Thursday, February 27, 2014

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Expectations


I had a disappointment today. That happens, it hurts, life goes on. I have disappointed others in the past and hurt them too. That happens, I'm sorry, life goes on.

And amazingly, life is filled with delightful happenings and wonderful people as well as disappointments and hurts.

Clouds passing over.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Got subsidy?



The national campaign that sparked 1,000 milk mustaches will be put to rest after a 20-year run.
It's being replaced by a new slogan, “Milk Life,” that's designed to highlight the protein benefits of the drink, according to Julia Kadison, interim CEO for MilkPEP, which represents milk processors around the country.

“This is not about getting rid of ‘Got Milk?’” Kadison said. “While most Americans have milk in their refrigerators they’ve either forgotten or never knew the nutritional value in milk and why they should consume more of it.”

The first "Got Milk?" ad appeared in 1994 featuring supermodel Naomi Campbell.

Source: NBC News
It has been pointed out that the milk industry is heavily subsidized by the government and that milk advertising campaigns are pretty much about public relations and not about sales.Since 1995, your taxes have contributed over five billion dollars to the dairy industry. McNutt Brothers Dairy in Dublin Texas, has received the most -- over thirteen million dollars in less than ten years.

Meditation

After an incredible year in a program at St. Louis University, I wound up with friends all around the world. The director of our program mentioned that part of her daily meditation was to sit before a globe and think of each person, where they were working (many were missionaries) and where they were from. She tried to expand her heart and love out to each of them and through them to the people they served, the people of their homeland and all the people in the world.

It is a practice I have adapted in my own way. Each morning as part of my meditation, I try to include those I know and love, those I know and like, those with whom I work, those I encounter in my daily life, my neighbors, the residents of my state, my nation, my world. I ask that all of them may be happy, well, united, free and safe.

Then I try to expand that out to include the people I resent, don't like, don't agree with, am angry with, and so on. I try to put faces on these people and names, since often they are in the news. It is not enough to ask this for people in general. I ask it for particular people. It is much more difficult, but I find that it helps me get through the day without getting as agitated, annoyed and judgmental. I don't always succeed, but at least I am trying.

I started doing this over a year ago when I became very angry with a particular political figure. I started tacking his name onto my little mantra: "May all be happy, especially So-and-so. May all be well, especially So-and-so. May all be united, especially So-and-so. May all be free, especially So-and-so. May all be safe, especially So-and-so." I found that after a few minutes of asking that he be happy, well, united with all that is, free and safe, I felt better and could smile when I thought of him.

I note that I avoided asking that he be changed to believe what I believe or that he be changed to do what I want him to do or anything like that. All I did/do was ask that he be given what I ask that I and those I love be given: happiness, wellness, unity, freedom and safety.

I wish that I could report that a year later I am a much better person, but it seems I still have to do this every morning for a while.

Progress, not perfection.

BTW, I have since learned that there is a Buddhist meditation technique similar to this. If you want to know more about that, click on Metta bhanvana. It is easily adapted to the way you pray in your own religious tradition.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Saturday Internationale in Madison


Yesterday we dropped in on the International Festival at Madison's Overture Center for the Arts. There was quite a mob there, mostly families with young children, and we didn't stay too long. They had food, crafts, dances and singing. There were exhibits for Madison's eight Sister Cities, too. I had a nice chat with the man representing Tepatitlán, Mexico and Tom talked to the guy for Freiburg, Germany.

We had planned to get something to eat at the festival, but the lines were long and nothing seemed worth the wait and then standing around a crowded room trying to eat while holding a paper plate. So we went to one of our spots down State Street, Parthenon Gyros, where we got a Greek gyro and French fries -- how international was that? Parthenon is run by a Greek family (although I am sure I heard one of the cooks speaking Spanish) and has been there since 1972. The have huge videos around the place showing Greek music videos or incredible scenery from the islands.

After that we went by the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, where they had a couple of new exhibits. One on surrealism was particularly good.

Then back home and dinner with Rich and Peggy and a friend of theirs. We had turkey and duck -- but not turducken. Good food and a nice time.

I stated off the day feeling not too well and more than a little cranky. But it was good to get out and it helped my mood a lot. Feeling better this morning.

Although I just realized that, since no one (including the library) withheld any income tax in 2013, I am going to have to pay something to the state and nation instead of getting a partial refund. Oh, well. Life goes on. And look at the return I get on my investment: safe roads, protection from fire and crime, and on and on and on.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

How's that working for us?


Infallibility

I get a weekly newsletter for writers and editors. Recently there was a discussion about whether or not the letter g is always hard (as in get) or soft (as in giant) before the letter i. As frequently seems to be the case with our wonderful English language (try teaching it to a non-native-speaker to find out how bad it is!), hard and fast rules are difficult to come by. Like not ending a sentence with a preposition the way I just did, when English is filled with phrasal verbs, or verbs followed by a preposition with no apparent object. "Sit down. Stand up. " I'll shut up but I am sure there are examples you can come up with. ;-)

Anyway, one anecdote that emerged was this:
When Cardinal Gibbons, the famous archbishop of Baltimore, was asked if he thought the current pope was infallible, he replied: "I’m not sure. He always pronounces my name Jibbons."
James Cardinal Gibbons (1834-1921) was named a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII. Both men were advocates of social justice, especially for workers, and defended efforts to organize labor unions. Make of that what you will.

Speaking as one ...


Monday, February 17, 2014

I am happy to report ...

I made some progress on the novel today. Sometimes it helps to be snowed in!

I am expecting to receive something from the Carmelite publications office any day now that will require me to put other projects aside for a while. I don't think it will take too long, but until I start I won't know. Next year is the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Teresa of Avila, and in her honor they are putting out an updated version of a very nice photo book first produced in 1982, the 400th anniversary of her death. My task will be to go through the Spanish text of the updated version to see what (if anything) needs to be changed in the English text from that 1982 edition. The book is more photographs than text, and someone else will be checking the captions for the photos. All I have to do is the text in the body of the book

I have mixed feelings about this sort of work. I hope it doesn't take too long, but I do get paid by the hour ...

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Saturday, February 15, 2014

George

Tom's former father-in-law, George Anastaplo, died last night at his home in Hyde Park, a few blocks from the University of Chicago. He was born to Greek immigrants in 1925 and served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. He earned both his BA and JD at the University of Chicago and held countless academic honors.

George was an internationally respected expert on Constitutional law. He is perhaps most famous for refusing to answer questions about whether or not he had been a member of the Communist Party, part of the routine examination before being admitted to the Illinois bar in the heady days of the Red Scare of the early 1950s. The resulting denial of his admission to the Illinois state bar became a Supreme Court case, In re Anastaplo, in which he insisted that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the privacy of political affiliations; in particular, he refused to answer questions about membership in the Communist Party. His stand was based on Constitutional principles and consequent rejection of McCarthyism, and nobody alleged that he had membership in the Communist Party. The Supreme Court's majority upheld the lower courts' ruling in favor of the Illinois Bar, although Justice Hugo Black dissented. After his Supreme Court case and denial of admission to the Bar, Anastaplo supported his family by teaching at the University of Chicago and other universities and colleges and by writing many books and articles. He had been honored by the University of Dallas, where I did my own MA, and when I worked at the downtown campus of Loyola University in Chicago, I often saw him going and coming in the Law School across from my office.

Because he took a firm stand on a matter he regarded as principle and was willing to accept the consequences, and perhaps as a nod to his Greek heritage, admirers referred to him as the "Socrates of Chicago."

May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.

What can I say?


Friday, February 14, 2014


Because I can't help Thinking Geek!



Available at Think Geek, of course.

Happy Valentine's Day!


Virginia


The summer before my senior year in university (how British that sounds, in university) a friend was taking a directing course and one of her actors got picked up for DUI a couple of days before the play was to be performed for the public. He had a minor-minor role and I agreed to fill in. I knew a lot of the drama students anyway, and one of the principals was a woman named (I thought) Jenny. She wore a t-shirt that said "Virginia is for Lovers" and so I asked if she were from the Old Dominion.

Turns out her name was Virginia (hence, Ginny, not Jenny) and a friend had given her the shirt.

Anyway, it is a lovely state although it has been years now since I visited there.

The coastal plain is called the Tidewater, and I thought of that today. The tide, as they say, waits for no one.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

This post is for Tom


Tom does most (like 99.44%) of the snow removal around here. We had a bit yesterday and a bit more today. These two days don't amount to much, but he has shoveled and plowed and thrown lots of the white stuff this winter, not only at our house but at the little railroad.

Gotta love a guy like that!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Shirley Temple Black -- 1928 - 2014

Even as a child, I never understood what the attraction was in the movies Shirley Temple made when she was a child star. Curly locks and saccharine songs did not work for me.

I loved, however, Shirley Temple's Storybook, the children's anthology television series she hosted and narrated from 1958 to 1961. The series features adaptations of fairy tales and other family-oriented stories performed by well-known actors. One episode, an adaptation of The House of the Seven Gables, was meant for older youngsters. The first season of sixteen black-and-white and colored episodes aired on NBC between January 12, 1958 and December 21, 1958 as Shirley Temple's Storybook. The second season of twenty-five color episodes aired on NBC as The Shirley Temple Show between September 18, 1960 and July 16, 1961 in much the same format that it had under its original title.

The show was hampered by lots of things, including lame special effects for fantasy stories, a problem not unique at the time. Also, the show had no regular schedule. You sort of had to hear it was going to be on and then make sure to watch it. That catch-as-catch-can approach did not build a loyal audience.

I still remember watching The House of the Seven Gables. Twenty years later when I visited the original House of the Seven Gables in Salem, my memory of that show was fresh in my mind.

So I honor her memory and the joy and fascination she contributed to my own childhood.
---------------------------------------------------------------
"The influential classes, and those who take upon themselves to be leaders of the people, are fully liable to all the passionate error that has ever characterized the maddest mob.”
― Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables

Tales of the Archdroid, or These are Not the Druids You're Looking For

This morning I was talking to a friend who had recently finished reading my John of the Cross mystery. I told her I am working on another novel, and she asked what it was about. I told her a little bit and that it involved a Wiccan sorority at an odd college. I thought I might have to explain Wiccans, but she nodded that she understood. Then I said I was in the process of working Druids into it as well.

She looked puzzled.

"Droids? Like R2 D2?"

Ah, the joys of English and my careless pronunciation.

But it did give me a thought for the story ...

Word

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, has made some unexpected but encouraging pronouncements about the Catholic Church and gays:

"God never created anybody that he doesn't love. Anybody who doesn't show love towards gay and lesbian people is insulting God."

"They are not just homophobic if they do that – they are actually Godophobic because God loves every one of those people".

"We have to learn a new way in Ireland to live with our differences and for all of us to live with respect for one another. We all belong to one another and there is no way we can build up a society in which people are excluded or insulted."

Perhaps we could learn a new way in the United States as well.

Monday, February 10, 2014

It's a big world ...

I commented recently that I wanted to start reading blogs from people in more places. I have begun doing that, but I also started looking at where people live who read my blog. Only a handful ever comment, so I was not aware that more people are dropping in from time to time.

Turns out that in addition to the people in the States -- far and away the most frequent visitors -- there are people in Spain, Australia, Indonesia, Brazil, Ukraine, Russia, England, Germany, Italy, Kenya and Canada. I know who some of those are -- Mitchell in Spain and Sunny in England, for example. But most of them are strangers to me.

So hello out there! Glad you came by and hope to hear from you again!

Better


The It Gets Better project was designed to combat the terrible rate of suicides among gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teenagers, as well as others who suffer from bullying in our schools and culture. I like this graphic because it makes me think of spring, and this year I suspect everyone in the US of A has had enough of the white stuff and the cold stuff and is looking forward to those trees starting to leaf out and color starting to return.

Spring will come. The weather will get better for all of us.

Other things will only get better if we make them better.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Family


My niece Kirstin drove down from Arlington to visit my mother in Whitehouse yesterday. Kirstin (AKA Kiki) posted this photo on Facebook. I don't do Facebook, but Tom saw it and sent me a copy.

Two cuties, huh? My mother said she had a great time.

A bit early for St. Patrick's Day, but ...

An Irishman goes into the confessional box after years of being away from the Church. Inside he finds a fully equipped bar with Guinness on tap. On one wall there's a row of decanters with fine Irish whiskey and Waterford crystal glasses. On the other wall is a dazzling array of the finest cigars and chocolates.
 
 Then the priest comes in.
 
 "Father, forgive me, for it's been a very long time since I've been to confession, but I must first admit that the confessional box is much more inviting than it used to be."
 
The priest replies:  "Get out, you moron, you're on my side".

Saturday, February 8, 2014

More health needs

My sister-in-law's father had surgery this past week to remove a couple of nodules on his lungs. One was benign, the other cancerous, but the surgery went well and the doctors think they got all the cancer. Bill's recovery has not been as smooth as desired, however, and the weather is making it hard for my sister-in-law to get there to be with her mother and sister at his side. So we would appreciate your positive thoughts and your prayers for all of them.

On a happier note, three of her (and my brother's) granddaughters are celebrating birthdays this month. So wish Kodee, Riley and Piper happy birthday!

Update on my friend

Thanks to those of you who have been concerned about my friend who had the stroke. She was able to go home yesterday and is doing well, although still weak. She is able to walk without a cane, her speech is almost back to her usual and she expects/hopes to be back at work next week. We will have to see about that. She has some balance issues, and the bookmobile requires climbing up into the van and back down, something she found difficult before.

She and her family are grateful for your thoughts and prayers, as am I.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Because we need to know about angels

A man is being called the “Lunch Angel” this week after covering over 60 overdue lunch bills for students at Valley Oaks Elementary School in Texas. In choosing to pay off the students’ overdue accounts, Kenny Thompson was able to provide the students with a way to eat a healthy, hot lunch. He serves as a tutor and mentor for a number of students at the Houston school, and says it was a blessing to have helped out so many kids.

Thompson thinks covering roughly 60 overdue lunch accounts for students was well-spent money. Some students were only eating cheese sandwiches, while others were simply skipping lunch. Thompson added that he was glad to have made even a small difference by giving students the right to enjoy a hot, healthy meal in the middle of the school day.

"It was the best money I ever spent ... It was the best gift I ever gave myself. I went into my car and screamed."

The school tutor said he realized what he had to do for these in-need students after hearing news of the Utah school that was actually taking away children’s lunches and throwing them in the trash because their parents were unable to pay for the school lunch. Thompson knew there was something very wrong with this, and decided it was time to intervene.

He was startled to learned at his own school some children were eating cheese sandwiches, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches instead of the full lunch provided by the cafeteria. Others, due to embarrassment, didn't eat anything at all. Making matters worse was the fact that many of the children were already on a reduced lunch payment planning, meaning that they only had to pay 40 cents per day.

After paying for the 60 students’ overdue lunch bills, he made a public statement saying that this was unfair for the elementary level students.

"It was horrifying, it broke my heart," Thompson said. "These are elementary kids. They're not bankers and not responsible for the financial issues in the household. We don't know what they have for breakfast. That's the only meal we can control," he said of the lunches.

In the end, Thompson paid a total of $465 to cover all of the students’ lunches this week so that they may go back to enjoying a hot, healthy meal in the school cafeteria.

"When I left the building knowing that they were getting fed, they didn't have that stress," he added. “It was the best money I ever spent."

Just in time for you to buy me for Valentine's Day!

A classic all the way, the Gaskell from Theory is a traditional two-button cotton Henley that’s become a staple in every modern man’s wardrobe. What’s not so traditional, though, is the color, and the philanthropic goals of this humble Henley. For every Gaskell Shirt sold, (THEORY)RED provides 57 days-worth of life-saving medication to women in sub-Saharan Africa. And—nope, we’re not done yet—25-percent of the sale of all (THEORY)RED products will go directly to the Global Fund to fight AIDS.
-----------------
The shirt is now only $50, marked down from $115.

I admire the company's social responsibility, but something about paying $50 (not to mention $115!) for what is basically a red undershirt leaves me ... cold? On the other hand, if you plan to spend that kind of money, it is good to know that some of it will go to help people in need.

Just thinking out loud here ... But you could just contribute $50 or $115 directly to respected and responsible charities and keep your wardrobe and  spirit uncluttered.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Because a plain clock would be so boring

Click on the arrow and make sure your sound is on.



Pets are always fun, but are they functional? Not until now. This innovation in dual functionality—part fish tank, part clock—is the first of its kind. Aquavista’s award-winning Betta Fish Clock is the only wall-mount clock that doubles as an aquarium. Just fill it with a gallon of water, introduce your betta, and hang it on a wall. Its shatterproof acrylic will keep fishy safe while its serene aesthetic sets a tranquil mood.
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To be honest, I kinda want one of these. And they are on sale at under half price on Fab right now -- just $24.00.

Of course, you have to supply your own fish.

Prejudice


Prejudice is a great time saver. You can form opinions without having to get the facts.
~ E.B. White

Besides the indispensable Elements of Style for adults, he wrote the children's classics Charlotte's Web and  Stuart Little.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Wildlife and real life

Yesterday afternoon a deer was out by the birdfeeder for quite a while. Usually when one is that close to the house, the least movement that it sees in the house will send it scurrying, but yesterday it hung around for quite a while. I did not want to open the deck door to get a good photo, because I was sure that would frighten it off, but I took this one through the dining room window. What looks like a wire fence is the window screen.

We had a bit more snow today, not much but enough to need clearing. Supposed to get down to 8 below again tonight and a high of only 6 above tomorrow.

On a more solemn note, the woman who works with me on the Bookmobile is in the hospital. She had a stroke or a series of small strokes and last Thursday was taken to the emergency room and then taken by Medivac to Madison. We had all noticed a series of problems in the last month or so, and it is a relief to know that she is now getting the attention she needs. I talked to her on the phone this morning after I heard, and she sounds much better than when I talked to her last Thursday morning. She will be in the hospital for at least four or five more days. It is not clear if she will be able to go home after that or if she will have to go somewhere for further rehab. The most noticeable effect of the stroke(s) was slurred speech, but they are doing a more comprehensive cognitive evaluation. She has had serious short term memory problems ever since I met her, due in part to surgery some years ago to remove a brain tumor. I commend her and her family to your thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

And yet people work to defeat anti-bullying programs because ... God?


North Carolina Boy Attempted Suicide After Being Bullied For Watching 'My Little Pony' 

 

Michaelmorones


An eleven-year-old from North Carolina attempted suicide in late January after being repeatedly bullied and harassed for watching and enjoying "My Little Pony," a television and film series aimed at young girls but with a dedicated male fan base. Michael Morones was found hanging from his bunk bed and is now hospitalized, with the severity of brain damage and expected level of recovery still unknown.

NY Daily News reports:
"We won't know for months how much is going to heal," his mother, Tiffany Morones-Suttle, told WTVD. "It could even be years before we find out what potential for healing he has."
...
Morones is among a growing section of the male population that enjoys “My Little Pony,” which was originally marketed toward girls and created in 1983.
The fan boys are dubbed “Brony” and are unabashed about the colorful equines, which have spawned several TV series and feature-length films.
"It teaches the most basic moral values to a lot of complex thoughts," Shannon Suttle, the boy’s stepfather, told WTVD.

The Morones family has received a great deal of support, but, shockingly, they have had their fair share of negative commentators as well. Michael's mother has no plans to respond.

"I've heard a lot of people say you need to go after bullies and hold them responsible," his mom told WTVD. "But you know, I don't think that's what Mike would want. I would rather teach people how to do right than turn around than punish, because punishment doesn't always work."

Please keep Michael and his family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

Scotland




Flag of Scotland

 

 

Royal Standard


My father's family, the Dodds, came to America from England, although the family roots are in Wales. There is also an Irish branch that came to America but in a different wave of immigration. My mother's family, the Mitchums, has its roots in England but Mitchums moved to Scotland in the fourteenth century and later into Ireland. American Mitchums belong to the Scots-Irish population that started coming to the New World as early as the seventeenth century.

Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, Scotland shares a border with England to the south, and is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. Edinburgh, the country's capital and second-largest city, is one of Europe's largest financial centers. Edinburgh was the hub of the Scottish Enlightenment of the 18th century, which transformed Scotland into one of the commercial, intellectual, and industrial powerhouses of Europe.

The Kingdom of Scotland emerged as an independent sovereign state in the Early Middle Ages and continued to exist until 1707. Having entered into a personal union with the kingdoms of England and Ireland following James VI, King of Scots, succeeding to the English and Irish thrones in 1603, the Kingdom of Scotland subsequently entered into a political union with the Kingdom of England in  1707 to create the Kingdom of Great Britain. The Kingdom of Great Britain itself subsequently entered into a political union with the Kingdom of Ireland in 1801 to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

Scotland's legal system has remained separate from those of England and Wales and Northern Ireland, and Scotland constitutes a distinct jurisdiction in public and private law. The continued existence of legal, educational and religious institutions distinct from those in the remainder of the UK have all contributed to the continuation of Scottish culture and national identity since the 1707 Union. In 1999, a devolved legislature, the Scottish Parliament, was reconvened with authority over many areas of home affairs following a referendum in 1997. In May 2011, the Scottish National Party won an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament. As a result, a referendum on independence will take place later this year.

Literary pursuits


I am chipping away at it, though. I am about a quarter of the way through editing and revising from the beginning. Things will slow down a bit when I get to the sections that are just sketched in at the moment. Still, I wanted to let you know I am working on it.

Today is one of the days that I am enjoying reading what I have written. Not every day is like that ...

The secret to writing according to Elmore Leonard: "I try to leave out the parts that people skip."

Or to go with the chipping away at stone metaphor, Michelangelo said, "Every block of stone has a statue inside it. It is the task of the sculptor to discover it."

Or as Mr. Myagi said in The Karate Kid about bonsai, you imagine what you want the finished tree to look like and then cut away everything that doesn't belong. 

Speaking of which, Lucy gave us a bonsai for Christmas. I trimmed it the other day, trying to keep in mind Mr. Myagi's advice. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Who knew?


Today Tom picked up some Crazy Fresh Salsa Mango when we were out shopping. It comes from Russ Davis Wholesales, a distributor here in the Upper Midwest.

Salsa mango? I grew up in Texas and know why the Pace Picante people make those "New York City???" commercials. Since I grew up in Texas, I also know that picante is the Spanish word for hot-with-spices (different from hot-with-fire = caliente.) Salsa just means sauce. I could get into pico de gallo and salsa fresca and lead the conversation off into culinary esoterica, but no need. Whatever, most people think of salsa as the hot red stuff you dip the tortilla chips into while waiting for your dinner to arrive at Mexican restaurants.

But not all salsas have tomatoes! Mango salsas are made from mangos, of course, and red onion, jalape├▒o,  red and green pepper, cilantro and a bit of lime juice. Or some of those things and maybe a few more, like cucumbers. Whatever is at hand, one assumes. And it is not cooked, like the picante sauce you often get in those restaurants. It is more like pico de gallo. (Follow that link if you don;t know what that is.) It is designed to serve with fish or chicken, but I find it quite lovely on a chip. A refreshing change of pace!

Just don't tell the Pace Picante people I said that.

A Blaise of glory

 Today is the feast of St. Blaise. Many Catholics might remember Saint Blaise's feast day because of the Blessing of the Throats that takes place on this day. Two candles which were blessed on Candlemas (the day before St. Blaise), are held slightly open, and pressed against the throat as the blessing is said. Saint Blaise's protection of those with throat troubles apparently comes from a legend that a boy was brought to him who had a fishbone stuck in his throat. The boy was about to die when Saint Blaise healed him. Despite the holy card, the candles are usually not burning or else you would need to call on St. John, the patron saint of burns.

Very few facts are known about Saint Blaise, which is no great surprise. He is said to have been a bishop of Sebastea in Armenia who was martyred under the reign of Licinius in the early fourth century. 

The legend of his life that sprang up in the eighth century -- four hundred years after he is supposed to have lived -- says that he was born into a rich and noble family who raised him as a Christian. After becoming a bishop, a new persecution of Christians began. He received a message from God to go into the hills to escape persecution. Men hunting in the mountains discovered a cave surrounded by wild animals who were sick. Among them Blaise walked unafraid, curing them of their illnesses. Recognizing Blaise as a bishop, they captured him to take him back for trial. On the way back, he talked a wolf into releasing a pig that belonged to a poor woman. When Blaise was sentenced to be starved to death, the woman, in gratitude, sneaked into the prison with food and candles. Finally Blaise was killed by the governor. 

Blaise is the patron saint of wild animals because of his care for them and of those with throat maladies because of the legend of the boy he healed.

Some historians believe Blaise came to be associated with animals because his name sounds like that of a Slavic pagan god, Veles, who was a protector of cattle.

Even before I decided to become Catholic, one of my Catholic roommates dragged me to church on the feast of St. Blaise to get my throat blessed. It was February in Michigan, and I figured every little bit of protection would help. So I always remember the day because it was the first Catholic ritual in which I participated. Also, I have a good friend who celebrates his birthday today.

Finally, when I was a in the monastery a group of us went to a workshop. There we were introduced to a Brother Blaise. A fellow student blurted out, "Blaze? That's a horse's name!"

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Six more weeks?

 Apparently Sun Prairie, Wisconsin's own Jimmy the Groundhog has predicted another six weeks of winter. Just what we all wanted to hear!

Of course, you probably realize that Jimmy or Phil or Whoever can say what they want -- the first day of spring on the calendar is actually almost seven weeks away. And here in Wisconsin, spring does not mean no more snow anyway.

When I was at Holy Hill back around 1990 or so, we had a huge snowstorm at the end of the first week in May. It was heavy and wet and took down lots of trees and power-lines. The nearby town of Hartford made national  news because it looked like a tornado had gone through.

On the liturgical front, February 2 is the Feast of the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple. So in a sense, it is the real end of the Christmas season. It is also called Candlemas because of the custom of blessing candles on this day. There are obvious associations with pre-Christian religious customs about the coming of light and all that stuff. Many neo-pagans celebrate it as the beginning (peep!) of spring, under the name of Imbolc. Some claim that even the idea of the weather on this day being a sign of what is to come goes back to those old Gaelic traditions.

UPDATE: A pagan friend reminds me that many pagans celebrate Imbolc on February 1. Nature-based religions and traditions are more fluid than the Christian one when it comes to calendars, so people can party on either -- or even better, on both days.

Yeah, that's going to help!


Tom's computer has decided to act up. Fortunately he knows what to do about these things most of the time and does not have to rely on tech support, feline or otherwise. 
 
The only collateral damage I suffered was minor. At one point the wireless printer would not print from my computer because Tom's firewall or something was not letting it through. That part is now fixed and he has the rest of the day to fiddle around with rebuilding his own computer. He had intended to go deal with the snow at the little railroad at some point, but that may not happen. Not that there has been that much snow since he cleaned up over there last week anyway.

YOUTUBE UPDATE: Now Cassidy has also discovered the joys of watching the hair dryer video. I found out that it is a sleep-noise video and runs for ten hours. As long as it keeps them out of my thinning hair, I'm happy!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Up for some early Halloween shopping?



Designers Hilden & Diaz have created a fixture that can transport you to a dark forest with the flick of a light switch. When you turn on this chandelier, you're suddenly engulfed in a tangle of tree-shaped shadows.

The designers say that this light sculpture, titled Forms in Nature, was inspired in form by the drawings of naturalist Ernst Haeckel. But the chaotic beauty of the chandelier is overshadowed by its effect on the room around it. Forms in Nature isn't available for sale yet, but it is currently in production.
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Wonder what the price will be on this one? At any rate, looks perfect for the haunted house ...

Man, was that a party last night or what?


Hair!

I have posted before about putting on bird videos from YouTube to get Sundance to settle down when I am trying to meditate or work in the office. She is particularly restless in the morning. (I have been told that if I have time to find videos for the cat I have too much time on my hands.)

Anyway, this morning I was prepared and had everything set up when she came downstairs. I clicked on what has been her favorite -- cardinals eating seed off a ledge -- and went back to work while she watched.

After 20 minutes or so, that video ended and another began, this time of pigeons. She watched that for a while and then began to wander. She wasn't complaining, though, and she would go back and sit down from time to time. So I let it be.

When the pigeon video ended, the next video in the queue was just a hair dryer -- the old beauty parlor type with a hood. That was it. Looked like there was a wig stuck on the back of the chair and just the hair dryer noise. I guess it is a white noise thing.

Sundance was fascinated. She sat on the coffee table to watch up close for a while, then got into her chair so she could get more comfortable.  The noise eventually lulled her to sleep, which may have been the idea of the video anyway. Since it was constant, the noise didn't bother me or interfere with my work.