Wednesday, June 25, 2003

A new computer has considerably slowed down my blogging. But it's almost configured. So, soon. A new wine review and some actual Catholic blogging, too.

Saturday, June 14, 2003

Winesday returns in the coming week

I haven't posted any wine notes in a while because I went several weeks without attending a tasting of anything new, and hadn't opened any old favorites that I had not yet blogged. Last Saturday I tasted half a dozen wines, and will taste a few more today, so expect new recommendations in the next few days.
Don't know much about the calendar, either

The other day in a comment I mentioned that Saturday was my birthday. Ooops. Sunday is.
Prayer of St. Ignatius

I haven't posted this prayer in quite a while, but it needs posting periodically.

O Lord, teach me to serve you as you deserve,
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest,
To Labor and not to ask for any reward,
Save knowing that I do your will. Amen.

The more I reflect on my various failures at various times, and the more I study the Catechism's teachings on Sin, Confession, and Repentance, the more I conclude that Ignatius' prayer captures the essence of what we are called to do. The Power and the Glory has always spoken to me because it captures much the same thing: the one thing you must always do is keep going. Don't stop, don't stand still.

The biggest enemy is complacency, and the "not to" phrases above are all about complacency. Counting the cost, heeding the wounds, taking a rest: they all ask the same question. "Haven't I done enough for now, Lord? Don't I deserve a little break here?" Can't I just be pleased with what I have done, instead of considering what I haven't? The whiskey priest in the Power and the Glory is shaken out of his lethargy, his constant striving for a better parish hall or a nicer social stratus with which to dine, and sent out into the countryside, fulfilling a duty of which he knows himself to be completely unworthy.

Well, it may be true, and even obvious to the reader, that the priestwas unworthy, but it is probably less obvious that St. Ignatius was equally so. And by the end of the story, the other thing the two had in common was that willingness to keep fighting in spite of it.

Holiness, then, comes not exactly in what you do, but in a sense that you do.

Friday, June 13, 2003

Don't know much about biology

I have found a new guilty pleasure. One can arouse in all sorts of polite company a horror that a madman, an imbecile, even--horror!--a fanatic, is let loose amongst Respectability, simply by expressing some doubt about some elements of evolutionary theory.

You need not even say, “I don’t believe in evolution,” (and, in fact, I believe some sort of biological evolution to be the most probable explanation for the present state of the world’s ecology). All you need to do is point out that “natural selection” is a euphemism for “I, Charles Darwin, have no idea how it happens, only that evidence strongly suggests that it does.” When one points out flaws in the classic “spotted moth in pre- and post-industrial England” example most of us learned in high school biology (usually after being told about it in the overly loud and slow tones reserved for foreigners and especially simple children), one’s conversation partner usually begins visibly pondering deliberate spilling of a beverage, to create a distraction during which escape may become possible.

I enjoy this sort of thing a lot.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003


Another comment at Disputations that needed posting here.

Boy, this is a seriously messy issue.

1) A person who injures himself in the commission of a crime is not "penalized" by that injury, even to the point of accidental death. If Valijean could only enter into his neighbor's house via the chimney in order to get to the bread, he should have found a better house to burgle, or else figured out a better way in. But it is not fundamentally a "death penalty" imposed by the neighbor on Valijean.

2) The neighbor, nevertheless, ought to take a good hard look at the circumstances that caused Valijean to climb down the chimney and get himself killed, rather than merely suggesting that Valijean got what was coming to him.

3) The US economy exploits illegal immigrants and to some extent depends on that exploitation to keep prices low and standards high. As our economy has moved from an industrial basis to more of a service basis, this problem has only grown worse. The so-called "hospitality" industry is perhaps the worst exploiter, but construction and other semi- or unskilled-labor intensive sectors are also heavily-dependent on such people.

4) The rewards of successful illegal immigration are comparatively high, even for all that. Far better than a system that kills many would-be immigrants would be a system where the benefits are lower even for successful immigration. This means, among other things, a system where the people who want tighter laws don't benefit by the efforts of the people who evade those laws.

5) Immigration laws are certainly not sacrosanct, but I have yet to hear a convincing moral or economic argument for open borders. A law that complies with a basic moral principal (and I consider "countries have a right to control their borders" to be a basic moral principal of interstate relations) has to be proven false.
A Humor break

If you look at the comments under the post about becoming a deacon, you will see that I replied to Tom, and made reference to my hoped-for participation in the Resurrection. One of the things Haloscan does, is allow the blog owner to see all the comments on a single screen. When I looked at it just now, I discovered that my reply to Tom happened to be the number of the Beast, comment #666. Gosh, I hope that turns out to be funny some day.

UPDATE: It's so funny, I deleted the comment, and reposted it, so now it's number 667. I'm not superstitious, of course, but you really can't be too careful with this stuff.
Summer of a sort has finally arrived here in Boston, and I am especially grateful because the summer season marks the return of Farmer's Markets. If you have never visited these wonderful things, you really ought to. The produce is really excellent--especially the tomatoes. A few really big, tasty, meaty tomatoes from a farmer's market will make you swear off those miserable little pebbles they sell at the grocery store all winter long for the rest of your life. The fresh bread, green beans, lettuces, melons, and berries are delightful because for the most part they have been picked that same day and were actually appropriately ripe when picked.

I am no ritual purist when it comes to organic produce. I would rather have something that hasn't had chemicals sprayed all over it, of course, for many reasons. (But for all the "sustainable agriculture" fascists out there, I remind you that it is only in the last couple of years that organic farming has learned to yield quantities and qualities of food that can compete with "conventional" farming. Like many environmental movement issues, organic farming has been something of a luxury of rich nations.) It now usually tastes better, for one thing, and even if conventional farming isn't unhealthy, it would seem logical that minimizing our intake of chemical fertilizers and pesticides is basically a good thing. (On the other hand, I have no idea how "organic" many Farmer's Market farmers are. They could be detonating pesticide clouds over the corn hourly and I'd never know.)

But Farmer's Markets also bring out the anti-capitalist in me. For all my defense of capitalism and free markets (and I truly believe that no other economic system can be made to work in advance of the Rapture), I'm actually fairly suspicious of modern life. Right now, I'm typing on the new keyboard I got for the computer I bought a few weeks ago, but I'm planning in a little while to use them to search the internet for the text to the UNABomber's manifesto. (For a short story I'm working on, about the negative aspects of technology in our lives.) When people start talking about nanotechnology, I start drawing floorplans for a shack in the mountains, and start thinking seriously about renewing my firearms permit.

Small farms are inefficient. In fact, farms in New England are such hardscrabble affairs, with the glacial moraine turning every field into a gravel pit, that a hard core Adam Smith guy could argue that we should pave the whole region, build a lot of condos, and move all the non-farm-staff residents out of the rest of the country, so that the land can be used more efficiently for farming.

But the beauty of capitalism is that sentimental fools like me can use our money to pay a little more for produce that was a bit more hard won from the ground, and keep Archer Daniels Midland at bay just a wee bit longer. Efficiency is nice, but it is hardly everything, after all.
I had a really profound insight last night, as I was going to sleep. If I could only remember what it was, I would share it with you.
I would also like your prayers. I have been contemplating for a couple of years now on the prospect of becoming a Permanent Deacon. The Boston archidiocese starts a new class every even numbered year, and the admissions process begins this fall. When I went to the meeting two years ago (the first year in which I was old enough to apply), they basically told me to get lost (very politely) because I was too young. (As an aside: I have never understood the point of setting admissions requirements and then not following them. If I am too young, then RAISE THE FREAKING AGE REQUIREMENT. Don't waste my time at a meeting and with a lot of earnest advice seeking from friends, only to tell me, "See you in a few years, kid.") As it happens, I am less certain that I will apply in this go-around, with a new baby on the way and our near-term circumstances a bit up in the air, but I am beginning to contemplate on it again. (Tom suggested I may not ever want to be a Deacon. He thinks the pastoral counseling aspect will cause me to commit more than a few mortal sins. He may be right.)
Mrs. Kairos Guy has now been pregnant for about 11 months, excepting only 6 or 7 weeks after the miscarriage, when her body was still shedding the effects of pregnancy after the miscarriage. If you could keep her in your prayers especially over the next few weeks, that would be appreciated. Most women, once they reach 7 or 8 months seem really ready to deliver the baby. Imagine knowing, in your 11th month that you still had two to go.
Tuesday Intentions

For Maj. Chris H, USAF, safely back with his family, and LT (jg) David C, USN, who remains “in the Persian Gulf region.” For all the members of the Armed Forces, and for the people of Iraq. For a true, just and lasting peace there, and across the Middle East. For the people of Afghanistan. For POWs, MIAs and those killed in military conflict, whatever their nationality. For Dylan and for Karen Marie Knapp. For the Kairos Guy family, especially the child due in August. For Reynolds, during a tumultuous time, and for his son. For Victor Lams and his family. For Bishop Richard Lennon. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Katherine G. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Monica M. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale.
There Is a Balm in Gilead

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin sick soul.

Some times I feel discouraged,
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again.


If you can’t preach like Peter,
If you can’t pray like Paul,
Just tell the love of Jesus,
And say He died for all.


Friday, June 06, 2003

I have spent a lot less time reading the news lately, and somehow missed (not surprising, given a dearth of coverage) that Aung San Suu Kyi has been injured and taken into some kind of government custody in Burma. The Washington Post has an excellent editorial today. Contact the State Department to find out what they are doing about this. (Nothing, will be my guess, unless enough people bug them.) Secretary Powell's phone number is 202-647-5291.

UPDATE: The State Department has posted press release on the subject, and Spokesman Richard Boucher responded to a question about it today. On the whole, none of this is forceful enough, IMHO, but it's more than nothing.

This started life as a comment at Disputations, but I felt like it stood on its own, even out of context.

My objection to the worship of God has nothing to do with God, and everything to do with the word worship. It connotes all the sinful aspects of idolatry, without making clear that idolatry (the corrupt form of worship) is the only experience most of us have of the word. If people only ever experienced gluttony when eating food, the verb "to eat" would be as negative as "worship" is for me. But if one begins to recognize that "worship of God" is to "worship" as "eating" is to "bingeing to extreme excess," the word gets much less problematic.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Captions a la Disputations

I still say the sand wedge is the right club.

A little more to the right there, Bob.

Try and top that top score in Teris!

Usually, people picture someone from the other place sitting in this spot.

Play Freebird!

I thought maybe with the war over, I wouldn't have to write about this stuff anymore. But I keep finding bloggers commenting about Saddam's WMDs, and I'm getting irked.

It has never, EVER, been in dispute that Saddam Hussein's regime possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction. The inventory prepared by the UN over the 7 years the inspectors were at work is sickening. Thousand of liters of anthrax, tons of botulinum toxin, VX gas, Sarin, Mustard gas. All these things were in Iraq, and not one serious person on the entire planet disputes it. And they were all there in 1998, when the Clinton administration turned its cowardly blind eye to the ejection of the UN inspectors.

In 1991, the UN Security Council passed resolution 687, demanding among other things, that (par. 8) "Iraq shall unconditionally accept the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless, under international supervision, of: (a) All chemical and biological weapons and all stocks of agents and all related subsystems and components and all research, development, support and manufacturing facilities." Paragraphs 1 and 2 of SCR 1441 explicitly recall this requirement, and promises "serious consequences" for not complying. In diplomatic language it demands "full and verified completion [of] the disarmament process established by resolution 687," that is, proof.

The Weapons of Mass Destruction argument was not simply that Saddam had them. It was that he was known to have had them and refused to prove that he no longer did. Now, if a criminal with a history of gun violence, as a condition of his parole, is required to surrender all his pistols, and he instead boards himself up in his house, do you: a) take him at his word that there are no guns inside; or, b) presume he's lying?

The french and others were demanding "much more time" for inspections before going to war. While no definition was offered, I presume "much more time" means something longer than 6 weeks, with half the people who might have information still at large, and the rest not in custody long enough to have been interrogated fully.

But the facts are these, and they are not in dispute. The last time anyone had enough time to look in Iraq, Saddam had literally tons of poisons and germ-weapons. The UN and the US all along insisted not only that they be destroyed, but that proof of that destruction be given. No one on the reconstituted UNMOVIC ever claimed Iraq had proven the destruction, and the team in fact complained of "limited" cooperation and of some obstruction. The UN and the US insisted on complete cooperation, a final chance, and "serious consequences."

The only people being "spun" are the people who never read the UN resolutions, or who supposed that War with Iraq qas fought with a single, narrow purpose.
Dormitory Socratic Club

For various reasons, I have given up the idea I mentioned 5 or 6 months ago of trying to establish a "virtuous living" special interest hallway in the dorm my wife and I supervise. At this particular university, it would be a tremendous challenge at any time. Unfortunately, the first level of approval it would need to receive would have to come from someone whom it would be difficult to persuade, and even more difficult to turn into a positive advocate for it. And I have better things to do with my life than tilting at windmills.

But, I HAVE decided to establish a weekly discussion group this fall (night pending issuance of fall TV schedules; no sense being up against Survivor). We "Residence Hall Directors"** are required to oversee a certain amount of programming in the dorm, and what that programming is constituted of is largely left up to us. My plan is to create a discussion group modeled on the ideas of the "Oxford Socratic Club." When I was an undergrad here, dorm discussion principally revolved around whose fake id was least likely to get confiscated, and which "blow off" classes didn't require attendance at anything more than the final. But the few times someone did have the temerity to conduct an actual intellectual debate, we all ate it up. So, my hope is to do that here. Roughly 60% of the students are Catholic or Protestant (at least technically), 30% Jewish, and 10% "miscellAYNeous" (in the words of Rev. Lovejoy). We shall see how it goes, but I am optimistic, and plan to spend some time this summer drafting some rules, as well as a paper or two to present while students are still figuring out just what the heck I am talking about.

Any suggestions?

**The Language Police have once again decreed that students do not live in "dormitories" ("which are more like barracks, with big open bays and lots of beds blah blah blah") but instead "Residential Living and Learning Centers." Really, it's impossible to parody this stuff.)
A Nifty link

A searchable Cathechism of the Catholic Church.
You might notice that today I have returned to my older format of posting intentions and a hymn. I hope to resume this on a more regular basis in the next few weeks. I have begun to wind down my time at the movie company. Though we haven't set an exact end date just yet, it looks like by the end of June I will be at home a great deal more, and working for them (at least in their office space) a great deal less. This is basically a good thing, though I confess to some trepidation--now that I have taken the step--at the thought that my income will be much more sporadic. When I quit my regular job in January, I was excited and ready. B ut the ease with which I fell into the temporary arrangement now ending has made me fat and complacent once again. Since the work may not dry up completely, I'm not completely sweating bullets. But I am not entirely aboard with the plan again yet, either.
Tuesday Intentions

For Maj. Chris H, USAF, returning from the Gulf this week, and LT (jg) David C, USN, who remains “in the Persian Gulf region.” For all the members of the Armed Forces, and for the people of Iraq. For a true, just and lasting peace there, and across the Middle East. For the people of Afghanistan. For POWs, MIAs and those killed in military conflict, whatever their nationality. For Dylan and for Karen Marie Knapp. For the Kairos Guy family, especially the child due in August. For Reynolds, during a tumultuous time, and for his son. For Victor Lams and his family. For Bishop Richard Lennon. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Katherine G. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Monica M. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale.
My goodness. All a man has to do to generate a conversation is talk about Donuts! RC pointed out in the comments that a Krispy Kreme will be opening near my home in the near future. I can't imagine how much conversation THAT will spark.

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who biddest the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy Word,
Who walked on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Trinity of love and power!
Our family shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect us wheresoever we go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

Lord, guard and guide the men who fly
Though the great spaces in the sky.
Be with them always in the air,
In darkening storms or sunlight fair;
Oh, hear us when we lift our prayer,
For those in peril in the air!