Sunday, November 27, 2011

The narrow way

Dear Director,

Apart from the obvious things, I must admit to unhelpful habits of thought, around those obvious things. There are the maxims that float around, of the form "such is the cure for sich" --- and so I fall to thinking at God things like "See? You have to give me this-priceless-good, because otherwise I'll just keep falling into this-mortal-sin"; I become like the ersatz suicide holding himself hostage against God's mercy.

Each visit to God's Minister Through the Grille, I'm given an antidote against the deadliest part of this poison to which I seem to keep returning, and I'm prescribed a short course of purgatives --- or, sometimes, the chain of repeated forms makes me think of stitches; a row of sutures on my heart. I rejoice in the promise of health and healing. It hasn't, in the past, ever taken very long to play with the poisons again, to pull out the stitches. I read once that, outside the world of metaphor, if you DO need stitching in the same place twice in short order, it's better to use glue the second time, because the living tissues do something weird when they've been pierced mid-scarring. I wonder if that isn't somehow reflected in these human trials against temptation...

But today the stitching --- or however the patching is done --- today, it is fresh; I hear the echoes of temptations still, but now in this Day, let us rejoice. In this desert, my too-often too-parched soul, may I make a straight and level road for the Saviour to enter by; if I can see Him coming, perhaps then I shall see also the narrow way into Heaven.

in prayerful union

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Random acts of apostrphe

O Steam,

where hast thou gone?
I see from my windows
your hoarded dews ---
the chill echoes
against graded blues
of shadows wan.

Thy heats escaped,
and pressures fled,
now contemplate
whither to shed
in snowy spate
what wind hath raped.

But here, 'tis dry:
no urging force
advanced my course,
made whistles cry;
the work day's done,
now sets the Sun.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Who calls you hobbits, though?

"Hoom, hmm! Come, now! Not so hasty! You call yourselves hobbits? But you should not go telling just anybody. You'll be letting out your own right names, if you're not careful."

"We aren't careful about that," said Merry, "As a matter of fact I'm a Brandybuck, Meriadoc Brandybuck, though most people call me just Merry."

"And I'm a Took, Peregrin Took, but I'm generally called Pippin, or even Pip."

"Hm, but you are hasty folk, I see [...] I'll call you Merry and Pippin, if you please --- nice names. For I am not going to tell you my name, not yet at any rate." A queer half-knowing, half-humorous look came with a green flicker into his eyes. ...

Being a lazy reader (and I really ought to be trying to work out when and why there's a splitting in some queer long-exact sequence involving spheres... the answer is "in exactly those cases I want to ignore") it has taken me a long while to think about the flurry of names-as-such in the Epic; some of this is due to the rich linguistic history that Tolkien imagined for his subcreation. But I'm starting to piece together something more: even deeper than Tolkien's love of euphony (whether or not Greek!) there seems to be something of a philosophy of names for things that he is keen on approaching from several angles.

"Eh? What's that? Don't you know my name yet? That's the only answer. Tell me, who are you, alone, yourself and nameless? But you are young, and I am old. Eldest, that's what I am."

It is curious that Bombadil claims this title for himself, and Elrond seems to ackowledge it; while Gandalf and Celeborn seem to propose him we know as Treebeard, who opened the topic for us, as "Eldest", and "the oldest of all living things". Perhaps this grant should be informed by our knowing (from the Silmarillion) that Gandalf is actually akin to Saruman and Sauron and the Valar, who have their memory from before the making of Eä or Arda in it, or the shaping of Middle Earth within that. Whether Bombadil or Treebeard is of the same sort or something else I can't tell or guess: the histories are confused, or I am.

But even more: Bombadil echoes something of Treebeard's philosophy in asserting that, on the one hand it is difficult (if not impossible) to talk of specific people without having some word to use as naming them, yet there is often something in each person's Story that will pin down which person they are: and so, Eldest works for Bombadil. If you aren't likely to meet Bombadil (and most of us aren't), then Eldest may as well suit Treebeard --- not that you're much more likely to meet him than Old Tom.

"Mithrandir we called him in elf-fashion," said Faramir, "and he was content. Many are my names in many countries he said. Mithrandir among the Elves, Tharkûn to the Dwarves; Olórin I was in my youth in the West that is forgotten, in the South Incánus, in the North Gandalf; to the East I go not."
To the East... there are hints that in the Lost Tales more is made of the "Rods of the Five Wizards" --- you'll note we only ever have names and colours for three! --- that two Blue Wizards got lost in the East; but here we learn that to some extent, names are things given us by those around us. In this sense none of my noms de dactylographe is really apt, least of all that I use most. Mind you, wherever I go on the internet, if the local service doesn't assign me a name, whatever name I do use is effectively one I'm claiming for myself.

About that, let's jump volumes:

But when Gwindor would tell his name, Túrin checked him, saying "I am Agarwaen the son of Úmarth," --- (which is "Blood-stained, the son of Ill-fate") --- "a hunter in the woods"; and the Elves of Nargothrond questioned him no more.
On the one hand, it may be perilous to play with names too recklessly. There are plenty of cautions out there against nicknaming your Guardian Angel, for instance --- it being sufficient to use the title "My Guardian dear", and difficult to be sure that some other word doesn't address something less holy, or less wholesome. Very perilous; though Tolkien is not univocal on Man's proper relation to Peril: "Indeed, [Gimli], you are beset with dangers, for you are dangerous yourself, in your own way" on the one hand, while on the other "Yet I am wise enough to know that there are some perils from which a man must flee." But let us see also what Gwindor later advises his dangerous friend:

Now when Túrin learned from Finduilas of what had passed, he was wrathful, and said to Gwindor: "In love I hold you for rescue and safe-keeping. But now you have done ill to me, friend, to betray my right name, and call my doom upon me, from which I would lie hid."

But Gwindor answered: "The doom lies in yourself, not in your name."

That is, there is a definite sense in which what I call myself (short of impersonation -- cf. Amlach from "The coming of Men into the West", Silmarilion) is less important than my character in deeds and in conversation, and certainly the one is easier to change than the other. Túrin is indeed seen to be a tragic figure in the old Greek sense --- for though the "weight of [Morgoth's] thought" (Narn i chin Húrin) oppresses him, yet it is by his own habits that destruction and despoliation is able to follow wherever he goes, and eventually overcome him with despair.

On the other hand, there is --- even beyond history, the things we've done --- a sense in which certain names are more apt, though they may have to wait some time come into their own:

And so the very name it was foretold at his birth that he should bear was chosen for him by his own people.

Monday, October 24, 2011

After all that nonsense

Dear Hilary,

I have fluttered through annoyance, despondence, frustration, confusion, and possibly two or three others that didn't last long enough to identify (like those $Z^{0}$ particles before the Super Proton Synchrotron got warmed up).

The thing is, it isn't you, HJMW, from whom I wish to remain anonymous, nor any of the friendly folk who care to leave replies here, but from unscrupulous con artists, stalkers, grudge-holders, borderline personalities, spambots, marketers and any antipapal inquisitors who might be keen to leverage whatever irrelevantia are handy for the cause of annoying the neighborhood Christian. It isn't folk of good will I'm aiming to frustrate, but search engines --- for they are indeed stupid automata. Just ask Dr. Thursday (which is not his given name, btw). This is why I have an anonymous-looking email address, writing from which I sign the name I was given in Baptism.

I have publically noted elsewhere over the present signature that I have a middle name of Christopher --- and indeed this is true, while I don't usually draw attention to it in real life. So I suppose I could honestly sign "Christopher" at your 'blog and we'd all be more-or-less happy. But this puzzles me: what particularly would you gain by my calling myself Christopher? Surely there are some dozens of millions of Christophers out there, many using the internet quite happily (and many of them not Christians at all). Which of them would I be, unless you met me? I could call myself Raphael or Philip, and you'd know about as much about me, and have as much reason to believe these were names given me (they're not). I could even call myself "Choi Chu" and be reasonably sure of a well-formed Mandarin name (or several), but it could as well be a command in Klingon to "beam me up". I already write in many places using the present pseudonym, and it would be unnatural to arbitrarily write now within the same circle under a new name. (I've already acquired two others, quite inadvertently, just because of the way google blogger works, and it mildly annoys me, when it's not amusing me.)

And it's not as though pseudonyms were a new or even ill-seeming phenomenon in writing, publishing, or commentary. To take some self-serving examples, in maths there's the infamous "Bourbaki"; in fiction, John LeCaré and Lewis Carol come to mind; I don't know if Anne Landers is a real name, or why it shouldn't be several people --- Landers is notoriously suggestible when it comes to agreeing with conflicting advice written-in by readers, and so I wonder.

It makes perfect sense to me that Fr. Z, whose blog is an extension of his professional and vocational activities, writes under his own name; I understand that you are a professional writer, too, but the Orwellian Picnickers aren't reading or commenting there as your professional associates, but for joy and comfort on the internet. The insistence on "real" names simply doesn't make sense, because you've no way to check them, no way to avoid false negatives, and no advantage anyways.

On the other hand, I'm very glad you're recovering enough to feel noticeably more awake, as you say, and I pray for your speedy return to full health (and your perseverence unto salvation, too!), and otherwise wish you all the best.

A la prochaine,

Guy Street

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Puzzlements: Terms.

If I may be permitted to introduce

The Obscure Carnival Man

"But, We are the Great, the Amazing ...
Surely, you have heard of us?
The Twins are reknowned far and wide
As they look each exactly like ...
And --- and, this Wolf-... No, he is! ...
See his toes? And here's well-noted Side!"

His aim: my interest's raising.
The result: I long off to hike

"Surely, the strange tales of Gus?!"
Of course, though, I haven't --- nor Fizz.

There's more than just odd to his manner,
I can't seem to blot out their banner
Or turn aside from the *pitch*
Though it's causing my heels to itch...

In the end I was rescued
by a damsel with pigtails
who said she had icecream
and plenty of wild quails.

Which is meant, in some way, to include answer to the interogative phrase "And you are ... ?"
And, you can see, I also squished the word toes in, though you can further see there's another spot where it might have made more sense. I think I'm in a mood for linguistic perversity, today, which in fact is a neat reflection of the impression I mean the narrator to have of that subject he is relating to us. This doggerel is in no way autobiographical: I've never been accosted by an obscure carnival man, nor rescued by a damsel with pigtails. I don't think I'm even particularly taken by pigtails on a lass, though of course there's nothing objectionable to the style...

I hope you've been entertained, anyways.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


I had me a hankering for some Triumphalist Patriotic Blake (with stirring music) and so moseyed me on down to the UTubes, and there found a nice little clip from the "Last Night at the Proms 06" (not quite Patria mea, but, you know... ). And danged, but if the most visible hand-waved flag in the FRONT ROW at Royal Albert Hall isn't our beloved per-pale argent-and-or of the Vatican City State!

Take THAT! Cranmer!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Lux perpetua luceat eis

Dear Neighbors,

We are all bereaved; I with you, ye all with me and with each other, together and separately. Some indeed more closely and keenly, but none of us are untouched. We mourn for the friends we are robbed of. We mourn the sense of graceful motion now lost --- for where once we had walked as on a tightrope of common neighborly trust, we are now enmired by the strange customs of strange men, the possessed of fear and of walking Death and of Office --- strange gods indeed. We mourn the blood we have shed in search of vengeance. If we are wise, we will seek God's justice and rejoice therein, and lament the souls lost, caught by the stumbling blocks we have scattered about us.

But, for the sake of those friends of whom we are robbed, we must remember to pray in hope, and we must take comfort that they all shall find beatitude who can; and we must not forget to live. We must dare to live in joy; on this memorial of Our Lord's Resurrection, let us live, looking towards and keeping ourselves for the life of the World to come.

one among you

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A reply to a comment on a post of Fr. D. Longenecker

cc. to Fr. Dwight.

Dear Steve,

I'm writing here, because it turned into what I think is a "blog post", not a comment, and the good Father has (iirc) requested generally that we blog these things rather than stand in his sitting room to rant at the world. So, here we are.

Certainly the words of scripture with which the Blessed Sacrament is confected are taken from accounts of the Last Supper, (Gospel and Epistle); I think in some Missals there is a heading "Commemoration of the Last Supper" to name the relevant section of the Roman Canon. But that section of the Canon is not the Mass, it's not the end of the Mass, it's not the purpose of the Mass. Maybe it's the peak, the perfection... But the purpose of the Mass is to offer the One Sacrifice of Our Lord unto Our Lord Father, and to feed and strengthen first the Priest celebrant for his sacramental works, and then to feed the members of the Body of Χρ. with the Body of Χρ. It isn't belittling of the Commemoration to acknowledge the primacy of other ends; rather, it belittles the Mass to inflate the Commemoration!

It even belittles the meaning of the Last Supper. One may recall a letter of Paul, covering the subject of eating meat sacrificed to idols; it is helpful to note that this was the fate of most sacrificed meat: it would be eaten. And if any was to be eaten, the priest making the sacrifice would always have a share; so notes St. Thomas (ST III.82.iv.Respondeo). The very pious and special sort of sacrifice called a holocaust was an unusual and exceptional thing --- and difficult! You may recall that God commanded a holocaust of captive Amalek, which Saul tried to spoil. But Jesus' self-sacrifice is paterned on the ordinary sort, after the Pasch (but becomes a holocaust in the eating!); but we cannot eat anything in the accidents of human flesh, and the apostles could not have done so. Whenever by a miracle the accidents of human flesh are restored in consecration, that host has been reserved, and not consumed. The Body of our Lord given at the Last Supper is how the apostles first partook of the One Sacrifice. Hence, to exaggerate the supperness of the Last Supper --- meats and fruits unspecified, e.g. --- is to ignore that even the Last Supper was a participation in the Body of Our Lord.

That is all.

In Christ's charity,
the undersigned

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

With deepening gratitude

Dear Visitors,

Today we are prime! In four more years, I shall really have come of age; who knows if I'll still be 'blogging then? We cannot look too far ahead, afterall.

Have some cake!

who, of course, shall pray for you

Friday, August 19, 2011

Fragments, interruptions.

I don't usually like sharing unfinished things, but this--- I think I wanted to, in my laconic mood.

Shall I bring thee roses, roses white?
Oh! That my heart were pure as these were bright.
In thy sight, shall I bring thee roses red?
Oh! Give me the joy in which martyrs bled!

For the kind light of thy soul's windows,
How short of enough, to bring thee rose?

Shall I bring thee lilies and irises gold?
Oh! Spoke I fair as my heart would be bold ---
With Lilies of ochre and irises blue,
Could I tell all my hopes? Would you know I was true?

Solomon's envy, van Gogh to inspire
What can they avail to assuage my desire?

... There ought to be more, and I'll have to tighten up the meter (or maybe not!) but it occasioned this next long-lost, long-awaited little verse--- which is quite insufficient, given how long it took, I'm sure; which also fits the preceeding theme.

A Short Verse

The neighborhood children make dandelion bunches
With interspersed clovers and shamrocks assorted
For innocent sweethearts and mothers seraphic,
While running the fields where they ate picnic lunches.

Anyways. Now that we've got that out of the way... !

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Credit where due.

It seems to be working, again. Hooray!

Thanks, Gmail!

the gadfly

Monday, August 15, 2011

Harumph... please don't kill my accounts?

Dear Gmail Team,

I can't find your address, and you seem to have delegated the task of user support to supportive users, so... an open letter in the aether.

I don't know how or why you did it, but the physical keys ↑, ↓, Home, and End no longer produce any effect upon the gmail page, though mouse-fiddling the scrollbar does what it should. This is, as I'm sure you understand, annoying as an inaccessible mosquito bite. For reference purposes, I'm using a 6.0 Firefox browser within a linux-based X.Org environment -- not that those last two points should matter.

Please fix.

a user who tries to be knowledgeable

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Enough Muddling

Your Majesty,

--- and all ye younger majesties heir to the body, hearken and take note --- I don't often question your wisdom in matters of your own craft, but I weep to think whatever on earth can be holding your wrath in restraint at this moment.

Your civilian police are effectively on strike; your parliament and prime-minister are in revolt (and quite possibly have even lost their pragmatic get-re-elected sense), and an uncomfortably large segment of your subjects have gleefully lost all self-control. If the rain does not fall soon (rorate coeli desuper!) to quell these flames, it will be to your greater ignominy and imperial humiliation if you do not risk physical humiliation and lead your cavalry in containing the wanton burglary, theft, and destruction that are even now entertaining so many stupid and cruel urchins. They desperately needed their mother or grandmother to step in and give them a proper scolding! And since their natural mothers and grandmothers seem also to have quit, gradually we find the need devolves up to the head of the First Family --- the Royal family. That is, your majesty, you.

I see today the prime-minister has sought the counsel of a non-subject who says "thugs must be taught to fear the Police"; certainly that will be a necessary first step, but really, these thugs must be taught to love their neighbor. This means they must be taught that their neighbors are lovable; this they will not learn if you, their mother-in-figure, do not act to protect their neighbors from wild stupidity.

Humbly yours,
A colonial observer

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sanity is a wonderful thing, yes?

Dear Gil,

Such a wonderful thing, that I'll not think too much about it, just now (it's too good to contemplate closely, if you know what I mean?) but celebrate a particular instance of sane writing, in this case by the authoring of one Rob Schneiderman. It has, as is (alas!) all-too-necessary, a tone edging on polemical; but it reads nicely for all that and is just so delightfully chock-a-block with common sense.

The thing is presented as a PDF, by the American Mathematical Society here, called "Can One Hear The Sound of a Theorem". This is a play, at the very least, on famous old analysis papers, titled "Can One Hear the Shape of a ..." --- "Bell" and "Drum" have both appeared, but there may be others. (In case you're interested, the answer in the "Drum" case is "Yes, if..."; such answers are annoyingly frequent in analysis.)

I can't help but wonder if the mischievous Hoftsadter isn't indirectly resposible for some of the nonsense fried up in the present article, what with his Crab reading squiggles as beautiful music (or bad) that Achiles thought were arrithmetic theorems (or wrong ... or nonsense); they were prevented by tea-house etiquette from playing the Goldbach Conjecture to see what it sounded like. I thought old Douglas had clearly meant it as a joke, you know? But, anyway...

Won't you drop by for tea, some time?

some sort of chap

Monday, August 1, 2011

An opposite limit theorem

This is something that those who ought to know these things usually do know, and eventually figure out in any case. So if it isn't usually part of your work to know these things, don't fret; I really ought to have learned it much sooner!

Suppose $D$ is a category with a terminal object, say $z$, and let $F:D\to C$ be any functor. Then the natural transformation $F0 : F\to Fz$ is initial among the category of objects $x$ of $C$ with natural transformations $F\to x$.

That is all.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Samuel Clemens once quipped...

So, I live in a region which is laughably called the "temperate zone". The name must have been invented in Southern England. Anyways, what this means is that we get all sorts of horrible for our weather (or we like to think so... or it comforts our frailty to 'brag as though that were so) whereas people in more "extreme" places only get one or two sorts of horrible --- desert heats, or monsoon half the year, or glaciers... A friend has reminded me that this means we don't get those noxious toxic tropical insects: it's too complicated for them. I might counter that Monarch Butterflies spend more than half their lives as tropical insects, but they're so pretty it doesn't matter.

Anyways, all that is preface or context for

\mathrm{XXI} &\mbox{Rain, in proportion}\\
\mathrm{XXII} & \mbox{Wind, with or without bicycle}\\
\mathrm{XXIII} & \mbox{Electricity}\\
\mathrm{XXIV} & \mbox{Devices that exploit [23] to effect [22]}\\
\mathrm{XXV} & \mbox{Night quiet}

Saturday, July 16, 2011

With all due deference

Dear Prof. Zmirak,

I have not a whole lot to say, against Austrian Economics generally, or Roepke's writings specifically, or any of that; but I will raise my concern now about the well-foundedness of the "price system", what I'd prefer to call the Monetary Standard: as with all things democratic, it's only as smart as the average vote, and people both rich and poor can be terribly stupid. Not only is "the last whiskey you're willing to pay for" often much too late to stop buying whiskey. Furthermore, as with all things democratic, nobody really knows enough to make infomed judgments about what the next or last whiskey or mobile phone service plan or college application or mortgage really costs him, before he's had it and waked up again the next morning, or until all the peripheral missed opportunities and consequences have echoed around him again. So how can he tell if 5€ really is not too much?

As examples of things which would cost far too much even if you were paid to take them with you, which yet seem to move lots of money around, here is a very short list:

  • recreational opiates

  • pornography

  • idle speech

  • Anyways, there we are. As Churchill said of democracy, it might well be the worst system imaginable, except for all the rest.

    A Subsidiarist

    Sunday, July 10, 2011

    Totally Weird

    echo >& /dev/null <<eof

    Poking, in a self-indulgent way, through recent blog visitor statistics, it seems that during the recent scribal torpor ("hiatus" sounds like something a TV network or production studio would plan--- planning is beyond me, on this blog) perhaps half of my visitors come from websites that sell useless and/or imaginary things. OK, so maybe I'm a bit rough with my sarcasm; sarcasm is easy, on the internet, after all! Nonetheless, I've a sneaking suspicion that someone is investing modest ammounts of website design and traffic redirection to collect the attention of lonely amateur blogifiers skimming through their traffic statistics... a new a subtle form of spam designed to prey upon the incautious and/or self-alienated-and-inclined-to-intelectual pride? Or is it just that the internet is alive and stupid? I don't know. It makes me wonder how many cloudy terminals out there have fake PhDs awarded by fake schools? And how many of those bought their dissertation essays from web-enabled "editing" firms using phfished-out credit card numbers?

    If the internet could speak, would it have troche fixation?

    anyways, sleep well.


    Sunday, June 19, 2011

    Let the battle be joined!

    The unwittingly opposed camps:

    Dr. Thursday
    Abstract Type.

    confundituri te saluant!

    a pilgrim programmer

    Monday, June 13, 2011

    Wild conjecture

    Dear Pundits,

    I heard that The Trump Suit isn't running; some silly people thought it was because The Barak made nasty jokes about him at that commedy show, and the Trump Suit, like a grizzly bopped on the nose, ran off into the forest. I think he was paid off.

    Some other silly people thought The Trump Suit would have made an exemplary incorrupt President, because he was already so absurdly wealthy that he couldn't be bribed. Behold how ridiculous the proposition is: The Trump Suit has, by his extreme wealth and conspicuous consumption, demonstrated that he is eminently buyable; the whole premise of The Apprentice is that The Trump Suit doesn't receive you into his employ: he hands you kick-backs, if you're the toughest publican in the bunch.

    So, I'm willing to bet one cold potato's digital photograph that The Trump Suit figured it was a better deal to mind his own household, and enjoy the happenstance of whatever November next year may bring.

    a foreigner

    Saturday, June 4, 2011

    A World of Writing

    Dear Lindsay,

    Inspired by your reported dreams and successes in the strange-pen world, I went to that famousest internet auctions clearinghouse to see what they might have in the way of glass pens; and I've come accross something very strange!

    WHY, do you suppose, are there so many venetian-made glass pens in East Asia?

    That is all.

    God bless,
    much too tactile for six words

    Wednesday, June 1, 2011

    Where does money come from?

    Dear Prof. Smith,

    The most honest answer is, of course, that we made it up. In other words, it is a creature --- a creature of Man. As such, it certainly has no life: breath, nor sight, nor hearing --- though we may give it mouth and eyes and ears in the form of Her Majesty's likeness. And of course, we don't even pretend anymore that any money has intrinsic value. So, alright, there is paper backed by metal-stock, there are title deeds for plots of land, and so forth. But the primary business of "business" in the British Imperial Diaspora is usually conducted, measured, and reported, (for taxation purposes) in units of some local currency.

    Last time I wrote, I alluded to professional and trade unions, strike and other pressure tactics, which have as final cause that "whoever has accepted responsibility for paying them [agree] to pay them more. Whatever that means." The charitable view of strike/work pressure is that for whatever reason, the workers of some trade or profession generally aren't able to live in "becoming dignity according to their state in life", and a re-negotiation of working/contracting terms is wanted so as to correct that. The charitable view of employers' not paying more than they do for needed labour would be that they honestly don't have the extra money to spend. But it's worth-while asking what does it mean to pay people more?

    Saturday, May 7, 2011

    Who is your audience?

    Dear Self,

    I think you're mostly writing for yourself. Indeed, I can't think of anyone who more enjoys reading your various silly notes than you do yourself. (Cf. Michael Flanders, introducing his Mozart without an horn). The only thing, then, to wonder is whether that's really quite proper? Is it cricket?

    I'm sure most bloggers, of the ammateur sort at least, reach some point of wondering whether they are writing only for themselves or for their readers. But, if I may say so, you've fallen into the particular habit of writing not for anyone. Sure, that's the "gimick", the blog-line "letters to ... no-one in particular". Even if the address is to various and no-one in particular, the writing ought to be for someone. It needs both an ad and an ut. You might do well for ad now and then, but the ut needs more focus!

    I hope this has been helpful. In any case, I remain, in friendship,


    Sunday, April 24, 2011

    Vere surrexit!

    Re. Daffodils

    Dear Folk,

    Paul has been a gentleman, and on Vigil Day posted some stuff like this:

    Of course, it's just right for Easter Season, so with that, Happy Easter to you all!

    God Bless,

    another one practising for sainthood

    Thursday, April 21, 2011

    The Sci-Fi Coolness Test

    Dear Gene,

    Don't correct me if I'm wrong, because you know I'm not... Does anyone --- can anyone possibly --- believe that, in a Star Trek future, anyone in The Federation would practise/use abortion?

    I can hear McCoy --- or Dr. Hologram --- objecting "I'm a doctor, not a butcher."

    Of course they wouldn't. There isn't an economy anymore (OK, there's a black market that hangs out at Quark's on DS9...) because it isn't necessary for universal prosperity; so there's no poverty, either. There's a marvelous array of non-addictive drugs that dull pain but won't interfere with motor-control or kinesthetic sense, so no-one's afraid of delivery. And the same super-fancified medical care available also means no-one worries about whether their kid is born missing an arm, or with trisomy-21, or... because they'll have what they need to care for and mittigate those difficulties. And let's not forget that babies are cool!. Not least cool are those klingon-romulan-human-bajoran-descended babies who give clear witness to the oft-ignored fact that all sapient life is made in the image and likeness of God, and that the salvation of all of them was purchased by God-made-flesh one Friday Afternoon some two thousand orbits since on a molten-rocky planet about a main-sequence star of 1/20 the mass of those stars bound for black-hole status.

    OK, so perhaps ST hasn't always imagined a perfect universe of perfect people. That's OK, because people aren't perfect: they are fallen. Thoroughly Utopian visions are not science fiction, but userpers of Heaven. And, for sure, we don't see nearly enough of Riker's ill-gotten brood anywhere --- but, again, think of all the young'uns we do see!

    You just know it's true.

    With fond memories

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011

    On Man's First Office

    Dear Auntie's readers and nephews and nieces,

    I am a Christian --- in fact, I hold to the universal and apostolic faith of the first Christians, which is to say I am a Catholic (from the Greek, in latin letters "kata-" and "holos"; think of "catastrophe"--- all tumbled about --- and "holographic" --- the whole picture); this has probably been made obvious before, but it bears mentioning.

    For the record, I don't at all mind being (called) a Latin Rite Catholic, because I am. I'm also trying to shore-up my scant Latin.

    My objection to the conjunction "Conservative Catholic" (or "Liberal Catholic") is that they start as lies. "Liberal", in the mouth of a "Coservative" is meant to be an insult synonymous with "libertine", and second cousin to "libertarian". "Conserative", spoken by a "Liberal" means "much-too-conservative" --- unimaginative and unforgiving. Making them names for mutually-opposed groups of people disguises the fact that the Church teaches all Catholics to conserve the sacred traditions handed on to us from our ancestors in the faith, and also to liberally share with our neighbors in need that wherewith God has blessed us in plenty --- e.g. in spiritual and coroporal works of mercy.

    Understandably, it's helpful --- as Ms. White emphasizes --- to distinguish between the distinct; on the other hand, it is creatures that most need names, not delusions1. And this is why, in the documents of the various Church councils up to Concilium Vaticanii I you will find

    Any who teaches that the Holy Trinity is made of chocolate LET HIM BE ANATHEMA.

    Any who teaches that even moderate enjoyment of chocolate is inherently inimical to salvation LET HIM BE ANATHEMA.

    That is, particular errors are first defined (described plainly) and then condemned.
    The councils and creeds and canons and anathemas have a technical language, but it doesn't become a jargon --- the words are used to be precise, not to be obscure or lazy; and so we don't find anything like

    Pelagians are wrong.


    Anyone who agrees with Pelagius is wrong.
    Instead, we would read of anyone who might teach that "men are saved and justified solely through their own personal good works or by the own merit", that such folk are teaching error, they are a scandal to the faithful, and for the good of their faith all faithful must have no dealings with such folk until they recant and correct their teaching.

    Some years ago, a friend I haven't seen in a long time argued that the now-disused so-called Anti-Modernist Oath had been a mistake in the first place because it condemned a collection of errors that no person had ever held altogether --- that is, he saw it as defining a creed which as an assemblage was to be condemned --- and which had never had any adherents. This struck me as odd then, and now I can hypothesize that he was distracted by the parenthetical "modernist" label, and answer that modernism as a movement may never have existed in the form of adhering to all of such-and-such errors, but such and such errors had severally become fashionable, and in all cases motivated by a desire for modernitas, of wrongly wanting to update something that was inherently eternal. Because there had been found several ways for modernizing desires to fall into error, it was convenient in the Scholastic sense to condemn the several sorts of error. To say that the oath was to reject a belief called modernism is as much to mistake the Councils of Nicaea I and Constantinople I as rejecting Arianism as the errors of Arius. rather than as errors. Instead, the canonical form might have allowed Arius to repent and recant, had he accepted such grace.

    That's all I have right now.

    a taxonomist of errors

    1: not being psychiatrists, we are not making a study of delusions; we are distinguishing them from creatures.

    Sunday, April 3, 2011

    Interesting to note

    Dear Christian,

    Fr. Homilist today remarked on Our Lord's revelation and veiling today --- acts of the Divine Goodness, appearing contrary, but each suited to our needs.

    I think it's a nifty observation that in today's Gospel (EF calendar) in fact we see the fulfilment of two petitions from Our Lord's Prayer: give us this day our daily bread --- the feeding of the multitudes --- and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil --- seeing they are in danger of a great sacrilege, He removes the immediate temptation of His presence.

    Let us never give up hope that God fulfils His promises to us!

    Your brother in Christ

    Wednesday, March 30, 2011

    At the gate.

    A spot in Middle Earth, eh?


    There might be much to say about Dor Firn-i-Guinar --- the "Land of the Dead that Live" a name that should resound in the hearts of all werewolves --- only we don't hear much about it as a place beyond that there are Ents living nearby at the time. I'd very much like to do a post about a spot I can only call Annon Torech Ungol, which I wrote about obliquely here, and Meredith here. Alas, I haven't got that volume handy just now.

    So I'll have to try at two snatched hints at the texts... I've read it too often, but I can't be sure of memory!

    `"Now where's that Gollum got off to? I used to think he was after food, but I don't think that can be the case here. Not unless there's some sort of rock he fancies." ...

    `Frodo laughed; such a sound as had not been heard in that part of the world since ... Sam was suddenly quiet, worried almost as if the very stones had ears. But Frodo laughed again ...

    ... someone else will have to supply the precise words, if they like. Now, it's bad enough that the place would be lifeless in itself, But can you imagine? Somewhere no-one had ever laughed? And this is also a much-used highway. There are tales of doomed prisonners cheering eachother with jokes at Auschwitz and Dachau. In this place, it was Frodo and Sam.

    That's my locus.


    I've got my book back, and here are the proper texts:

    In a dark crevice between two great piers of rock they sat down: ...
    [Sam:] 'There's a wicked feeling about this place.' He sniffed. 'And a smell, I fancy. Do you notice it? A queer kind of smell, stuffy. I don't like it.'

    'I don't like anything here at all,' said Frodo, 'step or stone, breath or bone. Earth, air and water all seem accursed. But so our path is laid.'

    '... I wonder if we shall ever be put into songs or tales. We're in one, of course; but I mean: put into words, you know, told by the fireside, or read out of a great big book with red and black letters, years and years afterwards. And people will say: "Let's hear about Frodo and the Ring!" and they'll say "Yes, that's one of my favourite stories. Frodo was very brave, wasn't he, dad?" " Yes, my boy, the famousest of hobbits, and that's saying a lot."'

    'It's saying a lot too much,' said Frodo, and he laughed, a long clear laugh from his heart. Such a sound had not been heard in those places since Sauron came to middle-earth. To Sam suddenly it seemed as if all the stones were listening and the tall rocks leaning over them. But Frodo did not heed them; he laughed again. ...

    ... 'You and I, Sam, are still stuck in the worst places of the story, and it is all too likely that some will say that this point: "Shut the book now, dad; we don't want to read any more."'

    'Maybe.' said Sam, 'but I wouldn't be one to say that. Things done and over and made into part of a the great tales are different. Why, even Gollum might be good in a tale, ...

    'Gollum!," he called. 'Would you like to be the hero---now where's he got to again? There was no sign of him...

    'I don't like his sneaking off without saying,' said Sam. 'And least of all now. He can't be looking for food up here, not unless there's some kind of rock he fancies. Why, there isn't even a bit of moss!'

    Goodness me! but it's quite a bit thicker, what with trying to keep enough of the structure/context. I particularly like the internal contrast with a cozy fireplace; you might think it made the present place feel more desolate, but I find it actually softens the mood. It is as if our hobbit heroes actually conjure up some coziness for themselves with these innocent diversions.

    Saturday, March 5, 2011

    So, you're wasting time with the internet...

    (If you're here, you must be!)
    ... and this Batty fellow keeps intruding with things you tried to forget that you never learned because of how terribly dull your course on matrices in linear algebra was, or is...

    So, yeah, I do topology. In fact, algebraic topology. One of the things I like about algebraic topology is that sometimes you get to draw nice pictures. OK, so I can't draw worth your trouble, but it's fun anyways. Maybe Emacs or someone will make better pictures.

    One more nifty thing about the pictures you can draw in topology is that they're useful for other parts of math, too, like group theory. And this is a big deal! There are some Nice and Easy-to-Describe topological spaces that "know" how to calculate things that we can't calculate. This is part of what makes algebraic topology difficult, but also part of why it's exciting. And if we're lucky, sometimes they give us help understanding the things we can calculate. In particular, being able to describe a calculation by drawing a picture can help us lots.

    That's my introduction to

    Friday, February 25, 2011

    ... all that is stippled, flickered, (who knows how!)

    Some musings.

    A while ago one of my pseudonyms signed under a comment at Dr. Thursday's, asking what he had to say about GKC's use of the words "type" and "typical", which I don't think I quite understand; and I don't really expect I'll get a suitable answer, but I thought I'd share some other English words which it turns out have a common root --- you will see a family resemblance, I'm sure.
    dappled timbrel
    thumping tambour
    stump type
    timpani tamp
    stippled stamp
    I'm half-wondering whether children of tango/-ere/tetigi/tactus belong on the list; Lewis says it belongs to [TAG-] while indicating tympanum as a Greek loan word.

    Anyway, three of these are drums, and one is one way to deal with a drum. Two or three may be controversial (I'm all about the sounds; the history, not so much... but I *think* it works, poetically at least --- oh, can someone tell me if German «glück» "(good) luck" and Greek «γλυκυς» "sweet/sugary" are related at all?)

    Approaching this family from the perspective of "type", I was rather intrigued by how active the rest of the set are. A type --- sometimes also called a figure in the Douay-Rheims translation --- can be both a form/pattern and the impression made by such. Whereas a figure, an appearance or face ("la figure" en français, des fois) can sensibly be an interpretation or an artistic rendering or schematic diagram, type by contrast emphasizes an active and tactile connection, contact between the cast and the casting, the press and the impression.

    The other interesting news that came out of this particular word-wander was a contention that Guttenberg's most important contribution to the art wasn't so much movable type --- reusable bits of typeface --- as the hand mold, used to quickly cast new pieces of lead typeface (Does "type-cast" mean something else to you?). Someone else can look into "font" and "foundry". I've been typing enough, now, about it.

    Monday, February 7, 2011

    Ich verstehe das nicht

    Dear Advertiser,

    Alas, I read none of pashtun, farsi, arabic, or syriac; never mind whether I could distinguish among them, or how different they'd look to you. You might also guess by my institutional IP address that I don't have much disposable income at the moment, however much folk like me may enjoy spending. Altogether, there's not much point. I shall be asking Mary to pray for you.

    an urban scholar

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011

    ... propter magnam gloriam...

    Most excellent Theophilus,

    I submit for your diligent consideration

    \mathrm{XVI} &\mbox{safe travels}\\
    \mathrm{XVII} & \mbox{safe returning}\\
    \mathrm{XVIII} & \mbox{familiar faces}\\
    \mathrm{XIX} & \mbox{cozy blankets}\\
    \mathrm{XX} & \mbox{all that tells God's glory}

    Thursday, January 27, 2011

    On The Incarnation

    Probably (hopefully!) there's nothing new here. But I wanted to make a legible note of it, just because...

    The text I'm considering is from Genesis (stick with me): "Let us make Man in our own image". Lots has already been said about this, for instance "God is King of all creation: what does a King do to signify conquest? He erects a statue of himself". I don't remember my source for that line of reasoning --- and it's a paraphrase, of course. There's also Chesterton's observation (again, paraphrasing) "Men are indeed all like pennies; for their value in each case is exactly that they all bear the likeness of the King". In other words, God has put Men in the world at least partly as signs of His own kingship.

    My observation is that when God makes a sign, He also makes a real thing. (God creates by saying, His words become what they signify) Since God has made an image of himself, a sign pointing to Himself, it's a fair guess He's going to make good on the sign. All of which is just to suggest that the Incarnation was promised even from the sixth Day of Creation. So, that conversation was interrupted for a few generations, we all know the story.

    So it would seem that the Incarnation was foreseen and intended by God, from Creation, and its promise was revealed to the holy scribe and recorded in Genesis. ... I think. I will gladly defer to better learning on this matter.

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    A brief lesson in Parliamentary Democracy

    Dear Saskatchewan Premier, Justice Minister,

    The word you're likely looking for is "notwithstanding".

    a Catholic living elsewhere

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011

    For the benefit of Mr. Moore

    Dear George,

    It looks like it is snowing, but I'm not convinced.
    You might even say, it is snowing, and I don't believe that it's snowing. But, then, you always were easily conviewsed. And that's you, not me. Maybe: it's snowing, but I don't think it's really snowing. There are ants and ants, after all. Here are the former.

    Do you like my red herrings? As you can see, they are of mackerel dyed green.

    he must be mad