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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Never Give Up: My Life and God's Mercy

by John Janaro
Servant Books (January 2010)

Book Review

The only criticism I have about this book is that Dr. Janaro never revealed how he got the fish to leap from one bowl to another. Other than this one deficiency, I have nothing but praise for this book.

John Janaro has written a meditation on pain and suffering; in this case, he writes about his own struggle with chronic pain. He discusses his own physical problems as well as the mental challenges which often accompany patients with chronic pain. Where other men (like me) would probably have given up under the weight of the physical and mental anguish, John has wrestled with his sorrow in order to make sense of it. In the process, he has given us a book which helps all of those who deal with physical pain and depression. To rephrase a line from his book, I would say that it is good to be John Janaro. Anyone can benefit from reading this book; I showed it to a psychologist friend, and plan on sending one to a person who suffers from chronic depression.

As is mentioned in the title, the concept of God's Mercy runs through the whole book. There are four sections in this book; the first deals with Janaro's background, and how he got to where he is today. The second looks at a typical day in the life of a person with chronic pain. The third and fourth sections are on help for those who are suffering; the third is practical, or worldly help, while the fourth centers on spiritual help. Throughout each section, Janaro has some great insights into dealing with chronic pain and depression - for both the patient and for those who treat them. I shall briefly list the ones which I especially liked:

1. Depression can be transformed into an awareness of our total dependence on God (p. 22).
2. A great quote for our slacker society from Blessed John Henry Newman: "the aim of most men esteemed conscientious and religious...is, to all appearance, not how to please God, but how to please themselves without displeasing Him (p. 49)."
3. The fact that suffering does not necessarily go away when we receive the Grace to endure it.
4. Despite his suffering, Janaro has to acknowledge the Mercy of God at work throughout his life. He writes about four things which have been constant in his life. He might have been writing it about me. You will have to buy the book to find this insight. Sorry.

Janaro ends the book writing about how devotion to the Blessed Mother and prayer - especially before the Blessed Sacrament - can help deal with physical and mental illness. I enjoyed this book, and I recommend it for those who suffer from chronic pain and depression as well as for those who care for them.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Adopt A Religious, Revisited

A friend of mine sent me a message a while back, requesting that I change his status in the 'ADOPT A RELIGIOUS' part of the sidebar. I made the change - finally - tonight. No longer will you find 'Chris' on the list, because he is now Brother Francis, OSB.

Congratulations and God bless you, Brother Francis. You are in our prayers.

Now I ask all of you to think of any religious you know who would benefit by being included in this list. If you wish to add them, please go to THIS LINK and add the name.

Brother Francis did send us some pictures from Italy; he is in a monastery in Norcia. The following are some scenes of the beautiful countryside:


This last picture below was sent to us on St. Valentine's Day. Below is a relic of St. Valentine. It reminded me of the ending of Walter Miller's book, A Canticle for Liebowitz, where the abbot, as he lay dying, notices an old skull lying near him. The skull had been pierced by an arrow; the remains of the shaft are still present in the hole between the eye sockets. The abbot considers the suffering which that monk from long ago must have endured. In the same way, we can look at St. Valentine's skull and consider his dedication to Our Lord.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Windows Humor in Haiku

I have been reading a bit of poetry lately; hopefully I shall review the book I am reading in the next day or two. Tonight, however, I was reminded of some haikus which make fun of the Windows operating systems. These haikus were written to replace the more mundane error messages one would see frequently on a computer. Please understand that these are not my own poems.

I found them at this location. Enjoy:

Three things are certain:
Death, taxes, and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.
- - - - - - - - - - - -

Windows NT crashed.
I am the Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams.
- - - - - - - - - - - -

Seeing my great fault
Through darkening blue windows
I begin again
- - - - - - - - - - - -

The code was willing,
It considered your request,
But the chips were weak.
- - - - - - - - - - - -

Printer not ready.
Could be a fatal error.
Have a pen handy?
- - - - - - - - - - - -

A file that big?
It might be very useful.
But now it is gone.
- - - - - - - - - - - -

Errors have occurred.
We won't tell you where or why.
Lazy programmers.
- - - - - - - - - - - -

Server's poor response
Not quick enough for browser.
Timed out, plum blossom.
- - - - - - - - - - - -

Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent, and reboot.
Order shall return.
- - - - - - - - - - - -

Login incorrect.
Only perfect spellers may
enter this system.
- - - - - - - - - - - -

This site has been moved.
We'd tell you where, but then we'd
have to delete you.
- - - - - - - - - - - -

Wind catches lily
scattering fragrant petals:
segmentation fault
- - - - - - - - - - - -

ABORTED effort:
Close all that you have.
You ask way too much.
- - - - - - - - - - - -

First snow, then silence.
This thousand dollar screen dies
so beautifully.
- - - - - - - - - - - -

With searching comes loss
and the presence of absence:
"My Novel" not found.
- - - - - - - - - - - -

The Tao that is seen
Is not the true Tao, until
You bring fresh toner.
- - - - - - - - - - - -

The Web site you seek
cannot be located but
endless others exist
- - - - - - - - - - - -

Stay the patient course
Of little worth is your ire
The network is down
- - - - - - - - - - - -

A crash reduces
your expensive computer
to a simple stone.
- - - - - - - - - - - -

There is a chasm
of carbon and silicon
the software can't bridge
- - - - - - - - - - - -

Yesterday it worked
Today it is not working
Windows is like that
- - - - - - - - - - - -

No keyboard present
Hit F1 to continue
Zen engineering?
- - - - - - - - - - - -

Out of memory.
We wish to hold the whole sky,
But we never will.
- - - - - - - - - - - -

Having been erased,
The document you're seeking
Must now be retyped.
- - - - - - - - - - - -

The ten thousand things
How long do any persist?
Netscape, too, has gone.
- - - - - - - - - - - -

Rather than a beep
Or a rude error message,
These words: "File not found."
- - - - - - - - - - - -

Serious error.
All shortcuts have disappeared
Screen. Mind. Both are blank.

To have no errors
Would be life without meaning
No struggle, no joy
- - - - - - - - - - - -

You step in the stream,
but the water has moved on.
This page is not here.
- - - - - - - - - - - -

I hope you have enjoyed these haikus. For those of you who do not know, the portrait at the beginning of this entry is Basho, a famous poet whose specialty was the haiku. The woman below is Amanda McKittrick Ros, another poet whose claim to fame was writing some of the worst poetry and prose known to man. These two are my inspiration to continue to write poetry, for if I cannot write good poetry, I can at least compose really bad poetry.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Crucem sanctam

Crucem sanctam subiit,
qui infernum confregit,
accintus est potentia,
surrexit die tertia.  Alleluia

Surrexit Christus
et illuxit populo suo:
quem redemit
sanguine suo. Alleluia!

Crucem sanctam subiit,
qui infernum confregit,
accintus est potentia,
surrexit die tertia.  Alleluia

Surrexit Christus
iam non moritur:
mors illi ultra
non dominabitur. Alleluia!

Crucem sanctam subiit,
qui infernum confregit,
accintus est potentia,
surrexit die tertia.  Alleluia

Surrexit Christus
lapidem quem reprobaverunt
aedificantes: hic factus est
in caput anguli. Alleluia!

Crucem sanctam subiit,
qui infernum confregit,
accintus est potentia,
surrexit die tertia.  Alleluia

As seen here:

Sunday, February 06, 2011

New Topic, New Toy

I bought a Russian Rifle. This rifle is commonly known by its two developers; hence the name, Mosin-Nagant. For the history behind this rifle, I direct you to the Wikipedia page dedicated to it. My rifle would be referred to as the Model 91/30.

There are several reasons why I purchased this rifle. One, it has a simple design, with a bolt action. The children and I have been looking into getting a bolt action rifle, and this one has a history of being very reliable and fun to shoot. Two, it is very inexpensive. Some of these are advertised for less than $100. Three, they are very accurate, even with just iron sights. Four, it is an historical item; ours was manufactured in 1942. Five, they are very tough. The ammunition leaves a corrosive residue in the barrel, so one has to clean the rifle immediately after shooting. Some folks recommend pouring boiling hot water down the barrel to clean it. This was intriguing to me. Everything about this gun is fascinating, and to really understand all aspects of it will take some time and study.

I went to a local gun store on Thursday, taking my student driver with me so he could get some icy road condition driving experience. We saw a lot of cars and trucks in the ditches, and Gus got to slide along on the ice for a while. It was worth it to give him some practice in adverse weather, and to patronize a local merchant.

As one can see below, this is a rifle with a bolt action, and a non-detachable magazine which carries 5 cartridges. This model has a wooden stock and a detachable bayonet. It also came with two magazine pouches, a sling, a can for holding oil, and a small pouch of tools. I need to figure out what all the tools are for.

The rifle was packed in a substance called 'cosmoline,' which looks like brown vaseline. It appears as if the gun was dipped into a container of this stuff. This will be one of the first things I shall do with this. Note the goo in the action below:

One thing I did do was bless it with holy water. It occurred to me that this rifle probably saw action in World War II, and with the Russian troops it may have been an instrument of oppression of civilians as well as a combat weapon. Carolyn and the children and I recently read of some of the horrible things that were done by the Russians as they drove through Germany - and how the Russian people suffered as well under Josef Stalin. I recommended that some of the older children consider reading One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn to get an insight into life in the Soviet Union. I felt better after blessing the rifle.

Even with all the goo in it the action is smooth. There are an assortment of markings on the receiver, including a new serial number placed on it when it was imported into the United States. There is a website which lists all the markings known and the explanation for most of them. This type of rifle was made in Russia, the United States (during World War I), all other Soviet bloc countries, and Finland. The Finnish versions were taken from Russian soldiers who died while fighting Finland; these rifles were then revised and put back into service against the Russians. Like I said, the history behind this rifle is really fascinating.

These guns are accurate. They were used by snipers during the Second World War. Here are some women soldiers/snipers proudly displaying their 'scoped' versions of the Mosin Nagant.

I shall keep the blog posted as I take this thing apart and get it ready for some target shooting.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

References, Please, Al

If you look closely at the picture below, you will notice that the fence has a bunch of buzzards sitting on it. Buzzards don't fly well in the cold; I almost hit another one this morning:

I saw this note on the Drudge Report about how Al Gore explained that the massive storm was caused by Global Warming. Here is the quoted response to Bill O'Reilly's question, "Why has southern New York turned into the tundra?"

An Answer for Bill February 1, 2011 : 11:43 AM

Last week on his show Bill O’Reilly asked, “Why has southern New York turned into the tundra?” and then said he had a call into me. I appreciate the question.

As it turns out, the scientific community has been addressing this particular question for some time now and they say that increased heavy snowfalls are completely consistent with what they have been predicting as a consequence of man-made global warming:

“In fact, scientists have been warning for at least two decades that global warming could make snowstorms more severe. Snow has two simple ingredients: cold and moisture. Warmer air collects moisture like a sponge until it hits a patch of cold air. When temperatures dip below freezing, a lot of moisture creates a lot of snow.”

“A rise in global temperature can create all sorts of havoc, ranging from hotter dry spells to colder winters, along with increasingly violent storms, flooding, forest fires and loss of endangered species.”

Okay, then. So I supposed that the underlined words above, "man-made global warming," would take me to a list of references which would knock my socks off with support for Mr. Gore's allegation that global warming is the explanation for why I am freezing my backside off in Dallas. Instead, I was directed to an editorial, which also did not cite any references. The editorial was from a Chicago paper.

To misquote St. Bartholomew, "Can anything good come out of Chicago?"

I was really hoping on learning something about global warming from the man who has made a fortune preaching on the dangers of it. Instead, I find myself confronted with a bit of college humor born out of late nights in chemistry labs. When presenting data which was unsupportable, or suspicious, it was often referred to as 'POOMA,' which in its best description was translated into 'PULLED OUT OF MID-AIR.' More often it was known as 'pulled out of my armpit,' or some other anatomical region which begins with the letter 'A.' I shall give our former vice president the benefit of the doubt, and hope that he pulled the support for his argument out of mid-air.

In this case, some very cold air.


This is what inspired me to write the above. I was up all night on call, and after taking just under 2 hours to drive home on icy roads, I took a nap. When I awoke, I discovered that our hot water was not working. That is because we have 'tankless' water heaters which are attached to the outside of the house, and the water had frozen in the pipes leading to the heaters. We have two heaters; one on the East and one on the West side of the house. Last winter, when this happened, we thawed the pipes with a hairdryer. This year it is colder, with strong winds pushing the temperature into the single digits.

I mobilized my children to help me bring back the hot water. I would put up pictures of what we made, but our internet connection is being bad right now. I took a radiant heater, bought at Costco, and placed it by the tankless heater, and then the children and I constructed a windbreak to keep some warm air around the heater for a short time. Eventually the pipes thawed and we are back in business with hot water.

The problem: A tankless water heater exposed to the elements. This is the one on the East side of the house.

The heat source. This will warm anyones toes - and water pipes:

The solution. A windbreak constructed around the water heater, allowing warmed air and pipes to out of the wind. When we made this, the wind was really blowing strongly out of the North. Brrrrrr:

Many thanks to my children who helped make this work!

Our Lady of the Mysterious Decapitation

Our Lady of the Mysterious Decapitation
Now restored with the help of some cement!

Prayer to Our Lady of the Mysterious Decapitation

Mary my mother, take my hand today, and all days.
Lead me away from all occasions of sin.
Guide me in fulfilling your last words in the Gospel,
"Do whatever He tells you."

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