Saturday, May 30, 2009

Hurricane Lexy Zoe Has Landed

Oh me, oh my!

A 10-month-old Boxer (Zoe, formerly known as Lexy, who we must still call that until we get her somewhat used to the household) who has a limitless supply of energy being dropped into a household with a 10-year-old reclusive Lab/Dane mix (Pepper) and a 9-week-old Boxer (Wash) is ... well ... exciting to say the least.

The two youngest like to play but Lexy/Zoe overpowers the baby to the point where he is constantly seeking out shelter (under couches, under chairs, between peoples' leg) from the relentless onslaught of fun, Fun, FUN!

The venerable oldster had retreated semi-permanently to his bed in our bedroom to escape Wash. However, when Zoe/Lexy showed up we were delighted to see that he, surprisingly, was interested. All of us have experienced a bit of disorientation when he and she come running into a room as our brains automatically reference the previous pair of Daffy and Pepper and then must shake free to adjust to Lexy/Zoe and Pepper ... and their shadow, Wash. Clearly, Pepper feels that Boxer familiarity also. He was interested enough to follow her outdoors and then to assume his post on "Pride Rock" (also known as the top step into our sunken living room) to keep an eye on proceedings. They occasionally do a sniff-down, "nice to meet you" ritual. Biggest of all, Pepper actually has growled and bared his teeth at Lexy/Zoe when he had a bone and she tried to take it. Perpetually gentle and allowing himself to be bullied by any dog but Daffy, his self assertion was cheered and praised by the family ... and he is accepted by all as king of the pack.

She is a really sweet dog, with good manners (and house trained!) except for the occasional lapse of following someone up onto the furniture in a fit of enthusiasm. At which reprimands, she often just proceeds over the back of the couch onto the other side.

It is like a three-ring-circus but we can already see her quieting down occasionally. If we all live through this huge wind of energy she is injecting until she adjusts to everything, this is going to be tons of fun for everyone in the household. Already we have been laughing our heads off most of the time.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Other New Member of the Happy Catholic Household


Also joining us will be a 10-month-old female whose family travels so much they gave her up for adoption.

Rose and I will be going to pick her up today for her 5-day trial period, meaning that the check won't be cashed until after that time. She sounds like a dream dog ... still puppyish but house trained (woohoo!)

There was quite a lot of conversation last night about names. In the end, the only set of names we could agree on was either Buster and Lucille (from Arrested Development) or Zoe and Wash (from Firefly).

The winners: Zoe and Wash.

Although calling the puppy Wash does seem rather odd right now.

However, Zoe and Wash do both typify our family's personality (TV-wise) especially since Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog didn't have any memorably named characters that we wanted to be caught shouting in public after our dogs. Not that we're Joss-Whedon-centric or anything. Ahem.

As well, Zoe and Wash's personalities fit the Boxer personality best. Although all this is after-the-moment rationalization. But you knew that already. Right?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It's All Downhill from Here

A little midweek humor from Dr. Boli, who has other letters of the editor to peruse.
Sir:

We have grown weary of all these complaints that the government “wastes” billions of dollars on military hardware that does not work as intended. It is high time someone stepped up to defend manufacturers who put the interests of humanity above sordid profits. Are these self-appointed “watchdogs” entirely devoid of human feeling? The fact that most military hardware is inoperable as delivered is all that stands between us and Armageddon.

Sincerely,
Nicholas D. Chabraja,
Chairman,
General Dynamics Corporation

The Newest Member of the Happy Catholic Household

9 weeks old, he is known currently as Boxer Boy since we are trying to decide on a name. As we plan on soon acquiring a worthy playmate in the form of a Boxer Girl, we are looking at names that work well in pairs.

So far here's what we've come up with. These names reflect either Boxer personality traits or our family funny bone. We're waiting for Rose to get home to see if she has anything to add. If y'all have any ideas, just speak up!
  • Bonnie and Clyde
  • Fred and Ginger
  • Ruff and Tumble
  • Gomez and Morticia
  • Bogie and Bacall
  • Mickey and Minnie
  • Kang and Kodos
  • Tarzan and Jane
  • Boris and Natasha

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

2009 Cannonball Awards ...

... are now official!

Even if you don't care about these anti-awards, go read Carolina Cannonball's comments on each category. If you aren't laughing by the time you get through, then you need St. Phillip Neri's intercession to tune up your funny bone.

St. Philip Neri's Feast Day or "Did Laughing At Yourself Help At All?"

I have always been attracted to this saint without too much of a specific reason other than I knew that he loved to laugh. Then I read a bit more about him and saw that was reason enough. Joy and gaiety were so much a part of his normal disposition that Goethe, who esteemed him highly, called him the "humorous saint." It was his gay, blithe spirit that opened for him the hearts of children. "Philip Neri, learned and wise, by sharing the pranks of children himself became a child again" (epitaph). (from Catholic Culture.)

As Catholic Online says: If one had to choose one saint who showed the humorous side of holiness that would Philip Neri.

So it is no wonder that he appeals to me.

One of the stories that attracted me to him is this one from Beginning to Pray by Anthony Bloom. This is one of those classic saint tales that remind us no one is perfect ... so there is hope for each of us.
It is absolutely pointless to ask God for something which we ourselves are not prepared to do. If we say "O God, make me free from this or that temptation" while at the same time seeking every possible way of falling to just such a temptation, hoping now that God is in control, that He will get us out of it, then we do not stand much chance. God gives us strength but we must use it. When, in our prayers, we ask God to give us strength to do something in His Name, we are not asking Him to do it instead of us because we are too feeble to be willing to do it for ourselves.

The lives of the saints are enlightening in this respect, and in the life of St. Philip Neri just such an occasion is described. He was an irascible man who quarreled easily and had violent outbursts of anger and of course endured violent outbursts from his brothers. One day he felt that it could not go on. Whether it was virtue or whether he could no longer endure his brothers his Vita does not tell us. The fact is that he ran to the chapel, fell down before a statue of Christ and begged Him to free him of his anger. He then walked out full of hope. The first person he met was one of the brothers who had never aroused the slightest anger in him, but for the first time in his life this brother was offensive and unpleasant to him. So Philip burst out with anger and went on, full of rage, to meet another of his brothers, who had always been a source of consolation and happiness to him. Yet even this man answered him gruffly. So Philip ran back to the chapel, cast himself before the statue of Christ and said "O Lord have I not asked you to free me from this anger?" And the Lord answered "Yes, Philip, and for this reason I am multiplying the occasions for you to learn."
Which brings me to myself. (Yes, because it's all about me! Y'all know that well enough by now.)

Elizabeth had been talking about her hard day and then concluded, "I think I'm just stuck in pissy mode for a bit." I went into her comments box and mentioned that it was good not to waste those moods. "I pick something good to offer it up for and then remind myself that I can't learn to overcome these moods until I practice."

Which sounded so great. So wise. Until ... yep, just to show me to live what I preach, I had a morning like that the very next day. Had to burst right out laughing at my irritation at having to offer it up and take my own medicine so soon after writing a prescription for Elizabeth!

She then asked, "Did laughing at yourself help at all?"

Why yes, it certainly did. A sense of the ridiculous, especially one's own ridiculousness, is extremely helpful in regaining perspective.

And, back to the humor factor, we all know that The Curt Jester is all over the holy humor thing. As latest evidence, I proffer this little gem, based on "the recent reboot of J.J. Abrams' Star Trek based on an alternate time line."

Eon: Dragoneye Reborn


Eona is known as Eon. She has been masquerading as a boy in order to be eligible in training for a chance to become a Dragoneye. When the ascendancy tranfers from one to another of the 12 energy dragons that protect China, a new Dragoneye is chosen to help direct that power. Eon must hide her secret while simultaneously thwarting a plot to overthrow the throne. As well there is soul searching and a knowledge of self that is examined through several characters, not the least of which, of course, is experienced by Eon.

This sounds cliche but don't let that stop you. Some of the plot elements are predictable. For example, it was not difficult to guess what the problem was with the Mirror Dragon. Nonetheless, this book is anything but a cliche, I assure you. Set in a mythical land with echoes of ancient Japan and China, Alison Goodman has created something unique and compelling in this YA story that deserves to be read by adult fantasy readers as well. I originally read about this book in a review by Orson Scott Card that I encourage you to read as well. He describes more of the plot though without spoiling it and said:
"It's a terrific first novel in a fascinating world, fully realized by a writer who knows her craft and can spin a story.

... Eon deserves to be a smashing success."

I concur.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day: With Many Thanks to Those Who Gave All For Us


I can only offer my whole-hearted thanks and gratitude to those who gave their lives for their country.

Here are some past pieces from others that may interest and inspire. (I will add to these as I see more current pieces.)
Today our nation celebrates Memorial Day. Originally called Decoration Day, the holiday started spontaneously in 1866, when a drugstore owner in Waterloo, N.Y., sought to honor those who died in the recent Civil War. Townspeople joined Henry Welles' cause to commemorate the fallen, and they decorated the graves with flowers, wreaths and crosses.Today our nation celebrates Memorial Day. Originally called Decoration Day, the holiday started spontaneously in 1866, when a drugstore owner in Waterloo, N.Y., sought to honor those who died in the recent Civil War. Townspeople joined Henry Welles' cause to commemorate the fallen, and they decorated the graves with flowers, wreaths and crosses.

In short order, others joined around the country and by 1868, according to the History Channel: "Children read poems and sang Civil War songs, and veterans came to school wearing their medals and uniforms ... Then the veterans marched through their hometowns followed by the townspeople to the cemetery." Soon enough, heroes from other wars were honored as well, and the day became Memorial Day.

Abraham Lincoln described our country, in his message to Congress in 1862, as the "last best hope of earth."
  • Moving tribute from an Englishman (via The Anchoress who also has some other very good links that you should read):
    ... when the Americans speak of freedom, we should not imagine, in our cynical and worldly-wise way, that they are merely using that word as a cloak for realpolitik. They are not above realpolitik, but they also mean what they say.

    These formidable people think freedom is so valuable that it is worth dying for.
  • 10 Things to Remember About Memorial Day comes from Mental Floss

  • Lines and Colors has a good post featuring an artist who brought home a depiction of what our soldiers suffer in protecting us at home.
    Art depicting the horror or war is not often brought to the fore, even in museums where major pieces are part of the collection, so it often falls to places like the Hall of Remembrance to keep it on display.

    Actually, it’s up to us to look up and remember the images with which artists have tried to impress on us the inhumanity and tragedy of war, particularly when we are asking our friends, neighbors or sons and daughters to face it for any reason.

Once Again, Let Us Celebrate the Third Most Important Day of the Year


First is Easter, then is Christmas, then is ... my birthday!

As I have mentioned before, some people ignore their birthdays or don't want much fuss made. Not me. I OWN my birthday ... just something about it. Everyone in the household knows it too. (To be fair, they all regard their birthdays to be the third most important day of the year.)

You notice that only Jesus trumps this day for me ... so then imagine the place He holds to overcome a lifetime of "most important day of the year" before I became Christian.

Hannah showed the proper spirit several years ago when she was filling out a job application on Sunday and asked me what the date was. Then she answered her own question with, "Oh, wait. It must be the 22nd because I know Wednesday is the 25th." Yep, just like Christmas. All other dates are figured around this one.

I think that I am going to make a French strawberry tart. A very short crust, vanilla custard on the bottom, whole strawberries placed atop that, then brushed with a thin glaze of currant jelly (melted and cooled). Then refrigerated briefly to set the glaze. With some whipped cream perhaps? Yes, perhaps.

Also it is St. (Padre) Pio's birthday which is very cool. I couldn't find anything online that communicates the sense of joy and light-heartedness that I received while reading a biography of him. It was a photo of him with his head thrown back laughing that first made me notice him. I thought, "Now there is someone I could talk to..."
While praying before a cross, he received the stigmata on 20 September 1918, the first priest ever to be so blessed. As word spread, especially after American soldiers brought home stories of Padre Pio following WWII, the priest himself became a point of pilgrimage for both the pious and the curious. He would hear confessions by the hour, reportedly able to read the consciences of those who held back. Reportedly able to bilocate, levitate, and heal by touch. Founded the House for the Relief of Suffering in 1956, a hospital that serves 60,000 a year. In the 1920's he started a series of prayer groups that continue today with over 400,000 members worldwide.
And it is the Venerable Bede's saint day which is also very cool. You will never read a better death than that of the Venerable Bede ("Write faster!").
Even on the day of his death (the vigil of the Ascension, 735) the saint was still busy dictating a translation of the Gospel of St. John. In the evening the boy Wilbert, who was writing it, said to him: "There is still one sentence, dear master, which is not written down." And when this had been supplied, and the boy had told him it was finished, "Thou hast spoken truth", Bede answered, "it is finished. Take my head in thy hands for it much delights me to sit opposite any holy place where I used to pray, that so sitting I may call upon my Father." And thus upon the floor of his cell singing, "Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost" and the rest, he peacefully breathed his last breath.
Update
Many thanks to those who commented or emailed with birthday greetings!

The French Strawberry Tart was indeed divine and I am going to post the recipe soon. My loving family gave me some movies and books ... all much coveted with one surprise movie that I'd never heard of thrown in there. And dishes were washed, trash taken out, and many small favors done. I was Queen for a Day.

ALSO, now that we were back from our big summer trip, Tom put into action our pet search. We love Boxers and thought it would be great to have two of them at one time so they could truly play as they love to. Our first Boxer, Tory, was paired with our Chow Chow, who was a great dog but certainly didn't play the way she did. The second Boxer, Daffy, was paired with Pepper who, as a Black Lab-Great Dane mix, also didn't play the way she did. Through Craig's List we got a line on a sweet little 9-week-old male who we picked up yesterday evening. He is adorable and clearly is a people puppy from the get-go. When tired he loves nothing more than draping himself over someone's foot and conking out completely. This morning he continued to charm us with the fierce way he conquered a little nylabone ... jumping at it, sharply barking and growling at it, and then throwing himself on it to chew. Of course, there is the less charming fact that babies aren't so good at knowing when they are going to need to wet, but he's partway trained there so we just have to keep a good eye on him.

Next up, seeking the female to make up the pair ...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

May 24 is a Day of Prayer for The Church in China

I have always had a particular interest in China and more recently a conviction that I should be praying for Christians there so I was delighted to see Pope Benedict's declaration that today is a day dedicated to prayer for the Church in China.
Dear Pastors and all the faithful, the date 24 May could in the future become an occasion for the Catholics of the whole world to be united in prayer with the Church which is in China. This day is dedicated to the liturgical memorial of Our Lady, Help of Christians, who is venerated with great devotion at the Marian Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai.

I would like that date to be kept by you as a day of prayer for the Church in China. I encourage you to celebrate it by renewing your communion of faith in Jesus our Lord and of faithfulness to the Pope, and by praying that the unity among you may become ever deeper and more visible. I remind you, moreover, of the commandment that Jesus gave us, to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us, as well as the invitation of the Apostle Saint Paul: "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim 2:1-4).

On that same day, the Catholics of the whole world – in particular those who are of Chinese origin – will demonstrate their fraternal solidarity and solicitude for you, asking the Lord of history for the gift of perseverance in witness, in the certainty that your sufferings past and present for the Holy Name of Jesus and your intrepid loyalty to his Vicar on earth will be rewarded, even if at times everything can seem a failure.
Here is the prayer that Pope Benedict composed for this day.
Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother,
venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title “Help of Christians”,
the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection.
We come before you today to implore your protection.
Look upon the People of God and, with a mother’s care, guide them
along the paths of truth and love, so that they may always be
a leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens.

When you obediently said “yes” in the house of Nazareth,
you allowed God’s eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb
and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption.
You willingly and generously cooperated in that work,
allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul,
until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary,
standing beside your Son, who died that we might live.

From that moment, you became, in a new way,
the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faith
and choose to follow in his footsteps by taking up his Cross.
Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyed
with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter.
Grant that your children may discern at all times,
even those that are darkest, the signs of God’s loving presence.

Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China,
who, amid their daily trials, continue to believe, to hope, to love.
May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world,
and of the world to Jesus.
In the statue overlooking the Shrine you lift your Son on high,
offering him to the world with open arms in a gesture of love.
Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses to this love,
ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built.
Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and for ever. Amen!
For those interested in Our Lady, Help of Christians, and May 24, here is some good info.

Amy Welborn also has oodles of good links about this entire subject.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Why the "Road to Emmaus" is One of My Very Favorite Stories

Here's the thing I have newfound appreciation for: In spite that instruction from the Master on a seven-mile walk to the village, it wasn't until "the breaking of the bread" that "their eyes were opened" and they recognized Jesus.

There they were, with the best teacher in the world literally giving them chapter and verse from God's own word, but they didn't or couldn't connect the dots until they stopped to eat in precisely the fashion that Jesus had commanded when he said "Do this in memory of Me."
And we all said, "Amen!"

The Paragraph Farmer has this "aha" moment in a very specific context that hadn't occurred to me. Go read it.

Just in case we don't get it ...

... The Crescat mentions that this is the last day to vote in the Cannonball Awards and then goes on ...
It's the anti-award, absolutely not to be taken seriously... at least not as seriously as those other "real awards". Why people get all worked over blogger awards always baffled me... maybe it's because I never have a shot in hell in winning a coveted "real award". I digress. You know the type of blog I am referring too, the one where the administrator is pimping their readers for votes... every. single. day. in every. single. post. ...

It's a celebration of great blogs written by regular people. It's a poke at ourselves and own desperate need for affirmation and recognition. It's a chance to discover a new blog or two. It's a chance to not take ourselves so seriously and just have a good laugh.

Who could find fault with those intentions?
Not me!

Though we all know that I love nothing more than a good blogger's race to the finish line. Check out the awards and vote today for your favorite blog. I have been remembering to drop by maybe twice a week and have been getting a great deal of enjoyment from the updates and "fruits."

A Contest I Will Be Entering

Okay, this is big, so pay attention:

Ever wanted to become an audiobook narrator? Ever had someone tell you you’re an amazing storyteller, that you’d be a natural at reading books for a living? Ever listened to an audiobook and thought, “Hell, I can do that”? Well, if so, then this is your chance. I’m officially announcing the beginning of my new contest: Share The Experience. The winner will find themselves plucked out of book-reading obscurity and dropped into the world of audiobook employment.
Heck yes!

Maybe it piques your interest as well? Then waste no time. Read all about it here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

He Ain't Heavy, He's My Angelic Brother

Angels of God
The Bible, the Church, and the Heavenly Host

by Mike Aquilina
Angels are persons. They can think, love and make choices. Like us, they have intellect and free will -- though their intellects make our own seem hardly worthy of the title; and their will is perfectly aligned with God's (at least in the case of the good angels), whereas our wills tend to veer and waver.

The fixity of the angelic will is the reason why we pray, in the Lord's Prayer, that God's "will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Here again, heaven means the realm of the spirits, not the expanse of the galaxies. We're praying not that we might be more predictable, like planets and asteroids, but that we might be as morally sure and true as the angels are.
Suffice it to say that it was easy to understand without dumbing it down. Altogether an informative and fascinating read about the angels and their relationship to us. It makes a good accompaniment to The Angels and Their Mission. There is some duplication of information but a surprising amount in both books stands as complements to each other. Some of that is due to their different foci in the authors' intentions for their books, naturally. For that matter, it also would be a good complement to The Rite. Although that book is about exorcism it is essentially about angels, albeit fallen angels. Reading Angels of God would be a good counterbalance for too much worrying that could come along with reading about a dark subject.

Although the subhead makes the book sound a bit dry, nothing could be further from the truth. With his customary clarity and thoroughness, Mike Aquilina not only enlightens us about angels but actually makes us realize that our angelic brethren are just that ... our brothers.
We are companions to the angels! As incredible as it seems, the Incarnation has lifted us up to a kind of equality with the powerful spirits of heaven. When people of the Old Testament fell on their faces in front of angels, the angels were often content to leave them there. But when Saint John bowed before an angel, the angel told him, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God" (Revelation 19:10).

This should be amazing enough: angels calling themselves "fellow servants" with us puny humans. But in some ways we have even more than equality with the angels.

In Christ our humanity is assumed to God. "If we endure, we shall also reign with him" (2 Timothy 2:12), and so we render judgment with him. And whom do we judge? "Do you not know that we are to judge angels?" Saint Paul asked rhetorically (I Corinthians 6:3). It's an amazing idea: We, mere creatures of flesh and blood, will judge powerful spirits!

And if that weren't startling enough, Saint Peter talks about "the things which have now been announced to you by those who preached the good news to you through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look" (I Peter 1:12). It seems that we know things that weren't revealed to the angels!
I also especially appreciated that the book contains entire excerpts of scripture or other works where it is referenced. Too often the reader is left to seek out another work in order to get the whole picture. In my case, I must admit, I usually skip looking up anything. Aquilina does not leave us stranded in that way and it makes a huge difference.

Highly recommended.

Texas Constructs U.S. Border Wall To Keep Out Unwanted Americans

"These Americans are destroying the moral and social fabric of our state," said Rep. Chris Turner, who added that he worries when he looks around Texas and sees people from places like Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Vermont. "The man who used to repair my truck was replaced by some mechanic who moved in here from Kansas. Lately I can't go to the store or the bank without running into all kinds of these foreigners. This wall is the only hope we have of keeping Texas safe."

"The truth is, Americans are just different from us," Turner added. "We don't even speak the same language."
From The Onion where else? (site may contain explicit material)

Now I am turning away to dab a tear of longing from my eyes ... and, yes, I'm as bad as everyone else. Now that I'm here, let's shut that border down, people.

ABCs of Me

Tagged by Kelly on Facebook. But answering here in Blogger. Because that's just the kinda gal I am. "S" is for stubborn.

A - Attitude: Optimistic

B - Born in: Aurora, IL

C - Cat's name: no cat now but we have had in the past Puff, Truffles, and Calico

D - Dog's name: Pepper

E - Excited by: Tom (!)

F - Field: advertising

G - Grateful for: my faith

H - Hates: Negative Nellies!

I - Into: books, movies ... basically stories ... and talking about stories!

J - Job title: co-owner

K - Kinfolk: Davises, Austins

L - Loves: my family, my many hobbies, my (yes, you know where I'm goin' with this, right?) faith.

M - Music: bluegrass, blues, rock, classic country

N - Nickname: Julie (nickname for my nickname ... Jules)

O - Outstanding achievements: a happy life and marriage (hey, that's hard work, folks)

P - Pastimes: blogging, podcasting, knitting, cooking, movies ... and lots and lots of talking about all of them!

Q - Quirks: LOVE using our office paper shredder.

R - Relaxes by: reading, knitting, watching TV

S - State of residence: Texas

T - Telephone type: ??? I have no clue

U - Usual breakfast: last night's leftovers

V - Vices: woah, that's for the confessional! Though I do admit to a lot of procrastination when working on podcasting.

W - Wearing: tank top, jacket, slacks, flats

X - X-ray you last had: teeth

Y - Yummy dish you make: Chocolate Buttermilk Cake with Malted Chocolate Frosting

Z - Zoo favorite: hippos

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

We now have the house with kids again. Love it! Pepper, our old black Lab/Great Dane mix is beside himself with happiness.

We did tons of stuff. These are just a flavor of the trip:
  • Dinner at an original Route 66 diner the first night out in Litchfield which we happened upon while trying to avoid McDonald's and the like. It was an odd mix of excellent and mediocre food (for instance using canned green beans in the Greek Green Beans should never be done). But fun overall and a good meal.
  • We went to Chinatown in Chicago as Rose showed us around a few favorite spots in what is now "her" town.
  • Manifest was fun despite the cold and driving rain that permeated the day. Hence, outdoor sites with bands had to shut down and the parade was canceled. Still, we saw some fantastic photography, heard good music as Buddy Guy's opened itself to host music, made sure we saw the knit cam-car (photos to follow), and more.
  • We discovered that Panera's and The Corner Bakery are the new McDonald's as they saved us on several occasions: when we ducked into one in desperation to avoid that afore-mentioned rain, had an egg-bread sandwich thingy when nothing else was around for breakfast and lunched at The Field Museum. (By the way, seeing Sue at the museum was a highlight ... although those Arctic/Northwestern people's totem poles were absolutely my favorite. No one ever told me that they were so huge, so very tall! Impressive.)
  • Also at The Field Museum store, I saw many knitted animals done by Kenyan women, using their homespun wool. Examining technique, I saw that it was exactly the same as for the Baby Bobbi Bear, excepting noses, ears, and (possibly) manes. Which I had suspected. I'd already been pondering making a monkey or lion instead of a bear. In a related note, by knitting on the way up and back, I have another bear to the "stuffing point" beyond which I could not pass, not having any stuffing with me.
  • We met Rose's roommate for next year (adorable) and her parents (quite enjoyable to talk to), saw the new apartment they'll have in The Roosevelt Hotel building (a historic landmark and now renovated inside for student apartments). Very nice indeed.
  • Went to Mass in the cathedral's auditorium (the actual cathedral's renovation after the fire should be done by the next time we are there). I never heard such a squeaking as when everyone stood and sat.
  • Glimpsed Obama on CNN at the Notre Dame commencement and actually they played quite a bit of his speech, which sounded as if it was his typical was his usual smooth double-talk which leaves everyone thinking he agreed with them. Just enough to let Catholics who want to agree with him say, "See? I told you so ..." Proudest moment was seeing senior Emily Toates' sound byte, which was articulate about why she was boycotting the ceremony. She is from our parish.
  • Visited Mom and Dad in Springfield on the way home. It's been way too long since they saw the girls. We dined at Ocean Zen which is fusion cooking that has a Pacific Rim flair. Truly it is worthy of any large city in sophistication and deliciousness! Altogether an enjoyable time.
And then there was the reading. I finished four books:
  • Angels of God by Mike Aquilina. Suffice it to say that it was easy to understand without dumbing it down. Altogether an informative and fascinating read about the angels and their relationship to us. It makes a good accompaniment to The Angels and Their Mission. There is some duplication of information but a suprising amount in both books stands as complements to each other. Some of that is due to their different foci in the authors' intentions for their books, naturally. Highly recommended and I will be posting excerpts in the days to come.
  • The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers. The first espionage novel and I loved it. Even the yachting information was clear enough for me to follow and that is quite a feat.
  • A Safe Place for Dying by Jack Fredrickson. A fast paced, enjoyable noir-ish mystery set in Chicago. I didn't really think about the setting until I discovered I was reading it while IN Chicago. Which made a nice additional twist for me.
  • Operation Terror by Murray Leinster. Audiobook. Couldn't wait for Mark at SciPodBooks to finish feeding me this one before I left. So I pulled it from Librivox where Mark also uploads his readings. I listened to the last four chapters while driving the first day. By the time we were done, Tom had caught the gist and we were both guessing at the solution to the puzzle. Both wrongly as it turns out. There was a final twist that caught us both off guard. Great book and great reading by Mark as always.

Worth a Thousand Words

Suryia the orang-utan and Roscoe, a Blue Tick hound

Via Rachel Lucas, who rightfully says, DON'T TELL ME THIS IS NOT AWESOME. She's got the story (language warning) which is also everywhere or so it seems.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Happy 25th Anniversary to Us

Just got back in from Chicago ... but had to drop in to say that I am certainly the happiest woman who ever got married in a nightgown (or in a regular wedding dress, for that matter). We're looking forward to working on the next 25 years of wedded bliss ... and more!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ray Bradbury and Manifest

Rose's college does an urban art festival as part of their end of school graduation event. Open to the public, it draws around 20,000 people from the area. I have been looking forward to attending this since I heard about it at her orientation last year. (Manifest Urban Arts Festival)

Looking around the site, I was naturally drawn by Ray Bradbury's name to this video about how his story characters have inspired costumes for their parade. I already was looking forward to it but, as a lot of you know, Bradbury is one of my favorite authors. It is going to be interesting to match up costumes with stories.



By the way, we leave for this tomorrow ... oh, and also to pick up Rose and bring her home for the summer. Yes, of course ... that too!

I won't be back until next Wednesday and will be taking a blogging break, most likely, during that time. I have put up daily quotes in advance but that will be it. Unless something comes along that is just so good I can't resist. We'll see ...

The Rite Gets It Right

While exorcists admit that their ministry can sometimes be a heavy burden, it would be a mistake, they say to overstate the power of the Devil. As Father Amorth writes, "A priest who is afraid of the Devil is like a shepherd who is afraid of a wolf. It is a groundless fear." The Devil," says Amorth, is already "doing us as much harm as he possibly can."

And so rather than fear him, exorcists say, it is better to emulate saints such as Teresa of Avila, who proclaimed, "If this Lord is powerful, as I see that He is and I know that He is, and if the devils are His slaves (and there is no doubt about this because it's a matter of faith), what evil can they do to me since I am a servant of this Lord and King? Why shouldn't I have the fortitude to engage in combat with all of hell?"
It is a funny thing. A friend of mine is creeped out by any sort of horror story. I mention Stephen King or Dean Koontz and she shudders. However, she is the one who recommended heartily a book by Father Gabriele Amorth, an exorcist in Rome. Three pages into it, I had to put the book down because I was so freaked out. When we compared notes later we discovered that fictional evil scares her but real life examples of Satan don't bother her a bit. While, as we can tell, I am just the opposite. Not that a zombie movie (or dream) might not freak me out, but the real life evil is what truly bothers me.

That might make you wonder just why I agreed to read this book. There's something fascinating about the idea of exorcism, don't you think? Also, I was intrigued by finding out just how objective this journalist was. What I found was an objective journalist who did his homework, a sincere priest going through exorcism school in Rome, and that the real-life examples of evil given didn't bother me nearly as much as I thought they would. One can hardly read how matter of factly the priests in this book deal with extraordinary activity of the devil and not be impressed enough to do likewise.

Essentially journalist Matt Baglio followed Father Gary from California as he began training to become an exorcist. Father Gary became the apprentice of an exorcist in Rome in order to get some sense of exorcisms outside of the classroom lectures. We are taken on the journey as well. Additionally, Baglio's accounting of the information from classes amounts to a brief catechism of Church teachings about anything to do with this subject including among other things. angels, free will, God's power, and human ailments. Skillfully interwoven with this are Father Gary's experiences and thoughts about the process every step of the way, and real life stories told by people who have been exorcised of a demon. (I did tend to skim or skip these. Too much of a strain to my already active imagination.)
While it's technically true that any priest can perform an exorcism, not every priest should. Guideline thirteen of the Ritual states that the bishop can only nominate a priest who is "distinguished in piety, learning, prudence, and integrity of life." In addition, "The priest [...] should carry out this work of charity confidently and humbly under the guidance of the Ordinary.

[...]

The importance of nomination by the bishop comes from the power of the prayer being tied to the Church as well as to the obedience of the exorcist. As the current president of the International Association of Exorcists, Father Giancarlo Gramolazzo, says, "I always use this phrase: The prince of disobedience is the Devil and you beat him by being obedient, not by your own personality, or charisms." According to Father Gramolazzo, if a priest were to perform an exorcism without the approval of his bishop, the prayers would still work to some extent because of the power of Jesus Christ's name, but they wouldn't have the same effect on the demon because essentially the exorcist would be praying the Ritual in a state of disobedience and the demon would know it. "Some priests have tried to perform an exorcism without the bishop's permission and the demon said to them, 'You cannot do it, you are outside your diocese and you don't have permission,'" says Father Gramolazzo.
It is clear that Baglio is a serious journalist as he examines what popular culture takes as truth and corrects misconceptions. As well, he thoroughly examines many of the questions that occur to any logical person when faced with the idea of demons and possession in modern times. To this end he interviews psychologists, doctors, and other specialists for information. All this is told without ever inserting himself into the book which allows the focus to stay on the subject and on Father Gary, whose journey yielded spiritual growth in several ways.

This book was fascinating and I read it in a matter of a few days. Highly recommended.

Good Thing I Love Lemonade!


I am honored to have been given the Lemonade Stand Award by two different people ... Michael and Deacon Greg. It is given to "a blogger who demonstrates great attitude and gratitude."

I am not worthy. But I know five others who are. How handy as the rules state that I now have to pass on this prestigious award to five other lucky bloggers.

My award winners are, in no particular order ... are you ready? ... :
  1. Jen at Conversion Diary
  2. Sarah at Just another day of Catholic pondering
  3. March Hare at The Mad Tea Party
  4. Melanie at The Wine Dark Sea
  5. Will Duquette at A View from the Foothills

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sword of the Lamb Review

The first book of The Phoenix trilogy, the Sword of the Lamb has epic themes, good characters, interesting plot twists ... what could go wrong? Find out in my review of the audiobook at SFFaudio.

Zombies. Why did it have to be zombies?

I don't know if I dreamed about zombies literally all night long, but it sure felt like it.

Dream after dream ... sheez. No wonder I'm tired. I've been on the run all night long.

Happy Birthday, Rose!


I'm pretty sure I could never find a better shoe cake than I did last year, so this time around I went with Rose's trademark.

It's the first time she's ever had a birthday away from home and although we'll be seeing her at the end of the week (WOOHOO!) I miss getting everything ready for her birthday celebration.

Happy birthday, Rose! We love you and we miss you!

(Photo source)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

My Star Trek Review - updated

AWE. SOME.

(go see it)

===================

Update
To expound just a touch on my "two word" review of yesterday.

This movie took off with a bang that had me in tears before the opening title even came up.

I couldn't understand how reviewers were saying that this movie completely retools the Star Trek franchise while leaving it just the same. Having seen the movie, I must kiss the feet of the scriptwriters and director J.J. Abrams. Brilliantly done.

Simply put, Star Trek features the main characters of the original series, portrayed by a new cast, that shows their back story. The film introduces an alternate reality that is distinct from the original series and the other Star Trek movies. Simultaneously it leaves every character both somewhat changed and also completely true to themselves as we know them from the past. Not simple, I know. But they pulled it off.

This movie can be enjoyed by anyone but will be most enjoyed by fans of the original series as that is where tons of references lead. It is played with zest by a great set of actors whose risk taking paid off in taking these parts in a movie that may or may not work (Abrams being that sort of director). That left a solid core of Star Trek fans in the showing we attended laughing and clapping all through the movie. Which made it a lot of fun to watch.

I also didn't understand why girls were thrilling to Chris Pine as Captain Kirk. Blond haired, blue eyed boys are not that interesting to me. (Zachary Quinto in Heroes is much more my style ...) That is, until you see Pine is actually playing James Dean on a starship. (I found it both amusing and interesting to see just how they managed to keep him wearing black as much as possible.) As the movie went on and he became more and more dangerous looking, his appeal grew and grew. And, yes girls, I get it. Oh yeah ...

This is a movie that was applauded with gusto when it ended. And rightly so.

Later, Tom and I were comparing big summer movies. Star Trek or The Dark Knight? Hands down. Star Trek.

===================

Updated More
Reading Gina's comments about Star Trek, good, and evil made me decide to go ahead and post these thoughts. I also was thinking this morning that Star Trek (the movie, anyway) promotes the power of discernment and using one's own gifts the proper way. In Kirk we see both the rebel without a cause and the rebel with a cause. He has been helped along by a father figure who knows just how to motivate a rebel in the right way. How does Kirk use his gifts for good and not evil? This is also shown in Spock from a different perspective. Both are fighting personal demons to find the path they should take. The movie's writers may or may not have had this in mind, but a good story always contains at the base elements of Truth. This search for discernment and "self" is one such thing.

One Last Update
I've had a couple of people ask me about having their kids see it. Of course, it depends on what the kid is used to. It is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, and brief sexual content. Compared to most movies these days, this is the low end of the PG-13 rating spectrum. I see as much or more violence and sex than this on television, sad to say. Now that I think of it, it is much more like the TV show was (when transferred to a movie) where they weren't afraid to show someone taking a few hard punches to the face or to show Kirk putting on his boots (gasp) after a liaison with a beautiful woman. Though the sexuality is more than that, it is still fairly modest by today's standards.





SPOILER
just one that I can't resist ... down at the bottom to let the RSS feed folks avoid it if they want.






















Never in a thousand years would I have dreamed of seeing Spock with his hand on Uhura's a**. But it worked.

Friday, May 8, 2009

I have been meaning to mention New Advent for some time

Not only New Advent where you can find entries from the old Catholic Encyclopedia, but their main page is a treasure trove of links to happening news from around the blogosphere, mostly Catholic but also of general interest.

Kudos to Kevin Knight who posts this info. It is my main source for keeping tabs on lots of blogs I don't have time to visit regularly. I nominated them for a Catholic New Media Award as a matter of fact.

Imagine the Potential: Kinship

The newest ad from CatholicVote.org ... just as wonderful as the one featuring President Obama the preceded it.



Via Amy Welborn.

Top 10 Saying of Biblical Mothers ...

... will be appearing in the sidebar from day to day. If you can't wait that long to see them all, click through on the link there to Coffee Klatch.

Brilliant. Funny. And a Perfect Mother's Day Gift

Check out how you can send a personalized video to moms you want to honor.

I am linking to Sarah, the snoring scholar who is a truly awesome mom (and has the video to prove it) ... since her friend sent her one, I am skipping her in my list.

All the News That's Fit to Print ... and Punny Headlines Too

“Newspapers, however rare and financially weak, can adapt and ultimately conquer the threat posed by the Internet, the Justice Department’s Carl Shapiro told a House panel.

'We do not believe any new exemptions for newspapers are necessary,’ said Shapiro, an assistant attorney general for economics.”
From this week's Congressional hearing,
where newspaper executives pleaded
they need a change in antitrust law to survive
Truer words were never spoken.

Longtime readers know that my husband and I became disgusted with the sensationalistic coverage at the Dallas Morning News, canceled our subscription, and casting about for something to read with our morning coffee landed upon The Wall Street Journal. We knew not how well we chose at the time, but we know it full well now.

Even though the WSJ is a business and financial newspaper, surprisingly they have many articles that amuse, inform, and delight us every morning. Rare is the day that we don't have conversational fodder from several sources, especially as Tom and I have essentially different interests. Even more surprising is the way that the WSJ covers some business and financial news in a way that I actually am interested in reading. That is something I never could have predicted. Not all of it, mind you, but getting me to read any of it is quite a feat. As well, the editorial page has surprising sources for both authors and letters to the editor. As with all media, one must read with a discerning eye to the media's natural bent, but this is offset a surprising number of times by editorials proclaiming an opinion that one would definitely not expect in a conservative financial publication.

Our appreciation for the WSJ has been emphasized recently by the fact that the Dallas Morning News has been tossed on our lawn, evidently gratis, for the last week. What a shock to pick it up and find so little type for so many pages. Even more shocking was the reminder of how lackluster and lightweight their coverage has become. Even in the local and specialty sections (books, food, entertainment) there is mostly syndicated material which simply paddles in the shallow end of any subject. No need for a Congressional hearing to see why this newspaper isn't making it. I remember the days when there were vibrant movie, food, and religion sections (yes, that religion section made me look forward to the Saturday paper, believe it or not) which gradually have all been axed or pruned ruthlessly in favor of ... well, I'm not sure why. Our only assumption is that the accountants are running the papers instead of newspapermen. It is like seeing the local paper has become a Dallas edition of USA Today. Very sad.

Although I no longer miss the comics and found an online source for television listings, we do miss seeing local advertising. However, this has been largely replaced in our household by the ads in our neighborhood magazine and The Dallas Observer. For local news, the blogs of the Observer and D Magazine suffice, especially as most of it is something I do not miss either. In short, this may be the wave of future media: the rise of the small, specialized publication catering to specific areas.

Enough of that. Here are only a few of the stories I have enjoyed recently (you may also find some from further back here):
As well, another morning delight is that someone at the WSJ delights in word play as much as we do. It is not unusual for one or the other of us to suddenly read a headline aloud and then wait with a smile for the other to see the pun. In case this doesn't make me geeky enough, I have begun keeping them listed in a notebook. When I read them out to Mom the other day she was laughing aloud. These alone are enough to lure me through all the sections of the paper and often have me perusing a story I never would have seen otherwise. Here are just a few of my favorites:
  • Alcoa Foils Investors with Offering
  • GE to Shed Light on Its Properties
  • Can Palm Squeeze the Blackberry
  • McDonald's Pounds Out Good Quarter
  • Ban on Foot-Nibbling Fish Leaves Nail Salon on the Hook
  • A Look Into Future Oceans for Shellfish Reasons
And our current favorite, the one that made us both break into peals of laughter, which is a great way to begin the day:
  • The Cranes in Spain Point Mainly to a Strain
Thank you WSJ.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

This is Seriously Cool ... Huffduffer

Like an RSS reader but for podcasts!

My mind reels.

The possibilities are staggering.

Plus your Huffduffer page creates an RSS feed and iTunes feed for your selections. So I now have Scott D's feed in my iTunes. (Is that like getting chocolate in my peanut butter? I think it is!).

I found this at Concerning Rivets and Trees which Scott has resurrected and I am just now catching up on.
It works a lot like Google Reader, but takes a little more work. You find the location of an MP3 you want to share, enter that location into your Huffduffer account, add some description data, and post. It then appears in your feed. It’s useful for aggregating things you want to listen to, or for sharing things you have heard. Super easy, super useful, and super free.
I can testify that it is super easy.

Here is my Huffduffer page which I set up in about five minutes. The thing that took the longest was deciding what to link to ... which is some terrific Lyrics Uncovered info about the Beatles.

The Angels and Their Mission: According to the Fathers of the Church


If the mystery of the Nativity is also that of the revelation made by the angels of heaven to those of earth, then the mystery of the Ascension is the mystery of the revelation made by the angels of earth to the angels of heaven. Just as, at the Nativity, we see the Word descend, surrounded by the angels of heaven, and meet the guardian angels of earth, so now we see Him rise, accompanied by the angels of earth, and meet the angels who guard the gates of heaven. but these do not recognize Him, because He appears united to the human nature that He assumed and bearing the marks of His Passion. Thus, they question the angels who are accompanying Him to find out who He is. This is a traditional theme, resting principally upon two biblical texts, Psalm 23:7-10, which has already been seen, and Isaiah 63:1: "Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bosra?"

[...]

Thus, the mystery of the Ascension completely amazes the angels of heaven. for what it reveals to them is really a mystery, hidden up to then, an entirely new reality, disconcerting at first glance. The cosmological presentation of the descent and ascent must not deceive us. The true mystery of the nativity is the self-abasement of the divine Person of the Word, a "little lower than the angels." And the true mystery of the Ascension is the exaltation of human nature above all the worlds of the angels. That is the real double mystery which is dramatically represented by the descent and ascent in the midst of the choirs of angels. But this "dramaturgy," as St. Gregory Nazianzen calls it, must not conceal the reality it bears beneath it. It represents an overthrow of the natural order of things resulting from the revelation of a reality absolutely new and unforeseeable. That is why it throws the angels into a state of astonishment.
Perhaps this is something you already knew. I thought I had read a lot about angels and I was in a state of astonishment having read it as ... well, not as great as the angels mentioned above ... but I was pretty darned astonished. I have presented here only the essence of the passage and the careful reader will want to get the book and read all the thinking from the Fathers for themselves. However, I am left asking myself just how our current writings about angels have gotten so flat and boring when there is such richness in what the Fathers of the Church have already mined for us to consider.

The late Cardinal Jean Danielou was interested in considering the role of the angels in the economy of salvation. This prompted him to study the the Fathers writings and examine at the role of angels from the beginning of history. For is not history the story of salvation, at least as seen through the lens of faith that the Bible? The results are, as I have mentioned, rich and inform us about many things that we may never have considered such as angels, world religion, and why many religions may share a few common elements and then widely diverge. Fascinating. Completely logical.

When I mentioned some of the things I had learned from this book in passing to our learned priest, his face lit up and he instantly began chiming in with the same information that I was reading in the book. Obviously, the knowledge is being taught somewhere, just not to those of us with more mundane habits. This slender volume is just the ticket to fill in those gaps.

This book is not light, bedtime reading. However, neither is it so dense that one cannot struggle through. As evidence, consider that I devoured it in a few days. It does require attention and some thought but it is well worth it.

For instance, as a more prosaic example, I never thought about why the Church prayers for the dead may mention ... yes ... angels.
It is hardly astonishing then, that the Fathers of the Church picture the angels assisting the soul at the moment of death and leading it to paradise. Tertullian writes in De Anima, "When, by the force of death, it [the soul] is snatched from the weight of the flesh that closed it in, it trembles with excitement to see the face of the angel, the summoner of souls, realizing that its eternal abode has been prepared." The same doctrine often appears in Origen. Pseudo-Justin writes, "Immediately after the soul leaves the body, there follows a separation of the just from the sinners. Then they are led by the angels to the places they are deserving of ... John Chrysostom says, "If we need a guide in passing from one city to another, how much more will the soul need someone to point out the way when she breaks the bonds of flesh and passes on to the future life."

That is why the prayers for the dead invoke the assistance of the angels. These prayers present a twofold aspect. On the one hand, the guardian of the soul is asked to accompany it during its voyage to heaven. ...

[...]

Secondly, the angels of heaven, the guardians of paradise, are asked to permit the soul to enter there. Here once again we find that there are two groups: the angels of earth and the angels of heaven. Just as the liturgy invokes the angels who lead the soul into paradise, it also contains allusions to those who welcome the soul there. The Apostolic Constitutions contain a prayer for the dead that is drawn up in this manner: "Cast thine eyes upon thy servant. Forgive him if he has sinned and make the angels well disposed toward him."
Highly recommended.

This book was reviewed as part of The Catholic Company's reviewer program. Read more reviews here. Order the book from The Catholic Company here.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Not One, Not Two, But Three Catholic Awards Underway

The Curt Jester points out that in addition to our previously mentioned Cannonball Awards and Catholic New Media Awards ... there is a third set of awards out there ...
Another set of awards also in its 2nd year is the Eastern Christian New Media Awards. Too often the Eastern rites of the Church are forgotten. They are currently taking nominations and voting will start in June.
I'm looking forward to exploring these blogs and podcasts.

John Scalzi ... He's More Than Just An Author

The publicist at Roc sent me an e-mail asking me: “Won’t you please let us know if you write something about Flood, Stephen Baxter’s terrifyingly apocalyptic novel about the last days of dry land here on Earth?” And I said “Hey, why are you writing to me in blurb form?” And they said “I can’t help myself, because Flood’s gripping narrative of global warming taken to its natural and compelling conclusion has robbed me of my ability to speak genuine narrative and instead I must speak only in flap-copy-ready bites!” And I said, “That kinda sucks,” and they said, “Yes, but Flood, Stephen Baxter’s all-too-plausible vision of the ecological near future, does not!” And that’s pretty much where we left it. All I know is that I’ve been a fan of Baxter ever since he had the last creature descended of human stock attached to a super-tree by an umbilicus in Evolution, because, dude, we all knew we were going to end up as tree monkeys anyway, right? In any event, Flood, Stephen Baxter’s deeply moist tale of heavy-duty civilizational inundation, is out today. Also, it is not Stephen Baxter’s birthday. I feel I need to throw that out there.
He's a darned funny blogger as well.

Not only can he write a great book mention but his sad tale of just why Obama's first 100 days are an abysmal failure brings a tear to the eye ... or a smile to the face. At least it isn't the same ol', same ol' and it entertained.

I knew that John Scalzi had a rep as a writer of funny sci-fi but never could get my hands on his books. Then StarShipSofa featured one of his stories and I loved it. So I finally was able to query the library computer system in such a way that forced it to admit that the Dallas Public Library did indeed have a few of those books and that they would indeed send a couple to my nearest branch. And I see that Agent to the Stars is waiting for me to swing by and get it today. Can't wait for quittin' time ...

Baby William and His Baby Bobbi Bear

Here is the photo as promised of my finished Baby Bobbi Bear ... as you can see it is almost as big as William himself is ... although that will change very soon!

It was universally acclaimed as being a feat near to rocket science and also as an adorable bear.

I have four friends who all are having babies in the near future and foresee that I will be knitting bears in my spare time for the next month or two. I will say that it went quickly, being knitted in my spare time within the last two weeks. Although I did have a little problem coming up to the deadline and wound up spending a fair part of Sunday devoted to finishing up this little guy ... I do hate knitting to a deadline!

A few comments:
  • The pattern says it is for advanced beginners. I would debate this as the pattern itself is incompletely worded. For example, the additional explanations for ear stitch count refer the knitter to reread the “increase” description, when what is actually used is “make one” stitch. Not a huge problem but the knitter must have a good ability to visualize pattern and adjust on the fly. I tended to trust to fate and that it would become more obvious when I was making it ... which is what happened.
  • The duplicate stitch around the neck which is intended for further definition did not work well on my bear and from the photos on Ravelry, I am not the only person with this problem. I am thinking about experimenting with a couple of decrease rows after picking up the neck stitches ... and then doing the called for increases to shape the head. This would help define the neck, without the time taken for duplicate stitches which didn't do much.
  • I liked the Blue Sky Alpaca organic cotton yarn as it knit up nice and soft but am dubious about giving a baby something that must be hand washed. Also, three times, the yarn simply broke and it was never at a time when it was easy to undo so I had enough length to weave in and then begin again. I am looking for substitutes but most of the cotton yarns I come across seem to be less hefty. You need something that knits up fairly tightly so the stuffing doesn't show through.

Pittsburgh Pilgrimage ... not ths year

Trinity Churchyard taken by Father Pitt
(go to the link for more photos)

Sadly, the Trinity Churchyard is a sight that I will have to wait to see. I am sorry to say that we failed to meet the necessary quorum for the Pittsburgh Pilgrimage. I am not sure if we just hit the economy at a bad time or if it was a combination of many factors. I am hoping that possibly the economy will be better next year and that we may revive the pilgrimage.

What I am sure of is that there are no words to convey how much I am touched by Mike Aquilina's and Chris Bailey's whole-hearted support and generosity in working on this pilgrimage idea. Certainly I never would have had the enjoyment of our frequent emails on this and other subjects, not to mention the pleasure of discovering Chris's other enjoyable blogs: Dr. Boli's Celebrated Magazine, Official Harding-Agnew Campaign Site, and Father Pitt.

As I will not have the pleasure of providing this book to a few in Pittsburgh by hand as I had planned to do, please allow me to recommend to you, Praying the Psalms with the Early Christians by Mike and Chris. That is something that we can all enjoy and that is quite affordable!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Announcements, Notices, Inbox ... You Get the Idea

Free Books for Bloggers
As a member of our Reviewer Program, you'll have a chance to pick a free review product from a list of items currently available. We usually have 10 to 15 items to choose from, and they are always recent releases or relevant to current events. All we ask from you is to post an honest review of the product sent to you!

Your review could be as simple or as complex as you'd like. We expect you to be more interested in some products you receive, so it's natural for some reviews to be better than others. Sometimes, you may get a product you don't care for at all. That's alright, we still want your honest review!
Yep, The Catholic Company is back looking for more bloggers to review books. As a member of the gang I can testify that they have top notch authors and titles.

Big C Catholics
Big C Catholics is for Catholics who are faithful to the Magisterium and seek the fullness of truth. This is a place to reflect on and renew our faith, deepen our commitment to love and receive guidance on our spiritual journey. We seek to promote understanding of authentic Catholic teachings among Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

We are currently accepting homilies, short to medium length articles, reflections, commentaries, and reviews of publications of interest to orthodox Catholics. All submissions will be considered, however, we focus on theology, the complementarity of faith and reason, and other issues relevant to the life of the Church.
Sounds like lots of good reading and writing opportunities will be available. Check it out.

Catholicflux
With a history spanning almost two thousand years, the Roman Catholic Church is one of the world's oldest institutions. But what about the Church today? Recent years have seen the rise of secularism and the demise of religion -- is it still relevant? This blog will look at Catholicism today; where it came from, where it is now and where it's going.
A thoughtful looking blog joins the blogosphere.

All Prisoner, All the Time
THE PRISONER Fact #9
Yes, #6 catches the swine flu. He catches it, has a few quiet conversations with it, and persuades it to attack #2.
Aha! So at last I have tracked down the commenter cracking me up with trivia from The Prisoner. Ok. I exaggerate. He gave me the link. And it is not all Prisoner, all the time ... but for quite a lot of it. Check out new blog Reactionary Drivel.

Award-ish Things

Catholic New Media - Nominations
As I mentioned before, the Catholic New Media Awards are accepting nominations. I finally got done making mine ... it really gets tough respecting nominating only one person per category. Great idea but winnowing down the many wonderful blogs and podcasts is not easy.

By the way, be sure to check out their FAQ with any questions. I'm just trying to save you from looking as stupid as I did after I emailed asking, "What the heck is a People's Choice Award?" Only to find out that it was the first question in their FAQ. Although, not one to throw out the baby with the bath water, I am pleased to see that my guess was right. They could also have called it the "Wild Card" award.

2009 Cannonball Awards - Polls Open
I see that while my back was turned (and while I was knitting furiously ... yes, furiously ... on that Baby Bobbi bear this weekend) the polls opened for the 2009 Cannonball Awards. Voting is open through May 23 so you have a nice long time to check out all the entries in the categories. Vote (and view nominations) by clicking on the categories in the sidebar.

If you're at a loss as to who to select in the Spiritual Treat category, you certainly may feel free to click on Happy Catholic. Likewise, may I recommend in the Best Blog by a Heretic, voting for my pal Good News Film Reviews. Heck, follow the link and go read his review of The Wrestler. Rose already told me all about it but after reading his review I may go ahead and watch it anyway. Yes. He's that good.

Reason #3,476 I Love the Internet

Because you can read Bram Stoker's Dracula ... real time!

YES!

Quick, go check it out. It's May 4 ... and that is the diary entry for today in Jonathan Harker's journal.

And puhleez, don't even comment on how easily entertained I am. I already know. Via Neatorama.

Happy Anniversary ... to Me!


More properly, Happy Anniversary to Happy Catholic.

I was reading Pioneer Woman's anniversary post, when it suddenly sprang to my startled mind that I began this blog sometime in early May. Didn't I?

When I checked the archives, I see that it was five years ago on May 2.

Did you catch that?

Five. years. ago.

Well, knock me over with a feather. No wonder I have 8,126 posts. Plus this one, natch.

I remember well those shy days of cringing when I pushed the "publish post" button and dared enter the blogosphere ... I don't think that lurking counted as being part of the blogosphere. I was a first class lurker though. It didn't take me all that long to get used to just putting it out there (we're not going to get into whether that is bad or good ... remember this is a celebration).

My first posts, on May 2, 2004, were:
So I see that I began as I meant to go on. Lots of other people's thoughts and my own attempts at humor. (ha! well, at least I make myself laugh ... someone's gotta!)

Much thanks to those who have been here from the beginning ... all 10 of you!

And many thanks also to those who have dropped in along the way and then kept coming back.

I am enjoying every minute of it (and we all know it's all about me, right?). Hopefully there is a bit of entertainment and information here for you as well.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Little Weekend Reading

The Shroud of Turin in 2010 ... prompted by the news that the shroud will be exhibited next year, The Anchoress follows her thoughts to the fact that although the shroud may show us Jesus it does not reflect Jesus. Exactly. Maybe that's why I've never cared about it one way or the other. A good contemplation no matter which side of the fence you sit on.

Angels and Demons
Golly. I thought ANGELS AND DEMONS by Dan Brown would turn out to be just an ordinary run-of-the-mill Catholic-bashing hate-fest. But, no, the whoppers told strain credulity. Do people actually know that little about history? It seems that they do.
... John C. Wright writhes in agony over the many historical inaccuracies in Dan Brown's latest work to come to film. Why this surprises him I am not sure as Brown is not accurate about much as far as I know. I always like Wright's turn of phrase and, for me anyway, he is never a waste of time to read. Especially as as a few of Tom's relatives took the Da Vinci Code as gospel truth and wearied us excessively by quoting it as proof of the Church's dastardly doings. *sigh* We might as well be prepared right now for the next round ...

Friday, May 1, 2009

Well, That Was a Surprise!

Nominations are closed over at The Crescat's 2009 Cannonball Awards.

No, that isn't the surprise.

The surprise was seeing that Happy Catholic has been nominated in the Best Spiritual Treat category.

Thank you, mysterious nominator. You made my day!

Also, I nominated one of the nicest and best heretical bloggers I know in the (natch) Best Blog by a Heretic category ... Good News Film Reviews. His post on this nomination is hilarious and the badge is to die for (but not before we pull you away from The Dark Side, Scott!).