Friday, December 31, 2010


Dear Jack,

I was just poking around the wikipaedian's notes on your Chronicles heptalogue, and see that in the phrase "traditional British and Irish fairy tales," he has links to "British people" and "Irish mythology."

I always thought Ireland sounded a bit too-good-to-be-true!

wishing you'd swim the tiber already ...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A little bit of misdirection

... wherein we reduce the classical Sorites Question to a problem of Hilbert...

The qeustion was "how many grains of sand are needed for a heap?"
I answer that four are enough, though ten thousands may not suffice.

Put another way, the question of "how many" is the wrong question. Heapness isn't about quantity but about geometry. You have a heap of sand on a table when some of the sand isn't touching the table, but only more sand. To stably hold one grain of sand off the table, a tripod of lower grains will do nicely. But if they're spaced, say each 1cm from the others, you can easily fit 10000 on a modest square table, and there will be naught of heap to the ensemble.

We suspect that other Sorites-type questions (how many voters make a democracy? How many roads must a man walk down?) have similar resolutions.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Home-visiting adventures

Dear Interface Designers,

... So, I'm home for the holidays, and thus I've discovered the new laundry washing machine my parents bought to replace the one that flooded our basement. It does a lovely job of washing the clothes, and has all sorts of blinking lights, which are nifty (although I worry about all that implicit software... there are no hard-set dials or aught.) What bugs me, though, is that the machine seems to be permanently cheerful. It strikes me as the product of a segment of a generation who grew up with talking books and ignored books about talking machines.

And so, when you set the machine to a particular program and initiate its run sequence ("tell it what you want, and ask it to start"?), it sings a chipper little musical motif, and when it's done it pipes another happy little tune to signal its satisfaction and gratitude for being given a task within its measure, the joy of a job well-done.

So indescribably phoney.

Anyways, to say the unnecessary, it would drive me up the wall if I were staying here very much longer than I otherwise intended.

I hope this has been entertaining,

a confused non-customer

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Deadlines? But it's holidays!

and I just haven't got a good poem idea; the word and the question have been stewing for a couple weeks; but I've got boppquiche.

When I do come up with something versifiable, I'll put it here. I hope the remaining Advent days are fruitful for you.

Friday, December 17, 2010

"The most forgettable..."

Dear P.D.Q,

Christmas is coming! Hooray! I don't know why (at least, I haven't thought about why), but that always makes me think of old childrens' movies, like the animated Peter Pan. And the best thing about the animated Peter Pan, of course, is the Crocodile. And the best thing about the Crocodile, of course, is his delightful musical theme!

Have you ever noticed that there is some music that just have to be sung, and others that seem more to suffer from the imposition of words and human voices? The former is definitely the case with, for example, any part of Mozart's setting of the Requiem propers --- I can say this with confidence because I heard a reduction of it for string quartet as I was looking through a local record shop. But I'm pretty sure the Crocodile falls into the latter category. I mean, the song is cute and all, but there's something inimitable about the bassoon's chuckling waddle. And the little rippling glimmers of string and flute... they sound like the dazzling sunlight reflecting in odd ways off the submerged croc's wake, oh so precious, and Oh! so alarming!

Hmmm... come to think of it, I can only find tenors (or mock-tennors) singing it, and very much poppishly, too. It really wants a bass voice... I'm looking for examples singing other stuff --- like a solid Sarastro maybe, but...

Anyways, thanks for the Panther Dance Quodlibet!
the frosted cyclist

Friday, December 10, 2010

Nothing to report

Dear G.K.,

Maybe you have heard of the electronic aperiodical Caepe? They specialize in satire, of course; but then I discovered a particular article (append "articles/marriage-handled-amicably,18566/" to their address), which I must suppose they meant to be funny, along lines like those of the item "Report: Mom Just Locked Her Door", which is funny in how it describes in action-news-speak a moment of household tension many of us recognize. The thing is, though, "Amicably" just isn't funny.

Perhaps I might toss a lit.crit. word into the mix? Part of the humour in "Locked" is the dramatic irony present in many of the characters' statements, e.g.
"It wasn't me," Katie, 11, told reporters. "I was just sitting here. I didn't do anything."
Anyone who has grown up with parents and siblings will recognize that the disclaimer "I was just sitting here" identifies one of the many (small) things that lead to "Mom"s escapade.

The irony in the "Amicably" item is that it has essentially substituted "marriage" for "divorce", and an ordinary family in mundane settings for celebrities amidst artifice. OK, so maybe it's a satire of the celebrity gossip rag. It's still not funny. It's just a sad story of a marriage gone tired, and I can easily imagine in our modern culture that some will find the joke to be that these are "stupid bored married people! they should just split and have fun!" Here's the thing: altogether, the pretend couple described are actually doing the very thing (if not everything) they should do, given that neither seems to be a danger to the other. So we have an example of perfectly ordinary people being faithful in spite of trials, being held up for laughs?

I think the world needs more people alive with two legs!

your adopted nephew Bat

Monday, November 29, 2010

There's no end!

In case my gloomy tone was getting contagious...

$$ \begin{array}{rl}
\mathrm{XI} &\mbox{Fresh baking}\\
\mathrm{XII} &\mbox{Thoroughly opaque curtains}\\
\mathrm{XIII} & \mbox{Sunday brunch with friends}\\
\mathrm{XIV} & \mbox{The voices of infants}\\
\mathrm{XV} &\mbox{That a dull job is really the worst of my troubles}

Friday, November 26, 2010

Some Family History

Against chanting voices, above the din of war hammers, amidst the bleating of scattered sheep, I cried out, "De profundis clamavi ad te..."

My great-grandfather (one of four --- most of us have four!) was a landscape painter. During the Great War the British Army paired him with pilots of those new-fangled biplane things, to sketch the German positions. In his spare time he sketched and painted the soldiers around him; he was not himself a soldier, and did not take part in combat. Being frequently at or even behind the front line, however, he knew the stress of battle, and was caught in "Mustard" gas at least once. When he came home he lived in a small appartment with his wife and their son and daughter. They had one bedroom, which he used at night alone, while the other three slept in the front room.

The reason for this strained arrangement is that he was not a safe companion when sleeping. If disturbed in the night, he'd thrash and throttle the first thing he could wrap his hands around: it was as though he no longer had a working triage mode, and went straight to panicked self-defence.

Now, among Men I was unthought-of before he died, and even his son my grandfather didn't survive to my birthday, I can't claim from any familiarity that the War or any particular part of it was torturous to him. Nonetheless, it's clear that this tale from one branch of my family is hardly unique, and the capacity for reason we all share speaks clearly that something broke the proper relationship between soul and body in him, and it seems likely to have been something he experienced during the War.

This is all by way of bringing both some context and some content to a disputation simmering in my real-world neighborhood.

If anyone suggests to you that "waterboarding" is essentially "a little water up the nose", you might point out that if it's harmless then it shouldn't change the cooperativity of any interrogation subject; you might point out that it's quite a different proposition from offering someone a neti pot (oh! the horror!) or a saline spray. If they admit "sure it's unbearably uncomfortable, but it isn't torture", you might ask how they distinguish between unbearable discomfort and torture. You might alternatively mention "not all is torture that is condemned". The terminology of Gaudium et Spes, quoted at length in Veritatis Splendor is quite broad: as inherently disordered it includes
quaecumque humanae personae integritatem violant, ut mutilationes, tormenta corpori mentive inflicta, conatus ipsos animos coƫrcendi

whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit
It has been said that waterboarding might be favoured by interrogators owing to forensic difficulty in detecting it after the fact: unless the subject develops a suspicious bronchitis, it leaves little visible scarring. Note, however, that the text of the pastoral constitution explicitly distinguishes between mutilation (a direct violation of the body's integrity in itself) and torture of two sorts. We see, then, that our Church recognizes the possibility of a category of illicit act violating the integrity of the person while seeming to preserve the integrity of the body. Ultimately, this willful attempt on personal integrity is the objection to torture, whether physical or mental. Physical torture seeks to coerce by upsetting the primacy of the soul over the body; mental torture seeks to coerce by upsetting the primacy of reason (practical or moral) over will.

I should submit further that mental torture is in fact the more pernicious sort; for in seeking to invert will over reason in others, it acts as a mode of contagion: reason itself, guided by the natural law, should tell us that mental torments are reprehensible, and thus one who attempts it has permitted his will to rule over his reason.

Considering then the soul of the perpetrator, we see the longer-lasting evil done by any evil act; for while torture may scandalize its victim, it otherwise moves the victim closer to God's pity, while moving the toturer further towards God's avenging justice.

What shall it profit a man, though he save for a time the lives of the whole world, if he lose his soul?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Just Between Us Commoners

Dear Fellow Subjects,

(and dear spectators, too, for all of you in republics and Hapsburg lands, &c.)

A modest much has been made recently of the announced engagement between His Royal Highness the Prince and Ms. Katherine. If you want, here's my two cents' worth on the hou-plaugh.

To get right into it, the office of the Royal Family has always been (this may be controversial) that of the First Family, within the realm; the Crown Monarch has always been the saecular head of the family called Britain. Other expressions have been used. For instance, Henry VIII likened (himself) the King of England to a tiger keeping the "wolves and jackals" (his vassal lords) in line. But as much as we may say that a father is as a king in his house, it's more truely the opposite: that a King is as a father to his people. The authority to rule, whether by direct decree or by assenting to the advice of the assembled lords and representatives... whatever the style of government, if there be a Monarch, his authority is of the same shape as a father's over his family.

But as the saecular head of his or her realm the crown carries (well or ill) the duty of also modelling headship in an ordinary family. And so the significance of a Royal wedding engagement inludes that it particularly reminds us of the nominal arrangement for the family's continuation; it reminds that the nominally-arranged family is the innermost and primary of social circles, the principal of community, the Earthly pattern of living in mutually charitable servitude.

Honesty compells us to acknowledge that the Britannic Royal Family has not always been nor always appeared as a successful model family: they are, after all, merely human. The same Henry VIII thought to make himself both saecular and spiritual head of his country, which really should have been too much for credibility, not to mention confusing greatly just who the Royal Family were; as late as the reign of George III the rivalries recurrent through generations between King and Heir Apparent were notorious abroad. Even in living memory, attempts to place some supposed common good above the good of the actual living Royal Family as a family have had disastrous consequences for the commonwealth's willingness to accede to their Royals; and the Royal Family's renewed endearment to its subjects has followed their living visibly as a family.

But enough of dodgy facts and history half-learned, let's get on with some speculation! There is at this time a great legal tension, a juridical dissonance, amongst British laws for the commonalty, the laws governing the Crown, and the shifting laws of the church which the Crown has arrogated under itself. While the English are legendary for "muddling through", and are masters of diplomatic compromise, it would be wrong to think or name them a willfully stupid or ignorant people (Never mind the chavs. There is naught that is peculiarly English about chavery, anyways). And as long as they have sufficient wisdom to both keep an icon of family life at the head of their Law, and insist that the embodied form of that icon be recognisably a family in the only living and enduring sense, it can only be a matter of time before they realize in what peril they have left the ordinary family whose purpose it is to produce new servants of God, new subjects and electors. I perceive that thence lead only two roads: the canker must be cut out of the law, or the law's head cut off. You all know which outcome I prefer.

God save the Queen!
Her Majesty's good subject, but ...

Monday, November 15, 2010

An Impromptu on Two Prompts

I wonder if Dylan was hoping to read something like this?

Billions and billions;
And yet, if there's too much light
All ends in big crunch.

Anyways... let's see... it's a while since I tried that sprung meter thing; I like trimeter, so let's see, what can we do?

The Weight of Light

Hast seen the Sun's Anvil
The desert's deadliest plain
Where Lawrence's hard will
Bedouin led by night
To Aqaba, with Turks' blood
Sand so clean to stain?
Even i'the Sun's core,
Though packed, the ions hot
Know each the others not
Except that messengers of light
Amongst them swiftest soar.
Time they do not keep
--- Not unto themselves:
In this like Arda's Elves;
Around them still it seeps,
It ripples blue or red.
Ponder not too heavily
this I have here writ:
Yet if thou, underfoot,
Glass shards crunch to grit
Think of the light thus loosed,
Unlock'd windward or lee,
Or falls, to die, on soot.

I know most of the impromptuness is lost in the blog/post/read sequence, but trust me, I've not putting much editing into this. Or maybe my saying so is entirely superfluous?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Seeking Perhaps To Make Oneself Unpopular

Dear unparticular people,

I understand that what I'm about to propose for your consideration isn't a cheerful thought, though I hope there may be hope to find in it. I think it is, fundamentally, informed by hope more than offering any novel hope.

At the core of this idea's uncheerfulness is, in some ways, the motivating event for much of the past decade's news, popular debate, geopolitical reheaval, and particularized insanities. I refer, of course, to the Massacre of New York and Washington which took place in 2001 on the 11th of September.* It is my thesis here that the New York and Washington Massacre should not actually have changed much of anything.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Apocrypha Topologica I

Dear Mathematicelli,

I should like today to introduce an apocryphal history of Topology, both as a phenomenon and as a field of mathematical study. It will necessarily be abbreviated, full of fictions, and other more innocent errors --- hence apocryphal. But it should be ordered to the truth so far as illuminating the modern study of topology itself.

Topology was imposed on the visible Creation by God at least as early as the Second Day, when He said
6 ... "Let there be a firmament made amidst the waters: and let it divide the waters from the waters." 7 And God made a firmament, and divided the waters that were under the firmament, from those that were above the firmament, and it was so.
This highlights the first introduction of a disconnected set, a "you can't get there from here" in the world: to reach the waters above from those below you must cross this firmament, whatever it may be. And this notion of separation, whether in the absolute sense of being mutually inaccessible, or the relative sense of inhabiting disjoint neighborhoods has been a puzzle and inspiration for topologists since before we even had the name topology to describe the field.

Some might argue that the temporal ordering of days already introduced an order topology (or the causal partial-order topology we learn from the Special and General Theories of Relativity). I reply that this is missing something of the point, but if you want to write your own paper on the history of Topology that's quite alright.

Other Biblical features of topological interest in denoting separation: the cherubim posted to keep Adam and Eve out of Eden; the Red Sea; the River Jordan; the Rivers Tigris and Euphrates, that separate the Land Amidst the Rivers from surrounding territories (I mean, you can get in and out of that without crossing either, but then you'd have to cross the ~40km line segment between Palu and Hantepe... a narrow road, as geography goes!)

The next great topological discoveries were knots and chains. Windows are a nifty invention too, I suppose, but knots and chains are much more tangible. The way these work, as I'm sure you've experienced, is that various strands of rope or metal, being extended in one direction, have new ways of becoming separated from conditions they might have liked to achieve: while it would take a wall to stop you, and you can walk around a rope quite happily, a string can get stuck by a rope in one perpetual wandering-around! By the by, I don't mean mechanical knots; these are fascinating, but the mechanical distinctions between various rolling hitches are much fuzzier than the topological fact that there are more ways to get tangled in a net than in a string tied in a single loop. Think of the "Gordian Knot" versus an undoubled slipknot bow as you might use on your shoes.

As another aside, there seems some discrepancy between my predecessors in mathematical apocrypha on the one hand vs. closer accounts of Alexander's encounter with Gordy's knot --- what the knot tied up, whether Alexander really sliced it in two or what, etc., are disputed points. One way or another, there were knots and mechanical facts emphasizing topological separations, and it became a point of proverbs through the march of time.

The Gordian Knot brings us to the relatively recent period and setting known as Greek Mythology, and there, for now we will interrupt our History. Next time: strings graduate from topological features to topological tools!

The Math Prof of Your Nightmares


Dear Passers-by,

I noticed recently that the blogger profile for this persona didn't offer means of private communication, which was in fact the primary purpose of the /dev/null persona. This must have been the unintended consequence of some policy change within blogger, because other people have been surprised recently to not show contact info; in any case, I've changed that now.

And of course, it's easy to just write here, in Dumbledore Fashion, that mail addressed to qnoodles at gmail will find me. As a purely historical note, the q stands for Quincy, and no, I don't know anyone named Quincy. It just seemed to suit "Mr. Noodles" remarkably well!

your humble host

PS there really is only the one of me.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

In deep October

Enter Hamlet, reading (L.C.)
Pol. How does my good lord Hamlet?
Ham. Excellent well.
Pol. Do you know me, my lord?
Ham. Excellent well; you are a fishmonger.
Pol. Not I, my lord.
Ham. Then I would you were so honest a man.
Pol. Honest, my lord!
Ham. Ay, sir; to be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand.
Pol. That's very true, my lord.
Ham. For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a god, kissing carrion,——Have you a daughter?
Pol. I have, my lord.
Ham. Let her not walk i'the sun: conception is a blessing; but as your daughter may conceive,—friend, look to't, look to't, look to't.
[Goes up stage.]
Pol. (Aside.) Still harping on my daughter:—yet he knew me not at first; he said I was a fishmonger. [Crosses to L.] I'll speak to him again.—What do you read, my lord?

I am told "Defiant" and asked "Are sparrows blithe?"

I've been having difficulty with this one, because all the words that come into my head are scripture, and it doesn't seem quite right to write a cento on the Bible --- that were only to diminish the worthiest poetry ever set down.

\item "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? ... You are worth more than many sparrows."
\item "Consider the birds of the air: they reap not, nor sow, nor gather into barns..."
\item "How lovely are thy tabernacles! ... for the sparrow hath found herself a house, and the dove a nest for to lay her young."

What follows instead is an aliterative allegory of wishful thinking. Or something... yeah, I don't know what it is.

Butterflies and sparrows spin blithely by
My window, wonderous marvels in miniature,
Provoking contemplation, to ponder creatures
And Provident God, gracious in peace and plenty.
Against His coming Justice, fearing coldest Gaol,
We rightly cry repentance, and remission crave,
Converting to Love our lagging contrite hearts;
Even as I of Him, each evening,
Beg good grace anew to gain Beatitude
Before dying, as defiant before Death,
To thee would I this warrant of affection
Give; lest lacking love's greeting
We were parted by time's passing wave ---
O! to be so blithe as sparrows!

And, my friends dear, please don't worry. There's nothing more dire looming over me than that recurrent need of the sacraments --- that's sort-of the point, in fact. It's the kind of thing you want to get done *before* the rest looks dire!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Eeek! What a place!

A locus focus, and Oh! what a scary place it is, too. For today we are serving

Detention with Dolores

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

[Harry Potter] had known this office under three of its previous occupants. [...]

Now, however, it looked totally unrecognisable. The surfaces had all been draped in lacy covers and cloths. There were several vases of dried flowers, each one residing on its own doily, and on one of the walls was a collection of ornamental plates, each decorated with a large technicolor kitten wearing a different bow around its neck. These were so foul that Harry stared at them transfixed, untill Professor Umbridge spoke again.

I'm already shivering!

I also thought about mentioning this locus back in September, for "educational" settings. Indeed, Harry learns much about the nature of evil --- as well as something of the heroic --- in this particular office room between his second and fifth year.

In its fifth-volume avatar, the Defence Against the Dark Arts Proffessor's Office shows us just how ugly good things like kittens can be made, with just the wrong sort of twist; in an interesting parallel, the same room highlights just how ugly such a good thing as devotion to the Truth can become when twisted into "devotion to what I say the Truth is" --- which is an idolatry.

I don't want to say too much more because I believe Enbrethiliel hasn't read this book yet.

That Bat also known as some guy on the street

Sunday, October 17, 2010



What has happened to Orbis Catholicus II??? Is the illustrious Mr. Sonnen in some strange unpublished need? Has his server been compromised? Or (weirder) has someone flooded a DNS cache with this sham site?

Bloggians! To the rescue!

UPDATE: it seems to be here now.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Whence 4?

Time for some more math! At my (new! yay!) supervisor's behest I've been trying like a primordial lungfish to breath the fresh air called spectral sequences --- how they ever managed to acclimate to such thin and rarefied reference to anything tangible is beyond me; but then, the calculations themselves are thick as water to my more-terrestrial brain.

Today is not about spectral sequences, but back to geometric measure theory. Some time ago I got as far as to outline the proportion of surface areas vs. angles
$$ S(\triangle qrs):S(\mathbb{S})::\angle qrs + \angle rsq + \angle sqr - \pi:4\pi $$
for a spherical triangle $qrs$ --- although for reasons of presentation, that tale refered to the hemispheres $A,B,C$ described by the arcs $qr,$ $rs,$ $sq$ and containing the triangle $\triangle qrs$. (Do you see some ambiguity creeping into the tale? Don't worry: make your choices and then show that they aren't important!)

So, our task today is to improve the proportionality by establishing, for a unit sphere $\mathbb{S}$, an equality $S(\triangle qrs) = \angle qrs + \angle rsq + \angle sqr - \pi$, which by the complementary proportion will give $S(\mathbb{S})=4\pi$.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fun with TeX and paper

echo <<eof >>/dev/null

We have calling cards!

That is, these are the sort of card you leave on a silver tray under the eyes of a lady's Mother or their doorman, when said lady isn't home or disposed to receive you, to say that you did, in fact, come to "call" --- without the bother or nuissance to your neighbors of actually calling out with voice to see if she answers. Some folk call them business cards these days, what with the advent of the inescapable mobile phone, in principle allowing men to pester decent ladies with person-to-person "calls" at any hour of night or day. Since precious little business gets done here (thank goodness) to call these cards "business cards" would be farcical beyond even our usual fare.

The obverse face is a tweaked version of this TeX file --- it took some doing, too, may I say. I was quite worn-out by the end of it. The reverse are filled with a rhombic variation of those famous Penrose tilings, one of several impressively economical files here exhibiting the illegible efficiency of Adobe's postscript virtual machine.

Another picture:


Monday, October 4, 2010

Is it scary here? Or is it just me?

I seem to linger on one or two authors; this time I feel like another Tolkien spot, not far from last time's locus.

After stumbling along for some way along the stream, they came quite suddenly out of the gloom. As if through a gate, they saw the sunlight before them. Coming to the opening they found that they had made their way down through a cleft in a high steep bank, almost a cliff. At its feet was a wide space of grass and reeds; and in the distance could be glimpsed another bank almost as steep. A golden afternoon of late sunshine lay warm and drowsy upon the hidden land between. In the midst of it there wound lazily a dark river of brown water, bordered with ancient willows, blocked with fallen willows, and flecked with thousands of faded willow-leaves. The air was thick with them, fluttering yellow from the branches; for there was a warm and gentle breeze blowing softly in the valley, and the reeds were rustling, and the willow-boughs were creaking.

`Well, now I have at least some notion of where we are!' said Merry. `... This is the River Withywindle!...'
I suppose there's not much frightening about that, as far as it goes --- but you have to read the book! I love the way that "willow" note recurs, like an ostinato counterpoint. Or perhaps it's a flatted dominant? For myself, "willow" is one of my "cellar door"s, quite apart from how I admire willow-trees in person. But here...

... There were armies of flies of all kinds buzzing around their ears, and the afternoon sun was burning on their backs. At last they came suddenly into a thin shade; great grey branches reached across the path. Each step forward became more reluctant than the last. Sleepiness seemed to be creeping out of the ground and up their legs, and falling softly out of the air upon their heads and eyes.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Go read the book, now, if you don't remember it. But it's worth noting that willows, while lovely and graceful, are not the trustiest of trees; their wood is rather too soft for structural uses, and they tend to fall apart as they get older. A venerable old specimen in one of my favourite boyhood parkly haunts was dismantled recently, to forestall it's falling down on unsuspecting visitors. Tolkien's rather more willful Old Man Willow character, who very much defines this place, is an alarming extrapolation of my poignant beloved trees.

--Some Guy on the Street, for

The River Withywindle
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
J.R.R. Tolkien

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Something a little more Aedifying?

Dear Exegete,

I gave myself to LifeChain for an hour today; and whilst standing there the hymn occurred to me that, for no good reason, I know best in the Russian chant setting. Not that I could tell you which words mean what, nor how they fit together...

Anyways, I thought it made a nice contrast to the more commonly-referenced De Profundis; which is apposite, of course, but has so many other uses, as well. The latter is good for commemorating those lives already cut short; but Save, O Lord, Thy people is looks from the present to the future, and recalls souls that thrive still on Earth and for whom there is hope.

awaiting your reply,
he would be more sad, if not for life

Parce Domine populo tuo
et ne des hereditatem tuam in obprobrium
ut dominentur eis nationes
quare dicunt in populis "ubi est Deus eorum"?
zelatus est Dominus terram suam et pepercit populo suo

Friday, October 1, 2010

I need to fill my horrid writing fix somehow!

Dear Strongbad,

Its seems to like be a long tim you hasnt write email ansers. why is that? do you not get emailz anymor? Are you cant think to smart way of write back them? when do you write agane?

yores truly
guido quiscumque

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Good God just keeps on giving

Dear Fellow,

For future reference

$$ \begin{array}{rl}
\mathrm{VI} &\mbox{Intercessors}\\
\mathrm{VII} &\mbox{The moon one night past full}\\
\mathrm{VIII} & \mbox{Sanctifying frustrations}\\
\mathrm{IX} & \mbox{An internet's worth of }\href{}{\mbox{crafty }} \href{}{\mbox{artists}}\\
\mathrm{X} &\mbox{Glue}

That's all for now.

one who would exhort you to rejoicing

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Someone asked, and I say...

It's quite short, this time around. The question seemed so sad, I had to give the whole thing a sing-song feel, from LOL-Cat silliness to many amphibrachs, just to keep myself cheerful. I think I'll call it "Fluffball".


Our poor little fluffball, she's limping! You see,
The silly cat pounced on a candle (what lark!)
Which we had set out against vesperal dark
And now she's got wax on her paws. (goodness me!)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

How not to bake croissants

Dear Self,

That need for speed? Yeah... it doesn't get you anywhere.

silly cook

Saturday, September 11, 2010

From FDR to "W" et alii

Dear Loathed Successors in Office,

It seems that you have taken my first inaugural in entirely the wrong sense. And so you tread fearless before the Lord, you walk in dusty shoes over holy ground; making yourselves fools. For the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Instead of the Lord, you would have us fear the market, the collapse of the market, the Islam of swords, appearing to fear any Islam, our children in their very numbers, our parents in their aging, airplanes, bottles of water and shoes on airplanes, talcum powder, coughs and sneezes.

The only thing we have to fear is Fear itself. The fear of the Lord is holy; O America, O Christians, let the Lord be your Fear and your Love, and you need fear nothing in this world.

From a wheelchair

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Liber Generationis Jesu Christi

Epistula nullibus a nullibus...

From centuries past our Holy Mother Church has prescribed for Masses of this Feast of our Holy Mother Mary the Gospel text Mt.1:1-16, which runs between

The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.
and Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus: who is called Christ.

It might seem a bit ... odd... that this Marian feast is honoured with Joseph's genealogy.

The fact is, however, that all the attention paid Joseph adds up to a rather backhanded compliment if that were the whole tale. Joseph is remembered in this account and Luke's Gospel precisely because of his relationship to Mary, Maria mediatrix gratiarum, Maria radix et porta, Maria mater Dei. Joseph, patron saint of the Universal Church, unborn children, fathers, immigrants, workers, against doubt and hesitation, and of a happy death, &c.; it is through Mary that Joseph first came to know Christ.

Something to think about.

Alter nullus

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Unbearable Beauty

Dear Ms. Argerich,

We wuv you! Can you play at our respective wedding receptions? I don't think either of us can pay you much, but you'll be welcome to stay for dinner!

some guy, and a friend

The Inquistors' Campfire Song

There's a hole in your favourite heresy!
There's a hole in your favourite heresy!
There's a hole, there's a hole, there's an epistemic hole
There's a hole in your favourite heresy!

There's a kludge to fill the hole... (x2)
There's a kludge, there's a kludge, there's a loud rhetoric kludge
To fill the hole in your favourite heresy!

There's a madness to the kludge... (x2)
... a most inhuman madness,
about the hole in your favourite heresy!

There's a Mob that live the madness... (x2)
... a loud and angry mob
fell in the hole in your favourite heresy!

There's a WAR against the Mob...
... a cruel and unjust war
and all because of your favourite heresy!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Interrogative vocabulary $\mathrm{I}$

Enbrethiliel delivered a word and a question quite some time ago. Lots seem to have come up with something, but I'm having a hard time. So I got lazy and banged out this accrostich. It seems to me that the elementary-school nonsense of long-cue accrostichs might well be responsible for much of the unreasonable unmetric word-presentations (like that "Mouse" abomination). My fourth-grade teacher taught us Limmericks. I don't see why we couldn't learn sonnets (or triolets) in grade three. Anyways, the question is "What was your reaction?" And, so far, my reaction is this ... whatever it is. It is, largely, about reaction, but what the prompts are, I don't even begin to fathom.

Perhaps unthinking revulsion, poisonous laughter echoing?
Possibly --- unless recalled pain laconically eschews
Potential understanding. Returning, personalized light errors
Parting urged ritual passages, lengthening entertainments:
Passionfruit, Ulster royalist peasantry, lollypops, ermine.
Partly, upon reading portents, localized enuie
Pursued us rearwards, pressaging loxodromic escapades.
Pikestaves, up! Royal portage, leave. (Exeunt)

I think I want another try, so I'll see if I can't make-up something more... coherent? Rythmic? Rhymy? Anyways, have fun! (Btw, the word is the obvious one that doesn't appear as a word in the text).

Monday, August 23, 2010

Round and round...

For the past year I've been little more than a cube. As of about today, I'm *perfect*! ... or slightly-over, but not when rounding down!

$ 28 = 2*14 = 4 * 7 = 1 + 2 + 4 + 7 + 14 $

Saturday, August 21, 2010

oh, ha-hah

Dear Cousin Bilbo,

Yes, very witty.


PS. Rory's quite cheerful of late.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Hic sunt raptores

Dear Dr. Malcolm,

I thought you'd be entertained by a case-in-point, maybe one of your accolytes could make a good study of it.

A couple months ago, I noticed that some recent acquaintances of mine particularly enjoyed talking about houses; and so the principal instigator decided to say something like "let's do that deliberately!" setting a time and place(ish) for the discussion, and then at the last-ish minute, switched the theme to family homes. I don't quite recall how that worked out, but anyways, as my intended presentation was about a house which wasn't a family home, some scrambling ensued --- I still haven't quite got 'round to that, either... and of course, quite notably, there are plenty of family homes that aren't quite houses either.

The grass under their feet was smooth and short, as if it had been mown or shaven. The eaves of the Forest behind were clipped, and trim as a hedge. The path was now plain before them, well-tended and bordered with stone. It wound up on to the top of a grassy knoll, now grey under the pale starry night; and there, still high above them on a further slope, the saw the twinkling lights of a house
They were in a long low room, filled with the light of lamps swinging from the beams of the roof; and on the table of dark polished wood stood many candles, tall and yellow, burning brightly.
He opened the door, and they followed him down a short passage and round a sharp turn. They came to a low room with a sloping roof (a penthouse, it seemed, built on to the north end of the house). Its walls were of clean stone, but they were mostly covered with green hanging mats and yellow curtains. The floor was flagged, and strewn with fresh green rushes.
[...]The guests were commanded to sit quiet, and were set in chairs, each with a footstool to his tired feet. There was a fire in the wide heath before them, and it was burning with a sweet smell, as if it were built of apple wood.
Frodo stood near the open door and watched the white chalky path turn into a little river of milk and go bubbling away down into the valley.

Ahah! Yes, this is (in case you don't recognize it yet) from the Lord of the Rings, describing one of the most quietly magical places in all Middle Earth, the house of Tom Bombadil. And it clearly won't do for the present weekend theme, but I thought it would make an interesting comparison to the camel-breaking straw I'll describe next...

Things went on, and some houses crept in again, one of the latest just after the next thematic conference was announced on Nature Settings, this particular house underground, which I remarked on, and then mentioned another it reminded me of; and I wrote also (silly me), pointing-out the fitting nature-ness of my recollection, whereat our flighty captain decided "that's it! Not nature settings, underground settings!" and here we are, again.

He shuffled on in front of them, carrying the light, and they followed him, nudging each other in an anticipating sort of way, down a long, gloomy, and, to tell the truth, decidedly shabby passage, into a sort of a central hall; out of which they could dimly see other long tunnel-like passages branching, passages mysterious and without apparent end. But there were doors in the hall as well—stout oaken comfortable-looking doors. One of these the Badger flung open, and at once they found themselves in all the glow and warmth of a large fire-lit kitchen.

This is the Badger's home. Some marked differences from Bombadil's: the one is old and shabby, dark, and winding, and the other has an almost eternal freshness to it, is comfortably compact, and well-lit inside (until it's time for sleeping).

The floor was well-worn red brick, and on the wide hearth burnt a fire of logs, between two attractive chimney-corners tucked away in the wall, well out of any suspicion of draught. A couple of high-backed settles, facing each other on either side of the fire, gave further sitting accommodations for the sociably disposed. In the middle of the room stood a long table of plain boards placed on trestles, with benches down each side. At one end of it, where an arm-chair stood pushed back, were spread the remains of the Badger's plain but ample supper. Rows of spotless plates winked from the shelves of the dresser at the far end of the room, and from the rafters overhead hung hams, bundles of dried herbs, nets of onions, and baskets of eggs. It seemed a place where heroes could fitly feast after victory, where weary harvesters could line up in scores along the table and keep their Harvest Home with mirth and song, or where two or three friends of simple tastes could sit about as they pleased and eat and smoke and talk in comfort and contentment. The ruddy brick floor smiled up at the smoky ceiling; the oaken settles, shiny with long wear, exchanged cheerful glances with each other; plates on the dresser grinned at pots on the shelf, and the merry firelight flickered and played over everything without distinction.

Again, though, we find within the branching warren a cozy and welcoming place. It is significant that both of these homes are found by our protagonists as places of refuge; and both our authors have clearly done their best to make them fitting as such. (Of course, the four wandering heroes at Bombadil's will encounter a great many more such places, offering varying degrees of comfort; one of the ways we see them grow is in how readily they finally will make-do with much less.) And so we have many common elements between them: the places themselves have a solidly-built quality (flag-stone and brick flooring), they are filled with comforts (deep settles/soft chairs with footstools), good food --- simple and yet copious --- and both feature a warm fireplace.

Now, about subteraneanity --- it is a Hobbit's preference, but Bombadil's isn't; it's also much to the liking of a Mole or a Badger:
... 'Once well underground,' [Mole] said, 'you know exactly where you are. Nothing can happen to you, and nothing can get at you. You're entirely your own master, and you don't have to consult anybody or mind what they say. Things go on all the same overhead, and you let 'em, and don't bother about 'em. When you want to, up you go, and there the things are, waiting for you.'

The Badger simply beamed on him. 'That's exactly what I say,' he replied. 'There's no security, or peace and tranquillity, except underground. And then, if your ideas get larger and you want to expand—why, a dig and a scrape, and there you are! If you feel your house is a bit too big, you stop up a hole or two, and there you are again! No builders, no tradesmen, no remarks passed on you by fellows looking over your wall, and, above all, no WEATHER.

and Badger does go on a length about that. There is a curious thing, though, about Badger's place, in that it hasn't always been underground. But I suggest reading the book, about that.


I suppose it isn't really a question of strange attractors or unstable dynamics, but I suppose I will have to be careful what I suggest, if I'm to be flitting about with this sort of crowd, won't I?

Anyways, here's to your eventual recovery. Take care of that leg, now!

a paleophile

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Frivolous optical heroics

Now as refraction dominates Rayleigh to colour our evening
Light giving witness to rarified are 'round our Earth at high altitude
Soon will their contrast show points of light 'gainst darkness deepening
Stars are some, nebulae other: too big to see, lost in similitude

Sunday, August 1, 2010

the internet's irony

Dear Ray,

this internet: it's a wonderful place, eh?

It's full of friends. They tell me things. I laugh. They laugh. And the colours!

feedburner bookworm

Friday, July 23, 2010


Dear Mr. Bat,

I'm feeling terribly frustrated... but I thought of another metaphor of sewing in mathematics, and that is assembling ideas. The trouble is that, when it comes to communicating mathematical ideas, it is, for me, an awful lot like sewing in the dark: you have access to the needle and thread (that's words you can string together) and can maybe feel the cloth --- if you have any notion of what ideas are common to your audience --- but you can't necessarily see how the patches are stitched together; that is, without some decent back-and-forth, you (I) can't tell how your (my) readers are holding their patches, where the seams end up, what's the shape of the final product, how neat the stitches are...

Sometimes I really fear I'm not that good a tailor afterall. Back to the candle-lit space that is my own head, for now; but I'm told there's nothing for the rest but practise.

the sidewalk apprentice teacher

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Poetics, primes, and $\pi_n$.

Dear Elsa,

I'm not today writing so much to say anything particularly mathematical, but to describe something of what it is like to study mathematics, and something of what my own mathematical interests are.

I'm not a historian, but I get the impression that the way maths are studied today is quite different from they way they were studied in, say, 1828, which is in turn different from what you'd have found in 1687, and so on, back to the lovely compilation of surveying tools and book-keeping tricks known as "Euclid's Elements of Geometry". Mathematics also has its fads and fashions, which come and go in various times and places.

Euclid, of course, studied plane geometry, starting from intuitive propositions and building towards elaborate consequences; and that at least has remained as a consistent motif in mathematics. It's an awful lot like building life-sized castles out of toothpicks and paste --- only at some point you don't really see the toothpicks anymore, just the bricks and framing you weave them into. Once you get really good at bricks and framing, you might not notice the toothpicks at all until you start thinking about patterned wallpaper, and realize you need something that isn't a brick, a beam, or a joist.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

verba quaesitaque

There are few things as compelling of poetry as being stuck in a bus for seven hours. And thus comes this blank novena.

In fields of purple vetch and goldenrod
I asked my Lord "Is't here?" He answered "No."

In time the wood was turned to red and gold;
"An unconsuming Flame? Now surely, here?"
In turn my Lord: "Not here, though not far-off."

Deep in the darkest month, the snows without
Could not have chilled my joy. "Is Heaven here?"
"Not here, Sir King; here lies the road thereto.
Keep on as now begin'st, thou shalt there come."

It's admittedly laconic --- a hint for who doesn't already know the allusion, the last person speaking is the Bishop St. Remigius. The earlier replies are meant to be the voice of God, speaking through the natural law which is, of course, written on all our hearts.

Anyways, the given word is "Month"; the question... you can figure it out, I'm sure.

some guy on the street

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Burrowing around familliar loci

It's me, in persona Chiropteri, writing to tell you about a fictional setting which also happens to be a family home, at the instigation of Enbrethiliel (who seems to blame me in some way for the particularity... ). This family home, invented by that most notorious waitressing-to-rich-author personality, J.K.Rowling. (And, yes, I'm claiming fair use for all excerpts.)

Here is our first view:
It looked as though it had once been a large stone pigsty, but extra rooms had been added here and there until it was several storeys high and so crooked it looked as though it was held up by magic (which, Harry reminded himself, it probably was). Four or five chimneys were perched on top of the red roof. A lopsided sign stuck in the ground near the entrance read `The Burrow'. Round the front door lay a jumble of wellington boots and a very rusty cauldron. Several fat brown chickens were pecking their way around the yard.

`It's not much,' said Ron.
`It's brilliant,' said Harry happily, thinking of Privet Drive.

The Burrow is of course the home of the Weasley family --- and what a family they are! In the recent round, Enbrethiliel has remarked on how houses are like reflections of the people that live in them. J. K. Rowling makes explicit use of this idea for most of the homes through the series, and The Burrow is an excellent example: it is as diverse and varied as its family, partly due to it's conjectured patch-work construction, partly through the active efforts of the family members themselves. Take, for instance, `Ronald's room':
Harry stepped in, his head almost touching the sloping ceiling,${}^1$ and blinked. It was like walkin into a furnace: nearly everything in Ron's room seemed to be a violent shade of orange; the bed-spread, the walls, even the ceiling.

(Imagine an orange that looks violent next to a born Weasley's hair!)

For much of the series, the Burrow also becomes like Harry's second real home (the first one being Hogwarts, of course), although for magical reasons he is forced anually to reside with his beloathed muggle relatives.

`It's a bit small,' said Ron quickly...
But Harry, grinning widely, said, `This is the best house I've ever been in.'

I'd say more, but I've a poem to write (dang it!)

some guy on the street

${}^1$ Does that remind you of somewhere else?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ever we fall, ever we get up again...

Dear Maurits,

I've recently been staring at a book of your prints, moved to sorrow for all those folks who have to keep climbing nowhere for all eternity. I almost fool myself that I feel some sympathy for them; and maybe they some for me. But the truth is that they don't really feel anything, being static, and I'm not stuck on a twisted bundle over $\mathbb{S}^1$; I'm not always climbing, because I keep falling. However much it might feel like an ongoing upward trudge, that feeling only persists so long as I forget having slid down that well-worn slope by the fascinating little rocky outcrop that you have to clamber through the briars and nettles to get at... and the rocks really aren't so nifty-looking up-close. It's just a heap of dead rocks.

Some people call your strange prints "illusions"; but that's really not right: they're properly paradox, a contradiction in pictures. What I occasionally suffer is illusion. You're just weird, and fascinating because of it.

I don't recall if you're the sort, but I'll ask you anyways, pray for me!

a sinful geometer

Sunday, June 27, 2010

In words like some ascribed to the Blue-eyed Shogun

Reports of my arrest/tear-gassing/vandalism/robbery/inundation are greatly exaggerated. Not that anyone is likely to have invented or repeated such reports... I'm just the Belfry Bat, after all. There were some brief, amusing-to-me questions from a polite police officer.

Metropolitan University looks more-or-less as it always did.

I'd tell you more, but that would give everything away.

All is well!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I'm feeling paradoxical today

Dear Albert,

As you are, of course, intimately and immediately aware, there's a strange universe out there. I was recently reminded of your remark, "The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it should be comprehensible". I recently had occasion for some metaphysical musing, and was struck by a strange intelectual discord among modern antitheists and so forth.

My remark arose from considering various sorts of metaphysical mythologies --- anyways, I'm going to suggest that there are, broadly, three categories of attitude to the Metaphysical Problem, and suggest that it just might be worth-while to consider each of the options, and that we can reason about which is the best.

But before that, I suppose I ought to explain what I mean by the Metaphysical Problem.

Friday, June 18, 2010

More Evidence of God's Goodness

Dear Self,

For future reference

$$ \begin{array}{rl}
\mathrm{I} &\mbox{That strawberry}\\
\mathrm{II} &\mbox{Roses that look --- and smell --- like peaches}\\
\mathrm{III} & \mbox{Whoever it was thought to breed the previous item}\\
\mathrm{IV} & \href{}{\mbox{Tchaikovsky}}\\
\mathrm{V} &\mbox{My mountain bike --- and my survival in spite of that}

That's all for now.

a grateful sinner

Monday, June 14, 2010

Questioning Words

Dear Miss Q,

In the anticipated commemoration of a lovely daydream of unrealized circumstances,

A picnic

"What is our picnic-lunch?" asked me the fair
Young lass (she far out-dazzles clear Sun-rays
In my poor eyes) "and where that magpie stays,
Marks he our place to sit, by Spanish Stair?"

"For you, dear friend, poached eggs and Camembert ---
Some millions love meringues, some Holandaise:
Most swear by devil'ds on these hot Sundays.
For you, they're poached --- wool picnic-blanket. There!"

Tall stood a shady poplar overhead,
Great lions' hand-fed vestige prowled about.
My cara's hat upon the blanket set,
Earth's turning turned 'till Sunlight her locks met;
No amber shot with gold so rich shone out!
As her's, glory is all God's, reflected.

I dare to hope you might have had as lovely a time as I surely would.
northern morpheus

W ampersand Q
Part of Word and Question

Friday, June 11, 2010

A friendly circle

Hello, all!

It seems to be about

My own circle is quite narrow; I've been reading these 'blogs for many times longer than attempting to write this one. So it's a genuine surprise to me when a friend found only through her 'blogging so far tagged me in a "pick-five" game.${}^1$

There also seem to be rules:

1) Save the image above so you can upload it on your own blog without direct linking.
2) List 5 things you absolutely love to do
3) List 5 friendly bloggers, and comment on their blogs to let them know they've received an award!


Thursday, June 10, 2010

a mysterious impromptu


Like dewy grass under sunrise
To bare feet, as infants' smiling faces,
Or a book long unread closed around traces
Of letters written long since: surprise!
God's graces startle awake sleepwalkers;
They arise and shake us, but quietly! shine;
All-deftly moved. No edge is keener, no shade too fine
God knows its tincture, directs its line
'Twixt joints and marrow while we stand like gawkers
Drunk on sweet wine: the heart was glad.
Were we mere talkers? For yet quiet as grass,
Dewy grass at morning, were God's miracles:
as leaf's budding and leaf's fall.

It was softer than I could name,
more than I could hold, all the same
in my heart too-narrow. Praise God!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Did anyone notice?

Dear 'blogger folks,

Thanks! I'm glad this is working, now!

I'm quite sure it still didn't do much about one month ago; still, it took less than a year from my first noticing. I suppose that's a good job, given all the other stuff that's going on.

an appreciative ambulator

Just what I've always wanted

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Scandals and Converts

Dear Friend,

Some thoughts, unsolicited. Let's start with the bad news we all know, and then move to something more hopeful!

Through this Year for Priests, some folks have, for reasons of their own, struggled mightily to slander the whole Priesthood of Christ, by inflating crimes committed by a tiny fraction of all priests into an imagined problem endemic to the Priesthood itself. At the same time, the people who make money by estimating phenomenon frequency (insurance companies) inform us that Catholic Priests are among the least likely to commit such crimes. There are other, related problems to deal with --- tightening up vocation discernment on the part of seminaries, episcopal discipline and response protocol, etc. And I want to emphasize that no-one is suggesting the crimes themselves to be negligible, or that anyone should be less outraged than they are; the outrage we hear is indeed just, and suggests our fallen world to be capable of redemption still! It is the direction of the outrage that dismays me, even if it does not surprise. For many folk, children and adult, Christian and pagan and heathen, have been scandalized and led to stumble, perceiving the crimes of far-too-many, though thin and scattered.

Indeed, you should know the apostasy and the despair that follow from such scandals are a deeper and more lasting wound than the scars of abuse: in the resurrection, the hurts of abuse shall be comforted and redressed; but some may have so fallen away that they cannot appeal to God's mercy, and may suffer His justice for eternity. All the more heavily will it weigh on those who did cause these to stumble.

The scandal of such evils among the Priesthood may cause some to stray from the Faith. I promised at the opening to speak of hope, and it is this: the converse is also true, the holiness of the Priesthood can convert souls. Let me repeat for you some of the story of Alec Guinness:

... Then came the film Father Brown ... and on location in Burgundy I had a small experience the memory of which always brings me pleasure. ...

Night shooting had been arranged to take place in a little hill-top village a few miles from Macon. Scaffolding, the rigging of lights and the general air of bustle caused some excitement among the villagers and children gathered from all round. A room had been put at my disposal in the little station hotel three kilometers away. By the time dusk fell I was bored and, dressed in my priestly black, I climbed the gritty winding road to the village. In the square children were squealing, having mock battles with sticks for swords and dustbin lids for shields; and in a café Peter Finch, Bernard Lee and [the director] Robert Hamer were sampling their first Pernod of the evening. I joined them for a modest Kir; then discovering I wouldn't be needed for at least four hours turned back towards the station. By now it was dark. I hadn't gone far when I heard scampering footsteps and a piping voice calling, `Mon père!' My hand was seized by a boy of seven or eight, who clutched it tightly, swing it and kept up a non-stop prattle. He was full of excitement, hops, skips and jumps, but never let go of me. I didn't dare speak in case my excruciating French should scare him. Although I was a total stranger he obviously took me for a priest and so to be trusted. Suddenly, with a `Bonsoir, mon père', and a hurried sideways sort of bow, he disappeared through a hole in a hedge. He had had a happy, reassuring walk home, and I was left with an odd calm sense of elation. Continuing my walk I reflected that a Church which could inspire such confidence in a child, making its priests, even when unknown, so easily approachable could not be as scheming and creepy as so often made out. I began to shake off my long-taught, long-absorbed prejudices.${}^1$

Think about that.

When it is clear that Christ's Priests are trusty folk, little Catholic children can convert strangers, melting their "long-absorbed prejudices."

your friend in hope

${}^1$ Blessings in Disguise Alec Guinness 1985, Hamish Hamilton London

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Oh, Heck, let's try another!

Dear GK,

Happy Birthday!

You may have read that last week I reported some of your notes about Beacon House; this week, I think I'll return to Manalive, if that is allowed, and repeat some of your remarks about Cambridge. A copy of the notes is attached bellow

Your child in orthodoxy

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Friends, Romans, Compliments...

Dear Earlendings,

"... I come not to bury Sancta Sanctis but to braise her... "

I think I shall probably have to interrupt my lecture to Adam Smith (it's not really addressing anything of his per-se; he just stands-in for practical economics) so that I can expound some nonsense in appologia pro cultus personalis. Because, while Enbrethiliel may have disabled comments at her own blog, she Can't Stop Me Commenting Here at Mine!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Home to the Dukes of Beacon

Dear Enbrethiliel,

It's Belfry, here.

This may seem an odd choice, given what others have complained of as "GKC's predilection for splashing purple moons and peacock skies about and calling it scenery" ( --> ). But in fact he was also a man keenly interested in family and holy homes, and being also a writer of vivid imagination, in Manalive he builds for us a diverting holiday house indeed, though it takes a while.
A wind sprang high in the west, like a wave of unreasonable happiness, and tore eastward across England, trailing with it the frosty scent of forests and the cold intoxication of the sea.
The flying blast struck London just where it scales the northern heights, terrace above terrace, as precipitous as Edinburgh. It was round about this place that some poet, probably drunk, looked up astonished at all those streets gone skywards, and (thinking vaguely of glaciers and roped mountaineers) gave it the name of Swiss Cottage, which it has never been able to shake off. At some stage of those heights a terrace of tall gray houses, mostly empty and almost as desolate as the Grampians, curved round at the western end, so that the last building, a boarding establishment called "Beacon House," offered abruptly to the sunset its high, narrow and towering termination, like the prow of some deserted ship.


The Root of all Evil

Dear Prof. Smith,

There's a facebook status meme going around, asking people to set this slogan as their status for the day
No one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick.

It also asks for "politicians to get this right".

The gap between getting it right and the current state of affairs differs, of course, from place to place and across demographics. Nonetheless, whatever partial solutions are implemented in Italy or the Phillipines or the United States of America, there are common and basic problems that the perfectly-sensible appeal to justice above highlights.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Unintended Consequences

Dear Buddy,

It's really *weird*. I've noticed that, since I got into a habit of keeping my cellular on "vibrate", two strange and conflicting things happen:
\item It's a commonplace for me not to notice the phone actually ringing.
\item I frequently mistake other disturbances for phonecalls.
I don't know what to make of it! It's like, I've got phantom phone rings that sometimes fall asleep.

What is up with that?


Monday, May 10, 2010

If pigs had wings...

... would they be kosher?

Dear Thomas,

I hope you'll forgive the indirect ribbing.

non nobis


Dear Enrico,

It occurred to me recently that several fabulists have pondered the potential consequences of history-changing time travel. I don't myself believe it possible any more than the many-worlds interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. Goodness knows there's enough weirdness that just comes from classical dynamics in at-least three dimensions! (anyone up for a game of chaos?) In any case, lots of people have wondered about that, and the general consensus seems to be that it's a bad idea to try playing with, as everyone's attempts to fix various things that have gone wrong in our personal lives or politics or S.T. Colleridge's kite-high poetry... but I digress... they all invariably go wrong and produce something much worse.

At the same time it occurred to me that many people also agree that the 20th Century has been one of the Worst Times Ever. Sure, we all live in obscene comfort now (only, we don't all ...) and now is (as ever) one of the best times to be alive, also some of the most horrendous things have been done almost as soon as they got sufficiently easier to do. And that's easier just from a technological point of view.

So, many agree that Time Travel to Change History will lead to Bad Things, and also the Recent History is full of Bad Things. So, to answer your question "where are they all?" if there were any, (ok, not space aliens, but time tourists) I'd suggest they're probably at odd moments between 1910 and 1978, give or take, with plenty of arbitrariness thrown-in.

luke skywalker

Lies! Vicious Lies!

Dear Ms. Welch,

Fr. Longenecker noticed and pointed to your recently published opinion letter, and I noticed at the end this most insulting editorial flourish:
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Raquel Welch.

Of course, this a patent falsehood! There must be millions of people who agree with what you write here --- several thousand of these surely must be compatriots of yours. Possibly they meant to say "the opinions expressed in this commentary are not intended as indicating any policy of ours," or "... do not carry any dogmatic weight," or some such slitherism; but to suggest that your notions are totally unsupported by anyone else's wisdom is at best linguistic carelessness of the worst kind! I'm even inclined to suspect that they have agreed to publish your letter largely as a lightning rod for negative reaction, and are more than happy to keep happy those you critique as wanting in discernment, while suggesting that you've basically become a reactionary kook! In the attention-getting business, no publicity is bad publicity, right?

Well I for one am not fooled. I might have to think carefully about how close you get to the Truth, but basically I agree. And be assured also of my ongoing prayers for your salvation!

God Bless,

the author; he is entirely responsible for the opinions expressed in this commentary; he doesn't give two cent's worth of worry for what blogger or your ISP thinks about them.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

(insert incoherent grumbling noises here)

Dear Editor,
I have more linguistic points of contention to bemoan; in this missive I will only perturb your restful contemplation of other things with one category:
Excessively derived redundant words
Why oh why oh why?
  • Orient (n) --- the East; derives Orient (v) --- Acquaint with or inform of East; derives Orientation (n) --- how an object with shape occupies space (so far so good, all new ideas); aparently derives "orientATE" --- See Orient (v).
  • Demolish; Demolition; DemolishionING?
  • Ironical, adj. : a shortening of "ironically", the adverb derived from "ironic", the adjective derived from "irony". I've only ever seen it used meaning "ironic".
  • Thusly: a demonstrative adverb meaning precisely the same as the demonstrative adverb "thus".
Note I have deliberately omited, e.g., "typical" --- here the order of derivation is "type, typical, typically" --- no redundancy, no ugly obscurity. On the other hand, if "ironical" were used as meaning "pointing to/indicating irony" instead of "marked by/notable for irony", then I'd concede it wasn't an offensively redundant word.
And it's not the redundancy alone I object to; it's the obsessive elaboration of known words in such a way as to say less instead of more. These are constructions that make our speach uglier by way of obscuring a clearer way to say exactly the same thing, while tying up constructs that could have been used for other, newer things!

the impatient reader

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Alarming mathematical thought for the day

echo << eof >>/dev/null

It seems some people don't like remembering History. There are certainly plenty enough people who will gladly ditch all things ancient as "out of fashion". I don't know why that should be, but ... anyways. My alarming mathematical (and also historical) thought for the day is to remark that the past, History, is the thing that is grow, among past and future. We like to think of the future opening up before us, spreading out ever new and increasing possibilities, but this is an illusion. What grows in this direction is our imagination of the future, not the future itself; and this is built, of course, on the growing past. Each of us, gradually, is running out of future, and one day all that's left for each of us will be Eternity.

That's my thought for the day.


Monday, April 26, 2010

A Gospel Redux

Dear Neighbour,

It's not how I'd have put it, but sometimes, amidst the Dark Night of the Soul, it should be helpful to remember what our Dear Auntie expresses in the sixth comment here.

a meandering soul

Monday, April 5, 2010

Fourth Glorious Mystery

Dear JR${}^2$,

I was wondering if you might have any insight a conjectural thought I had regarding various Traditions --- actually, I thought of asking your friend Jack first, mostly because of his ocasional motif: "no-one is told what would have happened". Then I started to worry because these specific Traditions are particularly extrascriptural, and remembering his reticence which I hear troubled you also, I figured it'd be better to ask a fellow Roman. On the other hand, I then remembered how you once mused that Men were from the first given a new gift, to "seek beyond the world, and find no rest therein", so I wondered if maybe we were thinking along similar lines. But enough digression!

From of old we celebrate both the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption to Heaven of Holy Mary the Theotokos; and also it is clear that these points are importantly interlinked. What I started wondering was whether the latter honour accorded to Mary should not have been the destined state of all Men had our first parents not fallen? To flesh out this notion, so to speak, while Mary indeed finally fell asleep, it would seem that she did not suffer the same sundering of body and spirit which is the fate of all Men marked by original sin.

And so, to phrase the question as I might ask it to trouble Jack, does Mary's Assumption show us "what would have happened" to us had we not sinned? I do expect he'd say "no-one is told", meaning that it is a distraction to speculate on such counter-factuals, but it seems to me that his other proscription doesn't apply here: we are told her story --- if not in full, still at least with these important highlights.

A distantly-related thought that occurs to me in this connection is that we often speak of Purgatory as having its own sort of time --- it works a process, gradually --- which suggests to me that it's tightly linked to the world we inhabit in our beginning, and I might even guess that purgatory was created after the fall, an invention as it were to make up for the defects we adopted in sinning. But it's also an important fact of purgatory that our souls pass through it without our bodies; even that our bodies would, echoing Jack's notions, "get in the way" of the cleansing flame. One might say that Mary could keep her body because her soul didn't need such cleansing, but I think it would be more proper to say we must lose ours for half of Time specifically because our souls do need it.

In the back of my head, at the same time, I've this notion that Mary's assumption holds an important confirmation of the Easter Promise: Specifically, Easter promises that death is not the terminus of our existence, but a new birth; but in the assumption we see that this new life isn't a "new thing", rather it's the promised return to us of our proper nature as seen in the entirely human Mary, lost under our sins, and liberated through God's merciful and gratuitous forgiveness.

Of course, this doesn't give the least inkling of the real mystery in Easter, or the Assumption; I'm keen to learn what you make of my nonsense?

an avid reader

PS. Now I've learned to count...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

An astonishingly short proof

That right! I've discovered an astonishingly short formal proof that ZFC is inconsistent! It's been thoroughly checked by two different proof-checkers on various hardware, and they all agree that Math As We Know It Is Insane!

The Astonishingly Short Proof was initially produced by genetic tree-searching algorithms with success measured by a heuristic "inconceivability index" for strong sentences. It is conjectured that this index is only one of an infinite family --- indeed an $\infty$-groupoid of such notions is expected to exist!

Our specific index --- a real number --- is also known to imply falsehood whenever it exceeds 3/31, and our algorithm this morning arived at a formal proof from ZFC of an index 4/1 (=4)!

For more, proceed "below the fold"!

Sunday, March 21, 2010


My dear Puffin,

You may have noticed The Poetess a couple of weeks back published her ripening metrically-faithful interpretation of Horace's Soracte ode. The particular meter used here is known as "Alcaic", whereon wikipedia absurdly declares
"The Alcaic stanza is a Greek lyrical meter, an Aeolic verse form traditionally believed to have been invented by Alcaeus, a lyric poet from Mytilene ... ".
That may all be well and good from a literary-historical point of view, but it doesn't come anywhere close to the True Meaning of Alcaic!

My own research has shown that the latinized "Alcaeus" was in fact a nick-name (much as Plato was so-called for his broad, flattened face), sprung from the multiple inspirations of his fondness for an adopted and very lost Thick-Billed Murre --- no doubt blown off-course during a late Etruscan-Era hurricane --- and his own odd waddling gait, which so resembled that of his bird, and which was mirrored in some of his more-forgotten verses. (compare the suggestion that Beethoven's rhythmic experimentation was partly driven by the sound of his own irregular heart-beat, due to his undiagnosed lead poisoning).

The name his fellows gave this bird and the poet was initially "alkon", which resounds in our present day "awkward" (fr. O.E. "aukgard"), while murres and relatives are nowadays known collectively as alcidae. Anyways, it's a charming meter, and none the worse for its feathery origins. After all, all of creation declares the greatness of the Lord!

the unapologetic fabulist

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Some notes

Dear Bat,

I've been thinking.

Our beloved Mother Church, last Sunday, in the words of Paul, reminded us that coveting is a kind of idolatry. Of course, coveting can be incited by another's gloating, boasting, or immodesty.

I have usually tended to think that immodesty was the visible counterpart of pride. After all, a proud person may well tend to gloat and boast, and such; but since I started considering modesty of dress, I've tried to put together how modesty and modesty might be akin. And while there is certainly a great deal of immodest dress out there, and more than in relatively recent history, it's not clear to me that there's so much more pride w.r.t. our individual forms except in rather narrow circles.*

Today, I'm inclined to describe immodesty seemingly by its effects, instead of its motivations: specifically, I'd like to say that the virtue of modesty is the habit of encouraging proper reverence in others by discouraging their distraction. That is, the defect of immodesty is its invitation to remove another's (or one's own) due reverence for God, by drawing that attention to oneself, whether by boasting, or ostentatious costume, or over-gladly receiving undue praise.

This doesn't mean it is necessary to conceal one's talents or natural beauty, but rather it leaves them in their proper place, and uses them to glorify God; which is only fitting as they are His works.

I'm curious what thoughts you might have, or any of those you will share this with.

the philosophophile

* PS: of course, I may well be wrong about any of these anecdotal generalities.

Friday, February 5, 2010

An exercise in geometric measure theory

echo <<eof >>/dev/null

I was given a math paper to read over that includes, in its introduction, the assertion
"the length of an algebraic curve of degree $d$ in the unit disc is less than $4d$". I don't think I'd seen this before, so I've decided to try proving something like it, and got a smaller constant than $4$, but not much smaller. (If you've not seen this problem before, can you guess?!)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My silly question for the day

Dear Phil,

Does this mean that Johannesburg gets six more weeks of outdoor cricket weather? Or do we have to go there and ask the meerkats?

definitely in the Northern Hemisphere

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dear The Karate,

Or should I say "Mr. Kid"?

Anyways, so Ike (ahem... Father Longenecker) was sparring with His Dark Lordship and pointed me at, which I'm sure you've heard of by now. The principle is fairly straight-forward. here's an example.

Don't forget to chastise etc., be not disqualified, and all that.

one weirdo