Monthly Archives: February 2011

The Scary News from New Zealand Continues

There seem to be thousands of people who broke something in the quake, the death toll is over a hundred, and the roads have often turned to silt or liquidified mud. I can’t even imagine what it’s like, there.

Let’s keep them in mind, and donate some money if we can.

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Amazon Prime Members Can Stream Beeb Shows for Free

Well, they should have been free all this time, on Hulu or YouTube or the Beeb site or something. But if I don’t have to pay any extra, fine. Watching the 2nd Doctor and Jamie and Victoria, or the Brigadier stories, in a decent format is good. (Though it’s ten to one there’s no original soundtrack use of Beatles songs or The Who tunes in this video release either, bleh.) And two seasons of Campion without having to go to the library isn’t pigs’ feet.

If you’re not already an Amazon Prime member, don’t buy in unless you’re planning to ship a lot of Christmas presents or something. Amazon Prime is a lot more expensive (all at one time, anyway) than Netflix or any of the other subscription services, and there are various Beeb outlets in the US.

(Okay, so there’s some non-Beeb content also. Lots of movies. But my point is the same.)

There’s been a lot of talk about this being a Netflix killer, but really it’s a fight to keep Kindle users buying physical merchandise and paying for Amazon Prime shipping. If you’re using Kindle and buying Kindle books almost exclusively, you don’t need Amazon Prime shipping. You’re probably ignoring the whole rest of their goods and services. Amazon has to get Kindle users’ eyes back.

As for video quality, it’s good. As for the video player, it’s large and clunky whenever it appears on screen, so don’t touch your mouse when you’re watching full screen.

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Nicholas Courtney, R.I.P.

Ring down the curtain on an actor and a gentleman, never too proud to play for and with the fans, and never too hidebound to try something new. He put constant strength and dignity into portraying the Brigadier on Doctor Who, making him always a man and a patriot, and not a caricatured Colonel Blimp. He did good work on stage, screen, the airwaves, and in the recording studio, and was incredibly prolific and hardworking, even finding time to work for the UK actors’ union. In the end, he apparently faced illness with real life courage.

He has been loved. He will be missed. Please pray for him and for his family.

Tom Baker writes about his last meeting with him on this earth. A fan’s video tribute, including non-DW pictures.

One last joke from the fans.

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Deliverance by Domino’s

Okay, so it took the young folks a while to notice. But once an older deliverywoman with some moxie got the news, her regular customer was saved in an hour or less!

The corporate folks at Domino’s are honoring their employee for taking the initiative. She will receive an all-expense-paid trip to their HQ and an awards dinner. The old lady’s next pizza will be free.

Meanwhile, the elderly lady is recovering at the hospital, and a local company is going to give her LifeSentry stuff to help her not have this happen again.

I thought you’d appreciate a more (conventionally) cheerful story than the one below this.

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The Comment Box Becomes a Relic

It turns out that Scott and Jean Adam, the Catholic couple who distributed Bibles in all sorts of corners of the world and who were just killed by pirates while on their way to Djibouti, were also friends of Midwestern Conservative Journal’s blog. Scott Adam left a few comments there during his ports of call, most recently in December.

Something their website mentioned that news reports haven’t: They were Catholic, but to prevent bad feelings against missionaries among fellow Christians, they got supplies of both Protestant and Catholic Bibles on their boat to give away free. That way, people could get what they wanted instead of feeling pushed and developing a resentment against Catholics, or making people with very little chance to get Bibles think they should refuse perfectly good Bibles out of conscience.

They knew the danger, and were trying to avoid the pirates. It just didn’t work. The flotilla they traveled with became a target, and the pirates came all the way over from Somalia to invade formerly free sea lanes.

May God be good to them, and may their prayers be with us.

Please pray also for their enemies the pirates, both those killed and those who surrendered. Of course they don’t deserve it. But of course the Adams would want their captors’ souls to be saved. Being a missionary is all about bringing light to those who don’t have it.

Finally, please pray for the special forces teams and the naval personnel on the Enterprise, and for the families and friends of these folks. I’m sure they would rather have gotten everyone back alive.

A journalist friend’s sad farewell to the couple.

* “Martyrs” informally, in the sense that they were on duty working for God when killed, although of course at this point we don’t know if they were killed out of hatred of the faith, or just because pirates are enemies of humanity.

Ditto, we don’t know for sure about this guy, but given that throat-slitting is traditional treatment for an “infidel”, it’s a fair guess.

“And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying: How long, O Lord (holy and true) dost thou not judge and revenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given to every one of them one; and it was said to them, that they should rest for a little time, till their fellow servants, and their brethren, who are to be slain, even as they, should be filled up.”

** Why, yes, I’m prepared to be sadder about this, now that I know I’ve read this guy before. It’s natural enough.

UPDATE: I’m seeing conflicting reports as to whether Mr. Adam was still Episcopalian. He worked in Hollywood (including on The Goonies), and then after feeling a call to service, attended Fuller Theological Seminary. Later, he met his wife Jean.

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King of Mysteries anthology

This anthology of early Irish religious writings (mostly in translation, but with some original stuff quoted in Latin and Old and Middle Irish) is pretty darned sweet. It’s got stuff I’ve seen before and stuff I haven’t, but it’s all pretty interesting and adds value to what I knew.

Our man Augustinus Hibernicus has a lot of selections from his book translated here, but it’s not anywhere near the whole thing. So there’s that.

In the “Altus Prosator” section, there’s not only the original hymn by St. Colum Cille in Latin and an English translation, but tons of explanations of the meaning and translations of the little “vita” stories that go along with the poem. One of them (obviously from centuries later!) involves Mael Suthain ui Cearbhall (O’Carroll), who is described as not just Brian’s historian and bud, but his “soul friend” (spiritual director). Anyway, in the course of the story, Mael Suthain learns what sins God says are currently sending him to Hell: “getting children on the Bible”, sleeping with women, and despising the Altus (the popular devotion of reciting/chanting the hymn Altus Prosator). It turns out that “getting children on the Bible” means coming up with crazy interpretations for your own advantage, rather than going with tradition and scholarship. Mael Suthain promises (among his other amendments of his life) to go back to following the interpretation of the holy books, rather than his own.

So yeah, this is full of fun and interest and useful things.

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Wow, the Tolkien Estate Is Being Stupid.

Via Slashdot, They’re trying to prevent publication of a historical fiction/yammer about English lit novel, name of Mirkwood, because Tolkien is a character in it. Unfortunately, they are doing this on the grounds that they have a copyright to Tolkien the fact, the human, the historical figure.

Given that the entire Here There Be Dragons/Imaginarium Geographica series, a big famous awardwinning series of children’s books, includes not only a blatant Tolkien as its main character but also C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams as its other two protagonists, and given that there’s been at least one and probably more graphic novels where Tolkien and various Inklings and Oxford denizens show up as a character or protagonist, I think they’re starting JUST A TAD LATE with their bizarre little legal interpretation. Sending a cease-and-desist fishing expedition letter to a small publisher, when they don’t have a legal leg to stand on, is also a bit bullying, don’t you think?

(Indeed, here’s a whole bibliography of appearances of the Inklings in fiction.)

I suspect the real issue is that they think yon author is probably a twit and probably makes opprobrious comments in his novel about the life and loves and literary goals of Tolkien. But while this is sad and twisted, it’s not illegal. What you do is, you go to the author’s house and punch him in the nose. American law is extremely forgiving about these things.

But it doesn’t sound bad on the surface:

“Bold new author Steve Hillard’s wildly original debut, Mirkwood, re-invents J.R.R. Tolkien as a man haunted by the very myths he rewove into his famous works. As much literacy criticism as boisterous epic, this episodically-driven plot explores the blurred borderlands where ancient tales, lost heroines, and epic journeys are stalked by dim monsters that will not be still.

“In 1970, Professor Tolkien makes a little-known visit to America—and sets in motion the stirring of dark and ancient powers embodied in a cache of ancient documents. Destinies are altered, legends become real, and two heroines must race for their lives in vastly different worlds.”

Anyway, it’s a $2.99 Kindle book on Amazon, if you’re interested. I bought one. Of course, I never would have heard of the novel without the Tolkien Estate’s lawsuit, so clearly they have Mr. Hillard’s interests and marketing close to their heart!

UPDATE: Dude. This novel claims in its first paragraph that Tolkien was “chipper” and “enthralled his students” while teaching. Clearly this IS NOT TOLKIEN, since he was well known to be a great mumbler in class who pretty much strove to drive students away, though of course he was much more approachable as a tutor than lecturer. Diana Wynne Jones says so, and she was there. Obviously, this Hillard is innocent!

As for the novel, it doesn’t seem too bad. Your basic literary-ish old-school urban fantasy, strongly influenced by de Lint, Powers, and some of the other usual suspects. Interesting parallel storylines and timelines, that sort of thing. Hillard can write. Don’t know how it all goes, but the beginning seems good.

As for the title, the gentle author duly quotes Tolkien’s source for the name, which was public domain Old Norse and free for all takers (as Tolkien did take it too). So that’s all free and clear also.

People are supposed to sing of you after you’re dead, and if you’re a really big hero, they cast you in mythic or humorous stories. King Arthur and his knights. Beowulf and his thanes. Charlemagne and his Twelve Peers.
Virgil the poet and magician. Robin Hood and his Merry Men. And now, Tolkien and the Inklings. It’s not a bit surprising. You’re not supposed to sue to stop it, either.


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Paczki Time!

Yay! Time for those super-rich Polish jelly doughnuts!

(Because back in the day when you fasted from dairy and egg also, Carnival season included a lot of eating that stuff, and then you had to use it all up before Lent. And then those six weeks were pretty much time for the baby animals to be drinking the milk, and for the eggs to be fertilized and to hatch instead of being eaten.)

I’ve got cherry ones. They were pretty good.

I wasn’t brave enough to get the plum jam ones, which unfortunately were labeled in the store as “prune”. Now come to find out, plum is the major traditional flavor. (Le sigh, as Pepe Le Pew would say.)

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More on Your Man Augustinus Hibernicus and His Book

Apparently, yon 1998 anthology King of Mysteries: Early Irish Religious Writings includes either a good 25-page chunk of De Mirabilibus Sacrae Scripturae or the whole shebang. Either way, that explains why the man is surfacing into the consciousness of folks these days.

Alas, none of my local libraries seem to have this anthology, which explains why I don’t remember ever running across it. This will be rectified, as there’s some other nice-ish stuff and Amazon’s got it cheap.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that online bookstores and publishers often don’t have the content of a book listed, but university library catalogs often have a fairly explicit rundown of chapters, stories, or keywords. Even if you can’t read the book from there, you might get some serious use out of what’s online for an institution.

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“De Mirabilibus Sacrae Scripturae” Intro, by Augustinus Hibernicus.

Translated from Volume 35 of Migne with my usual guess and gosh, along with Whitaker’s Words, Lewis and Short, forks and hope. (And if the critics are so darned baffled by some Irish guy writing to other Irish guys in “Carthage”, either they underestimate Irish traveling power, Irish imagination, or Irish whimsicality of placename kenning. If you can call the local lord a dragon, a sapling, and a branch, I think you can call Clonmacnoise “Carthage”.)

(UPDATE: “St. Carthagus” is St. Carthach, aka St. Mochuda of Lismore. So those opining it was dedicated to the Lismore folks, I can now understand them saying so. And arrrrrgh, what a horrible pun!)

It doesn’t seem to me that this gentleman is trying to “rationalize” Scriptural events, in the sense we moderns mean it. Rather, he seems to think that it’s much more elegant to show God exploiting His supreme control of natural law in some mysterious way beyond human power, than to show God flouting altogether the natural laws He set up. This is God as universe-programmer squeezing out all the needful clever applications through His providence from the beginning of Creation, rather than as universe-breaker. (Or you might compare it to that cartoon of the Animator doing “miraculous” things to Daffy Duck inside the cartoon world, but still mostly staying within the rules of the cartoon world to do it — even though the Animator’s far beyond Daffy Duck in his potential to make the cartoon world do stuff, and that particular cartoon world only exists because of him.)

We return now to the year AD 655….

Of the Wonderful Things of Holy Scripture: 3 Books.

O most venerable bishops and priests of the cities and monasteries of greatest Carthage — subject to you in all things, Augustine wishes you in Christ all that is desirable.

O most blessed ones —

While he yet lived, by my Father Eusebius’ command I was bound to this work — urged on also by you Christians, and compelled by the authority of the orders of our most venerable great master, to compose (God granting it) three books on the Miracles of the Old and New Testaments of Holy Scripture by historical exposition, with as much brevity as I could manage. I will be excused my boldness in groping toward this work, by the authority of those who bid it. Indeed, although I had discerned myself to be unequal to what was to be said, yet ordered to yield to authority, I dared not turn away to either side; knowing most certainly that a worse vengeance follows running away disobediently from orders, than the scolding rebuke for being unequal to the work that goes along with obeying orders, regardless of what is commanded.

Plus, on the other hand, the prophet Jonah, fleeing through danger on the waves of the sea rather than suffer rebuke if he had fulfilled what was ordered, found out that the people that he had feared could be open to his sermons. And the prophet of Bethel’s altar who did not finish a laborious journey in the hunger and thirst he had been ordered to take it, the vengeance on his disobedience was his death a little further along the road, after he had found himself full. (1 Kings 13) Indeed, when Jeremiah was still a boy, he had no education in letters nor strength of manly good sense, but since he obeyed what he was told, he earned the reception of what he had not possessed. (Jeremiah 1:4-9).

From which, therefore, I do not consider the poverty of my tiny faculties, but the foresighted authority behind my orders. Because if you had not believed there was some little spark of light in me, you would not have charged me in any way with the ingenious labor of this work.

In these volumes, a plan of arrangement is intended so: that the first is entitled “On the Pentateuch of Moses”; the second, “On the Prophets”; and the third, “On the New Testament”. The intention of all this labor with the greatest effort, truly, is so that in all things in which something is done outside the everyday way of things, it may be seen that God does not do something of a new nature there, but something of the same nature which He built in the beginning, and that He is revealed to govern.

Thereafter, also in this work, we were concerned that we might explain only the reason and order of the governance of things by hitherto disregarded meanings of figures. Because in these places where we have touched on a certain historical narration, it has held meaning in many senses; and if we may have argued for one of them, we may have produced them from many books and the longer labor of reading such works. But this especially would be negligent — to omit the established meanings for that reason — because whatever authors have taken the trouble to explain these places in a sense of mystical allegory — that is, by figurative exposition — what they have discovered will keep.

But this work — whether it may perish or endure — hangs upon your decision. Indeed, from that of one of you — that is, Bathanus, after Father Manchinanus. So that I believe I will accept the spit of his mouth and the lot of my labor in vain, on what my intelligence and that of others has added. Indeed, our prayer and petition despairs that from all the reading of all kinds done from the time they commanded it, until they might understand the race ended, that they might feel aversion to the work for any reason.



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And That’s Why I’m Kinda Glad Mom’s Not on the Internet.

UPDATE: Don’t take this entry too seriously. I was dismayed when I wrote it, but I also thought the situation was kinda funny. Stuff happens. And as it happens, nobody tried to call me after that, so no problema.

ORIGINAL ENTRY: I was tellin’ Rich Leonardi that my mom would find out that he’d been doubtin’ the priest at the place she goes for Mass. And sure enough, without anybody from my family telling her, she found out.

I have now been on the phone twice with her, because like me, she tends to come up with more to say after thinking about it for a while. I missed the rerun of the Beowulf episode of Clash of the Gods, thanks to Mom telling me all her responses to Rich’s internet comments (along with other topics, of course, but she kept coming back with more stuff to say, every fifteen minutes or so).

My ear hurts from the phone, Rich. Next time, maybe I should just look up your phone number and transfer…. 🙂

I’m not really surprised that things worked out according to me dire prediction, though. The archdiocese is sometimes a small world, and the Internet is all about the interpersonal drama and the connections. Also, Murphy’s Law demands that your mother will ALWAYS find out anything interesting going on. I could practically hear the doomladen organ chords on the soundtrack from the moment Rich first posted, and now they have finally resolved.

Until she thinks of something else, and calls me back AGAIN. And a month from now, when something reminds her of it. And a year from now, when it comes to mind AGAIN. And if (Heaven spare the poor man) Father ever becomes a diocesan official or a bishop or the Pope, I WILL STILL BE HEARING ABOUT IT. Whereas Rich (or whoever told Mom, or whoever else who causes or passes along drama news which personally affects me or the family or someone she likes) will not be hearing about it forty years from now, at 10 PM on Christmas Eve (or whatever other time it comes back to mind).

I think I won’t be answering my phone any more today. I love all of you, but no. Just no.

I wonder if Van Gogh had a telephone…. 😉

P.S. Re: other reports received — Of course nothing I ever say about anyone is totally accurate. I am not God. I am a storyteller by nature and I have bad memory. Things get all poetic-y license-y. But I stand by the general drift of the things I say, although they may often reveal that I haven’t been paying attention or don’t know as much about specific humans as I may think I do. Thus the usual decoration of my comments with disclaimers galore. If I didn’t use enough disclaimers this time, I’m sorry. But I’m not sending anybody any emails, either. My fingers are as worn out as my poor ear, and I’m feeling remarkably like Cassandra. Perhaps I will spend the rest of the day emulating these wise critters.

Of course, the hidden reason behind all the Catholic Internet dramas of the moment, even this one, may well be the specter of impending Lent, when the entire Catholic blogosphere alternates wildly between gentle holiness, learning, and understanding — and extreme irritability. The amazing thing is how often this affects people in totally secular discussion groups. People who “give up the Internet for Lent” are sparing themselves a lot of trouble.

Maybe I can find Martin Sheen’s phone number, and transfer Mom to _him_. Or the Pope’s phone number. Somebody’s.

Just don’t tell my mother I wrote this, okay?


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Lent-ish Scarf at Walmart

Hey, they have some nice scarves and non-bandana-patterned bandana kerchiefs at my Wallyworld right now, for spring. One of them might make a nice Lent accessory for ya. It’s a largish scarf, patterned in a print. In the middle is a large square of small white circles on black. That’s surrounded by a square band of Lent-ish/Easter-ish purple, and then there’s a square band of black plaid on white, and then the edge is Lent-ish purple again.

It’s too big to just fold into a triangle and tie it under your chin (unless you are very cold and the day very windy), but it works well folded into a skinny rectangle and tied around the back of one’s head. And of course you can use it as a regular scarf, belt, shawl, etc. I’m not one of those people who’s clever with folding — I’m sure there’s a zillion uses.

So that’s one way you might spiff up your wardrobe for cheap.

Lots of scarf videos at Ehow, though I don’t know their age. 5 ways to wear a scarf, including 2 for head. (If you’re not worried about wind and tires, you can leave the Grace Kelly scarf ends free.) Tying scarves around head. Tricks for getting the scarf to have a good knot, so you can see what you’re doing.

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Kids Get Bad Information.

Garbage In, Garbage Out (GIGO) was the classic Seventies computer warning about bad data and bad programming, and by extension, about bad information and processing by humans. If you give people bad information, you don’t get good reactions from them.

Well, this morning I happened to be switching through the channels and saw something interesting on the local public access channel. It was a little show produced by the AV (er, “digital program”) kids over at a local high school. This episode apparently was a sort of extended commercial for the upcoming winter dance (with segments on various topics), followed by comedy bits. All in all, I was favorably impressed. It was well-paced and well-edited. (Of course, the microphone and sound editing quality was miles above my high school’s, but they also never had the echoing silence and nothing happening that often filled amateur videos back when. Tech wouldn’t help if they didn’t use it.) They also seemed to be a pretty nice bunch of kids, for living in the vicious piranha tank of junior high and high school society.

Anyway, the stopper for me was a segment on what to wear to the winter dance. In classic style, they showed the kids first wearing jeans and t-shirts — No — then prom dresses and (I think) a formal suit — No.
But then, they announced that it was “Semiformal”, and showed that this meant “nice dresses for the girls” (ie, moderately painted on dresses in lengths a lot shorter than cocktail) and “a nice shirt and khakis or jeans” for the guys (the guy actually looked well-dressed, but not semiformal, obviously!).

1) Very bad information about what “semiformal” means, though I’m sure that is what the dance organizers meant by it.

2) Those were nice suburban girls in the AV club, yet their mothers let them out of the house with those dresses, much less allowed them to possess such clothes. The girls had absolutely no idea that they were (to the impartial eye) dressed like tramps, from their demeanor and from the official nature of their presentation. (And they could have been dressed a lot more trampily without going beyond the normal bounds of high school fashion.) For their society and what they know, they obviously regarded themselves and were regarded by others to be garbed with unexceptional demureness and nice dress sense. What they wore was exactly equivalent to a boy wearing a nice shirt, a sweater, and nice gray jeans or khakis.

3) Since we’ve gone through twenty years of fairly revealing clothes for young women accompanied by mostly multilayered or baggy clothes for young men, it’s unsurprising that ordinary girls and many of their mothers should think such clothes unexceptional.

4) If that’s what so many people think is semiformal, I trust you now understand what some people wear to church, weddings, etc.

Semiformal attire definition over at Wisegeek, presenting what semiformal means in the adult world of businesspeople and classy occasions.

Random Internet dress site presents GIGO information on semiformal dresses. The Marquette is about the same length these poor young ladies were sporting. I notice that we’re back to Cindy Lauper dress lengths for most of this page, though.

On one of the coagulator sites that have been running rampant these last few weeks since the Great J.C. Penney Google Takedown, there was actually a semi-useful semiformal rhyme, which I’d never heard before.

“If the sun comes out, so should your knee.
If the sun is down, so should your hemline be.”

The only problem with this is that, obviously, there are above the knee dresses that are for daytime, and then there are above the knee dresses that aren’t for daytime (or any time, maybe). Either way, winter’s probably not a great time for upper thigh length dresses on anyone, much less on kids — and much, much less at church! (Unless you’re on the 2260’s Enterprise, or your universe is run by people from the Sixties.)


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Chicago Urban Coyote Study

From those folks at Ohio State, a summary of their Chicago coyote findings. (This time, I’ll try coding my link correctly!) You can read more technical papers under the “Current Activities/Literature” link at the project website.

Here’s a contrasting paper on what Cuyahoga coyotes eat. Here’s a video showing a naturalist pointing out how to identify coyote tracks and signs. Here’s a GPS collar study.

A blogger’s summary of a talk about Eastern coyotes by a specialist in the field who did genetic studies.

A farm guy tells the history of coyotes in Ohio, and points out that people in Ohio might want to hunt coyotes in February. (Almost like he’s hinting at something.) You can hunt coyotes pretty much all the time, in Ohio; you just need a hunting license. (Though individual towns may vary on what hunting is permitted.)

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