Monthly Archives: May 2011

No, Really, I Have No Intellectual Pride

I showed some of my gaming friends “Roll a D6” this weekend, but they didn’t think it was as funny as I did… sigh.

I still like it. So does Forbes Magazine (they have a gaming-business blog?), which links to an interview with Connor Anderson (the filmmaker) about his friends’ D&D campaign.

An interview with Wizards of the Coast, which goes to show that they’ve gotten over their grabbiness a bit….

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Yet There Are People Stupider Than Me

Instapundit quotes some twit on Facebook I’ve never heard of, asking in re: of a man with a prosthetic bionic hand, “why the majority of people arenโ€™t Transhumanists. Religious fervor can leade someone to take limbs or blow them off, but has it ever, in the history of the world, replaced a limb?”

First of all, the quick version doesn’t explain that the gentleman in question had his hand cut off. Most of us probably wouldn’t react to a bad hand by saying, “Gee, I think I’ll just have this sucker pruned, so I can have experimental prosthetics and phantom pain instead of just a gimp hand. Yay!” No, I think most of us would rather keep the original equipment, even if it was mostly useful only as a pencil stand and as a purveyor of fingernails to nibble. We certainly wouldn’t do that to a perfectly good working hand, as the transdorkanist on Facebook is suggesting.

And of course, limb replacement was a standard issue miracle in several world religions. For example, the No-Pay Doctors St. Cosmas and Damian, who not only replaced missing limbs with Frankenstein parts from the dead but also just did the standard issue miraculous ones. Then there’s mechanical limbs, like the Silver Hand given to the Irish god Nuada. Generally, however, the preferred legendary method doesn’t include getting rid of anything that’s still working. I mean, who’d believe that anybody would be willing to whack off a body part for being slightly used?

But to answer the question with the supernatural tied behind our backs, many of the best hospitals in the world are religious hospitals. Hospitals don’t have names like “Mount Sinai” or “St. Jude Children’s Hospital” because they were picked out of a bag. You can’t just tell by the name, either. If you go to the Mayo Clinic, you’re going to a religious-run place.

And out of their religious fervor, they sew limbs back on, all the time. There’s a reason people now save severed fingers, with the full expectation that they might get some use out of ’em yet.

Yet even as neural treatments to restore paralyzed limbs are coming into use, this transhumanist advocates cutting off bits of yourself for self-improvement’s sake, without waiting for science. And then he insults religion for being useless. Yeah, right.

Yep, this is what makes it hard to fight intellectual arrogance in today’s world — other people’s intellectual arrogance. Supposedly smart people saying stupid things, but being sure they’re wise. So I think to myself, “I’d never say anything that stupid,” and the arrogance cycle continues. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Anyway, I Understand How People Could Fall for Obama Now

The thing is, our generation is wary of being sold hate and fear. We very rarely get to hear optimistic words, and usually such words have been coming from safe people who desire our good. So we don’t guard ourselves from that.

It makes me very sad. We shouldn’t have to guard against happiness and hope. But we live in a fallen world, and there are people out to exploit every possible angle, every hero, everything we love.

Like the man said… “In God we trust. All others pay cash.”

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Get Ad-ivated

Well… I guess I’m not as good at search-engine fu as I thought I was.

My company signed us up to go to a cheap/free business motivational seminar with lots of great speakers. It seemed like a really good deal. But it turned out that Get Motivated is not about seeing Bill Cosby, Rudy Giuliani, Colin Powell, Steve Forbes, and Terry Bradshaw. It’s about getting the famous people to get everybody all excited and motivated — and then letting other guys try to sell you “free” classes on how to make money, and getting your credit card number to charge you for all sorts of stuff. It was a lot like those “free vacations” where they try to make you buy condos, except a lot more sophisticated.

Of course, it’s a lot easier to find negative comments about “Get Motivated” if you associate it with search terms like “scam” or “ripoff”.

I’m also troubled that otherwise-reputable people with famous names would associate themselves with this sort of hinky stuff. Of course, it’s quite possible that most of them have bad search engine fu also.

A newspaper in St. Louis.

Another story from last year.

Stay away. Stay far away. If you go anyway, don’t bring inside any money of any kind. It’s all about the pressure.

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NCR Computer Oral History Interviews

Interview with Carl Rench, who worked under Joe Desch and Bob Mumma, on the world’s first patented computer design.


Interview with Bob Mumma
. I don’t think he’s one of the Mummas we’re related to… Anyway, if you don’t know the name, it’s pronounced MOO-mah. There are tons of Mummas in this neck of the woods.

Joe Mumma says Dayton had police call boxes back in the Thirties (for responding to messages broadcast over the police radio), so there’s your Doctor Who fanfic hook. ๐Ÿ™‚

He also says that the American NCR bombes did have an electronic device attached, in order to “remember” the exact position where the machine got a “hit”, so that it could roll right back to that position when it was stopped. So it wasn’t a purely mechanical/electrical device.

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The Turing Taste

It seems that I have never mentioned on this blog the fascinating datum (obviously begging for time travel, alt-history, and nerd historical thriller tales) that Alan Turing visited NCR’s codebreaking computer project during WWII.

It seems that he spent most of his trip in a right snit. He didn’t like traveling to America. He didn’t like the food. He didn’t like the trains, planes, or automobiles. He didn’t like the accommodations in Dayton. (Granted, he had to sleep on the living room floor in Joe Desch’s already crammed-full house, and that wasn’t a nice atmosphere thanks to Desch’s sinister live-in pointyheaded boss/slavedriver/nosy guy.)

Apparently his super-snit really got into its stride against Desch’s brute-force mechanical technique of building a computer, which was built and programmed on totally different lines from what they were doing in England, and also had a unique stop and start process — but which also worked just fine.

I find this freaking hilarious. But it’s also a bit sad, because with all the secrecy, they couldn’t take him to anyplace he would have liked (such as the Engineer’s Club).

Ah, Internet! Here’s Alan Turing’s secret official report from 1942. Not quite as DRAMA as I heard the story, but I think there were several sources drawn from, and everybody likes a big story. Note the science guy’s distrust of the NCR manufacturing engineers knowing what their stuff can do… but there’s also some thoughtful consideration of design differences.

However, though the report sounds decently impressed (and he’s kinder towards NCR than to the folks in DC), it’s fair to say that NCR people took away the impression that he hated everything. (Maybe the people who couldn’t talk about it had different impressions, of course.) Possibly he had time to get out of his snit by the time he wrote his report, or maybe the Americans misread him since they didn’t know him. Who knows?

Here’s his reports on his visit to Washington DC cryptanalysis stuff and to Bell Labs, during the same trip. As you can see, things started with a bit of disarray, so he had some reasons for snit….

Anyway, I was just walking over the remains of Building 26 today (yeah, it stinks), so I was thinking about this.

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And the Soundtrack Comes Up….

Fr. Schnippel points out the beauty (always there, accessible through missals before the Latin went away, yet not adequately translated into English till now) of just one of the prayers for a single day’s Mass.

The build of intensity is pretty amazing.

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Trader Joe Weird Thing: Yuzu Tisane Drink Mix

Yuzu is a sour Asian citrus fruit. It gets used primarily for its juice (grapefruit-sour) and its rind (used as a condiment or flavoring). Foodies are apparently getting excited about it lately.

Anyway… Trader Joe now has a product called Yuzu Citrus Tisane Beverage. It’s got ten packets of liquid yuzu juice mixed with (a lot of) honey and various fructose sweeteners. You pour this into hot or cold water as a flavoring. It’s made in South Korea.

Apparently they are imitating (in more store-friendly form) a drink called yujacha in South Korea, which is made by mixing a sort of yuzu marmalade-ish syrup in hot water. Apparently a fairly common home remedy for colds!

Anyway, the Trader Joe tisane is very tasty and sweet, and seems fairly soothing to the throat as a hot drink, though after the sweetener goes away I do eventually get that “sour rind was on the back of my throat” feeling. Of course, with summer closing in, I suspect most people will use it as a cold drink. Either way, only about 29 cents a drink and full of Vitamin C, so it’s worth a try.

Yuzu is a pretty hardy citrus fruit, apparently, so if you’re a little too far north for oranges, maybe you can grow them instead?

First time I’ve ever seen the ingredient “oligofructose”.

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Everybody Go Read Amy Welborn’s New Blog

It’s a blog about travel (and with kids) in the inimitable Welborn style, with very nice pictures.

Go check it out. Good stuff.

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You Know When You’re Spending Way Too Much Time Reading Patristics?

When you finally get a look at the critical edition of the Beatus commentary, and all the footnotes make sense.
(That was yesterday, when I got off early.)

When you get off from work two hours early, and the best thing you can think to do is to rush to a rare book room that’s only open 8-5, so you can get a look at a critical edition. Followed by a movie about martyrs.

When you realize you think of Migne’s Patrologiae Latinae as a happy friendly series that is relatively easy to use, rather than thinking of them as a weightlifting program. (Thanks to digitalization, of course.)

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You Know What’s Not Fun?

Two days at work, in a closed building, with only half the A/C working.

No, we didn’t get off early today.

Yes, it does seem that they may have fixed it. Tomorrow morning, I guess we’ll find out.

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When Steve Wozniak Tried to Prank Call Pope Paul VI

Interesting NPR interview here. It turns out that the nuns who ran the switchboard for Pope Paul VI were not above factchecking California college kids’ phonecalls….

“Woz” has friends in high places, though. In fact, it seems that Apple does have a patron saint.

The feast day of Blessed Michal Wozniak, Polish priest and martyr, is coming up on the 16th of May. He was born on July 28, 1875 and died at Dachau at the age of 66. He’s listed as one of the 108 Polish martyrs of World War II.

His Wikipedia entry in Polish.
An article in Spanish about Blessed Fr. Michal Wozniak.

He became a priest despite being his parents’ only child, entering seminary fairly late for those days (at 27!), after getting his college degree in Italy. He was ordained in 1907.

In his first parish, he was confronted with a lot of parishioners who’d gotten involved in the Mariavite movement and left the Catholic Church in disappointment. He managed to bring back to the Church over a hundred of these people. (And if like me, you ever wondered why the Vatican was so nervous about St. Faustina Kowalska, or why Blessed John Paul II tried to be so nice about Medjugorje despite the obvious problems with the “visionaries”, I think this explains it. Nobody wants bad translations and misunderstandings to cause schism, so much more benefit of the doubt is given.)

As a great admirer of Don Bosco, he worked with troubled kids and founded a Salesian high school in one of his parishes. He was imprisoned for two months toward the end of WWI, along with some of his parishioners, for hiding his church’s bells. (Many were being melted down for their metal.) When he got out, he went back to doing parish work. In one of his parishes, he had to build a new church because the old one had been destroyed by the Russians in 1915. (I think this church in Kamionnie is the one he built. Scroll down to see the pictures.)

He was arrested in October 1941, spent time in another camp, and then was sent to Dachau.

Blessed Michal Wozniak, pray for us! (And hey, folks, throw in a prayer for Mr. Jobs’ health, while you’re at it.)

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Re: Earthquake Rumor in Italy

There was a rumor going around in Italy that there’d be a big earthquake in Rome on May 11 (and that this had been predicted by some crazy Velikovsky-type guy back in the Twenties). The guy’s biographer didn’t know anything about such a “prediction”, so where did it come from?

It turns out that St. Mamertus (feast day, May 11) was famous for introducing an annual prayer and procession for his people against earthquakes and other disasters, after people in Gaul suffered a long string of natural disaster problems. (This is the ancestor of the Rogation Days.) So apparently, some people associate St. Mamertus (and his feast day) with earthquakes.

Oddly enough, there was a big earthquake in Spain yesterday on St. Mamertus’ Day. No doubt this will add to the reputation of the dead Velikovsky-type.

In Spanish in some places, “mamerto” means stupid or foolish.

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The Ice Saints: St. Servatius

I’ve mentioned this before, but given yesterday’s snowfall in Colorado, it seems timely!

In Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, and here in the US, old folk legends do warn that it can still snow well into May. Depending on where you live, various “snow saints” or “ice saints” (feast days when snow is still possible) are cited. The trio of St. Mamertus, St. Pancras, and St. Servatius (May 11, 12, and 13) is very popular. So people in Colorado shouldn’t feel too persecuted, especially since the traditional end of snow in Germany in some places isn’t until June 22!

St. Servatius was Bishop of Tongres (now in Belgium). He was said to have foreseen the destruction of Tongres by the Huns and the transfer of his see to Maastricht (now in the Netherlands). Before that, he was said to have been much involved with various things happening in the Church, including having St. Athanasius as a guest in his see (yeah, St. Athanasius did get all the way to Gaul so it’s plausible), traveling to various farflung church councils to vote and speak against Arianism, and visiting the tomb of St. Peter in Rome. He died on May 13 in the year 384.

Anyway, being from Belgium and the Netherlands both means he appeared in a lot of art commissioned by rich merchant cities back in the day! His attributes in art and legend are many: a key, an angel handing him his mitre and crozier, striking the ground and getting a spring, pointing with his crozier at someone’s feet (to heal them of foot problems), standing next to St. Peter’s tomb, and standing next to a dying dragon (probably a visual representation of Arianism’s errors).

The “Basilieke van Sint Servaas” and St. Servatius Bridge are both Maastricht landmarks. His relics are kept at the Basilica.

There were two long medieval verse works about St. Servatius, and they have been published in English translation under the name The Life of Saint Servatius. A lot of his legends had already developed by the time St. Gregory of Tours wrote his History of the Franks, and there was at least one other medieval hagiographical vita. So yeah, popular guy.

He’s got a much better Wikipedia entry right now than he had last year!

Lives and Legends of the Great Hermits and Fathers of the Church, by N. D’Anvers, has a lot of obscure-saint info!

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