illusion of a spinning dancer. Is she spinning towards you or away from you? Clockwise or counter-clockwise? See the in-motion picture here.

[WP] The Spinning Dancer, also known as the silhouette illusion, is a kinetic, bistable optical illusion resembling a pirouetting female dancer. The illusion, created by web designer Nobuyuki Kayahara,[1][2] involves the apparent direction of motion of the figure. Some observers initially see the figure as spinning clockwise and some counterclockwise.

The illusion derives from the lack of visual cues for depth. For instance, her arms could be swinging either in front of her to the left or behind her to the left, and hence with her circling clockwise or counter-clockwise on either her left or right foot. She changes leg because she is facing either towards or away from the observer, there being no surface features on the silhouette to indicate at any point which side of her is presented: the least ambiguous positions are her profiles when she is on either side of her circle, though it's still not known whether the foreground or background leg is on the floor, and from where she moves indeterminately either on the near or far arc across to the other profile.

So the plain fact is, you're looking at it, but you can't tell - it's ambiguous. It depends on what your brain thinks is the context. This particular illusion drove me crazy until it was explained to me how it worked.

A lot of us have spinning dancers in our lives. These are things to which we think we know the answers until something comes and stands it on its head. Or conversely, situations which we simply cannot understand even though we are in the midst of them until they are explained to us. Then the context is provided and we see clearly.

God is like that sometimes. There are things and situations that are beyond our understanding, but not His. He sees the illusion clearly for what it is, whereas the confusion is only in our own minds. If we allow ourselves to be led by Him, He provides the context that makes it all clear - if not here then hereafter.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Get Your Snark On

LarryD at the Acts of the Apostasy is having a contest! Yes, the winner of the 2010 Snarkiest Catholic Blog has dreamed up some hot summer fun.
Progressive Catholycs have opened an ice cream parlor to beat the summer heat. What are some of the flavors they serve?

For instance, how about "Sr Joan's Chocolate Chippister Kooky Dough"?
Even the saints had a sense of humor. Click on over and see all the snarky submissions in the combox. You could win a chance to write your own post at the A of the A!

AT-AT Day Afternoon

Shades of my childhood! As a kid, I was totally into the Star Wars thing. The Imperial Walker AT-AT was my favorite toy.

This video is a funny stop motion film that will tickle your funny bone. What if your AT-AT was your dog?

And of course, the "making of"!

Hot Salsa

Summer means hot and hot house food. Nothing tastier or simpler than making salsa. There are a bazillion ways to do it, it's just a matter of taste. Freshness is the key - as long as it's fresh, it's gonna be good.

Today's experiment involved some beefy yet flavorful tomatoes my sister gave me (variety unknown), home grown banana peppers, green peppers, Carmen peppers, jalapeno peppers, Vadalia onion, garlic powder (sorry, no real garlic), kosher salt, cumin, fresh chopped cilantro, and a long squirt of ketchup for a touch of vinegar and sugar.

No proportions, just chop and eat when it tastes good!

The Nature Of Man

Alice von Hildebrand is brilliant! I watched half an hour of this video before I realized it.
She is actually very funny too. Learn Wisdom from those who are wise.

Great stuff! h/t The Q Continuum

Alice Von Hildebrand STMA Lecture from Randy Luddy on Vimeo.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Iron Horse Requires Steel Feed

All right, all right, I don't have a motorcycle OR a horse OR a train, but you can't blame a man for trying.

Wynken took one look at a guy on his bike and said, "You know, Dad, I don't think I'll ever get a motorcycle. Doesn't look safe." And while this is true, they still have that mystique about them. Built for speed, the rev of the motor, the sudden acceleration can be very exciting.

I've never had a convertible (not practical) and I barley even use the retractable moon roof built into my car, except to let the heat out. Sigh. I'm just not Harley material.

My steed went into the shop today for a routine safety inspection to renew my sticker, and I didn't get out for under 3 Benjamins. The battery decided to give up, and I would have failed safety for lack of an engine mount. What? You think if the engine is going to fall on the street that's a safety issue?

We're just trying to keep the mules running as long as possible since they're all paid for. I can overlook a lot of speed, beauty, and bells and whistles in exchange for "paid". Other stuff may be exciting or better performing, but happiness is not having to give it the "steel feed" known as cold hard cash.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Retro: 80's PSA Brain On Drugs

Feeling nostalgic.

Imperial Red

On this edition of Me and the Homebrews, WBN chronicles the Session Beers: Imperial Irish Red Ale.

Irish Red Ale. O.G. 1.0??, F.G. 1.010, ABV 5+%

Irish Draught Ale: Like Irish stouts, Irish ales are sociable session beers with a low alcohol content but substantial body. This beer pours with a deep red color and tan head over a caramel-like malt character with roasty and fruity notes. The flavors are intensified by a 5:4 ratio of wort to water.

This started out as a normal Irish Red session beer, similar to the Irish Red Draught previously. However, I wasn't paying as strict attention this time, as I was trying to demonstrate the process to one of the Homebrew members who managed to miss every other brew day so far.  As a result, we only put in 4 gallons of water in our finished wort instead of the usual 5 gallons.   Usually this is a boil technique to vary the hops utilization, but in this case it was just plain oversight.

The next day I panicked a little when fermentation didn't start. This led me to double checking the steps and counting the gallon lines on the fermenter. To my horror, we were one short. I started checking the homebrew forums for "stuck fermentation" and "not enough water".

The first result assured me that I should NOT try to add water to the wort (since we'd already pitched the yeast) for fear of contaminating the wort and losing the whole thing or making it taste watered down. The second problem resolved itself when fermentation slowly started 48 hours later. If it hadn't started, we could have pitched fresh yeast. Sometimes it takes the yeast a little bit to get started, especially if you use dry yeast and don't make a "starter" - guilty on both counts.

I'm spoiled by liquid yeast; I don't want to make any more dry yeast batches. Anyway, I let the wort sit 7 weeks and then kegged. It is carbonating now via forced CO2, but the taste is actually pretty yummy. Definitely a concentrated Irish Red, hence the designation "Imperial". If you like Imperial styles, but don't want a boatload of alcohol, then this is the one for you.

There's nothing like mistakes you can drink: bottom's up!

What's Cookin' Mama? Chicken Curry

I love to cook, because I love to eat. Mrs. Nod cooks from necessity, because the Nodlings will starve otherwise.

We got a crockpot when we first got married and it served us well. It has since been replaced which is a testament to its usefulness. Our is a Rival brand and it came with a cookbook of sample recipes. Mrs. Nod is the saving kind, so she actually refers back to it now and again in search of new recipes.

One of the crowd pleasers is Chicken Curry (we use a mild/medium curry so there are no complaints). In fact, Mrs. Nod figured out how to convert this dish into a stove top recipe for when we're in more of a hurry, so you know it's pretty yummy.  Everybody we've introduced to the dish has come away happy. Now, you try!

2 chicken breasts
21 1/2 ounces cream of chicken soup, canned
1/2 cup dry sherry
1/4 cup butter
4 green onions, chopped
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons salt
dash pepper
rice, cooked
  1. Cut the chicken into small pieces; place in slow cooker.
  2. Add remaining ingredients except for rice.
  3. Cover; cook on High 2½-4 hours or Low 6-8 hours.
  4. Serve over rice.

Get more great recipes over at Shoved To Them hosted by aka the Mom!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival #67

This week on Sunday Snippets, WBN presents: Real Life Noir.


Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival is a weekly opportunity to share your best posts with the wider Catholic blogging community.

To participate, create a post highlighting posts that would be of interest to Catholics and link to the host blog at Go to the host blog and leave a comment giving a link to your post.

Killer Tuna Kebabs

Fridays are fish days, which if you're Catholic is nothing new. What is not-so-awesome about Fish Friday is that it frequently turns into tuna fish casserole due to lack of planning. Even that can be tasty and filling, but sometimes you just want something different.

I saw this picture of Tuna Kebabs on Epicurious (photo by Con Poulos) and got inspired. I didn't really have the ingredients on hand for Ginger-Chile marinade so I did what I do best: improvise.

It has been 95 degrees for about 11 days now in DC, and I didn't want to add more heat to the house, so that meant grilling. But because it is so stinkin' hot outside I didn't want to be out there for very long. Grilled tuna steak is awesome for this, because you don't want to cook it all the way through, just sear the outside - max 5 minutes.

I quick defrosted some sashimi-grade Ahi Tuna steaks that I got from Costco in a bowl of water. Leaving it just the tiniest bit frozen on the inside made cubing it into 1.5 inch bites simple. 

Next I quick chopped some bell peppers, an onion, and some pearl mushrooms, skewered them and put them on the grill outside while I finished my preparation. I put the cubed tuna in a bowl with some basting oil (grapeseed oil, canola oil, garlic, thyme, parsley), Old Bay seasoning, and some Kosher salt. I put that on some skewers with some additional mushrooms on a hot grill until all four sides were seared.

I put that atop some 90-second Jasmine Rice in a pouch that my microwave happily took care of and - voila! I had some killer Tuna Kebabs. The basting oil (Wegmans!) and Kosher salt really made this dish sing.  Great for summer and hot days. Try it and see. Bon appetite!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mind The Rules

The USCCB is starting to get with the times. It's really trying to come to terms with this Inter-tubes thingy. Why, they even quote Wikipedia and mention Facebook! (Nobody here has ever done that ...)

This week the USCCB Office of Communications released Social Media Guidelines that “ 'church personnel' defined as anyone—priest, deacon, religious, bishop, lay employee, or volunteer — who provides ministry or service or is employed by an entity associated with the Catholic Church", should abide by.

Here is a sample Code of Conduct from the Guidelines:
“All posts and comments should be marked by Christian charity and respect for the truth. They should be on topic and presume the good will of other posters."
It's a good thing to, and none too soon, so as to relieve the confusion of the faithful. We thought the previous rules of behavior were to say: 1) You're stupid! 2) That's not Catholic! 3) You're going to Hell! Ok, maybe not, but it's wild out here on the 'Net.

Still, the Guidelines are a good thing and the Church should have 'em. I should have some too, but as I'm having trouble formulating them, we'll go with the sample Code of Conduct above.

I always have trouble with "goals" and "performance metrics" at work too. I've gotten as far as "Will wear pants every day" and then I bog down ...

Truth Challenged

We had one of those incidents that you're not supposed to talk about in polite company. The kind involving kids, body waste, and finger painting.

Uh, yeah, let's just chalk it up to a "tactile phase" and leave it at that. Suffice it to say we needed to get one of the drapes dry cleaned.

I took it to the new Zips that opened up near the house and they said they don't do draperies. So I took it where I get my shirts and pants done and dropped it off. The drapes are linen of some sort, but I've had a linen shirt dry cleaned there before with no problems.

When I got them back, Mrs. Nod hung them up and said, "We have a problem." If you look at the picture here, it's fairly obvious: the right drapes are now 4 inches shorter than they started. The lining is pulled away from the drapes and hangs exposed. The drapes aren't even creased, they've been ironed flat - and not well, because they're still wrinkled in places.

So I took this picture and confronted the dry cleaning lady. I told her these drapes have obviously been washed instead of dry cleaned, and now they're ruined. How would you react? If you're this lady, you start acting like you're at the bazaar haggling for goods.

She immediately insisted they had been dry cleaned because she saw it done herself. (She wasn't even there that morning.) I said it didn't matter since they were ruined. Then she tries to say that dry cleaning sometimes shrinks stuff. (Nope. Not buying it.)

Well, there was a big coffee stain on it, and it had to be pre-treated. Big coffee spills sometimes shrink stuff. (Are you serious? And I suppose coffee shrinks things a nice even 4" across? Besides - that's not coffee.) Well, we can maybe let them out from the top if you have a valence. (Um. No. These are ruined and I'm going to want some money to help replace them.)

Well, we have a policy that limits our liability to 10x the cost of cleaning. (Yes, I'm aware of the policy. Pay up.) Of course, we have to factor in depreciation and wear and tear and stuff. (It's not a car, they're drapes. They just hang there until you take them down. Years even.) Oh, well, since you're my good customer, I'll write you a check. (Make sure you spell my name right.)

What is it about some people that they are so truth challenged even in the face of overwhelming evidence? It truly is incomprehensible to me. I had a receipt and photographic evidence. I don't have the bargaining skills that some of my siblings have, but I do bring a couple of things to the table: deep-seated distrust of people who are trying to take my money, and a willingness to stand there embarrassing you in front of other customers for as long as it takes. My negotiating tactics include: bald faced factual statements and staring at you when you say something stupid until your ears burn with shame.

I'm more inclined to yell and gesture, but since I'm not physically imposing, I've found that a quiet menace is much more unnerving to strangers. I actually lower my voice and deliver it deadpan so that you have to lean forward to hear what I'm saying. This is good, since I don't lose my temper and don't have to go to Confession afterward.

I just want what's equitable. I got some money to replace my drapes -- not nearly enough, but some. And nobody had to get hurt - this time.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Reason #7 Why I Hate The Metro

The Washington DC Metro is a marvel of modern engineering - 1968 engineering - and it shows. Perennially underfunded, they don't have a "strategic vision", despite being the nation's second busiest transit system.

This grainy cell phone picture shows water dripping audibly in the tunnel next to the electrified third rail into a grate where the lights go. That green smear under the grate is a rather sizable plant which has volunteered to grow there for a while now. It's got everything it needs -- light, water, soil (presumably), and an inattentive Metro management.

Do you think the train is maintained any better?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Still Life With Cameraphone: Tappan Zee

I took this picture with my cellphone while crossing the Tappan Zee bridge in New York. I don't recommend trying this while driving. Still, it looks pretty cool even at low res.

Apples And Mushrooms

It makes for an interesting collection, but I can't figure out why the neighbor carefully mowed around these toadstools and didn't remove them.

The bough of the apple tree makes a nice frame for the mushrooms, don't you think? The neighbor's behavior is weird, I can't help that.

Incidentally, the haze in the picture is due to the instant condensation on the lens when I took the camera from the cold, dry inside air to the hot, muggy outside air. I figured it wasn't worth a second shot.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Everybody Loves Free Stuff

They say there's no such thing as a free lunch. Maybe not, but you could win free money.

Aka the Mom over at Shoved To Them is raffling off an $80 gift certificate to Then you could buy your own free lunch, or lunch maker. Something for the house or the yard? Clothes to wear, or maybe a really cool beer sign. Whatever is your fancy, you could just get it.

Your chance to win is one short comment away on her blog. That's it. Cool, huh? For two chances, you could blog about it yourself. For three chances you could sign up as a follower of the blog (after you followed mine of course.)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Vertigo: Real Life Noir - Part 2

It had just begun to rain, figuratively speaking. I was contemplating easy street with my brother when Mom called from out of town to say that Dad had been taken to the hospital.

Saturday, 11:40 PM. My brother and I were driving just the other side of legal towards the Emergency Room. I punched up information on my cell phone and got connected to the HealthPlex. Someone had waived enough of the HIIPA privacy rules by this time because they were willing to talk to me. Yes, my father had been brought in, did I want to speak to the doctor or the nurse? I don't care which. "Hello? Doctor? What happened?!"

"Your father was brought in complaining of severe dizziness - vertigo, we call it - and uncontrolled vomiting." Thank you God, it's not a heart attack, I thought. "His blood pressure is elevated, but he's stable and we're running some checks." Oh, oh. Dad has amazingly low blood pressure normally. I called mom in St. Louis to tell her what I had found out. A couple of minutes later we were there.

Saturday, 11:52 PM. The chatty nurse at the reception desk waved us through to the examination room breezily. We rounded the corner and came face to face with ... the neighbors. They are an older couple who live next door. Nice folk, and well meaning, but they can be a little too up close and personal from time to time. Excitable and talkative, and as likely to give misinformation as good - not what we want right now. Mom had said to keep them away from Dad because he didn't need the stimulus. Still, they had done us a service, and I was grateful.

We ducked behind the flimsy curtain that masquerades as privacy screens in every Emergency Room in the country. We let Dad know we were there, and he acknowledged us weakly. Seeing no imminent danger I ducked back out and shuffled the neighbors off with profuse thanks. They told me what they knew which wasn't much, but they took their time doing it.

Sunday 12:03 AM. Dad didn't look so hot. He was pale and had his eyes screwed shut to keep the dizziness at bay. They had given him an anti-nausea medicine and it was starting to take effect which was good. Then there was the smell. When someone empties their stomach onto their shoes it's not exactly a bed of roses. I tried not to think about that.

Dad was conscious and lucid, but he looked like someone who just had a very Bad Day. My brother and I helped to answer the doctor's questions about past history and what medicines Dad took.

Between waves of nausea we pieced together the story. Dad had been at the house all day. In the afternoon, despite the heat he had taken a walk and then a shower. He said he felt fine. He ate dinner at the house and then went out for ice cream. Milwaukee's Frozen Custard to be exact. He returned to the house and was watching the television when he began to grow dizzy and have trouble focusing. It grew progressively worse and Dad knew he was about to lose his lunch, dinner, and that great Milwaukee's Frozen Custard to boot. Realizing it would be bad if he passed out alone, he managed to call 911. The neighbors saw the flashing lights of the emergency vehicles and called my mother.

That's where we came in to the story.

Sunday 1:15 AM. The doctors did their doctor thing and we tried to stay out of the way and stay in the loop. Blood work, EKG, CAT scans. Fluid in the ear. Elevated heart rate. Obvious vertigo and nausea. We talked to Dad and tried to be a comforting presence and his advocate with the doctors. The ER doc stepped out to consult with the family doctor. I stood there and eavesdropped, not caring if he noticed me or not. "... like to transfer him to the full hospital ... need to run some neurological scans, MRI ... possible constriction of vessels to the brain ... vaso-vagal nerves ...". I wasn't liking the sound of that.

The doctor came back in and told us the same story. He said it was going to take another hour or two before they could get him transferred. He left to make the arrangements with the hospital and I updated Mom on the phone in my most reassuring voice.

My brother and I did rock, scissors, paper to see who would go back to the house to clean up the mess and get Dad a fresh change and some supplies. Actually, I cheated and gave him the job while I waited with Dad. I owe you one.

3:10 AM. I waited around and kept Dad company. It was good to see that although he felt like the business end of a can of Alpo, he hadn't lost his sense of humor. By that time the meds and the hour were taking their toll and he fell in and out of a fitful sleep.

There was a patient on the other side of the privacy curtain in the next bay. His salad days were clearly behind him, but he looked as if he were clinging pretty hard to the memory. He kept trying to chat me up but I wasn't interested. He also had a certain lack of inhibition because he discussed his intimate medical condition at a volume that half the ER could hear, our flimsy curtain notwithstanding. At another time, I would have been amused.

The paramedics finally came and there was more paperwork to fill out. They juiced Dad again with the anti-vert for the ride to the hospital and it was good night sunshine. Apparently, nobody puts shock absorbers on ambulances or else they drive with square wheels, because it's not what anybody would call a comfortable ride - certainly not like a car.

3:30 AM. I followed the ambulance to the main hospital 20 minutes down the road. They brought him in through the emergency doors, while I checked in at the desk. I had called my brother and he met us back at the hospital. We got Dad settled in a room of his own and answered more questions, filled out more paperwork, did the insurance. There was some question whether radiology was open for business on Sunday, but it was going to have to wait for morning in any case. I didn't know entire departments could take the day off in a hospital.

4:30 AM. There was nothing more to be done at that hour so I returned to the house while my brother sacked out on the hospital floor. Mom got her flight rearranged for Sunday afternoon and planned to make a beeline for the hospital from the airport.

Sunday 8:30 AM. My brother called our other brother who had just returned from his own weekend trip with the youth group and gave him the low down. They exchanged places for the day shift.

10:00 AM. I wanted the monkey with the hammer to stop pounding on my brain. Daylight filtered in the window. I was not amused. A Nodling came calling up the stairs. I handed her to her mother and mumbled something incoherent.

1:00 PM. I called the hospital to find out what I had missed. Our doctor had been to see Dad, and gave him a complete work up. Thankfully, our worst fears had not been realized. Turns out the culprit was a particularly nasty viral ear infection. It had been making the rounds and was known to be particularly debilitating including the vertigo and vomiting. They gave him the work up with the MRI just to be sure, and it came back clean.

3:00 PM. I headed over to my parents house and collected some necessary items. All the family members had gotten the updates and were breathing easier.

5:30 PM. Mom was wheels-down from the airport and at Dad's side at the hospital. Meanwhile, we couldn't get any response from the hospital Chaplain service, (would we like the Baptists?) so my brother called in a favor from his priest buddy.

7:30 PM. Father drives 40 minutes from whatever he was doing and gives Communion to Mom and Dad in the hospital and the Anointing of the Sick to Dad. Father calls St. V's and reads them the riot act for missing the sick calls. St. V's was very apologetic, the phone got turned off by mistake. Their ears are a little blistered now. I love a good Catholic priest.

Monday 12:30 PM. Mom calls to say that they've released Dad from the hospital after getting the all clear from radiology. It's going to take a few days for the virus to clear Dad's system, so in the meantime he's got some wonderful drugs to take his mind off the problem. They're tired and going to get some much needed sleep.

The good news is Dad's going to be okay. Thanks to all who prayed and supported us. We're all a little tired, and a lot more appreciative of the good things that God has given us.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Vertigo: Real Life Noir

It was a dark and stormy night. The only catch was, it wasn't raining - at least not yet.

My brother and I had just sat down to chew the fat. Guy stuff. Bull sessions they call 'em. A chance to sit around and just be a man, no questions asked, no pardon required. The end of the week and a chance to put your feet up and blow off some steam that accumulates in our work-a-day lives.

Saturday, 10:17 P.M. The wife and kids were all abed and everything was right with the world for the next 8 hours until the sun came up.

10:30 P.M. My brother and I had just finished admiring the legs on that Irish Red, when the first call came in. My brother took the call. It was a domestic disturbance. Personal. "I'll take it out there", he mouthed moving towards the door. He stopped halfway through the motion, and thinking better of it, took the Irish Red with him.

I was in no hurry, so I prayed the appropriate Hour of the Divine Office, checked emails, and pecked out an entry on my blog using that new gadget I picked up two weeks ago. I poured a second glass and admired the color.

11:00 P.M. The phone rang again. I looked at the Caller ID and saw that it was Mom. My senses went on high alert: Mom never calls this late. I occasionally forget and call late, but I'm her son; Moms have more sense. Mom was out of town this weekend, so this was two strikes on the Spider Sense.

I played it cool. "Hi, Mom. What's up?". She sounded a little agitated. "The neighbor called to say there's an ambulance at the house, and I can't find your Dad. The emergency crew isn't giving out any information. I may need you to stand by. I'll call you right back."

"Sure, Mom." She hung up. I looked appreciatively at the Irish Red, but decided I'd better hold off. I waited.

11:09 P.M. My brother returned and helped himself to another slab of stinky cheese that smelled like used wool socks on a hot summer day. I was just about to tell him about Mom when the phone interrupted for a third time. It was she. I turned the speaker on so my brother could hear. "... took your father to the Emergency HealthPlex. I can't get anyone to say what happened or confirm it's him." It figures. HIIPA health rules forbid releasing any patient information without specific consent. "They did say they have an ambulance inbound in twenty minutes, but won't say who's onboard."

"Don't worry, we're on it, Mom. We can be there in 3o minutes and we'll call you as soon as we know something." I grab our gear and we rush off in the car. If Dad's not answering the phone and the neighbors are reporting flashing lights and ambulances outside the house, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to put 2 and 2 together.

I began to pray.

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival #66

This week on Sunday Snippets, WBN presents: Sights, Sounds, Prayer, and the MetaGame.


Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival is a weekly opportunity to share your best posts with the wider Catholic blogging community. To participate, create a post highlighting posts that would be of interest to Catholics and link to the host blog at Go to the host blog and leave a comment giving a link to your post.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Overheard In My House

Like any red blooded male, I like guy stuff. This extends to the foods I enjoy as well. While I can appreciate a well cooked dish, subtlety of spices, and the like, sometimes you just want a cold beer and a stinky cheese.

When evaluating wine or beer, one of the characteristics is its viscosity, which can be expressed in terms of "body" and "legs" ( how well it clings to the side of the glass ).

My brother and I were admiring our latest batch of newly improved homebrew, the Irish Red Draught Ale, and I remarked that it had good body and decent legs. I then unwrapped a soft cheese called Tome Chayuse. My brother caught one whiff of this pungent cheese and exclaimed, "Whew! It smells like feet!"

Since we have beer with legs, and cheese with feet, we'd better stay right here and make sure it doesn't go anywhere!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Reflections On The MetaGame

Sam Landstrom published his novel, MetaGame, in 2009. I read it because I'm a SciFi geek, and frankly, because it was free.

They say you should write what you know. Sam's bio says he enjoys molecular biology, programming, D&D, water sports, and snowboarding. Sam has written a novel about molecular biology, programming, D&D, and water sports. To be fair to Sam, however, there is nothing in the book about snowboarding.

The story has a fairly predictable story arc of love and redemption. Although it would be more accurate to say "purity of purpose, clarity of mind, and an altruistic intent".

As for redemption, it has a completely different meaning. The book borrows heavily from Christian symbols but imbues them with completely different and secularized meanings: angels are law enforcers, demons are those who break the Rules. Love and responsibility are divorced, actions and morality aren't even speaking to each other. Everyone is caught up in trying to score points in the Game which is the social, economic, and religious engine of this centralized economy.

God doesn't really exist in this world, but there is an OverSoul.
"[T]he OverSoul was indeed inspired by Christianity. Hardly surprising since it was the most widespread religion before The OverSoul."

"[T]he nature of the OverSoul, she is not actually a single being, but a collection of billions of agents, ourselves included.”

"Pillars of Godhead: power over life and death, effective rulership, prayer fulfillment, Omnipotent knowledge, the ability to learn.

“Because change is a constant. Even if, theoretically, a mind could be made perfect for the conditions of today, sooner or later even God would need to change.”

"The OverSoul needs human beings to teach her [using] intentions derived from love.”

“Yes, and there she mimics Christianity again—‘God is Love’—perhaps the core belief of Christianity. And although it may not yet be possible for the OverSoul to directly experience love as humanity thinks of it, she can detect such love in her subjects’ brain signature ... purity of purpose, clarity of mind, and an altruistic intent.”
There are several common fallacies and syncretisms contained in this philosophy as laid out. We will content ourselves with a short list of places and ideas that got borrowed.
The book does bring up a few good questions: what is the nature of God? of reality? of love and sacrifice? of redemption and eternal life? what makes us human? What is doesn't do a good job at is answering those questions.

God is love. That part is correct. Love is "purity of purpose, clarity of mind, and an altruistic intent" -- not so much; try "Love is complete self-donation", see 1 Corinthians 13:4.

God needs to evolve, learn, and to be taught by us? Nope. Try: God is a dynamic unity of persons (Trinity), yet there is no shadow of change in Him. "All good giving and every perfect gift 9 is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change." James 1:17. God is the totality of existence of reality, the only necessary being - it is we who are contingent on Him.

And so on.

Conclusion: Interesting book, somewhat predictable, but falls flat in its conclusions. Religion and SciFi/Fantasy don't mix especially well due to the shallowness of the authors.

The only one who has ever pulled this off successfully is Tolkien, and to a lesser extent C.S. Lewis. My advice is read them instead.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Irish Red Draught: Update

On this edition of Me and the Homebrews, WBN chronicles the Session Beers: Irish Red Draught Ale.

Irish Draught Ale. O.G. 1.038, F.G. 1.10, ABV 5%

Irish Draught Ale: Like Irish stouts, Irish ales are sociable session beers with a low alcohol content but substantial body. This beer pours with a deep red color and tan head over a caramel-like malt character with roasty and fruity notes. As a bow to Ireland's meadmaking past, clover honey lightens the body and boosts the gravity of this recipe, while a small dose of oats adds creaminess to the mouthfeel and a hint of grain to the flavor.

Last time we left our hero:
"But there is a bitterness on the tip of the tongue that isn't due to hops - and this is bugging me, since I was trying so hard to get it right this time. ... I may let it sit in the keg a bit longer to see if it will smooth out with additional aging."

Good news. I left the beer in the keg with the CO2 on for the last 2-3 weeks and came back to it. Now, suddenly that bitter taste is no longer present. The CO2 is much better dissolved into the beer and the taste has smoothed out greatly. The maltiness is now more prominent like an ale should be.

The Irish Red Draught now tastes exactly like it should: an easy drinking session beer with great color and body, and a tastiness that just slides down.

I've heard the advice before to let your beer age past the minimum time, but I've always been in too much of a hurry to drink it. Apparently it makes a big difference with homebrew.

The Power Of Night Prayer

The Nodlings were a little wild when they came home from the pool last evening and we had trouble settling them down. They were supposed to be tired out and ready to go to sleep.

Finally I pulled out my Divine Office and began Compline, or Night Prayer. I made it to the end and then sang the Salve Regina. The Nodlings became silent until one of them said, "Whoa, that was beautiful." Then they all quietly trickled off to bed without further complaint.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Northern Mass

This past week we took the whole Nod clan up north to Massachusetts for my sister's wedding and a family vacation. In the middle of Cape Cod is the town of Osterville where there stands a modest little Catholic church, Our Lady of the Assumption.

I must confess to having some assumptions of my own prior to going up there. We actually live in the Arlington Diocese which is fairly conservative. My neighbor is from Massachusetts and she regularly regales me with tales of its liberality. Combine this with reports of strange liturgical abuses from the Northeast, and I have to admit to being nervous about going up there for Mass.

"Form and matter. Form and matter.", I kept muttering to myself. All we need is a priest with correct intention to say, "This is my body" over a simple wheat host and we have a properly confected Eucharist. Everything else is of lesser account, although I pray fervently not to be subjected to liturgical dancing or Wonder bread.

I don't insist on Latin only, or the extraordinary form; I don't demand organ only music, or exclusively male altar servers. I won't refuse Eucharist from an extraordinary minister who is not a priest, and I won't pitch a fit in public if people hold hands during the Our Father. I certainly have my preferences, but other than following the rubrics of Mass, most of these things are not my responsibility -- those are on the various priests and bishops.

So I was pleasantly proved wrong at Our Lady of the Assumption. (Hey, I can admit I was wrong.) The church itself has a semi-classical architecture, although I couldn't tell you what specifically. (Ask Denis McNamara, he might know.)

There is a large crucifix in the center over the altar, and a tabernacle prominently displayed. It has cute little confessionals on each side of the church with a draw curtain for privacy. One side is face to face, the other is a traditional little wooden kneeler - so little, in fact, that I slipped off it when I knelt down and made a big noise. The priest chuckled at me a little. "Maybe you should have chosen the chair."

It is simply and tastefully decorated and populated mostly by a bunch of gray-hairs. They have holy hours for vocations, a "Deus Caritas Est" Study Group to study the Pope's encyclical, and have even had a Eucharistic procession.

My only complaint is fairly minor. Some priests, like this one, have a penchant for giving an overview before the Gospel and readings are read. Rubrics aside, I find it slightly annoying and a bit tell-them-what-you're-going-to-tell-them, tell-them, tell-them-what-you-told-them Army style. To be fair, I've seen this in my own Diocese once or twice.

The most important thing is that Jesus was there. Simply, wholly, eternally. The priest absolved sins compassionately, Mass was celebrated reverently, and a wedding was performed validly. What more could you ask?

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival #65

This week on Sunday Snippets, WBN presents: Weddings and other Chaos.

The past two weeks were dominated by my sister's wedding. Here follows some highlights from the preparation, trip, and event.

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival
is a weekly opportunity to share your best posts with the wider Catholic blogging community. To participate, create a post highlighting posts that would be of interest to Catholics and link to the host blog at Go to the host blog and leave a comment giving a link to your post.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Props For DUIB

Joe at Defend Us In Battle has recently linked WBN on the sidebar as part of the Army of the Faith - thanks, Joe!

If you haven't seen it recently, check out the newly re-designed blog. (Awesome masthead!) It looks great and Joe is doing a mighty good work there. Stop on by and give him a little bump in numbers.

Friday, July 9, 2010


Congratulations to my Sister and her husband on their recent wedding! You guys make a great couple, and you looked beautiful, Sis.

Vacation Home

For our vacation on the occasion of my sister's wedding we all stayed at this cute little Cape Cod house -- IF by little you mean a 6,000 sq ft mansion.

The bedrooms were large enough to fit entire branches of the Nod clan in them. We fit two queen size beds, two cribs, a sleeping bag and bedroll, 5 suitcases, and 7 totes into ours and still had room to walk around.

My brother fit his 5 into another bedroom. The one over the 3-car garage holds another 6 beds. The master suite has its own bed, bath, and sitting room. The side porch features a fenced outdoor shower to get off all the sand from the beach. The back porch has 3 seating areas. The living room, dining room, family room, and kitchen were all correspondingly huge.

Maybe we should trade the owner of that house for our modest little abode. Any house that can swallow 25 people without blinking is dying to have Nods in it. Then again, who wants to clean that monstrosity?

That's the kind of place that's nice to visit, but there's no place like home.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Vacations Are Not Relaxing

We slave away at our jobs, scrimp and save all year to go on that one or sometimes two week vacation. This is our chance to "get away from it all", to relax, travel, visit relatives, or just sit on the beach.

A lot of the time, we return more tired than when we left. Many times I've heard people say they need a vacation to recover from their vacation, or how glad they were to be back at work so they could get some rest. What happened to our relaxing vacation?

Travel. Travel is by far the biggest fatigue inducer. Whether you go by plane, train, or automobile, it generally involves sitting in a cramped position for a number of hours. Anyone who has ever thrown out his back will tell you that sitting is far more difficult than standing or lying down, since it puts all the weight on your tailbone. To combat this, break up your trip into manageable pieces that allow you to walk, stretch, or take a break from concentrating. Add a day on the end of your trip to rest at home and get back into your normal routine.

Sleep. Generally, on vacation you don't sleep well. Whether it is due to being in a strange bed that is harder or softer than your own, staying up later to visit with friends or relatives, or dealing with a new environment, sleep is one of the main casualties on vacation. Bringing your own pillows on vacation can help, as can that extra day at home on the end to sleep in your own bed.

Fun. Let's face it, we go on vacation to have fun. But fun has its price, and many of us overdo it in order to maximize our time away from home and work. Children are especially prone to overdosing on fun and excitement, because they don't know when to stop. They go full tilt until they drop from exhaustion. It's a good idea to schedule in some quiet or unstructured time during your vacation to spread out the fun. Having activity after activity is fun, but also taxing on mind and body.

Prayer. Did you take a vacation from God? Strangely, many of us forget to pray when we go away. The change in schedule has a lot to do with it, since we are taken out of our normal daily patterns. It takes a bit more effort to ensure God is included in our fun and vacations, but it should be normal and natural - and refreshing. We always pray for a safe journey before we leave the house, make sure there is a Church with Mass times where we are going, pray at all meals, and attempt morning and evening prayer from the Divine Office. The Nodlings like to take turns reading paragraphs from the Psalms when I can get them to sit still long enough.

Children. Kids are full tilt on vacation, which means that you as a parent on still "on". There is no vacation from kids, just parenting in a different location. If you have small children this can be a little stressful as you figure out how to keep them safe from hazards in this new location. I am forever counting heads as we go from place to place to make sure no one got accidentally left behind. Roping in aunts, uncles, and grandparents helps out here since they can "spell" you or at least help even out the adult/child ratio around things like boats, parking lots, cliffs, and Aunt Mabel's china dishes.

Don't get me wrong, I think vacations are wonderful. They provide a needed break from our work-a-day lives. They are opportunities for new and great experiences, time with our relatives, and a host of other things. But they are also there for contrast: after an exciting week of food, fun, and travel, it is a physical and psychological relief to come back to the familiar Home Sweet Home.


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