Monthly Archives: February 2007

In Which the Banshee Feels She Is Misunderstood.

No, this isn’t a rant about the guy who completely missed the point of my audiobook of Chaucer’s Parliament of Birds. (Although it could be.) No, this is about something much more serious.

My library doesn’t love or understand me. They have instituted an audiobook download program that only works on computers more advanced than mine.

Yes, my computer is less advanced than Windows 98 SE. Hey, I only upgraded from 95 a few years back, and I had Windows 3.1 before that. I like an operating system that has gotten all the bugs out, and which the virus writers no longer target. Also, I’m cheap and like hand-me-downs.

The question is, who do they think uses the library extensively? Um… people who are cheap and like hand-me-downs? Or at least that’s who I see at the library, I hate to tell ya.

The other sad thing is that they didn’t pick the download system where patrons would get actual MP3s and could burn CDs for personal use. Noooooo. Oklahoma can afford that, but apparently the city and county feel that we don’t need these useful capabilities. So even if I could use their system (which I can’t), I don’t have any of the very few devices which they permit you to listen to their DRM’d files on, when away from your computer.

Bah.

So it’s even more useless than audible.com.

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Irish Wolfhounds at Westminster Kennel Club

I forgot to watch the dog show yesterday. But I watched the Irish Wolfhound breed judging on their website. It was encouraging — not quite so many dogs that looked like their nickname was “Stumpy”, and the winning dog (or rather, bitch) moved well and had a merry attitude toward the whole thing.

Still, a good few of the heavier finalist wolfhounds seemed to be too broad in the chest and solid in the front legs for their short height. They also didn’t seem to have a good range of motion in their forelegs, and they seemed to move awkwardly up front. I don’t know if that’s bad conformation, fat dogs, or just an optical illusion caused by fluffing and grooming, but it wasn’t what I like to see.

Power and bone is good, and of course we don’t want Irish wolfhounds to look exactly like deerhounds. But an Irish wolfhound really needs to be lean, and significantly taller than he is wide.

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The History Channel Insults Pagan Religion, Too!

Tonight I watched a show called “Machines of the Gods”, mostly talking about Heron of Alexandria’s clever little devices. In the first century, a time where most people didn’t believe in the gods qua gods, much less divine miracles — and in which people were very interested in mechanisms, like the water organ — Heron was supposedly aiding and abetting priests by producing false miracles.

Which is why he wrote a book all about ‘em, of course. ‘Cause he wanted to get torn apart by the gullible. Who apparently would be convinced by tiny little archers they couldn’t even see from the back rows. Because people in the past were all stupid, unlike today’s professors and the geniuses who run History Channel.

No, Heron of Alexandria was making showy animatronic devices for temples, because pretty devices doing pointless but clever things were tourist attractions. Fun for the whole family. Possibly he was also making tiny devices for rich people to play with, and temple high priests were rich enough to afford a few pretty and cool technological gadgets. Why is this so hard to understand?

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Snow Day!

With most of the senior staff down South at a big training/reward outing for sales, the usual tradition of my company of stayiing open in the midst of blizzards has been broken. (And a good thing, too!) For once, we don’t have to decide whether we can make it in, or whether we should use personal time. We don’t have to try to find somebody on the phone to tell that we’re not coming. And I, living close, don’t have to walk in through snowdrifts, or discuss my company’s open status and why I’m walking across the road with any police I might encounter. No, whoever has been left in charge just decided (at a decent hour!) to announce the company closed.

And all the people said, “Amen!” :)

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Two Interesting Orders

The Benedictines of Christ Crucified is an order of sisters which has the charism of accepting the religious vocations of those in frail health as well as those with disabilities; these sisters share a deep dedication to Christ’s Passion as well as the usual Benedictine “work and pray”.  They follow the Benedictine rule (Liturgy of the Hours, etc.), and have a US monastery in Connecticut.

The Dominicans of the Perpetual Rosary follow the normal Dominican life (study; sing the Divine Office;  wear veils, habits, and sandals, etc.), but they also keep up a perpetual “watch” with at least one nun saying the Rosary at all times. The nuns pray all the mysteries at once, keeping the whole world in their prayers.

At present, the house in Union City, New Jersey is accepting vocations of women up to seventy years old. There are only four sisters left in the monastery, and if they don’t get any new vocations, the monastery will have to close after a hundred years. So if anybody’s interested, get thee to a monastery! :)

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True Crime, Astronaut Style

Jawdropping NASA news today. Mission Specialist Capt. Lisa Nowak (Navy! Graduated from the Academy!), who’s been to space and to the International Space Station, drove through from Houston to Orlando just so she could (allegedly) try to kidnap and beat up the apparent girlfriend, Colleen Shipman, of the astronaut she likes, Cmdr. William Oefelein. Oh, and Nowak was married with three kids.

Listen to an interview with her at AOL.

As you might expect, her official bio is full of achievement. The Academy, of course, with a bachelor’s as an aerospace engineer; Master’s in aeronautical engineering, and some kind of additional Navy post-grad degree in it, too. Piloting. Electronic Warfare School. She was stationed at Point Mugu, Monterey (the Navy grad school thing), and then at Pax River as an engineer. She went to test pilot school, did test pilot stuff, then went to Naval Air Systems Command and did acquisition stuff. Finally, she got called to NASA, something she’d been working on all along. (She even did a TDA at NASA right after graduation, which must have fed the fire.) She went to space on STS-121 in July 2006.

She has 1500 hours in all sorts of aircraft.

And now this. Obviously, we all suffer from original sin and we all have problems with romance. Obviously, Houston is a competitive and stressful environment, and crazy stuff will occasionally happen that isn’t burned off by parties, fast cars, and beer. Still, sheesh! (And surely she could have thought of a better plan. She’s an engineer! Although I suppose pepper spray and handcuffs provide more of the hands-on satisfaction of revenge.) Also, she looks like crud in her photo — extremely thin and worn, and very unlike her shuttle photos. If she was obsessing over this guy and losing weight, why the heck didn’t any of her fellow astronauts or NASA coworkers notice? Where were the flight doctor shrinks? (Paging Dr. Sanity… well, not really. Since she’s ex-NASA, this counts as family dirty laundry for her. I would expect her to say little about this, or only in the most general way.) Heck, where were her husband and (presumably grown) kids?

It’ll be interesting to see if she gets prosecuted under the UCMJ or in civilian court. The military courts will undoubtedly want to throw the book at her for stuff that’s not even a crime in civilian court. (Adultery comes to mind, though of course there’s no evidence Oefelein actually did anything of that sort with her.) They weren’t in each other’s chain of command or anything, and they weren’t on each other’s mission teams.

Oefelein is two years her junior, a Navy commander with a Master’s. Naval aviator, went to TOPGUN, served with his squadron on the Nimitz, etc, etc. He went to test pilot school at Pax River in 1995 (while Nowak was still at Pax — did they know each other?), test piloted for two years, then went back to the school at Pax River as an instructor. Next year, he got transferred to Oceana, and from there he went to NASA. (Which, again, is something he must have been working toward and filling out forms for, during most of his career.) Oefelein has logged over 3000 hours and over 200 carrier landings. (He also has two kids, which argues an ex-wife who doesn’t appear on his bio.)

He went to space on STS-116, December 9-22, 2006. Yep, all this was boiling up right after his mission, which means it was probably on the boil before that. Sure, astronauts, you can all feel safe knowing that your comrades are occasionally full of violent jealousy while you’re up there. All happy friends together. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

*sarcasm* But intelligent, mature people are never jealous or angry in their relationships, so people can sleep around as much as they want, and open relationships and polygamy are a great idea. Nobody we know ever is driven to this sort of behavior.

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Oengus the Culdee

The eighth-ninth century monk who compiled a famous martyrology with all sorts of legends attached to it, apparently had a legend attached to himself. Whitley Stokes translated his martyrology, and a lot of the other stuff associated with it in the manuscripts is in the notes to his book. (Man, do I love books.google.com!) One of the associated materials was this poem on the life of Oengus.

Delightful to sit here thus,
by the side of the cold-pure Nore:
though it was full of troops, there was not a path of raids
in gifted Disert Bethech. [the Birchen Hermitage]

Disert Bethech, wherein dwelt the man
whom hosts of angels used to visit,
a pious cloister behind a circle of crosses,
wherein Oengus mac Oiblen used to be.

Oengus from the assembly of heaven –
here are his tomb and his bed:
and hence he went to death
on a Friday, unto holy heaven.

‘Tis in Cluain Eidnech he was reared:
in Cluain Eidnech he was buried:
in Cluain Eidnech of many crosses
he studied his psalms at first.

Oengus in a prison of bondage –
by the will of God’s Son — in Tallaght:
that was not vigorous life,
in the kiln a-drying [grain].

Before anyone arose in the country
a hard sack he had, for grinding seeds:
thrice fifty psalms — clear fulfillment –
three hundred genuflections every night.

Greenish cornblades [grew] through the hair of his head,
a covering of hair through his body:
seven years for him — godly the fasting –
without music, without repose.

He drank no ale out of a cup, Oengus –
choice was the wheat:
often his face changed color,
between wind and winnowing chaff.

He went one day to cut wood,
Oengus the flame on Bregia:
while lopping it — tale with beauty –
he struck off his gospel hand. [Right hand.]

Then the noble birds
wailed sorrowfully:
around the noble one, around the abbot,
they cried a cry greater than any cry.

His hand comes to his forearm –
Oengus without semblance of illegality.
What miracle was mightier under heaven?
There was healing without defect, without blemish.

Let him pray for me with that hand
That neither evil nor hardship befall me:
let him pray in unity of name,
along with his namesake.

The man who wove quatrains has come here,
the sun of the west of the world, of Meath:
a bank [whereon] the headache attacked him,
bank which is called ‘the bank delightful’.

People have been discussing on blogs lately a perceived lack of miracles healing amputated limbs. Whacking off your hand by mistake and being able to stick it back on again surely counts?

The reason Oengus was in “prison” was that he left the monastery at Clonenagh on the banks of the Nore and traveled down to join the one in Tallaght near Dublin. He hid his learning and rank as a monk to work on his modesty; and therefore got assigned to do manual labor. He started his Martyrology at Clonenagh, finished it at Tallaght, and eventually showed it to Fothuth of the Canon in AD 804. Oengus ended up becoming an abbot and a titular bishop. He died on March 11, but whether on the Friday in 819, 824, or 830 nobody now knows.

Oh, and apparently he wasn’t actually a Culdee, but rather a quite normal monk-type “servant of God” (cele De). But that’s what happens when words’ connotations change.

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