Monthly Archives: December 2011

A Miracle for Kateri

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha (pronounced GAH-deh-lee Day-GAH-kwee-ta, but you can say it however you want) is truly the Cinderella of North American saints. Her father was Mohawk, her mother a Catholic Algonquian captive whom he married. But they both died of smallpox when she was four, along with her little brother; she survived scarred on the face and in the eyes, which made her very nearsighted. She was adopted by her uncles and aunts on her father’s side.

When she was about eleven, three Jesuits stayed the night at her uncle’s house, and she apparently got as much info on her childhood faith as she could. From then on, she apparently became determined to live as a virgin, despite the fact that she was coming up to a marriageable age and her aunts had a lot of matchmaking plans. As was common in many tribes, these ladies decided that working recalcitrant kids to the bone was the way to get obedience; but Kateri was as stubborn and unafraid of pain as her tribe was taught to be. (And to be fair to the Iroquois confederation, forced marriage wasn’t really something they did.) When she was 18, she was baptized by the local missions priest. Homelife got even more difficult, because she still refused to marry like a normal Mohawk. (And remember, she had high family connections and was a cheerful, skilled hard worker, which made her a very desirable wife despite her scars. So I’m sure men offered plenty to her family and her.)

Things were at an impasse, until Kateri decided to leave home and head to one of the Jesuit settlements of Catholic tribesmembers. There she found happiness, continuing to work hard but being able to take Catholic instruction, and live as a virgin without shame. After learning about asceticism and mortification as a path to sanctity (which would appeal to someone of traditional Native American background), she began to practice fairly extreme stuff. This was a big witness to her fellows, because bravery to withstand pain is a sign of spiritual power in a lot of religious traditions from that area. But given the crazy “boomtown” furtrading atmosphere and the constant wartime footing of the Iroquois confederation groups (because they were fighting everybody else to get all the fur trade with Europe for themselves), many Europeans who had a bad opinion of Native Americans’ moral capabilities were also impressed by Kateri’s holy (and strenuous) life. She achieved a depth of prayer and love that impressed others as being totally in union with God.

She died young, about 24 years old. (Not unusual in that rough time.) As soon as she died, eyewitnesses said that her smallpox scars vanished, and that her face shone with unusual loveliness and peace. She has been the object of popular local devotion from that day to this, although her second wave of popularity began in the late 1800’s as the Jesuit missions became a popular subject of study in Canada and the US. She has been taken to the hearts of people of all races and political views and denominations.

The oldest portrait of Kateri, by Fr. Chauchetiere, one of the Jesuits who knew her.

And now, the girl who survived smallpox has prayed for a boy to survive flesh-eating bacteria, and God has responded with a miracle, to show the world that His favor is upon this handmaid of His. The way is clear for her name to be raised to the altars.

Stay tuned. The canonization announcement will probably come out in the next few months. Then the canonization will probably take place in the US and/or Canada — since these days, the Pope is trying to spread the fun to people who can’t make it to Rome.

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MIT Decides It Likes Distance Money

MIT has long offered free use of course materials, and even courses, online. You just didn’t get credit for it.

In their newest venture, coming this spring, you still can take the courses for free and even take quizzes and such for free. But you will also be able to obtain certification of having taken and passed the course; and that’s the part that will cost you. There will be a clear distinction between this distance learning unit and actual MIT, but they mean their certification to be respected.

I think it’s a good idea. Why should the University of Phoenix get all the action? And why shouldn’t people have a way to get credit for all their hard work and learning?

(And if you didn’t learn well enough, why shouldn’t you be able to sweep that under the rug and move on? Science and engineering and math are hard classes, and MIT is harder. Just taking that level of college class and failing is probably a useful learning experience for many, since it’s hard to find a hard class in the US nowadays.)

Via Instapundit.

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When Research Gets a Little Too Decentralized

Instapundit links to a very sad citation study of English professors’ articles.

A lot of people write articles just to be publishing something. Of course they’re not going to be very useful, and of course it’s going to be harder to find useful articles in the mess. The lack of general Internet availability of scholarly articles in certain fields is probably also a factor.

Why hunt through journals you don’t read for the one possibly useful article, if 100 other articles on your subject of interest turn out to be useless and boring, or composed of equal helpings of incomprehensible verbiage and pap? And so, the bad drives out the good (or makes it hard to find).

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Dinosaur/Bird News!

What that weird enlarged claw was and is for.

Via View from the Porch.

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Vampire Prosecutor

A lawyer with a special sense for murder cases. 🙂

No, this isn’t some Dexter baddie vs. baddie. Prosecutor Min Tae-Yeon is a clean-cut serious guy who only drinks blood obtained legally from bloodbanks. (How the heck he gets that amount of blood is another question.) But despite possessing tons of vampiric powers and very few disadvantages, he primarily is interested in harnessing his abilities to track blood and death, so as to Fight Crime. And hunt down the serial killer who vampified him, and apparently killed his little sister. The catch is that, if he drinks enough of a dead person’s blood sample, he can sense something of their memories at death; but in return, he suffers their deathpangs.

(And of course, if he doesn’t keep himself under control, he’ll turn into an evil guy biting everybody. Amusingly, the sign of the vampire side taking over isn’t just fangs, but also his eyes turning blue!)

So this vampish Valjean gets himself put in charge of a joint police/prosecutor’s office X-Files squad, along with a policeman buddy, who knows something about his abilities and how he got that way. But his bosses also dump on the new group a crazy-haired intern who wants to share everything with his social media friends, and a very young and chatty female prosecutor. Fortunately, the newbies love the glamorous CSI aura too much to realize that they’ve been assigned to some kind of screw-up squad. But even they quickly notice the odd way that blood samples and the chain of evidence get treated in their unit!

Like Forever Knight or Angel, this is the kind of show where the main character rejects the glamor of evil and tries to make use of vampiric powers only for the sake of justice. Like a superhero, he is pitted by the writers against those in Korean society who are too powerful for ordinary cops to reach, usually. In the first episode, there are explicit parallels drawn between vampires and people able to have whatever they want through bribes and influence.

The problem is that a lot of his standard practices would count as evidence contamination in real life. This may become an issue later in the series, but nothing happens about it in the first episode.

So it looks like a pretty good fantasy/mystery show, it’s only 12 episodes long, and it just finished up last week. Check it out!

Be aware that there is A LOT of blood tossed around in this series, given the plot, and some episodes apparently involve people running around half-naked while getting murdered. Also, the first episode involves the murder of a child, so folks may not want to watch that.

Vampire Prosecutor with English subtitles.

PS: The end of the first episode features the vamp lawyer going clubbing, but the song played is “Camper”, a song in English about playing Call of Duty?! (The version on the show bleeped all the cussing that the YouTube version has.)

Of course comedy songs have their place, but whatever happened to elegant vampire hangouts?


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Well, this week I worked my last day at my former workplace. I’m still trying to be cheerful about it.

To be honest, I feel pretty ashamed about having to apply for state unemployment assistance. But I’m applying anyway, because I’m not exactly in a position to keep my pride. And I have paid state tax all these years, so it’s not like I’ll owe the state. But it still bothers me. I’ve always paid my way, since I became an adult. So yeah, I’m not happy about it; but I’ll do what I have to. It’d be stupid not to, because I don’t know when I’ll find a job next.

The amount of tax that is going to be taken out of my severance pay is truly horrendous. Luckily, I don’t have to do that tax till 2013, because the severance won’t come till 2012. All the same, I’m not looking forward to all the complications that will be involved. I may have to go to a tax preparer, for the first time in my life.

Going to go see a financial planner at my bank. It’s probably smarter to see a financial planner when you still have a job…. 🙂 But with my severance, my pension, my 401K, and a bunch of other things to look after, I think it’s time to let a professional look at it.

I think I strained my voice a little this weekend, between being out in the cold a lot (because I couldn’t settle), talking very loudly at my brother’s house, and then singing this morning in choir. But actually, I don’t think I hurt myself in choir; I felt a little better after that. I took a nap this afternoon, woke up still feeling groggy, and then stayed home coddling my throat. I don’t feel depressed, but I am pretty tired. I’m going to have to work hard to hold off getting a cold or flu, I can tell. Sleep will help, so I’ll go to bed early tonight.

Tomorrow morning, though, I have to get up at my regular time and start really working on applying for unemployment, applying for jobs, and working on my projects. I also have to finish my Christmas stuff, though. It’s overwhelming, if I think about it, so I just have to chop it all up into doable chunks.


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Google Vs. Slavery

Google’s done a very good thing. Makes up for some of their more questionable business decisions.

Google’s giving modern anti-slavery organizations a boost of 11.5 million dollars.

(Actually, I’m surprised this has gotten so little publicity in the news. I guess the whole “Oh, yeah, the modern world does still have slaves, and maybe they’re even being held captive in your nice hometown” thing isn’t something people want to think about.)

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Hasbro Wants to Hire a Marketing SMOF

Hasbro is hiring a new Senior Global Brand Marketing Manager for My Little Pony. They want someone with insane creativity, marketing experience and savvy, good teamwork and leadership, and the power to bend the wills of children and parents while also being a Secret Master of brony Fandom.

Via Equestria Daily, but this is a real job. (And frankly, pretty much everybody sees the disconnect between the popular show and far-from-show-accurate merchandise. I’m glad Hasbro does, too.)

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Diane Duane episode of 80’s My Little Pony. With commentary by bronies.

YouTube is a truly frightening place. Diane Duane. My Little Pony of the 80’s. College guys doing video commentary tracks. Scary stuff all. (Audio track not safe for work or for little kids, on account of a wide variety of bad words.)

Here’s just the episode, without all the audio commentary.


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Gingerbread National Disaster Area

I was going to build a gingerbread house this year using honey as the stickum instead of icing. (Because you need powdered sugar for that spackle “royal icing”, and powdered sugar usually uses cornstarch to stay unclumpy, and my mom’s allergic to corn.

I still think this can work, because apparently some people do this every year. But you don’t want to try it with this year’s Wal-Mart kit, because the strains on the adhesive power of honey are just too much with a cattywampus slanted sort of architecture like that. So I finally just turned the kit into a sort of honey-covered lean-to and called it a day.

Well, I argued that my mom should eat this sad excuse for architecture quickly. She wasn’t really all that hungry for sweets at the moment, so she just put the house up on top of the stove in its classic position, best described as “away from accidents and too far back for the dog to get”. It was there, intact, as recently as dinnertime.

After 24 hours of Being Very Good, the dog apparently snapped (or rather, stretched). There are now only two partial pieces of gingerbread house left, no ancillary cookie architecture, and no ancillary sugar structural or decorative features. A few stray crumbs were found in our hall and kitchen and living room, but there were absolutely no stray bits of honey anywhere.

The dog claims total innocence, of course. 🙂

I’m pretty sure she won’t get sick, either. She has a stomach of iron when it comes to carbohydrates.

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Quid Petis, Fili?

There’s an old English Christmas motet by a guy named Pygott, with a very cute, very deep babytalk chorus:

“Quid petis, Fili?”
(What do you ask for, son?)
“Mater dulcissima, ba ba.”
(Sweetest mother — smooch smooch.)
“Quid petis, Fili?”
(What do you want, son?)
“Mihi plausus oscula, da, da.”
(A kiss clapped on me, give, give.)

“Ba” for a kiss on the cheek is in Chaucer. I sorta suspect that it’s also a breastfeeding word, but given the second “oscula” thing, it may just be a kiss in this case.

There’s a variant wording found in manuscript, without the music or the additional verses:

“Mater?” “Quod, Fili?” “Peto te dulcissima baba.”
“O Pater?” “O Fili?” “Mihi plausus oscula, Dada.”

It was fairly common to turn normal love song choruses into religious carol choruses, so turning a song about a little kid into a song about the Holy Family isn’t all that surprising.

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The “Right” to Choose Who’s a Person

I don’t have anything against states’ rights, per se. But the moment that people allied states’ rights with the right to own and use and abuse human beings, states’ rights was doomed to be pulled down. Sort of a political heresy — something good exalted in the wrong way, made into something bad. (And as usual, we then have problems with the opposite heresy doing the same thing, as Federalism perversely served to make abortion mandated in all 50 states.)

Unfortunately, a lot of people still want to be kinda nicey-nice about this aspect of the Civil War. This writer sees it as having had a bad impact on American society as a whole, and he’s probably right. Whatever individuals from the South wanted to support — patriotism, freedom, justice — they ended up fighting “for the license to beat and shackle….” No matter how many bigots and statist authoritarians worked for the Union, the effect of their war was to help stomp out slavery in their generation. And there were many who fought specifically to destroy the “Peculiar Institution”, among whom were my ancestors.

And yes, there were African-American men, slaves and free, who fought for the Confederacy — mostly in the desperate hope of winning freedom for themselves. But the African-Americans who fought for the North did it in the hope of making all men and women free.

That is the noble cause, the shining moment, the beautiful charge into Hell. That is the spirit that must always rise again. That is the battle cry of freedom and jubilee.


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Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Well, I’m making progress on the Great Winter Cleaning and Reorganization project in my apartment, as well as the Great Packing Up and Throwing Away at my workplace. I’ve only got ten more working days, and I have to admit that my feelings are very mixed. I’m all for new adventures, but not so much in the middle of a bad economy, or against my own free will.

So I’m pretty sure that the reason I’m doing so well at the task of reorganizing the apartment is that, as stressful as that is for me, it’s less stressful than what’s going on in the recesses of my head. Usually I’m either unhappy about throwing things away or disturbing my settled order of things, or I work myself up into a frenzy and do things I regret. This time, I’ve got enough real drama in my life to keep the rest of my emotions fairly subdued. At least for now.

Re: latex and non-latex surgical/work gloves, it really is useful to have them around. Not only do your fingers not get dusty or dirty (though they do get powdery), you also don’t have to feel quite so involved and overwhelmed. They give you a kind of clinical distance. I could admit to myself that, as much as I’ll miss having those dot-matrix printouts of Heather Rose Jones’ medieval Welsh lesson-experiment, I don’t really need to keep them. It’s not like I’ve been pining for the mutations and lenitions all these years, or I’d have had them up on my language bookshelf all this time.

The thing is, I’ve got about sixteen more Boxes of Stuff to go through, a lot of VCR tapes to take to the city dump, and then I need to move more shelves around in my bedroom (not heavy ones) to make room for me turning my bed. And I still need to do Christmas cards, too, and my gift project; and then there’s Beatus.

But mostly, I have to keep looking for a job.

But then there’s the bad news. One step back. I managed to lose one of my contact lenses down the drain, and I don’t have any more spares. They’re not the normal kind of lenses, either, because my prescription is pretty bad. So I’m wearing my glasses, which pair I’ve had since 1993 or so. I don’t really see them as an asset to my jobhunting image, even if they were accurate to my current prescription (which they’re not, although they don’t make me squint or anything). I have no idea how long it will take me to get an appointment with my eye doctor, or even just to get them to order me another contact; they’re not open Saturdays. Sigh.

But even so, it hasn’t been a bad day. Stressful and unfortunate, but not depressing; and I did manage to get things done. Not a total loss.


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The Late Great Chris “Keris” Croughton

Chris Croughton, a well known UK filker, passed away last month in a terrible three-car accident. I only met him briefly during a few of his visits to Canadian and US conventions, but he was a really nice guy. (And a Catholic convert who got that way through choir and the friendship of a German Catholic filker working in the UK… but that’s another story, one I don’t know much about.)

Many of us who work for nice companies have done skits for company functions. Keris apparently got into an entire IT pickup band.

So here’s the late Chris Croughton in a work-related grass skirt, singing the Beatles for fun and not for Simon Cowell.

He is showing that you don’t have to be a professional, a prettyboy, or super-good for the audience to get honest musical enjoyment. This society often forgets that ordinary people are supposed to make music and enjoy what others make; it is part of being a human and fully alive. Chris Croughton made lively, lively music.

Please pray for his soul, and for the comfort of his family and friends.

His Filk Hall of Fame page. He was inducted in 2007.


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