Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Blind-Obedience Myth

I really like this article by Michael Novak on Pope Benedict XVI and Andrew Sullivan.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Movie Combinations I'd Like to See: Bilbo Fett--Hobbit bounty hunter.

Readings for 12/1/2005

Some thoughts on today's readings:

Today's Gospel reading can be both a source of comfort and distress for us. On the one hand, it could hardly be more straightforward. Jesus tells us that we are like wise men if we hear His word and do it. He tells us we are like foolish men if we hear His word and do not do it.

The great comfort in this passage is that Jesus really does lay out the way for us to be wise. He shows us all that we need to do to survive amid the storms and trials that afflict us in life: Listen to His word, and do it.

The distressing element in this passage is that we so often fail to do all that He tells us. But even there we can take comfort, for we are His little flock. Thankfully, one of the things He tells us to do is seek forgiveness. We can turn to Him in our failings and weakness, and He will forgive and restore us.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Everyday Sanctity

I am reading Everyday Sanctity, a book recommended to me by Debbie A. It is very inspiring. The first part is talking about ways to sanctify our morning, as a means to begin a sanctification of the entire day. (Well begun is half done, and all that.)

This is a Schoenstatt book, and I find myself really growing in appreciation of three aspects of Schoenstatt:
  1. Its focus on growing in holiness, pouring out my life for God, through my responsibilities as father, husband, worker, and friend;
  2. Its practical nature; Not only does the Schoenstoatt movement encourage holiness in general, but provides a number of specific practices geared towards people living in families, in the world.
  3. The call to holiness is deep and "radical." This is not just an admonishment to be good or avoid serious sin. It is a call to live every moment with burning love for God, for the Church, for Mary, for our families. This call, if fully answered, can be as heroic and self-sacrificing as any other. More importantly, it is the call of God, and it is what He wants for us.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Just the Right Amount of Nerdiness

Thanks to marriage, I am nerdier than 48% of all people. (I'm sure that if I was not married, my score would be much more nerdy.)

I am nerdier than 48% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

She has her father's intelligent expression

 Posted by Picasa

Father Nathan?

Perhaps Nathan will be a priest when he grows up. He is quite happy to dress up as Fr. Jon for the Feast of All Saints. Posted by Picasa

Attractive Nuisance

Wow. It has been incredibly difficult to get back into writing lately. I'?m not quite sure what the problem is. I suppose that fact that we have this wonderful little baby is a little distracting. But there is more to it than that.

I'm continually drawn to the "attractive nuisance." I like to fiddle and tweak my system endlessly. I am working hard to focus (at least at work) on the task at hand, and not optimize, defrag, scan, repair, or fiddle with my perfectly-fine working system.

I am one of these people who will spend hours messing with productivity-enhancing and time management systems (like my favorite these days, Getting Things Done) but will avoid doing the actual work. It has been a great relief and inspiration to find that I'm not the only one.

There is much to write about. Let's see what the next few days actually brings. Some topics to consider:
  1. Our lovely new daughter, Kathryn.
  2. A really interesting course on Agile Development that I'm taking today and tomorrow.
  3. Two fascinating articles on differences between races and genders.
For now, I'll take the easy route and post a few pictures.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Book Log: Defending Middle Earth, by Patrick Curry

I picked up this book on a whim while vacationing in Duluth. The bookstore is in Canal Park, and Denise and I were just doing some leisurely browsing. (This was the first trip with just the two of us that we have taken in many years. Technically, it was not just the two of us since we did have Kathryn along. But, as she had not yet been born, it was easy to pretend she wasn't there.) The store was a little, independent shop. Its content ranged from the ridiculous (Women's Studies, New Age, etc.) to the sublime (a descent collection of classics and Christian writers). We overheard the clerk tell someone that they had sold more than 700 copies of the latest Harry Potter book during the special release party/sale they had the previous night.

The title caught my eye because we had recently finished re-watching all of the Lord of the Rings movies. I dove into it with relish, and found that it was something very different from what I had expected. It was defense of the literary seriousness of Tolkien's works, but Patrick Curry was really coming at it from the point of view of a Post-Modernist literary critic. His attempt is to show the relevance and deep meaning of Tolkien to an audience that does not give much currency to ideas of absolute truth, organized religion, or authority.

Because he was coming from this point of view, I had a hard time relating to him. I appreciate that he was defending one of my favorite writers from unfair criticism, but at the same time I felt a little uneasy that Tolkien could be so effectively rallied to some causes (like radical environmentalism) that I tend to regard with deep suspicion, if not outright hostility.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Kathryn Grace Meuer is born!

It is with great joy that Denise and Mark Meuer announce the birth of Kathryn Grace Meuer. She was born at 4:30AM on Thursday, August 18, 2005. She weighed 8 lbs, 11 oz, and was 20" long. Mother and baby are doing well.

Thanks to all of you for your encouragement and prayers.

The whole gang! Posted by Picasa

Little Katheryn Grace Posted by Picasa

Getting ready to go to the hospital. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Blogger for Word Test

Wow! It looks like I can post to my blog directly from Microsoft Word.

Monday, August 15, 2005

"Hey, I can almost reach the pedals!" Posted by Picasa

Nothing can stop the Davey-powered surrey. Posted by Picasa

We had a lot of luggage Posted by Picasa

It got cold on the shores of Lake Superior Posted by Picasa

The whole gang at Gooseberry Falls Posted by Picasa

At the falls Posted by Picasa

Men (sort of) climbing rocks. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Book Meme

I was tagged with the "Book Meme" by Jessica, so it appears I have no choice but to follow the inexorable demands of the meme will.

  1. Total number of books I own:
    Hard to say. Certainly it is in the many hundreds. I wish the number of books I continue to read was as great.
  2. The last book I bought:
    Defending Middle Earth
    by Patrick Curry. Watch for a review here soon.
  3. The last book I read:
    The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde
    by Joseph Pearce. See my thorough, detailed, and insightful review in the "Book Log" entry below.
  4. Five books that mean a lot to me:
    I'll fudge this a little and list several series that mean a lot to me.
    • The Children of the Last Days series by Michael O'Brien. This series starts with Father Elijah and continues with a number of prequels. His portrayal of the lives of poor and suffering spiritual giants is amazing. The books are amazingly edifying.
    • The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. (A negative reviewer on the Amazon site said that most of the positive reviews of the series were "undoubtedly written by overweight, sarcastic, 'intellectuals' who spent their youth playing 'Dungeons and Dragons', watching 'Star Trek' and 'Dr. Who' and dreaming that some day a woman might actually look at them." Let me shatter that negative stereotype by noting that I have never watched an entire episode of "Dr. Who".)
    • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. For those of you who have never read it, let me give you this word of advice: In the past few years, the publishers have re-issued the series with the numbers changed to follow the chronological order of the story, rather than the order in which they were written. Read them in the order they were written! (You can tell which ordering you have by the first book. In the original series, the way I think you should read them, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the first book.) Get an old set from a used book store. It really is better this way.
    • Theology and Sanity by Frank Sheed.
  5. Tag five people, and have them do this on their blog.
    This is a little difficult, since my circle of blogging friends is rather small, and some of those have already been tagged. I tag Emily and Greg.

Monday, July 18, 2005

It's on the Internet, therefore it is true.

The following is the result I obtained from taking a fun logic test. Ironically, the statements about me do not follow logically from my performance on the test.

You Are Incredibly Logical

(You got 100% of the questions right)

Move over Spock - you're the new master of logic

You think rationally, clearly, and quickly.

A seasoned problem solver, your mind is like a computer!

Friday, July 15, 2005

Smurfs are delicious! Posted by Picasa

Who would have thought diapers would make such great surgical masks? Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Book Log: The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde

The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde by Joseph Pearce provides a fascinating look at the life of a remarkable, talented, tragic, and degenerate author.

The only real down-side of this book is that now that I've looked it up, Amazon apparently thinks I'm gay.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Book Log: "The Free Press" by Hilaire Belloc

Interesting critique of what we'd now call "the mainstream media."

Friday, June 10, 2005

Katherine Kersten: Home-schooling lets kids realize their potential

The Nelson family described in this article are friends of ours. They're a fine bunch.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Book Log: The Pragmatic Programmer

This book by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas is aptly described by its title. It describes pragmatic practices that experienced programmers follow in their day-to-day work. The focus is very much on low-level, practical tips.

I found the advice given to be generally very sound and useful. There were few surprises for me (I've been programming for more than 20 years), but it was good to be reminded of some of the neater tricks of the trade. The most useful section for me was on estimation. I really liked the idea of consciously adjusting the units used for time estimates according to the length of the estimate. This table from page 65 has already come in handy:

DurationQuote estimate in
1-15 daysdays
3-8 weeksweeks
8-30 weeksmonths
30 + weeksthink hard before giving an estimate

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Powers of 10

This brings back memories of high school physics.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Well Put!

In a recent newsletter, Michael O'Brien described the state of moral confusion in our culture this way (emphasis mine):

For many years now the chief shepherds of the flock of the Lord have been speaking boldly about the "culture of death" and the "dictatorship of moral relativism." They remind us that the tasks ahead are not easy ones, and that the consequences of ignoring them are grave. Our fathers in Faith have taught us that the spirit of murder and the spirit of falsehood are always in partnership, that the culture of death is necessarily a culture of lies. This present age ("this present darkness," St. Paul calls it) tells lies to us all the time. Whenever the lie is not a boldfaced inversion of truth it is a distortion of truth, often manifesting itself as a vast cloud of impressions that weaken our understanding of the ultimate real. The overwhelming forces that spread such falsehood in our times are the communications and entertainment industries, which by and large have become the dominant form of culture, with a subsidiary assist from state-funded arts and mammon-motivated newspapers.
I particularly appreciate the phrase that we live in a "vast cloud of impressions that weaken our understanding of the ultimate" reality. It reminds me of C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy, where the demon undermined the understanding of the new Eve by repeatedly telling her different stories. No one story was particularly bad, but there was something small wrong with each of them. Taken as a whole, they had a very powerful effect.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

If you don't exercise your conscience, it gets flabby.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune has shown once again its truly amazing ability to pick the wrong (and I do mean wrong, as in "incorrect" or "immoral") side of almost every issue of import. Wednesday's editorial, "Editorial: Mavericks/Get them out of pharmacies" is a truly amazing piece of work. The hypocrisy is so blatant that one would, in charity, want to think it was a piece of satire. Sadly, it is not.

Speaking of pharmacists who refused to fill prescriptions for birth control and abortifacients, the Strib says, "[State law] does not allow Pamida or any other pharmacy to let pharmacists 'exercise their consciences,' which a spokesman for Pamida said is company policy." Think about this statement. Think about the sneer quotes. For activists on the Left, the conscience is a trump card which supersedes any and all moral codes. We are constantly told that it is admirable for students to defy school authorities, or women to get an abortions, or soldiers to refuse to follow orders, if their consciences tell them to do so. (And, except for the case of abortion, there are certainly times when such actions could be demanded by conscience.) Conscience is repeatedly invoked as an excuse to ignore or break a moral law. But as soon as a person's conscience actually convicts them of a wrong and, by following their conscience they follow a moral law, then all Hell breaks loose.

The hate speech from those who oppose orthodox Christianity is growing more and more strident. Pharmacists who refuse to materially participate in grave immorality are labeled "mavericks" and are told they should find another trade. This is extremely disturbing.

The article also states that one of the main dangers of allowing pharmacists to follow their consciences is, "Especially in small towns, maverick pharmacists can thwart the delivery of professional health care, not to mention violate the privacy rights of people attempting to fill a perfectly legal prescription." Their solution is that these people should instead not be allowed to be pharmacists. Tell me again how removing the pharmacist completely will help these people in small towns do get their prescriptions filled?

Sunday, May 01, 2005

This is what happens when you mix an almost two-year-old with some grown-up shoes and a Mickey Mouse hat. Posted by Hello

We love birthdays! Posted by Hello

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Book Log: 200 Questions About Schoenstatt

Denise and I have been participating in a Schoenstatt group for some time. Schoenstatt is a international movement within the Roman Catholic Church that seeks to help people in all walks of life grow closer to Jesus, and to live out that relationship as deeply as possible. The primary means of this growth involves making a covenant of love with Mary, Jesus' mother.

This has been a period of discernment for our family as we are seeking the Lord's direction regarding a deeper involvement with Schoenstatt. I found this book to be particularly helpful in this matter. It gives a solid, clear, well-organized summary of the movement's history, teaching, organization, and spirituality.

The book is not published by a large house, so it can be difficult to find. Please contact me if you have trouble locating a copy and I'll try to see if I can get one.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Habemus pablum!

Could the news coverage of the election of the new Pope possibly miss the point more than it does?

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Toying With Evil: May a Catholic Advocate Torture?

Mark Shea has written a very clear-headed essay on a disturbing topic. It is yet another example of how orthodoxy supports, feeds, and trains the mind for very rational, clear thinking.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Easter dresses, and the girls who love them Posted by Hello

Easter mass, 2005 Posted by Hello

Davey and Pit-Stop Pete Posted by Hello

When bubbles go for the throat Posted by Hello

Don't mess with the biker dude Posted by Hello

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Can a Post occur in the Future?

Just testing out the "future posting" ability of Blogger. I'm posting this at 12:25 CST, The Monday of Holy Week, the Twenty First Day of March, 2005. I'm going to set the time and date for 8:00AM on Tuesday.

Monday, March 21, 2005

You said it, Peggy.

Book Log: How to Pray Always

I read this book a few months ago and have been intending to review this book for some time. But the allure of riches and the worries and pleasures of this life have not allowed me to write for a while.

This is a book on prayer written by Fr. Raoul Plus during the early part of the last century. One of the things I love about the Catholic Church is something written fewer than 100 years ago can still be considered a relatively recent work. Fr. Plus's goal is to provide guidance and inspiration for lay people who which to take seriously the biblical admonition to "pray without ceasing" (I Thess 5:17).

The message of this book can be summarized in three principles:
  1. It is psychologically impossible to focus on God (or any other idea) continually, without interruption, throughout our day.
  2. It is more important that our will be aligned with God's, that we do all we can do for His glory, than it is to think directly about God.
  3. It is very beneficial to think of God as often as possible throughout the day.
The rest of the book unpacks these principles and attempts to provide guidance in their application.

The book starts with the very encouraging observation that, except for cases of direct supernatural intervention by God (as seen in the life of St. Theresa of Avila), no one case "pray without ceasing" if the only meaning of "prayer" is to consciously be directing thoughts to God. Our human nature is not made up in such a way that we can concentrate on a single topic without break. Additionally, even if we could, we would not be able to function in life in such a state. The many demands of our duties could not be performed.

Fr. Plus then observes that it is much better to have our will in alignment with God's will then to have our thoughts consciously directed to God. If we are doing whatever we are doing with the goal to please God, we are offering it up as a prayer even if we can not think directly of God while we are acting. We are consciously doing what He wishes us to do, and that is prayer.

My first thought in this was relief: Hey, if we can't focus directly on God 100% of the time, then we don't need to worry that much about prayer. But Fr. Plus makes it very clear that doing everything we do in life to please God is no small task. It calls for a complete renunciation of our own will.

There is much more to write but, ironically, duty calls. I strongly recommend this book and would love to hear your comments.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Starvation has begun

Please pray for Terri Schindler-Schiavo. Her feeding tube was removed today. Unless something is done, she will starve to death.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Want to take courses from MIT for free?

Well, you can't. But you can access almost all of the course materials, including lecture notes, from a large number of classes at MIT by going to MIT OpenCourseWare.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Harry versus Frodo

This is a great article by one of my very favorite authors, Michael O'Brien. It is extremely insightful discussion contrasting the works of J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Book Log: In the Red Zone

In the Red Zone – A Journey Into the Soul of Iraq by Steven Vincent

An amazing account of one man's journey through Iraq in the months following the invasion. I strongly recommend it.

Steven Vincent wanted to do something after the attacks of 9/11/2001. Being a journalist, he felt the best thing he could do was explore and chronicle the struggle going on inside this war-torn country. However, Vincent is an arts and culture reporter. He knew that no paper would be sending him in to do news stories in a war zone. So he went on his own. This turned out to be a remarkably good thing, because it allowed him to travel as an individual into parts of Iraq that are normally not covered by reporters.

Vincent has not produced a systematic history of Iraq or of the war. Rather, he has told the individual stories of the people he met. He does a fantastic job of laying out the complexities of Iraq culture. It becomes apparent very quickly that when you ask questions like, “What do Iraqis think of America?”, you get very different answers depending on who is speaking.

Above all, Vincent explores the painful paradoxes and contradictions in much Iraqi culture and thought. For example: Iraq under Saddam was a horrible place, filled with unspeakable tortures and terrors. Iraqis are very, very happy to be freed from Saddam, yet they are filled with shame that it was a foreign invading force that freed them. The apparent ease with which U.S. troops crushed the supposedly mighty Arab army is humiliating. It leaves many people simultaneously wishing to emulate the United States while filling them with shame-based hatred of it.

The crushing victory of America also gives Iraqi citizen a convenient scapegoat for all problems. To many Iraqis, America proved in the war that it was practically omnipotent. We could kill with such precision and force that it seems nothing must be impossible for the U.S. armed forces. But if America is so powerful, surely it can restore water, power, government, police, hospitals, law and order, and a thousand other services overnight as well. The only reason American forces would not bring all of these things back to full operation immediately was to further humiliate the Iraqi people. Many Iraqis constantly feel that America is simultaneously doing too much and too little.

A very refreshing aspect of the book is Vincent's willingness to diagnose cultural pathology when he sees it. He notes how the combination of militant Islam (with its antisemitism and anti-Americanism) and tribalism (especially with its attendant misogyny) is deeply destructive. These two forces are, in his opinion, the key obstacles to the formation of a peaceful and just society.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Deep Thoughts Amid Dirty Diapers

Why is it so difficult to avoid watching T.V.? From an objective point of view, I know I'm happier if I do just about anything other than watch the tube. Yet when it comes down to it, I often find at the moment I am weak and I just give in. It really is like a drug addiction.

There are (at least) two types of trials that beset modern man in America. The first is common to all men through history, and that is dealing with suffering. When we are given suffering, we must endure it, grow through it, and, if we have been blessed with the gift of faith, we can redeem it by offering it up to Jesus and joining it with His suffering.

But modern Americans have another trial that has not been so common to so many: Dealing with surplus. Most Americans (certainly including myself) have been blessed with more material goods than we need. We have been blessed with security, clothing, shelter, education, and general opportunity beyond what most of the world has ever known. One of the things the distinguishes a great life from the life of mediocrity is what a man does with this excess. It is so easy to get swallowed up in it, to see life in its terms. No matter how much we have, we can always want more. There are endless amusements and diversions that can pull us away from the deeper things of life.

I really see the wisdom of God in ordaining marriage. Very often, the one thing that keeps me from being completely absorbed in trivial amusements is the call of my family upon my time. I'd like to play video games, watch movies, go dancing, and many other things that would serve no purpose other than to amuse me for a time. Yet I seldom get to do any of these things because I need to work, change diapers, read stories, tuck into bed, and a 1,000 other things that need to be attended to when one has four young children.

At the time, each of those obligations can seem a burden. But when I am faithful to them, I am so much happier than I would be if I had just played. There are men throughout history that have accomplished amazing things by keeping laser-focused upon accomplishing some task or completing some work. They staid single and used their lack of attachment to achieve great things. I would not have been such a man had I never married. I am so thankful to God, my wife, and my children from drawing me into a much deeper life than I would have ever lived on my own.

Along these lines, please pray from my wife, Denise. She is pregnant with our fifth child, she is in the yucky first trimester, and she has a bad cold. Please hold her up to the Lord that she might receive healing, hope, and strength.

Books to Read

My "Books I Want to Read" list is starting to back up. I'm going to see if I can add this list as a part of my blog template. I need something to inspire me to read when I'm tempted to watch T.V.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Monday, January 31, 2005

Picture of hope. Posted by Hello

Trendy Christianity

The blogger at An Aid to Memory has some very insightful comments about adopting the latest cultural fads in order to attract people to church.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Kermit the Blog

Kermit the Blog is good friend of mine. I look forward to his insight.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

New picture for my profile. I'm the one on the right. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Bubble bath and a whirlpool Posted by Hello