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Monday, March 31, 2008

The cat went back, the very next day.

His name--and making this up I am not--is Morgo. Not to be confused with Alex Karris' character in Blazing Saddles, mind.

A 10 year old boy and his family who live up the street a bit are very happy this evening.

Not as happy as Molly, but very happy nonetheless.

Just before we started getting attached, which is good.

Good luck, Morgo. Make sure to look both ways from now on.

Parable Meme!

Theocoid tagged me with "Your five favorite parables."

About a month ago--oops. Sorry.

Here goes, my favorite parables from Jesus:

1. The Good Samaritan. Always a handy conscience check.

2. The Unjust Judge. Go ahead--pester God. He can take it.

3. The Lost Sheep. I need that image of God, thanks.

4. The Unjust Steward. Or, Sometimes, Jesus Just Likes Messing With Your Head.

5. The Prodigal Son. See Lost Sheep, The.

Tag: Catherine, Jeffrey, Steve, and Pansy and Peony.

Tagged with a movie meme!

Hilary asks about five critically-lauded movies that I happen to detest:

1. Dances With Wolves. Beautiful cinematography and two fine performances (Mary McDonnell and Graham Greene) wasted on this rancid revisionist epic. The instant it plummets downhill: when Costner's character visits the army post headed by the lunatic who thinks he's a medieval lord. Who, not being a member of a band of noble native ecologists, naturally has bowel control problems.

A shame, too, because Costner can tell a gritty Western story, as Wyatt Earp demonstrates.

2. Chocolat. The usual twaddle about free-spirits vs. repressed traditionalists. I prefer my confectionery less stale, thank you. At least try to hide the maggots.

3. The American President. Yes, this love-letter to Bill was actually a critical fave. Mildly amusing in parts, if very silly, when it was released (1995), it passed its sell-by date on the morning of September 11, 2001. Utterly unwatchable now. But the SNL movie review by Bill Clinton is still pretty hilarious.

4. Indecent Proposal. People actually took this seriously and it became a "cultural moment." Feeling stupid now, aren't you? My comment on the premise: "But how will you be able to do that in traction?"

5. Dead Poets Society. Sorry, Heather. But DPS is drivel. Free spirits vs. oppression, yaddayadda. Just once I'd like to see a free spirits vs. uptight squares film where the free spirits get bitten on the keister by the consequences of their heedless actions and the repressed types are demonstrated to have been wise, indeed.

You know, the way it happens in real life about 80% of the time.

Tag: Heather, Victor, Zach.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Found on road dead.

Never a dull moment in suburbia, I'll say that.

Friday night, as I'm getting the kids down for bed, telling them a rollicking tale of adventure, I hear a knock at the door. Heather answers. Probably the next door neighbor, I figure.

I hear, muffled, Heather's part of the discussion. Then the door closes, and I can tell Heather's stepped out.

Odd.

Afraid she might have been waylaid by some hard sell, I walk out to the front step and Heather's there, talking with a somber-looking man about our age holding a desperately injured white-and-grey cat.

The man, named Julius (changed to protect the innocent), saw the cat get hit and has been walking down the street trying to find the owner or arrange to put it out of its misery. It's voiding its bowels and blood's coming out of its nose.

Maybe you can help, he asks apologetically.

Yes, I have a 12 gauge handy. The local Finest will respond to that blast with some disapproval, though. My .30-30 could be passed off as a car backfire, but it's in storage up north. An unplanned ricochet would also earn me a police tsk-tsk.

I get spare towels and Heather takes the poor animal into her arms. I get Julius a cup of our finest coffee and start scanning the yellow pages for "E-Z wounded Animal Snuffing" and suchlike. We're all a little put out by this situation, as the cat continues to twitch in Heather's arms. Julius tries some small talk. Turns out he's a plumber in a rental up the street, and had been coming home when he saw the horrible scene. He digs the coffee, but I admit I was feeling a little put upon.

Julius: Mmmm! Goshdarn, Dale--This is some serious gourmet stuff! Usually, I would be happy with some freeze-dried Taster's Choice right, but he springs this serious GOURMET stuff on us! What flavor is this?

Me: Knock it off, Julie.

Julius: [pause] What?

Me: I don't need you to tell me how frigging good my coffee is, okay? I'm the one who buys it. I know how good it is. When Heather goes shopping she buys CRAP. I buy the gourmet expensive stuff because when I drink it I want to taste it. But you know what's on my mind right now? It AIN'T the coffee in my kitchen, it's the dead kitty in my family room.

Julius: Oh, Dale, don't even worry about that...

Me: No, No, No, let me ask you a question. When you came walking in here, did you notice a sign out in front of my house that said Dead Kitty Storage?

Julius: Dale, you know I ain't seen no...

Me: Did you notice a sign out in front of my house that said Dead Kitty Storage?

Julius: [pause] No. I didn't.

Me: You know WHY you didn't see that sign?

Julius: Why?

Me: 'Cause it ain't there, 'cause storing dead kitties ain't my frigging business, that's why!


[Editor's note--Above scene may not accurately depict the small talk, but rather the writer's internal thought processes at some point. Whatever is actually the case, it will certainly make it easier for him to sell the book.]

I find an after-hours animal hospital about 15 miles away which offers to euthanize and dispose of the poor creature for free. We wrap the animal in towels and put it in the front seat of Mr. Buick. Julius, a genuinely nice guy, thanks me, promises me a six pack and carries the cat to the car.

I drive to the hospital, speeding along the 9-Foe, as we hip suburbanites refer to I-94, talking to the cat all the way. Twice, in moments of zombie horror, it actually summons the will to stand up before collapsing back on the towels. I pet it gently, and the head feels cool. Poor bastard. A beautiful animal, too, well-taken care of with glossy fur.

I get to the hospital and rush it in. Being a cat person, I say if there's anything that could be reasonably done to save the animal, I'd be willing to consider it.

I wait. And wait and wait. "The doctor will see you now."

The veterinarian is a veteran, as it turns out--a graduate of Annapolis. He sits me down and gently explains that the cat will probably make it.

Eksqueeze me?

There are no broken bones, and the blood leaking from the nose was from a cut. No nerve damage, and while there is fluid in the chest cavity and the cat is laboring to breathe, he is getting enough air. Lung bruising will heal quickly. What you are seeing is shock for the most part. However he was hit, it was nowhere near as bad as it could be.

Then comes the hard sell: You've done more than expected as a good Samaritan. I'll give the cat a painkiller regardless, but if we keep him, he'll get turned over to Animal Control tomorrow morning, and there's an 80-90% chance he'll be euthanized in 4 months.

OK, I get it. He's a veterinarian--he didn't enter the profession to see an animal die needlessly. Fine--I'll take it home with us. Besides, somebody has to be missing the animal by now. They give me a box with a liner and I bring the lucky twerp home with me. Heather is both surprised and not surprised at all when I say I have to get the cat.

He's doing fine. By midmorning Saturday, he'd already jumped out of the box. Molly is making her Very Unhappy Cat Noise, but the Visiting Cat (as I insist on calling him) keeps a respectful distance.

Saturday morning proper, Heather and I went Minivan Hunting and found this:


A burgundy/gold 2001 Ford Windstar SEL. More mileage than I'd normally care for but one owner and very well cared for (little underside rust) with an immaculate engine. And at about 5/8 of the surprisingly high Blue Book value. Heather likes it a lot--two power sliding doors, good cargo space, strong engine, good sight lines, pop-down parental rear-view spy mirror (discovered by me after the fact), leather interior and 6 CD stereo. Oh, and a diagnostic package telling you how the oil and electrical systems are working. Sold! Actually I had her at "power doors"--her response: "You sure know how to sweet-talk a girl!"

We were able to go to Mass as a family on Sunday for the first time in about a month, which was long overdue.

Oh, and we used it to go to the library and hang up "Found Cat" signs along the way. No calls yet.

OK--next drama?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Ah. Snow.

Another three inches last night. If it hadn't been a clipper, we'd have been buried, according to the weather solons.

I'll be able to bore the grandkids with one of those weather stories:

"2008--snowed that year."

That would be something.

Fired Detroit whistleblower may run for mayor.

My one comment on the Kilpatrick fiasco (apart from "my tax dollars at work. Sigh"):

He's a genuinely smart and talented politician with a fatally flawed ego. A tragedy for his family, the city and himself.

BTW, lots of posters are showing up on Detroit lampposts: "How many police officers could we have had for 8.6 million?" "How many park improvements ___________?" And I saw a "Kwame lied" bumpersticker, too.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Fitna.

I have problems with Geert Wilders, and disagree with his overall assessment of Islam as a whole, but he has the shahids' number.

WARNING: Contains very graphic and disturbing imagery. Taken, tragically, from the headlines.

Cafeteria denizens sink to a new low.

Remember that Allam thread?

Now anti-Jewish conspiracy theories are getting an airing. Scroll down to the "I encourage you all to" comment.

Specifically, that Israeli intelligence is going to run a false flag operation to provoke a war between Christianity and Islam. Joooooooooooooooooos!

Though the jihadis need precious little provocation, as Buddhists in Thailand and Hindus in India can readily testify.

Nevertheless, this conspiratorial assclownery gets multiple big thumbs up from our Progressive Betters!

Won't you please join me in giving this ancient evil stupidity a swift kick?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Just remember: you only hurt the ones you love.

And I love you all....

When is Yoko Ono finally going to be arrested for her career of unrelenting cat torture? I'm convinced her oeuvre is the magic bullet for dealing with the coming zombie apocalypse.

Don't forget to visit the Shatner section(scroll down). His takes on Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds and Mr. Tamborine Man redefine pop music.

P.S.--this is a spillover from a rather virulent e-war between myself and Victor Morton, which started with his absolutely unnecessary and mistaken reference to Lorenzo Lamas, escalated to the lyrics of Achy Breaky Heart, escalated still further with George Burns' Beatles cover and has now seen the ICBMs unleashed.

You will envy the dead.

A great Easter!

Thanks again for all the support--corners are turning, albeit slowly. We've looked at a few vans, but nothing yet that floats the boat. And, yes, I've looked at an Odyssey, too--affordable, but a slight catch: 210,000 miles. Which, with our luck, is like playing Russian roulette with one empty chamber. I don't care how good the car ratings are--a non-truck with 210,000 miles is one garage visit from me hunting down the salesman with part of the exhaust system.

We received 3" of snow on Friday night, so the rebellious stairs will wait another week.

As far as Easter proper, a good time was had by all. My mother in law helped us schlepp the kids to Mass, and she also brought dessert (a giant apple pie from Costco). I thought we should go the ham (vs. turkey) route this year and it turned out well. Much less prep time and no worries about stuffing. Mashed potatoes came from a box--and were just fine, thanks.

Memo to self--ration the Easter candy a little better next year. Mom and Dad were ready for bed by 8:00pm, but the children had to be peeled off the ceiling.

We are blessed, and this weekend, for all of the unresolved issues, drove that lesson home with great force.

Thanks again!

Magdi Cristiano Allam's Baptism.

First of all, welcome, brother, from a member of the Class of '99. Prayers inbound, given the often-hostile reaction of the Muslim world to "apostasy."

The residents of the National Catholic Reporter's internet Cafe' are queuing up to offer their support, prayers and understanding (check the comment ratings, too).

Psych!

No, of course not--there's the usual braying at "the Vatican" and a creative argument comparing Allam's baptism to the heinous Edgardo Mortara kidnapping.

As creative as the debates between a bag lady and her least-favorite lamppost get, that is.

Admittedly, one commenter offers the clenched-jaw concession that Allam's conversion is "fine," but overall the sense is that the proper approach would have been to have Allam baptized by a deacon in a crypt somewhere in the Diocese of Whitehorse. Unless, of course, there's the possibility a Muslim might have been passing through the region at the time.

No, there's not a peep of awareness, let alone understanding, about the plight of Muslim converts to Christianity. Nope--it's the real enemy stirring up those poor misunderstood fellows again. If you are going to wear the dhimmi badge, wear it proudly, I guess.



Manuel II Palaiologos' Thought for the Day:

"You know, you might want to learn a little history

not subsidized by Saudi oil money."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The day death itself became mortal.

The power of his death once confronted our death. In the words of Hosea the prophet: Death, I shall be your death; grave, I shall swallow you up. By dying he submitted to the laws of the underworld; by rising again he destroyed them.

He did away from the everlasting character of death so as to make death a thing of time, not of eternity.


--Pope St. Leo the Great, Sermo 8 de passione Domini.


[Icon credit.]

Kathy Shaidle once said that this performance struck her as a perfect metaphor for the Resurrection. I think she's right:


He is risen!

Happy Easter to you and yours.

Thank you.

Anonymous Penitent, thanks--more than I can say--for your humbling generosity.

I'll gladly follow your condition and not try to find out who you are.

With one caveat--it only applies to this side of Heaven. When I (God willing) finally exit Purgatory, you will be one of the first people I look for.

I hope your Triduum has been as blessed as you helped make ours. Thank you, brother.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Christe eleison.




My people, My people what have I done to you?
How have I offended you?
Answer me!

I led you out of Egypt from slavery to freedom,
but you have led your Savior and nailed Him to a cross.

Hagios O Theos, Hagios ichyros,
Hagios athanatos eleison himas.

Holy is God, Holy and Strong,
Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us.

For forty years in safety, I led you through the desert,
I fed you with my manna, I gave you your own land,
but you have led your Savior and nailed Him to a Cross.

Hagios O Theos, Hagios ichyros,
Hagios athanatos eleison himas.

Holy is God, Holy and Strong,
Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us.

O what more would you ask from me?
I planted you, my vineyard,
but sour grapes you gave me, and vinegar to drink,
and you have pierced your Savior and pierced Him with a spear.

Hagios O Theos, Hagios ichyros,
Hagios athanatos eleison himas.

Holy is God, Holy and Strong,
Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us.

For you scourged your captors, their first born sons were taken,
but you have taken scourges and brought them down on Me.

My people, My people what have I done to you?
How have I offended you?
Answer me!

From slavery to freedom I led you and drowned your captors.
But I am taken captive and handed to your priests.

My people, My people what have I done to you?
How have I offended you?
Answer me!

Your path lay through the waters, I opened them before you.
My side you have laid open and bared it with a spear.

My people, My people what have I done to you?
How have I offended you?
Answer me!

I led you, held securely, My fire and cloud before you,
but you have led your Savior hands bound to Pilate's court.

My people, My people what have I done to you?
How have I offended you?
Answer me!

I bore you up with manna,
you bore me down and scourged me.
I gave you saving water, but you gave me soured wine.

My people, My people what have I done to you?
How have I offended you?
Answer me!

The kings who reigned in Canaan, I struck the way before you.
But you have struck my crowned head, and struck it with a reed.

My people, My people what have I done to you?
How have I offended you?
Answer me!

I gave you a royal scepter
but you gave me a thorn crown.
I raised you up in power,
but you raised me on the Cross.

Hagios O Theos, Hagios ichyros,
Hagios athanatos eleison himas.

Holy is God, Holy and Strong,
Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us.

[Picture Credit]

Thanks.

The outpouring was appreciated, as have been the contacts by email. You know who you are--from the bottom of my humbled heart, thanks.

A walk in the sun with Heather and the kids was also great help. The rest of the remedies will be tried, too.

Have a blessed remainder of the Triduum.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Prayer request.

Despite my attempts to laugh it off, recent problems have caused the black dog to start growling.

Prayers, good thoughts and the like are really welcome right now.

Thanks in advance.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Red letter week.

Last Wednesday, as I was chasing some errant plastic for the recycling bin, the stairs to the deck pulled away from the deck proper.

Depositing me violently on the ground, ripping my right thumb open in the process. Could be worse--better me than my wife or any of the kids. Plus, my mother in law was visiting for our weekly dinner, and that could have been catastrophic.

Wait, it gets better.

Thursday, I get into a minor fender-bender on the way to work. My front end is cracked open, but the car performance is unimpacted.

I think.

Thursday evening, as I leave work, I notice that...no, can't be...

Yes, it is. A flat tire.

OK, I've changed my share in my lifetime. I pull the kit out of the trunk, get the tire jacked up and apply the tire iron....

Which for some #$%&ing reason doesn't fit the @!&*ing lugnuts.

I suppose it's still a fine prop for a violent revenge fantasy involving used car salesmen. The sympathetic parking lot attendant lends me his, but since it's for a Ford, it doesn't fit.

Wait--I have a socket set! One of the sockets fits! I start trying to remove the lugnuts.

Only to discover that the @!&*ing lugnuts have been ratcheted on by the air wrench. The Incredible @!&*ing Hulk couldn't loosen those bad boys. And believe me, I was achieving Hulk status by now.

I drive to a nearby gas station on my unbudgable flat and inject two cans of fix-a-flat. I get home.

Friday, I take the minivan to work. It's behaving...sluggishly.

Nah.

Not both at once.

Saturday, we drive to the communal penance service as a family. The van stalls out thrice, the last time as we are heading into the parish parking lot. I resolve to get it towed to the car repair emporium where I am greeted like Norm in Cheers. My wife's aunt and uncle generously transport Heather and the kids home. The guys at Cheers reassure me it's probably just a bad fuel pump, which makes sense.

Sunday, I am preparing to be the family representative at Mass. Once again, the tire is flat.

Not this time, you bastard.
I have an extra can of fix-a-flat.
Bwa-hahahaha!


I nurse the vehicle to a local gas station, where they offer to check my tire and patch it. Worst case scenario, sell me a used or new tire.

Ends up a new tire--they show me where my old one is spurting air like a slashed artery.

Fine--no more worries about Bleedy. But I have a bad wheel bearing, which explains that unfortunate vibrating and clunking I'm hearing in the Sex Panther.

Sunday, I go to work on the steps. The wood is so rotten that my carpentry nails split the relevant wood.

I hand-hack a stump off a 4 by 4 and ram it into place up underneath the errant step. The stairs sorta work. I'm going to have to replace the entire thing this weekend. Drills, nails, and a partially useable thumb on my dominant hand:

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

Monday, Cheers reopens. They assure me in the morning they'll get back with me as soon as they figure it all out. Probblee a couple hours, in our shared Michiganian.

More than a couple hours pass. My calls...meet with increasing ambiguity. But I'm capped out at $210 for the analysis, so what the hey.

Today, sidelined by the increasing clunking (the Panther is also in the shop), I get a call from Mr. Malone.

Bad engine bearing. The cheap--cheap--fix is $2500.

On a minivan with 160K+ miles that looks more and more like Clint Eastwood's bus in The Gauntlet every day.

Mmm, yeah-let me get back to you on that.

Looks like we're shopping for a cheap used van. ASAP.

Boy, that Blog Award I'm getting on Wednesday sure is going to be welcome.

Right? RIGHT.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Help Jeff Miller!

In this Lenten season, it is especially important to learn the value of mortification.

To encourage Jeff in his journey to self-denial and spiritual growth, vote for me.

I am the change he is looking for.

Announcement: We have received approval to start a new K-8 charter school.

It's called the King Louis IX Academy. As a charter school, it is a public, taxpayer-funded school, so that means must not be beholden to any creed. However, it is permitted to promote values and culture.

The King Louis IX Academy recognizes and appreciates the traditions, histories, civilizations and accomplishments of the western world (Europe, the Americas, Australasia).

Now, don't let the fact that two Catholic deacons will be running the school concern you. This will be a taxpayer-funded operation. No proselytizing will be permitted.

Nor should you have any Establishment clause concerns about our central "Spiritual Reflection Area." Yes, it's shaped like a chapel and has a crucifix and high altar, but those are just the unavoidable result of architectural convenience. The mantillas worn by our female students in the chapel will be strictly voluntary.

And while our cafeteria will strictly adhere to old-school Catholic fasting and abstinence requirements, we remain a public school. If your child wants to bring a cheesesteak on Fridays, be our guest.

The daily Rosary that will be prayed by all of our students will also be voluntary.

Oh, and the fact that the school is part of a complex containing a Catholic church is of no consequence whatsoever. It was the best we could do in these difficult economic times.

Finally, the fact each and every one of our students will proceed to confirmation classes immediately following dismissal--and in the same classrooms--should be of no concern. We understand the importance of the absolute separation of church and state. Why, we know--it's right there in the Bill of Rights.

Rest assured, sir and madam: the King Louis IX Academy will offer the best non-sectarian public education your tax dollars can provide.

Another joins the white-robed army of martyrs.

The body of Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was found today, just where his murderers said it would be.


May he rest in peace, and may justice find his murderers.

[Photo credit.]

Simon's Cat.

If you haven't seen these, watch. My kids laugh themselves silly.

Simon Tofield understands cats as well as any human can.

"Cat Man Do," a/k/a "Wake Up Cat":



"Let Me In!":

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

O tempora! O mores!

One in four teenage girls in the U.S. has a sexually-transmitted disease.

Which can only mean one thing, of course--WE ARE A NATION OF UPTIGHT SEX-FEARING PRUDES WHO MUST EMBRACE THE LATEX:

Those numbers are certainly alarming," said sex education expert Nora Gelperin, who works with a teen-written Web site called sexetc.org. She said they reflect "the sad state of sex education in our country."

The teen staffers at sexetc.org don't seem to be innocents abroad.

Nor, can I imagine, are most teens really confused about the mechanics, risks and consequences. What they lack in too many situations are adults capable of standing up to the zeitgeist.

"Sexuality is still a very taboo subject in our society," she said. "Teens tell us that they can't make decisions in the dark and that adults aren't properly preparing them to make responsible decisions."

Because if you can't accept the testimony of an immature hormonal teenager as infallible, the theocrats will have won. Then again, maybe there's something to this. Perhaps this is a slight ray of hope--they want some encouragement to swim against the tide, not meekly go along with it. In an otherwise grim story, it's something.

"Sexuality is still a very taboo subject in our society." Of course.

When, when WHEN, dear sweet Priapus, we waken from our Osama bin Cleaver nightmare?!

When will women be permitted to show a little ankle from underneath their shapeless jumpers without being beaten by the security goons from CBN?

When will we be permitted to think of the breast as titillating instead of something a slobbering infant gloms on to for nourishment?

When will Kim Kardashian be allowed to appear in public again?

When will we stop beheading Playboy vendors?

When will we take the genital cuffs off teenage boys and chastity belts off teenage girls?

When will Larry Flynt be permitted to return from exile in France?

"Sexuality is still a very taboo subject in our society." Preach it, sister: Truer words will never be spoken.

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the study shows that "the national policy of promoting abstinence-only programs is a $1.5 billion failure, and teenage girls are paying the real price."

IT'S CHIMPY McBU(ll)SHITLERBURTON'S ROVIAN PLOT TO SUPPRESS NEWS ABOUT THE INVENTION OF THE CONDOM!

I mean, horny immature teenage (but I repeat myself) boys would have no other reason to avoid condom use save sheer ignorance of the very idea.

If only they knew it existed...

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Slate offers up a really bad article about the morality of D&D, denigrating it as a hack-n-slasher, a tabletop first person shooter of the worst order.

How bad is it? At a minimum, anybody criticizing the game system's morality should at least make a nod to the alignment system. You know, that critical part of the rules system that requires the roleplayer to adhere to a certain ("Dude, at least it's an") ethos and morality?

Not even discussing that limitation makes a complete hash of his argument. His "narrative arithmetic" presumes everyone is playing to an evil alignment. That's not the way me and my nerd posse rolled, man.

That's not to say that the alignment rules weren't sometimes twisted into balloon animals, nor that some players harkened to evil characters. But don't pretend the rules weren't there. Good-aligned characters wouldn't--couldn't--engage in sociopathic violence without severe, even campaign-ending, consequences.

Moreover, the books and adventures explicitly gave or at least recommended experience bonuses for non-violent play, and punished hack-n-slashery. The hypothetical orc slaughtering in the one room might wake up something really nasty down the corridor, for example.

Now the one point the writer does have is that Gygax's system came prepackaged with real flaws--the rules were full of parenthetical digressions, random excursions and long-winded (if usually interesting) explanations that could slow actually learning the game to a crawl. And the rules themselves often ran the gamut from Baroque to Rococo--alignment languages? WTH?

Don't get me started on the First Edition weapon speed rules or segments, rounds and turns. Gaming Logorrhea, thy Father was E. Gary Gygax. There were, and are, simpler game systems. GURPS is all right, but the original Traveler was even better. But it was and remains a very sturdy game platform that has stood the test of time for a reason--because it works.

But to portray it as Grand Theft Auto with dice is one of the dumbest accusations you can level at Gygax.

No, I came here for an argument.

If you'd care to see me apologetic-ing, I did so over at Hot Air earlier this week. I got into a wrangle with a Protestant brother/sister arguing that the Bible doesn't have a Gospel According to Gordon Gekko. This was in relation to the misreported story about the Vatican allegedly whipping up some"new sins," amongst which is "excessive wealth."

I argued that the Bible is replete with warnings to rich folk, and that scripture never portrays wealth as neutral, in fact only approving it where the person in question is already regarded as righteous.

I think I did well, but I'll leave that up to you. If nothing else, I'm left with the distinct impression that the prosperity "gospel" has disturbingly long tentacles.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Speaking of boilerplate.

Voting for the 2008 Catholic Blog Awards is underway.

Once again, I see I'm racking up about as much support as a gay Mike Huckabee clone in Utah.

From the bottom of my heart:



My far-classier wife Heather has also been nominated in a couple of categories. If you want to make sure that we don't have to face our children's tear-streaked faces again this year, vote for the both of us.

Free Advice for Two-Timing Politicos.

Stop doubling-down on your wife's humiliation by having her stand by your side for the boilerplate half-assed apology for your disgusting behavior.

I hope her lawyer has been genetically modified and had wolverine and piranha genes spliced in.

That Eliot's a sweet piece of work.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Ner Dalert.

I am somewhat surprised the comic book quiz received only 29 votes. Apparently y'all aren't comic book geeks. I wasn't much of one, but I went through that Phase. You have no idea how relieved I am that no one voted for Lord Saker. I don't even think the character's creator remembers that one. Thanks also for not voting for the Beyonder, a supremely-bad idea ended in his/its overdue destruction at the hands of...the Molecule Man, saints preserve us. With an assist by the Silver Surfer.

By the way, the (most) correct answer was the Joker.

However, I know there are more geeks/nerds/dweebs out there, so I will attempt to smoke you out over the next few weeks. Starting with the Gary Gygax Memorial Best D&D Modules Quiz. Yes, you can pick more than one. Followed thereafter by Best Nerd Bands.

One last thing--who gave Der Tommissar permission to leave the Blogosphere? It wasn't me, so I hereby rescind the invalid "permission." Bad form.

The skipping record.

Another day, another NCReporter editorial, this one about the decline of Catholic identification in the U.S. when you subtract out the immigrant effect.

The answer to reverse this worrying trend?

"Why is the Vatican so defensive about pelvic issues? They sound very defensive right now. I mean, you spend thirty years trying to talk about clerical celibacy, birth control, "adultery" and gay people getting it on and it's like all they ever focus on.


It's them, right?"


Consider the Reporter's list of discussion topics:

We’d add a few of our own: the sex abuse crisis, particularly the cover-up by bishops; rules prohibiting birth control; rules forbidding Communion to divorced and remarried Catholics; lack of accountability on financial matters; the second-class status of women in the church; rejection of gays and lesbians.

A round half dozen topics, and fifty percent are related to smuggling the bratwurst. You get the sense that the Reporter's editorialists knew that it was a bit pelvocentric, hence the tossing in of financial accountability to bring it up to 50% non-genital.

Mind you, I can agree with the necessity of financial transparency, but I doubt people are running for the exits because of accounting practices.(1) I also agree that the sexual abuse crisis has not abated and has not been handled properly to this day. This sort of thing does drive reasonable, good-hearted people out the door and will remain an albatross for years to come.

The rest? With a partial exception, spare me. Here's the partial: divorced and remarried Catholics do need to be treated better. At a minimum, the annulment process should be free everywhere in the country (it's free in the Detroit archdiocese) and the Church needs to explain marriage as a sacrament with crystaline clarity, along with genuine pastoral sensitivity to those who have escaped from bad marriages. Obviously, that's not what the NCRep is gunning for, which is divorce-and-remarriage-without-consequences, but that doesn't mean the current system is problem free. Far from it.

But.

Would capitulation to the Reporter's talking points stem the tide? No, and if they had a shred of honesty, the editorial writers would acknowledge this. Time to wake up and smell the decomposing canary.


There are a few self-identified Christian churches who preach the Reporter's gospel, and each one of them is in varying stages of undeath. Take, for example, The Episcopal Church [urgent note from Chris Johnson: "PLEEEEEASE!"].

TEC endorses everything on the Reporter's wishlist: Women bishops and clergy, a divorced gay bishop and plenty of gay clergy, a thrice-married straight bishop and no problem 'tall with slapping a raincoat on Mr. Happy or otherwise engaging in evaluations of spongeworthiness. In fact, birth control is a mark of proper Piskie stewardship.


Result? For reasons which continue to escape the logical/spiritual assessments of the Reporter's editorial board, TEC is not standing-room-only on Sunday mornings. The description I'm looking for will prominently feature the word "crater."


Other mainline denominations are losing members, too, but none resemble the Catholic Church in organization and worship quite so much as TEC.
But looking more like TEC will help us grow. Especially if we keep saying it over and over again, year after year after year. It would almost be touching if it weren't so delusional.
----------------------
(1) Rather like those who try to argue that slavery wasn't the cause of the Civil War. To which I reply that I had no idea people in Massachusetts and South Carolina were so willing to bayonet each other over tariffs.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Oh, yeah....

Business Time, by Flight of the Conchords.

This one's for all the husbands and wives out there.

Warning--a little on the racy side, but more in a Barry White as opposed to Snoop Dogg sense.

If you get what I'm saying.

And I know you do.

To say that I've never really cared for Bjork's music is an understatement.

Even by English standards.

It's along the lines of saying "I've never really cared for fiberglass catheters" or "I've never really cared for National Catholic Reporter editorials." Her singing style reminds me of Yoko Ono after five years of a-pack-a-day habit. When the Sugarcubes showed up on Saturday night live performing one of their "songs," I deliberately turned the sound down and cued up AC/DC's "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap."

Be that as it may, she deserves some credit for giving Sinofascism a pop to the probiscus:

China pledged Friday to impose tougher curbs on foreign artists after pop star Bjork sang in support of Tibetan independence in Shanghai, warning similar actions could lead to them being blacklisted.

"We will further tighten controls on foreign artists performing in China in order to prevent similar cases from happening in the future," the Ministry of Culture said in a statement on its website.

"We shall never tolerate any attempt to separate Tibet from China and will no longer welcome any artists who deliberately do this."

A video on the Internet site Youtube shows the Icelandic singer closing out her concert in China's financial hub last Sunday with the song: "Declare Independence", during which she yelled "Tibet" several times.

A nice bit of defiance from a lefty in the lair of the beast. Better than the Indigo Girls in Cuba, that's for sure.

Sad as it is to say, this is quixotic. Tibet is finished as a nation. Thanks to more than a half century of repression and resettlement, Tibetan independence is about as likely as that of Aquitaine.

Thanks in some small measure to weaselly reportage like this closing tag:

Bjork is one of many prominent Western celebrities, including actor Richard Gere, to have lent their support to Tibetans campaigning for independence for their homeland, or at least an end to what they say is severe repression there.

"What they say," indeed.

Contemporary book vetting.

"Hello, Uzayr? Yes, this is Ted Sorrento at Imagination Books. Sorry to bother you the day before your first book tour, but I need to touch base on a couple of things that have come up. Do you have moment?"

"Great."

"Getting right to the nub: some researchers have made frankly stunning claims that some of the claims in your memoir aren't...how should I say this? 'Fully correlated to the demonstrable facts'? Yes, I'll go with that. They are going so far as to call From Titicaca to Tawhid: A Latino-Muslim Journey 'utterly fictitious.'"



"Ummm.......yes, that would be a 'problem.'"

"'Which facts'?"

"Starting at the beginning, really:

1. That you weren't born Xochimilco Fuentes, a Quechua-speaking poor child born and raised on one of the artificial Uros islands in Lake Titicaca.

2. That your mother wasn't killed while working for an oppressive right-wing landowner/death squad leader in a tragic-yet-avoidable gardening accident involving a dangerously over-stacked compost pile.



3. That, orphaned by your absent father who had returned to Mexico, you weren't taken in by your "Uncle Ernesto the Scabrous" who taught you how to be a teenaged lake pirate.

4. That you never, in fact, were a pirate of any kind.

5. That you aren't, courtesy of your father, the illegitimate younger half-brother of Commandante Marcos, head of the Zapatero rebels in Mexico.

6. That you didn't sign on with said rebels following your Titicaca buccaneering, joining your dashing masked half-brother in adventures against the oppressive criollo landlords, leaving twin marks of 'M' and 'X' with your sabres on the walls of their haciendas as you made off with their ill-gotten gains.

7. That you didn't in fact rescue a busload of 'very grateful and energetically affectionate' college girls aged 18-22 on their way back from a Victoria's Secret show in Cancun from a gang of short, pudgy capitalist oppressors.

Yes, certainly, that's one of my favorites, too. But I'm not done, alas."

"8. That you weren't indeed later captured on a solo adventure by a band of inbred Aztec polytheists who nearly sacrificed you to their dark gods before you made a daring escape.

9. That you did not, chastened by that shocking experience, begin to question the meaning of life and take up a job bouncing at El Cabron Grande, a run-down oceanside bar in Veracruz.



10. That you did not meet your mentor while working there, a hard-drinking, short-tempered but good hearted Sunni Imam named Sheikh Ali Yurbouti.

11. That he did not teach you 'the meaning of life,' 'the glorious truths of Islam' and how to properly wield a katana while working there.



12. That Sheikh Yurbouti was not killed by the surviving inbred Aztecs who were hunting you down in a vengeful determination to finish their sacrifice.

13. That you did not then, in a grief-stricken berserk rage, strike down the 'vile kufr' who had murdered your beloved mentor in a 'hurricane of flashing steel, flying severed limbs and spurting neck-stumps.'



14. That you did not then, numbed by loss, 'wander the earth like Caine in Kung-Fu,' until you came to Detroit, Michigan and decided to build a mosque in his memory, where you remain as imam to this day, this time 'battling the new inbred Aztecs of hate and prejudice.'"

"In fact, some have argued, citing photographic and documentary evidence, that you are instead

1. Danny O'Herlihy, a lifelong Michigander, Chrysler production worker, husband and father of two who's never been south of the Texas panhandle and who acquired his knowledge of many of the details in his 'memoir' from Wikipedia."

2. That both your parents are still happily married after 36 years, retired and living in Boca Raton during the winter months.

3. That you are currently a semi-lapsed Methodist who attends Christmas and Easter services.

4. That your knowledge of Islam comes from a Comparative Religions class you took at Macomb Community College in 2003.

5. That your knowledge of piracy is entirely derived from the Pirates of the Caribbean oeuvre, both films and Disney World ride.

6. That your knowledge of swordplay comes from dueling your younger brothers with light sabers your parents bought you from Kenner while growing up."

"Really, Uzayr, I'm going to have to stop at this point. It's getting a little dismaying, to be candid. Now can you verify any events or provide supporting documentation?"

"You submitted the book with a note that it 'contained dramatic embellishment.'

I....see.

Ah.....well, yes, there is a barely-legible note to that effect. But that really wasn't the question. I'm looking for supp--"

"Oh, your wife's brother-in-law is a Mexican? But you call him 'Spanish' out of respect? Keep going--that's a start."

"'Sings great covers of Feliz Navidad and Freddy Fender tunes'?"

"You 'own a sombrero' and 'played football with a couple of Mexicans in high school'? Great--were they oppressed by any chance? 'Both started.' One was 'All-State, Class B.' No, not particularly oppressed at all."

"What about the Islamic stuff? 'Sometimes read Jihadwatch.' Let's keep that one under our hats--CAIR has been mostly positive about the book."

"'Know a couple of guys from Bangladesh on the assembly line--nice guys, good workers, pretty shy, don't speak a lot of English.'"

"'Know a bunch of Mexicans at the plant--pretty good guys.'"

"I think I have enough to get the picture, Mr. O'Herlihy. We here at Imagination are left with little choice.

I'm going to have ask you to bring your Bengali and Mexican friends to the signing on next Monday. Paint a crescent on your sombrero and make sure your co-workers don't say anything.

See you then, Imam Fuentes."

Further inspiration here, here and here.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Nothing quite like the sweet, sweet taste of petrodollars to euthanize the conscience.

Cal-Berkeley and Cal Poly are racing to set up schools in enlightened Saudi Arabia.

Cal Poly's is men-only and Berkeley's being...circumspect about the nature of its school, assuring that there will be no discrimination.

But refusing to cough up any documentary proof.

Faculty concerns have slowed similar proposals between other U.S. and Saudi schools. At Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, engineering professors are opposing an agreement to develop a men-only engineering school at Saudi Arabia's Jubail University College.

Berkeley administrators are making sure the King Abdullah proposal would not lead to discrimination, said Al Pisano, chairman of the UC Berkeley mechanical engineering department.


"We're in the middle of vetting all of this," said Pisano, who declined to say how much money the Saudi school would pay UC Berkeley. "If this agreement goes forward as planned, I think you're going to find that there will be no discrimination on any basis."


Unlike other Saudi universities, the new school -- known as KAUST -- will not be subject to gender or religious restrictions, said John Burgess, a former U.S. diplomat who runs the Crossroads Arabia blog. King Abdullah intends to allow KAUST complete freedom so it can become one of the world's top graduate schools, Burgess said.


"KAUST is unique," he said. "There will be no government pressure on curriculum or the way anything runs. This is being carved out of Saudi Arabia."


But it remains to be seen whether women and others will indeed be allowed to be equal partners in the new venture. The New York Times reported in October that Israelis would not be allowed to collaborate with KAUST.


Sounds like a stunning engineering achievement, floating above Saudi Arabia like that. After all, that would be the only way the institution would escape the eyes and truncheons of the hairy double-y chromosome types who call themselves the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.

And it looks to be 100% Jew-free, too. Understandable--those clever Zionists might sneak a few more nut-shrinkers into the land of purity.

Very well-played, Cal-Poly and Cal Berkeley.

Remember when American universities used to have their thongs in a wad about companies that did business in apartheid-era South Africa?

My mistake was to think it was an admirable stand for the principle of the equality of all men before the law. More the fool me.

Looks like the Boers' real crime was failing to sling some serious piles of Krugerrands down University way.

Nah--too cynical...

Childbirth in the 21st Century.

Melanie and Dom Bettinelli have sprinted to the hospital, as it seems Melanie's water broke this morning. Baby Sophia Therese will be making her debut today.

Dom is just about liveblogging the birth here.

So we’re in the hospital in the birthing center now. Happily they have WiFi, which should make it easier to keep in touch. Melanie still refuses to let me broadcast the birth live over the Internet. She’s so old-fashioned.

I recorded our children's birth with a camera using the quaint throwback material called "film," and Dom's lobbying to set up a webcam.

All in all, it's probably safer to offer congrats at Dom's--he'll be able to relay them more quickly, I imagine.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

And the final Cylon is...

Felix Gaeta.


I know, I've argued Lee Adama before, but I think Gaeta is much more likely. The whole "how'd he get into the Adama family" thing is too difficult a hurdle.

Gaeta has been at the center of the story from the beginning, albeit slightly off to one side. As senior officer of the watch, he's responsible for the Dradis warning system and navigation. He calculated the jump that got the Galactica to Ragnar so it would be able to fight and out past the Red Line--in short, he's responsible for shepherding the fleet in a very direct sense. Also, he cleared Baltar of the initial treason charge (involving doctored film), called foul on the rigged election, was the critical leak helping the resistance on New Caprica and tried to have Baltar killed for his actual treason. He's too committed to the survival of humanity (which distinguishes the Five from the Seven), indeed, too crucial to it. He fits the pattern of Tigh, Anders, Tyrol and Tori.

That's who my money's on.

Anybody else?