Monthly Archives: August 2010

How You Treat Kids Is Very Revealing

Case in point:

When Dayton was building its big old public schools, each building was large, well-lit, and beautiful. Rookwood fountains. Murals. Chandeliers. Making school beautiful was considered to be both respect for the importance of the enterprise of education and a way to make kids a bit more willing to go to school. Kids would naturally have better characters and better taste if constantly exposed to beauty. Also, a beautiful school showed a community’s pride in itself and its children.

Today, Dayton is knocking down the old schools and building new modern ones. Ugly, boring, small schools. Art installations for today’s schools are best described as “easy to clean” and “soon to be painted over”. A school shouldn’t be too conspicuous. It might bring the property value down. Gyms and tracks are important; but a beautiful building is inconceivable. And when the Dayton school board has saved artworks from the old schools, it has given them to art museums instead of integrating them into other schools.

Now the alumni of Fairview School wanted to save the school’s stained glass windows from being sold to some scavenging contractor. They raised money to get the stained glass out and to place it in the new school that would be named Fairview. The stained glass windows are to be integrated into the school’s lobby. This is a great thing to do.

Now, it’s true that valuable art may raise your insurance appraisal, or that kids in Dayton Public are not always a sweet bunch who plays nicely. But… those architectural features and artworks had been designed to survive life in a school, and they had already survived many many years of kids with bad attitudes. The lack of faith in today’s kids (in all the other cases) really is disturbing.

The truth is that kids appreciate art, and they appreciate having a building worth being proud of. The hoods and the druggies and the gangbangers are very often the same kids who draw and paint amazingly well in art class. It’s foolish not to leverage that softer side of the harder kids.

The other truth is that today’s school administrators, like today’s church administrators and business executives, often think that art is something not to be wasted on everyday life. Art is something you go somewhere, approach worshipfully, and then leave behind; not a refreshing break as you walk along the hall doing other things. And that’s a crock. If you have nice art and you don’t use it for what it was intended to do, it’s even more of a crock. So I’m glad for this small Fairview victory.


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“The Biblical Story of the Mass” Starts at 5 PM Tonight!

Ack! Apparently they’re having a new 13-episode series on EWTN about the connections between the Bible (both Old and New Testament) and Christian liturgy (particularly the Mass). And it starts at 5 PM Eastern!

Of course, EWTN does air a lot of their new shows twice or three times a week, but that’s usually at some weird hour of the morning or on a weekday afternoon. So if you don’t want to miss it, tune in tonight!

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Old to the Net, New to Me

A charming little flash animation of a song about cows.

Cows with guns.

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Begging for Instructions

Does anybody know how to make the current turn on and make noises and stuff? I go there and click on things, and there’s no link to actually listen or view shows; there’s just information about shows, and then the same sidebar promotional videoclip over and over, on every page. I realize I’m probably missing some kind of newer web-convention that leads one to the actual viewing and listening part…. But all I wanted was to listen to a show for a half hour or so, and I can’t.

(Yes, this is following up my ignorance about Overdrive mp3 vs Overdrive wma.)

In my defense, I did go to their FAQ page for first time visitors, which features a section that says you should press the Listen button on each page, which should look just like that one shown on the right. And nothing was shown on the right except the word “Listen”, with no links or button attached. The site kept saying it was loading various things, but the button never showed up. So maybe they’re just having site problems?

I like SQPN; it’s a great organization and I listen to them heavily for a while every year or so. But their website is always super different each time I come back… very confusing for a net.fogey like me.


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Overdrive Is Better Than I Thought

If you check out an Overdrive mp3 audiobook from the library, and your Overdrive software refuses to recognize your mp3 player, this doesn’t mean you can’t transfer the files. It just means you have to transfer them without the aid of the software, and without all the additional non-mp3 files.

Naturally, you are still bound by honor to delete the files at the end of your loan period. But it’s a lot better than having to haul your computer around.

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Arghhhh, Latin Grammar….

The problem with Latin is that, even if you figure out how the words in a sentence connect into phrases, you still might not pick the right meaning for those phrases. Which is to say that the story of the illustrious martyrs Aurelius, Sabigotho, Felix, Liliosa, and George is kicking my tail.

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Tim Tolkien?

Sounds like a Monty Python character, somehow. And he used to be a bass player in a band called Klangstorm, which really really does make him sound like somebody Spinal Tap would have run into…. Ah, real life always wins the Weird Stakes.

Anyway, I’m sorry to publicly subtract fifty points from my Fannish Knowledge of Tolkien Trivia attribute, but I had no idea that Tolkien had a grandnephew who’s a sculptor. He’s doing a statue of Newman for the pope’s beatificatory visit to the UK. (Via Fr. Z.)

His previous works include Sentinel, a rather neat little traffic island sculpture of Spitfires, the Lanchester Car Monument, and the gates to the Sandwell Valley RSPB Reserve.

Apparently Tim Tolkien’s dad, Julian, runs a flower nursery business. He used to work for the Beeb as a sound engineer, which of course put him in easy reach of many avid Tolkien fans… who of course asked him about all the really obscure passages…. 🙂


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Bread Alcohol Levels

Uh oh. It turns out that tiny amounts of ethanol produced by bread yeast will register on a breathalyzer as alcohol. So if you have a tiny drink and a huge amount of bread and butter, maybe you have a problem.

It also turns out that you really don’t want to feed large quantities of active dough and sourdough to dogs who are sensitive to ethanol, because they can get alcohol poisoning! Well… there’s a reason the Sumerian bread goddess also was worshipped as the inventor of beer, but this is bizarre all the same.

Via Instapundit.

There’s also a problem with breathalyzer tests if you’ve been around gasoline and absorbed it through your skin, if you’re diabetic, or if you’ve been fasting or dieting enough to produce bad acetone breath.

But even better, a person with a yeast infection or other conditions can find himself suffering from “auto brewery syndrome”, making him legally drunk without ever taking a drink at all!

DUI Blog also has an interesting post on the string of implications that California prosecutors want to use to prove a DUI-related death is a murder, instead of being a traditional “doing stupid things you shouldn’t” type of manslaughter. Which seems a bit much, given that California isn’t lacking in murder-type murders.

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RIP, Jack Horkheimer

Jack Horkheimer, who kept many people informed on current sky events with his extremely short “Star Hustler” and “Star Gazer” TV segments, died on Friday at the age of 72, according to the magazine Sky and Telescope. (Via Slashdot.)

Episode 1708, his last, will air on the first of September and feature the Summer Triangle. The next month of shows will be filmed by another staffer from the Miami planetarium he ran; what happens after that is up in the air.

Mr. Horkheimer will be missed. I hope his show, and his impact on astronomy education, will continue. One commenter on Slashdot recalled:

Back in the mid-80s our local PBS affiliate ran it before signing off during the weekends. It was one of the few things that made any childhood fear of the dark immediately dissipate. I’m not sure if it was because he was so enthusiastic or the sweet, gentle music or a presentation that was instantly accessible and all inclusive.

I can remember one night he was talking about Venus and that you could see it with a pair of binoculars and if you didn’t have any, just use a pair of toilet paper tubes. I rushed to the bathroom, ripped two tubes out, dashed to the yard and *GASP* saw it! It was one of those moments that I’ll never forget. Thanks, Jack.

That is what education is all about: showing that the world is comprehensible, pointing out its wonders, telling you how to see them for yourself, and helping you to remember experience and incorporate it into your mind.

There is a reason why Martianus Capella, and the medieval universities, named astronomy one of the Seven Liberal Arts, which were also the seven key prerequisites to studying theology and the Bible. As St. Gregory Thaumaturgus described the practice in his panegyric farewell speech for his teacher, Origen:

“….he also took in hand that humble capacity of mind of our amazement at the magnitude, the wonder, and the magnificent and absolutely wise construction of the world, and in our marvelling in a reasonless way and being overpowered with fear, and in our not knowing what conclusion to draw, like the irrational creatures. He aroused and corrected that by other studies in natural science… he filled our minds with a rational instead of an irrational wonder at the sacred economy of the universe, and the blameless constitution of all things. This is that sublime and heavenly study which is taught by natural philosophy— a science most attractive to all.

“And…[by] astronomy, whose course is on high… he lifted us up to the things that are highest above us; while he made heaven passable to us by the help of each of these sciences, as though they were ladders reaching the skies.”

Astronomy magazine points in their blog to their 2006 profile of Horkheimer. This quotes Horkheimer as saying, with characteristic whimsy, about all astronomy media: “These are all bricks in the cosmic yellow brick road that leads to cosmic Oz — which is an understanding of who and where you are in time and space… I can’t completely comprehend the universe, but I can comprehend a portion of it. That’s what I find so magnificent, that I’m part of the universe that I’m contemplating.”

Foley Arthur Horkheimer was born in 1938. According to the Portage Daily Register in Wisconsin, his father, a successful businessman and local politician, encouraged him to play sports despite constant pain from his lungs (probably in the hope that his son would outgrow his respiratory troubles through exercise, like Teddy Roosevelt). Unfortunately, this treatment only caused the man to feel that he was a constant disappointment to his father. His family tried all sorts of other therapies for his illness, including having him bombarded with radiation. All this got him was radiation sickness.

He graduated in 1956 from Campion Jesuit High School, a Jesuit-run boarding school in Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin. He became a professional jazz musician on piano and jazz organ, touring under the names “Horky” and “Jack Foley”. He apparently had a fair amount of success, but ultimately was unsatisfied; bronchiecstasis, a congenital lung disease, continued to dog him, and he had spiritual troubles connected to his illness. He tried studying to become a priest, and then took some pre-med at Purdue. Moving to dreams of becoming a playwright, he graduated from Purdue with a degree in drama. Meanwhile, he always maintained a strong interest in amateur stargazing, which had been planted in him by his grandfather in summers on his farm.

At the age of 26, in 1964, he moved down to Miami for his health. Like many Catholics caught up in the turmoil of the 1960’s and the post-conciliar weirdness, he said that “I had dumped my strict Jesuit Catholicism by that time and I needed a substitute.” He visited the planetarium at night and had a moment of spiritual transformation. “I was in awe of the cosmos… I looked at the stars and found a kind of existentialism. I believe we are all part of the cosmos.” (He would later express this phase of his spiritual life in the 1972 planetarium show “Child of the Universe”, inspired by that favorite poem for Seventies wall decor, “Desiderata”.)

The Miami Museum of Science needed planetarium volunteers, and wanted somebody to write up some new planetarium shows. Suddenly, a stargazer had an outlet for his interest in science drama. He invented a whole new format for the Miami planetarium, “astrodocudramas with live star shows and music”. By 1967, he was working there full time, and in 1973, he was made planetarium director. Various local news and childrens’ shows had him on as a science commenter, which eventually led to an offer of a few PBS shows about astronomy. He asked in return that they help him develop his 5 minute short segment series, and the rest is history.

But from its debut in 1976 until the time his show went national in 1985, Horkheimer’s persona was apparently more poetic and formal; Astronomy magazine compares his older style of delivery to John Stossel. It was the national PBS folks who insisted that he be more urgent and funny, an entertainer instead of a presenter. He stated in one newspaper profile that he truly hated the character for the first two years; and that although he came to like it, it was a part he played and not anything based on himself. Apparently he seldom broke character in public, because he wanted to keep up the excitement over astronomy; but it was a sacrificial act, not a natural one.

From the beginning, Horkheimer also insisted on doing the show as part of his planetarium duties. He never made a dime off the series. (After his father died in 1974, he was apparently left reasonably well off… but still, few people would have done that.) All proceeds from video sales went back into the show’s production budget, which allowed PBS to distribute it for free.

Meanwhile, he fought colon cancer successfully, and it took until 2010 for his lung disease to kill him, though his gravestone has been waiting for him in Randolph, Wisconsin for many years, on a plot next to his mother and father’s graves.

Horkheimer offered up his gravestone’s epitaph in his online bio:

“‘Keep Looking Up’ was my life’s admonition.
I can do little else in my present position.”

Horkheimer once told the Miami Herald that one of the cornerstones of his spiritual life was a late-night radio rabbi he overheard defining prayer as focusing primarily on the wonder of God’s creative power. “When he said that, the stars became three-dimensional. I saw the heavens in 3-D. I suddenly realized, this mystery that I cannot fathom, this isn’t a loss, this is an incredible gain.”

I’m sure that, like all of us, he had his sins and serious failings. But it is my prayer that, like the wise men who followed a star and found the Lord Himself waiting, Jack Horkheimer has been welcomed into the house of His Creator, who is also the Redeemer of His Creation. If his work helped you, it would behoove you to remember his soul in your prayers as well.

Goodbye, Mr. Horkheimer. Pray for us to keep looking up.


UPDATE: In accordance with the first comment, I’ve changed some info. As always, thank you very kindly for correcting my facts!

(I don’t think it’s just some Murphy’s Law of Google, that people find you only when you mess up. I think I overused a surname again. Bad habit, in an age of search engines.)


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A Medieval Latin dictionary that’s online

It’s an old French/Latin dictionary (or rather, glossary) in 10 volumes by Du Cange. It’s on Google Books , but the version at the Sorbonne is in a form that’s a lot easier to use and search.

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Sts. Nunilo and Alodia, according to St. Eulogius of Cordoba

I’m going to keep going with the story of St. Sabigotho et al from Memoriale Sanctorum, but it may take me awhile. Please be patient with me.

Meanwhile, Fr. Z mentioned Sts. Nunilo and Alodia over at his blog, so I ended up translating their very short chapter in Memoriale Sanctorum. (This will be a repost of that.) They were from the modern day Adahuesca, Huesca, Aragon in Spain. This was part of the Emirate of Cordoba, so it was more of the same persecution in a different town.

Here’s part one of the chapter in St. Eulogius, translated by me for lack of a better source. I’ve left out the first part of the chapter, where he apologizes for ending the book before, when all these other martyrdoms were coming up.

Memoriale Sanctorum, by St. Eulogius of Cordoba.
Book Two, Chapter Seven: Nunilo and Alodia, virgins and martyrs.


2. Therefore, as reported by the consecrated and venerated fatherly care of Venerius, bishop of Compluti (Alcala), we learn in the city of Osca (Huesca) near the town of Barbitanum, there were two virgin sisters (of whom one was called Nunilo and the other Alodia) born indeed to a Gentile [Muslim] father but a Christian mother. After the death of the impious father, they could not stop their mother from entering into a second Gentile marriage, nor could they hold freely to the faith of Christ, opposed by the stiff-necked paganism of the man who won their mother.

However, already the souls of the girls were watered from Christ’s kind fountain. Spurning the maternal marriage, they were warmed again by their most faithful maternal aunt’s encouragement. Immediately, the holy infancy of Christ the Lord begins to stick to them faithfully, and the paternal rite is forgotten — restoring the religion of the Crucified to their very young and sanctified minds, to keep them whole.

And because they were very strong in the bands of birth, and they gleamed with the highest excellences and torches of love, their ways of life could not be hidden from the city; they conducted themselves with such sweet-smelling and shining manners of holy faith. Accordingly, they already had achieved youthful adolescence’s flower, and the rumor of their holiness filled nearly the whole province. And all were astounded by the beauty of double roses leaping forth from thornbushes.

Hence the jealous old enemy would hurl pain at their members; while through terrors from their governor, it was hatefully decided that they could be transformed. While they were sealed beforehand for marriage to the eternal spouse, he is sure they can be separated from the prize through hard deaths’ hastening; he brings it to the sacred virgins.

Therefore, he pushes the pursuit of the holy virgins’ case upon his satellite, the prefect of the city, who immediately directs his gaze to set upon them. Trying to allure them with the vain promise of bribes and plenty of similar things, he urges the famous young women to marriage, if by this their souls would be called away from Christ’s religion and returned to their own natal one, by all means; in addition, he would enrich them with a flow of much wealth.

However, if they disregarded the decree of the governor with a more obstinate spirit, on their final day they would be sentenced to being tortured with torments, then be terminated by a guard’s sword.

To which the blessed virgins, constant and intrepid, roused by the Holy Spirit, said in one confession of faith, “O Governor, in the same way, we order you to turn to God’s piety! Which holy piety, in viewing things by His Light, made us aware that nobody can be wealthier than Christ, nobody can be happier than a faithful Christian woman. Through whom do the just live? Through whom has the power of the saints conquered? Without Him, life is nothing; without Him, death thrives forever. To abide in Him and live in Him is true comfort. To back away from Him is eternal ruin.

“By no means will we abandon partnership with Him while we are in this life, because believing our integrity is from Him, we look forward to someday being admitted into marriage with Him. For you bestow things that perish, of which you speak to entice us. We scorn them, considering them as nothing when one thinks about it; because we were aware that everything under the sun is vanity. Nor are we disturbed by the threat of punishment, which we recognize to be powerful in the short term. Indeed, death itself, which you put forward as the ultimate terror, we long for with the most welcoming love; for through it, we trust to ascend into heaven without delay, to approach Christ, and to be held fast in his embraces, never to be torn apart.”

The governor turning from which steadfastness of faith and courage of declaration, he committed them each separately to certain foolish little women provided with expertise in profane rites to be instructed; and about whatever terrors she can, not alternately but rather whichever they had supported faithfully in the discussion, she warns.

However, the foolish little women, receiving the virgins of Christ into sacrilegious worship, every day set forth the poisonous dogma to them; but unsleeping care from Heaven also restores them with manna, from the stinking bowl of sewer they were given to drink. The foolish little women were worn out with empty labor.

But the foolish little women having reported back to the governor about their stubbornness, the virgins after a few days were led into the forum, set up as a public show, and confessing Christ and standing firm in faith in the face of the enemy, they fell under a sword stroke on the eleventh day before the Kalends of November—and went above the air.

About their bodies, however, which had fallen, left behind — they were watched with the greatest eagerness by the soldiers, lest the Christians secretly steal them away, in order to protect them and hide them. Nevertheless, those virginal cadavers were carried off to a place in which, better hidden than the deep heathen trenches, they are buried; signs and miracles flash out; and where they display to the people the merited consolation of glory, the influence of virtue so faithful. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for an age of ages. Amen.


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So Let It Be Written, So Let It Be Said

I have decided that I will no longer allow myself to be called a “cradle Catholic”.

However, you may call me an incunabulum or incunable. 🙂

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Yet Another Gift from Culinary Nuns

I keep running across them. So you could probably do a whole cookbook of famous dishes invented by nuns. Pictures of the dish, pictures of the habit at the time, pictures of the convent where it was invented (if it still exists), talk about the order’s aims and spirituality… it’d make money!

Here’s a patriotic, seasonal dish famous in Mexico: chile en nogada, a dish in the colors of the Mexican flag, which was devised in 1821 in honor of a visit by President Iturbide.

Yes, Regency fans, this means it’s an authentic Regency-era banquet dish. You can stick the recipe inside your Lobscouse and Spotted Dog cookbook.

The same bunch of nuns from Puebla apparently invented mole sauce also.


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The Skills Demanded of a Priest Are Many

I’d like to thank my old pastor, whose family lives on my parents’ street, for not running over my parents’ dog this morning when she ran out into the road all of a sudden, right in front of his car. I’d also like to thank the parishioners who got together the money to give him a new car, when he left our parish after 21 years or so, and whoever his brakes mechanic is. Sheeeeeesh, what a way to start the day.

She hasn’t been pulling her leash out of people’s hands for a long while now, which is good because she’s not a puppy anymore. No, this was something else. My parents were getting some stuff out of the garage, and she somehow managed to go through the door from the house into the garage. So then she went out the open garage door and went racing all around the surrounding yards. She knows how to come when called; but she was having too much fun to obey. So she went romping across the road watching my parents instead of her surroundings, and nearly got herself killed and my poor old pastor traumatized.

I keep telling my mom that they’ve got to do some serious obedience training with this dog (since she’s a lot flightier than the other dogs we’ve had) and possibly even seek help from a professional trainer. This may finally have convinced them. I hope.

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