Monthly Archives: June 2011

Progress Report

I’m finally old enough to enjoy reading Nero Wolfe mysteries, instead of just watching the TV show.

Hey, I’m serious. It’s a big deal. I’ve been reading mysteries and bouncing off Rex Stout for thirty-some years, so this is a happy thing.

(Okay, so there was a lot of Rex Stout to bounce off of, but geez, the man’s dead. No double entendre intended.) (Okay, so it was an audiobook, not technically me reading. Don’t judge me.)

But it’s been weird to know so much about the characters and the series without actually having read more than a bit of book here and there, while knowing it’s excellent and well-loved. Like the days when I stood outside the gates of Austen, unable to get in or get her jokes. Some authors I don’t care whether I ever like or understand, but other authors clearly are holding a pretty lively party behind those closed doors. Rex Stout was particularly frustrating, because his style was fine and fun and I still bounced off it.

Finally, finally I’m in Wolfe’s house, hanging out with Archie and enjoying myself, instead of just peering around the door jamb and then retreating again. Middle age has its compensations for me. ๐Ÿ™‚

The interesting thing was that the first book, Fer-de-Lance, hides the Sherlockian references/undertones a lot less than later offerings. It’s not a fanfic, by any means, but it’s more obviously a literary response to Doyle than an independent detective novel. (Of course, a lot of detective novels back then were mostly responses to Doyle, but you know what I mean.) Later books actually make much more blatant references (the full extent of which you fans probably know), but since the series stands on its own by then, it can afford to do so. A lot about the series was revamped after this novel (just like a TV pilot episode!), but its charms are already present.

This book includes at least one useful quote: “Skepticism is a good watchdog if you know when to take the leash off.”


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You Know What’s Freaky?

You get this email about some project somebody’s doing somewhere, and you think the name you see is the name of a neopagan musician you know, and you see all this stuff about theology and you’re thinking, what? are neopagans doing theology now? I thought they were against theology. And then you realize it’s some kind of evangelical project, and then you’re thinking, what? is she Christian now? when did that happen? I mean, that’s great, but I wouldn’t have thought she’d become an evangelical, would you? wow, you never know about a person….

And then you realize that it’s a begging letter from a total stranger named Tim.

This goes to demonstrate how small fonts and nearsightedness help make the world a more exciting place.

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The Government: Messing Up Your Clocks in the Middle of a Recession

Hey, let’s mess around with the power grid frequencies! Because gosh, it’ll be a fun experiment. We don’t know what it will do to your clocks or your other appliances, but we’ll do it anyway. If people have trouble, they can complain!

Oh, yeah, and don’t worry about how it’s bound to mess up traffic light controllers. A few wrecks never hurt anybody!

And because this will affect more people who don’t have the Internet, let’s encourage people to complain over the Internet, and find out the correct time from the Internet!

If you have any electrical clocks, you’d better go get battery-powered ones. Make sure all your elderly relatives and non-Internet-connected friends and acquaintances have battery-powered clocks, too.

Oh, and of course the real reason for this is the unreliability of windmill power and other “renewable sources of energy”, that power companies have to buy something from because the law makes ’em. If they swish around the power grid, they can compensate for all the random surges and drops of power from the green junk.


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Using Tissue Paper as Substitute Ribbon and Bow

1. Wrap books in tissue paper. (Unless you actually give people other kinds of gifts. I stick with what I know about 75% of the time.) ๐Ÿ™‚

2. Look at the plainness of your tissue-paper wrapped gift and sigh. Worry about whether the title shows through. Look at all the rest of that tissue paper left in the package.

3. Take out a sheet of tissue paper in another color and fold it into the shape of a ribbon strip. Wrap the sheet around the box, covering up any text or picture that shows through.

4. Where the ends of the sheet-ribbon overlap, fasten them together with tape. (If you’ve got a lot of extra, you could even tie them together — but tissue paper rips very easily, so don’t ever try to tie it tight.)

5. Pull and fold out the ends to look like a flower. (If you are crafty, you will probably make it into a proper paper flower, or you will put another sheet-ribbon around the package to make a poofier flower or more than one flower.) Fix it with tape to make it stay, if you need to.

It’s a bit wasteful of tissue paper; but then again, tissue paper’s pretty cheap these days. (Although not as cheap per square foot as buying giftwrap at the correct stores and times of year. As my mother could probably demonstrate.) Also, tissue paper is definitely less able to take punishment than giftwrap, and there’s the translucency problem as well. (Not to mention rain.) But the great advantage is that it’s an all-in-one gift wrap solution, and reinforces the inner layer of tissue paper as well.

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Freedom’s Call Tattoo at Wright-Patterson AFB

You can listen to it on the Internet radio, but I’m not sure where you could watch it on the web, sorry…. But one of our local stations, WHIO, is broadcasting the tattoo and various news features about work groups out at the Base. It’s pretty nice.

The AFMC (Air Force Materiel Command) Freedom’s Call Tattoo is the latest incarnation of the standard “big summer picnic/party thing out at the Base”. There’s music, and there’s tents showcasing what various groups do out at the Base, and there’s food and fireworks and flyovers, and people have fun. (And there’s always recruiting, of course!) (Ironically, a lot of the folks who live close to the Base don’t bother to go, since they can sit home in their yards and watch the flyovers and fireworks anyway. That’s what my folks are doing tonight.) Basically, it’s good PR, but it’s also a chance for local people to show support for their neighbors in the military, and for the military folks to have fun at a big party with everyone. All win, no lose.

Right now the newspeople are interviewing an Air Force guy and a Marine Reserve guy, who are taking their little daughters and their little friends to the Lonestar concert, while the little girls demonstrate how they’re going to dance at their first concert ever…. ๐Ÿ™‚ To be honest, they seem to be much more cognizant of the Air Force Band of Flight than the country band, but they’re willing to be enthusiastic!

I’m really sorry for folks who don’t grow up with friendly feelings toward the US military.

Heh, now they’re showing AFIT (aka the amazing toybox lab). Right now they’re showing some combat robots and RC indoor drone development… Now they’re interviewing some computer research guys trying to protect military computers… Now they’re interviewing the world’s skinniest Air Force guy — I’ve never seen camos so baggy…. AFIT is awesome stuff, seriously. It’s the kind of place where they keep moon rocks in filing cabinets (or so I’m told). I got to go to one of their open houses exactly once, maybe thirty years ago, and the stuff I saw them playing with way back then is still pretty futuristic.

Now they’re showing CCATT (Critical Care Air Transport Team) training. They basically have a cargo plane shell sitting around in a hangar, which looks (and sounds loud) exactly like a real plane. The students practice setting up a mobile hospital/transport in the shell. The program got moved here from San Antonio, poor folks, as part of the base realignment. All the aerospace medicine stuff is moving here, which sucks for everybody else but is awesome for our town. (And hey, cost of living is famously cheap and the Base famously pretty; but of course San Antonio the city is really nice. I’d be a bit peeved or sad, myself.)

Now we’re watching military K9 practice with a traveling MP team that helps out on big events all sorts of places, but has its home out at the Base.

They just had the B-52 flyover. Not as loud and low a pass as they used to make…. ๐Ÿ™‚

The general just made a speech. Now they’re having a Bronze Star awards ceremony. Pretty nice. I’m not sure how to spell the men’s names, and I’m not having much luck searching for them. Sigh.

They just did a thing honoring Ohio Taskforce 1 (the urban search and rescue guys who helped out after 9/11). Now they’re having all the songs for all the branches of the service. The band director is being kept pretty busy returning salutes from the military guys in the crowd!

The show goes on, but the broadcast is over. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Another Beatus Quote

Man, where does it all come from? Some of this has to be by St. Beatus himself.

Found an imbedded piece of Latin verse in his quotes today. Check it out!

Non vocavit Deus grammaticos
aut philosophos aut oratores
primitus in Apostolatum, sed
simplices, pauperes, (et) piscatores.

“God did not call grammarians or philosophers or orators to the office of the first Apostles; but simple men, paupers and fishermen.”

The passage goes on:

“Never could any philosopher have said, โ€œThou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.โ€ [Mt. 16:16] Never could Demosthenes, Cicero, or Cato the Philosopher have said, โ€œIn the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.โ€ [John 1:1] Behold, we certify Peter and John, not philosophers, but hillbillies and uneducated men, to be Apostles.

“Peter, with calloused hand, simply preaching the Son of God, came to Rome announcing an emperor and founder of the Roman people, whom a virgin bore โ€” not Romulus, who was nursed by Lupa the she-wolf. Behold, no philosopherโ€™s word has satisfied the world, but that of Peter the peasant, who discloses the Son of God to men.”


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Put Down the Fanfic, Jackson.

From the people who brought “Aragorn doesn’t want to be a king”, “Aragorn falls down a five foot deep plothole”, and every other complaint we have….

It seems that the movie of The Hobbit is going to have a new female character in it.

Yes, in the middle of all that work to make the Elves of Mirkwood scary when all the girls are in love with King Thranduil’s son Legolas (not in The Hobbit!), they’ve decided they need to introduce a bee-yew-tee-fwull Woodland Elfiewelfie named Mary Su… er, Tauriel.

And like, she’s totally not like all the other made-up elf girls in fandom, because, like, she’s made up by Peter Jackson’s nearest and dearest, and not the kids on So she is TOTALLY DIFFERENT.

(Even if the people writing the flick can’t even keep the meaning of the word taur straight, and tell you it means “Mirkwood” instead of just “forest, wood”. Well, I didn’t expect any respect for the actual source material when they can privilege their own cerebral contents instead. Bah.)

UPDATE: Why, yes, the Internet does include several fanfics, dating years back, which include Tolkien fanfic characters named Tauriel. There are people who’ve been using Tauriel as a handle for years.

Oh, well. At least they’re not calling her “Filippafraniel”


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As we all know by now, a lot of the anime companies’ offerings can be a little questionable. But there are anime meant for the family market, too, although they often don’t come over to the US.

Crunchyroll currently is airing a very charming little family show called Kobo-Chan. It’s an adaptation by YTV of a very popular comic strip.

Kobo is a little boy who lives in a multi-generational household: his businessman father, housewife mother, and her parents. It’s not a super-ambitious show, but who cares? It’s funny and sweet. The 24-minute episodes are basically a series of short scenes along with some longer storylines. You see a good deal of normal life, albeit probably a bit idealized (lots of futon-on-floor and old-fashioned house-with-screens). It’s sort of the Japanese version of Mom, hot dogs, and apple pie.

(This does include the obligatory Japanese scenes of family bathing, but this cartoon bath nakedness isn’t really showing anything.)

Basically, if you like Peanuts with a younger kid and less sarcasm, or Miyazaki’s kind of “slice of life”, you might like this little family cartoon series. Anecdotal evidence suggests that really little kids may like it even if they can’t read the subtitles.

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Irish Rosary for the Dead from Patrick Denn’s The Catholic Children’s Religious Primer

Found another interesting old Irish chapbook by the tireless Patrick Denn. It was a sort of simple pre-catechism and prayer book, including several litanies and rosaries. The Rosary for the Dead was a pretty big deal back in the early 1800’s in Ireland, and it’s a similar but simpler format than the Poor Souls/Hearts of Jesus and Mary versions of the Rosary for the Dead. So here you go.

1. Sign of the Cross (obviously)

2. Say a rosary, but with the Our Father on the big beads, and “O compassionate Lord Jesus, have mercy on them!” on the little beads.

3. Instead of the Glory Be, recite:

V. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
R. And may perpetual light shine upon them.
V. May they rest in peace.
R. Amen.

4. At the end, recite Psalm 129/130 — “Out of the depths”.

5. Then the closing verse and response:

V. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
R. And may perpetual light shine upon them.
V. From the gates of Hell…
R. …Deliver their souls, O Lord.
V. May they rest in peace.
R. Amen.
V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.

6. Then the final prayer:

We implore Thee, O Lord, to absolve all their sins from the souls of Thy faithful, so after that having risen again, they may live in the glory of the Resurrection, amid the saints and the elect. Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

[And then the Sign of the Cross again, of course.]

The more popular Chaplet for the Dead is obviously a close cousin.

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Playing with Anglo-Saxon England

Project Woruldhord is a new UK website for teachers and profs, making all kinds of high quality pictures, videos, and information available about Anglo-Saxon times.

But why leave it to the teachers? This stuff is neato, and it’s all Creative Commons. So go look and enjoy!

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Weird American Mixed Drinks, Part 400

Applebees is offering sangria drinks this summer. “Yum,” I thought.

Then I looked at the ingredients.

Apparently Applebees’ sangrias aren’t made with red wine. Oooookay. I consult Wikipedia and decide that’s perfectly fine. Sangria blanco or sangria clerico, that’s called.

They are made with huge honking amounts of flavored liqueurs as well as fruit juices. Um. Well. Apparently mere wine and fruit just isn’t strong enough?

They are made with Sierra Mist. Let that sink in.

Now, I have nothing against mixed drinks with 7-Up in them. Fine. But calling the result sangria? Fizzy soda fortified drinks are sangria??? What kind of sick joke is this???

For truth in advertising, it’d have to be called something more like Long Island Iced Wine Coolers. Sheeeeeeeeesh. And yes, I guess people in the US have been doing this for quite a while, but wow, that’s still just wrong. And not that Applebees is where you should be getting your mixed drinks anyway. But it’s the principle of the thing.


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Trinity Sunday and Father’s Day

Holy cow, I really should have gotten up earlier and gone to church. 94% humidity is no joke. I wore shorts and a T-shirt to get there, changed into church clothes in the bathroom at church, and darned if my hair didn’t look like I’d been drenched. It didn’t feel like I’d been sweating _that_ much, but I guess that was because it all went from my scalp right into my hair. I had to put my head under the hot air hand dryer just to get it looking vaguely presentable. (Yet another reason to wear a straw hat in the summer. Covers a multitude of bad summer hair days.)

After church, my parents and I met for a Father’s Day lunch. Got it done, had fun. ๐Ÿ™‚ We hit an Indian place with a buffet, and they had some of those honey/sugar things that look like pretzels, or some sort of golden Indian version of hot maple sugar drizzled into snow. Also had some triangular pakora with SPICY potatoes concealed inside, and some very spicy Punjabi curry. (Needless to say, Dad didn’t have that! He’s not a fan of hot spices.)

I’ve given Dad about five thousand zillion books, so I tried to break it up a little by giving him a jigsaw puzzle. (It’s of some Kunstler Civil War thing, and only a thousand pieces; but it’s got a lot of similar colors, so it should be suitably evil.)

Next week is Dad’s birthday, so it’s pretty much one big Fiesta del Papa all this part of the month.

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Review: The Accidental Sorceror by K.E. Mills

Gerald lives in a world of crystal ball telephony and world-spanning magical portals, but he’s just a Third Grade wizard working for his kingdom as an industrial magic inspector… until things go wrong, and he loses even that. Desperate, he takes a job overseas and finds himself knee deep in foreign politics, intrigue, and butterflies as he tries to help a pudgy princess/prime minister save her home from diplomatic disaster.

This Australian fantasy novel from 2008 is well-written, well-plotted, full of well-drawn characters, and is well worth your time. Plenty of funny stuff, plenty of action/adventure, but with a few dark plot points. (Not made graphic or beat over your head, or this would be a lot darker book.) It’s got a nice Britosphere feel to it (not surprising since the author’s from Canada and Australia, and has worked in the UK). The viewpoint character is a genuinely nice and moral guy, and the folks you’re supposed to like are actually likeable instead of creepy. (I’ve had bad luck the last few years with picking books, so that’s important to me.) The book stands alone, but has two sequels. A very satisfying read.

K.E. Mills is Karen Miller under a different brand name. I’ve heard nice things about her books, but must admit that her epic fantasies sounded a bit harrowing for my current tame tastes. (Yeah, when I was a teenager it was all about the harrowing.) So it’s nice to get a lighter entrance to her work. (She’s written Stargate and Star Wars tie-in novels also, according to her webpage.)


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Another Good Quote from Beatus’ Quotes

Truly, He says to His Saints, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you.” [Mt. 7:7]

What is “to ask”, but to love God with intense devotion, with intense mind, and all your heart and all your soul and all your strength, and to pray without ceasing? This is to ask God.

And what is “to seek” but to ponder the good at all hours, and to pull out harmful ponderings from your heart by the roots? This is to seek God.

But what is “to knock” but always to do good works with your hands, and love your neighbor as yourself, and to love your enemy for God’s sake, and to bear all injuries patiently? And if anyone contends with you in judgment and takes away your tunic, not to hesitate to add your cloak? [Mt. 5:40]

And beyond this, by Apostolic custom, “to knock” is to work with our own hands and make nobody be burdened, to distribute our own things to the needy and not ask for another’s. Because although we may distribute all our property to the poor, nothing will be more precious with God and nothing as much dearer, as what we may have produced with our own hands, when we should make, prepare, and set out what is eaten. This is “to knock” properly, at which God promised to open.

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