Thursday, June 30, 2011

Detroit Or The Coliseum?

It's hard to tell. The Lions played here and the place is a wreck.


Yes, I know. It's a cheap shot, but I loved the gag so much I had to share.

:-)

Flying back today. Will have full Interweb Tube access from the Catican tomorrow. Thanks to everyone who stopped by and especially those that left comments.

Vernazza, Italy

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Glorious Art From Tuscany

Riccardo Marzi, complementi di arredo in vetroresina e materiali naturali made in Italy

We stopped in a small shop here in Radda and stumbled across Riccardo's work. We bought a few pieces.

My favorite kind of memento from a trip - art.

Monday, June 27, 2011

St. Francis Was A Rock Star In His Day

... at least that's what I got from a visit to Assisi. He met Popes, had lots of followers, developed the Stigmata and so forth. In spite of this, he remained true to his ideals of humility and giving. Way cool.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Why They Drive Tiny Cars In Europe

... because when you live in a medieval town, you share roads made for horses with pedestrians, outdoor cafes, kiosks and what-have-you. The taxi drivers have small to medium sized cars and they're at a disadvantage, particularly when it comes to parking. It has nothing to do with being "green" or saving money, it has everything to do with simple utility.

Here's a typical street scene from Florence.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Not Frankie

... but Dean. Dino to be exact. Sheesh! Do I have to spell it out for you?

The Italians Aren't Apologetic

Their favorite Roman Emporers are the ones that kicked the most butt and they're proud of the huge monuments in their cities, almost all of which can be traced back to property looted from people they conquered. It's comparable to Americans celebrating the 7th Cavalry from the Old West.

The good guys.

Just what they make of President Obama's World Apology Tour is anyone's guess. If they liked it, then they better start talking reparations to the Gauls, Franks, Egyptians, Israelis ...

Yes, I know, Rome was sacked and looted any number of times, but those massive monuments, built with slave labor, remain.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Italy Updates

... may be a bit more sporadic. We only have WiFi in the hotel lobby of our new place. (We've moved on to a little village in Tuscany.) The place is supposed to have delicious wines and the countryside is very similar to the mountains right outside San Diego.

Ciao!

Wine Tasting In Tuscany

Wow. The Chianti is awesome.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Driving In Siena

We left Rome today, where we didn't have a car, and drove up to Tuscany. There, we stopped in Siena to do laundry. Ay-yi-yi! It was crazy. Finding anything here without GPS is almost impossible. Narrow, medieval, one-way streets where the signs are just on one wall of one corner so as you drive by, with crazed Italians right on your bumper, honking if you slow down, you have almost no chance to read the street name and even if you do, the map is incomplete so the odds that the street name is there is very small.

We finally found the laundromat, did our laundry and in the process of me trying to bring the car down from where we parked it in a church parking lot to the laundry map, I got directed right out of town by the one-way street signs. I then had to circle back and attack the city once again and made a mad, circuitous route through streets made for horses and pedestrians to get back to the laundromat to retrieve my wife and our laundry. When I get a chance, I'm going to grab the google map of Siena where I drove and trace the route. It was nuts.

If you ever want to know why the Italians haven't re-conquered the world, it's because they're still trying to get home from work or the store.

Driving here is like a giant game of MarioKart where everyone is Mario.

Kitteh Obelisk

The Romans stole treasures from all over the world as they conquered it. One of the most surprising to us were the Egyptian Obelisks. There's a bunch of them throughout the city and it makes one wonder how they transported the things without breaking them in two (or three or four or ...). The one shown here has two important features.
  1. I can't remember where we saw it.

  2. The heiroglyhics tell you how to worship your cat.


Kitteh likes birds and fish and mice and little balls dropped so they bounce around. I think the thing at the very bottom is a sofa for her to sleep on.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Manuel

At our hotel here in Rome, there's a guy working here who reminds us of Manuel from Fawlty Towers.

A Quick Thought About The Churches In Rome

We're just bout to zip off for noms, but I wanted to share this before it flew out of my head on a cloud of bubbles from my Moretti beer.

As we've visited the churches here in Rome and seen one wonderfully gorgeous integrated art piece after another - each church being a combined, interwoven, glorious piece of art with layers upon layers of beauty and meaning - I've felt that 400 or 600 or however many years ago, the artists and workers were making it just for me. The love and care that went into each piece in each church was meant to last for a long time, perhaps in the hope that it would reach the year 2011.

And it did.

Which means they made it for me.

It is a supremely humbling experience as I look at this gorgeous artwork created by people who used tools far more primitive than what is available to me and lived in a time far more dangerous and uncertain than mine. It makes me ask, as Cursillo made me ask, what have I done? What have I contributed that comes within miles of what these people did?

I think people get the wrong idea about Catholics. There's all this talk about guilt and fear and the like. That's not it at all, at least it isn't for me. For me, it's a feeling that I've been invited, courted, begged to be a member of this team, a team that's loaded with talent and skill. I get to be a part of it just because I want to be one. The question that I ask myself and one that increasingly drives what I do is this - what am I going to contribute to this team? How will I help make it better?

It's a beautiful thought and one that makes me want to be better, to be as good as I can be at everything I do. I fail, of course, sometimes the intensity falls away and the Newcastle game is on and the cat wants tuna now. Such is life. But in between those times when life's demands force me to do what I must, in those quiet moments, I think of the wonderful people I met at Cursillo and the spectacular work created just for me by men from centuries ago and I want to try harder.

I love it.

The Holy Spirit Behind The Main Altar At St. Peter's

Click. It's worth it.

Sublime.

Monday, June 20, 2011

I Think The Builders Would Have Been Happy

... to see how people were thoroughly enjoying their work hundreds of years later.


People standing, gaping and photographing. This scene can be observed in almost any of the great churches in Rome.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Trevi Fountain

Worth a click.

Italian Patriotism

Includes large, beautiful posters of pregnant women wearing the flag.


The Italian flag is everywhere as are caps emblazoned Italia and all manner of other patriotic emblems. It's natural and accepted and wonderful.

So Old, So Young

At the Coliseum in Rome, looking up. Click on the first image to see where the little plant in the second one is.



Saturday, June 18, 2011

In Italy

... and my Droid 2's GPS system is totally lost. It has absolutely no idea where it is at all. It can't even find one satellite, much less the three it needs for a fix, even with the whole sky visible. Yowza. I wonder if it's because it needs to be on the network. It's a Verizon Droid, so it has no connectivity here unless it's on WiFi.

Update: From the Droid Forums:
The GPS unfortunately requires a network connection to get it's initial fix, for whatever reason. Therefore, you'll be out of luck in England with the Droid.
I wonder if I can get a fix with the thing on the WiFi. The only problem is that my hotel is in an urban canyon and we can't see the sky. Maybe from an upper floor ...

Update 2 - Fixed it! The WiFi was one issue - it needed connectivity to the network to get started. The other was that you can't run GPS in airplane mode because the GPS receiver draws power from the CDMA chip. So saith one of the Droid forums and their suggestion worked. We now have location to go with our very nice offline maps. Yay!

Photos and other odds and ends tomorrow.

Friday, June 17, 2011

St. Peter's Basillica In The Trees

Breakfast Today

... included salmon paté squeezed from a tube, much like you'd squeeze toothpaste. Are the Italians awesome or what?

The Catican Visits The Vatican!

Today, the Catican management team and the editorial staff from the 'Post have been granted* a private tour of the Vatican and will take in the sights and sounds and spiritual joy of the Papal State. Hurrah!

We'll be sure to mention our Maximum Leader and the Feline Theocracy to our hosts. I'm certain they'll make a special effort once they know that her servants are involved.

Our Maximum Leader in full Theocratic regalia.

* - Well, maybe not granted. Purchased might be a better word for it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Off To Rome!

Well, the Catican management team and the crack editorial staff of The Scratching Post are off for a two-week, long-belated honeymoon in sunny Italy! We're hoping to post regular updates from there as our hotels have promised us access to the Interweb Tubes. If we can't manage to communicate with the outside world, we'll bring back photos and stories and share them when we return.

As for today, given the flights and the time change, we're hoping for a lot of this:

Time for a nap? Why, yes! Yes it is!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Can You Help Someone Who Doesn't Want To Help Themselves?

More Greece Debt geekery here.

So the ECB and the EU (read: Germany) are wondering how to stave off a Greek default. They're debating a new aid package for the Greeks who, for years, have borrowed and spent and partied. The Greek government is trying to pitch in and has plans to cut civil service payrolls and pay as well as sell off parts of their bloated government*.

The Greeks themselves are going bonkers in the streets.


The Greeks are demanding an indefinite continuation of childhood with the ECB and the Germans as Mommy and Daddy, paying the bills.

The German government is having an increasingly difficult time selling these bailouts to the German public. Now put yourself in the position of a German citizen and consider that video. What do you feel about the Greeks?

How long before you want to cut them loose and use the bailout money to save the German banks who made the bad loans, assuming you want to do anything at all?

It doesn't seem like the Greeks have any concept whatsoever about the source of wealth**. Right now, their future hinges on the rest of Europe sucking it up in a big way and sending them tens of billions of Euros so they don't end up bankrupt and growing vegetables on their apartment patios to survive.

Seen from a distant view, their behavior seems crazy. It's like they never learned anything practical about economics in their schools.

* - In a completely unrelated development, the US under Bush and Obama has gone in the opposite direction, taking over the mortgage, car and health care industries to one extent or another. There is nothing the US can learn from Greece. Nothing. It's a totally different situation, so don't draw any conclusions at all here. Really.

** - Hmmm. No idea about where wealth comes from. Who does that remind you of?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Change In Greece

... can come from the editorial pages. Dig this.
The political system post-1974 was all about granting all sorts of favors to political cronies, ultimately at the expense of healthy entrepreneurship and private initiative. Now the system is bankrupt and it can no longer offer protection to its acolytes.

Young people can chose between two paths: one is the path of violence, of denial and nihilism. The other path is to turn indignation into a movement whose objective is to get rid of the inept politicians and the hypocritical academics who purport to be fighting for the well-being of public institutions.

Such a movement of indignation would aspire to transcend blanket negativity and violence. But such a movement requires a certain element of risk and positive action, not just loud protest.

If we want jobs for our young people, if we want to keep the brightest and most talented of them in the country, then we ought to encourage them to express those characteristics that have made Greeks distinguish themselves in the past: the ability to sniff out an opportunity, extroversion, business acumen, the ability to think outside the box -- all those traits, in other words, that have enabled Greeks to excel away from home, in environments that are free from graft, corruption and the false protection of a bankrupt state and political system.
Wow. That's some pretty potent stuff. Read the whole thing.

Selling Is A Transference Of Feeling

... or so says Zig Ziglar in his Secrets of Closing the Sale.

My daughter wants to play soccer in high school. If you don't play club soccer outside of school, you're chances of making the high school team are remote. For a variety of self-inflicted reasons, she did not make any of the local teams, but looks to be catching on with a team a good half an hour away.

I'm willing to make the long drive, provided she commits to working hard at the game. I like the sport and it's been a great teaching tool to help her connect work with success with happiness. Soccer has been the best teacher of that connection.

So how do you get her to fully buy in? That's where Zig comes in. Zig's book is full of pearls of wisdom. I'm on my fourth time through it right now and each time I've had a different sales problem and each time it's come through in a different way. In this case, I pictured her future if she followed a plan of Deliberate Practice and worked out 30-60 minutes a day, focusing on the area that has cost her spots on the other teams, ball control. I'm convinced that if she does this, she's guaranteed success. I've seen it work with her before and I know that the skills she needs to master aren't that far out of reach. In my heart of hearts, I know she can do it if she follows the plan. Selling, then, is getting her to know, in her heart of hearts, that success is hers if she follows the plan.

That's been the focus of our conversations lately. We worked out yesterday and focused on a single type of turn and did it over and over and over again. She improved markedly. We also worked on shooting and she took 30 shots into a baseball backstop, making sure her form was as good as it could be. (YouTube abounds with soccer videos showing you just how to do the basics.) She drilled shot after shot. Afterwards, it was clear I had sold her on Deliberate Practice. She knew she was getting better and could see the results. I still hadn't sold her on doing it on her own.

My daughter has a very kind heart. She would never deliberately hurt anyone. She doesn't have a very good sense of the sacrifices others make for her so she can succeed, however. I explained how one of her brothers had agreed to take time off of work to drive her to those distant practices on the days when I couldn't do it. I asked her to think about how her other brothers worked out with her and encouraged her. We talked about what it looked like to her teammates when her ball-handling skills were poor, how she was wordlessly telling her teammates to win the game for her. I think she got it. The next few weeks will tell.

I think I made the sale. If I did, it was because I took a step back and asked myself if I really believed my plan would make a difference. In all honesty, I just can't see how it can fail. My sales effort was an expression of that feeling to my daughter. I'm optimistic that it worked.

This post was really just an excuse for me to put up this video of Cheik Tiote's amazing goal against Arsenal.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Mother Teresa Quote

... one that was used by the salutatorian at my daughter's 8th grade graduation. I liked it a lot. Enjoy!
Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is a beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is life, fight for it!

Where Does Change Come From?

I've started reading the Athens News and ekathimerini in the morning in addition to Der Spiegel. I want to see what the EU debt crisis looks like from inside the vortex. If a society was going to change because it's habits had been self-destructive, where would you expect to see it first? The arts? The editorial pages? Fringe bloggers?

Arab Spring? Not So Much

Der Spiegel has a story about women in Egypt being forced to undergo virginity tests.

Yuck.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Real Solution Is To Phase Out Electricity

Germany is phasing out their nuclear reactors because they're afraid of 9.0 earthquakes and repeated, 25' tidal waves hitting them. Unfortunately, it's going to whack their carbon emissions and electricity generation just a tad.
Stephan Kohler, head of the German Energy Agency, told SPIEGEL that one significant side-effect of the phase out could be that the country will fail to reach its emission reduction goals. "Large energy companies are now turning more to cheap lignite (brown coal) to replace atomic energy and less to natural gas, which is more efficient but also more expensive," Kohler said ...

In addition, the removal of atomic energy from Germany's power mix and the resulting need to invest billions in the development of alternative energies and a new power grid could result in higher energy bills. "The phase out of nuclear energy is not going to be free," Rainer Brüderle, Merkel's economics minister until recently, told SPIEGEL. Brüderle, who is now floor leader for the Free Democrats, Merkel's junior coalition partner, added that "we have to be honest with the people. We will all have to pay, the power customers, the taxpayers."
The environmentalists are overlooking the most obvious solution.


Or are they?

Fried Chicken and Mixed Greens, Please

Organic sprouts killed 29.
Health authorities in Germany have finally been able to show that the pathogens which caused the deadly EHEC outbreak came from sprouts at an organic farm in the Uelzen district.
Secular Apostate has the lowdown on how it happened.

A Little Bit About The Sarah Palin Emails

First off, our Monks of Miscellaneous Musing have a great post on the topic.

Second, the whole thing is sick and insane. What's wrong with these people? They are positively out of their minds with hate for Sarah Palin.

Lastly, where are the Rev. Wright emails? She's a private citizen, he's a private citizen. She's a public speaker, he's a public speaker. She's been involved, indirectly, with the presidency, he's been involved, indirectly, with the presidency. Yes, I know, these emails are from her time as a public servant, but so what? Why was Barack Obama's crazed, racist mentor not subjected to this kind of scrutiny?

It's enough to make me support Sarah Palin for president, just out of spite.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Just A Quick Note On Greece

So the European Central Bank (ECB) owns about $60B in Greek government bonds. I could be off on that number, but the point is that they own a lot of it. Something like 1/3 of all Greek bonds not held within Greece are owned by the ECB.

Just like the Fed, the ECB can print money.

The ECB is refusing to renew their Greek bonds when they mature. They're going to dump the things onto the open market instead of hold them and roll them over.

If a huge organization like the ECB, which can print money is getting out of the market for Greek debt, what idiot would hold on to them?

Talk about a catalyst for a run on the stuff! If that's not it, nothing is. I think all the desperately hopeful folks are waiting for the rest of the EU to use their taxpayers to make good on the Greek bonds in an effort to stave off default.

Crazy days are ahead for the EU.

How I Feel Today

Yesterday was my daughter's 8th grade graduation. Today, I'm totally beat.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Link Of The Day

Babylonsista about what makes a marriage work. Great stuff.

Rescuing Governments Is All Very Well And Good

... but in doing so, the geese that lay the golden eggs are getting hurt.

Dig this.
June 10 (Bloomberg) -- Political wrangling over the future of Greece is infecting Europe’s corporate bond market, pushing relative yields to a 2 1/2-month high and forcing borrowers to pull deals.

The extra yield investors demand to hold non-financial company debt instead of government securities rose 3 basis points this month to 118, the highest since March 24, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch index data. Denmark’s Nykredit Bank A/S and Finnish lender Pohjola Bank Plc postponed bond sales yesterday citing market conditions.

Euro-region governments are pitched against the European Central Bank in a dispute over what a potential restructuring of Greece’s sovereign debt would look like. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble is calling for private creditors to take more pain while ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet warns such a course may spread contagion. A plan needs to be in place by June 24 to prevent the International Monetary Fund from withholding the next instalment of the nation’s bailout.
It's very nice to go worrying about whether or not a government can keep doling out benefits, but it's still the middle man. What's really happening is that people and corporations that create value are handing some of their profits out as government benefits. The governments don't create anything they just take from one person and give to another.

Wealth creators are suffering collateral damage from government overspending.

Cheezburger of the Day

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Children Of The Russian Rich

Der Spiegel has a photo essay showing the tykes of the Russian oligarchs. If you click through it, I'd be interested in hearing your take on it. If we get a comment or three, I'll venture my thoughts, but I wanted to leave it just as a link without commentary so you can form your own opinions free from influence.

Something You Might Not Have Known

... or you might have, in which case you can roll your eyes, sigh and click away.

As corn prices rise, pork prices temporarily fall. That's because pigs are fed with corn and rising feed prices make it more expensive to maintain larger herds. Pig farmers kill off some of their pigs so they can pay their feed bills. The result is a temporary glut of pork on the market until the herds have been reduced to a size the farmers can afford.

Bloomberg's got an article on this phenomena today.
U.S. hog producers may start to cull herds as the faltering economic recovery curbs pork demand and tightening corn inventories boost livestock-feed prices, curbing animal supplies and increasing costs for meatpackers.

Since May 16, wholesale pork has dropped 9.6 percent from the highest since at least October 1997, while corn, the main ingredient in animal feed, gained 9.5 percent. Hog producers are facing record production costs, based on current futures prices, Steve Meyer, the president of Paragon Economics, said yesterday at the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa.
Just thought I'd share.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Because It's My Blog And I Like This Song

Take five, Jack, and enjoy some Nat K C.

Facing Down Revolutionaries

... may mean acceding to their demands.

Here at home, I cook about half our meals. Maybe a shade more than that as my wife spends a few nights a week taking care of others at Hospice or our church. It's my job to feed the troops and I'm facing a palace revolution.

My preferred cuisine is Southern and my preferred method is experimental. Last night, I made blackened catfish (good!), cornbread (good!) and mixed greens with tasso (bad!). This was not just an isolated foray into culinary territory unfamiliar to the youthful savages in our house, it was one of a steady stream of them. One of our sons has taken to asking who is cooking that night before deciding whether to come home for dinner.

It looks as if the Arab Spring has come to San Diego. Our own Street Arabs are gathering in the market square, waving their arms and chanting for regime change. As the local dictator, I'm being forced to acquiesce to their demands. It's going to be harder than it looks.

A scene from our dining room.

We have four children. Here are their gustatory limitations.
  1. Child A - no onions or mushrooms.

  2. Child B - all food must be the sort one can find at a county fair - spaghetti, quesadillas, hot dogs or sausages, hamburgers.

  3. Child C - no shrimp or shellfish.

  4. Child D - no peppers, green or otherwise.
Each of them, taken individually, cuts out a substantial number of recipes. Taken en toto, even assuming you find some substitute meal for Child B, eliminates about 80% of all recipes. (No onions? Impossible!)

Add to that the fact that some of my favorite recipes that fit all of these restrictions, Cuban Pecadillo, Chicken Country Captain and Moroccan Chicken with Olives have been banned for various reasons, I'm left with ... grilling sausages every night? Simply dreadful for the experimental cook. I had considered forays into Greek and Indian cuisine, but the rioters outside the kitchen would surely burn the place down and lynch the kitchen staff in short order should I do that.

Heaven help me, but I may be forced to open the Betty Crocker cookbook and work my way through it's bland and boring recipes, one at a time. Sigh. It's like Van Gogh having to give up the canvas and paint bathrooms instead.

Suggestions are welcome.

To A Central Banker, Everything Looks Like An Interest Rate

The Fed is befuddled by the lack of economic growth. After all, they've done what they were supposed to do, they kept interest rates low and poured hundreds of billions of dollars into the Federal Government so they could spend, spend, spend. Now that it's been a clear failure, they're scratching their heads and concluding that they have to simply keep at it for the foreseeable future.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said the “frustratingly slow” U.S. recovery warrants sustained monetary stimulus while predicting that growth will gain speed in the second half of the year.

“The economy is still producing at levels well below its potential; consequently, accommodative monetary policies are still needed,” Bernanke said yesterday in a speech in Atlanta. At the same time, the Fed “will take whatever actions are necessary to keep inflation well controlled,” he said.
They have the tiniest glimmer of thought that there might be something more than just interest rates at work here.
The chairman also said the Fed needs to do “more thinking” about how new rules requiring banks to hold more liquidity will affect the broader financial system, and that the central bank wants to create new regulations that won’t “unnecessarily constrict credit.”
But in the end, they all want to fall back on what they know - printing money and setting interest rates.
Policy makers have few options left to respond to accumulating signs of a slowdown after their second round of asset purchases sparked the harshest political backlash against the central bank in three decades.

“We’ve gotten inconsistency, hesitancy and unevenness” in U.S. economic growth, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart said yesterday in a speech in Charlotte, North Carolina. “I’m troubled by what you might describe as a lack of conviction in this economy.”
Meanwhile, in states like California, the regulatory jihad continues unchecked.
Farming has long been a field dominated by California, yet environmentalist pressures for cutbacks in agricultural water supplies have turned a quarter million acres of prime Central Valley farmland fallow, creating mass unemployment in many communities.

“California cannot have it both ways, a desire for economic growth yet still overregulating in the areas of labor, water, environment,” notes Dennis Donahue, a Democrat and mayor of Salinas, a large agricultural community south of San Jose. Himself a grower, Donahue sees agricultural in California being undermined by ever-tightening regulations, which have led some to expand their operations to other sections of the country, Mexico and even further afield.
It's not just California, either, and it cuts across political lines.

Number of pages in the Federal Register, a crude measure of the growing regulatory burden on the country. Image taken from The Percolator, the free-market environmentalism blog.

Every time I hear Ben Bernanke or even an outside economist like Nouriel Roubini speak about interest rates and quantitative easing, it's like they live in some distant, academic world. You can have all the money you want available to you, but if the rules for using it are hopelessly complicated or punitive, who's going to do anything but sit on their hands?

Monday, June 06, 2011

Tradition Protects The Younger Generation From Themselves

This is a partial explanation of my affection for G K Chesterton's quote on tradition.

Last week, I stopped by an art supply store to get a gift certificate for my father. The young man behind my counter, who looked to be in his early 20s, had tattoos from his upper arms all the way down to the first knuckles of his fingers. His ears had been pierced with those disks that create large holes in your ear lobes, but the right one had gone horribly wrong and while the left ear lobe was a large, hollow loop, the right one had broken and two strands of flesh dangled down where his earlobe used to be.

In an frenzy of unrestrained self-expression, he had permanently mutilated himself.

I tried to keep up some normal banter with him while he filled out the gift certificate, but about halfway through I faltered and just couldn't continue. The sight of this boy, young enough to be my son, his body polluted and torn, took all my strength from me. I wanted to cry.

This boy had been allowed to make whatever decision he wanted about his body. Society no longer held to traditions of appearance or propriety and did not enforce self-restraint through opprobrium and censure. Instead, each tattoo and each piercing was celebrated as an act of artistic freedom. The end result was a hideous mess. No one had protected him from himself.

The young man recognized the look on my face. As he was finishing the transaction, he saw my eyes go to his mangled ear. He stopped speaking as well and his body slumped a bit. It had all happened before, many times.

Toddlers have one way of hurting themselves and young adults have another. While we make sure little kids wear helmets, live in houses with baby gates and outlet covers, we not only allow, but applaud our young adults when they permanently coat their bodies in childish art and puncture their flesh with various pieces of fishing tackle. I don't think we realized that when we did away with traditional norms of behavior, we were taking down the barriers to self-destruction that kept our younger generation free to make choices later in life.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Chesterton On Tradition

I've been reading (well, listening to) some G K Chesterton books recently. This quote, from Orthodoxy, resonated with me.
Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.
Why it has such an impact on me in later posts.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

My Reply To Matthew Hess

Matthew Hess is a cartoonist who is part of a movement in San Francisco to ban circumcision. He has created some thoroughly anti-Semitic cartoons that you can see here. Rather than write a standard Scratching Post polemic where I call Mr. Hess names and sneer at him, I found the video below.

As a Catholic, it bothers me that so many non-Catholics see us portrayed as being all about gays, abortion or priest scandals. We're not. I just got back from a profoundly Catholic retreat, Cursillo, and it was all about living a more Christ-centered life. Looking at Mr. Hess' cartoons, it's obvious he has no idea what it means to be Jewish. I'm sure he's not alone.

Enjoy.



Update: I know this doesn't really explain what it means to be Jewish, but I think that after watching it, it would be pretty difficult to work up the hatred to draw pictures of crazed, knife-wielding rabbis with fangs.

Grasshopper Headshot

I found this character clinging to our screen door the other day and he was nice enough to sit still while I photographed him. I didn't do a very good job of it, even this section of him isn't completely in focus. In spite of that, I think it's worth a click. Looking at the larger image, you can see his kinship with crabs and lobsters, particularly in the joints where his legs meet his body.

Enjoy.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Aphids Are Actually Good For Your Plants

... according to President Obama.

I continue to be mesmerized by this video, posted by our Monks of Miscellaneous Musings.


The thing is completely mind-blowing to me. Despite a total breakdown in job creation, the guy just can't stop with the social justice rhetoric. It's like he's living in a different world.

Pretend you're a business owner watching this. Large business, small business, whatever. Demand for your products is down. Costs of raw materials are up. When the president says, "every citizen deserves a basic measure of security," you know exactly where that measure of security is going to come from. You! The guy is planning to load you up with yet more commitments, this time in the form of supporting everyone out there and making sure they get what they need. You're a plant with aphids and the dude is importing more.

When you watch the head of the Administration say stuff like this, you'd be crazy to expand, hire or do anything other than look for other places to go. He shows no comprehension whatsoever of what it takes to generate wealth. All he knows how to do is spend yours. Follow this up with a speech on the environment and the consequent financial attacks by the EPA on your business, and it's no wonder no one is hiring.

Obama: Aphids are good for your plants. We need to do more to support the aphids.

The Greatest Photoshop Of All Time

Video Of The Day

... is Andrew Klavan with a typically awesome effort.

Can We Please Stop Behaving Like Swine Now?

Re: the recent Twitter controversy over Democrat representative Weiner texting horrid photos of his private parts photos to some chick.
Cindy Meston directs the Sexual Psychophysiology Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin. She is a past president of the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health. If there is something you want to know about what turns women on, she is the person you call.

“We spent six years of research on why women have sex,” Meston says. They compiled 237 reasons. Duty sex. Revenge sex. Pity sex. Bored sex, engaged in because women simply had nothing better to do. “Of the 237 reasons why women have sex,” Meston says, “not one was looking at a man’s genitals.”
Sadly, the reason that Weiner and Brett Favre and others send these images is that women expect nothing better.

See also: men, lack of marriageable

Addendum: Whatever we do, let's not go back to the bad old days when behavior was judged according to fixed standards. The Victorians had it all wrong. All wrong. I mean, they did, didn't they?

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Link of the Day

Felix Salmon has an outstanding piece on how the national Central Banks in Europe are lending between each other. To be brief, the Germans are financing everyone else and money is being printed in vast quantities to do so. Here's an excerpt.
Since then, the Bundesbank has essentially been singlehandedly financing the PIGS central banks: it’s now owed a whopping €325 billion, and rising. (That’s about $470 billion, at today’s exchange rate; we’ll surely hit the half-trillion-dollar level soon.)

What’s being done with all this money? “Let us call a spade a spade,” says Wolf: “This is central bank finance of the state.”
Read the whole thing.

Cream Of Tiger Soup

I may have posted this before, but at work I'm on a Tiger Team, trying to salvage something out of a complete catastrophe. While on a conference call, I found this. Enjoy!

Bee In Flight

I think the photos are worth a click. Or two. Enjoy!


Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Crazy Tornado Footage

Dig this. Wild.

Cheezburger of the Day

MTV Meets Michelangelo

... and is told to go away.
FLORENCE, Italy—The cast of "Jersey Shore" relocated to this Tuscan citadel expecting to bask in their Italian heritage and soak up the country's legendary hospitality.

What they're getting is a very cold shoulder...

One of the town's chic eateries has posted a "No Grazie, Jersey Shore" sign outside its door, instructing cast members to stay away. The cultural superintendent has barred the entire cast from being filmed in the city's hallowed museums...

The clash of cultures is rooted in opposing views of what it means to be "Italian." Florence—the land of Michelangelo, Dante and Gucci—has always regarded itself as an emblem of Italian elegance and courtly etiquette...

The Jersey Shore brand of being Italian involves more braggadocio. Revealing clothing, occasional impromptu urination, public displays of drunkenness and casual romance are the hallmarks of the "Guido" and "Guidette,"
Allow me to recommend a sign to post all across Florence.