Saturday, March 31, 2007

Homecoming

Via Rod Dreher, go see this video of a U.S. soldier coming home from Iraq and surprising his little boy at school. It had me in tears pretty fast. God bless them.

Surveying the revival

Fr. Martin Fox has been conducting an informal survey to find out what parishes are doing around the country:

Since my arrival in Piqua, one of the things I've asked parishioners to do is to include a bit of Latin in Mass; we've used the Latin Agnus Dei and Sanctus, and had an occasional hymn or other prayer in Latin. In conversations with the handful of parishioners who have expressed comments on this, I get the idea that they perceive this to be something very unusual; I suspect some may be saying, "but no one else is doing this."

In fact, quite a few parishes around the country are doing this sort of thing, and a lot more in this vein . . . Still, I got curious--just how many parishes are there, dabbling in this? Rather than wait for someone else to solicit the information, that's what I'm doing with this post...

Fr. Martin has around 250 responses of different churches so far, including one I've written about before (Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis) and a few in my diocese. I think it's incredibly encouraging to know that there are other parishes out there embracing a bit more of the beautiful traditional music instead of pop-rock OCP hymns. It's entirely possible to have a nice, reverent Novus Ordo Mass with proper music - it doesn't have to be a full old rite Mass, even if those are said occasionally in different churches as well - it just has to be approached with the right attitude. I hope we will continue to see more of this traditional revival.

Birds of paradise

This new BBC/Discovery Channel series "Planet Earth" is fantastic (except that they changed out David Attenborough, who also narrated the fantastic "Blue Planet" series, in favor of "conservationist" Sigourney Weaver - she's way too dry). If you didn't know nature invented the neon blue smiley face before, well, now you do. You have to watch this to the end:


Crazy Birds Island :p - Click here for another funny movie.

Just Google it

Interesting article in the Post the other day about how student research and writing are changing in an Internet world, with some of the negatives:

A few clicks on the computer and today's students find data that might have taken my 1980s college generation days or weeks to track down in a library. That may not necessarily be a good thing, because we may be developing the same kind of dependence that leads some to blame calculators for declining math skills . . . There is also the issue of plagiarism and cheating. When Duke University's Center for Academic Integrity (CAI) surveyed 12,000 college students and 18,000 high school students, roughly 40 percent of the college students and half the high school students indicated that they had cheated using online sources. This included such things as not citing those sources, purchasing exams and papers online, and cutting and pasting downloaded information. Exchanging e-mails about assignments that were not team projects was also cited as a less-than-kosher practice.

I feel like my generation is the last who will have grown up taught in school to do purely library-based research. Of course, people my age are young enough to have adapted seamlessly to the Internet as well as any teenager today, so we now do most personal and job research by Google (or Lexis, or Wikipedia) too, but we did used to know what card catalogs were, because that's all there was. Despite being completely comfortable with the Internet, people my age don't know how completely it has changed primary and secondary education, I think.

I do tend to believe that you have to know how to do at least some of the basics before you can use tools, as useful and practical as they may be. Kids ought to be drilled in basic math (times tables, etc.) before they're allowed to use calculators, even if they'll always have access to calculators in the corner of their computer screen, on the desk, or otherwise at hand. Likewise, I do think kids ought to know how to search for books in the library (computer card catalogs are fine here!) before they're allowed to Google their way to a paper. It teaches greater understanding of the underlying principles, helps you form good habits, and makes you not as dependent on the instant, pre-formulated answer. I think teachers are in a tough position today of figuring out how to truly evaluate kids' real research and composition skills. Is the timed writing the only way to go? But at least in my case, those weren't really introduced until junior and senior year AP classes. How are they being more broadly implemented?

There's a bit of obstinacy here, I suppose. My husband and I don't watch football games without the laptop out to keep track of real-time stats; we watch "The Office" and immediately log on to Television Without Pity to see instant reactions; we Google subjects we see on "Modern Marvels" or "Extreme Engineering" to read extra details; if we have a random historical question the Internet's a much quicker reference than any library books; and if we don't know what else we've seen an actor in, it's a quick check of IMDB. So we're as addicted to quick knowledge as anyone else, and I think for the better. But on the other hand, we still pull out the Bible or the Catechism if we're discussing this week's homily, and we know how to use the library. Non-virtual resources are worth hanging on to.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The view from Capitol Hill

I've been in a seriously anti-federal government mood the last few weeks, which I'm only reminded of every day when I see the Capitol on the way to work. What are the people in there DOING every day? Showboating, spending, and generally making themselves obnoxious. I hadn't expected the Republicans to be as bad as they were the last few years (and I protested accordingly on various occasions, as I will also here), but the Democrats are surely even worse. My current gripes:

The Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005, a classically reactionary, overreaching mess of a law that protects us all from the (overstated) dangers of home meth labs by . . . making sure millions of allergy sufferers can't get their Claritin-D or Sudafed. Here was co-sponsor Dianne Feinstein at the time: "The heart of this legislation is a strong standard for keeping pseudophedrine products out of the hands of meth cooks. This includes a limit on how much cold medicine with pseudophedrine can be purchased both daily and monthly, moving these products behind the counter, and requiring purchasers to show identification and sign a log book." So, rather than letting states set their own policies in restricting PSE sales or fighting meth use, the feds jumped in to preempt everything and make buying Claritin a matter subject to DEA enforcement. One 10-pill pack at a time per person, 3 times a month. And this was slipped into the PATRIOT Act reauthorization - ?! With bipartisan support. I'm sure Jim Talent co-sponsored because of a more serious meth problem in Missouri, but despite his conservative record on other issues, this was a serious lapse. When I'm having my driver's license information (or defining physical characteristics) copied down every other week at Safeway, I don't think about how glad I am that the government's looking out for us by combating methamphetamine. I'm thinking how much I loathe Congress.

The alternative minimum tax. I've complained about this before in principle, and it still bothers me. Why didn't the Republicans fix this permanently so millions of regular taxpayers wouldn't have to calculate two sets of tax returns? Oh right, because they were on spending binges and counted on the money too much. We're stuck getting yearly "patches" that still leave the AMT applying to far more people than it was ever intended to. I pay the government enough money already. I don't want to pay them any more in the next few years. Of course, the Democrats did promise to fix the AMT permanently, raising my hopes briefly, but thanks to another idiotic idea of theirs, this won't really be fixed:

PAYGO. What a dumb idea - and tax increases are already on the horizon, while spending continues unabated. $24 billion for lots of asinine pork projects (peanut storage?) have been tacked on to the military funding bill. "24" is a fairly small number, so I imagine putting the "billion" on the end of it doesn't really register - but where is the money coming from? That AMT we "can't afford" to eliminate, or more taxes from "the rich." The House Republicans are going to oppose this particular excess, but if the Senate acts as deplorably as it did during the "Bridge to Nowhere" pork debacle, I expect this 24 billion will just be added to the budget like everything else.

Maybe along with global warming initiatives. Really, Congress is devoting time to our "planetary emergency" (omg!) instead of figuring out how to shrink government and make it less intrusive and burdensome in everyone's lives. Look, I'm a former "Kids for Saving Earth" president and I got taught (and believed in) all the planet-is-collapsing dogmas in the 80s like everyone else. I'm glad to have cleaner emissions from cars and factories generally. But I'm just not all that concerned with global warming, and I don't think Congress needs to be either. Fix the illegal immigration problem (surely a federal prerogative), fix the tax code (ditto). Fix Social Security, not that I ever expect to see again a single dollar of the money we pay now. Al Gore can spend time talking to Hollywood, since they love him so much already.

I know that's a lot of griping - just had to get it out! Anyway, as my husband reminds me, a general dislike of arrogantly overreaching federal government is why I'm in the Federalist Society. Good grief.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Head above water

I didn't have to move after getting married (my husband moved in with me), but I have been swimming in cardboard boxes nevertheless for weeks now! I think everything is finally starting to be settled, although the dining room table is still a disaster. I did get about 95 thank-you cards written, with the last batch going out on Monday, and my name is changed with the SSA, Maryland MVA, electric company, office, and everywhere else I can think of, so now I can move on to some other things. Like that dining room table, and exercising. Too much good Mexican food on the honeymoon!