Sunday, December 8, 2013

In The Land of Scorpions, Gingerbread, and Other Bad Taste

Gingerbread Houses

The House of Nod decided to bring back the tradition of making and decorating gingerbread houses during the Advent season. Siblings, parents, grandparents, and children had a marathon 3-day event: mixed the dough, chilled it for 24 hours, rolled, baked, glued with frosting, and then finally -- decorating with a million candies.

The secret to making truly awesome gingerbread cookies: Crisco. I kid you not. There is no substitute.

Outpost #4 made a beautiful traditional gingerbread house.

The Nodlings' house was decorated by the same committee that designed the platypus. Sleigh, train tracks, koi pond, and gumdrop / non-pareil roof.  What?

My sister K-Lo and hubs embraced some structural failures and went all redneck-ghetto Christmas, complete with patchy lawn, couch, car on blocks, telephone wires, drooping Christmas lights, and ugly siding.

A masterpiece!


Speaking of redneck ambiance, we've had our first snow in the Washington, DC area. Since no one can remember from winter to winter how to drive in the white stuff, I moved my truck from the street where it normally sits. I parked it just to the right of my driveway under some trees, so yes, technically I've parked on the lawn.

What? I still need the driveway clear to get the cars out of the garage.  Moving the truck allows the plows to clear my street, and nobody hits my truck by accident.

Catholic Worst Case Scenario Survival Tip #2

Last week's research into the Catholic Worst Case Scenario Survival Tip about Confession and getting gored by a Yak yielded an unexpected bonus question: What happens if you've been stung by scorpions in Mexico and need to get to confession but can't speak Spanish?

Find out the exciting answer here! Catholic Worst Case Scenario Survival Tip #2

Magnificat Advent Companion
Trying to keep things "in perspective" and "in season" both. This 2013 Magnificat Advent companion reader is only 99 cents and well worth the buck. Includes how to pray the "O" Antiphons.  Use iTunes, Kindle, e-reader -- whatever. Just do it.
A perfect way to live Advent to the full this year.
This Companion features original meditations on the Gospel reading of each day by nineteen gifted authors.
Each issue of the Advent Companion is never the same as the last and contains these one-of-a-kind extras that you won’t find anywhere else:
- a variety of beautiful blessings and essays
- an Advent Penance Service
- specially-commissioned poetry
- a unique feature: the Advent Stations

Holiday greetings
Speaking of seasons, I've got just the touch of holiday Grinch going on. I refuse to wish anyone a "Happy Holiday".  Anyone who wishes me a generic "Happy Holiday" will be forced to choose.

Which did you mean? Merry Christmas, Happy Advent, Happy New Year, Happy Channukah, or what?  I don't care what you choose, as long as you're specific.   

Grump. Grump.

The genericizing of the holiday calendar really bugs me.  We set aside special days and holy days for a reason -- and it ain't one more "holiday" sale.

Hot Buttered Rum
Is there anything more delightful than sitting beside a real wood fire with a hot buttered rum? Didn't think so.
Photo Courtesy of ©

Dinosaur collagen. 68,000,000 years old and still soft. 

Yeah, still fascinates just like when I was 6.  h/t. A Catholic Citizen in America.
"A nearly-complete fossil found in Canada, and collagen extracted from a dinosaur's bone, fascinate me. Your experience may vary."

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Catholic Worst Case Scenario Survival Rule #2

Let's say you're a Catholic who has just arrived in the Land of Scorpions. Your great Uncle Rubin has recently died and left you a claim to a silver mine in his will.  After praying for the repose of his soul, you come down to Durango, Mexico to inspect your inheritance.

After confirming that it is an active silver mine you go into town to celebrate your good prospects and to raise a glass (or two!) in the cantina to your great Uncle Rubin. The next morning you wake fuzzy headed and with strange, painful welts on your arms. You decide that Alacrán de Durango doesn't mean Dance of the Scorpions and wasn't meant to be done with live scorpions in any case.

Overcome with remorse and more than a little worried about the welts on your arms you rush to the local Catholic church and line up for Confession. You jump into the box when you suddenly realize: not only does the priest not speak English, you don't speak any Spanish!

You exit the confessional looking woeful and confused. A friendly old Duranguense man who is next in line greets you in English and offers to translate your confession to the priest.

What's a body to do? Is it OK for this man to translate your confession? Does the seal of the confessional apply to your translator as well even though he isn't a priest?

Things are looking pretty dicey indeed. But this Catholic worst case scenario survival tip is just what you need:
CIC, Canon 983.2 A penitent who does not speak the same language as the priest confessor may bring a translator into the confessional. In such a case, however, the translator is also bound by the seal of confession
The same canon says that anyone who accidentally or purposely overhears another person's confession is bound by the seal to keep it a secret, even from the penitent. 

Anyone who overhears another person's confession must keep this a secret under the seal of confession, under pain of serious sin. The penalties for revealing another person's confessional material must be just, according to the seriousness of the offense. The penalties may include excommunication, though this is not automatic as in the case of a priest who breaks the seal.

So go ahead and 'fess up, partner. You get the grace of the sacrament, and your translator pal gets to keep your secret. Remember this Catholic Worst Case Scenario Survival Tip #2:

If you're a gringo without lingo and in distress,
Your friend on the end can help you confess.
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Fozzy Networking

Monday, December 2, 2013

Team Nodlings

I'm feeling good, so I finally followed through on a project from last year.  I had the idea to make the kids Team Nodlings jersey t-shirts so they can watch football with me and just generally be awesome.

I put their Names and Numbers on the back and shirt sleeves (in birth order) and Nodlings on the front with my Nod of Approval logo.

#4 Nub is the one face-up in case you've lost track!

Super fun, I can't wait for them to try them on!  Whaddaya think?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Yaks And Other Comfort Food: 7 Quick Takes

My friends are ... unusual. They like asking these extreme questions regarding the Catholic faith. My buddy asked what happens if you're hiking in the Himalayas and you get gored by a Yak and there's only an Orthodox priest to hear your dying Confession. Is that OK?

That led to this post on Catholic Worst Case Scenario Survival Tip #1. Check it out.
Ah November. One of the best times of the year. The turning of the leaves, the chill in the air, and Thanksgiving all turn our thoughts to ... coconut.

Seriously, I have no idea what makes me tick. I dig coconut. I crave Mounds candy bars, always get a coconut cream pie for my birthday, cook with coconut milk, munch on dried coconut, and so on. Did you know that they make coconut M&M's?  These things are DA BOMB!

Tune in next time where I proclaim my love for mincemeat pie.  I know!
Decided to treat myself just a bit when I passed by the Art of Shaving store at the Mall. (Note to self -- if I never go to the Mall this time of year ever again, it will be too soon.)

Anyway, since it's Movember, I get to grow my beard and mustache back for the cold months. This inevitably leads to trimming and shaping issues, which is why I went in the Art of Shaving store. I picked up this miniscule mustache razor that is for all those hard to reach places, like the corners of your mouth.

Handsome devil, isn't it?

I've always been attracted to the idea of straight razor shaving, but while there are little Nodlings in the house, prudence must prevail.  A small mustache safety razor isn't so bad though, right?

I finally took the time to try it out properly: hot water, pre-shave oil, shave lather, shaving with and then against the grain, and finally after-shave lotion. I can honestly say my face feels awesome. It's a bit time consuming to do it "properly", but the results are fantastic. Can't say it'll be my everyday, but definitely worth it for those special times you want to look your best.
With regards to action adventure, pound for pound, you just can't beat the Bible.  These stories always inspire, awe, or otherwise engage man on a visceral level. Truth, fiction, allegory, or something greater -- they capture the imagination.

Director Darren Aronofsky and Paramount are making Noah, starring Russell Crowe; albeit not without some controversy. It remains to be seen whether it is merely an apocalyptic action adventure or a dramatic Bible retelling. It looks to be a spectacle either way.


One of my favorite board games is Empire Builder by Mayfair. It takes a couple of hours to play as you have to build railroad track for your train as you go, picking up commodities and selling them in different cities for a payoff.  It's a "serious" game in that you have to plan, allocate resources, and make decisions, but it's simple enough that a young teen or pre-teen can play it without much difficulty.

Plus you get to draw with crayons on the board. I've played computer versions of this game, but I keep coming back to the waxed board and the wipe-off crayons. Similar to crossword puzzles, some things are best in their tactile form.
Our bishop wrote us a Pastoral Letter to mark the end of the Year of Faith: Go Forth With Hearts on Fire: A Pastoral Letter on the New Evangelization. This is very cool, as I don't think this kind of thing happens very often.

It's a little bit like when the Pope writes an Encyclical, but this one is aimed at just our diocese.  Now that we've spent a year reflecting on faith, he wants us to go out and evangelize.

Exciting, yes?
Read a book! Better yet -- write one, then let me read it!  You go, NaNoWriMo people!

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Catholic Worst Case Scenario Survival Rule #1

A buddy of mine recently posed this scenario:

You are a Catholic hiking in a remote section of the Himalayan region of south Central Asia or perhaps Russia when you unexpectedly startle a local Yak herd. In the ensuing stampede you are gored by a Yak bull and seriously injured. 

You are afraid you may die and you are aware of a serious sin on your conscience. The herdsman applies basic first aid and carries you down the hill to the nearest Orthodox church. The priest rushes to your side and offers to hear your confession. 

As a Catholic, can this Orthodox priest shrive you?

Wow. That's actually a pretty bad Catholic worst case scenario. What's a body to do? The good news is that Orthodox priests are validly ordained and have valid sacraments. Ergo, an Orthodox priest can forgive sins. The bad news is that the Orthodox church is not presently in communion with the Pope as the Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, so their sacraments are not considered licit (legal) for Catholics.
The Code of Canon Law states:
Can. 966 §1 For the valid absolution of sins, it is required that, in addition to the power of order, the minister has the faculty to exercise that power in respect of the faithful to whom he gives absolution.
So the short answer is -- in normal circumstances: No.  Although the Orthodox priest has the power to forgive sins, he does not have jurisdiction over Catholics.

However, this is anything but a normal circumstance. You've just been gored by a Yak. Shouldn't that be taken into consideration?
The Code of Canon Law makes one exception for emergency circumstances:  
Can. 976  Even though he lacks the faculty to hear confession, any priest validly and licitly absolves from any kind of censures and sins any penitent who is in danger of death, even if an approved priest is present.
So, in the case of emergencies where death is possible, then yes, an Orthodox priest can hear a Catholic's confession -- just as any validly ordained priest may hear a confession.

Catholic Worst Case Scenario Survival Rule #1:

If your gore is gory and the perp's a Yak, 
strive to shrive to the priest in black.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Superman: Man of God?

Mrs. Nod and I watched the movie Superman: Man of Steel together recently.

One of the things I dig about her is that I never have to apologize for wanting to watch a superhero movie -- she's usually there ahead of me.

A pleasant surprise was the deliberate Christian religious allegory built in to the story. Yes, it is there in the original canon, but I appreciate the fact that director Zack Snyder chose to leave it in and even highlight it.

A few (mostly) non-spoiler examples:

When Superman is debating giving himself up to save the human race, he seeks counsel in a church from a pastor. There is a very clearly framed shot of Superman in front of a stained glass window of Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane prior to His passion. Superman, like Christ, is sacrificing himself for a fearful and undeserving human race.

Superman also references the fact that he has been on Earth for "33 years" -- the same age as Christ when He underwent His passion.

Zod represents amorality and ends-justifies-the-means, while Superman represents restraint, compassion, and conscience throughout.

In the beginning of the film, Jor-El tells his wife that their son, Kal-El (aka Superman), will be "like a god" to men because of the incredible strength he will develop under Earth's yellow sun.  I'm not sure of the original etymology of the House of El in the literature, but "El" means "god" in Hebrew and other Semitic languages. The iconic "S" of Superman's family crest of the House of El means "hope" -- another messianic theme.

There is also a strong message against genetic breeding, biological determinism, and population control. The underwater chamber that all Kryptonians are born in is called the Genesis chamber; their lives and roles in society is predetermined. Superman's Kryptonian parents wanted their son to be born naturally and have the freedom to choose whom he would become.

Clark's biological parents and foster parents both emphasize strength of character as the defining characteristic they wish to instill in him. He, like Christ, is to be the model for all humans to emulate. Superman is also portrayed as a Noah figure, carrying the future of his people to safety in his "ark" while the old world is destroyed, as well as a Moses figure (baby in the bulrushes).  Noah and Moses are both archetypes of Christ.

So there is all that -- in addition to it being just a pretty awesome and well executed movie with lots of action and cool special effects. 


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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Science Behind Beer Foam Explosions

What happens when someone clunks their beer bottle on top of your open bottle? Your beer explodes in a shower of foam.

The bad news is that science has determined that you have one millisecond to stop that reaction from happening. The good news is that we get to watch those erupting beer plumes in super slow-motion.

Yay, science!

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Obamacare Bites

I've been doing a good job at keeping myself at arm's length from politics this year because I'm a bit weary of it. It's silly season, and we have an election in less than three weeks.

But sometimes politics comes to bite you from under the table like a rabid dog in any case. I've just been informed by my 5000+ person company that they are cancelling my preferred insurance plan for 2014.

I'm a little salty about it.

"Regrettably, the Gold Plan -- for many years considered our "premier" level medical plan -- will not be available in 2014. The 2014 costs incurred under this plan rose to an unprecedented high. In addition, this type of plan will be subject to a "Cadillac Tax", under the rules and regulations of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act [Obamacare] excise tax."

I've got a large family with a lot of ongoing medical issues. The plan that I rely on to keep my medical costs affordable has just been made un-affordable and un-available.  Instead, I have the option of paying more to get a lesser plan with higher deductibles, higher out-of-pocket limits, lower covered percentages, and fewer options.

So much for "keeping the insurance you like". Empty promises, broken dreams. And will that increased cost be offset by higher wages or subsidies? Not a chance. The company is also taking it on the chin. Medical costs continue to rise and with them insurance premiums. Obamacare does nothing to lower real medical costs and seemingly nothing to lower insurance rates for those that have it.

So let's review: higher costs, canceled coverage, real medical costs increasing, and a shuffling of the chairs on the Insurance Titanic.

Does anybody know of anybody anywhere whose insurance rates went down for the same product?

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Overheard In My House

When you've been married for a long time, your traits tend to rub off on your spouse a bit.  My wife likes computer design, I like beer.

Mrs. Nod was working on the layout for the school craft fair booklet on her computer and was complaining about the poor scan quality of the advertisement graphics.
"Look at this file, it's only 350 kega-bytes!"

Whoa! -- it comes in kega-bytes? I'm getting one!

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

7 Things I Wish I Had Done This Week Instead

1. Played in the puddles.

It rained like the dickens early in the week. I wished I had grabbed the kids and had paper boat races in the gutter instead of cleaning the house.

2. Watched that other Sandra Bullock movie.

I could have gone to see "At once the most realistic and beautifully choreographed film ever set in space, Gravity is a thrillingly realized survival story spiked with interludes of breath-catching tension and startling surprise" - (The Hollywood Reporter) in an amazing 3D big screen experience.

Instead I watched the most insipid, trope-ridden rom-com Love Potion Number 9 which had exactly nothing to recommend it on YouTube. Two-geeky-scientists-abuse-gypsy-love-potion-finally-realizing-they-really-love-each-other-instead-because-Hollywood. 


3.  Gone to the Northern Virginia Fall BrewFest.

I homebrew beer as a hobby, and so I'm always interested in tasting the endless renaissance that is craft beer. I could have been sampling 40 of the world’s best breweries, delicious food to complement the craft beers, outstanding local and regional bands, as well as artists, crafters and retail vendors for your early holiday shopping!

Anything from Old Dominion Oktoberfest Maerzen - with its eight types of imported German malts and four hop varieties to create this amber-colored fest beer;

to the Black Beer of Köstritzer with its unmistakable fine aroma, mild hops, and a versatile flavor ranging from sweet palatable to light and fresh with a distinctive, delicate malt flavor;

to the 2012 Gold World Beer Cup Gold winner Devil's Backbone Eight Point IPA. This pale bronze beer is amber in color and medium bodied with floral and citrusy aromas and an intense hoppy finish.

Only one more week until my own homebrews are ready!

4. Learned to play the electric guitar.  

Seriously. Who doesn't want to be able to rock out on their very own Fender electric guitar? Who cares if it's only a Fender Squier from Costco? Stop with the air guitar and the Rock Band game and move on up to music that comes from your own fingertips. Get yourself some Rocksmith and learn some licks and then hook it up to an Amplitube iRig and jam along to your favorite songs on your iPhone.

Or just throw caution to the wind, crank the amp, and play like you just don't care. It doesn't have to be good - just loud. It's an electric guitar fer cryin' out loud!

5.  Gotten some real work done. I went from being a tech geek to a tech lead - which is dangerously close to management. That's a four letter word: B-O-S-S.

I have a small team that I direct in things computer and things security. Since it's a new team on a new project, I have to make sure everybody has a task they are doing and doing correctly. I hate doing the hand-holding thing. My plan is to make my minions self-sufficient to I can be free to do what I do best: innovate and solve technical problems.

Project plans and status reports? Blarg.  Give me tech or else I die!

6.  Gone on a nature walk with just my wife.

It's got three things I really enjoy: my wife, nature, and mild exercise. It's the kind of crisp, fall weather out there that puts a little pep in your step.  It's not too hot, the fall colors are starting to show, and the cool air is invigorating.

We could have had an uninterrupted conversation, soaked in some of that quickly-failing sunlight and vitamin D, circulated the blood a bit, appreciated the good things God has created, and just enjoyed each other's company.

My reason for not doing it this week?


7. Gotten more sleep instead of surfing the Internet into the wee hours. Nothing can replace sleep. Nothing. Without it we are cranky, tired, short-tempered, stupid, and argumentative. Sleep repairs the body, refreshes the mind, and makes us people our family actually likes to be around.

Did I really need to watch one more cat video, like one more Facebook post, read one more blog post, or find out one more trivial fact on Wikipedia?

Lo! I have searched and found The End of the Internet.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Potpourri of Popery: Fun With Hats

Why is it we love to see our public figures in ridiculous outfits -- politicians, celebrities, and especially Popes?

Perhaps it's the incongruity of it all, because it is "unexpected". The more serious the figure, the more we love the ridiculous.

Here is one thing I like about Pope Francis: he is almost always smiling. He seems to like this Christianity thing. Me too. As St Teresa of Avila said: "God save us from sour-faced saints."

So without further ado: A Potpourri of Popery.

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Raining Diamonds

Photo credit: NASA
Well, this weekend looks like it may be drowned out for the Nodlings.

It's raining like the dickens which means no Boy Scout camp out for Wynken and no American Heritage Girls camp out for Blynken, Nod-girl, and Nib since the sites are literally under water.

Nub and Dab may still get a chance to hang out with dear old Dad for the day since Mrs. Nod is taking the AHG'ers to the Fire Station for a rain picnic and the Boy Scouts are working on Pioneering instead.

If the Diocese kicks out the Boy Scouts due to their new policy on gay scouts next year, we'll be looking for a new home for the troop instead of the church property; or else we personally will have to decide if we're continuing with Scouting.
Elsewhere it's raining diamonds on Neptune, Jupiter may have rivers of liquid diamond, and there are black diamonds falling from the sky. Mrs. Nod wants me to enlarge her gold wedding band for Christmas, but is her wedding ring a sacramental?
 Meanwhile, thousands of slowed down crickets sound like an angel choir, and I'm contemplating this heavenly mole poblano with its 29 ingredients because I just can't find good Mexican sauces around here.
3 oz chiles anchos, about 6 or 7, stemmed and seeded
3 oz chiles pasillas, about 12 or 13, stemmed and seeded

3 oz chiles mulatos, about 6, stemmed and seeded

1/3 oz dried chipotle chiles, about 4, stemmed and seeded

1/2 white onion, about 1/2 pound, roughly chopped

garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

3 tablespoons raw almonds with skin

3 tablespoons raw shelled peanuts

3 tablespoons raisins

1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds

4 tablespoons sesame seeds

1/2 cup reserved chile seeds

whole cloves, stemme

1/4 teaspoon anise seeds

1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1 stick true or ceylon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon dried thyme

1/8 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 lb roma tomatoes, about 2 , charred or roaste

1/3 lb tomatillos, about 2, husked, rinsed, charred/roasted

corn tortillas, sliced in 8 pieces

1/2 bolillo, telera or baguette, about 2 oz, thickly sliced (if it is a couple days old, better

6 oz Mexican style chocolate or bittersweet chocolate

5 cups chicken broth(plus 4 more cups to dilute later on)

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or more to taste

1/2 cup sesame seeds, toasted, to sprinkle at the end
And since it seems, as Hamlet said, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy", I still find it fascinating that particle physics may be as simple as calculating the volume of a quantum jewel. I was never good at math, so I prefer this version:


Finally, to round out the weekend, the Peter Andrastek makes a good case for the personal touch if we want to win souls for Christ in 5 Things Parishes Are Doing Wrong for the New Evangelization.
Deeply form and train a small group of parishioners in mature discipleship.  Then train them to apprentice individuals and small groups of other parishioners into mature discipleship.

The first Christians had no committees, no strategic plans, no DVD series or programs.  They were bold. They were daring.  They got messy.  Jesus led them.  He had formed them as disciples to make new disciples.  They hurt, they suffered, they bled, they loved, and they changed the world.  So must we.  So must our parishes.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
 Jen Fulwiler is hosting her weekly 7 Quick Takes. While you are enjoying that, take a moment to subscribe to WBN's own Blynken Blog.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Update Your RSS Feed!

I know what you're thinking: with the demise of Google Reader I lost my RSS feed to Wynken, Blynken, and Nod!  How am I gonna get all those Blynken blog updates?

Well help is on the way. To subscribe to WBN with your new favorite feed reader, point it at:

Or click on the RSS feed icon in the upper left corner.

See? What could be easier than that?

P.S. Every feed subscription goes to shore up a weak Nod self-image. Now it's a Work of Mercy. You're welcome!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Best Thing About Being A Catholic Dad

The best thing about being a Catholic Dad is telling your kids they're going to Confession, and when they do, they thank you afterwards.


What's your best thing?

Monday, September 30, 2013

That Little Gold Ring You Wear On Your Hand

Mrs. Nod and I attended a lovely Nuptial Mass of a family friend this weekend.

The liturgy was joyful, the bride was beautiful, and the young lovers were radiant with their love for one another. I confess to feeling a touch of emotion as I watched them profess their vows.

One of the things that I had forgotten after 17 years of marriage was the rings. It seems silly to say since I look at mine daily and have never taken it off.

Ok, I didn't forget about the wedding rings per se, what I was reminded about them is that they are blessed objects.  As Catholics we know that the thing that makes you married in the sight of God is the consent -- the words, not the rings. The couple is the agent of the sacrament; the Church is the witness.
I, (Name), take you, (Name), to be my wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.
The wedding can take place without the rings.  The priest at our wedding told us that if the best man lost the rings that he would just continue without them. The rings are the most visible outward sign of marriage. (I might argue that the six Nodlings tend to give that away.)

But we did have the rings and the priest did bless them.
Lord, bless these rings which we bless in your name.
Grant that those who wear them
may always have a deep faith in each other.
May they do your will
and always live together
in peace, good will, and love.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
The question arises: does this make the rings sacramentals? If sacramentals, does that give them special efficacy? Regardless if they are sacramentals or merely blessed objects we should regard them with the reverence and care they are due.

No one is kissing my ring like a holy relic, but all the same I am waving my sacramental around all day without realizing it.

That reminds me, after six Nodlings, Mrs. Nod can't fit her wedding ring on her finger comfortably and needs it enlarged slightly. Forget the diamond, I want that sacramental back on her hand!


Join RAnn for Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival,  for the Question of the Week :  Share a family sacramental memory.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Guess the Caption

In surfing my new Pope App, I came across this picture of the Pope visiting Centro Astalli.  While that's clearly a sports jersey, I'm not sure what the Monsignor is pointing at.

via L'Osservatore Romano
What is he saying? 
  • "Hey, it's not long enough to be a cassock."
  • "You have gum on your shoe."
  • "Number 3? Get out. The Pope is #1!"

Monday, September 23, 2013

Jewel Geometry Basis Of Reality?

Scientists have discovered that quantum jewels are quite possibly at the heart of reality as we know it.
Illustration by Andy Gilmore
"The amplituhedron looks like an intricate, multifaceted jewel in higher dimensions. Encoded in its volume are the most basic features of reality that can be calculated, “scattering amplitudes,” which represent the likelihood that a certain set of particles will turn into certain other particles upon colliding. These numbers are what particle physicists calculate and test to high precision at particle accelerators like the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland." - Quanta Magazine

WBN is picking up the story since AoftheAP is on sabloggital.

This is huge in the field of quantum physics. Before the discovery of the amplituhedron, scientists had to calculate millions of terms and fill 500 pages of algebra to figure out simple particle physics. Now they can just calculate the volume of an amplituhedron in a single function.

How's that for new math?

The article goes on to say that space-time and therefore dimensions may be an illusion created by properties of the jewel itself. Even gravity.

Sister Ilia, keynote speaker at the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and  director of Catholic studies and visiting professor at Georgetown University in Washington, is quoted as saying:
“If we are to rethink in terms of religion, we have to think in terms of cosmology,” Sister Ilia said. “We have to understand the order of the whole,” adding, “There is no amplituhedrons without God, and no God without amplituhedrons.”
Sister Ilia has a doctorate in pharmacology as well as historical theology. [WBN is of the opinion that partaking of too much pharma has influenced the dogma in this case.]

WBN also asked Internet Princess and  relativism researcher Ms. Mimi Maker about the impact of the jewel on teh intarwebs. "Gravity an illusion?", she said, "Without gravity there is no weight. No weight means: I can haz cupcake?"

Her colleague, Dr. Adam Smasher has this to say: "On a personal note, I would like to say that men everywhere can relax a bit since the discovery of the amplituhedron since everything is just a consequence of quantum geometry. Now we can say 'No, that dress does not make you look fat, it's an illusion of your quantum jewels.'"

Dr. Smasher continued, "One thing is certain now, Schrodinger can get his cat back; the cat is neither alive nor dead, but existing in a higher bejeweled state."

WBN has learned that news of the quantum jewel is even affecting the Catholic blogosphere. Rumor has it that celebrated author Rebecca Frech is working on a Second Edition of her book Teaching In Your Tiara: Quantum Bejeweled.
Fixed that for ya.   
Popular blogger Terry Nelson of Abbey Roads fame is purported to have said, "Is this the line for the funnel cakes?"


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Avast, Mateys!

It's September 19, also known as International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

And we celebrate it because ... it's important to realize ... it's, uh ... Arrr! Because that's what it be, matey!

So shiver me timbers, swab the deck, and put yer feet up and enjoy some good old pirate nonsense wi' a pot o' ale or yer favorite grog!

From Talk Like A

The basics

Pirate lingo is rich and complicated, sort of like a good stew. There are several other sites that offer glossaries that are pretty good, and you can find some of them on our links page.
But if you just want a quick fix, a surface gloss, a "pirate patina," if you will, here are the five basic words that you cannot live without. Master them, and you can face Talk Like a Pirate Day with a smile on your face and a parrot on your shoulder, if that's your thing.

Ahoy! - "Hello!"

Avast! - Stop and give attention. It can be used in a sense of surprise, "Whoa! Get a load of that!" which today makes it more of a "Check it out" or "No way!" or "Get off!"

Aye! - "Why yes, I agree most heartily with everything you just said or did."

Aye aye! - "I'll get right on that sir, as soon as my break is over."

Arrr! - This one is often confused with arrrgh, which is of course the sound you make when you sit on a belaying pin. "Arrr!" can mean, variously, "yes," "I agree," "I'm happy," "I'm enjoying this beer," "My team is going to win it all," "I saw that television show, it sucked!" and "That was a clever remark you or I just made." And those are just a few of the myriad possibilities of Arrr!

Advanced pirate lingo; or On beyond “Aarrr!”

Once you've mastered the basics, you're ready to start expanding your pirate vocabulary. Try these for starters:

Beauty – The best possible pirate address for a woman. Always preceded by “me,” as in, “C’mere, me beauty,” or even, “me buxom beauty,” to one particularly well endowed. You’ll be surprised how effective this is.

Bilge rat – The bilge is the lowest level of the ship. It’s loaded with ballast and slimy, reeking water. A bilge rat, then, is a rat that lives in the worst place on the ship. On TLAP Day – A lot of guy humor involves insulting your buddies to prove your friendship. It’s important that everyone understand you are smarter, more powerful and much luckier with the wenches than they are. Since bilge rat is a pretty dirty thing to call someone, by all means use it on your friends.

Bung hole – Victuals on a ship were stored in wooden casks. The stopper in the barrel is called the bung, and the hole is called the bung hole. That’s all. It sounds a lot worse, doesn’t it? On TLAP Day – When dinner is served you’ll make quite an impression when you say, “Well, me hearties, let’s see what crawled out of the bung hole.” That statement will be instantly followed by the sound of people putting down their utensils and pushing themselves away from the table. Great! More for you!

Grog – An alcoholic drink, usually rum diluted with water, but in this context you could use it to refer to any alcoholic beverage other than beer, and we aren’t prepared to be picky about that, either. Call your beer grog if you want. We won’t stop you! Water aboard ship was stored for long periods in slimy wooden barrels, so you can see why rum was added to each sailor’s water ration – to kill the rancid taste. On TLAP Day – Drink up, me hearties! And call whatever you’re drinking grog if you want to. If some prissy pedant purses his lips and protests the word grog can only be used if drinking rum and water, not the Singapore Sling you’re holding, keelhaul him!

Hornpipe – Both a single-reeded musical instrument sailors often had aboard ship, and a spirited dance that sailors do. On TLAP Day – We are not big fans of the capering, it’s not our favorite art form, if you will, so we don’t have a lot to say on the subject, other than to observe that the common term for being filled with lust is “horny,” and hornpipe then has some comical possibilities. “Is that a hornpipe in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me? Or both?”

Lubber – (or land lubber) This is the seaman’s version of land lover, mangled by typical pirate disregard for elocution. A lubber is someone who does not go to sea, who stays on the land. On TLAP Day – More likely than not, you are a lubber 364 days of the year. But not if you’re talking like a pirate! Then the word lubber becomes one of the more fierce weapons in your arsenal of piratical lingo. In a room where everyone is talking like pirates, lubber is ALWAYS an insult.

Smartly – Do something quickly. On TLAP Day “Smartly, me lass,” you might say when sending the bar maid off for another round. She will be so impressed she might well spit in your beer.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Whither the Zither?

I love Old Time Radio. Love it.

As a kid I would lie awake at night listening to the old time radio shows playing on K-XYZ AM nowhere. I'm not old enough to have heard these in their heyday, or even the sons of heyday, but I loved these over the top radio dramas that allowed you to exercise your imagination and get some cheap thrills.

I learned at the ear of radio about conning the marks in The Lives Harry Lime from The Third Man, foiled dastardly plots with Chuck Morgan and Glamour Puss in Stand By For Crime, defended the oppressed with Paladin in Have Gun Will Travel, and rode the dusty trails of justice with the Lone Ranger and Tonto; and I got my fill of Sherlock Holmes and the Green Hornet alike.

Radio can be intimate in a way that television is not, especially in the wee hours of the night. It's just that million dollar voice, the radio dial, and you. Radio lets you feel like you were in on the action even though your body couldn't be there.

I played some of these old time radio recordings for the Nodlings and they just ate it up. Six kids piled up on the couch to "watch" an iPad progress bar slowly marching across the screen as their grandfather's fairy tales crackled in their ears.

It's magic. It's hypnotic. I wish I could find a modern radio drama that was just as captivating. Or perhaps the charm of the old time radio is best left in the myth of yesteryear. In either case, you can stream them for free from Yay, free!

I found this old video of Anton Karas playing the theme from The Third Man on the zither. It has a quaint yet upbeat sound that evokes old Vienna. The zither may be the most complicated string instrument I have ever seen: part harp, part bass, and part stringed guitar. Enjoy!

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Catholic In Every Church

This weekend the new Sikh temple that they have been working on for the last couple of years finally opened down the street.

I realized that I pass one Sikh temple, one Hindu temple, and three Protestant churches before I ever leave my neighborhood on my way to Mass. The Catholic church is only 5 miles away, but I pass two more Protestant churches before I ever get there.

Why so many churches? I often wonder what it would be like if every church or temple was actually a Catholic church. I'd be walking to Mass for one thing.

Our church is pretty typical for our area, which means 5 Masses of 1000+ people every weekend and only 500 parking spaces. (Since we have over 15,000 registered parishioners, I have no idea where the other 10,000 people are going.)

So, if every church were Catholic, what would the average density be? What is a good size for a parish anyway? A lot of people complain that they feel isolated in our large Catholic churches, that they don't know the people the worship with, and don't feel connected to the larger parish family.

Lots of things can help with that of course. Getting involved for one. We have dozens and dozens of ministries at our parish. We have a school. We have youth groups, old people groups, charitable groups, prayer groups, mom's groups, Knights of Columbus groups, scouting groups, and so on and so forth. We have so many groups, in fact, that our pastor is sponsoring an "International Festival" to help unite the parish and make us a more cohesive group.

So if you feel left out, you're probably not trying very hard. That being said, we have an obligation to reach out to those brothers and sisters to make sure they are a healthy part of our parish family. The biggest disease we are fighting is apathy amongst our own members (remember those 10,000 missing parishioners?).

On the other extreme, I once visited West Virginia for a funeral, and had to drive two towns away to find the nearest Catholic church which was tiny and miniscule. Everyone turned around when we walked in for Mass. "You're not from around here, are you? Welcome."

One Church. Two radically different experiences.

Looks like we got some work to do around here before there is a Catholic church on every corner, and a (bunch of) Catholics in every church.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Return of the Homebrews

On this edition of Me and the Homebrews, WBN chronicles the Return of the Homebrews.

There has been a renewed interest in ramping up the homebrew again from my posse, the Homebrews. We've cleaned the keg, ordered the goods, and the supplies showed up on my doorstep on Monday.

That makes this Saturday Brew Day. To prepare, I've got to activate the yeast from its dormant slumber by creating a yeast starter on Thursday. That will give it a few days to double in size and get raring to tackle the delicious malt sugar in the beer wort; 200 billion yeast cells is a beautiful thing!
We get all our supplies from the helpful guys at Northern Brewer. Stuff is always fresh, affordable, great quality, and delivered to our door quickly. Never had a bad experience with them.

They get my official Nod of Approval.

Fixed Gear is a big, bold American red ale. It pours a glaring crimson tone with a rocky white head and a brilliant floral-citrus aroma, thanks to an aggressive dry hopping. Its immodest, malty spine and intrepid caramel flavors blow in via gratuitous amounts of 2-row pale and dark caramel malts. A balanced citrus bite comes from Chinook and Cascade hops followed shortly by mild, fruity esters from the ale yeast.
 Just looking at this I'm impressed: six hops packets!

We are seriously considering doing a double brew day to maximize our available time and to get something extra in the tank so it can age properly. Giving your homebrew a few extra weeks to "finish" can make a world of difference from first beer to last. The additional time tends to allow the flavors to blend and to smooth off any "rough edges".  Also, since we always keg our beer instead of bottling, we know that it will age uniformly.

Next on deck:   La Petite Orange Belgian Double.

A Belgian Dubbel without the deep dark chocolate maltiness, the Orange is rich with caramel sweetness and a full body that hides the 6.1% ABV very well. A simple sipper that evokes warm summery memories with every sip, yet fits perfectly into the colder months' standard brewing repertoire.

Wyeast Trappist High Gravity Y3787 is a great alternative yeast for this kit; it ferments a bit drier with a rich ester profile, malty palate, and has a high alcohol tolerance. 

In the past, we had good success with our Belgian Dubbel, so I wanted to try something in the same vein, but just a tad different. The reviews on this beer are all raves, so I definitely wanted to get in on the action.

If you love beer, this is the one to watch!

Note: to see all the entries in this series click on the homebrew label at the bottom of this post! 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Overheard In My House

The 8-year old neighbor's kid was watching Nod-girl wash some pots and pans after a party.

Neighbor kid: Why are you washing all those pots and pans?

Nod-girl: Because I'm 10 years old and when you're 10 you have a lot more responsibilities. So you should enjoy being single digits while you can.

Overruled By Taste (Buds)

Sometimes I think there is something wrong with my brain. 

Mrs. Nod said we were going to have a cookout for Nib's birthday this weekend. That traditionally means hotdogs and hamburgers.  I immediately thought, aw, man, that sounds like work over a hot grill. I don't wanna do that.

So what did I do instead? Spent 4 hours in the kitchen making fruit kebabs with Blynken out of melon, grapes, strawberries, kiwi, pineapple, mango, and watermelon. 

Heck, as long as I'm standing here doing kebabs, we might as well have chicken kebabs with mushrooms, tomatoes, red onion, and peppers. That chicken looks good, but it needs some kind of marinade. Oh, but Grandpa is diabetic so he can't have anything with sugar in it. Or salt. Or garlic.

Better make two kinds: rosemary-lime and rosemary-balsamic vinaigrette with shallots. Oh, and another with Old Bay. Hey, this other experiment with honey-lime-sriracha peppers is dynamite, let's make that too.

Of course the little kids are just going to want hot dogs. So we'll throw those on the grill anyway. Hmm. And bratwurst. Gotta have brats. Oh, and those pulled pork sandwiches that need to be eaten.

So ... I didn't avoid cooking over the grill on one of the hottest days of the year and I went to 3 times as much effort. 


Overruled by taste buds. Yum.


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