Thursday, May 31, 2007

A little perspective on gas prices

What to do about — choose the adjective — "spiraling," "skyrocketing," "out-of-control" gas prices?

Well, we could try a little perspective. In 1981, Americans spent 5 percent of their household budget on gas and oil. Last year, despite "skyrocketing" gas prices, Americans spent 3.8 percent.

Fascinating if true. I don't have access to the old data, but it does seem like a reasonable set of assertions that this man is making.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Old Mass New

A SENIOR Vatican official has confirmed that sometime soon Pope Benedict XVI will expand permission for use of what’s popularly known as the Latin Mass, the service that was standard before the Second Vatican Council. Though some details remain vague, one point seems all too clear: When the decision officially comes down, its importance will be hyped beyond all recognition, because doing so serves the purposes of both conservatives and liberals within the church, as well as the press.

Pope Benedict’s intent, according to Vatican authorities, is to make the pre-1960s Mass optional, leaving Catholics free to choose which Mass they want to attend. Because the older Tridentine Mass, named for the 16th-century Council of Trent, has come to symbolize deep tensions in Catholicism, the pope’s decision is sure to trigger an avalanche of commentary.

And I will not be part of it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


(='.'=) This is Bunny. Copy and paste bunny into your
(")_(") signature to help him gain world domination.

It would be somewhat ironic if there were allegations of police brutality


New Delhi, May. 29, 2007 ( - Police in India have arrested about 4,000 people taking part in a New Delhi rally protesting violence against Christians, the AsiaNews service reports.

Police arrested nearly all the participants in the rally, which was staged near the parliament building in New Delhi.

And the comment that takes the cake:

India claims to be the biggest Democracy in the world. Imagine if it were not. By the way how you put 4,000 people inside a police station? Maybe India has the biggest police station in the world.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Saxton on sex-selective abortion

Yes, most people who think abortion is a good idea are rational human beings, if a bit confused, and tend to see the problems with things like this, even if they can't articulate why.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Happy Pentacost to all

Last night I threw a bit of a Pentacost party/scripture study, which will continue today. Good times. I highly recommend a little digging into the relevant texts, as well as whatever commentary you can dig up. You might find it rather interesting.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Book Report - Lost Worlds

A book seemingly about nothing. And the author seems quite the atheist. But I can't resist a book that explains and speculates about things long gone. Especially not if they're British (though I often wondered what exactly he was talking about, translator may be necessary).

I'm not quite sure that I understand the point the author was trying to get at with his writing. Something a bit like "Change has been good" with a lot move "Change has been bad" mixed in there. Probably somewhat close to my own sentiments. In particular, his meditation on death was quite good.

Pentacost is coming . . .

Which means, of course, that I've thus far neglected to comment on Shavuot. Not that I have very much of interest to say, beyond a late well-wish. But hey, I'm always up for holidays where you're supposed to stay up all night. Good times.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Guitars and Song on Ascension

I went to 10 pm mass at Newman Hall at Cal Berkeley this Sunday for the Feast of the Ascension. The break from my normal routine of Tridentine Latin Mass at St. Margaret Mary's was due to the fact that I ran the Bay to Breakers that morning and was busy Saturday evening so I missed the opportunity for a vigil mass as well.

I've gone to this mass a bunch of times on similar occasions when I was busy on Sunday mornings, and some of my community members like to go to this mass. I've often had mixed feelings about it. The church itself is rather Spartan and is in a massive concrete Soviet-style building. The priests are friendly enough and I like the darkness and candle-light. The one thing that consistently bothers me however is the music. It's strange because many of the hippie-style guitar songs I actually like because I grew up going to a church with music like that. Songs like "Eagle's Wings" do make me feel a bit warm and fuzzy inside. However sometimes I worry that the music is too distracting and the focus is not on the sacrifice of the mass. Sometimes it strikes me as more of a music service with readings and prayers sandwiched in. That was one of the reasons I got turned off to Novos Ordo and began attending the traditional mass: I felt that the Eucharist was more properly celebrated in the traditional mass.

Still a lot of questions have been buzzing through my mind regarding music and its place in the mass. I navigate a diverse array of churches between the Bay Area and New York and have seen all sorts of liturgical styles, from gospel music, hippie-guitar music, to Latin Gregorian chant and Russian Orthodox Slavonic. I have enjoyed aspects of all these styles. Still often I wonder if I should be more of a purist and be more wary of music that is used more for entertainment value than meditative/inspirational value.

Lately I've taken to singing in prayer on my own. I have found this can be very helpful for meditative prayer, particularly with the psalms. I can go as slow or fast as I like, picking a tone and rhythm appropriate to the theme of the psalm. Sometimes however, as in any prayer, I can lose focus and be distracted by the singing and lose sight of the lyrics. This is especially true if I am struggling with tune.

Recently I attended a Sacred Harp singing in Berkeley for my first time. It was amazing and I wanted so badly to join in, but I struggled so much to follow the music and my voice is terrible and I am tone-deaf. I could only squeek out a few words. I wish I could sing better, so that I could cultivate my talent for an art form like that. Ironically, my inability to sing has let me to discover the joys of private singing. My praise is for God's ears alone and I do not have to be ashamed of my voice as it is God's gift given for His glory, and I will use my little sound in the universe to honor God as best as I am able.

This is sort of a rambling post, but I was wondering what others thought, particularly about the place of music, instruments, and even dancing in the liturgy. I err on the side of tradition because I have seen so much experimentation go terribly badly and I am afraid to divest the mass of any of the dignity it warrants. Sometimes I think things like Sacred Harp are good for small group private worship, but don't belong in the Church. Sometimes I think even the organ should be left out and we should lift up only our voices. Other times I have enjoyed the organ and other instrumentation.

Any thoughts? What's a Catholic to think when every church seems to be inventing their own music style and just about every option from rock concert style teen life masses to Pre-Vatican liturgies are offered in the same area. Is it all harmless experimentation and should people be free to do whatever moves them, or should we stick to some more orthodox standard?

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Tonight I have begun a wonderful journey into the world of pottery, moulding a misshapen goblet of sorts out of a block of glorified mud. It was quite a wonderful experience, seeing something come to life before my eyes that someone who wasn't a complete geek could appreciate. I haven't done anything this productive since I quite being an actor (the productive thing was quitting, not acting). I'd prepare something religious, but I feel as if I'd be overcome by an urge to hurl it from a tall building.

Perhaps that last line was a joke that could only be appreciated by Columbia Catholics, or anyone else still living in the liturgical fallout from the 1970s to any extent.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Best piece of prose I've read this week

The work in those smoke-filled rooms — and in Iraq, unlike in modern America, the cliché is still applicable because everyone still puffs away — can go on whether Parliament is formally in session or not, as long as the major Iraqi leaders agree to remain in the Green Zone. If a deal is concluded, it’s possible to call Parliament back into session to ratify it. If no deal is concluded it doesn’t make any difference whether Parliament is in session or not.

As you can probably guess, I've spent most of my time deep in the recesses of T-SQL manuals. But still. There's a certain simplicity to it. Plus I like the idea of politicans actually smoking as they work.

Monday, May 21, 2007


Just a little plug for a charity that's trying to expand a chicken farm. Why do I like the idea so much? That whole thing with giving a man a fish vs. teaching him to fish. If you give a man a chicken, he'll eat it. If you give him a few dozen chickens - omlettes for years. Good times. I think there's also a website out there where you can buy livestock for needy farmers. Also sounds like a good idea to me, if anyone can pitch in w/ the details


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Ghost in the Machine

Saturday, May 19, 2007

What a life

I lived alone, and the only other work I was doing was writing for PC Magazine. As I worked on the book day after day, I kept going to bed later and later. Every young coder knows what it's like to pursue a problem for hours on end like that. I found working at night very peaceful. The telephone never rang, and many of the stores were closed (even in New York City) so there weren't many distractions. If necessary, I could always run down to one of the all-night neighborhood delis for — oh, this was so long ago — cigarettes.

Sometime during the year, I was staying up so late that my days and nights became swapped. "How are you doing with the book?" I remember someone asking. "OK, I think," I said. "I'm listening to the radio a lot. But I'm going to bed after Morning Edition and getting up in time for All Things Considered."

I enjoy few things better than a late-night coding session, particularly if I can augment my insomia with really cheap food. O for the late night kernel hacking sessions brought on by one Angelos Keromytis. Of course, at the time, they almost induced a nervous breakdown. But it's a lot better looking back. In fact, I may be feeling the need to do it again . . .

Friday, May 18, 2007

Seperation of what?

Led by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the Congressmen had accused the Pope of offending “the very nature of the American experiment” for his statements “warning Catholic elected officials that they risk excommunication and would not receive communion for their pro-choice views.”

“Religious sanction in the political arena directly conflicts with our fundamental beliefs about the role and responsibility of democratic representatives in a pluralistic America,” the Congressmen stated. “It also clashes with freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution.”

Somehow I missed the part of the Constitution where it says that the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over the Church Universal, or that people shouldn't be allowed to have consciences. Reminds me of the old line - John Kerry didn't run on a platform of the seperation of Church from State, he ran on the seperation of John Kerry from God.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Today is the Ascenion of Our Lord

I have nothing much to say on the subject, but today would be a nice day to go to church and sing. I just like Dalí:

Fr. Gregory Says:

On the 16th May, the Church celebrates the Ascension of Christ. This is a vitally important feast for Orthodox Christians as it affirms a central truth of our faith. Simply put, it is that in the resurrection of Christ, our humanity has been refashioned, glorified. This is a new creation of God in which even the physicality of our new bodies is not constrained by the spatial and temporal limits of the spacetime continuum in this Cosmos, (as we might say today).
We must not suppose, therefore, that Christ literally ascended into the clouds and had to use an oxygen mask, then later a vacuum sealed space suit. What nonsense is this! Rather, Christ ascended to the Father, taking our humanity, glorified with him and in him. This is why Christ came, to complete the work that the Father had intended for our good in creation.

The Greeks have a nice explanation of this icon:


Oh No She Di'nt

"Mother Teresa tirelessly fought to protect unborn children, while Hillary Clinton staunchly supports abortion on demand in all nine months of pregnancy, including partial birth abortion and taxpayer funding of abortion," he said. "Out of respect to Mother Teresa, and the Missionaries of Charity strict guidelines for the use of Mother's image, we call on the Hillary Clinton campaign to immediately remove her image from their campaign video."

At approximate 2:26 into the video, the former President says, "Hillary in effect, was the face of America…in India" with a photo of Hillary waving alongside Blessed Teresa. The video then goes directly to a clip of the former First Lady's address at the 1995 Beijing Conference, where a push was made to declare abortion a fundamental "human right."

Mike the Geek Says:

This is what happens when a society loses all concept of shame. I can't help wondering whether Mrs. Clinton is waving to us, or just holding up her middle digit. How long before we have images of Jesus or the Blessed Mother morphed into photographs to endorse bathroom cleaners?

See? I knew I never liked that woman. #*@!ing carpetbagger, taking my state hostage for her political aims:

And now Bl. Teresa of Calcutta:

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007


They traveled through the Phrygian and Galatian territory
because they had been prevented by the Holy Spirit
from preaching the message in the province of Asia.
When they came to Mysia, they tried to go on into Bithynia,
but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them,
so they crossed through Mysia and came down to Troas.
During the night Paul had a vision.
A Macedonian stood before him and implored him with these words,
“Come over to Macedonia and help us.”
When he had seen the vision,
we sought passage to Macedonia at once,
concluding that God had called us to proclaim the Good News to them.

I was reading Memory and Identity and came across JPII's reference to this passage as being quite mysterious, and then it showed up in the daily Mass reading on about the same day. Mysterious indeed, that the evangelization of Europe started at the request of a Macedonian of some sort, and quite fortunate for all.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Back from Scotland

My first time in a country with an established church of sorts. It was a bit disconcerting seeing all sorts of public monuments dedicated to God, not to mention coins boldly proclaiming Her Majesty as Defender of the Faith. However, there was something oddly reassuring about it. Not that I find a great deal reassuring about the Church of Scotland, somewhat less so after attending a Sunday service oddly lacking in any -substantiation, cons or trans. But still.

Feast of St. La Salle!


Founder of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools
Patron of Christian Teachers

John Baptist de La Salle was born into a world very different from our own. He was the first son of wealthy parents living in France over 300 years ago. Born at Reims, John Baptist de La Salle received the tonsure at age eleven and was named Canon of the Reims Cathedral at sixteen. Though he had to assume the administration of family affairs after his parents died, he completed his theological studies and was ordained a priest on April 9, 1678.Two years later he received a doctorate in theology. Meanwhile he became tentatively involved with a group of rough and barely literate young men in order to establish schools for poor boys.

At that time a few people lived in luxury, but most of the people were extremely poor: peasants in the country, and slum dwellers in the towns. Only, a few could send their children to school; most children had little hope for the future. Moved by the plight of the poor who seemed so "far from salvation" either in this world or the next, he determined to put his own talents and advanced education at the service of the children "often left to themselves and badly brought up." To be more effective, he abandoned his family home, moved in with the teachers, renounced his position as Canon and his wealth, and so formed the community that became known as the Brothers of the Christian Schools.

His enterprise met opposition from the ecclesiastical authorities who resisted the creation of a new form of religious life, a community of consecrated laymen to conduct gratuitous schools "together and by association." The educational establishment resented his innovative methods and his insistence on gratuity for all, regardless of whether they could afford to pay. Nevertheless De La Salle and his Brothers succeeded in creating a network of quality schools throughout France that featured instruction in the vernacular, students grouped according to ability and achievement, integration of religious instruction with secular subjects, well-prepared teachers with a sense of vocation and mission, and the involvement of parents. In addition, De La Salle pioneered in programs for training lay teachers, Sunday courses for working young men, and one of the first institutions in France for the care of delinquents. Worn out by austerities and exhausting labours, he died at Saint Yon near Rouen early in 1719 on Good Friday, only weeks before his sixty-eighth birthday.

John Baptist de La Salle was a pioneer in founding training colleges for teachers, reform schools for delinquents, technical schools, and secondary schools for modern languages, arts, and sciences. His work quickly spread through France and, after his death, continued to spread across the globe. In 1900 John Baptist de La Salle was declared a Saint. In 1950, because of his life and inspirational writings, he was made Patron Saint of all those who work in the field of education. John Baptist de La Salle inspired others how to teach and care for young people, how to meet failure and frailty with compassion, how to affirm, strengthen and heal. At the present time there are De La Salle schools in 80 different countries around the globe.

Born at Reims, France April 30, 1651
Ordained priest April 9, 1678
Died April 7, 1719
Beatified February 19, 1888
Canonized May 24, 1900
Proclaimed Patron of Christian Teachers May 15, 1950

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

One Year

One year ago (movable time) I finished the last final of my Columbia career (Networks with Dan R, an excellent class and an excellent final). That means a year ago (movable time) today I was probably sitting on my rear wondering what exactly I was supposed to do.

Now I'm getting ready to deploy a new version of a messaging library. Fun.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A most intelligent statement

Media folk conventionally refer to the "JFK speech" they think Romney has to give. But that's not the right speech. Kennedy — our first Catholic president — divorced his public political life from his private religious life, an awful approach. Romney is likely to do what he's always done when asked questions about his religion. He talks about common values despite facing some challenges from the press.

Chris Matthews, MSNBC host and moderator of the debate at the Reagan library, asked Romney if Catholic bishops should deny Communion to pro-choice politicians. Well, that's none of his business, Chris — he's a Mormon and he's running for president of the United States, not pope.

Romney gave an excellent answer. He said, pitch-perfectly: "I don't say anything to Roman Catholic bishops. They can do whatever the heck they want." He continued, when bizarrely pressed by an oddly earnest Matthews, "I can't imagine a government telling a church who can have communion in their church. I can't — we have a separation of church and state; it's served us well in this country."

I wish I could have put it that well myself. But I can't. So I'll just point to this.

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Monday, May 07, 2007


Change afoot?

It may be a far leap to consider that Sarkozy's Jewish ancestry may have any bearing on his policies vis-à-vis Israel. However, many expect Sarkozy's presidency to bring a dramatic change not only in France's domestic affairs, but also in the country's foreign policy in the Middle-East. One cannot overestimate the magnitude of the election of the first French President born after World War II, whose politics seem to represent a new dynamic after decades of old-guard Chirac and Mitterrand. There is even a reason to believe that Sarkozy, often mocked as "the American friend" and blamed for 'ultra-liberal' worldviews, will lean towards a more Atlanticist policy. Nevertheless, there are several reasons that any expectations for a drastic change in the country's Middle East policy, or foreign policy in general, should be downplayed.

I don't know a thing about French politics, but this man does seem worthy of some closer investigation. Given some time, I would undertake it. Alas, for now I must remain uninformed.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Ah, those bishops

n a joint April 25 letter signed by the Bishops of Connecticut, Archbishop of Harford Henry Mansell, and Bishop of Bridgeport William Lori, the prelates state: "It is important to repeat that Connecticut's Catholic hospitals do provide emergency contraception." Later in the letter they add, "We would not object to passage of a statute that would require all hospitals to adopt protocols requiring the distribution of Plan B to sexual assault victims when medically appropriate."

Yes, I agree. That's never, right? I hate to disrespect a bishop, but I really wouldn't mind a good tar and feathering for them right now.

Remember, not all is well in India

New Delhi, May. 4, 2007 ( - "The government must protect Christians," two large Indian groups have insisted in a plea to their country's government leaders.

The two largest Christian organizations in India, the All India Catholic Union and the All India Christian Council, called for action after the latest act of violence against a Church representative: the brutal murder of a Protestant missionary in the presence of his family.

Having a few Indian students in my class, I'm always worried they'll come in one week with the news that their grandparents have been killed.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A most fascinating article about the most fascinating people

A PDF containing the USCCB's report on people becoming priests this year and various statistics, dry and otherwise, about them. The biggest revelation:

Relatively few ordinands say that TV, radio, billboards, or other vocational advertising was instrumental in their discernment. About one in five says that websites influenced their discernment. Nearly three in four report that they have seen the “Fishers of Men” DVD, published by the USCCB.

Yeah, I don't know I'd be so happy if eighty percent of priests in the US decided to become priests after watching a TV commercial. I'll file that in the good statistics category.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Power to the people

An online uproar came in response to a series of cease-and-desist letters from lawyers for a group of companies that use the copy protection system, demanding that the code be removed from several Web sites.

Rather than wiping out the code — a string of 32 digits and letters in the specialized counting system — the legal notices sparked its proliferation on Web sites, in chat rooms, inside cleverly doctored digital photographs and on user-submitted news sites like

“It’s a perfect example of how a lawyer’s involvement can turn a little story into a huge story,” said Fred von Lohmann, a staff lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group. “Now that they started sending threatening letters, the Internet has turned the number into the latest celebrity. It is now guaranteed eternal fame.”


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

May 1, 2007 - Feast of St. Joseph the Worker

Prayer To Saint Joseph for Workers

Joseph, by the work of your hands
and the sweat of your brow,
you supported Jesus and Mary,
and had the Son of God as your fellow worker.

Teach me to work as you did,
with patience and perseverance, for God and
for those whom God has given me to support.
Teach me to see in my fellow workers
the Christ who desires to be in them,
that I may always be charitable and forbearing
towards all.

Grant me to look upon work
with the eyes of faith,
so that I shall recognize in it
my share in God's own creative activity
and in Christ's work of our redemption,
and so take pride in it.

When it is pleasant and productive,
remind me to give thanks to God for it.
And when it is burdensome,
teach me to offer it to God,
in reparation for my sins
and the sins of the world.

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