Saturday, November 24, 2012

Funny is ...

... looking at 5 year old Nib and realizing she looks just like a Manga character from a comic book.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

Red cape, ermine trim: bishop's attire from Myra (Turkey). See St. Nicholas of Bari.


"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
"Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.


Wisdom From St. Augustine

“You say the times are evil, then improve yourselves and the times will be better: you are the times.”
 --St. Augustine

Been going around, but it bears repeating.
h/t The Anchoress

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Vote like your religious liberty parts depend on it

Vote. I did. It's a civic and a moral responsibility. I even used a paper ballot.

Let's just say that I didn't want any ... irregularities with my ballot . There were over 20 people in line ahead of me to vote electronically, but only two to vote by paper.

No hanging chads here, just good old-fashioned fill in the circle. With permanent ink.

I almost always vote down bonds because they start with the sentence "shall we contract a debt" but I looked up the financial management of our county and it is first rate. They have a specific plan to retire half of the bond debt within 5 years.

Eminent domain is finally --finally! --getting a review to limit its power to prevent seizing someone's property to build a stadium or for Economic gain.

Finally, vote for religious freedom because that which is lost is twice as hard to gain back. Although it may seem intangible it will be the thing most sorely missed when you need it.

Creeping tyranny must always be resisted!

Monday, October 29, 2012

On Whistling & Ice Cream

Last Saturday I took the whole brood of Nodlings to Costco for a little bulk food shopping.

We had our little train going with Nub and Dab in separate shopping carts (so they didn't poke each other en route); Wynken drove one while I drove the other with my waif-like Nib riding shotgun in the basket and the other girls trailing behind.  It always amuses me to watch people goggle at our miniature horde. (Yes, they're all mine. Yes, I know what causes that. If you're good at something you have to stick with it.)

 I sent Blynken and Nod-girl off to search for granola bars while we perused the clothing section. After 10 minutes or so I started whistling for them to return, figuring they had gotten lost and didn't know exactly where we were.

I know what you're thinking: Whistling for children? Isn't that rather Sound-of-Music-ish creepiness?

Listen, I grew up in a neighborhood where our friends lived a couple of blocks over and we were allowed to go play with them once our homework was done.  This frequently ran up to dinner time when it was just starting to get dark. Since we were playing in one of a dozen front or back yards or in the woods, it wasn't like my parents could just call up on the phone and tell them to send Johnny home. And it was definitely too far to holler.

My Dad has a piercing whistle that he can do using his tongue that carries for several blocks. (My brothers have learned how to do this, but I can't quite manage it, so I use two fingers.) Dad grew up in a time where kids were even more free-range and everybody whistled for their kids. Every family had their own pattern, so you knew who was being whistled for.

Here in Northern Virginia that is probably considered tres gauche, or tacky, but I don't care one bit.  When we heard our Dad whistle, we immediately headed for home: I gotta go, my Dad's calling me. (How do you know?) Didn't you hear the whistle? That means: come now. (Wow that's cool. I wish my Dad could do that.)

We have three flights of stairs in our house (ok, ok, they're half-flights of stairs) and it just doesn't pay to wear out your voice calling for some Nodling who has their head buried in a book with the door closed. So frequently, I'll whistle to get their attention, then call out the name of the Nodling I need. Works like a charm and it saves my throat.

So this time when I whistled for my little lost Nodlings in the store, I got a little more than I had bargained for. My brother showed up with his four girls in a shopping cart. "I heard you whistle, so I figured we'd come."

We had a good laugh and celebrated immediately thereafter with big giant scoops of ice cream for everybody. Par-tay! Again, people kind of stared at 10 kids running around the tables with ice cream dripping from their faces, but once again I didn't care. This is family. This is how we roll.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Stroke Update

My brother Shoe has been released from the hospital following his stroke. His wife (Girl Friday) and daughter (Babs) are greatly relieved, as is the whole Nod family. (Thanks be to God!)

The good news is that there is no lasting damage: speech, memory, and motor skills are restored and fully intact.

The bad news is there is a hole in his heart (ASD) which allowed a blood clot to reach his brain, causing the stroke. It can be fixed with open-heart surgery: scary but survivable, as I well know. There are some other complicating factors with Shoe's condition, so this will be a long term treatment, complete with blood thinners and a possible trip to NIH.

Apparently, upwards of 20% of the population have a congenital heart defect and may not even know it -- about 1 million U.S. citizens. Kinda makes you want to get your heart checked, huh?

Thanks for all your prayers for our family - we need 'em, and we appreciate 'em.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Is the food that bad?

Even in a serious place like a hospital there are things that are unintentionally funny.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Hits Just Keep On Coming

Sometimes I wonder how professional boxers do it: just stand there and get hit day after day. Punching, taking a punch, moving, dodging, weaving, and back again for another hit. That kind of cumulative beating has got to take a toll.

I suppose it's a matter of conditioning. You kinda just get used to it. Maybe you just don't notice anymore. Is that what tough is? Somehow I think that's just what numb is.

That's where I find myself today: cumulatively worn down. Physically and emotionally -- just too tired to react. For four weeks I've been both mother and father to the Nodlings while Mrs. Nod recovers from her surgery (only 8 more weeks to go!).

Then my youngest brother, Shoe, lands in the hospital with an apparent stroke. Sudden and unexplained: right-side paralysis, loss of speech, migraine headaches. The family has been up all night providing physical, emotional, and logistical support to his wife and baby and taking turns at Shoe's bedside.  The MRI and brain scans came back clean, so no evidence of an aneurism, arterial dissection, or blot clots in the brain.

Now 24-hours later, he has regained movement and speech, but is still pretty groggy. Doctors still can't tell what's wrong with him, but they are doing a blizzard of tests to find out: seizure? meningitis? West Nile virus? leg blood clots?  It's going to be a few days before we know anything.

Next, I went to the pharmacy to pick up a new prescription for Mrs. Nod, but they didn't receive it. Sorry, Charlie, no meds for you. On my way back, I noticed there was smoke coming out of my car hood. I pulled into a gas station only to find that I lost all my antifreeze (if the explosion of green, sweet-smelling liquid all over my engine block is any indication). Now my car is overheating and the thermostat is pegging in the red. I left it with the garage and hitched a ride home in order to relieve our babysitter for the night. Did I mention I already dropped a boatload of cash to get the van fixed up last week? No? I was doing much better at keeping my whining and moaning to myself last week.

I'm just ready for this week to end. I'm looking forward to a day where nothing much happens. Each day I close my eyes with the hope that tomorrow will be that day.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

3½ Time-Outs Tuesday (Vol. 43)

Just like Conversion Diary’s 7 Quick Takes, but half as long and twice as good.

This is the Mundane is the Salt of the Earth Edition

When you work in an office, people can get into the strangest conversations sometimes. The debate today revolved around the question: if someone lends you a dollar to play the lottery and you win, what is your obligation to the guy who lent you the dollar? 
Technically, it's $1, but what about morally? One percent? Ten? Nothing? Does it depend on the amount? What would you do?
I don't know for sure, but I may not be coming in on Monday ...
I've been running running the household solo for about 3 weeks now, taking care of a post-surgery Mrs. Nod and 6 Nodlings. (Well, "solo" if you consider both sets of Grandparents, siblings, friends, and people from Church.) Still, it's pretty hectic being both Mom and Dad and I'm more tired than I've ever been. My wife is pretty awesome to be able to do all this on a regular basis.
The Nodlings have been coping fairly well but -- is it just me, or does it seem that if the kids are conscious, they want something? 
Only 9 more weeks of this to go ...
The kids have rediscovered the unadulterated fun that is The Muppet Show. I tried to interest them about a year ago and they just. didn't. get. it. Now all of a sudden, they can't get enough of it and are howling with laughter.
I missed Talk Like A Pirate Day again this year (Arrrrrgh!), but enjoy this clip of those original pirates: the Muppet Vikings.
My all time favorite Muppet scene is where Statler and Waldorf say

Monday, September 17, 2012

Overheard In My House

Mrs. Nod is recovering from a surgery and so we arranged for the Deacon to bring her the Eucharist on Sunday.  I told the Nodlings that the King of the Universe was coming to visit.

Five year old Nib got very excited, slapped her hand on her forehead and exclaimed:

Jesus is coming to our house?! I'm going to faint!

I didn't know whether to laugh, cry, or be very proud.

Monday, September 3, 2012

How Is This Comfortable?

I love to sneak up on the Nodlings and catch them in their natural habitats.

The picture quality stinks because I was laughing too hard and only had my camera phone, but Nod-girl is listening to some music while planking across the arms of two couches.

How is this comfortable?

Not to be outdone, Dab likes to play in the laundry basket -- cartwheels are a normal way of getting out of a basket, right?

Nub likes soccer and football, but sometimes he is unwilling give up on the play, which leads to this awkward pose ...

Seeds of Sunshine

Unless a grain of seed falls to the ground and dies, it remains but a single seed ...

But if you plant a single sunflower seed you get a Ga-Zillion seeds back! My girl Nib planted these for me. Proud papa!

Look at this awesome haul from a single flower. Sunflowers are long, tall, strong (I actually broke a pair of kitchen scissors trying to cut the head off of a 6 foot stalk!), and beautiful.

They are pure sunshine trapped in a giant body. They always face the morning sunrise as if to say "We were waiting for you!" And once their glory fades, the massive heads droop down heavily as if in exhaustion saying "We lived to the full, there is nothing left." The mirror of the sun's face is dried up, browns, and crumbles away like ashes of a forgotten fire.

But underneath all this is row upon row of beautiful, black-and-white seeds. Their shells are hard and smooth. Take them out, wash them, soak them overnight in salt water, roast them gently -- enjoy the nutty, warm, roasty goodness that are sunflower seeds by the handful.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Overheard In My House

Apropos of nothing, four year-old Nib turns to me and says,

Why do we only get one life?

Um, well ... somebody's been playing too many video games.

Monday, August 20, 2012

I Am Sin

Igniter Media does it again. Great production value and it makes you stop and think for a second.

The war's real, boys.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

S.Q.U.A.T. Team: Written by a Kid

This has got to be the most hilarious thing I've seen in a loooooong time: stories written by a kid and animated by professionals. Hi-freakin-larious!

After watching this, you too will want to be on the S.Q.U.A.T Team!  Enjoy Scary Smash!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Monster Aparagus Growth Spurt

It is hot. hot. hot. out there. So hot that nothing much is growing. My grass is a brown patch in a sea of brown-ness.

Earlier, in spring, things were a lot more green. I planted asparagus late in the season last year, and it's been coming up great as of this year. Next year will be the first harvest. Asparagus takes a long time to establish, but will keep coming up for about 10 years.

The rate of growth on an asparagus fern (yes, they are ferns) is phenomenal. On week 1 I noticed a beautiful purple spear sticking out of the ground (I got a special purple asparagus breed). Isn't she pretty?

At this point this spear was 6-8 inches in length. I came back two weeks later and it was over 3 feet tall and putting out fern branches. It had also lost most of its purple color and was now more the traditional green.

That's an amazing growth rate! In the warm season, asparagus can grow up to 1 cm per hour. That's right, I said per hour.  My asparagus ferns are now around 5 feet tall, but it's so hot that nothing much is growing right now. In the fall, the ferns will die and turn golden in color and I'll mulch them into the soil.

Next spring is harvest time, and I plan on having lots of well-established and yummy asparagus from my own back yard.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Spiritual Direction Questions

Not easy but worth asking yourself:

On p.109, Question 41 re: spiritual direction topics from Dubay's Seeking Spiritual Direction:
  • Does my way of going about meditative or contemplative prayer seem to be working? Am I profiting from it? Am I making progress? And how do I determine that? Where am I in prayer development? Am I hitting any snags? Do I have problems I don't know how to handle? Am I faithful to giving adequate time to  prayerful solitude? Is it my top priority, the "one thing" in my life?
  • Am I prayerful during the day -- without neglecting others or my work? How can I grow in this recollection?
  • Do I waste time? Engage in idle gossip? Indulge in superfluities or in excessive amusements?
  • What have I been selecting for spiritual reading? What audio and video? Am I going about this exercise in the best way for me? Am I growing in and through it? Do I read or listen in a prayerful manner? What books should I read now? What books should I avoid altogether or read with caution?
  • Am I improving in humility, patience, love for neighbor, obedience, frugality, indeed, in all the Gospel virtues? What are my weak points that need focused attention?
  • In my daily round of duties, is my motivation mixed, that is, are unworthy motives mingled with my worthy ones? Am I even aware of this problem? What can I do about it?
  • Is my mind in accord with Scripture and the teaching of the Church, which is to say, is it in accord with the mind of Jesus himself?
  • How am I using or misusing the mass media? Am I wasting time in my use of them?
  • Have I been chaste in thought and reading and speaking and looking (television and actual life) and in my actions? In practical ways am I trying to serve both God and mammon?
  • Do I suffer daily crosses like a disciple of the crucified Master, with love and in union with him? Do I welcome these opportunities to unite with the Lord on his cross?
  • Have I been warm and cordial toward everyone, even toward unattractive people, including those who are cold and indifferent toward me?
  • Is my emotional life balanced? Are my responses of joy or sorrow or fear excessive? Am I oversensitive? Do I live more by feelings than by will? Am I insensitive?
  • Am I concerned for the poor, both the materially and the spiritually poor? Do I come to their aid? Do I live frugally and share with the needy?
  • Am I handling my time pressure problems properly, so that first things come first?
  • Where is my center of gravity: earth or heaven (Col 3:1-2)? Do I seek things for themselves or as a means of leading me and others to God?

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Fire On The Mountain!

This week we took our annual vacation to Jellystone Park in Luray, VA. The first night there arose a fierce thunderstorm with strong winds. In the morning we noticed smoke rising from the mountain in front of us (called Neighbor Mountain). Fire on the mountain! Run, boy, run!

[] Dozens of firefighters hiked up steep mountain trails in triple-degree heat Friday, as efforts continued to contain a pair of unusual summer wildfires burning over hundreds of acres in the Shenandoah Valley.

Drivers headed into downtown Luray could see a white haze enveloping the top of Neighbor Mountain in Shenandoah National Park.

The fire on Neighbor Mountain was first reported Tuesday morning. The cause is under investigation. As of Friday afternoon, the blaze was not contained and had spread from 200 to 800 acres, said Shenandoah National Park spokeswoman Karen Beck-Herzog.

From what we could see only the underbrush is burning and not the tree canopy itself. If it stays an underbrush fire, it will be much easier to contain and will ultimately be "healthy" for the forest. If it becomes a canopy fire, then the trees themselves will die and it will become dangerous and difficult to contain.

It burned all week and is still burning as of this writing. At night there was an orange glow and you could see the fires burning. We had to reassure the Nodlings that we were in no immediate danger.
 It sure made for some interesting counterpoint to our vacation. What did you do this summer? Oh, the usual: went swimming, made s'mores, watched a forest fire ...

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Thou Shalt Not Compare

The first Commandment of raising school-aged children and grades is: Thou shalt not compare one child with another.  

Everybody knows this rule and follows it diligently because otherwise No-Good-(TM)-can-come of-it and children-only-end-up-with-bruised-egos-and-otherwise-avoidable-misunderstandings.

But I'm breaking that rule to illustrate a point. Hey, the Nodlings don't read my blog and you probably don't either. If that makes me a bad parent, so be it.

I don't compare them to each other when their report cards come home, I always take them individually and review them against their prior performance or what we know to be their ability. They are still young enough that they get an "effort" grade along with the academic grade. I value that more highly than the letter grade they earn. As long as they are reaching their potential, I'm satisfied, and they get praise for that.

But what exactly is their potential? How can I help each one if I don't know? Short of an IQ test, we have to rely on experience, report cards, and periodic test scores. There is one set of tests they take annually that gives me a glimpse into their abilities: the ACT (or in our case TerraNova testing).

The results show up in neat little bar charts and percentiles. The percentile scores indicate that they scored better than X percent of everybody else who took the test for that grade level. That gives me an idea of their potential.

By graphing the results, I wanted to see the shape of their abilities. (Hey, I'm a picture guy; that's the way that things make sense to me.)  That hopefully will help me to understand each Nodling, the strengths and weaknesses.

Now -- without exaggeration -- I have at least one genius and one mentally retarded child. Everybody else falls somewhere between that 40 and 140 IQ. That's quite a challenge sometimes. (I'd say the kid with Down Syndrome is easier to deal with than the genius, although the techniques are similar -- but that's another subject.)

Here is a graph of the 3 older Nodlings. The percentile range for "average" is 25-74, and "above average" is 75-100.
Both Blynken and Nod-girl have two scores in the "average" range and everything else is "above average".  Wynken has top-flight test scores almost across the board.

What is striking to me is that Blynken's spelling and language mechanics scores are markedly out of range of the rest of her abilities -- hmm, that might mean a learning disability (or a kid who likes to rush through certain tests). On the other hand, those scores are almost exactly average -- nothing wrong with that. Her report card grades in those subjects are actually very good; her other subjects tracked closely with her abilities.

Nod-girl's test scores and her grades were in perfect sync. That's my girl!

Wynken's grades underperformed his test scores by a consistent margin -- which is what happens when you don't turn in your homework in a timely fashion. (Not like he didn't have a constant reminder from us.)

Parenting a child with a high IQ is interesting. It's not that he thinks he's smarter than us -- he actually is. What he lacks is wisdom and the ability to put that knowledge to its proper use. Sorry, kiddo, you still need parents for moral guidance, experience, love, support, etc., etc. ;-)

The challenge is to know each one's abilities and encourage them to reach their potential. In the final analysis, however, no one is going to ask to see your diploma to get into Heaven. If we can do that for our kids we will have succeeded, graphs or no graphs.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Chasing Tail

This black snake got his tail literally chased by an angry jay bird across my driveway and down two houses. The bird is unfortunately out of frame, but this snake was in a hurry.

The snake couldn't get away fast enough. It looked like it was running on its elbows. Funniest thing I saw all day.

Making Pasta

This is my first time making pasta (at midnight, why not?).

I used white flour, spelt flour (because I saw it in the store and was curious), eggs and a bit of olive oil. Rolled it out (would have been MUCH easier with a pasta machine) and cut it with a knife. Here it is hanging on a plastic hangar to dry.

I blame too much cooking channel. We'll see what happens when I cook it tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Classic Misunderstanding: Transit of Venus

There has been great excitement and also great misunderstanding about this celestial phenomenon called the Transit of Venus.

The transit of Venus occurs when the planet Venus' orbit causes it to appear as a small, dark disk moving across the face of the Sun. It happens with pairs of transits eight years apart separated by long gaps of 121.5 years and 105.5 years. Observations of the 1639 transit were combined with the principle of parallax, to provide an estimate of the distance between the Sun and the Earth and thus the size of the Solar System. (cf. Wikipedia)

This image shows Venus at the start of its transit of the sun.
NASA / Reuters

I was going to get a pair of binoculars and build a projection camera for the event, but because it was cloudy on the East Coast, the kids and I watched it on the NASA Edge Ustream. It was still an awesome spectacle that won't be repeated until 2117.

Scientists and people from ages past have been continuously fascinated by this phenomenon. However, there has been some confusion by us moderns about just what a "Transit of Venus" might be, so the crack staff at WBN research department offers the following clarification on a Classic Misunderstanding:

Classic Misunderstanding of the Transit of Venus

You're welcome.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

24:15 Senomyx Green: Pepsi Gets Ethical

Remember the kerfuffle regarding Senomyx and big name food companies testing flavor enhancers on fetal cell lines?

 PepsiCo is the latest company to reject the use of human tissue or cell lines derived from embryos or fetuses.

After a year of denials and semantic evasions, PepsiCo’s VP of Global Public Policy, Paul Boykas stated in a letter to COGFL dated 26 April 2012 that “Senomyx will not use HEK cells or any other tissues or cell lines derived from human embryos or fetuses for research performed on behalf of PepsiCo.”

PepsiCo recognized the controversial subject was not in the best interests of PepsiCo and acted accordingly.

“We took the matter very seriously,” stated Mr. Boykas. “We have an official Statement on Responsible Research and we intend to live by that policy.”

You can see PepsiCo’s brand new Ethical Research statement here.
PepsiCo’s Responsible Research Statement
PepsiCo’s research processes and those of our partners are confidential for competitive reasons. However, PepsiCo does not conduct or fund research – including research funded by PepsiCo but performed by third parties – that utilizes any human tissue or cell lines derived from embryos or fetuses.
If you check the Internet Archive (Wayback Machine), you will be able to confirm that the policy did not appear on PepsiCo’s website as far back as December 21, 2010. So it is, in fact, new.

Now you can enjoy your PepsiCo products with a clear conscience with regards to this issue.  Write to thank them!

So you see it isn’t all doom and gloom. Prayers, petitions, and standing up for what we believe in can result in a more ethical society.

Keep the Faith!

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Our Father In Old English

Sometimes a stream-of-consciousness link following yields a bit of treasure.  I started with the Anchoress' blog about whether you say "thee" or "the" before a word with a vowel; wandered over to a discussion of the Great Vowel Shift; slid right into a discussion of Middle and Old English poetry; dallied over a few videos of Beowulf, and finally ended up with several recitations of the Lord's Prayer in Old English.

I picked this one simply because it has translations, not because it had the best OE pronunciation. Still, it's pretty cool. I give you the Lords Prayer in "English".

This is how it looks in Old English:

Fæder ure þu þe eart on heofonum
si þin nama gehalgod
tobecume þin rice
gewurþe þin willa
on eorðan swa swa on heofonum
urne gedæghwamlican hlaf syle us to dæg
and forgyf us ure gyltas
swa swa we forgyfað urum gyltendum
and ne gelæd þu us on costnunge
ac alys us of yfele soþlice.

This is how it looks in Middle English:

Middle English/Inglés medieval:

Oure fadir that art in heuenes,
Halwid be thi name
Thi kyngdoom cumme to
Be thi wille don,
in erthe as in heuene.

Gif to vs this dai oure breed
And forgyue to vs oure dettis,
as we foryyue to oure dettours;
And leede vs not in to temptacioun,
but delyuere vs fro yuel.
(Wycllife, 1398)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Civil War Mockumentary

If you've ever sat through a Ken Burns documentary -- love it or hate it -- you are going to be delighted by this Documentary of watching The Civil War documentary.

Popcorn please!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Space Shuttle Triple Flyby

We sure had some excitement in Northern Virginia today: the space shuttle, Discovery, made its last voyage from Cape Canaveral to the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy museum in Chantilly, Virginia. It will replace Enterprise (which was only a prototype) as the in-resident space shuttle.

Nobody got any work done from about 9:30 to 11:00 am because they were all hanging out at the museum, crowding on overpasses, parking decks, and on top of buildings to get a glimpse of Discovery's flyby.  It was a little eerie to see the skies near the airport devoid of any other air traffic -- it hasn't been that still since 9-11; but this was a happy occasion.

My work place is in a direct flight line to Dulles Airport, so we got to see the space shuttle three times! The specially modified Boeing 747 and its jet fighter escort did two flybys at 1500 feet (and then a final landing) which is so low you can read tail numbers and Discovery's name.

Don't believe me? Check out this awesome shot my co-worker snapped out of my workplace window.
Photo credit: Jennifer S.

After the first pass, I abandoned my conference call and joined the others out on the parking deck. The second pass went directly overhead. You can see the giant silhouette of the 747 dwarfing the shuttle which is piggybacking on it (thanks to Sanjib for this awesome shot). Notice the extra tail fin stabilizers. You don't want the plane doing any uncontrolled rolling with something that size on its back.

Photo by Sanjib D.
And finally, since most of you couldn't be there, I offer this closeup video as the space shuttle and the fighter escort went by our window. It was awesome! We were as giddy as schoolchildren - lots of whom played hookey to see it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Minor Ritual

It is now Easter, the Resurrection of the Lord, and the most glorious feast of our Church.

Before that, though, comes the pain. Why do we call Good Friday "good"?  It is because it IS good, but that's not synonymous with pleasant.

I have my own ritual.

I try to take at least a half day off on Good Friday when possible. I am only minutes from the church. Good Friday is a day of fast and abstinence, so the cup of coffee and yoghurt I had for breakfast is long gone by the time the Crucifixion begins.  I am a hypoglycemic, so fasting hits me a little harder; I run out of blood sugar in a hurry. First the rumbling stomach, then the vise-like headache and dizziness. Eventually it settles down to a hazy aching.

That's when I make the Stations of the Cross.

My discomfort is nothing compared to the Cross. I make the Stations on my own, keeping silence between noon and three o'clock. I walk into the church and I make a move to genuflect to the tabernacle of the Presence. Only there's nobody there. It's open and empty. And I've never felt so devastated.

Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani? My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

It is a day of pain.  They beat, and beat, and repeat - and the bleeding won't stop and the bleeding won't cease. They crucified my Lord. I crucified my Lord with my sins. Mea culpa.

The Stations seem to take forever. Bony knees on hard stone. Pain stabbing upward. Ten down, four to go. Slowly, inevitably we make our way to Golgotha. To the Crucifixion. The Pieta. The tomb.

I finish and start to leave. The tabernacle is empty, so the best I can do is a solemn bow in front of the altar. And then there is the waiting. All through Saturday -waiting. Just waiting in limbo. As if Sunday will never come.

And then it does. The stone is rolled away. He is risen from the tomb. Oh yes, oh yes. Thank you. Thank you. Like it is the first time. Thank you. 

The tomb, like the tabernacle, is now empty but for different reasons. Now the emptiness means relief, joy. Now the Goodness of Friday is made manifest.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Overheard In My House

To Wynken after showing him the bridge over which he could have crossed the river:

Who was right, and who is wet?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bangers And Mash

It's not particularly important. We had it for dinner -- just because it was fun to say.

"What's for dinner?" Bangers and Mash. Yum.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Papal Planking

Papal planking? We did it first. Servant of the Servants of God.

According to Wikipedia, ‘Planking is the act of lying face down with arms to the sides of the body, in unusual public spaces and photographing it.  The term “planking” was coined in Australia and became a fad in 2011.’

h/t CuriousPresbyterian

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

3½ Time-Outs Tuesday (Vol. 14)

Just like Conversion Diary's 7 Quick Takes, except it's half as long and twice as good.

Today my new computer chair came. I've been struggling with severe back issues over the last year and sitting for a living makes it worse. I finally found a chair at work that doesn't hurt my back, so I ordered one for the house. It cost as much in shipping as it did to buy the chair, but Mrs. Nod assures me it's worth it!

In the "adults are worse than kids" category, Wynken's Boy Scout troop leadership has had a few strong personality problems with the Committee. After a particularly tense business meeting when they asked if there was any more business I said "yes" and offered a prayer. That seemed to "reset" everybody and a few people even thanked me.

Melamine is a crazy substance that on one hand makes a Formica countertop and on the other hand is a "magic eraser" that will get permanent markers off of your wall. Guess which one we're doing? Hmm, I wonder what happens if you use markers on a Formica countertop? But I digress ...

Finally hired a system engineer to be on my project at work. Now I can stop asking myself aloud if

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Giving HHS Mandate The "Finger"?

Some things need to be seen and not just heard.  Fr. Leo has a humorous take on a serious subject.

h/t Mark Shea & Curt Jester

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday

Remember, O man, thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return.

I got the inevitable, "You have something on your forehead" today. Kinda makes me laugh.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Fun With Fruit

We're prepping for a Blynken and Dab joint birthday bash and we thought we'd have a little fun with the fruit. Blynken spent a couple of hours helping me put this together.

Cookie cutters from the kids' playdoh set (washed of course) make funky shapes which we stuck on skewers. Melon gingerbread men, ducks, and butterflies; watermelon balls; and pineapple spears (literally!)

Kinda looks like a winter luau, doesn't it?  It's 50 degrees today, tomorrow it will snow. Maybe I'll complete the effect by putting a tiki torch in the snow.

If that doesn't grab you, maybe you'd like to try the grapes which I dipped in a honey-lemon cream cheese torta and covered with crushed buttered rum walnuts?  Sounds odd, but tastes yum! yum!

We haven't even had the party yet and she (Blynken) said it was the best birthday ever. So worth the time.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Would You Pay For Rosa Parks To Sit In The Back Of The Bus?

Would you pay for Rosa Parks to sit in the back of the bus and call it justice?

Of course you wouldn't. No decent human being could conscience that. It's just wrong. It's a matter of principle and basic civil rights. Relieving her of an obligation to pay the fare while simultaneously requiring her to sit in the back would not respect her dignity as a human being.

We hold that civil rights are rights precisely because they go to the core of who we are as persons. They cannot be separated from us without grave injury; they are inextricably linked to our human dignity. It abuses the victim and debases the perpetrator.

Among these rights are freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and organizations, along with freedom from discrimination on grounds of gender, religion, or race, etc. It is not a matter of elevating one civil right over another, nor a matter of degree of how much a civil right is infringed -- any attack on these basic rights is an abrogation of the dignity of a person as a person.

Unfortunately, that is precisely what is going on with the HHS mandate (even as amended by the Administration) with respect to Catholics and any person of faith or conscience.  Whether you require Catholics to "pay the fare" or not, being forced to follow a mandate that explicitly violates their fundamental beliefs is literally unconscionable.

Bishop Paul S. Loverde of the Arlington Diocese wrote in the Feb. 16 issue of The Arlington Catholic Herald: (emphasis mine)
Make no mistake: this “accommodation,” as described, is no accommodation at all, but
rather remains a direct violation to our right to religious liberty, a right which is protected in the Constitution.

The president’s new plan purports to transfer the burden from religious employers to their insurers. This is a distinction without a practical difference; the funds still come from the employer and the employees. Moreover, it fails to address the situation of self-insured health care plans such as those offered together by the Catholic Diocese of Arlington and Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington. Under a self-insured plan, the employer is the insurance provider—there is no distinction between the two.

Up to now, we have been free to provide health care coverage that is consistent with our religious and moral principles. This freedom is being taken away. Under the proposed revision, our diocese, as well as other objecting individuals and employers, would be mandated to pay not only for birth control and sterilization, but also for abortion-inducing drugs—such as Ella—which end the life of the human person in the womb. This mandate must be rescinded or overturned.

It is not only Catholics who are being threatened. This mandate is a dangerous precedent for all those who seek to act according to their consciences.
This HHS mandate is reprehensible, plain and simple. Let us have no straw man arguments on whether or not Rosa Parks paid bus fare, how many Catholics use contraception, or how you hate/disagree with Catholic teaching. Spare us your misplaced indignation on how dare you compare my civil rights abuse with your civil rights abuse (that's what analogies are for). Let's not split the gnat's eyelashes on how many degrees of separation are required before it's considered "material cooperation with evil".

It's not about degrees. It's about fundamental civil rights. Religion. Race. Gender. Human.You cannot violate one without violating them all in principle, because they are bound to our humanity. Any attack is not to be tolerated.

This. Must. Not. Stand.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Fer Cryin' Out Loud

Msgr. Pope alerts us to a change in Federal policy that now excludes religious workers from Federal Student Loan Forgiveness because they are no longer deemed in "public service" as defined by government employment or part of a 501(c)(3) charity.

New Rule Excludes Religious Workers from Benefits Offered to Others. Another Example of Hostile Secularism in the Federal Government

However, a recent rule change now excludes those who are involved in any work of a religious nature. In the Washington Post “On Faith” section Brad Hirschfield writes the following to explain the change:
What counts as public service? 

Until the end of January, the government definition was clear and inclusive. It read as follows: “Qualifying employment is any employment with a federal, state, or local government agency, entity, or organization or a non-profit organization that has been designated as tax-exempt by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC)."

Now though, the rules have changed. At the end of the description of who qualifies for this program, a new paragraph appears and it’s striking not only in that it re-defines things, but that it does so in a way that seems purposefully disingenuous. 
“Generally, the type or nature of employment with the organization does not matter for PSLF purposes. However, if you work for a non-profit organization, your employment will not qualify for PSLF if your job duties are related to religious instruction, worship services, or any form of proselytizing.” [1] 

Thus, the new policy explicitly goes out of its way to exclude religious work. In effect it implies that such work is NOT public service, merely because it is exercised through a religious organization for a religious purpose.
Click on over to read the rest.

Is anyone really surprised at the new hostility to religion by the administration? Dismayed, yes. Surprised, no.

I Don't Feel Bad

We just found out that Wynken took 2nd place for his science project in his category for 7th grade physics after oral presentation at the Science Fair.

And no, I don't feel bad after all.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Did I Pass?

I have passed seventh grade twice, fifth grade thrice, and third grade four times. And I'm doing it all again.

That is to say, I've successfully completed these grades once for myself, but they (you know who you are) are compelling me to do it again and again.  It seems inevitable, that my children will come home with a project.

I hate projects.

And because almost all the Nodlings go to the same school ... they're the same projects over and over again.

Now of course the children do their projects all by themselves. Of course they drive themselves to the store to get their supplies. Of course they do all their own research without asking for assistance, and of course they are all wizards on the computer the way the school system requires them to be these days. (Of course they all have their own computers and printers -- silly you, for asking.)


That being the case our oldest, Wynken, is the latest Nodling to have a project -- and not just any project: The Seventh Grade Science Fair. Da Da Da DUM!!

I hate the Science Fair most of all. I studiously avoided it growing up by focusing year after year on either 1) dinosaurs, or 2) salt crystals. (Hey, look -- dinosaur salt crystals!) It's not that I hate science (it's rather interesting), it's that I hate Science Fairs: the pressure of competition, the stupid poster boards, the flimsy models, the lame ideas (are seventh graders really supposed to come up with an original idea?), the awkward reports, and so on.

After having Science Fair Idea Block for a couple of weeks solid, Wynken actually found a cool looking (and mercifully simple) topic called Hero's Fountain. Hero (or Heron) was an ancient Greek mathematician and engineer who did a lot of cool experiments.

Hero's Fountain is a "standalone fountain that operates under self-contained hydrostatic energy".  Huh? Wha-?  Basically it's a 3 tier fountain where you pour water in the top and gravity makes it go down and come spurting out the top again (almost) endlessly.

He came up with the idea and the hypothesis, did research, built a model, conducted the experiment, and typed up the analysis.  I made it pretty.

Now I know that everybody says that you should let your kid do his own project and let his work stand on its own, etc. I get it. I do. Individual achievement. Learning (sometimes by failing). Helicopter parents need not apply.  BUT (you knew there was one) since Wynken has an executive brain function deficiency despite being a near-genius (more on that later), he would still be formatting the title if I didn't intervene. (And I want my computer back.)

This meant that even though I wasn't "doing" the project, it took up a lot of my time (and Mrs Nod's). I had to (literally) stand over him to get him to keep typing, look up stuff, (STOP looking up stuff), get supplies, use the hacksaw and the hot glue gun, and make sure he was following the already-laid-out-for-you outline provided by the teacher.

When it came time to make the display board, he showed me the Wikipedia image of Hero's fountain he wanted to use and we discussed what information he wanted to attach to it.  So I took those things and combined them with a little Photoshop magic into an infographic. I admit, it was a little over the line (but just a little).  It's hard not to want to help your kid, especially when he struggles. And he did work hard. It just took forever.

We went from this:
Wikipedia image of Heron's Fountain

To this:

Wynken's image of Heron's Fountain
Here is the actual fountain he built:

So ... did I pass?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

HHS Mandate Is Wrong

Others have said it louder, better, and more often -- but that doesn't mean it isn't worth saying again.

The HHS mandate is WRONG. It isn't a Catholic thing either, it's a religious liberties issue.  It doesn't matter so much what we believe, but rather that we are free to believe it in practice.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

3½ Time-Outs Tuesday (Vol. 10)

Just like Conversion Diary's 7 Quick Takes, except it's half as long and twice as good.
Hosted by The Snark, LarryD, at Acts of the Apostasy

Feeling just the tiniest bit hep that my comments on the duplicitous coverage by CBS Washington of the March For Life got picked up by bigger and better bloggers and journalists, went viral, and ended up causing CBS to "fix" their error by publishing photos of actual pro-lifers at a pro-life March. 

It's only 15 seconds of (third-hand) fame, so fleeting ...
 Got another positive piece of news when I learned that Komen "Race For The Cure" group has cut off funding to Planned Parenthood.  It's long overdue; how can you continue to associate with a group so controversial when you should be focusing attention on something as non-controversial as curing cancer? 
Komen said it could not continue to fund Planned Parenthood because it has adopted new guidelines that bar it from funding organizations under congressional investigation. The House oversight and investigations subcommittee announced in the fall an investigation into Planned Parenthood’s funding.
Aw. I'm practically giddy.

Decided that it was time to refresh the look of Wynken, Blynken, and Nod with a new template, new colors, and masthead. Still working on cleaning out old links and other cruft, and need to add in another Nodling, but it's coming along.  Whadda think?

It's time to start brewing beer again. I've got a Scottish 90 Shilling Ale batch that I need to see if I can save, and I've got a St. Paul's Porter waiting to be made. One of the Homebrews bought us 3 lbs. of Sparking Amber dried malt extract to make a yeast starter. That oughta get those tired yeast cells humming!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

House of Nod Celebrates Double Time

The House of Nod rejoiced today with not one, but two, celebrations.

First my brother, Shoe, and his wife, Girl Friday, baptized their precious daughter Babs, wiping out Original Sin and bringing her into relationship with God. I love a good death and resurrection!

The priest said that all of our kids were the "loudest respondents he's had at a baptism in a long time" during the liturgy. I guess that's good, hm? (Although I fumbled the first 'And with your Spirit'. Doh!)

On the way there I was asking the kids about baptism and Nod-girl at first said it was when we were "concealed with the Holy Spirit", but then got it right. It's hard to drive and laugh at the same time!

Grandma Nod hasn't perfected the art of bi-location, so she was sadly absent. The reason: my sister K-Lo was finishing up 36 hours of labor to bring her first-born son into the wide world. Good job, sis, and congratulations! My sister, her husband, and two Grandmas are all understandably exhausted.

No pictures yet - hopefully we'll get to meet the little tyke tomorrow - so I'll provide one of my own. I dub thee: the Artful Dodger.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

How The Media Covered The March For Life

Update 2: Washington Post’s own ombudsman criticizes paper’s March for Life coverage:
January 30, 2012 ( – After receiving letters from “antiabortion readers” complaining about his paper’s coverage of the March for Life, the Washington Post’s ombudsman has penned a column agreeing with many of their criticisms.
Ombudsman Patrick Pexton says that the Washington Post gave an “incomplete picture” of the March for Life in both its print story and online photo gallery.
Pexton writes that the Post “fell down” in its coverage of the March by failing to include any photos in the gallery that conveyed the magnitude or the “festiveness” of the pro-life crowd, instead focusing on the confrontations between a small group of pro-abortion counter protesters and passing pro-lifers on the steps of the Supreme Court.

Update: This story got picked up by Steven Greydanus at the National Catholic Register and others. The collective pressure got CBS Washington to update their photo spread to include pictures of pro-lifers. Thanks Steven!

Although criticism of CBS’s original photo gallery ranged far and wide, the earliest whistleblower I’m aware of was the blog Wynken, Blynken and Nod, which commented early Tuesday. I reported on W. B. Nod’s comments later that day, and my own comments (and Nod’s) were picked up by Matthew Balan of NewsBusters. Later that evening, Al Kresta posted on the story.
Yesterday, the story spread as Jill Stanek and LifeSiteNews picked up on it. Earlier today, the issue hit The Washington Times, the Washington Examiner and Get Religion.

 * * * * *
How the media covered the 2012 March For Life: You already know the answer, don't you? The liberal media ignored or insulted the event and the conservative media had a love-fest. Right? Right?

Not so fast.

Guess: which major news network wrote this?

Thousands will gather in the District for the annual March for Life.
It’s been deemed the largest and longest-running peaceful human rights demonstration for the unborn, with more than 100,000 expected to attend.

Among those expected to participate in the march are hundreds of Catholic University students. University president John Garvey says “The passage of time since the adoption of Roe v. Wade has not dulled people’s sensitivity to this moral calamity. On the contrary, especially among young people, it has emerged as the preeminent human rights issue of our time.”
If you said Fox News, you'd be dead wrong. It was MSNBC -- possibly the most liberal news outlet of the big four. Not what you'd expect from the "foaming-at-the-mouth lickspittle toadies of the Democratic party" as some would characterize them.

In fact, MSNBC had the most favorable article. "[L]argest and longest-running peaceful human rights demonstration": read that again.

By contrast, the "right-wing, knuckle-dragging mouth breathers" at Fox News' headline read "Anti-abortion Protesters March in Washington on Roe v. Wade Anniversary" and simply regurgitated the Associated Press' 6 desultory sentences for their article, as did ABC. They also put "March for Life" in quotes, whereas MSNBC did not.

Fox News did have a short video showing the March for Life crowd, however.

The worst of the lot had to be CBS. You couldn't find their article in any of their online sections without serious digging. I had to resort to their search engine to find any results and those were in the "Local" section. Two articles were about MFL traffic, two about Speaker of the House John Boehner's address, and one about the March in Connecticut.

The remaining link was to a photo gallery entitled "Activists Hold Annual March For Life on Roe v. Wade Anniversary".  The thing I find despicable is that the caption reads in part: "Activists on both sides of the abortion issue are rallying on the 39th anniversary of the landmark Roe vs Wade case", but ALL of the pictures are of pro-abortion sign holders (probably about 20 of them).

NONE of the pictures were of the 200,000 or more pro-life demonstrators. Hundreds of thousands vs. tens and not a single shot of the March For Life itself -- not exactly unbiased reporting.

BEFORE you spam me for being a myopic, biased, hypocritical luddite -- these results were current as of mid-afternoon on Monday. More articles may have appeared since then. My research wasn't exactly scientific, but it is fairly representative of the "average person" standard that is so esteemed in court cases.

The very best, in-depth, and positive coverage of the 2012 March for Life was provided by -- no surprise -- EWTN: live and in living color on the main page. 'Cause that's how we roll.


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