I planted a small Edelweiss two years ago.  As recently as this spring, it was flowering.  Then it vanished, the victim of careless weeding.

So, today, a box of three healthy new Edelweiss plants arrived from Bavarian Specialties.  One is flowering.  I have planted them in a bunch and hope they establish before winter and, next spring, give me the good show I’ve been hoping for.

Edelweiss is cognate with the Old English æþelhwit:  “noble white.” (We could slightly modernize it as Ethelwhite.)  Maybe I’ll name the planting Ethel.

Posted in Country, Flowers and Gardens, Seasons of the Year | Leave a comment

Bobby Brown

WARNING:  Frank Zappa is funny but he uses bad words and deals with adult subjects.  Do not click this link unless you are an adult.

If I don’t post this I’ll start to cry.  It has to do with a Father Bobby Brown, whom I knew and who has been unmasked posthumously as a predator.

I’m wrestling with how much more I should say.  He’s dead and can’t hurt anyone, but it turns out he was a pederast and a rapist.  I hope he died repentant and in the state of grace, but I am feeling overwhelmed right now.

This is the first time in my life that a pop song has been my needful anthem of the day.

Posted in Church, Famous Bastards | Comments Off on Bobby Brown

Pennsylvania Grand Jury

Another bomb has gone off in the Catholic Church, this time in Pennsylvania.  A grand jury has released a report detailing pervasive child sex abuse among the clergy.  Not the first time this has come up, but certainly the worst so far.

They focused on the dioceses in the Commonwealth other than Philadelphia and Allentown, which had been previously investigated to similar disgusting effect.

Here is the one that angers me the most–a tale from Pittsburgh:

Zirwas started introducing George to his “friends” who were priests who seemed to share similar interests. On one occasion, Zirwas took George to a parish rectory in Munhall where the following priests were present: Father Francis L. Pucci, Father Richard Zula, and Father Francis Luddy of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. The priests began a conversation about religious statues and asked George to get up on a bed. As the priests watched, they asked George to remove his shirt. They then drew an analogy to the image of Christ on the cross, and told George to remove his pants so that his pose would be more consistent with the image of Christ in a loincloth. At that point, the priests began taking Polaroid pictures of George. As the picture taking  continued, the priests directed George to take off his underwear. George was nervous and complied.
George recalled that either Zula or Pucci operated the camera. He stated that all of the men giggled and stated that the pictures would be used as a reference for new religious statues for the parishes. George testified that this occurred before he turned 18-years -old and that his genitals were exposed in the photographs. George stated that his photographs were added to a collection of similar photographs depicting other teenage boys.
Grand Jury Interim Redacted Report, page 237

Pope Francis:  sorry, but the death penalty is “admissible” (your word) in this case.  For blasphemy as well as sexual abuse.

Blasphemy:  violating the sacred image of the Savior on the Cross, and violating a boy made in the divine image.  “George” was crucified before the religious leaders of his day, just like his Lord.  He was also raped.

“Father” Zirwas and his ugly friends better think of the future.  According to Dante, the devils in Hell are outraged by blasphemy and exceed their divine mandate to punish it:

Thereat the snakes became my friends, for one
coiled itself about the wretch’s neck
as if it were saying: 
“you shall not go on!”  (Canto 25, line 4-6–Ciardi translation)

But here is what the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has to say to me in reply:

Some of my friends from the seminary have been accused of abuse. What can I do to support someone who I know has done something terribly wrong?
First, you might have to honestly deal with your own thoughts and feelings about the situation.  Once you find yourself in a better place, beyond your initial reaction, be a friend.  It does not mean that you condone the behavior or in any way rationalize or justify it.  Separate the action and behavior from the person.  All of us are sinners that need mercy and love in our lives. Help bring your friend to the healing and reconciliation that he needs on many levels; spiritually, emotionally, socially, etc. Be careful not to try to fix him up but, be a true reservoir of love and friendship; call him; visit him; spend time with him; pray for him and pray with him.
My pastor has been removed from ministry because of an abuse charge. The diocese has determined it is a credible allegation. I just can’t believe someone as caring as he could do something like this. How can I get over this anger?
First of all, be honest with the anger. Realize that the anger can be both justified and healthy.  Then find someone that you can talk to about the anger and all the other thoughts and feelings that come with it.  Find a close friend or two that you can honestly talk with to deal with your feelings; not to retell the story of the pastor.  Retelling the story about your pastor is not healthy for you or him; or the one you are speaking with. Rumination never brings about reconciliation.  If you have a spiritual director (if not, find one) talk with him or her for your own healing and reconciliation.  Pray for your pastor; it is very healing to pray for someone who has betrayed your trust and confidence.  Pray for yourself, asking God’s grace to move on in a healthy way.
http://usccb.org/issues-and-action/child-and-youth-protection/faqs.cfm, accessed August 15, 2018

Well, there you are.  If you are upset with what’s been happening, hush up and pray for the perpetrators.

Update of August 16:  the first of the above paragraphs is now gone, but the second one, advising “clamming up,” is still there.

Not one damned word about the victims.

Posted in Church, Famous Bastards, The Lapping Shore of Psycholand, Theology etc. | Comments Off on Pennsylvania Grand Jury

Stars and Mars

I was up at 3 to stargaze.

M31–the Andromeda Galaxy–was just approaching its meridian, which also happens to be the local zenith.  In other words, it was about dead overhead. In other words, its declination is about the same as my latitude.

Perseus was high enough to clear the treetops, and a Perseid meteor appeared in the first moments of my viewing.

The Pleiades had just cleared the treetops as well.

Pisces was hidden due to high light pollution.

Mars was very low, far to the west, and deeply colored.

Almaak (γ And) was well placed for viewing.  Could not clearly resolve the pair till I hit 100× magnification, at which point the viewing was excellent.

Too much light pollution to see much of the Milky Way.

The waning crescent moon peeped through the trees in pale beauty as I turned in.

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Ribs, Rain, Miracles

How I spent my summer vacation…

1. Happy Lammas Day!  Lammas, or Loaf-Mass, a festival of first fruits, isn’t in the church calendar anymore, but was held over and recontextualized from the Celtic festival of Lughnasa, marking the first day of autumn.

2. Last night, I caught a brief glimpse of Mars in its glory.  Just as I thought I could resolve some surface features–surprising, given its low declination–the fog closed in.  Even the waning gibbous moon was eventually lost.

3. The ribs the other day came out beautifully, but my bread technique is rusty.  Am going to try again today.

Last night was short ribs with barley, made in the dutch oven.

Today’s dinner will probably feature the fingerling eggplants bought from a local farm on Sunday afternoon.  Right now, I have no idea what form that will take.

4. A wren in the backyard makes a tremendous chattering fuss when anyone approaches her birdhouse, full of chicks.  The marigolds are waist-high.

5. I recently heard two sermons on John’s account (Chapter 6) of the multiplication of loaves and fishes.  One of them, alas, perpetuated the rationalist nonsense that Jesus “shamed people into sharing.”  In other words, Jesus isn’t the Son of God, just a progressive.

The other sermon called out the nonsense, citing the specific theologians who couldn’t accept the idea of a divine Jesus–who ruled out the possibility of miracles in arbitrary fashion.  Their theory doesn’t hold water.

But when all else fails, rather than admit a mistake, the enthusiasts will drop the “shame ’em into sharing” meme and run for cover behind tangents about “barley” and “poverty.”  When losing an argument, non-sequitur the shit out of everybody. The point is to confuse you, leave the argument in a rebootable limbo, and stay in power.

6. There’s never a dull moment.  Rainy ones, yes, but never dull.


Posted in Americana, Astronomy, Church, Country, The Lapping Shore of Psycholand, Theology etc. | Comments Off on Ribs, Rain, Miracles


I’m smoking a rack of ribs for dinner.  I’ve gotten good at ribs.  I marinated them in cider vinegar and rubbed a dry “Kansas City” rub on them, then put them in the Weber kettle over a pie tin full of water, a small charcoal fire on each side surmounted by some apple wood.

So far, so good.

I’ve also figured out how to bake bread up here.  It’s not the altitude or the climate in general; it seems to be the water.  Local water tends to be ferrous.  On the hypothesis that this inhibits yeast, I switched to bottled water and voilà, bread rises for me once again.

So dinner will involve smoked ribs and fresh bread.  Add a few farm-fresh vegetables picked up yesterday and you can’t ask for better.

No need to buy a special smoker, be it horizontal or vertical, wood or propane, ceramic or steel, or endorsed on TV.  Just use your Weber and keep the fire small.

Time to put the bread in the oven.

Posted in Food | Comments Off on Dinner

Mars After All

Last evening Slooh had a program on the Mars opposition–when the Sun, earth, and Mars were in syzygy  (a straight line, with earth in the middle).  Further, Mars was at perihelion and earth nearly at aphelion.  (Counterintuitively for Northern Hemisphere folk, the earth is farthest from the Sun in summer.)

Our closest actual approach isn’t for a few more days, but last night was the opposition, which is always a highly favorable time to view a planet.

I couldn’t sleep after the program, and went downstairs at about midnight to see if perchance the clouds had cleared.

They had!

Mars crept his steady way above the trees, behind and below the full moon, about 23 degrees about the horizon.  He was large, full, bright, and golden-red.  About 24″ of arc, within a second of his all-time great appearance in 2003.

The picture above is from an old Canon PowerShot pocket camera, steadied against a fence.  It shows just about the exact moment of transit–about 1 AM Eastern Daylight Time, about exactly midnight local mean time.  Doesn’t do justice to the color.

I wish Donald Holden were alive to paint that scene.

Posted in Arthur, Astronomy, Country | Comments Off on Mars After All

First Mars, Now Aquarius

So tomorrow is the total lunar eclipse and Mars at opposition.  Two gorgeous red bodies in the sky at once.  Mind you, the northeastern United States won’t see the eclipse, but I’m hopeful thanks to Slooh, a community of stargazers and astronomers.  Some of their telescopes may offer a view.

Slooh is wonderful.  You should check it out.  Basic membership is cheap.

Anyway, not only will I miss the eclipse, but Mars itself is totally invisible here, thanks to a huge persistent weather system;  Aquarius has taken up residence in the basement.

We’ve got a kind of basement within the basement–a separate, adjacent wing–probably the original root cellar.  It’s now of solid modern construction, but it tends to get a little wet in rainy weather.

This morning, the Root Cellar was swimming in several inches of water.  The water pump (which lives there) is shut off as a precaution, so I hope I can do without flushing the toilet for a while.

I dipped dozens of buckets of water out of the “bunker” but the level was unchanged, the result of saturation from steady heavy rain since yesterday.  Finally I had the bright idea of a siphon, and with a garden hose and hand pump managed to induce one out the door and down the hillside.  It’s a mere trickle compared to all the water in the ground, but it’s going in the right direction.

How much of one’s life is just like that:  a mere trickle compared to all the water in the ground, but going in the right direction.

Anyway, this is the dawning of the my personal age of Aquarius…

Posted in Astronomy, Country, The Journey | Comments Off on First Mars, Now Aquarius


Just as Mars approaches its historic perihelion,  what happens?  Days and days of cloudy weather.


The old joke is that the surest way to bring rain is to buy a new telescope.

The lawn is happy–no longer the brown of a few weeks ago–but no Mars to be seen.

I envy those who will be able to see the total lunar eclipse in a few days.  North America is going to miss it.  Two bright red objects in the night sky.  Gorgeous.  Yet now, as I try to configure Stellarium to show me the night of July 27 from Alexandria, Egypt, the program keeps shutting down.

My personal stars just aren’t lining up this morning.

Here’s hoping for a break in the weather between now and the 31st.

Posted in Astronomy | Comments Off on Clouds!

Certification Breakfast

Yesterday, I found time to edit the “vignettes”  I made of the Kansas City convention.  The result was another short video of a certification event.  Have a look!

In Houston, two years ago, we had a cocktail party to honor our certificate holders.  This year, the convention schedule was quite different so we shifted gears and had a continental breakfast istead.  This is a boon for hotel guests who are generally on the hook for a twenty-dollar breakfast otherwise.

It was great meeting these interesting and motivated colleagues and getting to know them better.

Posted in AGO, Pipe Organ | Comments Off on Certification Breakfast