Monthly Archives: June 2007

Level3.net — It’s Not Paranoia When They’re Out to Get You!

Mwahaha! They said I was mad, mad! But I showed them!

*cough, wipe off flecks of spit*

I managed to get in touch with a Time Warner/Road Runner support guy who knew what he was doing and wasn’t telling me he could do nothing because my only phone is VoIP, and my system runs Windows 98. (Albeit SE.)  We also didn’t get cut off this time by the evil phone gremlins (or gremlines) like the last support guy who knew what he was doing.

So we ran some tests, and all proved to be as I’d said. My modem’s fine, my settings are fine, my cable line’s fine, my uploading’s fine, and I can get just about everything downloaded fine… as long as it doesn’t go through Chicago and Level3.net. Unfortunately, at least half of pretty much everything (including Google) goes that way, because Level3.net is one of the Internet backbone companies. The other half (stuff out east, or in Europe) goes through Level3.net in Washington DC, and seems to be fine; my speed is normal.

The big questions are: Why am I affected like this? Why are my Google packets taking the same (bad) route all the time? Why aren’t other people on the same Road Runner server being affected the same way (or at least, aren’t complaining about it)?

Stay tuned for the next chapter in this thrilling mystery. If wordpress.com downloads fast enough, that is. :)

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Elpis, Poet and Mother of the Church

Apparently, the poet Boethius’ wife was also a poet. Her name was Elpis, and she wrote the original version of one of the breviary hymns for today (Ss. Peter and Paul, who were brutally executed on this day in history). Check it out!

Aurea luce et decore roseo,
lux lucis, omne perfudisti
saeculum, decorans caelos
inclito martyrio hac sacra die,
quae dat reis veniam.

Golden daylight, rosy, bright and lovely,
Light of lights that pours through all the world,
Decking the heavens for this holy day
of famous martyrs, which He gives
as a thing of favor.
[?]

Ianitor caeli, doctor orbis
pariter, iudices saecli, vera
mundi lumina, per crucem
alter, alter ense triumphans,
vitae senatum laureati possident.

Gatekeeper of heaven, teacher of the globe –
together, ages’ judges, (and) true lights of the world;
one through the cross, the other through the sword,
both triumphing — in Life’s senate,
they sit laurel-crowned.

O Roma felix, quae tantorum principum
es purpurata pretioso sanguine, non laude
tua, sed ipsorum meritis
excellis omnem mundi
pulchritudinem.

O lucky Rome that’s dyed in purple
with two such leaders’ precious blood –
not for your praise, but through their deserts,
you excel all of the world
in excellence and beauty.

Olivae binae pietatis unicae,
fide devotos, spe robustos
maxime, fonte repletos
caritatis geminae post mortem
carnis impetrate vivere.

Two olive trees unique in piety,
devoted faith, the strongest hope –
twin fountains filled up brimful with love –
when flesh is dead, God grants your prayers
and makes you live.

Sit Trinitati sempiterna gloria,
honor, potestas atque iubilatio,
in unitate, cui manet imperium
ex tunc et modo per aeterna
saecula. Amen.

Endless glory be unto the Trinity,
honor, power, joy to God in unity,
who holds in His hand imperial command
both then and now and evermore
through eternal centuries. Amen.

The translation’s my own, and I was trying to make it semi-singable. (I thought up a little tune.)

UPDATE: Actually, the Gregorian chant tune is pretty easy to come by. It turned out I actually had a copy sitting around. Also, it turns out that many scholars seriously doubt that Elpis was the author, but apparently part of the poem is on her tomb or whatever, so authorship attached to her. Shrug. If they don’t know who wrote it, I’d think Elpis is as good a name for the author as Anon.

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Concoction: Chocolate Banana Yogurt Pudding

You can use plain or vanilla yogurt to make instant pudding. (Apparently this is an old diet trick and some people eat pudding for breakfast like this; but I’d never heard of it before.)

The good thing is that your pudding isn’t very likely to spoil. The bad thing is that you have to be very careful about mixing the ingredients to prevent little bits of mix staying dry.

For this concoction, I used a 32 oz package of vanilla yogurt and two small low-fat pudding mix boxes: 1 chocolate and 1 devil’s food. I also squished up 3 overripe bananas. (Using them up was pretty much the point of this concoction.)

The pudding tasted almost totally vanilla-y at first, which surprised me a great deal. However, after sitting in the refrigerator all night, the chocolate flavor became very strong — stronger than normal, and definitely yummier. The banana flavor was also very good, but I think I could have used more bananas to balance out the chocolate flavor. I think the devil’s food flavor worked out quite well with banana.

If you want to use this as a pie, you will have to use less yogurt. But I don’t know if it will ever set like a pudding pie normally does. (That was my original intention, but it worked out too gloppy.) I would bet it is very good frozen, however; and I am testing that tonight.

The major problem is that the pudding, though very good, looks scarily gloppy — it doesn’t have that pudding sheen one expects. If you put Cool Whip on it or some other topping, this will not be a problem.

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Concoction: Bailey’s Irish Cream and Kahlua

Apparently, one is supposed to construct a White Russian with equal parts Kahlua and cream, and then twice as much vodka over it all. One of my coworkers sent a friend to get him one, but the barkeep misheard the recipe and gave him equal parts Kahlua and Bailey’s Irish Cream plus twice as much vodka. (One might perhaps call this powerful drink an Irish Russian?)

I saw all this, and figured a small glass of equal parts Kahlua and Bailey’s would be pretty good. It was. It was still pretty powerful, though the Kahlua kept me quite awake!

(This must not have been the first time someone has misheard or been inspired. This recipe for a Kahlua Mudslide is equal parts vodka, Kahlua, and Bailey’s, with twice as much CREAM. Probably a lot safer and better for your calcium, although undoubtedly fattening. Putting ice into the drink seems a bit cruel to the liqueur, however. Just keep your Bailey’s in the fridge for a bit before you serve it, if you like the flavor brought out by cold.)

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Sermon 7, On the Sacrosanct Sacrament of the Eucharist by St. Albert the Great

Now that I’ve finally worked my way through the editor’s preface (Also in Latin! Ack!) of this book, I’m a lot more confident that it’s really by St. Albert and not just “some Scholastic guy”. If it is some Scholastic guy, he’s a guy who corrects the manuscript copy, with sewn-on medieval Post-It note equivalents, in Albert’s handwriting. So here’s more of my translation.

Sermon 7.
Of the form of donation in which the veiled Body of Christ is given.

Come, eat my bread,” etc. as in the first sermon. “How can he give us his flesh to gnaw?” John 5:53. Special theme: “It is good to hide the mystery [sacramentum] of a king.” Tobias 12:7.

The second principle about the sacrament of the Lord’s body to be noted is the form of the donation. And about that, three things are to be considered:

I. That the Lord gives His body, veiled.
II. That He gives it veiled under the species of bread.
III. That He gives it under the species of wheat bread.

The first thing to be considered about the form of donation of the Lord’s Body is that it is given veiled, not bare, according to the well-known passage, Revelation 2:17 — “I will give the hidden manna“, as if celestial food were veiled. But because from this human perception is deterred and amazed, with another it is seen and with another it is ordered to believe, a fourfold reason for this veil from the wisdom of God can be assigned:

the vileness of the evil,
the faith of the good,
the instruction of morals,
the weakness of all.

Of the first two, here it can be told; of the others, in their turn.

The first reason why the Lord gives His Body veiled, is the vileness of the crooked, which he drives out; so it is veiled, like an injured eye, so that it is covered from the sun and whatever other light. And in this, most benignly, the mercy of the Savior spends time with them. Indeed, if the crooked saw the Body bare, and this being gnawed by the faithful, they would be scandalized from this same aspect, and triply destroyed badly, clearly: in the heart, through horror; in the tongue, through detraction; in the soul, through spiritual death.

Of the first destruction, John 6:56, where the Lord says, “My flesh is real food, and my blood real drink.” It goes on (John 6:67): “After this, many of the disciples left and went back“, as if shrinking back from the words of eating flesh. Ambrose: “By chance you might say, ‘What kind of flesh is true, what kind of blood is true? What likeness do I see? I don’t see truth in blood.’ Pay attention. When Christ’s disciples heard that he would give his flesh for chewing, and would give his blood for drinking, they slipped away. Peter alone said, ‘You have the words of eternal life, and how would I go back?’ Not many would say this; therefore, it was veiled for a certain horror of gore, but the grace of redemption remains; for that reason, you receive the sacrament in a certain likeness, but you obtain the grace and power of its real nature.”*

————————————————————–
* De sacram. lib. VI. c. 1. Migne, S. l. tom. 16. col. 454. (cf. Decr. Grat.
P. III. Dist. II. c. 69).
————————————————————–

Of the second of them,* where the Lord says, “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. The Jews quarrelled, saying to each other: How can he give us his flesh to chew?‘” (John 6:52-53) This kind of quarrel, murmur, and detraction is from the naked chewing of the Body of Christ, and therefore it should be veiled. Psalm 54:13 — “If he who have hated me had spoken evil against me, I would perhaps have hidden myself from him. Truly, you, a man of one mind with me, my guide and my familiar friend, who took sweetmeats at the same time as me.

Of the third, Numbers 4:19 — “Aaron and his sons will go in; they shall appoint work“, that is, they will wrap up the mysteries. “Do not let others out of any curiosity see the things that are in the sanctuary before they are hidden; otherwise, they will die.” 1 Kings 6:19 (1 Samuel 6:19) — “The Lord struck down many, because they had seen the Ark of the Lord“, because of course it was not permitted them to see it exposed. The Ark is a figure of the Lord’s Body, which is veiled for the evil, that they will not spiritually die if they see it bared; for this reason of their blindness, they think it is a fantasy. Ecclesiasticus 3:22-23 — “Do not be curious about many of His works; for it is not necessary for you to see with your eyes those things that are hidden.”

The second reason that the Lord gives His Body veiled, is the faith of the good. And this reason can be divided into three which they examine — here veiled, as is known: the true existence of faith, the first remedy of infidelity, the service of faith.
First, it examines the true existence of faith, that the Body of Christ is veiled. Hebrews 11:1 — “Faith is…the evidence of things that are not seen.” Augustine said exactly this: “Faith is to believe what you do not see”, that is, you have believed in the Word of God about hidden things, that it is true, although you do not see them with your eyes. For of the things which we see, we have knowledge more than we have faith. 1 Peter 1:8 — “He is Christ, in whom now you believe that do not see.

——————————–
* John 6:52.
** Tract. 40 in Joan. c. 8. Migne, s. l. tom. 35. col. 1690.
——————————–

The second considers the first remedy for infidelity, so that the Body of Christ is veiled, to that extent it would be a fit method of penalty for the guilt of infidelity. From whence, as the First Parents’ unbelief began from listening to the devil’s words that were urging a food that held, in a way, veiled Death, and in that they had empty delight of their senses, so it fits that the faith would have begun being saved by listening to the words of the Savior, urging a food holding hidden true life, and in which our senses would be lovingly deceived, before hearing, so that it is known that faith is from that same hearing, and not from seeing or the other senses; but hearing, through Christ’s word.

This is figured beautifully in Genesis 26 in Jacob’s blessing, where Isaac’s senses are deceived, supposing he felt Esau while he felt a likeness of him, which was Jacob veiled. From which we will have understood that in this figure of the Lord’s Body are four persons: that is, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, and Esau.

Isaac and Rebecca, who are a male and a female, represent the two natures in us (that is, body and soul). The male, who was more in the habit of being conspicuous and exerted more on the outside, represented the exterior of a man (that is, our body with its senses); the woman who rules the family living at home is the type of the interior of a man (that is, the faithful soul), which manages its salvation and the care of others.  The good and handsome Jacob who lives in a tent [tabernacle] and whom Rebecca (that is, the faithful soul) loves, represents the true Body of Christ. Esau, whom Isaac (that is, the body) loves and who enjoys his food, is the type of the substance of bread with its accidents: that is, color, flavor, and the rest.

So therefore, Isaac, (as it were, the outer man) that is the priest, has to bless Esau (that is, the bread); Esau (that is, the substance of the bread) withdraws, but the likeness of Esau — robes with his smell, hairy hides, tasty food — (that is, the accidents of the bread and its likeness — that is, color, flavor, odor) the strength remains around Jacob (that is, the Body of Christ). From whence Isaac (that is, our body) was deceived in all his senses.

First, Isaac’s foggy sight (that is, the weakness of our body) was deceived there, because it supposes it has Esau (that is, bread) before its eyes, and has his very same robes (that is, the species of bread), but  under them hides the veiled Jacob (that is, the Body of Christ). Second, Isaac’s taste is deceived there (that is, our body’s), because he supposes he tastes and eats Esau’s food (that is, the bread), and tastes a likeness of the same. Third, Isaac’s sense of smell is deceived there (that is, our body’s), because he supposes he smells Esau (that is, bread) who really is not there; but he smells the smell of his clothes (that is, the form of bread) which Jacob is wearing (that is, the body of Christ is veiled). Fourth, Isaac’s sense of touch is deceived (that is, our body’s), because he supposes that he touches Esau (that is, bread), and feels hair in the likeness of Esau’s (that is, the likeness or species of bread), who is Jacob veiled (that is, the Body of Christ).

Isaac was wise, but he was deceived in his judgment of recognizing Esau. So our outer man is deceived in our senses’ judgment of the bread of the altar, except in hearing. Hence he says, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are Esau’s.” The hands that I touch are Esau’s; nothing more false. The voice that I hear saying “I AM” is the voice of Jacob; nothing more true. Likewise, the Sacrament that I touch is the substance of bread; nothing more false. The voice of Christ saying “This is My Body”; nothing more true.

First, therefore, it is considered the remedy for faithlessness that the Body of Christ is given veiled, so that because the senses of the First Parents delighted vainly in food of perdition, our bodies’ senses are deceived by the food of blessing, in the image of Isaac; yet even so, Rebecca, (that is, the faithful soul) was not deceived in her faith. She believed, in fact, Jacob to be holy in the real blessing, (that is, the Body of Christ) veiled in the likeness of Esau (that is, the substance of bread).

[Second point not in book, unless it's Rebecca.]

Third, it weighs the merit of faith that the Body of Christ is veiled, because, as Gregory says: “Faith does not have merit when human reason provides experience” sufficient to supply it.

————————————————————-
* In Evang. hom. 26, n. 1. Migne, S. l. tom. 76. col. 1197.
————————————————————-

Therefore, the Lord wills to give His Body veiled, because to believe His Word more than our senses in this has great merit. John 20:29 — “Blessed are they who do not see and yet believe.” The merit of their faith or the fruit of their merit is threefold: the full wealth of spiritual goods, a sufficiency of temporal ones, an overflowing of eternal ones.

Thus Rebecca prays (that is, the faithful soul), “May this curse be upon me, my son“, that is, this threefold blessing: “God give you the dew of heaven” (that’s the first) “and of the fat of the land” (that’s the second), “abundance of grain, wine, and oil” (that’s the third).

Of the first, John 7:38 — “‘Whoever believes in me…out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.’ Now this he said of the Spirit, which those who believed in Him would receive.” Hosea 14:6 — “I will be as the dew, and Israel spring up like the lily.

Of the second, Hebrews 11:33 — “The saints through faith conquered kingdoms… obtained promises….” — that is, temporal goods. Isaiah 1:19 — “If you be willing and listen to me, you will eat the good things of the land.” Matthew 6:33 — “First, seek the Kingdom of God” (believing rightly) “and His justice” (living justly) “and all these things shall be added to you.

Of the third, 1 Peter 1:9 — “Believing in Christ, whom you have not seen, you shall rejoice in untellable and glorified joy, receiving the end of your faith — the salvation of your souls.” Proverbs 1:33 — “Whoever listens to me shall rest without terror, and enjoy abundance without fear of evil things.” Amen.

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Get Your Motu Running

Apparently, the Pope’s motu proprio widening Catholics’ access to the old “Tridentine” Mass is going to come out on July 7, along with a four page letter from the Pope explaining it.

Vatican sources say that of course this has nothing to do with the annual celebration in Pamplona of the translation of St. Fermin’s relics to their current resting place, aka the Running of the Bulls, and that the motu will not be printed on red cloth. Highly placed Vatican sources who just happen to be Irish say that it’s time for the festival of St. Maolruain to be celebrated with house-to-house visits, jigs, and drinking, as it was before the no-fun Dominicans suppressed the patteran. Even more highly placed sources claimed that it was designed to get some street cred and devotion for “mein homey Blessed Pope Benedict XI, yo.”

The document will allegedly allow any priest to offer Mass and other sacraments according to the old Tridentine rubrics, if requested by thirty people. If the bishop objects, he will have to take the case to a Vatican commission. This is the opposite of the present procedure, which forced individual priests to appeal to the Vatican if the bishop denied them permission. Some bishops say that this is unfair and against tradition and their rights. Vatican officials and many Catholic mothers point out that so was the method of removal of traditional Mass formats unfair and against tradition, and so was your blocking of petitions for traditional Mass, and we didn’t see you bishops complaining back then or being particularly democratic; so don’t cry us a river, you’re getting a much better deal now than anybody else did then.

Media sources and many baby boomers insist that the older format of Mass involved the priest turning his back on the people, not everyone praying toward the risen Christ who will be returning from the east just as He ascended in that direction. Theologian Justin Martyr protested this interpretation saying, “Are you on crack? He hath set his tabernacle in the sun: and he, as a bridegroom coming out of his bride chamber, hath rejoiced as a giant to run the way.” He also pointed out that Christian churches and graves have always been supposed to be oriented toward the east; and that he should know, because he’s a pretty dang early Christian.

In other news, Jews pray away from the back wall, not toward Jerusalem; and Muslims pray away from the opposite side of Mecca, around the globe’s curvature.

The move is widely blamed on the nostalgia for the old days of young Catholics whose parents weren’t even born in 1963, and never mind how that can be nostalgia. Other Catholics say they don’t personally care, but it’s a fair move and should make a lot of other people happy, unlike that silly teen rock Mass. Also, older Catholics who applaud the move say that it’s about darned time they got some use out of those Missals they bought in 1962.

Catholics whose Missals were confiscated at parochial school in 1963 by scary guitar-playing nuns are considering a class action suit to get their property back, especially their “prayer card collection which was stuffed inside the front cover. One of them was from my great-grandfather’s funeral. Geez, how will I ever get a copy of that?” Unfortunately, lawyers say it will be difficult to trace the scary guitar-playing nuns, as many of them became scary married ex-nuns in 1969, and then progressed to becoming scary new agey ex-wives by 1972.

Justin Martyr, Cecilia, Perpetua, Felicitas, and other illegal Roman immigrants say that this is the first step toward fighting discrimination against them in the so-called Latin Rite of Catholicism. “They say it’s the Latin Rite, but then they ban everything Latin,” said Cecilia, last name not provided. “They forget all the great artistic works that are their heritage, because they find them embarrassing. They put our statues and pictures in the basement closet. Heck, they don’t want to see us in church at all, not even on the stained glass. It’s like they want to forget where they come from.”

Ita, puella,” (You go, girl) agreed Felicitas. “They don’t want to be reminded of the catacombs, the tenements, the arena. They’ve sold out to the culture, and they just want to fit in. Even polyphony is just too street.”

“Of course, this sacrifices the convenience and unity of sharing a common language across nations and centuries ,” said Justin. “Philosophers and theologians throughout time used to be able to argue points easily, from primary sources. Today’s philosophy professors are often unable to comprehend the foundation texts of their own subject. Not that they actually want to learn anything, of course, since they think they know better than anyone else who ever lived. But Americans can’t even find editions of works on natural law that influenced their own Constitution, because everybody here is so bigoted against Latin….”

The interview was interrupted by a swarm of scary reiki practitioners, wielding Buddhist singing bowls and insisting that Mass be in a language they could understand.

———————————————————-

Reporters were advised to consult the Curt Jester’s list of cliches for the construction of their motu stories.

———————————————————-

Obligatory parody filk:

Get your motu running
Head down to your parish
Pick up thirty friends now
And you’ll have a happy day

Looks like it’s really gonna happen
Hear the Mass in a justice place
Say Kyries three times three, and
Explode into grace

Like God’s only begotten child,
We were born, born to be mild.
We eat of Him to live;
We’re never gonna die.

Born to be mild…
Born to be mild, yeah.

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That Slooooow Thing

The slow download speeds have persisted all weekend, even after I rebooted my modem. (Didn’t think it was a modem problem.) I can reach Yahoo super-quick; stuff in England is pretty fast if it doesn’t use Google; but anything Google is still slooooooower than molasses. I can’t even reach the page of my ISP/cable company.
My upload speeds are not affected, AFAIK or can tell.

I have spoken to tech support at my cable company. They provided one competent technician who wanted to help and knew alternate ways to do it (who of course got knocked off the line) and one idiot who couldn’t deal with the fact that I actually use their phone service and not a cellphone, 98SE and not XP, or anything else. I tried to tell him that it was something on their end, not the modem. No joy.

I have no evidence that this has to do with my cable company’s adoption of the (cool if it worked well, but it doesn’t) technique called packet shaping. I will give them a bit more time to fix this (and a few more chances to find the competent guy again) before I move to another ISP. But honestly, I see no reason not to get out, if I’m not going to get what I paid for from now on.

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Just So You Know That the CMAA Workshop Last Year Wasn’t Wasted on Me….

I chanted “Ut Queant Laxis” today at the 8 AM Mass today, for the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.

Well, actually I chanted the first and last verses in Latin, and in between I chanted a metrical English translation. But hey, I did my Midsummer duty! And it seems to have gone over well, probably because it’s a beautiful and sprightly old medieval tune. (See, folks, chant’s not so scary….)

The other important thing about this very old hymn which should make it dear to musicians is that, in about 1050, the monk Guido of Arezzo noticed that each of the first six phrases started one note higher than the rest. And since everybody knew “Ut Queant Laxis”, he could just name the notes of the scale with the syllables of those phrases. “Ut” would later become “do”, and the seventh note of the scale went from “si” for “Sancte Iohannes” to “ti”. But this is where do-re-mi all started, a thousand years ago — with a song probably already old. Thank you, St. John!

1. Ut queant laxis resonáre fibris
Mira gestórum muli tuórum,
Solve pollúti bii reátum,
Sancte Ioánnes.

2. Núntius celso véniens Olýmpo
Te patri magnum fore nascitúrum,
Nomen, et vitae sériem geréndae
Ordinae promit.

3. Ille promíssi dúbius supérni,
Pérdidit promptae módulos loquélae:
Sed reformásti genitus perémptae
Organa vocis.

4. Ventris obstrúso récubans cubíli
Sénseras Regem thálamo manéntem:
Hinc parens nati méritis utérque
Abdita pandit.

5. Sit decus Patri, genitaéque Proli
et tibi, compare utriúsque virtus,
Spíritus semper, Deus unus, omni
Témporis aevo. Amen.

1. O for your spirit, holy John, to chasten
Lips sin-polluted, fettered tongues to loosen;
So by your children might your deeds of wonder
Meetly be chanted.

2. Lo! a swift herald, from the skies descending,
Bears to your father promise of your greatness;
How he shall name you, what your future story,
Duly revealing.

3. Scarcely believing message so transcendent,
Him for a season power of speech forsaketh,
Till, at your wondrous birth, again returneth,
Voice to the voiceless.

4. You, in your mother’s womb all darkly cradled,
Knew your great Monarch, biding in His chamber,
Whence the two parents, through their offspring’s merits,
Mysteries uttered.

5. Praise to the Father, to the Son begotten,
And to the Spirit, equal power possessing,
One God whose glory, through the lapse of ages,
Ever resounding. Amen.

PS. Here’s a YouTube video from the CMA last year of the Guidonian Hand, Guido’s method of teaching sight-singing.

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Simplicity and Competence

Competence is a buzzword these days in business, but it really is important to understand. Basically, it’s a measure of how well you are able to understand and carry out a certain task, and how comfortable you are doing it. Someone who is perfectly competent to do a task but isn’t comfortable with it yet is lower on the competence scale than someone who knows he can do it practically in his sleep.

Now, obviously the business world wants people to keep learning new things and widening their competency (for the sake of productivity and making the business able to respond to new challenges). But the trick is to do it without keeping people too long at the incompetent, nervous level. Too much of that, and productivity and morale goes down.

Similar concerns come into play when our company has public functions to woo clients or make friends with corporate heads.  Everybody has to be involved, but each individual person’s part to play must be simple and easy to understand — because none of us has done this particular event before.

Often, we receive instructions in our email ahead of time if the company wants us to wear something special. This is reinforced the day before, and on the day, by each individual work group’s managers. If we are supposed to yell something for the camera or the visitor, we are instructed beforehand and get a chance to practice _as a group_. Nobody expects us to get everything right the first time.

However, the most important thing is that we know why we are doing whatever silly thing we do, and we trust that there is a good chance it will do some good. We are told which client we are trying to get, and we are told the reasoning behind the new actions. All this is backed up by a record of sales success in the past; shrewd and kind leadership; and a corporate culture and tradition shared by everyone in the company, but believed most by our bosses. Whatever we do, they lead us in doing it. And they lead from the front.

Now, what would happen to that trust if the situation were attacked in several places at once? What would happen if the bosses started doing weird stuff for no reason, and we lost clients and sales because of it? What if they reacted by making us do strange, elaborate and boring stuff for clients, under the impression clients would like it, despite the fact that nobody but them did? And what if, at the same time, we heard our corporate culture continually mocked by our managers, and told that every bit of it was useless or even evil, and thus must go? Obviously many people would leave, disgusted. Others would stay in hopes of change, but feel very unhappy — and incompetent in the situation.

Obviously, the situation of the Church is a lot more complex than this, and not nearly so horrible. I really like our company’s leaders, but none of them is Jesus Christ. ;) However,  it certainly will help if the Church’s bishops, priests, and lay leaders and intellectuals can demonstrate by their actions and words that they really do believe what the Church teaches — also making it easier for the people to believe, and to be certain that beliefs have not changed. It will help if every member of the Church can be made aware that the Lord calls for his personal contribution, and that the people around him know him and love him, as well as the Lord they all serve. And it will help a lot if nobody makes us do stupid things for no reason, and with no time to practice. :)

The Mass can be celebrated in many different ways, and some of them are quite elaborate. But the basic foundation is supposed to be the same. It is not “boring” to keep things the same. It is how Our Lord set things up. Our Lord, being Truth and Knowledge and Omnicompetence Himself, was perfectly well aware that humans perform better if they can do mostly the same thing every time. If we do the same thing, then (among other things) we are bound to remember: waking and drowsing, sincere and insincere. Until we are competent to do His bidding almost in our sleep. Until we have it at our fingertips — fingerspitzengefuhl — and can do whatever is needed.

The Church has also set up things to be simple. There is a book for the readings, and a separate book for the Gospel. There is a book for the priest to use to read the Mass. Variations to the Mass for occasion or season only take place at certain places — the same places almost every time. Anything different is printed up in big letters. And anything the priest has to do is printed in his book in BIG RED LETTERS. (Which is why they call them “rubrics”.)

So why isn’t Mass simpler? If we could just practice the procedures for lay ministers — all together, all at the same time — until we knew in every cell of our bodies what to do — waking or drowsing, worried or calm — things would be a lot easier. Instead, everybody does all sorts of things, because the instructions are always changing, changing, changing, and everybody is always nervous and worried and feeling incompetent.  Worst of all, the EMHCs sometimes are made to wander around like a confused flock of geese, nobody knows where to stand  despite a sign-up sheet, and people whose hands shake get stuck holding the Precious Blood. There’s no single, clear and simple procedure; and that makes everything more complicated than it needs to be.

If everything is always the same, and variations are always in the same places, people can concentrate on remembering the variation. If not, everything is a variation, and nobody knows what the heck is going on.

So nobody can really settle down to pray and praise and worship and thank God.

Now, obviously, God is extremely understanding about competency levels (everybody’s incompetent compared to Him!). Making the tiniest effort of will and good intention is more than enough for Him.  But we naturally long to give Him our all, so it’s pretty darned frustrating to the people of God not to be able to carry out the purpose of the Mass very competently. People know they can do better, if they are allowed. The Mass is inherently beautiful, and draws us on to do beautiful things for God’s glory.

Good church leaders should do everything they can _to help that happen_. They should clear out obstacles and give help, training, and encouragement where needed. Beyond that, they should trust people and most of all, God.

Sorry to make two rambling posts in a row. There are some ideas I’m trying to work out, and they keep slithering away.

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Situational Awareness

First off, poor Bishop Moeddel has offered his resignation for reasons of ill health (vascular dementia), and it’s been accepted by the Vatican. I don’t really remember seeing the guy; but he was our auxiliary bishop, so it’s sad.

This increases the burden on poor Archbishop Pilarczyk, who is also not in good health. However, the archbishop will be coming up on retirement age soon, so maybe for just a few years it won’t be too heavy a workload. And heck, maybe the Vatican will appoint him a co-adjutor. I think that would be good, as the archdiocese is not exactly in spiffy shape, financially or in many other ways. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

The corporation which owns my company was recently merged with another large corporation, and we got a visit today from our big boss there. We were there to try and promote goodwill and interest between our company and the bigwigs at the corporation (without sucking up, because we have our pride). He was there to try to reassure us that we weren’t going to get sold off, because we make the stockholders money. It seemed to go well. Our company choir sang, too, which I always enjoy.

(What? You don’t have a company choir? Tsk.)

At one point, the big boss opened things up to a Q&A. This one lady asked a rather roundabout question, and the big boss immediately told her that he knew what she really was asking: Would the corporation be buying any other companies? (Like the competitor we keep joking they’re going to buy out, which we hope will turn out not to be a joke?) He told her that they were always looking for opportunities, but that if he told her anything more, he’d have to take her out and shoot her.

Which was pretty much what we expected, on that front. And yeah, it didn’t take telepathy, but it was nice to see that the big boss understood the situation.

It was very interesting to hear him answer other people, but I really wish that I’d known ahead of time that we’d be invited to ask questions. He says we can email him more questions, and I may well take him up on that. Telecommunications is in a funny place right now; and there are certain things going on which affect us as consumers, while other things may affect me as a podcaster. It would be interesting to know what’s likely to happen, or at least what the corporation would like to happen.

Finally, we had a famous visitor in my parish this weekend. I didn’t really see him, because I was cantoring and freaking about that. We had to put up numbers on the hymn boards, and then we had to change the numbers for the psalm we changed, and my parents weren’t there yet, would they get a seat? yes, and then there were dead roses in the vase by the statue of Mary and you can’t leave dead roses around, and then when I came back in from putting the roses in the trashcan, I noticed that some bunch of people had filled up the rows where the cantor usually sits, and one of them on the aisle was some older guy in a nice suit with some big old-person sunglasses on.

There are a lot of older guys in church, so you can see why the situational awareness did not trigger.

ANyway, I went and sat down by my parents, got up about six seconds later when the bells started to ring (we normally wait until the bells are winding down, but I was sitting further back and had further to walk), and headed for the ambo to announce what day in ordinary time it was and what the first hymn (okay, not technically a hymn, and this is one of those poetic genre things that bugs the music director, and I sympathize with technical term correctness although personally this one doesn’t worry me; so I have to say song just to be safe) was going to be. I realized at this point that pollen or my sinuses was bothering me, and that my lovely rehearsal in the A/C of the music office was not going to carry over to church. But I managed through the hymn (which the people sang!), noticed that one of the peace lilies right in front of the altar was dead (but it was far too late to do anything about that), sang the Gloria serviceably but not well (but the people sang, thank goodness!), and then went and sat down about four rows back from the front on the center aisle, which because of the short pews installed to let handicapped people sit where I was currently sitting, was right behind the guy in the black suit. Nice suit.

So then we had one of the shortest first readings of the year. I got up and went to the ambo to sing the psalm, which the organist for that Mass played from the front. Finally, something went well. I’m never really satisfied with how I do psalms, but sometimes I can get close to saying what the psalm says. And the people actually sang the refrain, so yay!

Back down the steps. My gazillionth profound bow of the day. (The tabernacle’s over on the side, but yeah, I genuflected plenty times before Mass, what with how many times I had to go across the front on errands.) Head over to the “alleluia microphone”. This also was good, because not only did I get to rejoice and alleluia a lot and the people did sing, but also I got to sing the actual proper verse for the day. Yay! Also, I stood properly sideways, which is much less distracting. You don’t look at the congregation that way, or wonder whether that old dude in the black suit and the funky sunglasses looks vaguely familiar.

So we all listen to the newly deaconed permanent deacon read the Gospel, and he’s a little stumbling over it, but nobody seems to worry about it; and Father still looks really pleased to see somebody, and maybe it’s somebody in that front row family, but who knows. Finally the Gospel’s done, and the organist and I retreat back to the safety of the loft….

But we’re met at the stairs by an excited friend of the organist, who’s excited about the same thing the organist is — along with everybody else, apparently. The actor Martin Sheen.

He sometimes attends Mass in our parish when he’s home in the summer, I’d heard, but I’d never seen him. Probably because I never come to 4:30. And I didn’t see him this time, either, except for a few glimpses. I’d kept walking by him again and again, and never even noticed he was there.

On the good side, it didn’t make me feel any more nervous or excited or anything. But don’t think it’s because I’m admirably detached, or strictly regard all my brothers in Christ as equally important. No, I was apparently too wrapped up in my own problems to really worry about any mere Hollywood star, or what he thought of me. (Though to be fair, we did have a lot of snafus that afternoon, so I did have real problems to worry about as well as the standard “I’m not doing a good job for God” worries.) I should have just handed the whole thing up to the Holy Spirit at the beginning of Mass, and I knew that perfectly well. But I didn’t, which was why I couldn’t keep my mind on praying instead of worrying. But I wasn’t paying attention to the real situation — ie, worshipping God.

So yeah, you can’t leave dead roses in front of Mary’s statue. But man, if that guy’d been a snake, he would’ve bit me! I lacked situational awareness, and not spotting Sheen was the least of that.

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Fight Slimes and Learn Japanese!

You gotta love the concept behind the new educational videogame Slime Forest. This guy figured out that drill is the way to internalize language and reading characters… and that videogames are basically really fast drill.

The downside is that the full game isn’t free. You can become a member for $2 a month, or get a permanent membership for $30. But playing a videogame for a month could get you pretty far along the way to learning how to read kana and kanji.

UPDATE: The demo is free, and there is plenty to play. You start learning katakana right off. To fight the slimes, you type in the pronunciation/Roman alphabet transliteration of the katakana character shown to you. If you don’t know it (which you won’t if you’re new to Japanese, or not up on your katakana), red letters appear which spell it out. You type in what’s shown to you, and the game counts it as having hit the slime.

The game encourages you to type in each pronunciation as quickly as possible, and repeats more often the characters you don’t answer accurately, or quickly enough. If you show that you recognize a character right off, it repeats less often. If you do well enough, new characters are introduced. This works similarly to flashcards, but is much more fun and natural.

Fighting the slimes wins you gold, which you can use to buy useful objects to use in the game. Once you have learned many of the characters and bought objects, you can attempt to enter the cave where the slimes store their gold and the princess they’ve captured. More advanced questions ensue. If you don’t know the material well enough to get through the cave’s levels, you retreat and go fight more slimes in the forest. :)

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Paul Potts

You’ve probably heard about Paul Potts, the Welsh amateur singer and cell phone salesman who became famous with his first few sweet notes on Britain’s Got Talent. It’s wonderful how people can switch from uninterested to enthralled in a moment, if you only give them an excuse.

He apparently used to post at a mobile phone help forum. As Pottsy12. :)

The rec.music.opera people are typically biting. Of course. They usually are. Meanwhile, it seems that most of the heavy-duty operabloggers are being silent about the whole thing.

I suppose there are plenty of technical flaws for a real audiophile to pick out. But frankly, the most important quality that any singer can have is the ability to put a song across — which he can do.

It’s sad that this shy amateur is so stiff and expressionless in his body language; but his voice is remarkably evocative and expressive. He has heart and lets it show, and people respond to that by giving him their own. That empathy, that directness of connection, is very difficult to beat.

So I hope he gets to study with a great teacher, and learns to marry technique and ease to what he’s already got. But his heart is his greatest asset.

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Octavia Butler — She Dead

Good Lord. I’m glad I didn’t take English from Orson Scott Card.

First off, he picked an Octavia Butler novel for his sf novel. That alone would disqualify me from his class. The last time I read an Octavia Butler novel, I had cold shivering continuous nightmares for _two nights_. That is the only novel which has ever given me nightmares.

No, I do not find any aesthetic or practical reason to let anybody else give me nightmares.

If I never read another word by Octavia Butler, that is too soon.

Second, he made his class read four chick lit books.

Do you know what happens when I listen to a chick lit audiobook?I get to the third CD and nothing has happened yet, but I’ve heard them describe a lot of handbags and bad boyfriends. So I stop.

Boredom and weird stick figure cover art — that’s chick lit.

Third, he wanted everybody to reflect on their lives in the light of art.

Look, I read literature, learn new things, and study to get away from my life and out of my brooding head. I already know what junk is in there, and it’s unhealthy to spend time breathing its dust. If I want to reflect on my life, I don’t want to do it in front of any teacher. Fundamentally, my life is nobody else’s business, unless I choose to make it so.

This is one reason why I refused to do “journaling” in high school, or did it in the most teacher-punishing way possible, even though this dropped my grades considerably. If I were doing it today, I’d be writing up death lists in the hope somebody’d suspend me out of my misery.

Making people talk about their lives in exchange for grades is called “blackmail”. It’s wrong.

Millions for blogging, but not one word for grades!

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What Were They THINKING?

You cannot make this up, people.

The Missionaries of the Precious Blood (priests) recently had to give up their responsibility for a bunch of parishes up in “God’s Country”, because they just don’t have the personnel. The sisters’ side of the house is likewise growing smaller and smaller all the time; they don’t use nearly all the space at their motherhouse, which is actually now at a smaller facility than their original motherhouse. So yeah, they’d really like some new people.

Their slogan for recruiting vocations is all about listening to the beating of Christ’s heart and doing what He says. Very nice. Very mystical.

Then they illustrate it with someone playing bongo drums.

*smack palm into forehead*

Is there any image more stereotypically out of fashion and lame? Is there anything worse they could have used as an illustration, anything less Christ-like and Christ-centered, anything more likely to drive people away? Especially when, compared to other orders, they’re not all that bad — not nearly what they’re advertising themselves to be?

So who the heck picked this advertising campaign? What were they THINKING?

Did they not run a focus group? Did they not ask for any opinions? Did they not figure out that “pedophilia”, “rulers”, “polyester”, “kumbaya”, and “bongo drums” are the advertising images that religious orders should avoid at all costs?

Happily, the Precious Blood orders in other countries seem to be growing and doing well. (Also, not advertising for vocations with bongo drums.)

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