Thursday, July 30, 2009

To TV or Not to TV


Deloris Nissen is a 78-year old Iowa woman who is selling two of her television sets.

This otherwise un-newsworthy event has garnered some attention because of her reason for selling.

Deloris, it turns out, is tired of seeing the overexposed Barack Obama on all the TV stations all the time.

"I just got tired of watching him on every channel," Nissen said. "I thought, my gosh, does he ever stay at the White House?"

But she's not worried about any criticism.

"I'm an old lady, and I don't care," she said.

Iced Coffee, etc.

My morning routine normally involved a tall glass of coffee, courtesy of the Starbuck's coffee machine in the employee break room.

This morning the office building's air conditioning was out, however, so instead of a glass of hot coffee I took a dear friend's suggestion and opted for iced coffee.

Office Coffee Machine

I added several cubes of ice, some creamer, a bit of sweetener, and went to work.

Prep for Iced Coffee

I was pleased with the results.

My Morning Wakeup Drink

For the record, next to the office coffee machine is the office kegerator.

Office Kegerator

What did you expect from a dotcom descendent?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Atlantis, Hubble, and the Sun

French astrophotographer and engineer Thierry Legault used his SBIG STL-11000M CCD camera to capture the only images ever taken of space shuttle Atlantis and the Hubble Space Telescope transiting the sun.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

World Population

The United Nations Population Database provides low, medium, and high variants in its population growth estimates. Of the three, the low variant is consistently the most accurate.

What does the low estimate predict?

That the world's population will increase by about another billion people over the next 30 years -- peaking at around 8.02 billion -- and will then begin to decline.

One would think that this would quell the fears of the zero-population growth crowd, but so far they have stuck to their dogma that the world's population should be reduced to one billion.

This is not quite as odd as their trick of talking about undesirable populations. It leaves me inclined to ask if they themselves are a part of the undesirable population -- and if not, how do they know?

Turin Shroud in the News


New details have up on the Shroud of Turin, the burial cloth of Christ.

A recent study by French scientist Thierry Castex has discovered on the shroud traces of words in Aramaic spelled with Hebrew letters from more than 1,800 years ago.

In 1978 a Latin professor in Milan noticed Aramaic writing on the shroud. In 1989 scholars discovered Hebrew characters that corresponded to the phrase "The king of the Jews."

I'm making
my own plans to go to Turin next April to check into the matter myself. I'll keep you posted.

From the Shroud of Turin
Sepia original on left; photo negative on right

Monday, July 27, 2009

Atlanta'a Auxiliary Bishop

The Archdiocese of Atlanta is getting an auxiliary bishop: Msgr Luis Zarama has been selected for the duty.

Nearly 800,000 Catholics (excluding unregistered folks from south of the border) call Atlanta home these days, an increase of over 500% in the past 20 years. This growth necessitated the new auxiliary Bishop role.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Letter #9: Russian Bear Was Just Hibernating

In the September 11, 2008 issue of the Beacon there was a commentary about the fall of the Soviet Union and Russia’s current economic and political state. I wrote a response, which was published the next week. Below is my letter.


Russian Bear Was Just Hibernating

Colonel Quinn (September 11 Beacon, “Rising Russia – The Bear Awakens”) got his article off to an inauspicious start by making three errors of fact regarding events in Russia.

(1) Though it can be enjoyable to blame neo-cons for just about everything that upsets foreign powers these days, Russia has a well-developed and readily recognized predilection for subjecting its small near-neighbors to the vicissitudes of expansionist aggression. The means have been varied, in a macabre sort of way: there’s been creative violence (e.g. Ivan the Terrible, 16th century), modernizing imperialism (e.g. Peter the Great, 17th–18th centuries), enlightened despotism (e.g. Catherine the Great, 18th century), and Bolshevizing atheism (e.g. Vladimir I. Lenin, 20th century). The folks to ask about this are the victimized people of Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, East Germany, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Hungary, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Romania, Tajikstan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan, among others.

(2) Far from being subjected by the U.S. and NATO to a post-Cold War Versailles Treaty treatment, post-Soviet Russia was largely just left to sort out its copious self-induced problems; meanwhile, assistance and protection were extended to the numerous surrounding countries that Russia had crushed the life out of for the better part of a century. If Russia wants to seize on U.S. aid rendered to brutalized people as justification for expanding its sphere of military action, the justification includes a healthy dose of pretense.

(3) Recall, too, that 20 years ago the Soviet machine collapsed following a coup attempt, it did not “willingly” give up its empire. Gorbachev and Yeltsin were not Boy Scouts trying to clean house, they were hardened pragmatists scrambling to keep erect what could be salvaged of the collapsing Communist house of cards.

Today Russia – like China, who is also experiencing incredible domestic turmoil – is trying to solve its problems in part by nationalizing all issues; this tactic takes the focus off the fact that the people in charge are the ones chiefly responsible for the worst domestic problems. America hardly needs one of its own officers mischaracterizing the actions of a sitting American President in a way that echoes nationalist Russian agitprop.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sleep Well

A bad conscience is defined as one formed by refusing to discern God’s will and then admitting the guilt of disobeying it.

Sometimes having a clear conscience is just a sign of a bad memory.

I don't mean to suggest that one should stay up at night wondering why he sleeps soundly.

Rather, the point is that discerning right and wrong is not a self-referential act. The standard for judging right from wrong must be outside ourselves, our circle of friends, our culture, our era.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Feast of St. Mary Magdalene

St. Mary Magdalene is listed in the Catholic calendar as a "Penitent." She had been a prostitute out of whom seven devils were cast, and her conversion was profound: it was she who anointed Christ before His burial and washed His feet with her tears, eliciting the response, “she hath wrought a good work upon Me.” At her request Christ brought her brother Lazarus of Bethany back from the dead; she was also the first to arrive at the empty tomb, and she carried the news of the Resurrection back to the Apostles.

The Tomb of Lazarus

In Bethany just outside of Jerusalem stands a church built on the spot where Mary, Martha, and Lazarus dwelled. Here out Lord took His rest among friends.

The Church at Bethany

The life of Mary Magdalene is proof positive that we can’t create a mess big enough for God to not be able to put things right again. The only real obstacle is an unwillingness to let go of our own brilliant ideas and humbly surrender them to the Almighty.

Himself in Bethany

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

At 100

Today marks the 100th day since I posted this note declaring that for 100 days I would "offer a daily rosary for my parish priest, for the Pope, and for all the priests from whom I have received the sacraments."

I'm happy to report that I met the goal, Deo gratias.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Holy Land Photos

I created a SlideShare page and posted a presentation of photos from my Holy Land pilgrimage in February, 2008.

The photos became a but pixelated in the conversion process, but you can still make them out at

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I Confess

"For by an evil loving of myself I lost myself, and by seeking Thee alone and purely loving Thee I found both myself and Thee..." à Kempis, My Imitation of Christ

There's an element of malice involved in hanging on to one's sins and failings. Maybe we're too embarassed to confess them and give them up. Maybe we detest ourselves for what we've done and won't relinquish what has poisoned our souls in self-retribution. Maybe we're too attached to our vices and simply enjoy them still.

If in Communion we meet our Maker under the appearance of bread and wine and so consume the medicine our soul needs to be strengthened, refreshed, and healed, then in Confession we meet our maker in the guise of a surgeon who cuts away the toxic gangrene of sin that putrefies. Though the means by which each Sacrament works is different, both Communion and Confession give an increase of sanctifying grace, the great gift that turns all of us from wayward children into prodigal sons who are welcomed home and made whole again.

"The source of interior unease is always the same: self-love that flees from the cross...The more a soul prays, the more peace and happiness it has."
- St. Maximilian Kolbe

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Door to Door

This afternoon I finished the second three-hour walk-through of my townhouse community.

There are 72 houses in my neighborhood, so for the past two Saturdays Susan and I (the home owner's association President and Secretary/Webmaster respectively) have gone door to door meeting neighbors, telling everyone about the new community web site, collecting email addresses, and documenting violations of community covenants (it's a thankless job, but it needs to be done).

After reviewing my notes of the two sessions, I've come up with the following superlatives for these expeditions.

Most Likely to Cause an Eye Roll
"I haven't paid my water bill because I thought that was automatically included in my association fee. I used to be a property manager, and I know about these things."

Afterwards we pondered why no explanation was offered on what this chap did with the water bills he'd received in the mail. I think Susan nailed it when she said, "he's full of it."

Most Likely to Result in an Adrenalin Rush
One ESL neighbor from India greeted us at the door in his pajamas. The conversation relied heavily on hand-gestures, and finally he motioned for us to follow him back into the house. We entered the kitchen, where the pajama-clad host grabbed a large kitchen knife and began waving it around. After a few perplexing moments we realized he was motioning with the knife towards the back door. It turns out a tree had fallen across his property line, and the owner from who he was renting had not helped him to resolve the problem -- so the old guy had done what pruning he could with the kitchen knife.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

High Cockalorum

The cockney expression "high cockalorum" occurs in two 19th-century English books of which I am aware: Dickens' Oliver Twist and Kingsley's The Water Babies. The latter I became acquianted with via the 1978 film of the same name, in which "High Cockalorum!" sees service as one of the songs -- you can watch the relevant portion of the film here.

The term "cockalorum" means a more-than-healthy bit of swagger; indulging in rodomontade; showing off. Which is a pity, because it makes such a good word for a happy kids' song.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Religion in Space

After touching down on the Moon, American astronaut and Presbyterian Buzz Aldrin administered communion to himself, a plan he'd kept secret so as not to attract the attention of the despotic atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair.

O'Hair, it turns out, had filed a lawsuit in 1968 after astonauts on Apollo 8 had read from Genesis. The court rejected O'Hair's complaint, stating that its jurisdiction in matters of separation of church and state did not extend into outer space (Source: Chaikin, Andrew. A Man On The Moon. p 204).

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fourth Fun

This weekend, when I wasn't cheering the fireworks displays, I was putting a serious dent in the world's hot dog population.

I was also talking to a friend as we reminisced over the joys of bologna sandwiches we ate as children.

"The thing about bologna," Beth told me, "is that there's no creature called 'bologna.' You can eat chicken and beef, but where's the bologna creature?"

I confessed to a profound ignorance on the subject.

Beth's husband Tim had constructed a miniature canon for the holiday. Tim runs a construction business, so he was able to craft a professional-quality device that let out a ferocious roar when you fired it off. Naturally there was no grapeshot involved -- it was all gunpowder and wadding; because we were up in the north Georgia foothills, however, the echo of the canon's boom went on for several seconds.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Blog Categories

Philosophy: the scientific pursuit of a unifying principle of knowledge about the nature of reality.

Gnomish Wisdom: everyman's wisdom, often received, that requires no specialized knowledge or insight.

Zeitgeist: a type of wisdom that passes away with time. Those who love the spirit of the age specialize in pursuing a life that is patterned on transitory things; their outlook is characterized by shallowness and a vanity of mind. Being essentially emotional, intellectual energy is routinley supplanted by animal passion.

Maps, Keys, and Clocks: shorthand for penetrating what is presented to the senses to enter the realm of the eternal.

Thursday, July 2, 2009



In Honduras:

* President Manuel Zelaya tried to hold an unconstitutional referendum to rewrite the Honduran constitution, lift presidential term limits, and extend his rule.

* General Romeo Vásquez, boss of the Honduran armed forces, resisted Zelaya's initiaitives and was fired.

* The Honduran Supreme Court rebuked Zelaya.

* Zelaya then embraced mob tactics and -- with aid from Hugo Chávez and Daniel Ortega -- raided a military base to seize the Venezuela-supplied referendum ballots. He deliberately and unambiguously broke the law in an attempt to seize power.

* With judicial backing -- which includes Honduras' Congress, Supreme Court, Electoral Tribunal, attorney general, and national prosecutor -- the army intervened to stop Zelaya and dumped him in Costa Rica.

A would-be dictator was deposed. Hugo Chavez suffered a setback and is fuming. It's delightful.

Honduras: Donde hay lluvia de peces cual milagro celestial

Prandtl-Glauert Singularity

Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary


The prevailing scientific opinion is that the Prandtl-Glauert singularity (a.k.a "vapor cone") is what causes the visible condensation cloud often seen in the vicinity of space shuttle launches, nuclear blasts, and aircraft traveling at transonic speeds.

Don't ask me what all that means (though you can read the source above if you would like to wrestle with it), but it makes for some impressive visuals.

FA-18 Hornet breaking the sound barrier

The Launch of Apollo 11

Operation Crossroads

Personally, I think it could be a rift in the space-time continuum.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

New Loreena CD

Feast of the Precious Blood


It's all old stuff, but it's the music I like best from the McKennitt canon.

Yes, I have an iPod, but I ordered my own copy of the CD yesterday; it's only $9 USD. On the online order form under special instructions I put, "Include Loreena's autograph please;" we'll see how it goes.

I have a penny whistle at the house that I sometimes make a stab at learning to play. I know next to nothing about music, so it's slow going (e.g. I can almost squeak out "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"). I think I'm still a few years away from earning my keep as a busker.