Friday, November 26, 2010


Two links to share, both from Ta-Nehisi Coates' Thanksgiving thread. (I respect TNC's writing more than I like him, and I like him more than I like his comment section. But what he writes is frequently worth reading.)

First: Uncle Sam's Thanksgiving Table. Idealistic, and still not present, but the world is getting better every day. I think what I like best is the Momma giving the little one what-for.

Secondly, for all of us who have ever spent a holiday meal with adult members of our families: Loudon Wainwright's Thanksgiving Song.

Update And a third - John Scalzi's Science Fiction Thanksgiving Grace.


Read as a lector, yesterday, for the first time in just over a year, and for the first time ever in this parish. As the only scheduled reader -

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

CSFFBT: 'The Skin Map' by Stephen Lawhead (II)

Traveling today, and the book not completely read yet, so today is even more brief.


The Skin Map continues to be quite engaging - partly due to the subject matter, but in no small part to the chapter structure. Especially in the beginning, the chapters are short, compact without being choppy, and leave the reader if not hanging from the cliff, at least jerking short at the top of a short hill, barely able to keep momentum from hauling one on down the other slope in a tumbling run.

The plot and characters have brought me around to wondering, again, what makes Christian fiction Christian?

I'm about a zillion percent certain that this has been debated before on CSFFBT (hint: links would be good). And I'm just as sure that I don't want to set up some sort of holier-than-thou litmus test for books of any sort.

(I'm reminded of a very acid internet exchange, some years back, when a magazine/website (can't even remember which one) published a list of books with 'Biblical world views' - and included Diary of Anne Frank. Jewish reader/bloggers were not amused. "Books about Jews can't be 'Christian Biblical'!" While I disagree, I can see where they were coming from, and don't begrudge them their indignation, esp in the case of Anne Frank and the way the Nazi party co-opted the German Church.)

Any road. Litmus tests are not what I'm going for, here.

I think that just as every person will respond to Christ differently, and that everyone would use different words to describe God to their friends and neighbors, that everyone's definition of what made a book 'Christian' will vary.

I think a definition along the lines of the old joke about 'if they made Christianity illegal, is there enough evidence to get you convicted' might be appropriate - ie, if 'THEY' were to start banning (or burning) Christian books, would this one escape the bonfire? (note 1)

Thus far in The Skin Map I haven't seen anything that would need bribery to get past a secularist censor. (There's been some reference to the grace of providence, and the main characters - in 1600 England - go to church, but that's it.) Not that I'm ready to write the book off. But I'd rather something more concrete than a general sense of joyful hope before I labeled a book as 'Christian'. There is enough mention of drinking and carousing, not to mention some ethically shady time-intervention actions, but next-to-zero sex.

I'm not asking for more sex in the book, but I'm going to be very disappointed if that turns out to be what defines the book as 'Christian'.

Note 1: Not advocating burning or banning books of any sort.

On Voting Day (politics and other stuff)

Firstly - if you have not done so, please go vote, no matter who you are voting for. (Yes, I think it matters who you vote for. Yes, I want you to vote anyway. Improving the process is more important than getting a specific 'good' result.)

Secondly, if you have voted - start talking it up earlier next year/next election. Twice today I've come across people who have trouble voting because they didn't bother to update their registration when they moved - MONTHS AGO. If you show up at a precient where you are not registered, and they don't let you vote because you don't have proper ID showing that you're *supposed* to vote there - this is a feature, not a bug. Please help encourage people to get this stuff straighten out EARLY.

Thirdly - I'm not non-partisan. I have opinions and they are right, true, and correct and if you disagree then you are wrong. But. As I've said before - differing opinions doesn't mean we have to fight about it. And it doesn't mean we have to believe the worst about each other.

I'm not going to go all happy-happy-joy-joy, isn't-the-world-full-of-sunshine-and-flowers. There are demons, there are people who commit acts of horrific violence, there are people who thrive on injustice and smug superiority and looking out for number one, there are people who not demand mercy for themselves, but also validation, and who want not only justice but divine retribution for everyone else, and if God isn't up to the task, well, they'll help the old guy out.

But that's not most of us, and we need to assume that's not the people we live and work and pray and vote with. For our own sanity, if nothing else.

So...a few things to highlight, today.

Let Freedom (and Happiness) Reign - a book review in The New Yorker, about an illustrated wander through the country.

Special Arab/Muslim issue of Apex Magazine. (It's good that we have such stuff. It'll be better when such doesn't merit 'special issues'. Inbetween will be hard.)

How the Rest of the World Reports on the Tea Party in Foreign Policy - *shakes head* On the one hand, it's helpful, in a 'how do we talk about this' way, to know what other people think. On the other hand, it's frustrating to see that it's not just Americans who absolutely don't understand other people's cultures and backgrounds.

Continuing with the educational-but-not-helpful theme - I don't this this is the best answer to the idea of a writer using comics to popularize Muslim virtues. I think there's tons of room to discuss the on-going integration and interaction between 'the West' and 'Islam' - from between nations to between congregations to within those people currently living on the borderlands, including those people who ARE the borderlands - but I think comics (and art, and lit, including SF) are a way to discuss that, and *should* be used.

Heck, if it's good enough for Pope John Paul II, it's good enough for anyone.

(Part of the discussion should, I think, be focused on 'separation of church and state' as a Western/Christian ideal, and possibly not a universal human truth. But that's a sidebar, I think.)

A few days ago there was a horrific attack on a Christian church - during services - in Iraq. I think it worthy to offer prayers for those injuried, those dead, their families, and for the soldiers and police who responded. And for those who carried out the attack.

If you have not yet watched, I recommend this clip of Jon Stewart's finale speech at the Mall on Saturday. I don't agree with a lot of what Stewart says on most days. But I agree with a lot of what he says here.

And following on that: Brian Spears quit blogging about politics.

Monday, November 1, 2010

CSFFBT: 'The Skin Map' by Stephen Lawhead

This is going to be a slightly different take on this month's Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour. I haven't quite finished the book yet, and so will reserve more in-depth comments until tomorrow, when I will have finished it.

First, some notes first:

The Skin Map and
Author’s web site -

In short, about the book itself:

Lawhead is turning into one of those authors whose books I pick up with a sigh of relief, because a) I know it's going to be good and b) I know it's not going to make me crazy by proposing brain-breaking concepts.

(By 'brain-breaking' I don't mean twists on physics or large amounts of math - I mean things like "religion is for weak and stupid people" or "monarchies are great because of the order and stability they produce" or "carnivores are inheritantly evil".)

In The Skin Map Lawhead revisits one of the oldest of SF concepts - the alternate reality, visited by people from Our Earth. This has been used in a zillion ways, from Andre Norton's Here There Be Dragons (as well as the whole of the Witch World novels) through Stephen R. Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covanant to Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere as well as countless less notable others.

(This is not to knock other examples of the subgenre as being despicable - I have as a special love the Crossroads series by Nick O'Donohoe, which Amazon tells me collectible sets of the original paperbacks are going for ungodly sums, and which was not, imo, all that terrific a fiction series, despite my deep love for the subject matter. Ahem. Moving on.)

I mention Neverwhere in particular because it, like Skin Map, uses the backdrop of London as its launching point to Someplace Else. As an rural American by birth and inclination, I am afraid I not ever going to Get the fascination with the layers of history wrapt in London. Lawhead, though, makes a better-than-usual job of creating a believably complex modern metropolis as well as an alternative (1600's) reality that doesn't have me shrugging off suspension of disbelief as 'too much like work'.

And that's actually not being fair - I was well and truly drawn into this book and its plot, and look forward to finishing it tomorrow. Reading it was only complicated by the fact that I've finished three (and a half) other books in the last week. Between them - Kage Baker's House of the Stag, a partial re-read of CJ Cherryh's Gate of Ivrel, Lois McMaster Bujold's Cryoburn and Connie Willis's All Clear, I am full, to the shallowest hair root, of alternate realities and timestream convolutions.

So when a Skin Map character - just in passing, or so it seems - takes steps to advert a major historical disaster (and so save thousands of lives) my warning bells go on. (Danger Will Robinson, Danger!) Because no good turn goes unpunished, and no modifications of the plan go unnoted, and nothing is so good as it looks.

I haven't read far enough to know if the danger-adverting is just windowdressing, or is actually treated with more depth later on. I'm looking forward to finding out.

Two - no, three other notes:

- The character of Wilhemina is turning out to be, oh, eight or nine times more awesome than I had thought she was going to be. (I was, frankly, expecting another Neverwhere-esque non-entity.)

- The *concept* of a skin map is great. It even evokes that old classic The Illustrated Man. But in the context of WWII and the final solution, I'm a bit twitchy about things made from people skins.

- The cover - eye, strange symbols, pyramids and London, all in red-orange - is awesome.

As I said, hopefully more, later. Meanwhile, other CSFSBT participants are:

Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
Jeff Chapman
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
George Duncan
April Erwin
Tori Greene
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Shannon McDermott
Allen McGraw
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Gavin Patchett
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Kathleen Smith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Donna Swanson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Dave Wilson

Friday, October 29, 2010

Those other people out there that God also loves

Still tip-toeing back into journaling. Which has been complicated by new&different things at work, and the threat of new&exciting things at work.

It's good to have work. It's good to have purpose.

Two days ago I wrote 501 not-very-good-and-not-very-connected words. This is a win.

Yesterday I started re-sorting books throughout the house. Still in progress, but with the eventual goal of 'make the books you haven't read yet accessible. Oh, and sort the non-fiction by subject. And the fiction by author, so you can get rid of duplicates.'

Today I actually opened up Google Reader to read the blogs I'm supposed to be following on this blog.

Of note: Neil Gaiman suggests giving away books for Halloween. Brilliant.

Anchoress on 'purging' Bad Catholics. Related (at least in my head): Becky Miller talks about godly writers writing about ungodly things. (Maybe it's related in my head because of the Elizabeth Moon stuff.)

...I don't have a good answer. There is the commandment to love each other. There is the responsibility to not let badly-acting companions tempt one into doing what one should not. There is human weakness and avoiding the near occasion of sin. There is keeping ones mouth shut if one can't say anything, and there is refusing to sit by and fold ones hands.

My guess is that Christ would have a separate solution for each situation. Which sounds like work.

Speaking of which - On Steve Colbert's Catholicism.

Oh, and NaNoMo is coming.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Talking to tax collectors without coming across like a Pharsee

Last Sunday we had a guest lecturer priest - a missionary with Cross International. I can't speak for Cross International itself - this was the first I had heard of them - but the priest was straight out of the Catholic Worker "economic justice was Christ's first priority" school of faith.

For the record, I have never heard a rich person speak of the poor with the hate and loathing that many social justice advocates use when speaking of the rich.

I...have a hard time with that. [snip more in-depth comments as trending too close to the political] And I had a harder time with the presentation (taking the form of a homily). For me, who tithes a fair bit (although not as regularly or as much as I should) the homily nearly encouraged me to snatch money back *out* of the offering plate (metaphorically speaking.) And not because I don't doubt that there are people who need it - or that I am in need of giving it, regardless of the want on the other side. The homily was so much a one-sided (complete with cherry-picked scripture and tirades against 'rich corporations' who avoid paying taxes) blast against the wealthy (without, conveniently, defining 'wealth') that I was nearly (I hope) at the point of rolling my eyes.

The homily pretty much completely fit the label of "not helpful." It seemed to make the visiting priest feel better, though, and it did lead me to review my tithe schedule, so it wasn't completely a loss.

But I can't help thinking that maybe, given a different twist on the words, more could have been done.

There has been an on-going conversation in my house (for about five years now, on and off) about 'how to change people's minds'. And change their actions. How to fulfill the obligations of spiritual grace to admonish the sinner.

I don't have an answer, yet. But part of the answer is, I think, that yelling at people in righteous fury does more to make me feel better than it does to change the world. And, in this case 'make me feel better' is not in the sense of 'make me feel closer to God'. More is done, I think, by choosing the right words, the right time, and the right manner of speaking, in order to apply the right leverage at the right point in order to move a stone.

How to know the right words? Well, speaking to someone in French when all they speak is Mandarin is an example of 'not the right words.' Speaking disparagingly of treasured cultural icons of the listener is another. Speaking hatred instead of love is a third.

I have not found it easy to find the right words. It requires, I think, skill on the part of the speaker, a deep understanding of the message (so one can speak Truth and not just repeat a memorized magical script) and an understanding of the impact of particular words on the listener. So one must understand the listener. Usually by spending time with them, coming to understand what burdens they are struggling with, what their gifts are, what they value and what they hold lightly. Then one can more easily speak and have effect.

This is hard.

In part, it is hard because it means spending time with, and learning to put on the mind of those 'others', to better know how the message will be received. This not only means hanging out with 'horrid' people, but opens one up to the (wrong-headed) values that one was trying to change in the first place! Dangerous ground indeed.

Far safer, and easier, to stand at a distance and yell, than to step forward with open arms. And that's less of a metaphor than I would like, in today's age.

But it is also hard because it means we have to come to know and love the people we oppose. It means setting aside hate, distian and righteousness, and our own agendas, and taking on God's mission.

Tough stuff. I have never been able to pray St Francis's prayer ('grant that I may never seek so much to be understood as to understand') with ease - dadnabit, I'm right, can't you people see that? I do not trust easily. And I judge all too swiftly. I count it as a victory, now, years down this road, that I *know* I should understand, should forgive, should love, *first*, and not expect to only grant those gifts to those who have already understood, forgiven, and loved me.

It is only what the Man did - and expects of those of us who follow him -'love God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul, and love your neighbor as yourself.'

Monday, October 25, 2010

Onward, with tentive steps...

So, with a foundation down - not fully settled, not without a few cracks, but the road is clear, though rough in places. And if the rocks get thick, I have a staff to hand.


Via The Anchoress:

The Reapers Are The Angels. Zombies, which are at least not vampires.

Ron Rolheiser writes about crowds.


Walked to Mass this week. The number of joys and blessings wrapt up in that - that I can walk; that I will; that I found a house close to the church; that the weather was beautiful; that I have decent and yet practical clothes; that I have the time; that the world continues on as it has...too many to count.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

If you want to hear God laugh, sit down and tell him about your plans

I actually don't know if I'm back yet.

It's the first day of fall - an ember-gold harvest moon hangs in the east, giving lie to the heat that lay over eastern Virginia all day - which is an odd time for new beginings. But no stranger, I think, than six days past the winter stolstice.

I've been reading Word Among Us again. This month, the articles are focusing on Mother Theresa. One piece, written by Mother Theresa's biographer, emphasized that, for twenty years before starting her Calcutta ministry among the poorest of the poor, Agnes was a professed sister: praying, serving, living in community.

She didn't just wake up, at 21 years of age, and become the person she was to be, when she died.

I'm not the person I'd like to be, eventually. Perhaps I should get started on that, again.


It's very difficult, even on a long deployment, to make many major adjustments to one's life. Many years ago, starting a year-long assignment in a remote area, I was advised to pick three things to work towards, over the coming 12 months. I thought this was a bit low, but pick three things I did. I'll add some others in a few months, I thought.

At the end of the year, I found that I had accomplished one of the original three, and was very pleased with myself.

I think, as a trial, I will pick one habit a month, set a reasonable/sustainable goal, and focus on that one for that month. The next month, I'll add another, and try to keep the first one going strong. My intent is not to drop all the things I'm doing part-time and only so-so, but to establish a foundation, first, and let the others 'hang fire' for a day - or three - while focused on one issue.

In keeping with 'first things first', the first is to re-focus on my prayer life.


Via Instapundit - an interesting post on environmentalism as religion. Also includes some information on Christian 'Creation Care'.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

CSFF Blog Tour - North! or Be Eaten, by Andrew Peterson (Part I)

This is part one of what will hopefully be three parts of this month's Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour. The book of the month is North! or Be Eaten, by Andrew Peterson. It is part II of the Wingfeather Saga. The first book in the series is On the Edge of the Dark Sea, and I have not read it yet.

Actually, I haven't finished this one yet, either, as my order from Amazon took longer to get here than I had thought. (And I spent the weekend socializing instead of working being productive.)

This would be a good point to put in an FTC required disclaimer (The requirement of which is ridiculous, as print reviewers don't have to do this.) Anyway:

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I have received no recompense or material from the publisher or any other person or entity.

What I can talk about:

The cover is beautiful - faux leather print, with ornate yellow typeset and a central illustration (in color) which strongly evokes (for this reader) the Golden Compass novels. I don't think this cover is aimed at the Christian Fiction Crowd, (for the extent that there is a CFC) but as a hook for the YA SFF audience, I think it's pretty smart.

(Other works evoked include Left Hand of Darkness and Thirty Days of Night, so make of that what you will.)

The interior is as striking as the cover, if not more so. Peterson uses interior illustrations (which appear to come from Barlowes - the Horned Hound is featured, among other interesting beasties) and short chapters. (As an aunt, I strongly approve of short chapters for reading to the younger set. Ten page chapters strain the throat.) He also uses footnotes, which I completely dig. (Not just on the cover, which has served Bujold's Baen-published Miles novels well, but inside the text as well.)

I will hopefully have more to say tomorrow, after I finish the book. Meanwhile, other members of the tour are listed below - check them out!

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Amy Browning
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Todd Michael Greene
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
New Authors Fellowship
Donita K. Paul
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
Andrea Schultz
James Somers
Steve and Andrew
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Fred Warren
Jason Waguespac
Phyllis Wheeler
Elizabeth Williams
KM Wilsher

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Links, Books,


DaTechguy's Blog - Catholic blog, a bit more political than I like, but with some interesting SF commentary also.

Interview with Farah Mendlesohn - who has complied an book of crit on Joanna Russ. Most interesting to me for the commentary on different types of feminism - [those] who have grown up thinking of themselves as equal, and taking the rhetoric for granted, and then slowly realising that they've been sold London Bridge. (Which is...not the conclusion I've come to.)

The Black Hole Case - okay, not life science, but still v. interesting.

Books: (all as of yet unread)

The Book of Genesis, illustrated by R. Crumb.

Between God and Allah: What Christians Can Learn from Muslims - an examination of the points of alinement and divergence between the younger peoples of the Book.

Multicultural Medicine and Health Disparities by Satcher and Pamies


Had the course PT test this morning, and (contrary to what I expected) managed to score over 90% in all three events. Which, honestly, is much easier when you're an old gal.

It can be iffy, meeting a bunch of new people, esp if you're not great with people. So far in my group, there are a couple of people with a Russian language background, a gal who climbs, and a couple of SF geeks. (In amongst a wide spectrum of backgrounds and experiences.) It's actually looking very promising.


The day after Christmas, my family had the tv on a NCIS marathon, which I had been avoiding watching for no particular reason. This evening, I'm on my third hour in a row. Gibbs is particularly interesting, but all the characters have their moments. The action/details are (f'xample, the airborne jump scene had about a 100% deficiency in wind noise and turbulence inside the aircraft.) But so far, I can over look those.

...I really don't need a new show to watch.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Primate Medicine

Two links this morning for mainstream media health:

US response to H1N1 'appropriate' - which I think is correct, if less by design and more by luck. I find it interesting that the death rates for different flu strains are given in the article, but not for the typical 'annual' flu. (The death rates become important when one is trying to figure out how much money to spend on influenza programs, because the money usually has to get cut from something else - and it would be good to know if that something else was a greater or lesser risk than the one you were proposing to fix.)

Norway's response to MRSA - stop prescribing antibotics. I find this interesting for two reasons - firstly, because it shows a reduction in intervention in response to increased disease (which worked) and secondly because the primary influencing factor in human MRSA was demonstrated (overwhelmingly, in multiple regions) to be over-use of antibotics in humans.

(Yes, yes, One World, One Health. Everything that goes into the bioweb touches everything else. But let's hit the lower hanging fruit first, shall we, before harring off to stop animals from getting medical treatment?)

I am curious as to what sort of in-clinic, alternative care or counseling was given patients in lieu of an antibiotic prescription. Sometimes, if a provider (MD, DVM, whatever) declines to prescribe medication, the client/patient seems to take offense, as if the provider doesn't care/isn't trying to make the patient better. 'Tincture of talk' fixes many of these misunderstandings, but not all of them. A provider might easily decide that it is a better use of their time to write the script and go on to the next patient than to spend the time convincing the client to accept the more conservative treatment (which isn't making the provider any money anyway.)

Also of note is the variation in drug approval in different countries across the world. In many places I've visited - specifically Latin America - drugs that are restricted to prescription use only in the USA are available over the counter at pharmacies and animal supply/feed stores.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Normally, I don't make these. (It's like telling someone the story of my latest plot bunny - it kills the damn thing, and I lose interest in actually writing the story.)

But the last year both showed the advantages of steady, incremental progress towards a goal and the low return on 'wishing', so I'm going to give the 'make a list of ideals and see how far I can get' method a try.

My rules for this: No getting worked up over missing a day. No frustration over lack of progress. Keep it simple, keep it sane. This is to help make life more enjoyable, not to make it more miserable.

1. Pray always.
-- Mass weekly
-- Daily Mass once or twice a week?
-- establish a regular (daily?) prayer habit
---- LOH?
---- rosary?
---- scripture reading?
---- other spiritual reading?
---- spiritual journaling?
-- participate in one or more ministries
---- lector? (easiest, perhaps)
---- soup kitchen/homeless support?
---- connect with the local Franciscans

Last year, I did some degree of all of the above (except for ministries - only did lector, and enjoyed that muchly) and found them all fulfilling, but difficult to sustain on a daily basis. So my resolution for this first quarter would focus on finding some combination that works for me.

2. Work out six days of the week.
-- find a workout buddy - or, failing that, a workout calender
-- try a few 5Ks? (one a month?)
-- try a mini-triathlon?

The 'six days a week' is a max - I spent the first three months of last year recovering from a strained ITB, and don't intend to repeat the experience. There are no weight loss resolutions associated with this, as I have realized, post-Airborne, that I could really care less what someone else things about my weight or body shape. I have a different metric now.

3. When I'm at work, work.
-- set calendar and goals
-- explore expertise-broadening opportunities
-- two hours of reading/CE work a week

One of the things I did not do well this past year was keep my head in the game, on the job, on a consistent basis. The new job has a computer nanny system that will help (ie, no checking personal email except during lunch!) I also need to work on staying up-to-date on job skills. (The two hour resolution above might be adjusted, depending on how things work out.)

4. When I'm not at work, play.
-- read for pleasure
-- write as I can
-- utilize the internet as a bridge to other writers/readers
---- do NOT let the internet hack my life
---- tighten my focus back into life science, SFF, faith, and writing
---- use CSFF Blog Tour to connect with other writers
-- create a space for living inside my house, and bring other people into that space
-- find things to do in the community (attend some sort event monthly? writer's group? go fishing?)

5. Stay in touch with family (and friends.)

Not going to talk about this here, including details about who I'm contacting when, but noted for completeness sake.

So. I shan't talk about #5, here, nor much of actual work (although bits of that may make their way here, suitably edited for public consumption.) I want to talk about the others, daily as the opportunity presents itself.

(*considers the coming year with intent*) Going to be interesting, seeing what happens.

An End to Travel; PT; Catholism and Environmentalism

Have arrived, finally, at our destination in Texas. After dumping my things in the lodging room, I went for a walk-about on post. Everything was, more or less, just where it was last time I visited, only with browner grass and much less standing water.

The intervening two and a half years have also significantly changed my perception of "too far to walk". (To be fair to my physical fitness back then, it's also about 60o F less than it was then.) This time, I'm looking forward to wandering about on post, when I can't convince one of my classmates to give me a ride.

Back in my room (20 ft by 19 ft, including bathroom and kitchen area, woot!) I unpacked everything. The next nine weeks will be the longest I have spent anywhere since (*counts on fingers, then toes*) the middle of September.

Speaking of physical fitness:

An article on Fit for Combat by JD Johannes, is here. I know I've read Johannes's blog before, but I can't find it now.

During this class, we're supposed to be following the Crossfit method, about which my traveling companion/classmate is quite enthusiastic. (He's not so impressed with what he's heard of the implementation during this course - he spent his time deployed doing the 'real thing'.)

Me, I'm looking forward to a regular schedule and a gym within easy reach. It's been more than a month since I finished Airborne (and 2 months before that when I took my last PT test) and as I've gone running perhaps four times in that month, I know my physical capability has drifted downward.


Walking about, I found the post chapel (too late for Mass, alas, and they do not have an evening service now as I seem to remember from the last trip.) Picked up a bulletin, schedule, and assorted reading material, including a copy of this week's Our Sunday Visitor. The backpage editorial discussed Pope Benedict's 2010 World Peace message, which was released for the Copenhagen climate summit. The whole message can be found here.

I have the History Channel on behind me, playing Life After People - a fascinating exploration of what the earth would be if all of humanity suddenly left. Three of the films that have caught my attention this winter are Avatar, The Road, and The Book of Eli - each dealing with the end of the world and people's interactions with nature on different levels.

A website that I've linked to before is Catholic Conservation Center.


Two more "Best of" lists for the last year/decade: Ebert's Best Films of the Decade and Time Magazine's best movies, books and theater of the Decade.


The Saint of the Day is The Most Holy Name of Jesus. The concept - the power and magic and salvation embodied in a name - makes me shiver. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Another list of books; Noah's Ark

Still on the road, this time stopping in the great state of Texas.


From Amazon: Top ten editor's picks for 2009 in fantasy/SF - also links to top customer picks.

The editor's picks have less fantasy and far more short story collections.


Via Anchoress - Noah's Ark was Circular.

The ark story is a perpetual favorite among the Christian veterinarians that I know - with the occasional debates over the effects of genetic bottlenecks and how long one could have only two rabbits. (Time typically measured in seconds...) The idea of an ark also shows up repeatedly in SF, although my mind's blanking on all of them except Bulter's Clay's Ark.

The 'circular' ark of the article above reminds me of round buffalo hide boats used by American Indians of the plains for short distance river passage.

Saint of the Day: St Basil and St Gregory

Friday, January 1, 2010

New year... non-resolutions.


Traveling today, for work, and we stopped at a small motel off I-85 in Alabama. The desk clerk just called my room with a recommendation for Chosen Soldier: The makings of a special forces warrior, by Dick Couch.

She read a bit to me, over the phone: I heard the voice of the sovereign master say, "Whom will I send? Who will go on our behalf?" I answered, "Here I am, send me!"


Noted for later reading: Can Farming Save Detroit?


I have seen Avatar. It was the most beautiful, absorbing, action-packed retread of every. single. negative military cliche I have ever sat through - including some I saw for free. (All military vices were on display, and none of the virtues.) Also? Nectar-drinking mind-meld unicorns ponies!.

But beautifully done!

Related: Sane and intelligent thread on the 'white guy saves natives' movie/fiction trope. I think I respect Ta-nehisi Coats most for calling complete rejection of the whole sub-genre 'lazy'.

Staying with the movie theme: Don't forget Sherlock Holmes was one tough hombre - a defense of the new action-focused Sherlock Holmes movie. I've recently been (re)-introduced to the Granada TV series and I agree - Holmes was gifted (or trained) both physically and cerebrally.

I'd also like to point out that, at least in the Granda series (and reportedly in the new movie), Watson is no wuss either. Nor an idiot.


Sometimes staying off the internet is good - when it keeps you from wasting time you didn't have anyway, or when you're trawling around, looking for something to get cranky about.

(More than the time sink, this. I loathe that I use this cool tech for such a petty thing - to search for things to be unhappy about.)

Sometimes it's not so great, when you miss things that would make you smile or think. One good site for that is The Volokh Conspiracy, libertarian-leaning law collective which which also hits on SF-related items more often than you'd think.

Lately, Volokh brought me this piece on a religious freedom/accommodation judicial decision. (Double interest hit - a chicken processing plant vs Muslim workers - farming and faith.) Interesting implications for how the US government determines the limits of expression of religion.

Also via Volokh: Top Ten Pro-Liberty Books - which only includes two or three that I've actually heard of.


The Saint of the Day for today is Mary, Mother of God.

Last week of Advent, I had another of those my god, my God is awesome moments. God-as-Jesus spent about a third of his human life as a child, dependent on his mother, and loving her as fiercely, as jealously, as completely, as helplessly as any young child does the parents who cares for them.

Our love for our parents is not something we come by rationally. In order for Jesus to be fully human, I think, he had to be afflicted by this irrational adoration for a human woman.

Who made Jesus. Who was made by God. Whom God loves, helplessly, completely, fiercely, because that is how God made humanity, Mary, and Jesus.

And through whom, God loves all of humanity.

Just like Jesus loves Mary.

My God? Not afraid to work in circular equations.

My God? Awesome.