Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Blue Moon

So long, 2009; hello 2010. From all of us at WBN, Happy New Year!

Excerpted from Christian Science Monitor:

The full moon partly covered by clouds in Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday.

Sayyid Azim/AP

By Tracey D. Samuelson Correspondent / December 31, 2009

For most people, it will just mean a full pie in the sky Thursday night. A blue moon is simply the second full moon in month. It doesn’t actually have anything to do with color at all.

According to NASA's website, the term blue moon was "used in much the same way we use the term 'harvest moon.' There were twelve names for full moons, one for each month, and the name blue moon was used in years which had 13 full moons."

But in 1943, Sky and Telescope Magazine erroneously wrote that the second full moon in any calendar month was called a blue moon. The label stuck and is still used today.

Interestingly enough, this is not where the expression “once in a blue moon” comes from. According to NASA, that phrase is believed to have originated in 1883 after the eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Krakatoa. The volcano put so much dust in the atmosphere that the moon actually looked blue in color. The event was deemed so unusual the phrase “once in a blue moon” was coined.

Cool stuff.

First Beer of Christmas

I'm an Ale guy.

Given my druthers, I'll drink ale rather than pilsner, lager, or any other varietal. I'm particularly partial to Belgian styles, which tend to be rather potent in both taste and strength. But I also appreciate some select English style ales, which are radically different than the Belgians. English ale tends to be smoother, unobtrusive, simple beer.

Then there is Old Speckled Hen, which has a bit of an edge to it that's hard to put your taste buds on the first time you try it. Then, I discovered its little secret: toffee.

"Old Speckled Hen" has a full, smooth flavour and is very easy to drink. Its rich amber colour and superb fruity aromas are complemented by a delicious blend of malty tastes.

Toffee and malt combine with bitterness on the back of the tongue to give a balanced sweetness. This is followed by a refreshingly dry finish.

"Old Speckled Hen" was first brewed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the MG car factory in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. Named after an old MG car which was used as the factory run around, they would park the old MG Featherweight Fabric Saloon outside the paint shop where it would normally get spattered in paint and so it became known as the ‘Owld Speckl’d Un’. This turned into "Old Speckled Hen" when the beer was unveiled.

Since then the finely balanced beer with a distinctive rich malty taste and fruity aroma has attracted many fans, including the fox, who is always on the hunt for his Hen.

Old Speckled Hen was my First Beer of Christmas, which was a little present to myself; I hand-selected a dozen specialty beers to try during the Christmas season.

The Hen has warmed its way into my lexicon of beer. At first I found it an annoying flavor, but one that changed three times on the palate: first the sweet, then the bitter, and then the dry finish. And the toffee notes were a different tantalizing sweetness than the malt. It piqued my curiosity to try it again, and I liked it much better the second time. Now it is a taste experience to be savored.

Old Speckled hen is really fun to drink; try it and see for yourself!

The Season Of Christmas

Today is New Year's Eve, but it's still only the 7th Day of Christmas.

The Feast of Christmas is an 8-day Octave, i.e., we party for 8 days, while the Christmas season lasts from Christmas Day until Epiphany, Jan 6 (celebrated in the U.S. on Jan 3 this year). All that time between Thanksgiving and the 24th of December was Advent -- different season.
[St. Mary Cathedral] Again, so why celebrate for eight days? Life in the ancient world was so hectic and filled with pressure and families had grown apart and were being swept up in the older pagan traditions, the Church granted a period of eight days in order to contemplate the mysteries experienced in the Church’s liturgy. Comparatively speaking, we obviously need the Octave even more than the Christians of the ancient world!

The ancient world did not have television, shopping malls, computers, telephones, fast food, automobiles, magazines and newspapers… if the Ancients were busily distracted, what has become of us!? We need to enjoy this time! If you need, take off work, visit family, feast, attend Mass, praise God, visit the poor, celebrate charity, and most of all be humbled before the Mystery: The Word of God has become man!
For the whole 12 days of Christmas catechism song thing, see here.

So, if anyone asks "How was your Christmas?", you tell 'em it ain't over yet.

You got to know your seasons, people! ;-)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

In The Beginning

In the beginning was the Word ... and the world was made to make room for it -- or so it would seem.

Read on for a fascinating view into Pope Benedict's understanding of covenant theology. Scott Hahn also has a new book out on the subject: Covenant & Communion: The Biblical Theology of Benedict XVI. I haven't read it yet, but it comes highly rated.

The following paragraph taken from Pope Benedict XVI's introductory address on Monday, 6 October 2008, Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI at the Opening of the 12th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, sets his understanding of covenant in perspective. [Emphasis mine]

The following verse says: "Omnia serviunt tibi". All things come from the Word, they are products of the Word. "In the beginning was the Word". In the beginning the heavens spoke. And thus reality was born of the Word, it is "creatura Verbi". All is created from the Word and all is called to serve the Word. This means that all of creation, in the end, is conceived of to create the place of encounter between God and his creature, a place where the history of love between God and his creature can develop. "Omnia serviunt tibi".

The history of salvation is not a small event, on a poor planet, in the immensity of the universe. It is not a minimal thing which happens by chance on a lost planet. It is the motive for everything, the motive for creation. Everything is created so that this story can exist, the encounter between God and his creature.

In this sense, salvation history, the Covenant, precedes creation. During the Hellenistic period, Judaism developed the idea that the Torah would have preceded the creation of the material world. This material world seems to have been created solely to make room for the Torah, for this Word of God that creates the answer and becomes the history of love.

The mystery of Christ already is mysteriously revealed here. This is what we are told in the Letter to the Ephesians and to the Colossians: Christ is the protòtypos, the first-born of creation, the idea for which the universe was conceived. He welcomes all. We enter in the movement of the universe by uniting with Christ.

One can say that, while material creation is the condition for the history of salvation, the history of the Covenant is the true cause of the cosmos. We reach the roots of being by reaching the mystery of Christ, his living word that is the aim of all creation.

Mind blowing!

Quantum Hacking

These folks over at NTNU have discovered a way of hacking quantum cryptography by eavesdropping on the communications through flaws in the hardware.

Quantum hacking = cool.
"Inclusive" language = annoying.

Eavesdropping experiment on campus map Scheme of experiment

(Source) The Quantum Hacking group works in the field of quantum cryptography and quantum information. In quantum information science the information unit is not a bit, but rather a quantum bit – qubit. A qubit may not only be zero or one, but also zero and one simultaneously!

In our work, we use photons as physical representation of qubits. Quantum cryptography is a method of secure communication using qubits. Such communication is based on the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. If an eavesdropper listens to qubits, she changes them, which is inevitably noticed by the legitimate users. That is, any attempt of eavesdropping will be caught.

Underhanded C Contest

There are a few really geeky code contests out there, including the Obfuscated C contest, Obfuscated Perl, Perl poetry, embedded system contest, and now a new (to me) one: the Underhanded C contest.

[Source] This is an excellent example of the contest’s philosophy: make the code extremely simple, innocent, obvious, and wrong.
Sometimes you have to marvel at the creativity.

The winning entry:

From Meacham's blog:
The goal this year was to write a leaky image redaction program. Given an input image in PPM format and a rectangle, it would spit out the image with the rectangle blacked out, perhaps hiding sensitive information. The tricky part was that you had to leak the redacted information.

The trick involves the format of the P3 style PPM file. The format is a plain text format, it has some basic header info, then a list of whitespace separated numbers, such as 234 2 0 83 255 255 2 43 255 where the numbers represent the magnitude of the red, green, and blue component for each pixel in order. The redactor simply replaced values within the target rectangle with zero. However, due to the way I process the file, character by character, I leak how many digits each value had to begin with. i.e., the above would be redacted to 000 0 0 00 000 000 0 00 000. This is completely invisible when viewing the PPM file, all the values count as zero as far as the format is concerned, but by looking at the original file, you can recover some information about what was in the blanked out area. It is particular effective on black on white text, the most common thing needing to be redacted, where each value is 0 0 0 or 255 255 255, allowing perfect reconstruction of the original.

+ + + +

[Source] This is an excellent example of the contest’s philosophy: make the code extremely simple, innocent, obvious, and wrong. Mr. Meacham’s 55-line entry took a PPM file in ASCII (P3) format, scanned over the numbers, and zeroed out the redacted pixels in the most obvious way possible:

for(c = buf;*c;c++) {
if(isdigit(*c)) {
if(!ws) { // new number, increment location.
ws = 1; x++;
if(x >= width * 3) {
y++; x = 0;
if(x > rx * 3 && x <= (rx + rwidth) * 3 && y > ry && y < ry + rheight)

} else {
ws = 0;

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival #37

From all of us at WBN, Merry Christmas!


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.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

From the Nodlings and all of us here at WBN, Merry Christmas.

He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.

[CCC] 457 The Word became flesh for us in order to save us by reconciling us with God, who "loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins": "the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world", and "he was revealed to take away sins":70

Sick, our nature demanded to be healed; fallen, to be raised up; dead, to rise again. We had lost the possession of the good; it was necessary for it to be given back to us. Closed in the darkness, it was necessary to bring us the light; captives, we awaited a Savior; prisoners, help; slaves, a liberator. Are these things minor or insignificant? Did they not move God to descend to human nature and visit it, since humanity was in so miserable and unhappy a state?71

458 The Word became flesh so that thus we might know God's love: "In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him."72 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."73

459 The Word became flesh to be our model of holiness: "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me." "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me."74 On the mountain of the Transfiguration, the Father commands: "Listen to him!"75 Jesus is the model for the Beatitudes and the norm of the new law: "Love one another as I have loved you."76 This love implies an effective offering of oneself, after his example.77

460 The Word became flesh to make us "partakers of the divine nature":78 "For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God."79 "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God."80 "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods."81

Merry Christmas.

Phillip Allen: When I Became A Man

Interesting and powerful statement from a young man; this is the first I've seen of him. There are many who could benefit from these words:

When I Became a Man spoken word video. To challenge and inspire men to put the games away, and be the powerful men of God he's called us to be. Follow me as I follow Christ.

Imperial Senator Reid Makes Bill Repeal Illegal

In a stunning display of arrogance and hubris, Senate majority leader Harry Reid has included language in the Senate version of the health care reform bill that prevents it from being repealed or even amended without a super majority of votes (67).

Reid's language in Section 3403 clearly binds future congresses (both House and Senate) and changes the standing rules of the Senate (rule XV) which is designed to prevent the tyranny of a majority over the minority. And the Democratic leadership is enabling it.

Put in plain language, the Democrats are so anxious to create "universal health care" (something this bill doesn't actually accomplish) and maintain government control over a sixth of our economy, that they are changing the definition of the very words used to prevent such abuse.

This is a major step forward towards tyranny.

This calls to mind that scene in Star Wars, the Empire Strikes Back, when Darth Vader tells Lando: "I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further."

Same tactics.

Reason #67 Why I Hate The DC Metro

Other than the fact that I narrowly missed being one of those who were stranded on the Metro for nearly two hours this week when they couldn't get the power restored;

other than the fact that some guy was pushing me from behind to get on to an already overcrowded train (he got a piece of my mind!);

other than the fact that the infrastructure is crumbling, that the parking garages leak like sieves, that the train doors open randomly during transit, that the safety system doesn't work, that the trains themselves are unsafe;

other than the fact that a majority of the Metro workers are as helpful as drain clots;

other than the fact that even with headphones, I can still hear people's music players five seats away, that people blatantly disregard the no eating/drinking rules;

other than the fact that it adds 3 hours to my commute and drains my wallet for both trains and parking (and gets me not enough of either);

other than the fact that the city of D.C. can't be bothered to shovel the public walkways when it snows and ices, causing one lady to exclaim, "This is the worst city in the world!";

other than that, I can't think of a single reason I hate the D.C. Metro.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pot Calls The Kettle Black

I was looking for the memo that gives Federal workers and contractors half a day off on Christmas Eve and saw this on the White House OMBlog:
Peter R. Orszag, Director
We are closer than ever before to passing fiscally responsible health reform legislation. So it’s not a surprise that the most reflexively and ideologically partisan commentators are lashing out. Today, it’s the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal.
So what is it with this administration constantly wanting to take on individuals and media outlets who disagree with them like what's-his-name (Limbaugh) , Fox, and now the WSJ? (I don't care a fig about them personally.) When you are the President of the United States (and his staff), you are supposed to represent all Americans. You don't have to agree with them, but you do represent them.

It demeans the office when they attack individuals and particular organizations; it doesn't matter if it's Democrats or Republicans. The President and his staff should always take the high road. Partisans at either end will pick up the thread for them and duke it out in the media and other places. Are there any adults over there?

So it's ironic that Peter Orszag begins his article with these words.
"[R]eflexively and ideologically partisan commentators are lashing out"?
Funny, I was going to say the same thing about you.

Office Santa

Some folks at the office were really getting into the holiday spirit. Since this happened in a Government office I'm shocked they got away with it. But since when has the Government let rules get in their way, especially their own?

Never mind that it's still Advent. Heeeeerrrrrrrrrrre's Santa! (and his reindeer!)
And yes, Santa is on a real, movable sleigh. Impressive.

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival #36

Should you have another piece of pie? Should you keep that money you found? How can we know right from wrong? And just what the heck is truth anyway?

Find out how you can know, as WBN presents: What's your Meta-Ethic?

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.

What's Your Meta-Ethic?

From time to time it's important to do something that's hard for most people because it's done so seldom: think. Yours truly is not immune from this.

Thinking is hard work. It's easier to do a whole day of manual labor than to think and reason and learn all day.

But it's worth doing at times because it makes the rest of the time that much easier. Especially when it's about the basics -- no, deeper than basics; something foundational.


Meta-ethics isn't some kind of Japanese monster movie, Godzilla vs. Meta-Ethics. Meta-ethics deals with the overarching principles of which things are "good" and "important"; the things to be valued; the worldview.
[Wikipedia] Meta-ethics addresses questions such as "What is goodness?" and "How can we tell what is good from what is bad?", seeking to understand the nature of ethical properties and evaluations.

According to Richard Garner and Bernard Rosen,[1] there are three kinds of meta-ethical problems, or three general questions:

  1. What is the meaning of moral terms or judgments?
  2. What is the nature of moral judgments?
  3. How may moral judgments be supported or defended?
A question of the first type might be, "What do the words 'good', 'bad', 'right' and 'wrong' mean?" (see value theory). The second category includes questions of whether moral judgments are universal or relative, of one kind or many kinds, etc. Questions of the third kind ask, for example, how we can know if something is right or wrong, if at all.
Why should we bother with such philosophical stuff? Isn't it rather esoteric and removed from everyday life and ultimately unknowable?

It's important because the meta-ethic determines what the ethics are. Morals are derived directly from ethics. These tell you what to do.

If you have a bad meta-ethic, you get bad ethics; bad ethics lead to bad morals; bad morals lead to bad actions. So, it's important to start from the right place. [Part 2]

Saturday, December 19, 2009

What's Your Meta-Ethic? Part 2

If you have a bad meta-ethic, you get bad ethics; bad ethics lead to bad morals; bad morals lead to bad actions. So, it's important to start from the right place. [Part 1]

Here's a (simple) example.
Meta-ethic: Life is universally good.
Ethic: Death is bad, because it deprives people of life.
Moral: Killing people causes death; therefore, you shouldn't do it.
Starting from somewhere else leads to different results.
Meta-ethic: Freedom is universally good.
Ethic: Things or people that restrict freedom are bad, because it inhibits freedom.
Moral: Killing people who restrict freedom is ok, because it increases freedom.
Now the latter example is, in fact, ethical and consequently moral, because it is consistent with the stated meta-ethic.

It is consistency which determines whether or not something is ethical. Something is immoral if it is inconsistent with the ethic. It is the meta-ethic which determines what is good, or goodness itself.

Take politicians. (Please.) Jonah Goldberg writes:

[USA Today] Asked to define sin, Barack Obama replied that sin is "being out of alignment with my values." [...]

There is, however, a third possibility. Obama is a postmodernist.

An explosive fad in the 1980s, postmodernism was and is an enormous intellectual hustle in which left-wing intellectuals take crowbars and pick axes to anything having to do with the civilizational Mount Rushmore of Dead White European Males.

"PoMos" hold that there is no such thing as capital-T "Truth." There are only lower-case "truths." Our traditional understandings of right and wrong, true and false, are really just ways for those Pernicious Pale Patriarchs to keep the Coalition of the Oppressed in their place. In the PoMo's telling, reality is "socially constructed." And so the PoMos seek to tear down everything that "privileges" the powerful over the powerless and to replace it with new truths more to their liking.

Hence the deep dishonesty of postmodernism. It claims to liberate society from fixed meanings and rigid categories, but it is invariably used to impose new ones, usually in the form of political correctness.

So next time you hear about some pharmaceutical company or some Bio firm who is experimenting on human embryos and justifies it because their Ethics board said it was OK, ask them: what's your meta-ethic?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Getting Dicey

Here is the weather forecast for the DC Metro area for this weekend: BIG SNOW. People around here don't exactly drive well in any amount of snow, never mind 20 inches. Already there is an inch on the ground, with lots more to come.

Part of the problem as Mrs. Nod pointed out is that the temperature frequently hovers around freezing -- which means sometimes above and sometimes below. This leads to melt and re-freeze (better known as ice) -- and no one drives well in ice: it's a physics thing. Got 4-wheel drive? Great. Got 4-wheel stop? Didn't think so.

In addition to snow, we get varying amounts of sleet, hail, freezing rain, freezing fog (really!), and sundry mixed precipitation. Conditions are constantly changing, roads are not exactly straight and level, and there is a high transient population who have never seen snow.

You might not be afraid of snow driving, but you'd better be afraid of that other idiot on the road.










Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's Started Already

Recently the DC council took a second vote to legalize gay marriage in the district. If the Congress doesn't interfere it'll probably be allowed to become law without a referendum from the people.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington has signaled that without additional religious exemptions the Church will not be able to continue offering services to the poor due to the threat of lawsuits. Catholic Charities in particular and the poor they serve would be especially hard hit.

The media has already started to search out any contrary group or situation that has Catholic in its name. Most notably, the media has reported that Georgetown has a policy that may allow same sex benefits by listing them as "legally domiciled adults" which is similar to what the Diocese of San Francisco adopted several years ago. The idea is that same sex benefits would be given as long as it's not called "marriage" with a wink and a nod.

Well, Georgetown isn't the Archdiocese of Washington, and to some observers hasn't been particularly ardent in its adherence to Catholic doctrine in the last several years. The sensational driven media doesn't know the difference between one Catholic group and another, so this is being held up variously as the model for compromise or as the height of hypocrisy.

What it ultimately signals is that these outsiders want the Church to be anything other than authentically Catholic, and that civil laws trump the rights and freedoms of religion. You'll also be hearing plenty from people who say "I'm Catholic but I think the Church is wrong" in the days and weeks to come. What these people don't realize is: their opinion doesn't change the Church's constant teaching or doctrines. There will be endless strawmen set up and knocked down, but it will prove nothing; those arguments will be based on utility or sentimentality which fail to satisfy.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wynken Arrow Of Light

Wynken has finally earned his Arrow of Light! Glory to God!

This is the highest award that can be bestowed in the Cub Scouts. This is also the only award that can be carried over into the Boy Scouts when they cross over.

He worked really hard to get this award, so we're really proud of him. He had to make some difficult choices (for him) as to whether he valued this more than some other thing which would have offered him immediate gratification.

A couple of times along the way he was offered an "all or nothing" moment, but he persevered. That for me is his "shining moment".

I'm also proud of Mrs. Nod who put in a lot of time and energy into tracking the requirements and keeping him on the path since I couldn't always be available. You go, babe!

The arrows are pretty sweet too: hand made Indian arrows with real feathers, hand tied. It'll look good when we get his shadow box done.


Those peace-niks in California have a new type of grenades: pomegranates.

I've heard of throwing tomatoes but this is new to me. Sometimes it amuses to take the signs at face value.

I wonder if they'll explode?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Behind Door #1

Ever wonder what lies behind those massive concrete walls next to the highway?

Well, if you drive by Tyson's Corner on I-495 the answer is apparently "nothing". Yikes!
Guess they're working on it.

Gitmo Has A Successor

More from the land of stupid ideas ...
[NYT] WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is expected to announce on Tuesday that it has selected a prison in northwestern Illinois to house terrorism suspects now being held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in a major step toward shutting down that military detention facility.
Strategically, the only prison better situated than Alcatraz is Gitmo, unless it was the Chateau D'If.

Now, they want to hold them indefinitely near our civilian populations. If I wasn't a Christian, I'd say just off 'em and be done with it. But since that's not an option, prosecute them or let them go; rule of law and all that.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Power Poles Or Gallows?

I see these telephone poles every time I head south of the Battlefields. They look a lot like three crosses. They don't have a purpose I can divine. Ignore the silver power poles; notice the yellow ropes tied to the wood posts. Don't know what they are there for (don't want to find out the hard way). Keep drivin'.

Still Life WIth Cameraphone: Pink Mansion

I live in a modest neighborhood, but not far from my development someone has been building a mansion for the last several months. I've met people for whom wealth has not been a source of greed, but not many. With people in our own county going hungry, how can you justify building this obscene mansion for yourself to live in? Unless you're going to move a dozen handicapped children in with you, or something. This is just sinful in my estimation (and no, I don't know these people). Every time I pass by this place, it just makes me irritated.

That, and what doesn't come through due to my poor camera phone quality is that in real life this mansion has a very real pink hue to it. Pink houses? Pink mansions? If you have that kind of money to build this kind of house, WHY would you make it pink? I guess great taste doesn't follow big money.

Fogged In

First snow, then rain, now freezing fog. The weather outside is "frightful". This picture shows the fog has socked in the American Legion bridge even as late as 9:00am.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Overheard In My House

Today is Gaudete Sunday where we light the rose-colored third candle. I asked the Nodlings on the way to Mass what it stood for.

"Moses!", they instantly replied.

"And why does it stand for Moses?", I asked.

"Because Moses built the Ark!", exclaimed Nod-girl.

"Wha-? Wrong ark", says I.

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival #35

This week on Sunday Snippets, WBN presents Signs and Seasons.


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, December 12, 2009


We just came back from my nephew's 6th birthday party. He got a Nerf gun and Nerf-like bow and arrow set.

All the adults spent the rest of the time shooting each other with the Nerf toys.

Ain't children's parties grand?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tree At Last

And there was much rejoicing; the Nodlings did a dance -- literally.

"Tree at last! Tree at last! Thank God Almighty there's a tree at last!" (with apologies to MLKJ)

Now it's just a fake tree with simple white lights and no ornaments (it's still only Advent after all). But you would have thought I offered them all free ice cream for a year. Even the youngest, Nib, was jumping up and down screaming "Lights! Lights!" Nub clapped his hands, while Wynken and Nod-girl danced in the living room. Even Blynken got off her sick couch to help articulate the branches.

With car accidents and sicknesses and various obligations, we haven't been able to put up the tree until today. The Nodlings have been asking for it every single day. They finally got their wish when they clued-in that Dear Old Dad needed some help with the house to free up the necessary time. They did their homework, ate without a fuss, loaded the dishwasher, cleaned their rooms and the living room, and even folded a bit of laundry. I, for my part, rearranged some furniture and dug out the tree from its lonely basement corner with things piled atop.

Our tree is a modest affair, both in price and quality. We had to make a switch a few years ago from a real live tree for a number of reasons: cost, fire safety, clean-up, and a moderately severe allergy to cut trees on the in-law side.

I do miss the real thing, however. I help our KoC council sell them at the church lot. It's a nice tradition and they smell great. Having a real tree just feels like authentic Christmas since we grew up with it. There's a lot of fun in picking just the right tree: size, shape, needles, hue. We know a family who have an annual tradition of cutting down their tree from a tree farm every year and strap it to the top of their car and drive it 50 miles home.

What's your Christmas tree tradition? Which is better: real or artificial?
Take the poll!

Two Down Five To Go

First a car accident, now a stomach virus. Mrs. Nod isn't having good week.

Blynken also has the malaise. Wynken and Nod-girl went to school fine, but I'm just waiting for that phone call. Toddlers are fine and acting like, well, toddlers.

At this rate, there will be no Christmas vacation for me. Such is life.

The path to holiness goes through body fluids I guess. I just wish they'd stay on the inside.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Awesome Architecture: St. Matthew

I went to the Cathedral of St. Matthew in Washington D.C. for the holy day Mass today.

Holy Smokes, this place is gorgeous! I had a hard time not gawking during Mass, but gawked to my heart's content afterward. Its design is a hybrid of Byzantine and Romanesque architecture; and although it's a fair debate on whether you prefer Romanesque or Gothic, the main point is that good church architecture necessarily raises your mind to God. In this case the architecture literally forces you to raise your head to take it all in -- everything worth seeing is above the 50-foot mark.

The forms and symbols used in building all mean something liturgically speaking. For a fuller treatment of the subject, I recommend asking an expert: Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy by Denis McNamara.

This one was my favorite, and since it is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I thought it particularly appropriate. There's radiant joy on her face. "The statue by Gordon S. Kray shows this caring Mother reaching down to fallen humanity and pointing to her ascended Son. This is a very unusual depiction of Mary placed here in 1984."

I got some low-res photos with my trusty camera phone, but I recommend the higher-res photo tour that the Cathedral offers.

The music was provided by a cantor and an organ; it was so exquisitely beautiful it makes your heart ache. If all that beauty is an inkling of what life with God is like, then bring it on!

Update: D Mac has more on church architecture transformations; this one is on a slightly smaller scale.

Monday, December 7, 2009


We just got plowed; not the road, but the car.

Somebody stopped suddenly in front of Mrs. Nod; she also stopped suddenly, but the car behind didn't make the grade. In fact, the grade of the hill that driver came down probably had a little to do with the velocity and momentum with which she got hit. But don't worry, we got the license plate. In fact, you can see it embedded in our bumper in this picture.

Ultimately, the damage is one fender and bumper superstructure. The driver of the other car's insurance should take care of it. The larger concern was that Mrs. Nod and the toddlers, Nub and Nib, were ok, especially since Nub just had a hernia surgery and the stitches are still fresh. The doctor seems to think everybody's ok, except for a little whiplash on Mrs. Nod. The next day or two should tell if there are any additional symptoms. Soft tissue damage is slow to show up and even slower to heal.

The other casualties of the accident are two of our car seats. Once you're in any kind of accident, you have to replace them Just In Case. At $150 - $300 a pop, this ain't cheap. It's been a long day with doctor's visits, insurance claims, musical rental car nonsense, and auto body shops.

I'm tired and my advent tree still isn't up, despite the kids' pleas. Be careful out there ...

The Sign Says: Bridges Freeze Before Roads

You've seen this sign a half a hundred times if you've seen it once: Bridge Freezes Before Road. It means just what you think, but most people don't really think about it.

That ramp, that overpass -- hey man, it's slippery. Our area just had its first snowfall, which means that we had an uptick in accidents. The correlation is 1:1. I went out to do my shift at the local KoC Christmas tree sale Saturday night and on the way back I had a choice to take the left or right fork home. I chose left. I chose wrong.

Of course I was down to nearly fumes on the gas tank, so I chose the more direct and (I thought) safer way home. Except that way goes over an overpass. Snow and rain, plus a little melt and re-freeze meant that There Be Dragons Here. As luck would have it, I had just passed the last exit before the overpass and hadn't yet reached the turn off beyond the overpass when I saw The Accident.

Three cars spun out in crazy angles across the bridge. There was thick black smoke roiling out of one car, and the orange flames licked wickedly against the cold darkness of the night. Emergency vehicles quickly blocked any hope of escape the way I had come; people got out of their cars in the freezing cold to watch. Some people with better transmissions than mine made a break for it across the median. It was impressive to watch them gun it on the ice, only to spin the tires at fantastic speed to little effect. Somehow they made it across; me, I'm not that adventurous.

A little reading lesson is in order. If "the weather outside if frightful", and it's been snowing during the day, but the road looks wet -- that's called "black ice". And if the road is like that, then the bridge is suicide. Cold air above and below the bridge has turned the road into a skating rink. Take heed of the sign: the bridge is frozen.

I wish I'd had this little chat with myself five minutes sooner.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival #34

This week on Sunday Snippets, WBN presents Cleaning House: purging the dross at home, in the House, and in your heart.

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, December 5, 2009

The Most Wonderful Time

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

No, I don't mean Christmas, I mean the time where we go through the kids' rooms like a whirling dervish and throw out stuff by the bucket load.

It's not like the kids are spoiled and get every little toy and trinket that their hearts desire, but when you have 5 Nodlings, even the mundane things start to add up to some serious volume.

With Blynken and Nod-girl, every day is Arts & Crafts, and every piece of paper is a Rembrandt. Blynken also exhibits a little separation anxiety with her "stuff". So it just collects and collects. We threw out two entire garbage bags full of just paper stuff. She was a little teary about the process, but I'm Mr. Freeze when I want to be, and Mrs. Nod is ruthless. I told Blynken to thank Jesus for helping her not be attached to material things.

And lest you think it was just the girls with the clutter, we took out three bags of trash from Wynken's room and a double heaping armfull of my own junk; the difference is that the girl stuff was all tiny pieces and plastics bits of detritus, while the boy stuff was larger junk. The toddlers, well, the toddlers just have junk that seems to sprout up everywhere.

Beads and glitter and sharp items are the bane of my existence; I took particular satisfaction in getting rid of that, especially after I stabbed myself in the palm with a previously undiscovered sewing needle. The Nodlings were pleasantly surprised after we unearthed missing toys and parts to beloved stuff.

My garage and trash cans are now overflowing with trash bags full of things we've purged from the house this weekend. We'll just have to hang on until Tuesday trash pickup; it may get crowded in that corner of the garage.

Now if only Christmas toys weren't coming ...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Transparency In Government

There has been a lot of talk about enabling transparency in Washington DC in recent months.

Some juxtapositions are too delicious to resist.
First this sign seen on the Metro:

And then this vulnerability advisory was published at US-CERT:
A vulnerability in the way Adobe Acrobat and Reader enforce privileges on JavaScript in PDF files could allow arbitrary files to be written to the local file system of an affected system.
Not the kind of "openness" they had in mind, I'll wager.

Purple Boots

Somebody I know mentioned wanting flat purple boots. So when I saw these walking down the street, I knew I had to get a shot with my trusty camera phone.

Plus, my new Mac has a sweet alpha filter built into Preview that auto-magically removed the background. Sweet!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Afghan Troop Surge - Cynic's Review

This week President Obama announced a 30,000 troop surge for the fight in Afghanistan. In the same speech he also announced the timetable for starting to withdraw the troops: Summer 2011.

Gee, that's a funny time. What's significant about that? Oh, yes, it's just before the presidential election season kicks into high gear for 2012.

Obama doesn't want to be known as a War President, since that's not going to fly with his liberal base. The 30,000 troops are about half of what his general requested -- which allows him to try to play both sides of the street: I prosecuted the war in Afghanistan (to the hawks), but only a little bit (to the doves).

That way, even if the war isn't done, or won, he can say he's started to bring the troops home -- always a popular move. Make no mistake, Obama wants to win: but an election, not a war.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Voting Jam

I just voted in a special primary for the 37th district for state senator with 400 of my closest friends.

Seriously, the line was out the door and around the block for 4 hours, no exaggeration. I met my Attorney General, shook hands with two of the candidates (one goes to my church, the other to my neighbor's church), members of my neighbor's congregation, two guys from my men's group, and a guy who thought he knew me but turns out I know the guy he thought I was -- all by standing in line to vote.

I have never missed an opportunity to vote in any election or primary since I came of age. It's a civic and moral obligation which I take seriously. And the more local the election, the more direct impact it has on your life.

I took Mrs. Nod and the kids with me the first time; she voted, I waited in the car with the kids. An hour and a half later she returned. It was past bedtime, so I took them all home and then returned solo to wait another 45 minutes in line for my chance to vote. I got back just 15 minutes prior to the 10 PM deadline. Since I was in line, I got to vote -- finally.

I can honestly say I have never had to wait that long to vote (2 hours 15 minutes) -- ever, for any office. Me and my new best friends from line have a date to go fishing come spring, however.

Candidate Passes!

Among the many things I've had on my plate lately, one had a deadline associated with it. The GIAC Certified Penetration Tester (GPEN) test had to be taken and passed by Dec 12 of this year.

My test was scheduled for today; I had been studying on and off for several weeks but with distractions. Well, I took the test and only missed 4 questions; 97.33% not too shabby! This old dog hasn't lost his edge yet.

I felt like I had to ramrod it through regardless of the situation or any doubts about my ability.

My hero: Danny Kaye in The Court Jester. It doesn't matter what he actually does, the candidate passes!

Captain of the Guard: [Hawkins is being tested for Knighthood] He must scale a wall in full armor.
[Hawkins is tossed over the wall]
Captain of the Guard: Candidate passes!
Captain of the Guard: He must bring down a hawk in full flight.
[a hawk with an arrow is tossed on the ground]
Captain of the Guard: Candidate passes.
Hawkins: But I didn't even shoot...
Captain of the Guard: [shouts] Candidate passes!
Captain of the Guard: He must capture a wild boar with his bare hands.
[a piglet comes out of a chute followed by sound effects of splashing in the mud]
Captain of the Guard: He passes!

Ductapeguy's Multimedia Advent Calendar

Ductape guy offers you an advent calendar:

Monday, November 30, 2009

Pork Puck And Other Made Up Dishes

When is a pork chop not a pork chop? When it is a ten pound frozen hockey puck, that's when.

In the between times when we're not having a cow, we tend to get our meat in bulk from Costco. In the hustle and bustle of unloading industrial amounts of foodstuffs into our house, the meat may get stuck in the refrigerator temporarily, until it can be divided into smaller amounts and frozen.

As sometimes happens, a couple of days went by and this reapportioning didn't happen. To save the investment, I quickly put the whole package of a dozen boneless pork chops in the freezer.

Fast forward a few weeks, I want pork chops for dinner, only to find the entire package has fused together into one, giant, frozen mass -- plastic, styrofoam tray, meat and all. So I did what any red-blooded male would do.

I hit it with a hammer.
Q: What are those half-moon impressions on my meat, Daddy?
A: Those are called "medallions of pork".
Having successfully hunted my dinner, I proceeded to pan-sear the chops in extra virgin olive oil, rosemary, and orange peel, with a dash of grilling salts. I served it up with Basmati rice that I steamed with raisins, dates, and cloves; and paired with a side of parsnips, mushrooms, and onions sauteed in a loving pat or two of real butter.

It was a flavor adventure. Yum!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tobin Rebukes Kennedy

Not sure how I missed this two weeks ago, I must have been distracted. But Bishop Thomas J. Tobin squarely addresses Congressman Patrick "I'm Catholic but" Kennedy, after the Congressman made public the details of his conversation with the Bishop.

Here's an excerpt from RIC:

“The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” -- Congressman Patrick Kennedy

Well, in fact, Congressman, in a way it does. Although I wouldn’t choose those particular words, when someone rejects the teachings of the Church, especially on a grave matter, a life-and-death issue like abortion, it certainly does diminish their ecclesial communion, their unity with the Church. This principle is based on the Sacred Scripture and Tradition of the Church and is made more explicit in recent documents.

For example, the “Code of Canon Law” says, “Lay persons are bound by an obligation and possess the right to acquire a knowledge of Christian doctrine adapted to their capacity and condition so that they can live in accord with that doctrine.” (Canon 229, #1)

The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” says this: “Mindful of Christ’s words to his apostles, ‘He who hears you, hears me,’ the faithful receive with docility the teaching and directives that their pastors give them in different forms.” (#87)

Or consider this statement of the Church: “It would be a mistake to confuse the proper autonomy exercised by Catholics in political life with the claim of a principle that prescinds from the moral and social teaching of the Church.” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 2002)

There’s lots of canonical and theological verbiage there, Congressman, but what it means is that if you don’t accept the teachings of the Church your communion with the Church is flawed, or in your own words, makes you “less of a Catholic.”

Ouch, Congressman, that has to hurt. For your own good.

Nub Under The Knife

Hey all,

My 4 year old, Nub, (who also has Down Syndrome) is having a hernia surgery Monday morning and I sure would appreciate your prayers. This is a complication from his open-heart surgery when he was 1 year old that saved his life.

It's supposed to be out-patient surgery and No Big Deal, but as a parent you always worry. It's in God's hands! Ora pro nobis.

UPDATE: Surgery was quick (45 minutes) with a fast recovery (1 hour as opposed to 2). We left the hospital around 10:30 am. He was walking around and playing almost normally until a little while ago when the numbing agent given during surgery wore off. Now he is getting a little fussy. Tylenol is all he is cleared to have. We expect him to be cranky the rest of the day. Total recovery in about two weeks.

He is currently at his normal post looking out the window, playing his musical caterpillar. Thanks for all your prayers.

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival #33

This week on Sunday Snippets, WBN presents: God, Country, Family.


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, November 28, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration

Some things speak for themselves:

Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the
weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of
civil society, beginning with the family.

We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to
reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our
fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These
truths are (1) the sanctity of human life, (2) the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union
of husband and wife, and (3) the rights of conscience and religious liberty. Inasmuch as
these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are
inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from
powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their
defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are
brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this
commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the
crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Human Life

The lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are ever more threatened. While
public opinion has moved in a pro-life direction, powerful and determined forces are
working to expand abortion, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide, and
euthanasia. Although the protection of the weak and vulnerable is the first obligation of
government, the power of government is today often enlisted in the cause of promoting
what Pope John Paul II called “the culture of death.” We pledge to work unceasingly for
the equal protection of every innocent human being at every stage of development and
in every condition. We will refuse to permit ourselves or our institutions to be implicated
in the taking of human life and we will support in every possible way those who, in
conscience, take the same stand.


The institution of marriage, already wounded by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is at
risk of being redefined and thus subverted. Marriage is the original and most important
institution for sustaining the health, education, and welfare of all. Where marriage
erodes, social pathologies rise. The impulse to redefine marriage is a symptom, rather
than the cause, of the erosion of the marriage culture. It reflects a loss of understanding
of the meaning of marriage as embodied in our civil law as well as our religious
traditions. Yet it is critical that the impulse be resisted, for yielding to it would mean
abandoning the possibility of restoring a sound understanding of marriage and, with it,
the hope of rebuilding a healthy marriage culture. It would lock into place the false and
destructive belief that marriage is all about romance and other adult satisfactions, and not, in any intrinsic way, about the unique character and value of acts and relationships
whose meaning is shaped by their aptness for the generation, promotion and protection
of life. Marriage is not a “social construction,” but is rather an objective reality—the
covenantal union of husband and wife—that it is the duty of the law to recognize, honor,
and protect.

Religious Liberty

Freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized. The threat to
these fundamental principles of justice is evident in efforts to weaken or eliminate
conscience protections for healthcare institutions and professionals, and in anti-
discrimination statutes that are used as weapons to force religious institutions, charities,
businesses, and service providers either to accept (and even facilitate) activities and
relationships they judge to be immoral, or go out of business. Attacks on religious liberty
are dire threats not only to individuals, but also to the institutions of civil society including
families, charities, and religious communities. The health and well-being of such
institutions provide an indispensable buffer against the overweening power of
government and is essential to the flourishing of every other institution—including
government itself—on which society depends.

Unjust Laws

As Christians, we believe in law and we respect the authority of earthly rulers. We count
it as a special privilege to live in a democratic society where the moral claims of the law
on us are even stronger in virtue of the rights of all citizens to participate in the political
process. Yet even in a democratic regime, laws can be unjust. And from the beginning,
our faith has taught that civil disobedience is required in the face of gravely unjust laws
or laws that purport to require us to do what is unjust or otherwise immoral. Such laws
lack the power to bind in conscience because they can claim no authority beyond that of
sheer human will.

Therefore, let it be known that we will not comply with any edict that compels us or the
institutions we lead to participate in or facilitate abortions, embryo-destructive research,
assisted suicide, euthanasia, or any other act that violates the principle of the profound,
inherent, and equal dignity of every member of the human family.

Further, let it be known that we will not bend to any rule forcing us to bless immoral
sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from
proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality, marriage, and the family.

Further, let it be known that we will not be intimidated into silence or acquiescence or
the violation of our consciences by any power on earth, be it cultural or political,
regardless of the consequences to ourselves.

We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no
circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.

Friday, November 27, 2009

LOTR Fan Film Debuts Dec 1

The much anticipated Lord of the Rings fan film, Born of Hope, is set to debut on the Internet on Dec 1. For those of you who can't get enough of this kind of thing, this is the event for you.

In the meantime, here's the new trailer:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving: A PROCLAMATION

In the founding days of our country, our forefathers recognized the duty of all men to give thanks to God, the source of all beneficence. It's not a Church/State issue; it's a recognition of natural law and the reality of God.

See the proclamation from the U.S. Congress in 1782. Cribbed from

By the United States in Congress assembled.


IT being the indispensable duty of all Nations, not only to offer up their supplications to ALMIGHTY GOD, the giver of all good, for his gracious assistance in a time of distress, but also in a solemn and public manner to give him praise for his goodness in general, and especially for great and signal interpositions of his providence in their behalf: Therefore the United States in Congress assembled, taking into their consideration the many instances of divine goodness to these States, in the course of the important conflict in which they have been so long engaged; the present happy and promising state of public affairs; and the events of the war, in the course of the year now drawing to a close; particularly the harmony of the public Councils, which is so necessary to the success of the public cause; the perfect union and good understanding which has hitherto subsisted between them and their Allies, notwithstanding the artful and unwearied attempts of the common enemy to divide them; the success of the arms of the United States, and those of their Allies, and the acknowledgment of their independence by another European power, whose friendship and commerce must be of great and lasting advantage to these States:----- Do hereby recommend to the inhabitants of these States in general, to observe, and request the several States to interpose their authority in appointing and commanding the observation of THURSDAY the twenty-eight day of NOVEMBER next, as a day of solemn THANKSGIVING to GOD for all his mercies: and they do further recommend to all ranks, to testify to their gratitude to GOD for his goodness, by a cheerful obedience of his laws, and by promoting, each in his station, and by his influence, the practice of true and undefiled religion, which is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness.

Done in Congress, at Philadelphia, the eleventh day of October, in the year of our LORD one thousand seven hundred and eighty-two, and of our Sovereignty and Independence, the seventh.
JOHN HANSON, President.
Charles Thomson, Secretary.



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