Sunday, September 27, 2009

Strange Mixup

Warning: tacky bad puns ahead.

If some North American caribou met some European reindeer, and the males went for the males and the females for the females, then it would be a rein-bou coalition, and they would really cari, deer.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Connecting Some Ideas

I was just reading Alan Keyes' essay on the 80/20 fallacy (for which see his blog and a few things occurred to me.

One is that some prominent Churchman (may have been Benedict) recently wrote on the philosophical error of confusing quantity and quality. The effect of this in the practical and political spheres is that people are regarded as interchangeable units. The origin of the error is a denial of the sacred unique-ness of each human person, and further back than that, a denial of God the Creator.

G. K. Chesterton wrote his great work The Everlasting Man to demonstrate that Man differs from the brute animals not in degree but in kind. (And I don't care what "scientists" say about the similarity of human and chimp DNA.) Chesterton said: "So stands the Red Clay against the green field of nature, or the White Christ against the red clay of his race."

Now the 80/20 rule, which I learned in my statistics classes, is often called "Pareto's Law" or "The Pareto Principle," and it says basically that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. It's really just an empirical rule of thumb, and the number doesn't have to be 80 -- just somewhere between 50 and 99 -- but it applies in a lot of real word cases in statistics.

My take on Pareto's Principle tonight is that 85% of the BS in this country today comes from 15% of the population. And I hope you know who I think they are: the Usual Suspects on the Left, led by our Great Leader.

And when I thought of Pareto's Principle, I thought of Parkinson's Law -- "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." This book (published 1957) explains why our federal bureaucracy is growing like lawn fungus after a rainstorm.

And then I thought of the Peter Principle -- "In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence." And we have now seen the principle demonstrated in a manner which can hardly be excelled . . . or should that be worsened?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cussing online

There are two good, that is, relatively inoffensive, ways to cuss online:

The first and simpler is to use a bunch of hyphens, perhaps with an exclamation point, for instance:

"What did you think of that --------- Obama's speech last night?"
"What did I think? -----------------!!"

The second method is to hold down the shift key and run your thumb over the numbers from two to eight; an exclamation point can be added for emphasis, for instance:

"That @#$%^&* car I bought is nothing but a @#$%^&* lemon!!"

The beauty of this is that it leaves the actual word or words up to the reader's imagination, which will come up with better (worse?) words than you could. Plus your readers can't accuse you of being offensive or dirty-minded, because they're filling in the blanks, not you.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A little poem for ACORN

Don't worry if they've caught you out, you're finished, done, and through.
Remember that the mighty oak was once a nut like you.

Just Plain Dumb

Doctor: Mr. Jones, how do you think you got so sick?
Jones: I opened the window and influenza.

Reporter: Mr. Ambassador, how did you get out of the Middle East?
Ambassador: I ran.

Teacher: Why is it improper to say "I et"?
Johnny: Because I ain't et yet.
Teacher: Johnny, your grammar is atrocious.
Johnny: No she ain't, teacher, she's a real nice old lady.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The three biggest lies in the world --

-- used to be:

"The check is in the mail"

"We're working on it"

"I'll still respect you in the morning."

Now we add at least one more:

"Islam is a religion of peace."

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Heyy! Lookit my Owie!

Ain'tcha glad it ain't the next finger?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

September 6

Today would be my parents' 68th wedding anniversary. They were married in 1941, while the Great Depression wasn't really over, and WW II was raging but hadn't hit us quite yet. This picture is from Fathers' Day 1999, and I believe it's the last one ever taken of them together. Mom died during the night of August 18-19, 1999; Pop died about 7:45 pm on Oct. 23, 2002. May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Jeanne d'Arc outwits Bishop Pierre Cauchon

This is a post I sent to the e-mail forum of the International Joan of Arc Society today about one of the first days of Jeanne's trial, February 21, 1431.

Hi, everybody,

In Régine Pernoud's book Joan of Arc By Herself and Her Witnesses, Edward Hyams, tr. (New York: Stein and Day, 1966, 1969; pp. 180-181) we find this for February 21, 1431:

Cauchon: Recite Pater Noster and Ave Maria.

Joan: I will say them willingly provided you hear my confession.

Cauchon, as may be imagined, dodged this request for, had he granted it, as a priest it would have put him in a very awkward situation. If he heard Joan's confession he would, thereafter, be prevented on his soul and conscience from declaring her guilty; on the other hand to refuse to hear her confession was to avoid doing his sacerdotal duty. The minutes of the trial mention that the bishop was obliged to admonish her "several times" and that in the end he adopted a compromise solution.

Cauchon: Willingly will we order appointed for you one or two notable men who speak French to whom you can say Pater Noster.

Joan: I shall not say it to them if they will not hear me in confession.

They were forced to drop the point and move on to the next subject.

- - - - -

Now my take on this is as follows: Both Jeanne and Cauchon knew that the seal of confession is part of the nature of the sacrament of holy orders, and that a priest who reveals anything -- in any way at all -- of what was said in a confession is subject to excommunication. So if Cauchon heard Jeanne's confession he would have had to remove himself from the position of judge.

He was not willing to do this, because -- it must be remembered -- Cauchon was pro-English in sympathy, he believed that the Treaty of Troyes was a valid and legitimate treaty, and he believed (sincerely, I'm willing to grant) that like others of the English party, that Jeanne was a sorceress and a "limb of the Fiend."

So I think Jeanne was using her native wit and canniness to put Cauchon on the spot. The court meant to condemn and imprison or execute her, she knew it, and Cauchon knew she knew it.

Best to all,

PS -- for us pedants, here's the relevant extract from the Latin record (Procès de condamnation et de réhabilitation de Jeanne d'Arc dite La Pucelle, Tome I; Jules Quicherat. Paris: Jules Renard et Cie., M.DCCC.XLI -- Facsimile by Johnson Reprint Corporation, New York City, 1965; p. 47):

Item, requisita per nos quod diceret Pater Noster : respondit quod audiremus eam in confessione et ipsa nobis diceret libenter. Cumque iterum pluries super hoc requirertemus eam : respondit quod non diceret Pater noster, etc., nisi eam audiremus in confessione. Tunc autem diximus, quod libenter sibi traderemus unum aut duos notabiles viros de lingua gallicana, coram quibus ipsa diceret Pater noster, etc. Ad quod respondit ipsa Johanna quod non diceret eis, nisi eam audirent in confessione.

PPS -- for the superpedantic like me, here's the relevant extract from the original French minutes (La minute Française des interrogatoires de Jeanne la Pucelle, d'après le Réquisitoire de Jean d'Estivet et les manuscrits de d'Urfé et d'Orléans, par le P. Paul Doncoeur. Melun: Librairie d'Argences, MCM.LII, p. 89:

Requise qu'elle dist Pater Noster et Ave Maria,

Respond qu'elle la dira voluntiers, pourveu que monseigneur l'evesque de Beauvoys, qui estoit present, la vouldroit oyr de confession. Et, combien qu'elle fust plusieurs foys requise de dire Pater nostre et Ave Maria, elle respondit qu'elle ne le diroit point, se ledit evesque ne l'ouoyt de confession.

Et adoncq ledit evesque dist : Je vous ordonneray ung ou deux notables personnaiges de ceste compagnie ausquelz vous direz: Pater Noster et Ave Maria.

A quoy elle respondit : Je ne le diray point, se ilz ne me oyent de confession.

You may well ask: "So what?"

My answer is if you're studying history (of now or of 600 years ago), make sure you go back to the primary sources, and still remember that they have to be carefully interpreted. In other words, don't believe everything uncritically.