Thursday, April 30, 2009

LOTR Fan Film

When you just can't get enough:

Reposted from Slashdot:
"This weekend sees the release of The Hunt for Gollum, a Lord of the Rings fan-film. It'll be available on the web for free. The BBC are running an article about the making of the film, with a budget of £3,000 (spent mostly on costumes and make-up). There were 160 contributors involved, many over the internet." I hope it lives up to the trailer (linked from the BBC story); the finished film is approximately 40 minutes. memoryhole supplies links to YouTube for both the full trailer and a second trailer. Reader jowifi adds a link to NPR's story on the film, writing, "NPR discussed the legality of this type of creation with EFF lawyer Fred Von Lohman, who said it's not clear if such a production violates the copyright for Tolkien's work."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Kathy Ireland Human Rights Crusader

Another reason to like Kathy Ireland. (h/t Creative Minority Report)

"My entire life I was pro-choice — who was I to tell another woman what she could or couldn’t do with her body? But when I was 18, I became a Christian and I dove into the medical books, I dove into science."

"I’ve also asked leading scientists across our country to please show me some shred of evidence that the unborn is not a human being. I didn’t want to be pro-life, but this is not a woman’s rights issue but a human rights issue."

It just goes to show you that life and determining the beginning of life isn't a religious issue, but rests squarely on scientific principals.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Political Babelfish

Politicians are funny animals; they look and act like ordinary humans, but sometimes the things they say are simply incomprehensible to the rest of the species. This has led many to believe that they are not the same species at all, and therefore we are in need of a Babel Fish to translate. Detractors, however, maintain that politicians are not a separate species, but rather a pack of lying weasels that give packs of lying weasels a bad name.
The Babel Fish is small, yellow, and simultaneously translates from one spoken language to another.

When inserted into the ear, its nutrition processes convert sound waves into brain waves, neatly crossing the language divide between any species you should happen to meet whilst travelling in space.

Thus, enter the political babel fish to translate what you think you heard into what was actually meant.

In a surprise move today, RINO Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter announced that he would be switching parties from the Republicans to the Democrats, after announcing that he would never do that in a March 17th interview with The Hill.

Specter: I am staying a Republican because I think I have an important role, a more important role, to play there. The United States very desperately needs a two-party system.
Translation: I think this will play well in Peoria; too bad I'm a Senator in Pennsylvania.

Specter: "Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats."

Translation: I'm a political whore.

Specter: "I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans."

Translation: "I've been informed by my pollster that it would be impossible for me to be reelected in Pennsylvania as a Republican because I could not win the primary; and I could not get elected as an independent, and so I've decided to become a Democrat."

[Washington Post] Specter will receive his seniority among Democrats as if he had been elected as a Democrat in 1980, when he rode into office on the coattails of Ronald Reagan's conservative revolution. That effectively means Specter will become chairman of a key subcommittee on the Appropriations Committee, probably the one overseeing the departments of Labor and Health and Human Services.

Specter: "I will not be an automatic 60th vote."

Translation: "I'd like to become full appropriations committee chairman in six to 10 years; that is something I'd like to attain."

Sen. Arlen Specter's decision to switch parties will make it easier for Democrats to move forward with their agenda, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday.

Pelosi: "This is very exciting, very exciting for the American people, because now we can get things done without explaining process."

Translation: WOO-WOO! You hear that sound? That's a train a-comin'! You 'bout to get railroaded!!

[Washington Post] Other moderate Republicans acknowledged they, too, have been approached about changing parties. Sen. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, the Maine Republicans who along with Specter provided the three pivotal votes for Obama's $787 billion stimulus legislation, both said today they have been approached. Neither would comment about how recent the overtures were, although Collins said she has been asked roughly four times during her 12 years in the Senate to consider becoming a Democrat.

Collins: "It's something I would never do."

Translation: "I'd like to get a committee chairmanship too, in exchange for switching."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a prominent conservative who was John McCain's staunchest supporter in his 2008 GOP presidential campaign, warned that the party has become regionalized in its mentality. "We have to find places in the party for people who couldn't win in South Carolina," he told reporters.

Translation: "I may have a little cry."

[Washington Post] Texas Sen. John Cornyn, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in a statement that the GOP would seek to make the 2010 election a referendum on whether voters wanted Democrats to have unchecked control of Congress.

Cornyn: "While this presents a short-term disappointment, voters next year will have a clear choice to cast their ballots for a potentially unbridled Democrat super-majority versus the system of checks-and-balances that Americans deserve."

Translation: "We have no strategy."

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sunday Snippets -- A Catholic Carnival #2

This week's WBN submission to the Sunday Snippets meme highlights a day in the life.

First, the casual nature of abortion attitudes in our society: this is an event that really happened to me this week: It was a day like today.

Next, this is what happens when you ride the evangel-bus.


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.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Me And The Homebrews: Part 4

Making beer is an ancient and time-honored art; beer provides sustenance for the fast and pleasure for the palette. Me and the Homebrews is a chronicle of a bunch of guys following in the footsteps of the great Abbey Monks and their brews. In their honor, we domestic monks chose a Belgian style Dubbel Ale; this potent brew weighs in at 8% ABV.
Chillin' out: Once the hour-long boil completed, the next phase called for cooling the wort, or unfermented beer, as rapidly as possible to minimize the chance of bacteria spoiling the brew. The copper coils of the wort chiller were inserted into the brew kettle and cold water ran through the tubing; the super conductive copper acts as a heat exchanger between the cold water and the hot wort.

Ice, ice, baby: For an added measure, the Homebrews rigged up this ice water bath for the water hose to lower the temperature of the water entering the wort chiller. The conductive properties of the rubber hose are very low compared to copper, but every little bit helps.

Lesson learned: The intake garden hose was an older hose whose fitting was not tight with that of the wort chiller. A small leak necessitated that the lid of the brew kettle be used to prevent contaminating water from entering the wort. Note to Homebrews: leak test the wort chiller connection first!

Big drain: All 5 gallons of wort chilled down to below 68° in roughly 25 minutes, which was excellent for this 85° day. The cooled wort was transferred into the waiting carboy using a length of plastic tubing and ball valve spigot. The goal is to leave as much cold break (sludge) in the brew kettle as possible. The Homebrews took a hydrometer reading at this point. The target OG (original gravity) was 1.065; our reading: 1.064! Not bad for rookies! We pitched the yeast into the carboy and popped on the bung and fermentation lock. The Homebrews' first batch was loving laid to rest in the basement to achieve the first stage of two week primary fermentation.

What? Wort?: The taste of the wort was sweet and bitter all at the same time: bitter like strong iced tea whose sugar has all fallen to the bottom. The fermentation process over the next several weeks will convert the raw sugar into alcohol. Subsequent fermenation makes the bubbles. Since our brew is rated at 2 months incubation, the Homebrews will likely force carbonate the Ale in the keg to shorten up that phase.

Here's to the Homebrews!

Me And The Homebrews: Part 3

Making beer is an ancient and time-honored art; beer provides sustenance for the fast and pleasure for the palette. Me and the Homebrews is a chronicle of a bunch of guys following in the footsteps of the great Abbey Monks and their brews. In their honor, we domestic monks chose a Belgian style Dubbel Ale; this potent brew weighs in at 8% ABV.
A billion cells can't be wrong: Wyeast #1214 Belgian Ale Yeast comes in a "smack pack". Breaking the inner pouch by a decisive smack in the palm released a billion yeast cells into the nutrient bath where they began growing and multiplying. The swelling pack is shown below. Beer brewing is all about the yeast. The liquid Belgian Ale yeast was specially selected for this particular recipe.

Water, water, everywhere: The Homebrews opted to perform a full boil: 5 gallons of un-chlorinated spring water. The selection and quality of the water will have a measurable impact on the final quality of the Ale. The venerable Belgian style Ommegang Dubbel lends inspiration to the process as seen in the lower left corner of the picture.

Malted Grains: Two types of specialty grains are cracked with a rolling pin in preparation for steeping in the brew bath. Caramel malts are an excellent choice for almost any recipe. CaraMunich (57° L) imparts a very subtle, toasted flavor, and Dingemans Special B (147° L) is an extremely dark caramel malt, which combines characteristics of dark caramel and light roasted malt. It has a sharp, almost toffee like flavor.

The specialty malts steeped for 15 minutes in the brew bath; the Homebrews took special care to ensure the temperature did not exceed 170° F. The brew water turned a delicious dark brown tea color.

Good as gold: The assembled fermentables were added one at a time once the brew kettle admixture reached boiling (212° F). This was the longest phase of our brew; it took an hour and a half to reach the boiling point with the full 5 gallons. (Not shown: 1 lb. Belgian Candi Sugar, Czech Saaz hops).

The heat was removed for the ingredient phase. Adding in the dry malt resulted in a foaming action almost immediately. The tall sides of the 8 gallon MegaPot brew kettle successfully contained the precious Ale with no overflow. The brew moderated to a lighter shade of brown.

The boil settled down with the addition of the barley malt. This thick, sweet syrup restored the darker caramel color to the Ale. The Belgian Candi Sugar was also stirred in. By this time we had lost 20 degrees of temperature. The heat was restored and the brew brought back to a boil.

Time for timer: This point marked T-minus 60 minutes for the boil. First in was the German Spalt bittering hops. Go Germans! Hops is an aromatic plant whose pale green leaves lend a bitter character to the beer to balance out the sweetness of the malt. At T-minus 1 minute the Czech Saaz hops was added to lend additional nose to the final product.

Me And The Homebrews: Part 2

Making beer is an ancient and time-honored art; beer provides sustenance for the fast and pleasure for the palette. Me and the Homebrews is a chronicle of a bunch of guys following in the footsteps of the great Abbey Monks and their brews. In their honor, we domestic monks chose a Belgian style Dubbel Ale; this potent brew weighs in at 8% ABV. After acquiring the necessary equipment, it was time to begin.

Brew Day dawned much hotter than normal, much more like July than April. Excitement was in the air; the Homebrews knew this would be an unique experience -- whether delight or disappointment only time would tell. The conditions and quantities called for outside brewing. The heat and an excess of interested bees necessitated a shady spot under a spreading tree.

How firm a foundation: Preparation is the foundation of success. Our foundation required a sheet of plywood, shims, a level, propane tank, and 3 burner propane stove.

Assembling the parts: The 8 gallon seamless Megapot brew kettle was outfitted with a glass faced Blichmann Weldless Brewmometer and ball valve spigot. The threads were lined with teflon tape to ensure a water-tight fit, and the kettle was leak tested.

Measure by measure: The 6 gallon carboy was pre-marked by filling it with ordinary tap water and marking off each gallon on a piece of blue painter's tape. The final product will result in 5 gallons of beer; the primary fermenter carboy is larger to accomodate foaming during the fermentation process among other things. The blue carboy drier stand is used to drain the carboy prior to sanitization.

Cleanliness is next to Godliness: Cleaning equipment is a repetitive, sometimes tiresome, chore that must be done several times for every batch of beer. Yet it is arguably the most important aspect of brewing; without sanitizing, it is impossible to make good beer. One Step contains no chlorine, which can leave a film on glassware and corrode stainless steel. One Step is an excellent oxygen based cleanser. Requires two minutes of contact time, no rinsing required!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Brew Day

Today was Brew Day: the beer looks awesome!

I'm too tired to post pictures or say much about it tonight. I did taste the wort (unfermented beer); it was kind of like a bitter ice tea with a bunch of unstirred sugar at the bottom.

It's a Belgian style Dubbel that's gonna be a kicker: 8% ABV.

Nib Kept In Stitches

Except it wasn't funny; poor Nib banged her forehead on a corner and had to get 5 stitches today.
You know how head wounds are - blood everywhere. Poor baby!

That's life with kids: always moments away from a crisis. Actually I'm surprised we haven't had more of them given our demographics.

I guess someone's looking out for us. Thanks.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Beer Minus 1 Day and Counting

It's almost Brew Day ...

Catholics Come Home: Movie

Catholics Come Home has a series of well-done videos that encourage those who have fallen away to take a second look. (h/t Amy Welborn)

The first, "Epic", explores the range and diversity of the Church and the countless good works that Catholics have been directly responsible for.

The second, "Testamonials", features people who have left the Church for various reasons and the peace and joy they have found since returning.

The third, "Movie", gently reminds people that the "movie" of their lives will show the good and the bad, and that it's not too late to have God re-write the movie to a happy ending.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Real Grimm Stories

Ah! Back in the day there were true Fairy Tales courtesy of the Brothers Grimm. But they were no sweet stories. Most of them were in fact, well, grim.
The stories collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in the early 1800s serve up life as generations of central Europeans knew it—capricious and often cruel.
Take Cinderella for instance. The Disney version is a singalong; the original was a little more graphic:
"No one shall be my wife but she whose foot this golden slipper fits." Then were the two sisters glad, for they had pretty feet. The eldest went with the shoe into her room and wanted to try it on, and her mother stood by. But she could not get her big toe into it, and the shoe was too small for her. Then her mother gave her a knife and said, "Cut the toe off; when thou art Queen thou wilt have no more need to go on foot." The maiden cut the toe off, forced the foot into the shoe, swallowed the pain, and went out to the King's son. Then he took her on his horse as his bride and rode away with her. They were obliged, however, to pass the grave, and there, on the hazel-tree, sat the two pigeons and cried,
    "Turn and peep, turn and peep,
    There's blood within the shoe,
    The shoe it is too small for her,
    The true bride waits for you."
Then he looked at her foot and saw how the blood was streaming from it. He turned his horse round and took the false bride home again, and said she was not the true one, and that the other sister was to put the shoe on. Then this one went into her chamber and got her toes safely into the shoe, but her heel was too large. So her mother gave her a knife and said, "Cut a bit off thy heel; when thou art Queen thou wilt have no more need to go on foot." The maiden cut a bit off her heel, forced her foot into the shoe, swallowed the pain, and went out to the King's son.
Try that on for size (pun intended) the next time the kids want to hear a bedtime story. I'd suggest Lives of the Saints, but the martyrs' tales can be equally bloody.


It's not like I wear a sign that says: Target Me.

Or maybe I do. I ride the bus to the Metro in order to get to work. Mornings just aren't my thing, as anyone can tell you, so I prefer to keep it quiet. I sit by myself, I don't make eye contact, and I pray my Divine Office silently. A guy five stops up the line reads his Koran. Nobody makes a fuss about it.

So why does this lady reach across the aisle to interrupt my prayers to offer me an information packet about Jesus and the Things That Must Happen before the End? I wave my prayer book at her and say, "I'm good; I already got it." But she's insistent and it's early, and I don't want to engage. I could, since I'm fairly well versed in such things, but I just don't want to. I smile politely and take her packet.

A quick glance shows it's a Seventh Day Adventist tract. Right-o: reduce, reuse, recycle.

Even when trying to mind my own business it confirms the words of St. Francis of Assisi to, “preach the Gospel at all times, when necessary use words.”

Bubble Gum and Baling Wire

People who know me will tell you I'm a little gun-shy on trusting our most sensitive data to the cyber-security of others. Call it an occupational hazard. I used to get paid to do bad things to others before truly bad people did it to them for real. It gives you a whole new perspective on things. Therefore, I take reasonable precautions (and some unreasonable ones).

Imagine my dismay when I received notice from my credit card company telling me that my card had been compromised. I always knew it was a question of when, not if. This message was originally posted to my credit card company's intra-web (which I never check) in January. I got a personal email from them yesterday in April.
We are canceling this account because of a recent non-[company] data compromise. You'll receive a new card with a new number to use. When you receive the new card, activate it immediately or your current card will remain active for 20 days after the postmarked date on the envelope containing your new card

Heartland Payment Systems, a national card payment processor, announced this week that it had experienced a security breach within its processing system. We are working to identify members who may have been affected and will begin reissuing cards as soon as Saturday for those cards at greatest risk.
Of course I didn't click on any of the links in the email, but called my credit card company direct for confirmation. When I asked why they were so late in notifying me, the candid answer is that they simply had too many credit cards to check, and they had just identified me as an affected member. To their credit, they notified me the same day and put a new card in the mail the next.

But that still makes me not a Happy Camper. (The least of reasons was that it took me 10 years to memorize that credit card number.) The good news is that I don't appear to have any spurious charges on my account. The bad news is that anything that even smells like identity theft makes my hackles rise.

What stinks is that despite all my personal precautions, this data breach is something I had no control over whatsoever. Once the payment at the vendor is complete it goes directly to a payment processor company like Heartland, which is like a giant payment warehouse. All such processor companies must be PCI DSS compliant (credit card company security standard) and certified, but as the evidence has shown, that doesn't count for a whole lot does it?

While this amounts to a mere annoyance for me, it kind of highlights the fact that the whole system is put together with bubble gum and baling wire, doesn't it?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Magic Beans?

Every once in a while the Nodlings do something that I can't explain.

Wynken is a night-owl (like his old man) and it is very hard to get him to actually settle down and sleep. Many is the time we've put the kabosh on a midnight book-fest. Requests, rewards, threats, and punishments are of small duration and even lesser value.

Wynken came home from soccer practice in time to head out to his Cub Scout meeting (which he thoroughly enjoys). I, for my part, came home from work early to take him to the same. Only we didn't go.

"I have Terra Nova testing tomorrow, so I need a good night's sleep." (Terra Nova is like SOL testing.) I just checked on him and he is asleep!

What kid does that? No thanks, no fun for me, I have a test tomorrow.

Blynken and Nod-girl also followed suit. Amazing. What kind of crack do the teachers use at school with Terra Nova testing?

Give me your magic beans, you must give them to me!

Church Smiles On Good Sex

Fellow blogger John Jansen over at Lunch Break has put together a cogent collection of discussions showing that the Church has always smiled on good sex, holy sex.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Let The Games Begin

Wynken had his first soccer game of the season this past weekend.

Last year was ... a learning experience. The boys tied this game 1-1, but his team was kinda outplayed and that might be a harbinger of the season to come.

That's ok, since the point is to learn teamwork and good sportsmanship. The team jersey is red, Wynken's favorite, so they're the Hot Tamales, natch. The coaches are solid and not crazy - hey, bonus.

Now if only it would stop raining, they could practice and get the exercise we signed them up for.

Guess we'll have to wait and see.

German Bishop Gone Rogue

The good folks over at CMR alert us to a post over at CathCon reporting that the Chairman of the German Bishop's Conference has denied that Christ suffered and died for our sins.
Christ "did not die for the sins of the people as if God had provided a sacrificial offering, like a scapegoat" - said the archbishop.
Um, yeah, He did -- that was exactly the point. Don't they teach Biblical theology in Germany? How do you get to be the Chairman of the Bishop's Conference without knowing and teaching that fact? An ignorant country priest in a small province, maybe -- but an Archbishop and Chairman?!

Is this silly season? We just talked about other Bishops who have gone off the reservation. These guys are supposed to be leaders and teachers of the Faithful. Can we really blame the average Catholic for not knowing their moral theology when we have leaders like this?

It Was A Day Like Today

It was a day like today.

It was neither especially warm nor cold. It was slightly overcast, but nothing to speak of. The work day had been especially average, with nothing particular to recommend it. Things were quiet, no dramas unfolded.

It was a day like today.

We were walking down the street. I had heard snippets, but I wasn't paying particular attention. Small details flitted through my mind. It didn't even have to do with me, just a friend of an acquaintance, really. She was on her way to pick her up.

It was a day like today.

She turned to me. "You're pro-choice, right?" So cavalier. A heartbeat passed. Then two. "No. Pro-life." A taxi blocked the crosswalk. The light changed. I added, "I just think everyone deserves the chance to live."

It was a day like today, when a child died.

Let's go CAPS!

Keeping alive in the playoff series, the Washington Capitals played like they meant it tonight -- it's about time.


End Of The Line

Not for me, but for the train.

I got the front seat of the first car on the Metro today and could see the tracks clearly through the driver's compartment. I was so absorbed by the mechanics of it, that I reached the "end of the line" and forgot to get off.

Thanks to the kind couple who tried to help that poor confused guy on the train figure out where he was!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival

Here at WBN we'd like to highlight three things for the Sunday Snippets: something for Wynken at, something to make you Blynken mad, and something to make you Nod your head.

  • A Wynk: Ever think to yourself, I've heard better sermons from a three year old? Now you can have a point of reference.
  • A Blynk: How do you become a Catholic Bishop and then go off your rocker?
  • A Nod: Stimulus politician hucksters are giving away shiny new $20 bills to the plow-boy in the foreground while foreclosing on the farm in the background.


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.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sermon On The Nub

Ever think to yourself, I've heard better sermons from a three year old? Now you can have a point of reference.

Nub climbed up into the chair and started expounding with fire and brimstone. I'm pretty sure he told a joke at one point, but see for yourself.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Susan Boyle: Cry Me A River

The videos of Susan Boyle shocking the judges on Britain's Got Talent with her voice are everywhere by now. Ordinary homebody to overnight sensation.

Now, the Daily Record has reportedly dug up a 1999 recording of Susan singing Cry Me A River for a charity CD. I like her sound more on this one.

Some details from the article which I found touching:
  • She's Catholic
  • She took care of her mother until her death at 91 two years ago
  • Susan suffered a mild form of brain damage at birth and she admitted to Sawyer that she was bullied when she was younger.
  • She said this week: “I’m taking it all in my stride and I’m quite relaxed about everything.

The Millennium Celebration disc, which was partly funded by Whitburn Community Council, was the brainchild of local newspaper editor Eddie Anderson.

He launched a search for unsigned acts to take part. And as soon as he heard Susan at the auditions he knew he had found something special.

“I was amazed when she sang,” Eddie said. “It was probably the same reaction as everyone had last Saturday.

“Susan was exactly the same then as she is now. She has a fabulous and unique talent.”

She's just the way she is. Love it.

Entitlements In Stone

Politics is usually about give and take; when your guy is in, you get stuff you like; when your guy is out, the other side gets what they like. Wait long enough and it all comes around again.

I was musing on the size, speed, and sheer number of new Government run programs being foisted on the American people with our own money. My thoughts were kind of hazy, half-formed. Why do these changes need to be so fast? In order to do what you can before mid-term elections can change the balance? Why does the amount of money need to be so large? Because of the economic crisis? No, that's the pretext; these things were going to be pursued anyway.

Then I read this quote from Irwin Stelzer of the Hudson Institute's Center for Economic Studies which crystalized what bugs me so much about it.
But Obama is intent on a policy of no return. His successor will be swimming in so much red ink that he will have no choice but to raise taxes, especially since new entitlements will be set in stone.
There's the rub; it is just possible that the massive salvo of social engineering is designed to be irreversible. I know that sounds alarmist, but have you tried to tinker with an Entitlement program lately? It's political suicide. They take on a life of their own even as they never quite solve the problem they set out to do.

They become commandments of the political order, written in stone: Thou shalt pay thy Entitlements.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tax Returns

We recently had a conversation about tithing and charitable giving over yonder. Since it's tax season the topic is relevant. Also, public figures usually have public tax disclosures. Hence:

Vice President Joseph Biden and his wife earned $269,256 last year. They gave $1885 to charity (0.7%).

Dude. I know a lot of people who gave more than that, and they aren't sporting that kind of income.

Maybe It's Bad For You

So bad chemicals can leach into our food and water supply through pesticides and the EPA is (rightly) concerned, but if those same endocrine disruptors get into the water supply through rampant use of birth control pills, nobody blinks?

[Washington Post] The Environmental Protection Agency for the first time will require pesticide manufacturers to test 67 chemicals contained in their products to determine whether they disrupt the endocrine system, which regulates animals' and humans' growth, metabolism and reproduction, the agency said yesterday.

Researchers have raised concerns that chemicals released into the environment interfere with animals' hormone systems, citing problems such as male fish in the Potomac River that are bearing eggs. Known as endocrine disruptors, the chemicals may affect the hormones that humans and animals produce or secrete.


[WND] While environmentalists are usually vocal about perceived threats ranging from pesticides to global warming, there is a silence when it comes to one threat already harming the water supply: hormones from birth-control pills.

According to the National Catholic Register, EPA-funded scientists at the University of Colorado studied fish in a mountain stream near Boulder, Colo., two years ago.

When they netted 123 trout and other fish downstream from the city's sewer plant, they found 101 were female, 12 were male, and 10 were strange "intersex" fish with male and female features.


[CathNews] Eighty five year old Carl Djerassi the Austrian chemist who helped invent the contraceptive pill now says that his co-creation has led to a "demographic catastrophe."

In an article published by the Vatican this week, the head of the world's Catholic doctors broadened the attack on the pill, claiming it had also brought "devastating ecological effects" by releasing into the environment "tonnes of hormones" that had impaired male fertility, The Taiwan Times says.

Anybody see a pattern?

Mad About Madden

Well, sad would be closer to the mark than mad, but it still has that Aw, man! quality about it.

Legendary coach and NFL broadcaster John Madden has decided to hang up his cleats for good. Madden announced his retirement in a statement Thursday morning.
"It's time. I'm 73 years old...It's been such a great ride...the NFL has been my life for more than 40 years, it has been my passion - it still is. I appreciate all of the people who are and were such an important part of the most enjoyable, most fun anyone could have...It's still fun and that's what makes it hard and that's why it took me a few months to make a decision."
Madden is famous for being involved with nearly the entire history of American football, first as a player (both offense and defense) at California Polytechnic State University, then as the coach of the winning SuperBowl XI Oakland Raiders, then as an NFL broadcaster. Younger generations know him from his successful video game titles of Madden NFL. NBC Sports director Dick Ebersol confirms that Chris Collinsworth will replace John Madden on NBC.

I don't know about you, but Monday Night Football (now Sunday Night Football) will never be the same without the dynamic duo of Madden and Michaels. I just loved to hear the man talk; some people ridiculed Madden for saying the obvious sometimes, but Madden beats anyone out there hands-down for sheer knowledge of the game from personal experience. Who else in all of football could make stars out of front linemen?

And now who will carve the Turducken on Thanksgiving?

It's the end of an era. Thanks, John, it's been good.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Strings Are Showing

Take a man's money and you do his dance; take the government's money and ...
[Foxbusiness] Whether the turn-off is the intense public scrutiny, the strings attached or that they just might not have needed it to begin with, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Bank of America are all reportedly planning to get TARP funds off their hands ASAP. The banks are the latest to join the list of companies that have opted to turn down or return the government rescue money.

[Washington Examiner] Bank of American Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Lewis says his company did not even want the original $25 billion "bailout" money last October, but was pressured into it by Bernanke along with the head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the treasury secretary and the head of the Office of Comptroller of the Currency. BOA didn't need the money, he said, because "we had just raised $10 billion in common equity the week before." [Really? You didn't want it? Then why did you use $20 billion of it to by Merrill Lynch? -Ed.]
After the firing of GM's cheif executive by the White House, more and more private industry leaders don't want the strings attached to the bailout monies being shoved down their throat and are trying to give it back. It's not like the government would try to seize their business, would they?

What I Saw Outside Your Door

It rained in the Nation's Capital today.

Outside the most famous House in the world, in the richest country in the world, in the most free country in the world I saw ... the homeless.

And it's been going on for years.

The shame.

Tax Day No Party

Today is April 15th, commonly referred to as Tax Day: the last day that individuals can submit their Federal taxes without incurring late penalties. Many are scrambling to find the last open branch of the Post Office to get their tax returns postmarked before midnight.

No fear. I filed mine weeks ago. (Unlike some, I pay my taxes.)

Unlike this workaday, many people, like my fellow blogger, Paul, took off from their jobs (without pay) to protest what they see as profligate spending and misuse of the American people's tax dollars by the Congress and White House. The Tea Parties were grass-roots nation-wide protests of the Government's tax policies and spending -- meant to recall the famous Boston Tea Party (no taxation without representation). Many people held up TEA signs (Taxed Enough Already) or similar slogans at the rallies despite inclement weather in several locations.
[Washington Post] The White House countered yesterday with President Obama saying the government has passed a sweeping reduction in taxes for 95 percent of U.S. workers. Obama said it was "the most progressive tax cut in American history" and would help create a half-million jobs.
The problem with this statement is that it is misleading (in more ways than one). The multi-trillion dollar deficits being racked up by the current Federal budget and various (so-called) stimulus plans is betting the farm for several generation to come.

Only this time, the 95% tax cut and putting "more money back into the pockets of hardworking Americans" means that the hucksters are giving away shiny new $20 bills to the plow-boy in the foreground while foreclosing on the farm in the background. "Jeepers, Mister! Thanks!"

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Throwing Over The Bishopric

Conspiracy theories aside, how do you come to be a Catholic Bishop and then go off your rocker?

The most notorious modern example involves the 2001 case of Emmanuel Milingo, archbishop of Lusaka, the capital of Zambia,who married a woman from Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification church and later attempted to ordain married men as bishops.

Now in the headlines is former Bishop Fernando Lugo who resigned his post in 2006 to campaign for president of Paraguay; Lugo admits to fathering a child while still a consecrated Bishop. Local response appears to be largely apathetic.
"Most people will see it as a private affair," Vera said by telephone. "What's important is that he assumed his responsibility."

"People are more lax in their attitudes here. It shouldn't hurt his personal image much."

Besides Lugo, at least two other recent Latin American presidents - Alejandro Toledo and Alan Garcia, both of Peru - have admitted to fathering children out of wedlock, before they took office.
Reports allege the former Bishop started having sexual relations with the mother when she was as young as 16.
Before Lugo, no priest had been elected president of a Latin American country in living memory, much less one who hewed to the liberation theology of agitating on behalf of the oppressed
Wasn't "liberation theology" widely discredited by Pope John Paul II? 1984 is calling.

I realize that sin is as available to Catholic Bishops as it is to laymen, but being teachers of doctrine usually implies a stricter formation than most. Here, we are not talking about ordinary (or extraordinary) failings of Bishops (a-la sex abuse scandal), but rather the introduction of syncretism in the one case, and the rejection of the office altogether in the other.

In both cases, the persons involved were acting on a desire to be something other than what they were ordained to be. It's not just a job, it's a vocation.
"For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable." Romans 11:29
That is totally odd, and to my mind, incomprehensible. Why would you want to be something you're not called to be? And a Bishop at that -- they're not exactly youths. Midlife crisis? Milingo was 72.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Blue Shirt Monday

Why is it that most dress shirt wearing men (with or without ties) wear blue on Mondays?

It's true! Look around, what did you see today?

Catholic Church: Never Popular, Always Attractive

It's stories like these that remind me that the world is always watching the Church. And why? Because there is something Real behind it all?

As the saying goes: Catholic Church: Never Popular, Always Attractive.

Bishop Dolan Embarks

Incoming Archbishop Dolan of New York is friendly but firm:

NEW YORK (AP) — New York Archbishop-designate Timothy Dolan said Monday, on the eve of his installation, that he will challenge the idea that the Roman Catholic Church is unenlightened because it opposes gay marriage and abortion.

In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Dolan said he wants to restore pride in being Catholic, especially given the damage the church endured in the clergy sex abuse scandal, which he called a continuing source of shame.

"One would hope that through education and through the joy that we give by our lives that people will begin to see that these fears and this skepticism we have about the church are unwarranted," Dolan said.

He said Catholics also must defend themselves against bias, which he said was still deeply ingrained in American culture.

"Periodically, we Catholics have to stand up and say, `Enough,'" he said. "The church as a whole still calls out to what is noble in us."

Strikes me as a Catholic "speak softly but carry a big stick" kind of guy. Or better yet: "I'm sorry, you're wrong. We can still be freinds, though." May be just what New York needs; time will tell.

13 Is A Lucky Number

And I'm lucky to be with you, good looking; you know who you are. :D

Sunday, April 12, 2009

When Practicing Doesn't Mean Faithful

This is the kind of mushy thinking and terminology that gives practicing Catholics a bad name. We need better terms - how about "faithful Catholic"?

Better yet, those who have left the fold in truth just need to stop arrogating such terms to themselves. It may make for good copy, but it does nothing for the rest of us.

It's not like we need a litmus test or anything, but how about we start with the Creed and work our way up from there? There's no use dumping on the hierarchy, because we're all in this together (it's one body). The Kingdom of God is messy, boys and girls; God shines his sun on the good and the bad alike.

Surprised? Or Not?

Let's play the game of Surprised? or Not?

Navy Seals Kill Pirates, Rescue American HostageNotThis one ended pretty much the way I expected.
One Obama Search Ends With a Puppy Named BoNotEvery President does it; I've never found it endearing regardless of who holds the office. Do you?
Vatican rejects Kennedy diplomat roleNotThis was doomed from the start. If the Vatican rejected 3 other pro-abort pols, why would they accept a 4th?
No degree, but ASU names scholarship for ObamaSurprised
A little surprised. Actually I thought they would cave in and give the degree, but hoped they would stick to their guns. So they caved in a different direction to save face. Par for the course.

Christos anesti! Alithos anesti!

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!
(Traditional Greek Easter greeting) Picture of the Holy Sepulchre.

Happy Easter, all. Read more Paschal greetings worldwide.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

ASU More Grounded Than Notre Dame

You have to ask yourself: what does ASU know that ND doesn't? It's almost comical when you have secular institutions acting in a more forthright manner than a Catholic university.

Arizona State University says they have no plans to honor President Obama with an honorary degree when he gives their commencement speech this spring. In fact, they have no plans to honor anybody this year as yet.

Notre Dame has angered faithful Catholics with its plans to confer an honorary degree in Law to Mr. Obama at its commencement ceremonies this spring. Currently, the controversy shows no sign of abating. The Bishop of Lincoln, Fabian W. Bruskewitz, has sent a blunt letter to Fr. John Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, in which he states he is
"utterly appalled at your dedication to immorality and wrong-doing" and "betrayal of the moral teachings of the Catholic Church" and "I can assure you of my prayers for your conversion, and for the conversion of your formerly Catholic University."
The obvious difference between the two universities is that one is Catholic and the other is not. Each should be expected to act like what they are. However, that is not always what you get. Fr. Jenkins is quoted as saying he is conferring this honorary degree for a number of reasons.
"Presidents from both parties have come to Notre Dame for decades to speak to graduates about our nation and our world. They've given important addresses on international affairs, human rights, service, and we're delighted that President Obama is continuing that tradition," Jenkins said.

Jenkins said the invitation also had to do with the fact that Obama is the first black president in the nation's history and that adds a different element to his invitation to offer the commencement address and receive an honorary degree.
Whereas, Arizona State University demurs - and this is the money quote - saying:
"It's our practice to recognize an individual for his body of work, somebody who's been in their position for a long time," Sharon Keeler, an ASU spokeswoman, told The Associated Press. "His body of work is yet to come. That's why we're not recognizing him with a degree at the beginning of his presidency."

Duped On Dunkel

Ok, ok, look -- it was only $1.50 and I was on a smorgasbord run, so I tried it. I did it, I tried it, and I'm sorry -- you satisfied? Michelob has a new offering on the market Dunkel Weisse, which is a dark wheat beer.

Now, I am a sucker for a Hefe-Weissen which is a lighter, unfiltered wheat beer with yeast at the bottom (excellent for a hot summer day). I recently had some craft brewed Weissen from Sweetwater Tavern where they brew their own beer which was truly yummy (we had to keep going back for more). This beer was a caramel cousin of the hefe-weissen and is a little like drinking a loaf of freshly baked wheat bread.

That's what I was thinking about when I picked up the latest offering from Anheuser-Busch. That's not what I got. Now, at first I had my hopes up -- the beer had that great wheat smell, beautiful brown-amber color, and a good head. The taste was a good solid wheat with a touch of sweetness on the front of the palette; the finish was the disappointment, as it went down watery and tasting a little thin.

Overall, it was an "ok" beer, but failed to thrill. It was similar in lackluster performance like Budweiser's new American Ale. Definitely a step up for these macro-breweries and likely to be radical for the Bud and Mic crowds who arent' accustomed to full-palette beers. It's hard to screw up wheat beer, which is its saving grace. For a more gratifying experience from A-B, try their Belgian style Shocktop Wheat.

To contrast, my follow up experience was with Weihenstephaner's Hefeweissbeir Dark, "The World's Oldest Brewery" since 1040. This beer is a true classic, a paragon of dark wheat excellence. Its malted wheat has a fuller feel in the mouth and the sweetness lingers on the finish. Right away, I could tell this beer was in a much higher class; far removed from the Michelobs of the world. Weihenstephaner is a Dunkelweiss worthy of the name.

Drinking good beer has ruined me -- I just can't go back to pale imitations from the "tastes great, less filling" crowd.

I'm Number One

I always wanted to be number one at something - now I have a stupid Google trick.

If you Google "peter hothead", my post about the venerable Apostle is at the top of the heap. Clicking "I'm feeling lucky" takes you right to it.

Of course, if you put in "french military victories" and hit "I'm feeling lucky" it's much funnier.

The King Is Asleep

H/T to Amy at Via Media. Good stuff, as always.
(An ancient homily from Holy Saturday. Office of Readings)
Something strange is happening - there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Why Christ Had To Die

Frank Sheed, Theology and Sanity, on why Jesus had to die.
[B]ecause He was a man with a true human nature, he could offer a true human act in expiation of human sin, an act of total love to balance humanity's self-love; and because He was God, the human act He offered was of infinite value and so could satisfy and more than satisfy for the sins of men.

But all things are in the power of God. Why, we may ask in all reverence, did the divine plan include the death of the Redeemer?

The two answers that instantly spring to mind are that nothing could show the love of God so overpoweringly as His willingness to die for us, and nothing could show the horror of sin so clearly as that it needed His death to expiate it.

There must certainly have been something in what Our Lord had to do which made His dying the best way to do it.

Although he was Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of salvation to all who obey him. Heb 5:8-9

Overheard In My House

Showing that you can be wrong and still be right, Nod-girl said today:
They curse-ifed Jesus on the cross.
As it is written: Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree," Gal 3:13

She continued:
And then a weird thing happened; He walked out of the tomb.
Yes, I guess that is weird -- but wonderful.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Simon Peter The Hothead

Every once in a while I take great comfort in the fact that Simon Peter was such a flawed person.

Peter had a great intensity about him and had flashes of brilliance (grace) in leading his bretheren as the first Pope. But he was also a dumb fisherman who frequently shot off his mouth without first engaging his brain.

On the mountain of the transfiguration, Peter said . . . “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents. . . .” But he did not know what he was saying. Lk 9:33

At the feeding of the four thousand, Jesus "began to teach them that the Son of Man 7 must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do." Mk 8:31-33

This pattern repeats itself right up to the very moment of the Lord's Supper.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Master, are you going to wash my feet?"

Jesus answered and said to him,"What I am doing, you do not understand now,
but you will understand later."

Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet."

Jesus answered him, "Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me."

Simon Peter said to him, "Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well."

Jesus said to him, "Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed,
for he is clean all over." Jn 13:1-15
What a lunkhead.

My favorite depiction of Peter comes from Franco Zeffirelli's miniseries, Jesus of Nazareth, in which Peter laments, "Forgive me, Lord, I'm just a stupid man."

But if Peter can make it by the grace of God, maybe, just maybe, I can too.

Dazzling Slavic Easter Eggs

Slavic Easter eggs have always been fascinating.

They exhibit a dazzling array of colors, textures, symbols, and high artistry. The egg dying and decorating methods differ from region to region underscoring the variety of traditions and materials available. Common materials include beeswax and plant dyes favored by the batik, or "wax resist", method.

Originating in pre-Christian times, eggs have always been a sign of new life and fertility. Pagan Slavic people painted eggs with protective symbols as amulets to ward against evil spirits and calamities. Various shapes and colors have particular meanings.

Since the advent of Christianity in these regions, the symbolism has been adapted to fit the ancient practice. The most common Easter egg color is red, which symbolizes Christ's blood and resurrection. Like icons, the eggs are written with great attention to detail and prayerful attitude.

Check out this fascinating Reuters video on "members of Germany's Slavic minority, the Sorbs, prepare for Easter by decorating eggs using traditional methods that have been practised for generations."

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Ethics And Reason Not Leaving Anytime Soon

Blair Sync'd To Syncretism

We've discussed former Prime Minister Tony Blair's pseudo-religiosity before and his bewildering "conversion" to Catholicism. The current splash in the headlines is all about Blair telling the Pope he's wrong about homosexuality.
Asked about the Pope’s stance, Mr Blair blamed generational differences and said: “We need an attitude of mind where rethinking and the concept of evolving attitudes becomes part of the discipline with which you approach your religious faith.”
Mr. Blair currently crosses the globe plugging his Blair Faith Foundation. The Blair Faith Foundation seeks to promote the Faith Acts Fellowship along with the InterFaith Youth Core, etc. which all strive to achieve "consensus" in a "neutral" environment to discuss "faith" and "common ground".

Sound familiar?

We suggest Mr. Blair look up the definition of syncretism.
The effort to unite different doctrines and practices, especially in religion. Syncretism is also applied to [...] the attempts made of combining the best elements of different theological schools. But in recent years the term mainly refers to misguided claims that religious unity can be achieved by ignoring the differences between faiths on the assumption that all creeds are essentially one and the same.

Thinking And Maturity

Frank Sheed, Theology and Sanity, on the relationship between thinking and maturity.
[M]ental maturity is worth having: what more suitable companion could there be for that commoner phenomenon, bodily maturity? Thinking is very hard and imagining is very easy, and we are very lazy.

Stick With Plan A

We've been talking a lot about threats to conscience and health care recently, so it's appropriate to share some news of a little bit of movement towards the side of sanity -- from Illinois (of all places!), that land of proverbial corruption.

The AP reports that Sangamon County Circuit Judge John Belz has issued a temporary restraining order against the State that prevents it from forcing pharmacists from issuing the emergency contraceptive/abortifacient Plan B, the so-called "morning after pill", if they object on religious grounds.

Two pharmacists in Illinois took their case all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court who ruled in December that their case must be heard. The case stems from a rule by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2005 ordering all pharmacies to dispense the pill without exception.

The main antagonists in the case are Barr Labs, who makes Plan B (of course, since they stand to make a lot of money by its unfettered sale), and (who else) Planned Barrenhood.

[FoxNews] Since 1997, lawmakers in 28 states have introduced bills to protect a pharmacist's right to say no, and four states now permit pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions based on their personal beliefs. Seven states and Canada allow pharmacists to dispense Plan B without a prescription.
Previously, the Food and Drug Administration has ruled that Plan B can be made available over the counter to women over 18 years, but by prescription only for minors. The Obama administration has reversed that through their surrogates in the FDA, making Plan B available to minors without a prescription.

Critics within the FDA called delays on the previous policy "politically motivated" -- completely and hypocritically missing the point that the Obama administration's abrupt policy reversal in pushing the drug to minors was also politically motivated, just in the opposite direction.

Oh -- but your kids still can't get an aspirin at school.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Saving The World Through Body Fluid

Ugh. If there is anything less glamorous about being a parent than being doused with body fluids not your own, I don't know what it is. Blynken and Nod-girl are down with the latest crud.

The care for children is one of God's greatest gifts to mankind. It simultaneously takes care of the immediate physical necessities of the needy, strengthens the emotional and psychological bond between parent and child, instills unselfishness in the caregiver, and increases the parent's ability to love.

Whew. That's a big job for some stomach acid and waste water.

And we must really love the little kids to do that all that for them; only God could have devised a method for saving the world through snot and other unmentionables. While not entirely theologically accurate, it is perhaps an appropriate meditation for Holy Week to ponder the infinite value of Jesus' love and sacrifice as mirrored in our mundane lives.

All I know is that with the first two Nodlings down, we may get several more chances to find out.

Mean As A Snake

The Montgomery Advertiser blog reports a minor fracas between Alabama Congressman Mike Rogers and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
And Alabama Republican Congressman Mike Rogers is not afraid of expressing himself when the topic is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The Montgomery Advertiser newspaper's blog reports that during a visit to Auburn University Rogers called Speaker Pelosi "crazy," "mean as a snake," and "Tom Delay in a skirt" — referring to the highly-partisan former Republican House majority leader.
The dust-up has led to the usual back-tracking and spin that we have come to expect of our elected leaders whenever they stray too far from the median. Mumbling meaningless words of false contrition and professed goodwill and commitment to "bi-partisanship".
Democratic Chairman Joe Turnham said he would personally try to set up a meeting between Pelosi, a California Democrat, and Rogers to discuss bi-partisan cooperation if Rogers apologizes to her. “You can’t call people names and then bemoan the fact they won’t work with you."
Point of order, Mr. Turnham: I think the "won't work with you" came first and the name calling came second.

Bah. Phooey.

They're all liars and opportunists; Pelosi IS crazy and mean as a snake (and Delay did the exact same thing when it was his turn). Even if Congressman Rogers apologizes, what he said first was what he thought. Do us all a favor and say what you really think, stick by it, and don't apologize when you don't mean it -- that way we'll all at least know where you really stand.

Don't bother calling your rivals names, just tell the truth with an acid wit, it's much more effective. Churchill did it, and he's considered one of the great statesmen. If you're going to insult the opposition, do it do their face and do it with flourish and use a great metaphor. Witness this by MEP Daniel Hannan:


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