Category Archives: Family

When a PSA Lies

The CDC is running a PSA that is shockingly exploitative. I just saw it today on a cable channel.

The PSA is labeled “A Tip from an Ex-Smoker.” A young mother explains that she smoked during pregnancy, and that therefore her baby was born two months premature and had to live in an incubator. Her tip (given in a despairing, post-partum depression voice) is to speak through the incubator’s hand opening, so that the baby can hear you better.

The PSA then runs a screen acknowledging that smoking during pregnancy means “a chance” of premature birth and low birth weights; but the implication during the PSA is that smoking will definitely cause that, and that any pregnant woman who smokes is an evil monster!

Now, obviously it’s better not to smoke, so it’s obviously better not to smoke during pregnancy.

But seriously, what is that BS? I grew up when pretty much every pregnant woman smoked, and the chance of mothers having a preemie baby was just about the same as it is today. (Maybe it’s higher today, because preemie babies actually get born alive at younger ages, instead of being counted as miscarriages and stillbirths.)

My mother never smoked, and she had one of her kids be a preemie. Other women smoked like chimneys — big chain smokers — and had big full-term babies. For two generations, almost everyone born in America was the child of a woman who smoked several cigarettes a day.

(Let’s not even get into pregnant women drinking and having smart healthy kids. Because they also did that, all the time, for centuries. I’m not saying that it’s a good idea to drink like a fish, but sheesh.)

So basically, the CDC can take their guilt trip for pregnant ladies, and insert it where they pulled this out of. Premature birth is a complicated medical issue that is caused by many factors and conditions, and there’s no telling who will get lucky and who will not. A lot of those factors are genetic, or are the baby’s own individual characteristics. Encouraging mothers to do healthy things is fine; lying to them and using BS threats is disgusting.

Most of all, I hope that if that mother on the commercial is a real person and not an actor, that somebody explains to her that her baby just had bad luck.


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Canine Laryngeal Paralysis

This is a scary one.

It turns out that in older dogs of large/giant size, they can have a common condition where their vocal folds no longer open and close normally, but remain partially closed on both sides of the throat. This is called canine laryngeal paralysis, and obviously it makes it difficult for the dog to get a good full breath. Dogs start sounding wheezy and getting over-tired from mild exercise. Since panting is what cools dogs, this almost makes them less able to keep from overheating.

The other problem is that if the dog starts barking hard or trying to breathe faster, it actually closes off their airways more. You have to calm the dog down so that he can breathe, and cool him down so he doesn’t overheat. (Unless the dog is getting overly cold, which can also happen with breathing problems. So use your senses.) Sometimes vets give sedatives or cortisone to help out.

Well, it turns out that our family dog has this condition. She’s pretty old for an Irish wolfhound, and Mom took her to the vet at the first sign of weird breathing. (A lot of people don’t recognize anything wrong until the dog is in full-blown respiratory distress.) The usual treatment is a cheap, minor larynx surgery on just one side of the vocal folds. (It’s called “tieback”, so you can guess what they do; and it only takes two sutures to do it.) But wolfhounds don’t do well with anesthetics, so we will be going with non-surgical treatment for now.

So, yes, if you have a large dog and have been told not to use a choke collar — laryngeal paralysis is why you don’t. But it can still happen anyway, and nobody knows just why it happens.

If you ever hear your dog making wheezing or honking sounds, or having trouble breathing at night, have your vet check it out. Cats can also get “lar par,” and so can horses. (But horses usually get it on just one side, so it’s bad but not life-threatening.)

This page has sound videos of two dogs with severe “stridor” from laryngeal paralysis.

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The Sculpted Ship, by K. M. O’Brien

My brother Kevin just finished his science fiction novel and put it up on Amazon on Saturday. It’s listed under Steampunk (because the manners and mores of the local galactic empire tend that way, and they’re major features of the plot) and Galactic Empire (because there is one). I copy-edited it and I’m proud of it, but he got most of the ideas that improved it. (He’s the kind of guy who tends not to follow your ideas, but likes to bounce his ideas off yours until he gets something he likes. He has good instincts.)

He’s got a blurb, but let me tell you about the book.

Cover of The Sculpted Ship by K. M. O'Brien

The Sculpted Ship is a small business development story. Anailu Xindar finds the perfect starship of her dreams, and plans to put it to work for her new cargo hauling business. But at the cheap price she got it, you know it has to be a fixer-upper. Finding the parts is going to be a problem. But this time, it’s the intrigue, traps, and very-bad-things kind of problem.

(Yes, Kevin is the kind of computer geek who also has car and truck projects in the backyard.)

Even before the parts problem kicks in, it turns out that having a unique ship gives you unique opportunities to make money — but only if you train yourself to take advantage of them. And in Anailu’s society, it means learning how to mix with the rich, make bets with other captains, and buy fancy duds. From a fashion designer. Who likes frou-frou. Anailu likes to plan ahead, but she never planned on this!

This book stands alone, but Kevin is writing a second Anailu novel right now. In fact, he wants to have a whole series. He’s got some great worldbuilding ideas, and he also has a good sense of storytelling and humor. I also think you will like Anailu and her friends; I sure do.

The Sculpted Ship is only $3.99 $2.99, as of November 26. So check out the sample pages and see if you like it!

PS. I don’t have Kevin’s Amazon affiliate link at the moment, and I’m not one. So feel free to search out The Sculpted Ship from the affiliate of your choice. He’s going to have it up on Barnes and Noble and Kobo, too, but right now it’s just on Amazon.

PPS. I hope everybody has a happy Thanksgiving. I spent most of the morning still resting from last night, because things have been crazy at the store all the last few weeks. And tomorrow morning is Black Friday. I’m certainly getting hours!


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Donal Breen = Daniel O’Brien

Okay, this is something that happens in genealogical research too….

It seems there’s some doubt as to the real name of Fr. Daniel O’Brien (so listed by Moran and his sources). The cause for Richard Creagh and 41 Companion Martyrs of Ireland lists his name as Donal Breen!

Okay, I can buy Donal as being the guy’s Gaelic name, with “Daniel” being either his name in religion or the functional equivalent of Donal that he was baptized with. But. Usually Irish authors are pretty clear about whether a man’s an O’Brien, Byrne, or Breen, even if folks from other countries are easily confused. So what was the real surname of Fr. Daniel?

The cause for sainthood seems to be a little stalled. They haven’t even named them official martyrs yet. Bah.

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The Martyr’s Jig

An American POW, Alexander Makaroumis, was in the same North Korean prison with Msgr. Patrick “Pat” Brennan, Fr. Thomas “Tommy” Cusack, and Fr. John “Jack/Jackie” O’Brien, three Columban missionaries who are now listed among the 81 North Korean Martyrs whose cause for beatification is being considered.

Makaroumis reported that the priests were constantly concerned to keep up the prisoners’ spirits:

“At other times, [Monsignor Brennan]’d encourage Father O’Brien to sing us a song and do one of his Irish jigs. Father O’Brien sort of made you forget you were cooped up in a prison cell, and sent you flying back home….”

Later the prisoners were moved to a prison near Seoul, at the old monastery at Taejon/Daejon. When the war started going against the North Koreans, the priests were massacred with over a thousand other prisoners to prevent them falling into UN hands. Brennan, Cusack, and O’Brien’s death date was September 24, 1950.

These three men are currently under consideration to become Venerables, Blesseds, and (God willing) Saints named on the altar. They are listed as part of the 80 companions of Hong Yong-ho Franciscus Borgia and 80 Companions. Fr. O’Brien is number 50 on the list.

Fr. O’Brien’s native place was Donamon, County Roscommon, Ireland. He was born on December 1, 1918, so he may become the first saint from Ireland’s days as a republic.

A page on the many Columban martyrs, in Korea and elsewhere. Some of them are men who died violently in the course of their priestly duties, although not probably killed for hatred of the faith. The most recent death listed was in 2001, in the Philippines. Please pray for their souls and ask them to pray for us.

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Coincidence? I Think Not….

On St. Francis’ Day, my parents finally got around to calling our local Irish wolfhound breeder/national wolfhound rescue lady and telling her that our dog Liath had died back in the summer.

Now, usually this sort of occasion does elicit some feelers from the rescue people as to whether you’d be interested in taking another rescue dog someday, and if so, when. My parents in the past have said that of course they’re not ready, and probably won’t be for at least another year. (Of course, if you say that you’re never going to own another dog, they’ll still call you up again in a year or so. And they’re right to do so, because a year is a long time.)

This time, however, the rescue lady pretty much offered my parents a dog, and they pretty much jumped at it. (Coincidence? YOU be the judge. Heh.)

The sad story wasn’t even one of the epic sad stories of suffering and privation (like Rory’s and Liath’s) or peril and misadventure (like Cormac’s). No, this was a sad story of human selfishness and stupidity, coupled with the ability to BS a breeder. Apparently, when the owners didn’t have kids yet, they thought a wolfhound puppy would be perfect. Then the wife got pregnant, and all of a sudden they decided that the puppy wasn’t perfect; so they made her stay out all alone in the yard all day (violating their agreement with the breeder, as well as guaranteeing themselves trouble from a bored and lonely wolfhound puppy). Astoundingly, she didn’t do well out there. So they apparently called the breeder and asked her where they could get a giant-sized crate, or whether it would be better to keep the dog in the chicken coop. (Which as you’d imagine is a recipe for diseases, never mind being stupid and cruel.) So the breeder pointed out that the contract they’d signed had been soooo broken, and took the puppy back. The problem is that a 9 month old puppy is a bit too old to sell, too spayed to breed, and not show quality or she would have been kept. So strictly speaking, Mom and Dad are doing a breeder a favor (if I understood the story correctly, which I probably didn’t — it might have been the Humane Society that pulled the puppy and I just missed that part), but it’s still in the rescue category.

UPDATE: I still don’t understand the whole story, but apparently the puppy’s previous owners bought the puppy from a mall pet store. DON’T DO THAT! Mall pet stores buy from puppy mills! If you want a dog, buy it from the person who bred it, and stay in touch with the breeder. A reputable breeder is out to find good homes for their dogs, not just to make money and kick you to the curb. A good breeder will make sure that you’re ready for what you’re getting into.

But it gets even more sad. You know what this poor dog was named, either by her owners or her befooled breeder? A name that no novel would permit?

Think of a cardinal virtue that starts with the letter P.

*pound my head against handy brick wall*

Anyway, I’ll let you know more about the dog when she’s settled in her new home, and hopefully is given a more Irish name. (Whoops. That doesn’t sound right, does it? We Irish really do possess that virtue, honest….)

Meanwhile, I thought I’d just give St. Francis a shout-out. 🙂

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My Martyred Relatives

I didn’t realize that so many of my clansmen were martyrs.

One is known only from the reminiscences of a fellow Trinitarian monk: “Tadhg O’Brien of Thomond” was dragged apart in the sight of the viceroy, on Bombriste Bridge between Limerick and Kilmallock.

Two were Bishops of Emly. The first, Maurice (Murtagh) O’Brien, died in prison in Dublin in 1586 .

The second, Terence (Toirdhealbhach) Albert O’Brien, a Dominican, was executed in Limerick on October 31, 1651. He was the last bishop of Emly, the see founded by <a href="http://en.wikipedia.or he was officially beatified in 1992 by Pope John Paul II as part of a group of Irish martyrs. His memorial is October 30. (Nobody told me MY FAMILY HAS A FEAST DAY!!!!!)

One was Cornelius O'Brien — and that's a family name indeed — in 1642. He was hanged by parliamentarians on board a ship on the Shannon, with the Franciscan Fergal Ward.

One was Donagh O'Brien, who was burned alive in 1651.

One was Daniel O'Brien, dean of Ferns. He was hanged on April 14, 1655 with his companions: Luke Bergin, a Cistercian monk, and James Murchu.

Six O’Brien martyrs.

(And a lot of O’Briens who went over to the government side, but we’ll ignore that for the moment since I’ve known about that for quite a while. I’m busy goggling and doing the non-liturgical stepdance of glee!)

UPDATE: Seven. Fr. John “Jack/Jackie” O’Brien, a Columban Missionary, was one of those martyred during the Korean War by the Communists.

UPDATE: Martyrs Omitted by Foxe mentions a couple more Catholic martyrs: Donatus O’Brien (p. 188) and Cornelius O’Brien, lord of Caringh, County Kerry (p. 189). Donatus is Donagh from above, and Cornelius is the above guy who got hanged on shipboard.

It also paraphrases O’Daly as quoted by Moran, and says that General Ireton offered Bl. Terence Albert O’Brien forty thousand pounds sterling and free passage, if he would just stop preaching to the people not to surrender Limerick. (Which meant not just political surrender, but accepting Puritan Protestantism in place of Catholicism.) O’Brien sent word back that he refused the offer, and that was when Bishop O’Brien was put on the list not to receive amnesty even if Limerick did surrender. The 200 ecclesiastics in Limerick voted to try to help O’Brien and the other twenty not to be given amnesty, and for their pains they were also put on the list. O’Brien offered to surrender himself to die if all the others would be taken off the death list, but Ireton rejected this.

It says that Moran then references The History of the Geraldenes, p. 204 and following; and De Burgh’s Hib. Dom., p. 489. After that, there’s a last speech and the summoning of Ireton to judgment. So there seems to be a fair amount of information about Bl. Terence Albert O’Brien that I haven’t seen yet. After the hanging, Blessed Terence Albert’s head was exposed on a pole, on the tower above Limerick’s great gate (along with the heads of Major General Purcell and the previous Mayor of Limerick, Thomas Stritch.)

I have to say that the Bishop of Emly impresses me more and more, the more I find out about him.

“Moran” is A Historical Sketch of the Persecutions Suffered by the Catholics of Ireland under the Rule of Cromwell and the Puritans, by Patrick Francis Moran, D.D., Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney. The online version is the 1907 revised edition.

Moran notes (p. 431 – 432) that Cornelius O’Brien was arrested at the castle of Glanens, which was owned by John Geraldine, by a band of people under Forbes. He and Father Ferghall Ward (O.F.) were hanged simultaneously from the masthead of a ship (on opposite sides), their corpses kept hanging there until high tide, and then their bodies cut loose to fall into the river. (The ship was at the exact middle of the River Shannon, which was pretty wide and deep at that point.) This was at the end of October, 1642.

So anybody named Shannon or Sineann has the name of a deathsite of martyrs, a holy river….

Moran also talks about Fr. Daniel O’Brien, the Dean of Ferns. He studied and was ordained at the Irish College in Compostela, Spain, and loved Spain and Spanish people’s customs and piety so much that his nickname was “Father Daniel the Spaniard.” He was a tireless and much loved priest, and very successful in persuading Protestants to become Catholic.

After the city of Wexford’s capture and massacre, he managed to stay on the loose and continue his ministry while in hiding at a nobleman’s house. Seeing a lot of Catholics sneaking over there, and suspecting they were going to Mass, the local Puritan forces snuck over to the house in a boat and got the place surrounded. They then threatened death to everyone in the house unless they gave up the priest. Old Father O’Brien came out at once, and said to the officer, “Why do you trouble these good people who have done nothing wrong? I am the priest who has offered up the Holy Sacrifice; if that is a fault, it is all mine.”

The officer seized O’Brien and took all his stuff, including the Mass gear. He took the chalice, filled it with ale, and took a big swig. Immediately he was struck with a horrible fit and collapsed, crying out and clawing at himself. Pitying him, Fr. O’Brien blessed him with the Sign of the Cross, and the officer was freed of his pain. The officer gave back the chalice and left right away, leaving the priest there, and not letting the soldiers hurt or touch him.

O’Brien was arrested again afterwards, thrown in prison, released, and then arrested and thrown in prison again. He was condemned to death in 1655, along with Fr. Luke Bergin (a Cistercian) and Fr. James Murchu/Murphy (a secular priest).

The jury of 12 Protestants bravely returned a verdict of Not Proved. This was rejected by the judge, who announced that no crime was more heinous than being guilty of being a priest, and pronounced them Guilty against the jury’s decision. The citizens of Wexford (all new Protestants brought in by Cromwell after Wexford’s previous population was massacred) petitioned for the priests not to be hanged inside Wexford’s walls, but this was rejected too, and the priests were set to be hanged in the same marketplace where the massacre had been done.

Fr. O’Brien was practically unable to walk at that point, but hearing the news of his condemnation gave him such joy that he was filled with energy and strength; and the next day, he walked to the scaffold all by himself. He spoke to the crowd and then was executed, full of joy and love, on April 14th, 1655 — Holy Saturday. His companions also died bravely.

All three priests were buried in the ruins of the Franciscan monastery outside the walls of Wexford. A heavenly light was seen circling around the place for many nights.

Moran quotes this from Lynch’s History of the Irish Bishops.

Moran also quotes Abelly’s Life of St. Vincent [de Paul], who sent several Irish missionary priests to Ireland. One of the first three he sent was Fr. Gerald O’Brien, who apparently wasn’t caught or banished the whole time.

Moran (pp. 419 – 420) says that Donatus O’Brien (called Donnchadh, probably) was a layman of 64 (which was old, in his day and social class). He had a safe conduct to do business, but was shot by a Protestant knight out of pure meanness (and odium fidei). He went over to a little abandoned hut to pray and die, but a soldier threw fire on the roof and burned down the hut with him in it. This was somewhere in Thomond in 1651.

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