Monthly Archives: March 2006

The Thrill of Reading Early, the Agony of Silence

I couldn't stand the long wait till September, so I gave in. Yes, I paid Baen Books fifteen perfectly good US dollars for an "electronic Advance Reader Copy" of Some Golden Harbor by David Drake.

So I read it last night. And loved it! It was great! Because…

Ah. Can't tell you.

That's the problem with Advance Reader Copies. Yes, it's great to get the book you're waiting for. Yes, it's fun to announce smugly to your friends that you Know All, months ahead of everyone else. But then what?

Unless you let someone else read the book (and they live close enough to make this practical, or you're very trusting of the US Mail), you don't have anyone to discuss the book with! Frustration! 

Still, I'm glad Baen is doing this. Real Advance Reader Copies used to be very hard to find. Then advance readers started selling them to used bookstores in decent numbers, which was a great boon to collectors and fans. But then E-Bay came along, and the market got very weird indeed. Fifteen dollars is a lot cheaper than a hundred dollars or more.

Especially when I have an extra five months to contemplate the implications of Tovera's new friend, or the way Daniel told Adele…

…something I can't tell you. πŸ™‚ 

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“His Whole Bohemian Soul”

Whenever I go back and spend a lot of time reading the ordinary and forgotten literature of past times, I find lots of references to things that the world has forgotten. Things which were ordinary points or cute comments to the contemporary reader become incomprehensible to us today, yes. But what's worse, such digs can go totally unnoticed, fading into the fabric of the story and disappearing without a trace.

Now, for my six-days-a-week podcast, I've been reading a story or poem by Fitz James O'Brien every Monday. He's a wonderful example of the antebellum New York Bohemian writer. He loves Poe. He loves writing about theater, mysteries and crime, drugs, drinking, odd ethnic groups, and odd professions. He is in love with love, but he also wants to have last minute twists. Convention is fought, for progressive good or decadent ill.
Now, think of Doyle (or Watson's!) story, "A Scandal in Bohemia", first published in July of 1891 (and purporting to chronicle events a decade earlier). Yes, it stars Holmes, who is described as having a "Bohemian soul", and features the very King of Bohemia. But I have never seen it mentioned that, like its predecessor novels, and like many of the "Adventures" that followed, "A Scandal in Bohemia" deals with the very topics enjoyed by the old Bohemians. The theater? Irene Adler. Lovers fighting convention? Yup. Crime? Blackmail. Exotic foreigners? A Bohemian and an American. Drug use? Yeppers. And there's more: double and repeated masquerades, explosive devices, large generalities about human nature used to perform small tasks.

It's not just a story; it's a literary declaration of loyalties.

So really, when that famous 1887 literary lunch with the publisher brought both A Study in Scarlet and The Portrait of Dorian Gray into the world, Doyle and Wilde were not such an odd couple as all that. They both were writers who, at least at first, took up the banner of the old Bohemian literary generation, which was considerably prior to their own.

It's as if Kipling had started his career by declaring himself a new Pre-Raphaelite. Which he sorta was, actually; he knew some of them from childhood. His Puck stories owe a lot to them, in a non-drippy way.

Okay, fine. So it's as if somebody from the 1920's had declared himself a Pre-Raphaelite. πŸ™‚ 

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Apparently, I’m a Pale Ale….

I thought for sure I'd be a Guinness or a Bass, or maybe a Harp. But at least I'm still in the pub!

<table align="center" cellpadding="20"> <tbody><tr>
<td align="center"> <font
<br><font size="1">(<b>33</b>% dark &
bitter, <b>33</b>% working class, <b>66</b>%
genuine)</font> </td> </tr> <tr> <td>

Boddingtons is a slightly ritzy, but truly tasty, beer. In case you
don't know, each can has this little contraption inside that fizzes when you open it to give the beer a delicious creamy head.
<br><br>Now, being a good girl, I will make no claims about the
creaminess of your head. But I will suggest that, based on the results
of your test, you have a light, friendly disposition, and I consider
the bouyant fizz of a Boddingtons to be the beery analogue of that.
Your test also indicates you have refined tastes, and Boddingtons is my
favorite beer. If you've never had one, get one sometime soon.
</td> </tr> <tr> <td align="center"> 
</td> </tr> </tbody></table>
<br><br><br> <table cellpadding="20">
<tbody><tr> <td> <span id="comparisonarea">My
test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people <i>your
age and gender</i>:<blockquote><table border="0"
cellpadding="0" cellspacing="4"><tbody><tr><td
valign="middle"><table bgcolor="black" border="0" cellpadding="0"
cellspacing="1"><tbody><tr><td bgcolor="#b2cfff"
height="20" width="12"><a
src="; alt="free online dating"
border="0"></a></td><td bgcolor="white"
width="138"><a href=""><img
src="; alt="free online dating"
valign="middle">You scored higher than <b>8%</b> on
valign="middle"><table bgcolor="black" border="0" cellpadding="0"
cellspacing="1"><tbody><tr><td bgcolor="#b2cfff"
height="20" width="6"><a href=""><img
src="; alt="free online dating"
border="0"></a></td><td bgcolor="white"
width="144"><a href=""><img
src="; alt="free online dating"
valign="middle">You scored higher than <b>4%</b> on
valign="middle"><table bgcolor="black" border="0" cellpadding="0"
cellspacing="1"><tbody><tr><td bgcolor="#b2cfff"
height="20" width="42"><a
src="; alt="free online dating"
border="0"></a></td><td bgcolor="white"
width="108"><a href=""><img
src="; alt="free online dating"
valign="middle">You scored higher than <b>28%</b> on
</td> </tr> </tbody></table> <table
cellpadding=20><tr><td>Link: <a
If You Were A Beer Test</a> written by <a
on <a  href=''>Ok Cupid</a>,
home of the <a href=''>32-Type
Dating Test</a></td></tr></table>

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Millennicon Post

I went to Millennicon last Saturday for a few hours. We had a bit of trouble getting there, as Kevin confidently did not print out the directions and I forgot to write them out. πŸ™‚ This year we brought along a couple of people from our gaming group, which was fun. We of course lost each other almost immediately. πŸ™‚

Anyway, Millennicon is a small and relaxing con these days, mostly due to a very nice venue and a much more relaxed con committee. I haven’t actually attended the entire convention for a while, though, due to both lack of a ride willing to stay all weekend and lack of energy in the middle of March. (Not that I have any more energy the rest of the year these days.) We stayed a few daytime hours, which was about as long as I really wanted these days and didn’t exhaust me.

I know that sounds that I’m an old lady or something, but I’m not joking. I even got offered tickets to see Liz Carroll that night, and had to refuse from fear of exhaustion. I am tired these days, and I am prone to respiratory illnesses, and I already had a cold and a body part healing from two needle biopsies. I have to be realistic about what I can do, especially when I still have to get to church early Sunday morning.

Still, I’m sorry I dragged my lack of energy into Tom Smith’s concert, as I could tell it worried him. But I had a lot of fun at Mike Resnick’s gossipy talk on the Golden Age sf writers. The weird thing was that I really had to yell for Mr. Resnick to hear me. Since my normal speaking voice tends to carry really well, I really must’ve been half sick! πŸ™‚
Anyway, we all went and saw Elizabeth Moon, who’s a very good writer when she sets her mind to it. She doesn’t seem to be quite so good when she’s stressed and depressed as when she’s relaxed (based on bio details she told us versus what books she was writing at those times). Still, any writer who has produced both The Deed of Paksenarrion and The Speed of Dark has not wasted her talents.

Speaking of Paks, it seems that her story was not in fact based on a D&D campaign. It was based on having a campaign running in her home, with her listening to a bunch of kids who had no idea how war really worked. (She’d served as a Marine.) Being a long-time fantasy fan as well, the frustration got her writing. However, Moon did admit to using wargaming techniques to plan her battles — like turning real topographical maps of real nearby places on their sides and using the results for terrain in various bits of battlefield), and rolling minor characters’ survival chances against her battles’ average casualty and kill percentages. (Cracked me up!)

However, the big success of the Q & A was me asking whether Moon had done a lot of research for the futuristic foxhunting in her Hunting Party/Heris Serrano series. Hee! It turned out that Moon had done a lot of riding in her past, but not foxhunting. (We have foxhunting in the US, true, but not in her part of Texas.) However, she had become a HUGE fan of our Mr. Surtees during college. (Comedy! Social satire! Only a few years off from Austen! Honestly, I agree you’ve got to love him….) So she’d re-read, done some more research, and extrapolated from that. (And honestly, although the Serrano books are okay and interesting, I was much more into the riding and foxhunting than anything else. I think most people are.)

Anyway, she extrapolated so convincingly that she inadvertently convinced the Master of the Fitzwilliam (be impressed!) Hounds that she actually was a foxhunter. And got an invitation in the mail.

In a typical fit of writerly depression, she set it aside.

Then, in a fit of Extreme Horse Love, she came to her senses. Of course she was going to accept the invitation. She explained that she was a total novice, didn’t get in much riding anymore, threw herself on the Master’s mercy, and of course was still invited. She then went into training for the six months or so of time she had before going.

She couldn’t find anyplace to get a lot of her hunt equipment until she actually got to England, but when she did go, she found the little store which had everything and was run by the old guy who knew everything and could make everything. Then she went down to visit, and got shown around a place that had been a hunting preserve for the last thousand years and more. In short, she saw an England just like what an American who reads too much would like to see!

However, when she actually went hunting, she found reason to feel grateful to every bad horse she had ever ridden. Due to various snafus, her loaned horse came straight from a horse-dealer, and hadn’t been out of his stall for two weeks — until two minutes before the hunt started! Yes, and this horse was big and strong, too! He sounded exactly like Hercules from Mr. Sponge’s Sporting Tour. So Moon managed to stay on his back and keep up reasonably well, but only at the cost of lots of saddlesoreness during and afterward. Of course, she still thinks of this as just about the most fun she’s ever had on a horse, and one of the great moments of her life. (And by the time she was done telling the story, I think even the anti-hunting types in the audience were convinced that foxhunting was nifty.)
Sometimes you feel envious when you hear stuff like that. I just felt glad for her. I love horses, too, but I have to admit that kind of thing is well beyond me. Heck, it’s well beyond my younger brother, who has done a lot more riding than I have. Kevin was just a solid wall of dropped-jaw impressedness, in fact. So he was very glad he went, and that I asked that question. πŸ™‚

However, during the book signing, Kevin gave Moon a biography of military renaissance man and philosopher John Boyd. She was intrigued and started leafing through it right away, which is a great compliment to a giver of books. So Kevin went home very happy.

We finished the evening by going to dinner at Maharajah, back home in Beavercreek over by the mall. Maharajah is a very good South Indian restaurant. It’s family-run, and the place is very relaxing and welcoming. So we often go there after gaming. There are lots of things on the menu that are new to us, so the big danger for our gaming group is ordering too much food! All in all, a good day.


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Like Salt for Licorice

I was very brave today. Be impressed! for lo, I willingly tried eating “salty black licorice“.

Now, you may not like black licorice. You may feel that licorice with a high salt content is a pretty gross idea as well. But actually, for our Nordic friends, that just wasn’t weird enough. No, the real base flavor for them is its third major flavor, “salmiak”. Sal ammoniac, for those of us with a historical bent, or ammonium chloride, to give its scientific name. Sour chemical salts. Only in the land of lutefisk would this be cuisine! But in fact, in Norse countries, the licorice and regular salt are only embellishments. Sal ammoniac is the real candy flavoring — and vodka flavoring, too.
The weird thing is that, after your first horrified taste, the flavor grows on you a little. Not enough to ever make you want to scarf a whole bag. Oh, no, one piece of candy is more than enough to overpower your tastebuds for hours. But it’s really not bad, per se.

I suppose repentance is a bit like that — a little bit salty with tears, a little bit biting with realism about oneself, and a little bit soothing like licorice. Also, definitely strange and outlandish, very much against the normal customs of the country. But it grows on you.

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Fairbanks Movie with Greek or Russian Orthodox Wedding Scene

I’m home sick today, as you can tell. However, I woke up this morning just in time to see a very romantic Russian Orthodox wedding scene in Scarlet Dawn, an old Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. movie (if you can call something only an hour long a movie). Apparently I missed the beginning, which sounds kinda silly. I also pretty much missed the end, except for the part when they get deported back to the Soviet Union to get killed like dogs (even though they tried to make that sound all happy). But the wedding part was good.
The young guy suddenly decides to marry his sweetheart. He’s in Istanbul as a refugee with her, so this might not be easy. But he finds an Orthodox church of some stripe and gets the priest inside to agree to marry them. But they need two witnesses. So he runs out and gets some kind of German tailor and a French lady of ill repute. The two witnesses, happy for the young couple, hold the wedding crowns over their heads.

The priest said the ceremony in English, which was interesting. I don’t remember hearing the prodigal son thing about “he put the ring on his hand” as a wedding scripture before.


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St. Patrick’s Day the Hardcore Way!

John has a rather different idea of how to celebrate the good saint’s feast:

One must wonder how the Saint, himself, would have thought about this business of getting dispensations in order to eat Meat on his feast day? I mean it really makes you think about the Holy Men and Women who have become Saints.

Perhaps for St. Patrick’s day this year we could redouble our efforts at Fasting and Pennance? It seems a more Catholic way of celebrating rather than throwing a party and getting drunk.

Aeh. Well. Where to start.

First off… there is a reason we call these things “Feasts”. Holidays are little Sundays, and Sundays are days of joy — especially in the midst of penitential seasons like Lent. The Irish being naturally given to extremely severe penances and mortifications in their spirituality, the existence of happy feasts and holidays was sorely needed.

Secondly, we have absolutely nothing going in the US on the traditional patterans (patron saint festivals) held in Ireland back in the day. “Shillelagh law” is not the rule, for one thing. Of course, we don’t have as hard of lives, either.

However, that said… it’s true that we should make an effort to behave in a happy and friendly way which honors the saint and spreads the joy of his deeds, not in a crazy, mean, sloppy way. You should be nice to the musicians and tip your waitresses, make sure nobody drives drunk, and in general be a bright spot of brotherhood to men and service to Christ (in a fun way). A festival shouldn’t be something you regret the next day.

Also, it is an old tradition to fast on the day before great feasts of the Church, especially if you’re planning to go to Mass that day. So if you wanted to fast and do penance, the eve of St. Patrick’s Day would be when I’d do it.

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Two Doctor Blogs

Dermatology Diary includes interesting cases, tips and tricks, and the reminiscences of an older-than-God dermatologist practicing in Abilene. He sounds exactly like the family doctor you remember from childhood: incredibly knowledgeable, professional, and kind. He also has more uses for liquid nitrogen than a class at MIT. Good stuff.

NHS Blog Doctor makes you very glad you don’t live in England. Man, I take back all the cracks I’ve ever made about the base hospital or worse, the Florida hospitals. NHS hospitals definitely have made a better deathtrap. Anyone with sense will beat a path away from their door. Sometimes, free is way too darned expensive.

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The Protestant Movement as a Monastic Spirituality Gone Wild

I read a comment last night on Dawn Eden’s blog to the effect that praying to the saints was like turning away from the Sun. Other than the rather obvious comeback that you can’t really turn away from God, because as the psalmist points out, He is everywhere in His Creation… well, I was thinking about how Carmelite it sounded. All detachment and stuff.

But really, that’s about half of the Protestant movement, isn’t it? All smashing the images and destroying the “superfluous” things that “stood in the way” of a close relationship with God. And of course, Luther was a monk.

The problem is, there are certain facets of monastic spirituality which are not really meant for life outside the monastery, and which monasteries in fact are meant to control and channel into more fruitful paths. Like detachment. If you get too detached or rather, detach yourself in the wrong way, you’re going to have trouble keeping yourself alive, much less caring for your family. In a monastery, your cohorts can tell if something’s wrong, and your leader can command you not to do things that are destroying your health or hurting other people. But if you’re roaming the world with no spiritual adviser, you can do all sorts of things to yourself, as the Desert Fathers found out. But even they didn’t bring their kids along. Scratch a Puritan, and you get someone who would have been a lot happier in the planned, guided, controlled community of a monastery.

Alongside detachment, Catholicism has always harnessed what only seems to be the opposite ideal — sacramental thinking, which sees God in everything and everyone, and appreciates both the deeper meaning of a thing and God’s graciousness in creating anything at all.

So we pray with our brothers and sisters who live in Christ, appreciating the ramification (to use its original sense of branching) of God’s love through them and through us. To be totally detached from such a wonder, on which God has spent a lot of time and energy, would seem ungrateful — in fact, a turning away from the Sun of God’s love, a hiding from His Light and Life.
The irony is that there seem to have been a lot of monks and nuns who were in the convent and shouldn’t have been, while a lot of people who should have been were stuck on the outside. That it was the people on the outside who ultimately destroyed what they would really have enjoyed is one of those nasty little comments of history.

On the other hand, though, we have merry saints like St. Teresa of Avila, discalced in the mountain cold but dancing with her sisters; and St. Philip Neri, perpetually in ecstasy during the Mass but also making joke after joke. We have St. Thomas More, living in the world as a lawyer, husband, paterfamilias, and statesman, but secretly doing penance while keeping the Jesus-commanded happy face.

Those are people who are close to God, with nothing standing in their way. And those are people who didn’t run around spoiling everybody else’s (lawful and moral) fun. Interesting, huh?

There’s a big difference between “that kind of spirituality does nothing for me” and “that kind of spirituality is both worthless and harmful”. We have to be careful to avoid mixing the two, or we’ll perpetually be smashing things that other people have a perfect right to love and enjoy.

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In Case You Ever Have Any Doubt about My Weirdness…

…you can check out my podcast, which this week includes a Calderon play about St. Patrick.

Scanning the Internet to bring you the wide variety of posts. Yeah, buddy.

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The Sordid Truth about Veils

Except for members of certain ethnic groups (Italians, Hispanics), most American women before Vatican II wore hats to church. Just like most of their foremothers (depending on the country) all the way back through the Middle Ages. Hennins were hats too, so that works out logically enough.

So why did American Catholic women cease wearing hats to church and begin wearing veils and chapel caps and suchlike, in the years immediately running up toward Vatican II? What is the mysterious X-factor, I asked the older ladies in choir? And lo, I was answered.
Bouffant hairdos.

Yes, children, that’s the sordid truth. (At least, as sorted out by oral history agreed upon by the older choir ladies and my mom.) Women and girls all across America (and all across Europe, probably) stopped wearing hats and started wearing mantillas — because hats messed up their beehive hair.

But of course, veils still messed up their hair somewhat. So gradually, the wearing of veils in such cases led to the impatience with all haircoverings whatsoever.

Big hair is the hidden hand, people. Fear the perm!


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Song: Lift Up Our Hearts

First off, I’m not the first songwriter to be inspired by Book 4, Chapter 9 of The Imitation of Christ. Pretty obviously, Tom Conry’s “Ashes” comes from that (or some material derived from it). So there will be a certain amount of cognate material, but hopefully no outright loans.

This is a Preparation of the Gifts type song. It’s dedicated to all those folks who said Lenten songs are too depressing. (*raised eyebrow* Kinda the point, ne?)

Lift Up Our Hearts
Lyrics and Music: Maureen S. O’Brien, 3/6/06

Lord, You made everything.
Everything belongs to You.
Everything’s ruled by Your word, from molecules to stars.
Now we bring our gifts to You.
How we long to give to You
Everything that’s ours, and everything we are.

Lift up our hearts
Beside the bread and wine.
Lift up our souls
And bodies, too.
Lord, lift us up.
Make us an offering.
Make us something
Acceptable to You.

Here are all the wrongs we’ve done.
Burn them in Your fire of love.
Burn them into nothing, burn the stains of sin away.
Here’s the good we try to do.
It’s not much, but take what’s true
And make it purer, holier, a better gift to You.


Let us give ourselves to You,
Offer up ourselves to You,
From now on, forever, let us serve you every day.
With the Body of Your Son,
Take us too! For if we’re one
With Him in death and rising, make us also off’rings raised.


Comments? Criticism?

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Totally Frivolous Leary/Mundy Post

Readers of this blog may be aware that I’m very fond of David Drake’s RCN (Royal Cinnabar Navy) series, and its main characters, Daniel Leary and Adele Mundy. If you only have time to read one Napoleonic naval series set in space, read this one.
(I like Honor Harrington well enough, but if you’ve already read Pern, Hornblower, and the Life of Nelson, you don’t really need to read them all mixed together. Besides, this one’s shorter.)

But the problem is that Drake is not shy about the debt his series owes to the Aubrey-Maturin books by Patrick O’Brien. In turn, the Aubrey-Maturin books did owe a little something to the Hornblower series.

Can we say “disastrous marriages”? I knew you could.

Meanwhile, Drake points out that the next RCN book (due out in September of 06) is “quite different from earlier volumes in the series”. Then the sample chapters at Jiltanith start having Daniel meet a nice, smart, respectable girl from a naval family… with a rather unforgiving mother. Both of whom seem to be on the catch for Daniel. Neither of whom seem to be the type to understand Adele, but both of whom seem capable of driving poor Adele into a murderous rage. Or at least making her, like, ruin her life and stuff.
So that’s the problem. We’re getting to the point in the series when Aubrey, Maturin, and Hornblower all met exactly the wrong woman, and had their lives made miserable for years as a result. I don’t really want to read about that.

But I will, of course. I’ll want to read about Daniel Leary whatever Drake does… but I’ll just whine about it a lot. A lot. Sigh.

See, I really do want my favorite authors to stretch themselves, and I really do trust them when they do so. But I also really hope that those series I like will continue to develop in ways that I like. There’s no way to guarantee that I’ll get anything I want, of course. But mostly, I really want them to continue to be writers I respect, both as artists and human beings. I truly wish them well, and I am glad to use my cash to help support them.
However, David Drake also has a new Isles book coming out next month. I’m all in favor of that since it’s the antepenultimate volume and Serious Plot is guaranteed to occur. Also, he’s coming to Books & Co. on his book tour, so I’ll be conveniently able to moan, groan, pone and swear undying loyalty to the man himself. (Assuming he doesn’t put a restraining order on me before then….) If he’s coming to your area, I highly recommend going to see him. He’s an interesting character in himself.

(And for all you Latin fans in St. Blog’s, don’t forget the man’s a really gifted student of the classics.)


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Father Christian “Chris” Rohmiller

Don’t let me forget to post about Father Rohmiller, the pastor of the Wright State University parish (okay, chapel). He passed away suddenly on Saturday night, and everybody is missing him pretty badly already. Since his family lives in St. Albert’s, we’re having the funeral over there this morning. Students, bikers, Knights of Columbus, people from every parish he worked in, monks from his days at St Meinrad, and of course the standard huge numbers of his fellow priests are expected. Also the archbishop, which was nice.
Father Rohmiller was pretty clearly doing the work of three priests, besides his own main responsibility as WSU chaplain. He did a lot of stuff for folks involved in stuff that he didn’t necessarily really get into himself. Frex, he did the “Blessing of the Bikes” for the motorcycle people, even though he wasn’t exactly your Harley-Davidson aficionado. But he did it, and it meant a huge amount to the bikers. (You can still see the stickers advertising the event outside some of the local biker bars, totally undefaced by graffiti or the weather.)
I don’t usually do funeral choir (aka the “Adios Chorale”, “the Sob Sisters”, etc. — we’re a reverent enough bunch, but we can’t resist bad jokes!). But I’m taking off from work for this. Father deserves this. Also, my younger brother does music for the WSU parish, so he’s coming to sing with us!

UPDATE: The funeral Mass (or “Mass of the Resurrection”, to give its proper name) was very nice, and there was a full house. The Latin “In Paradisum” was very nice, too, and I hope I can remember the tune for later. One of Father Rohmiller’s old friends (a Jesuit) gave the homily. (Also, he made sure to mention that people should give money to the new WSU chapel fund!)

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