Monthly Archives: August 2010

Privacy or Anonymity

The Wall Street Journal has been running a series on the business of online “spying” for marketing information about web browsers. From today’s installment:

You may not know a company called [x+1] Inc., but it may well know a lot about you.

From a single click on a web site, [x+1] correctly identified Carrie Isaac as a young Colorado Springs parent who lives on about $50,000 a year, shops at Wal-Mart and rents kids’ videos. The company deduced that Paul Boulifard, a Nashville architect, is childless, likes to travel and buys used cars. And [x+1] determined that Thomas Burney, a Colorado building contractor, is a skier with a college degree and looks like he has good credit.

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The Cure of Ars

Today is the memorial of Saint John Vianney, the Cure of Ars.  He was born into a world in 1786 where the Church was soon under attack by the first of the totalitarian regimes, Revolutionary France.  His family remained loyal to the Faith, and helped priests on the run from the State.  Young John saw these brave men as heroes as well as priests, and soon wished to join their ranks.  He was hampered by his ill education and the fact that he simply wasn’t a very good student, no matter how hard he tried.  He was ordained more as an act of Christian charity, and a recognition that he had a good heart and would try his best to be a good priest, than because of any success in his studies. Continue reading

Scouting in a Fractured American Culture

The New York Times runs an article about how the national leaders of the Boy Scouts of America are seeking to address concerns about shrinking membership as they celebrate 100 years of boy scouting in the US. The number of boy scouts has declined 42% since it’s peak in 1978, with 2.8 million boys currently in the Scouts.

To judge from the commentariat at the Times, you would think this is entirely the result of the BSA remaining firm in their ban of gay scout leaders and statement that “homosexual conduct is inconsistent with obligations in the Scout Oath.” Not to mention saying that boys who refuse to recite the Scout Oath because of its references to God and reverence may simply not have a place in the program. Commenters claiming to be Eagle Scouts line up one after another in the comments to announce that no son of theirs will ever be a member of the Scouts while it remains homophobic and theocratic.

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Jefferson Davis and the Crown of Thorns

It has long been an article of faith of many admirers of Jefferson Davis that, while he was in Union captivity after the Civil War, he received a crown of thorns from Pope Pius IX woven by the hands of Pio Nono himself.  The Museum of the Confederacy in New Orleans has it on display.  It is a romantic story and appealing on an emotional level.  It is also false.  The Pope did send the imprisoned Davis his photograph with the text  from Matthew 11:28  ‘Venite ad me omnes qui laboratis, et ego reficiam vos, dicit Dominus.’ (Come to me all all ye who labor and are heavy burdened and I will give you rest, sayeth the Lord.)

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The Great Darkness

May 19, 1780 was a memorable one in the history of New England.  Darkness descended for several hours in New England and parts of New York.  The cause of the darkness has been blamed on everything from volcanoes to dust storms.  The most commonly accepted explanation today is that the darkness was caused by forest fires.  An excellent overview of the Dark Day and its possible causes is presented by John Horrigan here.

Darkness in the middle of the day of course caused quite a bit of alarm, with more than a few people thinking that the Day of Judgment had arrived.  In the Connecticut legislature a motion to adjourn was proposed and passed.  Members of the Council of Safety of the legislature wanted to go to their homes.  Senator Abraham Davenport would have none of it.  “The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause of an adjournment: if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought.”  John Greenleaf Whittier immortalized this archetypal stubborn Yankee with this poem: Continue reading

On Vacation 2010

Family on Vacation

I am on vacation this week with my family.  My internet connection in the coming week will range from intermittent to non-existent.  I will have posts for each day I am away on the blog, but if something momentous occurs, for example:  Elvis is discovered working at a Big Boy’s in Tulsa, the Pope issues a Bull against blogging as a complete waste of time, or there is an alarming outbreak of common sense in the government, I trust that this post will explain why I am not discussing it.

Among other activities we will be attending the Gen Con Convention in Indianapolis, a pilgrimage the McClarey clan makes each year to renew our uber-Geek creds.  If any of you are close to Indianapolis and you have never attended, it is worth a drive to see tens of thousands of role players, board gamers and computer gamers in Congress assembled.  If nothing else you will go home reassured as to how comparatively normal you are.  Last year’s attendance was in excess of 28,000 and there are multitudes of gaming related events.  A good overview of Gen Con is here.  Below is a Gen Con video from 2006 which gives a nice feel of the convention. Continue reading

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