Sunday, December 31, 2006

Adios 2006

At least it could end on the Feast of the Holy Family. Good riddance.

Saturday, December 30, 2006


A rather amusing article from the BBC about a man who claims to have answered the question of what 0/0 is, by giving it the name "nullity".

Now there are several problems to his claiming that this is a revolutionary development. The first, and most important, is that IEEE 754 came up with essentially the same answer about forever ago, only they called it NaN, not a number. So not original.

The second problem is that pretending that 0/0 is the same as anything else is, well, wrong. I'm pretty sure if you gave me ten minutes I could prove that 0 = 1, given his definitions. But I don't want to waste the brain time.

Bad BBC. Bad teacher.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Just typesetting today

I've decided to be a real man and learn TeX (that's a chi, not an 'x'), after a rough run-in with WordPerfect preparing this midterm. Hopefully I'll type up my documents in vi too. Yikes.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Flights of Angels Sing Thee to Thy Rest

Requiem Aeternam:

James Joseph Brown, Jr.
Godfather of Soul

May 3, 1933 - December 25, 2006

My first midterm

No, not the first midterm I've taken, but the first I'm to give, for my CCD class. I'm afraid to ask them anything that requires them to know much, but I'm also afraid that if I don't push them they'll never learn. Somehow the whole exercise seems quite wrongheaded, in that most of this stuff is probably going to be learned by osmosis more than by any other process (yes the head is a water-permeable membrane). But I guess if they keep telling me that the First Commandment is free speech, that's not too good of a sign and gives me something to work with in class.

I just hope no one cries.

Here's a few samples if anyone feels compelled to give feedback. . .

8) In your own words, define conscience

9) How often can we examine our consciences?
a) Always
b) Daily
c) Weekly
d) Monthly

25) What part of the Eucharistic Prayer is the consecration?

26) The first two readings at mass come from the Gospels - T / F

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Single-mom IVF

An eloquent example of the anguish this causes was the case of Katrina Clark. The Washington Post on Dec. 17 told the story of the undergraduate student at Gallaudet University, who described how at 18 years of age, "I haven't known half my origins."

Clark was conceived by means of an unknown sperm donor, when her mother was 32 and afraid she might otherwise not have a family. But, as Clark explained, the debate over IVF tends to concentrate on the adults, with sympathy toward those who are trying to have children. Many of the resulting children, however, suffer from emotional problems.

"It's hypocritical of parents and medical professionals to assume that biological roots won't matter to the 'products' of the cryobanks' service, when the longing for a biological relationship is what brings customers to the banks in the first place," she explained. Clark's investigations led to her recently discovering her father, but many other IVF kids are not so fortunate.

Remember, children are a commodity for the pleasure of adults. You can make them when you want them and destroy them if they come around when you don't want them. All the same stuff.

Until some of them grow up and start to complain.
Until some of the m

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Radical education

The recommendations include ending high school for most students at age 16, after 10th grade. Students passing a state-run exam that meets national standards would move on to community colleges or job training. Others who pass would stay in high school for Advance Placement or International Baccalaureate work leading to admission to four-year colleges. Those who failed the test would return to high school until they passed. The money saved by lopping off the last two years of high school — $60 billion a year — would be used to double teacher salaries and fund pre-school for all 4-year-olds and all low-income 3-year-olds.

In order to attract teachers from the top third of college graduates, starting pay would average $45,000 a year — a level that is currently the mid-career national average — and then rise to $95,000, with possible increases up to $110,000 for teachers who work year-round or in demanding situations.

Radical, and sounds like it might be fun for all involved. However, I've read some literature that shows that sitting around in a high school waiting to drop out actually adds to your earning ability. I should do some digging around and write a mini-article comparing that data to this plan.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Ho ho ho

If your name happens to be "Carolus Magnus", today is a very special day for you, because the Pope is going to give you a Christmas present. Everyone else - be merry.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas Eve

You still have a little Advent left to turn things around. It's never ever too late.

Saturday, December 23, 2006


Sorry for being not present for a few days. It was ugly.

So right into the cheery topic of loan-mongering.

The loans are quick and easy. Customers are usually required to leave a predated personal check that the lender can cash on the next payday, two or four weeks later. They must show a pay stub or proof of regular income, like Social Security, but there is no credit check, which leads to some defaults but, more often, continued extension of the loan, with repeated fees.

In many states, including New Mexico, lenders also make no effort to see if customers have borrowed elsewhere, which is how Mr. Milford could take out so many loans at once. If they repay on time, borrowers pay fees ranging from $15 per $100 borrowed in some states to, in New Mexico, often $20 or more per $100, which translates into an annualized interest rate, for a two-week loan, of 520 percent or more.

Just something to think about.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Support building for the Missal of 1962?

More than 50 French intellectuals, led by René Girard of the Académie Française, joined in Un manifeste en faveur de la messe tridentine (“Manifesto in favor of the Tridentine Mass”), published Saturday in Le Figaro. On the same day the Italian daily, Il Foglio, ran a similar statement, also signed by Girard, along with several other signatories including Antonio Socci and Franco Zeffirelli.

. . .

The French statement quotes the Pope’s statement, written well before his election to the papacy, that the crisis in the Church “is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy.” The manifesto goes on to applaud the Pope’s decision to recognize the new Institute of the Good Shepherd, an institution of French priests dedicated to the Tridentine rite. The Figaro statement notes that the Second Vatican Council called for the Church to recognize all legitimate rites, and “she wishes to preserve them in the future and to foster them in every way.”

Perhaps the spirit of Vatican II will be replaced by the words of Vatican II.

I'm not the biggest fan of the so-called 'old mass' for various reasons, but I don't see why we can't celebrate it whenever, wherever. I mean, if we can have guitars in Mass, why can't we have Latin?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Kids on classic video games

I feel so old.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Is it work?

So today I've been working on getting my Christmas lights display up and running. This presents an interesting moral quandary, if not one of great size, given that one shouldn't work on the Lord's day.

Arguments of it being good:

1. My mom asked me to do it. I seem to recall I'm supposed to obey my parents, to a point.
2. It's for God, sort of.
3. Ever since I started teaching CCD, it's hard to get a sense that Sunday isn't a workday.
4. I'm not sure that testing a million Christmas lights in a tester is really considered work in most parts of the world.

The flip side:
1. My back hurts.
2. It took about four hours of good spiritual reading time.
3. I had to take off my tie to do it or risk strangulation.

The Magisterium may never rule on this question, so I shall be left to ponder.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Dollar bill tracking

My latest obsession, inspiried by a reading of Coins magazine. You put in serial numbers from bills, and wait for others to stick 'em in, and see where your currency goes. Not the most exciting activity in the world, but it's contributing to the store of human knowledge.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Rabbi Grinch?

Or, what's the proper place for religious symbols in public?

I tend to agree with the article insofar as I'm not sure why so many people like to display Christmass trees and then tell you they're holiday trees . . . and talking about the pagan origins of Christmass trees just means you're celebrating pagan religion instead of [insert denomination of your choice] religion. Let's call a tree a tree, and skip it if not.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Leveraged Sell-out

My life?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Happy Our Lady of Guadalupe Day!

Now that's the holiday season I'm talkin' 'bout.

Website of some goodness.

Monday, December 11, 2006


Just impressed by the COMMON DECLARATION BY HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI AND PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW I which was released about two weeks ago.

In particular:
As far as relations between the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople are concerned, we cannot fail to recall the solemn ecclesial act effacing the memory of the ancient anathemas which for centuries have had a negative effect on relations between our Churches. We have not yet drawn from this act all the positive consequences which can flow from it in our progress towards full unity, to which the mixed Commission is called to make an important contribution. We exhort our faithful to take an active part in this process, through prayer and through significant gestures.

Prayer and significant gestures. During my entire time at college, I don't recall once ever reaching out to the Orthodox Fellowship on campus. And I feel as if I'll have to answer for my omission sooner or later. Mmm.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The latest episode of "CCD students say the darndest things"

Me - "Do we have to go to church on any days that aren't Sundays"
Student - "No"
Me - "What about Christmas?"
Student - "You don't have to go to church on Christmas, you sit home and play with your toys"


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Ouch for the Prison Ministry

The courts have taken a different view, however, when public money goes directly to groups, like the Iowa ministry, whose method of helping others is to introduce them to a specific set of religious beliefs — and whose success depends on the beneficiary accepting those core beliefs. In those cases, most of the challenged grants have been struck down as unconstitutional.

Though, they in fact don't adhere to a specific set. Minor detail.

Friday, December 08, 2006

I will buy a beer for anyone who gets this reference by Sunday

DDT and CO2: Let Us Now Praise Famous Chemicals


This man knows exactly what he’s doing. (At least, when he’s making movies.) I had no trouble with the subtitles — it’s a visual story anyway. And it took only a few minutes for me to relate to the characters. They may be ancient Mayans, and I may be a Polish Jew babyboomer who grew up in the Bronx, but we have the same elemental things in common.

In fact, the last time I was mugged was an awful lot like the final scene in the movie.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A retroactive day of silence for Pearl Harbor

And for the vigil of the Immaculate Conception

Looking for icons for that special someone?

Look no further! (Unless you want some of the really good stuff).

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Orwellian abortion

In his essay "Politics and the English Language," Orwell said, "What is above all needed (in honest speaking) is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way about."

During the two hours, I often heard references to "fetal demise." What they were actually talking about, some of us would say, is the killing of a human being.

I'm very strict about language not because I enjoy being a PITA, but because I fear the consequences of rampant linguistic relativism. Once you yield a sentence to someone that they shouldn't have had, they've won their point in the eyes and hearts of anyone who doesn't stop and think about the argument. Which is lots of people.

Of course, I do have a little saying to annoy people when they use the word "gender". "Gender is a characteristic of an inanimate object, like a noun. Sex is a characteristic of an animate being, like a squirrel. Adjectives have gender. People have sex."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Unprecedented Challenges

Vatican, Dec. 5, 2006 ( - Cardinal Tarciscio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, has told Italian educators that the task for training children today involves unprecedented challenges, and requires full cooperation among the parties involved.

For example, kids who don't bring their books to class. Amazing.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Now there's a cardinal with some you know whats

London, Dec. 4, 2006 ( - After British Prime Minister Tony Blair said that Church leaders need to “face up to reality” regarding condoms and AIDS, the country’s ranking Catholic prelate has fired back.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of Westminster told a BBC interviewer that the distribution of condoms has failed to stem the spread of AIDS in Africa. He disclosed that some African bishops have complained to him that “their dioceses are flooded with condoms,” yet the disease continues to spread.

In an earlier interview broadcast by MTV, Prime Minister Blair-- who is widely believed to be considering conversion to the Catholic Church-- said that it is “silly” to believe that moralistic solutions will curb the epidemic in Africa, and argued that, rather than “being prissy about it,” world leaders should encourage people who are sexually active to use condoms. That approach is endangered, he said, “if we have a sort of blanket ban from the religious hierarchy saying it’s wrong to do it.”

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor argued that the approach suggested by Blair has already been tried, without producing positive results. The public advocacy of condoms, he said, has “meant more promiscuity, and more AIDS.”

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Just in case anyone's looking for a random deal that'll help digitize those old religious flicks

Plextor PX-402U refurb, 87 bucks.

Same thing, new, 50 bucks.

I'll think I'll pay less for the new one personally, and DVDize a lot of old footage I have around . . .

Merry Christmas?

Feeling grinchy this Advent? A great idea I picked up from First Things - send a Christmas card to the ACLU!

125 Broad St, 18th floor, NY, NY, 10004

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Times gets busted

EL SALVADOR, November 27, 2006 ( - On April 9, New York Times reporter Jack Hitt produced what may be called a 'hit piece' against the pro-life movement in El Salvador. The piece, laden with scare tactics, culminates in his tale of woe of a woman who he says had an illegal abortion when she was 18 weeks pregnant and was sentenced to thirty years in prison. The only problem with the story is that the woman was found guilty of strangling her full-term baby shortly after her birth.

Details, details.

Happy New Year's eve

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