Wednesday, September 30, 2009

So Many Books, So Little Time

I am seriously behind on book reviews. Every time I think I am going to get a chance to review something, work gets in the way. If only I didn't have to pay bills, I'd just write reviews for you all day.

As well, I've gotten in a slew of books recently. And most of them are good, y'all. Which is why I have about six of them "in progress" all over the house.

Here is a bit of myIn Progress/To Read list, just to give you an idea.

Mary, Mother of the Son trilogy by Mark Shea
These books I actually bought and let me tell you that is a rarity around here, especially for theological materials since I am blessed with review copies from various publishers. I was not much interested in these books until I read The Curt Jester's glowing review. I really am glad that I plopped down the cash. The first book is fantastic so far and I enjoy Mark's style so much that I am picking it up instead of Frederica (by Georgette Heyer) some nights for bedtime reading. Now that's a ringing endorsement as any Heyer-lover will tell you. The Curt Jester was right on the money with this comment:
All of my hesitations about a three volume apologetics book set on Mary were dispelled. Mark's writing is informative and much of it with a smile behind it. His writing is not adversarial in any way and so any Protestants reading his book will not get any sense of "us against them." Like so many ex-Catholics, Mark is quite positive about his time as a Protestant, but is also very good at showing the cracks that he started to see when he questioned some basic assumptions or psuedo-knowledge. So I think these are great books to read both as an apologetics work and/or spiritual reading.
The Abbess of Andalusia by Lorraine V. Murray
After reading several reviews of a very unsatisfactory fairly new biography of Flannery O'Connor, it was a pleasure to read the materials on this very different sounding book about her.
In these pages you will come to know Flannery O'Connor not only as a writer and an icon, but as a theologian and apologist; as a spiritual director and a student of prayer; as a suffering soul who learned obedience and merited grace through infirmity; and truly, as the Abbess of her own small, but significant, spiritual house.
Just got it today, so I must read in a dedicated fashion to clear room. Our Catholic women's book club is going to be reading a few of O'Connor's short stories since one member offered to do the work of researching just what they might mean. (I've only read one of her stories but I was flummoxed until I read a couple of papers on it.)

This Tremendous Lover by M. Eugene Boylan, O.C.R.
This is one of those books whose name I have seen mentioned time and again in other books. I picked it out from Tiber River, part of Aquinas and More Catholic Store's review program. By the way, there are a lot of good reviews over at Tiber River and some interesting review lists as well. I must say that I received the book and was a little taken aback. I hadn't expected a 350 page, densely packed work. Also, the modern forward kept stressing the fact that this had been very popular in its day but that parts of it were necessarily out of date since it was 60 years old. However, upon flipping through it, I came upon section after section full of common sense about how to live one's faith and how to build a relationship with God in the midst of a busy life. As well, the first chapter is one I may have to excerpt here. Boylan talks about the Trinity in such a wonderful way that I felt I actually had a real understanding of something which usually just makes my head hurt. So far, I'm lovin' it.

The Power of Pause by Terry Hershey
An easy to read book of 52 reflections about how slowing down our lives will make them better and help us connect with God more. Yes, we've heard it a thousand times, but Hershey makes you want to do it. In fact, Tom and I have begun doing just that thing ... but that's the subject for a different post.

Retreat in the Real World
This is the book form of a popular personal retreat was originally offered online through Creighton University. In fact, I got about a quarter of the way through that retreat before I slipped away. Part of that was from having to print out pages to put in my notebook and so forth. (Hey, I never said I wasn't a light weight, ok?) At any rate, I am looking forward to pursuing it with this more accessible form.

The Bible Blueprint by Joe Paprocki
An engaging and simple look at the Bible which encourages us to read and study it.What has me interested in the back half which has a very interesting resource list and ideas about how to begin parish Bible studies.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Feast of the Archangels

This is reposted from a couple of years ago. I have been thoroughly enjoying the links to other bloggers' old posts as well ... sometimes in blogging we forget to take a minute to look back. As I come across other posts today, I'll add to the links below.



The liturgy for today celebrates the feast of the three archangels who have been venerated throughout the history of the Church, Michael (from the Hebrew Who is like God?) is the archangel who defends the friends of God against Satan and all his evil angels. Gabriel, (the Power of God), is chosen by the Creator to announce to Mary the mystery of the Incarnation. Raphael, (the Medicine of God), is the archangel who takes care of Tobias on his journey.
I have a special fondness for angels and it is a sign of my Catholic geekiness, I suppose, that I got an excited "Christmas morning" sort of thrill when I realized today's feast.

I read for the first time about angels when we were in the hospital with my father-in-law after his stroke. That made a big impression on me at the time. I always attribute the miracle that happened to the Holy Family but the angels are divine messengers and so have their place in it as well. Because of that I always have remembered that we can call not only on our friends for intercessory prayer, but also on angels for intercession and help. The prayer to St. Michael is one of my favorites.
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray. And do thou, O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl around the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
Some more on angels.
You should be aware that the word "angel" denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels.
From a homily by Pope Saint Gregory the Great.
Sadly, I don't have any angel food cake (it really is not that sad an occurrence as I abhor angel food cake), however I may stop by and pick up some heavenly, cloud-like meringues on the way home so we can celebrate properly!

Other good places to read about angels today:
  • Images taken from this post by Mama T which you should go read also.
  • Broken Alabaster has not only a nice reflection on the archangels but shares some of her family's encounters with angels ... some good, some not.
  • Salve Regina has a gaggle of lovely angel art as well as some nice commentary
  • Some good archangel prayers thanks to Michelle H.
  • Georgette shares one of the best excerpts I've ever seen about these angels (I'm printing this one out for repeated reading)
  • Mike Aquilina keeps us grounded in the fathers of the church as well as providing useful links to other good resources.
  • On the practical level, Elena has a good idea for an angelic feast
Here are some things I have written about angels which include facts as well as personal experiences (although these tend more toward guardian angels):

Monday, September 28, 2009

Recipe for a Couple of Happy Hours ...

... can be found over at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Believe it or not, I have plenty to say about how this is a reflection of some changes in our spiritual approach. But I can't get the time. So look at that post as step 1, background.

More later, my friends.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

"I'm broken."

Finally got a chance to watch the season premiere of House which I found surprisingly riveting. Just as surprising was the fact that I was on House's side to beat the doctor, mistakenly so, until we were brought to the same realizations as House was.

"I need help."

"They didn't break me. I'm broken."

Those words, spoken in such a realistic way, made me think not only of House's situation in the psychiatric ward, but of myself. Of all of us, truth be told.

That is why an encounter with Christ leaves us joyful, happy, hopeful. We are broken and it is only He who can show us reality, show us how to become more and more the people we were created to be.

A difficult road though not nearly as difficult for me as for some others. For which I am thankful.

There was a lot of truth in that show on many levels and I continue to be impressed with the writers.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Here's Something We Can All Do to Reduce the Cost of Healthcare

What cures colds, flu, sore throats, sore muscles, headaches, stomach aches, diarrhea, menstrual cramps, hangovers, back pain, jaw pain, tennis elbow, blisters, acne and colic, costs nothing, has no weird side effects and doesn't require a prescription?

Plain old-fashioned time. But it's often the hardest medicine for patients to take.

"Most people's bodies and immune systems are wonderful in terms of handling things—if people can be patient," says Ted Epperly, a family physician in Boise, Idaho, and president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

"I have a mantra: You can do more for yourself than I can do for you," says Raymond Scalettar, a Washington, D.C., rheumatologist and former chairman of the American Medical Association. But, he says, "some patients are very medicine-oriented, and when you tell them they aren't good candidates for a drug they've heard about on TV, they don't come back."

An estimated one-third to one-half of the $2.2 trillion Americans spend annually on health care in the U.S. is spent on unnecessary tests, treatments and doctor visits. Much of that merely buys time for the body to heal itself.
Patience can be a virtue in more than your spiritual life. Read it all here.

Who Knew So Much Amusement Could Be Mined from that Summit in Pittsburgh?

Dr. Boli, that's who. For example:

IF ANYONE HAS a pocket calculator that could be lent for a day for the good of global economic policy, it would be much appreciated. Please bring the calculator to the Penn Avenue entrance of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, and ask for “Barack.”

Its It's This is my biggest punctuation headache.

From the always amusing Savage Chickens in honor of National Punctuation Day.

Dallas Cowboys Release Jerry Jones

IRVING, TEXAS—In an attempt to cut the franchise's losses and "move forward in a positive direction," the Dallas Cowboys severed ties with controversial owner Jerry Jones Monday, ending their tumultuous 20-year relationship with the divisive figure.

According to sources within the Cowboys organization, the decision to release Jones was influenced by the lack of any playoff victories in more than 12 years, the owner's distracting sideline antics, and his selfish, "me first" attitude, which many said was having a cancerous effect on the clubhouse.
The Onion is laughing but many of us in Dallas have had this little tidbit on our wish list for years. Oh, let's face it, since Jones bought the franchise. It's funny because it's true ... (warning: The Onion often contains explicit content.)

Strong Women and Holy Mothers

How many of you know the name Drana Bojaxhiu?

She was an amazing woman. Albanian by birth. Her husband was murdered, leaving her penniless with three young children. So she started her own business-a rug-making business, and she worked hard to make it a success. She never stopped taking her kids to daily Mass and she made sure the family was always generous with what little they had. Every Sunday after Mass she and her children would take food and clothing to the poor. Drana also opened her home to give shelter and aid to women and their children who had been abused or had nowhere else to go.

Nobody remembers Drana's name. But we all know the name Mother Teresa, or as she is known today, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Drana was her mother.

Mother Teresa said her mother used to tell her: "When you do good, do it quietly, as if you were tossing a pebble into the sea." That is a beautiful image of the hidden life. Of the life lived totally in the presence of God. It reminds me of what St. John the Baptist said: "[Christ] must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).

This is an important spiritual lesson for every Christian. But it seems especially important for those of you who are mothers. In the course of your day, you will do many heroic things, you will make sacrifices that no one sees. Sometimes even the people you are sacrificing for don't appreciate your efforts.

But your faith, your love, can move mountains-even if in this lifetime you will never see them move. You are sowing what others will reap, as St. Paul used to say.

Did Drana know that her daughter would grow up to be a great saint who would change the world? Of course not, how could she? But that wasn't why she was doing what she was doing. Her motive was love. Not recognition. Not "results."
Archbishop Gomez
in a speech to the Catholic Women's Conference
Hoo boy, that man knows how to write an inspiring piece. I found it to be not only uplifting but, what is equally helpful, encouraging as bits of it come back to me in the daily slog. Go read it all.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Specially for the Pittsburgh Summit

Dr. Boli's Encyclopedia of Misinformation has a special supplement for the Pittsburgh summit that made me laugh so hard, I felt I had the duty to direct you to it. A few samples:
Australia. In an Australian sink, water spirals up from the drain and is evacuated through the spigot.

Canada. By an embarrassing oversight, Canada was left out of the three previous G-20 summits, but Canadian delegates were too polite to say anything.

Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel was the first German chancellor to beat a Russian president in a snowball fight.

Mexico. President Calderón was detained briefly by airport security after reportedly threatening to punch the next person who asked him about the Maya calendar.

Honda's Personal Mobility Device ... or A Unicycle By Any Other Name Would Scare Me As Much

I just have visions of falling off ... yes, I know that's probably next to impossible but I'm just sayin'. Also does anyone else flash on the Wall-E humans in their personal chairs when they see this?

Read all about it at Engadget. Thanks to Tom, my personal tech-alert guru, for the scoop.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Inspiration: Failure is Often Essential

I saw this video this morning, courtesy of The Anchoress.

Go watch it.

No, really. Take the time.

It's short and I'll wait.


Ok, wasn't that good? Inspiring? A wonderful reminder in the midst of our achievement-only oriented world?

It immediately put me in mind of an essay* I just read the other day. It does not make exactly the same point, but it builds upon what is seen in the video above. I'm sharing it here. (Info about the book is below. I encourage you to read a copy.)
Be the First Penguin

Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted.

That's an expression I learned when I took a sabbatical at Electronic arts, the video-game maker. It just stuck with me, and a I've ended up repeating it again and again to students.

It's a phrase worth considering at every brick wall we encounter, and at every disappointment. It's also a reminder that failure is not just acceptable, it's often essential.

When I taught the "Building Virtual Worlds" course, I encouraged students to attempt hard things and to not worry about failing. I wanted to reward that way of thinking. So at the end of each semester, I'd present one team of students with a stuffed animal--a penguin. It was called "The First Penguin Award" and went to the team that took the biggest gamble in trying new ideas or new technology, while failing to achieve their stated goals. In sense, it was an award for "glorious failure," and it celebrated out-of-the-box thinking and using imagination in a daring way.

The other students came to understand: "First Penguin" winners were losers who were definitely going somewhere.

The title of the award came from the notion that when penguins are about to jump into water that might contain predators, well, somebody's got to be the first penguin. I originally called it "The Best Failure Award," but failure has so many negative connotations that students couldn't get past the word itself.

Over the years, I also made the point of telling my students that in the entertainment industry, there are countless failed products. It's not like building houses, where every house built can be lived in by someone. A video game can be created and never make it through research and development. Or else it comes out and no one wants to play it. Yes, video-game creators who've had successes are greatly valued. But those who've had failures are valued, too--sometimes even more so.

Start-up companies often prefer to hire a chief executive with a failed start-up in his or her background. The person who failed often knows how to avoid future failures. The person who knows only success can be more oblivious to all the pitfalls.

Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted. And experience is often the most valuable thing you have to offer.
Do I like failure? No, I hate it.

Once the pain begins to subside, however, I do try to learn from it. Because one failure is never the end. We are measured by how often we try and how often we pick ourselves up and where we go from there.

In life and in faith, that's the point.

(Side note: Tom and I must hold the record for taking the most time ever to read the brief book, The Last Lecture. Not the sort of book we normally pick up, it was a gift from my sister, but it is the gift that keeps on giving. We try to remember to read an essay an evening to each other. Clearly we often fail to remember, but we keep plugging! Read more about the book here.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

4th Pirates Movie Based on Tim Powers Novel

The Catholic blogosphere are big fans of sf author Tim Powers, who is one of our own (no, not a blogger, a Catholic). Looks as if we'll have hope that the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie might have a hope of being good. It's both named after and based on elements of Powers' book Stranger Tides.

This is confirmed here along with various other details, among which is the book synopsis.
The book follows the exploits of John “Jack Shandy” Chandagnac, who travels to the new world after the death of his puppeteer father to confront his uncle, who apparently has made off with the family inheritance. During the voyage, he gets to know a woman named Beth Hurwood and her father, an Oxford professor. Before they arrive, their ship is waylaid by pirates and, with the help of the professor and his assistant, the captain is killed and Chandagnac is forced to join the pirate crew. The reader discovers a sinister plot being concocted by the professor involving his dead wife, his living daughter and Blackbeard. Chandagnac, now known as “Jack Shandy”, must put a stop to these plans and save Beth Hurwood.
Jack Shandy, Jack Sparrow ... it all sounds like it would work.

Thanks to Scott from Rivets and Trees for that scoop!

Why I am a Happy Catholic

Because God changed my life. The before and after are a shocking contrast ... perhaps not to those on the outside, but for me on the inside it is undeniable.

This popped up in my random shuffle on the way to work in my God Mix playlist.

Hitting me like a brick, bringing home yet again the vividness of my joy in a new life. Prompting tears of thankfulness. (Expanded upon in this post from the archives. But said well enough below.)
So Far Away
by Staind

This is my life
Its not what it was before
All these feelings I’ve shared
And these are my dreams
That I’d never lived before
Somebody shake me
Cause I, I must be sleeping

Now that we're here,
It's so far away
All the struggle we thought was in vain
All the mistakes,
One life contained
They all finally start to go away
Now that we're here its so far away
And I feel like I can face the day
I can forgive and I’m not ashamed to be the person that I am today

These are my words
That I’ve never said before
I think I’m doing ok
And this is the smile
That I’ve never shown before

Somebody shake me
Cause I, I must be sleeping


I'm so afraid of waking
Please don't shake me
Afraid of waking
Please don't shake me

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dr. Horrible ...

... on the Emmys. Which I didn't watch because I was bemusedly viewing Tony Romo's one-man-destruction-band march the Cowboys to defeat.

But enough of my sorrow and anger. Let us all bask in TV's the internet's warm glowing warming glow ... we all know I'm a sucker for Dr. Horrible after all.

Podcasting in Plain English

The only thing they didn't make completely clear is that once you download it to your computer, you can listen to the podcast there. Via The Podcast Place.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Unlock the Secret of Productivity

Ready to change your life?

Here we go ...
Step 1. Buy a productivity book.
Any productivity book will do. I use a book called “The Now Habit.” It doesn’t matter what book you order though, because you probably won’t read it. You can use any random “increase your productivity” book.

Step 2. Look at the productivity book and tell yourself, “If I don’t get X done, I’m going to have to read that productivity book.” ...
Thanks to Tom for discovering and passing along this tip ...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Arrr, Mateys! It Be Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Savage Chickens has been swabbing the decks all week getting ready for Talk Like a Pirate Day. This was a particular favorite of mine but there be plenty o' treasure for all.

"God doesn't exist" versus "Isn't God a lovely idea?" Both sides of that debate lost.

The Wall Street Journal recently ran a big article supposedly debating evolution versus faith in God. As they put it:
We commissioned Karen Armstrong and Richard Dawkins to respond independently to the question "Where does evolution leave God?" Neither knew what the other would say. Here are the results.
Having had experience with independent reading of both authors, I rolled my eyes knowing that if they didn't know what the other would say then they just hadn't bothered listening to those well-worn records before.

Glancing through the article I saw that Dawkins, as always, was scornful. I don't understand why that guy is so very angry. As I've said before, a true atheist would laugh at putting so much energy into it.

Armstrong, as always, was vaguely in support of faith as something that ennobles man. Or something. I think she must be a media darling because that way of talking about faith is something the media can get behind. It is the true, personal encounter with God that tends to make them leery. Oh, where is a worthy successor to Billy Graham when we need him? He'd speak it and the media actually would print it.

What brought all this to mind again is that a friend sent me the pdf of the article and then this morning WSJ letters to the editor were dominated by readers' responses. I only see a general link to their letters page, so am going to show you my favorites but all were worth reading.
I could tell which side Mr. Dawkins was on. I wasn't sure about Ms. Armstrong.
Mike Guthrey, Franklin, Tenn.

Mr. Dawkins should leave the God question to others and stick to the evolution-versus-creation debate. Even I, an agnostic scientist, find his commentary polemic and off-putting. It is no wonder the God crowd is gaining in number; they are easier to read.
Katherine Helmetag, Troy, Mich.

As a retired scientist, I know that while parts of evolution are well-explained, there is no scientific explanation of the origin of life. If you accept that life began only because of random events, then you and science are acting on faith. Accepting an explanation on faith isn't a part of science, but is the way to God.
Howard Deutsch, Atlanta
Perhaps the next time that much ink is spilled over the question, the WSJ will go to the trouble of seeking out some people who aren't so predictable in voicing their opinions. Or who actually have fresh input and approaches in discussing the question.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Melting Polar Ice Caps Expose Hundred of Secret Arctic Lairs

"In August alone we discovered 44 mad scientist laboratories, three highly classified military compounds, and seven reanimated and very confused cavemen. That's more than twice the number we had found in the previous three decades combined."

"This is no longer conjecture," Lorenzen [noted climatologist] added. "This is a full-blown crisis."


"Last week a giant ice sheet broke off and split my prized underground complex nearly in half," said Dr. Raygun, a self-described psychotic mastermind best known for his diabolical thought-control experiments. "Now millions of dollars in state-of-the-art doomsday devices are gone—all because of the environmental carnage wrought by the human race."

"You spend your whole career concocting a brilliant scheme to wipe out all of mankind, and what happens?" Dr. Raygun continued. "They bring about a major global catastrophe completely on their own, those fools!"
This is The Onion at their very best. You must go read it all. (Warning: site can contain explicit content, although I did not notice any at this specific link.)

Friday Litany: The Cross

Because Monday was the Triumph of the Cross, this litany appealed to me. Short but good.

The cross is the hope of Christians.
The cross is the resurrection of the dead.
The cross is the way of the lost.
The cross is the saviour of the lost.
The cross is the staff of the lame.
The cross is the guide of the blind.
The cross is the strength of the weak.
The cross is the doctor of the sick.
The cross is the aim of the priests.
The cross is the hope of the hopeless.
The cross is the freedom of the slaves.
The cross is the power of the kings.
The cross is the water of the seeds.
the cross is the consolation of the bondsmen.
the cross is the source of those who seek water.
The cross is the cloth of the naked.
We thank you, Father, for the cross.
I have begun a personal prayer book where I am putting litanies that I like in the front, with the prayer requests in the back (because I don't have enough copying to do what with the quote journals, right?).

I found this at the mother lode for litanies which is a fascinating place to peruse.

David Bowie Extras Friday

The Anchoress had a bad day yesterday and she worked out of it by groovin' with David Bowie.

I, too, have a fondness for David Bowie although my thoughts turned more to his guest spot on Ricky Gervais' Extras. The best bit of that was the "behind the scenes" interview at the end, but I couldn't find that so here is part of the Extras turn. Not exactly the feel -good of "Let's Dance" but it made me laugh.

I am assuming that most people know Extras was a British sitcom about an actor and his best friend who is are professional extras in films and television programs. It got a bit dark toward the end but I found it very enjoyable. A good part of the fun was in seeing big stars play themselves completely at odd with public perceptions (one must also assume that it is completely at odds with reality ... these actors are all good eggs).

One of my favorite bits featured Ian McKellan.

Here's another with Orlando Bloom (a touch of bad language in here, btw).

I could go on and on ... but I see that I already have!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Message of Uncle Tom's Cabin

Anne is a Man has been reviewing Uncle Tom's Cabin as we have been reading it on the podcast (I say "we" ... I'm reading, he's listening). As each episode calls for comment, he's been posting it. It has provided a very fruitful conversation about racism to say the least.

Today he posts a commentary, as we draw close to the end of the book, which makes me very happy because he says the book has been recovered for him to a larger view of being a fine drama. I'm tellin' y'all ... best soap opera ever. Ever.

However, he expands with insightful upon a remark I made in the last episode.
In the latest episode, where Julie reads chapters 35 through 37 of Uncle Tom's Cabin, she makes a remark that can be expanded upon. She says of the character Cassy, that she represents the worst of the plight of being a slave. It did not help her she grew up as the woman of an estate; she was sold as a slave after all. And it did not help her to have good masters along the way; she ended up with Simon Legree and the hellish existence that went with that.

This is not just true for Cassy, it is true for all characters in the book, even those that end up well, or are not slaves at all. The brilliance of Uncle Tom's Cabin, I would argue, turns out to be that Stowe has succeeded in building a multi-charactered drama in which being a slave or a slave-holder for that matter is corrupting in the end. No good intentions and humane treatment can help the ever present danger of deliverance to the downside of slavery, to the excesses. For those who are not slaves, it presents too big a responsibility. For those who are slaves, it proves an unjust fate necessarily intertwined with their bounds. This, possibly, explains why the book was such a tremendous success even to the extent it can be argued it helped abolition come about. Stowe showed the American society there was no good way around slavery.

Apart from that being a drama that is extremely well crafted, it can easily be taken into a wider social context of subservience. How is the slavery of Uncle Tom's Cabin fundamentally different from segregation, low-wage countries, poverty and other social circumstances that render parts of society or the wider world powerless and another part in comfortable denial they can alleviate the powerlessness by their humanity.
In fact, in earlier chapters, Stowe does comment upon how other countries, notably England, have their own version of the slave system. It is just under a different name.

Now, this all took me back to the comparison that is very often made in this country in comparing the fight against slavery to the modern day struggle against abortion. This probably is not what Anne had in mind, but it is what came to my mind ... all the arguments and wiggling around the "elephant in the room" that is done to avoid the ultimate reality of killing human beings at will.

As well, what is little discussed is the great damage that is being done to the pro-abortion people every time they pull blinders over their eyes by focusing how to make their arguments more palatable ... just as we see in Uncle Tom's Cabin. As we see all levels and degrees of cooperation with slavery in UTC, there are likewise those same levels and degrees within those who cooperate with abortion. It is very sad to me.

Although not exactly on the same wavelength with this Uncle Tom's Cabin connection, anyone who is interested in further reading may be interested in this post from 2008, which includes the entirety of an earlier post I did in 2004 comparing slavery with abortion.

Nine Thumbs Up for iTunes 9

Finally, iTunes did an update that cared about me, the podcast junky.

If I've listened to part of a podcast, it now marked the little "new" dot as half gone instead of just erasing it as if it's been listened to all the way.

ALSO, if you have audiobook files or something you've imported and that wound up in music ... they now let you turn it into a podcast.


Whoever pushed through that change, I could kiss you!

(Hey, I told you I was a junky! That's the only sort of fanatic that would notice or need these changes.)

I'm not the only one noticing the myriad improvements. Tom's pretty excited about the improved Home Sharing feature. His favorite technology writer, Walt Mossberg, noticed that too and has his own grateful litany. Here's a little:
To me, the two biggest new features in iTunes 9 are something called Home Sharing and a new, easier way to organize the apps on an iPhone or iPod Touch.

For years, iTunes users have been able to wirelessly stream music from nearby computers running iTunes whose owners chose to share their music. But Home Sharing takes this one step further, allowing users to actually copy the song files from one computer to another.

Right inside iTunes, you can simply peer into the shared library on another computer set up to allow this, and then select the song you want and drag it into your own library. It doesn't delete the original from the other computer.

Quick Looks at Some Good Books

Something Old
Lord of the Hollow Dark by Russell Kirk
Mr. Apollinax gathers a group of 13 people together in a castle that was the scene of a horrific murder earlier in history. Known to each other only by pseudonyms taken from T.S. Eliot poems, the goal of this group is to experience a mystical "timeless moment." We see the story alternately through the eyes of innocent Marina who has brought her baby with her and hopes for a glimpse of God and through those of the lustful rapist Sweeny who has no thoughts but those of personal gain. The story is an interesting mix of horror, occult, and philosophy. This book irresistibly called to mind Edgar Allen Poe or perhaps H.P. Lovecraft, in that although the story was peopled with evil, twisted characters it is written in such a way that the reader does not actually become frightened. (Except at one point close to the end where I was surprised at how horrified and repelled I was by something a character said.) This leaves the reader free to appreciate the more philosophical aspects as well. It was written in a style that definitely reminded me of other 1970's vintage horror/occult books I had written which was a strange style of reminiscing. I'm not sure if I'll reread it but I do know that I couldn't put it down.

Something New
Ana Markovic by David Murdoch
We meet Ana, a homeless alcoholic, in the hospital where she is recovering from almost having died from alcohol poisoning. As she recovers, Ana begins to remember an amazing "dream" that began with St. Michael, the Archangel offering her a chance for redemption. Interlaced with the story of the dream are Ana's memories of why she became homeless, commentary about what it means to truly live one's faith as a Catholic, and analysis of how all this weaves together with modern life to make it necessary to fight a heroic battle for salvation. Ana feels she does not matter and God knows she does. The question becomes whether Ana can be made to believe it or whether she will reject God. This issue appealed to me, especially considering my atheistic parents. Murdoch's writing style is straight forward and direct. His reasoning is passionate and the teaching style of the story put me in mind of The Shack, although this is definitely a Catholic book. I read this partly because I was interested to see the apologetics for so many arguments that are raised these days against Christianity. However, mostly I read it ... in two days straight ... because I was hooked. I can't put my finger on why the way that I can with most of the books I read, but I found this book really interesting and enjoyed reading it. (Note: I did see some misspellings and a couple of format misses that should have been caught by an editor.)

Something for the Gents
Crossing the Goal -- Playbook on the Virtues
by Danny Abramowicz, Peter Herbeck, Curtis Martin and Brian Patrick
This is a study guide companion to the sports format EWTN show of the same name. However, I don't think that one must have seen the show to get a great deal of good out of the book. Using eye-catching graphics and subtitles like "Pregame," "Kickoff," and "Game Plan" to emphasize different sections, the book is a straight forward approach to why men should care about and practice the virtues. I liked this on two levels. The direct approach was very easy to understand but left room for conversation and thought. As a woman, it gave me a bit of insight into the issues that men struggle with which are different from those of my sex. As well, I really liked the idea that men would struggle and care about following Jesus in a ... well ... manly way. These days, that is a commodity all too little valued. It made me have an added appreciation and love for the Christian men in my life, both family and friends. I am not the target audience, of course, but I know a lot of men's men who would really appreciate the approach this book takes. Recommended.

Something for the Ladies
Courageous Love: A Bible Study on Holiness for Women
Courageous Virtue: A Bible Study On Moral Excellence for Women
Courageous Women: A Study On The Heroines Of Biblical History
by Stacy Mitch
I just encountered these Catholic Bible studies for women and am really impressed. I say that as someone who does not really enjoy self-guided studies where one must look up verses and answer questions. However, there is something compelling about the way that Mitch threads together thoughtful commentary, personal experiences, saints' quotes, and prayers with Church teachings and scripture. Even though each book has the leader's guide in the back (that's right ... the answers), I have been more interested in looking up verses and coming to my own conclusions. Distinctly surprising was the way that Mitch snuck up and struck me dumb on several occasions when I thought smugly that "everyone knows the answer to that" ... but humored the process by looking up the answer (I'm always the smart aleck rolling her eyes at the back of the class ... but you knew that right?). Of course, everyone might know those answers, but I didn't. Not only did this leave me respecting Mitch even more but some of those answers were very big ones that are repeatedly useful as I struggle in daily life to be a good disciple of Christ. These are great studies and I'm going to be recommending them to a lot of my friends.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Forgotten Crypt

A mysterious puzzle at the heart of Dallas.
A nefarious cult determined to protect it.
A white-knuckled race to uncover the Kiwanis Club's darkest secret.

The Forgotten Crypt
When world-famous Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned to the Texas Theater to analyze a mysterious rune—etched into the floor next to the mangled body of the head docent—he discovers evidence of the unthinkable: the resurgence of the ancient cult of the Inquinistas, a secret branch of the Kiwanis Club that has surfaced from the shadows to carry out its legendary vendetta against its mortal enemy, the Vatican.

Langdon's worst fears are confirmed when a messenger from the Inquinistas appears at Dealey Plaza to deliver a grim ultimatum ...
The Dan Brown Sequel Generator courtesy of Via that underappreciated blogger, The Paragraph Farmer.

Vocation Boom!

This is hosted at YouTube but comes from a great new site, Vocation Boom! It is designed to encourage and nurture vocations to the priesthood and you can see that they understand what they're talking about. For instance, I found their piece on what it really means to be a priest to be very inspirational personally in that it reminded me of how thankful I am that Jesus gives us priests ... here's a bit:
A Catholic priest is a man who has been called by God to live in persona Christi – in the person of Christ. In simple terms, that means that when man is ordained a priest, he receives a permanent mark on his soul – similar to the mark we all receive at baptism – that changes him forever and makes it possible for him to perform certain actions that otherwise only Jesus could perform. A priest’s primary purpose is to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass, and to feed God’s people with the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist, which the Church has always understood to be the main way that Christ’s death on the Cross is made available to people. Only a validly ordained priest can give this great gift to the world.

What this means is truly amazing. Because of the gift of holy orders – the priesthood – a man’s very soul is changed and he is made like Jesus in a way that someone who is not ordained can never experience. Jesus is God. And, as God, He is able to share His power with those men he calls to the priesthood, allowing them to do for God’s people what Jesus Himself does: feed us with His Body and Blood, forgive our sins, and more. ...
I also really liked their gallery which has gathered some excellent videos and links for easy viewing (for example, I see that my favorite Diocese of Paris video is included). Of course, my favorite is the video above which was created especially for this website right here in Dallas. I actually know two of the young men who are pursuing vocations as priests as they are from our parish.

There is much more there for anyone interested in pursuing or encouraging a vocation. A couple of the spots are awaiting info but I know that this site launched just this week so they probably will be filling in those gaps soon.

Check it out. Send the link to anyone you know who may need a bit of encouragement.

This is a good reminder for us also to pray for many men to hear the quiet whisper of God's call so that they respond "Here I am. I pray that we will have a Vocation Boom in the priesthood thanks to efforts like this helping show the way.

I completely forgot to mention that I also know the very talented designer who designed the site. (Ahem, that would be because Tom did the website layout for him.) He's good. Very good. And I don't throw around those terms lightly when speaking of design, believe me.

Just a comment also to say that my inside track on this isn't what makes me so interested in it. Frankly, after hearing all the behind the scenes discussions and work that goes into something, I am usually pretty tired of hearing about it by the time we see the final product. Vocation Boom surprised me because it came together to transcend all the pieces that went into it (also the sign of a good design). And, of course, it is about something I am passionately interested in ... as a Happy Catholic!

Book-ish Things: "Space Vulture" and "To Whom Shall We Go?"

Space Vulture
I just want to say that my copy now can boast the autographs of both authors. This is largely due to the good nature and generosity of co-author Gary K. Wolf in shepherding it through the mail (y'all, he wrote Roger Rabbit and he's sending me emails now ... can life have any more twists and turns and delight? I think now!). He also has pestered his publisher not once but twice to see if I can read Space Vulture on Forgotten Classics. Alas, Tor is not responding. I will repeat my previous brief review of the book here as I have now read it three times and continue to enjoy it.
Wolf is the creator of Roger Rabbit and the childhood friend who he used to read science fiction with is now the Archbishop of Newark. Lamenting the lack of old-style sci-fi, they got together and wrote a completely enjoyable book. Featuring a villain worthy of Ming the Merciless from the old Flash Gordon series, this book takes the reader on a classic space opera journey. We follow heroic Marshal Victor Corsaire, rascally con man Gil Terry, courageous widow Sheriff Cali Russell, and her two young sons as they battle Space Vulture. One plot device was very obvious after two different characters mentioned if from their points of view but other than that, this was a rollicking good time!
The brief review that follows deserves much more than I currently have time to give and for that I apologize. I will have a series of these brief reviews coming up.

To Whom Shall We Go? Lessons from the Apostle Peter
by Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan
I received and read this before Archbishop Dolan was assigned to New York and began receiving so much attention. However, having read this book I felt sure that New York City was receiving a good shepherd. In To Whom Shall We Go, we are reminded of all St. Peter's strengths, weaknesses, joys, and sorrows. In short, we are shown his humanity as he follows Jesus in the Gospels and Dolan points out how our own natures are reflected in therein as well. This is a simply fantastic book and I say that as a person who has never been particularly interested in St. Peter. Here is a very brief excerpt from the section reflecting on Luke 5:4-11 when Peter has been fishing all night and Jesus tells him turn right around, to "put out into the deep" again and let down his nets. Dolan touches on so much more tangents in examining the theme of Jesus challenging us to "put out into the deep," but this bit has stuck with me for a long time so I share it with you.
I remember once seeing the late Cardinal John O'Connor surrounded by reporters on TV, being hammered with questions about his opposition to a plan for the widespread distribution of condoms in public schools to curb AIDS and teenage pregnancy. One of the reporters stuck a microphone in Cardinal O'Connor's face and said, "Cardinal, you're expecting an awful lot from people, especially our young people, in thinking they can control themselves. That's an awfully high standard. Isn't it just better to admit that people can't live up to this so they have to take precautions?

Do you know what the Cardinal replied? "Oh, no," he said to the reporter, "The whole world is saying to our young people, 'Be good, but -- wink, wink, -- we know you can't, so at least be careful.' Somebody has got to say, 'Be good; I know you can be,' and that has to be the Church."

Duc in altum: "Put out into the deep."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Man They Call Mexico's Brad Pitt

Naturally I had to click through that New Advent link and read that article.

More importantly, after a paragraph I was scrolling, scrolling ... where is the photo? Wheeere?

Just how good looking really is this guy.........


I see.

And he's Catholic. (Thank you Lord for the beauty of your creation ...)

Brad who?

Appearing Elsewhere ...

Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen ... where you can find a Strawberry Tart recipe.

SFFaudio ... where Scott and Jesse invited me to join in discussing a science fiction short story collection with the editor from Infinivox.

Important Tea Party Advertisement

I now understand the passion with which people have been flocking to tea parties around the nation. Thank heavens for Dr. Boli's Celebrated Magazine where even the advertisements are educational!

(To see a larger version either click the image above or ... my preference ... click through to Dr. Boli's.)

Clap for the Wolfman ...

... Rose didn't know when she read this subhead yesterday that I was quoting an old song running through my head. That's all to the good as she directed my attention to this fantastic looking trailer, albeit one of those that seems to give us the story's skeleton. It still looks great!

Although Tom cracked me up when he said the reason the movie looks so good might be a saying he'd heard about football players that could be transferred to movie makers: They have to be smart enough to play the game but too stupid to know it doesn't really matter. Which is where such passion and perfection are applied to a wolfman movie. As someone in advertising and knows all too well the problems in my own industry, I reserve judgment (ha!).

Around the House Some More

On Carrying One's Favorite Toy Everywhere
No, not me and the iPod. Though a case could be made for that ...

This morning we could hear one of the dog's tags jingling and jangling as it obviously was playing with something in an unusual spot for playing. Turns out it was Wash and a small cockroach. Zoe soon turned up to join in on the fun of this new animated toy. Kind of cute, of course, and I am not against a natural death for a cockroach.

Less cute was Zoe's proud carrying of the new toy everywhere she went this morning, with two little side legs sticking out of the front of her mouth. Although it was hilarious.

On Not Always Being Happy ... But Always Being Happy to Be Catholic
"Lord have mercy on me and bless _____" was resounding through my head most of yesterday (along with periods of offering it up when I remembered) as a large project with one of my clients suffered a sudden realization of big disconnect in understanding on both sides. And slight meltdown occurred. I'll be honest. Meltdown mostly on my side.

This is where it helps a great deal to work with one's spouse, who can help one deal with such situations in a unique way beyond even the best of bosses. As well, my clinging to those prayers helped me to always keep front and center that on the other side of the phone and emails was a person who I like and who was not doing anything deliberately to upset the apple cart. Honest misunderstandings, different perspectives, and forgotten conversations. Those were the culprits.

Did I hear angels singing, have moments of standing in the golden light of understanding and love?


I didn't expect to and that was a good thing. I was there to work to fix things as much as I was able at that moment (thank goodness again for Tom in that) and to put myself second. It came back to praying as if all depended on God and working as if all depended on me. I had to cling to it greatly and repeatedly but it made all the difference. All. the. difference.

Was it my guardian angel who put a reminder to pray into my head? Or my Saint Martha? Let's go way high ... how about the Holy Spirit? Perhaps. Or perhaps it was the simple force of habit. I tend to automatically kick in with at least a few silent Hail Mary's when things get tough at work. Ditto for the "Have mercy on me" when I'm in a contentious situation. The offering it up was because I'd posted about the feast day for the cross yesterday. So it all came together somehow, albeit incoherently at the time.

We're still in the middle of this. I think of how I would have been reacting without my faith to buoy me and I shudder. No wonder I'm so very happy to be Catholic.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Around the House: Wolfmen, Mousetraps, Brisket, and Mud

Clap for the Wolfman
Taking Rose's advice from her summer watching, we watched a movie I never would have thought of in zillion years (yes, zillion), Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. I believe her actual words were "laugh riot." While we did not find this a laugh riot, it was moderately amusing in that the plot hung together in a very coherent fashion. As well, we were bemused though out by the fact that main roles were held and well played by Lon Chaney as the Wolfman and Bela Lugosi as Dracula. Really. Unexpected and amusing in its own way for those qualities.

Mousetraps: They're Not Just for Mice Any More
Thank goodness that Tom remembered the strategy we took to break our previous Boxer, Daffy, from treating our furniture as her own to bound upon at will. Set many mousetraps to snap, turn them upside down, gingerly put sheets of newspaper (or in our case, an actual sheet) over them so as to leave them set. Wait just a little while out of the room for the robust snap of one or two and watch Zoe racing, ears back, tail tucked, out of the room. It is a very satisfying exercise. Especially if you arise, as we did on Sunday, to find that in the middle of the night your two young boxers were mud wrestling in the night and then playing leapfrog all over the couch in your back room. While grabbing your new pillows (the ones that say dry-clean only) and tossing them with zest and glee around the room.

By the way, emboldened by advice read long ago in Home Comforts, I took the pillow covers off and washed them on the "Hand Washables" setting, then dried them on the "Air Fluff" setting and they were as good as new ... and did not shrink, despite the fact that they were 100% cotton from India. Another quite satisfying exercise, I must say.

It's Raining. It's Pouring.
So a Beyond Cana pool party for those who had just attended the last retreat was move to the church's St. Ann's Hall which mercifully was not booked that evening. A miracle, let us note. I only bring this up because a good time was had by all, as far as I could see. Certainly Tom and I had a good time.

Let me just say this ... you may think that smoking a 15 pound brisket will feed 50 people, many of whom are teeny-tiny kids. Not so. I hang my head with shame for not checking out a few references on this point. Thank goodness there were tons of tasty side dishes and desserts. Next time I am doing two briskets. I will share the recipe later as it is hands-down the easiest and best tasting one I've done at home. No smoker required and only one hour of attendance over a grill. Yep. That's the element that made many of the guys' eyes light up with interest.

Mud. Lots and Lots of Mud.
It has been raining here for three days straight, going on four. I actually don't mind the rain, once I remember to reset to "can I beat the challenge?" reality show style mentality.

However, with a side garden bed in the back (unplanted because that's the way I roll ... non-gardening style) and the aforementioned two young boxers, I feel as if we now have a fine patina of North Texas mud on every surface.

You think I'm kidding.

I'm not.

The absolute worst moment came during the last hour of the Cowboys' game yesterday, when Wash came trotting in, flung himself at my feet and then yawned and licked his nose ... with a tongue of pure gray. Pure. Gray. Not a fleck of flesh showing through because evidently he'd been eating the stuff.

Four paws coated in mud up to the ankles.

This from the dog who we are trying to break of using the dry part of the patio as his own personal outhouse because he doesn't like to get his paws wet when it rains.


He was compliant but curious during the subsequent dragging outside to have his feet wiped down ("not the web between my toes, noooooo ...") right afterward.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Good, Informative Source for Influenza and Swine Flu Info

I'm a fan of The House Call Doctor from the Quick and Dirty Tips podcast network.

He did two very informative episodes about the flu which you can either listen to or read. Here are the links:
Hannah and Rose ... if your schools offer swine flu shots at any time, take them up on it. That flu affects people in their 20s much more than the average flu.

Me? I've been getting flu shots regularly ever since Hannah began daycare (yes, that long ago) and Tom and I endured a winter of complete torture suffering from one horrible illness after another. Our doctor recommended flu shots and we've never looked back. I'm going in to get mine next week (which is for the regular flu ... thanks to Terri for reminding me to mention that ... news reports say that the swine flu shots are still being tested, with recent determinations that adults will only need one shot.).

From Aural Delight to Writen Word: StarShipSofa Stories Volume 1

Some of you may recall me mentioning how much I love the StarShipSofa podcast. (If you listen to the podcast I know you are thinking, "Lord, have mercy! Again?")

It began life as two pals talking about science fiction authors they enjoyed. One pal had to move on, but Tony stuck with it. By being open to the opportunities of the moment, he has created a most unusual and delightful podcast.

Essentially the Sofa is a science fiction magazine. Aurally delivered. Each episode has a major story by a modern science fiction author, usually some flash fiction (very short story), some poetry (yes, science fiction poems do exist), an editorial by "my good self" as Tony always says, and some nonfiction commentary. The nonfiction ranges from a scientist (who is also a fantastic fiction narrator and has his own podcast, Uvula Audio), an English teacher with some wonderfully insightful pieces into genres and authors, a film reviewer, a book reviewer, and various other assorted features as they come along. I, myself, have been privileged to narrate some fiction and poetry for the Sofa.

In the next evolutionary step, Tony tells us that they are going to the written word with some of the Sofa's stories. I can see from the TOC that this features some of my favorites (Tideline, The Sledge Maker's Daughter) and some of science fiction's cutting edge authors. I'm thinkin' Christmas gift time here, people. If you know a SF lover, this is a fantastic collection.

Tony sent along a nicely worded press release, but I prefer his more informal style (as always, luv) so I just edited his email. The website is not yet up but you can always drop by StarShipSofa and they'll have the link soon.

Well you might know or you might not but StarShipSofa's Aural Delights is 100 shows old in a couple of weeks and to celebrate StarShipSofa is doing something quite unique - she is putting out her very own book: StarShipSofa Stories Volume 1. This will be a PoD dead-tree type and there will also be a free PDF download. There will be a new website and art commissioned by Skeet. It's all a jolly time over here at StarShipSofa HQ but I'd love some help in promoting this adventure.

I'm hoping you can post info on your blogs or pass on any news that might help StarShipSofa get her shinny new book out and about. All authors have kindly donated their stories to the Sofa in the hope it will raise funds to keep StarShipSofa going for many years to come.

StarShipSofa Stories Volume 1
1. "Into The Blank Where Life Is Hurled" by Ken Scholes
2. "London Bone" by Michael Moorcock
3. "The Second Coming Of Jasmine Fitzgerald" by Peter Watts
4. "Lest Young and The Jupiter's Moons' Blues" by Gord Sellar
5. "Vampire Kiss" by Gene Wolfe
6. "Vinegar Peace (or The Wrong-Way Used-Adult Orphanage)" by Michael Bishop
7. "Godzilla's 12 Step Program" by Joe R Lansdale
8. "Jesus Christ, Reanimator" by Ken MacLeod
9. "The Sledge-Maker's Daughter" by Alastair Reynolds
10. "Mars: A Travelers Guide" by Ruth Nestvold
11. "The Empire of Ice Cream" by Jeffrey Ford
12. "The Ant King: A California Fairytale" by Benjamin Rosebaum
13. "In The Olden Days" by Spider Robinson
14. "Tideline" by Elizabeth Bear

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering the tragic, sudden, and violent loss of 2,996 innocent Americans

I turn on the TV and watch as the plane slowly flies into the Tower.
Hail Mary, full of grace
My daughter wanders downstairs, shoes in hand,
Turns to look at what has me transfixed on a weekday morning.
The Lord is with thee.
"Where is that, Mommy?" she asks.
Blessed are you among women
"New York," I answer. She nods. The name is familiar,
Like Venus,
Like Mars
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
"Do we know anyone there?" Her eyes are blue and full of innocent concern.
"No," I answer, thinking of friends, family, business associates, safe here.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
She has seen the green glass tower where I work,
Tucked amongst taller builders.
Pray for us sinners
But a skyscraper in one city looks much like one in the next.
"Where's the tallest building in the United States?"
And at the hour of our death.
My daughter looks relieved.
Looking over my previous posts about September 11, which seem to grow like mushrooms as I add links, I see that last year I said:
I see that the year before last, I got an email last week mentioning that a deadline was September 11. Maybe it's silly but seeing that date attached to a deadline shocked me. No reason not to have it be a deadline but it seemed ... somehow ... irreverent to have the usual business of the day on that date.
Today I realized there was something more shocking. In the press of my unusually busy life lately, I completely forgot September 11 myself. I don't think that I had reason to look at a calendar beyond any particular day but in the past I would have seen the 8th, the 9th, the 10th as they came and have been bracing myself mentally for that fateful 11th memorial date. Not this year. I was completely startled when the front page of the newspaper reminded me of the larger meaning behind this date.

It is that which made me linger especially over last year's post, remembering it all.

I would say that if there is one thing I would recommend from that post it is reading Heather Ordover's memory of surviving that holocaust. I know her as personally as one can via frequent emails and listening to her wonderful podcast, CraftLit. She does not dwell on those memories but they are never far away as she struggles regularly with respiratory problems that resulted from breathing ashes during her ordeal.

Obviously my forgetfulness means I was not part of this year's Project 2,996 but many were not so forgetful (and I have signed up for reminders to be sent).

Heather has a lovely memorial for a victim

The Anchoress has a thoughtful meditation about eight years afterward.

Deacon Greg has a prayer from Archbishop Foley.

First Things features a remembrance from a young man whose first day at work in downtown Manhattan was on that fateful day.

Maureen has a prayer for the dead.

March Hare (author of the piece at the beginning of this post) has a memorial for one of the victims.

Whispers in the Loggia has Pope Benedict's prayer from Ground Zero.

Catholic Mom gives us the military wife perspective and also looks at private memory versus history lesson.

Links added above as I come across them.

Also, I was searching in vain for my post when I did participate in Project 2,996. I remembered so many details about that fireman but none of them yielded his name (or the post) to my search. I cannot thank his cousin enough for speaking up with his name in the comments here. I now can honor again Captain Daniel O'Callaghan. I have tagged his post so he will not be "lost" in my archives again.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thumping My Cane Like a Good Curmudgeon Should ...

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 will effectively phase out incandescent light bulbs by 2012-2014 in favor of compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs. Other countries around the world have passed similar legislation to ban most incandescents.

Will some energy be saved? Probably. The problem is this benefit will be more than offset by rampant dissatisfaction with lighting. We are not talking about giving up a small luxury for the greater good. We are talking about compromising light. Light is fundamental. And light is obviously for people, not buildings. The primary objective in the design of any space is to make it comfortable and habitable. This is most critical in homes, where this law will impact our lives the most. And yet while energy conservation, a worthy cause, has strong advocacy in public policy, good lighting has very little.
As someone whose husband has long been enamored with the concept of fluorescent lighting for saving money and hopeful that the industry's promises of "now we're just like regular lightbulbs" are true ... I can tell ya, it just ain't so. He has finally managed to find a coloring that I can stand but those fluorescent lights just don't give off the good light that a regular light bulb does. Period.

He has tried in vain to find a fluorescent light manufacturer who is brave enough to give a number for their light a la the normal bulbs. No. Hiding behind such euphemisms as "cool white," they refuse to do so. We know this is because such a thing would expose the lie behind which they hide.

I can't even tell you how horrified I was when we stayed in a Holiday Inn Express recently. Normally a reliable favorite in innkeeping, our Holiday Inn room was lit by fluorescent bulbs that gave it a creepy "haunted house" feel. Definitely offputting. I can take the "green friendly" tags in each room asking us to reuse towels which are du rigeur in these "correct" times. Must I travel with my own bulbs now?

(Can you tell I've been rereading The Grand Sophy lately? Nothing like a little Georgette Heyer to raise the spirits with her intelligent, humorous writing, I must say. Even when it's pure drama.)

However to return to the main thread of my conversation. Tom has been keeping an eye on the geek blogs, hopefully scanning for the bold manufacturer who will market LED lights in this country. Even for an unreasonable price, much less a reasonable one, which I feel would happen once the government bears down with its big, light-hating thumb on the helpless citizenry. Alas. No such savior has yet arisen.

At this point, I am seriously considering stockpiling light bulbs.

Here is where it is a problem to read so many old books. I look at how the government was content to govern within their own baliwick and stay out of people's business to a large extent. (Yes, I know many excellent safeguards are instituted by modern government ... blah, blah, blah ... but they have overstepped their bounds when they step upon my light bulbs, sirrah!)


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Honoring Veterans

But his most heartfelt weekend activity took place elsewhere, out of sight of Washington politicos and devoid of any potential for gain or notoriety. It came under a brilliant Saturday-morning sun, when the former Republican presidential candidate, now a bit more frail than most Americans recall him, stepped out of a car and strode to the National World War II Memorial to greet, one by one, 108 fellow World War II veterans who had been flown to Washington from South Carolina to see the monument built in their honor.

To these veterans, 29 of them in wheelchairs and several toting oxygen tanks, Mr. Dole was like a rock star. They gathered around to shake hands, to have their pictures taken with him, to crack a joke about their ages. ...

This is a scene that Mr. Dole quietly repeats week after week. A grass-roots organization, the Honor Flight Network, has sprung up with the sole purpose of flying World War II veterans to Washington so they have a chance, in the autumn of their lives, to see the memorial built to mark The Good War in which they fought.
I was so pleased to see this story on page two of the WSJ this morning. I loved reading about Dole and the veterans having that time together.

Then I did a double take while reading it. Honor Flight is a website that our little company built to the designer's specs while simultaneously adapting to Honor Flight's additions (such as registration data bases and the like). As happens with most websites, of course.

Our time is donated, like that of most people involved with the project, but it was still nice to think that we had a very small part in that story.

My Defining Post

As we may recall, prompted by Jen at Conversion Diary, I put this question out there. Not too many people answered, however I found it interesting to see the variety of directions in which their thoughts ran.

There are the features are regulars around here:
For others, there are specific issues that came to mind:
What comes to my mind is something I wrote waaaay back in August 2004. I have written other posts since then that combine my faith and my life, of course. However, for me this is a defining post:
  • A Really Good Prayer
    I use this constantly, by the way, and if you're not familiar with it I encourage you to go read it. It really will help change your life for the better.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Catholic Funerals

There has been a lot of talk back and forth between those who criticized Ted Kennedy's funeral and those defending it. Up to and including Cardinal O'Malley who had it mostly right. Mostly. He also had it wrong. In which case, he practically handed detractors an argument with both hands. As we shall see.

I will just also mention here that I am not siding with those uncharitable people complaining that Kennedy didn't deserve a Catholic funeral and certainly I was appalled that the Vatican released Kennedy's letter to the pope. I stand corrected (this is how very little attention I pay to most political things actually), turns out it was Kennedy's family that released the letter ... so that is par for the course on the publicity trail, I think. In that case, I am appalled that his family shared something that I believe should have remained secret. (So I think that is a round robin of disapproval ... yes, I think I probably have annoyed everybody possible now ...)

In all that, I have not seen anyone take it back to basics. Catholic basics, that is. There are a couple of issues when heated debates arise and I always wonder why no one knows what the Catechism says. They simply argue.

Celebrity Catholic funerals like this are such an issue, especially in these polarized days. So let me mention here that the Catechism has it all spelled out.
1688 The liturgy of the Word during funerals demands very careful preparation because the assembly present for the funeral may include some faithful who rarely attend the liturgy, and friends of the deceased who are not Christians. The homily in particular must "avoid the literary genre of funeral eulogy" and illumine the mystery of Christian death in the light of the risen Christ.
Notice the specific mention of avoiding a eulogy? That's where Cardinal O'Malley got it wrong. He allowed the funeral to be derailed from the lines that the Catechism outlines by allowing eulogies. And we see where that got him and everyone.

Again, turning to the Catechism:
1689 The Eucharistic Sacrifice. When the celebration takes place in church the Eucharist is the heart of the Paschal reality of Christian death. In the Eucharist, the Church expresses her efficacious communion with the departed: offering to the Father in the Holy Spirit the sacrifice of the death and resurrection of Christ, she asks to purify his child of his sins and their consequences, and to admit him to the Paschal fullness of the table of the Kingdom. It is by the Eucharist thus celebrated that the community of the faithful, especially the family of the deceased, learn to live in communion with the one who "has fallen asleep in the Lord," by communicating in the Body of Christ of which he is a living member and, then, by praying for him and with him.
The time for eulogies and stories about the deceased is the wake and afterward with the "funeral baked meats." These were the lines along which my father-in-law's funeral proceeded. It allowed for plenty of time to appreciate him as family and friends, but also to have at the center that forced concentration on much larger issues of life and death. I had never been to a Catholic funeral before and was truly amazed at the wisdom of the entire traditional process ... the viewing of the body (he's really not here, that truly is just his body), the rosary, the life-affirming and joyful wake with stories and jokes, the solid center of the mass, the meal afterward with a turning toward everyday life mingled with sadness and stories. So perfect. It was, in a very real sense, my first look as an insider at the truth contained in tradition and Tradition.

I did not know at the time that in following the "old fashioned" funeral traditions, my mother-in-law was simply living out what is prescribed: "the Roman liturgy gives three types of funeral celebrations, corresponding to the three places in which they are conducted (the home, the church, and the cemetery), and according to the importance attached to them by the family, local customs, the culture, and popular piety." However, once I did read that section, I began realizing the practicality of the Catechism in regular life.

I would encourage anyone to go read the funeral section, via the links above.

Also ...
The Curt Jester has some interesting thoughts prompted by Ted Kennedy's funeral and the response from both sides.

Friday, September 4, 2009

From my in-box ...

... and for some of you, I'm very, very, very (VERY) sorry that your emails have languished so long. However, as always, better late than never, so here we go ... - The Catholic Company saw this domain come up for sale and stepped out on faith to buy it so that there wasn't the chance of it being misused by anyone. Of course, they also got a nifty domain for selling rosaries. Not content with that, they also have a great resource center of articles about praying the rosary.

Aggie vocations: a good Catholic program is known by the fruit and St. Mary's at Texas A&M has it by the bushel basket: *Current Aggie priests/permanent religious = 128 *Current Aggies in seminary / religious formation = 42 ... and that's not all.

Ancient Christian Faith Initiative: remember when I wrote about it? (Sure you do...) I have heard some samples ... and it sounds really wonderful. Any program about the church fathers that Mike Aquilina recommends is sure to be good. Check it out.

The Inverted World of Grace: a really inspirational story sent to my by expat (thanks!).

Fifteenth Mexican state protects unborn by changing its constitution: WOOHOO! Mexico Bob knew I'd be interested in this ... and I was. "The Queretaro State Congress in Mexico reformed its constitution Tuesday with a 21-0 vote guaranteeing protection for human life from conception to natural death. The decision makes it the fifteenth Mexican state to enact such legislation." Go read it all.

British Actors Line Up for Movie About Opus Dei: There are some top notch actors and other film people connected with this. Looks interesting! Thanks to Mark at Soul Food Cinema for this one.

Tabernacle Stolen: read about it at Aggie Catholic and pray.

Coffee Cake ... to go with my Coffee Buttercream, says The Anchoress who alerted me to the Pioneer Woman's recipe for a cake loaded with coffee. Looks goooood! Though, being a contrarian, I'd have to pair it with a Chocolate Buttercream.