Category: Daily Life

French-Speaking Missionaries

So some missionaries came to my door just now, and greeted me voluminously…in French. I asked why they were speaking French, and they explained that they were looking for French speakers, and they had literature in French. They’d come to my door because my last name is French.

I told them that my French ancestor had come to these shores in the 1630’s (true story) and that my family hadn’t been French-speaking in a very long time, and they thanked me (in French) and off they went. I never did find out what denomination they were with. And I have no idea why there were looking for French-speakers around here. Korean and Armenian speakers, sure, we’ve got lots, but if there’s a colony of French expatriates anywhere around here I’m not aware of it.

Very odd.

The Art of Blogging

Sam Rocha, he of A Primer on Philosophy and Education, has been doing a series of interviews with bloggers from the Patheos Catholic Channel on “The Art of Blogging”. The third in the series is with yours truly, rather to my bemusement. We talked about writing, the differences between technical writing, fiction, blogging, math, and programming, and how to acquire good taste. I enjoyed the heck out of the experience, and though the resulting interview is absurdly long I hope you’ll enjoy it too.

On Being Grumpy

My latest for is entitled, “On Being Grumpy.” Enjoy!

Storage Costs

When I was newly married, back in the late ’80’s, I paid $880 for a Plus Systems 80 Megabyte “hard card”, a hard disk I could slip into the expansion slot of my IBM PC AT clone, more than tripling its storage capacity, for a cost of $11/megabyte.

This morning my computer was acting oddly, and I decided I wanted to make a complete backup without overwriting my existing backup; so I went to Office Depot and bought a new backup drive. It’s a 1 Terabyte drive, for which I spent approximately $98, or $0.000098/megabyte.

Now that’s progress.


So our internet connection has been flakey for the last week. We’ve seen this once in a while: we’ll have problems for a day and then it will go away again for a long time. I’ve always figured that it’s the provider’s fault; they are doing something to the line that’s screwing up the DSL connection. Once, about six months ago, it definitely was the phone company’s fault; the phone line got so noisy that you couldn’t use it for voice calls. We complained, they did something, and all was well.

This time, though, the phone line sounded fine; and we had the internet coming and going every few minutes for 24 hours. I called our provider, and talked to a kind gentleman from India, who after a time concluded that it must be our DSL modem, which had been in service since 2004, and which certainly needed to be replaced. He’d send us a new (refurbished) one for free, plus enough shipping to cover the cost of a new one.

OK; so I had him send it. And the next day, the ‘net was working perfectly, and when it showed up I left it in its box.

Since then, though, we’ve had five or six days when the ‘net has been unreliably flakey. That is, we’ve had hours when it works fine followed by hours when it’s completely gone, followed by erratic ups and downs. So tonight, I did the deed and replaced the old one.

This is the point where I talk about how the kind Indian gentleman was all wet, and how it still doesn’t work, and how I’m going to switch providers, and like that.

Except…it seems to be working just fine. Not only that, web pages are loading a lot faster. We’ll see how it goes over the next couple of days.

Lawn Chair Catechism, Session 2

LawnChairCatechismSquare This summer, is hosting an on-line book discussion group for Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples. Each session will focus on one chapter of the book, and yours truly is participating. Hit the link above to see all of the participants, and to find the discussion questions.

Sessoion 2 of Lawn Chair Catechism is looking at Chapter 1 of Forming Intentional Disciples: “God Has No Grandchildren”. Or, just because you’re Catholic, that doesn’t mean that your kids will necessarily be Catholic. Sherry talks about the demographic changes in the Church, and about the two major groups of people who leave the Catholic Church: those who just drift away, and those who join some other Christian group, usually Evangelical, because they have met Christ there in a way that they hadn’t before.

I have some sympathy with this latter group. I was on the verge of “drifting away” in high school; only my desire to avoid a confrontation with my parents kept me going to mass with them. I remained in the Church largely because of my Presbyterian ex-girl friend, the outreach of an Evangelical megachurch, and the youth group at the local Episcopalian church. Six years later, still Catholic, I married one of the girls from that youth group, and became an Episcopalian. Almost six years ago, after several years of study and discernment, we came back to the Catholic Church.

Was it right for me to leave the Church when I did? I would have to say no; and yet God has certainly put those choices of mine to good use. I am much more involved and much more intentional about my faith now than I fear I would have been had I never left.

So…on to the discussion questions.

Have you always been Catholic? I think I’ve answered that already.

How did the instruction and mentoring you received help you—or prevent you—from having a personal relationship with God? I won’t say that the idea never came up during the instruction I received at Church when I was a kid…but I can’t say for sure that it ever did, either. I do remember old Fr. Barry asking the kids in my CCD class when we had last sat down and had a good chat with the Virgin Mary. That, of course, was the first time anyone had suggested to me that such a thing was possible, and though I think I might have tried it once I don’t recall having any success.

If you were raised in a Catholic home, are your family members all still Catholic? What events among your friends and family seem to explain why some are Catholic and others are not? I was, and of my siblings one is Anglican and the other two are not religious so far as I’m aware. And I think our family situation had something to do with it. My mother was Methodist, and active in her congregation; it was important to her, but she didn’t talk about it with us much because she had promised that her kids would be raised Catholic. Dad made sure that the family all went to mass every Sunday, and he continued going to mass every Sunday for the rest of his life, but he never talked about it.

And so far as Catholic culture goes, there wasn’t that much of it in our house. We said grace before dinner (when we were at home). We abstained from meat on Fridays (until that requirement was lifted). We were every Sunday Catholics but we most definitely weren’t Holy Day of Obligation Catholics; and I remember one Easter Dad took us to the Saturday evening mass so that we could drive to some relative’s house first thing in the morning. The Great Vigil with all of its readings took him completely by surprise. And because Dad wasn’t very social (Mom was the social one) we weren’t particularly involved in parish life and didn’t know anybody. (Ironically, after Mom died the people outside of the family who were the biggest comfort to Dad were the folks from her church.)

You might say that my Dad modeled (some of) the requirements of religion, without revealing any of its consolations, or the reasons for putting up with it.

In your parish: How’s your retention rate? What percentage of 8th graders in your parish are still practicing the faith at age 18? At age 24? Do young adults in your parish stay in touch with their childhood faith community, or do they drift away to an unknown fate? I’m not really in a position to know for sure, especially as we’ve only been in active in the parish for about six years. As I indicated last week, though, the parish LifeTeen community seems to be going great guns; and there are certainly at least few young adults from that program that I see regularly at mass.

The Latest Stuff

Just an update on what’s been going on.

First of all, April was lousy. No major tragedies, mind you; just of a lot of little grinding unpleasantnesses, including the joy and pleasure of getting a tooth crowned for the first time.

Some people find that they feel pretty good the day after getting a tooth crowned. Other people might find that the pain lasts for couple of months. I am not the former, alas, but also not the latter (and there was great rejoicing). And you know how toothaches seem to move around in your jaw, so that it’s not always clear which tooth is actually the culprit? I was more or less convinced for a week or so that I’d be getting a second crown immediately after the first one. This now seems not to be the case (and there was great rejoicing).

All of my hopes for Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis’ book Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word. I’ve been getting up early every day to spend time in study ever since Easter Tuesday (including Saturdays and Sundays!), and I’m regularly astonished by the blindingly obvious things he pulls out of each line of the text—blindingly obvious after you’ve seen them—that I had never noticed before. I’m keeping notes of my reflections; some of them may appear here in the future. (As some kind of indication of the depth of Erasmo’s writing…50 days after Easter, I’m not quite to the end of the third chapter of Matthew’s gospel.)

Finally, I’m still working George’s Saga, my RPG, in which George, a naive but promising young man of low birth and high destiny, encounters such characters as the grim Sir Fred, Hogworth the peasant, Cyneros the dark wizard, Magister Mayhem, and Princess Floribunda. The game is becoming increasingly goofy. When George applies to Magister Mayhem for quest, he is told:

Magister Mayhem looks at you sourly. “Another adventurer,” he says.
“Just what I needed. Well, at least the Sewers have been restocked.”

He harrumphs a bit more, and then says, “OK, let’s take it from the top.

“The town of Floobham is in desperate straits. I’ve not had breakfast,
and everyone knows that I get nasty when I’m hungry. So you just go
down to the sewers, and see if you can find me a Tasty Egg Maguffin
in one of the chests. Bring it back to me, and I’ll see what else I
can think of.”

He doesn’t look enthused at the prospect. As you turn to go, he adds,
“I’m sure a naive but promising young man like you will have no trouble
finding the entrance to the sewers. You can, heh, keep anything else
you find down there.”

Later, George travels the short distance to Floob Castle, where Princess Floribunda is in dire straits. George goes speedily, eager for a quest that doesn’t involve sewers.

It seems that one of her father’s guests has unleashed cosmic evil within the castle. The princess could resolve the problem easily, she says, had she her magic ring…but she dropped it, and it fell down a grating, and, well, it’s in the palace sewers:

Sewers. More dirty, stinking, filthy, rat-infested sewers. Just what you
needed. You take a deep breath, out here where the air is clear.

“Very good, your Highness. So how do I get into the sewers?”

“Well, that’s the problem,” she says, still staring at the grating.
“I’m afraid you’re going to have to go through the palace.”

She turns to look at you.

“Good luck,” she says. “You’ll need it.”


Turns out, I know two of the people who were running the Boston Marathon today: Tina, a lady I often lector with at mass on Sunday evenings, and her husband. Fortunately they are unhurt.

May the civil authorities quickly determine the responsible parties; and may no one speculate foolishly about who they are until we’re sure.

And may God bless the injured and their families.

George’s Saga

George I realize I’ve been kind of missing in action over the last several weeks; and the reason is that I’ve been spending pretty much all of my free time working on George’s Saga with my sons. George’s Saga is a computer RPG with simple, old-fashioned graphics that I’m doing mostly for fun as a Java programming project. It’s come an amazing way in the last three weeks; and there’s lots more work to be done before we’ll have something that anybody else would be interested in playing. But I’m having a ball, and learning a whole lot at the same time.

George’s Saga is rather different from Ramble, another incomplete RPG I wrote a few years ago. Ramble was primarily influenced by Angband and other “Rogue-like” RPGs; it used small graphical tiles, had a single player character, and was keyboard-driven in an Angband-like way. George’s Saga, by contrast, is point-and-click mouse-driven, with multiple player characters and larger graphical tiles. From a user-interface perspective, it draws heavily on Avernum: Escape from the Pit, which I played on my iPad a month or two ago; I enjoyed Avernum very much, and the user interface was a big part of it. From a graphics perspective, it’s reminiscent of the original Ultima series of games, especially Ultima III, though with more colors and bigger tiles. From a humor perspective, it’s probably going to resemble the DragonQuest series more than anything else.

At this point it’s very much a work-in-progress. There is no story to speak of as yet. There are two player-characters, George (a farmer) (that’s him, up there, as drawn by my eldest) and Sir Fred (a knight). There’s an overworld map with a number of castles, none of which have anything inside them; a small town (which I only implemented today) filled with people who won’t talk to you, not because they are unsocial but because conversations aren’t implemented yet; and two small dungeons implemented mostly as a place to experiment with monsters. (Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha.) The player characters can wear armor and wield weapons, including ranged weapons, but the combat system isn’t even a quarter baked. (On the other hand, ranged attacks are nicely animated.) They can also loot chests and carry items, but there aren’t that many items for them to find or carry.

So, early days.

I expect that George is going to occupy my time for a while yet; I might have more to say about him over the coming days or weeks.


Our phone service went out this morning, along with our Internet service. AT&T is going to send a technician on Tuesday. (!) Things will be quiet around here until all is resolved.

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