Monday, December 31, 2007

My Wii Mii

Bowling is pretty fun. This is our New Year's Eve, with a glass of champagne.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

In better days ...

None of the pictures turned out, in the rain, so I won't share them. I warned Kenny we weren't driving for an hour just to go out to dinner ... but that's pretty much what happened.

I dressed them for the cold, three layers under their coats and two on their legs, but I hadn't counted on the rain that seemed to soak them to the bone immediately. The rain began as we reached 72, well past the turn-around point.

We were the only souls there except for some diehard fishermen, either locals or ghosts, and another family of six from Pennsylvania with "General Lee" on their license plate. I can't say that kind of companionship made me feel too bright for being there. And how did they all fit into that Pontiac coupe? It was too cold to hang around and find out. We walked a brief circuit and left for the Stafford Diner as Jeff cracked sarcasm and even Kenny muttered, "What a big waste of time."

I tried the Jambalaya from the dinner specials menu and it was more of a seafood cacciatore, no meat and even mushrooms! Whatever. Pass the Parmesan cheese.

The drive home was an unbelievable disaster.
The rain was considerable and the wind seemed to be blowing the car to the shoulder. I told Jeff that I couldn't see very well, the newly paved road had a remarkably worn center line of non-reflective paint and no edge lines at all. God damn it, no wonder there are so many tragic car accidents in NJ! That roadway, freshly paved, was unfit for travel because the job wasn't finished before the weekend/holiday/increment weather. I daresay, it seems as if traffic signs were also missing, as I went through a figure 'S' without any warning of "curve ahead."

I used night colors on TomTom for the first time ever, to cut down reflective interior glare, and had the volume too low to hear it above the kids and the LeapFrog DVD. The kids had the courtesy lights on in the back as well and the DVD generates its own light.

By the time I got past the new roadwork, I realized that nothing looked familiar from the ride down. At the circle of 70 & 72, it was clear that we'd gone way too far west. I was thinking, with some amusement at the irony, that we might end up in Berlin, a place "too far for me." It made some difference that I ran the circle wrong and didn't continue on 70 West but took a series of county routes before intersecting 206. As if seeing "Burlington County" on the blue route signs wasn't disturbing enough, coming across 206 prompted me to exclaim aloud, "I don't want to get home by way of Trenton! If we see signs for Voorhees, we're in big trouble."

Without hesitating, I turned up 206 and TomTom was no help, still trying to steer me towards the Turnpike further west. In short order, we intersected 537 and I was home free, 'though it would take another 30 minutes. Jeff had asked me where 130 was and I couldn't answer, but, looking at a map now, it doesn't come south enough.

As you can see from the map, 539 is only a couple of miles from the diner. What threw me off was that we drove almost the entire distance along route 72 to reach the diner, so after eating, I didn't take that into account and basically reset myself to drive that distance again before looking for 539. And, dimmed and muted, TomTom wasn't set up to save me from myself.

I missed the anniversary, not that hardly a day goes by I don't think about it:

Miracle Garden Tsunami Children's Home - December Newsletter
I'm really, oh my, I'm really starting to like how this looks.

I was awakened this morning around 10 by the shrill of a wet tile saw cutting tumbled marble 4 X 4's on the back step just under my bedroom window.

It's a harsh and happy sound.

They finished this wall today, as I expected. They'll work on the other wall, behind the "little sink" on Monday. It's a smaller area and less complicated, with only one accent 4 X 4 tile. They'll probably grout everything the same day and return to seal it after New Year.

The guy really has an eye for this work. Sure, it's cut correctly and it's straight. But it's also artistically laid out. It makes an impact. The tile, especially the field tile, has an effect on the eye.

But I couldn't help feeling, as I prepared dinner this evening, that I was working in an Italian restaurant ... a Jersey-Italian restaurant.
With rare exception, most of the blogs in my Bookmarks are defunct.

So I was browsing the Catholic Blog Directory for New Jersey blogs and came across a lay minister at St. David the King in Princeton Junction who leads a Bible study for Young Adults drawing from his own resources.

He remarked, in a post from late summer, that he would attend the traditional Latin Mass in Berlin. If he did, he never blogged about the experience.

I know Mater Ecclesiae parish is the "premier" setting for one who wants the "full experience." And maybe first timers owe it to themselves
but it's too far for me. And, heck, it's too far for him, an hour each way.

I had heard that the traditional Mass moved from Immaculate Conception Parish in Eatontown, where I occasionally caught it when I lived over that way, to St. Mary's in Middletown (NJ, not NY!). But, MT isn't any closer than Berlin.

Then, to my surprise (well, almost, I know better), I noted that OLM in Englishtown started a traditional service this past October, on the 7th, actually ... naturally.

OLM has a new pastor; dear ol' Fr. V. must be finally gone.

And this pastor seems to split his time between OLM and St. Thomas More in Manalapan, in much the same way as Fr. V. used to split between OLM and St. Joe's.

I had heard, at Jim's Bible Study, over the course of a couple of Thursday nights, from a St. Thomas More parishioner that, since the word came down that extraordinary ministers were no longer permitted to purify the vessels, her parish receives communion under one species. This was implemented in her parish at the beginning of Advent, just past, with the tone that it was diocesan-wide.

So, as she's complaining about it, she's confused that we don't know what she's talking about!! Jim broke it to her gently, "It's only your parish. It's happening only in your parish, Mary Ann." How long 'til it's everywhere?!

Is it just me, or is "Roman" Catholic beginning to have a meaning of its own, and distinct from "Catholic" Catholic?

UPDATED: I spoke with the wife of a deacon assigned to this parish, a long-time friend, and she explained that the pastor sought and received training to relearn his Latin in order to celebrate the traditional liturgy. That's a positive indication, I think. I mean, the laity ought to be pleased with his commitment to them and the liturgy.

She wasn't clear on the rationale for offering holy communion under one species ... I mean, she didn't mention that Rome failed to renew the indult that permitted lay ministers to purify vessels as the principle reason.

She said I ought to talk to her husband for the fine details ... I would like to do that.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

If you watched only one football game this year, like me, this was the one to watch ... and Jeff told me during half time that he could have gotten tickets from a guy at work ... oh!

"Sixteen and Whoa! Pats achieve perfection with one more resilient effort." - CNNSI, 12/30/07. The Giants made them earn it.

"At the very bottom of the realm of the People of Greater New England you can find Pennsylvania and New Jersey." (via) Well said.
"Once the layman was anxious to hide the fact that he believed so much less than the Vicar; he now tends to hide the fact that he believes so much more..."

C. S. Lewis

Why keep track of omissions? ... lex orandi, lex credendi ...

may the power of the Spirit
which sanctified Mary the mother of your Son,
make holy the gifts we place upon this altar.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.

Prayer over the Gifts, 4th Sunday of Advent, Cycle A.

What will January 1st be like?!

Actually, he found that Preface less egregious as he substituted it on 12/8 for:

You allowed no stain of Adam's sin
to touch the Virgin Mary.
Full of grace, she was to be a worthy mother of your

Isn't there a special place in Hell for nitpickers? Mea maxima culpa.

Would it be enough to know simply whether he's afraid of offending someone ... or whether these prayers go against his conscience? Kyrie eleison. Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis.
A "giving tree" ... at a public school?!

"Community gifts benefit Millstone Twp. schools" - Examiner, 12/27/07:
The board voted unanimously to accept a donation for a giving tree ...

[S]uch trees are often found outside hospitals and corporations, and are used to raise money for organizations.

The tree can hold 100 2-inch-by-4-inch brass leaves and has outer islands for growth for as many as 300 leaves.

The board also accepted rebate checks totaling $3,279 from Lifetouch National School Studios for the elementary school to use for playground equipment.
Yes, proofs portraying overweight subjects and rumors of no playground equipment at the elementary school!

How come Lifetouch doesn't give my kids' school a rebate check?!
But how will we get to town?!

"Bridge over Perrineville Lake set to close next year: Six-month renovation project causes concern among town officials." - Examiner, 12/27/07:

Monmouth County's M-49 bridge, located on Perrineville Road just west of Agress Road, will close from July to December.

Mayor Nancy Grbelja said the town will have to do a lot of planning to deal with the bridge closure.

"It cuts a whole section of town off," she said.

UPDATE: I think the article meant to say "east" of Agress Road. I mean, that's where Perrineville Lake is.

That doesn't help me get to town any easier but it won't interfere with Jeff's new commute to Brick or the kids' camp bus!

Here's another picture of the bridge, snapped probably at "rush hour" (which lasts ten minutes):

Friday, December 28, 2007

I received the McCain Christmas story in an email but didn't read it until I noticed some blogs talking about it. And some folks are asking the ready yet naive question of how a Christian could be a Vietnamese soldier.

I don't leap to the conclusion that the soldier was himself a Christian, at least not consciously. 'Though, these days, hardly anyone admits any other kind.1

That doesn't excuse him in the least from his actions as a soldier, nor is it intended to maintain any integrity for Christians.

But it seems statistically implausible that the soldier was a Christian:
After the end of the French rule and Vietnam division in mid-1950s, Catholicism declined in the North ...

In 1955 approximately 600,000 Catholics remained in the North after an estimated 650,000 had fled to the South.
Christianity in Vietnam, Wiki
Everyone knows, of course, that if the soldier was a Christian, he would have been a Roman Catholic.

I'm not saying the soldier wasn't acting as an instrument of God's grace.

Christian or no, God's grace is the only explanation for the soldier's compassion towards McCain.

But, if not a Christian, then the soldier's inspiration came "second-hand," mediated through his impression of McCain, an American, a Westerner, perhaps with French occupation still fresh in his mind.

Does the story change much if the soldier wasn't a Christian?

Maybe he incurred less personal risk. Maybe the story becomes more about McCain than about the soldier.

1 God, I just love the straw man in that traditionalist piece! A better presentation of Rahner's beloved "Anonymous Christianity."
These are a dime a dozen, aren't they? ...

"Jump, George, Jump! Bedford Falls was far from a Wonderful Life" - New York Post, 11/25/07.

Of course Potter is perfect. He's the Oncler, of a kind. I mean, completely rational but somehow not fully human. A Pharisee who tithes mint and rue (Matt. 23:23).
"because even suicide looks pretty good compared to upstate New York."
Ain't it the truth?

"All Hail Pottersville!" -, 12/22/01:
But if he'd [George] hung out for a while, had a few drinks in the Indian Club, dropped a couple dimes in the dance hall, maybe checked out the action at the burlesque, he would have gotten a whole new take on the situation.

"It's A Destructive Life" - Patrick Deneen, What I Saw in America, 12/23/07:
It is especially worth noting the significant role of the front porch in the course of the film. Numerous scenes take place in the intermediate space between home and street.
I can think of only two scenes, well, two and a half, if you count Harry's wedding party photograph: after the graduating party when George is encouraged to kiss Mary and the Martini's housewarming presentation. Deneen's piece received plenty of fair criticism; it's the weakest one I've read.

As I watched the final hour on Christmas afternoon, Jeff muttered from across the room, "Subprime mortgages!"

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Well, he did it. I thought he was joking, but no, he ordered all new dishes incl. bowls and they've arrived over the last couple of days.

On the one hand, he's had his dishes twenty years, since just after college. Good, ol' Syracuse China, setting for six, has held up well. And I added mine, a meager setting for four, a short time after.

Over the years, lost only one bowl plus two dishes cracked & repaired. Kids use plastic! Come to think of it, the bowls show lots of wear, from the dishwasher.

So he got this four-piece setting plus bowls for 12 ... for not very much money.

He's a bargain-hunter.

This is no saga by any stretch. I know enough to know that. But I'll still tell ...

I ordered the mosaic piece in mid to late September. I was told six to eight weeks. It was more like ten. Yes, it's Italian, so what?

The week the pieces arrived, I finalized the design with the in-store designer.

She had recommended a person to install her design since we hadn't been happy with the subcontractor who did our bathrooms, laundry room and fireplace.

I corresponded exclusively with the wife and, after the mosaic arrived, she ordered the field tile, a simple tumbled marble in ivory. It's usually in stock but this time it took a couple of weeks to come in.

So she wanted to start last week but it wouldn't be finished by the weekend. And we were having company, so we declined. Then she wanted to start Christmas Eve! I said, "Certainly you have social engagements!" She didn't answer but offered to start Tuesday - Christmas! Doesn't her appointment book have the holidays marked?

We agreed to start Day After Christmas, at which point I realized that I hadn't paid for the field tile yet. And the tile store was closed until Day After Christmas, when they planned to pick up the tile "first thing." But people aren't as diligent as they profess, and I was able to slip in a payment in time. And, of course, they can't pick up tile and begin setting it the same day. So they came "first thing" this morning, 9:30, to begin setting.

There was a problem with the ivory 2 X 2's: they didn't fit without cutting. "Looks great on paper," the guy said. It's a remarkable thing, the designer's CAD produces drawings that don't work in the real world! But instead of using the ivory stone pencil to border the mural, he used the Ambrato stone pencil which is thinner. Everything fits nicely but he'll be short materials when it's time to run the border along the counter-length.

So I let him know that and he said his wife will pick up some more. Cha-ching. Why are they always sloppy with the expensive stuff?!

Incidentally, the sample of faux finish on the hood is a copper-like, metallic look that we'll probably do darker, to match the oil-rubbed bronze fixtures.

More tomorrow. Maybe he'll seal it on Saturday and have a Happy New Year.

Just some proof that she's getting up on her knees.

"I had a little Webkinz
Nothing would it bear ..."

Kenny received a Webkinz for Christmas from family, his first ever. I had bought Tim one earlier in the month at his request. So Kenny knew what was involved with online adoption and he was eager for it ... after he was played out with other Christmas presents (read "Wii").

We tried to register and adopt on Christmas evening and got more than halfway through before giving up. Everyone in the world must have gotten a Webkinz for Christmas.

I was leery of starting the registration process without some guarantee of completing it. I didn't want the unique code stored in some incomplete state because that's trouble.

But I was pestered by Kenny into trying despite the clear warnings that the web site was overloaded. Surely even outsourced programs know to rollback incomplete transactions?

Anyway, I left an email with customer service and if I don't hear back soon, I'll have to take a more active approach.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas picture set at flickr.

Ella Birthday picture set at flickr.

Merry Christmas.
Tim got the Optimus Prime Voice Changing helmet. It's very scary. He likes it.

After a few hours of Wii, Kenny complained, "The vein in my wrist hurts."

Welcome to the world of carpal tunnel syndrome, kid.
No thanks. We had our run already.
It wasn't like this at all.

And, frankly, I would have been disturbed if it had been ...

"Babies Make Best Stocking Stuffers Ever" - video, after the ad.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Making Christmas Cookies
Some pictures from Saturday.
Move over NCR ...

"Israeli scientists inscribe tiny Bible" - Times Union, 12/23/07:
Israeli scientists have inscribed the entire Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible onto a space less than half the size of a grain of sugar.

The previous smallest known copy of the Bible measured 1.1 x 1.3 x 0.4 inches, weighed 0.4 ounces and contained 1,514 pages, according to Guinness World Records spokeswoman.
Not the one by NCR. 'Though someone on eBay is selling one.

I don't have the report in front of me, so this is from memory. The letter came late last week from CHOP.

The DNA test came back negative for Shwachman-Diamond.

Immunoglobulin is low; something to monitor.

CO2 in the blood is higher than normal. No explanation.

The GI at CHOP gave me a script for the sweat test and I will get it.

If she weighs enough to turn her around, I'll be overjoyed.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

I walked in late so missed the setup. He didn't pick up where we left off, with Hebrews. He was talking about the Ebionites.

We had read a blurb by James Tabor from ten years ago on the Nazarenes and the Ebionites. Reading it as homework, I didn't pick up on their attitude towards Paul, put forth in Tabor's concluding paragraph:
How the earliest group(s) viewed Paul is unclear.

By some reports he was tolerated or accepted as one who could go to the Gentiles with a version of the Nazarene message (Acts 15, 21).

Others apparently believed he was an apostate from the Torah and founder of a new religion—Christianity."
For his part, Jim ran with that last line and brought in Hyam Maccoby's book The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity which I ordered from Amazon. Apparently there's a guy posting his reactions to Maccoby's book on YouTube. (Oh, I have that exact same poster of Jerusalem!)

And it isn't Jim. At least I don't think it is. Could be Jim's brother ... his younger brother. Hope he's reading! :-)

So, Maccoby reads Paul and concludes that Paul isn't a Jew. Isn't it telling that Marcion, who rejected the Hebrew Bible and most of the New Testament, accepted Paul's letters?

Jim makes too much out of the suggestive rivalry between the Jerusalem church and Paul's ministry. We all know that winners get to write the history. I have Ehrman's book Lost Christianities around here somewhere - somewhat fitting if that book should become "lost," eh? So, I might better track that down and see what he says. But, heck, what's the point? I think Nicaea got it right.

Anyway, in closing, Jim said that if we were still believers in Jesus after everything he'd told us that evening, then, please, have a wonderful Christmas. Yes, indeed.
"I want every toy that Santa makes," said the five-year-old.

OK, easy enough.

Then I reminded him that Santa makes toys for girls as well!

"Santa Claus: Should Parents Perpetuate the Santa Claus Myth?" agnosticism/atheism
Right after dinner, the storm knocked out power in town and our neighborhood.

Jeff left almost immediately for the grocery store for a few important items, like a birthday candle.

Before leaving, he handed each boy a portable light. Rather providentially, the lights had turned on in their charging cradle when the power went out, making them easy to see and get to.

The lights gave the kids some confidence and were a great convenience in their father's absence. They took some time to read some short books to each other. But, after an hour or so, sensory depravation apparently got the better of them. It's a difficult transition from a day of TV and video games to near pitch darkness.

So, when I suggested that we pile into the car to hunt down Daddy, they were elated!

"Yea, we can watch TV in the car!"

"And see some lights!"

By this time, only our street was still dark. Daddy was surprised to see us. And by the time we got home, two of four were asleep and the power was restored.

So much for an evening of wrapping presents!
The church parking lot is freshly paved ... but without any lines!

Imagine a blank church parking lot heading into the Christmas season!

Father explained that he got a good price on the resurfacing but the weather didn't cooperate for painting. He asked for volunteers on Christmas Eve to help people park otherwise many spots will be lost. He'll get those volunteers, I'm quite sure. As I remember, men directed parking last year, too.

But this morning, folks weren't parked as close as they could have been.

Just means, get there early!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

This still surprises me, even though everyone knew it was a'comin':

"Tony Blair takes final step to Catholicism" - Telegraph, 12/22/07:
His [...] road to Rome ended on Friday night when, in front of family and friends, he was accepted into the Catholic faith by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor ...

Mr Blair took into account his faith when making some important decisions as prime minister ... to the role of his Christian faith in his decision to go to war in Iraq, saying that he had prayed about the issue, and that God would judge him for his decision.

He added: "You always get into trouble talking about it [religion]."

cf. "Tony Blair: Catholic, or 'Catholic?'" - Crunchy Con, Beliefnet
The seven-year-old and I were watching a National Geo. program on the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Kenny asked me why the Dead Sea Scrolls were such an important discovery.

I answered him the only things I know about the DSS: that the discovery gave us copies of the Jewish scriptures 1,000 years older than we had before, essentially erasing ten centuries of copists' mistakes and, yet, in some cases, the older manuscripts confirmed that our modern copies are accurate.

Kenny said that he'd never make any mistakes in copying a book and he wondered why it took God a thousand years to correct all the mistakes in His!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Making the case for under cabinet lighting in the laundry room.

"How can you see in here, Mommy?!"
"Hey, Bud, let's party!"

He likes the Sheryl Crow song from Cars, "Real Gone."

I like it too. I bought it for him.

But if he thinks he can walk around the house with my iPod, dragging the earphones behind him on the floor, he's mistaken.

Notice his big hands. He's gonna be a big kid when he grows up.

Monday, December 17, 2007

I'm like so fussy about holiday music. Here's a playlist I have for Christmas. The ones in bold I just bought at iTunes. The John Williams ones are from Home Alone, of course.
  • "You Can Tell the World" - Simon & Garfunkel
  • "Jesus, Oh What A Wonderful Child" - Percy Sledge/NY Stage Orchestra
  • "Children Go Where I Send Thee" - Natalie Merchant
  • "Adeste Fideles" - Bing Crosby
  • "Ave Maria" - New London Choir/London Philharmonic Orchestra
  • "O Holy Night" - John Williams
  • "Feliz Navidad" - Jose Feliciano/London Philharmonic Orchestra
  • "Amazing Grace" - Cissy Houston/London Philharmonic Orchestra
  • "Go Tell It On The Mountain" - Ben E. King/NY Stage Orchestra
  • "Auld Lang Syne" - Jose Feliciano/London Philharmonic Orchestra
  • "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" /"We Three Kings" - Barenaked Ladies (With Sarah McLachlan)
  • "I Believe In Father Christmas" - Emerson, Lake & Palmer
  • "Carol of the Bells" - John Williams
  • "Happy Christmas & Give Peace A Chance" - John Lennon
  • "Christmas" - The Who
  • "Somewhere In My Memory" - John Williams
  • "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" - John Williams
No McCartney. You hear that song more and more each year, isn't it true?

tags technorati :
Without coming out and saying so, I think this article stumbles upon the differences between the Protestant and the Catholic imaginations:
"Where is the modern Protestant writer worthy to loosen the sandal of James Joyce, who, for all his obscenity, couldn't shake himself free of Athanasius and Aquinas?

"Sacramental theology shapes her [O'Connor] understanding of reality,

"'... now she thought of it [the eucharist] as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, "Well, if it's a symbol, to hell with it."'

"Symbols separated from reality and reduced, as they are in much Protestant theology, to 'mere signs,' cannot do anything, whether in reality or in fiction. They exist as sheer ornament, or, at best, as pointers to some something in some real realm of reality that can do something. But if this is so, then the moment of grace, whether in fiction or reality, never enters this world, into the realm of what-is.

Without a sacramental theology, and specifically a theology of sacramental action, Protestant writers cannot do justice to this world or show that this world is the theater of God's redeeming action.

"Although, to give Bunyan his due, he was here following a typical (and very Catholic) medieval pattern in literature, while adding the astounding innovation of homely and realistic dialog. Nevertheless, the cardboard charactizations strike us the way they do for a reason."
"Why Evanglicals Can't Write" - Peter Leithart, Credenda, Vol. 18, Is. 2.

The entire issue is more or less on Flannery O'Connor, so if you like her writing, go read other articles.
Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return
and enter Zion singing,
crowned with everlasting joy;
(Isaiah 35:10a)

May the gift we offer
in faith and love
be a continual sacrifice in your honor
and truly become our eucharist and our salvation.

Prayer over the Gifts, Third Sunday of Advent

May this eucharist bring us your divine help,
free us from our sins,
and prepare us for the birthday of our Savior,
who is Lord for ever and ever.

Prayer after Communion, Third Sunday of Advent
Supporters of the death penalty are accepting, perhaps unknowingly, the very ancient religious belief that violence saves.

This belief is older than the Bible itself.

The ancient Babylonian creation story (the Enuma Elish) describes a rebellion among the gods, in which Marduk kills the mother god, Tiamat, and then stretches out her corpse to create the cosmos.

The heart of this ancient story—that our origin is violence, that war brings peace—remains the central belief, the dominant religion, of our modern world. Throughout our lives, from cartoons and movies and TV to public policy—including the death penalty—we are taught that might makes right, that violence saves.

Our Jewish and Christian Scriptures and religions both contradict and reinforce the belief in violence. The first creation story in the Bible is diametrically opposed to the Babylonian view. In Genesis, a good God creates a good world. Good is prior to evil; violence has no part in creation.

However, belief in violence, though often challenged by the prophets, gradually infected Jewish convictions. Hundreds of biblical passages describe God's own violent actions and commands to kill.

In the prophetic tradition Jesus rejected violence, oppression and alienation. His life and teachings invited people into a new style of living: the reign of God. Intimacy and trust, compassion and forgiveness, concern for justice and nonviolence were key aspects of this new life.

The early followers of Jesus were not able to sustain this good news of God's love. In their attempts to make sense of Jesus' horrible death, some of the followers returned to the belief that violence saves. They changed the God of mercy revealed by Jesus into a wrathful God who demands the only Son's death on behalf of us all.

Christianity's tradition, both in its theology and the application to social and political issues, embodies this ancient tension between the unconditionally loving God revealed by Jesus and a god with traces of Marduk.

"Respect Life: The Bible and the Death Penalty Today" - Fr. Kenneth R. Overberg, S.J., Scripture From Scratch (, 10/00

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Maybe I've a reason to believe
We all will be received
In Graceland

Decorating the tree tonight to Paul Simon music (Jeff's iPod, not mine).

The thing I appreciate about artifical trees is the bendy branches. With a heavy ornament, I can curl the branch tip into a complete circle to hold that piece on.

I had a "garbage bowl" (Rachel Ray expression) nearby for tired, old ornaments, usually things made out of construction paper by the school boys. As endearing as they are, well, they don't hold up.

Other ornaments, too, made by students long forgotten, probably college graduates now. It's been a long time, almost as long not teaching as teaching. Hmmm. Maybe I'll get a student next year!

All that remains from that time is the homemade angel at the top, though I don't remember who made it for me.

These are the days of miracle and wonder,
This is the long distance call,
These are the days of miracle and wonder
And don't cry baby don't cry
Don't cry don't cry
Jesus, Jesus
Oh what a wonderful child
Jesus, Jesus
So lowly, meek, and mild
New life, new hope, new joy He brings
Won't you listen to the angels sing
Glory, glory, glory
To the new born King

The Percy Sledge version!

But Mariah Carey may give you a sense of it.

Yeah, I have it on this CD from, like, the grocery store.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Fr. Greeley's remarks aren't altogether tongue-in-cheek.

'Though he may not be speaking personally, he's probably speaking sincerely for someone:

"A priest forever? The case for term limits." - Commonweal, 7/16/04.

I'm much more interested in the impact living longer has on married life than on priestly vocation.


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I was sorting through the materials from last fall's Torah & Talmud study and liked this story that Jim had distributed:

"The Shabbat that Kept Rose"

I'll cut to the punchline because the story itself is too sentimental:
"There was an awful fire in the factory. Only forty people survived. There was no way out of the building. People even jumped to their deaths." Joe's voice was hushed, and he was crying openly.

"Rosie, don't you see? Because you kept Sabbath, you are alive. Because of your Sabbath, you survived."
tags technorati :

Friday, December 14, 2007

Showing an interest in the stairs.

'Though it will be some time before she climbs any.

But, even though she's a belly crawler, she is starting to get up on her hands and knees and not necessarily push back immediately into a sitting position.

'Though that is her habit, to push back and sit. And crawling on her hands and knees doesn't allow her to carry anything, so she'd rather crawl with her elbows.

More pictures at flickr. BTW, she owns two of these outfits, both gifts, and since I do laundry every day and this outfit is a favorite (of mine), she wears it alot!
Oh, the times they are a'changin' ...

"3 Western Pa. communities lift 'dry town' designation" - Tribune-Review, 5/20/07:
At the Church of God, the outdoor message board still urged "Keep Our Township Dry," late last week.

"A number of people I talked to were changing their vote to yes this time because of the promise of tax revenue for schools and the fire company," said Pastor Dennis Arndt said.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Timmy scrooged, definitely.
I know a lot of you are saying to yourselves: "He's asking for a miracle to happen. He's expecting people to change all of a sudden."

Well, you're wrong.

It's no miracle. It's no miracle because I see it happen once every year. And so do you. At Christmas time!

There's something swell about the spirit of Christmas, to see what it does to people, all kinds of people . . .

Now, why can't that spirit, that same warm Christmas spirit last the whole year round? Gosh, if it ever did, if each and every John Doe would make that spirit last three hundred and sixty-five days out of the year, we'd develop such a strength, we'd create such a tidal wave of good will, that no human force could stand against it.

Yes, sir, my friends, the meek can only inherit the earth when the John Does start loving their neighbors. You'd better start right now.

Don't wait till the game is called on account of darkness!

Wake up, John Doe! You're the hope of the world!
Gary Cooper in Meet John Doe.

I'm sure Lennon said the same thing, only with more funk.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

There's gotta be a Christmas card photo in here someplace.

Jeff suggested working with the lighting, maybe taking the picture at night, cleaning up the toys, adding some tinsel, lighting the fireplace, laying down a rug, dressing the kids up and getting them to sit still.

Now, why didn't I think of that?!
Jeff watched this episode of the township committee meeting on TV:

"Allegations fly across Millstone GOP divide" - Examiner, 12/13/07:
The long-rumored rift between Committeeman Elias Abilheira and other members of the governing body was confirmed publicly at the Dec. 5 Township Committee meeting.
These politicans promised the voters that if we elected a committee of them, of all and only Republicans, they would work together without divisions and arguments, etc.

And now even Ramin's leaving.
"Artist's creations will fill new Beatles hotel: Howell resident known worldwide for works of Fab Four" - Tri-Town News, 12/13/07.
Word came through the grapevine that the youngest school-aged boy received an unique discipline for refusing to sit in his chair during a math lesson: his chair was removed for a time.

Such a confused handling prompted some reflection on classroom discipline that I knew growing up. And the most severe was in third grade: the teacher placed troublemakers in the closet.

The elementary school building was brand new, and the alcove that housed the closet for coats and cubbies behind heavy wood doors on pivot hinges spanned almost the whole length of one classroom wall. On one occasion as many as five children were stuffed in there with the winter coats and boots. Alternately, the teacher employed the lavatory, for every classroom through third grade had a private lavatory, as a place for isolating a young rogue from the class.

Discussing Tim's treatment with Jeff in light of what we experienced as kids - and I look back with some pride that I was never among those sentenced to either the closet or the john - he teased,
Didn't she tape you to your seat once?


Was it your brother, then, that she taped to his seat? She taped someone to their seat once. Ask your brother.

Which one?

Any of them, all of them. Ask all of them. It could have been any of them, right?

I suppose so.
When she put the girl who sat in front of me all those years in the closet, the girl told her father, a high school teacher. She never put that girl in the closet again.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Monday, December 10, 2007

The first part of this program interested me.

It's a sort of psychoanalysis, from a Jewish background, of a couple of dreams in Genesis, Jacob's Ladder in 28:12-16 and Joseph's dream in 37:5-11.

What did I dream last night? That Jeff didn't dash out for bread and milk and formula after I went to bed. I woke up unsure.

But, of course, he did get those things!

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

We saw Santa at the Clarksburg Fire Station.

Kenny asked for a Wii.

Timmy, who refused to sit on Santa's lap, directed Kenny to tell his wish too, but Kenny declined, insisting that Tim must do it himself or else it won't count.

Since moving into their new bedroom, they've been without music to fall asleep to. For years, from the beginning, they've had a CD-playing boombox in their bedroom. But, after the remodel, I put the boombox in Chris and Ella's room. Tim told me he wants the music back, so I thought I'd get them an iPod-playing boombox.

Just so happens that Jeff had a nano laying around. Go figure. So I put the kids' songs on it, you know, those Countdown Kids. But we still have to get the boombox. Jeff might get it in the Big Apple ... just looking for an excuse to go.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Friday, December 07, 2007

Jeff's sister called us Tuesday about this one.
For a reader from Wisconsin:
In the movie "It's a Wonderful Life," what was Mary Bailey's maiden name?
Hatch. Mary Hatch.

Maiden names are very important in Capra films. Any other questions on that particular film, anything at all, just ask.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Not quite a year ago, Superintendent Donahue said she would not hire an assistant principal for the middle school.

I thought, then, it was wishful thinking on her part.

And so it was ...

"Middle school assistant principal position filled", Examiner, 12/06/07:
Howell, 35, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English education from Montclair State University in Upper Montclair and received a Master of Arts degree in educational leadership from Seton Hall University in South Orange.

He hails from Toms River and lives with his wife in Neptune City.
Local fella? Shyeah.

'Bout the only local-soundin' thing on 'im is 'is surn'me. Don't fool me a bit. I ain't gonna switch it around 'n' call 'im, "Mr. Neptune from Howell." Nope.

So, do they backfill the remedial teacher spot or is the school so wonderful that none of the students need remedial reading?
"Girl Scout troop grateful for community's support with project", Examiner, 12/06/07:
Next, we would like to thank Father Mike of St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church for allowing us to hold our holiday fair in the church hall and the parish community for making our fair such a great success.
I suppose I should have bought something. Or at least browsed.
Puts us on the map ...

"A grandmother's past worthy of N.J.'s future", Examiner, 12/06/07.
As a student in the Millstone Township Middle School, Jessica and her creative writing classmates in teacher Arlene Agulnick's class entered a contest sponsored by the New Jersey Hall of Fame.
I did a double take on the girl's teacher's name, it's so similar.

Maybe it's a case of twin sisters who went into the same profession, like some teaching version of Ann Landers/Dear Abby.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Actually, this was mentioned on NBC yesterday ...

"Paisley & McGuinness visit has little impact on US media", Belfast Telegraph, 12/04/07.

How can it not be news when the Devil himself visits NYC?!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Happy Advent!

And the season's first snow. We won't be decorating the trees in the back.

More pictures at flickr.
Just a picture to go with the next posting ...

They cut down the small evergreen tree in front of the well head to gain access, room to work.

No problem as it's all coming out one of these days anyway, just as soon as we get around to redoing the landscaping.

It's sort of a Charlie Brown Christmas moment 'though, isn't it?

Almost makes me want to take that short, sorry tree inside and decorate it!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

I had just finished rinsing my face and, before reaching for the shampoo, adjusted the water temperature that had suddenly become inexplicably hot, when the water stopped. Completely. No trickle, no sputter, no nothin'. I turned it off and on again, still nothing.

I got out and checked the vanity tap, got a trickle. I scooted across the hall, dripping, to the main bathroom, turned on that tap and got a trickle. I hollered for Jeff, "Hey, we have no water pressure!" And he took off to the basement while I dried and dressed.

He confessed to having no means of troubleshooting the problem but that didn't stop him trying. He complained about the lack of rain but I didn't share his concern. He noted that the clock on the water softener stopped running on a Tuesday.

I got on the phone.

We'd had the water softener serviced on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving; they changed the resin. I called them for ideas and references for well specialists. They gave me two names but neither was in the office. (Western Monmouth country isn't 24 X 7 by any stretch. In fact, people barely clock 40 weekly hours in these parts).

I checked well services in Howell online. I have this notion that there were wells in Howell but I'm not sure that's true. I simply know that my friend bought a house with a well in Howell. I got a hold of someone who was willing to have a look but it would take him about 90 minutes to round up his resources, including a new well pump to replace ours, just in case.

At this point, the trickle had dried up completely. Fortunately, our new Miele dishwasher turned itself off. That's an appliance feature I never thought I'd need. In the meantime, Jeff determined that the outlet closest the water softener wasn't working. The blue tank well control unit is hardwired into this outlet. The GFI there kept resetting. So, I dug up the electrician's number and left a message.

Then I took the younger kids out of the house so that they wouldn't get underfoot. We went to the Mall which was a nightmare because it seems that everyone looked at their calendar and said to themselves, "Oh, my God, it's December!" But I prepared myself, tried to keep my cool and headed straight to the Sears section of the parking lot in pursuit of a parking space because, heck, nobody shops at Sears. There were three spots left and I got one.

We walked to Build-A-Bear workshop because Timmy got a very generous gift card for his birthday from a classmate. Understand that I generally have two problems with Build-A-Bear (well, three if you consider cost, but we had the gift card): it goes too quickly to be enjoyed and my kids usually come down with some strange Chinese flu after bringing home their creations. I didn't foresee either of those problems being problems today because (1) my kids are already on death's door with their post-Thanksgiving/changing weather/school room illnesses and (2) we stood in line for the stuffing machine for more than 30 minutes. But the boys handled it beautifully. In fact, they received compliments from the adults around us. They were good, I don't mind saying it.

Periodically I would check in with Jeff. The well specialist had come and gone. The electrician, who by some miracle happened to be working on a job in nearby Manalapan, came and straightened some things out. Then the well specialist returned and ultimately replaced the 13 year-old well pump ... and took our Christmas present budget with him in payment. He was sure to wish us a Merry Christmas because, as he said, he's a Lutheran. So, I'll wrap a glass jug of yellow Millstone well water in Christmas paper and put it under the tree for the kids. Just think, if I'd been doing laundry every day as I should, the water would have run out sooner.

No, seriously, I'm happy to have the water back on, especially if it's fixed for good. We just have to deal with air in the pipes again ... a familiar enough annoyance after all the plumbing work this summer.

In total, it was only about 8 hours without water which, considering it's a Saturday, is outstanding. We just have to go a week without drinking it.

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Episcopal bishops joining after they retire? That takes courage.

Really exploiting the Workers in the Vineyard parable, aren't they, with their working years even behind them? They obviously don't understand Catholic "works-righteousness" soteriology.

And this latest one has a "checkered past":

"Fourth US Episcopal Bishop to Join Catholic Church" - Catholic Online, 11/24/07:
Lipscomb, 57, stepped down as Bishop of the Southwest Florida Diocese of the Episcopal Church due to health reasons on September 15 after serving for ten years.

Lipscomb, who was raised a Baptist and became an Episcopalian as a teenager, is the latest in a series of bishops from the Episcopal Church and its related tributaries to join the Catholic Church.

This year three other bishops in the Episcopal Church announced their intention to convert.

The Rev. Jeffrey N. Steenson, bishop of the Diocese of the Rio Grande, asked the House of Bishops, the governing body, to accept his resignation in September.

Earlier in year, Daniel Herzog of the Diocese of Albany, and Clarence Pope of the Diocese of Fort Worth, both retired bishops, were received.

In a related, yet older - and much more interesting, 'though perhaps a little tongue-in-cheek in places - piece, the point is made that switching may, in fact, slow down reunion.

In some small measure, I think switching a tad selfish:

"When Anglicans, Catholics switch churches, what happens to dialogue?" - Catholic News Service, 11/14/05:
Among those changing denominations, the Roman Catholics generally say they long to breathe the "free air" of the Anglican Communion, with Catholic priests usually saying they plan to marry, the bishop said. The Anglicans usually say they have had enough of the "woolly thinking" of their leadership, he added.

"Anglicans who become Roman Catholic generally become very conservative Roman Catholics, while Roman Catholics who become Anglican tend to become very liberal Anglicans," he said.

Bishop Flack, who is the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury's representative to the Vatican, said he usually counsels people to stay within their community as a valuable voice in continuing debates.

"Changing your spots makes the Anglican Church more liberal and the Roman Catholic Church more conservative," Bishop Flack said.
I didn't know this:
The provision also set up guidelines for "Anglican use" Catholic parishes, allowing former Episcopalian parishes to retain some of their Anglican liturgical and spiritual traditions.

Currently close to 80 former Anglican ministers are serving as Catholic priests in the United States and there are seven "Anglican use" parishes.
And, wow:
Many Traditional Anglican Communion members hope they will be welcomed with a provision for the establishment of an "Anglican rite" within the Roman Catholic Church, allowing them to maintain some of their traditional disciplines -- including married priests -- and their liturgical heritage.

Bishop Flack said establishing an Anglican rite within the Roman Catholic Church before the church and the entire Anglican Communion established full unity "would have a worsening effect on relations. It would be seen as interference in the internal affairs of the Anglican Communion."