Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I Think They've Worked With Microsoft Before...

Check out this fantastic parody of what would happen if Microsoft packaged the iPod. Maybe you have to be in advertising (or computers) to appreciate it but it's perfect.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Truer Words Were Never Spoken

You Are Blonde Highlights

Men see you as flexible and versatile - you fit in to every situation

You've got the inner glow of a blonde, the intensity of a redhead...

And the wisdom of a brunette.

Via Miss Cellania.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

A Little Fun for a Sunday Afternoon

Go to The Doctor is In and read his praise of standard poodles. If you aren't interested in reading much, be sure to scroll down and check out the photographic proof of poodle superiority.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Goodbye Sophie Grace

I just found out that little Sophie who was born to a family that embraced life despite doctors' urgings to do otherwise, died on February 2.

What a sorrow that must be for this family. What a blessing Sophie had in them, who loved her and cherished her while she was here for that short time.

Please pray for little Sophie's soul and for the peace and grace of God to be with her grieving family.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Lent-ish Links

An examination of conscience from Zenit. Via Holy Fool.

A history lesson on what Lent used to be like. Via Mrs. Darwin.

Doing Nothing or Nothing Doing? from Confessions of a Hot Carmel Sundae isn't precisely Lent oriented I suppose except that as I have exactly the opposite nature it made me begin thinking about what God wanted me to do ... which translated into Lenten thinking.

How the Seven Deadly Sins All Start From Good Things by TO. Another that isn't specifically for Lent but I found quite it made a good contribution toward pondering what to keep an eye on in my life and, specifically, in terms of Lenten practices. You might like it that way too.

What Would We Do Without Dick Cheney to Laugh At?

Some hilarious stuff is popping up.

Quail Hunting School: the game that trains you for quail hunting. Thanks to Alex for this one.

White House Had Prior Knowledge Of Cheney Threat: the Onion is working their usual irreverent magic.
In a Presidential Daily Briefing given to Bush in August 2005, the CIA warned that the vice president was a potent threat to the senior population at large, and in particular "possessed the capabilities and intentions to spray a senior citizen with projectiles fired from a shotgun or other weapon." A second brief identified the population at risk as those "between 70 and 80 years of age," and warned that the vice president posed the greatest threat to "seniors in close proximity to the vice president when he is armed."
And this cartoon: Day by Day.

Back to Basics: Getting to Heaven

The only thing that really matters in life is getting to Heaven.

Among all the achievements of our life only one thing is really crucial. It is attaining the goal — Heaven — set for us by God. We must be ready to give up everything, if necessary, to achieve this goal. We must also be ready to set aside anything that even gets in the way of our achieving it, no matter how valuable or appealing it may seem. Everything else has to be subjected to that one supreme objective in our life — possessing God. If anything becomes an obstacle rather than an aid to this end, then we must be prepared either to set things straight or to put the obstacle aside completely. Eternal salvation — our own or our neighbor's — comes first. Our Lord tells us so in the Gospel of the Mass (Mark 9:40-49): If thy hand is an occasion of sin to thee, cut it off! ... And if thy foot is an occasion of sin to thee, cut it off! ... And if thine eye is an occasion of sin to thee, cut it off! ... It is better to enter into the kingdom of Heaven maimed, lame or lacking an eye, than being physically sound to be cast into hellfire, where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched. It is better to lose something as necessary as one's hand, one's foot or one's eye than to lose Heaven, which is our supreme good, implying as it does the beatific vision of God for all eternity. How much truer this is, if, as is usually the case, what we need to put aside with no more than a bit of determination on our part is something that would otherwise not result in any significant harm to us....

Often the obstacles we have to set aside will not be tremendously significant ones. In the life of a Christian who is striving to please God in all things, this will usually be the case. What will have to be set aside and cut out are our minor whims and preferences. We shall take prudent steps to correct small breaches of temperance where Our Lord asks us to mortify our temper or our moods, to overcome any excessive concern we may have about our health or comfort ... All of these more or less habitual failings need very much to be taken into account, even though they may not be ore than venial sins. They slow our pace and can trip us up — or worse: they can gradually lead to or bring about more serious falls.

If our struggle is generous, if our goal in life is clear in our sight, we will be decisive not to say ruthless, in striving to correct these situations so that they cease to be obstacles and are turned into advantages. This is what Our Lord often did with his Apostles. From Peter's hot-headed impetuosity He formed solid rock on which He would build his Church. From the vehement impatience of John and James (who He dubbed sons of thunder) He fashioned the apostolic zeal of untiring preachers. From Thomas' skepticism he molded a strikingly articulate testimony to his divinity. What has been previously a crippling liability becomes a powerful asset.
Can you tell I've been thinking about Lent? Actually Lent really began coming to mind a couple of days ago, so that's a week ahead. Just about the right timing for me to mentally prepare for the blessings that God will bring from this time. Despite my preference for Ordinary Time I treasure all the seasons that God gives us and Lent is no different.

First is this period of self-examination, where we contemplate the time to come, remember our ultimate goal (as stated above), and then ask where God wants us to go in order that we may meet Him more fully.

In my case, I have a pretty good feeling that it calls for some giving up and adding on.

Giving up: mortification of the flesh (which would be giving up dessert).

Adding on: focusing on "back to the basics" in my life (which means sticking to my daily schedule properly). A daily schedule may not sound like much but it can mean the difference between laziness and prayer time, between selfishness and serving my family through a clean house and nice meal on the table.

I'll also be contributing to a Lenten prayer blog which is an amazing ecumenical project begun by a couple of bloggers who want to truly celebrate Lent fully. There are around twenty people who will be sharing their prayers throughout Lent and I fully expect that I will be blessed by their prayers much more than I will be contributing any of my own. However, be that as it may, please drop by often as no one seems to be waiting for Ash Wednesday and are popping in to introduce themselves and often say a prayer or two.

More later about the books I'll be reading.

Litany of Blog Humility

I see that last year, after the Catholic Blog Awards ended, I also posted The Curt Jester's brilliant Litany of Blog Humility. Not only does it make you laugh but any bloggers reading it know how very true and necessary it is ... so it is a true Litany of Humility after all.

St. Jerome's image also thanks to The Curt Jester. What would St. Blog's do without The Curt Jester? I don't even want to think about it. Thanks Jeff!

The Litany of Blog Humility

From the desire of my blog being read
Deliver me dear Jesus

From the desire of my blog being praised
Deliver me dear Jesus

From the fear of my blog being despised
Deliver me dear Jesus

From the fear of my blog being forgotten
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it

From the fear of no page views
Deliver me dear Jesus

That other blogs may be loved more than mine
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it

That Nihil Obstat may find all my grammatical and spelling errors
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it

That Google may never list my blog
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it

That comments always be negative and abusive
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it

That my commenting system always say "commenting temporarily unavailable"
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it

That Mark Shea may notice every blog but mine
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it

That others may be pithier than I, provided that I may become as pithy as I should
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it


bloggerpatron

St. Jerome, pray for us.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Out of Sight, But Not Out of Mind

Also inadvertently overlooked in updating my blogroll and presently to be found in the "New to Happy Catholic" section. Not that I've been a little scattered lately or anything. Sorry Jay!

Pro Ecclesia*Pro Familia*Pro Civitate

It's Official! And I'd Like to Thank the Academy ...

2006Best_Blog_Woman_winner


2006Most_Informative_Blog_finalist


I had so much fun with those blog awards and I hope that y'all did too! Certainly everybody was quite gracious in letting me talk about that darned egg so much. Thanks y'all!

Amy Welborn showed what a lady she is by not flogging the vote at all. We all know that if she was even half as shameless as I was in getting the vote out ... well, the term "crushing victory" would have a new definition. As Der Tommissar said, "Someone in Vegas just made a ton of money on that one." The sheer excitement I felt in seeing our blog votes come even to each other couldn't have been matched. (Yes, that's how very sad and void of real forms of entertainment my life can be ... and still I'm happy! I'm not going to dwell on that right now.)

Josh LeBlanc deserves a huge thanks from everyone ... and if that was expressed by helping with bandwidth costs via PayPal (check at the bottom of the votes page) I'm sure he'd appreciate it.

For those who wanted things changed with the awards please do go to the forums that Joshua set up. There are some very good suggestions being made and that's the perfect place to have ideas mulled over for practicality and fairness.

Seeing some of the response around St. Blogs makes me more convinced than ever that the Catholic Blog Awards are not just fun, they also are a valuable litmus test for humility and sense of proportion. I continue to think that Owen nailed it with this:
If Catholic bloggers complain about their awards now, one can only imagine what it's gonna be like at the General Judgment. Sheesh, hope St. Peter's got big ear plugs. And, one is afraid to imagine what kind of witness they are providing in the mean time; mean being the byword.
Speaking of new categories ... this has convinced me that there really needs to be a category for best acceptance of an award. (And while you're at it, don't miss this candidate for best awards wrap-up post.)

UPDATE
The Curt Jester has a nice summary of winners. I agree with his analogy that voting this year was like Sophie's Choice ... it's practically impossible to choose one over the other from among so many great blogs.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Catholic Trivia

This is a charming British book which traces the often forgotten Catholic origins of common sayings, customs, and traditions. I believe I saw it recommended by Ten Reasons. I'll be sharing some of the trivia on the way. Just keep in mind that the British origin makes some of the references a little puzzling every so often.
The holy number thirteen
An interesting survival of Catholic days is the religious significance attached to the number thirteen, in spite of the efforts of the Reformers to stamp out the tradition by calling the number unlucky. The model in men's minds from quite early times seems to have been our Divine Lord and the twelve Apostles, and this number of thirteen was copied in all kinds of ways. For example, if a benefactor wanted to found some almshouses (or a hospital, as almshouses were often called), as a rule, thirteen of them would be built. Thus Hugh II, Abbot of Reading, founded a hospital for thirteen poor men and thirteen poor women, about the year 1190. The Herald's College in London which was founded by Richard III had (and still has) thirteen members. Catherine of Braganza, wife of Charles II, brought a body of Portuguese Franciscans to London in 1662, the community consisting of a Father Guardian and twelve friars. A "baker's dozen" consisted of thirteen loaves or cakes, and there was legislation connected with this custom.

But an interesting survival of thirteen being regarded as a lucky number is to be found in the common custom of putting a hen to sit on thirteen eggs. When a sitting of eggs is advertised for sale, the number is always understood to be thirteen. If this number is really unlucky, as has been made out in modern times, are the thirteen eggs put under the hen a bad omen? Surely this is for good luck. The interesting thing about this old custom, with its religious tinge, is that it should have come down to us intact all the way from our Catholic past. And it shows also how deeply matters connected with religion, in however small a way, entered into the daily life of our forefathers.
UPDATE
Louise adds to our thirteen knowledge with this info. How cool is this? Very.
In the making of icons, 13 thins layers of plaster are painted on the wooden board, and this is what the image is painted on.

Also, every colour you mix when painting an icon, must have a minimum of three clours in it - for the Trinity.

Wow.

I ... uh ...

Well, Sigmund, Carl and Alfred has done it.

I was so pleased to be asked interview questions and was knew that was coming. However, reading the extremely generous and kind introduction (are you sure you had the right blog in mind?) has humbled me extremely ...

... and even left me (relatively) speechless.

Go see.

Wow.

I owe you, Siggy. Three batches of Cinnamon Buns from Heaven comin' up.

If I Were a Haiku Writer...

... like Holy Fool or Idle Mendacity or others I know then I'd have a lovely little three line way to say ...

Woke up this morning
Head pounding
Sinus headache BAM!

But instead I'll just say that the mega-dose of aspirin has kicked in and I now am running to catch up to my regular day.

(Too little of that banned substance Drixoral plus staying up to watch Ladies' Figure Skating makes a bad mixture.)

In the meantime, everybody has the story about the Pope naming the new cardinals. Here are a coupla good spots for a quick read:
More later, y'all!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Did Anyone Else Think of Disputations ...

... when they saw the Google doodle this morning? I know that Disputations did!

Celebratory Gratuitous Funny List

From my in-box. Thanks, Alex!
Things to do at Wal-Mart while
your friend or parent is taking their sweet time
  1. Set all the alarm clocks in Housewares to go off at 5-minute intervals.
  2. Walk up to an employee and tell him/her in an official tone, 'Code 3' in housewares and see what happens.
  3. Go the Service Desk and ask to put a bag of M&M's on lay away.
  4. Set up a tent in the camping department and tell other shoppers you'll invite them in if they'll bring in pillows from the bedding department.
  5. When a clerk asks if they can help you, begin to cry and ask 'Why can't you people just leave me alone?'
  6. While handling guns in the hunting department, ask the clerk if he knows where the anti- depressants are.
  7. Dart around the store suspiciously loudly humming the Mission Impossible theme.
  8. Hide in a clothing rack; when people browse through, say PICK ME!
  9. When an announcement comes over the loudspeaker, assume the fetal position and scream "NO! NO! It's those voices again!!!!
  10. Go into a fitting room and shut the door and wait a while; and then yell, very loudly, "There is no toilet paper in here!"

Whew!

I don't know about y'all, but I was laughing my head off for most of the morning over the Catholic Blog awards voting posts ... yes, I'm easily amused and crack myself up (how's that for open admission?), though my loyal boosters in the comments boxes contributed a lot too. It was sooo muuuuch fuuuunnnn!

Official results will be up tomorrow and thanks for kissing da egg wit' me, mon!

ALSO
I'll put "official" congrats up tomorrow but did want to mention that I was pleased to be so conflicted over who to vote for in so many categories ... what a lot of quality blogs are out there. Lucky us to get to read them.

If you haven't checked out all the nominated blogs be sure to work your way through them. I have discovered several excellent ones I never heard of before this awards contest.

According to My Campaign Manager ...


... if you don't kiss da egg now, mon, you're kissing my chances goodbye!

Just a half hour left and then I'll quit flogging the vote. Now that's something to be grateful for, right? In your joy and gratitude, go vote, and then I'll shaddup!

We Have a Prime Opportunity Here

Look what Rick Lugari's been driven to.

Can we afford to let this blogging genius waste away for lack of attention?

I say to you all, "NO!" We cannot.

Here I have been flogging the vote for my own selfish purposes when there are those far more worthy and who I would like to see blog far more (yes, Rick, that's a plea for continued blogging). I hang my head in shame and point you to one whose need cries out to us.

The hour is late and the need is dire. Go vote for Rick in Best Presentation and Best Design. I pass the egg to him in his hour of need. Go kiss the egg. Do it for Rick!

(Oh and all the others worthy bloggers he mentions at the bottom of his post. Voting ends at noon. Aren't y'all glad?)

UPDATE: EASY COME, EASY GO
Yikes ... Amy mentioned the awards and so the Best Blog by a Woman levels are beginning to achieve their normal state as her percentage points rise. C'est la vie!

Unless, of course, y'all go vote your little hearts out. :-D

You Know It's One Thing to Flog Books on Your Blog...

... but it really must be sweet to have the Dallas Morning News editorial section do it for you.

You have to have opened the actual newspaper to get the true effect. One page of the editorial section, entirely filled with voting recommendations for upcoming primaries. The opposite side with the top two-thirds filled with Rod Dreher's article musing about that crazy, in-your-face, unpredictable lifestyle of being a conservative who buys organic and wears Birkenstocks ... in his new book, Crunchy Cons. Woah, dude! For real?

If only I didn't know a lot of people like him already (or wasn't one myself ... minus the Birkenstocks) I'd rush right out and buy that book.

The bottom third of the page? Reactions to the book by another (conservative) of the editorial staff who struggled mightily to find anything bad to say. (I mighta been interested in what a liberal had to say about the book but too bad.)

Most people have to pay for that sort of prime newspaper advertising coverage.

Like I said. Sweet.

UPDATE
This is not to say that I don't think the book will be good or that I won't read it (when it gets to our public library) ... it is really to protest giving an entire page of the two available in the newspaper's editorial section to promote his book.

For commentary not done by Dreher himself or co-workers:
  • Here is the WSJ's review. They liked it. They really liked it.
  • Rachel at Testosterhome also really liked it.
I'm still dying to see a review from someone who is liberal about this. If y'all see one, let me know. Because all the friendly stuff is fine but not telling me anything I don't already know. I wanna see what someone else has to say as well.

Why I Am Going to Read Uncle Tom's Cabin

Because Rose keeps reading me excerpts ... and they all seem so very familiar, so modern, and can be applied far beyond Stowe's concern with slavery. Certainly, they go far beyond my previous exposure to the book which was the play that is put on in The King and I.
"I'm not going to have any of your horrid New England directness, cousin," said St. Claire, gayly. "If I answer that question, I know you'll be at me with half a dozen others, each one harder than the last; and I'm not a going to define my position. I am one of the sort that lives by throwing stones at other people's glass houses, but I never mean to put up one for them to stone."

"That's just the way he's always talking," said Marie; "you can't get any satisfaction out of him. I believe it's just because he don't like religion, that he's always running out in this way he's been doing."

"Religion!" said St. Clare, in a tone that made both ladies look at him. "Religion! Is what you hear at church religion? Is that which can bend and turn, and descend and ascend, to fit every crooked phase of selfish, worldly society, religion? Is that religion which is less scrupulous, less generous, less just, less considerate for man, than even my own ungodly, worldly, blinded nature? No! When I look for a religion, I must look for something above me, and not something beneath."
-----------------
Who does not know how our great men are outdoing themselves, in declaiming against the foreign slave-trade? There are a perfect host of Clarksons and Wilberforces risen up among us on that subject, most edifying to hear and behold. Trading Negroes from Africa, dear reader, is so horrid. It is not to be though of! But trading them from Kentucky — that's quite another thing!
-----------------
"... It's pretty generally understood that men don't aspire after the absolute right, but only to do about as well as the rest of the world. Now, when any one speaks up, like a man, and says slavery is necessary to us, we can't get along without it, we should be beggared if we give it up, and, of course, we mean to hold on to it — this is strong, clear, well-defined language; it has the respectability of truth to it; and if we may judge by their practice, the majority of the world will bear us out in it. But when he begins to put on a long face, and snuffle, and quote Scripture, I incline to think he isn't much better than he should be."

"You are very uncharitable," said Marie.

"Well," said St. Clare, "suppose that something should bring down the price of cotton once and forever, and make the whole slave property a drug in the market, don't you think we should soon have another version of the Scripture doctrine? What a flood of light would pour into the church, all at once, and how immediately it would be discovered that everything in the Bible and reason went the other way!"

The Baltimore Catechism

Love is purified, increased and perfected by suffering. This means not only bodily pain, but crosses of all kinds. God sends everyone all the sufferings they need on earth to cleanse, strengthen, and perfect their love. But most people waste their sufferings. They do not want them, complain about them and try to escape them in every manner possible, even by committing sin. (Baltimore Catechism No. 2 p. 90)
Our priest quotes the Baltimore Catechism quite often, always saying that there "is a lot of good stuff in there." I have begun thinking that I need to lay my hands on a copy and start reading. Then, after seeing the above quote, in a very good post by mum2twelve (yes, go read it!) my desire was solidified into decision. This sort of thing is too good to miss or just have doled out by others. I must obtain a copy and mine these treasures for myself.

I didn't expect to see so many versions though. Any advice? This is the version that looks most likely to me: Baltimore Catechism and Mass No. 3: The Text of the Official Revised Edition 1949 with Summarizations of Doctrine and Study Helps.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Get Your Mensa Hats On

Here's one for the numbers people ...
Our corner grocery prices its food according to the owner's whim. An apple costs 41¢, squash costs 48¢, and a zucchini costs 65¢. According to this system, how much will a tomato cost?
INVISI-SCRIPT ANSWER
51¢ (consonants are worth 7¢; vowels are worth 10¢)

Are They Just Toying With Me?

Moseying back over to the Catholic Blog Awards to see how everyone was doing, I was astounded to see that the Best Blog by a Woman voting was back up ...

... and Y'ALL!

Amy Welborn ... 33.1%
Happy Catholic ... 30.3%

I'm pretty sure this is a dream and when I wake up it will all be back to corrupted data again. But what a nice dream.

Just in case I'm actually awake ... GO VOTE!

An Honor to be Nominated ...

... never had as much meaning as it does now that the Best Blog by a Woman category is closed because the data was corrupted.

I was already over the moon because of the nomination.

And flying even higher because I was within 10 percentage points of Amy Welborn on Saturday. Now that is a real miracle and a real testimony to y'all as dedicated voters which I appreciate so much you don't know.

Now, let me exhort all to vote in Most Informative Blog ... which I must admit I think is an odd category for me to be in but ... what the heck. Who am I to question the nomination? I'm just gonna kiss the egg and go vote!

UPDATE
For all those who had ideas about how to improve the blog awards, and I saw some good ones out there (yes, Elena, I'm talking to you!), Josh has opened a forum for ideas which I think is an excellent idea.
In other news, a forum for the Catholic blog awards has been opened so that we can figure out a way to make them better for next year. One of the rules, however, will be that all suggestions be given in a spirit of charity and good will.

Knit But Not Wit!

I go in and out of knitting frenzies and can tell that I just now am getting ready to launch another. Mostly because I am done knitting that darned poncho (after knitting it once at about triple the size needed!). It was pretty short when I got done but after a good dunking and wet blocking when I PULLED it into shape ... it now looks as if it is drying in an acceptable length. Because this one is GONNA WORK! Or else!

I have never knit socks and for some reason am just dying to knit a pair ... double pointed needles and all! Preferably a striped pair (but I am thinking that would make it way too difficult so will stick to just getting through a pair of them). I have to swing by the yarn store for the double pointed needles and to get advice on the best sort of yarn and then can embark on this new adventure.

Also, I just LOVE knitting cables and want something that won't blow my brain (as I am afraid that the socks will do) so am going to begin knitting a cable sampler scarf.

It is very exciting to be picking out new yarn and looking at patterns.

The problem is that I have knit for years but never anything that was too difficult. So I am starting to ramp up and find challenges which is easy because knitting is so popular now. Before you'd have to struggle just to find patterns sometimes. It's crazy to see how many publications, fun yarns, etc. are out now.

I remember the teacher of a knitting class that I took long, long ago, said that there are two sorts of knitters. Those who give it all away and those who keep it. I give it all away. Not sure why. I just do.

I picked up a copy of Knit.1 which the girls just love. Rose is getting ready to embark on a new knitting adventure because a black sweater with a skull and crossbones on it caught her eye ... and tickled her funny bone. It would be her first venture into knitting something other than scarves or hats so would be challenging. She also was tickled by the interview with a screamo musician who crochets all his own beanie hats. Once on tour it was very cold and when wandering through the nearby Walmart looking for blankets one of the band's guitarists saw yarn and said that they should just make stuff to keep them warm. The guitarist bought a how-to knitting book, needles, and yarn while the subject of the interview bought the same for crochet. And he still crochets to this day. A great story.

I also picked up a copy of Cast On magazine which is the publication of The Knitting Guild Association. The publication had some very good basic articles about several subjects and I liked more of the patterns than I usually would from a knitting magazine. Also the organization sounded interesting with correspondence courses available. Has anyone got any experience with this group?

Greatness of Soul

Greatness of soul proves itself also in a willingness to forgive, in matters large and small, whether it be people close to us in our lives or far from us. It is not Christian to go about the world with a list of grievances in one's heart, cherishing rancorous thoughts and memories that shrink the spirit and make us incapable of the human and divine ideals to which our Lord is calling us. In the same way that God is always ready to forgive everyone everything, our capacity to forgive must have no limits. The number of times does not matter. The seriousness of the wrongs done is irrelevant, as is the status of the persons who were supposedly guilty of the offences. Nothing makes us like unto God so much as being always ready to forgive (St. John Chrysostom). On the Cross, Jesus did what he had taught: Father, forgive them, he prayed. And immediately he added the mitigating reason: for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34). those words show the greatness of soul of Christ's sacred Humanity.
I inadvertently kept reading yesterday and wound up on the commentary for Year C which gave me a wonderful reminder of how I am to be.

And why is it that we must so constantly be reminded of this? Why is it so easy to forget? It occurs to me that this is one of those times when it is better to be like a little child, as Jesus told us. Little children forgive readily and then forget all. It is only later that they learn to remember, hold grudges, and count the number of offenses.

That must be why the saints are ... well ... saints. We have example after example of times when they do not even take offense in the first place. They have achieved that desired state of being like a little child. God grant that I may be able to do the same someday.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

We Are Now a Four Cell Phone Family

And this is kinda freakin' out Tom and me.

We always looked at those television ads for family calling plans and scoffed at the people who had all those cell phones. One more time, "never say never."

I have a cell phone which I rarely turn on but we've had it for years since the days when Hannah and Rose were altar servers. We wouldn't know exactly when to pick them up from serving weddings or funerals and ... what the heck, we traveled enough to think it was a good idea to have a cell phone for emergencies. Right? So that was the family cell phone with minutes bought only as we needed them.

Then Tom got one because he was out of the office enough traveling with his father's illness, visiting his mother often after his dad's death, press checks, meetings, etc. Face it, when you're a three-person office, you have to be able to get in touch with the main guy sometimes. So there you go.

Hannah began driving about month and a half ago. 'Nuff said there. Now if we could only get her to remember to always leave it on and turn the ringer back on. But that is par for the course.

And Rose? Why does she have a cell phone?

We bought a phone for Hannah but for some reason the system kept saying that they didn't have any phone numbers to give out. After two days of that Tom got exasperated and went out and got a different phone that had proprietary phone numbers and was able to start right away.

So then we had that extra phone but it had only been about $20. We meant to return it but kept forgetting. And then this weekend, Rose spent most of the day with friends at the movies and the mall. She refused my phone saying that friends would have cell phones. Except that she wrote the number down illegibly. And a different friend's father called who needed to get in touch with his child whose phone battery had run down. And Hannah had dropped them off but we had never been to this mall ... and got lost on the way there. And so on and so forth.

Rose, who was the only person in the entire family who really cared if she had a cell phone ... is now thrilled. Enough time had gone by that phone numbers were plentiful and Tom gave her that little phone. Now all we have to do is call her on it to make her happiness complete.

And we are one of those families where everyone is connected ... as long as Hannah and I each remember to turn ours on.

The only consolation is that we still only have one television. Using the roof antenna for reception. In the back room of the house. Which is only on when someone is watching something.

We're not going to talk about the two VCRs and DVD player. The three computers. The three iPods and a Shuffle. The scanner. The wireless connection. Or the four cell phones.

4th Sunday of Saint Joseph

Presentation Temple

Presentation in the Temple

JOYS AND SORROWS - I
To think about the life of Saint Joseph is to discover a life full of joys and sorrows. the Lord teaches us through the life of the Holy Patriarch that true happiness is never far from the Cross. If we bear that suffering and trial with supernatural spirit, we will soon be rewarded with clarity and peace. With Christ at our side, sorrows turn into joys.

[First Sorrow and Joy]
When Mary his mother had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. (Matt 1:18) Joseph ... loved Mary with a pure and deep human love. Yet he felt obliged by his upright conscience to follow the Mosaic law in this regrettable situation. In order to protect Mary from public shame, Joseph decided to put her aside privately. This was a most painful test for both Joseph and Mary.

Just as his sorrow was great, so was Joseph's joy immeasurable when at last he was shown the ways of God's Providence ...

We can learn from Joseph's first sorrow and joy that the Lord will always enlighten those who seek him with a clean heart. God's light can shine through the most perplexing situations imaginable.

[Second Sorrow and Joy]
And it came to pass while they were there, that the days for her to be delivered were fulfilled. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger... (Luke 2:6-7)

We can imagine Joseph going from door to door in search of shelter and hospitality for his pregnant wife ... What must this terrible experience have been like for Saint Joseph? What were his feelings at the sight of his weary wife, her clothing travel-stained and every feature proclaiming her utter exhaustion? ...

All of this anxiety and suffering was quickly forgotten from the moment Mary held the Son of God in her arms. Saint Joseph realized that the Son of God was now his son as well. He kissed and worshipped him...

This alternating sorrow and joy should teach us that serving God is worth the effort, even though we will encounter difficulties, and perhaps poverty and pain.

[Third Sorrow and Joy]
And when eight days were fulfilled for his circumcision, his name was called Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. (Luke 2:21) ... The actual ceremony was sometimes performed by the father.

... The name Jesus means Savior; it had been chosen by God himself and communicated through the message of the angel ... It was the desire of the Holy Trinity that the Son should commence his salvific mission on earth in suffering. It would seem fitting that Joseph was the one to inaugurate the mystery of the Redemption by shedding the first drops of his Son's holy blood. This blood would yield its full effect in the awful context of the Passion. The Child who cried upon the receipt of his name had thereupon begun his work of salvation.

Saint Joseph ... was well versed in the Scriptures and he knew, if only in an imperfect way, that there would come a day when his Son would have to shed his blood even to the last drop. Joseph was filled with joy to carry the child in his arms and call him Jesus ...

[Fourth Sorrow and Joy]
And when the days of her purification were fulfilled according to the Law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. (Luke 2:22) ... When Joseph heard the prophecy of Simeon, surely a sword must have pierced his heart as well.

On that day in the Temple Joseph and Mary were given a more profound insight into the mystery of the Redemption which their Son would bring to completion. Saint Joseph was now able to understand a little better. He made this suffering his own...

Alongside this pain there was, of course, the joy of the impending universal redemption.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Are We There Yet?



No, mon, not yet.

You still got to kiss the egg ...
vote for this little Jamaican bobsled in
Best Blog by a Woman and
Most Informative Blog categories.

You can vote once every 24 hours.

Let's show those Swiss what we're made of!

Friday, February 17, 2006

My All Time Favorite Super Bowl Commercial

Still as funny as when I first saw it. Via The View from the Foothills.

On the Flip Side: Another Top 5 List

Switching around from yesterday, this was a tougher category somehow.

Top 5 Movies with Dramatic Actors in Comedic Roles
  1. Dustin Hoffman - Tootsie
  2. Tommy Lee Jones - Men in Black
  3. Sigorney Weaver - Galaxy Quest
  4. Jack Nicholson - Mars Attack
  5. Mel Gibson - What Women Want
So c'mon. Drop those lists in the comments box.

A Day (or Two) Late ...

... and probably more than a dollar short. But I couldn't get Blogger to work yesterday afternoon when I came into possession of these graphics. And I hate to see them go to waste.

The story is practically dead but these make me laugh anyway so here they are. (Click on photos for larger view.)

Seen all over the blogosphere.


Thanks to Bill for sending me this one!

Damn Straight!

If Catholic bloggers complain about their awards now, one can only imagine what it's gonna be like at the General Judgement. Sheesh, hope St. Peter's got big ear plugs. And, one is afraid to imagine what kind of witness they are providing in the mean time; mean being the byword.
I see some people who are having fun with the Catholic Blog Awards ... and some who aren't, which is a crying shame considering that we are all Catholic. Perhaps these awards are good on a second level as a annual litmus test for our own humility.

Anyway, enough heavy thoughts about all that.

Der Tomissar
is totally hilarious with this whole thing.

College Catholic weighs in on the whole Catholic blog awards subject with great wit.

And Rick Lugari came back from his blogging hiatus to make me laugh out loud with his endorsements. I was especially touched by our Holy Father's endorsement of Happy Catholic. Go check it out, y'all!

Let's not forget that this is taking up precious bandwidth for cybercatholics.com. If you feel so moved, please note the Paypal link at the top of the awards page where you can help with the costs.

Now, don't go have so much fun that everyone forgets to kiss the egg! C'mon. You can vote once every 24 hours ... so what are you waiting for? Help this little Jamaican bobsled make a decent showing in the Best Blog by a Woman and Most Informative Blog categories. Go vote!


Are We Brave Enough to Ask for Humility?

If we want to build up our Christian life we must have a great desire of developing in ourselves the virtue of humility, pleading with Our Lord for it and facing up to our subterfuges and failings in this area while trying by our actions to root our self-love. Humility produces countless fruits and is linked with all the other virtues. It is associated in a special way with cheerfulness, fortitude, chastity, sincerity, simplicity, affability, and magnamity. A humble person has a special gift for friendship and, because of this, for being apostolic. Without humility there is no chance of living a life full of charity, the theological virtue prerequisite for being an apostle and a friend.

To become more humble, we have to be ready to accept the humiliation of finding victory elusive in our struggle to conquer our defects, and of being reminded of our weaknesses day by day. Often when we examine our conscience, especially on those occasions when we can do it more thoroughly, we can ask questions like these: have I managed to offer Our Lord in expiation the very sorrow I feel for having offended him so many times? Have I offered him the shame of all my inner embarrassment and humiliation at seeing how little progress I make along the path of virtue? (J. Escriva, The Forge) Then there are the humiliations inflicted on us by others — the ones we were not expecting or the ones that seem unfair or downright unjust. Do we bear these well for Our Lord's sake?

If we are searching for the firm rock of Our Lord's own humility in order to build on it, we are bound to find countless opportunities every day. We can try talking about ourselves only when it is really necessary — and not so much even then. We can be grateful for the little good turns people do for us. Keeping in mind that we deserve nothing, we can thank God for the countless benefits we receive. We can decide to make the world a more pleasant place for those who come in contact with us throughout the day. And what about those useless thoughts that revolve around ourselves? They can be cut off at the start. We should not miss any chance of lending a hand at home with the family, or at work, or anywhere else we may be. Instead of trying to be too independent we can allow ourselves to be helped, or we can ask for advice. If we are very sincere with ourselves we shall ask Our Lord to stop us finding excuses to explain away our sins and failings, those things that humiliate us and for which we sometimes have to ask other people's forgiveness. All of this is done with God's help and with the help of spiritual direction, which is only another way of coming into contact with him.

Fixing our gaze on Christ, we can have enough humility to admit our mistakes and set about putting them right...
Guilty as charged.

Part of my problem is that when I ask for humility, knowing that it is so very good for me, the Lord answers practically instantly. And humility is not easy to bear. It hurts. It stings. It cuts deep and can be hard to forget.

Of course, the goal is to get to where we can offer it to God and not mind at all. I am quite a long way away from achieving that goal which means that I have to ask for humility all the more. But because it hurts, that calls for courage ... or, as I often must do, for asking God to forgive my fear of the very thing I am asking for. The only thing that makes it possible for me to want such a thing is that I have been there before and seen the fruit it bears and the good it does me. Which helps make me brave.

Lord, keep us close to you. Make us humble. Amen.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Comic Actors in Dramatic Roles

Listening to the most recent installment of a favorite movie review podcast (occasional bad language warning for those who care ), I loved their Top 5 list idea this week. So I'm stealing it.

Top 5 Movies with Comedic Actors in Dramatic Roles
  1. Bill Murray - Lost In Translation
  2. Tom Hanks - Apollo 13
  3. Jim Carrey - The Truman Show
  4. Adam Sandler - Spanglish
  5. Robin Williams - Good Morning, Vietnam
Honorable Mentions
  1. Steve Martin - The Spanish Prisoner
  2. Michael Keaton - Batman

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A Couple of Good Causes

FUNDRAISING FOR POOR CLARES
Get the scoop at To Jesus Through Mary. Via Moneybags.

BRING CATHOLIC RADIO TO NORTH TEXAS
Answer the poll in the top right hand corner at Guadalupe Radio Network.

Are We Smart Yet?

More Mensa ... and I will just admit up front that this one flummoxed me (that's right, I said flummoxed!).
Jake walks into a store, picks up an object and says, "How much is 1?" The clerk says $1.00. Jakes says, "Okay, here's $3.00. I'll take 111."

What is he buying?

Cool Runnings


Tom said it best (he always does).
When it comes to the Catholic Blog Awards,
Happy Catholic is the Jamaican bobsled team.
The mere fact that somehow I slipped in is a miracle.

But that doesn't mean we can't give the Swiss a run for their money.
So, c'mon ... kiss the egg!


(And if you don't know what that means
then hie thee to a rental store and catch up on Cool Runnings)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Catholic Blog Awards Voting



Ok, y'all shouldn't have but I'm awfully happy that you did ... Happy Catholic is nominated for both Best Informative Blog and for Best Blog by a Woman.

Now, Open Book is also in both of those and is usually a runaway winner but just to be nominated is so fantastic! *kissing hands to everybody*

And we certainly can give Amy a run for the money, right? Voting is allowed once every 24 hours so I feel no compunction this year in urging everybody to vote early and vote often.

As for the other categories, many of them have more than one of my favorite blogs nominated so I am going to have to give this some deep thought. However, I will urge all at this point to vote also for The Anchoress in Best Political Blog.

Remember, it's all for fun ...

A Few Details About the Catholic Blog Awards

For those who have questions about how the nominations work or if the award voting will be actually happening, Dom has the scoop. The best part of his post? His advice to lighten up. After all, if these aren't fun then there's no point.

Divisions in Christianity

I have a real weakness for the most basic of books sometimes. Even when you think you know it all (and I definitely don't but anyway) you can always learn a bit of something new. Now I already knew this but as I recently was quite shocked (really, really stunned actually) to see on two different blogs there were commenters questioning the historical accuracy of the fact that the Catholic Church was the original Christian church. I mean, even when I didn't believe in God at all, I knew that much.

So when I saw this I thought I'd pop it in here because it is a very good and succinct explanation, even though it is highly unlikely that either of those two commenters read this blog.
There were no major divisions among Christianity until AD 1054, when the Orthodox and Catholic Churches parted company. Until then, for a thousand years there had been one Christian church, with the bishop of Rome (also known as the pope) as patriarch of the West and the other bishops of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and finally Constantinople as fellow partiarchs of the East. The schism between the (Greek) Orthodox and the (Roman) Catholics later subdivided into the Russian and Greek Orthodox churches in the East (AD 1448) and the Catholic and the Protestant churches in the West (since the Reformation in AD 1517). Before the schism of the eleventh century, the terms "Catholic" and "Christian" were often used synonymously by believers in both the East and the West because "catholic" merely meant "universal" (from the Greek word katholikos).

Whew!


Monday, February 13, 2006

More Mensa

Find the word that fits the definitions below when it's: (1) a whole word and (2) divided into two words.
  1. Whole word: pained expression
  2. Two words: (a) severe (b) star performer

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Fellini Would Have Been Proud

We caught the end of the opening ceremonies in Turin ... our minds were boggled. I guess that opening ceremonies are the Olympic funnybone. Although they sure know how to light a torch with style ... once the poor thing finally gets there.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Without a Doubt

If there is someone on your blogroll who makes your world a better place just because that person exists and who you would not have met (in real life or not) without the internet, then post this same sentence on your blog.
Not just someone but many, many "ones" who have enriched my life both through their blog and through coming to visit mine. Via TO who is one of them.

A Little Poem for Advertising Agencies

When a client proves refractory,
Show a picture of his factory.
If the boss still moans and sighs,
Make his logo twice the size.
But only in the direst cases
Ever show the clients' faces.

Attributed to David Ogilvy
Brought to mind by a client who wanted his bio on his website because "his customers" were complaining. Right. His customers ... what an ego.

Podcast Spotlight

CATHOLIC MORMON PODCAST
I ignored this podcast at first, thinking that anyone who thought there was such a thing as a Catholic Mormon was very, very confused. Luckily, I later saw a description and gave it a try. Rob was a cradle Catholic who had fallen away from the Church. Sarah was a devout Mormon. They met, fell in love and knew they needed to resolve their religious differences. Searching for the truth they spent alternate weekends at RCIA and with Mormon missionaries for a year. At the end of it all, Rob was back in the Church and Sarah was undecided. It took another year of RCIA for her to feel that Catholic was the way to go.

This podcast is done for those who may be on a similar path, no matter what the religions at odds among mixed religion couples. Rob and Sarah take turns talking about different aspects of the world's largest Christian religion (Catholicism) and the world's fastest growing religion (Mormonism). They have an easy going and personable style.

I have found it very informative about the Mormon faith. They have been generally accurate about Catholicism (just off on a few details that have been relatively minor so far) so I think they probably are at least that accurate about the Mormon faith as well.

If you have questions about either faith, or how they relate to each other, this is a great place to start getting some answers.

The Hobbit from Rudy


Did anyone else watch My Name is Earl last night and see Randy talking about the hobbit from Rudy? I wish I could remember the whole line because it was truly hilarious.

You know until that moment I never twigged to the fact that Sean Astin was Rudy. I knew, of course, that he was Sam in the Lord of the Rings and that he's now in 24. It is great to see him playing such a different role and showing his range. I was never a huge fan of Rudy but can't believe I forgot who the main actor was.

Thursday, February 9, 2006

In Praise of Ordinary Time

"According to the Catholic liturgical calendar," she explained, "all the days of the year that are not Lent, Easter, Advent, or Christmas are called Ordinary Time. So here we are: Easter is over and Christmas is still a long way off. I guess you could say that this is the time in which we're meant to feel that we have all the time in the world."

... Ordinary Time is all those days you do not remember when you look back on your life. Unless, of course, the Virgin Mary came to visit in the middle of it and everything was changed: before and after; then and now; past, present, and future.
Our Lady of the Lost and Foundby Diane Schoemperlen
Are we all snuggling up to our Ordinary Time? That makes it really more special than ordinary, doesn't it?

I like Louise's remark that in other places round the world they are busy anticipating carnival, the celebration of good things before turning to austerity. Time enough for Lent when Lent is upon us (a little prep perhaps the week before is not a bad thing but three weeks ahead?) I'll go for enjoying what I have now. Just in case the Virgin Mary comes to visit and I might miss it by looking ahead too far.

UPDATE:
Yowsa! Barb nails it in the comments ... now why didn't I think of this? That Lent is, in itself, a time of preparation.
I guess the question is, how do we prepare for a Time of Preparation?

Why prepare? Why not just jump in, quiet down and let God show us where He wants us to go during this Lent? What if you come up with some Really Great Spiritual Practice on, say, the Second Sunday of Lent? Do you say it's too late to employ it now, because Lent is underway? Or do you embrace the fact that the Holy Spirit just turned on a lightbulb in your soul?

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

A Bit About Knitting

Or, actually, the raw materials for knitting...
woolgathering\WOOL-gath-uh-ring\ (noun): indulgence in idle daydreaming

In Wales, woolgathering, or gwlana, was a social custom adopted to provide for poorer wives of laborers who did not have access to wool of their own to spin. It involved walking along hedgerows and stone walls and picking off wool that was left behind as the sheep had passed by. Later, after the custom was in little use, woolgathering was considered an unprofitable enterprise. Its practitioners were perceived to wander aimlessly and gained little for their efforts. Hence the association of woolgathering with your mind wandering aimlessly.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Monday, February 6, 2006

News You Don't Normally Hear From Iraq

From my brother. Thanks John!
Iraqi, U.S. troops aid flood victims in Iraq

February 6, 2006

TIKRIT, Iraq (Army News Service, Feb. 6, 2006) – Iraqi and U.S. Soldiers rescued dozens of people southeast of Mosul Saturday after powerful storms swept through northern Iraq, causing flooding along a Tigris River tributary.

Soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Iraqi Army Division used small boats and braved strong currents to rescue nearly 100 people stranded on small islands in the rain-swollen Great Zab River.

Two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters from the 542nd Medical Company (Air Ambulance) responded to the Ninevah governor’s request for assistance and transported two men stranded on an island that the boats couldn’t reach because of the current. The MEDEVAC crews also dropped off food and drinking water.

Two OH-58 Kiowa helicopters searched the river’s course for additional victims, but none were found, officials said.

(Editor’s note: Information provided by the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Public Affairs at FOB Speicher.)

A Little Mensa for the Rest of Us

For those of us who thrill to words instead of numbers ...
The names of five people are hidden in the sentence below. Can you find them? (The letters are in consecutive order.)

Really, a wanted man fleeing from the police who saw a police car looking for him would run and hide.
Answer in invisi-script:
Al, Ted, Lee, Carl, Nan (Lya is also acceptable.)

I'm Not a Football Expert But ...

... it sure seems to me as if Seattle should have won the Superbowl. There were possibly three and definitely two terrible calls by referees who should have been ashamed to be officiating at that game if that's the best they can do. Not that Seattle didn't blow it themselves a lot by dropping the ball so much.

As for the halftime show we were just plain bored, except when we were just plain horrified by Mick and the gang's time ravaged faces and physiques. Face it guys, old man wobbly arms happen to skinny people too ... you get old and your skin tone goes. Ugh!

Most of the commercials were terrible, especially the Pepsi ads. I know a lot of people liked the FedEx caveman ad but I didn't really care about it. My favorites were the Ameriquest ads (doctor with the defibrillators and the awkward airplane moment), the Clydesdale colt trying to pull the Budweiser wagon (yes, I'm sentimental), and the magic refrigerator. Best recycled idea were the working with monkeys (and jackasses) ads.

Quick Reviews

Potshot by Robert Parker: One of the Spenser books, the tough guy detective with the heart of a poet. I have read these books for years but had gotten rather tired of the style and so not picked any up for a while. Beginning where I left off, I am finding these a source of light and constant entertainment.

Not Enough Horses by Les Roberts: This is from an earlier series than the Milan Jacovich books I've been reading. I found this Hollywood detective story to be rather predictable. Since I usually read along without trying to solve the mystery it is unusual that I pick up on the murderer and motive halfway through ... but that is what happened with this one. Stick with the Jacovich stories.

Cooking for the Week : Leisurely Weekend Cooking for Easy Weekday Meals: Reteaching us that principle we have forgotten or perhaps never learned at our mothers' knees ... cook a big meal that has the components of different menus throughout the week. This small book looks quite promising and I am going to be following a week's worth of advice to see how it works. We were pleasantly surprised with Caramelized Onions and Carrots this weekend so I am interested to see how the rest of the recipes go together.

These are #13, 14, and 15 of books read in 2006.

Saturday, February 4, 2006

More Best First Lines

After seeing that list for the top 100 best first lines from novels, I started wondering how many of my favorite books had memorable first lines. I was surprised to see that it wasn't many of them. Here are the ones that grabbed me.
This is a story about magic and where it goes and perhaps more importantly where it comes from and why, although it doesn't pretend to answer all or any of these questions.
Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett

The pretender to the Emperor's throne was a fat thirty-seven-year-old Chinaman called Artie Wu who always jogged along Malibu Beach right after dawn even in summer, when dawn came round as early as 4:42.
Chinaman's Chance by Ross Thomas

You'll understand this story better if I tell you a lie.
Sky Coyote by Kage Baker

When the girl came rushing up the steps, I decided she was wearing far too many clothes.
Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis

The building was on fire and it wasn't my fault.
Blood Rites by Jim Butcher

Everything starts somewhere, although many physicists disagree.
Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

I should have known something was very wrong when the Mules started flying erratically.
Twelve Fair Kingdoms by Suzette Haden Elgin

Johnny never knew for certain why he started seeing the dead.
Johnny and the Dead by Terry Pratchett
There are some books that can't be done justice by simply the first lines because it is the entire first paragraph that is a delight. Here are three of my favorites.
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms, and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit hole, and that means comfort.
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Friday, February 3, 2006

Are You Ready to Rumble: Evolution (yes, again)

Darwinian evolution is plainly unavailing in this exercise or that era, since Darwinian evolution begins with self-replication, and self-replication is precisely what needs to be explained. But if Darwinian evolution is unavailing, so, too, is chemistry. The fronds comprise "a random ensemble of polynucleotide sequences" (emphasis added); but no principle of organic chemistry suggests that aimless encounters among nucleic acids must lead to a chain capable of self-replication.

If chemistry is unavailing and Darwin indisposed, what is left as a mechanism? The evolutionary biologist's finest friend: sheer dumb luck.

Was nature lucky? It depends on the payoff and the odds. The payoff is clear: an ancestral form of RNA capable of replication. Without that payoff, there is no life, and obviously, at some point, the payoff paid off. The question is the odds.

For the moment, no one knows how precisely to compute those odds, if only because within the laboratory, no one has conducted an experiment leading to a self-replicating ribozyme. But the minimum length or "sequence" that is needed for a contemporary ribozyme to undertake what the distinguished geochemist Gustaf Arrhenius calls "demonstrated ligase activity" is known. It is roughly 100 nucleotides.

Whereupon, just as one might expect, things blow up very quickly. As Arrhenius notes, there are 4100 or roughly 1060 nucleotide sequences that are 100 nucleotides in length. This is an unfathomably large number. It exceeds the number of atoms contained in the universe, as well as the age of the universe in seconds. If the odds in favor of self-replication are 1 in 1060, no betting man would take them, no matter how attractive the payoff, and neither presumably would nature.

"Solace from the tyranny of nucleotide combinatorials," Arrhenius remarks in discussing this very point, "is sought in the feeling that strict sequence specificity may not be required through all the domains of a functional oligmer, thus making a large number of library items eligible for participation in the construction of the ultimate functional entity." Allow me to translate: why assume that self-replicating sequences are apt to be rare just because they are long? They might have been quite common.

They might well have been. And yet all experience is against it. Why should self-replicating RNA molecules have been common 3.6 billion years ago when they are impossible to discern under laboratory conditions today? No one, for that matter, has ever seen a ribozyme capable of any form of catalytic action that is not very specific in its sequence and thus unlike even closely related sequences. No one has ever seen a ribozyme able to undertake chemical action without a suite of enzymes in attendance. No one has ever seen anything like it.

The odds, then, are daunting; and when considered realistically, they are even worse than this already alarming account might suggest. The discovery of a single molecule with the power to initiate replication would hardly be sufficient to establish replication. What template would it replicate against? We need, in other words, at least two, causing the odds of their joint discovery to increase from 1 to 1060 to 1 in 10120. Those two sequences would have been needed in roughly the same place. And at the same time. And organized in such a way as to favor base pairing. And somehow held in place. And buffered against competing reactions. And productive enough so that their duplicates would not at once vanish in the soundless sea.

In contemplating the discovery by chance of two RNA sequences a mere 40 nucleotides in length, Joyce and Orgel concluded that the requisite "library" would require 1048 possible sequences. Given the weight of RNA, they observed gloomily, the relevant sample space would exceed the mass of the earth. And this is the same Leslie Orgel, it will be remembered, who observed that "it was almost certain that there once was an RNA world."

To the accumulating agenda of assumptions, then, let us add two more: that without enzymes, nucleotides were somehow formed into chains, and that by means we cannot duplicate in the laboratory, a pre-biotic molecule discovered how to reproduce itself.
Just a snippet (that's how long this very long article is) from a Commentary magazine article that I found quite interesting, especially in terms of how difficult, nay impossible, it has been for scientists to pin down the origins of life.

Again, I will comment that I don't have any particular problem with evolutionary theory except for the part where complete chance and mutation are put forward as fact. In fact, this is a philosophical approach, very much like that of ID proponents. Neither is provable ... or has been to date at any rate as far as I know.

It is long but worth it if you are interested in the subject. Do go read the entire article.

UPDATE
I have had a heckuva time with those darned numbers.Thanks to Dr. Thursday for helping me and any errors are mine alone.

More Tough Guy Stuff

COLLISION BEND by Les Roberts

Another Milan Jacovich mystery has him detecting the murder of a local television news reporter at the behest of a former girlfriend in order to clear her current boyfriend. I guessed who done it but not how or why ... and it was another good page turner from Roberts. The series is recommended as a nice escape from reality following the tough detective with the heart of gold.

This is #12 of books read in 2006.

Thursday, February 2, 2006

The Manolo, He Says What The Happy Catholic Is Thinking

Manolo says, undoubtedly, the world it would be the much more super fantastic place if the Manolo actually did have the police powers.

The first law to be strenuously enforced? One must dress appropriately for the occasion.

Under no conceivable circumstance should one wear the slogan-bearing t-shirt to the Statement of the Union Speech. And, if you are silly enough to do this, you deserve to be led out in shame to the Capitol Rotunda where the gay-but-fashion-challenged Fab Five they will publicly make you over into the ridiculous metrosexual. This they should do even if you are the woman.

Trust the Manolo, wearing the political t-shirt to the formal ceremonial event, it does nothing for your cause. Indeed, the trivality of such attire, it perhaps even undermines the seriousness of your position.

P.S. By the way, the Manolo he has already addressed the issue of what is the appropriate feetwear to wear to the ceremonial events.
On another blog someone mentioned that if there are no rules on the dress code, then no one should have taken it upon themselves to make up their own ... because you can't fairly accuse someone for breaking a rule that doesn't exist.

When I read that I thought that anyone with half a brain (and this includes the Republican chick who was tossed also for t-shirt wear) knows that you dress formally for an occasion of this importance. This is what mothers have drilled into their children's heads for time immemorial. They are called "unspoken" rules because everyone knows them.

Yeah, those brazen t-shirt wearers should have been turned away at the door instead of later, when no doubt someone with all of his or her brain spotted what was going. But let's get real. Dressing down for the State of the Union Address is bad form no matter what your message.

As the Manolo wisely points out to us.

Best First Lines

"Take my camel, dear," said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass. —Rose Macaulay, The Towers of Trebizond (1956)

It was a pleasure to burn. —Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (1953)

All this happened, more or less. —Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)

You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter. —Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885)

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)
American Book Review gives their picks for the 100 best first lines from novels. Those above are from the books I have read that were included on that list. My favorite of them is that from Pride and Prejudice which best gives a taste of the delights to come. Below is the first line of a book I've been thinking about reading. I find that first line to be a delight in itself. Via People of the Book.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. —Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

Bleg

From an email of a reader who wants to recommend a parish to someone ... I know we discussed this once before but can't for the life of me remember the answers or find the thread. Any help is appreciated.
Do you know any sensible solid good Catholic parishes in the North Dallas area?
There is, of course, my own church, St. Thomas Aquinas. I know that St. Anne's in Coppel is also good. Any others to recommend?

Are We Feeling Smart Yet?

Another Mensa puzzle ... for those who don't experience brain freeze at the sight of numbers.
Start with the number of Apostles in the Bible, subtract the cube of 2, add the number of Greek Fates, then add the number of the winds, in popular parlance.

What number do you get?
Answer below in clever, invisi-script (highlight with cursor to read).
11 (12 - 8 = 4 + 3 = 7 + 4)

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Pope Benedict Explains Deus Caritas Est

Catholic Outsider has translated a letter that the Pope wrote for the readers of the Italian magazine “Famiglia Cristiana” explaining the encyclical.
Here we find two questions: Can’t the Church leave this service to so many other philanthropic organizations?

This is the answer: No, the Church cannot do that. She has to practice love for the neighbor also as a community, otherwise she will announce the God of love in an incomplete and insufficient way...
Really good ... and much easier to read than I found that encyclical, by the way. Go read it.

Free Will, the Theology of Prosperity and the Temptation of Jesus

You wouldn't think that our last prayer group meeting with Fr. L. would have covered such broad ground ... but then y'all don't know Fr. L. He's a wide ranging thinker.

There is no way I can do our discussion justice but I will put a few of the "holy 2x4" moments I had when we were talking about the upcoming readings for next Sunday.
Reading I
Jb 7:1-4, 6-7

Job spoke, saying:
Is not man's life on earth a drudgery?
Are not his days those of hirelings?
He is a slave who longs for the shade,
a hireling who waits for his wages.
So I have been assigned months of misery,
and troubled nights have been allotted to me.
If in bed I say, "When shall I arise?"
then the night drags on;
I am filled with restlessness until the dawn.
My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle;
they come to an end without hope.
Remember that my life is like the wind;
I shall not see happiness again.
Of course, there was the obvious conversation about extreme depression that anyone would be likely to suffer when losing one's home, business, children, health ... and after having your friends come and beat on you for a while.

However, Fr. L. drew us into a discussion of free will and predestination after saying that the very short take on Job is "why do bad things happen to good people?" Is it random? Is it because God is smiting you? Does God have a plan for your life? If so, just how specifically does He work in our daily lives? Well, of course, there's no concrete, provable answer to that. It is all opinion and interpretation depending on many factors in each person's viewpoint.

I realized that one of the reasons I have never really taken to Job's story is that, in many ways, it is like reading a blog with too many arguing commenters. Everyone spends a lot of time fervently advancing their arguments but there often is no concrete answer because the question is too theoretical (or theological in the case of St. Blog's which quite often is the same thing). It is a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. And that is basically what we are left with in the end of Job ... as life and God are mysteries that none of us can truly comprehend.

The big revelation for me was when Fr. L. pointed out that Job and his friends are, at least in part, arguing from the basis that all good things come from God who rewards you for your righteousness. So when those good things are taken away, you must have done something wrong. That is a way of thinking that is all too easy for any of us to fall into in daily life, much less when total disaster hits as it did for Job. What we forget is that all good things come from God and we are not owed any of them. Which all made for an interesting discussion.
Gospel
Mk 1:29-39

On leaving the synagogue
Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.
Simon's mother-in-law lay sick with a fever.
They immediately told him about her.
He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.
Then the fever left her and she waited on them.

When it was evening, after sunset,
they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.
The whole town was gathered at the door.
He cured many who were sick with various diseases,
and he drove out many demons,
not permitting them to speak because they knew him.

Rising very early before dawn, he left
and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.
Simon and those who were with him pursued him
and on finding him said, "Everyone is looking for you."
He told them, "Let us go on to the nearby villages
that I may preach there also.
For this purpose have I come."
So he went into their synagogues,
preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.
A couple of things here. First, is the way this story fits the "miracle story" format (which I had never thought about ever). When Jesus heals someone it is instantaneous and absolute. Simon's MIL doesn't just start feeling a bit better. She hops up and starts working away serving everyone.

The big "aha" was when Fr. L. asked if anyone saw the possiblity of a "subtle temptation" of Jesus in this story. He pointed out that in St. Luke's gospel, after Jesus has been tempted in the desert, St. Luke says that the devil left him for a while. Which leads to the inference that Jesus was tempted more later.

Basically, without a solid grounding in prayer, in God's will for him, it would have been so easy for Jesus to go back with the disciples to the people of the town who were waiting for him as if he were a rock star. He could have settled down and been the "god" of the town and made everyone come to him. They'd have fed him, he'd have looked out for them. These are temptations which come from the human spirit just as easily as from the devil. It is a reflection of Jesus' wholly human nature to think about how that temptation would have been there for him.

But Jesus never settled. He never took the easy way out (as we know all too well). He always went to the people instead of making them find their ways to him.

All of the above leads to some big questions for our lives which are easy to keep mulling over through the rest of the week. How are we grounded? In what do we place our trust? What has to be taken away from us before we question God? Do we settle?

Just In Case Anyone Thought That Catholic Schooling Makes Kids Any Holier Than Anyone Else

This was prominently featured in the latest Bishop Lynch newsletter for parents and students.
CHANGES IN PROCEDURES FOR ADMITTANCE TO SCHOOL DANCES

The administration and staff of Bishop Lynch are very concerned that some students arrive at school dances under the influence of alcohol, posing a serious safety risk to themselves and to others. In an effort to ensure the safety and well-being of students, the following procedures will be instituted beginning with the upcoming Sadie Hawkins Dance, and will remain in effect for subsequent school sponsored dances:
  1. Students must arrive to school dances by 9:00 PM in order to be admitted to the dance. Please note that this is a change from the previous time of 10:00. Students arriving after 9:00 pm will not be admitted to the dance.

  2. Before admission to the dance, all students will be required to breathe into a portable breathalyzer. We do not wish to single out any particular student or group of students, and the only way to be fair to everyone is to test all students. The type of breathalyzer we are using will not require the students to place their mouths on the device; rather they will be breathing in close proximity to the device. Five breathalyzers will be in use at check in, and the time needed to test each student is approximately five seconds.

  3. If a student tests positive indicating the consumption of alcohol, (1) the parent or guardian will be notified to come to the school and transport the student home; and (2) the student will be subject to consequences pursuant to the Bishop Lynch High School Student Handbook.

We have shared this information with students at school and we encourage you to discuss it with your student at home. We appreciate your support of our efforts to ensure the safety of all students and a positive environment for all at school dances.
It comes down to the parents y'all ... THE PARENTS! (i can't possibly scream that loud enough!)

Also, don't ya think that sometimes these Catholic school kids must be much, much stupider than other kids? Even waaaay back in my day it was a given that if kids were gonna drink, the last place to go was a school dance ... because they wouldn't turn a blind eye (as I have heard that some parents do).