Monday, November 30, 2009

Pork Puck And Other Made Up Dishes

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

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

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

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

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

It was a flavor adventure. Yum!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tobin Rebukes Kennedy

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

Here's an excerpt from RIC:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nub Under The Knife

Hey all,

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

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

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

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

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival #33

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


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

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration

Some things speak for themselves:

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

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

Human Life

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


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

Religious Liberty

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

Unjust Laws

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 27, 2009

LOTR Fan Film Debuts Dec 1

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

In the meantime, here's the new trailer:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving: A PROCLAMATION

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

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

By the United States in Congress assembled.


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

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


Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I saw this couple ahead of me and tried to get a shot with my camera phone.

Note to self: walking and camera phones don't mix.

The white haired blur next to the blue blur is an elderly couple walking hand in hand to the Metro. It's raining, but he doesn't even have an umbrella; she's got a jacket with a hood on.

They could care less; they're 80 and in love. You and me, babe; that's how we'll be.

It's Dot Com

From the waaaayback machine:

It's Homestar Runner. Stuff so dumb, it makes you laugh. Click the link, you know you want to.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

God's Blueprint For Fathers

Been studying over at Scott Hahn's site,, and came across this snippet, where Hahn lays out God's blueprint for being a father (even to a wayward child).
God in Exodus truly reveals himself to be the divine Father of Israel (see too Deuteronomy 32:6). He saves His children (see Exodus 12:29-31), clothes them (see Exodus 12:35-36), guides them (see Exodus 13:21-22), feeds them (see Exodus 16:1-17:7) protects them (see Exodus 14:10-29; 17:8-16), teaches them (see Exodus 20:1-17; 21:1-23:33), and lives with them (see Exodus 25:8; 40:34-38).

Food for thought.

The Drunk Train

Earlier in the month I had the opportunity to ride the Drunk Train.

I hadn't intended to do that, but that's how it worked out. We had gone into DC to celebrate my brother's birthday at RFD (Regional Food and Drink). RFD bills themselves as:
RFD is code for B-E-E-R and no place in town has a beer list quite like it. In fact, WASHINGTON CITY PAPER proclaimed RFD’s tap lineup the "Best Draft Beer Selection" in all of DC.

RFD is the sister bar to DC’s legendary 53 year old Brickskeller and offers over 30 beers on tap, including a cask-conditioned ale and constantly rotating selection of rare beers and specialty handcrafts. That extensive list is further expanded by RFD's 300-plus inventory of bottled beers from around the world. At the full-service bar, premium liquors and wines are also available, including an impressive list of single-malts and small-batch bourbons.

It was the cask-conditioned ale and rare beers we were after. My brothers and I have developed a wide (read eclectic) taste in beer, so going to a place where there was hard to get varieties was an enticement indeed. The show we went to didn't end until after 9:00pm so we didn't get to RFD until closer to 10:00pm. A couple of taste tests and a lot of yakkity-yak later, and next thing we know we're closing the joint. So we trundled off to catch the Metro homeward.

Apparently the show was just beginning.

There were several knots of people sprinkled about the train, huddling themselves against obviously too much drink. Some looked green, some were giggly, and others were nearly oblivious; we were amused.

Suddenly the Metro operator starts blathering over the intercom keeping up a steady patter of chatter and sound effects.

If you feel you are about to throw up, please wait until you exit the train to do so. I don't feel so good ... Bleeaaachh!

Did he just pretend to ralph over the microphone?!

I'm a train engineer, not a janitor!
Yup. We were regaled with impressions of Yoda, rappers, Englishmen, Aussies, and similar inanities. I think the guy was enjoying his job a little too much. It was certainly ... different.

Once was funny, but I don't think I'd want Mr. Toad's Wild Ride as a regular thing.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Health Care Bill - Geek Style 2

"U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 7. All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other Bills."

So how can there be a Senate version of the proposed Health Care (insurance) Reform Bill? Because they are playing games with parliamentary rules, that's why. They just take an existing House bill, gut it, and insert whatever they want into it. This trick is as old as the country probably. Just one of many beefs that I have with the process; and yes, I do have a degree in this.

Here is the text in the current Senate bill where this shell game gets played:

H. R. 3590

To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to modify
the first-time homebuyers credit in the case of members
of the Armed Forces and certain other Federal employees,
and for other purposes.

Referred to the Committee on ____ and ordered to be printed

Ordered to lie on the table and to be printed

to be proposed by Mr. REID (for himself, Mr. BAUCUS,
Mr. DODD, and Mr. HARKIN) _____

1 Strike all after the enacting clause and insert the following:
[text of bill]

Now I don't know what is so hard about reading these things, assuming that this is the actual bill and not the "plain text version" touted by Sen. Thomas Carper (D.-Del.), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, who claimed that he wouldn't (or couldn't) read the bill before voting on it.

Sure there are a bunch of cross-references to other laws (but that's what libraries are for -- you look them up) and a bunch of self references (paragraph ii, part b), but it's no harder than a programming language where you first:

1) define the variables and functions, and then
2) reference the variables from the main program or sub.

I mean, honestly, if you're not smart enough to read and understand the laws you're voting on, then maybe we need to vote in somebody who can. I'm reading it, and other than needing a few clarifications on what the impact of
‘(2) EXCEPTIONS.—The following provisions of
this title shall apply to a grant made under this section to the same extent and in the same manner as such provisions apply to allotments made under section 502(c):"
means, I don't think it's too hard to follow. You just have to follow each thought to its logical extension (that's the real work). I know what the words mean, the question is what would that really DO to people, markets, actual services in the real world?

Bottom line: if you can program (or read) in any G3 or G4 language, scripting language, or macro language, then you are probably smarter than your average Congressman.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival #32

This week on Sunday Snippets WBN presents: Catholic All Over - A Geographic Spread. We know that the word Catholic means universal, so it's no surprise to find Catholic goings-on all over.


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

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Still Life With Cameraphone: Caged

Spent the week at a co-location facility in a cage with the fans and the cold. Looks cool. Nice place to visit but you wouldn't want to live there.

Health Care Bill - Geek Style

There are some things that only a geek could love about the proposed Senate Health Care Bill -- maybe the only things to love about it.

My U.S. Senator, Jim Webb, alerted me to the health care proposal linked from his Web site. I give him credit for that since I have sent him more than one email stating my opinion (not that he actually read it).

My first attempt to download and read this massive omnibus bill resulted in this error. My default reader couldn't open it, so I was forced to download Adobe Reader.

Sigh. Doesn't bode well.
  • From the graphic you can tell that the file is a healthy size: 2.5 MB and 2,074 pages.
  • According to the properties, the creating program is ACOMP.exe version 2.0, Nov 24 2008 on Windows-- possibly a custom typesetting system or even an AutoLISP compiler.
UPDATE (h/t kalendello) : ACOMP.exe appears to be the "creator" part of Adobe Distiller (a compiler) as seen in this similar code: /Producer (Acrobat Distiller 5.0.5 \(Windows\)) /Creator (ACOMP.exe WinVer 2.0 Nov 24 2008)
  • The original file name is; LC files may be Textbridge Classic bin file (aka Optical Software Recognition (OCR) scanner software).
  • The PDF software used is Adobe Acrobat Distiller 9.2.0 (Windows)
  • The PDF is secured by Password Encryption using 128-bit RC4
  • The operating system used to create the file is Windows XP or later, as evidenced by the directory name DOCUME~1 (Documents and Settings) and confirmed by the lack of 8 dot 3 restrictions and long file name: patient-protection-affordable-care-act.pdf
  • The user name and home directory of the person who created the final file is "bai".
Opening the file you can immediately see that the file was converted and merged from 9 separate XML files. The header on each page has the following line or similar:
O:\BAI\BAI09M01.xml [file 1 of 9] S.L.C.
  • I have no idea what S.L.C. means.
  • User BAI has a Windows networked mapped drive O: (home or shared drive?) that has a folder called BAI; the file name is BAI09M01.xml. BAI (user's name) 09 (2009?) M01 (no idea)
File 2 of 9 has this header:
O:\ERN\ERN09C11.xml [file 2 of 9] S.L.C.
  • Again a mapped O: network drive, this time folder ERN (home or shared drive), ERN may be the user's initials.
  • File 2 file name: ERN09C11.xml; ERN (user initials) 09 (2009) C11 (no idea)
The rest is just the same:
O:\MAL\MAL09863.xml [file 3 of 9]
O:\BAI\BAI09M04.xml [file 4 of 9]
O:\KER\KER09924.xml [file 5 of 9]

O:\MAL\MAL09852.xml [file 6 of 9]

O:\KER\KER09925.xml [file 7 of 9]
O:\ERN\ERN09B60.xml [file 8 of 9]
O:\OTT\OTT09505.xml [file 9 of 9]

So BAI, MAL, KER, ERN, and OTT put this document together. Interesting.

Other miscellany:
  • Fonts: DeVinne, New Century Schoolbook, Times-Roman, Symbol, Gpospec5
  • PDF version 1.5 (Acrobat 6.x), can be opened by Acrobat 6.0 or greater
  • 8.5 x 11.0 paper

And we determined all that without any special tools at all. Remember to clean up your metadata!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

EU President Is A Catholic

Well, the waiting is over and the EU has picked its first President -- and it's not Tony Blair. Sorry, Tony, that's gotta smart. (But then again, we weren't pulling for you.)

[WSJ] BRUSSELS -- European Union leaders picked the low-key prime minister of Belgium and a British trade representative who has never held elected office as the bloc's first president and foreign minister.

eu prez

Herman Van Rompuy became prime minister after a tenuous coalition between Belgium's French and Dutch speakers fell apart.

There had been weeks of horse trading, but the heads of the 27 EU nations settled quickly and unanimously on Herman Van Rompuy and Catherine Ashton over dinner here Thursday after former British Prime Minister Tony Blair -- who had been hoping for a political revival -- lost the backing of his government.

Mr. Van Rompuy, a Christian Democrat from Belgium's Dutch-speaking north, belongs to the largest party in Belgium's fragmented politics. A devout Catholic and a conservative, he has a graduate degree in economics and spent several years as Belgium's budget minister.

He is seen as a quiet figure but a forceful negotiator and a keen seeker of compromise.

I wish them all the best of luck; but as regards the EU as currently constituted, the saying applies, "this can only end in tears".

Real World Crypto

Compare this:
[Slashdot] "It seems that the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Cyber Crimes Center, known as C3, has replaced its '$8,000 Tableau/Dell server combination' with more efficient and much cheaper $300 PS3s. Each PS3 is capable of 4 million passwords per second, and C3 currently has 20 PS3s with plans to buy 40 more. Naturally this is only being used to break encryption on computers seized with a warrant and suspected of harboring child pornography."
With this:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Catholics In DC Act Like Catholics

People are shocked, shocked, to find out that Catholics are behaving like Christians.

The very idea that a religion would have deeply held beliefs and tenets, and that its members and affiliated groups would actually act on those beliefs is, well, shocking.

The histrionics that permanently characterize Washington D.C. politics are on display again as the D.C. Council imposed its Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009 on its residents without submitting it to a popular vote. This effort was championed (surprise) by David Catania, one of the two openly gay members of the legislature. Proponents of this measure are all in a huff that Catholic archdiocese leaders found that there are not enough exemptions to this social engineering law for them to practice their religion.

As usual, the aggressors blame the victim and the progressive media has predictably piled on. (We would remind our readers that progressive refers to an attitude in time, rather than a transcendent truth.)

However, there are voices of reason. Jonetta Rose Barras writes a column in the Washington Examiner where she says that the church should keep the faith by choosing God over Government.

[Washington Examiner] Threat. Demand. Blackmail. Childish. Ultimatum. Those were a few of the words used last week in the media and elsewhere to describe the Archdiocese of Washington's stated intention of ending its contractual relationship with the city, if the D.C. Council doesn't amend its homosexual marriage legislation to provide additional protections to religious organizations.

Currently, the archdiocese, through its social services arm, Catholic Charities, cares for about 68,000 people in the District. Its counseling, homeless shelter and adoption programs are funded with a combination of about $20 million in government contracts and about $10 million of its own money. Those services are now in jeopardy.

Church leaders took heat last week as they made it clear they would not abandon fundamental tenets of their religious doctrine, which among other things asserts that homosexual relations is a sin. They have said they cannot provide certain services, including employee benefits, to gay couples. Those declarations came after a legislative committee approved the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009.

Faced with a choice between God and government, not surprisingly the archdiocese and Catholic Charities chose God.

Far from being demanding or threatening, the Archdiocese of Washington is simply reacting to the actions of the DC Council. The Church leaders are saying that if you force them to act against their consciences, they simply won't provide those services for the City.

Although some might applaud the Church's exit from the social services scene, the real losers are the 68,000 Washingtonians who benefit from Catholic Charities' counseling, adoption, and homeless programs to which it contributes its own $10 million.

The Church will continue to care for the poor and disadvantaged in DC as far as allowed by law, but it doesn't have to do it for the city.

A Little Lonesome Dove

Found myself watching Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry again. I'm not a big Western fan but both the movie and the book are really well done. The subject matter is rather gritty and earthy (not a family movie) but it does deal with some penetrating issues.

The characters are studies in contrasts who are faced with various moral decisions and sometimes simply with survival. The main characters are Woodrow F. Call and Augustus McCrae; one is serious, a workaholic, a noble leader but out of touch with his feelings and moral responsibilities while the other is a free spirit who loves freely in body and heart, avoids work, but has true mettle underneath it all. Both of them are crusty Rangers and best of friends.

One does the right things for the wrong reasons, the other does the wrong things for the right reasons. Putting it in theological terms in the words of author Peter Kreeft, [Call] "wrongly [destroys] heretics in order rightly to destroy heresies; [Gus] wrongly loves heresies in order rightly to love heretics."

Lonesome Dove is a study in forks in the road of otherwise parallel paths.

That, and it has cool fights.

Monday, November 16, 2009

What's In A Political Spectrum?

Somebody asked (and I didn't know): What is the opposite of Libertarian? Well, according to Time magazine:
And what is the opposite of libertarianism? Libertarians would say fascism.

But in the American political context, it is something infinitely milder that calls itself communitarianism.

The term is not as familiar, and communitarians are far less organized as a movement than libertarians, ironically enough. But in general communitarians emphasize society rather than the individual and believe that group responsibilities (to family, community, nation, the globe) should trump individual rights.
Now if you believe this site at, these are the categories:Yet another sampling from shows this grouping:

This one is interesting for what they include (

And remember, this only takes into account modern U.S. politics. Whoever gets to define the terms frames the debate and argues on their own turf.

Terms are so important.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Amazing Wins

I thought it was over with 4 minutes to go and the Patriots up 17 points. But the ever-resilient Colts (go Peyton Manning!) slugged it out to a 35-34 finish. Never say die!

Even the woeful Washington Redskins chalked up a convincing win today by 10 points over the Broncos.

Dallas lost and nearly got shut out by the Packers, and Farve led the Vikings to a comfortable win over the Lions. All in all a happy football day.

Defining Terms

Sometimes it's helpful to tell it like it is.

There has been a lot of label slinging lately. Lots of it by people who don't have much idea what the labels mean. People conflate theology, social policy, and partisan politics (is there any other kind?) with disastrous results. Their rhetoric is completely unintelligible. Unfortunately this happens on all sides.

In order to have a meaningful discussion (especially if you're going to disagree with someone or something) it's helpful to define the terms you're going to use. That's why I love this snippet from author Peter Kreeft's book, Handbook of Christian Apologetics; it has the advantage of being very clear and sharp. (h/t CL)

"Conservative", as opposed to "progressive" refers to something in time and history; not eternal truths. Right wing vs left wing has nothing to do with Christian apologetics.

The correct theological term for many who label themselves "liberal" theologians is "heretics" . Since most heretics today no longer believe in the very idea of essential doctrines, they do not accept the label.

The Spanish Inquisition wrongly destroyed heretics in order rightly to destroy heresies; modern "liberals" wrongly love heresies in order rightly to love heretics.

More on that later.

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival #31

This week on Sunday Snippets, WBN presents: Fences and Fridges. Some weeks life is just kind of ordinary, but that is where we are called to live most of our lives, so we might as well do it as well as we can.

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.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors Part 2

I posted before about my neighbor putting up a fence with her money to keep her dogs out of my yard. The workmen finally came and put it up. The small fence to the left belongs to my other back yard neighbor. Yes, my yard is that big.

She came over and was very apologetic that they put it up backwards (i.e., with the frame facing my yard instead of the smooth side). She offered to have them re-do it, but it was cold and raining, so I said no. Plus, having the frame on my side will give my kids something to climb on if that should become necessary. Also, when the fence shrinks as it dries, I can always put lumber on my side to "plug the holes" if the dog continues to be a problem.

So, for $85 dollars worth of taking the old deck wood to the dump, I got a new fence at no additional cost to me.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It's The Thought That Counts

Saw this in the bottom of the open Pentagon City Mall parking garage: Disaster Refuge Area. It was sitting in front of a 2 foot square locked storage shed. Brilliant, eh?

But they thought of having one. That counts for something, right?

Just saying.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Saving It For Later?

I come home, open the fridge and see this empty plate with a tiny pizza crust on it.

Now, since I'm not home every minute of every day I don't know every detail of everything that goes on. But my fridge is a microcosm of daily life that tells strange half-stories: yogurt with the spoon left in, open cups with a swallow left at the bottom, dinner plates with unidentifiable contents, condiments that travel from shelf to shelf, leftovers in oversized containers.

These things mystify me almost as much as the motivations behind them. I'm not a particularly organized person -- except for the refrigerator. I like to see my food and know where and how much of it there is. I like for my food to stay in the kitchen. I like to put something down and know that it'll be there when I return for it (this never happens).

I've taken to buying food that nobody likes: strong flavors, stinky food. Olives and ginger and hot sauce; pickles and okra and smelly cheese; mushrooms and spinach and asparagus; sushi and kimchi and wasabi; garlic and onions and mole sauce and exotic fruit.

The Nodlings are catching up, however -- they are starting to like my stuff. Already the olives, pickles, okra, cheese, mushrooms, spinach, and even the mole sauce are "gone" by one or another of the cohort.

Pretty soon all that will be left is an empty plate with a crust on it. Oops, too late.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Dump Is Fun?

My kids like the dump; I don't know why.

They compete with each other to see who gets to go with Dad whenever we have a big load to get rid of. Nod-girl won the toss this time. I use it as one-on-one time with the Nodlings, so it seems special to them. As anybody in a big family knows, one-on-one time is better than gold.

The dump is a fascinating place: there's lots of big machines; people going in all directions; and, er, interesting smells. Our dump is not the real dump, but a Waste Transfer Station, where they collect the trash in huge dumpsters and then truck it to the landfill.

They recently redesigned the place, making it wide open and easy to navigate. Instead of going to the covered "Big House" you now back up to railings that you pitch your stuff into the below giant dumpsters.

For really heavy stuff you have to get weighed on the way in and then again on the way out. With all this old deck wood in my truck I dumped an even ton (2000 lbs)!

I don't think they would have picked that up from my curb.

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival #30

This week on Sunday Snippets, WBN presents All in the family: a jam-packed week of posts that cover the gamut of our Christian family, including the Saints, reuniting with our separated bretheren, field trips to great church architectures, some Shroud trivia, a dash of theology, and a rant against society's bias against big families.


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

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Thursday, November 5, 2009

No Respect For Big Families

Thought I might take a train trip up north and decided to check the fares. Putting in 2 adults and 5 Nodlings brought up this error from their Web site: Problem with too many children.

I find that kind of rude. I understand the need for a business to make a buck, and children's fares are discounted from adult fares, but still! Boo on Amtrak!

"Please correct the error(s) shown"? How would they like me to do that -- "selective reduction"? It's not like I'm trying to take the entire fifth grade to Concord.

It kind of illustrates a problem that our entire society has with "too many children". Five children isn't large. The Duggar Family, now that's large. Five kids just fills a minivan; I don't need special transportation to get them to and from places.
How can there be too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowers. --Mother Teresa
It used to be that people respected the family; a man with many children had his "quiver full". Justice demands that a man be paid a living wage.

[Wikipedia] The living wage is a concept central to the Catholic social teaching tradition beginning with the foundational document, Rerum Novarum, a papal encyclical by Pope Leo XIII, issued in 1891 to combat the excesses of both laissez-faire capitalism on the one hand and communism on the other. In this letter, Pope Leo affirms the right to private property while insisting on the role of the state to require a living wage. The means of production were considered by the pope to be both private property requiring state protection and a dimension of the common good requiring state regulation.

Pope Leo first described a living wage in such terms as could be generalized for application in nations throughout the world. Rerum Novarum touched off legislative reform movements throughout the world eliminating child labor, reducing the work week, and establishing minimum wages.

  • "If a worker receives a wage sufficiently large to enable him to provide comfortably for himself, his wife and his children, he will, if prudent, gladly strive to practice thrift; and the result will be, as nature itself seems to counsel, that after expenditures are deducted there will remain something over and above through which he can come into the possession of a little wealth. We have seen, in fact, that the whole question under consideration cannot be settled effectually unless it is assumed and established as a principle, that the right of private property must be regarded as sacred. Wherefore, the law ought to favor this right and, so far as it can, see that the largest possible number among the masses of the population prefer to own property." (#65)
It may not be fashionable to have large families, but let me just quote Paul's Law: If you want your values to survive into the future, there is no substitute for fertility.

Congratulations K-lo!

Congratulations to K-lo and her beau who just got engaged! We're all happy for you. This location might be in our near future, so we might want to get familiar with it come June.

Still Life WIth Cameraphone: Window Washers

Window washing always looked like a cool profession, rappelling down the face of buildings, spooking the office workers, squeegee in hand. Then I realized that it has two great, er, downfalls: 1) falling and 2) working outside when the weather is uber-crappy.

Still, great style points.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Somebody Owes Me Cookies

And you know who you are ...

Yo! Metro Girl!

It's people like you that roil people like me.

Get your sandal-wearing-open-coffee-mug-drinking butt off the train. You almost dumped that coffee in my lap and that of 15 other people. Leave it in the car. That's why everyone was giving you the Evil Eye this morning. Sheesh!

NO food or drink means NO food or drink.

And yes, the rules DO apply to you!

Alternative Healthcare Proposal Unveiled

My comments inline.

The LA Times reports:

House Republicans offer alternative healthcare proposal

Reporting from Washington - After months of criticizing Democratic healthcare proposals from the sidelines, House Republicans this week began presenting their plan, an effort intended to undercut the portrayal of the GOP as the "party of no." [Where have you guys been? About time!]

Unlike the Democrats' strategy of trying to provide near-universal coverage and force other major changes to the insurance system, the Republican approach is an incremental one with a different goal -- controlling healthcare costs. [I think most people if they stopped to think about it would support this approach. I think a majority actually do. What's easier to fix or correct -- A one-time TRILLION dollar mistake that creates a bureaucracy that can't be killed and sticks it to us for 10 or 20 years, or a series of modest changes whose impact can be phased in and measured and adjusted?]

GOP lawmakers propose to do so through market-oriented measures that would limit medical malpractice lawsuits, expand the use of tax-sheltered medical savings accounts, let people shop for insurance outside of their own states and make it easier for small businesses and hard-to-insure people to get coverage. [These are things that real people want.] The ideas reflect conservatives' suspicion of sweeping new programs, federal spending and additional regulation. [That's because big sweeping programs hide lots of dirty little secrets.]

The GOP plan is, by design, a less costly bill with more modest ambitions. Its price tag, which is still to be determined, surely will be far less than the House Democratic bill. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the cost of that plan would exceed $1 trillion over 10 years. [Almost anything else would be cheaper.]

Unlike the Democratic plan, it does not include subsidies or other provisions that would make coverage more affordable to people of modest means. [This is probably the only less than stellar part. Helping poor people get coverage = good, bankrupting the country to do it = bad]

"What we've learned over many, many years is that the reason people don't have insurance is that they can't afford it," said Drew Altman, president of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, an nonpartisan health policy research group. "You can't make much progress toward helping the uninsured unless you help them buy it."

The Republicans' proposals long have been on their wish list, yet they were not enacted even when the party controlled Congress and the White House. [And paid a heavy price for it.] And they are being resurrected at a time when some Republicans warn that the party is in danger of being seen as guardians of an unpopular status quo in healthcare. [We'd like to think that this isn't just a partisan ploy for sympathy, but this IS Washington, and the 'Pubs didn't do anything when they held all the marbles under Newt.]

"Come campaign time, voters need to know what healthcare reforms Republicans have supported," said Whit Ayres, a GOP pollster. [Yup, partisan posturing.]

House Democratic leaders on Wednesday laid the groundwork for a Saturday vote on their massive healthcare legislation, after settling on a compromise to diffuse disagreement in their own ranks over how to restrict federal funding for abortions. [This is Pelosi trying to do an end run around the pro-life Democrat Stupak (since he's on bereavement leave) who's been a thorn in her side. Cowardly, Madame Speaker! ]

The proposal does not differ substantially from one in the original bill that required consumers to pay for any abortion benefit with their own money, rather than with federal insurance subsidies. Senior Democrats hope that by tightening that restriction further, they will be able to satisfy enough socially conservative Democrats to get a majority. [Your fake pro-life amendment isn't fooling anyone.]

President Obama is going to Capitol Hill on Friday to meet with House Democrats ahead of the expected vote, according to a senior Democratic aide who requested anonymity when discussing the volatile healthcare issue. [A little arm-twisting going on? You bet your Chicago brass knuckles!]

Republicans, who harbor no hopes of passing their alternative plan during Saturday's scheduled debate, have spent months criticizing the Democrats' plan as an intrusive, expensive government program [That's because that's what it is.] -- an argument with strong appeal for the party's conservative base. [Conservative yes, but I ain't your base -- nobody owns me.]

Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) said that in his solidly conservative district, he has staged all of his healthcare speeches in front of signs that read "16 Reasons to Oppose Obamacare." But this week, House Republican Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) shifted the emphasis by unveiling the GOP alternative and launching a campaign to raise his party's public profile on the issue. [Posturing ...]

"This is an intentional strategic shift toward not being just the opposition party, but trying to be the alternative party," said David Winston, a Republican pollster close to the congressional leadership. [More Posturing ...]

The Republican bill lacks many major elements of the Democratic proposal: There is no expansion of Medicaid, no requirement that individuals buy insurance, no penalties for employers that do not offer coverage, and no subsidies to help the needy pay premiums. [What? No blank checks?]

In addition, the GOP proposal does not include one of the most popular elements of the Democrats' plan -- a ban on denying coverage to people with preexisting medical conditions. [Meh. Fix that.]

But the Republican plan has adopted some of the more modest Democratic provisions. It too would make it easier for young adults to remain on their parents' health policies. [Not too bad.] It also would end the controversial insurance practices of imposing annual or lifetime limits on benefits and of canceling coverage after a policyholder becomes sick. [One of the worst and greediest ideas. Evah.]

And rather than give more power to the federal government to address the nation's healthcare problems, the Republican plan looks to states, market forces and individuals. [Powers not expressly given the Fed are delegated to the States. Where have we heard that before?]

Their bill would provide aid to the states to form "high-risk" insurance pools that would cover people -- including those with preexisting conditions -- who cannot get coverage through their jobs or in the individual market. The GOP bill also would provide incentive grants for states that reduce premiums and the ranks of the uninsured. [Better. And practical.]

Small businesses would be encouraged, but not required, to cover their employees under provisions that would make it easier to band together to get group rates. [Incentivize without mandating ... sounds like freedom.]

To curb costs through increased competition, the GOP plan would make it easier for insurance companies to sell policies across state lines. [Yes!] And it would impose new curbs on medical malpractice lawsuits [Yes! Yes!] -- on the theory that healthcare inflation is fueled by defensive medicine and the rising cost of malpractice insurance. [Not entirely, but a healthy percentage. I've heard maybe up to 25%.]

To increase incentives for individuals to control their own health spending, the bill would expand the use of tax-favored health savings accounts. [Encourages personal responsibilty] And it would allow employers to provide steeper discounts in insurance premiums to employees who adopt healthy lifestyles. [Ditto.]

Noam N. Levey in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.
Now if we only had some leaders who would actually ACT on this...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sugar Coated Shroud

Found this over at
The shroud is sugar coated. A clear polysaccharide residue coats the outermost fibers of the cloth. In places, that residue has changed to a caramel-like substance. That brown substance forms the images.
Interesting read if you have the time. It takes you through all the questions and arguments, pro and con.

Photomicrograph of fibers from a warp segment of carbon-14 sample. Chemically, it is unlike the rest of the Shroud.

In 2005 an article appeared in a peer-reviewed scientific journal Thermochimica Acta, which demonstrated that the carbon 14 dating was flawed because the sample was invalid. It turns out that the corner from which the sample was taken for carbon dating had been mended. As a result, the sample included a significant amount of newer material.

Madder root dye and gum on fibers. This is clear
evidence of careful mending intended to be imperceptible.

GOP Sweeps In Virginia

So far the conventional wisdom that the party out of the White House wins the following year election holds. All in all, not a bad thing for balance; maddening for everybody else. Nobody should get a lock on governance -- not your rascals, not their rascals.

Now that your boys are in -- don't screw it up.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Vote. It's your civic duty.

National City Christian Church

Designed by prominent architect John Russell Pope in Neoclassical style, the National City Christian Church is a sight to behold. Located in Washington DC at Thomas Circle, NW.

More info and background at Architect Design. Built in 1930 and finished in the 1950s. Prominent Presidents LBJ and Garfield were members here. They even have their own stained glass windows. A little unorthodox perhaps, but beautiful.

Full immersion baptistry. They accept infant baptism, but don't practice it; they usually wait until the "age of consent".

They Looooooove their organ. This whole place is one big organ showplace.

Very impressive white stone exterior. Very. Tall.

Two Percent?

So the Democrats in the House want to put us $900 BILLION dollars in debt to cover 2 percent of the population? That's $900,000,000,000 dollars in case you've got number fatigue.
WASHINGTON (AP) - What's all the fuss about? After all the noise over Democrats' push for a government insurance plan to compete with private carriers, coverage numbers are finally in: Two percent.
The danger is that even if this enormously incompetent plan passes, it is just a seed from which the Hydra grows.
While a government plan might start out modestly, insurers fear that Congress could change the rules later, opening it up to all people and setting take-it-or-leave payments for hospitals and medical providers, instead of negotiating, as the House bill calls for.
Oh, you bet they will. Tell you what, Congress: give up your Gold Plated Plan and then come to the table. Until then talk to the hand -- the voting hand.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Ut Unum Sint

The Big News (maybe more than it should be) that has gotten the religious and anti-religious crowds all a-twitter is the recent announcement of the "personal ordinariate" which smooths the way for Anglicans to convert en masse to Catholicism.

Anti-Catholic and irreligious groups clearly Don't Get It (TM). So-called news stories and opinion pieces say things like:
  • "[CM] Pope Benedict's latest bid to expand the conservative wing of the Roman Catholic Church" and
  • "[DR] Progressive policies within churches often result in some of the faithful changing denominations, but this move is unprecedented, primarily because it relaxes some doctrines deeply held by Catholics."
  • and even the AP: "designed to entice traditionalists opposed to women priests, openly gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions."
The last one is so openly hostile to Catholicism and traditional beliefs that it defies belief; the first two examples can be forgiven for being "opinion pieces", but Nicole Winfield of the AP isn't even pretending to be an "objective" journalist.

The Pope and the Vatican aren't "fishing in other people's ponds" as some have claimed. These Anglicans, especially the TAC, came knocking on the door for several years asking to be let in en mass. The Church's job was to find a way to make that happen.

The claim that the move "relaxes some doctrines deeply held by Catholics" is bogus. These people wouldn't know a doctrine if it bit them in the rear. Doctrine, dogmas, and disciplines of the Church are 3 very different things.

Most of these yahoo pundits have only ever encountered the Latin Rite (the largest) and so don't realize that the Universal (i.e. Catholic) Church has many expressions and traditions, but only 1 set of beliefs. Other rites allow married priests, etc. Nobody is getting a pass on transubstantiation, sacraments, male-only priesthood, Marian theology, salvific grace or any other "deeply held belief". These critics are mistaking the icing for the cake.

The clear and obvious fallacies stem from an understanding of religion as a political action, social movement, or mere preference. They view it from a mindset of a means to power. It is power they love, and only power they understand.

Jesus prayed that we might all be one. This just helps that happen after so many years of division. That is what ecumenism means: we don't "dialogue" until we come to a compromise, the Catholic Church just helps you understand what the Truth actually is, so that you can accept it.

For more practical insight into the real difficulties facing potential Anglican converts, go have a look over at Father Longenecker's blog, since he IS a married Anglican convert and Catholic priest.

Grasshopper Pie

The family birthday celebration was scrumptious, as usual. We had three ice cream cakes in order to go around for everyone, each a different flavor. But the winner hands-down from all the Nodlings was the Grasshopper Pie. Chocolate mint chip ice cream over an Oreo crust - yum!

My question: Is it made from real grasshoppers?

No matter.

All Saints Reminds Us Of Family

After all the trick or treat candy has been gobbled down, after the costuming craze has come and gone, just when most people are turning their attention away from the Halloween event -- now comes the real feast: the Feast of All Saints.

The Saints are our family both figuratively and literally, mystically and actually. When we celebrate the Mass the communion of saints is present with us all around. Jesus is present on the altar, and the angels and saints are where He is. In the pews are our brothers and sisters -- saints in training.

Today I did not have my immediate family with me; circumstances conspired to drive us to separate Masses. I must confess I'm at a bit of a loss when they aren't there. It should be an opportunity to focus more completely on the Mass without distraction. However, at this point in my child rearing, I find it distracting when they are absent.

There is a reason that the Mass is made for community; it is after all an act of public worship, the agape love feast with the Bridegroom. God Himself is a family of persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He imprints that family on our physical selves: Fathers, Mothers, children.

Just as He is a family, He gives us family, now and to come. The saints are our family. We are all descended from the first Adam and we are all reborn in the new Adam. We were meant to be together.

All you holy saints, ora pro nobis.

Upside Down Theology

We all know what life is like, for we have lived it. Yet none of us has seen what lies in store for us in the heavenly kingdom, or even really what living here is really like. We think that things are a certain way, but really God shows us that they are upside down.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8)
Fr. Bill said an interesting thing at Mass today on the Feast of All Saints: "Wanting what the saints have isn't envy because you don't want to take it away from them, you just want to share in it."

That got me to thinking about other "upside down" facets of our theology.
  • 1 Corinthians 14 says: "Pursue love, but strive eagerly for the spiritual gifts" yet it is not gluttony
  • In Mark 8 Christ says: "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel 9 will save it."
  • In eating Christ's body and blood in the Eucharist, we do not kill Christ; instead we live more fully
  • And in giving away all of our love, we end up with more of it than we started


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