Tuesday, June 30, 2009

From Ultrasound to Fetal Model

Feast of St. Paul


A Brazilian PhD. student in Britain by the name of Jorge Lopes is converting data from ultrasounds and MRI scans to form life-size, life-like models that are the exact shape and size of the baby in the womb.

The new technology allows parents to hold a realistic model of their unborn babies.

"I don't know whether I am looking at science or I am looking at art," said Dr. Staurt Campbell, who pioneered ultrasound imaging in Britain in the 1980s. He added that the process is "absolutely unique" and "a fantastic development."

Lopes started with mummies, then moved on to dinosaurs, then foetuses. Friends joked that he had gone from "mummies to mummies."

More pictures of the models in action can be seen

Liberalism Defined

An anonymous chap took me to task for using a definition of liberalism at odds with his own.
Said chap provided a few definitions of the term "liberalism" from a dictionary (he didn't say which one, though it turned out to be http://www.dictionary.com/), all of which paint a more or less rosy picture of said phenomenon.

In keeping with my policy of not publishing comments from anonymous authors whom I do not recognize -- this is, after all, a blog whose audience is primarily family and friends -- I kept the original comments to myself. I will say, though, that I was quite pleased to learn from my anonymous reader that "we love reading this blog, your posts always makes us smile." Perhaps I am dealing with a consortium and not a chap? But I digress.

Anyway, I will happily take my anonymous critic up on his invitation to "pick a dictionary, any dictionary, define the word."

For the accurate, non-rosy, and reasonably exhaustive explanation of the evil known as "liberalism," please see this entry in the 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia. The explanation is not as brief as the pallid definition given in http://www.dictionary.com/, but it covers the pertinent meanings of the word "liberalism."

Here is a brief recap of the points relevant to my previous commentary.

* The word liberal is derived from the Latin liber, free, and up to the end of the 18th century signified only what was "worthy of a free man."

* Later the term was applied also to those qualities of intellect and of character that were considered an ornament becoming those who occupied a higher social position on account of their wealth and education. Thus liberal got the meaning of intellectually independent, broad-minded, magnanimous, frank, open, and genial.

* Again Liberalism may mean a political system or tendency opposed to centralization and absolutism. In this sense Liberalism -- known as corporatism -- is not at variance with the spirit and teaching of the Catholic Church (though it is at variance with the form of liberalism being practiced by the current occupant of the White House).

* Since the end of the eighteenth century the word has been applied to certain tendencies in the intellectual, religious, political, and economical life, which implied a divorce of man from the moral, spiritual, and Divine order. It asserts an absolute freedom of thought, religion, conscience, creed, speech, press, and politics. The necessary consequences of this are the abolition of the Divine right and of every kind of authority derived from God; the relegation of religion from the public life into the private domain of one's individual conscience; the absolute ignoring of Christianity and the Church as public, legal, and social institutions; the putting into practice of the absolute autonomy of every man and citizen along all lines of human activity; and the concentration of all public authority in one self-referential, self-aggrandizing "sovereignty of the people." A fundamental principle of this type of Liberalism is the denial of all true authority, for authority necessarily presupposes a power outside and above man to bind him morally.

This last is the form of liberalism that I described as a sin because it lauds the notion that no one -- not even God -- can tell a man what to do. For further elaboration on why this is a bad way to go, see this page.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sharing a Quote

Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul

This morning a friend from the 'hood sent me an email with this note:

You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is the beginning of the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.
- Adrian Rogers

Adrian Rogers and I were born in the same town: West Palm Beach. Southerners are funny about that sort of thing, too: even though I grew up in Georgia since age three, I expect my obituary to read something like, "Sean lived 99 years in Atlanta, but he is a native of south Florida." I think it's quaint.

Another Rogers quotation worth noting is, "We have dads today that are interested in sports, business, and sex. They've forgotten their God-given assignments to teach the Ten Commandments." Kudos!

Of course, no one is perfect; the same guy also said, "I believe slavery is a much maligned institution; if we had slavery today, we would not have this welfare mess." No thanks.

Rogers is also opposed to smoking tobacco (which I don't care about) and drinking alcohol (my Irish ancestors are doing cartwheels, I'm sure). I have a shot glass in the kitchen that I got when I was in Ireland; it says "Leprechaun's Pint."

Anyway, regarding the original Rogers quote above, I agree -- after all, I know my own character: if I could get by on the sweat of your brow, I'd have the same struggle as the next guy to not take the opportunity.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Last weekend I attended the ordination of several friends who were ordained to the priesthood. Here's one picture from the event: the newly-ordained Fr. Raphael Arizaga, OSB, is giving his first blessing to his superior Fr. Cyprian, OSB. They are from Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery in New Mexico.

Fr. Raphael Blessing Fr. Cyprian

The Benedictines have a long and marvelous history.

One tidbit not covered in the article I linked to regards the clerical
tonsure that the Benedictines wear: it's called the Roman tonsure: the entire head is shaved except for a circle of hair. This is done in honor of the Crown of Thorns affixed to the head of Christ during His Passion.

Quod me facere videritis, hoc facite.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Liberalism is a Sin

Liberalism is the notion that no one -- not even God -- can tell you what to do. The free person, so the thinking goes, is the one who has no constraints.

This modern taste for throwing off the yoke of authority is a revolution, not against tyranny, but against God Himself.

Freedom is the child of discipline. The person who is really free is the one who does what he ought because he wants to.

"La révolution dévore ses enfants," observed Georges Danton, the French revolutionary, when he himself fell victim to the Revolutionary Terror. “The revolution eats its own children.”

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

View of Volcano From Space

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station have taken photos from 220 miles up of a 5-mile high volcanic eruption at Sarychev Peak on Matua (Matsuwa) Island in the Kuril Island archipelago near Japan.

Here's a snapshot of the eruption.

Additional photos of the event are here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Material for a NYC Road Trip

An exhibit at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art running through August 23 looks like it's worth catching.

Titled Pen and Parchment: Drawing in the Middle Ages, the exhibit features 50 little-seen medieval works spanning nearly five centuries; pieces include illuminated manuscripts, illustrated plays, charts, diagrams, and maps. A New York Times review describe the works as "vital, evolving, remarkably diverse and essential to the medium’s Renaissance blossoming."

Work schedule permitting, I will have to look into a road trip to NYC some time in the next nine weeks to take this in.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Conspiracy

I, Melvin P. Snodgross, with my keen intellect, have spotted a conspiracy. It is the conspiracy of A -- as in the letter "A."

Do you doubt me? That is unwise, for the proofs I shall produce are unanswerable.


Of the seven continents on planet earth, the names of six begin and end with the letter "A." In alphabetical order, they are:
(1) Africa
(2) America, North
(3) America, South
(4) Antarctica
(5) Asia
(6) Australia
(7) Europe

Even the legendary lost eighth continent of Atlantis begins with the letter "A."

Do you not begin to see? What are the odds that six of seven of the names of the planet's continents should accidentally begin and end with the letter "A"? Clearly, there is a secret organization at work, some anonymous cabal with its own dark motives. This must be true, for happenstance cannot account for it -- no, far from it! A shadow organization has infiltrated our governments and schools of lexicography at the highest levels.

But have no fear, the time for action has arrived! I am leading the campaign to rename our continents, to end the nefarious dominion of the A People. No longer will we labor and toil under their iron hand; we shall rise up against them, and overthrow their terrible plot.

The new continent names shall be devoid entirely of the letter "A," and they shall be:
(1) Oomple (formerly Africa)
(2) Metroniggle (formerly America, North)
(3) Mismi (formerly America, South)
(4) Urktos (formerly Antarctica)
(5) Bunyipville (formerly Australia)
(6) Snodgrosston (formerly Europe and Asia)

Take heed, A People, your hour has passed!

- Uncle Mel

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The First Hobbit

The term "hobbit" was coined by J.R.R. Tolkien in 1937. He would later write, "On a blank leaf I scrawled: 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.' I did not and do not know why." The term seems to have just came to him one day.

Being a philologist, Tolkien soon "unearthed" the linguistic origin of the term -- this is the explanation he included in the appendix to The Return of the King:

Hobbit is an invention. In the Westron the word used, when the people was referred to at all, was banakil 'halfling.' But...the folk of the Shire and of Bree used the word kuduk...It seems likely that kuduk was a worn-down form of kûd-dûkan [='hole-dweller']. The latter I have translated...by holbytla ['hole-builder']; and hobbit provides a word that might well be a worn-down form of holbytla, if the name had occurred in our ancient language.

But there's more. Nearly 80 years earlier the term "hobbit" was in included in the list of local supernatural creatures from the north of England compiled by folklorist Michael Aislabie Denham.

What a happiness this must have been seventy or eighty years ago and upwards, to those chosen few who had the good luck to be born on the eve of this festival of all festivals; when the whole earth was so overrun with ghosts, boggles, bloody-bones, spirits, demons, ignis fatui, brownies, bugbears, black dogs, specters, shellycoats, scarecrows, witches, wizards, barguests, Robin-Goodfellows, hags, night-bats, scrags, breaknecks, fantasms, hobgoblins, hobhoulards, boggy-boes, dobbies, hob-thrusts, fetches, kelpies, warlocks, mock-beggars, mum-pokers, Jemmy-burties, urchins, satyrs, pans, fauns, sirens, tritons, centaurs, calcars, nymphs, imps, incubuses, spoorns, men-in-the-oak, hell-wains, fire-drakes, kit-a-can-sticks, Tom-tumblers, melch-dicks, larrs, kitty-witches, hobby-lanthorns, Dick-a-Tuesdays, Elf-fires, Gyl-burnt-tales, knockers, elves, rawheads, Meg-with-the-wads, old-shocks, ouphs, pad-foots, pixies, pictrees, giants, dwarfs, Tom-pokers, tutgots, snapdragons, sprets, spunks, conjurers, thurses, spurns, tantarrabobs, swaithes, tints, tod-lowries, Jack-in-the-Wads, mormos, changelings, redcaps, yeth-hounds, colt-pixies, Tom-thumbs, black-bugs, boggarts, scar-bugs, shag-foals, hodge-pochers, hob-thrushes, bugs, bull-beggars, bygorns, bolls, caddies, bomen, brags, wraiths, waffs, flay-boggarts, fiends, gallytrots, imps, gytrashes, patches, hob-and-lanthorns, gringes, boguests, bonelesses, Peg-powlers, pucks, fays, kidnappers, gallybeggars, hudskins, nickers, madcaps, trolls, robinets, friars' lanthorns, silkies, cauld-lads, death-hearses, goblins, hob-headlesses, bugaboos, kows, or cowes, nickies, nacks necks, waiths, miffies, buckies, ghouls, sylphs, guests, swarths, freiths, freits, gy-carlins Gyre-carling, pigmies, chittifaces, nixies, Jinny-burnt-tails, dudmen, hell-hounds, dopple-gangers, boggleboes, bogies, redmen, portunes, grants, hobbits, hobgoblins, brown-men, cowies, dunnies, wirrikows, alholdes, mannikins, follets, korreds, lubberkins, cluricauns, kobolds, leprechauns, kors, mares, korreds, puckles korigans, sylvans, succubuses, blackmen, shadows, banshees, lian-hanshees, clabbernappers, Gabriel-hounds, mawkins, doubles, corpse lights or candles, scrats, mahounds, trows, gnomes, sprites, fates, fiends, sibyls, nicknevins, whitewomen, fairies, thrummy-caps, cutties, and nisses, and apparitions of every shape, make, form, fashion, kind and description, that there was not a village in England that had not its own peculiar ghost. Nay, every lone tenement, castle, or mansion-house, which could boast of any antiquity had its bogle, its specter, or its knocker. The churches, churchyards, and crossroads were all haunted. Every green lane had its boulder-stone on which an apparition kept watch at night. Every common had its circle of fairies belonging to it. And there was scarcely a shepherd to be met with who had not seen a spirit!

There is no evidence that Tolkien ever read Denham's work.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Drinking Questionnaire

In college my peers and I were exposed to the routine kind of drinking questionnaire that one expects from university health care departments: Do you ever drink alone? Have you ever blacked out? Do you drink to escape from your problems? etc.

That sort of questionnaire has its place, to be sure, but it also strikes me as being a bit academic and clinical. So, having in the course of my career adopted techniques from the ethnography school of research, I spoke with real alcoholics and inquired into what they think would make good questions to test for alcoholism based on their real-world experience. Below I’ve listed some of the statements I heard.

You might be an alcoholic if:
* You have ever been arrested while you were in jail.
* You have ever been run over by a car while you were driving it.
* You drive with an eye-patch to cure double vision.
* You have placed a bet on a bar fight.
* You have driven off with the cop car instead of your own car after avoiding being arrested for DUI.

Forewarned is forearmed.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

How to Tie a Tie

My father taught me how to tie a tie when I was a lad. He instructed me in more than one technique, though any more with ties on the endangered species list I can readily recall only the Four-in-Hand.

Not to worry, the art is diminished but not lost -- consider these Four Techniques for How to Tie a Tie.

I confess that I have not even mild curiosity for how to tie a bow-tie.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Theoretical Marriages

A colleague from the office named Kim posted this note today on her Facebook page: "If anyone knows a good washer repairman, please send my way. It's like laundry Survivor here. Outwit. Outlast."

I saw Kim in the office later and inquired about the state of her washer.

"No good," she said.

"Does that mean we'll start seeing you in a dress suit because that's the only thing clean?"

"Or my wedding dress."

"Or your graduation gown?"

"Don't know if I'd fit in that."

"Better go with the wedding dress then."

The conversation shifted to talk about a friend of mine who once kicked the tires on a wedding dress rental business; his idea was that it would have been akin to a tuxedo rental business.

"Intellectually I understand it, but my heart wouldn't be behind something like that," I said.

"Yeah, but it's like the wedding party," Kim replied. "Sure it's a big deal, but it really is just a party."

I pondered that for a moment, then said, "Well, it does commemorate a huge, life-changing event. You want something memorable to begin a lifelong commitment."

Kim nodded her head. "It's lifelong in theory, anyway."

I pondered for another moment, then said, "If you're not going into it with the intention of making it for life, then it's not a wedding -- it's just a hobby."

It was Kim's turn to be thoughtful, then she nodded again. "I like that perspective."

Monday, June 8, 2009

Nutmegger Nonsense

The state government of Connecticut has trespassed into the realm religion, threatening serious harm to the life and integrity of the Catholic Church there.

Raised Bill 1098 would have it established in Connecticut that:
* Catholic churches shall have a board of directors made up of lay members elected by the congregation.
* The bishop shall be only an ex-officio non-voting member.
* Administrative and financial functions fall to the authority of the lay board.
* The pastor would report to the board on all financial and administrative matters.
* The bishop is limited to "matters pertaining exclusively to religious tenets and practices."

The diocese, recognizing the threat to its integrity and ability to function as a Catholic entity -- the mandates above run contrary not only to the First Amendment but to Canon law -- organized a rally at the state capitol and encouraged the Catholic faithful to contact their representatives (about one third of Connecticuters are Catholic). As a result, the raised bill was withdrawn before its first scheduled public hearing.

The state subsequently described the action of the diocese to protect itself from unlawful state interference as "lobbying" -- an activity subject to regulation by the same entity who had just attempted to govern the way Catholics practice their faith.

The Diocese responded with a lawsuit against the state officials to "stifle free speech and religious liberty" -- source.

Lobbying laws are the subject of a great deal of debate and discussion on a national level. With its latest actions, the state of Connecticut has opted for the interpretation of those laws that is the most inclined to totalitarianism.

Where's today's Nathan Hale when you need him?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Athanasian Creed

Trinity Sunday

Here's the sequel I promised to this post.

The Athanasian Creed is read in the Divine Office on Trinity Sunday. It deals primarily with these two fundamental truths:

(1) The Trinity of the Persons of God, which is the central doctrine of the Christian religion: the truth that in the unity of the Godhead there are Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, these Three Persons being truly distinct one from another.

(2) The Incarnation and the twofold nature in the one Divine Person of Jesus Christ, which is the mystery and the dogma of the Word made Flesh.

The following is a translation of the text of the Athanasian Creed:

WHOSOEVER will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith. Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the Catholic Faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity. Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is all One, the Glory Equal, the Majesty Co-Eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father Uncreate, the Son Uncreate, and the Holy Ghost Uncreate. The Father Incomprehensible, the Son Incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost Incomprehensible. The Father Eternal, the Son Eternal, and the Holy Ghost Eternal and yet they are not Three Eternals but One Eternal. As also there are not Three Uncreated, nor Three Incomprehensibles, but One Uncreated, and One Uncomprehensible. So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not Three Almighties but One Almighty.

So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not Three Gods, but One God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not Three Lords but One Lord. For, like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord, so are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion to say, there be Three Gods or Three Lords. The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father, and of the Son neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

So there is One Father, not Three Fathers; one Son, not Three Sons; One Holy Ghost, not Three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is afore or after Other, None is greater or less than Another, but the whole Three Persons are Co-eternal together, and Co-equal. So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity is Trinity, and the Trinity is Unity is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, must thus think of the Trinity.

Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting Salvation, that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man.

God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the substance of His mother, born into the world. Perfect God and Perfect Man, of a reasonable Soul and human Flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His Manhood. Who, although He be God and Man, yet He is not two, but One Christ. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into Flesh, but by taking of the Manhood into God. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by Unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one Man, so God and Man is one Christ. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into Hell, rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into Heaven, He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies, and shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire. This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Pinta and Niña Sail Again

A fellow I work with is pals with a guy who is part of a historical re-enactment effort to sail the world in replicas of two of Columbus' ships, the Pinta and the Niña.


The Niña was built by hand and without the use of power tools. It is considered to be the most historically correct Columbus replica ever built.

The Pinta, meanwhile, was built in Brazil and is a larger version of the original.

More articles:

The Nina and the Pinta dock in Stuart for a week

Replicas of famous 1492 fleet arrive in Stuart

Columbus caravels sail to Stuart

I asked my co-worker, "How far have they taken their verisimilitude – e.g. do they keep with 15th century diets? I saw a photo of some of their period navigational tools – does the crew use them, or do they use modern instruments?"

His replies:

They are using old technology/practices with the exception of the following:

1) They have a diesel engine that they throw into action ONLY in cases of emergency (storm, port maneuverability, pirates)

2) The crew are sleeping in the hull of the ship whereas on Columbus’ voyages they slept on the deck and the livestock was kept in the hull

3) Their diets vary by port town. :-)