the minor premise

the minor premise

Friday, September 29, 2006

Possum-Induced Hijinks

Gosh, I really wish this incident had happened locally, instead of in San Diego. It would have been such a great addition to my Dixiana collection. Of course, if it had happened here, the whole story would have ended very differently. While the old boys down here may quail at the thought of driving in sleet, they know how to deal with opossums.

First of all, a large opossum wandering through your neighborhood is a pretty common event here. If you called the sheriff about it, he'd laugh at you.
Second, most of the old boys pack. If somebody took it into his head that a given 'possum had to go, he'd probably take care of it himself. On the other hand, the Rottie might still get plugged if the guy had been drinking. And technically you're not supposed to go around firing off weapons in residential areas, so he might get tasered nonetheless.
Finally, if the offending 'possum didn't get out of there, he could just end up as somebody's dinner.

I found the story here

Opossum Clash Ends With Arrest, Dog Shot

SAN DIEGO (AP) - A dispute that began over the capture of an opossum in a residential neighborhood ended with police shooting a Rottweiler and arresting a man after stunning him with a Taser gun.
A fight broke out in the Talmadge area of San Diego after a resident saw a large opossum running in the area Tuesday and asked a maintenance worker to corral the feral animal, prompting a call to police.

[CORRECTION: This is incorrect use of the word feral. A feral animal is a member of a domesticated species that goes wild. Opossums are not domesticated; therefore this one was clearly not feral. Appropriate uses of the word would include: "Feral dogs pose a threat to livestock in the rural counties hereabouts" and "A feral Tom beat up my neighbor's old housecat." 'Possums aren't feral; they're just 'possums.]

An officer at the scene shot a Taser gun at one man who became combative, according to police reports.
The man removed the barbs and fled through a neighboring yard, where a Rottweiler allegedly came at the officer. The officer fired several shots in self-defense, police said.
The man was found and arrested a short time later. Police said they were evaluating him for being under the influence.
The dog was taken to an animal hospital. Its condition was not immediately available.

09/27/06 21:53 © Copyright The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained In this news report may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.

I'm still trying to figure out what all the fuss was about; I imagine a scene like something from James Thurber's memoirs. The 'possum, one has to assume, got away clean.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Egg Market

A report from London on Zenit (Sept. 16, 2006) says that women are under increasing pressure to freeze or donate their ova:
"Women in their 30s who may want children in the future should be encouraged to consider freezing their eggs for future use," ...While many women who currently freeze their ova do so for reasons related to medical problems such as cancer...she expected the number of "social egg-freezers" to increase.
An English fertility center in the city of Newcastle was given permission by the government to pay women undergoing in vitro fertilization treatment to donate eggs for research using cloning, the BBC reported July 27.

The "pressure" kicks in when infertile couples who can't afford IVF are presented with the option of making a "donation" to offset their costs.

There is, thank goodness, an organized opposition to this practice:
...the Hands Off Our Ovaries organization describes itself as being a "coalition of 'pro-choice' and 'pro-life' women, concerned at the growing exploitation of women in biotechnology." Last March 8 the group launched a campaign against the harvesting and marketing of human eggs.

In a press release dated May 11, the group explained it is concerned that the processes used to extract ova "pose serious short-term health risks for women." Apart from short-term problems such as overstimulation of the ovaries, the statement argued that knowledge of the long-term risks is inadequate.
Politics really does make strange bedfellows.

As might be expected, the frequent targets of the donor egg market are...(news flash)...poor Third World women!
Many British women...use eggs coming from women in Eastern Europe. The donors, tempted by payments of between 150 to 300 pounds ($281 to $562) that are equivalent to several months' salary, run the risk of damaging their own hopes for a baby. The article cited cases of women from countries such as Romania, whose ovaries are so damaged as a result of ova donation that they are now infertile.

But even in developed nations, women are exploitable--if the price is right:
Women from countries such as the United States are also at risk, the Boston Globe explained June 25. Young women burdened with debts or college loans are tempted by payments that can range from $5,000 to $15,000 to donate their eggs.
You knew that college degree would lead to better pay...

Rather than halting the exploitaiton of women, our modern world seems to be skilled at finding endless new ways to exploit them. What never ceases to amaze me is the speed with which many women, including plenty who ought to know better, fall into line to be exploited.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Addendum to Open Letter: The Dietary Question

In yesterday's post I noted that I had responded separately to a question on Biblical dietary practices, namely:
*Is out of logic that God know that a thing is harmful and don't order man not to get close to it?!!!!Sure not,but science proved that beers and pig are harmful for a man,but I didn't see a verse in Bible ordering not to eat or drink them.
A copy of that response follows, just as an FYI. [I have taken my reponses from my notes and not from the combox, as I have difficulty copying from there. Thus there may be some minor differences between this text and the combox text. Mohamed's reply has been copied directly from the combox.]

The view of pigs as unclean predates Islam by millenia; it's a tenet of Juadaism at least from the earliest books of the Bible. In Genesis, God instructs Noah:

Of every clean animal, take with you seven pairs,...and of the unclean animals, one pair...
(Gen. 7:2)
In Leviticus, food prohibitions are plainly laid out for the Children of Israel:
All hoofed animals that are not cloven-footed or do not chew the cud are unclean for you...
(Lev. 11:26)

This practice is now believed to be one of humanity's earliest health laws. If you know much of vertebrate biology, you know that pigs have some physiological similarities to humans (I may get an earful over that statement) that results in them being hosts to a number of the worst human parasites. Eating uncooked or undercooked pork is extremely dangerous. Also, pigs tend to be omnivorous, eating meat as well as plants, and garbage feeders,eating dead and decomposing matter which can be rife with disease.

Contact with other cultures when Palestine was part of the Roman Empire led to increasing contact with people who did not follow the Levitical food practices. When many Non-Jews began to take an interest in Christianity in the years following the Resurrection, this became a problem for the Jewish Christians, as increased contact with interested Gentiles put them at risk of having to eat 'unclean' food. In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter, then leader of the new church, reports a vision that resolves this problem for him: God shows him all the earth's four-legged animals and invites him to eat. When Peter objects, God replies,
'What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.'
(Acts 10:15)

In fact, Orthodox Jews and some Christian denominations (such as Seventh-Day Adventists) still adhere to the Levitical dietary laws, for religious but not sanitary reasons. Pork, properly handled and cooked, is safe to eat.

As for the beer question, Proverbs 31 immediately came to mind:
It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
not for kings to drink wine;
strong drink is not for princes!
(Prov. 31:4)

Other than this I can't think of any other Biblical prohibition on alcohol, although examples abound (Noah, Lot, Samson,Holofernes) of the hazards of drinking to excess.

Sanitation issues, again have to be considered: If you drank water in many places at these times, you took your life into your hands. Ditto any fruit juice that wasn't fermented. A little alcohol went a long way to preserving the lives of these early people by killing the germs that would otherwise have infested their drinking supply.

That's my two bits' worth. I'll go over the rest when I can. What is the rationale against pork and alcohol in the Qu'ran?

I was answered as follows:

What're you talking about?!!!!I didn't understand what was your point in this long message?!!!!
You just narrated a history.

Is it prohibited for you or not?!!!
I understood from...egypeter that it's not prohibited,and from you I understood that it's not good in Torah,SO?!!!!

Sorry,but who eat any meat without cooking?!!!!
And if we assumed that it's healthy to eat it,will you accept to eat it after knowing what it eats?!!!!
You must know that it eat rubbish,wastes of human and drink dirty water,and flesh of an animal is formed from what it eat!
So,when a man eats pork,it's like eating rubbish.
As for me,I don't accept by my nature to eat it.
And if we assumed that it's cooked,don't you know that it's cooked quickly that it don't have the enough time to kill germs?!!!!!!

Any way if you want to know where Qur'an prohibited pork and beer...

[Here Suras 2:172-173 and 5:90 of the Qu'ran are cited]

I responded thus:

*Is out of logic that God know that a thing is harmful and don't order man not to get close to it?!!!!Sure not,but science proved that beers and pig are harmful for a man,but I didn't see a verse in Bible ordering not to eat or drink them.

You didn't ask me if pork and beer were prohibited for me; you made the above statement, which I answered by supplying several Biblical citations. Those citations also, incidentally, answered the question you apparently expected me to telepathically divinate from your ramblings and explained why this was the case. Please refer to the citation from Acts if you are unsure of my meaning.

I am trying to be patient, and deal with the statements you make in a Biblical and historical context, but my patience only goes so far. If you want to discuss religion with me, I advise you to organize your thoughts, sort out what is religion from what is your own personal idiosyncracy, and don't try to change the question when you don't like my answer. Unlike yourself, I do not have all kinds of time to waste churning out reams of nonsense and if your intent is to lead me into roundabouts, I won't play that game.

For your information, quite a few cultures around the world eat some raw meat; I understand that in some parts of China raw pork is a delicacy. Furthermore, farm-raised pork is not fed garbage; if it wasn't perfectly clear in my comment, I was giving a historical context for the prohibition.

Your verses are interesting, but fail to answer my question. What is the Qu'ranic rationale for not consuming pork and beer? 'Just don't do it' doesn't explain that. I know what the rationale is for the Levitical prohibitions and for the lifting of those prohibitions; I explained them in my comment. Why was your rule instituted?

There has been no further discussion on this topic since.


Sunday, September 24, 2006

An Open Letter on Faith (Part I of a series)

This post comprises my response to a series of questions raised by Mohamed, a young Egyptian Muslim, in the combox to a recent post by Neferteeti. Normally combox discussions have a tendency to wander in all directions and nobody minds much, but this post's topic was the brutal murder of a young Christian for religious motives. When discussion began to turn to more trivial matters, one of the regular readers advised restraint out of respect for the victim and his family. I decided to end my part of the discussion there, posting it here instead.

Mohamed had a broad range of questions and comments; for the purpose of brevity I am limiting this post to matters of faith and religion only. I will attempt to deal with other matters on separate posts as time allows.

I cannot say for sure that he will come to read this, but even if he does not it will serve as a catechetical and dialectic exercise from me, and hopefully will be of some use to me or others.

I have solicited remarks from D, my spouse and blogging partner, as he has insights which I do not (and is vastly more diplomatic than I,) and have marked comments according to the writer.

An excerpt follows from the text of Mohamed' s last set of remarks to me, in the interest of clarity. (For the full text, go here.)

As for your first point I didn't got what you are talking about,but sure you see your faith the right path,and I see my religion the right path,but I think that there is a basic difference,I gave myself the opportunity to understand your faith from your mouths not through sayings of Muslim scholars,and tried as I could to be neutral and I reached after that the truth by myself and through my own thinking that Christianity is in its origin is right but its followers corrupted some things of it,and let me ask you here some things not to reply but to try to ask yourself neutrally,Is this a protocol from God?!!!!!
*Is a God have God?!!!!Sure not,but Jesus had God.
*Is a God be limited in a place?!!Sure not,but Jesus have been limited in a body which is clearly a limitation for God.
*Can God be seen on earth?!!!Sure not,but many saw and heared Jesus.
*Can God eat,drink,go to bathroom?!!!Sure God don't need these things,but Jesus was doing all these things.
*Is it out of justice & mercy to punish an innocent for a thing he didn't commit?!!!!Sure not,but you believe that God punished Jesus for sins of men.
*Is it logical that God narrate a sexy story in His Holy book to order men not to harlot,however He could order them not to do without irritating them?!!!Sure not logical,but in Old Teastement there is a sexy story of a man describing a nacked woman.
*Is out of logic that God know that a thing is harmful and don't order man not to get close to it?!!!!Sure not,but science proved that beers and pig are harmful for a man,but I didn't see a verse in Bible ordering not to eat or drink them.
And so on,
All these are questions in my mind,if you're biased towards Christianity,sure you'll see that they are fakes and have no fact,but if you though neutrally in them,you'll see the truth.

D: First of all, we must acknowledge that belief in God is a matter of faith, and our beliefs differ in ways that will not be satisfactorily explained by an internet exchange. If you are interested in learning about Christianity, the following will be of use. If you aren't interested, it will be worthless, and perhaps irritating.

C: In the interest of providing information in an orderly, understandable way, we have attempted to clarify and group your questions according to our best understanding of what you meant. It is possible that we have missed some nuance you deeply wanted dealt with, but we are not mind-readers and have to work with what you actually posted, not what you may have been thinking. Please recognize this, and accept our responses as what they are.

As D said, no internet exchange can ever adequately cover all the questions of faith. We are not and do not pretend to be anything more than ordinary Christians with ordinary religious backgrounds. We do not deal with complex theological matters here; only with what we believe based on what we do know. Someone else out there may have more knowledge than we do, and is welcome to jump in. If you are seriously interested in complex answers to complex questions, we can suggest some possible resources.

We have headed each response under the general topic it addresses.

The mystery of the Trinity
Can a God have a (pray to a) God?
Can God be limited in a place?
Can God have bodily functions?

D: On its face, it may seem illogical that a being could be in two places at once, but Christians believe that God is in all places at all times. A certain place and a certain time can be sanctified, such as the time of prayer or an church or a mosque, but God is not limited by the time or the space. When, in a miracle that we can not and could never explain, He was made man, it did not preclude Him being with others in other places in the world. He is God.

More to the heart of Christianity is why he became man, and less how He did it.
C.S. Lewis attempted to explain the why by saying that we can appreciate a God that much more who endured our mundane sufferings

C: What I see at the root of these questions is a tendency to 'put God in a box;' that is, to try to limit Him to something in our own understanding--something we can conceptualize. I'm not singling you out for special punishment here; putting God in a box is a very human tendency. Christians do it; everybody does it.

By this logic if God is unlimited, he is not capable of fitting into our time and space. Well, why not? What we don't know about God vastly exceeds what we do know. We cannot limit God; nor can anything else He has created. But why can God the omnipotent not 'limit' Himself, if He chooses?

So can God have a God? Christian theology holds that Jesus was fully human and fully divine. That is a complex concept. How did He manage it? I don't know. I just know that a particular set of facts indicates that Jesus was much more than your ordinary Jewish Rabbi. He spoke with uncommon authority. He healed the sick. His life on this earth followed the parameters of certain prophecies. His closest disciples, who spread his story around the known world, endured torture and horrible death but maintained the truth of that story. And some inexplicable things have been happening ever since.
If Jesus was fully divine, then he was God. But if Jesus, for a prescribed time, existed on earth in fully human form, then certainly he could pray to God--and set us the example for what the human relationship with God ought to be. Certainly He could be 'in a place' even as He was everywhere. Certainly he could have bodily functions--that's part of what being fully human is. God is not limited by your preconceptions or mine. He can 'be' whatever it is His will to be.

Manifestations of God

Can God be seen on earth?

C: As you and I have already said, God is not limited. We cannot see God on our own initiative, but there is no reason to assume that he cannot manifest to us in many ways if it pleases Him to do so. If He wishes to become human and be "limited" in some way, what is to stop Him? He is all-powerful.

D: Something that comes to my mind on this topic is a story in Genesis that comes just before the destruction of Sodom. Yahweh (God) and two angels appear to Abraham and Sarah. Abraham and Sarah show them hospitality, and Yahweh (God) tells Sarah that she will soon have a son, despite her old age. (Genesis 18: 1-15) The almighty God appears to Abraham, yet He is still the Almighty God. "Is anything too wonderful for Yahweh (God)?"

Sacrifice as a payment for Sin

Is it out of justice & mercy to punish an innocent for a thing he didn't commit?
(Why was the innocent Jesus killed?)

C: One of the ugly facts of life on this earth is that, just or not, the innocent frequently end up being 'punished' for the actions of others. You have your favorite examples of this; I have mine. So the fact that this is not what would happen in an ideal world is irrelevant to this one. Christians believe that Christ willingly took our sin upon himself and gave his human life as a sacrifice for that sin. The voluntary nature of this act makes it a little different than someone being punished for someone else's crimes. It has been compared to the idea of one person defraying a debt for another--something we all do all the time. If a friend of yours owed someone money and you could make good on his debt, wouldn't you? Even if you knew he couldn't pay you back?

I think a better example of what we believe goes back to a much older tradition--one that is practiced by Muslims as well: the blood sacrifice. The calf, lamb or kid that is sacrificed to God, whether in celebration or in atonement, is innocent. It hasn't done anything to offend you or me. It hasn't committed the crime for which it is slaughtered, if it is an atonement sacrifice. Christians call Christ the Lamb of God in recognition that He is the perfect sacrifice. Blood sacrifices have largely fallen out of Christian tradition, although some Christians still have practices (like having lamb for the Easter meal) that harken back to it. We believe we have been redeemed by the ultimate blood sacrifice, to which no other can compare and in return for which no mere gesture would suffice.

Theology of the Body

Is it logical that God narrate a sexy story in His Holy book to order men not to harlot, however He could order them not to do without irritating them?!!!

C: I have commented on this before. A few points below I have made already:

While God exists through all time, and while we believe that the Bible is His word and was written for all people throughout time, it remains a fact that the books of the Bible were written in chronological time and presented to an original audience. That audience had different standards than you or me. They were earthier. They tended to be more direct in their speech about certain things, and perhaps less so about others. Moreover, the things that cause you problems are not necessarily the things that cause others problems. Not everything that leads you to lust leads me, or Bent, or David, Peter, Red or Xavier to lust. People heavily exposed to evil, as were the Jews in captivity, probably needed the prodding of a graphic description--they saw it every day. They needed to be desensitized to the evil so that it wouldn't overwhelm them. They needed the evil held up before them for what it was.

Perhaps you are accustomed to others going out of their way to avoid "irritating" you in this way, and have come to expect it. It is no one's job to keep you from lust but yours.

As for the Song of Solomon, it is necessary to understand that the book was written in the style of love and wedding poetry of its time, in order to draw a comparison between the love of God for each soul and the love of a bridegroom for his bride. The chapter you have already cited is a bridal anthem (there is also no reason to assume it describes a nude woman--the first line is 'How beautiful are your slippered feet, O prince's daughter!') of a type that would have been sung by the wedding guests as they carried the bride to her new husband's house. Despite the graphic description of the bride's charms, those charms would have been fully dressed and heavily veiled. Again, the Word was translated into a literary convention that the original recipients knew and understood. I might add that David, whom you have frequently praised, has posted a very good chapter-by-chapter series on understanding the Song of Solomon. I recommend it.

As I have already pointed out, everything that is a stumbling block for you is not one for everyone. Likewise, not everything that sends you into raptures delights everyone else. I have read most of the Qu'ran (not books about it written by people with an agenda to discredit it) and there is quite a lot there which even in context, is a major stumbling block for me--I am unable to read it and envision from it a truly just and merciful God who cares for all souls equally. In the interest of brevity and because, as you know, I've been reading Bent's blog now for several months and some of these verses have been brought up before, I'm not going to start quoting on this post. But realize that not everyone who reads the Qu'ran is going to see it through your eyes.

Dietary issues

*Is out of logic that God know that a thing is harmful and don't order man not to get close to it?!!!!Sure not,but science proved that beers and pig are harmful for a man,but I didn't see a verse in Bible ordering not to eat or drink them.

C: I have already explained this in plain language and citing Biblical references. In the interest of clarification for anyone reading this who was not in on the original discussion, I will repost it tomorrow, separately.

You claim to have studied Christianity with an open mind and 'from our mouths,' yet you consistently repeat the same handful of Biblical verses, never accepting any explanation we give. Do you really expect us to think you neutral? Do you expect us to assume you have the advantage of us in study, when someone like Bent is there who received the same education growing up that you did, plus Christian catechesis? You claim the belief that Christianity is right in its origin, then you dismiss the fundamental belief that unites all Christians: that Christ is the Son of God. If the divinity of Christ is a corrupt belief, how can Christianity be right in its origin? If Christianity is right in its origin, where exactly did it go wrong?

You say that I am biased towards Christianity, and that is correct--up to a point. What you don't seem to understand is that I don't live in a Christian society; I live in a secular society. I did not have compulsory religious education of any kind in school. I am not required to support any church financially. My country is home to faiths of all kinds, and all faiths are allowed free exercise of their beliefs (provided those beliefs don't extend to harming someone else.) Within ten miles of my house are several score of Christian churches of dozens of denominations, one or two synagogues, a mosque, Hindu and Sikh temples, and probably some other groups as well. Visiting places of worship other than our own is not unusual. Furthermore, we don't have 'crashes' resulting in bloodshed that you want to persuade me are 'normal' and 'natural.' Any crime against a place of worship or person because of his faith is dealt with very seriously under the law. Most people of faith have no interest in enforcing their beliefs through violence, and any that are know that this will not be tolerated. If I were in Egypt, would I have the unqualified right to speak freely about my Christian belief to anyone, anytime, anywhere, as long as they were willing to listen?

If I am biased toward the faith I follow, it is only after I have had the opportunity to scrutinize it thoroughly, question it, doubt it, be exposed to a variety of other faiths, and be required--often--to defend it as I have here.

I think this is quite enough for one post, so I am concluding--at least for now--here. You brought up some other matters that I will address in a subsequent post, as I am able.

Mohamed, consider yourself welcome to answer any questions I have asked. Be prepared to cite source and defend your answers,however, especially regarding the Bible and Christianity. All comments are of course welcome, but please keep them brief and to the point: no long harangues, no repeating the same question over and over after I've answered it, no going off on tangents. Bent-el-Neel is both gracious and patient, but I have raised teenagers and consequently am neither.


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

Yard eco: Late Thursday night Alpha dog wasn't in any of her usual nap spots. She didn't come when called. Yelling from the back door availed not even an answering bark or whine. So I took a flashlight out into the backyard to look.

I found her silent and sphinx-like, at the back of the yard near the composter. Quivering with excitement, she gazed intently above, eyes fixed on something midway up a small cherry snag. She had a young opossum treed.

Didelphis virginiana, North America's only marsupial mammal, is extremely common around here and lives as well in suburbia (barring encounters with those pesky autos) as it does in the woods. It is, however, shy and largely nocturnal so unless you're up late or early in the morning, you might not know it was around save for the unlucky ones that fall to late-night drivers. It was a real treat to look up the trunk and spot this little one looking back. We figured they were in the neighborhood; now we know they're also raising litters and dispersing them throughout. Ours, I suppose, was lured by the overripe eggplants I had tossed in the composter.

Alpha, quite carried away with her find, wouldn't move. She was deaf to commands; wouldn't budge when I grasped her collar. I gave it up and hoisted her sixty pounds back to the house, gingerly avoiding the fallen branches we haven't yet cut up. Thank goodness the Nordic genes make her compact.

The 'possum can have the eggplants, with my compliments.

Harvest: No lack of bell peppers, though they are small. The insect damage seems to have stopped, but then it's been cool for a change. Still lots of cayennes, which I am drying in small bunches. Now I just need to find lots of people who like spicy food. Thinking of planting some radishes and beets tomorrow, now that the heat's mostly past. Certainly radishes, which grow quickly.

Knitting: Baby gift finished, except for snap closures and name, which I am v-stitching on. Stuck on my second sock; am going to have to relearn the German twisted cast-on.

Labels: ,

Vegetable Adulteration, or a sign of our anti-Christian times

The New York Times ran an article about NBC drawing criticism for planning to air a blasphemous Madonna concert (for her, nothing really new here - remember "Like a Prayer?") and for editing references to God out of the Veggie Tales episodes airing on Saturday mornings. I find the second infraction positively outrageous on two levels.

One does not draw a mustache on the Mona Lisa. The genius of the Veggie Tales is that it presents broad Christian values (ones that can certainly be accepted by most if not all denominations) in a format both appropriate for children and amusing for teens and adults (especially those adults who are familiar with Monty Python!). God, of course, is central, and if one misses the centrality during the story, the explanatory sequence at the end clears up any ambiguity on that point. It is beautiful art the way unabashed Biblical values are mixed with humor and music. Taking God out destroys that art.

What would Handel have done if he had been trying to sell The Messiah to the networks today? The Messiah was not written for the church, but for the concert hall. It just happens that it has a religious theme. Had he had to deal with NBC or one of the other networks, it might have gone something like this:

Exec: Georg, baby! I gotta say I love your new oratorio. Man, that "Halellujah" Chorus is going to be a big hit. Straight to the top, baby! Numero Uno with a bullet. And that's the sort of thing we like to have. There's just one teensy detail we need to work out, babe. You see, we need to have that broad appeal. We need to reach out to that crucial 18 to 35 demographic that makes our sponsor happy. You know what I mean? We've gotta tone down that God stuff. It makes the execs nervous and it might turn off some sponsors. Ya with me Georg, baby? How's about we change a word or two here or there -- instead of "the Lord God omnipotent reigneth," you have them sing something like "I just got my new car with low payments" or some thing like that. So, whaddya say?

On another level, I believe that the aduleration is just another reflection of anti-Christianism (not secularism or atheism) from the guardians of our popular media. The Madonna concert plays into this as well, but I expect to see Madonna offend. Perhaps Phil Vischer, one of Veggie Tales's creators, puts it best when he writes: ". . . it is a bit ironic that telling kids God loves them is 'not okay,' but singing a song while mocking the crucifixion is fine and dandy." Anti-Christian art is ok, Christian art needs modification before it is acceptable.
Hat tip to, of all places, The Huffington Post for leading me to the Times article.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Still More on the Papal Address Outrage

Iraq the Model has weighed in on the Papal Address Outrage with a thoughtful article (Tuesday, September 19 post) focusing on the Islamization of Iraq and attitudes toward 'conversion by the sword.' It's worth reading. I can't remember which of the brothers posted it, but his conclusion spoke to thoughts I have been having as I have reflected on the precarious situation of Christian minorities in Islamic countries right now:

Some accuse the pope of bad timing but I wonder what is going to be the best time to accept criticism and accept questions? Next year? a decade from now? When?

There will be no such time for our clerics who derive their power from this history, and to them, questioning or criticizing this history is a threat to their holiness and power.


The Moderate Voice posted a report that Mohammed Qaddaffi has called for Benedict XVI to convert. (I'd link to full details on this myself, but going to this guy's blog seems to make my computer lock up. Oh, don't worry, lots of things make my computer lock up. It will probably be just fine for everyone else.) Th M.V. quips, more or less:

I could see it happen...right after the President of Iran gets Bar Mitzvahed.

Some of the flap that arose over the Pope's address is directly attributable to media spin; Jimmy Akin has posted some comments on this. It looks like the BBC zeroed in for a 'grabber' headline (or maybe a less savory motive,) and things went downhill from there.

Several sources have now pointed out that a minor variance in translation--the exclusion of one or two short phrases in the English version (which has since been corrected) altered the sense of the Pope's words enough that his comments seemed a good deal harsher initially. Benedict's address actually included the observation that Manuel Paleologus addressed his commentary on Islam "with a brusqueness that astonishes us."

I think that the Holy Father was trying, with his words, to distance his own views from the "brusqueness" of Paleologus in an effort to not inflame the oh-so-easily inflamed passions of the Islamofascists. Perhaps, he hoped to appeal to Islam's better nature: "Look, this is how the rest of the world sees you; you can change this view by changing your actions." Hope springs eternal.

With all due respect to the Papa, Manuel Paleologus' brusqueness doesn't surprise me at all. At the time he made his now-famous remarks, after all, he was either living as a hostage in the Ottoman court (almost certainly resisting proselytism,) or holding off an Ottoman seige from his formerly glorious Constantinople. Give the guy credit: he persevered in his Christianity, protected his people for as long as he could, and eventually died a monk. But perhaps it's a bit much to ask that, given his circumstances in 1391, he get up every single morning feeling like "an Alleluia from head to toe." The Lord knows I don't, and nobody's holding me hostage or trying to make me abandon my faith. If the "Religion of Peace" wasn't exactly giving Manuel the Peace that Passeth Understanding, maybe there was a good reason.

Brusque or not, Paleologus' purpose, like that of the Pope, was to appeal to reason in order to dialogue. If there is to be any peace and justice in the world, Islam is going to have to learn that it's not a dialogue if one side gets to do all the talking, and it's not a dialogue if one side is above scrutiny while the other can be criticized freely. I can't think of any other religion on earth that is so unable to cope rationally with constructive criticism.

I have been profoundly concerned for Christian minorities in Muslim countries since the flap began. Like Paleologus, they are pretty much in a hostage situation. But it's worse, because they are also at the mercy of mobs. One supposedly "moderate" cleric has already declared Friday a Muslim "day of anger;" I'm fearing a repeat of Kristallnacht, or worse.

Still, I am intensely aware that if it hadn't been the Pope last Tuesday, it would have been the Chair of the Southern Baptist convention tomorrow, the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church next week, or the Dalai Lama a fortnight hence (okay, so I exaggerate a bit.) The point, as ITM succinctly put it in my quote above, is that unless we are all prepared to rationally concede that Islam is "pure" and above reproach (a view held by most practicing Muslims, but few other humans of any or no faith.) there is never going to be a "good time" to question or criticize it--and if we don't start asking some hard questions now, that situation is never going to get any better.

Pray for our Brothers and Sisters in Christ who live in Muslim countries, and for all the Dhimmi. I fear it will go hard for them.
Father Stephanos at Me Monk, Me Meander offers his own "Junior High Outline" of the Pope's address, as well as some UNEXPECTED GOOD NEWS that blew me clean out of the water! It appears that Islamic Jihad Militants in a West Bank Village have turned out to protect a Catholic church from vandalism. Much more of this, I may have to give up sarcasm for a day or two. I pray it's true--he has pictures posted!

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

In all the ruckus

...I completely missed Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Look here for the Wikipedia article.
There, that takes care of my infusion of the ridiculous for the week. I was beginning to feel bereft.


Monday, September 18, 2006

Three More Things...

I have been reading and musing on the Muslim Outrage du jour over the weekend, and finally managed to think about the situation somewhat calmly. A few observations:

I have already mentioned the Catholic Londoner blogger who photographed a Muslim demonstration outside Westminister Cathedral this Sunday. According to the post, they were out there from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. that day, many with faces covered (and not just the females either. Big surprise.) The signs they brandish are something to behold: "Pope Go To Hell," "Jesus is the Slave of Allah," "Islam Will Conquer Rome," to mention a few. Obviously the respect these people demand for their own religion is not something they feel particularly bound to reciprocate. Heck, if those slogans aren't calculated to offend to the highest degree, I don't know what they think will.

What struck me, however, was the print-shop quality of the signs. Nobody rushed home in a frenzy from Friday worship to hand-stencil these on the back of an old science fair project. I know computers make jobs like these faster and easier than they used to be, but really! If the local Islamic society doesn't have its own personal poster shop, it at least knows a printer willing to drop all his other jobs to work on theirs. Kinko's will have to watch its back. I wonder if there's some kind of Muslim Rapid Reaction force in London that watches for outrage opportunities and then gets into gear making appropriate signs, organizing the mob, excuse me, the crowd, getting speakers, etc. The average D.C. Mall demonstration spends weeks or months getting their ducks in a row, but in London, in four days (three if you went to mosque Friday) we have Instant Protest--just add demonstrators.

Not being too up on my medieval history, I decided that the best way to get to the bottom of what all the fuss was about (after reading the Papal address that started all the furor, that is) was to read up on Manuel Paleologus, whom the Holy Father quoted. So, I got out the appropriate Britannica volume (1971 edition.) Yes, I know they have them on disc now. I got out the book anyway. I'm a Luddite; so there. The basic info on Paleologus is going to have changed since 1971?

Paleologus' life had more ups and downs than a carnival ride, so I won't go into all the details here. In brief, after family struggles over his father's throne that should make us all thankful we didn't get his relatives, he ended up in custody at the Ottoman Sultan's court. Now, the way I read that "in custody" bit, he wasn't there on a foreign exchange program. He was there as a hostage, presumably to prevent him and deter any more of his relatives from attempting to return to power. My bet is that he was, during his sojourn at the Ottoman court, also under less-than-subtle pressure to convert; at least one source I've read places the conversation that led to all the controversy during this time. He escaped around 1391. Back in Constantinople, Paleologus was crowned emperor, and proceeded to hold off an Ottoman seige for seven months.

Eventually Paleologus was forced to accept tribute to the Ottoman empire. He traveled to western Europe to beg help, but received only promises. Meanwhile, the Sultan was defeated and the empire erupted into civil war; by clever politicking Paleologus was able to improve matters somewhat for his empire for a time. After additional upheaveals, he again ended up having to pay tribute, gave it all up, and became a monk for the last year of his life. Britannica says:

Manuel was an intelligent ruler, but with the meagre resources of his shrunken and enfeebled empire he was unable to take advantage of the misfortunes of his enemies. He was a patron of arts and letters, and himself composed theological, rhetorical, and poetical works; and his correspondence is of considerable historical interest.
Wikipedia has a very good article on the controversy, and makes some improtant points about what the Holy Father actually said and what was published in translation.

Labels: ,

No Greater Love

According to AP, Sister Leonella Sgorbati, the nun murdered in Somalia last week, used to joke about there being a bullet in Somalia with her name engraved on it and died forgiving her killers.

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do, said Christ on the cross.
I think Sister Leonella's killers knew perfectly well what they were doing, and may have been waiting for an excuse to do it.

Father, forgive them anyway, for Sister Leonella's sake. And give us the grace to forgive them as well.

(Hat tip: The Anchoress, Tail Rank.)

Labels: , ,

Outrage of the Week

The gift of humor is a great salvo in times of trial. Humor clears the air, and makes troubles seem smaller. I often find that spotting an element of the absurd in something leads to greater understanding. When I write here, I often highlight the absurd (which some doubtless find annoying.) This isn't even something I do consciously, most of the time--I'm not sitting here over the keyboard wondering, "Let's see, how can I spin this so it's funny?" More often than not, funny finds me.

Funny isn't finding me today. There's plenty going on in the world that is absurd, but none of it is funny.
--It's absurd, but not funny, when public figures cannot speak their minds without violent mobs gathering all over the world to threaten, insult, and intimidate.
--It's absurd, but not funny, when churches are burned because of one sentence in a speech of several pages--some of them not even of the speaker's denomination.
--It's absurd, but not funny, when innocent servants of God are viciously gunned down on the grounds of a children's hospital because in someone's sick mind they represent one with whom they are offended.
--It's absurd, but not funny, that after a sincere apology has been proffered and a number of Muslim associations have accepted it, this is still not enough for those who seek any excuse for their murderous rampages. What would be enough? Grovelling and a conversion? The handover of the Vatican? What?
--It's absurd, but not funny, that the practitioners of Islam regularly demean and oppress practitioners of other religions, but cannot stand the slightest scrutiny of their own.
--It's absurd, but not funny, that anything less than rhapsodic treatment of Islam is a resurgence of the Crusades, when it was Islam's own bloody legacy of conversion by the sword that launched those Crusades in the first place, and Islam's continued bloody legacy of control through terror that has foreign troops on 'Islamic' soil today.
--It's absurd, but not at all funny, that the "Religion of Peace" turns to uncontrolled violence at the mere turn of a phrase.
--It's completely absurd, but not funny, that large numbers of secular, nonreligious or antireligious people still can't seem to get over their own Schaedenfreude to the realization that in actively or passively supporting these barbarians they sow the seeds of their own destruction. We Christians may be annoying, but we don't execute you for your sins and there's nothing in our theology that makes that likely to change.

If it isn't patently obvious, I'm in no condition today to deal with the fallout from His Holiness Pope Benedict's remark--one brief medieval reference in a long address on the subjects of faith, reason, and the lack of reason in violence--in "a hard intellectual light." Fortunately for me, others have already addressed this matter with reason, good sense, and perhaps even an intact sense of humor. Father Stephanos of Me Monk, Me Meander has been posting on this situation over the past week and has been a font of excellent articles and astute commentary. A Catholic Londoner who took and published pictures of a demonstration outside Winchester Cathedral this Sunday is also well worth the read.

I will post more when I've calmed down, and gotten some real work done.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful . . . .

I am not making this up -- these excerpts come from Regime Change Iran

Hezbollah’s Shi’ite youth movement, “The Imam al-Mahdi Scouts”

Hezbollah’s Shi’ite youth movement, “The Imam al-Mahdi Scouts,” has tens of thousands of members.

The Imam al-Mahdi Scouts1 are a Hezbollah youth movement which was established in May 1985, after the IDF withdrew from the security zone in south Lebanon . It has branches in the Shi’ite communities of Beirut , the Beqa’a Valley and south Lebanon . It received a permit for its activities from the Lebanese ministry of education in September 1992, seven years after its founding, and today they associated with the Federation of Lebanese Scouts. There are approximately 42,000 male and female Imam al-Mahdi scouts between the ages of 8-16 organized into 499 groups.

The emblem of the Imam al-Mahdi Scouts. The fleur-de-lis is the international scout emblem, however, every scouting organization adds its own elements. In this case the additions are two swords and a hand raised as if taking an oath. The inscription under the emblem reads, “Obey!”

[Who needs "Be Prepared" if you only have to "Obey!"]

The Imam al-Mahdi Scouts calendar is a particularly effective marketing device, and there is a series of booklets with titles such as “ Sharon the Evil One,” “The Story of Sayid ‘Abbas Mussawi, the Greatest Shadeed of the Islamic Resistance,” “The Jihad Youths” and others.

[I hear they sell popcorn, too. Varieties include "Beirut Buttered," "Western Decadence" (Chocolate covered), and the favoite
"Popcorn of Paradise" (Caramel). Buy Mahdi Scout popcorn -- it's the Tempting Treat of Tyre, just like Imam used to make.]


Thursday, September 14, 2006

this 'n' that

One more update on Wake Island from 70% of buildings damaged, plus water supply and power grid; runway intact but missing lights.
Query: So if they're the Non-Aligned Nations, why are we the 'bogeyman?' (This is a purely rhetorical question, and yes, I do know that the term 'Non-Aligned' has to do with the Cold War.)
Courtesy of Steinem, Fonda, and some others, a women's talk radio network is in the works. This must be a huge relief to Jeanine Garafolo, who might actually have a shot at remaining employed. Steinem describes it in a Reuters interview, the current medium is "very argumentative, quite hostile, and very much male-dominated."

The new network "has a different spirit. It has more community. It's more about information, about humor, about respect for different points of view and not constant arguing"

...Greenstone hopes to attract male listeners and may even have some male talk show hosts. [Thus differentiating it from what is currently available how?]

Seriously, though, I'm heartened to hear that information, humor and respect for different points of view will have a place in this endeavor. In the interest of supporting this new and different spirit, may I recommend regular appearances by Serrin Foster or Sally Winn of Feminists For Life, or perhaps speakers from the Susan B. Anthony List? Or maybe somebody from an aborted women's group (sorry, they're getting to be so many I haven't got time to track them down right now. I'm not sure whether to cheer or cry about that.)

Or maybe someone like, say, Star Parker--bringing diversity, working-class realism, and a radio talk show background!

Nah, I thought not.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, September 11, 2006

Flying on 9/11

As fate would have it, I had to fly to our nation's capital on 9/11. I expected harrowing security and many delays. On the contrary, from journey's start at Sticks airfield to its conclusion at good ol' Reagan National (which, I figure, I had not been to in decades) was very smooth. No extra intrusions, and no unusual searches.

The real power of terrorism never been what the terrorists can actually accomplish in terms of death and destruction. Their power comes from what we do to ourselves in reaction to a terror event. Our attitudes and our emotions are both the target and the real weapon of the terrorist. Our best response as a nation, and as a people is to "be not afraid."


Sometimes I Hear Banjos

At times it seems there's a danger of this blog getting absolutely serious. As absurdity is always around us, and seems to be particularly good at finding the editorial staff of the Minor Premise, though, this is not something we ever need fear for long.
I was hesitant to post today's absurdity as a regionalism is involved, but I had so much fun with it myself I decided that I really ought to toss it out there for the general benefit.

Our community's free left-leaning culture-and-columns tabloid runs a regular column to which the readership is invited to submit commentary via phone or email. (You probably have one of these in your community too; you know the drill.) One of this week's comments read as follows:

I see that Hephzibah has agreed to a cease-fire and is giving away $12,000 in U.S. hundred-dollar bills. Where do I line up?

Hephzibah is a semi-rural community south of Augusta, GA known for having within its limits some rough trailer parks and a sizeable population of what the Delaney Sisters referred to in their autobiography as "Rebby Boys," so its having to agree to a cease-fire with somebody is not entirely implausible. Hephzibah giving out money is a different matter, although given the histories of some local officials the possibility is likewise not implausible. As the local news outlets failed to take note of any recent hostilities in that area, however, one has to conjecture what might have prompted this comment. Some possibilities:

The caller was actually under the impression that hostilities in Hephzibah had recently ceased and wished to be certain of being in the correct location for the disbursement of funds.

Some of the accents in this area are sufficiently unintelligible that even the locals are unable to decipher them.

It is time for the editor-in-chief to sit down with the copy editors (they don't seem to have any of these, but they do have some "interns" which may be part of the problem) and have a serious talk about expectations.

The paper recently hired Emily Litella to man their phone.

I can just picture it:
"Emily! It's Hezbollah. Not Hephzibah. Hezbollah has agreed to a cease-fire."
"Ohhhhh? Never mi-ind."


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Thoughts for September 11

Act with courage, and may the Lord Be with those who do well.
2 Chronicles 19:11

In memory of the police and firefighters who gave their lives in the service of others Sept. 11, 2001, and in honor of all police, firefighters, and rescue workers:

The noblest service comes from nameless hands.
And the best servant does his work unseen.
Oliver Wendell Holmes

The first verse of the U. S. national Anthem is often sung and fairly well-known; the subsequent verses are infrequently sung and frequently forgotten. I add one below that I believe is particularly relevant today:

Oh, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation;
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust!"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.
Francis Scott Key

What stands if freedom fall?
Rudyard Kipling

Labels: ,

Odds and Ends

- Overheard: - Wine is all right. God made wine.
- No man, God didn't make wine. That's something that man made. You shouldn't drink that stuff
- No, God made it. It's all right. Remember, Jesus turned water into wine at that wedding
- Yeah? But he didn't drink it.

- Pulled from wreck on local road: Man wearing T-Shirt that read "I do all my own stunts!"

- "It is the duty of France and Europe to show that the clash of civilizations is not inevitable. No one retains this wisdom, inherited from our history, as we, French and Europeans, do." -- French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin

- and finally, from the Huffington Post, an opinion piece from noted political writer, excuse me, movie director
Rob Reiner. A question -- where were you, Rob, when Oliver Stone put out JFK, blurring the lines between reality and entertainment.

Try substituting "Oliver Stone" for "ABC" and "JFK" for "Path to 9/11," in some of the passages and see if you don't find the whole thing a bit ironic.

Is ABC [Oliver Stone] trying to say that 9/11 [the JFK assassination] wasn't dramatic enough? That they have to add dramatic scenes to this already horrific event? Are they serious?
Then we find out that these "added dramatic scenes" . . . [are] pointing the blame of the 9/11 attacks [the JFK assassination] at President Clinton [Nixon] and his cabinet members.


Friday, September 08, 2006

This cannot be tolerated

Davidnic at Italian American Catholic relates a recent account of the kidnapping of a young Catholic woman in Egypt. The full story, to which he has linked, is here.

David and Neferteeti, an Egyptian Coptic Orthodox blogger living in Australia, post regularly on such cases, which are not only not that unusual, but are generally accompanied by local officials and the Egyptian government looking the other way if not outright obstructing justice. Religious minorities in Islamic countries often have little recourse in cases against Muslims, and the motive in these cases is forcible conversion--either because the perpetrators believe this will score them points with Allah or because they seek to humiliate the families of these girls.

It is easy for the perpetrators to hide behind the pretense that the girls eloped and converted willingly (although some 'converts' are not of majority age and cannot legally make that decision.) The girls themselves are sometimes shown publicly acknowledging their conversion, although in many of these cases there is evidence that drugs, coercion, or brutality is behind these "acknowledgements."

The government of Egypt will continue to ignore these and other outrages against religious minorities unless the world community pressures them to do something about them. Suggestions on the original post that David cited as well:

Contact your bishops about this case in particular (the young lady is, after all, of our flock) and similar cases. The Orthodox Copts, our brothers and sisters in Christ, suffer greatly as do other minorities.
Educate others about the persecution of religious minorities in Egypt.

Additional sites about this issue:
Middle East Forum
Although Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International seem disappointingly uninterested in religious freedom issues like this one, a little digging on their sites turns up acknowledgement of the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in Egypt.

Please learn about this issue, and do what you can.


from the 'absence of evidence isn't evidence of abscence' files

British scientists using advanced brain scanning found signs of awarness in a 23-year old woman previously diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state. The USA today story linked above dealt with this case with refreshing evenhandedness if not outright enthusiasm, for which I commend them.

A version in yesterday's De Moines register, which I found but couldn't seem to link to without problems, had a more pessimistic view of things: this case "complicates one of medicine's ethical minefields."

Oh, I dunno. Just how complicated is, "Wait! That patient is alive!"?

Researchers are quick to urge caution--obviously you don't want to give family members false hope. But this and other evidence that 'PVS' patients may still be there up to a point ought to make us all think long and hard before we try to justify starving somebody to death.

In the year following the death of Terri Schiavo, I observed with interest a number of other reports on similar cases that appeared in the news. A couple were widely-publicized cases of recovery or improvement, a third was evidence of a couple of male PVS patients showing brain activity when family members spoke to them. Always, the reporter writing the story dedicated a couple of sentences to jumping through hoops assuring the reader that 'this case was different from the Schiavo case,' even though they could never seem to come up with a difference worth beans to show for it.

Labels: ,

Thursday, September 07, 2006

update on Wake Island

According to this story on Air Force Link, destruction from Typhoon Ioke was less than expected on Wake Island, and there did not appear to be any oil spills or hazardous material releases. A Coast Guard cutter was to have arrived today to contain any such.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Wake watch

As of Sept. 1, the Air Force was planning to fly over Wake Island, a military refueling outpost in the Pacific, to inspect damage after Supertyphoon Ioke passed over the island. The typhoon was expected to submerge the island and destroy nonconcrete structures. The continuing story here.


swamp tale

I took Alpha Dog along on a swamp walk yesterday afternoon. It was warm and hazy with the late afternoon sun filtering through the clouds. Biting insects had fallen off enough that it wasn't really a problem, and dragonflies--mostly green darners and whitetails--were all over. A number of butterflies were out; I was able to get a positive ID on a couple of monarchs. Usually it's just 'monarch or viceroy,' but these were pretty close up and at rest.

Alpha is as a rule pretty fastidious for a dog. Coming upon a pile of old scat (I think it was otter--there was an awful lot of crayfish chitin in it) she was seized by an urge (inspired, no doubt, by all the wildness around her) to revert to the wolf. Yep, she got down and rolled in it. Not just a perfunctory roll, either; she meticulously positioned herself and slid into it two or three times over my objections, shimmying as if to distribute the stuff over as much of herself as possible until sufficiently perfumed. Yuck. And I'd just bathed and flea-treated her, too. Fortunately her only interest in the copious coyote scat that lay along the trail was to piddle on it. Kind of a canid 'Kilroy was here' gesture, I suppose.

Except for the usual ubiquitous egrets, not a lot else was in immediate evidence. For several minutes I caught the echoing drum of what must have been a fair-sized woodpecker in the distance--deeper and more resonant than the drilling of the little ones around my neighborhood. I think the area has pileateds, and I'm sure it has some of the mid-sized woodies. The sound came from a woodlot a good distance away across open marsh, so getting a better look wasn't an option.

Everything changed in what seemed like a matter of seconds. A huge dark cloud rolled in and the wind, previously minimal, picked up. It was an isolated stormcell, common in these parts. It swept in as if from nowhere, stopping right above us. The wind increased. There I was, the tallest thing on the berm road except for the power poles, with a big dark cloud over my head like Al Capp's Joe Blfspk. (I think that's how it was spelled, anyway. Does anybody even remember Joe and his personal storm cloud anymore?) I started jogging in the direction of the nearest stand of trees and the parking lot, hoping the lightning didn't start up before I got there. Alpha, of course, was suddenly interested in the smells of small mammal trails alongside the edge of the berm. One thunderclap and she woulda been out of there, but until disaster looms, oblivious. Maybe we've brought them a little too far from the wolf. I yanked the lead and kept up the pace.

The wind was swaying moderate-sized trees by now, and birds were scattering for shelter. Smaller ones who tried to outpace the wind now veered off course; one smallish raptorlike bird clipped the powerline ahead of me, spun out of control, and crash-landed in a tree some yards away. But a big blue heron managed to cruise over unaffected at a higher altitude than the others. As I rounded the last bend to the parking lot, a pair of some of the biggest birds I've ever seen out there rose out of the trees ahead and coasted effortlessly to cruising level. I've never seen them before. Wood storks!

Yard eco: A small flock of common grackles, probably passing through, stopped off at the backyard feeder yesterday. They're kind of homely, ungainly-looking birds to begin with and the males looked to be minus the keeled tail feathers they have when breeding so they were not an attractive bunch. They cleaned up some of the seeds the squirrels had dumped on the ground, though, so I guess I shouldn't judge them by cover. Unfortunately, their presence while they were there did seem to be a disincentive to the smaller songbirds who normally visit. A couple of the hummers swooped in, took in the scenario, and got out in a hurry without stopping for nectar.

Two male house finches, healthy.


Monday, September 04, 2006

Fidel and Wake Watch

Don't panic (or cheer,) it's not his wake.
The Spanish side of Granma Online has a report on Chavez' latest visit with Fidel; there's not much else on him, as has been the case since his illness was announced, except the minimum necessary to remind us all he's getting better. I usually check both the Spanish and English pages when I go to Granma; it looks like the English side updates a little behind the Spanish, so maybe the story will be on the English side tomorrow. I caught a brief on the radio (must have been yesterday morning) about it so I'm sure the story's going around the U. S. news services.

I won't be holding my breath for his return to power; though I still wouldn't bet the ranch on anything. D doesn't figure on Raul giving up the reins at this point and it doesn't look like Fidel's gonna be in any shape to argue about it any time soon.

Supertyphoon Ioke has scored a direct hit on Wake Island, a Pacific atoll of strategic importance during WWII (and fought over extensively by Japanese and American forces,) August 30th. The only inhabitants of the island--188 Air Force Personnel and contractors--were evacuated ahead of the storm's arrival. VOA News has reported on this, as has the Hawaii Star Bulletin. The LA Times reports that weather sensors on the island were knocked out by the storm (not that much was expected to be left standing anyway) so I guess the reports will be coming in drips and drabs for a while. I plan to follow this story a while, and see what happens. The last time the island was evacuated about 30 years ago, no one was allowed back for three months.

Labels: ,

Love That Heavy Water -- Tehran, You're My Home

Found this on CaNN by way of A Daily Briefing on Iran . Check out either of those sites to find out the "health benefits" of refreshing heavy water.

Labels: ,

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Media Frenzy "Off the Mark"

Another parody for your reading and humming pleasure --
this one to the tune of the Beatles' "Drive My Car."

Apologies to John Lennon and Sir Paul McCartney

Newspapers are not selling too well
And TV news' ratings smell
We need something catchy, a story so mad
To get some readers and sell some ads

We can cover John Mark Karr
He's a real tabloid star
We can cover John Mark Karr
And we will make money

His confession made the story so good
and he knew things that no one could
The prosecution should all go just fine
Except for problems with place and time

Still we headline John Mark Karr
He's the talk of every bar
We can cover John Mark Karr
And we will make money

We couldn't wait to start right away
And then they came out with that unmatched DNA
There is no case and it's breakin' my heart
But I've got a book deal and that's a start

We can still use John Mark Karr
His prosecution we can tar
We can cover John Mark Karr
And we will make money


Meme of Five

I took a few days off from posting, just because I needed a break. Besides, school takes priority over my scribblings, and we've had a lot to do lately. I'll try to write something next week.
I did do some reading, and found a couple more good blogs courtesy of Boeciana. These were her own Living Scotland and
Laodicea, and Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog. The two former cover Catholicism and life issues from a Scottish perspective; the latter should be great fun if you're medievally inclined--all posts done in Middle English! Some of them are quite long (the latest, Serpentes on a Shippe, runs to five chapters,) so I will have to get D to show me how to read them offline again. (Cautionary note: If Middle English is not your bag, be very, very careful when purchasing T-shirts from this blog. Some of them will leave you red-faced should you wear them in the presence of English Lit majors or Creative Anachronists. All ME cognates are not what they seem!)

We were (collectively, we presume) tagged for the five-people-in-five-categories meme by the Ironic Catholic.
I'm submitting my answers below; D's on his own for his answers. The question is:

Which five _____ would you want to meet to hold a deep conversation? (people may be living or dead.)
I don't like that sentence; it throws off my grammatical Feng Shui. Let's try it again:
With which five _____ would you want to meet to hold a deep conversation?
Much better!

*Teresa of Avila (One of three female Doctors of the Church--and a woman with a reputation for a wicked wit, too!)
*Catherine of Siena ( Another female Doctor, who brought the church through the Avignon papacy.)
*Edith Stein (Jewish-born atheist philosopher-turned Catholic theologian-turned nun and Holocaust martyr. What a resume!)
*Francis of Assisi (Patron of ecology, preacher to the birds and beasts. Should be great to listen to when inspiration is sorely needed.)
*St. Thomas More (Advocate for female education, philosopher; had the guts to stand up to Henry VIII. Probably one humdinger of a conversationalist.)

Those in the Process of Being Canonized:
*The Georgia Martyrs (Died defending the sanctity of marriage.)
*Bl. Damien de Veuster of Molokai (Needs no intro.)
*Fray Junipero Serra (He's been attacked so much lately for happening to be part of the Spanish conquistador establishment, I'd like to get his take on things.)
*Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha (Even though she's not official yet, there seem to be more and more young girls bearing her name. Besides, a pre-colonial Mohawk Indian would probably have some stories to tell!)
*Ven. Bede (Could probably give a top-notch history lecture!)

Heroes From Your Native Country:
*Thomas Jefferson (Not known for being much of a conversationalist, but perhaps if you got him started on his museum specimens, books, music, architecture, or agriculture...)
*Ironic already used one of these, but John and Abigail Adams. Together over tea, perhaps.
*Benjamin Banneker (Largely self-taught engineer and surveyor who completed Washington, D. C. Once made himself a working clock with all parts of wood. Was also the grandson of an interracial marriage at a time when those were technically illegal, and likely had to overcome a good deal of racism in his life.)
*Ida B. Wells (Gutsy muckraking black lady journalist and newspaper editor who exposed lynching and other abuses in the Jim Crow South.)
*Sequoiah (Devised the Cherokee alphabet and written language.)

*J. R. R. Tolkein
*C. S. Lewis (Could I just sit in with a full meeting of the Inklings at the Eagle and Child, perhaps with a pint of Guinness?)
* G. K. Chesterton (Reputed to be very witty as well as a brilliant Christian apologist.)
*Jane Austen (Well, that could end up being a gossip-fest, and get us both extra time in Purgatory.)
*Mary Wollstonecraft (18th-century feminist, author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women. Personal life unfortunately a bit messy. Mother of Mary Godwin Shelley, although she died before Shelley could have any memory of her. Hence that abandonment theme in Frankenstein.)

*Roy Chapman Andrews (Swashbuckling naturalist/ paleontologist of the 1920's and '30's-- an Indiana Jones type. Probably had an ego the size of the Gobi Desert, but I really enjoyed his book when I was a kid.)
*Laura Bush (I'm guessing she could use a good mocha latte and conversation right about now.)
*Danica Patrick (And I promise not to ask her how long she's been a woman race car driver.)
*Jim Caveziel (Just how does a devout Catholic survive Hollywood?)
*Reese Witherspoon (She seems almost normal, for a denizen of the 'Wood. Besides, I hear she's a Virginian. Real, not Northern. Just kidding, Dear.)

I'm not sure who to tag, and I don't think D has any ideas either, so I'll just tag (for both of us) anyone who reads this post and feels like participating in the meme.