Monday, October 30, 2006

Spam zen

Every once in a while I actually look at one of the spams that show up in my inbox, not because I have the slightest interest in whatever they're hawking, but to see the random text they use for filler. There's some interesting meditative possibilities in it.

Today's Spam Zen: When you see the chess board, it means that the insurance agent self-flagellates.

Now, what shall we make of this? Let's consider first the chess board. What does it represent? At first glance it's an icon not only of war, but of coolheaded, measured warfare. It's war as fought by the generals, not by the dogfaces in the trenches. By men whose personal courage may have already been tested – probably they would willingly stand in harm's way, and most likely did in their youth – but who have nevertheless been relegated to a swivel-chair and a duty less physically dangerous but harder on the soul: that of ordering younger men to die, and figuring out how to extract the most good from their deaths.

Moving to the next part of the sentence, what has the insurance agent done that he should so mistreat himself? Has he cheated his clients? Has he cost his employers by speaking truthfully to his clients, sinning through virtue? Or is there some secret sin in his private, non-insurance life for which he must atone?

Let's assume it's related to his profession. Insurance agents serve the function of insulating people from risk. Chess, like war, is by its nature a give-and-take of risk and sacrifice. One trades one's pawn for a queen, and occasionally gambles on one's opponent failing to discern one's plan. It's not too hard to draw a connection here between the chess board and an insurance agent in distress.

But one question remains: Why is it that the salesman's self-punishment only becomes known when you see the chess board? Surely he was aware of its presence all along, and it appears that he's been whipping himself already, independent of your perception. Moreover, why should you be looking for indications that the salesman is practicing his self-sadism? Is it perhaps a Schrödinger's Cat phenomenon, wherein he either is or is not self-flagellating until the chess board is seen, at which time the waveforms resolve themselves into one or the other? That seems the most likely explanation, albeit one that leaves open several more questions. At what point does the insurance agent let up on the whipping? Does he tire, or grow weak from blood loss, or merely continue until he dies? Is his self-torture affected by the arrangement of the pieces on the board? And if so, what does he do at checkmate?

Let's make a meme out of this. I charge you, O faithful readers, to take a random line from your spam and squeeze it like a used tea bag for insights. (Keep it clean!) I'm tagging Patrick, Hindu, Ms. Kitty (hers ought to be really interesting), and Ken. And, as always, my Lovely and Brilliant Wife.

Friday, October 27, 2006

St. Crispin's Day

I had completely forgotten that Wednesday was St. Crispin's Day until Ken mentioned it yesterday. Because it's Friday, and because I literally can't read this without a lump in my throat, here's the St. Crispin's day speech from Henry V:
This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Here's a dilemma

What's a pro-abort to do when this happens?
COLVILLE, WASH. - A Stevens County man accused of trying to hire a hitman to kill his unborn child pleaded not guilty on Tuesday.

Charles Young, 18, of Suncrest northwest of Spokane, was charged with solicitation to commit first-degree murder and solicitation to commit first-degree manslaughter.

Prosecutors allege Young offered an undercover officer posing as a hitman $3,250 to injure his 17-year-old ex-girlfriend so badly that her nearly full-term fetus would die...

Young said he wanted his ex-girlfriend beaten in the stomach sufficiently to cause the death of the fetus and that he wouldn't mind if she also perished, the sheriff said.

The murder solicitation charge relates to the ex-girlfriend, who was eight months pregnant, while the manslaughter solicitation charge relates to the fetus, prosecutors said.

Okay, so it's a little weird that he's charged with attempted murder against the girlfriend when nobody is asserting that he intended to kill her (he simply didn't care if she was collateral damage). But you can't charge him with attempted manslaughter against something that's not a person. Vandalism, maybe. Possibly even animal cruelty, although even that would establish the baby's right to live.

So where will the pro-aborts line up? Will they cheer to see this guy sent up for trying to have a woman beaten up? Ordinarily, yes, they would. But I will bet a silk pajama that if it comes down to a choice between nailing an abuser or allowing an unborn baby to have rights, the pro-deathers will side with the man. Sure, abuse of women is a bad thing, but it's still better than preventing abuse of the unborn. There are priorities, after all.

Give us Barabbas!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Book meme

My painted, tainted, sainted aunt tagged me with this meme. Sorry it took so long, but I... well.. I sorta have... a life.

1. One book that changed your life?
I'm tempted to say "Mere Christianity," because I read that as a teenager and it was the first time I had actually had any of my questions regarding Christianity answered. I suspect I probably would have become a practicing Christian as an adult anyway, though, just out of kind of a spiritual inertia. I had been raised with certain Christian assumptions, after all, and I never really dropped them even when I was seriously questioning them. I suppose I had been looking for an excuse to believe what I had been taught.

But the book that jolted me out of my rather shallow Protestantism and into serious study of historic Christianity was The Way by Clark Carlton, a Protestant-turned-Greek Orthodox Christian apologist. It was a bit of a shock to realize that the Baptist Protestantism I was raised believing was kind of a stripped-down version of a faith that had not only begun in the first century but had continued uninterrupted. As Carlton put it, the Church is still at Corinth.

2. One book you have read more than once?
That would be most of the ones I've read, actually. I'm a terrible one for rereading. The one currently by my bed is John the Balladeer, a collection of Manly Wade Wellman's wonderful forays into Appalachian mythology.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?
A guide to boatbuilding with minimal materials would be appealing. But I don't think that's what the memestress had in mind. I suppose I should say a Bible, but if so, it should be one of those interlinear ones with originals and various translations.

4. One book that made you laugh?
Almost anything by George MacDonald Fraser. I'm seriously addicted to his Flashman series, but by far his funniest was The Pyrates. Anybody who enjoys the old swashbuckling movies will want to glut themselves on that one.

5. One book that made you cry?
My Daddy was a Pistol and I'm a Son of a Gun, by Lewis Grizzard. No further comment.

6. One book you wish had been written?
At one time there was a two-volume biography of Robert Heinlein planned, but I haven't heard anything about it for several years now. I wish that had been written. (Not that I've given up hope.)

7. One book you wish had never been written?
My auntie, who tagged me for this, mentioned The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion as one possibility. I have to disagree with that. (As my PC readers gasp and create a suction to rival a jet engine, let me make it worse by admitting that I actually have a copy.) The Protocols only collected in one place what was "common knowledge" at the time. (That it was a forgery didn't make a lot of difference; it would simply have been called "truthy.") The long-term result of the propaganda was a Holocaust that galvanized the Jewish people like nothing else could have. Had there been no Holocaust, it's entirely possible that world Jewry might have been whittled down by attrition, from pogrom after pogrom, or assimilated into the cultures around them. Zionism was kind of a faddish thing among a few "intellectuals," not a policy anybody paid a lot of attention to.

But after the horrors of the Nazi extermination, the Jews that were left became determined that nobody – but nobody – was going to make victims of them again. Much of the rest of the world rallied to the Jews' side and made it possible to establish a nation, a single corner of the world where (as one writer put it) the word "Jew" would never be a slur. Today, no country on earth is so ready to fight for its survival as Israel, and the Chosen People are unlikely ever to be wiped out.

So what book do I wish had never been written? How about the Koran? With no waves of Islam, the Middle East would still be Christian, and I suspect that the Protestant Reformation could have been averted as well. One of the reasons that the Church was in such desperate need of housecleaning was that so much of the leadership's attention was being absorbed by successive Muslim assaults on Europe. The Spanish Inquisition grew out of the expulsion of Jews and Muslims from Spain, which probably wouldn't have happened had the peninsula not been under Muslim domination for several centuries. (I don't know if the East-West schism would still have occurred, but it might have been easier to reconcile without the barbarian literally at the gates.) Imagine a world with no 95 Theses, no Institutes of the Christian Religion, no Black Legend. And no foaming fanatics eager to strap on a bomb belt and die with an honor guard.

8. One book you are currently reading?
Currently I'm reading – and enjoying thoroughly – Forgotten Kingdom, a history of Utah during the years between the first settlement in the Salt Lake Valley and the extension of US control over Utah in the 1850s. The Mormon "Kingdom of Deseret" was a virtually autonomous theocracy during that time, and the society they created is a fascinating historical study.

9. One book you have been meaning to read?
Well, I've been wrestling with Aquinas' Summa Theologica for years, and every so often I tackle it again. Someday I'll get through it. I've also got a copy of Mein Kampf in the original that I've been meaning to read. (Pause while readers resume breathing normally.) The little bit I've read creeps me out about as much as The Turner Diaries did. But my German is really rusty, and I don't want to read a translation because God knows what a translator has done with it. If I'm going to read something so socially poisonous, I at least want to know what it really says. So it's slow going.

I'd also like to read some St. John of the Cross, which shouldn't be too difficult because my Lovely and Brilliant Wife has it all over the house. (Hint: notice her blog title.) But somehow every time I try, my head spins. I'm ot what anyone would call a mystic, and John confuses me. Oh yes, and I'd like to read St. Augustine's City of God. He's my patron, and I feel bad not having read more of him.

Okay, I'm inflicting this on Pastor Paul, Pastor Doug, Pastor Jeff, Pastor Mike (whenever he gets back from lolling around in Hawaii), and Father Sam. Let's see what the clergy read.

And of course, the love of my life.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Is it just my imagination...

... or do stories like this and this seem to show up more during October?

Warning: The second link is pretty grody. Don't try to read it at lunchtime.

Friday, October 13, 2006

"He never took his eye off the grenade"

CORONADO, Calif. - A Navy SEAL sacrificed his life to save his comrades by throwing himself on top of a grenade Iraqi insurgents tossed into a sniper hideout his unit had discovered, fellow members of the elite force said.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor had been near the only door to the rooftop structure Sept. 29 when the grenade hit him in the chest and bounced to the floor, said four SEALs who spoke to The Associated Press this week on condition of anonymity because their work requires their identities to remain secret.

"He never took his eye off the grenade, his only movement was down toward it," said a 28-year-old lieutenant who sustained shrapnel wounds to both legs that day. "He undoubtedly saved mine and the other SEALs' lives, and we owe him."

This is how a man dies. I don't care how you feel about the Iraqi occupation;read and be humbled.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

And the cat came back

I'm not one of those hamfisted tough guys who advocates the noose for jaywalking, but I have to admit this sounds like a good idea.
A MAN convicted of trying to rape an 83-year-old woman was sentenced to eight lashes with a cat-o'-nine-tails, a punishment used by the British Navy in the 18th century and reinstated in the Bahamas 15 years ago.

Altulus Newbold, 34, was sentenced on Saturday to 16 years in prison after being found guilty of burglary, attempted rape and causing harm.

Justice Jon Isaacs ordered that he receive four lashes of the whip at the start of his sentence and four upon his release, but suspended the punishment for three weeks pending a possible appeal.

The cat, a whip made of knotted cords, leaves flesh wounds and is used on the offender's back by a prison guard.

It was outlawed in the Bahamas many years ago, but reinstated in the former British colony in 1991 in the face of rising crime.

This, to me, is the biggest argument in favor of it:
Former assistant police commissioner Paul Thompson said the cat was always considered an effective form of punishment.

"A long-serving prison governor told me that prisoners who received the cat never returned to prison. He considered it the ultimate deterrent," Mr Thompson said.

Reducing prison populations without having to execute seems like a good idea to me. A whipping might be painful enough to keep people from wanting to risk it again, but it's not permanent, and it's less likely to be tied up in decades of appeals. I know it's not a cure-all, but we might give it a try.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


I'm not going to embed it; you'll have to go look. But it seems Ken at It Comes in Pints? feels the same way about Fred Phelps' pack of dirty-eared inbreds as I do.


Says here that the pope may have signed a universal indult to bring back the Tridentine Mass. Does anybody know more about this? (The Times isn't notoriously careful about religion reporting.)
The Pope is taking steps to revive the ancient tradition of the Latin Tridentine Mass in Catholic churches worldwide, according to sources in Rome.

Pope Benedict XVI is understood to have signed a universal indult — or permission — for priests to celebrate again the Mass used throughout the Church for nearly 1,500 years. The indult could be published in the next few weeks, sources told The Times...

The new indult would permit any priest to introduce the Tridentine Mass to his church, anywhere in the world, unless his bishop has explicitly forbidden it in writing.

Of course, I wonder how much difference this will make, with the last generation of priests who know how to celebrate the Tridentine rite dying off.

Mel Gibson haikus

Apparently ol' Mel hasn't yet lived down getting snockered, shouting about Jews running the world, and calling a female cop "Sugar Tits." Is "being mocked in haiku" one of the twelve steps?

Some of the better ones (be ready for language):
Mel wanted to be
Ted Kennedy, but instead
was Jerry Falwell

Mel is drunk again
Screaming like a Nazi twit
Passion of the Cops

Now apologize
For making us all look at
Your ass in Braveheart

Face it, sugar-tits
Point-one-two is not that drunk
You just hate the Jews

Wait, don’t let me out
Of jail yet. I still haven’t
Slagged off the faggots.

Did I say “the jews”?
the tequila slurred my words…
meant to say “fruit chews”

King of Malibu
pull over and enjoy your
own crucifixion

Anybody have any to add?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Is that what "sacking the quarterback" means?

The usually ho-hum race for Wisconsin secretary of state is being spiced up by one candidate's naughty tell-all book about her bed-hopping exploits with Green Bay football legends during the team's glory days under Vince Lombardi in the 1960s.

Sandy Sullivan, a 65-year-old Republican with no political experience, self-published a gushing memoir in 2004 titled "Green Bay Love Stories and Other Affairs" in which she claims she was the girlfriend of Green Bay Packers Paul Hornung and Dan Currie, deflected a pass from Hall of Famer Don Hutson and was on the receiving end of a saucy comment from Richard Nixon.

If the book is to be believed, the Packers did a lot of their scoring off the field, and Sullivan got her share of playing time.

Why am I not surprised...

...that the person who found me on this search was surfing from UC Davis? There's the rest of the world, and then there's Northern California. (Now I've done it; my Californian wife is probably already getting the couch made up for me.)

Speaking of my LaBW

She'll know all of these. I'm no expert (whereas Christina is), but I found I knew a few of them myself.

H/T once again to Miss Cellania.

Some things a fire can't erase

My Lovely and Brilliant Wife will understand why I posted this. Someday I hope I can see it with her.

The Carnival is up

I didn't get around to submitting a post to this week's Catholic Carnival, which is a disappointment because the theme this week is the Rosary, which I've just been rediscovering. If you read nothing else, you absolutely must read this article on the Battle of Lepanto, where those little strings of beads may have been the reason we're not bowing toward Mecca today.

But she's a woman, so it's her civil right

All this woman did was take more literally than most what uterofascists have maintained is their right anyway: to treat babies – and everybody else – any way they see fit.

Being a woman means never having to be told "no." And only a men's rights sexist would question it.

Monday, October 09, 2006

This land is whose land?

This cool animated map shows the successive empires that have passed the Middle East around like a bottle in a brown bag for the last 5,000 years. Kind of puts today's conflicts in perspective. This, too, will pass.

A tip of the kaffiyeh to Julie.

Friday, October 06, 2006

I coulda been a contender

You most resemble Marlon Brando

You are very smart, and very talented, although you don’t really enjoy social company. You prefer to live alone, go to movies alone, cry alone in the corner...

Take this quiz at

H/T to the unrefusable Miss C..

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Fighting down waves of nausea

A guest post at The Dawn Patrol:
I'm a man, so I'm not supposed to have an opinion about abortion. Instead, let me tell you about the wonderful morning I had yesterday, taking my 2-year-old daughter Dot to speech therapy and physical therapy. Her major interest right now is reciting the colors (which she does in English and American Sign Language, yet) and reciting the names of her boyfriends in her early start toddler class ("Edgerrrrr! Androooo!") and informing me they wear "backpacks." She waved at everyone she saw that day with a cheery "Hello!" and smiled a gap-tooth smile under her mop of red hair. They smiled and waved back. What a cutie!

Oh, sorry — she has Down Syndrome. Reboot. Let me try again:

Bringing her to term was obviously a big mistake! What a tragedy SHE is! How inconvenient for everyone involved! We can't possibly get her into advanced placement classes, or an Ivy League college! What'll we say to our neighbors? Better off just to make the "hard decision" to get rid of her. Ignore my first paragraph. Just forget I said anything ...

I'm really having a hard time coming up with words to describe my incredible anger. Pro-deathers like to describe abortion as "a hard decision," but the fact is, it's the lazy-ass way out. Particularly in this case. Let's face it; the women who will abort a DS child aren't scared teenagers who dare not give birth. They want children, just not this child.

So these lovely, sweet human beings are squashed like spiders because they're just too much trouble to keep. Hard decision, my big hairy butt!

I'm going to have trouble not throwing up for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I hadn't noticed...

... that October was the Month of the Rosary until Julie and Sarah both mentioned it. Kind of fits in with the last post, doesn't it? I think I know what I need to start doing on the way to work in the mornings.

Prayer works, believe it or not

Back in July, I asked for prayer for Mike's father, who had cancer. Turns out it's been answered beyond all expectation. At least any expectation of mine.

I e-mailed Mike the other day to ask how things were going, wonderinng if it was time to start praying for his soul instead of his healing. Mike's answer (posted with his permission):
Nope... he is actually doing great. In fact it is quite miraculous how well his is doing. What is more, he gave his life to Christ in my church about a month ago... walked up to me crying after service and said he prayed the prayer with me and I can see the change in his life already. Thank you so much for praying for him... God has certainly listened and responded.

I wrote back:
This business with your dad has been a smack-in-the-gob reminder of something that we're constantly being told but that I have a hard time believing: prayer works. It really does. Yet I know I've been disappointed so often in praying that I had come to believe in the back of my mind that it only works for other people. You know, the sort of people who announce to the world that their prayers for the most unlikely things have been answered, and hint loudly that if we would just pray more, or better, our cars will run better, our children will grow up right, and our toenails will cease to be ingrown. I'm not even talking about the prosperity gospel, name-it-and-claim-it bunch; they're comparatively straightforward. I mean the people who are more-prayerful-then-thou, whose eyes naturally fall into a gaze-toward-heaven position. You know the kind I mean.

But when I pray, it always seems like that's God's cue to do exactly the opposite. "You think you've got troubles NOW? You just watch!" I know intellectually that that's not what happens, but emotionally it's hard sometimes to see effectual prayer as anything more real than Santa Claus.

In your dad's case, I did something I'd gotten out of the habit of doing: I prayed the rosary. I went into it with the same lackluster trust in the power of prayer that I've had for several years, and it didn't make any difference. The prayers were still answered.

The thing I have trouble remembering about prayer is that its efficacy isn't dependent on how good I am at it. In praying the rosary, I asked the strongest prayer warrior in Heaven for her help in praying. But if she hadn't been there, if it had just been me, God and a string of beads, I still wouldn't have been praying alone. God is always at the other end. Even the beads would have been optional at most.

And there's my dirty little secret. Even when I pray, I don't really think it's going to do much good. Fortunately, God ignores my bad attitude and takes the prayers at face value. Prayer works, in spite of me.

Thanks to everybody else who prayed, particularly Julie, who posted the request on her blog. And especially, thank you, Blessed Mother. I'm sorry I doubted you. Praise the Lord!

Blogger Beta thingy

Has anybody else tried this "Blogger Beta" they keep pitching every time I publish a post? Is it really as whiz-bang as they make it sound, or is it something us lead-pencil types should steer clear of?

This is humbling

Some of us try to act like Christians. And then, there are those who really, actually, do it.
They accept these tragedies as the will of God, an approach to life they call yieldedness, Mr. Shachtman said. He said this helped explain why the Amish interviewed after the shooting in Nickel Mines, Pa., sounded more resigned than angry. They are pacifists, and some spoke of the need to forgive the killer.

In one sign of their approach to tragedy, Amish residents started a charity fund yesterday not only to help the victims’ families but also to help the gunman’s widow. [Emphasis mine.]

“This is imitation of Christ at its most naked,” Mr. Shachtman said. “If anybody is going to turn the other cheek in our society, it’s going to be the Amish.”

He continued, “I don’t want to denigrate anybody else who says they’re imitating Christ, but the Amish walk the walk as much as they talk the talk.”

I'm in awe.

Hat tip to Mark Shea, The Godfather of St. Blog's Parish.

Clerical coffee snorter

Outcry as clergy say calling God 'He' or 'Lord' encourages wife-beating.

In other news, calling milk "homo-genized" leads to buggery, and ordering "poached" eggs encourages theft.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Prophetic? Or just pathetic?

I was tidying up this paper heap laughingly known as my desk today, and ran across a column I wrote about four years ago. It's the only thing of mine my editor ever bounced; he felt the reference was too direct. Today, I wonder if it's coming true.

"Good morning, shoppers, and thank you for shopping at All-Mart. We trust you're enjoying your total shopping experience with us today. At this time, we'd like to make a few announcements.

"In our Home Improvement department, all All-Mart brand paints are 25% off today only. While you're there, check with our Home Improvement Financing consultants. They're ready and waiting to assist you with those major repairs.

"In our grocery department, All-Mart brands of soda, diapers, and soap are discounted ten percent for today and tomorrow only. Also, we have just received a new chardonnay from 'Sunset Hills', All-Mart's own winery. Our in-house wine taster describes it as 'demure, with a hint of naughtiness.' We recommend it with all our poultry and fish selections, particularly those being served at Chez Lucre, All-Mart's fine dining establishment located at the north end of aisle 117.

"After your visit to Chez Lucre, consider rounding out your evening with a show. All-Mart Cinemas is now showing the latest in film entertainment; check our schedule for times and features. Also, the All-Mart Players theatre troupe will be presenting 'Secrets and Sycophants,' the hilarious new farce by Jacques Reynard, our new All-Mart playwright. We look forward to a full season of Jacques' work.

"All-Mart is proud to announce that our shuttle service has now been extended to all parking areas, which should cut down considerably on crowding and traffic accidents. Please be aware that these shuttle vehicles have right-of-way at all intersections. For you shoppers in Parking Area F-7, formerly known as Sixth through Ninth streets, please be advised that personal vehicles may be parked only in driveways or designated areas. Curbside parking is no longer permissible, so that our transit service may better serve you.

"Just a reminder, many of you have rental or mortgage payments due in two days. Please make sure checks are made out to All-Mart Mortgage Services, and deposited at the First Bank of All-Mart before the close of business Friday. If you'd like to upgrade your housing, please see our representatives at All-Mart Realty.

"We are proud to announce another stunning victory by our own All-Mart High School football team over their arch-rival, the Giant-Mart Peons. Way to go, All-Mart Minimum-Wage Slaves!

"Due to remodeling, services at All-Mart VersiChapel have been rescheduled. New times and days are listed for each denomination outside the chapel, or ask the clergyperson of your choice at the Religion Help Desk.

"Finally, All-Mart would like to welcome two more former downtown businesses to the All-Mart family: Fred's Jewelers and Independent Appliance. If you know a business that has not yet joined the All-Mart Corporation, please let our Department of Acquisitions know. After all, we at All-Mart are committed to bringing you the best selection, and we can't do that if just anybody sets up shop anywhere they like.

"This concludes our announcements for today. Have a good day, and thank you for shopping at All-Mart. Remember, we're more than just your neighborhood store; we're the whole darned neighborhood."