31 December 2006

Words and Expressions Commonly Misused

(From Strunk's Elements of Sytle)
Certainly. Used indiscriminately by some speakers, much as others use very, to intensify any and every statement. A mannerism of this kind, bad in speech, is even worse in writing.
Compare. To compare to is to point out or imply resemblances, between objects regarded as essentially of different order; to compare with is mainly to point out differences, between objects regarded as essentially of the same order. Thus life has been compared to a pilgrimage, to a drama, to a battle; Congress may be compared with the British Parliament. Paris has been compared to ancient Athens; it may be compared with modern London.
Effect. As noun, means result; as verb, means to bring about, accomplish (not to be confused with affect, which means "to influence").
However. In the meaning nevertheless, not to come first in its sentence or clause.
The roads were almost impassable. However, we at last succeeded in reaching camp.

The roads were almost impassable. At last, however, we succeeded in reaching camp.
When however comes first, it means in whatever way or to whatever extent.
Less. Should not be misused for fewer.... Less refers to quantity, fewer to number. "His troubles are less than mine" means "His troubles are not so great as mine." "His troubles are fewer than mine" means "His troubles are not so numerous as mine."
Literal, literally. Often incorrectly used in support of exaggeration or violent metaphor.
A literal flood of abuse
A flood of abuse

Literally dead with fatigue
Almost dead with fatigue (dead tired)

More delights can be found here.

27 December 2006

Priest Tackles Burglar

This priest is a Benedictine monk in the oldest church in the city where I reside. He was assigned to St. John's a few years ago upon graduating from St. Meinrad Seminary, a lovely abbey in rural Southern Indiana.

22 December 2006

Venite, adoremus
Almsgiving's always a good idea, but especially appropriate during the season of Advent. For the price of a pizza ($12), you can shelter and educate one child for a month at Vinh Son Orphanage in Kontum, Viet Nam (it's the Vietnamese spelling of St. Vincent de Paul). The two houses are run by the Sisters of the Miraculous Medal, and currently have 450 children. Every cent of your donation goes to the orphanage. The children bake their own bread every morning, learn how to sew and use computers and the like.

Vinh Son Orphanage (VSO)
P.O. Box 9322
Auburn, CA 95604-9322

You can learn more about it here.

21 December 2006

Hammer of the Heretics

It's not inaccurate to say that, had St. Peter Canisius not brought the Catholic faith to Southern Germany with such missionary zeal, we would not have the pleasure of the current Pope on the seat of St. Peter. Today is his feast day.

From pagan beginnings, Prussia was converted to the faith in the 13th century after being conquered by the Teutonic Knights. Poland and Lithuania ousted the Order in 1454. In 1525, Grand Master Albrecht von Brandenburg most unfortunately left the faith for that of Martin Luther. After the Reformation, during which Prussia swallowed wholesale Luther's novelties, the nation adopted the apt Protestant motto, Suum cuique, "to each his own”.

It was during this turbulent period that St. Peter Canisius began his work fortifying the Catholics of Southern Germany and preaching the faith. A Jesuit back when the Jesuits were truly "The Pope's Men", he founded the first house of the order in Cologne. Among his many other achievements, he also opened Jesuit houses in Ingolstadt and in Prague. St. Ignatius, founder of the order, appointed him first provincial superior of upper Germany (Swabia, Bavaria, Bohemia, Hungary, Lower and Upper Austria), and Peter spoke out publicly against the reformer Melanchthon. He published a number of apologetic works, and his Catechism influenced St. Aloysius Gonzaga to join the Society of Jesus.

He defended the notion of the communion of saints, the liturgies of the Church, religious vows, and indulgences. He encouraged obedience to the Church, receiving the sacrament of penance and the Eucharist often, as well as performing acts of mortification, including fasting, and almsgiving. He rebuked the clergy for their laxity and faults (which made him at times unpopular among the objects of his censure). He rejected the Protestant innovation of Communion under both kinds, arguing against offering the Cup to the laity. His zeal won him the title Hammer of the Heretics, and, after his death, the Apostle of Germany.

Thanks to St. Peter, Bavaria and Austria remain strongly Catholic to this day. Even Otto von Bismarck's kulturkampf could not weaken the faith; it served only to strengthen the resolve of those the Chancellor targeted, and brought the faith to our own shores in the waves of German Catholic immigrants who fled his persecution. Many of them moved westward, and settled here in Indiana (where I currently reside), founding parishes all over the state. My own parish can also doff its cap to St. Peter, as the three F.S.S.P. priests we have had made their studies in the seminary's Bavarian headquarters, in devoutly Catholic Wigratzbad.

St. Peter Canisius, pray for us.
It is wonderful to be a mother. What a gift. Among all the things I've done and the places I've been, motherhood is, bar none, the absolute best.

18 December 2006

You've Been a Friend to Me

Nice to know they're solid friends in real life, too.

15 December 2006

Many of us are likely occupied during the season of Advent shopping for Christmas gifts and having them shipped out to family far away in time to make the Sacred Day (a worthy penance for this penitential season); still, it's a time to become reacquainted with the confessional (if one has not seen the inside of one in some time) and taking on some extra mortifications. The forty-day feast that follows, from Christmas to the Feast of the Presentation, more than makes up for it. During the festal gathering, among the various liquid concoctions--the spiced apple cider, the rum-spiked egg nog, the punch--don't forget the mulled wine.

I was first introduced to this lovely drink one fair evening at Oxford, when I was spread out on the lawn of New College watching a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. In between the scenes of flitting fairies and sleeping donkeys, they sold it for a pound a cup. I, of course, bought several. In the cool English evening, this hot spiced wine delighted. It's drunk in Germany (Gluhwein), France (vin chaud), Italy (vin brule), Sweden (Glogg), and other European countries. I make it every Christmas now, and offer a traditional recipe here.

Spicy Mulled Wine

700 ml Red wine (1 1/4 pint)
300 ml Water ( 1/2 pint)
300 ml Orange juice ( 1/2 pint)
3 Tablespoon Caster sugar
2 Cinnamon sticks
1 Teaspoon Ground coriander
1 Teaspoon Whole cloves
150 ml Brandy ( 1/4 pint)

Makes approximately 1.5 litres (2 1/2 pints)

Place the wine, water, orange juice, sugar, two cinnamon sticks (roughly broken), coriander and cloves in a large saucepan.

Heat to just below boiling point for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the brandy.

Strain the liquid through a fine sieve, discarding the spices.

Serve in warm glasses, decorating each one with a whole cinnamon stick.

In between sips, it is recommended one gustily, lustily recite the following:

Drinking Song, On the Excellence of Burgundy Wine

My jolly fat host with your face all a-grin,
Come, open the door to us, let us come in.
A score of stout fellows who think it no sin
If they toast till they're hoarse, and drink till they spin,
Hoofed it amain
Rain or no rain,
To crack your old jokes, and your bottle to drain.

Such a warmth in the belly that nectar begets
As soon as his guts with its humour he wets,
The miser his gold, and the student his debts,
And the beggar his rags and his hunger forgets.
For there's never a wine
Like this tipple of thine
From the great hill of Nuits to the River of Rhine.

Outside you may hear the great gusts as they go
By Foy, by Duerne, and the hills of Lerraulx,
But the rain he may rain, and the wind he may blow,
If the Devil's above there's good liquor below.
So it abound,
Pass it around,
Burgundy's Burgundy all the year round.

--Hilaire Belloc

Justice Scalia vs. Justice Breyer

The two men have A Conversation on the Constitution. On the one side, hear support for the notion of a "living Constitution"; on the other, for interpretation rooted firmly in tradition and history. Guess who's for which.
This article notes the experimentation with human-animal hybrids:
In China and Britain, scientists are creating cloned man-animal embryos using rabbit eggs and human DNA. In the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, human neural stem cells are being inserted into monkey brains. At the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, researchers have produced pigs with hybrid pig-human blood cells, demonstrating the possibility of genetic fusion between man and the lower animals.
Is there no limit to our hubris?

08 December 2006

Sad news, on this Feast of the Immaculate Conception: a recent study shows the trend towards sex-selected abortions of girls increasing.
Eberstadt said that even now there are 20 million “missing” baby girls in Asia alone, that sex-selected abortions have permanently skewed the demographic balance of China and are in the process of skewing the demographic balance of India. He also showed the way that the trend has crept into Eastern Europe and Latin America, and that almost every African state is showing signs of vulnerability to the phenomenon.
(From C-Fam's Dec. 8, 2006 Friday Fax)

07 December 2006

Another event in the Chicago area is the upcoming 26th Annual Federalist Society Student Symposium, held at Northwestern Law School. The theme is Law and Morality, and the program includes debate on religion in the public square, same-sex marriage, the morality of First Amendment jurisprudence, and more.

For a bit on the Fed Society, see my article on the same, in which I quote BU Law Professor Gary Lawson's little ditty sung at a previous Student Symposium (to the tune of "American Pie"):
My, my, kiss the old days good-bye;
I quoted Lenin, Marx, and Brennan, but it just didn't fly.
The White House staffers could just break down and cry,
singing, "Maybe we'll give Judge Bork a try…
Maybe we'll give Judge Bork a try."
(BTW, the title of my piece is horribly inaccurate and was the editor's idea, not mine.)

06 December 2006

The Oxford Comma: A Solution, brought to you by the beloved Cockney flower vendor, Eliza Doolittle.
William Logan's latest.

I like this (on a verse in a poem by Mark Strand):
[W]ho knew that Christ had mastered, not just the pop-psych jargon of “finding yourself,” but the run-on sentence?
For those in the Chicago area, the Federalist Society will be hosting a debate Dec. 12th on executive war powers and court intervention. A mere $10 will guarantee you a spirited discussion.

05 December 2006

President Bush a Jacobin?

Paul Craig Roberts on the neoconservative takeover:
The Jacobins of the French Revolution were going to transform not only France but also all of Europe, but no such thing happened despite the abolition of feudalism in 1792 by the National Assembly, the guillotine, and France's military dominance of Europe for two decades.
In true Jacobin, Bolshevik, Cultural Revolution, neoconservative fashion, the job Bush wants to accomplish is the deracination of Islam and the recreation of Muslim society in America's image. It is impossible to imagine a less conservative goal.
Intriguing thoughts. There are certain goals of the current war with which I agree, while others seem absurd. Attempting to recreate the Middle East in America's image is an impossible task; give the area a thousand years, and it'll never implement democracy or free speech. Neither is it our duty to see that they do so. Their religion fundamentally prevents such a possibility. The motives are well-intentioned, and it's an admirable goal (could we not say the same of communists' and socialists' motives?); but the Burkean conservative understands that wholesale reform cut off from hundreds of years of a nation's history, tradition, and culture inevitably fails.

Distributists Unite!

Much ink has been spilled on the topic, so what's a little (a very little) more? As a recent convert, distributism appeals (for those unfamiliar, read Belloc's The Servile State; if you haven't the patience for a whole book, see the Wikipedia entry). It, like capitalism, recognizes the essential link between liberty and property ownership (a link neither socialism, in which all property is owned by the state, nor communism, in which property is held in common by all but inevitably controlled by the state, recognizes). One is either owner or owned. To own property is to be a free man, not indebted to anyone, able to make a living without dependence on an employer. Still, I've got my concerns with the whole scheme, and they have to do with the "G" word: government.

There are different strains of distributism, to be sure, some more amenable to government intervention, some less so. There is the mistaken impression that Belloc advocated equality of property ownership. Not so. One man's industry, creativity, and efficiency might mean more wealth than another's--and that's as it should be. A graded taxing scheme would protect the small property owner in such cases. Thomas Storck's version is more severe; he would place limits on how many acres a man may own, and those lands remaining unused or profitless would be seized by the government and sold, the proceeds going into a central fund for impoverished property owners. Limits would also be placed on the amount of money each family may have, to be increased according to the number of children.

If reading this causes you to flinch, I don't blame you. The continual intervention of government (who else but the government would enforce these strictures?) is worrisome. Even Belloc's less restrictive system is troubling, because a taxing scheme that essentially penalizes those who are too industrious, too creative, too efficient will either (1) discourage such virtues, or (2) encourage entrepreneurs to seek societies more tax-friendly.

Why not capitalism? The common complaint against an unbridled, free market is exploitation of the working class by corporations concerned only with profit, who treat wage earners as mere commodities to be bought and sold at the lowest price. Capitalism thus results in enslavement of the many by a wealthy oligarchy. (Another complaint is that capitalism allows the successful entrepreneur to make obscene amounts of money, and thus is immoral. I've always thought this argument silly; the wealthy are often the greatest philanthropists--and even if they aren't, is it really the government's place to make moral judgments about one's wealth?) Does capitalism necessarily result in exploitation, though?

I visited my country of birth, Viet Nam, about a decade ago. Walking around the dirty streets of Saigon, I saw a puzzling thing. There among the filth and poverty of the city rose sleek new hotels and restaurants owned by enterprising Europeans, Americans, and Asians. In the streets fruit vendors sat row on row, each selling the same assortment of fruit. I wondered how in the world any of them could make any sort of profit; it was a matter of overproduction coupled with little demand. Does capitalism benefit them? Let's say five of ten fruitsellers on the same street begin working for a hotel, as receptionists, cooks, maids, what have you. These five are now earning a steady (and higher) income, while the remaining five fruitsellers get the benefit of increased competition. And the hotel owner benefits by obtaining "cheap" labor and therefore greater profits. As an aside, those who indignantly fight for a higher minimum wage end up harming the wage earner; it's obvious enough to anyone that increasing wages means less employed. The businessman, if he's smart, knows that more money going towards wages means less going towards profit; thus he will reduce the number of employees in order to maintain the same profit margin. Thus there are two less maids, and two more fruit vendors back on the street selling their wares for a pittance.

One might note that the U.S. doesn't know such a thing as unbridled capitalism. The government gets involved all the time in breaking up monopolies or other unfair business practices, and protecting the minority business owner. The federal taxing scheme is progressive, so that those in the highest income bracket are taxed somewhere around 35%; that means over a third of one's income (if one makes over a certain amount) goes to the government (it's been as high as 90%; some might be interested to know the Supreme Court once declared the income tax unconstitutional, and the government did not introduce the income tax, as it stands, until 1916).

All in all, I'm not altogether convinced of the distributist economic scheme--not yet, anyway. If my concerns are adequately addressed, I might change my mind. I welcome thoughts from those more knowledgeable (and always welcome them from those less so).

01 December 2006

The devil's got hold of the weather today. At breakfast I heard a great howling outside, followed by a minor tremor in the walls. I opened the back door and a sudden roaring as I've never heard filled the place; some yards away a wall of bare birch trees as high as five stories were bowing right and left, catching the wind. What a din! It seems the rain's now turning to snow, and the temperature has dropped sharply. Scarf and mittens weather.

Speaking of scarves, according to The Uppers Organization, the "most stylish way to defend your neck from the icy north wind is with a college scarf."
[T]he college scarf eschews dangly tassels, and its simple rectangular shape is a minimalist’s delight. Yet it still carries with it a dandyish charm, consisting of long stripes of colour; each design consisting of at least two, and sometimes up to six, different colours.
I have exactly two college scarves: one from Keble College, when I was an associate student of Oxford, and one from Wolfson, when I was a graduate student. They are both of lovely color and design, Keble being a navy blue with red and white stripes, and Wolfson even lovelier, with its yellow, red, and navy stripes. You can see a complete set of scarf colors and designs here. (I've always thought Worcester College to have the most unattractive color combination: pink and brown. It's enough to make Jeeves knit the eyebrows and rub the temples in angst.)

A little history of the college scarf:
According to the company Luke Eyres, manufacturer of scarves for Ede & Ravenscroft, “To our knowledge Mr Hopkins and Mr D Eyres were the instigators of the traditional University scarf. In 1938/9 a Mr Hopkins worked for Almonds in Cambridge who used to supply knitted scarves to the Universities. Due to the war, wool was in short supply so they had to find an alternative material to use. Mr Hopkins met Mr D Eyres and they came up with the idea of using woven material in replacement. This woven material was torn into strips and used for the university scarves, thus starting the beginning of the vertical striped scarf. After the war although the knitted scarves were then available most of the Universities decided to stay with the new cloth arrangement. The scarves were mainly produced for the Cambridge Universities and Boat clubs but soon became popular within all the Universities.” The scarf colours are based on each college’s crest, and are also used on the blades of each college’s rowing club oars....