Monthly Archives: February 2008

Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul Kidnapped After Way of the Cross

Today in Mosul, one of the notorious kidnapping gangs preyed upon the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, right after he had done the Stations of the Cross. They killed three of those with him. Please pray for all involved.

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Standing Athwart Valedictory

Today, William F. Buckley, Jr. passed away. He was a man of the right, but not always right. For being the man who wrote God and Man at Yale, his opinions were not always faithful to church teaching or his own principles; and sometimes he was just plain contrary.

But he was a great and essential man for the moment he was given. He buttressed things which many Americans felt or noticed with intellectual clout, and helped such people find each other. He provided a forum, both in his magazine and his TV show Firing Line — and  not just for his brand of politics, but for all brands of reason. In his spare time, he wrote novels, sailed, lived life well, was faithful to his wife — and kept going to church, even when he was most in disagreement with a pope he thought should die quicker and “Mater? Si! Magistra? No!” A man could do worse.

He stood athwart history and yelled, “Stop!” — and the Cold War ended, and the Wall fell, and the thoughts of many hearts were revealed. May we all have such courage, when our moment comes.

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The Lancet Also Advocates the Crippling or Chaining of Smiths to Their Forges

Apparently, it’s a crime for health care organizations to recruit doctors, or for doctors to move away from home.

I thought the Lancet was a magazine meant to help doctors. Of course, probably most sub-Saharan doctors don’t subscribe to the Lancet, so presumably they won’t cancel their subscriptions for being told that they are medical serfs tied to the land. And if people want more doctors but don’t have the money to compete with offerings abroad, maybe they should just be nicer to doctors, give them more status, and make their communities safer and more attractive to professionals. It worked for the wild west.

None of this is to say that there’s no virtue in serving the poor, or living in dangerous places where it’s easy to get sick and there are few resources. But you can’t put a gun to people’s heads and force them to be saints.  Besides, if someone has a calling to a sort of medicine he can’t practice in Podunk, Africa, it’s not surprising that he’d go where the MRI’s and high tech research labs are.

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The Answers to Math Problems Are Floating Up in the Air!

Our brain represents different kinds of numbers in different areas of space, just like you always thought — and other cool developmental and neurological discoveries. Reported in The New Yorker, of all places.

And multiplication is a verbal process, so all that drilling out loud really was necessary. I will have to call my mom and tell her that!

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Review: The Honorable Marksley, by Sherry Lynn Ferguson

The first question one must answer in reviewing any book, in these benighted days, is whether the prose is readable. I am glad to tell you that Ferguson’s prose is not just acceptable, but pleasant. Since this is a historical romance, one then passes to the question of its credibility. Do these people talk and think in a way compatible with their time period, or are they making the reader’s eyes roll too much for comfortable perusal of the text? Again, I am glad to report that Ferguson’s characters are not jarring.

This taken care of, what about the novel? The Honorable Marksley is disappointing. Not because it’s a bad book; because it ought to be better.

It presents us with a hero who founded a literary journal and a heroine who writes good poetry — under a male pseudonym and a veil of mystery. It also presents us with a heroine’s family that is determined to see her wed to the man who didn’t compromise her, and a hero’s family that constantly relies on him to pull them out of the fire. Misunderstandings occur from the start and continue, and eventually there’s a happy ending. So far, pretty good.

The problem is that Ferguson seems undecided as to whether she is writing a sprightly romance to make the reader laugh, a good old Heyeresque story with plenty of comedy and angst and a few Gothic touches, a tale that focuses on the heroine’s male pseudonym and flirts with being queer in the modern or academic sense, or a serious short novel about two interesting characters. So the book constantly wriggles shapelessly and awkwardly, never totally committing to anything. There are a few scenes which are totally realized, unifying theme, characters and plot. But the others just flail about, wasting their force.

There is also a great deal of time wasted on characters thinking about their plight, which might have been spent having things happen. Many minor characters were introduced, developed, given plot hooks — and then never seen again. The heroine apparently was quite proactive before the book began, but you couldn’t tell that from what happened during the book. At least one pivotal scene (for the hero) occurred offstage. In fact, just when you thought the heroine was going to get us in on it, the writer struck the heroine unconscious. (This is not necessarily a flaw in a Regency, given the literary conventions of the 1800’s. But those literary conventions demand that the reader be let in later, and we never really are.)

Finally, the ending line was more than a tad creepy. I hate to have to point this out, but one reads a romance between two heterosexual persons with the expectation that the ending will have them engaging in heterosexual behavior together. “I didn’t show any of this in the novel, but now I want to make sure that the heroine knows that the hero would have kissed her even if she’d been a homosexual man”? No. That’s not a good ending.

On the good side, the game of quoting poetry was nicely done. The writer managed the difficult feat of providing someone who’s supposed to be a really good poet with enough solid poetic lines to make her status believable. The literary journal idea was also carried out well. The minor character Archibald Cavendish was realistically appalling in the quote scene. (Though I was disappointed in his later appearances.) Whenever the writer quit being so self-conscious or over-explanatory and let her characters speak for themselves, they were quite interesting.

What I would like to have seen was more plot, more letters from “Mr. Beecham” to help with plot structure, and revelations that didn’t require dishonorable behavior from a character supposed to be defined by honor. In fact, I’d think Ferguson would have leaned on the concept of honor in this book: fiduciary, literary, family, military. There’s a rich vein there left unmined, which might have helped plot construction no end. If both “Mr. Beecham” the poet and Hallie the lady were accused of dishonorable behavior, shouldn’t they both have been trying harder to clear their names? With a fishy poet and an impressionable poetry-loving girl around, shouldn’t plagiarism have happened, or a medieval poem been faked? And oh, it would have been awesome if “Mr. Beecham” had been called out! But I don’t insist on any specifics. The same plot could have worked better, given a little more unification or a better editor.

Finally, one minor nitpick: there was no “linguist” (in the linguistics sense) in England just after Napoleon. I don’t think there were any professors of etymology, either, although certainly it was a field of study. But the word back then was “philologist”, and etymology just one part of “philology”. (I would not make so big a point of this, had the author not named her minor character of this profession “Partridge” and based him on the author of Lavengro. If she knew that much, she should have known more. She also should have let us spend some time with the man, instead of inventing him, dangling him before us, making us wait for him to arrive — and then making us miss out on every bit of drama in which he participates! What a waste!)

None of this is crippling, oddly enough. Ferguson is still better than 80% of the Regency writers one encounters. But I do expect better from her. She is capable of it. When she provides something that’s more unified, I’m sure readers will respond with joy — and money.

A brief search reveals that Ferguson’s previous books were: Headline Romance, Raise a Tiger, and The Other Brother. The first two were contemporary romances, I believe. She doesn’t seem to have a website.

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The Latin Declension Song!

A Really Useful work of genius. A thing of beauty and a joy forever. Brought to you by the Judge Report and his late great Latin teacher, the Servant of God, Sister Anna Roberta, who wrote this beautiful thing!

To the Tune of the MARTINS AND THE COYS

1. Now in Latin there are only five declensions
All the endings you must memorize and say:
“a” is for the NOMIN-A-TIVE.  “ae” GENITIVE AND DATIVE
“am” ACCUSATIVE. The ABLATIVE long “a”.

Chorus:
Start with
a-ae-ae-am-a…….then ae – arum – is – as – is
And repeat the first declension every day:
“a” is for the NOMIN-A-TIVE, “ae” GENITIVE and DATIVE
“am” ACCUSATIVE,The ABLATIVE long “a”.

2. Now the second one is very very simple:
us – i – o – um –o…….i – orum – is – os – is
And the neuter starts with bellum – belli – bello – bellum – bello
Plural: a- orum – is -a -is.

Chorus :
Start with:
us-i-o-um-o. Then i – orum – is – os – is.
It is masculine. Remember five apiece.
And the neuter starts with bellum – belli – bello – bellum – bello
Plural a- orum – is –a- is.

3. You will find that when you come to third declension
Nouns’ll end in l….and . . . .r….and….s….and….x
Dux and ducis duci ducem duce…….lucis, luci lucem luce
CONSUL…… IMPERATOR….. MILES…. REX.

Chorus:
Start with:
blank -is -i -em -e.  Third declension for today
es – um – ibus – es – ibus. Say it next:
dux and ducis duci ducem duce…. .lucis luci lucem luce.
CONSUL. . . . ..IMPERATOR….. MILES. . . . .REX.

4. One….two….three….and then we come to Fourth Declension
us – us – ui – um – and – u. It’s Just a ball
Plural us – uum. – ibus – us accusative and ibus.
Now we’re ready for the fifth and that is all.

Chorus:
Start with:
es – ei – ei – em – e……then the plural right away:
es and erum ebus, es – ebus……..too
First you SAY IT then you PLAY IT. But be sure you EVERY DAY IT
And with all the five declensions you are through.

5. NOW YOU HAVE TO LEARN YOUR VERBS AND CONJUGATIONS
Present o – as -at and -amus -atis – ant.
The imperfect starts with -abem –abes -abat.Then -abamus
-batis, ending up third plural vocabant.

Chorus:
Start the future
vocabo … .vocabis … and vocabit
Vocabimus, vocabitis, vocabunt.
Start the perfect: with vocavi… .vocavisti. …. and vocavit
Vocavimus.. ..vocavictis, and -erunt.

6. To the perfect stem add: -eram -eras -erat
Then -eramus.,. then -eratis….. then -erant
When you’ve ended the pluperfect——Future Perfect:
-ero -eris -erit –erimus  -eritis and erint

Chorus:
Start:
ille, illa, illud…..qui, quae, quod….and hic, haec, hoc
Is and ea id….acer, acris, acre
Ego, mei, mihi, me, me…Tu and tui tibi te te
That’s the end and now it’s time to shout HOORAY!

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Free Novel Writing/Organization Software

I wanted to let folks know that I’ve found a very good piece of freeware called yWriter. It was created by a programmer who’s also a published writer, and it seems very useful. (And probably for more than just writing novels or books.)

The idea is that you want to be able to organize novel writing, like software programming, into modules that are easy to tackle individually. In the case of a novel, this would be scenes within chapters. Every conceivable tab is provided for each individual module: a description so you can tell it apart from other scenes (or use the description as a placeholder till you write the thing), what the scene is supposed to accomplish, what kind of conflict is occurring, what characters are involved, what items show up in it (so you can keep track of who has the murder weapon or whatever), notes, and of course the actual scene that you write. You can track POV for each scene. It automatically tracks things like word count, and there are tons of other features and reports and logs you can generate or fill in or use. It will even estimate how much more time it will take you to finish the bits you have left.

Basically, the idea is that every single part of your book is at your fingertips, without having to spend too much time rooting around in a big long file. You can work on the bits you want to work on, but be reminded of which parts you haven’t done. You can move scenes around, or decide not to use them without deleting them. You can see what’s going on with your pacing, and which characters are getting what amount of screen time.

And obviously, you could also use it as organizational software for complex projects other than writing, if you plan out each mini-task as a “scene”; so this software is even more useful than advertised.

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