Friday, April 20, 2012

Seven Quick Takes (v32)



--1--
First, a belated congratulations to Dr Megan Creasy, who has successfully defended her PhD thesis last Friday. And it only took 6 years, which is reasonably quick for a physics doctorate these days. So congrats, Meg! May your postdoc be swift and your career happy.

--2--
Speaking of Phd's in physics, I may complete mine next year, if all goes well (and if nothing breaks). So wrote my adviser to my PhD committee in my 12th semester review. He said summer 2013, and I've been targeting fall of that year. Let's hope that actually happens (e.g. no more "the laser is down all semester" as was the case this last fall). I do, in any case, have a very clear (and theoretically straightforward) path to completion. Right now, I'm a bit bogged down by not having the parts I need (and most of the vendors/manufacturers I've talked to can't make such parts, or at least said they'd need 4-6 months and $20k-25k "ballpark"). It's not like it will be the end of the world if it takes the extra time, but I'd rather finish sooner than later.

--3--
Speaking of the end of the world, here is an e-card was passed my way:
As for Dick Clark, may he rest in peace.

--4--
For some good dog-gone puns (and a couple of jokes besides), refer to Mr Nathanael Blake's recent post about this election cycle (and how doggedly persistent are the candidates and pundits in their ridiculousness).

--5--
In one of the footnotes in The Science Before Science, Dr Anthony Rizzi notes that the word "modern" was coined in the middle ages. However accurate that statement is, the terms "medieval" and "middle ages" were certainly coined in the modern times. And ours is the supposedly forward-looking age.

--6--
Most Christians love a good conversion story, and we Catholics are no exception. However, I've often thought that those of us who were "cradle" Catholics (or cradle Christians in general) often downplay our own faith stories. It's as if the only way to have had an interesting life is to have left home (the Church) and then returned. Alternatively, starting somewhere else and then discovering "home" also makes for a good story. It's only the person who chooses to stay home whose story is thought boring, not least by the person himself. I wonder how much of this is the modern conditioning that life must be lived away from the home if it is to be meaningful, that staying home and having a good family life is a wasted or worthless use of life, or at the very least requires no amount of work (see, for example, the recent flare up between Ms Hilary Rosen and Mrs Ann Romney) and contains no adventure.

--7--
Well, I have office hours today, and students are starting to peek in the door as I finish this. I guess that means it's time to quit writing.

-----

Seven Quick Takes Friday is hosted by Mrs Jennifer Fulwiler at her Conversion Diary blog.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Manic Monday Madness: Behold the Mighty and Ferocious...

...velocity raptor!

It is the fruit of teaching a physics class consisting of business, education, and fine arts majors. Oh, he looks friendly enough alright, but if there's anything we've learned from "Monty Python," it's that cute and cuddly = sudden and gruesome death!!!!

Indeed, there is but one beast to be more feared than the velocity raptor:

The high-velocity raptor!


Happy Monday.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Seven Quick Takes (v 32): After Holy Week


--1--
The Triduum festivities of RCIA went off without much of a hitch (aside from a VERY busy weekend, not only for the catechumens and candidates neophytes but also for those of us who are catechists). It made the first Sunday of Easter that much sweeter to not have to do anything RCIA-related for the day. Anyway, congrats to the newly baptized and newly confirmed! Now on to Mystagogy!

--2--
Speaking of which, I've become a fan of the idea of a year-round catechumenate, which is unfortunately very hard to get started in any given parish which doesn't already have one. I have a plan to get one started (and it involves you, neophytes...) which I don't want to spell (or spill) out here just yet. Instead, I'd like to share a little of the basics of what I would envision this kind of thing to entail. First, RCIA is ultimately going to have the feel of a class (we even give homework spiritual growth reflection sheets and assigned readings extra readings for outside of class sessions for crying out loud!), and honestly that's fine by me. The year-round catechumenate should feel more like a get-together, in which we do discuss Catholicism, but as a conversation or discussion (lead by the Catechists but hopefully ultimately driven by the inquirers). It would eventually be for the inquirers, and would be nice to have for more than a single year, though would probably not be weekly. There are some logistics which I haven't worked out (childcare, for example), but ideally it would be a place where people who are interested in inquiring about becoming Catholic could go to learn the basics in a group setting, and in which they could be encouraged to explore the Faith a little (e.g. "Hey everyone. There's this great apologetics series about to be taught by Professor Rob Koons. Let's try to go to some of the sessions, and then we can discuss what we've learned over dinner some time..."). I'll leave it at this for now, lest this become a not-so-quick take.

--3--
As for Easter itself, well I certainly raised a toast to the new Catholics. I enjoyed the earlier part of the day with my friend and fellow catechist Mr Matthew Anderson. That meant a good breakfast* of sandwiches left over from the reception the night before, plus samples of orange-juice-and-vodka, followed by a the even better 21-year-old scotch (from 1982, no less!), and a cigar to celebrate life (and new life). The second part of the day my wife and I spent with our other close friends, Mr and Mrs Andrew Elster (and sons). Here is  a picture from the little Easter-egg hunt we did for Nickolae and Benjamin in their front yard:


*Literally, since for us fasting runs from Good Friday until after Easter (vigil) Mass.

--4--
The Gospel reading for Holy Thursday is the passage about Christ's washing His disciples feet at the Last Supper (John 13:1-15). The part about those who have bathed need only their feet washed (John 13:8-10) made me think of Baptism and repentance:
Peter said to him, "You shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part in me."
Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!"
Jesus said to him, "He who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean all over; and you are clean, but not every one of you."
We are, after all, baptized but once, but we do sin again and repent and confess our sins (if we allow Jesus to wash our feet, so to speak).
--5--
Our parish does a whole-parish footwashing. I participated with my wife in that one, but since she's in the choir, I had to wait until it was effectively over (thanks, choir!). Our seminarian, Peyton, had my back (thanks buddy!), but it mean that I had to get back into the sanctuary (we do the washing in the narthex) after Mass resumed. By the way, I sat on the center aisle, at the very front of the church (thanks, RCIA). It would be just a little awkward for me to move up the aisle in the middle of Mass to get to my seat, but on the other hand I did want to return to it. Solution:  waited for the ushers to move forward with the collection, which they do in a column two wide by several long, and I just fell into the end of the column. The tail of the column (where I was) ended right by me seat, so as everybody bowed at the altar, I slipped into my spot in the pews. My friend Mr Matthew Anderson, who was sitting by me, did a double take. After Mass, he remarked that it was an effective job of hiding in plain site. And that was about it for me and shenanigans for the week.
--6--

A comment:
"Although others disagree and suggest the introduction of parallel universes is at least as ontologicially profligate, I’m inclined to think Mr Occam’s razor comes down on the side of not introducing something of a completely new nature (god) to our ontology."
This is a gross misuse of Occam's razor (and on at least two levels). Simply put, Occam's razor tells us not to needlessly multiply entities (or variables) in a model, because if we do our models will become too complex and we will no longer understand it. Secondly, even granting the popular interpretation of Occam's razor (that we need not posit two causes where one will suffice, which is an idea that actually pre-dates Occam), he makes the implicit assumption that God is a new nature not already found in our ontology, an assumption which implies theistic personalism of some kind while ignoring classical theism.

--7--
Former Senator Rick Santorum is officially out of the running for president*. Speaking of which (and this might not exactly count as "drinking with the saints"), I will drink a bit of rum to Mr Santorum's decision to bow out (or "suspend" his campaign), in honor of this logo:
Rick's saintly rum? Anyone? I will also drink a little to the suggestion of my friend, Mr Nathanael Blake, that Mr Santorum should be made HHS secretary if Romney wins.


*I've been asked before which of the candidates I endorse. Well, if we could splice them all together and get the general decency and small-government side of Ron Paul, the social conservatism of Rick Santorum, the debate skills of Newt Gingrich, and the general business know-how of Mitt Romney, I'd take that. Of course, if a candidate could be made of the four, we'd more than likely get someone with the personal decency of Newt Gingrich, the social policies of Mitt Romney, the large government of Rick Santorum, and the debate skills of Ron Paul. This would be about as bad of a president as Barack Obama currently is, minus perhaps the current president's kulturkampf (which is not, incidentally, limited only to the tyrannical HHS mandate).

-----
Seven Quick Takes Friday is hosted by Mrs Jennifer Fulwiler at her Conversion Diary blog.