Saturday, February 28, 2009

Russia Plays Chicken With West

Last week a Russian bomber buzzed Canadian Arctic airspace only a day before U.S. President Obama's visit to Ottawa.

Russia has been increasingly aggressive in its military posturing in all its neighboring territories in the last couple of years. The move signals a possible attempt by Russia to regain Cold War era prominence. A plunging economy and internal turmoils have sidelined Russia on the world stage since embracing capitalism. Now Russia has been growing increasingly hardline and authoritarian with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin poised to appoint himself president for life.

Canada chased the Russian bomber off with a pair of CF-18 fighter jets but were alarmed that Russian failed to notify them of the flight beforehand. Russia's back and forth response with Canada was like two children on the playground.
Can: You did not inform us that you would be flying near our airspace before you took off.
Rus: Who us? Did too.
Can: Did not.
Rus: Did too. You calling us liars?
Can: We had to find out from NORAD.
That's a nice way of saying: "Yes, you're lying, and we all know you're lying but we don't come out and say that in polite company."

The aggravating factor is that President Obama was coming to town the next day, so the incident can be percieved as a veiled threat against the United States as well. Whether or not you like the President or his politics, if you mess with POTUS, you're messing with all of us. Despite our current troubles, we still have the biggest stick around -- so watch out or we'll beat you up at the bike rack after school!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Bumper Sticker Theology

Let's face it: nobody likes your bumper sticker.

For every person who likes your bumper sticker, there are two others who'd like to run you off the road for it. I'm one of them.

Many people have written much more eloquently about the reduction of public discourse to "sound bites" and "sloganeering". They function much like stereotypes in that they convey a world of standardized details in a handy label. Like junk food, they are tasty as a treat but sickening as a full time diet.

Today's inane bumper sticker read:
We are spiritual people having a bodily experience.
The nuances and vagaries of what is wrong with this statement I am probably not qualified to tell, but in the main it misses the point of what we are.

We are NOT mere flesh with no immortal spirit, same as the animals; but God made flesh and matter and saw that it was good.

We are NOT merely pure spirits or intellects or even "consciousnesses" -- those are angels. We are NOT angels. But God gave us an imperishable spirit made after his own image and saw that it was good.

We are NOT even souls who happen to inhabit bodies or "shells" for a short time until we die and our souls go to Heaven or Hell (Purgatory is just a pit stop.) Our souls have NOT been hanging around in Heaven waiting for our turn at a body.

And we are sure as shootin' NOT spiritual people having a bodily experience.

What we ARE is that amazing and absolutely unique creature who is both body and soul at the same time. Your soul is not "more you" than your body, and your body is not "more real" than your soul.

Body and soul go together always and everywhere -- that's why we die if they're separated; and that separation is unnatural -- it only exists because of sin. That's why we will be reunited with our bodies on the Last Day. For us to be completely alive in Christ, we're going to need our bodies and souls conjoined. We are ONE thing, not two things stuck together.

Our selves are both mundane and mystical, at once apprehendable and ineffable. Our bodies are a prayer and a temple. Pope John Paul II wrote extensively on the Theology of the Body which attempts to explore the mystery and holiness of our existence. We have the secret of God's inner life stamped into our natures. It goes on and on ...

I need my own bumper sticker that says:
Your bumper sticker is stupid.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

If the Pope Sent You A Letter

... then the least you could do is to read it.


"He fasted for forty days and forty nights,
and afterwards he was hungry"
(Mt 4,1-2)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

At the beginning of Lent, which constitutes an itinerary of more intense spiritual training, the Liturgy sets before us again three penitential practices that are very dear to the biblical and Christian tradition – prayer, almsgiving, fasting – to prepare us to better celebrate Easter and thus experience God’s power that, as we shall hear in the Paschal Vigil, “dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy, casts out hatred, brings us peace and humbles earthly pride” (Paschal Præconium).


From what I have said thus far, it seems abundantly clear that fasting represents an important ascetical practice, a spiritual arm to do battle against every possible disordered attachment to ourselves.


Quite opportunely, an ancient hymn of the Lenten liturgy exhorts: “Utamur ergo parcius, / verbis cibis et potibus, / somno, iocis et arctius / perstemus in custodia Let us use sparingly words, food and drink, sleep and amusements. May we be more alert in the custody of our senses.”

[...]May every family and Christian community use well this time of Lent, therefore, in order to cast aside all that distracts the spirit and grow in whatever nourishes the soul, moving it to love of God and neighbor. I am thinking especially of a greater commitment to prayer, lectio divina, recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and active participation in the Eucharist, especially the Holy Sunday Mass.


From the Vatican, 11 December 2008.


iBishop's Lenten Menu

The USCCB has some cool resources on their web site specifically geared to help the faithful in their observance of Lent, including What We Believe, What We Celebrate, How We Live, and How We Pray.

The Bishops are coming of Internet Age in trying to both reach and teach the Catholic faithful -- even the most wired. Check it out.

go to believe

What We Believe
In this section, we invite you to discover the beauty of the Catholic faith that is articulated in our Catechism and the writings of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict VXI.

go to celebrate page What We Celebrate
Catholics celebrate the Christian mystery through our liturgy and the seven sacraments of the Church. Learn more about the sacraments, especially the sacraments of Baptism and Reconciliation (Confession) during Lent.
go to live page How We Live
Christian living means following the teaching and example of Christ, the Ten Commandments, the precepts of the Catholic Church and its principles of moral life. In this section, learn more about Christian morality and the special emphasis on fasting and charity during Lent.
go to pray page How We Pray
Through prayer, we raise our hearts and minds to God in thanksgiving and praise. Learn about the types of Christian prayer and the special prayers and devotions of Lent.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Blogger Hiccup Dumps Followers

Some bloggers are reporting that there has been some kind of hiccup recently that resulted in an unceremonious dumping of some Followers and/or Subscribers from various Blogspot blogs.

Not all blogs and not all accounts have been affected, and there has been no official announcement from Blogger. The incidence is low enough that it rates as "bit error" in the grand scheme of things.

To those of us with an average blog, however, even a small loss is felt and we do not consider such losses as "bit errors". You are living, breathing, and thinking people who have taken the time to stop by and read what I have thought relevant -- therefore you are appreciated.

If you are one of those who were accidentally removed from subscription, please come back! If you haven't subscribed to the RSS feed in the past, please consider this an invitation to join in using the "Subscribe to the Blynken blog" button. If you'd really like to make my day, use the link on the left under "Nod'ers" to "Follow" the blog publicly.

And, hey, thanks.

UPDATE: Blogger has announced over on Blogger Buzz that they've switched the Follow feature to something called "Friend Connect". Undoubtedly this caused some of the problems we've been seeing.
That's why we're excited to announce that we've integrated Blogger Following with Google Friend Connect.

Friend Connect encourages readers to use one account (whether it's a Google account, a Yahoo, AIM or OpenID account) to follow any site - a Blogger blog, a WordPress blog, or any other site that has incorporated Friend Connect.

The problem I see now is that the widget is big and ugly.

Sign of the Catholic

Day three of the ague prevented me from leaving the house to get my yearly Sign of the Catholic. It's not a holy day of obligation, but it is a solid way to begin Lent.

The kids, happily, went to school as scheduled and received their ashes at the school Mass. Mrs. Nod was teasing Blynken and Nod-girl at the dinner table to see what they understood about the symbolism of Ash Wednesday.

Mrs. Nod: You have a dirty face.
Nod-girl: That's because I need a napkin for my dinner.

Mrs. Nod: Not that kind of dirty; I mean up on your forehead -- you have a smudge.
Nod-girl: That's my cross.

Mrs. Nod: Why do you have a cross?
Nod-girl: To remind us of Jesus.
Blynken: No, it's to remind us that we're made of ashes.

Remember, O man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.
From American Catholic:
Although Ash Wednesday is not a Catholic holy day of obligation, it is an important part of the season of Lent. The first clear evidence of Ash Wednesday is around 960, and in the 12th century people began using palm branches from the previous Palm Sunday for ashes.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sick And Tired

No, I mean it: I'm sick and tired. I'm forced to stay home today because of a fever and chills.

I had successfully avoided it from Mrs. Nod, Blynken, Nod-girl, and even Nub and Nib. But I think the work triad of my coughing boss and two sick co-workers finally put me over the immunity edge. I am generally hardy when it comes to resisting viruses and such, but I am a complete whiner once I do get sick. "Alas! Woe is me!"

There wasn't any need for playing it up last night, though. I had already taken ibuprofen an hour before, but my fever spiked up anyway -- teeth chattering, chills, the whole bit. Mrs. Nod noted that this was a bit of a role reversal: me cold and she warm.

I have been sleeping on and off since 2:30pm yesterday, and I think I'm all slept out. One thing I've noticed about being sick, other than not feeling well: it's boring. Right now, nobody else is home. With five kids in the house, I usually crave a quiet spot especially from 5pm onward, but this -- this is just dull. With kids, nothing is ever dull -- because "if they're conscious, they want something from you."

Heh. Who knew I'd miss the chaos?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Fine Point

Vatican to reporters: Shut your pie hole!

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 22, 2009 ( The Vatican spokesman requested journalists to refrain from attributing positions to the Holy See that it has not taken.

A note published Saturday by the Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See's press office, claims that "it is not rare that the media attribute to the 'Vatican' -- by which they mean the Holy See -- comments and points of view that cannot automatically be attributed to it."

He explained: "The Holy See, in fact, when it intends to authoritatively express itself uses the proper means and suitable ways -- communiqués, notes, declarations. Every other pronouncement does not have the same value."

Father Lombardi concluded: "Even recently, there have been inopportune attributions.

"The Holy See, in its representative organs, shows respect for civil authorities, which in their legitimate autonomy have the right and the duty to provide for the common good."

The Irish Have It

The AP reports:
NEW YORK (AP) — Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan will be appointed the next Roman Catholic archbishop of New York, The Associated Press has learned.

The Vatican is expected to announce Dolan's appointment Monday, according to a church official with knowledge of when Vatican appointments are announced. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the selection.[...]

Dolan, 59, has been Milwaukee's archbishop since 2002. He previously served as rector of the North American College in Rome, the elite seminary for U.S. priests, where he had studied for his own ordination years earlier.

[...]Dolan's appointment will continue a chain of Irish-heritage archbishops that was broken only once in two centuries, when a French-born prelate, John Dubois, was appointed to New York in 1826.
Dolan's Wikipedia profile continues:
In the 2008 presidential election, Dolan rebuked Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for "misrepresenting timeless Church doctrine" on abortion, which the Archbishop called the "premier civil rights issue of our day."

The Archbishop is considered to be theologically conservative, but once stated, "Titles of liberal and conservative don't cut much mustard with me."

He is presently chairman of the board of directors of Catholic Relief Services, and a member of the Board of Trustees of The Catholic University of America. Within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, he chairs the Priestly Life and Ministry Committee and sits on the Subcommittee on the Church in Africa.

Wall Street Reacts

So far the stock market hasn't responded too favorably to the latest stimulus plan ...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Duct Tape Guys

Well, this is random; there is actually a site dedicated to duct tape, including cartoons.

Squid and God

Discovery reports:

Jan. 23, 2009 -- The circular teeth squid use to snag and handle prey could lead to strong but lightweight, environmentally friendly composite materials, according to new research. [...]

The teeth get their strength from architecture. A series of tooth pores runs through the protein, and on the outer edge the pores are spaced widely for a hard, shape edge that digs into the flesh of hapless prey. Toward the base, the pores are closer together, making a softer material that can absorb the prey's thrashing without breaking. [...]

Such products would likely be environmentally friendly and relatively cheap to manufacture, since the reactions that produce squid teeth don't require exotic ingredients, harsh chemicals or temperature extremes.

Reproducing nature's proteins has proven difficult at best. Spider silk, which pound for pound is stronger than steel cable, has yet to be mass produced despite decades of work.

And what have we learned class? After noting that the best designs are those that are mimicked from nature (and the difficulty in copying that design) we must conclude that nobody makes it better than the Master.

Lenten Inventory

Lent is a time to take personal inventory. What are you stocking up on?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Propeller Hat Moment

Sigh. People think security geeks have no sense of humor. They do, it's just ... arcane.

Amnesty Doesn't Spare Clinton

Amnesty International sharply criticized Secretary of State Clinton for giving China a pass on its human rights violations in favor of strengthening economic ties.

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Amnesty International and a pro-Tibet group voiced shock Friday after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed not to let human rights concerns hinder cooperation with China.

Paying her first visit to Asia as the top US diplomat, Clinton said the United States would continue to press China on long-standing US concerns over human rights such as its rule over Tibet.

"But our pressing on those issues can't interfere on the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis," Clinton told reporters in Seoul just before leaving for Beijing.

T. Kumar of Amnesty International USA said the global rights lobby was "shocked and extremely disappointed" by Clinton's remarks.

"The United States is one of the only countries that can meaningfully stand up to China on human rights issues," he said.

"But by commenting that human rights will not interfere with other priorities, Secretary Clinton damages future US initiatives to protect those rights in China," he said.

I hate to find myself agreeing with AI, who has become just another abortion shill, but when you're right, you're right; integrity demands you admit it. But it just goes to show you: even the devil can quote scripture.

Friday, February 20, 2009

I Smell A RAT

Unfortunately, this kind of thing is going to keep happening for a while. More revelations regarding "hidden" provisions in the ARRA stimulus bill, aka Porculus.

(Newser) – Hidden away in the $787 billion stimulus bill is a lousy provision that threatens to inject politics into the jobs of supposedly independent government watchdogs, writes Byron York of the Washington Examiner. The bill creates something called the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board—the RAT board to the few who know of it. From now on, inspectors general—investigators who check into wrongdoing at federal agencies—must clear their inquiries with the board.

"The language means that the board—whose chairman will be appointed by the president—can reach deep inside a federal agency and tell an inspector general to lay off some particularly sensitive subject," writes York. "Or, conversely, it can tell the inspector general to go after a tempting political target." It's not clear yet who snuck it in, but signs point to the Obama administration, not Congress.
Hidden? How is it hidden you ask? The pig is a bloated 1,000 plus page document that nobody read. Did I mention I hate omnibus bills?

It's actually hard to move me to public action, since I normally seethe in private indignation, but I got so annoyed with my elected officials that I wrote my Congressmen about it. One Senator and one Representative did not bother to acknowledge me -- fie! The other U.S. Senator from Virginia, Mark Warner, sent me this lovely form letter; a few days later when I urged the Senator to READ the bill before voting on it, he sent me almost the exact same form letter again.

Thank you for contacting me with your views on the economic stimulus package. In order to best represent you as your United States Senator, it is vital that I hear your view on this and other important matters.

I recognize that many Virginians still have concerns about the need for a stimulus package. There has also been a good deal of misinformation surrounding this legislation, both about what is included and how it will be implemented. On February 10, 2009, I joined a majority of the Senate in approving a bipartisan compromise to restart the economy through a responsible mix of tax cuts and investments that will create jobs. The compromise includes more than $360 billion in tax relief and roughly $460 billion in short-term spending over the next two years on roads, rail, water and sewer projects, as well as additional health care and jobless assistance for the unemployed. The agreement was widely supported by our nation's leading business groups, and I was pleased to work with a centrist group of colleagues to craft the proposal that passed the Senate, which was signed by the President on February 17, 2009.

President Obama and the relevant Congressional committees have been in close consultation with state and local officials and a wide range of economic experts to develop an approach that represents a prudent and effective path to economic recovery. Their consensus found that if nothing is done in the face of this economic crisis, catastrophic consequences could face small businesses and working families across the country.

The Administration and Congress have provided for unprecedented oversight, accountability and transparency in the measure so that taxpayers' money is handled carefully and used in the most efficient and effective manner possible. Moving forward, I will continue to work for Virginians to ensure that the funds in the stimulus package are directly targeted to job creation and "shovel ready" initiatives. You should know that a Recovery Act and Transparency Board will also oversee the disbursement of the funds and a website provided by the White House,, will post detailed information about recovery spending.

The Recovery and Reinvestment Act is but one component of a three-part plan to restore our economy. We still have important work to do to address the foreclosure crisis and shore-up the real estate market and we also must take steps to repair our banking system so that credit will begin flowing again to consumers and small businesses.

Again, thank you for your input. As we move forward in the 111th Congress, please continue to be in touch with your opinions and concerns.

United States Senator
Man, what is that stink? First pork, then rats, now weasels. Who's running this zoo?

Happy Blynken Birthday

Happy Birthday to my girl Blynken!

You're a princess, and I love you.

Crypto Query

I'm putting this one in the "Food for Future Thought" category.

I'm no cryptographer, and only kinda so-so at math, but here's my thought: Are multiple broken cryptographic ciphers, when combined, more secure than a single broken cipher?

Put more simply, can a single file have collisions for more than one algorithm? Even more simply, even though we know that both MD5 and SHA-1 hash algorithms are "broken", if we "cross-hash" a file using both algorithms, are we any more "safe" in terms of integrity than if we only used one of the broken hashes?

My theory is that as long as the "breaks" are fundamentally different between algorithms we might have a practical advantage, like a brick and mortar wall: stronger when put together than standing alone.

We know that for a given file we can create a fake file with the same MD5 hash; likewise SHA-1. The question is: can we create a fake file that will "break" both of these hashes simultaneously?

(Of course the real solution is to use a better and unbroken algorithm, but I'm just curious.)

Somebody get me a crypto geek.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

FISMA & Your Medical Records On Stim

The new so-called Economic Stimulus Bill (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) slipped the American taxpayer a Mickey when it comes to health care.
The law directs an existing bureaucracy created by President Bush (the “Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology”) to put together a plan for building this system so that it achieves the “utilization of an electronic health record for each person in the United States by 2014.”

In plain English: Over the next five years, the Obama administration intends to create a federally run electronic exchange that includes every American’s “medical history and problems lists.”

Now, before you run out to the nearest federal office and sign up to put the “medical history and problems” lists for yourself, your spouse and your children into the government’s “nationwide health information technology infrastructure,” you should know the law does not require you—as an individual—to do this.

The “explanatory statement” for Division A explains this. “To the extent that this section calls the national coordinator to ensure that every person in the United States have an EHR by 2014, this goal is not intended to require individuals to receive services from providers that have electronic health records and is aimed at having the national coordinator takes steps to help providers adopt electronic health records,” says the explanation. “This provision does not constitute a legal requirement on any patient to have an electronic health record.”

But if the national coordinator cannot make you—an individual—submit your records to the system, how is the poor guy going get “an electronic health record for each person in the United States by 2014”?

This mystery created by 139 pages in Division A is solved by the 77 pages in Division B: The secretary of health and human services is given a carrot and stick to make doctors and hospitals create EHRs for their patients. Doctors and hospitals that make “meaningful use” of EHRs by the deadline get bonus payments from Medicare. Those that do not get diminishing Medicare payments.

What is “meaningful use”? That is at the discretion of the secretary of HHS, but the law says it will include “electronic prescribing,” “the electronic exchange of health information to improve the quality of health care” and submitting information “on such clinical quality measures and such other measures as selected by the secretary.”

Lastly, the law directs the secretary to ratchet up the “meaningful use” test as time goes on. Or as the “explanation” politely puts it: “The secretary would seek to improve the use of electronic health records and health care quality by requiring more stringent measures of meaningful use over time.”

In other words, once the secretary has your medical file in the system, he is supposed to make your doctor do ever more with it at his command.
Now with that in mind, take a look at the overall state of computer security (FISMA) in the Federal Government as of FY2007 (the last data available). The "overall" grade for the Government was a "C" (up from a "C-" last year).

Given how they manage computer security, do we really want to let these guys manage our most personal details? I'm sure they would be much better when they start rationing our health care.

Sub Bump Triomp

Say that ten times fast: Sub Bump Triomp(hant).

A French sub and an English sub walk into a bar ... no wait, that's the beginning of a joke. What sounds almost as bad is that the French nuclear submarine Le Triomphant and UK nuclear submarine HMS Vangaurd collided with each other in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean during routine patrols, because neither sub detected the other.

Sheesh! Come on guys, those things are loaded. What's going on lately? -- first Russian satellites, then nuclear submarines. Next thing you know we'll be batting down asteroids with the things.

"Look. Look, Jacques. You take the left side, I'll take the right. And for heaven's sake, be careful."

Feel Lucky for more reassuring French military escapades.

It's All Jake With Me

I've traveled around a bit, and one hobby of mine is to collect phrases: colloquialisms, aphorisms, even slang. The trouble is: sometimes I can't remember where I got things.

Take this one: Jake; as in "It's all Jake with me."

In this case Jake means OK, fine, all right, just right, satisfactory, or even great. I used that once a couple of years ago and just got a look that said "What the heck are you talking about?". Well, I knew what I meant, but not why. Where had I heard that? Obviously I liked the phrase since I remembered it, but who said it first?

This particular incarnation is apparently part of the 1920's Jazz-era slang that was favored by flappers. Many such phrases have survived into modern usage including Big Cheese, baloney!, bee's knees, hair of the dog, speakeasy and others. The origin of Jake in this usage has been traced to 1920's flapper slang, but nobody seems to know why they chose to use it in this way.

The ironic thing is that the term jake has been used through the years to mean a wide variety of different things, including: OK, great, terrible, a policeman, a Jamaican ginger drink, a rube or uncouth person, lazy, a brake, and a toilet.

It's a great term, it's got a short, catchy sound to it. Small wonder it's been so popular.

So, I found out where my mystery phrase came from, but not why.

(Shrug) That's Jake with me.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

To The Batcave!

To the Batcave!

That's the only way I can think of to rationalize the recent behavior of the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. She must be living some kind of mental double life: typical American politician by day, fantasy Catholic by night. (In American politics the extreme left are Moon-Bats and the extreme right are Wing-Nuts.)

How else to explain the massive doublethink and moral gymnastics required to willfully ignore the clear and consistent teaching of the Church and bend it to her own particular brand of "ardent" Catholicism? We don't have brands of Catholicism: you either eat the whole enchilada or you ain't in the club. Social justice: yes; pro-life: yes. No religious vigilantes need apply; plenty of other denominations will be happy to accomodate you, Madame Speaker.

After the public horse whipping Pelosi got after her disingenuous comments on Meet The Press regarding the Catholic Church's constant teaching regarding abortion, the reluctant Archbishop Niederauer, was forced to publicly invite the costumed abortion-crusader to a discussion to correct her erroneous views. This is akin to the Commissioner sending up the Bat-signal because he couldn't get her on the Bat-phone.

Nearly six months after the invitation, Pelosi finally found time in her busy schedule to meet with Archbishop Niederauer on the rooftops -- in this case skulking in the home of a third party. True to her split personality her spokesman clarified that the meeting would have no effect on her abortion stance, but rather, she was Off to See the Pope!

Doubtless hoping to get a free photo-op with the Pope, Pelosi's hopes were dashed when the Vatican refrained from releasing any photographs of the 15 minute meeting. Perhaps learning from recent public relations debacles, the Vatican immediately released a statement after the encounter in which the Pope affirmed the particular duty of Catholic politicians to support and protect life from the moment of conception until natural death.

"Following the General Audience the Holy Father briefly greeted Mrs Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the United States House of Representatives, together with her entourage.

His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church’s consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in cooperation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development.”

Pelosi, by contrast, released a statement saying just how thrilled she was to meet the Pope, but ignored the content of the Pope's address instead focusing on her own remarks to the Pontiff. (La-la-la-la, I'm not liiiiiiistening...).

Hang out with Moon-Bats long enough, and you start to have delusions about your own importance. >cough< >kaff< Can't breathe ... must reach ... utility belt. >cough<.

The sad part is, the kids are watching the show -- same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Overheard In My House

"Dad, I saw girl people in that car."
Heh. Girl-people.

Not Ribbing

Nod-girl is forever trying to figure out how the world works, where food comes from, and things like that.

As a five year old, there's a lot to figure out. "Dad, do animals die before you eat them?" to which I reply "I sure hope so." To her, anything with barbecue sauce on it is synonymous with "ribs", including today's lunch which was chicken wings. She asks, "What animal are ribs made out of?" (Um, they're chicken wings.)

Mrs. Nod patiently explained that ribs are a part of the animal's body, not a particular animal, and that even people have ribs. This led to a wandering discussion between Wynken, Blynken, and Nod-girl on how we should not eat people and the possible gruesome effects of laughing disease if you did. (Honest, I'm not making this up.)

Nod-girl looked thoughtful for a second and then declared:
"But God is a person, and Jesus is a person, and we eat their bloods."
Heh, who says the girl's not catechized?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Marry and Breed

The topic of baby names came up this week which is an endless source of amusement in my house and among my extended family (because the need for it arises so often). We alternate between being actually helpful and trying to come up with the most awful combinations imaginable. Inevitably, the Bad Baby Names site gets mentioned.

For us, anything Germanic is a hoot: Ursula, Helga, Gunther, Gretchen. My brother suggested some selections from the Classics as a strategy to keep your daughter from dating: Gomorrah Chlamydia.

Many people like to be as Catholic as they can, so you get a lot of John Pauls, Benedicts, Mary Katherines, Annes, Elizabeths, or any of the 12 Apostles.

Not to be outdone, I have maintained for several years that you could name your domestic church after the Creed: a boy named Juan Julio and a girl named Kathy Apostolic. (I'll wait while that one sinks in ...)

Your second daughter could simply be named May (or Mae) and a middle name beginning with "I"; that way when she becomes the superior of her convent, she automatically becomes "Mother May I.".

My sister-in-law was musing on things Irish and pointed out that the name Brigid is apparently pronounced "Breed" in Gaelic. Following the time honored tradition of starting all Catholic girl names with "Mary" or some derivative such as Marion or MaryAnn, we accidentally hit upon the new All-Time Worst Catholic Girl Name: MaryAnn Brigid.

Yes, that would be pronounced: Marry and Breed. Oy!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Sts. Cyril and Methodius Day

Just a quick note to wish all of you on this February 14th a Happy Sts. Cyril and Methodius Day.

What? You were expecting St. Valentine? Come on, everybody knows Valentine was dropped years ago from the general Roman calendar. ;-)

These apostles to the Slavs are credited with, among other things, inventing the Cyrillic alphabet, so they could teach the Slavs to read the Gospels.

Saints Cyril and Methodius (Greek: Κύριλλος και Μεθόδιος, Old Church Slavonic: Кѷриллъ и Меѳодїи[more]) were two Greek[2][3][4] brothers born in Thessaloniki in the 9th century, who became missionaries of Christianity among the Slavic peoples of Great Moravia and Pannonia. Through their work they influenced the cultural development of all Slavs, for which they received the title "Apostles to the Slavs". They are credited with devising the Glagolitic alphabet, the first alphabet used to transcribe the Old Church Slavonic language, as well as the the Cyrillic alphabet.[5] After their death, their pupils continued their missionary work among other Slavs. Both brothers are venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Church as saints with the title of "Equals to the Apostles". In 1880, Pope Leo XIII introduced their feast into the calendar of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1980, Pope John Paul II declared them co-patrons of Europe, together with Saint Benedict of Nursia.[6]

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Can You Hear Me Now?

Seems like there must be a better way to make a phone call.

The AP reports:
Two big communications satellites collided in the first-ever crash of two intact spacecraft in orbit, shooting out a pair of massive debris clouds and posing a slight risk to the international space station.

The collision involved an Iridium commercial satellite, which was launched in 1997, and a Russian satellite launched in 1993 and believed to be nonfunctioning. The Russian satellite was out of control, Matney said.

Litter in orbit has increased in recent years, in part because of the deliberate breakups of old satellites. It's gotten so bad that orbital debris is now the biggest threat to a space shuttle in flight, surpassing the dangers of liftoff and return to Earth. NASA is in regular touch with the Space Surveillance Network, to keep the space station a safe distance from any encroaching objects, and shuttles, too, when they're flying.
Ok, wait: space litter has increased because of deliberate breakups of old satellites? Does this seem responsible to anyone? Whatever happened to letting them burn up in the atmosphere or whatever? Alright, I ain't no rocket scientist.

So is this what we mean by space based warfare -- buckshot in space? I wonder what would happen if I took this bag of marbles ...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Alternative Stimulus Better Way to START?

The DC Examiner has an op-ed piece on a fiscally more conservative alternative to the current bloated economic stimulus package, offered by Blue Dog Democrat, Rep. Walt Minnick (D-Idaho), called the Strategic Targeted American Recovery and Transition Act (START).

I have been carping recently on the stimulus bill and on other stupid ideas thought up by our elected representatives; my mantra has been: I hate omnibus bills. They are just too full of pork and it is too easy to slip in riders that would never otherwise see the light of day. I cannot speak to any of the particulars, but my idea of a responsible stimulus package is more in line with what is being reported here about Rep. Minnick's proposal; specifically that it be "targeted, timely and temporary".

While President Barack Obama goes on the road to shore up slipping popular support for the $1 trillion stimulus porkfest that he ordered up from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Walt Minnick, a freshman Democrat from Idaho, is pushing a better idea: The Strategic Targeted American Recovery and Transition Act (START).

Minnick is a member of the Blue Dog caucus of occasionally conservative Democrats. His START plan is a $170 billion “bare bones” pure stimulus approach that would put $100 billion immediately into the pockets of low- and middle-income Americans, then use the other $70 billion for basic infrastructure projects that create jobs. START requires that all funds not spent by 2010 be returned to the Treasury. START also stops stimulus spending when the nation’s Gross Domestic Product increases in two of three previous quarters, and all START payments are required to be posted on a public website.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Case of Mr. Casey

Bishop Martino of Scranton, PA has published a letter formally warning Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) that his vote against the reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy (prohibiting use of U.S. aid dollars to fund abortions abroad) and support for "family planning", i.e., artificial contraception, has placed him in danger of "persist[ing] formally in cooperating with evil [abortion]".
I recognize and respect the burdens that you bear as a United States Senator; however, I remind you that your responsibilities as a Catholic bound by the faith of the Church exceed even those of your office. Your failure to reverse this vote will regrettably mean that you persist formally in cooperating with the evil brought about by this hideous and unnecessary policy.

As I have done several times before, I offer to make myself available to you to discuss the grave concerns that I raise here.
The language is serious here as it is almost a direct quote of CCC 2272 and the resulting penalty of latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication (CIC 1398).

Now, I don't rejoice at the public chastisement of a public official by his Bishop, although that is the Bishop's right and duty. The language of the letter implies that there have been multiple private overtures aimed at correction that have gone unheeded.

This letter then serves two purposes: i) to make a public and formal notification of persistent grave sin, and ii) to limit the effects of scandal on the rest of the faithful. I think the emphasis here is on the latter, given the public nature of the correction.
In keeping with the obligations of my episcopal office, I called upon my brothers and sisters in faith to be vigilant against the objections to the Church’s teaching on life so prevalent in current political discourse. I vowed to be vigilant in correcting Catholics who are in error with regard to the sanctity of life.
The Bishop is serious. The question is: is Mr. Casey? For his sake, I truly hope so.

Overheard In My House

"Now we know why Michael Phelps ate that 12,000 calorie a day diet."

Hot Hands

Saw this new Mountain Dew commercial. We used to play "hot hands" as kids; that's about as close to martial arts as I get.
H/T to Dad With Noisy Kids for this one.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Ripping Vinyl

This is cool. I've been toting around some old vinyl for dogs' years in the form of 33's and a couple 45's. I once had some 78's but those are long gone.

Now, vinyl was old when I was young. It seems to be enjoying a minor resurgence among audiophiles in certain niche markets. Those who can hear the difference (I'm not one of them) say it's a warmer sound than digital; which makes sense since analog is a continuous waveform, whereas digital is discrete ones and zeros.

Most of my records were given to us kids in grade school by our adoptive grandparents when we lived in California. When I was in high school, I saved up my hard earned dollars and paid a whopping $300 bucks for my first stereo, which included AM/FM radio, dual tape decks, turntable and speakers. By that time, I was almost the only one left with a record player and maybe the only one who cared. I actually purchased a couple of records in high school (mostly Beatles or their solo acts).

I left the record player and stereo long ago, but for some reason kept toting around the vinyl. I'm amazed that none of them ever got broken, even with my five kids using the furniture for target practice and spring boards.

Ever since I "discovered" iTunes a couple of years ago, my music listening has enjoyed a renaissance. This Christmas I received this very cool Ion USB Turntable which gives me the ability to transfer my vinyl directly to my computer using the very cool open source software, Audacity. Now I can enjoy them in MP3 or Ogg Vorbis form, play them in iTunes, put 'em on my iPod, or even hook the turntable up to the modern stereo.

I have to say, I'm stoked; the old music is new again!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Best Feeling In The World

Yeah, I know this one has already made the rounds in the blogosphere, but it's just that good that it deserves to be re-posted. (Hat tip: HotAir via Creative Minority Report)

Update: CNN is having trouble with the video, but the original can be found on 6 Action News at

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Targeting Conscience

I opened up my Arlington Catholic Herald today, since it always comes in the mail on Thursday, to see what's going on in the Diocese, and I see this headline on page 2: Pro-life pharmacy targeted by proposed law.

Now, it states that the bill was introduced into the Virginia House of Delegates as a "general bill" (Virginia House Bill 2373) by delegate David Englin from Virginia’s 45th district requiring "pro-life" pharmacies to put a sign in the window proclaiming that they don't sell contraceptives or abortifacients. But a quick search will reveal that DMC Pharmacy is the only one in Virginia. That means they were specifically targeted as an individual business -- which is illegal (I think) or ought to be.

Nation-wide there are only 7 publicly confirmed "pro-life" pharmacies, but the radical foaming-at-the-mouth types would have you believe it's an epidemic where you won't be able to get an aspirin if your doctor doesn't believe in it.

Other than the obvious religious bigotry, I have a personal reason for being incensed: I shop there. I know the pharmacist, Robert and Pam Semler, personally. (Nicer people you will not meet.) My family and friends go there precisely because they are pro-life. As Robert Semler said,
"We're not threatening anybody. We're just trying to serve a niche market of like-minded individuals."
And believe me, this is a tiny store; there are several other national pharmacies within two hundred yards of this one, including a KMart and a CVS. I don't sue Giant if they don't carry Pistachio ice cream (they don't, I looked); I don't draft legislation against Target because they have one check out line without candy in it -- some parents prefer that line. It's the same thing here: people will patronize businesses that have (or explicitly lack) things they want. Others go somewhere else. It's that simple.

Unfortunately, this is a small dose of a growing threat to personal conscience and values. Opponents worry they won't be able to kill the right people if doctors and health care providers are allowed to exercise their own freedom of religion (aka conscience).

The price of freedom: eternal vigilance.


Ok, I usually don't go in for this kind of thing, but sometimes you just want a chuckle. I think we've all had more than our usual Dose of Dourness from the news.
LOLSaints was created in early 2009 by Jeff Geerling in response to a Twitter posting by CurtJester (who runs a humorous blog named, aptly, "The Curt Jester."
Thus, LOLSaints was born. Profound. We know.
Although I must admit, I ran into some prior art over at PaterNosters by accident when I tried to find this site a second time. I don't exactly think it's copyrighted or anything -- like it matters...

Is it reverent? Not especially.
Is it sacrilegious? Not really.
Is it informative? After a fashion.
Is it humorous? Depends on your mood.
But is it LOL? You be the judge. :-)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


The New York Times reports:
The Legionaries of Christ, an influential Roman Catholic religious order, have been shaken by new revelations that their founder, who died a year ago, had an affair with a woman and fathered a daughter just as he and his thriving conservative order were winning the acclaim of Pope John Paul II.
Brennan Manning, a Christian author and speaker, famously put it this way:
The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.

I Can Stop Anytime

Congratulations to the "Six-burgh" Steelers on their SuperBowl victory.

Now what am I going to do on Sunday afternoons for the next six months? No really, that's not withdrawl symptoms; honest, I can stop anytime; I don't even play fantasy football.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Overheard In My House

Blynken recently made her first Confession and asked to go again this past Saturday. On the way there she asks,
Can I also go to Confession the day before my birthday, so I can wake up on my birthday without any sin?
Talk about planning ahead.

Depreciating Kids

The kids are like used cars: their value depreciates (tax-wise) while the cost to maintain them goes up.

Mrs. Nod is working on the taxes; it seems that even though our withholdings remained constant from last year, the numbers have worked out less in our favor. Instead of getting a return on our taxes, we might owe slightly on the Federal side. (But since I under-withhold on the State side, it may still be net positive.)

One of the factors seems to be that the Bush tax cuts are dwindling. The initial plan doubled the traditional child credit from $500 to $1000 per child; now they are about $700, and should be back to $500 by 2011 (if I understand correctly).

Since the kids are our investment and their value is dropping precipitously, do they now qualify as a "troubled asset" a-la TARP?

Hey, can I get a bail-out over here?

Quid Pro Quo?

I know this kind of deal making goes on all the time in Washington, but when a sitting Senator gets elevated to the next highest office and there are strings on his vacant seat how is this not shades of the whole Blago fiasco?

Because what we have here is a quid pro quo. I will give you (or do) this for that.

What I'm talking about is the impending decision of Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire to accept the position of commerce secretary in President Obama's Cabinet. Senator Gregg is a Republican, the Governor of New Hampshire, John Lynch, is a Democrat. Ergo, it follows that the person appointed to fill his seat would be a Democrat, giving the party the magic filibuster-proof number of 60 in the Senate. However, sources from both parties say that Lynch has given assurances that he will name a Republican and so leave the Senate balance unchanged.
But state political sources from both parties said Monday that Lynch will name Gregg's former chief of staff, Bonnie Newman, to replace him.

In a statement issued earlier Monday, Lynch said Gregg had told him he would not give up his seat "if it changed the balance in the Senate."
Just because it is being brokered at the highest levels and with the finesse and tact that Blagojevich so desperately lacked, doesn't mean that the essence of the thing has changed. Instead of trading for personal wealth and cash, the trade is for maintaining the balance of power in the Senate. Instead of a two way trade, we have a three way trade: Obama gets his commerce pick, Gregg gets the title, and the Republicans keep their bare hold on the filibuster.

If you ask me, it still stinks like three day old fish.


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