Well the US House is taking their sabbatical this August. No vote on the Health Care reform for another month, so I guess they'll have time to read over the legislation. Not that they will, though; after all, why concern themselves with the small stuff. They might just choose to add another thousand pages or so that they won't read through either. After all, we can't just sit back, do nothing, and accept the status quo...
"Blue Dogger" Bart Gordon flip-flopped and voted no on an amendment prohibiting tax-payer funded abortions, stating he "misunderstood" the first time, but hey; it's been a long session. Happens to the best of em.
We got the "cash for clunkers" thing running so smoothly that we already burned through the first $1 billion US (chumpchange) that we need another bil; but we're saving the planet, and one can't put a pricetag (or QALY) on that. The list of qualifying "clunkers" has slimmed down, though.
All in all, I feel pretty good about the month off. Heck, why not take two? (or three? or four?)
This according to the July issue of Awake! (Watchtower publication, governing body of Jehovah's Witnesses). My resident JW gave the mag to me last Saturday. Hadn't seen him in a few weeks as he was making care taking/relocation arrangements for one of his in-laws (I believe). The articles pertaining to different species and parts of the world seem to be more valuable IMHO than the theology-driven articles, but they do have religious-theme overtones as well. He's been visiting me on and off now for over two years, ever since the day after I was sacramentally confirmed in the Catholic Church, actually.
In any event, the sloth can die of starvation with a stomach full of food, especially in a cooler or shady environment, seeing as how the sun's warmth is "indispensable" to digestion. The green-tinted coat is algae which serves as nutrients for the host, and under certain circumstances camouflage (like in a tree). Costa Rica has plenty of them (sloths that is). Zookeepers are grateful that sloths go potty 1 and 2 only once per week.
Another amazing fact is that it's hair parts around the belly and grows down around its back. Because it spends most of its time upside down hanging from a tree, the hair pattern serves as a runoff for rain when tropical outpours occur. Purportedly sloths survive severe injuries as well as having a quick recovery time, thus staving off infection.
The punch line was that people under a hectic pace and always on the go should slow down a bit and be easy-going insofar as they can. Way easier said than done (for me at least).
Though Watchtower literature, some might say, is propaganda-laden, I do enjoy the colorful little illustrations with all the exotic animals (they believe the vast majority of those who are saved will live in an earthly paradise, next to lions, tigers, zebras, cockatoos, peacocks, what have you). This youtube clip, though theologically driven, is one of my favorites due to the ominous (spooky!) music and the excellent earth/nature-shots (sorry, no exotic animals:-( ..)
Leave it to the Germans! The National Post did a story yesterday about the ever-changing technology of swimsuits in the competitive world of swimming. Last year it was Speedo's LZR-Racer which supposedly propelled Michael Phelp's record-setting swim in last year's Olympics. This year it was the Arena X-Glide worn by German Paul Bierdermann which won the gold at the world championships in Rome.
The NP article contained a brief summary about how developing technology has enabled athletes to perform better over the years. However the last two years in swimming have seen record changes, this year by a relatively unknown. The same thing happened roughly a decade ago in Major League Baseball when Mark McGuire set a home run record only to be broken the year after by Barry Bonds. Both were suspected of juicing, or using steroids.
According to the NP article:
FINA, the body that governs international swimming, has banned all non-textile suits, but not until April or May 2010. A group of scientists will, by the end of September, provide manufacturers with a definition of "textile," which is now loosely described as "material consisting of, natural and/or synthetic, individual and non-consolidated yarns used to constitute a fabric by weaving, knitting, and/or braiding."
Perhaps that's all fine and good, or it would be if there was a swimming circuit that enabled swimsuit manufacturer's the most leeway in innovative technology. NASCAR has tight restrictions on racecars, requiring every driver to use the same car with standard restrictions; yet there are other racing circuits which allow more leeway.
Byron MacDonald, former Olympic coach and swimmer:
"The one thing everybody has to realize is that these suits are not unfair," he said, since it's available to anyone who wants to spend $500 to $600. "What it messes with is history. Obviously every sport loves history," he said, drawing an analogy between the technological advances decried in swimming and calls to reset baseball records that were set by players on steroids.
"If you never compared yourself to the past history it wouldn't matter," he said. "I have swimmers now who are doing times and I know they're not as good as an athlete I coached 15 years ago, and yet they're beating the times. The purists don't like to see history disappear and history has disappeared overnight in our sport."
I suppose that I've never been overenthralled with records for the reason that so many different circumstances surround athletes when they're making history. For example an RBI man in baseball can sometimes attribute his stats to the batter preceding him and the one after him. Preceders with high on-base percentages give him more opportunities to drive in runs, while a solid hitter in the lineup right after would pressure the pitcher not to walk him. Seeing as how there are fewer variables in swimming there may be cause for alarm, but swimsuit technology is still one of many plausible variables. Others might include a new swimming technique, new diet regiment, new undetectable steroid, new supplement, etc.
Assuming the suit makes the man in this instance, this could be factored in and in no way would mitigate the achievements of athletes in times past. Those keen on history and developing trends, technological or otherwise, wouldn't necessarily conclude that the record setters were the better athletes. This is different from the MLB steroid fiasco in that it sets a bad precedent for future would be athletes. Steroids have been known to be harmful to the health of athletes and others who abuse them. The fact that so many are willing to gamble with their health, their mairrages (roid rage), and not least of which their mortality (heart problems) would seem to indicate that an additional disincentive is necessary to curtail the trend.
This morning we got another spurt of much needed rain, as they've occurred a few times over the past week or so. Too bad for me I left my car windows down and had to go outside and roll them up at a quarter till 6am. They've been hard to predict as yesterday evening I was overcome by a tidal wave of heat while getting in my car from not leaving the windows open earlier on in the evening. The rain will keep our waterbill down and our grass growing, so no strenuous complaining from our end.
It seems to impact driving in a negative way, more than one may think. Pertaining to highway driving (with rush hour traffic, overpasses, and lane mergers) wet conditions slow things down considerably, while it's next to impossible trying to predict the ebb and flow of traffic. There is a time after a slight amount of rain when conditions of traction (or a lack thereof) are ripe for fishtails and 'slip & slides'. Couple that with the pace car in the next lane who must be well over a dozen car lengths behind the car ahead of him (unless, of course, you attempt to pass) and one has the makings of a very frustrating beginning to the day.
The bible verse about the just and the unjust dispelled an age old myth among the Hebrews that suffering, misfortune, and calamity only occured to those who 'had it coming'. The obstacle for me is learning to accept trials and hinderances gracefully as they occur. Easy when taking the overview to plan the 'right' course of action should something unpredictable occur, harder to take in stride as it's happening, like four letter words that tend to eek out in moments of heightened stress as described in the previous paragraph. One time a month ago I was talking over the phone with a fellow parishioner making meeting plans for visiting the nursing home the next day. At that moment my cat had a flea attack and walked across my keyboard like she'd done several times in the past, arousing an exclamation of 'd^mm*t' into the receiver. Luckily for me inopportune flares like that haven't occured since. Maybe she prayed rigorously for me (though I wish she'd have prayed a little harder since the habbit hasn't gone away).
Seem to be going through a lot of hindrance lately, though one supposes that failing to respond gracefully can be an indicator of where one needs to make improvements...
The Christian Broadcasting Network has an ongoing special at their website on the Harry Potter movies/escapist literature featuring op-ed articles from Christian authors; some affirming positive lessons to take from the series while others saying to avoid it like the plague, pointing out occultism and a 'lack of morality'. A rather sketchy statement by then Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) made reference to "subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly" regarding Harry P. Since the series is heavily geared towards children and adolescents, it's unclear whether the Pope would be okay with a properly developed Christian reading or viewing a movie.
Personally I never dove into escapist literature full throttle, whether it was C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, or anyone else. I do have somewhat of a guilty pleasure for Southpark, however. The frequent occurence of curse words is a turnoff while the simple animation is an obstacle. Quite often I disagree with the politics of the creators; yet say what you will, they're equal opportunity offenders. The series revolves around the 'adventures' of four eight to nine year olds. Several stereotypes are exploited while the characters remain true to form (ie they never change). There are subtle jabs at political and social structures that are not always discernable to the untrained eye. This combined with the characters' attributes of real-life people make the animation somewhat appealing.
When it comes to watching TV series that in some aspects conflict with certain Christian values, I'm not alone. A prominent writer once blogged about her husband's preference for The Sopranos (violence and language) while another blogged about Sex and the City 'lessons'. A friend from my fraternal organization new so many lines from Seinfeld (one of my favorites as well). The question is where does one draw the line? Living in a pluralistic society, one would be hard-pressed to read only books, listen to music, or view TV/movies that conform almost completely to the indivual's moral compass, particularily as it pertains to religion. The danger can be watching too much over a long period of time might desensitize someone to the gravity of the situation, but I'll refrain from a long discertation about the "frog in the slowly rising to boiling water" analogy. I myself am a generation Xer who grew up taking violence and fowl language for granted (and not just on TV, radio, or in the movies). Since I've only been practicing Christianity studiously for roughly three years I might not have the sense to know any better. If this be true then hopefully my situation will improve over time.
...and who knows; I might even find something of genuine interest to write about ;-) ...but don't hold your breath.
Perhaps I'm a little behind in the times, but it appears that our lady has had a home away from home for nearly the past three decades. I'm speaking of Medjugorje, Bosnia where the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared to visionaries 40,000 times over the last 28 years. Breaking this down in mathematical Es, she appeared over 1,400 times a year on average (roughly 4 times per day). Divided among six visionaries would mean appearing twice every three days on average to each visionary.
Of course each one started having visions at different times, while no doubt our lady has her favorites. The overview goes into more detail about when visiting hours occur and when they become less frequent:
When each of the six visionaries has received all ten "secrets", Our Lady will stop appearing to them on a daily basis. Currently, Marija, Vicka, and Ivan have received nine secrets, and Our Lady still appears to them every day, wherever they are, at 5:40pm during daylight savings time, and 6:40pm the rest of the year. Mirjana, Jakov, and Ivanka have received all ten secrets, and Our Lady appears to them once per year, and will do so for the rest of their lives. For Ivanka who received her 10th secret on May 7, 1985 it is on the anniversary of the apparitions, June 25 each year. For Jakov who received his 10th secret on September 12, 1998, it is on Christmas day each year. And for Mirjana who received her 10th secret on Christmas 1982, it is on her birthday, March 18 each year. Our Lady has also been appearing to Mirjana on the 2nd of each month since August 2, 1987 for the express purpose of praying for all unbelievers.
If true, this would beyond the shadow of a doubt be the most fascinating ongoing apparition of the Virgin Mary yet. Unlike past famous apparitions like Fatima and Lourdes, this event is unique not only in the frequent number of visitations and an ongoing duration of decades, but in that the Virgin purportedly walked the visionaries step by step through past apparitions, explaining in extensive detail their meanings. To boot the Virgin blessed the visionaries with prosperity according to Simon Caldwell's report:
“The seers have grown wealthy as a result of their claims – and so has their town, which has boomed as a result of the ‘Madonna gold rush’.
“Some today own smart executive houses with immaculate gardens, double garages and security gates, and one has a tennis court.
“They also own expensive cars and have married.”
This would be cause for many Catholics to give the prosperity gospel a second look. If your parish is looking for a guest speaker they could contact Ivan Dragicevic.
Though the Catholic Church does recognize some miracles of private revelation as legitimate, She doesn't require Catholics to believe in them in order to maintain full communion with the Holy See. In regards to Father Tomislav Vladic being recently defrocked (blamed for 'creating' the phenomenon in '81), hopeful holdouts can remember that Joan of Arc was excommunicated before being burned at the stake, then canonized centuries later. I, for one, won't be holding my breath.
Earlier today we had a diocesan appeal after the gospel reading from the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. To be concise, the homilist was brief and stated that the multiplication of fish and loaves from the Gospel reading was true before relinquishing the mic to the sister with the thick Boston accent. She went on to give her interpretation of the Gospel reading stating in so many words that Jesus inspired others in the crowd to share with his generosity, hence conflicting with the priest's preliminary 'disclaimer'. I'm doing a bit of speculating here, but I imagine the priest caught some flack from congregants at the earlier Mass who weren't too happy about the sister's take on the Gospel reading.
The jest of her appeal was that we (the congregants) should do like the people in the crowd in John 6 who were stirred to sharing their odorous fish sandwiches they'd been carrying on their person for who knows how many hours or days. While the causes she mentioned including bicycles for villagers and teaching and sustaining sound agriculture were noble I wish she didn't have to trivialize recorded miracles in order to make a point. This take on the Gospel reading is hardly original and is more common with the Jesuits (with whom the religious sisters work) who though committed to the poor tend to be more 'progressive' on social issues.
My main concern is with the mentality that we must present a version of the Gospel that is more 'palletable' for prospective converts and severely bereft of supernatural occurence or phenomenon. Other examples of this were that weather patterns were responsible for parting the Red Sea or the Sea of Reeds if one prefers, the devil as a metaphor, and so on and so forth. Thomas Jefferson attempted something similar when stripping Gospel accounts of miracles like Jesus curing paralytics, lepers, and raising people from the dead, leaving the indigenous peoples of America with the "morals" of Jesus. Yet if one takes away the physiological miracles in the Gospel then he takes away a very key component; one instrumental in beginning to fathom God's overwhelming love for all mankind, then what are we left with?
I understand miracles not to be ends in and of themselves but vital tools in uniting people to God, and so falling in love with the giver is way more beneficial than becoming infatuated with the gifts themselves. On the other hand working with the poor shouldn't be at the expense of watering down the Gospel, seeing as how this could have eternal ramifications for both recipients and those disseminating these half-truths, regardless of their "good intentions". The Christian Children's Fund changed its name to Childfund, no doubt due to pressure from Ministry Watch and their contention that the charity did next to nothing to spread the Gospel, hence misusing the Christian label. It then stands to reason that missionaries are also obliged to conform to proper doctrine when ministering to the corporeal needs of people. There is a wide consensus among believers as to what constitutes proper doctrine, but I can see how people in good conscience may have found it difficult to give to this particular ministry. Others may have overcome this conflict of interest by realizing the immediate needs of those less fortunate while yet others may not have had any conflict with the theology itself. I'm rather curious as to whether readers could give to such a cause, knowing the Gospel being spread is imperfect and could even be spiritually perilous. Would you give to such a charity?
Yesterday evening Guadalupe Radio Network hosted a benefit with the President of Human Life International Fr. Tom Euteneuer that focused primarily on the art of exorcism and spiritual warfare. Fr. Euteneuer had his five minutes of fame you could call it on Fox News a couple or so years ago though he was unable to exorcise the Hannity demon in the alotted time.
The benefit was held in the Frontiers of Flight Museum of all places. Though the buffet was rather average the brownies were excellent and the free parking was accomodating as well.
To start off Fr. Tom referenced Fr. Malachi Martin alluding to how evil is more organized and mass-marketed in modern times due to advances in technology and resources of modern media. Accordingly pornography is the number one confessed sin in confessionals (mainly among men) and tops the list of common vices, which corresponds to porn being a thriving industry (even though some in the business had the audacity to ask for TARP money).
Regarding exorcism itself, initially the investigating authorities (ie the Church) have to rule out tangible causes such as psychiatric illness or emotional trauma before diagnosing demon possession and proceeding with exorcism (sometimes a combination exists between natural and supernatural causes). Common signs of possession include fluence in esoteric language(s), superhuman strength, and aversion to holy things such as relics and sacramentals. When the criteria are met the exorcist armed with humility, common sense, and the exorcism book in Latin embarks on a ritual. During the process he must identify the spirits and command each (if more than one) by name to leave. The process also thrives on the corroboration of the faith community, including a chapel, prayer teams, and composing a schedule. Faith and will power of the possessed individual are also considered vital components in the expulsion of diabolical spirits.
Fr. Euteneuer emphasized the Church Militant including laity and pointed out that not every possession necessitates exorcism. Laity are encouraged to pray for friends and family who may suffer from demonic oppression and name the area(s) needed to be overcome (ie pray God binds the spirit of alcoholism, imfirmity, sexual perversion, etc) Personally I always thought this to be a ploy by slick televangelists; yet usually the best ploys are based largely but not entirely on fact. Fr. Eutey did encourage preventative measures against demonic influence, such as frequent recourse to the sacraments and a rich prayer life.
In order to contrast some mythical aspects of exorcism propagated by Hollywood (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) Fr. Eutey stated that perfect possession is a long, gradual process and a slow encroachment of evil. The targeted individual typically loses will power over time due to his or her lack of mastery over sinful behavior. For example a chaste and pious school girl bereft of foul language wouldn't become possessed overnight. Because of the subtle and gradual nature of demonic oppression the vast majority of the afflicted never attribute their situations to diabolical elements; but it was St. Paul himself who wrote:
For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. -- Eph 6;12
This happens to be the name of a very rare coffee that retails for 2 Cnotes per pound retail (I believe we paid roughly 13 bucks for our last 2.5 lb bag of coffee at Kotsco.) According to The Coffee Critic one can get roughly 65 cups of coffee out of a 1 lb bag (if my math is correct), which means if you're a 2 cup-a-day drinker you would consume roughly $6 worth of coffee each day. Located in the Indonesian islands, what makes this particular coffee so rare and unique is, uh, how it is spruced for want of a better word.
The article by Chris Rubin featured in the link (scroll 1/3 down the page) states:
On these Indonesian islands, there's a small marsupial called the paradoxurus, a tree-dwelling animal that is a kind of civet. These catlike animals were long regarded as pests because they would climb in the coffee trees and eat only the ripest, reddest coffee cherries.
What these animals eat, they also digest and eventually excrete. Some brazen or desperate locals gathered the beans, which come through the digestion process fairly intact, still wrapped in layers of the coffee cherry mucilage. Apparently the enzymes in the stomach of the animal add something unique to the coffee's flavor through fermentation.
This raises some interesting questions from my perspective. For one, how were they able to discern the process by which the coffee atained its gourmet flavor? The next excert might give a hint:
The green beans, which range in size from tiny to elephant, have a faint smell that hints of a zoo or stables.
Perhaps the faintness of the scent obscured this detail from the initial tasters who discovered this rare berry, but if not then how could anyone embark on consuming the brew coming from these funky berries? Regardless of how the endeavor seemed to pay off fairly big dividends. The article concludes:
The aroma was rich and strong, and the coffee was incredibly full bodied, almost syrupy. It was thick, with a hint of chocolate, and lingered on the tongue with a long, clean aftertaste.
It was definitely one of the best cups I've every had; but at these prices, I'll invest in precious metals before I start buying by the pound.
As for me the finer things in life such as vintage wines and gourmet coffees are wasted on my unrefined pallet, which is why I generally stick to the stuff scraped off the bottom so to speak. Citing this HSI article:
According to one source, a major Vietnamese coffee producer has come up with a process that simulates the palm civet's enzyme action so that a synthetic Kopi Luwak can be produced without having to coax just a few beans at a time through a cat.
Hopefully when this synthetic process is perfected the supply side will go up and the coffee may be marketed at, oh, let's say under $100 US per lb, assuming the nonexcremental enzymatic process doesn't drive the demand up ;-)
One of those topics that seems awkward writing about but nonetheless deserves visiting. Happened a few days ago when our little fencing project got temporarily put on ice due supposedly to some fence posts at another residence were bowed on top. Luckily I wasn't the offended (or offending) party in this debacle, depending on how one looks at it, but their paths are bound to cross ways again somewhere down the line. Not sure that it's desirable to be present when they do. In the meantime it's in limbo how this enmity will affect them (and those around them) for months and presumably years to follow. Will they allow this to fester, continue to gossip and/or portray themselves in a good light all the while painting their 'adversary' in a bad one?
Heard it said before that cancer is occurs when cells fail to communicate properly with one another. Suppose the same can apply to a mystical body (of Christ) perhaps. So much wasted energy is exerted worrying about how an incident will be detrimental to one's social standing in the community at large. This is not unlike the melodramas that play out every so often with the LA Lakers. Is Coby getting along with his coaches? Will he grasp the triangle offense? Does he play well with teammates? Will all the other marquis players pick up their toys and play elsewhere with others more adjustable?
All of this wasted motion (basketball terminology) hinders followers from fulfilling the goals they were created for in a timely manner. Too much focus placed on the individual and who's to blame instead of overviewing the situation at large and staying focused. No doubt it's easy to catch the disease and spread the cancer instead of stifling it. The catch 22 being if one gossips about the gossiper then he (or she) is guilty of the same offense. This is what separates the proverbial men from the boys as Dr. Bob wrote about in his step study. Are followers willing to surrender up guilty pleasures (gossip, dirty jokes, pop culture, etc) in order to serve the greater glory of God? One can only hope more realize this obstacle learned both the easy way and the hard way, seeing as how it's so difficult to remain stationary in the spiritual journey. People tend either to plow ahead or be whisked away depending on the current.