Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Copy vs. the Personality

The online encyclopedia Wikipedia got a black eye in 2007 when the identity of an editor working under the pseudonym Essjay (aka Ryan Jordan) came to light.

Essjay had passed himself off as a professor of Religion with a PhD in Theology and a degree in Canon Law. In truth he was really a 24-year-old college drop-out who used “
Catholicism for Dummies” to edit articles on religion. During his engagement as a Wikipedia editor he wrote over 20,000 contributions.

The Wikipedia folks eventually asked Essjay to resign -- he'd been a paid employee, and he left with a defiant non-apology apology -- but initially founder Jimmy Wales dismissed the matter as no big deal. The false background was deemed to be of small consequence: in JW's view, it was just part of the persona of the pseudonym. Significantly, when Essjay's true identity was revealed, Wikipedia did not ask him to clear out; that came later only after a sustained public outcry.

That Essjay had editorial authority to resolve disputes between contributors -- i.e. he had final say in how a number of articles regarding Catholicism were written -- was of no consequence to Wales and the Wikipedia crowd. That Essjay claimed to be a homosexual theologian espousing liberal Christianity and berated non-liberals was not initially on the radar for them either, though later under pressure from readers they were obliged to admit at least that Essjay had leveraged his fake credentials to bolster his arguments.

Read about the matter
here and here and here.

Wikipedia: the idea is to collaborate on interesting topics, but in the end biased and activist editors who suffer from group-think and liberal peer pressure ("how can a million lemmings all be wrong?") have the final say. You might find accurate information there, but use with caution.

On a potentially positive note, look for up-and-coming rival
Citizendium to make a run at unseating Wikipedia as the go-to site for information down the road: its editors bill it as a credible free online encyclopedia characterized by expert, peer-reviewed content. It could turn out to be just as liberal as Wikipedia, but for now it's being touted as the thinking man's alternative to what the septic and dysfunctional amateurs are doing over at Wikipedia.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Face of St. Nicholas


Forensic pathologist Francesco Introna of the University of Bari in Italy commissioned facial anthropologist Caroline Wilkinson of the University of Manchester in England to reconstruct the face and head of St. Nicholas of Myra using the saint's relics -- specifically, his skull.

Forensic Reconstruction of
St. Nicholas of Myra

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Two Knocks

The first knock occurred Monday morning on my way in to the office. I was stopped at an intersection waiting for the light to change. Ahead of me was a police car. Suddenly the car started to back up; he tagged my front bumper on the driver's side. The damage was minimal -- I'd sustained worse in parking lot dings that you just shrug your shoulder at and move on. It's just memorable that for once, the guy in the rear wasn't at fault, and the cause was a police sergeant.

The second knock occurred Monday evening on my way to a friend's house for dinner. A deer ran right in front of me; I slammed on the bakes, but I still clipped the critter, which bounced around a few times and then got up and ran away. I stopped the car, turned on the hazards, and checked for damage, but saw none, so I resumed my journey. For the next half mile I drove very slowly looking for the deer on the side of the road, but I didn't see him; hopefully he made it with just a few bruises. Incidentally, the deer hit my car in the exact spot where the sergeant did. Oh, the rumor that the deer was sporting a sticker that read "Friend of the FOP" is a dirty lie.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Bells

If you're ever serving Mass in a white marble sanctuary, and the high Mass bells that the servers ring get under foot, and you accidentally kick them, and they clang across the white marble tile floor, and careen into the white marble altar, and go bouncing, spinning around -- take if from me -- if you ever do that, it's very loud.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Symbols of the Evangelists

When I was in Dublin in 2002 I visited Trinity college and got a glimpse of the Book of Kells, the finest surviving illuminated manuscript to have been produced in medieval Europe. The book contains the four Gospels.

Symbols of the Four Evangelists
From the Book of Kells

Folio 27 of the book contains an illumination of the symbols of the four Evangelists.

St. Matthew - a Man (upper left)
St. Matthew's Gospel begins with a description of the human generation of Christ; thus, his symbol is the face of a man.

St. Mark - a Lion (upper right)
St. Mark's Gospel begins with the prophecy of Isaias about St. John the Baptist proclaiming the Lord's coming. The Baptist lived many years in the wilderness among lions and other beasts; thus, his symbol is a lion.

St. Luke - an Ox (lower left)
St. Luke's Gospel treats more than the rest with our Lord's suffering and death as a sacrifice for our sins -- and an ox served as a symbol of sacrifice.

St. John - an Eagle (lower right)
St. John is pictured as an eagle because His Gospel soars to spiritual heights in its elevated preaching.

In principio erat Verbum, et Verbum erat apud Deum, at Deus erat Verbum.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Why God Became Man

Christmas Day

Fr. Knox on why God became a man -- from
The Belief of Catholics:

The hope of eternal life was not denied to fallen man, but it was offered, now, only as the prize of a severe probation. And he must struggle against an internal enemy he found too strong for him, with only such crumbs of uncovenanted assistance as God's mercy might afford. It was not intended, in God's Providence, that this pitiful condition of things should endure as long as the world lasted. Man's fault had been foreseen, and with the fault the Remedy. God became Man in order that, dying, he might atone for our sins, and win us the graces normally necessary to the attainment of salvation.

The coming of our Lord was thus not merely a Revelation to illuminate our minds; it was also designed to rescue man from his impoverishment and his spiritual dangers. It was to win for us, not only those "actual" graces by which, since then as before, God has turned our hearts to himself, but "habitual" grace, the state of "justification," in which we are assured of God's friendship, are enabled, during our lifetime, to perform actions pleasing to him, and at our death, if we have persevered, to attain the felicity of heaven. To achieve such blessings for us, it was needful to make amends for the affront offered by the sin of our first parents to the outraged Justice of Almighty God. Although he could have accepted some lesser sacrifice, he determined to make atonement for us himself, and to make it in full measure by the perfect offering of Death.

The Second Person, then, of the Blessed Trinity became Man for our sakes. Without losing or laying aside the Divine Nature which is his by right, he united to his own Divine Person a second, human Nature, in which he was born, lived on earth, and died. Once more the stubborn tradition of the Church could not rest content until it had fortified itself within these safeguards of definition. To think of Our Lord's Divine Nature as being annihilated, even temporarily, would be nonsense. A mere limitation of it, if that were thinkable, would not make it become truly human. To deny the reality of the human Nature would be false to all our evidence. Nothing less than a personal identity between the Eternal Word and Jesus of Nazareth would constitute a Divine Witness, or a Divine Victim. Every possible substitute for the received doctrine has been tried, and found wanting.

We believe that the circumstances of our Lord's coming into the world were marked by two miracles especially. In the first place, that she who was to be his Mother was endowed with that same gift of innocence which had been possessed and lost by our first parents; and that this freedom from the curse and the taint of "original sin" was bestowed upon her in the first instant of her Conception. And we also believe that both in and after the Birth of our Lord she remained a pure Virgin. From her, nevertheless, our Lord took a true human Body, which was the receptacle of a true human Soul. And in this human Nature he lived and died and rose again; and at last ascended into heaven, where it still persists.


Christmas, the Great Feast of the Son of God Who appeared in human flesh, the feast in which heaven stoops down to earth with ineffable grace and benevolence, is also the day on which Christianity and mankind, before the Crib, contemplating the "goodness and kindness of God our Saviour" become more deeply conscious of the intimate unity that God has established between them.

The Birth of the Saviour of the World, of the Restorer of human dignity in all its fullness, is the moment characterized by the alliance of all men of goodwill. There to the poor world, torn by discord, divided by selfishness, poisoned by hate, love will be restored, and it will be allowed to march forward in cordial harmony, towards the common goal, to find at last the cure for its wounds in the peace of Christ.

- From the 1944 Christmas Message of His Holiness, Venerable Pope Pius XII

Hodie Christus natus est!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Truce

Christmas Eve

The time was Christmas Eve, 1914, and the place was Ypres, Belgium. German troops decorated the trees around their trenches with candles, then sang Stille Nacht. The Brits on the other side of the No Man's Land in between responded with English Christmas carols. When the artillery barrage stopped, the two sides exchanged Christmas greetings and small gifts of chocolate, whiskey, cigars; a few even swapped addresses. The fallen were retrieved from the battlefield and given proper burial. The matter was completely spontaneous.

Here's an account of the matter titled "Christmas in the Trenches."

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Books to Ponder

On you can create a reading list focused on a theme.

One enterprising customer established a list of Novels with Catholic Spirituality.

The compiler of the novels wrote, "People have asked me to recommend books which include themes of Catholic spirituality or written by believing Catholics. So here are a few."

Some of the books I can recommend (e.g. Sienkiewicz and Tolkien), others I can't (e.g. no Graham Greene for me, thank you). Even so, the list isn't a terrible starting place.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Winter Quiz

Today's blog entry is a quiz of sorts. Your task is to see how many clues you can find in the photo below that indicate it's winter time. You have 30 seconds. Ready? Go!

Sean's Desk

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Known Universe

This film shows our quaint little universe as mapped through astronomical observation.

Every satellite, moon, planet, star, and galaxy is represented to scale and in its correct, measured location according to the best scientific research to date.

Source: the American Museum of Natural History as the Digital Universe Atlas

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Venerable Pope Pius XII


The Vatican announced that Pope Pius XII is to be declared Venerable, which is an honorific that both acknowledges the recipient's holiness and serves as a step on his journey toward beatification.

Venerable Pius XII

Pius was Supreme Pontiff from 1939-1958. He reigned during a period of great persecution against the Church, and he was a tireless opponent of totalitarian regimes such as communism and nazism. In 1950 he infallibly declared that the long-accepted teaching of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was dogmatically certain and true.

These days probably the most discussed period of his pontificate are the war years. Under the direction of Pope Pius, the Catholic Church saved nearly 900,000 European Jews. Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, the Chief Rabbis of Jerusalem, Rome, and Budapest, the World Jewish Congress, the American Jewish community, and numerous others praised Pius for his relief efforts and public denunciation of racial persecution -- in fact, work is afoot to have Yad Vashem name him as a "righteous gentile."

Pope Pius died of acute heart failure. His doctor said: "The Holy Father did not die because of any specific illness. He was completely exhausted. He was overworked beyond limit. His heart was healthy, his lungs were good. He could have lived another 20 years, had he spared himself." He died as he lived, not counting the cost, lovingly dedicated to shepherding the flock entrusted to his care.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Scottish Play

Ember Saturday of Advent

An old theatrical superstition has it that saying "Macbeth" inside a theater will cause disaster, so thespians have taken to calling Shakespeare's drama by that name "The Scottish Play."

The Scottish usurper in the production is perhaps the original cause: he toys with witches and their goddess Hecate, and they're all of the sort to lay hexes and predict gloomy fates.

The weird sisters have their own take in the matter -- after all, it's as the title character approaches that one intones:

By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.
- Macbeth, Act IV, scene i

Thus, as the witches would have it, the author of the play's regicide is the wicked thing.

Macbeth and the Witches
(Henry Fuseli, painter)

Macbeth would have done better to remain small and good as a battlefield hero rather than go for the big and bad ambition that inclined him to reason that failure was worse than murder.

Stage actors who slip and utter the forbidden name can be forgiven by recourse to another superstition, which involves exiting the theater and reciting this line:

Angels and ministers of grace defend us.
- Hamlet, Act I scene iv

It's a worthwhile prayer for all of us.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Soup and Bread

Ember Friday of Advent

In college I put in some time at community volunteer work. I staffed soup kitchens and homeless shelters, put a roof on a Habitat house in Lynchburg, VA, and helped with the Georgia Special Olympics.

I was a decent student, but I didn't qualify for a scholarship; I got by with money from my parents, student loans, and whatever cash I could scrape together doing jobs at school and on my vacations. Plenty of times I had to pass on outings with friends for lack of funds, and more than once I went hungry. I hardly had a bad time of it, however, as my time working with the homeless and the poor illustrated in a dramatic way.

On one expedition I partnered with a few friends from church to help with the local soup kitchen. My duty that day was to serve soup and sandwiches, and I was having a bad time of it: trying to be helpful and cheerful for the sake of people who were down and out -- quite probably for life -- was more than I could manage. I was barely able to manage an occasional "here you go," and there was no way I could look those folks in the eye; though I had less than most of my friends, I still had more than the homeless folks, and I told myself that the disparity was something I was insufficiently appeciative of.

I was on the verge of asking to be assigned to the kitchen where I could make the sandwiches (and not have to face the truly destitute), when I saw my friend Laurie at a nearby table smiling and having a great time with some of the kids. Laurie was from a wealthy family -- her father owned a Mercedes dealership. One time she'd shown up at school with a second Mercedes so that she could "have something to drive on weekends." And there she was, completely at ease.

A new line of thought began in my head: Laurie wasn't self-conscious about her wealth, and it didn't interfere with her ability to work in the kitchen. Why the difference?

Then it hit me: she was grateful for what she had. With all her family's wealth, she had more humility than I did: she'd accepted her blessings from God as such and not something she was entitled to, whereas I'd been in the habit of taking much for granted. My friend's humility and gratitude -- her poverty of spirit -- enabled her to look the world in the eye without blinking.

The Spanish have a saying: "There are no pockets in a shroud;" rendered colloquially, this is our expression, "You can't take it with you." In the end, everything we have -- even our lives themselves -- actually belong to God and not to us. Our role is to be His stewards, trusted for a time to care for what He provides -- and after a time we'll be called to account for how we've done. It's liberating when this truth finally sinks in; Franciscan style, it can even put a smile on your lips.

Beati pauperes spiritu: quoniam ipsorum est regnum cælorum.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Good Do-Gooder is Hard to Find

It's curious to observe the sad efforts of well-meaning northern liberals to improve and modernize the American south.

Estranged from reality by their illusory notions of human nature and purpose, their shallow, sentimental secularism results in their failure to come to terms with the spiritual confusion, race tensions, poverty, and Protestant fundamentalism in the south of the past century.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Red Tide

Ember Wednesday of Advent


Charles Colson is a Baptist chap who, among other things, reports on the forced abortion business in China. According to Colson, hundreds of millions of Chinese women have been compelled to suffer unwanted abortions. His article that I linked to above is the latest among many covering China's forced abortions.

The Chinese government, meanwhile, denies that the numerous reports and stories of forced abortions have any merit, adding that the People's Party does not engage in forced abortions.

For my part, I think the murderous, lying reds are using physical force to make numerous women abort their babies against their will.

Not that many folks will take note: people have had the fable that the world is over-populated hammered into their heads for so long that even horrific abuses in the world's most populous country won't get any significant attention.

For the record:
* There is no world over-population problem.
* There is plenty of land and natural resources to provide for the needs of many, many more people than are currently on the planet.
* People are going hungry and getting diseases because of resource management failures and wide-spread corruption.
* Anyone who says otherwise and wants to encourage or require the curtailment of human reproduction is (optimistically) being taken for a ride or (pessimistically) a dangerous and willing tool.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Education, Reich Style


this post I wrote, "The education of chiefly the responsibility of the parents. If the state ever tried to usurp that roll and mandate certain schooling in spite of the parents' desires -- like Robert Reich has done -- I'd vote against that candidate too." I based my remark on Reich's comments made on an NPR broadcast several years ago.

Reich's dream has now become reality in Salzkotten, Germany, where parents are being jailed for refusing to allow the state school to educate their children in objectionable ways. The subject is sex education, and in Germany the instruction is explicit and involves play-acting classes.
Said issue is one of the major reasons why German families choose to homeschool their children; homeschooling, however, has been outlawed in Germany since the fall of the Third Reich. Parents are being punished for their non-compliance with the regime.

Reflection: A world based on secular values will inevitably become depraved because there is no religion to counteract the corruption. Owing to this depravity, moderns hate innocence and purity, which is why they also hate children (i.e. the epitome of purity by way of innocence) and want to remove or minimize them, whether by preventing their birth through contraception, aborting them, or perverting and contaminating their innocent minds with warped ideas.

Monday, December 14, 2009

It's Spelled "Potlikker"

Sometimes called collard liquor or green brew, potlikker is the liquid left in the pot after you've boiled greens (collard, turnip, etc). It has lots of good vitamins in it, though it tastes best when a bit of salt and pork is added to it for flavor; you can also crumble in your cracklin' bread.

In 1982 then-Lieutenant Governor of Georgia Zell Miller (he later became Governor and then Senator in turn) wrote a piece for the New York Times explaining the proper spelling of the concoction. With his characteristic enthusiasm and more than one jab at Yankees, he described that it's not "pot liquor," it's "potlikker."

Aside: Miller is also a Democrat on record as criticizing the U.S. Supreme Court because it "removed prayer from our public schools...legalized the barbaric killing of unborn babies, and it is ready to discard like an outdated hula hoop the universal institution of marriage between a man and a woman." Get 'em Zell.

A while back I grabbed lunch from the local farmer's market/whole foods: barbecued pork, mac and cheese, collard greens, and corn bread. I was in high cotton.

A short time later I developed a terrible itching in my eyes; I washed them out, but then the itching spread to my hands and feet, then up my arms and legs; next I started to feel a pain in my chest, and the skin over my entire body turned a bright red. I decided to take an aspirin and lie down -- but I had trouble swallowing the tablets: my throat was swollen.

I knew I was in trouble -- I suspected it was something I'd eaten -- and I got myself over to the ER at the hospital across the street.

When I arrived at the desk to the ER, the receptionist gave me a stack of papers to fill out.

Word to the wise: if you ever need to get yourself quickly admitted to a hospital, just bark out one of these magic words:
(1) Heart attack
(2) Stroke
(3) Shock

The last is what applied to me: I was in anaphylactic shock. I was admitted sans paperwork, got a checkup from the doctor who treated the symptoms, and was told to talk to an allergist.

The allergist confirmed that I had developed a food allergy. After testing the various ingredients of the foods I'd eaten the day I went into shock, he concluded that I was allergic to collard greens. I can never eat them again.

It makes a southern boy weep.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Washington's Farewell Address

In his Farewell Address -- made public in a letter of 1796 -- President Washington declared that "Religion and morality" were the "great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens."

"National morality," he continued, precluded the "exclusion of religious principle."

"Virtue or morality," that resulted from the practice of religion, were "a necessary spring of popular government."

The remarks are located in the lower right portion of
this page and continue to this page.

Washington's view was that religion and morality promoted private and public happiness and the nation's political prosperity. That's because religious principles promote the protection of property (7th and 10th commandments), reputation (8th commandment), and life (5th commandment) that are the foundations of justice. A nation's morality cannot be maintained without religion -- thus, Washington reasoned, religion is vital in maintaining the popularly elected government of the United States.

Washington was deeply flawed - the man was no saint, was only a fringe Anglican himself - but he was possessed of natural virtues and common-sense insights.

Washington Portrait
by Gilbert Stuart

Friday, December 11, 2009

Chess and Kings

Wednesday's sniffles turned into Thursday's head cold, so I stayed home from work. Around noon I passed time playing the Chess game that came installed on my home computer.

Computer Chess

It's been college since I played Chess with anything like serious attention, but with time on my hands I thought it would be enjoyable to review my matches with the computer to see where I could improve my game. I was out of luck, however: the Chess software is a simple version that does not allow me to review my matches. Bother.

I did some poking around online and came across an account of the Immortal Game between Adolf Anderssen and Lionel Kieseritzky in London in 1851, and was able to see the match played via animated GIF. It was better than nothing.

Anderssen was a 19th Century German Chess champ; curiously, we have the loser Kieseritzky to thank for publishing the account of the game. The Immortal Game was a skittles match which Anderssen won by using combinations that involved the sacrifice of his bishop, both rooks, and his queen.

Kieseritzky was dominating the match, and he became so focused on acquiring pieces that he neglected to protect his king. Anderssen, meanwhile, went for position, and maneuvered with his lesser pieces. Though outgunned and seemingly exposed, Anderssen's king was able to maneuver; Kieseritzky brought out his big pieces early, which meant that his king was hemmed in by his pawn line -- and this cost him the match. Chess players still study the game; it is the stuff of exciting play.

Moral of the story? Perhaps it would be: take care of the King if you want to win.

Viva Cristo rey!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Monday's Fortune

Lunch Monday was Chinese. Usually the fortunes are shallow or banal, but this one was an exception.

Monday's Fortune

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Veni, Veni Emmanuel

Listen to my favorite Advent hymn at

Advent: a period beginning with the Sunday nearest to the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (30 November) and embracing four Sundays. It is a time of expectation and pious yearning, a period of preparation for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Immaculate Conception

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

In the Constitution
Ineffabilis Deus of 8 December, 1854, Bl. Pope Pius IX pronounced and defined that the Blessed Virgin Mary "in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin."

It was Mary who was conceived immaculately. The birth of Christ, meanwhile, is the
Virgin Birth: his mother Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to him, her virginity remained intact during His birth, and she retained her virginity her entire life.

Original sin is a moral deformity, a permanent privation, a wound in our human nature, transmitted like a birth defect from our first parents, Adam and Eve: it is the chief consequence of their deliberate disobedience of God in the Garden of Paradise.

Its effects include:

* Suffering and death. These are physical evils rather than moral evils.

* The rebellion of the lower appetites over the higher faculties. This is called concupiscence, and it's why we have a desire for forbidden things and a fascination for evil. It's also why we find it easy to do what's wrong and difficult to do what's right. We still have free will; we also still know moral truths with certainty, but with difficulty. Concupiscence is not a moral shortcoming in and of itself; rather, it is the weakness of the intellect and the will that inclines us to fail morally.

* The absence of sanctifying grace at birth. This means we don't have the intimate union with God that we need to be truly happy throughout our lives, both in this world and in the world to come. Baptism restores this grace, which is why it is necessary for salvation.

By being immaculately conceived, the Blessed Virgin Mary always enjoyed sanctifying grace and never suffered concupiscence: her mind was always clear, her will was always under control, and she used both her entire life to love, honor, and serve Almighty God, Deo gratias.

When 14-year old St. Bernadette was visited by our Lady in Lourdes in 1858, she was instructed by her confessor to ask the Lady her name.

"Would you be so kind as to tell me who you are?" Bernadette asked the beautiful woman -- four times in fact.

"I am the Immaculate Conception," was the reply -- or, rendered in the local dialect, "que soy era Immaculada Councepciou."

Bernadette gave the reply to her pastor. He was astonished. "You are mistaken," he said. "Do you know what that means?"

The little girl did not: the title that the Pope had declared for the Mother of God had been solemnly declared only four years before, and news of the matter was still being discussed primarily among theologians and clergy. Further, Bernadette was illiterate, and she was conversant only in the Bigourdan patois of the region. Because of her family's poverty and her own ill health, she
was six years tardy in preparing for first Holy Communion. It was too incredible that she would know the term "Immaculada Councepciou."

But Bernadette was correct, and her pastor finally overcame his surprise to support her to the local bishop.

Our Lady, meanwhile, went about petitioning her Son in Heaven on behalf of those who came to honor Her as the Immaculate Conception, and the thousands of miraculous cures and other miracles at the shrine in Lourdes give testimony that it pleased God in Heaven that His mother should be so honored.

Immaculada Councepciou, ora pro nobis.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Judge for a Day


A man in Superior, Wisconsin was arrested last week for trespassing on his own property.

Jeremy Engelking and his father Jerry have had a long-running disagreement with an energy company who is trying to lay new pipeline across their land. The Engelkings deemed that Enbridge Energy's $15,000 check was inadequate compensation for the limitations that resulted from broadening the scope of the existing easement across their property.

Local judge George Glonek disagreed, and gave Enbridge the green light to proceed over the Engelking's objections. When work resumed last Wednesday, Jeremy happened upon the work site and told the Enbridge crew to pack up shop. The workers consented and made to leave, but at that point Engelking was greeted by taser-wielding Sgt. Robert Smith. Engelking was cuffed and arrested, had his car impounded, and received a lecture from the sergeant for interfering with Enbridge's business.

If I'm the judge who hears this matter, I:
(1) Apologize on behalf of the county to Jerry Engelking.
(2) Direct Sgt. Smith to apologize to Engelking.
(3) Order the police department to compensate Engelking for the $300 he spent to post bail and reclaim his impounded car.
(4) Lecture Enbridge Energy about its arrogance in beginning work on a man's private property before it had settled matters with him.
(5) Advise the Engelkings to get a good attorney because Enbridge will be back to explore its legal alternatives for expanding its pipeline across their land.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

St. Nicholas

Feast of St. Nicholas of Myra, Bishop, Confessor

Today is the feast day of
St. Nicholas (+343), a holy 4th century bishop of Myra (now Demre) in Lycia of Asia Minor (yes, he's the chap from whom our modern Santa Claus is loosely descended).

The saint is renowned for his many miracles, for having endured imprisonment and torture for the Faith, and for steadfastly resisting the errors of Arianism and paganism. He is the patron of sailors, merchants, bakers, travelers, and children; he is also especially popular in Russia.

One pious tale of the saint is that he used his inherited wealth to aid an impoverished family. Butler renders the account thus:

A citizen of Patara had lost all his money, and had moreover to support three daughters who could not find husbands because of their poverty; so the wretched man was going to give them over to prostitution. This came to the ears of Nicholas, who thereupon took a bag of gold and, under cover of darkness, threw it in at the open window of the man's house. Here was a dowry for the eldest girl, and she was soon duly married. At intervals Nicholas did the same for the second and the third; at the last time the father was on the watch, recognized the benefactor, and overwhelmed him with his gratitude.

The story may well be apocryphal, yet one can see how such an episode could give rise to the old fellow of our time who pops down chimneys to leave gifts for children.

The remains of our St. Nicholas were transferred to Bari in southeast Italy some time after Myra was conquered by Muslims. Since the saint's death on this day 17 centuries ago, his remains have continuously produced a transparent liquid endowed with miraculous properties. Called the "manna of St. Nicholas," the liquid continues to flow from his tombs (both the tomb in Myra and the tomb in Bari), and is made available to the pious faithful throughout the world.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

12 Stars

Draughtsman Arsène Heitz of Strasbourg is the author of the Flag of Europe:

The Flag of Europe

You'll recognize it as the banner of the European Union (EU).

Heitz is a member of the Order of the Miraculous Medal; he prays a rosary daily, and has a great devotion to our Lady. In a 1999 interview he related that when he was considering a design to submit for the EU back in the 1950s, he was reading the history of the Blessed Virgin’s apparitions in Paris’ Rue du Bac. The idea for the circle of 12 stars came from this passage in the book of the Apocalypse 12:1: "And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars."

The woman in this case is the church of God, and by allusion is also the Blessed Virgin Mary. The church is clothed with the sun, that is, with Christ; she has the moon, that is, the changeable things of the world, in subjection under her feet; and the 12 stars with which she is crowned are the 12 apostles; she is in labor and pain, while she brings forth her children, and Christ in them, in the midst of afflictions and persecutions. (Challoner)

The 12 stars are the symbol of the Immaculate Conception herself, whose feast day we celebrate next Tuesday -- the 49th anniversary of when the European Ministers' delegates officially adopted Heitz's design for the European flag.

I don't know that there's anything particularly religious about the EU -- it's very much an organization devoted to the self-aggrandizing cult of man. I'm of the view that the lyrics of the EU's official anthem -- the final movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, the Ode to Joy -- better capture its true spirit (source):

Europe is united now
United it may remain
Our unity in diversity
May contribute to world peace.
May there forever reign in Europe
Faith and justice
And freedom for its people
In a bigger motherland.
Citizens, Europe shall flourish,
A great task calls on you.
Golden stars in the sky are
The symbols that shall unite us.

I'm not sure which is worse: this banal doggerel, or the shallow, prosy, rationalistic musings of the Schiller original.

Anyway, I think it noteworthy that with the inclusion of our Lady's 12 stars in the EU's banner, Heaven once again found a way to keep itself on the radar screen of a movement bent of excising consideration of the Divine.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Alps in Time Lapse

Astro-particle physicist and time-lapse photographer Michael Rissi of Zurich, Switzerland created some impressive time-lapse videos of the Swiss Alps.

Take a gander at

The piece is set to the second movement of Beethoven's seventh symphony, which I've long-enjoyed.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Holy Stairs Refurbished


The Scala Santa, or Holy Stairs, in Rome have been cleaned up. View a slide show at the link above.

The Scala Sancta are 28 marble steps that led to the praetorium in Jerusalem where Pontius Pilate interviewed our Lord during His Passion. The stairs were brought to Rome by St. Helena in the Fourth Century. Pilgrims for centuries have practiced the devotion of ascending the steps on their knees; yours truly made the climb in August 2000.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Watermelon Economics


From the source above (scare quotes are in the original):

A tiny clique of politicized scientists, paid by unscientific politicians with whom they were financially and politically linked, were responsible for gathering and reporting data on temperatures from the palaeoclimate to today’s climate. The "Team", as they called themselves, were bending and distorting scientific data to fit a nakedly political story-line profitable to themselves and congenial to the governments that, these days, pay the bills for 99% of all scientific research.

* The Climate Research Unit at East Anglia had profited to the tune of at least $20 million in "research" grants from the Team’s activities.

* The Team had tampered with the complex, bureaucratic processes of the UN’s climate panel, the IPCC, so as to exclude inconvenient scientific results from its four Assessment Reports, and to influence the panel’s conclusions for political rather than scientific reasons.

* The Team had conspired in an attempt to redefine what is and is not peer-reviewed science for the sake of excluding results that did not fit what they and the politicians with whom they were closely linked wanted the UN’s climate panel to report.

* They had tampered with their own data so as to conceal inconsistencies and errors.

* They had emailed one another about using a "trick" for the sake of concealing a "decline" in temperatures in the paleoclimate.

* They had expressed dismay at the fact that, contrary to all of their predictions, global temperatures had not risen in any statistically-significant sense for 15 years, and had been falling for nine years. They had admitted that their inability to explain it was "a travesty". This internal doubt was in contrast to their public statements that the present decade is the warmest ever, and that "global warming" science is settled.

* They had interfered with the process of peer-review itself by leaning on journals to get their friends rather than independent scientists to review their papers.

* They had successfully leaned on friendly journal editors to reject papers reporting results inconsistent with their political viewpoint.

* They had campaigned for the removal of a learned journal’s editor, solely because he did not share their willingness to debase and corrupt science for political purposes.

* They had mounted a venomous public campaign of disinformation and denigration of their scientific opponents via a website that they had expensively created.

* Contrary to all the rules of open, verifiable science, the Team had committed the criminal offense of conspiracy to conceal and then to destroy computer codes and data that had been legitimately requested by an external researcher who had very good reason to doubt that their "research" was either honest or competent.


Reflection: One wonders why they would go to the trouble? Control of political and economic machinery, of course -- but to what end? Perhaps there's something to the thought that environmental groups engage in watermelon economics: green (i.e. superficially organic and natural) on the outside, red (i.e. socialist, communist) on the inside.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cat Head Biscuits

I used to know a fellow from a poor farming family named Brookens. He sometimes talked about growing up on the farm. One story he liked was about the cat head biscuits his mother used to make.

"A cat head biscuit is as big as a cat's head," Brookens said. "You'd take your thumb and mush it down on top, making a big hole in the center. Then while it was still hot you'd pour in maple syrup so that it filled the hole and oozed out all over the biscuit and onto the plate. That's the proper way to eat a cathead biscuit."

Poverty can have an effect on one's perceptions, however.

"We had the cat head biscuits, and the fresh bacon from the slaughtered hogs, and the eggs gathered every morning from the hen house," Brookens said. "But what we all really wanted was the storbought food that the rich kids ate: we wanted Cheerios."

Cat Head Biscuit