Wednesday, June 30, 2010

97 Years Later

The battle of Gettysburg is the battle with the largest number of casualties in the Civil war, and is considered its turning point. For three days General Meade and General Lee lead their armies on a series of engagements which resulted in 50,000 dead, wounded or missing. Even those who never heard of Pickett's Charge, Culp's Hill, or the Devil's Den can recite the introduction of President Lincoln's address "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

Last October our Boy Scout Troop was fortunate enough to be allowed to camp on the battle field of Gettysburg. For two days we hiked the paths of union and confederate soldiers, learning the details of the battle and the deeds of those who planned and fought it. Although I have never been a history buff, I was fascinated by what I learned.

The image on the right is a statue on that battlefield, of Father William Corby, CSC, who who is depicted here giving general absolution to the Irish brigade fighting on the second day of that battle. This statue was the first statue of a non-general erect on the site of the battle of Gettysburg. Father Corby survived the battle and went on to be president of Notre Dame University, twice.

Of course that battle took place 147 years ago, on July 1, 1863. 97 years ago, however, there was a 50th reunion of the battle, of which there exists video footage!

That reunion is also describe here by Calvin Johnson Jr.:

The summer heat of July 1913 did not keep the old Confederate and Union Veterans from attending the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. It has been written that over 50,000 sons of the North and South came for what has been called the largest combined reunion of War Between the States veterans.

The youngest veteran was reported to be 61 and the oldest was 112 years young.

No one dared to criticize the United States and Confederate flags that flew side by side at the Gettysburg soldier’s reunion of honored men who had been enemies on the field of battle just 50 years earlier. Some of today’s politicians and people’s rights groups could learn something from these grand old men of yesterday. Knowledge is Power!!

The State of Pennsylvania hosted the 1913 reunion at the insisting of state Governor John K. Tener. Tener also encouraged other states to arrange rail transportation for the participants. Down South in Dixie, the United Daughters of the Confederacy helped raise money for the transportation and uniforms for their Confederate veterans.

The soldiers of Blue and Gray, Black and White, came with heads high and full of war stories. It is written that the hosts did not count on Black Confederates attending the meeting and had no place to put them but the White Confederates made room for their Southern brothers. Black Union veterans also attended this event.

It is written that nearly 700,000 meals were served that included fried chicken, roast pork sandwiches, ice cream and Georgia watermelon. The temperature soared to 100 degrees and almost 10,000 veterans were treated for heat exhaustion and several hundred more were hospitalized. The United States Army was also present in support and the old men loved the attention.

A highlight of the reunion was the Confederate Veterans walk on the path of Gen. George Pickett’s charge that was greeted, this time, by a handshake from the Union Veterans.

President Woodrow Wilson spoke to those veterans with compassion and appreciation, and said, quote “These venerable men crowding here to this famous field have set us a great example of devotion and utter sacrifice. They were willing to die that the people might live. But their task is done. Their day is turned into evening. They look to us to perfect what they have established. Their work is handed to us, to be done in another way but not in another spirit. Our day is not over; it is upon us in full tide.” Unquote

These men of Blue and Gray are gone but let’s never forget them. God Bless!!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Precious Blood

Once again a group of us on plurk decided to blog on the same topic. Since this Sunday is the first Sunday in July, and the first Sunday in July is the feast of the Precious Blood, naturally the topic is the Precious Blood.

The others who blogged on this topic include Pennyante's "Our Blood is Precious", Snupnjake's "Reflections on the Precious Blood", cuaguys's "The precious Blood - a Lost Feast" and Joe's "The Most Precious Blood of Jesus Christ" and Joe of St. Thérèse's "The Month of the Precious Blood of Christ".

I didn't choose the topic. I know little about the Precious Blood, and until this topic was suggested was ignorant even of the feast day itself. I could whine on and on about being a poorly catechized cradle Catholic, but let's face it; at my age I deserve the responsibility for my own (lack of) education.

So I did what any good Catholic would do, I googled the term, and then waded through the mass of vile hatred, anti-Catholic rhetoric, satanic videos, vampire references, etc. to try to find a Catholic site with information. As usual, New Advent comes to the rescue. Sadly, I am no theologian, and words like "hypostatic union", while I understand vaguely what they mean, don't really give me a good grasp of the topic. What I did get were some good references to scripture passages and some understanding of the Precious Blood:
The blood of our Divine Saviour. Jesus, at the Last Supper, ascribes to it the same life-giving power that belongs to His flesh (see EUCHARIST). The Apostles, St. Peter (1 Peter 1:2, 19), St. John (1 John 1:7; Apocalypse 1:5  etc.), and above all St. Paul (Romans 3:25; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:10) regard it as synonymous with Jesus's Passion and Death, the source of redemption
It may also like the Heart or the Wounds  from which it flowed, be singled out for special honour, in a way that special honour  was rendered it from the beginning by St. Paul and the Fathers who so eloquently praised its redeeming virtue and rested on it the Christian spirit  of self-sacrifice.
New Advent also has the history of the feast day at

For many dioceses  there are two days to which the Office  of the Precious Blood has been assigned, the office being in both cases the same. The reason  is this: the office was at first granted to the Fathers  of the Most Precious Blood only. Later, as one of the offices of the Fridays  of Lent, it was assigned to the Friday after the fourth Sunday in Lent. In many dioceses these offices were adopted also by the fourth Provincial Council of Baltimore  (1840). When Pius IX went into exile at Gaeta (1849) he had as his companion the saintly Don Giovanni Merlini, third superior general of the Fathers of the Most Precious Blood. Arrived at Gaeta, Merlini  suggested that His Holiness make a vow to extend the feast of the Precious Blood to the entire Church if he would again obtain possesion of the papal dominions. The pope took the matter under consideration, but a few days later sent his domestic prelate Jos. Stella  to Merlini with the message: "The pope does not deem it expedient to bind himself by a vow; instead His Holiness is pleased to extend the feast immediately to all Christendom". This was 30 June, 1849, the day the French  conquered Rome  and the republicans capitulated. The thirtieth of June had been a Saturday  before the first Sunday  of July, wherefore the pope decreed  (10 August, 1849) that henceforth every first Sunday of July should be dedicated to the Most Precious Blood.
Of course, this blog is "What Does Mike think?" not "What Can Mike Find on Google". For me, there are two aspects of the Precious Blood, which are identical in efficacy, but widely different in my experience.

First, there is a physical substance of the blood of Our Lord, shed during His passion and crucifixion. I was able to see a replica of the Shroud of Turin in Philadelphia last month, and the most striking thing about it, to me, was not the "image" of Christ that appears on the cloth, but the blood stains everywhere. The image at the top right of this post is a photo I took of the shroud showing the bloodstains on the back from scourging. I don't know if the cloth is actually the burial cloth of Christ (that's a subject for another blog post) but I'd like to think it is, and whether or not it is, the blood stains that I saw are a solemn reminder of Christ's love for us. To think of anyone, let alone the creator of the universe, going through that suffering and humiliation, to the death, because He loved me is just so awesomely, fearfully humbling I can't even find the words to describe it.

The other aspect of the Precious Blood is something I experience every week (or more often). At mass, the priest speaks the words of institution:
Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.
When I was growing up nobody but the priest actually drank the Precious Blood. If I remember correctly, it wasn't until I was on retreat in high school that we were given Communion under both species (the Body and Blood of Christ). I envisioned the Apostles doing the same thing in the early church. To me, the act of receiving Communion in this way seems more "vivid" than receiving just the host, because while the host is flat and nearly flavorless, the wine fills your mouth and nose with sensations. It is a very clear "knock you over the head" sort of way to receive Christ.

Today our parish distributes Communion under both species routinely. I find that I often forgo receiving the Precious Blood, not because I don't want it, but because I don't want it to become "routine" - I like the "treat" of receiving it occasionally. It reminds me of that high school retreat, and of the Apostles, and Christ Himself in a special way.

Ironically, when my children prepared for First Holy Communion, they were not taught about nor introduced to the wine. I think this was a big mistake, because they are curious about it. Even if they were not offered Communion under both species at their First Communion (and they were), it would have prepared them for receiving it later. My 9 year old, to this day, will not receive the Precious Blood. He often has "trouble" with new foods that he tries and needs to spit them out. He is worried that the taste of the wine might be something he can't tolerate and doesn't want to risk it with the Precious Blood of Christ. At some point we will have to get some wine similar to what is used in our parish and let him taste it to see, but we haven't done so yet. It would have been much simpler if they had done that in class.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Think think think

...and the first person he though of was...

Winnie the Pooh?

No, General McCrystal. Does anyone but me think that this is all too convenient (for someone). I'm not sure if he ruffled Obama to get reassigned or if Obama decided to become ruffled to pick a new general, or both, but it's fishy.

In other news, a South African doctor invents a condom with "teeth". Finally a condom whose use is not immoral. I wonder how effective it would be, though, since rape is generally about violence more than sex. I would think a rapist caught in that trap would murder the rape victim. I am also dubious about the claim that it requires a doctor to remove it. I can't imagine that it could not be cut off.

In a stunning example of government gone wrong California license plates may go digital. What's the benefit? advertising dollars for the state. What's the down side? Cost, for drivers, for the initial plates, and for replacing them when they break in fender benders, get caught on curbs, get hit with items being put in the trunk, etc. Oh, and let's not forget the cost of batteries, and the extra toxins that will go into landfills. Not to mention whether or not it is even constitutional for a government to require citizens to advertise for third parties. What happens when an atheist's license plate displays an ad for a mega church? I can see the lawyers getting rich already.

speaking of government gone wrong and constitutions, the senate committee has approved the "Internet kill switch" bill. Words fail me. Some points of interest in the bill:
These emergency measures will expire after 30 days unless the President orders an
Oh, well, that makes it all right - as long as the president has to issue an order every 30 days he can control the Internet all he wants. Also
The Act will provide liability protections to owners/operators that comply
with the new risk-based security requirements.
So now the government is the insurer of private businesses as well.  I encourage you to read the bill. There's much more insanity than I can convey here. The amazing thing is that nobody's running down the streets with pitchforks about this.

No blog post is complete without some "nucular" stuff. I came across this article about a Brooklyn man who built a homemade fusion reactor. I read about fusors before. Remember Philo T. Farnsworth? The boy who invented TV in the 1920s? Even less well known is that he invented a fusion reactor in the 1960s.

For those not familiar with fusion, it all starts with Einstein's famous E = MC2. That is, energy and mass are equivalent. It turns out if you break apart an atom into protons, neutrons, and electrons, and put them together again in a different configuration, you can turn one element into another, and the new configuration has a slightly different mass than the old one. The difference in mass becomes energy. Iron and its neighboring elements have the lowest mass configuration, so you can get energy either by breaking up a heavier element into something smaller (which is called fission) or squishing two or more lighter elements into a heavier one (which is called fusion).

"Normal" nuclear reactors are fission reactors, and break uranium and its neighbors into lighter elements. The fusor takes deuterium, which is a kind of hydrogen and turns it into the next heavier element, helium. What's cool about the fusor is that it can be built with "common" items, since it doesn't need any restricted or exotic materials to make it work. Don't start looking for a fusion powered car just yet, though. The fusor is a laboratory experiment, and it takes more energy to make it run than is produced by the fusion inside it. If I had infinite time and money a fusor is one of the first things I'd play with, though.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Apologetics 101

I'm sure you heard the McChrystal brew-ha-ha by now. I read the article in Rolling Stones and I have to say I don't get it. I can't believe Obama would be offended by McChrystal saying he "thought Obama looked 'uncomfortable and intimidated'" and that he "he didn't seem very engaged", to the point of saying "all options are on the table" despite McChrystal's apology; and yet instantly and offhandedly accept Harry Reid's apology for his comments about Obama being "light skinned" and "with no Negro dialect".

It seems the news is full of apologies involving Obama and his administration. So I did some googling and came up with a short list:

I'm sure there are more apologies out there - I only googled the ones I could remember. This might just be the sorriest administration in American history. I know I'm sorry.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Not with a bang...

Are you scared yet? As our American rights are slowly eroded away...I find myself (oddly) on the side of Justice Sotomayor.

Yahoo! news reports "High court upholds anti-terror law prized by Obama":
WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court upheld the government's authority Monday to ban aid to designated terrorist groups, even when that support is intended to steer the groups toward peaceful and legal activities.
The aid groups were only challenging provisions that put them at risk of being prosecuted for talking to terrorist organizations about nonviolent activities.
The court often looks skeptically on laws that criminalize speech and holds them to a high level of scrutiny. But Roberts said there is good reason in this case to defer to Congress and the president, "uniquely positioned to make principled distinctions between activities that will further terrorist conduct and undermine United States foreign policy, and those that will not." [emphasis mine - I wonder what "principles" they will employ in those decisions?]
Justice Stephen Breyer took the unusual step of reading his dissent aloud in the courtroom. "Not even the 'serious and deadly problem' of international terrorism can require automatic forfeiture of First Amendment rights," he said. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor joined the dissent.
David Cole, a Georgetown law professor who represented the aid groups at the Supreme Court, said the court essentially ruled that "the First Amendment permits the government to make human rights advocacy and peacemaking a crime."
So now the federal government can decide what groups we can talk to, even if that speech is about peacemaking. I'm all for not helping terrorist groups, but one should be able to provide humanitarian aid and investigate human rights without fear of prosecution. As Justice Breyer states in his dissent, we cannot let our fears cause us to throw away our rights.

I guess I'd better pay Peter's Pence now, before the feds decide I don't have the right to.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

What Dad's Can't Do

I'm shamelessly taking the idea of posting this video from Mommy Life.

I guess writing our own Father's Day blog post is something else we can't do. :-D

Happy Father's Day!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

How not to win

Once upon a time, there were three congressional candidates; a republican, a democrat, and an independent. It was an election year and the three candidates all wanted to win. One day they went out into the wood, campaigning door to door.

Along came a voter named Vince. Vince was a good man. Vince took a look at the candidates' platforms. Vince thought the republican position on certain issues was too hard. He found the democratic position to be too soft. The independent's position was just right.

Suddenly there was a knock on Vince's door. It was the democrat. "How have you decided to vote?" asked the friendly democrat.

"I was thinking of the independent" replied Vince.

"Oh, you don't want to do that" warned the democrat. "If you vote for him it will split the democratic vote and the republican will win. You don't like the republican, do you?" Wince admitted that he did not, and the democrat left, whistling a happy tune.

A short time later there was another knock at the door. It was the republican. "Have you decided who to vote for?" inquired the republican.

"I was thinking of the independent" replied Vince.

"Oh, you don't want to do that" offered the republican. "If you vote for him it will split the republican vote and the democrat will win. You don't like the democrat, do you?" Wince admitted that he did not, and the republican left, humming a happy tune.
A while later there was another knock at the door. It was the independent . "Have you decided who to vote for?" inquired the independent.

"Well" replied Vince, "I'd like to vote for you but I can't, because if I do a republican or a democrat will win instead."

A while ago I was listening to the Life Report podcast, and the topic of discussion was whether or not you would vote for a pro-life candidate if they were a third party candidate and both the republican and democratic candidates were pro-abortion. The general consensus was that if they voted for the pro-life candidate, that would weaken support for the "less pro-abortion" candidate and the "more pro-abortion" candidate would win. Therefore they would vote for a republican or democrat, even though the person were pro-abortion, and even though they had a perfectly good pro-life candidate to vote for.

After I untwisted my brain from trying to wrap it around that logic I penned them a long letter, and decided not to send it. Perhaps I should have, but it was apparent by the long and detailed discussion of the topic on the podcast that they thought they had thought of everything, and were not open to "new" ideas on the subject. And I can see how someone, like Vince, can be convinced that the logic makes sense.

My refutation is simply this. If you want "X" to happen, why would think the best way to get there is taking action that prevents "X" from happening? If you want to promote pro-life laws, why would you vote for a pro-abortion candidate? Yes, the candidate you want to win might not win, but they surely won't win if nobody votes for them. In addition, the fact that the candidate gets a percentage of the vote could cause whoever does win to evaluate their position on the issue.

The same faulty logic is used over and over again, to justify doing what we want to do instead of what we claim we want. "Everybody downloads music - the music companies even account for that in their pricing." The implication is that if I don't download illegal copies of music, I am somehow paying too much. Of course, if you don't want the music companies to build in a charge to cover their losses, the best way is not to steal the music, so they have no losses to cover. I can't make everyone stop illegal downloads, but I can control my own actions, and if I don't personally, what hope is there that the practice will stop?

If I want to live in a world without hate, without violence, without crime, how can my own hatred, violence, and crimes further my goals?

He doesn't like it...

...when you make Him look foolish. From Yahoo! news:

MONROE, Ohio – A six-story-tall statue of Jesus Christ with his arms raised along a highway was struck by lightning in a thunderstorm Monday night and burned to the ground, police said...

The lightning strike set the statue ablaze around 11:15 p.m., Monroe police dispatchers said.
The sculpture, 62 feet tall and 40 feet wide at the base, showed Jesus from the torso up and was nicknamed Touchdown Jesus because of the way his arms were raised, as though reaching out to catch a football. It was made of plastic foam and fiberglass over a steel frame, which is all that remained early Tuesday.
 I jest of course, but it was too good an opportunity to pass up.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Hello Goodbye

I have a bad reputation around the office. I go through office mates like some people go through tissues. Don't get me wrong. I don't do anything to try to make them go. In fact, I have enjoyed the company of each of them. Nor do they get fed up with me or anything, they just tend to get laid off, or resign, or leave the company for some other reason. Over the last few years there was Roy, then Ben, then Mohammad, all gone. After that I had an office to myself for a little while. Then came Isai, and then Bibo (who never even showed up), and last, Yitzi, who was there one day a week. Yitzi is unique in that he is still with the company, although he is at another location. Perhaps because he was only with me part time he survived.

Since then I've again had an office to myself. Until last week. My boss informed me that I would be getting a new office mate - Venu by name. He was with me for one day. The next day he called to say his mother was ill and he was taking off to take care of her. There was speculation that he was taking a day to check out another more tempting job offer. After three days of hearing nothing we called the firm through which we hired him. They heard nothing from him either. From what we've pieced together it seems it may be that his mother is sick and he went to care for her, but he forgot to mention that she is in India. Venu, wherever you are, I wish you well, and I'll say a prayer for your mother.

Friday, June 4, 2010

If I were Cary Grant

I happen to like "classic" movies. Not classic like Wall-E, but actually classic - movies that have stood the test of time for decades. Therefore, both my TiVo and Netflix queue are packed with the likes of Cary Grant, Barbara Stanwyck, Jimmy Stewart, Katherine Hepburn, Humphry Bogart, etc.

Tonight DW and I watched (part of) "In Name Only". [SPOILER ALERT] In the movie, Alec Walker (Cary Grant) is married to Maida (Kay Francis) who is a conniving shrew who married him for his (father's) money. He falls in love with young widowed mother Julie Eden (Carole Lombard), and a whole bunch of shenanigans occur to drive home the point that Maida is evil and Alec is therefore justified in carrying on an affair with Julie. Julie is an innocent, who fell for Alec before she knew he was married, and tries repeatedly to break it off, but Alec keeps stringing her along with promises of divorce and remarriage.

Although the movie paints Alec as the aggrieved party I can't find any sympathy for him. We learn that when he an Maida returned from their honeymoon, he received a letter from the mother of a gentleman who killed himself when Alec and Maida were married. In the note he explains how he loved Maida, but she left him for Alec's (father's) money. Alec kept the note secret for two years until he needs to force Maida to give him a divorce to marry Julie. So why not bring up this little matter right after the honeymoon and get an annulment based on Maida's false pretenses of marriage? Or if you're going to be married for years, be married. Instead Alec wants to have his cake and eat it too. In fact, they all behave like children except for Julie's little daughter, Ellen.

It's rare that I find myself hating Cary Grant. He's usually the nice guy in films. I suppose it's possible the writers of this film thought he was still playing a nice guy. On the other hand, it's not unusual I find myself disliking a movie for it's amoral (or immoral) proselytizing. The last movie I started was "The Sea Hawk", which is a 1940 anti-Nazi film set in the 16th century, with England playing the part of England, and Nazis being played by the Catholic Church. Not sure if I want to finish watching that one, despite Errol Flynn's swashbuckling performance.