Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Put Your Thinking Cap On

It's time for another round of guess the Mensa puzzle (provided by Rose's amazing Mensa Puzzle Calendar).
Charlie went out to buy some tools. He spent half of the original amount plus $10 for a drill, half of what was left plus $4 for a sander, then half of what was left plus $2, leaving him with $6.

How much did he start with?
I knew they were going to ask that question. I'll be lying down with a cool cloth on my head if anyone needs me...

HERE'S THE ANSWER
(in cleverly done "invisi-type" ... highlight it with your cursor to read ... rereading I discovered a typo so those who did the puzzle before I fixed it will have to add 16 to the final answer ... sorry!)
$100 ($50 + $10= $60, leaving $40; $20 = $4 = $24, leaving $16; $8 + $2 = $10, leaving $6)

OH ... get me some ice someone ...

'CUZ THAT BURNS!

I'm taking quite a beating on my admission of finding JPII's writing much easier to read than that of B-16.

Is there no one out there who joins me in this clearly more sane choice? No one who will come forward to defend the beleaguered Happy Catholic?

The really funny part of all this is that I much prefer Pope Benedict's personal style over that of John Paul II ... LOVE both of them ... but I just relate to B-16 more. Which I think is also opposite to many people's feelings.

Ah well ... there's gotta be someone who plays devil's advocate.

Bring it.

Update: I must stress this is all good natured mockery or astonishment at my lack of discernment.

2006 Catholic Blog Awards Nominations Are Open

It's time to nominate your favorite Catholic blogs for the 2006 Awards. I have several favorites that I've been waiting for some time to nominate.

Take a gander at the categories, think about your "must read" blogs and take a minute to nominate them. Being nominated is a real tribute and a nice way to give your favorite bloggers a pat on the back.

A complete list of nominees will be posted on Friday, February 3.

Voting for the categories will begin Tuesday, Feb. 7 at Noon CST and Continue through Feb. 13 at Noon CST.

Much thanks to Joshua R. LeBlanc of cyberCatholic.com for holding these awards.

Monday, January 30, 2006

I Finally Read Deus Caritas Est

Unlike many Catholic bloggers, I always have found John Paul II's writing to be much easier to read than Benedict XVI's. When I read the encyclical about the rosary, I sped through it and read it twice more just because I loved it so much. That set me upon a session of looking for other encyclicals to read, which was most enlightening.

There is just something about Benedict's style that leaves me feeling as if I have been reading a rather plodding textbook. This is not really a reflection on the Holy Father's writing as much as it displays my own tastes and lack of depth. I find that I really relate to his off the cuff comments so much more than his written reflections.

I was sorry to find that this encyclical was no exception.

It is definitely good, definitely much needed ... this look at divine love and it's manifestation within us and in our lives. However, mostly I struggled as I read it, and did not get interested until the very end when Benedict was talking about the saints and Mary. As much as I love B-16, obviously we don't "click" when he is in writing. Pity. But there you have it.

Here is a bit of something that did set me "on fire."
Mary is a woman of hope: only because she believes in God's promises and awaits the salvation of Israel, can the angel visit her and call her to the decisive service of these promises. Mary is a woman of faith: "Blessed are you who believed", Elizabeth says to her (cf. Lk 1:45). The Magnificat--a portrait, so to speak, of her soul--is entirely woven from threads of Holy Scripture, threads drawn from the Word of God. Here we see how completely at home Mary is with the Word of God, with ease she moves in and out of it. She speaks and thinks with the Word of God; the Word of God becomes her word, and her word issues from the Word of God. Here we see how her thoughts are attuned to the thoughts of God, how her will is one with the will of God. Since Mary is completely imbued with the Word of God, she is able to become the Mother of the Word Incarnate.

Call to Action for Australians

Louise at Purcell's Chicken Voluntary raises a clarion call to Australian politicians about the dangers of the RU486 abortion pill for women ... and gets politely fobbed off. If you're Australian this is the perfect time to join Louise in asking these politicians to look closer at the scientific evidence before making this dangerous drug available.

A Shallow Look at an Intriguing Future

DOWN AND OUT IN THE MAGIC KINGDOM by Cory Doctorow

Doctorow's got an interesting idea of where we are headed in the Bitchun Society ... backed up memories that can be dumped into newly cloned bodies so death is gone, money has been replaced by Whuffie which is based on how much others like you, and a Disney World where you can live full time. It makes an intriguing idea of the future but ultimately this fast pace, quick read comes to no conclusions about what all this technology does for the human condition. It has about as much depth as one of the rides at Disney World that is being fought over for much of the book.

HC grade: 2 out of 4 bookmarks.

This is #11 of books read in 2006.

So True

The Movie Of Your Life Is An Indie Flick

You do things your own way - and it's made for colorful times.
Your life hasn't turned out how anyone expected, thank goodness!

Your best movie matches: Clerks, Garden State, Napoleon Dynamite

Via Psyguy.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The 24 DVD is Here! Woohoo!


At last! Thanks Julie O ... what a pal!

Now we can finally get started on that thing we really don't need ... another television show. But how can we resist? Because as we all know, Jack is the man!

UPDATE

Just finished a marathon session of the first four hours. I only have two things to say.

I know President Palmer. I would have voted for President Palmer. President Logan is no President Palmer. What a wuss!

And ... when Jack gets shot he must bleed in red, white, and blue. What a guy!

Bring It.

You Are a Warrior Soul

You're a strong person and sometimes seen as intimidating.
You don't give up. You're committed and brave.
Truly adventuresome, you are not afraid of going to battle.
Extremely protective of loved ones, you root for the underdog.

You are picky about details and rigorous in your methods.
You also value honesty and fairness a great deal.
You can be outspoken, intimidating, headstrong, and demanding.
You're a hardliner who demands the best from themselves and others.

Souls you are most compatible with: Old Soul and Peacemaker Soul

Via Catholic Fire.

"Dude, is my face OK ? I think you melted it off."

Dewey Finn: God of Rock, thank you for this chance to kick ass. We are your humble servants. Please give us the power to blow people's minds with our high voltage rock. In your name we pray, amen.
Two stages with face melting rock and gut busting drum solos, a lounge with acoustic music ... something for everyone in the youth group when we went to The Door. Fashion tip ... if you want to blend, wear black.

Rose, who usually isn't interested in anything to do with a youth group, was along for this trip. We started in the acoustic lounge but when the other bands started up you could hear high voltage rock coming from outside. She said, "Every time the door opens it sound like two dogs fighting. I'm gonna like it." She was serious. And she was right, she did like it. They all did.

For my part, I had a really great time watching the kids. I have never seen so much black clothing and swatches of dyed and spiked hair in my life ... but they were all having a great time, in their disaffected way. My favorite band was the most original ... ska with a horn section (way to make all that band practice pay off, guys). Kind of a Green Day meets a marching band thing going on and it all wound up having a touch of Caribbean flavor.

It's a great idea and I salute the guy who made this happen. Every kid who went really liked it and the club was very discreetly run in a safe way. Every room had several people who were keeping an eye on things. When one band forgot where they were and let a bad word slip, they got a definite Look from Management which led to an immediate apology, "Woah, uhhh, sorry man..." Same thing for talking about a cigarette break. A Look was given. "Not that we'd smoke man. That is definitely uncool," stammered the unfortunate culprit.

I'd have no qualms about dropping Rose and a group of trustworthy friends off for an evening and picking them up later. It was worth a little face melting to find such a great place.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Doing the Texas Two-Step All Over St. Blog's


Erik compared the map of Texas to an oddly-cut Porterhouse steak, on a certain well-known Texan blog, and when Mama T didn't speak up ... he turned up the heat.

So she's making sure he gets the grand tour: Bob Wills, Greater Tuna, rattlesnakes, the Alamo (let us remove our hats and bow our heads for a moment of silence in tribute to those great Texas heroes), a real live Watermelon Thump, and barbecue. Sure makes a gal proud to be a Texan (even if an adopted one like me).

I'm not sure but I think I hear faint cries of "uncle" wafting on the breeze from California...

Word From Rome on the Encyclical

John Allen weighs in on Deus Caritas Est. After summing up the encyclical, he talks about what it tells us about Benedict XVI.
First, he will not, as some feared, lead the Catholic church to collapse in on itself and become preoccupied with its own internal business. One can hardly imagine a theme of more universal human concern than love.

Second, while he possesses vast erudition (in the first 20 pages of Deus Caritas Est, he manages to cite Nietzsche, Descartes, and Plato), Benedict expresses himself as a pastor. He treats a core theme of Christian faith, and for the most part uses terms that don't require a license in systematic theology to grasp. While history will remember John Paul II as a great evangelist, Benedict XVI may go down as the most classic example of a "teaching pope" in modern times.

Third, for all the talk about Benedict as an Augustinian pessimist, he actually believes there are still people in the world who can be influenced by unadorned argument, shorn of theatricality or grand symbolism. In its own way, it's a remarkably optimistic stance.

Fourth, Benedict grasps the old bit of wisdom about governing the Catholic church expressed by John XXIII, who once said, "I have to be pope both of those with their foot on the gas, and those with their foot on the brake." Deus Caritas Est reflects an obvious concern for balance. He warns Catholic charitable groups they must not forget about Christ, yet understands there are times when this faith must go unspoken, so charity workers don't give the appearance of "proselytism"; he stresses the "vertical dimension" of prayer and worship, yet also writes that "a Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented."

Finally, the encyclical shows that Benedict's determination not to impose his personality upon the papacy will sometimes mean we don't get what some consider the "real" Ratzinger. One senior Vatican official, for example, told me that he felt Deus Caritas Est could have been a courageous encyclical on sexual morality, but the pope's collegial willingness to pick up the threads of a pre-existing document on charity prevented that. The reaction is analogous to frustrations that the pope is not moving fast enough to "shake up" the Curia, to reverse "business-as-usual" in the appointment of bishops, or to bring dissenting forces into line. For good or ill, his approach seems to be patient, gradual, and articulated in a "still, small voice" rather than bellowed from the rooftops.

For example, prior to the release of Deus Caritas Est, Benedict submitted his text to examination by Vatican doctrinal consultors, an act of humility that even Archbishop William Levada, the pope's successor at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, admitted Jan. 25 that he found "a little bit surprising."

In an age when public figures normally distinguish themselves by shouting and showboating, it is a fascinating management style to watch.

And on the copyright issue.
... the most one can say is that from the very beginning, there have been two impulses in the church that often rest in uneasy tension. The first is the evangelical desire to give without asking anything in return, since that's the nature of grace; the second is the institutional reality that churches too have to pay the light bill. This appears to be one of those cases where the right balance is tough to strike.
Obviously, these are excerpts. The Word From Rome is always a good read and especially so this week. Check it out.

Truly this man was the Son of God!*

In short, we must dismiss any idea of Jesus being a simple figure. His actions and motives were complex and he taught something which was hard to grasp... How could the intentions of God be conveyed so as to be understood by all men and for all time? Equally, how could any solution contain elements meaningful for all types and temperaments of men, as well as all races and generations: the activist, the militant, the doctrinaire, the ascetic, the obedient, the passive, the angular, the scholar, and the simple-hearted? How could it impart both a sense of urgency and immediacy, and at the same time be valid for all eternity? How could it bring bout, in men's minds, a confrontation with God which was both public and collective, and individual and intimate? How could it combine a code of ethics within a framework of strict justice and a promise of unprecedented generosity? These were only a few of the evangelical problems confronting Jesus. Moreover, he had to resolve them within a preordained series of historical events which could be adumbrated [suggested or disclosed partially] but not forecast and whose necessary enactment would terminate his mission.
I never looked at Jesus' ministry in those terms. What an impossible task and, yet, He did it perfectly. It just affirms, in my mind, His divinity and God's omnipotence.

*Mark 15:39


WardWideWeb has Part Deux in the form of a fantastic excerpt from C.S. Lewis. Hustle right over and read it. Thanks Cathy!

On the "Other Side"

From my inbox. Thanks Cyndie!
A sick man turned to his doctor, as he was preparing to leave the examination room and said, "Doctor, I am afraid to die. Tell me what lies on the other side."

Very quietly, the doctor said, "I don't know."

"You don't know? You, a Christian man, do not know what is on the other side?"

The doctor was holding the handle of the door; on the other side came a sound of scratching and whining, and as he opened the door, a dog sprang into the room and leaped on him with an eager show of gladness.

Turning to the patient, the doctor said, "Did you notice my dog? He's never been in this room before. He didn't know what was inside. He knew nothing except that his master was here, and when the door opened, he sprang in without fear. I know little of what is on the other side of death, but I do know one thing... I know my Master is there and that is enough."

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Meanwhile, in the Rest of the Blogosphere...

While most Catholic bloggers are snuggling up to the Pope's encyclical, there is a big, wide world of blogging that cares little for such things.

The 2006 Bloggies weblog award nominees have been announced.

I'm familiar with Chocolate and Zucchini, Cooking Diva, Waiter Rant (notice any food-related trend here?) and a few others among the nominees. Awards nominations are a great way to check out some of the best among those other blogs out there, so swing by. Oh, and if you vote for Waiter Rant in the Best American Weblog category, it wouldn't hurt a bit. (my favorite among all those I've seen nominated)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A Delightful Book of Essays

PEOPLE I HAVE LOVED, KNOWN OR ADMIRED by Leo Rosten

I have posted a few excerpts from this book but they in no way are truly representative of the wide range of people that Leo Rosten wrote about. From dime-a-dance girls to I AM worshippers ("Arcturus, we greet thee!"), Groucho Marx to Leonardo, there is no end to the sorts of interesting personalities which fascinated Rosten enough to chronicle.

My personal favorites were both soldiers. Private Coby Clay could not be coerced to make his bed while in the Army because that was something that wasn't fitting for a grown man to do. Your mother should do it for you was his reasoning. Harry Miller's story is told first from the point of view of a small Japanese boy, encountering for the first time an American "warrior" for the first time. The soldier encouraged him to perfect his English and go to America, which became a goal that changed the boy's life. When Miller is tracked down by Rosten for his point of view it is simple and touching and quite perfectly American.

Much thanks to The Anchoress for recommending this.

This is #10 of books read in 2006.

UPDATE
The author of SC&A was kind enough to send me this link to wonderful article about Leo Rosten. Well worth reading, I am including this snippet because it tickles me.
Although it was also Rosten’s habit to ignore reviews, he was so touched by [Evelyn] Waugh’s interest in a work so foreign to everything that Waugh himself had written, that he wrote to thank him and invite Waugh and his wife to have tea with the Rostens in the flat they had taken temporarily in London. “I got back a postcard,” Rosten recently told this reporter. “The postcard read: ’From E.W. to L.R.: Alas, impossible. E.W.”’ I thought for a long time how one should answer so economical a communication. What I finally sent back to the man I consider one of the greatest writers of our time read like this: ’From L. R. to E. W. Quite. L. R.”’

The Anchoress on Confession

Finally, finding myself in an unfamiliar church during Confession hour I said, “this is it…” I poured it all out to a wonderful friar who listened intently and understood. He spoke consolingly for a few minutes, no big harangue (I know there are bad confessors out there, and shame on them, but I have always been blessed with good priests) and then he said, “Let this be an end…” It was precisely what I needed to hear.

We are body, mind and spirit. Confession - like other Catholic and Orthodox practices - serves not just the soul but the mind, and yes, even the body. Sometimes you need to physically hear it all - the sin, the consolation, the prayer, the absolution. I wonder, sometimes, if the “victim mentality” we have seen grow over the last few decades, and the dependence upon therapists haven’t grown so large, so quickly, simply because so few take understand or take advantage of the release and freedom that comes from the Sacrament of Confession, and the grace the sacrament provides in helping to avoid those sins in the future.
She's always good but this is brilliant. Go and read it all.

We Interrupt This Blog to Announce...

Quite a lot of troll activity sighted in the Happy Catholic vicinity this morning. Droppings are everywhere and I hope you haven't accidentally stepped in any before I got the place tidied up.

Thanks for your patience.

At Last ...

"The new phone book's here!"

Ummmm, I mean Pope Benedict's new encyclical is here. Print out, sit back and enjoy. As noted everywhere in St. Blog's parish.

If Only Everyone Were As Wise

It is a pleasure for me to salute [this] benefactor of our inhuman race:

J. Irwin Miller, chairman of the board of Cummins Engine Company, whom I watched in a television "talk" show as he patiently tried to explain his views to three condescending panelists, indubitable highbrows, who insisted on demolishing points Mr. Miller had not made, and persisted in ridiculing policies Mr. Miller had never propounded.

When he saw that he could not persuade the deep thinkers to desist from their eloquent irrelevances, the deadpan businessman finally cleared his throat and sighed, with exemplary kindness: "In my house, we all try to follow a rule I have once suggested to my children. The rule goes like this: "You can disagree with a man's position as much as you want -- after you have been able to state it, to his satisfaction."

I consider this dictum, which belongs in all anthologies of great quotations, the best statement ever made about the basic rule men of reason ought to follow during an argument...
I concur.

If Jack Bauer was gay, his name would be Chuck Norris.

Forget the Chuck Norris list, y'all. Jack Bauer rocks harder. But we knew that already, didn't we?

I couldn't pick a few favorites. I loved them all so have reprinted the entire list below from this comments box. Much thanks to The Anchoress for pointing me to this list. She totally rules ... the cloister, that is.
Some random facts about Jack Bauer:
  1. If you wake up in the morning, it's because Jack Bauer spared your life.
  2. If Jack Bauer was in a room with Hitler, Stalin, and Nina Meyers, and he had a gun with 2 bullets, he'd shoot Nina twice.
  3. Upon hearing that he was played by Kiefer Sutherland, Jack Bauer killed Sutherland. Jack Bauer gets played by no man.
  4. Jack Bauer's favorite color is severe terror alert red. His second favorite color is violet, but just because it sounds like violent.
  5. Jack Bauer once forgot where he put his keys. He then spent the next half-hour torturing himself until he gave up the location of the keys.
  6. Jack Bauer got Hellen Keller to talk.
  7. Jack Bauer killed 93 people in just 4 days time. Wait, that is a real fact.
  8. Jack Bauer was never addicted to heroin. Heroin was addicted to Jack Bauer.
  9. 1.6 billion Chinese are angry with Jack Bauer. Sounds like a fair fight.
  10. Superman wears Jack Bauer pajamas.
  11. Jack Bauer doesn't miss. If he didn't hit you it's because he was shooting at another terrorist twelve miles away.
  12. Let's get one thing straight, the only reason you are conscious right now is because Jack Bauer does not feel like carrying you.
  13. When you open a can of whoop-ass, Jack Bauer jumps out.
  14. If Jack says "I just want to talk to him/her" and that him/her is you -- well amigo, you're f****d.
  15. Killing Jack Bauer doesn't make him dead. It just makes him angry.
  16. When life gave Jack Bauer lemons, he used them to kill terrorists. Jack Bauer f*****g hates lemonade.
  17. In grade school, a little boy punched Kimberly Bauer, and Kimberly ran home to tell her dad. That little boy's name? Stephen Hawking.
  18. Jack Bauer does not sleep. The only rest he needs is what he gets when he's knocked out or temporarily killed.
  19. No man has ever used the phrase, "Jack Bauer is a p***y" in a sentence and lived to tel-
  20. In kindergarten, Jack Bauer killed a terrorist for Show and Tell.
  21. Jack Bauer literally died for his country, and lived to tell about it.
  22. As a child, Jack Bauer's first words were "There's no time!"
  23. Jack Bauer's family threw him a surprise birthday party when he was a child. Once.
  24. If you are still conscious, it is because Jack Bauer doesn"t want to carry you.
  25. If you get 7 stars on your wanted level on Grand Theft Auto, Jack Bauer comes after you. You don't want to get 7 stars.
  26. Guns don't kill people, Jack Bauer kills people.
  27. Everytime Jack Bauer yells "NOW!" at the end of a sentence, a terrorist dies.
  28. Jesus died and rose from the dead in 3 days. It took Jack Bauer less than an hour. And he's done it twice.
  29. If you send someone to kill Jack Bauer, the only thing you accomplish is supplying him a fresh set of weapons to kill you with.
  30. Jack Bauer could get off the Lost island in 24 hours.
  31. If Jack Bauer was gay, his name would be Chuck Norris.
  32. After arguing over what was the better show, 24 or Walker Texas Ranger, Chuck Norris went to attack Jack Bauer with his trademark roundhouse kick. Jack Bauer caught it.
UPDATE
Disputations throws down over Jack's coolness.

For this to work first you have to have a hero that anyone has heard of lately for this to work, so I think he may be at a slight disadvantage. Now, if we are going for old-timey heroes that never are outdated I'll take The Avengers.

But let's not fool ourselves ... Jack's the man.

FURTHER UPDATE
More Jack Bauer Facts. Thanks Buckley!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

It's a Guy Thing

Hannah has been watching the second season of 24 on DVD over at her friend Michael's house. They watch with another friend, Addison, who lives across the street and Michael's older brothers and his father. She says that half the fun of watching it is seeing the guys' reactions to Jack Bauer's heroics. He pulls off some outrageous stunt and the air is full of, "Jack's the man!" They love Jack.

Michael was over tonight and I mentioned that I quit watching the second season after the episode featuring a chain saw and then a head in a bowling bag. He laughed, and said, "Oh that's because you don't have a house full of boys. We loved it!"

That was real revelation for me. It tied in exactly with watching Jurassic Park a couple of weeks ago (can you believe Rose had never seen it? We had to remedy that hole in her cultural education as soon as we heard it). Every time something gross happened the little girl was disgusted and the little boy loved it.

I'm not sure of the demographics watching the show but I'd bet it is definitely being enjoyed on two different levels. The women are enjoying the plot and action. As for the guys, they have that and Jack, the proto-hero, ratchets it up a notch.

I'm sure it must be equivalent to the way women reacted to Sydney Bristow in the first two seasons of Alias (these are the only good seasons). Tom would watch occasionally and complain about the giant plot holes. We didn't care. It was all about Sydney.

I like getting that little window into the guys' world. Thanks Jack. You are the man.

UPDATE
This tells much the same tale of Alias versus 24 differences.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen...

... you can find a Cream Cheese and Jalapeno Tart recipe and a link to the winners of the 2005 Food Blog Awards. Check it out.

Daniel, We Hardly Knew Ye

Friday's fourth episode of The Book of Daniel went virtually unsponsored, forcing NBC to fill commercial breaks with a veritable festival of in-house promotions for attractions ranging from the Olympics to daytime soaps.

"The Mattress King has stepped up and he's going to sponsor the entire hour," Mr. Reilly cracked. "And God bless him."

The Book of Daniel, about a dysfunctional family headed by a Vicodin-addicted Episcopal priest, has drawn heavy fire from the American Family Association, which urged advertiser, station and viewer boycotts. After his press conference, Mr. Reilly said he didn't know if Book of Daniel would be back this Friday. Lack of advertiser support and diminishing audiences might well be a fatal combination, he said.
Capitalism has spoken. And, I'm really ok with that.

Is it Hot in Here?


Or is it just him?

Thank you Lion Brand!

Thanks also to Terri for sending this choice photo my way!

Good Vibrations: A Little Radiation Can Be A Good Thing

One does not think of science as being subject to fashion. But it is, and nothing could be less fashionable than hormesis. This phenomenon was identified over a hundred years ago, and then was slowly forgotten. It has been so widely observed that it deserves to be called a law of nature. But it rubs environmentalists the wrong way, and few people have heard of it. In outline, hormesis is simple: things that are toxic in large doses are beneficial in small doses. And that seems to be true across the board -- from alcohol to dioxin to mercury to nuclear radiation...

Hormesis contradicts a reigning assumption of public health and public policy. It is both dogma and law that something toxic in large doses will continue to be toxic in smaller and smaller doses. The relationship between dose and response is said to be linear. The EPA has further decreed that if the substance is a carcinogen, there is no "threshold." No dose, however low, is considered to be safe.
More later about hormesis and radiation. I will simply observe here that if the EPA applied their no tolerance rule to vitamins we would have to make do without vitamins A & E because in large doses they're quite toxic (no doubt there are others toxic in large doses but these are just the ones that occur to me at the moment).

Quick Looks at Books

THE CLEVELAND CONNECTION by Les Roberts
DEEP SHAKER by Les Roberts

More of theMilan Jacovich mysteries. In The Cleveland Connection Jacovich investigates the disappearance of a grandfather which, predictably, turns into a murder investigation after the old man has been found as the apparent victim of gang-style execution. This takes us to an examination of the deep seated hostilities between Serb and Slovenian ethnic groups, both in their homelands and in Cleveland. Deep Shaker looks at Jamaican drug peddlers and the way that the drug trade preys upon school children as Jacovich helps out an old friend whose son has fallen in with the wrong crowd.

VEGETABLE LOVE by Barbara Kafka
An extensive tome that is lightened considerably by Kafka's winning personality which is evident throughout the book without ever becoming too cute, which is a trap into which many less experienced authors might fall. Just because the book is about vegetables doesn't mean that meat is eschewed. The recipes are designed to showcase vegetables but it is not a vegetarian book by any means, although there would be plenty that vegetarians could use here. It is worth reading simply for the introduction to many new uses Kafka presents for vegetables that have escaped the general American home cook, such as Jerusalem artichokes. I'd recommend checking it out of the library for a test run, if at all possible, as this is quite pricey. I won't be buying it but am glad that I read it.

These are #7, #8 and #9 of books read in 2006.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Can I Live?

On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I present again this must see music video.

Let them live. Lord, hear our prayer.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Is the Christian Life Hard?

Buttercup: You mock my pain.
Westley: Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.
In the process of a continuing theological email conversation with one of my favorite regular debaters, he rather surprised me with this...
Once last thing however - I see being a part of the church makes life better AND harder. Being a Christian is hard, I wouldn't consider it a burden, but it is hard. It's meant to be. Being a Christian (regardless of your stripe) means to live against the grain of this fallen world. To live against one's urges and to turn from temptation is far harder than giving into our sinful natures. A life of premarital sex, getting drunk and thieving is far easier - but we know it leads to death. If you don't see this as hard, you truly are blessed. As far as I'm concerned, things are tough all over but through the grace of Christ alone can we make it.
Now I am definitely a newbie here, having been Catholic only since 2000 and a Christian only since about ... maybe 1998 (?). We all know that sh*t happens, whether you're Christian or not. The good, the bad, and the ugly, it's all part of just being alive.

My life in Christ, especially since the CRHP retreat (see sidebar for CRHP explanation), has made all that so much easier. Despite being asked to serve, being asked to stretch, being asked to do things I haven't wanted to sometimes ... it all has been so much more rewarding than going it alone and I have been able to see so much good come from it.

In fact, after the CRHP retreat I discovered that I was no longer afflicted with a problem that I had been struggling with for some time. It took me a while to figure it out but what a blessing that was. In fact, fairly recently, I realized just how much I had changed in general outlook toward life.
For most of my life I have been a "glass is half empty" girl. Always quick to see the negatives of any situation ... oh, and even more attractive, quick to dwell on those negatives.
My revelation of how much I had changed is found here.

Does that mean my life is always sunshine and lollipops? Pffft. Of course not. My personal feeling is that I have been set free. Certainly I can't agree that "to live against one's urges and to turn from temptation is far harder than giving into our sinful natures" because to give in to the particular urges that I suffered from made me so very tired, hopeless, and, occasionally, self loathing. The help, forgiveness, mercy, and ... yes, sheer grace of God that I have experienced in my struggles has made everything much easier than it was before.

But that is just my personal experience. I know that I have been so very blessed and have been brushed very lightly by suffering while I have watched others struggle under very heavy burdens.

So what has everyone else's experience been with this?

Is the Christian life harder than giving in to our sinful natures? Is living in sin easier?

Friday, January 20, 2006

Beatles and Benedict Both Begin With "B"

We have our own version of Love Beads – the Rosary.

We have Little Flower Power.

We believe in love and unity among all people.

We believe in worshiping together.

We believe in communal living.
Lee at From the Back Pew has found the cosmic connections between Pope Benedict XVI and The Beatles. Far out. Be sure to read it all.

I Think I've Accrued 1.5 Points

From my inbox. Thanks Alicia!

A man dies and goes to heaven.

Of course, St. Peter meets him at the Pearly Gates.

St. Peter says, "Here's how it works.

You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you've done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in."

"Okay," the man says,

"I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart."

"That's wonderful," says St.Peter, "that's worth three points!"

"Three points?" he says. "Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service."

"Terrific!" says St.Peter. "That's certainly worth a point"

"One point!?!!"

"I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans."

"Fantastic, that's good for two more points," he says.

"Two points"!? Exasperated, the man cries.....

"At this rate the only way I'll get into heaven is by the grace of God."

"Bingo, 100 points! Come on in!"

The Brotherhood of the iPod

You know, when I first would go places with the ear buds in and my iPod in my pocket, I'd get the oddest looks. Gradually it ocurred to me that people thought I had a hearing disability. I've never heard such clearly spoken English in my life. it was an interesting insight to the sorts of encounters that handicapped people must have a lot of the time.

However, yesterday it was all different. I was going to the dentist. As I left the office, the construction workers that wouldn't meet my eyes when I was going to work that morning, suddenly would look in my direction and smile at me (I'm going with the smiling versus laughing at me idea, here).

On the way to my car when leaving the dentist, listening to my iPod, I encountered a couple of guys strolling across the parking lot. Obviously not office workers by the way they were dressed, they looked more like the sort of guys you want to steer clear of so you don't get mugged. Remembering that I was supposed to appear self confident in the event of encountering muggers (oh and then there's the whole Christian brotherhood thing), I looked over and smiled. Then I saw that they had on headphones. They grinned at me and waved their MP3 players in my direction.

Me and my iPod. Making friends everywhere yesterday.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Blogger Spotlight

THIS NORMAL LIFE
This is a fascinating look at a family's daily life in a place that we usually only see on the evening news ... Jerusalem. We get insights into everything from immigration to shopping to religious observances to rites of passage, such as this in Red Lines.
It was only a matter of time before one of our kids demanded access to what may be the most rebellious, dangerous and terrifying activities known to parents in Israel.

In this case, the culprit in question was twelve-year-old Merav, and her act of teenage defiance? She wanted to ride the bus.
There are also little things that give me an insight into my own life and, indeed, my faith. Such as when the children talk to the father and call him "Abba." Right from the original "Our Father" ... and every time the children call their father by that word it reminds me of the trust and true relationship we are meant to have with God.

But that's just me. Swing by, peruse the archives, and see what strikes you about This Normal Life.

Asleep at the Wheel

Back before World War II, the conservative Saturday Evening Post ran an article written by the wife of a billiards professional. She told how part of her job as her husband's assistant was seeing that all was in order for his exhibitions. Among her duties, she had to make sure that the billiard balls were exactly at room temperature.

The Post's makeup editor decided that a subhead was needed here, so he wrote: SHE KEEPS HIS BALLS WARM. Nearly a million copies had gone out before someone woke up.
More Anguished English by Richard Lederer

This One Hit Me Right Between the Eyes

Faith is something we have to practice. It should shape all our decisions, big or small, at the same time it will usually show in the way we undertake our ordinary daily duties. It is not enough for us to give assent to the great truths of the Creed, to have good formation. We need besides, this to live our faith, to put it into practice. It should give birth to a life of faith, which should be both the fruit and the manifestation of what we believe. God asks us to serve him with the whole of our life, with deeds, with all the strength of our body and soul...

The practice of the virtue of faith in our daily lives adds up to what is commonly known as supernatural outlook. This consists in a way of seeing things, even the most ordinary, apparently quite commonplace things, in relation to God's plan for each person as regards his own salvation and the salvation of many others. It leads us to accustom ourselves to undertake our daily activities as though we were constantly glancing at God to see whether what we are doing is really his Will, whether ours is the way He wants us to do things. It leads us to get used to discovering God in people, to recognize him behind what the world calls chance or coincidence, in fact, to see his mark everywhere (F. Suarez, On being a Priest)...

The Christian's life of faith leads him, therefore, to be a man who has human virtues, because he practices his faith in his ordinary activities. He will not only feel moved to make an act of faith as he sees the walls of a church in the distance, but he will turn to God to ask him for light and help when confronted with a problem at work or at home. He will know how to attune his thinking when he has to accept a setback, when faced with pain or sickness, when offering up some joy, when he continues, for love, the work that he was about abandon through tiredness...
This is from yesterday's devotional reading (ahem ... I'm running late on several things right now), but without daily practice of our faith then what is to distinguish us from anyone else? Nothing. Because if Christ doesn't change our lives and help us to see differently then our faith is nothing but hollow, hypocritical words. And, let me tell you, I fail often but I shudder to think of how little peace I would have if I didn't also succeed at least part of the time in turning to God and living my faith through all the parts of my day.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Unusual Silence

Power was out at work most of the day and, of course, that happened just as I was close to being done with the work I was slammed with that made all other things fade into the background. The power just recently came on long enough for Tom to copy the files so he can bring them home to me.

So, I'll be working at home tonight to catch up. And then catching up some more tomorrow morning.

If I haven't worked my way to anyone who has emailed me, rest assured I will do so but it will be tomorrow. Thanks, y'all!

HOWEVER ... I will still be watching Lost and getting a few comments posted about it. I'm just busy. I haven't died.

What Would You Choose for Your Last Meal?

Check it out at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Never Say Never: Podcasts

pinkipod

As some with those memories may remember (yes, Curt Jester, I'm talkin' to you), I previously swore that never would a podcast soil my dainty ears.

So if I sprinkle a lot of sugar on those words, will eating them be any easier?

Yeah, I didn't think so.

Truth is, not only do I have limited time to listen to podcasts and also prefer to get my info in writing, but I was intimidated by the technology. I just couldn't figure out how to get the darned things into my iPod.

When Dom Bettinelli mentioned the podcasts that he listens to, I tried one more time. Lo and behold, I figured it out (actually very simple using iTunes for most podcasts).

I do not listen to many but have gotten hooked on four of them, which thankfully do not update more than once a week.
  • LOST - the official podcast from ABC, this features the executive producers of the show who are the most enjoyable couple of geeks around. Not only are they fun to listen to but they will drop a few hints here and there about what is happening with the show. Update: Thanks to comments boxes intervention by Dom I see that if you search for Lost on iTunes and be sure to put "official" in the search as well, eventually you can find the official podcast from ABC. Whew! So much easier than what I was doing. (Also we find out that if you misstate something and put his name next to it ... then Dom comments ... AND you find out that he actually reads your blog sometimes. *screaming like a Beatles fan at a concert, y'all.* )

  • BRENDA IN JAPAN - my all time favorite thus far. Brenda does these podcasts about her life in Japan for her family. Luckily for us she also posts them on iTunes. You get Brenda's top 10 countdown of favorite Japanese things, her tips on traveling, and much, much more. Not the least of which is Brenda's charming personality. I wondered how she was such a polished speaker and have just found out that she is a university professor and thus is used to public presentation. Go to iTunes' podcast directory and search for Brenda in Japan. You can subscribe from there.

  • REEL REVIEWS - Insightful commentary about a really eclectic assortment of movies. This guy really loves movies and that is contagious. He actually had me considering renting "Ran" for a while. I definitely will be renting Murderball which I am not sure would have been a blip on my radar otherwise. Subscribe via iTunes (link on their sidebar).

  • GRAPE RADIO - This is the most hit or miss of the bunch because I am not very knowledgeable about wine and these are wine geeks. Often the conversation is aimed at someone just like me and then it is fascinating. However, occasionally these guys have a guest who is more concerned with impressing everyone with who he knows or how long he has been in the wine biz than on informing. The hosts' enthusiasm is what keeps me coming back. Subscribe via iTunes (link on their side bar.) Also via Dom.

  • BATTLESTAR GALACTICA - We are working our way slowly through the DVD of the first season (a welcome Christmas gift). When we get to the 9th show, which is where it looks as if the podcasts begin, then I will give these commentaries by the producer a shot. Mostly because they are recommended by Dom who was spot on with the Lost podcast recommendation. Subscribe via iTunes.

Let's Just Be Clear About This ... Jesus Founded the Church

Did he plan to "found" a church? Or is the church a thoroughly human movement that can only be associated with Jesus post facto? ...

Explanations of the origins of the church that assume Jesus himself had no intentions of founding a church are simply implausible.

I start out here to make a very basic point: Jesus followers who wish to eliminate, reinterpret or reduce the church face the problem that nothing in the New Testament is on their side. Seeing Jesus as the guru of individual Christians, or the church as some kind of accidental fan club that institutionalized a spontaneous spiritual experience, simply cannot be done without doing radical surgery on Jesus himself. A church-less Christianity requires such an edited, reworked Jesus, that the New Testament could no longer be read with any kind of integrity. This needs to be faced squarely and honestly.

I conclude that Jesus, from the outset, intended to found a continuing movement, and that movement is the church as we see and experience it, imperfectly and often far removed from Jesus, in history.
The Internet Monk begins by wondering how he became identified as being with the emergent church (which I still do not understand) and, in the process, proceeds to give us cogent reasoning that Jesus founded the church and intended us to be a part of it.

Thank you! Recently I have come across an odd trend among a few people that ask questions such as do we follow Jesus or do we follow the church that Paul founded? Or to say that Jesus worshipped as a Jew so the only way to really follow him is to follow Jewish customs ... or perhaps to become Jewish. Then we have people who say that they don't need to go to church ... they can worship God without any church. I have seen these sorts of ideas raised in more than one blog.

Talk about bewildering ... to me, anyway. Paul was the first to point the way to Jesus whenever anyone tried to do otherwise, to say that he was simply living and teaching what Jesus taught and revealed. Yes, his writings and teachings helped explain what Jesus revealed but we are "Christians" not "Paulists."

As for the idea of worshiping as Jews, Jesus was the Messiah, which they deny. Yes he worshiped as an observant Jew but He completed and fulfilled the law ... which to me at least necessarily indicates that he moved it along into something new. Baptism. The apostolic leadership. The Eucharist. Knowing that Jesus is the Son of God ... both fully human and fully God. Jesus gave us these things.

Probably the most commonly heard of these three ideas is that people don't need to go to church to worship God. That is both true and false. You can worship God from anywhere you are, at any time of day or night. On the other hand, it is meeting in communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ that keeps us centered, keeps us focused, keeps our eyes and heart on God. I need the Eucharist. I need the support and advice and admonitions and reminders of my priest and my fellow worshippers. It feeds my soul in a totally different way than solitary prayer and worship. That is how we are made. Jesus knew it and provided for it.

I thoroughly realize that I am not saying any of this very well and certainly am being sketchy in supporting my thinking. There is much that I am leaving unsaid. That is why I am pointing people toward the Internet Monk. He has doctrinal issues with Catholicism but at the base he has more solid understanding of Christian theology than many Catholics I know.

Go. Read. Jesus founded the church for us to worship and serve in together ... as Christians.

My Quote Journals


I have been asked by a few people about the quote journals that I refer to in my daily "Background Music" posts.

This is where I am low tech. I buy a blank book with lines on the pages. As I come across quotes I like I write them in the journal. There is no particular order. As they come up, I enter them. It is as simple as that.

One person has mentioned that is not an easy way to retrieve the quotes. True. But that is not the point of the journals. It is simply to keep the quote I like (and we all know that I am all about quotes, right?).

The quotes are predominantly Catholic or Christian inspiration. However, as time has gone by (I am almost done filling a second journal) I have taken to adding significant scripture as well as a few quotes that amuse me. (Not the sidebar quotes. Those I keep in some unpublished Blogger files.) For me to take the trouble of handwriting a quote, especially some of the longer ones, it has to really hit me where I live. Often weeks will go by without my entering anything.

The quotes that appear in Background Music are in order as I go through from the beginning, alternating between the two journals daily.

And that's really all there is to it.

Monday, January 16, 2006

It's a Lovely Day in the Neighborhood

ANOTHER SON TO BECOME A FATHER
I have for some time thought about the priesthood, and I can now say that yes, I will be a priest. That is where I want my life.
It's a good thing that Darren's mother is a careful reader. I totally missed this declaration of vocation at A Catholic Life. Congratulations Moneybags ... this has me grinning!

WELCOME HOME OWEN
Owen of Luminous Miseries and his family were received into the Catholic Church yesterday. Well I remember how wonderful that time was for me and I am joyful in welcoming these new brothers and sisters.

Owen has taken us with him on the journey from being a Protestant minister with unavoidable questions as he has made his way toward crossing the Tiber. I am looking forward to getting a glimpse of how things proceed on this side.

Serenity Now!

SERENITY 2?
DVD sales seem to be doing pretty well at the moment and that is what will dictate a sequel says Sci-Fi Wire. Via Looking Closer Journal.

ANCHORESS SAYS FIREFLY RULES
So say we all! In fact, she says the series was better than Cowboy Bebop. I tell ya, the lady has good taste!

In the News: The Elephant in the Room

WHO'S ACTING WHITE?
Go into any inner-city neighborhood, and folds will tell you that government alone can't teach kids to learn. They know that parents have to parent, that children can't achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white.
Sen. Barack Obama, Keynote Address, Democratic National Convention, 2004
Economist Roland G. Fryer has a fascinating editorial about the peer pressure faced by black and Hispanic students to perform poorly to fit in.

I'D CONVICT
Angry about the way an ex-girlfriend used his car and parked it without locking the doors, Gerome Alexander left a brief message on her telephone answering machine: "I'm going to catch you, and you're going to get yours."

That one call could send Mr. Alexander to prison for the rest of his life.

The 35-year-old Garland man is one of 59 convicted sex offenders in Texas who were released from prison and placed under civil commitment after being deemed sexually violent predators.
I don't know a single person who would make a telephone call like that. Considering this guy was released early and this is how he acts? Back in the slammer. No question.

Read the rest of the story and you'll discover that he has admitted to viewing pornography, drinking, and more that are all parole violations. How about having a girlfriend at all? That was off limits. Or having a car? Also off limits. It looks to me as if this lawyer wants to make her name on one issue. Shame on her.

What made me madder than all the rest is the way the story is written. It begins with that seeming attempt at showing the injustice of it all, "That one call could send Mr. Alexander to prison for the rest of his life." Don't even. Because if you don't read any further you will take away the impression that this poor guy is being hunted down for nothing. Nothing could be further from the truth. Shame on them for bad journalism.

IT DON'T COME EASY
Differences among Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Protestants over issues such as homosexual activity, abortion, euthanasia and other moral questions "are not on the top of the hierarchy of truths" -- like the belief in Jesus as savior is -- "but they are very emotional and, therefore, very divisive," [Cardinal Walter Kasper] said.

Just five or six years ago, he said, Catholic bishops and leaders of some other churches seemed ready to explore concrete steps their communities could take toward organizational unity.

Since then, however, it has become clear that "both the ecumenical mood and the ecumenical situation worldwide have changed so radically as to virtually run counter to the ecumenical movement toward unity," he said.
Thank you, Cardinal, for pointing out what the rest of us always knew was gonna be a problem. Even when I wasn't Christian at all I wondered about that call to ecumenism. We can all get together on some things but the whole reason there are different denominations is that we can't agree on the big basic issues at one level or another. Otherwise why be Catholic? If what the Faith stands for is just the same as everyone else, well, then what difference does it make? And it does make a difference.

Via that vicarious blogger, Rick Lugari.

I Didn't Remember to Tape 24 ...

... which is very necessary to help with our Prison Break hiatus replacement needs. Hmfph!

I see that it is being rerun on Saturday so if I tape the second installment tonight then we can catch up. Whew!

Would that all my problems were so small and so easily fixed!

Parents and Knitters

The top ten ways why being a parent is like being a knitter.
  1. You have to work on something for a really long time before you know if it's going to be okay.

  2. They both involve an act of creation involving common materials, easily found around the house.

  3. Both knitting and parenting are more pleasant if you have the occasional glass of wine, but go right down the drain if you start up with a lot of tequila or shooters.

  4. With either one, you can start with all the right materials, use all the best reference books available, really apply yourself, and still get completely unexpected results.

  5. No matter whether you decided to become a parent or a knitter, you are still going to end up with something you have to hand wash.

  6. Parents and knitters both have to learn new things all the time, mostly so that they can give someone else something.

  7. Both activities are about tension. In knitting, the knitter has control of the amount of tension on the object in progress. In parenting, the opposite is true.

  8. No matter how much time you spend at knitting or parenting, you are still going to wish you could spend all your time at it. Which is odd, since both activities are occasionally frustrating that you want to gnaw your own arm off.

  9. Knitting and parenting are both about endurance. Most of the time it's just mundane repetitive labor, until one day, you realize you're actually making something sort of neat.

  10. One day, you will wake up and realize that you are spending hours and hours working at something that is costing you a fortune, won't ever pay the bills, creates laundry and clutters up your house, and won't ever really be finished ... and the only thing you will think about it is that you can't wait to get home and do more.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen...

... a few links to some recipes that looked quite tasty can be found.

Now, except for checking comments, I am outta here until Monday. Have a good weekend, y'all!

Prayer Request

Quite recently I have gotten very involved in our parish's youth ministry. It is at a low ebb right now and in the process of rebuilding and revamping.

I am enjoying every second and I think there are some very exciting things that will be happening quite soon. I cannot wait to get some of these programs started. They are going to be so much fun, y'all! (Not that this is about me ... riiiiight.)

Of your kindness, if it happens to cross your mind, please say a prayer for the program, the kids, the priest who is running it, and me. I want to do right by this. Anyone who knows me also knows that the teenagers in our parish (and outside of it too) have long been on my heart. However, I also want and need to balance time with my family, our business, and ... ahem ... my addiction (aka this blog).

I think this is totally do-able and also, as far as I can tell, God's will. But I am praying ... that we all may do His will in this in all ways.

My Newest Addiction to an Author

THE DUTCH by Les Roberts

Milan Jacovich is an old style detective in Cleveland. Ellen Carnine was a singularly homely woman who seemed, nonetheless, to have been perfectly happy. So why did she do The Dutch (police slang for suicide)? When Ellen's distraught father comes to him and asks Jacovich to find out why his daughter committed suicide, it doesn't seem like too much trouble. Of course, there isn't much of a mystery in that simple story and soon Jacovich discovers that the apparent suicide is actually murder.

The author also takes an interesting philosophical look at the role that appearance plays in American women's lives as well as the desperate measures that lonely people are driven to in this day of internet chat rooms. Roberts does an excellent job of discussing distasteful subjects such as pornography, on-line sex, and more without making the reader dive into sordid details.

Interestingly, Amazon reader reviews kept mentioning a shocking plot twist which I, in my infinite mystery reading jadedness, thought could not possibly be that shocking. Wrong. Luckily I was skimming the page when that plot point was revealed, thinking that I probably didn't want indepth information about that particular bit (the only part of the book like that I might add). But the twist was truly shocking.

Not only does Roberts weave a fascinating mystery, but Jacovich is an honest and interesting character who loves Cleveland, justice, his sons. He has just enough ties to mob bosses to get him the information he needs and the trouble that he doesn't. Milan Jacovich reminds me to some degree to another of my favorite detective characters, Spenser (before Robert Parker pounded his formula into the ground). I especially like his inherent respect for each person and the way he views each as having value, even if that person happens to be a hooker without any apparent heart of gold.

I never thought about Cleveland much one way or the other but I found myself picturing some of the classic Kansas City downtown buildings as Roberts fondly describes this Midwestern city. That may not be too interesting if you don't have Midwestern ties but it certainly sets a complete scene if nothing else.

Roberts' books do not seem to stay in print long and, as I discovered when dropping by Half Price Books, people must be hanging onto them because they aren't being recycled. Luckily the library has a fair number and I hope to catch up on Jacovich's earlier adventures.

This is #6 of books read in 2006.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Last Chance to De-Lurk For No Good Reason!

cranky_8


Created by Paper Napkin to encourage the quiet ones among us to leave a comment, De-Lurker Day has been extended to an entire week to give everyone a chance. It is a lot of fun for me having those quiet readers surface just for a moment to make a remark.

I'll have a "sticky" post at the top of the blog all week to remind all those quiet people out there that it's ok to comment. Via Quiet Life.

The Decadence of 1st Century Rome...

... is swimming before my eyes ...





You know, the subject matter makes it very difficult to write practically any remark ("what's up with that?" "what's the world coming to?"). I'll just settle for, "Ick!"

Via Catholic Packer Fan and Confessions of a Hot Carmel Sundae.

UPDATE
I just read this from Catholic Exchange's Words of Encouragement. What a perfect commentary on the above decadence.
Psalm 121:2
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.

--------------------
Today's verse comes just after one of the most misquoted passages in Scripture. That passage reads, "I lift up my eyes to the hills./From whence does my help come?" We've seen it, seemingly millions of times, decorating greeting cards that invariably have pictures of Judean hills bathed in the warm glow of sunset. The sentiment seems to be that we can "draw strength" from contemplating the beauty of nature in the mountains etc. etc.

That is a lovely sentiment and a perfect reflection of the notions of Romantic poets like Wordsworth or John Denver. Unfortunately, it has less than nothing to do with the actual meaning of Psalm 121. In fact, it is close to the opposite of what the Psalmist intended. For him, the hills were not sources of strength but sites of idolatry. When he lifted up his eyes to the hills he saw "high places" where idols to Baal, Asherah, or Moloch were erected and their rites of worship were carried out.

Thus, today's verse, so far from being an expression of squishy sentimentality, is an act of brazen defiance against the culture of death that surrounded the ancient Israelite faithful to the LORD. Make that act of defiance your own the next time our culture tempts you to worship at the high places of money, sex, or power. For our culture also masks the appeal of these three gods in squishy sentimentality and delivers them through commercials and television programs as warm and fuzzy as a greeting card.

Ask Jesus For More

Do you have an ongoing relationship with Jesus? Is your experience of him moving you to leave everything behind to follow him? Do you see him alive and at work in your life and in the world? If you feel this may be lacking in your life, ask Jesus to give you more. And for heaven’s sake, don’t feel guilty for asking! Trust that Jesus wants to be generous with you. Believe that he wants to convince you that he is worth everything.

Don’t be afraid to ask him to fill you with more of his presence. In faith, go ahead and tell him that you need to know him more and to touch his love more fully. Remember: Jesus demonstrated himself over and over again to his disciples. He was for them—and he is for us—a great treasure to be discovered and rediscovered day after day after day.
Read the whole daily devotion at
Word Among Us
I always forget about Jesus demonstrating things repeatedly for the disciples (or DUH-sciples, as our deacon reminds us). I like the fact that they were so normal and that provides a good example for me. If they can persevere so can I. And if they can ask him what looks to our eyes in hindsight like stupid questions ... then surely so can I. Paraphrasing Mother Teresa: I'm not here to be smart, I'm here to be faithful. That's reassuring.

It Ain't Necessarily So: Radioactive Material

The long half-life of radioactive material is often cited as the most dreaded aspect of nuclear power, rendering contaminated sited uninhabitable for eons. That is false. The key variable is the rate at which particles radiating from a given volume of radioactive material strike the body. At a low rate they are harmless — they may even be beneficial. Natural background radiation subjects us all to a low-level bombardment anyway.

Unfortunately, government policy decrees that there is no safe level of radiation, and in so doing it has created a rationale for the anti-nuclear activists to oppose any and all man-made radiation, even when it is lower than that found naturally. In the Rocky Mountains, where uranium is abundant, natural radiation is relatively high. Bernard Cohen of the University of Pittsburgh offered to eat some plutonium if Ralph Nader, the activist's activist, would eat the same amount of caffeine. Nader, who had said that a pound of plutonium could cause eight billion cancers, refused the offer. Cohen later offered to eat plutonium on television, but producers and reporters were not interested. Yes, plutonium is dangerous, because you can make an atom bomb out of it, but its long half-life ensures that its radioactivity is not toxic to humans.

More Miss O'Neill

The most astonishing thing about Miss O'Neill was that she proceeded on the assumption that she could teach a pack of potential poolroom jockeys how to write clear, clean, correct sentences, organized into clear, clean, correct paragraphs -- in their native tongues.

I do not think Miss O'Neill had the slightest awareness of her influence on me, or anyone else. She was not especially interested in me. She never betrayed an iota of preference for any of her captive and embittered flock.

Nor was Miss O'Neill much interested in the high, grand reaches of the language whose terrain she so briskly charted. She was a technician, pure and simple — efficient, conscientious, immune to excuses or flattery or subterfuge. Nothing derailed her from her professionalism.

And that is the point. Miss O'Neill did not try to please us. She did not try to like us. She certainly made no effort to make us like her. She valued results more than affection, and, I suspect, respect more than popularity...

I think Miss O'Neill understood what foolish evangelists of education are bound to rediscover: that drill and discipline are not detestable; that whether they know it or not, children prefer competence to "personality" in a teacher; that communication is more significant than camaraderie; that what is hard to master gives students special rewards (pride, self-respect, the unique gratification of having succeeded) precisely because difficulties have been conquered, ramparts scaled, battles won; that there may be no easy road at all to learning some things, and no "fascinating" or "fun" way of learning some things really well.
This was written in 1970. Thirty six years later we are still waiting ...

Thursday, January 12, 2006

It's Funny Because It's True

Go check out Sigmund, Carl and Alfred's advice about do-it-yourself home renovation.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Why the Lion is Beating the Ape at the Box Office

THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE
It's a better movie.

I read the book when I was in my early 20s, prompted by many who told me how good it was. Maybe you had to be either a kid or Christian to like it. I was neither. Or maybe I just wasn't in the right mood that day. Whatever the reason, it didn't grab me.

Consequently I wasn't all that interested in seeing the movie. However Rose definitely was. So Sunday afternoon she, Hannah, and I trekked to the nearest theater showing it.

Wow.

I loved the movie in a way that I never loved the book.

Maybe it's because I'm Christian now. Maybe I was just in a better mind set generally. But ... wow.

Many reviews have been done by many people so I will just set down my favorite bits, among the many there were to enjoy. Which means ...

SPOILERS

How about the Queen's lion fur cape made from Aslan's shaved fur? A couple of things occurred to us here ... evil can imitate good, can put on it's "clothes" so to speak, but that is not enough to make it the real deal.

When Aslan went to the Queen's castle to release the frozen soldiers all three of us were struck by the similarity to Jesus going to release the souls that had been waiting for him ... so they could go to heaven ... before he returned to be with the disciples.

Did anyone else notice that Aslan did that cat thing of squeezing his eyes shut in a long blink at someone when he was fond of them? Loved it ... and being used to seeing it from our cat, all three of us picked up on it.

I liked the Queen's point when she told Mr. Tumnus (the faun) that Edmund had betrayed him "for sweeties" which is usually the sort of basic, immediate gratification that it is so easy to be tempted by and give in to on a daily basis.

That little girl playing Lucy was adorable. Period. I especially liked the fact that during grand moments when the other three children would be looking appropriately awed, solemn, or whatever, she'd have a giant grin of joy on her face.

My vague memories of the story included Aslan's death and resurrection, but they did NOT include the plot point that brought him to that pass. When the Queen said that she was due the death of any traitor I suddenly put it all together and it took my breath away. I mean, Edmund had willingly, knowingly, thoughtlessly betrayed everyone "for sweeties" ... he owed that price. Aslan knew all that and paid the price anyway. Ouch!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

The anguished cry is heard throughout Happy Catholic-land as Rick Lugari announces that he will stop blogging.

*sob*

The only bright spot is that he purposely excluded Musum Pontificalis from that announcement.

And that ain't much of a bright spot, I've gotta say.

Miss O'Neill

Miss O'Neill was dumpy, moonfaced, sallow, colorless, and we hated her. We hated her as only a pack of West Side barbarians could hate a teacher of arithmetic. She did not teach arithmetic — but that is how much we hated her.

The Church in the Future

Game of Fox and Lion
by Robert Chase
Benedict paused as if contemplating the full extent of the scene he had described. "Nobody wanted war. All were acting in what they perceived to be their best interests. Yet their perceptions were so warped by their sins — you don't like that word, Chiang. Most of us don't. Perhaps I should date my conversion from the instant I realized that moral theology gave a more accurate account of human conduct than any school of psychology, because it understood that the basis of evil is intentional self-delusion."
Not exactly the sort of statement that we are used to reading in science fiction, is it? However, this riveting book has the Church and Catholic teachings in the background the entire time, although they are rarely expounded upon as in the above excerpt.

Jon Lei Chiang, a powerful leader, kidnaps the last of the specially enhanced Multi-Neural Capacitants, Paul Niccolo Renard. Renard had joined an order of terraforming monks as Brother Benedict which is the first of the unexpected twists that Chiang experiences. In indenture to Chiang, Benedict must help him win a war against both his political enemies and also against the Bestials who are warring with human civilization. The Bestials also are "enhanced" humans who have been changed so much that there is much argument over whether they can be considered to be human or not.

This book covers much ground with many plot twists that are surprisingly timely, especially considering the current debates over manipulation of genetics. I found the last twist to be rather predictable but it is still a good read for all that. Definitely recommended.

Defending the Faith: Dialogue

Dialogue is the means by which a truth living in one mind becomes a truth living in another. It involves listening as well as speaking, receiving, and giving. The apologist who dialogues with a non-Catholic should listen to what the non-Catholic's faith means to him, as well as present arguments for Catholic beliefs. He should take the time to hear what his non-Catholic discussion partner says, to understand the non-Catholic's worldview and the full force of his objections before responding to them. The key to dialogue is for both participants to understand one another, where they agree, where they disagree, and why.

Monday, January 9, 2006

"In Truth, Peace"

According to CWNews, the main points covered in Pope Benedict's State of the World Address are as follow:
  1. Commitment to truth is the soul of justice.
  2. Commitment to truth establishes and strengthens the right to freedom.
  3. commitment to truth opens the way to forgiveness and reconciliation.
  4. Commitment to peace opens up new hopes.
A good summary of the speech can be found here. I'm looking forward to seeing the full translation of the speech text later.

Spero News has quite a bit of the speech.

Here's the whole enchilada.

Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen...

... a recipe for a fantastic Tamale Pie and my comments on the first book I began and couldn't make myself read this year. Check it out.

Stay Slim Without Dieting

It's the American dream and, so they say, the French reality. My review of some helpful diet books from both sides of the Atlantic is up at Spero News.

Ten Ways to Anger a Knitter

Ten quick and easy ways to make a knitter angry.
  1. Consistently refer to her work as a "cute hobby."

  2. When the knitter shows you a Shetland shawl she knit from handspun yarn that took 264 hours of her life to produce and will be an heirloom that her great-great grandchildren will be wrapped in on the days of their birth, say, "I saw one just like this at Wal-Mart!"

  3. On every journey you take with your knitter, make a point of driving by yarn shops but make sure you don't have time to stop. (This works especially well if there is a sale on.)

  4. Shrink something.

  5. Tell her that you don't know why she knits socks, that it seems silly when they are only $10 for five pairs and they're just as good.

  6. Tell the knitter that you are sorry, but you really can't feel a difference between cashmere and acrylic.

  7. Tell her that you aren't the sort of person who could learn to knit, since you "can't just sit there for hours."

  8. Quietly take one out of every set of four double-pointed needles that she has and put them down the side of the couch. (You can't convince me that you aren't doing this already.)

  9. If you are a child, grow faster than your knitter can knit. Requesting intricate sweaters and then refusing to wear them is also highly effective.

  10. Try to ban knitting during TV time, because the clicking of the needles annoys you.

Stormy Weather

Windfall (The Weather Warden, Book 4)
by Rachel Caine

The fourth installment in the Weather Warden series involving people who can influence weather (or other elements such as fire) to save humanity from the worst of the natural elements. Aided by Djinn, who tradition dictates are the slaves of whoever holds their bottles, they work for good. Or do they? Things have heated up by this time to include packs of renegade free Djinn, criminal elements, and Wardens turning their backs on their duties. All with feisty, stubborn, rebellious Joanne in the center of the action as always.

Lightweight? Yep.

Fun to read? Oh YEAH.

A word of warning. If it's been a while since you picked one of these up, the back story is sufficiently complicated that you might want to flip through the last book before starting this. I was, frankly, lost for a little while until I started remembering where the last book left off.

Saturday, January 7, 2006

Why Am I in a Mood to Entertain?

Check it out at Meanwhile Back in the Kitchen.

Other than checking comments, I am outta here for the weekend y'all. We've got Christmas decorations to pack up and a bunch of other things going on.

Back Monday!

Oh Look ... Some People Who Actually Watched a Show Before Condemning It Out of Hand!

Now there's a rarity. I have seen two common reactions to The Book of Daniel throughout the blogosphere. Outright condemnation based on a short summary, a trailer, and hearsay ... OR ... a wonderment over the outrage that this terrible show is any worse than the rest of the dreck on television (also pronounced by people that have never seen it).

Frankly, I found the professions of wonderment more than a little disingenuous. After all, this show does have Jesus as a character. I'm guessing that the potential for outrage is just a bit more since the writers could put quite heretical statements in God's mouth rather than having it come from mere humans.

In vain have I waited for someone who actually watched the show to pronounce it either good or bad. Now, far from the scenes of the main pronouncements, I find a few bloggers had the interest and honesty to do that very thing. Check out these reviews from:
As for me, I had minimal interest in the show but was interested to see the knee-jerking spreading quickly throughout the Christian blogosphere. I meant to tape it but real life got in the way of remembering to set up the VCR. And I doubt that my interest will be piqued because it is the sort of soap opera-ish show I don't really enjoy.

But it sure was nice to get reaction from real television-watching Christians instead of hearsay. Thanks guys!