Sunday, December 30, 2007

Mass Report: St. Leo the Great (Fairfax, VA)

Talk about a tale of two services! Where the Mass at Parish X was rushed, impenetrable, and in a dark little building, the Mass today at St. Leo the Great's was, well...great, being reverent in tempo, easily accessible, and in a bright, beautiful building.

I'll start out with the not-so-great things to get them out of the way. The microphones could have used a little work: in a brick and stone building, the acoustics can be distorted a bit if people don't speak very clearly. The sermon had a lot of good points, but they seemed to get repeated several times and so the sermon went about twice as long as necessary. The stained-glass windows were of a weird kind where there seemed to be more leading than actual glass. The choir music didn't always perfectly match the words in the hymnal. Okay, done.

As I mentioned before, the building itself was beautiful and bright (as opposed to Anglican churches, which tend to be beautiful and dark, or too many Roman Catholic churches, which tend to be dark and dreary). There was an actual choir loft...although no choir. I'm pretty sure the semi-folkish music was piped in, but the cantor (cantress?) was a girl perhaps slightly younger than me with a beautiful voice. There were poinsettias and lit Christmas trees in the front, but they did a good job of helping to set the mood rather than being distracting. Overall, it was very tastefully and reverently done, in a way I don't think I've seen done before in a Roman Catholic service.

However, my favorite part occurred while everyone was kneeling as Communion was being distributed. A very young girl (maybe four years old) turned around and looked at the girl about my age who was kneeling silently a few feet away from me (the two didn't know each other). The little girl put her finger to her mouth and noiselessly indicated that she knew people had to be quiet. The young woman near me mimicked the gesture encouragingly and the first girl turned around, satisfied. It was all I could do not to burst out laughing; I settled for smiling really broadly.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Just Once...

...I'd like to watch a modern TV show or movie where the "good guy" character can keep his pants zipped and not cheat on his wife/girlfriend.

Really. Is that so much to ask for?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Gun for Christmas

That's right, I got a gun for Christmas. In breach of my normal policy of not announcing what gun(s) I own or whether I'm carrying at any given point in time, I'll say that it's an Auto-Revolver. To be precise, it's a blued Mateba Unica 6 in .44 magnum with an 8 3/8ths inch barrel. Although any gun could be used for self-defense (or crime), this is one that's more useful as a target pistol, possibly useful for hunting (or animal defense), and excels as a conversation piece. When I took it out at the gun store near me a crowd of five guys instantly formed around me.

What's so unique about the gun? Firstly, it fires from the "six o'clock" position, meaning that it's the bottom, rather than the top, chamber in the cylinder which gets fired when you pull the trigger. The other thing is that it's a semi-automatic revolver: that means that when you pull the trigger, the recoil causes the top part of the gun to slide back and rotate the cylinder and recock the hammer like an "automatic" pistol. Traditional revolvers were either single-action or double-action. Single-action is the "Old West" type of gun such as the Colt "Peacemaker" (which revealingly has the official designation of Single Action Army). To fire a single-action revolver, you have to cock the hammer with your thumb before each shot. Double-action revolvers, such as Dirty Harry's, are more modern and are the type you usually see for sale. You can fire them like the single-action revolvers, but you can also simply pull the trigger and it rotates the cylinder and cocks (and then drops) the hammer as part of the process. This sounds like what the Auto-Revolver does, except that the downside to firing double-action is that it's much harder to pull the trigger and so your accuracy suffers.

I first found out about this handgun while reading about Trigun, an anime series that I really liked. One of the things you first notice is that the protagonist's gun is both really big and that it fires from the bottom chamber. Further research led me to discover that a similar gun was made (although the cylinder swings out instead of having a break-open action) and I would occasionally look at pictures of it when the mood caught me. I later found out that Mateba went out of business in 2005 and thus the guns have been discontinued. I sent an email to one company that claimed to sell them and was informed that they were about to receive their very last shipment soon. I figured that it was now or never, and so I'm the proud owner of one.

On one hand, I'm attracted to it's uniqueness and am sure that it will keep its value and perhaps even appreciate. On the other hand, I'm tempted to have it nickled and polished, have a custom black grip made, and saw off the compensator. I probably won't, although it sure is tempting.

The gun itself feels both well-made and delicate. It's got a European complexity to it, and the manual lists at least seventy parts! After getting it home I did what should have been a simple take-down to properly clean and oil things. Instead, the hammer and trigger jammed, the takedown pin would hardly budge, and the tiny screw which secures the takedown pin got lost several times and then wouldn't go in until I lined up things just right. That said, the gun is well-designed; it just has a relatively steep learning curve. One helpful thing that I did notice, however, is the presence of a back-up tiny screw in a little housing in the trigger (don't ask); that's really helpful because I'm sure that at some point I'll lose the first one.

I haven't fired it yet, but hope to within the month. When I do, I'll post a report and let you know how it handles and how many people came over to investigate.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

This really is my favorite time of year. May God bless each of you and your loved ones this Christmas and this coming year. May there be peace on earth, goodwill toward men, and may the Prince of Peace Himself return in His perfect timing.

Also, what would Christmas be without music? You know the song; it's off Relient K's album Deck the Halls, Bruise Your Hand.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Movie Recommendation

I watched Yours, Mine, and Ours this afternoon. It's from 1968 and stars Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda, with the premise being that she's a widowed nurse with eight children and he's a Navy widower with ten children (you get one guess as to their religion, and I'll give the hint that it's not Mormon). I don't know what to say except that it's funny, cute, clean, and even has positive messages (gasp). They kind of overdo the constant use of military terms by Fonda's character, but the brilliance of the script and camera work, Fonda's skill as the "straight man," and Ball's outstanding physical comedy were fantastic.

I don't know what to tell you except to say that the movie brightened my day and that I'd gladly see it again.

Attending a Latin Mass

It's always worse when you have high hopes for something and have gone out of your way to do it. So how was the Latin Mass I attended today in the Diocese of Arlington?



I wanted to walk out half-way through it. The priest talked a mile a minute, the altar servers were in creepy harmony as they responded, and the pre-Motu Latin/English guide had apparently nothing to do with the actual Mass. Even knowing the order of the Mass and the basics of the Kyrie, Credo, Agnus Dei, Gloria, and so on, I got really lost very quickly and the fact that 75% of what was said was said silently (with most of the rest being obscured by kneeling benches being put down as the priest faced away from the congregation). Some awful-sounding overly-loud bells got rung every few seconds as well. Is this really what all the fuss has been about for the past forty years? I'm baffled as to what anyone sees in this form (especially as hardly anyone in the crowd would have even have hit adolescence by the time of Vatican II). By the end I wanted to declare my own Reformation.

This is why Catholicism is so poorly-regarded in English-speaking countries: the Novus Ordo is like a subpar Methodist service and the Latin Mass is impenetrable. I'm starting to understand why there was so much trepidation about Kennedy becoming President. If I wanted to come up with something designed to horrify Protestants into the belief that they should be suspicious of Catholics are secretive foreigners, I couldn't do a better job than the Latin Mass. The beauty of Palestrina's and Byrd's sung Masses were utterly absent; it was just a dark ampitheatre with plaster statues and a priest speaking a foreign language while we looked at his back. About the only thing I can come up with to commend it was that the presence of hair lace among the women let's me report that there was a scintilla of mantilla present.

This is why it's so important that the Holy Catholic Church find a place for Anglican worship. Evangelicals are going to be less-than-enthusiastic about Novus Ordo folk Masses and creeped out by the Latin form. Mainline Protestants are going to be horrified. The culture gap is just too wide. There was a chance back when everyone's stereotype was of folks like Archbishop Fulton Sheen and Catholicism was seen as being Anglo-American with an Irish brogue, but ecclesiastical Latin sounds menacing to my English-language ears. An Anglican form or Rite would give English-speakers (by this I mean as a culture, not as a language group) something to latch onto. The Episcopal Church is going down in flames, but Episcopalianism/Anglicanism offers something that Catholicism doesn't have: a sort of familiarity that allows it to at least get its foot in the door with Protestants and Evangelicals. An Anglican High Mass is a truly beautiful thing (if you're ever in London, attend the one at St. Paul's Cathedral) and even a Low Mass has a certain dignity to it that speaks well. It's not a matter of content, but how it's communicated.

For whatever reason (pick your favorite), Catholicism in this country pretty much only expands through reproduction, marriage, and a very small number of people who study history and theology enough to decide to convert. Evangelicals (including Pentecostals/Charismatics) may not keep as many of the folks the draw, but at least they get them in the door.

I'll probably give the Latin Mass another shot at a different parish; it's entirely possible that I simply was there on an off-day. However, what does it say when someone who knows what's going on and is inclined to give as much benefit of the doubt as possible comes away from a service upset and even slightly angry? For those who suggest that new Catholics might like the various Eastern rites: I'm not being blasphemous here, but for the love of God don't send them there. If the Latin is this atrocious, what chance do they have with Greek, Russian, or Syriac?

Monday, December 17, 2007


I just had my Criminal Law final today, and I have my Civil Procedure final on Wednesday. No one call anyone else a peepee-face while I'm gone (this happened to me in kindergarten; you can see that I'm still traumatized).

Life Imitates The Shawshank Redemption

Maybe Escape from Alcatraz, too. I'm thinking a certain jail has egg on its face right about now.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Revolting Post over at Mark Shea's

Yeah, I know it's seeming like every other post here is on that topic. Maybe I have Shea Derangement Syndrome. His blog really has become like finding out that a hoard of jewels has fallen into a septic tank. Do you avoid it and let the valuable bits remain buried? Do you risk getting yourself befouled?

Keep in mind that I once had a job where I had to clean the cages of dogs and cats with , ahem, digestive problems, using a spray bottle and paper towels. If I remember correctly, there were times when I had to work both morning and afternoon on New Year's (and it's Eve), the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. You can guess which of the two approaches above I tend to take.

What's of concern to me is that Shea routinely vilifies his opponents and spreads gossip and libel about them, demonizing them for "tiptoeing up to the line" on issues such as torture and sexuality where people are genuinely trying to find a solution that lets them both obey God and prevent the deaths or serious injury to their fellow man. Not only is does this render him a horrible witness for his views and the Holy Catholic Church, but it bring Shea himself into dangerous territory with regard to sin. As great as his apologetics writing tends to be, his blog and many of the commenters there definitely played a major role in it taking so long for me to finally decide that I belong in the Holy Catholic Church.

You don't see bloggers like Amy Welborn (ladies first), Jimmy Akin, Chris Burgwald, Bob Catholic, or TS O'Rama (alphabetical by last name) acting that way. Meanwhile, Shea's almost certainly started a blog war with Dean Esmay, a recent convert. As much as I've been anticipating the clash of these two, this isn't a very promising start.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It's a Strange World...

...when folks like Mark Shea use Andrew Sullivan's writings as a cudgel (perhaps a shillelagh in this case, given their last names) to bash Bush. Come to think of it, Shea has seemed willing to bash Bush with anything he can find.

Of course, in this case, it seems that the CIA had received legal advice that they could destroy the tapes they'd made in 2002 of interrogations. Shea also unquestioningly accepts a story that Abu Zubaydah was insane and gave no information; maybe mentioning that former CIA Director George Tenet claims that Zubaydah gave important information was too much for him to write. Perhaps the claims from a former al Qaeda operative that Zubaydah was a major player weren't worth notifying his readers about.

No, Mark Shea has gone from an entertaining source of news and apologetics to a spiteful, foul-mouthed, incoherent victim of Bush Derangement Syndrome. He's already declared George W. Bush the "Worst President Ever" and Dick Cheney the "Worst Vice President Ever;" what are the odds??? In doing this he breaks rule after rule that he himself has coined, including the "What Could It Hurt/How Were We Supposed to Know" and "Consequentialism on Parade." He goes after those who support the War for counting Christopher Hitchens as an ally while himself quoting Andrew Sullivan with aplomb.

Shea apparently doesn't have the decency to hold back; in his enraged mind George W. Bush is the root cause of all problems. He'll post anything, no matter how slimy, if he thinks it'll hurt Bush. When it is pointed out that his reasoning doesn't make sense or that his examples have been disproven (don't bother waiting around for a retraction, by the way), he's as likely as not to respond profanely and with insults.

For a grown man, a husband and father, a well-known Catholic apologist, and popular blogger to act this way is sickening, and he should be well and truly ashamed of himself.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Yeah She Does

Amy Welborn keeps it real.

(Full Disclosure: I have Amy's book Prove It! Church. A good resource, although geared more toward "Cradle Catholics" than converts and non-Catholics.)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Should I Heart Huckabee?

Ben Domenech shines in his analysis of Mike Huckabee's run for the GOP nomination, and Mark Byron has been liking Mike from Day One.

My personal preference based on issues and style is for Fred Thompson; he's solidly conservative and seems to have been the only one paying attention when they talked about federalism in Civics class. His campaign, however, has been pretty disappointing. The problem is that most of the rest of the field seems marginal. Giuliani, anointed by the media as the frontrunner, is pro-abortion, pro-homosexual marriage, and is scandal-plagued (I can probably come up with more problems involving hyphenation if pressed). McCain is tough-talking and Romney has proven experience as a manager, but neither of them is quite trustworthy, flip-flopping on issues. Besides, McCain is pretty old and Romney is just too slick. Hunter and Tancredo are marginal, although I agree with them on immigration and hope their views receive proper consideration. Then there's Ron Paul. The less said about him, the better.

Huckabee is soft on immigration and federalism. He has executive experience as Governor of Arkansas and seems to have done a good job of it. He's a sincere Christian with a dose of charisma; he's also nicely low-key as compared to most of the Democrat candidates. As far as I can tell, he's willing to continue the War on Terror. Basically, I get the impression that he's like a copy of George W. Bush; in my book that's a good thing. I'd vote for Bush again if I didn't think that too much power for too long isn't a good thing. While an energetic Thompson might give the top Democrat candidates a run for their money, I think that Giuliani, McCain, and Romney would probably get pwnt by Clinton or Obama (or, *shudder*, Edwards).

As for the Democrats, Richardson is the only one I can stand. Not that I like him on the issues, but he alone among them seems like a decent person (maybe Obama, too, on this) who actually has experience in government. I think it was the Clinton campaign that said (apparently without irony) that running for President isn't actually a credential when it comes to running for President; Obama has virtually no experience. My theory has been that he's running for President in 2012 or '16, possibly as Vice President under Clinton. As for Edwards, I'm not sure there's a politician I detest as much as the former senator from North Carolina (watch this, compare it with this, and see who's classier). I think there are also a bunch of Northeastern senators who always run; they can be safely ignored.

So what's this all mean? I don't know. The election is still a long, long way away, even if the obscenely-early primaries are just around the corner.

Whether True or False, Mark Shea is Irresponsible (at Best)

As good as Shea's blog can be, there's been a really high noise-to-signal ratio for the past, oh, year or more. Today, it's not missing an opportunity to diss the Bush administration over some unsubstantiated claims. In the comments, it's pointed out that the woman making allegations of gang-rape wasn't exactly set upon by a pack of jackals; rather, she had a history of trading sex for favors, got black-out drunk with men who weren't her husband, and woke up to one of her "assailants" lying next to her in bed (how she can remember that this man was one of her attackers but also have to question him as to what happened that night is beyond me). Maybe she was raped; on the other hand, maybe she just got drunk and stupid (not necessarily in that order, either). We don't know; all we have are her allegations.

Shea's post is, at the very least, an offense against charity. He uses a story with a tangental connection to the administration (the woman's employer used was a division of Halliburton, Cheney used to run Halliburton, Cheney is evil and controls Bush like a marionette; you know the drill). He tries to use the weasel words "If true," but it's clear that this is, at most, a CYA move. He knows better, and should be ashamed of himself.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Two Thoughts

I'll get back to these later (maybe after finals...):

1. Instead of stepping on the Second Amendment right to bear arms, why not step on the First Amendment's freedom of the press and forbid stories about mass or serial murders (seeing as apparently the Constitution is a Create-Your-Own-Adventure document).

2. Is a university a place of public accommodation? If so, can I sue my school if a gunman shoots up William & Mary (God forbid)? Can I seek equitable relief to force them to hire and station trained security guards around the campus or, alternatively, to disallow those holding Concealed Handgun Permits from being subject to "academic discipline" should they be found to have a firearm or ammunition on campus?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

I Can't Think of a Good Title for This Post

Do you ever just feel crushed by the weight of suffering, injustice, pain, sin, and lies around you? (Not to say that those things are never in my life, of course.) I'm not despairing; it's just that sometimes it sends you reeling and it takes a moment to regain your balance.

I had a moment like that recently. Some of us had gone to a restaurant as a study break; I knew about half the people there and was in some of the same classes with the rest, although I hadn't talked to most of them before. We were all swapping stories and, as a side note to one story, a certain detail about a girl with whom I'm friends came out. It wasn't flattering to her at all, and what made it worse was that the girl telling the story had originally left my friend's name out. A few people wanted to know who it was (I didn't know at that point, but didn't ask), others said "Oh, do you really have to ask? You know exactly who it is. It's ______," to which no one else expressed any surprise and the original story continued on, back on track after the quick detour. I was completely shocked and very saddened, although I think I hid it well enough.

With that detail revealed, a lot of what I knew about my friend began to make sense and, again, it broke my heart to realize it. Like many girls, she'd been taken advantage of before in her life and had taken the lies that come with that as the truth. She's a sweet girl and should have been treated better. Heck, let me be nonspecific: people should be treated better. I'm not perfect; I'm sure I've been like a bull in a china shop with people's emotions before, rampaging around without a second thought for what I leave behind. The guys that take advantage of people like my friend are too often simply acting out on what they've been taught: self-first. They simply don't know any better. Some do, and that's reprehensible, but I think most of the time it's at least a mixture of the two. The girls buy into it and end up not only falling prey to it over and over again, thinking that this time will be different, but even end up enticing guys into the role of user until you have a massive furball of people competing to use each other, thinking only of themselves and not realizing how much hurt they actually cause.

At Kids Across America the highest award that they gave out was the "I'm Third" award. The idea was "God first, others second, and I'm third." I never received this award, and that's probably a good thing: I'd be inclined to rest on my laurels. I don't always put myself third, and too often I put myself first of all. It's something I keep in mind, though, as a goal of how I'm to live.

I don't know what I mean to say by all of this. Treat people better. Be more considerate. If you can't go out of your way to help someone, at least be aware of what's going on around you. Pray for each other (and pray for me, too!). Don't just withdraw from the world; Jacob Joseph running naked from Potiphar's wife was a last-ditch effort.

I'm no better or worse than those around me except that I have a relationship, through Christ and with the aid of the Holy Spirit with God the Father. I am being transformed into a new man. I may be the closest thing a person sees to a reflection of the Living God; how can I let grime and rust obscure that light, or hide myself away lest I be tarnished?

It's scary and it's frustrating. Sometimes I want to simply break down and sob for those around me, both men and women, who have bought into lies and built their lives around them. There is victory in Christ, though, and crying's not going to solve anything.

When Seconds Count, the Police Are Only Minutes Away

Negron said every available officer in the city was sent to the mall, and it took six minutes from the time of the call for the first officers to arrive.

There was a shooting at a mall in Nebraska the other day; if I understand it correctly nine people plus the gunman were killed and five more were wounded. It's tough not to be bitter at those who insist that this sort of thing isn't likely to happen again, that we should be disarmed, and that the police can protect us. Even given the best of intentions, the police can't be everywhere (nor should we want them to be). We as citizens continue to abdicate from our responsibilities, with an ignorance of how to defend ourselves being but one example.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that some pregnant mother should have pulled out a knife and charged the man as he was shooting (although I do think that pregnant women would be smart to carry a firearm, seeing as they're very vulnerable). However, someone nearby who a basic understanding of what to do could have saved lives.

In a similar vein, I was driving back from Norfolk to Williamsburg earlier this week. It was getting dark and I noticed that the van ahead of me was periodically swerving halfway into other lanes and generally driving erratically. Knowing that we still had a few miles to go until we got to the tunnel that connects Norfolk with Hampton, I called the Norfolk police and told them about the guy, warning them that the guy was seriously endangering other cars and that in the tunnel there would be very little room to maneuver. The police didn't come.

I stayed a moderate distance behind him, honking whenever he swerved into the right lane or looked as though he were about to crash into the left barrier. Cars found themselves forced onto the shoulder or were cut off. Here's where things go from bad to worse: right before the tunnel some sports car cut me off and then began tailgating the drunk guy. Once we got into the two-lane tunnel, an SUV would periodically pull up next to the guy...but not drive on past. It was the craziest thing: two cars boxing in a drunk guy in a van bigger than either of their vehicles while in the middle of a tunnel, going 55mph. I was praying throughout the whole thing and somehow no accident occurred. Shortly afterwards the van took an exit onto one of the regular streets. I called the Hampton police and told them about the drunk driver and where he'd turned off; they said they'd keep an eye out.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

And in Other News...

The King of Thailand is apparently a saint.

Friday, November 30, 2007


Which Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Are You?

YOU ARE RULE 20(a)!You are Rule 20, an important part of the Federal Rules' policy of permissive joinder. You are designed specifically to allow as many parties in an action as can be tried efficiently, and you'll include someone as long as there is some factual overlap between a claim involving them and the rest of the case at hand. You are popular, out-going, and are never far from friends. However, your overly gregarious nature and magnanimous approach do make things a bit crowded--you're the reason that lawsuits are often cluttered with innumerable parties and even more numberous claims for relief. Still, despite the crowds that you attract, you can't argue with the efficiency of getting everything done at once!
Take this quiz!

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Ordinary Mass Thoughts

1. Sorry about the ranting below; I'm better now.

2. If a hypothetical person were to find themselves at the folk Mass held in the evening because the hypothetical person overslept, the proper meditation for the service is "This is my own darn fault."

3. And now for something productive: a Latin-to-English cheat sheet for the Ordinary Mass in Latin that I arranged. I don't go to Latin services (although it sounds tempting), but I've got a lot of sacred music and, since I don't speak Latin, the Masses may as well be gibberish to my ears. With the cheat sheet, they make perfect sense. If you like this and find it helpful, let me know; I'm considering doing ones for the Miserere, for the 1928 Anglican version of the English translation, and the Stabat Mater Dolorosa (although I don't know if this has prescribed lyrics or not).

Friday, November 23, 2007

I Don't Know

I think I'll take a break from song-title posts, or at least not make them obligatory.

Anyway, I've come to realize that I've been very angry lately. I don't know how to describe it, except to say that I know it dates back to the Virginia Tech shootings last April.

Those shootings weren't actually the first case of a killer being on the loose in Blacksburg that academic year: on the first day of classes a prisoner had managed to take an officer's weapon and kill two police officers before being apprehended that afternoon. I didn't have work that day and so I took a pistol over to my then-girlfriend's apartment and waited with her. She had work early that afternoon; I parked out front of her store with the gun on the seat next to me, keeping my eyes peeled in case the killer (who had been described in detail on TV) showed up. After he was caught I put the pistol back in my closet and didn't really give the matter a second thought. As far as I'm concerned, it was a basic precaution that, while perhaps ultimately unnecessary, was a good thing to do.

In April, the killer (whose name doesn't deserve to be remembered) first killed two people in a dormitory (the same building where I had lived as an undergrad) and then thirty more in Norris Hall (where I'd had classes as an undergrad), plus many more wounded. Before the second part of his mass murder, he chained the doors shut so cops couldn't get in and people couldn't get out. Campus security isn't armed and much of the Virginia Tech police department is a joke, so this may have been unnecessary on his part.

I only knew one of the victims even slightly; Ryan "Stack" Clark was a member of the Marching Virginians while I was there, albeit in a different section of the 330-strong organization and I can't have talked to him more than twice in my life. The closest to a "direct" tie I had to anyone were some people who were on campus at the time.

At the same time, they're "my people" in that they're Hokies. If that doesn't make sense, don't worry; very few people who aren't Hokies (or family of Hokies) seem to understand it, while all the Hokies I know seem to understand it completely. It hurt me that "my people" were targeted. If it had been at nearby Radford University or in the Town of Blacksburg I'd be upset, but not to the same extent.

I believe many people have blood on their hands as a result of what happened. While his handling of events that day was okay, Virginia Tech President Charles Steger has blood on his hands for supporting the academic ban of legal firearms on campus. The Board of Visitors and all members of the Tech administration share in this guilt. I hope every single one of them loses their job. The Virginia Tech police and security departments are worthless jokes perpetuating a myth of safety while hassling students over ticky-tack offenses. One person I read put it well: "Remember, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away."

Many of those who were shot that day were graduate students and professors, with at least one professor being a veteran (of the Israeli army). One student with a concealed weapon could have changed things. Let me explain: at Virginia Tech (and at William & Mary) it is legal for those with concealed weapons permits to carry their handguns on campus. The law doesn't touch that. However, if discovered, they can face academic discipline (expulsion). It's an end-run around a basic right. At Appalachian School of Law the shooter was stopped by two students who had retrieved their guns from their cars, although not before he'd killed six people. I recently heard that during the 1966 shooting at the University of Texas several students retrieved their rifles from their cars and shot back, causing the shooter to have to take cover and significantly disrupting his ability to kill.

The way I see it, the past decade has seen a shooting at a law school in Virginia and a shooting at a public university in Virginia (plus the "Beltway Snipers" in Northern Virginia). I happen to go to a public university law school in Virginia. However, the W&M administration has made it clear that their policy is the same as Virginia Tech's: it's okay for students to get shot up so long as no one has to think too hard and shatter their fairy-tale kumbaya world.

This side of heaven there are people who will do evil things. They will shoot up schools, assault and rape women, mug the unsuspecting, and more. My life and the lives of those I care about are apparently not worth any real protection.

It's really hard not to swear at this point (only years of self-discipline keep me from doing so). I'm not allowed to protect myself and neither is anyone else. There sure seems to be a threat out there. I don't even know how to end this. I'm just angry, frustrated, and can't understand why the good people must be left at the mercy of those who seek to do them harm.

Friday, November 16, 2007


It's important to do the right thing. Even when it sucks.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Old Rugged Cross

For those who have seen nothing but gloom and doom for Iraq's Christians, let me direct you here.

[If you're any kind of Evangelical you've heard this song many, many times. Here's the Statler Brothers' version]

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Under Over

Apparently I can't win. Over at Mark Shea's I got reamed for saying that not every form of coercion is necessarily torture. A lot of people were very angry with me. Over the last two days, I've gotten yelled and screamed at over at Dean Esmay's for saying that if waterboarding is torture then we shouldn't do it. It doesn't matter whether we do it to one or three or however many people, whether we do it to our own troops with their consent, or whether it leaves a physical mark.

As far as I can tell I'm not arguing two contrary positions. I'm saying that not all coercion is torture and that if something is torture (and I'm inclined to think that waterboarding is) then we shouldn't do it. Torture is wrong, but not everything that seems like torture necessarily is. When it comes to something like torture, I'm sympathetic to what Jimmy Akin calls (in the last line of his post) the Deerhunter Principle: unless you know it's right then don't do it.

My thinking is that we shouldn't do evil, even when our goal is to prevent a greater evil. Any evil, great or small, has a way of coming back to bite those who do it (good does this, too). Kind of like karma, which although a Hindu term is more-or-less present in Christianity as well. It's my belief that the end result of our doing evil to prevent what we see as a greater evil will be worse than if we declined to use wrong means; in other words, that the short-term benefit is outweighed by the long-term loss. We're the United States. We have two very big things going for us: our science and technological superiority on one hand and that we're generally the "good guys" on the other. We can't afford to sacrifice either one, but we especially can't afford to lose the latter quality. It's what separates us from mere bullies, such as (most of) the empires that flourished in centuries past. We abandon the high ground at our peril, and we do it for something as questionably useful as waterboarding at our own stupidity. Can't those who think we should sell ourselves find a better price?

UPDATE: The equivalent of the "chickenhawk" argument has been leveled against me: namely, that I've never been to SERE school and been waterboarded. True. As always, I thank those who serve and have served our country by volunteering to be put in harm's way. However, I have to believe that there's still a difference between super-intense training done by your countrymen and the same acts done by your enemy. John McCain, who actually was tortured, says that waterboarding is torture. There are many things on which McCain and I disagree, but I'm pretty sure he has as good or better of an understanding of torture as just about anyone else out there.

[The title song is by the now-defunct group Doctor Manette; the words are good but the ending is my favorite part, with it being almost-but-not-quite the same thing over and over.]

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Invasion of the Gabber Robots

That's right: it's election time. Local elections, to be precise. Officially, I still live it my parents' house; it's easier to get some mail there and better than having to update my driver's license and voting precinct every year when I switch apartments at school. I figure rights and responsibilities are two sides of the same coin, and thus not only do I have a right to vote but also a responsibility to vote (and to become informed about my choices). Just as importantly, I figure that I forfeit my right to complain about any elected official in my district in whose election I didn't vote. Now, for local elections there's only so much at stake. If someone on the Soil and Water Board is in favor of embryonic stem cell research it's not exactly a deal-breaker for me. Besides, being Fairfax County, my state senator, delegate, county sheriff, and district representative to the school board were all Democrats running unopposed. The Soil and Water Board had three incumbents (two Democrats and one Republican) running unopposed with one Green challenger.

After doing a quick check of each candidate's website or blurb in the newspapers, I came up with my list. At least one Republican, Democrat, and Independent (in a race where party could be listed) candidate received my vote. I generally write in a candidate when someone runs unopposed and continued that trend today. As for the rest, these were my criteria:
-One-party rule is a bad thing; in Fairfax County this means that Republicans get a +1 in my consideration
-If they're a challenged incumbent and seem to have been doing an okay (no positions to which I strongly object) job, they get my vote. The other side of this is that I'll risk a new guy if the incumbent is incompetent or seems to be in it for his own gain (like a certain incumbent who seems to be using his legitimate authority to reclassify objectionable things as nonobjectionable and look better to those who don't look too closely)
-Competency is good; being a busybody is bad
-Being a veteran gives you bonus points in my consideration, as does having a family and being a member of a church

So with all that in mind I went in to vote absentee-in-person at one of the satellite government centers. The hours for doing this are all day at the main government center and at the satellite centers on Saturday, but only 3:30-7:30 on weekdays. I couldn't find the polling station and had the following conversation with the receptionist:

Me: "Um, hi. I was wondering where I could go vote absentee-in-person."
Receptionist: "You can do it here, but not until 3:30."
Me: "Wait, what?"
Receptionist: "The station doesn't open until 3:30 during the week."
Me: "Isn't today Saturday?"
Receptionist: [blinks] "You're joking."
Me: [confused]
Me: "Oh. That's right; I'm usually only here on the weekends."

Now, in my defense, I had originally been planning to be back on Saturday, not Wednesday. Since my 5PM class yesterday had been cancelled it felt like a weekend. In any case, I drove to the main government center in Fairfax and voted there. They gave me a sticker.

I encourage you to take an hour and do a quick once-over of the candidates for any local races you have coming up. Tuesday is election day; you should have the day off. A lot of these races only garner a few thousand votes (if that), and every election you hear of some race that got won by a handful of votes (sometimes even a single vote).

[As for the song, "gabber robots" seems like a decent description of politicians to me (especially Al Gore and Mitt Romney). Okay, that parenthetical remark was kind of a cheap shot. To make up for it, I present an internet fad that occurred during my Freshman year of college: All Your Base Are Belong To Us. The video is the first part of a horribly mistranslated Japanese video game, followed by a lot of photoshopping. The music is called "Invasion of the Gabber Robots" and is actually a pretty good, if sad, song if you like that style. Why sad? It's sad because the good guys lose. This takes some knowledge of both video games and some creativity, but bear with me. The driving pulse is the relentless, monolithic enemy. The high-pitched melodic line is the "good guys." Everything else is "mood" and tells the story. Listening to the melodic line, at around 2:10 you have the good guys doing well. They're not doing anything seriously harmful, but are doing the equivalent of dispatching the ineffective minions of the enemy. At about 2:33, they start doing real damage and you begin to think that they've got a chance. At 2:46, however, it becomes apparent that their efforts are futile; they're doomed no matter what. At 3:10 the good guys are continuing the fight, even though they know there's no hope of victory. After their theme dies out, there's a pause...and now you know that whatever the good guys were defending is now facing the enemy themselves.

Okay, so maybe it's just a song. Still, I like the story. Insert Battlestar Galactica references if you'd like.]

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ooh Ahh

In quick succession, I recently got two horrible pieces of news.

The first is that the wife of a man I know left him (I don't know whether he considers me a friend or just an acquaintance, so I won't presume). I have a lot of thoughts on this, but they're not proper to be anywhere except inside my own head, and maybe not even there. I just pray that God will remain active in the lives of all affected parties and that they'll allow the Holy Spirit to guide them to a proper resolution.

The second is that a guy with whom I was co-counselor at the camp where I worked two years ago just passed away. I don't have any other details. He was a good guy who'd come from a hard background. I'll be praying for him, too.

I don't know what to say, except to note that while I have no doubt that the second guy is on his way to heaven and that, while the first guy surely feels like he's in hell, hope still remains.

[I wasn't sure whether to do a musical title for this one or not. If my only options were punk or something, I wouldn't. The song Ooh Ahh, by Grits, is a soulful rap about life and loss and love and hope. Yeah, that sounds cliche, but it ends up striking a much deeper chord with me than a lot of other songs on the same subject. The link is just the song; you may want to have it in a background tab and read the lyrics as you listen.]

Monday, October 29, 2007

Save Tonight what I'll be doing as I work on my memo for Legal Skills due in about sixteen hours. I procrastinated, although I did come up with a skeleton ahead of time (unlike last time).

[Save Tonight was a song by Eagle-Eye Cherry that was a big hit in 1996. It's good, but I like the remix by Jackie O better (the anime music video is weird, so you may want to have it playing in the background).]

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Minstrel Boy

Okay, so new experiment:
I'm going to try to make the title to every post the name of a song (which will likely be on my playlist, which has a lot of rock, punk, ska, and miscellania). We'll see how long this goes. If possible, I'll try to link to a version of the song on YouTube...although I make no comment on whatever video accompanies it.

[Minstrel Boy is an old Irish song set to the tune of the Moreen, a really old tune that you've definitely heard before. A fun punk version is done by Enter the Haggis, while a haunting version is done by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros (it's in the closing credits to Black Hawk Down).]

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Baffled About Communion

Okay, I thought I understood the rule about Communion in the Roman Catholic Church. I thought it was "Only Roman Catholics, with two exceptions. One, Eastern Orthodox (although they're forbidden by their own bishops). Two, emergencies when the person is properly disposed." Seems reasonable enough, but it fails to address one particular group: Anglo-Catholics.

The reasoning for "No Protestants" is stated as being that Protestants don't consider the Eucharist to be the transubstantiated Body and Blood of Christ. However, many Anglo-Catholics share the Roman Catholic belief about the nature of the Eucharist (and, to be snotty, I suspect a higher percentage of Anglo-Catholics than Roman Catholics believe this).

The reasoning for the "Eastern Orthodox = okay" is that they have valid holy orders. However, due to Old Catholic and Eastern Orthodox lines of succession (both of which are considered to have valid orders by Rome), many Anglican and most (all?) Anglo-Catholic clergy have re-established their lines of succession.

Thus my bafflement. According to the Code of Canon Law Canon 912, "Any baptized person not prohibited by law can and must be admitted to holy communion. That's where I come in. I was baptized by an Episcopalian priest as an infant. Thus, I have a valid baptism. I'm not excommunicated or under any other form of discipline. I share the Roman Catholic belief in the nature of the Eucharist. If I affiliate myself with an Anglo-Catholic body which has restored its holy orders then it would seem that the only thing holding me back from receiving Communion would be the need to make a valid Confession (I've never done this, so I'm presumably in a state of mortal sin at present).

Does anyone see any obvious flaws in this?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Boycotting China

One project I'm trying to get off the ground is How to Boycott China. The idea is to prepare a guide to help people avoid buying Chinese goods and to understand why such a boycott is a good idea. Right now I'm soliciting ideas on types of products to research. If you've got anything coming up that you're looking to buy, be it shower curtains or a cell phone, let me know and I'll see what I can do to find non-Chinese manufacturers.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

FAQ on TAC & Rome

As I mentioned a few days ago, the Traditional Anglican Communion (which is not in communion with the See of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion) officially petitioned the Vatican for intercommunion. Reading a lot of the commentary, I've seen a lot of misconceptions thrown around, perhaps understandably by those who fear corruption and scandal of the Roman Catholic Church. What follows is my attempt, as one somewhat familiar with Anglo-Catholicism, to clarify things a bit.

So who are these TAC folks anyway? Do they ordain lesbian bishops?
The Traditional Anglican Communion is an Anglo-Catholic group which splintered off from the Anglican Communion (those national churches in communion with the See of Canterbury), largely over the issues of women's ordination and the general free-fall of worldwide Anglicanism. If the ones I've encountered are representative, they accede to Roman Catholic beliefs, pray for the intentions of the Pope (and somewhat implicitly consider him to be their head; anything he says gets a lot of airtime), and often use a somewhat retro style of Mass (words like "Thou" and "shalt" make a lot of appearances). Most of them would very much like to be in communion with Rome. To their mind, the only truly major hurdle is that of married priests and bishops. All the TAC bishops seem willing to step down if necessary, and the ban on married priests in the Roman Rite is canonical, not doctrinal (which is why Eastern Catholic priests are usually married).

Do they have valid orders?
TAC orders are probably valid, but definitely illicit. While Anglican orders were declared invalid in the 1800s due to a break occurring in the way priests were ordained shortly after the English Reformation, the method of ordaining has been "fixed" and is generally considered okay. That still left the problem of having actual orders to transmit. The TAC solution to this was to get Old Catholic and Eastern Orthodox bishops to co-consecrate TAC clergy. As Rome recognizes the validity of the orders of these co-consecrators, a seemingly strong argument can be made that TAC priests do in fact have valid orders.

Are there really 500,000 members of the Traditional Anglican Communion?
Eh, probably not. For all I know, it's a tenth of that. If I had to guess, I'd say it's probably one or two hundred thousand, with maybe 60-90% of those willing to swim the Tiber. I don't have any hard data, but those are the numbers which strike me as reasonable bases on what little I know.

What are the TAC folks asking for?
In short, intercommunion (unity) with Rome. They'd like something like Uniate status, if possible. They're pretty much ready to jump through whatever hoops Rome has for them; they've just got some requests for things they'd like to keep. Seriously: I think that if Rome were to say "the only solution is for each of you to convert individually," the TAC leadership would encourage their members to do it.

So why not just convert individually? Why all this hassle?
Again, the short answer is that I don't believe it would be in everyone's best interests to do that. Some are seeing this as a give-and-take affair with winners and losers. That seems to me to be a mistaken view. It's about reconciling in such a way as to effectively bring people into the Holy Catholic Church while also enriching it.

Anglicanism has a somewhat unique pedigree in the West. They believe their roots, especially through Celtic Christianity, predate the Roman mission to Britain. Historically the English Church has had many of its own traditions and a distinctive culture. It sent bishops to the Councils of Arles and Nicaea. It has been officially recognized by Rome as the oldest church in the gentile world. The Archbishop of Canterbury (pre-English Reformation) was treated by the Pope as the head of his own "ecclesia," rather than diocese.

Why is this a big deal?
Firstly, no Reformation-induced body of Christians has ever corporately reunited with Rome. The petition of TAC provides numerous benefits. In English-speaking countries, Roman Catholicism is generally regarded as one (maybe just a half) step up from Santeria. It's regarded as an ethnic enclave of Irish, Italians, and Hispanics. Those of Anglo-Saxon(-ish) background (either physically or mentally) have a lot of trouble with that. It's just seen as impenetrable and somewhat suspect. An Anglican Rite would be something of a bridge and a touchstone for English speakers, allowing them to poke around and say "hmm, it's not as bad as I thought it would be." Roman Catholics: feel free to be offended. At the same time, charity's altogether lacking in this world and a little bit here could go a long way. Don't think that the Eastern Orthodox and the Lefebvrist SSPX folks aren't watching to see whether the TAC will be treated cordially as long-lost brethren or simply gobbled up and told to shut up about Anglican ideals. There are Anglo-Catholics outside the TAC, including entire dioceses of the Episcopal Church, who might very well latch on to a viable recognition of Anglican Catholicism. I honestly believe that the Roman Catholic Church, especially under the current Pope, has the potential to heal the Great Schism, bring back the SSPX, get a foot in the door with Anglicanism, and even get the Evangelicals to sit down and really think about how separate they want to be.

Monday, October 22, 2007

8 Bit Fever

Inspired by this post over at Dean's World, I give you modern science:

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Being Immature and Venting

I've got Verizon Wireless cell phone service and I'm looking to re-up. Their network is great, but (tragically) their actual phones are less-than-inspiring. In any case, I wandered into my local Verizon Wireless store to play with the new phones and see if any of them caught my fancy (none did) (I'm waiting for either the LG Venus or Audiovox xv6800).

Anyway, they've now got some kind of automated waiting list now where you have to put in a bunch of information about yourself. On the Big Board you can see your name (in my case, "Robert.B") and your place in the queue. For various reasons I had to go in multiple times and it got pretty annoying having to do this every time, even when I was the only person in the store.

Before going on, remember that I'm immature, petty, and vindictive at times. Deciding to amuse myself, and wanting to keep things PG-rated, I answered their query as follows:

The end result, of course, was "IDONTLIKE.U." This stayed up for several minutes as there was already someone in line before me. However, I did notice that instead of waiting for about five minutes after finished with the lady in front of me, as seems to be their wont, they called me up immediately (and made me wait). Oh well. It was fun while it lasted.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

PSA on Gun Safety

When you go to the shooting range, make sure you have adequate ear and eye protection. If you wear small-ish glasses, consider supplementing them with larger safety glasses. The important thing is to make sure no powder or casings can hit and burn your eyes. As for ear protection, earplugs are good, muffs are good...both together are better. As a friend of mine discovered a week or so ago on his first trip to the range, sometimes muffs can get separated from the side of your head for an instant, leaving your delicate ear vulnerable to folks shooting very loud weapons nearby in an indoor range. He may have permanently lost some hearing in that ear. To some extent it's my fault for not checking to make sure his "ears" were on properly, but I'd never had a problem with mine (because I normally wear earplugs as well, I guess) and so it didn't even occur to me.

As a general principle, if you can add a lot of safety for very little inconvenience or expense, do it. Skimping on things like that can really come back to bite you. Hopefully this is just a temporary thing for my friend and he'll be good as new before too long.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Virginia Tech and the BCS

As of today, Friday, Virginia Tech is #11 in the BCS. Of course, with USF's loss to unranked Rutgers last night that's likely to change soon, but here's the current top 15:
1. Ohio State (7-0), Big 10
2. South Florida (6-1), Big East
3. Boston College (7-0), ACC Atlantic
4. LSU (6-1), SEC West
5. Oklahoma (6-1), Big 12 South
6. South Carolina (6-1), SEC South
7. Kentucky (6-1), SEC South

8. Arizona State (7-0), Pac 10
9. West Virginia (5-1), Big East
10. Oregon (5-1), Pac 10
11. Virginia Tech (6-1), ACC Coastal
12. California (5-1), Pac 10
13. Kansas (6-0), Big 12 North
14. USC (5-1), Pac 10
15. Florida (4-2), SEC East

Keep in mind that the only team I really care about here is Virginia Tech, which means I'm concerned with who we need to pass and who could conceivably pass us. I'm also assuming that Tech runs the table, which would be hard but not impossible in a year full of ACC parity.

While a two-loss Florida would be hard to put over Tech, especially if they don't win their conference, Cal, Kansas, and USC could do so by winning theirs. In particular, it'd be really hard to justify putting us ahead of an undefeated Kansas.

The good news is that many of the teams above us have to play each other. Assuming Tech goes 12-1 and there's no more carnage than necessary above us in the polls, I would see us ending up at #6. Obviously USF is gone, which would move us to #10. Beating Boston College (perhaps twice...) would make it #9. Oregon and Arizona State play each other, meaning we'd move up one more to #8. Among LSU, South Carolina, and Kentucky only one can win the championship, meaning that two of these teams would likely drop below us, vaulting us two places to #6.

This leaves (probably) Ohio State, LSU, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and either Arizona State or Oregon, plus any of the four behind us that might make a run. However, we can essentially discount these last few as they are in the same conferences as the teams before us. If one of them gets in, one of the top five pretty much has to go.

So how do these remaining teams look? Ohio State has to play five 5-2 teams to close their season, including Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Illinois. If they can survive that then they obviously deserve to be #1; even with a close loss to a good team they may still have a chance at the championship game. LSU has survived the hardest part of their schedule, although they'll likely play either Kentucky or South Carolina. Two losses and they're out; undefeated from now on probably gets them #2. Certainly, they have a tiebreaker against us if the records are even. Oklahoma beat Texas, but they've still got Texas Tech, in-state rival OK State, and a champion from the surprisingly strong Big 12 North to deal with. If they make it through, I still think LSU has a better loss against UK than OK's loss to Colorado. If Kansas and Oklahoma each suffer one more loss, though, I think the Big 12 is out of the picture for the Big Dance.

West Virginia might pull it out, but they've got to play away games at both Rutgers and Cincinnati (yeah, it feels weird to write that). Even if they win the Big East, I suspect a 12-1 ACC Champion Virginia Tech would jump over an 11-1 Big East Champion West Virginia. Maybe not, but probably. WVU is also the Big East's only major contender now that USF has fallen. That leaves us with the Oregon/ASU/USC/Cal conundrum. ASU and USC still have to play the other three, while Cal beat Oregon before themselves losing to Oregon State. An undefeated ASU or one-loss Pac 10 Champion of the other three should be higher ranked than Tech, but significant carnage is probably headed our way on that front.

As for the Hokies, we still have some challenges. We host BC next Thursday night and travel to Georgia Tech one week later. We host weaker-than-usual iterations of Miami and Florida State before traveling to unsteady UVA for our season closer. If we win out, we almost certainly re-face Boston College in the ACC Championship, barring a complete meltdown on their part (Clemson and Maryland being the only teams with any hope of unseating them).

The good news is that, given the ACC's weakness, we can probably still win the Coastal division even if we lose to BC this week so long as we can beat UVA. A BCS bowl is attainable, and even the national championship game isn't completely off-limits yet. If there's as much carnage in the next few weeks as there has been already, anything is possible.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

On Torture and Hypotheticals

Let me start by reproducing a comment I left in response to this post over at Mark Shea's.


Honestly, I really do appreciate you (and others) discussing the issue. It's something worth discussing. I'm not the only one having trouble with understanding this, and I suspect that I'm not alone. I certainly do apologize for intemperate remarks that I've made, and if I come to understand any other folly on my part I'll apologize for it as it dawns on me.

To my mind, I'm not starting with fear. I'm starting with the idea that coercive force is always wrong and trying to plug it into hypothetical situations (kind of like law school or the scientific method). What concerns me is that in some of these situations it seems as though I'm having to choose between evils to commit. If I have an obligation to protect someone and an obligation not to use coercive force, there are situations where both obligations cannot be fulfilled. I'm trying desperately to find a way out (or a loophole, if you prefer) where I can meet both my obligations in such a situation.

Torture is always wrong. If what the administration is sanctioning is torture then it needs to stop. However, they have an obligation to defend the American people and an obligation not to torture. It seems as though we're putting them into a no-win situation where at best they can only fulfill one obligation.

I had provided hypothetical situations, more-or-less patterned on the "ticking time-bomb" scenario, where the use of coercive force seemed to be the only way to prevent serious harm. The hope was to find either a type of coercive force that did not rise to the level of torture or a situation where what would otherwise be torture isn't in that case. I can think of situations where either one might be acceptable.

I think the police have the right to coerce a prisoner to submit to a warranted body-cavity search. I believe they have the right to forcibly manipulate a person's hand to obtain a fingerswipe on a protected computer. I don't believe they have the right to chain him to a metal bed and shock him. The problem is that I can't articulate a bright line as a distinction.

Similarly, I don't believe that two adults engaged in sadomasochism (or boxers) are actually being tortured as is prohibited, in that they've consented to the ordeal. Is it possible, for instance, that those enemy combatants who do not follow traditional rules of war have implicitly consented? I don't say that this is the case, but the argument could be made.

What gets me is the idea that this is "relativistic porn." This isn't "Who Would You Do?" or "Would You Rather..." being used as a party game. It's meant as a serious consideration of an issue facing Americans today as voters and as moral beings. Hard cases make bad law, but the proof is also in the pudding. Scientifically, a "law" is disproven if you can find a case where the theory doesn't work(having a net effect of zero is something else). In law school, professors regularly come up with absurd situations to find out whether a rule is appropriate. While sometimes this simply downgrades an argument from "always" to "tends to be," it also shows times when application of a rule as stated would result in harm.

When you buy a car, you want to know how it would perform in an emergency or in an accident. The odds of getting hit by a Mack truck are minuscule, but no one considers it odd to look over the safety ratings and consider them in deciding what kind of car to buy. Why is this different? Read the story of Operation Redwing. Four Navy SEALs decided by a vote of 2-1-1 not to kill innocent Afghans. The sole surviving SEAL seems to think he made the wrong decision. We have people out there, risking their lives, who haven't been properly educated on morality. They're facing the "incredibly unlikely" situations from which those of us stateside are insulated. If I end up serving in a war zone I definitely want to have my moral compass oriented right.

Ten years ago I suspect the idea of a shooting spree at the law school of a public university in Virginia would be "incredibly unlikely" and be deemed by some "relativistic porn." Since then, there was a mass shooting at Appalachian School of Law (a private law school in Virginia) and at Virginia Tech (a public university). Is the concern still so remote? I believe it's not. Similarly, I believe that the hypothetical situations to which the idea of "coercive force equals torture and is forbidden)" are being subjected are worth considering.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Do You Ever Find...

...that there are things that you can't really say to a certain group of people you know because there's no way it wouldn't offend them? Especially if it's something subjective and isn't something that's going to change?

Once Again, Mark Shea Disagrees With Me

If you read Mark Shea's blog, you've probably noticed his focus on torture lately. The problem is that he's so intent on establishing that torture is wrong that he doesn't both to establish what torture actually is. His big piece of support is Gaudiam et Spes, a Papal document, which condemns "torments inflicted on body or mind, [and] attempts to coerce the will itself." Where I have trouble is that this can be taken so broadly as to be useless. Do you spank your child when they do wrong, or even just sit them in the corner? Seems like coercion and a torment on the body to me. Do you use positive peer pressure to get your kids not to do drugs? Coercion. If someone threatens to kill your family this very instant may you coerce them, through torment on the body or mind if necessary, not to do so?

I don't argue that torture is right. It's not. However, we know that there are times when force is justifiable (or else Just War Theory would be a mere novelty). What we need to know is when those times are, and what may be done. In common law, for instance, you could shoot someone who invades your home and threatens you, but once he starts running away you may not shoot him in the back. Matthew 10:16 commands us to be "wise as serpents and innocent as doves" (New Robert Bauer Translation).

Mark snarkily thinks this kind of thinking is not only counterproductive, but sinful. I had given a hypothetical situation (in these comments) where your child has been kidnapped and will die unless the kidnapper tells you where the child is. Shea goes on to embellish my example with CSI-esque examples and calls it "incredibly unlikely." Really? Such a situation could not be believed? I'll bet this boy and this boy and these two are glad to know that kidnapping never leads to murder.

The fact is that any number of situations occur where information is time-sensitive and people's lives are at risk. Mocking and condemning those who substantially agree with you but want more clarity is reprehensible, and Mark Shea should know better.

Apparently it's not as bad as all that. While there was snark and disagreement, the two weren't meant maliciously (if that makes sense; it does in my own head). I apologize for any undue harm caused to Mark, and know that he shares the same sentiment. I believe the discussion is a valuable one, and I'm grateful to have the opportunity to consider opinions. It's very easy for tempers to flare up, and I think everyone would benefit by holding back on saracasm, snark, and by extending an extra dose of charity to situations.

Things were getting a little heated in the comments to this post. Debate is encouraged; hostility gets things shut down. I'm not above censorship.

Seek and Ye Shall Find

Wow, talk about an informative comments section! Okay, for those of you on Google:
"How to become a Catholic if you are already a Christian"
"How to avoid RCIA"
"RCIA alternative"
"Baptized Christian become Catholic"

Incidentally, the priests in this area are apparently currently at a conference/retreat/something this week and so they're unavailable. Bishop DiLorenzo will be celebrating Mass this Sunday.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

How to Get (almost) Free Classical Music

I'll start with the short version and give more info as this post progresses. Your time is almost up on this one, though. Go to Circuit City and look hard for this. They used to be all over the place but now there are probably only a handful on the clearance rack. They're marked at $39.99 but are actually less than $15. The hardware is junk: it works, but it's really basic. Maybe it'd make for a cheap alternative to an iPod Shuffle, but I've already got one of those. You can throw it away without qualm, although I suppose putting it in a Toys for Tots bin might not be the worst thing ever.

The prize is the card with the code for 180 downloads. Now, even when the package cost $40 this was pretty good, as buying the tracks individually would be $180 (the same as Napster and iTunes and essentially the same as Amazon's, Zune's, and Wal-Mart's stores). eMusic focuses on smaller labels, and in fact you probably won't find many, if any, Top 40 songs there. If you like alternative music you can find albums by bands such as Flogging Molly and MU330l, but their hidden talent lies in their Classical selection, which includes the Naxos label. Why is this such a good deal? Two main reasons exist. The first is that a lot of the albums are only five or ten tracks; you could download Shostakovich's 5th, 8th, and 11th symphonies by the London Symphony Orchestra under Rostropovich and it would only be 11 credits. Even at Napster/iTunes prices you're getting three (absolutely amazing) albums for the price of one. Now realize that you paid around about eight cents for each credit and your whole purchase just cost you less than a dollar (actually the same as a single Wal-Mart download). Secondly, even if you want something like J.S. Bach's Mass in B Minor which is 31 tracks. Instead of paying $31 through Napster or $13-20 in a store, you're paying about $2.50. The music is encoded in MP3 which means that it'll work on either your Windows Media Player devices or your iPod.

What are the downsides? Well, MP3s are twice as big as AAC or WMA files and so it could cause a budgeting problem on smaller players. However, you can convert the files without too much difficulty. You don't get the actual physical package, which would be nice to have. The lack of a booklet can be an important consideration, as the albums by Anonymous 4 include lyrics that you're probably not going to figure out unless you speak Medieval Latin. The sound quality is less than you'd get from an actual CD.

However, I tend to listen to music on my computer or in my car. The music is plenty rich as it is and I don't have the equipment to really gain more than a little bit more from a CD. The LSO Live and The Sixteen are two groups I've come to enjoy immensely, especially the aforementioned Shostakovich by LSO Live and the works of Allegri, Palestrina, and Victoria by The Sixteen. Really, check it out. I bought several and would give them as gifts if anyone I knew really liked Classical music and would download it.

Lord, Let It Be So!

This is encouraging. I'd love to see an Anglican uniate church, and TAC seems to have done everything they could to bring this about. Rome, the ball's in your court. Will you restore the English Church's place in Roman Catholicism or will you be hectored by intransigents still upset over the Battle of the Boyne and the English Reformation?

Your Pundit Got Armor!

IMNSHO, Indian culture needs more appreciation in this country. This is a great start. (via Dean Esmay)

(if BET and MTV are work-safe for you, the link above definitely is)


I think this will have been the third RCIA class I've started and quit. It's not because the people aren't nice: they're very friendly. It's not because they're theologically crazy: the two most recent ones involved what seemed like perfectly normal doctrine. It's just that it's a huge, huge time commitment that seems like a rehashing of work I've already done. I'm not some newcomer to Christianity who doesn't know hermeneutics from apologetics or Peter from Paul. I've read the entire Bible (minus the Deuterocanonical books, but I'm working on those) and sought out answers to questions I had. I've wrestled with the concepts of papal infallibility, the Marian doctrines, apostolic succession, the Real Presence, praying to saints, Purgatory, and the many ways that the Roman Catholic Church has let down Christendom for the past two thousand years (not that I probably would have done better) and found myself in line with Rome's doctrines. This doesn't make me a better person than someone who hasn't done this, but it makes me different from them.

As much as I'd like to partake of the Eucharist, I don't have 2-3 hours every week on the night before I have three classes the next morning. I can't afford to blow off law school based on bureaucracy. I have a valid Christian baptism and a belief in the Real Presence. If an expedited solution isn't available I'll just continue to go up with crossed arms at RCC parishes and get illicit-but-valid Communion at Traditional Anglican Church parishes in the region (their priests have the "Dutch Touch" that restores the validity of their orders).

Honestly, this is annoying. A person gets baptized as a Roman Catholic and does virtually nothing in accordance with the Roman Catholic faith and may partake, but because I was baptized as an Episcopalian my submission and faithfulness mean jack squat.

UPDATE: According to the folks in the Comments, it may be that I'm overreacting and that there are much shorter options available. If so, that'd be great. And, let me be clear: I don't believe the RCIA program I attended was in any way defective. It just takes up a huge amount of time at the time of the week I can least afford to spare it, and does so until Easter. I've already spent scores, perhaps hundreds, of hours researching, praying, and seeking advice. If a priest told me he wanted me to read through the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church and meet with him eight times at a more convenient time I'd be okay with that (I had to do something similar in order to date a girl once). Honestly, I'm just frustrated at what looks to my eyes as red tape. Here's the basic secret I've noticed to understanding me: I'll complain to high heaven about little things, but I generally keep pretty quiet on major hassles. If I'm complaining it just means I haven't figured out a solution or that it's not very important. I take action on things that are actually more important, and I seek advice if it's major and I don't how to solve it. I do appreciate the comments, though: there's not nearly enough material out there on how a faithful Christian should convert to Roman Catholicism short of RCIA.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

An Interview with HokiePundit, Part III

Have you been surprised by the hostility of some of the reactions to your conversion?
I guess it depends on what you mean by "surprised." I've actually told very few people directly about my intentions. Generally, and with some outliers, the responses have ranged from baffled interest to concerned disdain. Back in 2003, in the wake of the disastrous Episcopalian General Convention, I mentioned to a friend that I might start looking at other denominations, such as Methodism, Lutheranism, and Roman Catholicism. At this last item, his response was "Oh Robbie, don't go over to Satan!" I haven't told him about my decision, as you might imagine. I think for people who know me, this news might be unexpected but certainly not surprising. In the Evangelical campus ministry in which I participated during college I was way, way out on what you might call the "Catholic wing," as opposed to those with more "Reformed," "Charismatic," or "Baptist" tendencies. Honestly, I fully expect that when I eventually update my Facebook profile to reflect this that I'll get a boatload of concerned emails, some of which will think I'm joking. Even some people who are close to me who don't go to church services or do much of anything else involving religion see Roman Catholicism as maybe two steps up on if I were to declare myself to have same-sex attraction or were joining Scientology.

An Interview with HokiePundit, Part II

What led you to the Church?
Jesus. Either that, or a squirrel. (Old, old Evangelical joke.)
Okay, I've never really been a fan of math, but the idea of a vector makes sense here, with my starting point being an Episcopalian background and the direction being an interest in doctrine, theology, and denominations.

Being an Episcopalian gives you both advantages and disadvantages when going between Roman Catholics and "Protestants." Both sides see something in you they recognize...but neither really trusts you 100%. Except for some of your more free-form Bible Church-type services, an Episcopalian can pretty much navigate his way among any other type of service (probably excepting the more ethno-centric services and denominations) well enough to blend in. This works to some extent in theology, too, as he can generally get his foot in the door, whether it be the Westminster Confession, the Council of Trent, or the Prayer of Jabez. Many Episcopalians have had one other unexpected impetus: the general free-fall and suicide of the denomination has caused many of those who are more theologically conservative (Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics) to look elsewhere. The idea of Episcopalians, who tend to be as blue-blooded as you can get (my ancestors weren't, but wanted to be), being refugees is actually really funny.

For whatever reason, I was always fascinated by the differences between denominations. Part of it came from discovering that they didn't just arise ex nihilo, but formed a complicated family tree. Just as an example, Baptists arose from the old Congregationalists in New England (basically the Pilgrims and Puritans from elementary school history). These, in turn, were dissenters from the Church of England, which was itself, of course, broken away from the Roman Catholic Church. However, the Eastern churches broke off from Rome long before this. Not only that, but the Methodists later broke off from the Anglicans, eventually giving rise to groups such as the Salvation Army (an actual denomination) and Pentecostals. Sometimes there were massive differences that caused the split, as with the Calvinists and Anabaptists, while sometimes the differences were minuscule. In some cases, they've even been "resolved," although the groups still remain separated. By becoming aware of what other Christians believed I was able to consider and accept or reject different concepts and have a reason for the decision. I'm not sure why it was, as I wasn't trained in Episcopalian theology (although perhaps the culture had already claimed me), but no matter what I decided it always seemed to end up within the bounds of Episcopalianism. Maybe I should clarify.

Unlike the many denominations that have a specific creed, Episcopalianism generally only requires a belief that the Bible is the word of God, a belief in the Nicene and Apostles' creeds, and in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral (I think apostolic succession is the only major point in there). This is even distinct from much of Anglicanism, which often has a very Calvinistic flavor depending on the specific Province. Episcopalianism tends to be almost more "familial" than like a political party. I may disagree with my family members, even vehemently, but that doesn't mean we're not a family. This can be a strength, but it has also proven to be a weakness, as this tolerance has been stretched to the breaking point lately. Really, "Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis is a pretty good example of the best aspects of this kind of thought. Lutherans have their Martin Luther and Prebyterians have their John Calvin; conservative Episcopalians pretty much lionize C.S. Lewis. His books, especially "Mere Christianity," "The Screwtape Letters," and "The Great Divorce" provided much of my earliest reading upon becoming a Christian in high school and I'm not sure I've found anything in them with which I disagree.

Here's the thing, though: a "Lewisian" view tends to be relatively "high-church." I don't remember the source, but someone persuasively argued that if he hadn't been born in Northern Ireland, and after Vatican I, Lewis would almost certainly have been Roman Catholic. This isn't exactly self-evident from reading his more popular books; I suspect the Evangelical bookstores would be appalled if they found out. I'll bet none of them have ever actually read "The Great Divorce," as it's essentially an argument for the existence of Purgatory and I can't imagine it being sold if they knew. In any case, important concepts for this view are the quintessential English values of reasonableness and tolerance. Thus, when you see people whom you respect (including, and especially, Lewis himself) believing in things like the existence of Purgatory it makes it a lot easier to put aside what you've always heard for a moment and consider the concept itself.

For me, it was a series of things like this. Reading up on the idea, I couldn't find any basis for actually denying the idea of Purgatory, and could even see some reasons why it might make sense. The question of the canon of the Bible and sola scriptura also came up, as the Table of Contents isn't actually part of the Bible itself. Eventually, one thing led to another and I found myself knocked up with the willingness to consider that perhaps the Roman Catholic Church's claims about itself were true.

The biggest barrier for me was cultural. It would seem that every time I attended some kind of Roman Catholic event I would be appalled by something. I went to an RCIA class and the first thing they did was to enquire as to whether anyone was divorced and remarried and needed annulment. While I don't think they meant exactly what it seemed to me at the time, you can see how this would dismay an Evangelical and be downright insulting to an Anglican (see above). Even now, I feel as though I'm having to trade a huge number of good practices in exchange for doctrinal authority; to my mind it should be an upgrade (insert your own reference to the Pearl of Great Price here). It was also the kind of thing that was much more Petrine than Pauline. While I did have to prod myself to some extent, too much of it, or anything but the gentlest of nudges from others, provoked a digging in of heels and a swing back towards Reformed notions. Something that helped was to see ordinary Roman Catholics who took their faith seriously. While folks like Mark Shea and Jimmy Akin were useful in terms of understanding doctrine, people like TS O'Rama and Louder Fenn (whose has tragically dropped off the face of the Internet) provided a glimpse of everyday life. The conversions of prominent people such as Francis Beckwith, J. Budziszewski, and Dean Esmay also played a role.

Friday, October 5, 2007

An Interview with HokiePundit

I wasn't sure how to explain my decision to move from Evangelicalism/Anglo-Catholicism (when people asked my denomination, I'd say either "miscellaneous" or, if they were familiar with Facebook, "It's Complicated"), but perhaps poaching (can you "steal" questions?) from the National Catholic Reporter's interview with recent-convert-from-Evangelicalism Francis Beckwith would be a good place to start.

You spent quite a few years in the Evangelical and Anglican worlds. What could Catholics learn from Evangelicals and Anglicans?
Whew, let me go find my soapbox. In my view, a lot. However, let me back the truck up for a moment.

I believe that it is counter-productive for Roman Catholics to consider Evangelicals and those in Mainline denominations "Protestants." The term conjures up visions of laborers striking for better pay and working conditions who will return to the job once their conditions are met, or at least their grievances aired. This simply does not reflect the reality of the situation. The workers have left and started their own factory using the knowledge they gained from their old jobs. In my view, a much better analogy would be the Kingdom of Judah and the Kingdom of Israel in the Old Testament. "Protestants" are now more-or-less self-sufficient (whether they're mortally wounded or not and don't realize it is another question entirely), and certainly independent. I would even go so far as to question whether these "tribes" have been ripped away from the Throne of Peter as a result of the wickedness it allowed and even condoned. The Lutherans and Anabaptists had some pretty legitimate gripes, with the Roman Catholic Church seriously abusing its position and definitely failing to properly educate the people in their faith. The Anglicans had much less of a claim, but Henry VIII had a reasonable expectation that the annulment he sought would be granted, as this seems to have been the common practice at the time and if it weren't for the intervention of his wife Catherine of Aragon's nephew, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, it probably would have happened. As far as I can tell, all "Protestants" ultimately trace their origins to these three groups. The Roman Catholic Church (which, as a reminder, I'm aligning myself with) bears a huge responsibility for the many, many souls it has let slip away due to corruption, ignorance, apathy, and pride. Back to my point, though, these groups aren't protesting anything. It's not even an issue, and if anything, they believe the Roman Catholics should re-unite with them and not vice-versa. Most of their believers come from a long line of non-Catholics and they no more "reject" or "protest" Roman Catholicism than I reject or protest British citizenship. Rome has already had its Counter-Reformation, and even signed a joint statement with Lutherans saying that they believed the same things on Justification. Yet, the Lutherans aren't seeking reunion, and this should tell Roman Catholics something. Calling such folk "Protestants" simply distracts from the reality of things.

Before saying what can be learned, let me say that nothing essential should ever be compromised. Doing so is a plan for suicide. At the same time, it's important to recognize that simply being vested with doctrinal and institutional authority does no necessarily mean that other Christian groups aren't doing things better. Also, I'm only listing the positives for the two groups; there are plenty of "make sure you don't fall into this trap" things that could very easily be mentioned.

The biggest strength of Evangelicalism is its emphasis on knowing the Bible. While I believe this comes from the mistaken idea that the Church is a product of the Bible and not the other way around, this study is a powerful tool. Roman Catholics have a reputation, which in my experience is often well-deserved, of not knowing what the Bible says. While Evangelicals can often discuss how the prophecies of Isaiah relate to Christ, Roman Catholics are confused by the term "Pauline" to describe half the Epistles. Evangelicals are known for having weekly Bible studies, for having (often overly-long) sermons that delve deep into the original meanings of words in Greek and Hebrew, and for being able to quote verses of Scripture (even if selectively). This literacy of Scripture is a powerful tool, as it is described as a sword and a shield by the Bible in Ephesians. While the Roman Catholic Church has a strong tradition and arsenal of prayers, they tend to be more subtle and defensive in nature, if that makes sense. Scripture is more offensive (in both ways) than prayer, and sometimes it's the right tool for the job.

Other strengths include more of a willingness to utilize updated methods to express beliefs; "praise and worship" music is probably the best example of this, along with the related genre of Contemporary Christian Music. To be fair, much of this is dreck. Again, I don't know the source, but it's been pointed out that 90% of just about anything is junk. Not all Classical composers were Bachs, Beethovens, Mozarts, or Palestrinas (yes, I'm merging Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, and Romantic; sue me); these are the ones whose work has endured for centuries. There are some jewels to be found among these, though. In particular, I would recommend Casting Crowns and Rich Mullins for P&W and Five Iron Frenzy, Audio Adrenaline, and Relient K for CCM (these are all kind of 20-something guy -type groups, though). These influences, along with that of a lot of Evangelical writing, seem to be making inroads among Roman Catholics.

As for Anglicans, their biggest strengths are in what is sometimes seen as a more "tasteful" and "reasonable" form of Roman Catholicism. Although this is often mocked as being style over substance, there's something to it. Consider aesthetics. Roman Catholic styles look to outsiders as gaudy, tacky, dated, and somewhat feminine. Episcopalian styles are more tasteful, well-appointed, classical, and neutral. I know that's a subjective call, but think of plaster statues, glow-in-the-dark rosaries, and pastel vestments, and then consider stone buildings, the Book of Common Prayer, and bolder colors. Some of this is culture-based, too: most English-speaking "Protestants" are of Anglo-Saxon stock, or at least mindset. To a large extent, they look at Roman Catholicism and say "I don't see my culture reflected there." It's seen as a faith for Irish, Italian, and Mexican people. To my mind, this is why some sort of provision for a distinct body of Roman Catholics with an Anglican flavor would be worth having. In English-speaking countries there is a huge, huge cultural barrier to be overcome for Evangelicals and Anglicans to pursue Roman Catholicism. Seriously, the view is almost that of people swinging at a pinata full of Communion wafers. As battered as the reputation is, Episcopalians still have a kind of street cred as being more-or-less reasonable. Such a group would provide a kind of bridge, as it would be doctrinally sound but without the "ethnic" baggage (yes, Anglo-Saxon is an ethnicity, but we're speaking subjectively here). A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.

Thursday, October 4, 2007


God help me, but I've decided that the Holy Catholic Church is the steward of Christ's authority on this Earth. This belief has already cost me dearly, and I suspect I'm not done yet done paying the cost. Maybe I'll eventually write a detailed post explaining my decision.

Monday, October 1, 2007

(re-) Found a Friend

I'm glad he's back online. I have no way of contacting him, but Ben, let me know if you find this.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Mr. Grammar Nazi

The word is "withdrawal," not "withdrawl. There is a second "a" as the penultimate letter. "Withdrawl" is how Southerners speak.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

My iPod Shuffle

I mentioned below that I just got an iPod Shuffle. I didn't really like the idea of getting something without a screen that only holds 1GB of music, but since the plan was to simply use it while running I figured that I could load it up with adrenaline-inducing songs and plug into my computer when I really wanted to get picky with my listening.

That plan has become somewhat complicated. See, the Shuffle seems to be doing the exact opposite of what I intended for it to be able to do. Let me explain.

I figured that high-energy songs, such as punk, ska, and rock, would do best while exercising. The classical and alternative stuff could hang out at home. However, odd as it seems, the sound quality on the Shuffle has blown me away...mostly. Songs ripped from CD are amazing, with both the highs and the lows projected well. Listening to some songs I'm hearing voices within the songs I'd never noticed before, not to mention the increased quality of the voices I was used to. Think of going from embossed to chiaroscuro, except in terms of sound. However, a lot of the most high-energy songs, such as those by Metallica, sound squashed and flat.

Thus, ironically, the Shuffle is best-suited for playing albums, rather than individual hits. Is this sound configuration peculiar to the Shuffle, or is it shared by the Nano and regular iPod? Is it a function of the solid-state memory and lack of moving parts in the unit? It's just odd to me that such an inexpensive device is successfully revealing elements that more-expensive products have consistently failed to convey.

What Have I Been Doing Lately? (yeah yeah!)

So it's been a few weeks since I've blogged. That's okay; nothing all that bloggable has happened.

I'm discovering that law school is really hard work. Not hard as in I don't think that I can do it, but as in spending ten hours in the library at a time doesn't seem unreasonable. The people here are great, though, and I'm very interested in the material, but at the end of every week (maybe even every day), I feel as though I've just gotten my butt kicked.

I also finally managed to score a victory in my two-year-long quest to have Best Buy acknowledge that the Toshiba laptop they sold me was a lemon. After being jerked around for months at a time, including almost losing important assignments for my graduate program several times, they finally said that I could, in fact, exchange it for store credit. The tale itself is epic and involves both heroes and villains, but now is not the time.

As I couldn't afford to have my sole computer periodically stop working, I had already gone ahead and gotten a Dell XPS 1210 as a replacement. It's kind of overkill to get a laptop designed for gaming when I'm just going to be browsing the internet and doing word processing (err...and maybe a little Half-Life and Halo...), but I'd heard that Dell's XPS line was extremely reliable and that their customer support for that line is amazing. A friend of the family was appalled that I got such a small computer, but since I take notes by hand in class it's not a huge deal. I also picked up a 20-inch monitor for when I have long papers to work on and don't want to strain my eyes (...and, again, in case I ever play Halo and Half-Life...).

Actually, let me say that the note-taking situation here at William & Mary is interesting. At nearly every school I visited there was perhaps one student taking notes by hand while everyone else had their laptop PCs up and clickety-clacking away. At W&M there were about five taking notes by hand, but nearly everyone was still taking notes on their computers. In my roughly 75-person classes, about ten of us die-hards are taking notes by hand. Also, oddly enough, a very sizable percentage of the laptops here are Macs. They seem to be heavily favored among girls and, oddly enough, those who served in the military. I have no idea why.

This actually brings me to an interesting development: paranoid about the idea of not having a working computer and being extremely suspicious of Vista (which has been finicky to say the least), I used my store credit to buy a MacBook, reinforced carrying case, and an iPod Shuffle. The way I see it, the Dell is my main computer. It's more powerful and versatile, I understand how it works far better, and it just looks cool (sexy like a weapon...FBI please don't put me on a watch list). The Mac is going to be my "ark," serving as a back-up in case of the worst while still enabling me to do basic browsing. Yes, I know there are children starving in the world but I'm not going to let the cost of a second laptop potentially cause my legal career to be derailed before it even begins. [/paranoia]

I'm also noticing how much Apple Mac is a completely different way of making computers from PCs. Basically, it comes with just about everything you need...which is good, because there's not a lot more available for it. A PC can be configured just about any way you like and do all sorts of things, but the trade-off is that things can go horribly wrong. I'm not a high-tech user; I could probably get by with a computer with a 486 processor if the truth be told (not that I'd be happy about it). I guess it's kind of like driving your own car versus taking the train. Actually, that'd make for a good essay. In any case, the Mac system is not one I'm very familiar with, despite Apple's attempts to sucker in young folks by providing discounted computers to schools. I still have only a vague idea of how a lot of things work, and I'm pretty sure that most of my solutions aren't the best way of doing things. That said, Apple has done a masterful job of playing to their strengths (listen to the music on iPhone commercials and tell me it doesn't make you feel safe and secure). While my Dell evokes feelings of power, control, and domination, my Mac seems to evoke feelings of peace and relaxation. Maybe it's just me. In any case, though, that's kind of what you want: competitive drive at work, relaxation at home.

I've rambled enough; I'm sure I'll be taking bits of this and developing them as time goes by.