Long Time, No Post: Roundin’ Up Them Strays

With enough LSD, this looks good! We were spared the ugly 70s vestments, but not the state of mind that brought them into being. 

1. Evidently, the ’70s Detox Didn’t Take? 

And so the disorder was allowed to fester?

As you may recall, the readings this past Sunday were all about how we Gentiles get to be part of Team Chosen People, too! Huzzah! Caught two homilies. In the first, Father was trying to expound on the idea that those rejected by the powers that be are often those who recognize Christ and know Him deeply, and used the Good Thief to illustrate, thus: He says: I deserve this. I am a victim. I am a person of crime. (Those were his exact words.)

A person of crime? A victim? WTH? So, how does he deserve to be crucified? The rest of the homily was about the same level of coherence. As part of the dance of inclusiveness, wherein we suppose that Church teachings ‘evolve’ over time in such a way that more people are ‘included’ in the sense of having their previously condemned *behavior* now ‘accepted’, we got a gloss on the end of St. John’s Gospel –

30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

– presented as if it were a quote, to be saying that all four Evangelists are picking and choosing sayings and stories to address the concerns of the Christians of their time. No issues with that last point, it is certainly one good way to read Scripture, it just that it doesn’t follow at all from what John wrote. (Another more interesting way to read it: there’s more to your faith than what’s in Scripture.)  And, it was presented in such a way as to convey a certain message to those who wanted to hear it in a certain way, while not saying it too baldly. 

There are some people, it seems, who do not treat language as primarily a means to convey thought and meaning, but rather, like tail wagging or throat displays, a way way to convey certain feelings and group membership. Or something – at least, for someone expecting a coherent thought to emerge, listening to this homily was like listening to a unselfconsciously tone deaf person belting out ‘tunes’. 

The second homily is more of the ‘you had to be there’ school: a deacon, who is no doubt a holier man that me (not to set the bar on the ground or anything – but, seriously, he seems like a good guy) started out by mentioning that reading “The Ugly American” was a formative feature of his education, and that he’s been all over the world, and has no trouble fitting in. Somehow, this was tied to the Canaanite woman in the Gospel, who, it was explained as if it were a simple fact, was really a member of a Greek trading community. See, the apostles, who were getting bugged by this woman who kept pestering Jesus, and so wanted Jesus to give them permission to chase her off. But since the concept of flustered Jews on their own turf wanting to be left alone by a crazy Gentile woman (and the possible subtext of the Apostles’ frustration with Jesus just ignoring her and thus escalating the encounter) isn’t as zingy as Ugly Americans, we’ll shoe-horn in this one story with some book telling us how badly Americans behave toward non-Americans.

I mean, I guess. It was just weird. The overall context was ‘values’ – you know, the word you use when you’re not comfortable talking about truth. One thing we Americans, ugly or otherwise, used to think was that there were self evident truths we all agreed on. What almost everybody misses is that this is less a confident philosophical assertion than it is a political statement about what you need to agree on in order to build a nation from diverse parts. See, our nation was not founded by Aristotelians or Thomists – it was founded by people who thought Hume and Locke and Descartes were rockin’ philosophers. They may not as yet have realized exactly how deep that rabbit hole went – Kant, Fichte and Hegel were just getting started at the time of the Declaration and Revolution – but they could see that all truth was, if you followed the anti-Thomists, dubious. But you can’t build a nation on doubt: therefore, you assert in the teeth of your philosophy and common sense the religious proposition that all mean are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable right. Because if you don’t insert that, any nation so conceived doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell. 

Anyway, it is grimly amusing to hear a child of the 60’s talk about values, and respecting values, and how my values aren’t any better than your values, and about Christian values as if the only issues to be decided are which end of the egg to open. Values-talk is such an insipid watery soup. Perhaps if he’d read O’Conner’s A Good Man is Hard to Find rather than Ugly American…

2. Finished finished that triple-decker bunk bed. Put on rails, got mattresses. Just in time for 2 teenage girls to sleep over. It’s cool. Now, have a small mound of scraps & paint and finish I’m to turn into shelves and a clothes rack. Comparatively small project.

BUT: the Great Books man-cave (OK, it’s a big desk in a corner of the bedroom with ample bookshelf space – but it’s a man-cave to me!) is coming along very nicely. I even – hope you’re sitting down – got to start digging into the book backlog! Hurrah! Which leads to: 

3. About one-third of the way through Count to a Trillion, the first book in John C. Wright’s epic space opera. So far, it is totally excellent. More detail when I finish. 

4. Next up: Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. Hey, it’s better than whacking one’s self in the head with a ball-peen hammer. I hope. 

5. Finally, Dr. Boli strikes again – this time, with a snippet from a 1855 book on manners, explaining tolerance as opposed to approval. Read the whole thing there – here’s a snippet of a snippet: 

It may be known, as a matter of fact, and innocently related, that such a man is a fire-worshiper; that such a woman knits on Sunday; that another eats his Welsh rarebit with mustard; that Miss Jones has the misfortune to be devotedly in love with her friend’s husband; or that Mrs. Thompson accepts the free-love theories of the Fourierists. But when such matters, the love or the mustard, become causes of persecution, there is a very gross violation of the first principles of good manners.


I Do Too Sometimes Sort of Complete Projects!

(We will return to our regular fare of Science! news mockery, bitter (but true!) analysis of schooling, and half-baked philosophizing soon, I promise. But not right now.)

For example, here is the almost finished, partly usable triple bunk bed I’ve been sort of working on for the past month or two:


All that’s left is to add rails to the top and middle bunks. Here are some details:


The sides are maple veneer plywood; the uprights are just construction-grade 4x4s. That’s a brass Allen screw, mostly for looks – I had been concerned about lengthwise stability, so wanted to tie the boxes to the uprights on the sides as well as the end pieces.

After consideration, routed a half-round bead on the top edges of the boxes. This gives a funky exposed plywood edge – but it came out OK.

Satin finish all around, except for the white gloss uprights, and some clear gloss on the bottoms of the boxes (had a quart, might as well use it).

Tried to leave no exposed screws, but had to put in a few on the faces to tie in the boards that spanned the width – so, plugged and sanded them and tried to tie them in to the overall design:


On the left-hand side, three rungs connect the upright, making a ladder to the middle bunk; on the right, it’s six rungs making a ladder to the top.

Anyway, it was fun. I think, as I get old, I’m finally getting halfway decent at this woodworking stuff.

NOW, finally, I can get to setting up that Great Books man-cave in the corner of the bedroom, sort of a library/computer/reading desk combo. Then I’ll learn Greek and write stories and, and – life will be perfect!


Weekend Up-Rounding/Music at Mass Lite

1. Had the volunteers from the local Birthright over for a thank-you pancake breakfast yesterday, sponsored by the board. Made syrups from the abundant fresh fruit we have out here in California this time of year:

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Really, really tasty, IIDSSMS.

It was good. The volunteers do good work.

2. See Us, Lord, About Your Next New Car! Stop driving that old junker, dripping with accretions and ossified manualisms! Let us put you into a brand new 2014 model. Act now, and we’ll throw in the PC upgrade package for a nominal charge…

Oops, I mean, See Us, Lord, About Your Altar. Not at all the same thing! Well, maybe a little:

See us, Lord about your altar,
Though so many we are one;
Many souls by love united
In the heart of Christ, your Son.

Hear our prayers, O loving Father,
Hear in them your Son our Lord;
Hear him speak our love and worship
As we sing with one accord.

Once were seen the blood and water:
Now are seen but bread and wine;
Once in human form he suffered,
Now his form is but a sign.

And so on. I thoroughly expected this to have been written by one of our separated brethren, trying to water down the Real Presence to acceptably Protestant levels. The author was a “J Greally, SJ” – so, right again! But, unexpected, Fr. Greally evidently lived well before the 1960s, even writing “See Us, Lord, About Thine Altar” without being purposely retro or feeling forced to get old school in order to fit the metrical corner he wrote himself into.  Of course, OCP ‘corrected’ that failure to get on the right side of history.

A little Googling around turned up this discussion of this song. The tune, by Elgar, a real composer, is pretty good; the text is all kinds of confusing. It’s an evidently early example of sneaking in bad theology by means of simple incoherence, and flattening prayer from its supernatural cruciform shape – reaching up, and reaching out – into just reaching out.

But, who knows? At the very least, there are much better texts.  Too bad the nice tune is wasted here.

3. The latest home improvement project is coming along. Here are a group of teenager doing some layout on the triple decker bunk bed we’re making:


The fair haired beauty is my daughter, the raven-haired beauty her friend, and the handsome young man who appears to be preparing to knife them is my son.

We’re at the tedious assembly and paint stage. Should have it mostly put together today (I hope – it’s hot out there…)

4. Pride parade today in SF – wall-to-wall media coverage. From the pics, which one should peruse with the St. Michael Prayer on one’s lips, the crowd looks about the same order of magnitude as the West Coast Walk for Life.  One could hardly get more press; the other is all but invisible.

Two thoughts: a child exposed to the out-of-control sexual expressions typified by the parade in any other venue would be a victim of child abuse (and, yes, one year I accidentally saw the parade in person on my way to the movies; the pictures in the press tend to be way on the milder side). Second, the divisions within the movement – why, for example, it’s now called the Pride Parade rather than the Gay Pride Parade – have within them the seeds of the movement’s destruction. They manufacture unity by trumping up and demonizing the enemy: the Catholic Church and other fuddy-duddies stuck on the wrong side of history, pretty much. On what basis do you try to mix and match such divergent groups that, really, have nothing much in common other than a need to have us all admire the beauty of their particular lust being played out for all to see?

I’ve long said that the gay rights movement is being used by the more power-hungry and less scrupulous(!) as a means to an end: those dreaming of power* have no real allegiance to gay rights, but love to use it as a stick to beat up their real enemies – those who, as a matter of principle, oppose their power grabs. Once that’s out of the way, the gay rights true believers better hope they don’t run afoul of the designs of their new masters, whose only love is power, and whose only virtues are Callicles’s.

* The Oracle: “What do all men with power want? More power.”

5. On a lighter note: Nah, can’t think of a lighter note at the moment. Gotta go out and play with the glue, sandpaper and paint. Trying to make something beautiful and useful is good for the soul.

The Week That Was

That certainly flew by.

1. For the next month, or perhaps longer, I shall be working in San Jose – 50 miles from here. This translates into about 3 – 3.5 hours/day in a car. Historically, I’ve moved to be closer to work when the one-way commute exceeded 20 minutes. Now, however, since this will run a limited time, and I’ve got this wife and kids, I’m going to just do it.

The scenery is usually nice, especially for next the month before everything dries up and turns brown until next November.

Fallout: very little posting. Boo, and, I might add, hoo. But it also provides ample time for prayer, meditation, listening to EWTN and TRYING NOT TO GET KILLED BY MANIACS ON THE FREEWAY!!!! Now, how much and what quality of prayer I’ll get in is open, but hey, can’t say I’m not getting plenty of opportunity.

2. I got a year older – at this point, I’m aging digitally. I made dinner, we had sorbet for dessert, and watched Princess Bride with the kids – it was good.  I’m named Joseph after St. Joseph, being born on St. Joseph’s day and all. I’m grateful I didn’t come a couple days early – I’d have made a lousy Patrick.

3. Do you ever want to do something, then think: OK, but I’d better do this other things first, then remember that you have to do that thing before you do this thing and – well, what appeared to be a simple task results in major, multi-stage work that takes forever? A year ago, when I began studying Greek, I wanted to have a desk to spread out materials where I didn’t need to pack them up and put them away every evening, as I needed to do when I used our dining room table. I have such a desk in the music room, long abandoned to being a repository for stray junk – and the music room is really just a sheet-rocked area in the garage, I wanted more comfort than that. The plan: move the desk to the bedroom. Easy-peasy, right?

By a doom fell and certain, logic inescapable established that I must first get a new TV – don’t even ask, but it works.  I’d never purchased a TV in my life, since its only use for me is watching videos and now Netflix – on commercial channels, by the second ad, I’m thinking, in the words of an all-pro defensive back, of tackling “three feet past” the TV – which would damage the walls. PBS – let’s not go there. Anyway, our third free  hand-me-down TV that we’d had for 15 years  was starting to flicker a bit (after about 30 years of total use), and those flat screens had come down in price so much – well, it was time.  But: the letterbox shape of the new TV was not going to work in the roughly square area vacated by the old TV. So:

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This is a media case I just built. It holds almost all our DVDs, old video cassettes and CDs – freeing up space for the new TV! And adding a month or two further delay in getting the desk moved into the bedroom. See, in order to have room for this new case, a nice bookcase had to be moved – where? Why, the bedroom, of course! That meant rearranging things so that I could add both the desk and the bookcase. And so on and so forth, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

I’m getting close, I can feel it! Just need to find permanent homes for the junk squatting on my desk (including an old Mac tower circa 1999, and a rack of computer music geegaws and a giant old CRT monitor and…) THEN clean the spare rug that’s going under the desk and – I got to stop thinking about this.

4. My beautiful and charming 16 year old daughter is the kind of odd duck that, were she not beautiful and charming, people would say: there goes one odd duck! But no one does, for reasons mentioned. For example: of all my kids, she would have been the last one I’d have suspected was memorizing pi out to 40 digits. She also took a look at the DVD, VCR and CD mess, and promptly alphabetized the whole thing. She also the one who reads massive numbers of books and wants a Great Books education. Of course, I’ve incorporated these data points into my understanding of this now lovely young woman, as a layer on top of my mental image of her as a tiny blond 3 year old with an inscrutably content expression standing in the bathtub covered from head to foot in unnaturally red popsicle drippings. It is going to be very odd to hand her over to some guy to marry.

5. In the Drafts folder: part 2 of Economics for Catholics, in which we discuss what it means to be poor in the modern world; The Nature of Our Addiction, in which is discussed how it is that we have been wounded by the current education model, such that it is folly to believe that we all the sudden see everything clearly and reason rightly just because we’ve managed to pick up on the schooling game; as well as more stuff on Science! I’ll get right on them in the couple hours I’ll have to write on Saturday mornings for the next month – when I should be moving the desk.

6. This Crimea thing is such a complete shock. Where would anyone ever get the idea that a totalitarian nation ruled by a tyrant would use the excuse of protecting its nationals that just happen to be in what some historical accident or meddling do-gooders have determined to be another country entirely to seize territory? As someone of Czech heritage, I find the whole idea flabbergasting! My sympathy goes out to our administration, which must have been completely caught off guard by this.

7. This just cracks me up:

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A beverage company proud enough of its hot water to present it with a flourish.

Jen Fulwiler does this thing. Check it out.

Weekend Roundup:

1. Went to see the latest Star Trek flick with the fam at the local multiplex. It was OK. Best line I will immodestly claim for myself: after viewing the latest murder- and explosion-laden trailer  for the upcoming Lone Ranger flick, I whispered to my wife “I don’t think they’ve quit captured the subtle understatement of the original.”

2. End of the Year party for DVS. The agony and the ecstasy:  part 1, the Agony. Daughter # 2, age 15, baked a cake in honor of this year’s graduate, but, as temperatures reached 100F plus, the nice tower collapsed:

Leaning Tower of Fondant

The cake, with layers of vanilla, chocolate and red velvet, was (briefly) raised up on those little pillars like a wedding cake. It sported little mortarboards made out of fondant-wrapped little cake pucks with  fondant squares and little tassels. It was completely delicious nonetheless, but daughter was sad.

3. Part 2: the Ecstasy: Background: at this school, the kids are responsible for making stuff happen – the end of the year party is one thing that always gets plenty of attention. This year, there were a large number of little boys who got involved, and voted to have a Minecraft party. A whole bunch of kids came dressed up as characters, with heavily pixelated weapons. Son #2, age 17, decided to build a life-size Iron Golem, a character from the game. Thus:

As depicted in the game
as realized in plywood and spray paint
as realized in plywood and spray paint

 The most common reaction: “Wow”.  Every little boy and several little girls came by to look at it, get their pictures taken with it, ask who made it.

So, lesson for dad, who provided a lot of help in the execution of the piece: Even if you don’t see the point in spending many hours building a large awkward item that will likely just get used once – go with your son’s instincts. BTW: he did all the engineering, and has pages of detail showing exact sizes, positioning and colors.

4. Mourning Doves are legendarily stupid. Or, rather, their environment of evolutionary adaptation was different from the human-rich environment they now find themselves in.

Or something. Anyway, we leaned an 8′ ladder against the wall on the patio, and then left for three days. Here’s what happened:


Of course, we’re leaving the ladder there and pretending we don’t notice the dove, who cooperates by freezing any time we get near. So, it’s been a couple weeks now, and we’d all be disappointed and a little sad if there end up not being any chicks, or if our remarkably inattentive dog notices.

Latest Home Improvement Project:

Hanging in the stair well, a bow rack for the kid’s bows, arrows and accoutrements:

Room for 7 bows, 3 recurves and 4 compounds – we have 2 recurves and a junior compound today.

This is one of those projects that looks good from a few feet away.

Son #2 donated a piece of antler he found for the drawer pull.

As long as you don’t look too close or subject it to any significant stress, it’s a good-looking piece! (Like so many projects, by the end I’m thinking: if I ever have to make another one of these, I’ll get it right! Yet, turns out one needs few dining room tables or bow racks in a lifetime….)