Monthly Archives: September 2010

Is It Just Me, Or Is Audio Suddenly Louder?

I keep having to turn down my audiobooks all of a sudden, and even then they’re too loud. It’s gotten to the point where, when it’s just getting comfortable to listen to them, I’m suddenly at Volume 1 heading for Volume 0. Often, the same thing is happening with other audio stuff on the computer, etc.

Now, I know I’m not developing audio superpowers, and people’s hearing doesn’t get better as we get older. So I wonder what gives?

UPDATE: There was something weird going on with my computer. Apparently, instead of turning off one speaker signal when it turned on the headphones, it was pushing the speaker signal through my headphones in addition to my headphone signal. So it sounded twice as loud because it really was putting out twice as much sound. Weeeeeird.

Maybe the firmware in my mp3 player updated in some similar way. I’ll have to check the settings and such.

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Part of Why NFP Makes Women Happier

This Scientific American article is not at all work-safe and definitely not for little itty-bitty kids, and it’s certainly not designed to talk about natural family planning! But it’s very interesting and seems sound.

It’s about what the hormones in human semen (the stuff that isn’t sperm) is apparently capable of doing.

Sometimes it seems that a whole lot of human body features are designed to make us able to put up with each other, and to transform us physically into more social beings, more capable of conceiving and bearing children and keeping them safe. Of course, the other side of that coin is that sometimes the interaction of hormones and chemicals can overpower our better judgment. It’s not being paranoid to suggest that people respect the possible effects upon themselves and others of various bodily features. If people are all hip about living green and being “locavores”, surely respecting their bodies is even more important.

It sounds as if people will enjoy life more if they use their bodies’ attractive and bonding features the way they are intended to be used, and refrain from making promises with their bodies if they don’t intend to keep them. (Or from taking mood-altering, hormone-altering drugs if they clash with their very chromosomes.) Naturally, using such features are even more important for people who intend to marry and stay married. This information will potentially help people understand their bodies and grow in virtue at the same time.

Of course, what I expect to happen is that now somebody will try to market a drug version (not a drug company, but probably some skanky group), and that other disgusting consequences will ensue. But I also expect that married people will continue to have kids and be happy, despite all the self-destructive stuff the rest of the world may do. It’s the natural thing to do.

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You People Talk Funny

I just ran a Google search for “fits and cathooks”, and NOTHING SHOWED UP!

Doesn’t anybody else’s family say, “Aw, man, she was so upset, she was having fits and cathooks!” ?

Why not?!? C’mon, people!

And you know what you find if you look for “cathooks”? Nothing but hooks shaped like cats!

Well, if you delve far enough, it appears that “cathook” is a sailing term. It’s a hook attached to the cat-block, which was used to raise the anchor to the cat-head in the bow area. Why this might involve someone going into fits, I have no idea.

But someday, we will FIND OUT.

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Higher Up and Further In

Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M. — professor and scholar; the author of many solid, unpretentious books on prayer, mysticism, science (The Evidential Power of Beauty is all about science and elegance, IIRC), and the Divine Love; and the gentle, reedy-voiced, determinedly lyrical TV host of many a late night lecture show on EWTN — has passed away. Please pray for the repose of his soul, and ask for his prayers in return.

The great advantage of spending a great deal of time getting to know God while you’re alive, is that you’re already in practice when you come to die. You’ll never be caught by surprise when death comes, desperate to do makeup work and to get everything done that you meant to do. That’s very important, should death come suddenly or slowly. But of course, knowing God’s love more clearly will make life more full as well.

Sonitus Sanctus has links to podcast versions of many of Fr. Dubay’s series: one on Bedrock Basics of prayer life, one on transforming communities with the Gospel, Prayer Quest on the contemplative life, and a series each on St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross (who were focuses of his professional scholarship).

EWTN has most of these series available for download, as well as Saints: A Closer Look, and Contemplating. You can buy his TV series on DVD from them.

And I’m not kidding about the books. He must have put out a zillion of ’em. Deep Conversion and The Fire Within get a lot of praise especially. Ignatius Press has ’em in paper and e-book download.

UPDATE: Via Curt Jester, Ignatius Insight has the story of Fr. Dubay’s death. The Little Sisters of the Poor run nursing homes and take care of the elderly, among other ministries.

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The War Is Always Right On Top of You

I was just pondering why Miyazaki’s adaptation of Howl’s Moving Castle didn’t work, and obviously most of it is “because Miyazaki imposed his WWII issues instead of going with the book’s”. But you know, it’s not just Miyazaki’s issues.

Even though a lot of anime and manga artists have relatives that lived out in the country, and that rural life is part of their psyches, there’s definitely a feeling that war always happens right in your face. There’s not the English “and then the children were sent to the country to get out of the blitz” or even “we live in a remote rural area, so we only heard about the war or saw battles from a distance”. A plane always crashes right in the middle of the remote village, or the children are taken hostage by the enemy, or something.

Admittedly, Japan did suffer tons of bombing, but so did plenty of other countries. But really really rural Japan isn’t usually given a voice in anime. It’s grandmothers who live in the country; or it’s peasants in the remote samurai past, or possibly ninjas. Or the WWII Japanese country people are being used as experimental subjects by Unit 731, of course.

It’s possible that this is some kind of shame thing, that the country people didn’t get bombed and just got to quietly starve to death as the city people came and took all their crops and then all their seeds; or survived only because they hid food, in the traditional way of oppressed Japanese country people.

But yeah, that’s what Miyazaki really didn’t want. Jones had a subtle feeling of the scariness of war, by keeping it far off but within sight. Miyazaki spends ten minutes putting you through a bombing raid of his own devising, totally unbalancing the plot — as if the English never wrote books about being caught in bombing raids. But the war is always right on top of you, in his stories, and there could be no exceptions.

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That “Tantei Opera Milky Holmes” Show?

Argh. The cuteness, it cuts me to the bone!

The girls are:

Sherlock Sherringford (who has pink hair and a magical winged magnifying glass, fer Pete’s sake)
Nero Yuzurizaki (and no, she ain’t chubby)
Hercule Barton (yes, a girl version of Poirot, and may God not strike us down)
Cordelia Glauca (who is pretty much totally unfeminist in char design; P.D. James is going to hurt somebody)

The villains are also cute. I don’t know who “The Rat” or “Stone River” is parodying, but “Twenty” is obviously The Man of Twenty Faces from Kogoro Akechi’s adventures. The female, blue-haired, bosom-exposing Arsene is poor Lupin’s female version. Kobayashi Opera is of course modeled after Kogorou Akechi’s adopted son Kobayashi, the head of the Boys’ Detective Club. (So he’s their kid boss.) There’s a Zenigata in this thing somewhere, according to the credits, which of course points to the real life Japanese policeman and Lupin’s cartoon nemesis, a Hasegawa named after the fictional head of the samurai police Hasegawa Heizo, and a Touyama named after another real life Japanese detective Touyama Kagemoto.

Apparently the storyline is that, in the future, everybody’s got magic and that this leads to many more master criminals and master detectives, and all of them are magical. Yeah, that’s the ticket. And the kid detective agency is their after-school job, because all of them go to school at the Holmes Detective Gakuen.

This is either going to be a laugh riot, or I’m going to want to hurt somebody. Oh, man.


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New French Anime: Valerian and Laureline

The Japanese actually took the word “anime” from the French, so all French cartoons are anime. But this one is a French/Japanese co-production, so it’s anime twice over! 🙂 It’s actually not new, because it came out in 2005. (But it’s new to me.) The English dubbing was apparently done by Australians or English people, and it’s also known as Time Jam: Valerian and Laureline.

This one’s a time/space travel show. You know it’s French because in AD 2417, some guy is smoking in Mission Control. 🙂 Anyway, in the future, the time patrol guys are supposed to observe the prime directive. And of course, Midshipman Valerian is sorely tested when confronted with a medieval babe, the eponymous Laureline. (Especially since it’s a French show!) But he remains staunch and true — until all of a sudden, he’s not in any position to object to prime directive violations, and Laureline starts going at the prime directive violations herself. So when they get back, things are a little bit weird….

Normally, you’d hear me objecting to the female protagonist’s name. But Lorelind, -lina, -line, or variants thereof, is actually a plausible Frankish or Norman name.

I’m not sure if this is a bug or an intentional clue….

I have a few questions about the outfit of the Norman/Norse villain, whether Frankish jongleurs really dressed and acted just like jongleurs of the 1200’s, whether northern French musicians even had such a thing as a lute or double drone bagpipes at such an early date, use of the phrase “true love” when that was part of the Courtly Love Movement centuries later, use of the word “chivalrous”, and so on. I know most of the viewership really doesn’t care, but in a time travel show, this sort of thing raises real questions. If they’re all time travelers together or the timeline was already altered, then no prime directive problem, right? And geez, they wrote this in France, where courtly love stuff really is important literary history that any educated person should know! And the castle is a really advanced type of castle, even though this is Normandy in 912. And the Norman dude has vast numbers of guardsmen who use Welsh longbows and halberds. And large numbers of large siege weapons, all light enough to be hauled after fugitives as part of a chase. In 912. Just because they want to draw Norman guy as a Viking. Sigh.

Yet another show you can watch legally and for free on Crunchyroll.


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Fall Anime

I’ve been looking around the various fall preview posts at anime blogs. I think my new rule is to ignore everything that’s not a supernatural dark fantasy with mystery overtones, or a mystery with supernatural dark fantasy overtones. 🙂

I’m looking forward to Psychic Detective Yakumo, in which we skip all that emo Ghost Whisperer stuff and go straight to the traditional Japanese guy with one odd-colored eye. who can thus see ghosts.

(I know this must be a trope, because one of Detective Office 5‘s detectives also had this going. So have several anime heroes and heroines, some of whom wore eyepatches to escape the prejudice against odd-eyed people.)

In this case, it’s not just one brown eye and one green eye (or whatever’s more genetically likely), but rather one red glowing eye. In which case you could understand a bit of uneasiness amongst one’s neighbors. The show is only 13 eps long, which means it’ll probably stay fast-paced and interesting. (Don’t be surprised if there’s a lot of two-episode cases, though.)

There’s also a more kid-oriented detective show, Detective Opera Milky Holmes. Milky Holmes is the name of a four-girl detective team of magical girls with magical detective gadgets. If you’re wondering how the heck even a Japanese girl could name her team Milky Holmes, suffice it to say that this is a show dedicated to cotton candy cuteness and light, not to mention ruffles and lace flourishes. If it turns out to have actual characters and mysteries, and does not make me fwow up, I’ll think about watching it.

On the supernatural front, you’ve got Meiji Army lieutenants teaming up with foxwomen to help bring Japan into the Twentieth Century. Together, they fight monster crime! Call it Otome Youkai Zakuro. (Since the youkai are acting up as a protest against Japan’s move to the Gregorian calendar, maybe they’ll get some Russian Orthodox monsters to help….)

Fortune Arterial: Red Promise is apparently a standard school story, set at a remote island boarding school, and the perky, spunky student council vice president is a vampire. (Man, I always knew those girls got their energy from something unnatural!) Shrug. Might be worth it. Probably stupid.

There’s also Squid Girl. Which is exactly what it says on the tin, and sounds like it will be cute and funny.

There’s also Jellyfish Princess, in which a bunch of normal-looking, non-cosplaying otaku girls (who call themselves “amar”, which is slang for “nun”) encounter a perfectly normal guy who is crossdressing as a woman, in a Klinger-like attempt to avoid getting forced to join his dad’s business. Since they meet him as he saves a jellyfish from imminent death, of course they know it will be perfectly safe to take him home and let him live in their all-women apartment building. Comedy ensues. (Shades of Bosom Buddies.) I dunno… I’ll be interested to see more of a take on female fans than just somebody who’s a convenient girlfriend or matchmaker for male fannish protagonists. If it turns into a harem anime where they all pant to be his girlfriend, bleh.

I dropped Tegami Bachi when it got all too angsty and cute-filled last year, but I might go back and pick up Tegami Bachi Reverse, which is supposed to be the story of why a nice letter-carrier turned into some kind of rogue bandit. (Yes, it’s a world of oppressive government, so possibly there’s a good reason. Also, there’s some kind of evil men in black evil agency thing. Whatever.)

I’m pretty sure that my younger brother, who’s an Iron Man fan, will be watching the new Iron Man anime. It looks really interesting.

Overall, it doesn’t sound like a very exciting season, since I’ve got so few possible picks. But mystery series always are good to watch in the fall.

UPDATE: I forgot Agricultural Angel Baraki, which is a magical girl show designed to teach Japanese kids about farm life in Ibaraki Province and where most of their food comes from. Episode 1 of the unsubtitled version is available on YouTube right now, and it’s really pretty interesting, since it’s all about rice planting. (I mean, geez, how often do you see modern Japanese farms on TV?) Hey, it’s only 12 minutes long; check it out!

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Continuous Compression – A New Kind of CPR

Apparently, for adults, the doctors have decided it’s better to get the blood moving again and do it fast than to worry a lot about rescue breathing or clearing the airway. (Especially since it’s often the heart doing something wacky that’s made somebody collapse.) So the idea here is just to compress the chest like crazy — 100 times a minute — and not stop for anything. If somebody else wants to do stuff in addition, they can fiddle with that.

The other innovation is that you don’t press down (ideally). You lock your arms and let gravity make your weight compress the chest, then push yourself back up. Since you’ll be doing this a hundred times a minute, you can see where you’d want to save your strength. (But as long as the compressions get made somehow, you’re not getting judged on style.) The point to press on is described as “between the nipples”. (Because people get confused if you start talking about avoiding the xiphoid bone. If you’re that high up, you won’t hit it.)

A hundred times a minute is described as being the same beat as “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees. 🙂 I’m sure you young whippersnappers out there can think of some techno song to use as a memory aid, if you don’t know disco.

Anyway, the great virtue of this technique is that it’s easy. So even if you’ve never taken CPR class, even if you’re not strong, take a look. You can do this.

Here’s the video on YouTube. It came out in April, but if you’ve already seen it, this’ll be a nice review for you.


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Light and Salt

Do you know how the Egyptians and other ancient peoples stopped their little oil lamps from smoking?

Once the linen wick was lit, they put salt into the olive oil — or the wick itself was salted, which retards charring.

So there’s a thematic connection between “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world”…. 🙂

There are a surprising amount of pages on the web about home oil lamps. Apparently, olive oil really is a pretty good fuel (more efficient than candles) as long as you keep the oil shallow (like ancient oil lamps). It’s got that high flashpoint that’s so handy in cooking, so it’s hard to set things on fire with it. You can even use canning jars to be your temporary olive oil lamps in an emergency, which is pretty much maximum light and plenty of room to hold it by. (Shallow oil in the bottom, lots of jar at the top.)

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Mother Teresa’s Still Busy!

A Shinto miko healed from cancer by Mother Teresa’s posthumous intervention became Catholic during the Easter Vigil earlier this year. This would certainly be a story for The Journey Home!

Via Catholic in Japan. (Yes, I missed it at Eastertime.)

If you’re wondering why her parish priest made the decisions he did… well, Japanese Catholicism during WWII was given some rather interesting amounts of pastoral leeway from the Vatican in order to deal with State Shinto. Whether or not such practices go away in the future, they’re apparently allowed right now. Obviously this is a bit different from a Catholic working as a non-Catholic organist or choir singer, but we’re not there.

But what was going on with the father of the family is definitely sad. People need to pray for this family, who obviously need a new way to make a living — and for this town, that they help these people follow the truth instead of being hereditarily tied to a shrine they don’t believe in. (Especially since, with no son, the local temple priesthood is going to die out with this Shinto priest anyway. And he could die tomorrow, for all they know. Sheesh, if I were Shinto, I’d do something about this; but Japanese society often goes into denial on these points, or hopes for time to smoothe out difficulties. Sigh.) Obviously, if these folks were planning on going to Lourdes, they were hoping for guidance, as well as thanking God for the favors already received. So let’s pray for them.

(And if the situation has already been resolved, the Lord, being eternal, will still be open to retroactive prayers.) 🙂

Oh, and little Kotone sounds precious. She’s obviously ready to fight the peer pressure of Japanese society, even now. 🙂 Japan needs more kids like her.

If you don’t understand what a miko is, or why people worshipping at a Shinto temple might not be interested in growing in devotion to their gods but would want a priest to stay there despite everything, or why a Shinto priest might think it would be selfish to get baptized despite believing in Christ and the Church, here’s a very good, short but complete intro to Shinto via The Kawaii Menace. (Just ignore the anime references if you don’t know whatever show he’s talking about. I assure you that even anime fans routinely ignore the ones they don’t get.)

Yonezawa Church is a Catholic church built in the Twenties and Thirties at the site of the martyrdom of the 53 lay martyrs of Yonezawa (legally in Yamagata Prefecture, canonically in the Niigata diocese).


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BLESSED Cardinal Newman!

This is so great! Hurray, hurray, hurray!

Re: the question of when people celebrate his feast day, it’s pretty obvious why the Vatican set it on his conversion day instead of the day of his death (his “dies natalis”, birthday, in the ancient usages of the Church). He died on the feast of St. Clare, a major major saint, and so the folks in the UK, and especially the Franciscans, would never get to celebrate his feast day at all! Better to pick another day for him.

Oh, and I’ve updated his book’s entry on Maria Lectrix. I was hoping to have some more of his books done by today, but this hasn’t been my summer for getting anything done. I suspect we’ll see some moves in that direction by Librivox, though.

The funny thing is that, without Newman, Tolkien’s life would have been radically different (his books converted Tolkien’s Baptist mother). He and his brother practically grew up in the Birmingham Oratory. Meanwhile, Lewis and his other buddies were greatly influenced by the Oxford Movement also, as were Sayers and other major English writers of all genres. But all that is only the tip of the iceberg.

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The Old School Types Agree with Me

The folks at Spiked are running a nice factual series of articles on the Pope’s visit to the UK, along with essays chiding the new school folks who call themselves humanists. They note that “Today we have a so-called liberal humanism that has little, if anything, in common with the Enlightenment traditions of freedom and tolerance, and which instead calls for the exclusion of apparently dangerous minority views.” So they say they are running the articles “because we want to distance ourselves from what masquerades as humanism today and assert true humanism as we understand it.”

Just in case you think it’s all sweetness and light, the same set of articles includes an essay supporting a Really Offensive Ad. (Though they have a point about the mysterious power of non-government organizations, particularly in the UK. Given that this is a board that actually determines for the government whether or not an ad can run in the UK, I don’t see how they can call this particular one “non-government”, even.)

When you think about it, it’s really weird that offensive ads about nuns and sisters are ever made. How many ad executives have ever seen, in real life, a nun in full habit? (How many have met any religious sister at all?) Do they really think that somebody who practically had to club her way into a fully habited order would be likely to be living uncloistered, or have enough free time in the day with any man to get pregnant? I mean, sure, human ingenuity for sin is unbounded. But this is like running an ad about the sex lives of griffins in an age with no fabulous beasts. Even more, it’s revealing deep-seated fears associated with griffins.

Do they run offensive ads about any other obscure professions, or do they just have a advertiser’s bias against people who vow poverty? (Come to think of it, there’s the Amish getting kicked too….)

Via Kathy Shaidle at Five Feet of Fury.

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Reading Incomprehension

One thing you notice whenever Pope Benedict speaks. A lot of people seem determined not to pay attention to the wording of what he says, even though it’s clear that his scholarly exactitude is one of his major characteristics as a speaker. People are used to reacting to a few keywords, like they’re Pavlov’s bell. So they react, not noticing that what was actually said about their cause was polite.

For example…

When Pope Benedict officially greeted Queen Elizabeth, he noted various nice things about Christianity in England that all Christians could agree about (thus, without saying so, addressing her role as head Anglican and as leader of a country that had had some bad and good history with Catholicism). Then he talked about fighting Nazis, which is not only something everybody is against and which hurt his family, but was a nice acknowledgement of the Queen’s war work as a girl and Prince Philip’s service in the military during WWII.

(At one point this week, it occurred to me that given their close age, it’s even possible that Joseph as a kid had a crush on Elizabeth as a kid. This made me chuckle, though it’s much more likely he had a crush on her mom or one of the older royals of Europe. Boys tend to get infatuated with Older Women.)

Anyway, after all this, you get this rather platitudinous statement, which caused tons of atheists to fume in the comment boxes of the world:

“As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a reductive vision of the person and his destiny.”

Well, obviously any atheist of goodwill is going to be sure he’s not an extremist atheist, so none of this is going to apply to him. But if that’s not enough, the exclusion listed is that of three things, not one and not two. Taking them as one thing is a sign that an atheist grew up in a Christian society. A olden days Chinese person would probably regard the gods, their religion, and their practice of Confucian virtues as all different things, though closely related.

So let’s take a totally utilitarian, secular view. Obviously, if you’ve got public life that is devoid of God or gods as an overriding principle and motivator, and devoid of religious duties and disciplines as a principle and motivator, you’re going to have to lean very hard on making public life full of virtue. You have to be sure there’s something keeping your politicians at least pretending to be honest. You may or may not care about the religion of the guy next door; but you definitely want him to be virtuous enough not to come over to your place and rob, rape, and murder you while burning your house down.

Virtue used to be something English atheists were big on supporting. One of the old standard claims of old school atheists is that it’s actually more virtuous to be virtuous simply for the sake of virtue (like a Greek philosopher), rather than out of cowering cringing fear of some God or religion (and so forth). You don’t hear much of this anymore, alas, despite the obvious fact that an atheist does have to be virtuous from his philosophy, or not be much use to anyone (including other atheists). I think this has made the new school atheists go back to regarding virtue as an exclusively religious thing, and not as a philosophical excellence. It’s turned back into one of their kneejerk keywords.

So when various atheist groups and the combox sillies responded to the bell without really paying attention, and thus protested this remark, the careless way they responded often made it sound like they’re not going to have any truck with virtue in public life or anywhere else. I’m sure this isn’t what they would have said, if they had actually thought it out logically.

The remarkable thing is that we see this sort of thing happen again and again, but people keep digging themselves these traps and falling into them. I’m not sure whether this is actually a desired side-result of the Pope’s rhetorical technique, or whether it’s just inevitable that clear words on controversial topics will produce a muddled response.

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