Wednesday, December 31, 2008

6th Day of Christmas

On the 6th Day of Christmas ... Wynken learned to ride a bike. Yes, I know it sounds like I already said that, but I didn't. I said Blynken learned to ride a bike. Now it was Wynken's turn. He's tried on and off before, though mostly off.

We bought a bigger bike last year plus some extra-long training wheels, that didn't amount to much. This year, I ripped the training wheels off and made him practice on the little bike to build confidence (he could put his feet flat on the ground). After half an hour of that, we moved up to the big bike and the street. I provided some push and just a little balance, and he did just fine! Steering and braking need some help, and there were one or two crashes, but they were on grass so no big deal.

Wynken needed a lot more encouragement and a few minor threats to get him outside and on that bike, but I think he felt really, really good at how much success he actually had. We're gonna build on that.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Overheard In My House


Actually, we hear that a lot in my house. The cool part is it now comes from my one year old, Nib.

She is oh-so-cute. It used to come out "me-me", now it comes out "Mom-my".

The not so cool part is that she says it for anything and everything she wants. Right now, that's anything she can see. So we're treated to an unending litany of "Mom-my. Mom-my." It's a bit like having your very own truck back-up sound: Beep! Beep! Mom-my! Mom-my!

5th Day of Christmas

On the 5th Day of Christmas ... Blynken learned to ride a bike.

Well, ok , she started to learn to ride the bike (sans training wheels). She kept at it for more than an hour, even when the rest of us quit our outside activities. She actually got pretty good at it, kept her balance, pedaled, worked on steering, and starting from a standstill -- (that braking thing could use some help).

The main point is: she kept trying. Perseverance is something I've tried and tried to teach my kids, but always seems to fall on deaf ears. (I know, I know, I just need to persevere.)

And what do you know, she said it was fun.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

4th Day of Christmas

On the 4th Day of Christmas ...

We went to Mass and watched the Redskins' football season officially end.

I guess both religious obligations are now fulfilled.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Easy Bake Love

On the 3rd day of Christmas my true love gave to me ... an Easy Bake oven and some sugar cookies.

In a North American rite of passage for little girls, Blynken got her first Easy Bake oven. She patiently waited until after all the day's activities and until after dinner.

Then dear old Dad screwed in the requisite 100W light bulb (not Soft White! not Long Life!) in the Easy Bake oven and we pre-heated it for 15 minutes. We carefully opened the package of prepared sugar cookie mix and added 3/4 tsp. of water (using her brand new measuring cups and spoons, I might add) to make dough.

We rolled out the dough in two batches - one chocolate, one plain - and used the cookie cutter to make little hearts in the center; we switched the vanilla heart into the chocolate cookie and the chocolate heart into the vanilla cookie for nice effect.

Blynken put the cookies in the tins and baked the cookies in her Easy Bake oven and shared them with Wynken, Mrs. Nod, and Nod-girl.
"Dad, is it okay if you don't get a cookie? There are only four of them."
(Hmm, I do all the work and Mom gets the cookie?) Yes, it's quite OK, I like to lick the bowl better anyway.

You never saw a girl more contented; she's just thrilled being a girl and doing girlie things. She even cleaned up afterward. Then she turns to me and says:
"Dad, I just love baking with you."
Aw, who needs a cookie anyhow?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Borge, my Borge

Enjoy this little bit of hilarity from the master of comedy: Victor Borge.

Inflationary Language

Phonetic Punctuation

EU, you again?

Found this little article over at Spiegel Online talking about the "Irish problem":
Brussels Invents Trick to Get Irish to Vote Again

Brussels has come up with a new trick aimed at getting Ireland to hold a second referendum on a failed EU treaty. It would like to make concessions to Dublin guaranteeing it the right to determine its own taxation, abortion laws and neutrality -- and to codify those rights as part of Croatia's membership deal.
So it's not just me thinking that the pro-life Irish laws are a major obstacle to the EU supranationalism. Stick to your guns, boys. Make 'em recognize the dignity of human life in writing; challenge the notion of laïcité presupposed by the architects of the new Europe.

St. Thomas Aquinas long ago baptized Aristotle in showing the true relation between faith and reason; why do the EUdomites insist on reinventing the schism? Once upon a time, the Irish saved civilization; possibly they may do it again.

12 Days of Christmas

Re-post from
Catholics in England during the period 1558 to 1829 were prohibited by law to practice their faith either in public or private. It was illegal to be Catholic until Parliament finally emancipated Catholics in England in 1829.

"The Twelve Days of Christmas" was written in England as one of the "catechism songs" to help young Catholics learn the basics of their faith. In short, it was a coded-message, a memory aid. Since the song sounded like rhyming nonsense, young Catholics could sing the song without fear of imprisonment. The authorities would not know that it was a religious song.

"The 12 Days of Christmas" is in a sense an allegory. Each of the items in the song represents something significant to the teachings of the Catholic faith. The hidden meaning of each gift was designed to help Catholic children learn their faith. The better acquainted one is with the Bible, the more these interpretations have significance.

The song goes, "On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…"

The "true love" mentioned in the song doesn’t refer to an earthly suitor, but it refers to God Himself. The "me" who receives the presents refers to every baptized person. i.e. the Church.

1st Day: The partridge in a pear tree is Christ Jesus upon the Cross. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge because she would feign injury to decoy a predator away from her nestlings. She was even willing to die for them.
The tree is the symbol of the fall of the human race through the sin of Adam and Eve. It is also the symbol of its redemption by Jesus Christ on the tree of the Cross.
2nd Day: The "two turtle doves" refers to the Old and New Testaments.
3rd Day: The "three French hens" stand for faith, hope and love—the three gifts of the Spirit that abide (1 Corinthians 13).
4th Day: The "four calling birds" refers to the four evangelists who wrote the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—which sing the song of salvation through Jesus Christ.
5th Day: The "five golden rings" represents the first five books of the Bible, also called the Jewish Torah: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
6th Day: The "six geese a-laying" is the six days of creation.
7th Day: The "seven swans a-swimming" refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.
8th Day: The "eight maids a milking " reminded children of the eight beatitudes listed in the Sermon on the Mount.
9th Day: The "nine ladies dancing" were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.
10th Day: The "ten lords a-leaping" represents the Ten Commandments
11th Day: The "eleven pipers piping" refers to the eleven faithful apostles.
12th Day: The ‘twelve drummers drumming" were the twelve points of belief expressed in the Apostles’ Creed: belief in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, that Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, made man, crucified, died and arose on the third day, that he sits at the right hand of the father and will come again, the resurrection of the dead and life everlasting.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Unto Us a Child Is Born

“Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Lk 2:1-14

Adoramus Te Domine

I came, not knowing my need.

He was there; he had been waiting the whole time.

I had intended to stop but a moment but his presence held me.

I felt anxious and rushed, caught up in my own affairs, my own timetable. His peace transfixed me, quieted my soul.

I got on my knees, and I worshiped Him.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Waiting For Godot, or Anybody

It's late and I'm stuck waiting; the hour is late, but not enough for sleep. It's not yet Christmas, only Advent: a classic anticipation. The new job is accepted, but not able to be started.

So we wait, as if for Godot, wondering what it all means, or if it has any meaning.
Estragon peers out into the audience and comments on the bleakness of his surroundings. He wants to depart but is told that they cannot because they must wait for Godot. The pair cannot agree, however, on whether or not they are in the right place or that this is the arranged day for their meeting with Godot; indeed, they are not even sure what day it is. Throughout the play, experienced time is attenuated, fractured or eerily non-existent.[7] The only thing that they are fairly sure about is that they are to meet at a tree: there is one nearby.

In our culture, only instant gratification is rewarded; having to wait, developing patience, long-suffering, trust in the Divine Providence are all things that are looked down upon or discouraged. Only the slow, stupid, or poorly connected have to wait; the clever and the powerful can leverage their own way out.

The Christian knows in his heart that God is most powerfully alive, carefully attendant to his every need (Mt 6:27), and is able to bring good out of suffering (Job). So in these final days of Advent, remember the admonishment of Paul (Rom 8:18): "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us."

Father knows best. Really.

Botnets Watch the IT Department

From as back as far as 2002:

Slashdot | Distributed, Low-Intensity Botnets
Actually botnets watch the IT department.

Is this really a surprise ? Not every hacker is a 10 year old that does it for the kick of announcing himself "master of the network".

These days you write a virus, that stays in the back-back-background (exe injection is one hell of a rootkit-like trick that not a single antivirus vendor detects : you startup. You find some dameon process that's sure as hell not going to get terminated any time soon (on winxp you can actually use the "idle" process), you "debug" the process, insert your own code in it's memory, in a freshly allocated piece, use the debugger to jump into your code, which creates a new thread in it's address space. You clean up, and voila, you'd have to be one hell of an admin to realise what happens on boot. You could even infect svchost.exe on disk).

The hacking programs stay very, very, very low key and use covert channels to send information out, and receive answers. (e.g. user logs in with username password -> daemon looks up aes('$username,$password').some.domain.attacker.owns. The remote dns server is what informs the attacker of the username and password. Or have the webbrowser startup in a hidden window going to ""+aes('$username,$password'). You get the idea.

In these days of youtube, myspace and such, such a lookup is not exactly a strange occurance (though I use a "question and answers" site), and used sparingly, will evade any detection system.

Use the enemy's tools against him. Use the webbrowser to connect to the web. Use DNS. Use email. Use ... never try to open an outside connection.

Works wonders. 3 years now, and still not discovered.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

You Love Me

As an exercise, I decided to take my entire iTunes collection and analyze it for word frequency.

The thought was that the names of the songs that I like may reveal some deep insight into my personality or into the personalities of the artists that I like.

After adjusting for articles and prepositions I found a definite trend.

The results are true: there is a message in all that noise -- You Love Me.

Incidentally, the least favorite word? Abba.


If your kids are arguing over who gets to read the Bible in bed -- is that good or bad? :-)

News Flash: People Are Created Good

Just a quick post to note what should be obvious: the Catholic Church teaches respect for the dignity of all people, including embryos.

The CDF's release of the instruction Dignitatis Personae (On the Dignity of Persons on Certain Bioethical Questions) on December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (read conception of Mary for you non-Catholics), is surely significant. Or as Dr. Seuss said in Horton Hears a Who: "A person's a person, no matter how small".

Quick read: IVF -- bad, ESCR -- bad, contraception -- bad; tinkering with the genetic code -- dicey at best; conceiving babies the old fashioned way -- good, respecting sex and persons -- good.

Is this news to anyone who knows thing #1 about Catholicism?

Blair Ne'er Well

John Speaton, SPUC director, comments over at his blog on the seeming emptiness of Former UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair's conversion to Catholicism.
Tony Blair (pictured) has now teamed up with one of Canada's best-known pro-abortion figures. Belinda Stronach (also pictured), a prominent businesswoman and former MP, has joined her foundation with Mr Blair's Faith Foundation in order to promote the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The British government under Tony Blair interpreted the MDGs as including a universal right to abortion on demand. When an MP, Belinda Stronach said that women's groups should only receive government funding if they are pro-abortion. The Blair-Stronach partnership will also promote the Faith Acts Fellowship, which the Tony Blair Faith Foundation runs in partnership with the InterFaith Youth Core. The InterFaith Youth Core is bankrolled by major pro-abortion foundations.
The obvious question is: why convert? If you don't subscribe to all that the Catholic Church teaches, why would you willingly put yourself in a compromising position? It seems odd. Yes, I've heard of people who were still working on "issues" even after their conversion, but wouldn't you want to "work it all out" first?

Another curious trend with public figures who have taken "Conservative" social positions: a number of their wives have taken more liberal positions, sometimes quietly, sometimes not so quietly. Offered as evidence: Laura Bush on Roe v. Wade, Nancy Reagan and embryonic stem cell research, and a bit notoriously Cherie Blair and Planned Parenthood (ok, this article seems to indicate that she's not so far off from Tony, just from what you'd expect from a Catholic).

This pseudo-religiosity stands in marked contrast to the constitutional crisis provoked by the Grand Duke of Luxembourg who was recently stripped of his last remaining law making power by that country's Parliament over his refusal to sign a bill legalizing euthanasia.

Blair's conversion to Catholicism in this context seems to be more of a formalization of a modus vivendi since he has been attending services with his wife, Cherie, (who was born a Catholic) for several years. There does not appear to be much conviction behind it, since both he and his wife have publicly advocated for positions contrary to Church teaching, notably abortion, birth control, and homosexuality.

Blair is not completely devoid of faith, however; note published reports of the "importance" of his faith and ethics guiding his political life. He's just not very public about that faith (partly to avoid the label of being a "nutter"). So the guy does believe in God, does have an active faith life, and is involved in "faith-based initiatives" (as we would say in this country); but from this side of the pond it just seems a bit vacuous and not particularly Catholic.

The Blair Faith Foundation seeks to promote the Faith Acts Fellowship along with the InterFaith Youth Core, etc. which all strive to achieve "consensus" in a "neutral" environment to discuss "faith" and "common ground". Now I'm all for inter-religious dialog and consensus, etc., but politicians and religion are uneasy bedfellows these days and so what you usually end up with is a meaningless soup that is vaguely spiritual and not much else.

Fare thee well, Blair, but I'm afraid that you may be a ne'er-Blair-well.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Triple Delight

On my recent trip to Denver I hit the Triple Delight: BJ's Brewhouse, the Wynkoop Brewing Company (Denver's first brew pub), and the Coors Brewery Tour.

I have made a small pastime of drinking craft beers and collecting the accompanying pint glasses. If you're ever in Denver, try BJ's Jeremiah Red Irish Ale, it's worth the trip! Zowee! The rest of their current crop of beer, although tasty, tended towards the hoppy end of the scale. Even the nut brown ale was unusually hopped; not something you'd expect.

The Wynkoop Brewing Company had the largest selection of truly tasty craft beers. The only downside is that they had virtually no interesting pint glasses to take home. The logos for the individual beers were all collector-worthy, so this was a true disappointment. Mrs. Nod, whose cupboard is now full, was not so disappointed.
The Wynkoop, located in lower downtown (LoDo) is billed as Denver's first brew pub. The place is enormous -- three stories -- with a a comedy improv club in the basement and billiards on the top floor.

The Coors brewery tour in Golden, CO was both free and fun. I'm not normally a Coors-brand drinker, but I found out that they do make both Killian's Irish Red (a favorite from the past) and Blue Moon Belgian style White Ale (a current favorite). That, and the opportunity to drink beer that has never left the factory was too much to resist. Good cold, cold beer. At the end of the self-guided tour of the brewery you get 3 samples of any kind of beer in their lounge area. Yum.

Nib's Got Teeth

My little Nib is slowly but surely making her way into her one-hood. People may talk about one-ness, but in this case it's not unitive so much as descriptive: the girl is one year old. I mean, she's been one for a while now, but it's not over yet, right?

Long story short, she had five or six teeth for a good long time. Now, after a quick trip to Denver -- Boom! -- she popped out another lateral incisor and a couple of of bi-cuspids (one-year molars).

Since I am the official tooth counter in the family, I am officially taking note.

What I had forgotten however, is how cranky teething kids are. (You'd think I'd be accustomed to it by now.) Short nights, fitful sleeping, fever. The girl who wouldn't be caught dead putting anything, much less food, in her mouth, now picks up anything from the floor and puts it in her mouth.

Nib still breast feeds some, but Mrs. Nod just keeps giving her the eye. "If she bites me, she's cut off." Not that I blame her, those suckers are sharp.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Overheard In My House

"That's part of the brown food group: steak, gravy, potatoes, and beer."

and this food group:

"The 3 G's: greasy, grimy, and good tasting."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Senate Seat: For Sale

The Tribune reports that Illinois Rod Governor Blagojevich was arrested on federal charges of corruption. Specifically, Governor Blagojevich was arrested for attempting to "sell" Obama's empty Senate seat.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, were arrested today by FBI agents for what U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald called a "staggering" level of corruption involving pay-to-play politics in Illinois' top office.

Blagojevich is accused of a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy, including alleged attempts by the governor to try to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama in exchange for financial benefits for the governor and his wife. Blagojevich also is accused of obtaining campaign contributions in exchange for other official actions.

My comment is: another corrupt Chicago politician? Is anyone really surprised?
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that in the last three decades, at least 79 local elected officials have been convicted of a crime, including three governors, one mayor, and a whopping 27 aldermen from the Windy City.
It is widely assumed in many circles that all politicians are corrupt; In Chicago enough are that it has become a by-word.

It would seem that this guy's main failing in that regard is that he had no finesse.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Medical Mouthfuls

All kinds of fascinating medical research is going on all the time. Some of it is great, some of it is wildly unethical, and sometimes it's actually practical.

Things like making deaf people hear with lasers, proving that people can smell fear, sounds great, but when you read the fine print it says "call back in ten years or so" for a practical application.

But sometimes there is a finding for which there is an immediate application. Researchers have confirmed that HSV1, a major contributor to Alzheimer's disease, may be able to be treated with anti-viral medication or vaccine; cold sores may be able to be cured by activating them and then killing them with acyclovir; and canker sores can be treated with licorice (this is probably black licorice, not Twizzlers).

Ok, maybe the licorice is the only immediate treatment, but the others are closer to reality than theory. Hm, gotta find some licorice.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Happy Blogday

My blog turned 1 year old back in October and I totally missed that fact.

Not that that sort of anniversary has any intrinsic meaning, but I decided to look back on it in an ego-centric, self-absorbed way.

They say that it takes about a year to settle into blogging. (And by "they" I mean stuff I just made up on the spot.) Figuring out what you want to say, how to say it, getting in the habit of blogging regularly: it all takes a little while (especially if you have a job and family).

In sheer statistics, my average entries dramatically increased when I "discovered" (got off my lazy cyber-rear) RSS feeds and Google Reader. 2007-Q4 had a whopping 15 entries; 2008-Q1 had 7; 2008-Q2 had 12; 2008-Q3 had 35, and so far 2008-Q4 is sporting 87.

Whether or not there was anything worthwhile in all that, I can't say. What I can say is that I felt like saying it, and so I did. I won't win any awards, but that's not why I do it. (Actually, I don't know why I do it.)

A friend of mine said: Content is King. Bah. I'm going for "most creative titles".
Happy Blogday.


This article from CNS quotes the the Bishop of Arlington, Paul Loverde, regarding FOCA:
‘Yeah, I’m not going to close the hospital, you’re going to arrest me, go right ahead. You’ll have to drag me out, go right ahead. I’m not closing this hospital, we will not perform abortions, and you can go take a flying leap.’ ”

Yeah, that's my Bish. Say it!

It would be so much more meaningful if we actually had Catholic hospitals in Arlington. Sigh.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Comma, Comma, and Comma

For the record: I prefer commas between ALL the elements of a comma separated list.

While it may be a grammatically correct option to omit the final comma before the "and", it's just annoying.

This, that, and the other thing.

Shout-outs to the two people who care.

Terrible Toddlers

Ugh. It's finally happened: Nub and Nib are both officially toddlers. Nub, who is developmentally delayed, just started walking this summer; Nib started walking just before Thanksgiving.

Since that time, Nub climbs up on the back of couches and tables, while Nib has already learned to climb the stairs. My house is starting to look like an obstacle course with strategic parts of the house blocked off by baby gates.

These two pre-verbal tykes wrestle sippy cups back and forth while competing for who gets Mommy's lap. (Grunt. Shriek. Grunt.) If you turn your back on one of them, you're going to have to mount an immediate Search & Rescue team to snatch them from whatever place they were not supposed to be. The bathroom door is never left open, baby locks guard the kitchen cabinets, and the stair gate has been a permanent fixture in the house for the last ten years.

Nub is 3 years old, which is officially my Least Favorite Age for my kids. People talk about the "terrible twos", but really, two year-olds only know how to say "No!", while three year-olds are capable of actual malice and forethought.

When we first started having kids we were so excited to see their first word, their first crawl, their first step. Nowadays I'm thinking: if I can just keep them from being mobile for another two weeks, I'll have an advantage.

Sigh. So that's no longer an option. We long ago moved from the man-to-man child rearing strategy to the "zone defense"; but as long as the two terrible toddlers stage persists, it looks like we'll have to opt for "double coverage".

Miracle? What Miracle?

Not sure what to make of this. The AP reports that the International Medical Committee of Lourdes, the doctors' panel set up by the Catholic Church expressly to judge the veracity of miraculous cures coming from the Shrine of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes, has decided they will no longer do this.
But last weekend, the panel, known by its French initials CMIL, decided from now on it will only rule on whether healing cases were "remarkable," leaving it to the church to decide whether they are miracles, panel secretary Dr. Patrick Theillier said.
On the one hand, this sounds very reasonable: doctors do doctor stuff, the Church does miraculous stuff. The article goes on to say that the panel at the shrine is independent of the CDF which does miracle investigation for the Vatican; the CDF sort of looks down its nose at the operation at CMIL. CMIL complains that they "all but decide" what is a miracle; the Church merely has to give its assent to the doctor's findings of "miracle cure".

On the other hand, the panel was set up for this purpose by the Church; is it really in the purview of the doctors as a panel to change their charter? Of the 7000 reported "miracle cures" at Lourdes in the last 150 years, only 67 have been officially deemed miracles by the Church. That's less than 1%. This does not seem like a particularly onerous task for the doctors. Averaged over the last 150 years, that's one certified miracle every 2.2 years.

One can't help but think that this latest rebellion (their word) is just a symptom of the increasingly aggressive secularism that plagues France and the rest of Europe.

News flash: French doctors wouldn't know a miracle if it bit them in the rear end.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Fast Food, Enduring Principles

I ate lunch today; most people in this country did. But it's always nice when you can eat a decent meal and feel good about who's getting the money. Ok, it's only $6 but if you sell enough of them it's more like $2.64 billion.

I'm talking about Chick-fil-A and its founder S. Truett Cathy.
Armed with a keen business sense, a work ethic forged during the Depression, and a personal and business philosophy based on biblical principles, Truett Cathy took a tiny Atlanta diner, originally called the Dwarf Grill, and transformed it into Chick-fil-A, the nation’s second largest quick-service chicken restaurant chain with more than $2.64 billion in sales in 2007 and currently more than 1,380 locations. His tremendous business success allowed Truett to pursue other passions – most notably his interest in the development of young people.

I've always noticed that Chick-fil-A is not open on Sunday. Being a day of rest and all, it's almost a dead giveaway that you're dealing with a Christian. (In the same way, Domino's Pizza was founded by a Catholic.) Doubtless there are others.

Imagine if we all carried our convictions to the full in the public arena. It just gives me a reason to smile -- anyone for a chicken sandwich?

A Wrinkle In Time

Actually it had nothing to do with the book. But if you wanted to stretch it, you could say it has only a very little to do with the fight between good and evil; more precisely, it is the fight for good and order.

This morning there were the three shining faces of Wynken, Blynken, and Nod-girl all dressed and ready to head out to the bus stop for school.

No fights. No fuss. No missing shoe. Everyone had dressed, eaten, made beds, combed hair, brushed teeth, put on shoes and jackets. And it was quiet. If you don't have 5 kids, this last may not seem significant to you, but believe me, it's a rare treasure.

I was stunned. Amazed. Nonplussed. "Are you well?" Everyone was fine. Happy. I immediately awarded them all 5 points and walked them down to the bus stop.

I want to close my eyes and just remember this moment: a wrinkle in time.
Shh. Don't tell: it's working.

Heater, Shmeater

Just in time for the onset of the cold weather, my HVAC unit is on the fritz. Bundle up my babies, 'cause it's gonna be cold tonight.

Is your heater supposed to have a large block of ice in it? Why is it that major appliances can sense when they'll be needed most and choose that particular moment to conk out?

At least the electricity is still on and I can snuggle up to this nice warm laptop. :D

The heating repair company said they'll have someone right out to fix it "sometime between 9AM and 5PM". Way to nail it down!

Auto Execs and Their Jets

There has been a big hoopla in the last two weeks over the Big 3 auto executive's decision to fly their corporate jets to Washington to ask for a piece of the bailout pie.
But skeptical lawmakers blasted them for flying private jets to Washington and failing to make personal sacrifices in exchange for federal assistance.

"It's almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in a high hat and tuxedo," said Rep. Gary Ackerman, a Democrat from New York.

"Couldn't you have downgraded to first class or something, or jet-pooled or something to get here?" Ackerman asked the executives at a hearing held by the U.S. House Financial Services Committee.

Something my boss said about it actually made sense. These executives get paid for running a business, not for testifying in front of Congress. The faster they can get to where they're going and make decisions for the company, the better off they'll be.

Now, from a business point of view, this is sound reasoning; from a public relations point of view, this is a disaster. Duh.

The head of the United Auto Workers union was a little more savvy.
Ron Gettelfinger, head of the United Auto Workers union, also testified at the hearing but flew a commercial flight to Washington.

"I got a plane to catch, you know what I mean," Gettelfinger said to reporters when leaving the hearing room.

Does anyone see the delicious irony that auto executives are getting pilloried for their use of private aircraft? I mean, come on guys, you could at least have showed up in a hybrid Volt, Escape, or Aspen.

A nice Cadillac would have shown some style.

Monday, December 1, 2008

We Three Kings

Did I say Kings? I meant Presidents, of course. These three guys: Putin, Chavez, and Castro.

Examples of so-called democracies who are engineering their own permanent re-election. Come on guys, you're not fooling anyone. Raul Castro is already there by dint of his brother's fiat, the other guys are still pretending.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has announced a plan to seek a constitutional amendment to allow him to stand for re-election.

Report suggests that President Medvedev will make reforms to allow Putin to stay as president until 2021.

The Cuban Parliament named Raúl Castro president Sunday, ending nearly 50 years of rule by his brother Fidel but leaving the island's Communist system unshaken.

And you thought this was an Advent post.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Jesse Tree

Now that it's Advent, the Mrs. and I were discussing ways to keep a better Advent/Christmas season. One idea that we're considering is doing a Jesse Tree.

There are some rather famous examples, like at St. Etienne, Canterbury, and Notre Dame; and there are the more mundane examples that involve felt, construction paper, and paper ornaments, which is more what I had in mind.

The Jesse Tree draws out in readings and symbols the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus (who is of Jesse's line) while linking the Old and New Testaments. Jesse was the father of King David. Christmas trees celebrate Christmas, but a Jesse tree celebrates Advent. How better to celebrate the waiting associated with Advent?

Have you had any experiences with Jesse trees or other Advent traditions, especially with your children? I'd love to hear them.

Persimmons: Deliciously Dangerous

As a novelty, I bought a package of 8 persimmons (Fuyu) at Costco. It's a kind of exotic fruit that you don't see everyday. Rightly or wrongly, I have always associated them with Christmastime.

Wikepedia says:
A persimmon is the edible fruit of a number of species of trees of the genus Diospyros in the ebony wood family (Ebenaceae). The word persimmon is derived from putchamin, pasiminan, or pessamin, from Powhatan, an Algonquian Cree and Mohican) of the eastern United States, meaning "a dry fruit".[1] Persimmons are generally light yellow-orange to dark red-orange in color, and depending on the species, vary in size from 1.5-9 cm (0.5-4 in) diameter, and may be spherical, acorn-, or pumpkin-shaped.[2] The calyx often remains attached to the fruit after harvesting, but becomes easier to remove as it ripens. They are high in glucose, with a balanced protein profile, and possess various medicinal and chemical uses. While the persimmon fruit is not considered a "common berry" it is in fact a "true berry" by definition.

They have a deliciously musky flavor, somewhere between a mango and a fig; they are a sticky-sweet delicacy that looks like a tomato, but eats like a pear. Even better, you can cut them up and they don't darken like bananas and so retain their gorgeous color in vegetable or fruit trays. You find a lot of recipes that call for the persimmon pulp like cookies, cakes, and puddings.

There is a catch to this delectable fruit: eating too much unripe persimmon has been linked to forming indigestible clots in the stomach and intestines.
Unripened persimmons contain the soluble tannin shibuol, which, upon contact with a weak acid, polymerizes in the stomach and forms a gluey coagulum that can affix with other stomach matter.[7] The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy notes that consumption of persimmons has been known to cause bezoars that require surgery in over 90% of cases.

So, go ahead and enjoy ripe persimmons, but -- as always -- in moderation.

EU, Something Stinks

Call it a gut reaction, but all is not well with the European Union. I can't quite put my finger on it, since I pay sporadic attention to things EU, but there is a growing disquiet with the way things are developing.

A recent BBC News article has the U.K. "thinking" about adopting the Euro and dropping the Pound Sterling "because of the effects of the global credit crunch." Sounds like a bunch of politicians agitating for short-term gains and using "hindsight" to make their point. "Gee, if only we'd done that, we'd be better off today".

I say stick to your guns and your currency, because tomorrow you just may be better off in any case.

Otherwise, you first give up your money; political power is the next to wane (because you don't have your own money). Your influence is automatically diluted by being "one of many"; your best interests must now give way to the "good of the whole", which is to say, the powerful. Once your money and political power are compromised, borders become next to meaningless and military power is the next casualty (how are you going to pay the soldiers and to whom will they be loyal?). Finally, culture, religion, and law are all subsumed into the juggernaut; anything that stands in its way just gets crushed.

From Wikipedia:

The EU operates through a hybrid system of intergovernmentalism and supranationalism. In certain areas it depends upon agreement between the member states. However, it also has supranational bodies, able to make decisions without unanimity between all national governments. Important institutions and bodies of the EU include the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, the European Council, the European Court of Justice and the European Central Bank. EU citizens elect the Parliament every five years.

Maybe I'm just too "American" in my thinking; there is part of me that recoils at giving up sovereignty in whole or in part in exchange for a buck (or a Euro). But there is a very real undercurrent of raw power politics that comes into play. Sure, the EU is a powerful economic force, but it tends to run roughshod over the other elements of nation states. What started out as a good idea is quickly developing a Frankenstein life of its own.

The EU traces its origins to the European Coal and Steel Community formed among six countries in 1951 and the Treaty of Rome in 1957. Since then the EU has grown in size through the accession of new member states and has increased its powers by the addition of new policy areas to its remit.

Especially troubling to people of faith is the unremitting secularism of the EU, which simply reflects the growing secularism of its people.
The EU is a secular body with no formal connections to any religion and no mention of religion in any current or proposed treaty. Discussion over the draft texts of the European Constitution and later the Treaty of Lisbon included proposals to mention Christianity and/or God in the preamble of the text, but the idea faced opposition and was dropped.

In December of [2007] European leaders signed the Lisbon Treaty which was intended to replace the earlier, failed European Constitution, which never came into force after being rejected by French and Dutch voters. However, uncertainty clouds the prospects of the Lisbon Treaty's coming into force as result of its rejection by Irish voters in June 2008.

The European Commissioner for the Internal Market Charlie McCreevy admitted he had not read the Treaty from cover to cover, and said "he would not expect any sane person to do so".

So, entire countries are expected to "just sign here" and never mind about the details? Yikes.

I wish I could give an actual analysis of the situation, instead of a knee-jerk reaction, but sometimes it's best to go with your gut: if it stinks, chances are something's rotten.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sully Plantation

Today was a gorgeous Fall day: cool without being cold, sunny, and no wind. Therefore, we took Wynken, Blynken, Nod, Nub, and Nib on an historical outing at the nearby Sully Plantation.

(They now call it Sully Historic Site, but I remember when it was simply Sully Plantation.)

Admission to the grounds is free, the tour of the House is cheap enough even for seven.

An oasis of the past, Sully reflects the history of Fairfax County. Completed in 1799 by Richard Bland Lee, the main house at Sully combines aspects of Georgian and Federal architecture. Richard Bland Lee was Northern Virginia's first Representative to Congress, as well as General Robert E. Lee's uncle.

On the National Register for Historic Places, and accredited by the American Association of Museums, Sully also includes original outbuildings, representative slave quarter and gardens. Guided tours highlight the early 19th century life of the Richard Bland Lee family, tenant farmers and enslaved African Americans. Programs reflect the history of Fairfax County through the 20th century.

We all had a good time and learned a bit of local history. Nod-girl summed it all up, saying. "I liked everything except the slave quarters. That doesn't look like fun."


My kids have reached the age where they have discovered humor, specifically jokes. They rush home to tell me their latest discovery which is usually a "groaner".

The jokes are so bad, they make me laugh. Blynken told me this one:

Q: "What is a frog's favorite music?"

A: "Hip-hop."


Friday, November 28, 2008

Turkey Me This

Time to turn those turkey leftovers into tantalizing meals for the family.
Let's start with:

Turkey Tetrazini

* Turkey Enchiladas

* Annie's Turkey Salad

* Turkey a la King

* Turkey Pot Pie II

* Kentucky Hot Brown

Bedside Reading List

Almost as much fun as posting the top 10 results from your iTunes shuffle is telling what is on your bedside reading table.

I usually have 3 or 4 books that I am reading at any given time, depending on how the mood strikes me. Sometimes it's deep thought, sometimes religious reading, biographies or histories, and sometimes just plain popcorn reading.

Here is what's currently getting read. As far as the Nancy Drew goes, let's just say I was having trouble sleeping.

Intro Great Silence by Philip Gröning

Nestled deep in the postcard-perfect French Alps, the Grande Chartreuse is considered one of the world’s most ascetic monasteries. In 1984, German filmmaker Philip Gröning wrote to the Carthusian order for permission to make a documentary about them. They said they would get back to him.

Sixteen years later, they were ready.

Gröning, sans crew or artificial lighting, lived in the monks’ quarters for six months—filming their daily prayers, tasks, rituals and rare outdoor excursions. This transcendent, closely observed film seeks to embody a monastery, rather than simply depict one—it has no score, no voiceover and no archival footage.

What remains is stunningly elemental: time, space and light. One of the most mesmerizing and poetic chronicles of spirituality ever created, INTO GREAT SILENCE dissolves the border between screen and audience with a total immersion into the hush of monastic life. More meditation than documentary, it’s a rare, transformative theatrical experience for all.

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know (Hardcover)
by Meg Meeker (Author)

With over 25 years of experience counseling girls, Dr. Meg Meeker has pulled together everything dads need to build - or rebuild - their bond with their daughters. Dr. Meeker demonstrates that the most important factor for girls growing up into confident, well-adjusted women is a strong father with conservative values. And this book helps move dads in the right direction.

She includes data, research, and practical experience to help you understand the role of fathers in a young girls life. And each chapter explains the how and why of being the best father to daughters that you can be.

Dads, you are far more powerful than you think you are. Your daughters need the support that only fathers can provide - and if you are willing to follow Dr. Meeker's advice on how to guide your daughter, to stand between her and toxic culture, your rewards will be unmatched. 267 pages. Hardcover.

Lord of the Rings: Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

The War of the Ring reaches its climax as the dark lord Sauron sets his sights on Minas Tirith, the capital of Gondor. The members of the fellowship in Rohan are warned of the impending attack when Pippin cannot resist looking into Saruman's palantir and is briefly contacted by the dark lord.

King Theoden is too proud to send his men to help without being asked, so Gandalf and Pippin ride to Minas Tirith to see that this request is sent. They meet opposition there from Denethor, steward of the city and father of Faramir and the late Boromir. Denethor's family has acted as temporary guardians of Gondor for centuries until a member of the true line of kings returns. This member is none other than Aragorn, who must overcome his own self-doubt before he can take on the role he was destined to fulfill.

Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam continue to carry the One Ring towards Mordor, guided by Gollum. What they don't know is that Gollum is leading them into a trap so that he can reclaim the Ring for himself. Though Sam suspects his deceit, Frodo is starting to be corrupted by the Ring's power and the mistrust of Sam this causes is fully exploited by Gollum.

The only way good can prevail in this contest is if the Ring is destroyed, an event that is becoming harder every minute for Frodo to achieve. The fate of every living creature in Middle Earth will be decided once and for all as the Quest of the Ringbearer reaches its climax.

Nancy Drew: The Message in the Hollow Oak by Carolyn Keene

In the 1935 version, Nancy Drew finds out that she has won a rather unusual prize from a contest, a piece of land in Canada. She takes a trip to see what her new property is like. It is her first trip outside the United States.[1]

While she is traveling by train to Canada, she meets an authoress called Ann Chapelle who is also traveling to Canada. Suddenly, the train crashes, and everything is thrown into confusion. Nancy and her two friends, Bess Marvin and George Fayne, are all right, but the authoress that Nancy talked to is in the nearby hospital, gravely injured. When they find her, Miss Chapelle tells Nancy the reason she was coming to Canada, and asks her a favor: to give a message to Miss Chapelle's grandfather, and to a lost love who she hasn't seen since she ran away from home some years ago.

Along with this request, Nancy also has another problem. Two men have heard that there might be gold on Nancy's land, and are determined to get there first.

Grace Before Meals

I've been meaning to brush up on my Latin; specifically Grace before meals, which is something the kids can learn too. Sometimes we do "Bless us O Lord" and for the Littles we do "God is Great". Now we can do it in Latin, too.
BENEDIC, Domine, nos et haec tua dona quae de tua largitate sumus sumpturi. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

BLESS us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts which we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

And the Blessing after meals:
AGIMUS tibi gratias, omnipotens Deus, pro universis beneficiis tuis, qui vivis et regnas in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

WE give Thee thanks, almighty God, for all Thy benefits, who livest and reignest for ever and ever. Amen.

They're Coming

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Gotta Haves

This theme has come up a lot lately: when you marry someone, in one sense, you marry the whole family. Families have a lot of traditions -- some unspoken. Mrs. Nod and I found that out over the years on both sides of the family. Some things you didn't even know you cared about until they don't happen.

Thanksgiving is like that a lot. Mostly, it's about family, being together, and giving thanks to God for all his benefits; but also, it's about food. Sometimes, it's just not the same without your favorite food.

This year, we're hosting Mrs. Nod's side of the family for Thanksgiving and there will be changes. For instance, due to allergies, there will be no broccoli and cheese dish, no frozen cranberries, and other seasonings may be "light". Instead, there will be corn on the cob. (really?). It's not that I don't like it, but it's not "traditional" for my side. I had to rescue the butternut squash from table banishment, too.

There was a little side discussion last week on the difference between yams and sweet potatoes. The pies will definitely be 100% home made, though, and Grandma's making the stuffing. Brother-in-law will be making his special cranberry relish, but Grandpa wants his mashed potatoes for sure (no garlic please). Other than the green bean casserole, there may be a dearth of green things this year. The bread will get made in the bread maker, a nice toothy egg bread (yum!).

And there will be football, but absolutely no Christmas talk until Friday.

What are your "gotta haves" for Thanksgiving?

Squanto and the First Thanksgiving

I've heard this story before, but it's always good to have a reminder of the providence of God.

Most of us know the story of the first Thanksgiving—at least, we know the Pilgrim version. But how many of us know the Indian viewpoint?

by Chuck Colson

No, I’m not talking about some revisionist, politically correct version of history. I’m talking about the amazing story of the way God used an Indian named Squanto as a special instrument of His providence.

Historical accounts of Squanto’s life vary, but historians believe that around 1608—more than a decade before the Pilgrims arrived—a group of English traders sailed to what is today Plymouth, Massachusetts. When the trusting Wampanoag Indians came out to trade, the traders took them prisoner, transported them to Spain, and sold them into slavery. It was an unimaginable horror.

But God had an amazing plan for one of the captured Indians—a boy named Squanto.

Squanto was bought by a well-meaning Spanish monk, who treated him well and taught him the Christian faith. Squanto eventually made his way to England and worked in the stables of a man named John Slaney. Slaney sympathized with Squanto’s desire to return home, and he promised to put the Indian on the first vessel bound for America.

It wasn’t until 1618—ten years after Squanto was first kidnapped—that a ship was found. Finally, after a decade of exile and heartbreak, Squanto was on his way home.

But when he arrived in Massachusetts, more heartbreak awaited him. An epidemic had wiped out Squanto’s entire village.

We can only imagine what must have gone through Squanto’s mind: Why had God allowed him to return home, against all odds, only to find his loved ones dead?

A year later, the answer came. A shipload of English families arrived and settled on the very land once occupied by Squanto’s people. Squanto went to meet them, greeting the startled Pilgrims in English.

According to the diary of Pilgrim Governor William Bradford, Squanto “became a special instrument sent of God for [our] good . . . He showed [us] how to plant [our] corn, where to take fish and to procure other commodities . . . and was also [our] pilot to bring [us] to unknown places for [our] profit, and never left [us] till he died.” When Squanto lay dying of a fever, Bradford wrote that their Indian friend “desir[ed] the Governor to pray for him, that he might go to the Englishmen’s God in heaven.” Squanto bequeathed his possessions to the Pilgrims “as remembrances of his love.”

Who but God could so miraculously convert a lonely Indian and then use him to save a struggling band of Englishmen? It is reminiscent of the biblical story of Joseph, who was also sold into slavery—and whom God, likewise, used as a special instrument for good.

Squanto’s life story is remarkable, and we ought to make sure our children and grandchildren learn about it. Sadly, most books about Squanto omit references to his Christian faith. But I’m delighted to say that Eric Metaxas has written a wonderful children’s book called Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving. I highly recommend it. It will teach your kids about the “special instrument sent of God” who changed the course of American history.

This commentary first aired on November 3, 1999.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Don't "Anything" The Bear

Stories like these just make you shake your head in disbelief.

A student in China climbed into a giant panda enclosure at the zoo to "cuddle" the bear. It promptly bit him.

That's the problem with commercialism: it may look like a toy, but HELLO, it's a bear.

Don't feed the bear.

Don't tease the bear.

And for heaven's sake, don't cuddle the bear. Duh.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Idleness Of The Left Hand

In a random news factoid, people who want to know what is the longest word you can type on a keyboard with just your left hand have a new champion.

The former record holder, stewardesses, comes in at a healthy 12 letters. Some argue that reverberated and desegregated are just as long, but stewardesses is more popular because it's easier to remember and they are arguably better looking.

However, people with too much time on their hands and a Unix dictionary have discovered a 13-letter word to type with just your left hand: devertebrated.

It sounds a bit like a rejected Ramones song: I wanna be devertebrated.

Other than de-boning fish, I can't find much use for this.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Birthday Wish and I Ain't Lyin'

This goes out to my good friend, Naranja, now in Finland whose birthday is at the end of this month. (Elephants never forget!)

This is a re-creation of a birthday card I got back in 1991 that I think was an all-time great. So, on the eve of your own birthday I present:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

That Blynken Math

Blynken's a smart girl, but she struggles with her math facts.

Even before she was in school, she had her own way of counting. New Math's got nothing on her.

If she wanted to know "how many days" until something and it was Tuesday, and the target day was Sunday, I'd tell her "5 days". She would invariably do her own style of counting and tell me it was either "6 days" or "4 days" depending on her mood.

She alternately counted in Tuesday AND Sunday, or alternately counted those days out. Occasionally, she'd count one of them in and one of them out. Nothing I could say could convince her otherwise.

Number lines are just maddening with her.

"Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three.

Five is right out."

I helped her with her math homework tonight and she soldiered through (I am SO passing second grade!), but now I'm tired.

Let's hear it for the 3 R's of education: repetition, repetition, repetition!

Overheard In My House

I heard this from a friend of mine a while back, but it still gives me a chuckle. I was reminded of this story since I just got a letter from the Diocese thanking me for my financial support over the last year.

My friend was at an event out of state with a number of religious (Franciscans of some flavor, I believe). The topic naturally shifted to comparing this diocese with that one and similar stuff, when one person turned to my friend and said "And who is your Bishop?"

Not missing a beat, he replied:
Our Bishop? I think it's Bishop Lenten Appeal.

Custard's Last Stand

Frozen custard's last stand is an enduring one. Far from decaying into culinary oblivion, frozen custard sales are numerous and multiplying fast at least in this area. This tasty treat is similar to ice cream but with less air, more butterfat (10%), and egg yolk (1.4%).

Frozen Custard was invented in 1919 by three brothers of Swiss descent, Archie (age 26), Clair (age 21) and Elton (age 17), who did a raging business on Coney Island that summer.

Most frozen custard shops have chocolate, vanilla, and a rotating Flavor of the Day. I happen to be stuffing my face with a seasonal treat, "Pumpkin Pie", from Milwaukee Frozen Custard as well as their "Pecan Praline".

When the chips are down, why stop with chips? Reach for the comfort food. Mmmmm, frozen custard. It's waaaaay better than ice cream.

Space: The Final ... Parable

I have always loved the Star Trek adventure world since I was a kid, but what's it really about? I have always maintained that there is no such thing as "mere" entertainment. Every story teaches something.
"Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry put together a proposal for a science fiction series in 1960. He publicly marketed it as a Western in outer space as a kind of "Wagon Train to the stars", but privately told friends he was modeling it on Swift's "Gulliver's Travels" intending each episode to act on two levels, both as a suspenseful adventure story, and as a morality parable."

"In Gene Roddenberry’s imagining of the future [...] religion is completely gone. Not a single human being on Earth believes in any of the nonsense that has plagued our civilization for thousands of years. This was an important part of Roddenberry’s mythology. He, himself, was a secular humanist and made it well-known to writers of Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation that religion and superstition and mystical thinking were not to be part of his universe. On Roddenberry’s future Earth, everyone is an atheist. And that world is the better for it."

This is squarely in line with atheistic humanism which Weigel warns about in his book, saying
twentieth century advanced thinkers widely predicted that ... humanity, tutored by science, [would] lose its "need" for religion ... [r]esidues remain: in the positivism Western high culture learned from Comte, the subjectivism it learned from Feuerbach, the materialism it learned from Marx, the radical willfulness it learned from Nietzsche - and the assumption that biblical religion is for children.

So, I guess, enjoy the series, but make sure you know whose parables you're getting.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Dogma By Any Other Name

Reports abound of Fr. Roy Bourgeois' impending excommunication for participating in the "ordination" of women priests.

This is all very sad, and Fr. Bourgeois is in need of our prayers for true repentance and adherence to the clear teachings of the Catholic Church. In his public dissent, Bourgeois claims:
The current Catholic Church doctrine on the ordination of women implies our loving and all-powerful God, Creator of heaven and earth, somehow cannot empower a woman to be a priest.

It is appropriate to point out firstly that a dogma is a revealed and/or defined truth, not a discipline or custom subject to change,
[A] dogma is now understood to be a truth appertaining to faith or morals, revealed by God, transmitted from the Apostles in the Scriptures or by tradition, and proposed by the Church for the acceptance of the faithful. ... A dogma therefore implies a twofold relation: to Divine revelation and to the authoritative teaching of the Church.
-- Catholic Encylopedia: New Advent
and secondly, Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, definitively addresses the subject.
Pope John Paul II says in this letter that, in granting admission to the ministerial priesthood, the church has always acknowledged as a perennial norm her Lord’s way of acting in choosing the 12 men whom he made the foundation of his church.

Because “in some places” women’s ordination is thought to be still open to debate or that the “Church’s judgment” on the matter has merely a “disciplinary force,” Pope John Paul declares “that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

Pope John Paul says that “the fact the Blessed Virgin Mary... received neither the mission proper to the apostles nor the ministerial priesthood clearly shows that the nonadmission of women to priestly ordination cannot mean that women are of lesser dignity, nor can it be construed as discrimination against them.”

Happiness Is:

Coconut Cream Pie.

HighDef and Shiny

Yeah, so we finally bit the bullet in advance of the Death of Analog Broadcasting (DAB) and got a new HDTV. To be honest, I really didn't feel a "need" to buy it, since I don't watch that much broadcast TV and I'm too cheap to buy cable TV.

But then again, there's football.

So, Mrs. Nod picked out the new model, making sure that The Specifications were correct (height, width, viewing distance, etc.). With a lot of businesses going out of business due to the Credit Crunch, the latest rage in our area is to pay people $10/hr to stand on the street corner with a big obnoxious sign proclaiming their incredible deals (aka bankruptcy). I just so happened to pass one of these for Tweeter and swooped in to buy the (perfectly fine) floor model at an additional $200 discount.

So now it's here, it's shiny, the picture is super-crisp (on-air DTV, not Cable), and we've avoided the DAB cutoff.

Hey, is that football on?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Insert Blank III

Another installment of my favorite word game: Insert _____! (blank)

Where we take the potty-mouth expressions we "used" to say, and baptize them into something a bit more acceptable.

Let's get those creative juices flowing!

Today's expression is: "What _____?"

What the heck?
What in the world?
What the?!

Campaign For Real Time

If we could only get retailers to celebrate holidays in the correct season ...

I object to even thinking about Christmas until after Thanksgiving and certainly not before All Saints. I know I'm in the minority here, but it's a position I'm accustomed to, so ... :P

Do we really need to buy bikinis in January? How come when I go to the store in the middle of winter I can't get a pair of gloves for my freezing hands?

My idea: let's just be present where we are. Holidays need to be celebrated when they actually occur, otherwise they are devoid of meaning.

Campaign For Real Time (CRT) is my imaginary public service announcement organization. You can donate imaginary dollars to the cause and it won't cost you a single thing!

From the folks over at CitizenLink comes this amusing video: Tossmas 2008. If you can't say Christmas, your catalog may well get "tossed".

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Are My Eyes Really Brown?

This is not the kind of question you get every day, but it does give me a little chuckle.

I go to a lot of places where I have to verify my identity, sign in, provide various bits of personal information in order to get where I'm supposed to go.

After the usual name, SSN, phone, point of contact, etc. the guy at the front desk asks for my weight. What, before or after lunch?

He says, "They have your height listed, but not your weight."
Ok, a little unusual, but ok. I give it to him.

Next he asks, "What is your eye color?".
It's a little obvious, but, ok: brown.

Then he asks: both of them?.

Tips For Work Travel

Always wear a clean, white, pressed shirt.

Over-tip people who work with their hands, like the shoeshine guy.

Be nice; it gets you a lot farther.

Relax -- you probably can't do anything to get there any faster.

Get a good night's sleep. You're useless when you're not rested.

Call your wife and kids -- they miss you too.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Overheard In My House

Don't eat that lemon, it can devolve the Emmanuel on your teeth!

Hippo Birdie Two Ewes

Yep, it's my birthday.
You can visit Sandra Boynton's site here.

Veterans Day

Our deepest gratitude to the Veterans (of all our wars) who gave their sweat, their tears, and their life's blood in defense of freedom. These patriots understood their obligation to serve God, Country, and Family and fulfilled that obligation with distinction.

This day serves as a reminder to keep fighting the good fight no matter the odds and we salute our military and those keeping the home fires burning in their absence.

Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice.

As Thomas Jefferson said, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance".

God Bless America.

Bishops on Track

Contrary to what had been previously reported, CNS confirms that this week's USCCB meeting will NOT drop the topic of abortion in the wake of the Presidential election.

Another bishop who requested anonymity, confirmed to CNA that the bishops will not drop the issue of abortion or hold the conversation behind closed doors. On the contrary, they will discuss it on no less than three occasions: “in our regional groups, in executive session, and in the public session.”

Basically, the Bishops are doing their jobs now, and unlike in recent previous years where they showed a spectacular lack of leadership, they are stepping up and doing the hard work. Extremophiles on both sides of the political spectrum are quick to point out any perceived action or lack of action as confirmation of their views. However, the main job of the Bishops is to teach and to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ in season and out of season. While this does touch on governance in part, it is not the main intent.

Pastoring takes a little time. Let's all breathe deep and let them pastor their flocks.

Calling King George

Does anyone see a problem with statements like these?
"[Obama] must be prepared to take power and rule from Day 1."
Valerie Jarrett and the Transition Team need to do a basic philosophy check before they open their mouths.

Last time I checked, we had a little "Continental Dispute" in which we threw "rulers" overboard in this country in favor of a representative democracy in which our elected representatives lead, not rule.

Boston tea, anyone?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Riddle Me This

Wynken brought up a riddle at dinnertime that he actually didn't know the answer to.

I have to admit, it had me stumped for a good ten minutes or more before I got the old brain-box in gear. Part of that time was spent in making sure he was telling the riddle correctly, so that it could be solved.

In true Encyclopedia Brown style, I managed to solve it before the end of dinner with the help of a few Cheerios.

See if you can solve this riddle (it may be easier to see it than hear it like I did ... then again, maybe hearing it is better):
The one before first is first of you;
the next of you is double of you;
the last of you is the first of you.

Guess away!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Restaurant In The Hood

Picking a new restaurant can be a tricky thing, especially if you're picking for more than just yourself. There are times and seasons for foods and restaurants alike. Northern Virginia and DC are especially good areas for trying all kinds of foods.

I like spicy food, sushi, fine dining, fine wine, beer, and burgers. I have a somewhat cosmopolitan taste, having moved around various places including overseas. It's a taste I prefer to call "eclectic".

But food and taste have moods as well. There's happy food, fast food, acquired tastes, comfort food, sick food, party food, pot-luck food, and Thanksgiving.

We've had dinner at some very cool places in the area with friends and family. One of my favorites was this French bistro meets southern cooking down in Richmond called The Frog and the Redneck.

This time around I think a little classical is in order: I plan on trying Villa Mozart, a Northern Italian restaurant with good reviews. Reviewer wolfde writes:
I have eaten there several times and always had aa wonderful time. Villa Mozart doesn't feature exotic food, but has some interesting twists on familiar Italian food. The food is consistently very well prepared, especially the fish dishes. You will never be rushed here as is often the case in other restauarants. You can relax and linger over a fine meal and be attended to by a wonderful staff.

I'll let you know how it turns out.

Overheard In My House

"Kids. If they're conscious, they want something from you."

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Stiff Arm to the Solar Plexus

Nub's practicing his football moves. The team could use some help after last week's game.

Pre-School Envy

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod all came home from school recently with interim report cards. Overall, they did very well. There are some obvious differences among their various ages and natural talents. That's all to the good.

The downside is that they are very intelligent.

"What?! that's a downside?" Well, it is if you've inherited your father's lazy gene. Intelligent people can be very, very lazy when it comes to education, because they can get by on their native intelligence without trying especially hard.

That works for a while ... until you hit something that doesn't come naturally. That's when you have to rely on hard work. If you never develop the habit of intellectual discipline, you won't be able to cut it when the subject matter catches up to you.

The one thing that Wynken, Blynken, and Nod all have in common right now is that they wish they were still in preschool along with Nub. They think: "those preschool kids, man, they got it easy; when I was their age..."

Sound familiar?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Out of the Mouth of Babes

Nod-girl said tonight, "Can I pray for Obama that God will make him be good?"

Yes, dear, you can; we all need to pray.

Cooking the Polls

All the news outlets are headlining that Obama is going to win New Mexico, but every actual return percentage I have seen so far have McCain solidly ahead in New Mexico @ 9:47pm.

I guess when they say "projecting the win" they aren't lying. That's some serious projection.

Tit for Tat and Ten

For those following the wildly poor decision making going on in my workplace, we have a new fiat. We will now work ten hour days instead of twelve. Oh, the benevolence.

Anybody ever heard of this guy? I'm thinking passive resistance.

Life, Liberty, Pursuit of Happiness

In that order.


It's very simple. It's your right. It's your duty.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

What's On My Ballot?

If you don't know what's on your ballot this Nov 4, except the Presidential tickets, maybe you should find out now.

If you're in Virginia go here:

There are Presidential, Senate, and House seats all available. There is also a Parks and Recreation Bond in my county.

Normally, parks and recreation is the only kind of bond that I'll vote for, but since we are all in such a massive amount of DEBT (that's what a bond is) as a country, I don't think I'll add to the burden this time around.

Tink Wishes

Happy Birthday to my niece, Tinkerbell.

You deserve all the princesses and Tinkerbell movies you want on your birthday!

(Even if you told me you were 4 when you're only 3 years old). <:-)

Sweet dreams, Tink.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Duct Tape

People ask what the secret to raising 5 children is. I tell them, but it's not politically correct.

Seems like someone agrees with me.

Just for fun.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Tax Broke

18 And Done

The work marathon finally ended: after 18 days without a break.

What is this weekend thing? What will I do with it?
Mommy, who is this strange man?

Injustice wears some strange faces. Et tu, Brute?

Myths and Lies

It's stories like these, that prove the maxim: if you lie long and loud enough, people will believe you.

Pius XII was extolled by the Jewish community of his day. The revisionists have taken it upon themselves to say otherwise. The attack was written by ex-seminarians. The rebuttal was written by a RABBI. Therefore, I think it's enough to just quote Wikipedia. And yes, I actually read this book.

The Myth of Hitler's Pope: How Pope Pius XII Rescued Jews from the Nazis is a book written by American historian Rabbi David G. Dalin and published in 2005.

Rabbi Dalin first documents how popes through history have defended the Jews, and refuted attacks like the blood libel.

Then he gets to the main part of the book: defending the reputation of the late Pope Pius XII by presenting extensive documentation culled from Church and State archives throughout Europe. Rabbi Dalin suggests that Yad Vashem should honor Pope Pius XII as a "Righteous Gentile", and documents that Pius was praised by all the leading Jews of his day for his role in saving more Jews than Schindler. Pius's admirers included Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog of Israel, Israeli Prime Ministers Golda Meir and Moshe Sharett, and Israel's first president Chaim Weizmann.

Dalin writes:

"anti-papal polemics of ex-seminarians like Garry Wills and John Cornwell (author of Hitler's Pope), of ex-priests like James Carroll, and or other lapsed or angry liberal Catholics exploit the tragedy of the Jewish people during the Holocaust to foster their own political agenda of forcing changes on the Catholic Church today."

UPDATE: CMR takes on the same subject.


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