Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Soon all will be as shadows. The darkness comes and seems to overwhelm all in the Church - all is sorrowful. We know that this is not the end, that the light is only hidden and that Jesus rises from the dead.

But for now - shadows.

Mrs. Nod and I were able to get to confession one last time before Easter; Wynken and Blynken went on Sunday at the Grotto in Emmitsburg. From that perspective, I'd say we were ready for Easter.

Here is how the Sisters of Carmel celebrate Tenebrae.

Tenebrae candlestick
“Tenebrae” is the name given to the service of Matins and Lauds belonging to the last three days of Holy Week. It differs, in many things, from the Office of the rest of the year. All is sad and mournful, as though it were a funeral service; nothing could more emphatically express the grief that now weighs down the heart of our holy Mother the Church. Throughout all the Office of Thursday, Friday and Saturday, she forbids herself the use of those formulas of joy and hope wherewith, on all other days, she begins her praise of God. Nothing is left but what is essential to the form of the Divine Office: psalms, lessons and chants expressive of grief. The tone of the whole Office is most noticeably mournful: the lessons taken from the Lamentations of Jeremias, the omission of the Gloria Patri, of the Te Deum, and of blessings etc., so the darkness of these services seems to have been designedly chosen to mark the Church’s desolation. The lessons from Jeremias in the first Nocturn, those from the Commentaries of St. Augustine upon the Psalms in the second, and those from the Epistles of St. Paul in the third remain now as when we first hear of them in the eighth century.

The Agony in the Garden The name “Tenebrae” has been given because this Office is celebrated in the hours of darkness, formerly in the evening or just after midnight, now the early morning hours. There is an impressive ceremony, peculiar to this Office, which tends to perpetuate its name. There is placed in the sanctuary, near the altar, a large triangular candlestick holding fifteen candles. At the end of each psalm or canticle, one of these fifteen candles is extinguished, but the one which is placed at the top of the triangle is left lighted. During the singing of the Benedictus (the Canticle of Zachary at the end of Lauds), six other candles on the altar are also put out. Then the master of ceremonies takes the lighted candle from the triangle and holds it upon the altar while the choir repeats the antiphon after the canticle, after which she hides it behind the altar during the recitation of the Christus antiphon and final prayer. As soon as this prayer is finished, a noise is made with the seats of the stalls in the choir, which continues until the candle is brought from behind the altar, and shows, by its light, that the Office of Tenebrae is over.

Our Lady of Sorrows Let us now learn the meaning of these ceremonies. The glory of the Son of God was obscured and, so to say, eclipsed, by the ignominies He endured during His Passion. He, the Light of the world, powerful in word and work, Who but a few days ago was proclaimed King by the citizens of Jerusalem, is now robbed of all his honors. He is, says Isaias, the Man of sorrows, a leper (Isaias 53:3,4). He is, says the royal prophet, a worm of the earth, and no man (Psalm 21:7). He is, as He says of himself, an object of shame even to his own disciples, for they are all scandalized in him (Mark 14:27) and abandon Him; yea, even Peter protests that he never knew Him. This desertion on the part of His apostles and disciples is expressed by the candles being extinguished, one after the other, not only on the triangle, but on the altar itself. But Jesus, our Light, though despised and hidden, is not extinguished. This is signified by the candle which is momentarily placed on the altar; it symbolizes our Redeemer suffering and dying on Calvary. In order to express His burial, the candle is hidden behind the altar; its light disappears. A confused noise is heard in the house of God, where all is now darkness. This noise and gloom express the convulsions of nature when Jesus expired on the cross: the earth shook, the rocks were split, the dead came forth from their tombs. But the candle suddenly reappears; its light is as fair as ever. The noise is hushed, and homage is paid to the Conqueror of death.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Simple Is Best

Sometimes simple is best.

Take graphics programs. I have a number and have used a number. I know people who can make Vizio diagrams look like a Rembrandt. Me, I was just an average student in art.

I just got Visio installed on my work laptop for some diagrams that need to be generated. Well, I've been generating them all week just fine without it. How do I do it?

Cut-and-paste and mad skillz with the Paint program. Yeah, simple is good sometimes.

When God Takes Your Money

I've heard guys complain that their wives are frivolous or spend a lot of money unnecessarily. That may or may not be true, but at least their wives don't just throw the money away -- literally.

A number of weeks ago, Mrs. Nod was dutifully paying the bills, which she had spread out on the counter along with the checkbook. You may have noticed we have a number of Nodlings running about the house and two of them are the toddler variety, which makes for lots of distractions and some unintended "help". Mrs. Nod also pays the bills with a trash can handy so she can pitch the junk mail and stuff that no longer matters.

You can see where this is going.

Fast forward a few days and we need to write a check for something and the checkbook has gone missing. Panic ensues. I say Mrs. Nod is supposed to keep track of the money, she says the toddlers must have moved it when she was wasn't looking. Fortunately the bills have just been paid so we have a little breathing room to find it.

It doesn't turn up; the whole house has been searched multiple times. We decide the only thing that could have happened was that it fell in the trash with a little help from little hands. Feeling only slightly paranoid, we switch to the backup checks and resolve to keep one eye out for random charges on our account.

Two weeks later, Mrs. Nod moves some books that were sitting on the china hutch and the checkbook falls out of our old Bible. (That Bible has seen better days; it used to be my travel copy and got beat up from sliding around my bag for a number of years.) The guys in my men's group use it occasionally if they forgot to bring their own Bible.

How about that? Pennies from Heaven? Saint Anthony interceding on our behalf?

Jokingly, Mrs. Nod said, "The Holy Spirit stole our money!". If He did, nobody could fault him; after all, God is the provider of all good things -- even money.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Me And The Homebrews: Kegging

Making beer is as much about taste as it is about sustenance. Beer, properly made without fillers, is like drinking a loaf of bread. It is the yield of the grain, the staff of life. What can be more basic than wheat beer?

On this edition of Me and the Homebrews, WBN chronicles the making of a Dunkelweizen, or dark wheat, beer.


Today was kegging day. Our Dunkenweizen has matured in the primary fermenter for a week and the secondary fermenter for 4 additional weeks.

Even after moving to the second carboy, we ended up with a lot of precipitate. Check out the two inches of trub at the bottom of the carboy -- that's what we got after leaving an inch or more in the first carboy.

Still we got a nice wheaty light brown beer. We tasted it and it tastes fine: miles better than last time we did this same beer.

We currently have no CO2 to put in the keg, so the beer is essentially flat. We will rectify that soon enough. More troubling is we performed a leak test on the keg due to the problems we've been having with the pressure. Sure enough, it is not airtight at the top where the lid goes. Not sure if it is an O-ring problem or the keg itself is misshapen.

This leak is the source of the lack of pressure to be sure, and a likely candidate for contributing to the terrible taste last time. This is only the third time we've used the keg, so I don't know if it was defective from the start, since all of us drank the first batch so quickly.

This needs fixing and soon.

Keg goes in the fridge pictured in the background.

The other casualty was we broke the hydrometer while cleaning up. My bad, I put it in the brew pot which was filled with sanitizer for this operation and forgot to remove it before I moved the pot upstairs to clean. The hydrometer is filled with metal at the bottom, not mercury like a thermometer -- thank goodness!

Fortunately, we got a final gravity reading first: F.G. 1.02 (O.G. was 1.044) which gives us an ABV of 5%. That's your average beer strength and this is an average style of beer.

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival #50

This week on Sunday Snippets, WBN presents: The Rain Falls on the Good and the Bad Alike.

And it's raining here, too.

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.

In Honor Of Earth Hour

I think I'm going to leave the TV on downstairs all night ...

Double Date

Today I had a double date with a brunette and a blonde, aka Blynken and Nod-girl.

Mostly it was regular stuff like haircuts, oil changes, and buying soccer gear. But it was nice to hang with the girls and have a little individual time with them.

The lady at the dry cleaner thought it was charming that I tried to get them to say "thank you" in Vietnamese - hey, I know at least six or seven words from working in restaurants. That earned them a free bubble gum from the dispenser.

After that we came home to a clogged washing machine that the repairman had to come out and fix -- you do NOT want a down washing machine in a family our size. While the girls tried out their new soccer balls I limbed the tree in back.

Yeah, Spring is here.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Wegmans, I'd Marry You

If one could marry a grocery store, I just might marry Wegmans. This store is getting to be too good to believe.

I was going to post about our Lenten Friday fish fry, that I learned how to do by watching the chefs at the Wegmans seafood bar; so I went to their Web site to see if I could find a picture of their Mahi-Mahi.

What I found kind of blew me away. It's shocking for a grocery store to be this good.

First find: not only was there a picture of the fish, but also a complete recipe with ingredients, directions, and nutrition information.
Ok, that's fairly nice. Say, that fish looks pretty good, but I don't really know how to "pan sear" fish. What's that in the left corner over there? Is that a link to a tutorial on how to pan sear seafood? Gosh, that's comprehensive.

I'll have to remember that the next time I go to Wegmans and pick up the supplies for this great looking meal. Wait, what's that other thing at the top? I can add these ingredients for this meal to a shopping list automatically by clicking on that button. Cool!
If you click "Select Ingredients to Add to your Shopping List" you get this screen. The ingredients are all laid out separately and you can increase quantities as needed. From there you can name your Shopping List, view, print, or save.

Wegmans has got this whole thing figured out and then some. They are taking away all my excuses of why this Can't Be Done.

Wegmans is even on Twitter. That's just crazy.

A Scout Is Prepared

They say that a scout is prepared. Well, the core of being prepared is knowing what you are supposed to do or have. So we need some instruction and some reference materials.
I got these great titles on order. The cool thing about Scouting is that it actually teaches you practical things that you need to know, such as knots, first aid, wilderness skills, plumbing, citizenship, woodworking, leadership skills, budgeting, and so on. These are life skills, not just Boy Scout skills.Just imagine if everyone was required to take and pass a class on budgets and money management. Maybe we could avoid the rampant fiscal irresponsibility we see in our society today. Imagine if everyone were taught to be self-sufficient and take responsibility, maybe our culture of dependency would melt away.
Hmm. Fiscal and personal responsibility, where have I heard that before?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Gray Lady Misleads On Vatican Abuse Link

I hate to accuse the Gray Lady of bias, but it appears the New York Times is engaging in blatant Catholic bashing. Again. (It's like they have an agenda or something ... weird, I know.)

Probably the most charitable thing one could say about them is that they are guilty of sensationalism. What else can you call it when the lead is deliberately mis-leading? The actual facts are thrown in about three-quarters of the way through a two-page article, but it is structured in such a way as to make you draw false conclusions and sprinkled liberally (no pun intended) about with anti-Catholic bias.
[WP] Charnley[4] states that "an effective lead is a 'brief, sharp statement of the story's essential facts.'"[5] The lead is usually the first sentence, or in some cases the first two sentences, and is ideally 20-25 words in length.

Media critics often note that the lead can be the most polarizing subject in the article. Often critics accuse the article of bias based on an editor's choice of headline and/or lead.
Unfortunately, I read the article all the way through, so it wasn't just the lead that was polarizing or biased.

Let's consider the New York Time's lead:
Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.
This lead is just barely half-true. Father Lawrence Murphy did molest as many as 200 deaf boys by his own admission. The Vatican did not defrock him (he died in 1998 some months after the close of their investigation). Only one (not three) American bishop, Archbishop Weakland, warned that the matter could be embarrassing, but he only informed the Vatican 19 years after attaining the episcopate and 40 years after the first allegation - and then only because of an impending lawsuit. Abp. Weakland was later embroiled in his own scandal involving his homosexual lover and shielding pedophile priests.

Here is a rebuttal from a pro-Catholic source.
[CC] The allegations of abuse by Father Lawrence Murphy began in 1955 and continued in 1974, according to the Times account. The Vatican was first notified in 1996: 40 years after Church officials in Wisconsin were first made aware of the problem. Local Church leaders could have taken action in the 1950s. They didn't.

Milwaukee's Archbishop Cousins could have suspended Father Murphy from priestly ministry in 1974, when he was evidently convinced that the priest was guilty of gross misconduct. He didn't.

And as if that weren't enough, later Archbishop Weakland made sure that there was no "paper trail."
The New York Times article creates the false impression that all of these events happened contemporaneously and with the knowledge and tacit approval of the Vatican instead of over 40 years and the American bishops to blame for the lack of action.

So there was definitely badness that happened and with lots of blame to go around. The Vatican was too slow in dealing with it in 1996-1998, although the canonical statute of limitations had already expired. Abps. Weakland, Cousins, and his predecessor were free to go to the police and civil authorities at any time during those 40 years. They didn't.

But as the Times eventually reported:
Father Murphy ... also got a pass from the police and prosecutors who ignored reports from his victims, according to the documents and interviews with victims.
So the real cover-up happened in Milwaukee , not Rome, by Church and civil authorities, and the New York Times has muddied the waters by its selective reporting.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Wynken's Cub Scout Pack finally had their Blue & Gold banquet which had been much delayed due to the blizzard of 2010.

The Webelos II boys ceremoniously crossed the bridge from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts. His new Scout troop is already doing activities like gangbusters. Some of the parents put together shadow boxes for the boys to commemorate their time in Cub Scouts. Mrs. Nod framed Wynken's shirt along with the patches, pins, ribbons, and belt loops that he earned.

The neckerchief colors are missing from the box because we needed them for the ceremony, so we'll put them back in later. Notable achievements include the Arrow of Light (stage upper left) and the religious medals (stage right pocket) which are the only two awards allowed to be transferred to the Boy Scout uniform.

Some of the boys had a LOT of medals to display.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Picture This

Hey, I won.

Okay, so maybe it's not such a big deal, but it was a little thing that made me smile. I don't enter contests as a rule, and I've never won anything except a random door prize.

But today I won a gift card to the Cheesecake Factory restaurant for entering a picture I took at the company shindig in the photo contest. Sure, there were other winners too -- that doesn't bother me. It ain't a Pulitzer, and any Photography 101 student probably could have done better. But they didn't; I did. I saw an angle I liked and I took it.


Hasta La Metro

I found an open door and I went through it.

A job slot opened up at the corporate office that is 15 minutes from the house. Now I won't have to go downtown DC on a daily basis; maybe occasionally, but definitely not all the time.

So no more adventures in Metro for a while -- I won't miss it! That thing gets worse by the day. It is literally falling apart due to years of neglect and an emphasis on closing the budget gap of the moment.

Yesterday the Red line was operating at a maximum speed of 15 mph. I wasn't there -- I was waking up late and still getting to work early at the new location.

Hello, freedom! (Freedom now being defined as availability to drive Nodlings around to soccer practices and Scouting events, as well as coming home to a family dinner.)

On balance, I'll take it in a heartbeat.

Overheard In My House

I was quizzing Wynken on knot-tying techniques and their names. I tied a slip knot and asked him what it was.
W: Taut-line hitch?

Me: No, opposite of taut.

W: Um, cow?

HC Bill: More Harm Than Good

Here's my problem: even if the recently passed health care "reform" bill were to benefit me personally or even primarily, I would have voted against it.

The reason is not because I'm against making the health care system better, or that I don't care about poor or sick people, but rather because of all the OTHER things that were hidden in the bill. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: omnibus bills are bad and are designed to hide things that couldn't get passed on their own.
From my previous post:

It's little flubs like this that just make my point for me: omnibus bills are bad. It's bad governance. An Omnibus bill can be defined as a legislative bill which provides for a number of miscellaneous enactments or appropriations. In plain terms, this means "a kitchen sink bill". This is how legislative pork gets passed -- buried in attachments, riders, and amendments to a larger spending bill that "must" get passed.
If even half of the stuff that got introduced made it into the final version, it is still sickening. What does takeover of student loans by the Government have to do with health care?? [The bill needed the $$$ to count as "savings".]

Abortion coverage accounting tricks? Still in there. Obama's Executive Order promise? Worthless. Here is the money quote:
I hereby direct the Director of OMB and the Secretary of HHS to develop ... a model set of segregation guidelines for state health insurance commissioners to use when determining whether exchange plans are complying with the Act’s segregation requirements ... [and] to interpret the Act’s segregation requirements.
So whether you believe that the bill preserves the spirit of the Hyde Amendment or not, the (promised) EO is about how to do the accounting of abortion payments. Get it? Segregation guidelines to be written and interpreted by the Secretary of HHS (who I'm sure is impartial).

And maybe a hundred other things.

So the question is, which of these things are worth insuring 32 million Americans at the expense of the other 275 million? Invasion of privacy? Invasion of financial records? Mandatory purchase of coverage on pain of tax, fine, or imprisonment? Lack of conscience protection? Rationing? Financial instability?

Maybe, just maybe, there is a better way than a one-size-fits-all solution, hmm? The Devil is always in the details. So to recap -- principle: good; execution: more harm than good.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival #49

This week on Sunday Snippets, WBN presents: The Finer Points -- some things about Catholic teaching and the Faith that you may not have considered.

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.

The Seven Names Of God

Here is an excellent article at The Q Continuum: Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith regarding the seven Names of God.

Q writes:

The name of a person is sacred [...] If our names are sacred, how much more is the name of God?

Exodus 20:7 mandated the special care over the name of God – which the Scribes exercised diligently. The Jews, out of respect for the holiness of God did not pronounce the tetragrammaton YHWH meaning the “Eternal One or Eternal Lord”. In the Holy Writ, the revealed name of God is often replaced by the divine title of “Lord” (Adonai in Hebrew or Kyrios in Greek). The title of Lord is also ascribed to Jesus which is a proclamation of His divinity. Due to the sacredness of the name of God, and the vigilance to respect His name, titles were given so the Name would not be spoken.

Below are the traditional Seven Names of God. For this reason it was sometimes common in the Middle Ages to refer to God as The Seven:

Click here to continue reading The Seven Names of God.

Beeriodic Table

This is just too awesome not to share: the Beeriodic Table. It's got categories like wheat beers, lambics and sours, Belgian ales (yeah!), bitters, Scottish ales, brown ales, porters, stouts, pilsners, american lager, European lager, bock, alt, French Ale, German amber, American amber, American Special, Smoked Beer/Barleywine, and strong ale.

It also displays original/final gravity, alcohol by volume (ABV), international bitterness units (IBU), and SRM (Standard Reference Method, a scale used to classify the color of beer in the USA. It is based on degrees Lovibond (degL) ).

Notice how many more Ales there are vs. Lagers? That's taste, my friend.

The T-shirt also sports degrees Plato:

[Wikipedia] The Balling scale was developed by German chemist Karl Balling.[citation needed] It refers to the concentration of dissolved solids (mostly sucrose) as the percentage sucrose at 17.5 °C. The Brix scale was originally derived when Adolf Ferdinand Wenceslaus Brix recalculated Balling's scale to a reference temperature of 15.5 °C. The Brix scale was subsequently recalculated again and now uses a reference temperature of 20 °C. Brix can be approximated as 261.3 × (1 − 1/g), where g is the specific gravity of the solution at 20 °C.

The Plato scale which measures in Plato degrees is also a refinement of the Balling scale. It uses a reference temperature of 17.5 °C and a slightly different modulus, with the approximation 260 × (1 − 1/g), where g is the specific gravity of the solution at 17.5 °C.

The three scales are often used interchangeably since the differences are minor.

  • Brix is primarily used in fruit juice, wine making, starch and the sugar industry.
  • Plato is primarily used in brewing.
  • Balling appears on older saccharimeters and is still used in the South African wine industry and in some breweries

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Cops Are Everywhere

Friday was apparently The-Cops-Are-Everywhere Day, but nobody told me. For reasons best known to themselves the police were out in force in both Washington, D.C. and Virginia.

I mean they were everywhere: bicycles, horseback, on-foot, on the highway, parked on sidewalks, in parks, on the Metro -- everywhere.

I have no problem with the police, and I have nothing to hide; but it was just weird to see them on every corner. They like to have a show of force from time to time, I know, but it's enough to make even a law abiding citizen look around anxiously.

Orienteering The Forest

Wynken and I went Orienteering with the Boy Scouts this weekend at the Prince William Forest Park. It is a really beautiful park, even on the last day of winter. I was impressed and everyone really enjoyed it.

[Source] Orienteering is a sport in which orienteers use an accurate, detailed map and a compass to find points in the landscape. It can be enjoyed as a walk in the woods or as a competitive sport.

A standard orienteering course consists of a start, a series of control sites that are marked by circles, connected by lines and numbered in the order they are to be visited, and a finish. The control site circles are centered around the feature that is to be found; this feature is also defined by control descriptions (sometimes called clues). On the ground, a control flag marks the location that the orienteer must visit.

To verify a visit, the orienteer uses a punch hanging next to the flag to mark his or her control card. Different punches make different patterns of holes in the paper.

The route between "controls" (refers to the flag or the site) is not specified, and is entirely up to the orienteer; this element of route choice and the ability to navigate through the forest are the essence of orienteering.

Most orienteering events use staggered starts to ensure that each orienteer has a chance to do his or her own navigating, but there are several other popular formats, including relays and events in which the orienteer must find as many controls as possible within a specified time.

Wynken and I both learned to use a compass, read a topographical map with control descriptions as well as put it to practical use by scrambling about the forest looking for the control flags.

The boys went on the orienteering course as a troop all by themselves -- never do for a Scout what he can do for himself. Some of the men and I followed surreptitiously about 20 minutes later. After performing over half the course and six control points without overtaking the boys, we doubled back off-trail to see if we accidentally passed them.

It turns out that they misread the map after reaching the first control point and got lost off-trail. But they learned a great lesson in how to stick together, make decisions as a group, follow their Patrol leader, and get back to where they started.

We found them all hale and hearty and in good spirits. We glimpsed them through the trees, and I whistled with my fingers to attract their attention. Wynken said, "We have to go back that way, my Dad's calling." When asked how he knew, he replied, "I've heard that whistle all my life!"

We accompanied them through 3 more control points and then headed back for a late lunch. They are all a bit foot weary, but much the wiser.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Please Eat Meat This Friday

Before you think that I've gone off the reservation, this Friday, March 19 is the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary. What is a Solemnity?
A Solemnity of the Roman Catholic Church observes an event in the life of Jesus, Mary, and the saints, beginning on the evening prior to actual date. Solemnity is made up of Latin words solet and annus, meaning a yearly (annual) celebration. They are observed throughout the entire Church.
In terms of importance, Solemnities are the biggest celebrations and observances in the Catholic Church. To put it in perspective, two of the other seventeen Solemnities are Christmas and Easter. After Solemnities, come feasts and then memorials.

Since it doesn't really get any bigger, it is safe to say that a solemnity is a party day, a celebration. Therefore it is appropriate to act joyous -- even during Lent. In fact, you don't have to abstain from meat on this Friday in Lent. Our priest even went so far one year as to say: please eat meat this Friday.
According to Canon 1251, abstinence from meat is lifted on Fridays that occur on a Solemnity. Faithful who eat meat on March 19, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, would not be breaking the Lenten law of abstinence. Source:
Naturally, this feels like it goes against the grain of what we've been taught as faithful Catholics. People get very nervous, as if the Meat Patrol will catch them and punish them for eating meat on a Friday in Lent. Some will say that this is just taking advantage of a loophole, being legalistic, or may just feel guilty.

This is nonsense! The Church has told you to celebrate on this day, the same as she told you to fast and abstain during Lent. Let's remember: all these things, whether fasting or feasting, are designed to draw us closer to God. To borrow a phrase: let's not try to be more Catholic than the Pope.

So why celebrate St. Joseph as the Husband of Mary? St. Joseph is an awesome saint. Despite the circumstances, he obeyed and believed the Holy Spirit when He told Joseph to take Mary as his wife, despite her unexplained pregnancy. Not much is known about Joseph, except that he was a carpenter, of the royal line of David, and Scripture describes him as a "righteous man".

Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, 7 but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, 8 yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord 9 appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, 10 because he will save his people from their sins."
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
11 "Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means "God is with us."
When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.
He had no relations with her until she bore a son, 12 and he named him Jesus. (Matt 1:19-25)

If this were a screenplay, Joseph might have a grievance: he doesn't even have any lines in Scripture! (Must be the strong, silent type.) But he does what is asked of him and provided a home and protection for Mary and Jesus.

Joseph is a model and an inspiration - much more could be said; however, may it be said of us men at the end of our lives that we, too, were righteous.

St. Joseph, Husband of Mary, ora pro nobis.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Superficial Preaching

Msgr. Pope at Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in DC wants to know what you think of Catholic preaching. The basic problem: 7 minutes.

He links an excerpt of a sermon by Fr. Bill Casey talking about superficial preaching.

There is nothing like a little zeal, sound theology, and a dynamic speaking style to really hook the listener. People are hungry for some meat in a sermon, stop feeding them thin gruel. I know that Jesus loves me -- so what? Challenge me, inspire me, show me how, make me care. Feed both heart and mind.

I can listen to a whole hour of a Scott Hahn lecture and not grow bored. I can listen to 10 minutes of pablum from the pulpit and have trouble keeping my eyes open. Converts from Evangelical traditions are breathing some new life into the Catholic Church at the pulpit. Many former Protestant ministers are coming over to the Catholic Church. I have no problem with the Evangelical style as long as it is informed by good doctrine.

Good preaching comes from a great prayer life, I'm convinced. In the book The Light and the Glory by Peter Marshall and David Manuel, the authors tell of a Protestant pastor who knew he was a terrible preacher and so prayed and fasted 10 hours a day while preparing his homilies. As a result hard men wept and clung to the foundations of the church to avoid being dragged to Hell.

That's some preaching.

Reason #8 Why I Hate The Metro

If you miss your departure time in the D.C. Metro area, your whole commute is screwed up. If you aren't at the Vienna South parking garage by 8am you aren't going to get a parking space.

Your next opportunity is when the Reserved parking opens at 10am. I came in late one day this week at 10:04am and every single spot was taken.

That's because people will idle in the Reserved spot starting about 9:30am so they don't get a ticket. At 10:00 they turn off the engine and hop on the Metro.

Grr. Even the parking garages have politics in DC.

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Kiss me, I'm Irish (at least some)!

Be Counted

I got my Census 2010 form today. I went ahead and filled it out and sent it back.

I figure if it was good enough for the Holy Family to participate in a census, it's good enough for me. Plus, it's our patriotic duty.

It's only supposed to take 10 minutes, but they didn't anticipate me having to fill out every block on the form since I have all those Nodlings. ;-)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Too Much Caffeine

Whoa, Monday. First I was too tired, now I had too much coffee. This is what happens when you have too much caffeine.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival #48

This week on Sunday Snippets, WBN presents: How to be a Hero.

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.

Enabling Greatness

Alexandre Bilodeau. Susan Boyle. Maddy Curtis. These are a few names from over the last year or so of people who have inspired us.

Alexandre Bilodeau with his brother, Frederic who has Cerebral Palsy, during the men's moguls final in the FIS World Cup event at Mont Gabriel in 2006. Bilodeau won the gold medal. (Francois Roy/Canadian Press)

Athlete. Singer. Aspirant. Is it these qualities which move us to admiration or stir our emotions so strongly? Lots of people compete, sing, and aspire. Is it because they have overcome adversity, because they are the underdogs? We do like those things, but lots of people do that, too.

Or is it because these people radiate a love that is bigger than themselves, one that is perhaps purer, nobler, or more selfless? I think that is closer to the mark.

These inspirational people love and strive, and they inspire us to rise to that next level of selflessness, make us want to be like them. That is their greatness -- because that is the greatness of Christ. There was an old, homely looking woman from Calcutta, dirt poor and spending her life's energy on tending to society's rejects who inspired the world: Mother Teresa.

And it is the undervalued, disabled, and unwanted people whom they serve who make these people great. Because their love is focused outward and not inward - that is what makes them so attractive to us. When we read about people who inordinately love themselves we call them selfish, self-absorbed, and arrogant.

No, it is the "lesser" people who have made these people into heroes -- and quite possibly, they never would have been great without them. That is the gift that disabled persons, especially mentally disabled persons, bring to us. Yes, they are disabled: their meanness is disabled; their cynicism is disabled; greed, ambition, lust -- all disabled.

I bristle when people try to argue that their "quality of life" will be poor or "not worth living". This is a specious argument which is hiding their own selfish motive: they don't wish to be inconvenienced. Disabled people have something that we lack: they will most likely reach more of their complete potential than we will; they will most likely be happier than we will because they are simpler. Sophistication, by contrast, is traditionally counted among the sins of pride.

So instead of despising the lowly, or trying rid our society of the sick or disabled by force, we should view their presence as a gift -- an opportunity to be great.

So our family has its Muse: a little boy with Down Syndrome called Nub. God decided that we should have a shot at greatness.

The Light Is On

The Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Arlington are participating in a joint campaign to extend the sacrament of reconciliation to as many people as possible this Lent.

In addition to regular confession times, Catholic churches across the greater DC metro region will be open for confessions every Wednesday from 6:30 p.m - 8:00.

That's every parish in both dioceses everywhere at the same time. They have a radio, web, and poster ad campaign. This picture was taken on the inside of a Metro train. The web site is at

Somebody really wants you to get forgiven for Easter. The light is on -- for you.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hong Kong Phooey - Panriffic!

I miss this old cartoon: Hong Kong Phooey - #1 Super Guy! Back in the day, they had the best theme songs. Corny = fun memories. Scatman Crothers has such an iconic voice.

Wynken On The Rack

Wynken is all recovered from his adenoidectomy just in time to get a palate expander. This is all just prep work to get the kid braces - a middle class rite of passage for middle schoolers.

I find the whole process horrifying. But in the interest of full disclosure I am a dental neurotic. I'm not afraid of the dentist, but they are afraid of me. I do have an irrational fear of people messing around with my teeth -- even for a good or necessary reason. The reaction is getting more pronounced as I get older, too: full fledged panic attacks, profuse sweating, crying, hyperventilation. I've never hurt anyone, but I have threatened to bite; the doctor always approaches very slowly and warily and lets me know exactly what he's about to do. The dentist says he's sedating me next time -- too bad anesthesia and I aren't getting along either.

Dentists aren't too bad as long as they stick to cleaning; orthodontists are nothing but Medieval sadists. I'm convinced that there is a special circle of Hell that is reserved for orthodontists.

Wynken's palate expander is designed to widen his mouth as he grows so that there will be enough room for his teeth so the braces can do some good.
[OG] The Palatal expander is an appliance used to widen the arch of the upper jaw. It is a plastic plate that is often placed on the roof of the mouth. Outward pressure is then applied to the plate by screws force the joints in the bones of the palate to open lengthwise, widening the palatal area.
There is a "key" which you insert into the middle every night and crank it a half turn to increase the pressure and keep the palate expanding. Mrs. Nod takes care of this duty at present. I am like that horrified bystander at a car wreck -- you don't want to, but you can't help looking.

Eventually there will be teeth pulled as well. I will NOT be present.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hacking Toyota

I've been in the computer security field for a long time. Paranoia about your hardware and software is institutional. I remember when they first came out with the Toyota Prius with Bluetooth and other wireless technologies.

All the geeks said, "Oh, yeah." All the security geeks said, "Heck no!".

One guy went to great lengths to order his Prius without any of that stuff. The sales guy shook his head in disbelief and said, "Why wouldn't you want all this great computer technology in your car? You should know better, you're a computer guy."

The answer was, "Right: I'm in computer security and I don't want it. What does that tell you?"

These days the car and its engine controls are more computer than mechanics. It's really hard to just pop the hood and fix something on the side of the road without specialized equipment. What's that little computer doing anyway?

When you hack into a computer operating system you get a root command prompt.

What do you get when you hack into a Toyota? Well, that probably would never happen ... the current out of control acceleration is all mechanical, not electronic -- see why.
[Popular Mechanics] But the possibility that a vehicle could go from idling at a traffic light to terrific, uncalled-for and uncontrollable acceleration because the guy next to you at a traffic light answered his cellphone? Or some ghost in the machine or a hacker caused a software glitch that made your car run away and the brakes suddenly simultaneously fail? Not in the least bit likely.
So while it's fun to dream about a super-hack on the car, the current life-threatening problems that Toyota (and others) are having is not funny at all. The only thing getting hacked is Toyota's reputation.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Reason #7 Why I Hate The Metro

The smell of urine in the Metro stations and the top of the Vienna South parking garage stairwell.

Not Forgotten

Spoke with an old veteran about the recent vote on the Armenian genocide this weekend. You have to wonder why the Foreign Affairs Committee chose to bring this up at this time (other than its anniversary).
(Reuters) - A U.S. resolution that branded as genocide the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War One will seriously damage U.S.-Turkish relations, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday.
He didn't have much nice to say about the Turks. He's also Russian Orthodox and sympathetic to the Armenians. Just in case you thought this was a non-issue, he got wound up and gave me an earful for the better part of an hour and a half.

Nope. Not forgotten.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Microsoft Browser Choice Rigged?

A co-worker who is a security researcher was talking about the new "choice screen" for Internet browsers that has been popping up all over Europe lately.
[NYT] "Rivals of Microsoft's market-leading Web browser have attracted a flurry of interest since the company, fulfilling a regulatory requirement, started making it easier for European users of its Windows operating system to switch.

The screen displays links to a dozen browsers, including Explorer, Firefox, Google’s Chrome, Apple’s Safari and Opera."

According to my co-worker who was looking into the nitty-gritty, the other half dozen browsers (which he had never heard of) are apparently a re-packaged Internet Explorer with some kind of wrapper around it -- some "choice".

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival #47

This week on Sunday Snippets, WBN presents Catholic: costs and culture -- a microcosm of being Catholic in public.

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.


We had an all-hands meeting at a certain government agency on Friday. The Director gave the spiel and quarterly awards that he had prepared and then opened the floor for questions.

At first there were none, until he mused aloud that the practice of dismissing everyone for the day to "think about the work environment" after the all-hands meeting may be suspended if he didn't get any questions.

A couple of questions trickled in, until I realized that I did have one: what's the deal with all the Federal in-sourcing we've seen lately? Scores of contractor positions have been "federalized"; the ranks of the federal employees has grown, the contractors' has shrunk.

To wit: the Governor of Virginia invited me to get a Government Job.
Please join us on Monday, March 8th for a job fair in Stafford, Virginia.

U.S. Senator Mark Warner is hosting a job fair on Monday, March 8th, for Virginians looking for work in the federal government. The event is free and open to the public.

More than three-dozen federal agencies will participate, including: the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Defense Intelligence Agency, FBI, IRS, the Office of Personnel Management, FEMA, the Peace Corps, the Transportation Security Administration, the Department of Labor, and the U.S. Secret Service.

Here are the details:

DATE: Monday, March 8, 2010
TIME: 9 a.m. - Noon
LOCATION: Univ. of Mary Washington - Stafford campus
College of Graduate and Professional Studies, University Hall
125 University Boulevard, Fredericksburg, VA

For more information, and to RSVP, visit:

He confirmed what we've heard before: the current President and administration is philosophically disposed towards larger government and this is where the push is coming from. Although there is no "quota" per se, the direction is to identify and convert the positions that are "inherently government functions". I've seen half a dozen of those in my little shop alone last year.

The next statement took me a little by surprise: the follow-on action is to identify positions that provide "near government functions" and federalize those too. What the heck is a "near government function"?

He had no answer for that one. Neither do I.

Faith Re-soled

I got my dress shoes polished and re-soled at the local cobbler's bench in preparation for the company party this weekend.

The small business is run by a Korean family who frequently have their kids and their dog puttering around the store during business hours -- something that doesn't bother me in the slightest, but actually endears them to me.

I glanced over at the ornaments on the side wall behind the counter and I asked the man:
"Do you go to St. Paul Chung?".

He looked surprised and said, "Yes; how did you know?".

I replied, "Only Catholics have crucifixes on the wall. I'm Catholic and I pass by it every week; I always make a point of patronizing Catholic businesses where possible."

He smiled and told the woman behind the counter, "Take $5 off his order."
Some days it pays to advertise.

The Cost of Catholicism

Rolled up to my neighborhood Catholic pharmacy this week only to be greeted with this ominous sign.
"Divine Mercy Care, the parent organization of the DMC Pharmacy announces that the DMC Pharmacy will close permanently effective 6:00 p.m. March 4, 2010 due to financial difficulties."
So Divine Mercy Care and Tepeyac will continue to exist and care for OB/GYN needs, but the only 1-of-7 pro-life pharmacies in the U.S. will close permanently. I have become personally acquainted with Robert Semler and his wife, Pam over DMC Pharmacy's too-short run. They are top-notch caring people and their service to our community will be sorely missed -- by me and my family in the immediate future.

The larger Catholic and pro-life community will miss them as well, but not until much later (perhaps when all their real choices have dried up). I believe that DMC Pharmacy did not succeed at this time because people -- and specifically Catholics -- failed to care.

A number of people were excited at the inception of the pharmacy and gave time, talent, and treasure. However, the ordinary pew-sitter failed to patronize the store, failed to transfer their prescriptions, failed to see the extra-ordinary chance at building a sustained Catholic culture and presence in the shadow of our nation's capital.

With who-knows-what on the verge of passing in the health care reform legislation (mandatory subsidization of abortion, absence of conscience clauses, government "management" of costs and procedures) this is particularly bitter.

Surely the recession played a part, even though the prices were very competitive. But the "it's too far" or "not convenient enough" or "that's nice, but" excuses are the real culprits. The business was growing, but not fast enough to make it. Dr. John Bruchalski said in his letter that DMC Pharmacy was an idea "ahead of its time".

I sympathize, Dr. B., but if not now, when?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Are Beards Making A Comeback?

I was bored at the staff meeting, so I was scanning faces of those standing along the wall during the meeting. I noticed that a significant fraction of the men had beards. A quick count showed 11 out of 26 with some kind of facial hair.

Getting more specific, 8 had goatees, 2 had full beards, and 1 had a mustache.

That's a lot of facial hair. It could be because it's winter, or because they are all involved in IT, or some other random influence. But the point is: the beard is making a comeback.

The goatee (or Van Dyke) seems to be the most popular beard nowadays. It gives you full coverage on the essential parts (mouth and chin) without committing to the "Grizzly Adams" look. Plus, if your beard is going to be patchy, the sides and cheeks are the most likely suspects.

Mine is here for fall and winter and gone after Easter -- and yes, it does keep your face warm.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Homebrews: Rack and Vegemite

Making beer is as much about taste as it is about sustenance. Beer, properly made without fillers, is like drinking a loaf of bread. It is the yield of the grain, the staff of life. What can be more basic than wheat beer?

On this edition of Me and the Homebrews, WBN chronicles the making of a Dunkelweizen, or dark wheat, beer.


It's now a week and two days since Brew Day. All visible activity in the beer has stopped and there is an inch of cold break -- read: sediment -- at the bottom of the carboy. This is what vegemite is made out of.

Time to rack the beer. This is a fancy term for transferring the beer from the first fermenter into the second fermenter. The second fermenter helps to precipitate some of the solids and will improve the clarity of the beer. Most importantly we hope to protect the beer from getting off flavors as the yeast begins to die.

Adventures In Metro: The Dish

We've had a lot of high winds in Washington, D.C. lately. That may explain why this dish was being removed.

Also, you can't have a dish much bigger than this one, because it won't fit down the alley!


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