Wednesday, August 30, 2006

One Down, Eighty Gazillion to Go

So The Force of Reason (by Oriana Fallaci) is read. It's an intemperate, passionate screed against Muslims in Europe and the Europeans who enable their incivility and cultural aggression. Her passion for the dying of Italian (and by extension, European) culture in the face of barbarous attitudes and practices of Muslim immigrants is a bit overwhelming for someone not used to Italian hyperbole.

The one note that did bother me was her assertion that moderate Muslims are a fantasy. She argues that the Koran is at the heart of Islam (who can argue against that?) and the Mohammed is the ideal Muslim according to the faithful interpreters. Neither of the these condemn violence, encourage love of enemies or respect for women as human beings. If she's right, this is very troubling. How do you establish the primacy of Human Rights in the world if a major force (Islam) in world events denies such rights exist, as such?

Now, inspired by a lakeside conversation on Sunday I've opened up, at last, my copy of Salvation Is From The Jews by Roy H. Schoeman. a Jewish convert to Catholicism. I have to read it myself before I can loan it to my interlocutor.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Brain Candy

This blog had as one of it's original ideas a running record of my reading. This in turn would encourage (I was hoping) more reading.

I've been working so much (doesn't that sound better than I've been to too lazy?), so serious reading has been non-existent. But I have done some reading:

The more observant might have noticed that my Amazon box in the sidebar changed to Pompeii by Robert Harris. This was a loan from the wife's cousin-in-law (is there such a thing?). This was a real page-turner for me. I love ancient history, especially Rome. So I finished this in a day or so, mentally comparing the seemingly fastidious research of this book to that of Duh Vinci Code.

We Were Soldiers Once by Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore (Ret.) and Joseph L. Galloway was a loaner as well. As a veteran of Vietnam it was of interest to me anyway. One of the crucial decision points in the Viietnam War was in 1964-5, when Johnson decided to commit large numbers of ground troops. I saw the movie with Mel Gibson and quite enjoyed it. The book has much more detail and a nasty finish (the movie more or less covers the first battle and leaves the nasty, stupid second one out). But it was enjoyable at any rate.

Last Man Out by James E. Parker was the last of the loaners. But I've tended to avoid anything to do with the war given my own ambiguous feelings about that enterprise. And anything to do with the shameful (to me) ending has been a definite no-no. But I did finish this one. It wouldn't be appropriate to say I enjoyed it. But it was a worthwhile read. What should we have learnt from this failure?

And now to the brain candy of the title. The youngest daughter has been enthusiastically reading some of the books by Clive Cussler. This since she watched Sahara.

As it has been a talking point for us, I agreed to read some of the books. But being the obsessive-compulsive type, I wanted to read the Dirk Pitt series in chronological order. This had the additional benefit of giving her boyfriend and I something to talk about, since he's doing the same thing.

So He's been bringing the books to me, one at a time as I finish the previous one. So far I've read The Mediterranean Caper, Iceberg, Raise the Titanic! and Vixen 03.

This is not by any means an endorsement of the books. The over-sexed, irresistible hero seems so faux James Bond to me. Ian Fleming was a favourite of mine years ago. And the wife and I used to love going to the movies when they came out, though we've stopped of late. When the fantasy sexuality of the hero combined with the morally repugnant profession (he's an assassin, right?) began to bother me I stopped watching the movies.

At least Dirk isn't an assassin, but his character isn't exactly deeply written either. It's more stubbornness and the hope of continuing the conversations with the youngest and her boyfriend that keep me going. I hope to persevere until Sahara, but that's seven more of these books. So we'll see.

While the boyfriend is out of country I have an opportunity to do something more intellectual, so I've borrowed The Force of Reason by Oriana Fallaci from the library. Hopefully I'll have it and one or two others finished before my supplier returns and I resume reading the Cussler series.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Next Phase

of my life seems to be beginning. (You were dying to know that, weren't you?) I've finished working extended hours shifts (12 hours or so) and two regular, part-time jobs for a single, full-time job with eight-hour shifts (which will start on Monday). [Mind you, I have three months to return to the part-time job at the hospital, if things don't work out for some reason.]

It isn't quite my ideal semi-retirement, but walking to work every day will be good exercise. I may even be inspired to blog a little more, assuming I have more energy to spend on such pursuits. After all, there is French to learn, and the wife has a never-ending list of things to do. Today I have to finish cleaning up some tree trimming she did yesterday. Which is probably why I'm bothering to post this otherwise empty nothing: I'm looking for anything to do that doesn't involve yard-work.

Now you feel really important, don't you? Sorry!

Friday, August 11, 2006


The stalwart few may have noticed the About.French headlines in the sidebar. It's one of my pre-retirement projects. Why French? Je ne sais quoi?

It is the other official language of Canada. With French tv and radio readily available here that's a plus. My daughters both excelled in French in school (though they've neglected it in University). And my brother-in-law was born and raised in Montreal, schooled in French there.

How did this get started? I was cruising the intellectual wasteland the other night and tripped over the Detroit PBS station's fundraiser: Barry Farber sharing the secrets of learning a new language. His book is his claim to fame:How to Learn Any Language.

The reviewer I've linked to is right, the guy is a good motivational speaker. Enough goofing around and waiting for the perfect opportunity and the "best" method. Get going now and use several methodologies.

So I've borrowed Pimsleur's French and a grammar book from the library, syndicated the About.French website, printed a French calendar for the rest of the year (C'est vendredi, 11 d'Aout), downloaded a flashcard program and added the alt.language.french newsgroup to my Usenet list. I've looked up Le Monde on the internet. Once I have a decent vocabulary I'll start trying to read the lead articles.

That leaves getting a dictionary, a phrasebook, and some 3x5 cards (I should have some squirrelled away somewhere). Wish me "Bonne Chance!"

Hopeful Signs

I've been following such small hands for awhile, in part because she's suffering the trials of dialysis. Now that she's been accepted on a transplant list (she's had one already, years ago), she looks forward to being freed from the chains that enslave dialysis patients: dietary restrictions, thrice-weekly visits to the clinic for several hours, needles, blood spills and other joys. I've been working as a technician in this field since 1975, so I've seen what these patients have to endure.

Each of us has trials to suffer through. And sometimes we can start feeling sorry for ourselves or react angrily: "Wny me?" But to be alive is to suffer trials. I commend her for her Christian courage in facing the trials God has allowed her to experience. May the Good Lord continue to bless her.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Mark Brumley Joins

the conversation about Pope Benedict, Israel and Hezbollah here. I'm still not sold on the idea that calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities is the same as making Hezbollah and Israel morally equivalent. How does one act in a moral manner when fighting an enemy that shields itself behind women and children?

Robert Miller Replies

to Frederica here. Is anyone keeping score?

The Lord's Day

Our last full day in Italy was Sunday, appropriately enough. We headed for San Pietro, determined to visit the grave of John Paul the Great. Do you have any idea how hot it gets in Italy, even in early June? Do you want me to re-live the experience of standing packed cheek by jowl with hundreds of sweaty strangers for two hours? No? Thank you.

Once we worked our way around the outside of the Basilica to the level underneath it both got cooler and moved quite nicely. Many different Popes are buried down there.

John Paul's grave is very simple,

probably because they anticipate his being raised to "Blessed" status soon. He would then be moved upstairs and placed under one of the many altars.

I'm just sorry that we didn't know about the Scavi tour then.

It was almost noon when we emerged so we decided to get some lunch before deciding what to do next. Just as we emerged from the Portico into the daylight a gun boomed (the "noon gun", I suppose--or was it the Angelus gun?) and a large audience clapped--the Piazza was filled with pilgrims looking to our left. We had emerged just in time for the Sunday Angelus.

So we rushed down into the crowd and tried to find a spot where we could see the Pope.

That tiny white speck in the open window is him.

After receiving our Papal Blessing, we went back into the Basilica and attended Mass at a side altar. We then sought out a restaurant in the vicinity. Our waitress was a Filipina. We noticed that we were half-way to Castel Sant'Angelo so we decided to visit there.

After thoroughly enjoying this,

we walked along the Tiber for awhile,

then crossed over, walked up the Via del Corso, gawking at the upscale stores along the way. We ended up at the Spanish Steps (for the last time, sigh). We boarded the Metro, changed at Termini and ended up at Metro Garbatella, our home stop. Momma's notes, which I have been relying on throughout the travelogue posts, ends here.

As was our custom, we ended our day at Il Ristorante Cinese, our favourite Italian restaurant. We said good-bye to the staff and "Momma", the proprietress, posed with us for a picture:

We finished packing that night. Tomorrow Arrivederci Roma.


Frederica Matthewes-Green responds to Robert Miller's post about the Pope's call for an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon.

It occurred to me that while an immediate ceasefire might allow Hezbollah to claim a victory of some sort, it seems clear that Israel as well won't agree to a ceasefire until their minimum terms of victory are met. What is the direction that takes us away from the logic of violence?

50,000 Canadians and Multiculturalism

A follow-up post: from Mark Steyn in Macleans about the Canadians in Lebanon. Is "Multiculturalism" in Canada bankrupt?

Are Immediate Ceasefires Always Moral?

This is the question that Robert Miller addresses at On the Square. The jury is still out for me, but he does make some interesting comparisons.