Monthly Archives: July 2013

All My Children and One Life to Live — Still Alive!

All My Children and One Life to Live have survived cancellation. They now live on Hulu with all-new episodes continuing their stories, with 30 minutes of content and no commercials. (Soaps on TV were an hour of running time, but only 36 minutes of content.)

I don’t watch soaps, but this is a feel-good story of fandom and the love of story arcs. Plus a lot of stubborn, mixed with adaptability.

If you have relatives who are long-time soap fans but don’t get on the Internet, you might want to find out if they know about this and help them out with access.

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Sacramental Prep Is Not a Marathon

Okay, now I’m mad.

So I’m reading this highly inspirational tale of a possible saint, but definitely a person of holy life. Margaret Leo of McLean, Virginia. This girl lived her life in excruciating pain, great love, and simple faith. And after her death, miracles apparently have occurred by her intercession, which isn’t surprising except that it’s DC. 🙂

But anyway… the point is that this girl lived her life in excruciating pain. She could have died AT ANY TIME. They probably should have confirmed her as early as possible, i.e. about ten minutes after her First Communion. And they still made her wait until she was a teenager for Confirmation, and just like all the other kids in the diocese, study not one year, but TWO YEARS! to receive the Sacrament!

Were they high???

Seriously, who the heck waits to give a girl Confirmation, when she obviously could use strengthened faith and gifts of the Holy Spirit? Somebody who’s in danger of death needs to be LOADED UP with Sacraments, not held back!

And Confirmation, of all sacraments, is tied to Baptism. That’s why the Eastern folks do Baptism and Confirmation all at once. Even in the West, kids used to receive Confirmation a lot younger than we do now (ie, age 6 or 7), and the Vatican has long been pressuring the US to quit turning Confirmation into a Bar Mitzvah. So it literally would have been easier to Confirm this girl (and all her classmates too) on any random day before this girl was 14.

Is there some kind of rule that people have to ACT LIKE MISERLY IDIOTS around all saints and suffering people, just to make them suffer more? Is that really who we want to be, the meanie of the story?

Argh argh argh argh argh.

Please, bishops, wake up and take care of your people.

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HP and the Methods of Rationality

Well, people have been recommending this fanfic to me for quite a while. I read part of it, got sick from rolling my eyes, and went back to it this week.

The good news is that it’s a nice long alternate world Harry Potter fanfic with lots going on and some interesting comments on the series, as well as a few bits of original worldbuilding.

The bad news? Pretty much everything else.

The idea behind this fic was to introduce Harry Potter as he might have been, if his Aunt Petunia had married a nice Oxford science professor instead of a jerk businessman. So the good part is that Harry is interested in experiments to reveal magic theory and the why behind various magical things. Harry is also interested in exploiting these things in the same way a gamer would. This is all fairly entertaining. The author decides to stick Harry and Hermione in Ravenclaw accordingly, and jettisons Ron Weasley almost entirely, in favor of an uneasy friendship with Draco. Obviously this is all writer’s choice. Weirder is his decision to cram most of the major plot points of the entire HP series into the first year of Hogwarts, and to use D&D spells as wizarding world spells.

However, the author is also attempting to make the fic a grand tutorial on “the methods of rationality,” which is to say, a tiny bit about the scientific method, a tiny bit about general science (without clearly pointing out the differences between observational and experimental sciences), a huge amount about psychology experiments (most of them experiments from the Sixties that were big on drama, but not exactly models of double-blind experimental design), and a huge honking lot about atheism. Mystical atheism. Yeah. And Atlantis, because that’s sciencefictiony and rational. Also, the guy apparently knows nothing about the history of science, which he thinks started in the Enlightenment period.

The author bias turns this rational Harry Potter into a bigger Mary Sue (or Gary Stu, in this case) that Rowling’s Potter ever was. Rowling’s Harry does stupid stuff. This guy’s Harry does stupid stuff because he’s just so good and logical that it doesn’t occur to him. (This is also the most American Harry Potter I’ve ever encountered.) Also, this is the sort of book where the hero ends up with a utility belt full of stuff that totally doesn’t encumber him, because suddenly you can have bags of holding and chests of holding with no restrictions on their use. Yeah. More seriously, it’s the kind of fic where people can be politically astute one minute and total idiots the next. He’s not able to make the wizarding world drolly daft and eccentric enough to explain this, so he pretty much makes everybody who’s not Harry into an idiot. Draco is a teachable idiot. Hermione is also an idiot, except one who occasionally has good ideas and good grades. No other kids from the Muggle world are allowed to exploit this ignorance of science thing, even though Harry does it all the time.

The biggest consequence of author bias is that there’s a whole lot of redesign of Rowling’s worldbuilding. Then, when the world itself changes, the non-main characters are berated for still behaving as though Rowling’s world design is still in force. The biggest example of this is the fanfic’s use of dementors. Rowling was pretty darned clear that they and their soulsucking powers were symbols of depression (which is why chocolate combats their effects). But the fanfic author has apparently never fought depression or mental illness (lucky for him), and thus decides that they should be represent death and the fear of death. The fear of death makes you active. Depression makes you passive (except for suicidal impulses, of course). His choice makes noooooo sense. But it does apparently fit his issues, which is how fanfic usually is determined.

This is where the mystical atheism comes in. It’s apparently wrong to be mystical about God, angels, or an afterlife, but it’s perfectly okay to be mystical about physical immortality, space travel, and science. Oh, and it’s foolish to study philosophy or logic. So yeah, somewhere about Chapter 20, you have the beautiful experience of reading this guy attempt to disprove the existence of the soul, while actually “proving” that we can’t possibly have speech centers in our brains. Yeah. And Dumbledore totally can’t defend his views, because he’s the one who’s so stupid, and because somebody who lived through Victorian times has never run into atheism before.

This argument, however, is one of the few parts of the story I can totally believe. Because it’s exactly the kind of stupid argument that an eleven year old kid would think was a crushing argument for atheism. Unfortunately, college age and older people apparently can’t see the Mack truck holes in the argument or come up with better atheist arguments themselves. It’s embarrassing.

Anyhoo, the dementor death thing has now led the fanfic author to kill off Hermione and give Harry an obsession with bringing her back to life. So no, this isn’t the stoic moderation sort of atheism. Noopers. And since this is a fanfic, no doubt we will see Harry achieve his goal through SCIENCE!

Oh, well. I wasted several hours on this thing. It’s fun and entertaining, but it’s a mess. It proclaims rationality, but really it’s all about emotional thinking and wish fulfilment. If you want to savor the irony, go at it.

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“My Little Balladeer”: Wellman Fanfic Crossover

I wholeheartedly recommend the fanfic novel “My Little Balladeer,” a very clever and respectful fanfic crossover of Manly Wade Wellman’s American dark fantasy stories about John fighting occult evil in the Appalachians… and My Little Pony: FIM.

Seriously, it’s really good fantasy. You won’t regret it.

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Prayers Needed.

Please pray for my dad, who stepped on a nail the other day. His tetanus shots are current, but his foot got infected with some regular old infections. (Not in the puncture area, oddly.) He’s taking his meds and staying off his feet, but it’s worrisome.

However, really really pray for Thomas Peters, known as “American Papist” in the early Catholic blogosphere, and son of Ed Peters. He had a swimming accident last night and broke his neck, but he’s alive and can move his arms and respond to commands. You can keep in touch with his case by checking Ed Peters’ Facebook page.

This has been a weird week. Keep alert and keep praying!


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St. Arwen?

Well, it’s a bit literary or fannish for your parents to name you Arwen, and Tolkien, as a good Catholic, probably would have voted for a normal given name, with Arwen as a nickname (or “epessë“) if needed. And it’s likely that you’ll have a separate baptismal name somewhere if you got more than just a first name out of the deal, like most parents would do.

But if you are looking to find out who the patron saint or nameday saint of people named Arwen would be, just look at the name. Arwen means “royal maiden” or “royal lady” in the invented language of Quenya. So all you need are saints’ names that mean “princess” or “queen” or “royal,” and we’ve got them. (But don’t try to pick Arwen as a confirmation name, okay?)

Obviously, the Virgin Mary herself has pride of place here. She is a princess and queen mother of the House of David and of Heaven.

There’s also St. Regina, a convert in Gaul martyred for refusing an arranged marriage and fleeing to become a shepherdess. Her feastday is Sept. 7.

St. Rioghnach daughter of Feradhach was listed in the Martyrology of Donegal. (Dec. 18) Her name also means “royal” and therefore she is called “Regina” in Latin. She was the sister of St. Finian of Clonard.

Then there’s St. Basila, a Roman martyr (Sept. 22), several Ss. Basilia, including one martyred in Alexandria with Origen’s dad (April 22), and several Ss. Basilissa and Vasilissa. The Greek name for king is “basileos.”

Anyway, there are probably others I’m not thinking of, and of course there are lots of princesses and queens who became saints.

So yep, there are name saints for those of you named Arwen! Feel free to celebrate your name day on their days!

UPDATE: If anybody named their kid “Undomiel” or “Evenstar,” then you should know that the evening star (ie, the planet Venus seen in the evening) is “hesperos.” So your name saint would be St. Hesperus of Pamphylia (May 2), the father of a family of slaves who all refused to sacrifice to the gods and were martyred for it.


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St. Gandalf??

Yes, there’s a St. Gandalf. In fact, there’s more than one! Hahahahah! Man, it’s a good thing I didn’t know this when I was a kid picking Confirmation names.

St. Gondulphus of Metz (bishop, died in 923, feastday Sept. 6), St. Gondulphus of Tongres (aka Gondulphus of Maastricht, bishop in the 6th century, feastday July 16), and St. Gondulphus of Berry (bishop or holy man, feastday June 17).

So yes, two days from now is:



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St. Cono

St. Cono of Teggiano (St. Conus in Latin) is one of those saints who’s both really popular if you’re in the right places, and practically unknown in most of the English-speaking world. Basically, anywhere Italians from Teggiano went, they brought St. Cono with them.

Here’s his story. He was the only son born from a woman otherwise barren. He longed to become a Benedictine monk but his mother wouldn’t let him. Then one day she found him (either hiding from his parents or praying) unhurt in the heart of a bread oven that was being heated up to bake bread, and she decided it was time to send him to the monastery. Italian legend also says he had a cone-shaped head which he used to teach the doctrine of the Trinity. 🙂 He was a model monk, eager to do all kinds of work and prayer. One night he dreamed that he’d been told that God called him to come that day. He died at the age of 18, but his holiness was remembered.

Anyway, logically, he’s a patron saint of bakers and bread-sellers. In his parts of Italy, his intercession is also sought against earthquakes, wars, plagues, and other bad stuff. There’s a big fiesta for him every year at his chapel in Florida, Uruguay, where he’s seen as a saint who helps families. There are still San Cono sodalities around. His feasts is June 3, but he has other feasts related to various events. Folks in one neighborhood in Brooklyn celebrate the anniversary of the translation of his relics on Sept. 27, 1261, with a procession to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church. His burning love for God and lack of attachment to the world is a wonderful model.

However, he’s also a saint of people who make their bread a different way. He’s been unofficially adopted by Spanish-speaking gamblers as the patron saint of lotteries and games of chance. (Obviously not knowing about the science-fictional Nick Van Rijn’s similar devotion to St. Dismas, the Holy Thief.) Some pages about this seem to be actual Santeria, while others just seem like they’re presenting overenthusiastic folk Catholicism. Poor St. Cono. This is just not his thing.

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Slashdot on Kruidbos

I was surprised on Saturday morning to see Slashdot not have the story of the Friday night retaliatory firing of Mr. Kruidbos, the whistleblowing IT director from the State of Florida’s state attorney’s office. So I submitted it from my anonymous unregistered self, and I’m pleased to see that the Slashdot folks gave him supportive remarks ever since the story was posted on Saturday night. (Although it then turned into a Zimmerman case discussion. Of course.)

Hopefully, some Slashdot reader will also offer the man a job.

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Banana Rice Soup/Pudding/Salad

Yet another concoction designed to get stuff used up. I had three overripe bananas and didn’t feel like banana bread. So I looked around. It turns out that a lot of people make banana tapioca or banana rice concoctions. There’s a lot of spicy/curry/pepper chicken and banana recipes out there, too. But I ended up deciding that I didn’t want spicy or savory tonight.

One of the things that medieval people all across Europe liked was to take small bits of chicken and rice and boil the whole thing in almond milk. This was what they used to call blancmange. Sort of a chicken and rice soup, except as an almond milk posset. And cinnamon, ginger, galangale, pepper…. So I thought I’d do that, except with bananas. And pineapple. Because.

One thing to notice is that really overripe bananas block all the other flavors. I really needed the pineapple just to break it up a bit. You didn’t taste the rice or chicken. I probably could have been going with the hot and spicy also, but I’d probably have to have piled on the curry. So yeah, unless you really need milk or almond milk, you may as well go with stock or water if you cook this. Coconut milk might have been able to fight its way through the bananocity. Alternately, don’t use overripe bananas or don’t put bananas in until the very end. (That’s probably why a lot of recipes just slice the bananas instead of smooshing them, like I did.)

However, bananas do make a yummy sort of soup, and cooked pineapple is yummy. I suspect that tomorrow I will make more rice and spicier with some pork, and then have the banana-pineapple soup thing with that.

However, if you’ve ever got a sick kid diarrhea problem in the house, I bet you could probably get out that rice cooker, make rice, mix in applesauce and bananas, and serve the whole thing on toast. BRAT diet as a one dish meal!

UPDATE: This morning, the rice had absorbed all the liquid and swelled up, as rice tends to do, and the flavors had equalized. It’s now a lovely cold salad/pudding, and you can taste all the different flavors. I promote this recipe to total success! But I still bet it would taste good as curry rice, too. I also wish I’d used a little more chicken-y chicken. Blancmanger was originally designed to feed sick people, and everybody knows it’s the fat in chicken soup that does some of the good. So maybe I should have used chicken stock as well as/instead of almond milk?

2 parts rice
1 part chicken from a can and its chicken juice (salty – and obviously, homecooked leftover chicken probably tastes better)
2 parts almond milk (although milk or coconut milk or whatever would probably also work)
1 part water (because I was worried that the almond milk would burn, but probably you could just use more X-milk)
3 overripe bananas, squooshed and smooshed
1/4 to 1/2 of a 20 oz can of pineapple, including some of the juice
sugar to taste (mostly to conquer the salty chicken juice, because bananas and pineapple are plenty sweet)
salt if you need it
whatever spices you feel like (I went heavy on cinnamon, nutmeg, and Chinese five spice)

Dump everything in the rice cooker and cook it on Hot.

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Been There, Done That, Got the Email

The whole Brandon Vogt/Father Z contretemps sounds very familiar.

Because that’s exactly what Libreria Vaticana and USCCB did with my audiobook of Benedict XVI’s first encyclical. Remember? I’m just not as high profile.


Nevertheless, it was very nice that at least we got a set of official PDFs this time, albeit not right away. So the Curia’s only about ten years behind the technical times now.

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Black Walnuts: Get ‘Em Before the Squirrels!

From this time of summer and on into fall, you might just start seeing black walnuts. Yes, this is why we have black walnut ice cream — our US and Canadian forefathers ate more black walnuts than we do. The trees are native to North America, grow down south and way up north as well as out west. They are both pretty and hardy and were often used to make fencelines; they used to be popular as yard trees but now are disfavored because of the nut mess. They are edible and yummy, but a bit difficult to deal with, if you start from scratch. This is why squirrels now usually get them instead.

First, they have a giant green hull that will stain your hands black. (If the green hull has turned black, it’s easier to open, but the squirrels usually will grab it from you.) So you have to get through that, and apparently everyone has their own methods.

Then, inside the hull, you have a nutshell, which is more like what you see with walnuts in the store. (Store walnuts are usually English walnuts, which are brown/tan and not black.) However, black walnuts are spikier and tougher than English walnuts. This usually has to be put up for several weeks in order to “cure” and get nice and dry. Then you can crack it, which usually involves things like hammers, vises, or driving over a bag of them with a car.

Once you get to the kernel, this is the part you get to eat.

Here is a video from Canada about the whole process.

Here’s the commercial side of black walnuts, which apparently is mostly pursued in the Ozarks and the South.

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Cooking Pork Loin in the Crock Pot

Well, it turns out that you can cook a big old pork loin in your crock pot without much fussing. You put in some onions and garlic and sugar and salt and spices and water and wine (I put in some sweet chili sauce instead of the Worcestershire in the recipe, and the only wine I had was white instead of red), and you just let it cook. You can cut it up before or during the cooking, whatever you like. (I think it cooks faster if you cut it up, and it also won’t be jammed inelegantly into the pot. But if you don’t like fuss, you can just dump it in.

This is the recipe I used as a base. It looks really good, but I just didn’t have all the ingredients!

At a certain point I tasted the mix that I was cooking it in, decided that it was too pungent, and added a bunch of quince preserves I had around the house. (Some people use apples or apricot preserves or what have you, but I had quince in the fridge.) That cut the pungency and gave it sort of a sweet and sour taste.

The pork didn’t “fall apart” the way most people’s crockpot pork loin apparently does, but it did get tender and easy to separate into smaller pieces. The pork and sauce was very good eating, also.

If you don’t like/use wine (or beer, or cider) when you cook, you can use vinegar or rice vinegar instead.


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Please Pray for a Friend’s Brother.

Please pray for the soul of a friend’s brother. He passed away back in June but I didn’t hear until now.

Divine Mercy Chaplet.

19th century Irish rosary for the Dead.

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