Monday, September 29, 2008


This weekend I enjoyed watching Wordplay. It's a documentary about crossword puzzles, the people who construct them and the people who solve them - specifically following an annual tournament where puzzlers meet and compete. These people they showed solving crossword puzzles competitively have high-capacity brains. Strange machines. The documentary showed one man finish a NYTimes crossword in 2:02! That's two minutes and two seconds. I can't even read all the clues in that amount of time.

Anyway, it spurred me to print out my own sample crosswords from the NYTimes and try my hand at them. And while I won't be puzzling competitively anytime soon (read, never), I did find myself having a great deal of fun. I've never done many crosswords in the past (I don't know why, being a word nerd) and so it was new ground for me.

The crosswords in the Times apparently are easiest on Monday and gradually become more difficult throughout the week, becoming extremely difficult by Friday and Saturday. My first go was at a Tuesday puzzle and my second, yesterday, I tried solving a classic Thursday puzzle. I was not able to finish either puzzle without the help of a dictionary and even then I had a few blanks. The Thursday puzzle I finished in 1:45 - that's one hour and forty-five minutes. I imagine the more you solve the easier they become. And I'll try to move away from cheating with a dictionary. Really. Or at least treat it like war - first exhausting all other options.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

First Debate


Nothing new last night. Nothing earth-shaking or jaw-dropping. Wouldn't it be great if we just let the two candidates debate with one another - you know, argue? Civilly, of course. Let them sit down and hash it out, drinking whisky, smoke hanging in the air above them and half-filled ashtrays before them, as they discuss rogue nations and nuclear proliferation. Something more dramatic, more film noir. That would be a debate worth watching.

Maybe the veeps will take it there.

If they don't, perhaps I will.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The BBQ Song: A Musical Primer for All Y'all

Pillow Talk, the Last Days and the Obamanation of Desolation

I don't know whether you've heard, but Obama is the Antichrist. No, no. It's true. I read it online. I've even gotten some e-mails that verify what I've read online. (And, did you hear? he's black.)

Now some are not so brazen. Some would never talk about Obama being the Antichrist, but perhaps might make a passing comment on the eschatological possibilities to his wife as stories of the crumbling of one financial institution after another crowd radio waves and jam up satellite beams. Endless conversations about our economic situation being the worst since the Depression. Fundamentalist Islam and Jihad. Russia. China. North Korea and Iran. "Maybe these are the Last Days ... , " he says, as he surfs between Fox News and 24.

Let me clear the waters a bit: If Obama is the Antichrist, then there is nothing you can do to stop his meteoric rise to power and worldwide domination. Not even Palin can stop that. It is pre-ordained. So stop sending the e-mails already. If we rapture, we rapture. Restrain your delight long enough to get your What-to-Do-if-You-Find-You've-Been-Left-Behind videos (your We-Told-You-So videos) ready. Wipe off the dust. Maybe set up a display table in the foyer.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Sensuous, birth is full of contrasts and archetypes, meaning. It is the intercourse of heaven and earth. It is God encountering woman in her pain and joy, sweat, blood, expectancy. A kiss. A rendezvous. A revelation. We are enamored. God's breath, awake, unveiled; the Divinity reaching into clay and pulling a person from it. Two. Three.

Surprised at surprise. Caught unprepared again, thirty-eight years in, I stir to.

Life is too great, too glorious. There is suffering. There is pain. But there is, also, limitless joy that leans out from little things, like an upturned, red-capped mushroom, a defeated umbrella pooling rainwater. Like morning glory bedding on a rusted sign. Like a newborn covered in blood and vernix, trembling. Joy entwines itself in the pain, curls about it, over it, and purples. Glory subsumes all suffering, at a glance.

Drums Ready, Please

I was playing Monopoly Junior with my son Will the other day and trying to teach him how to roll the die. He would vigorously shake his hand with the die clutched in it and then place the die on the game board. Usually on the number of his choice, as it happens.

"Will," I said, the fifth time in, "That's not how you roll."

"That's how I roll," he said.


Friday, September 19, 2008

The Constitution, the Whole Constitution and Nothing but the Constitution

I thought this interview a fascinating conversation on The Diane Rhem Show, mostly because of the parallel I see with the Reformational concept of sola Scriptura. I'm not saying there's a one-to-one correlation here, only that as I listened to Tribe talk about the "invisible Constitution," the similarities were striking. (Tribe is no conservative, by the way. There's quite a bit of empty rhetoric here on abortion.)

We are not, as Christians, people of the book, however, but people of the Word of God, the Word made flesh. Though certainly Christ is made present to us in the hearing of the Scriptures. Please, don't understand my beliefs about the Scriptures as an attempt to belittle them. As a Catholic, I venerate the Scriptures. (Catechism, sections 101ff.).

For Dan

HT: Happy Catholic (But could be happier if she were a Mac)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

St. Silouan: His Mercy Is Past Portrayal

My soul yearns after the Lord and I seek Him in tears. How could I do other than seek Thee, for Thou first didst seek and find me, and gavest me to delight in Thy Holy Spirit, and my soul fell to loving Thee. Thou seest, O Lord, my grief and my tears. Hadst Thou not drawn me with Thy love, I could not seek Thee as I seek Thee now; but Thy spirit gave me to know Thee, and my soul rejoices that Thou art my God and my Lord, and I yearn after Thee even to tears.

The Spirit of Christ whom I had of the Lord desires the salvation of all, that all should know God. The Lord gave the thief Paradise. Thus will he give Paradise to every sinner. With my sins I am worse than a noisome cur but I began to beseech God for forgiveness, and he granted me not only forgiveness but also the Holy Spirit, and in the Holy Spirit I knew God...

My soul knows that the Lord is merciful but his mercy passes portrayal. He is exceeding meek and lowly, and when the soul sees Him she is all transformed into love for God and her neighbour, and becomes meek and lowly herself. But if a man loses grace, he will weep like Adam cast out of Paradise... O Lord, grant unto us the repentance of Adam, and Thy holy humility.

- St. Silouan, Orthodox monk, +1938

HT: Daily Gospel

Medieval Me

Your result for The Who Would You Be in 1400 AD Test...

The Prioress

You scored 3% Cardinal, 74% Monk, 53% Lady, and 43% Knight!

You are a moral person and are also highly intellectual. You like your solitude but are also kind and helpful to those around you. Guided by a belief in the goodness of mankind you will likely be christened a saint after your life is over.

You scored high as both the Lady and the Monk. You can try again to get a more precise description of either the Monk or the lady, or you can be happy that you're an individual.

Take The Who Would You Be in 1400 AD Test at HelloQuizzy

HT: Happy Catholic

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Geneva's Large Hadron Collider

So they turned on this atom smasher yesterday, this ginormous atom smasher. The good news is that, contrary to the fears expressed by some (and even a filed lawsuit to stop them from proceeding), the earth was not turned inside out like a dirty sock. But then time will tell. They're hoping to learn some interesting things about physics with this monster and I wish them the greatest success. And that I don't die.

Here's a link to a First Things article today that talks a little about the collider.

Among other things they're hoping to find out more about how this whole universe came into being. Maybe spin off a couple of tiny black holes. Learn more about theoretical particles and dark matter. Insanely geeky stuff like that.

Here's a picture with an itty-bitty man inside the collider to give you some reference for size. It is huge: Its circumference is 17 miles. They'll begin bumping and grinding particles on October 21. I'd suggest Confession the weekend before, but that's just me.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Palin 2: Equal Time

To say that I don't get Sarah Palin does not mean that I don't like her - just that I don't get all tingly when I think about her. I'm cautious about her because she's a wild card - I don't feel like I know who she is or how competent she is. She may do swimmingly. She may even be wicked good. I'm waiting.

In the meantime, it unnerves me, as it unnerves many of you, that some in the press and some Democrats disparage her so. And all of it stems out of, or seems to from my listening to their coverage, the fact that she is staunchly pro-life. They despise that this woman (that any woman) could be against women's rights, against advancing women's health. They continue to ignore or reject or spin the fact that we who are for life are not against women's rights or against advancing women's health, but that we do not believe that any person - male or female - has the right to end human life, especially not the innocent among us. They refuse to acknowledge that we believe, from both theology and science, that life begins at conception. This is a life issue; it's a human rights issue for us rather than a civil rights issue. That it even needs to be said 30+ years into the disagreement is a sad commentary. The constant spinning from the Left, since Palin's selection, aggravates even me.

At least be gracious enough to understand that we approach the issue from two distinct places rather than label all who disagree with you as sexist or ignorant or just dumb. There is no danger of Roe v. Wade being overturned in the admission that we are in disagreement about when life begins, when human rights are given by God. The "new culture war" that the Left so lately chatters on about is not the doing of the Right, but rather the result of the silencing efforts of the Left. Yes, we still disagree. We haven't gone anywhere or become "enlightened." But, at the same time, our disagreement doesn't need to be a cause for apoplexy; it ought to drive us forward into conversation. Until we acknowledge what each of us believes, we will be doomed to "culture war." We need some domestic diplomacy.

That also means that those of us who are pro-life need to calm down. We must stop the name-calling and the diatribes and the condemnation. Those on the Left are people. Image-of-God people. People God loves and on whom he pours out his mercy - no more or less than you. It is not us-them (it never is with people), it is only us. And it is incumbent upon me to love them and to honor them. That is my obligation as a Catholic.

Nevertheless, I need to go clean up the kitchen. That, too, is my obligation.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

My Nothing Flowers

It's strange how my yard has begun to measure life for me as surely as a calendar, only lovelier. My argiopes (garden spiders) are one such marker, my spider lilies are another. And my spider lilies have come up. They appear out of nowhere in early to mid-September and they're gone as quickly as they came. They're fairy. Oriental. Perhaps it's their shy, lovely glances that so attract me. There is nothing boisterous about them, nothing demanding. They're tucked away under the shade of my river birch, almost hidden by its branches, almost lost. They bloom and they die, and if you miss them, you miss them. They're satisfied to be nothing. That is their glory. Like morning mist over the water, they mark summer's end.


I don't get Sarah Palin. Maybe she's like Facebook for me: I enjoy having the page, but I don't find it particularly engaging or addictive. I like the connection, certainly, I just don't get the buzz. (As I've said here before, I'm a little slow.) So the only thing Palin has going for her, that I can determine, is that she's your average Jane Evangelical. But I don't understand, as Peggy Noonan recently wrote, that she "killed" at the convention. I suppose it depends on your meaning and, perhaps more, your perspective. The only thing I heard at the convention from Palin was trash talk - and not even uncommonly good trash talk, but just your ordinary trash talk that you read daily on conservative blogs. Rush trash. She came out swinging, certainly.

I like that she's pro-life. I love that she kept a baby with Down Syndrome and has a fairly large family. I like that she's able to come out after a week of media battery and deliver. I like that she's a woman and a mother and a wife.

Is there something more here, something I'm missing? Or is it simply that unenthusiastic McCain supporters ("Well, he's more pro-life than that baby-killer Obama") finally got someone ardently pro-life and unarguably alive?

Forgive my sarcasm.

I tease you because I love you.

1:21 p.m.

So I haven't been the ideal blogger lately. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa. And I don't have much to say at 1:21 p.m on Tuesday, except that while playing Monopoly Junior with my four-year-old son this morning, he said, "I wuv pwaying wif you."

Staying home with the kids isn't sexy or glamorous. But who needs rock and roll when you've got that?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Piper Hit a Home Run

I laughed out loud when I saw little Piper Palin with her brother. My girls do the same thing to our babies when we're not looking. It's insanely sweet.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Some Dostoevsky

"See, here you have passed by a small child, passed by in anger, with a foul word, with a wrathful soul; you perhaps did not notice the child, but he saw you, and your unsightly and impious image has remained in his defenseless heart. You did not know it, but you may thereby have planted a bad seed in him, and it may grow, and all because you did not restrain yourself before the child, because you did not nurture in yourself a heedful, active love. Brothers, love is a teacher, but one must know how to acquire it, for it is difficult to acquire, it is dearly bought, by long work over a long time, for one ought to love not for a chance moment but for all time. Anyone, even a wicked man, can love by chance."

(Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamazov. Trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2002. 319)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


"O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere and fillest all things; Treasury of Blessings, and Giver of Life - come and abide in us, and cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls, O Good One."

- Traditional Orthodox Prayer