Thursday, October 2, 2014

H - S - H

Dear All,

It's been grand, even if I have not. Yesterday Dad was kind enough to drive me back to Hometown Suburb from Metropolitan, for perhaps two months, perhaps more, with the object of doing "nothing but research" (which I can never seem to make feasible over there, and still less so since TA appointments dried up over the Summer). And So.

Write to qnoodles at google's free mail service if you like, and keep thee well.

The Bat

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Happy Feast Day

O crux viride lignum quia super te pependit redemptor rex Israel; O quam dulce lignum, quam dulces clavos, quam dulcia ferens pondera; O quam pretiosum lignum, quam pretiosa gemma quae Christum meruit sustinere.

and also

Vexilla regis prodeunt,
fulget crucis mysterium,
quo carne carnis conditor
suspensus est patibulo.

Confixa clavis viscera
tendens manus, vestigia
redemptionis gratia
hic inmolata est hostia.

Quo vulneratus insuper
mucrone diro lanceae,
ut nos lavaret crimine,
manavit unda et sanguine.

Inpleta sunt quae concinit
David fideli carmine,
dicendo nationibus:
regnavit a ligno deus.

Arbor decora et fulgida,
ornata regis purpura,
electa, digno stipite
tam sancta membra tangere!

Beata cuius brachiis
pretium pependit saeculi!
statera facta est corporis
praedam tulitque Tartari.

Fundis aroma cortice,
vincis sapore nectare,
iucunda fructu fertili
plaudis triumpho nobili.

Salve ara, salve victima
de passionis gloria,
qua vita mortem pertulit
et morte vitam reddidit.
Venantius Fortunatus, Episcopus Pictaviensis

Monday, September 8, 2014

What a Thousand Looks Like

Usually, multiplication is about generalizations of the relation between areas and lengths; but it can also be accomplished by nesting or iteration, which is sort-of how multiplication gets implemented in Alonzo Church's Lambda calculus and also in polymorphic type theory as the natural transformations
$$ \mathbb{N} = \forall X, (X\to X) \to (X\to X) $$
and so on...

Anyways, Paul collected some hyssop seeds
and expressed some interest in how many plants that makes.

So, just for fun and perhaps for reference, here are $ 1600 = 10 \times 10 \times 4 \times 4 $ black squares arranged in a square of squares; something between one and two thousand. Note that you can probably see the spaces between the squares. Note that you can't see the spaces between most of Paul's seeds.

This kind of visual counting can add interest to films and historical photographs involving well-organized collections of people and all sorts of other things.

There are easily two thousand people watching, from the further stands, looking at us

Another way to think about it: your fancy camera today probably boasts some megapixels per photo; which means you could capture a thousand people, dedicating a few thousand pixels per figure, with a camera you then hide in your pocket. If they'll sit still long enough.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Truth in art

Pay attention in the first twenty seconds!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Guest Post from Beyond The Grave!

In what might just be a scoop over DuckDuckGo, I would like to share with you a letter which P. G. Wodehouse reports having received... he does not say when, but the return was Obuasie, which is very likely Obuasi in Ghana

Dear Sir,

I have heard your name and address highly have been recommended to me by a certain friend of mine that you are the best merchant in your city London. So I want you to send me one of your best catalogue and I am ready to deal with you until I shall go into the grave.

Soon as possible send me early.

I remain,
Yours very good truly.

And if anything in that sounds familiar, remark then to yourself that there is very little of novelty under the illumination of our fusion furnace in the sky.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The traditional annual note

Hm... 32, eh? That's $2\times 2 \times 2 \times 2\times 2$. Just for amusement, $3 \times 3 \times 3 \times 3 \times 3$ is 243, whereas Abraham himself only lived to 170. Two is a very odd prime, you know, the way its powers pack so closely together that way and other things...

There's a nifty thing about primes — from Fermat's little theorem $$ n^p \equiv n \pmod{p} \tag{Fermat}$$ we have a factorization $$ x^p - x \equiv x (x+1) (x+2) \cdots (x+p-1) \pmod{p} $$ which in particular gives $$ (p-1)! \equiv -1 \pmod{p} ; $$ on the other hand, if $ q $ is a composite number, then $q = p N$ for some minimal prime $p$ and some $N$ which is not smaller than $p$. That is, either $p = 2$ and $N =2 $, or $ 2 \lt N $ ; in the first case, $ p N = 2 \times 2 = 4$ and $ 3 ! = 6 \equiv 2 \pmod{4} $; in all other cases, we have one of $ p \lt N $ or $ 2 \lt p = N \lt 2 p \lt 3 p \leq q $, both of which lead to $ q = p N | ( q - 1 ) ! $, so that the full repertoire of $ ( q-1) ! \pmod{q} $ is : $ -1 $, if $q$ is prime ; $ 2 $, if $q = 4$; $0$ otherwise. The odd case out, $q=4$, highlights in a number-theory way just how odd the thickness of powers of $2$ really is. It also arises as a thing in my research, the natural operations in homotopy... but never mind that for now! It's my Birthday, and I think I'll have a sleep.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Timing! (?)

So, a couple years ago I registered my amusement on the timing of the feast in Visitationis; recently it also occurred to me that the Church really likes the completions of things, consummations and perfections; this is why MOST of the feasts are "birthdays" in coelis, what look to The World like deathdays... anwyays, "the week after John's (ordinary) birthday" turns out, on reflection, to be an excellent day for a feast, being as it is the Octave Day and hence the day Zachary took tablet and style to say "his name is John" and then sing the Benedictus. A fine occasion to mark as the completion of what Mary traveled to visit her cousin for to accomplish!

So there, slightly-younger-me, take that!

Also, slightly-older-me, don't be puffed-up, you might think this note rather funny, some day.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Rebuke from Heaven

Today, it would seem, St. Louis Marie Grignon-de-Montfort accused me of "intellectual pride", and counted me among
numerous puffed-up scholars, conceited with critical spirits who have plenty to say against the best established and most solid practises of piety,
and then he suffered our poor benighted congregation the condecension "not to give them needless occasion of criticism".

Oh! The sting! But I'm going to try, ad experimentum as it were, to be shaped by the sting and see what comes of it.

Oremus pro invicem

Sunday, July 20, 2014


Aren't symbols amazing things? One can make an abstracted thing (a gesture, or a sound, or a mark) and indicate to a watching, listening, or reading soul at some remove what is going on in one's own soul! That other soul can perhaps then act on what they learn by these symbols! Another interesting feature of symbols is their sensitivity to context. When The Lord through Moses ordered the Passover meal in preparation for the Exodus, He had them write on their doors
the first letter of the word
which signifies “living”, from which was Eve's name; but to their neighbors the slaves of the gods of Egypt, this “life” was written in the blood of lambs, and looked like death. A “sign which shall be contradicted”, if you will.

So (I am told) some bloodthirsty folk in another end of the crescent have taken to abbreviating “Nazarene” on houses they suspect of holding devotees of ... you know. And sorrows follow, gloriosa in conspectu Domini...

We could outdo them in symbols, of course.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Irrationally contented in this vale of tears

I enjoyed one of my not-too-significant, probably-unimportant, nonetheless-delightful little mathy revelations a couple days ago, which followed on “remembering”, as Plato/Socrates would call it, that natural constructions tend to be functorial; and the result was
\[ \Sigma \varphi = \Sigma \vartheta \vee \vartheta\star\Omega\Sigma\vartheta \]... and now I must apologize, for mathematician is usually working at the top of a large wobbly stack of definitions and usually can't even see the one two or three layers down...
  • A Cateogory, as the mathematician intends it, has a collection of objects, and possibly a collection of relations between pairs of objects, and an operation of composing adjacent relations between three objects, and... stuff. For instance, you might have the family of human languages for objects, with translating dictionaries as relations between them. If you have a french-english dictionary and an english-italian dictionary, you might attempt to compose them into an experimental french-italian dictionary, and this might have suprising consequences!
  • Functors are the natural relations between categories that give you a “category of categories”; A functor connects objects of one category to objects of the other, as well as connecting relations between objects to relations between respective connected objects --- but because of the echoing clearly heard in “category of categories”, there are furthermore relations between functors with the same origin and same landing ...
  • A construction “being functorial” is an informal way of saying: we first thought of it in terms of the objects of some category, and then realized it related to the relations between the objects as well; more echoing... we like echoes.
And that's what happened through Friday; a construction I usually think of only in terms of objects (homotopical figures), I recognized anew was also realized on relations between them (continuous maps).

Anyways, these weird socratic-recollections congealed into something mathematically-writable after I joined an impromptu schola for to sing a Requiem Mass for Fr. Kenneth Walker — it seems he once attended school with some of my neighbors, before I or they moved in to town. It was a beautiful sorrow, and a beautiful evening, and a remarkably uncongested ride home with the choirmaster's wife as the full moon was rising.

All you out there, keep well; I hope to be back again next Sunday, too.

All honour to Mother Mary, and all Glory and Praise to God the Holy Trinity be; animae omnium fidelium defunctorum, misericordiae Domini, requiescant in pace.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Adventures II

For the Desk of J. Herriot, VD.

This one is all-narrative. Almost entirely unrelated, so far as I know, except for me.

On the way out from the grocery, I met (as you do) a little dog tied to one of those movable polished steel advert holders they keep near the door so that you're primed for the "deals" inside... a very loud but nonetheless friendly little dog. I said "hello" and smiled, and off I went.

I had almost got to my bike to tie up the prizes of the night and travois them home, when: CRASH! And after looking back to the door I'd just left, after some seconds incomprehension, it dawned upon us waiting for whatever that said little excitable dog had pulled over that advert frame, the automatic door had obligingly opened and let him out, and the little dog was either barking at or trying to run away from that scary loud heavy shiny thing that seemed to be holding him.

One of us tried to untie the leash and right the frame, while I apparently crouched down and tried to soothe the dog. Great job I did, he wriggled himself out of his harness and went on yapping! He wasn't in any mood to run far, though; wandering confused for a bit, he suffered himself to be picked up, and I was happy to return him to whoever claimed responsibility for the fellow. Said master was at least as glad to see him, and proceeded to tie him to a more-secure post of modest description (fixed to the pavement), quite outside the boxbuilding.

And we (presumably) all went safely home. But it occurs to me now I may have forgotten to return my shopping cart. Still, a happy ending!

one of the smaller creatures

Monday, June 30, 2014


So my big brother drove up last week's weekend and then we went driving around, did some camping, visited long-lost-relatives; it was a good time.

Me playing some Bach for Detroit; in good tune, that piano!

Elder on my right (frame left) in Smalltown Somewhere

On the Sunday which was either Corpus Christi or within the octave of Corpus Christi,

Mass was here.
we were greeted on leaving Mass by two strange figures who, it turns out, are members of a network of local protestant communes that call themselves "the Twelve Tribes". Their openning question was "what did you hear, today?" and the easy answer was "the Gospel, of course". These two were part of a crew that go sailing about the world in a ship called "Peacemaker", which is a delight to behold. Bless the lot of them, whether they like it or not. I wish I had thought to tell them that Mother Church is a ship, too, indeed an Ark, the Barque of Peter.

It just makes me a bit sad that they seem to be holding themselves outside both the Sacraments and the living memory of the Church. They claim that they take their "rule" (though they don't call it that) from Acts 2:44-45, and so I want to tell them the story of St. Francis of Assisi and how he tried to compose his rule of Gospel verses when he sought papal recognition for his order; I want to tell them of the Bégin communities in France and such, so they can study why they don't seem to have prospered; I want them to have a good shepherd under the Good Shepherd. I hope they may be good, all of them.

Now I must dive back under the conjectures and puzzles. Like, suppose
\[ \mathbb{S^1}\overset{2}\to\mathbb{S}^1\to P^2 \] is a cofiber sequence, so that \[ \Sigma P^2 \overset{2}\to \Sigma P^2 \to P^2 \wedge P^2 \to \Sigma^2 P^2 \] is also a cofiber sequence (this also shows that the second "$2$" is not trivial!); there ISN'T a map $\Sigma^2 P^2 \to P^2\wedge P^2$ that factors the identity, but there might be one that factors the next "$2$". If there is, is it useful?

So, see you perhaps next Sunday again!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Identity, reference, address; praise, worship, life

So, there is from events last Sunday, a flurry of debate going about whether a certain close family of doxopraxical cultures is doing something reasonably similar, in a similar direction, to what the Catholic Church does. In particular, there is a resurgence of argument among bloggy Catholics, whether the Divinity is in partwise known to members of the cultures of this close family, and whether they render Him worship, or whether they perhaps worship another.

One argument proposed in favour of identity-of-referent between God the Holy Trinity and whomever it is our estranged-in-faith neighbors worship is the commonality between our respective first credal formulae: Credo in unum Deum and There is one god ... (I beg your pardon, I do not read or write or understand the language of the source text, and rely on others' translations). The argument proceeds: since we both assert there is only One, they must be the same one. It echoes (or perhaps is echoed in) something from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, (and now I must kick my mirror for that I can't find the book and don't trust myself to quote from memory — if you've read it, you'll know what I mean); whether or not the argument works... I am suspicious, of course. My mathematical training has taught me to be suspicious of claims of identity. Certainly, if the category spanned by Holy Trinity and the subject of our strange neighbors' worship indeed contains exactly One, then that One is both our God and their one-and-only-god, but this is begging the question. Heck, there's exactly One of me, and no-one would ever suggest that I and He are the same One!

Even more suspicious am I of claims that a list of properties is useful for naming something. That might sound strange, but my stockroom bad example is
\[ \lim_{x\to\infty} \sin x \]
The $\lim$ part of the expression means we are trying to pin down a number by its properties. If there is such a thing, then (by defining properties of $\lim$ in the relevant context) there is exactly one; but that doesn't tell us that there actually is such a thing. It so happens, indeed, that there isn't. And the absence of such a thing is even deeper than the strange-looking expression $\sqrt{-1}$! But I digress.

However, I particularly want not to say that these neighbours of ours are entirely lacking in reverence for the One, True, Creator God. There are one or two long prayers these our neighbours say in a particular context which we as Christians could most fittingly recite with sincerity and devotion, given a suitable understanding of all the words (which I learned from Robert Reilly who also writes about music). I think I want to move the question away from one of whether we and they worship the same God, but whether we both worship the same God.


3 Time passed, and Cain brought the Lord an offering out of the crops the land had given him; 4 Abel, too, brought an offering, and his offering was out of the first-born of his flock, with their fat. On Abel, and on his offering, the Lord looked with favour, 5 but not upon Cain, or his offering; so that Cain was much enraged, and his looks were lowering.
Can it be doubted that Cain and Abel both sought favour of the One God, by means of sacrifice? Or can it be doubted that in one was found acceptable worship, and in the other was not? And so a more interesting question is: what sacrifice do our neighbours offer? And can it be pleasing to God?

From the other end of our revelation,
21 Believe me, woman, Jesus said to her, the time is coming when you will not go to this mountain, nor yet to Jerusalem, to worship the Father. 22 You worship you cannot tell what, we worship knowing what it is we worship; salvation, after all, is to come from the Jews; 23 but the time is coming, nay, has already come, when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth; such men as these the Father claims for his worshippers.
Note! it is implicit in the language here that worship means sacrifice; for one can pray and sing hymns to God anywhere, but for sacrifice one must have an altar, and the Jews had one altar, in the Temple in Jerusalem, within hearing of the Ark (originally) wherein dwelt the presence of God! But our Lord turns aside the issue of place, letting it give place to truth, which is the matter for contemplation and the object of study. But of the Samaritan he says: "You worship you cannot tell what". One needn't read it as saying "what you worship is not God", but it does cut between the worship and the truth of it. Whether or not the god of our neighbours is our God indeed, they most of them would deny that one can or should try to know God himself. If they nonetheless, without the Church and Her Sacraments, without knowledge or understanding, give worship to the Father in Spirit and Truth, it seems to me it is by God's own grace, and not the doxis or praxis of their culture. I can't believe that it is always so, but I cannot say that it is never so.

A blessed Trinity Sunday to all of you,
cantis amator

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Why "Save the zygotes" is a Strawman Argument

(No, I'm not really here, I just didn't want this post going up on Pentecost Sunday. If I'm distracted, it's with other things!)

I don't know if you have heard or read this argument (in favour of all means of sterilizing the marital embrace) — I ran across it via a fellow tmblor, on a patheos site (both of which mean I won't be linking to it, here...); but, anyways, the argument runs "The human fertilized egg [miscarries before] implantation 18% of the time. But fewer conceptions means fewer dead zygotes. Therefore the [Catholic|Humanae Vitae] position is {wrong/hypocritical/safe to ignore}."

I'm not making up that "18%" statistic either. Of course, you will find here other samples of my epistemic scepticism; so there is an interesting question: "How do you know that 18% of human pregnancies miscarry in the zygote phase?" It breaks down into: how do you reliably count conceptions before implantation? I'm glad (for myself) that I shan't ever be on a medical science ethics review committee, but one wonders about who is, sometimes... I can believe, for instance, that 18% of IVF-attempted embryos might miscarry. You can count those, even if the first number is immoral. I can believe that 18% of amenorhea might be isolated events...

I don't know either of those statistics correctly, but it isn't really pertinent. Because: I'm pretty sure the statistcal premise of the argument is actually a distraction. A worm on a hook, as it were. The premise that contraception is a successful preventive of miscarriage, on the other hand... Never mind that it might be a lie: it doesn't even make sense! Contraception "prevents" miscarriage about the same way that an empty field "prevents" potato blight in the field. If one wants to "save the zygotes", he should work on finding ways to improve the odds of implantation, and not on making sure there is nobody to implant. Again, how one works on improving those odds when it isn't clear how to legitimately measure those odds, I don't... but anyways.

But there is another perspective a Catholic can take: given that one can't have a child born without attempting to conceive, and given that some attempts to conceive succeed but nonetheless miscarry, the resulting change in Creation is another soul in Limbus infantum. For all that it is better for a given soul to be in Heaven rather than Limbo, it is still better for that soul to be in Limbo than in Hell; and I can't see that it is better that Limbo be smaller on account of there being fewer souls.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Being like Mary

While I am still allowed to do so, I'd like to draw your attention to a funny thing that happens at least twice in Our Lord's preaching travels: someone mentions His mother ("Your mother and other kin are here, looking for you", and "Blessed is she who bore you and nursed you etc.": ... go, thou, and find them!) and Our Lord seems to dismiss these references, but on both occasions with very similar words
My mother and my brethren are they who hear the word of God, and do it
Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it.
It must have been jarring to hear, because most of those who heard Him preach in His earthly voice probably hadn't studied Christian Hagiography.

Our Lady the Mother of God is of course nulli secunda one "who hears the word of God, and keeps it". Our Lord wasn't dismissing His mother by these Words, but rather pointing more properly to Her excellence.

Gratia Plena, ora pro nobis. Ss Anna et Ioachim, orate...


No, not the sort needed with Confusing Ecclesiastics and Heretifactious Vowed Religious, but ordinary layfolk like me...

I have undertaken, in an informal way, under the advice of two friends here, to avoid the internet during the Days of Work, which (if you drop by or look for me in comments) is why I've been quiet the last two weeks. The Idea is to undistractedly coccoon myself in my studies and produce something both Novel and Significant. Oh, it must also be True and Verifiable. And Original To Me. Oh dear, what a bunch of filters! The Miracle would be to accomplish such a thing in some sturdy form by mid-August. The ordinary way of things would be that I have to find myself other jobs (for which I've absolutely no training). Do feel free to pray for Miracles! I don't mind miracles at all! But prayer for enlightenment (or inspiration) on how to accomplish the ordinary way of things can do, I am sure, no harm.

I don't think I can get away from checking my e-mail with some regularity, so if you're one of those who inexplicably wants to correspond, send me e-mail! My /dev/null persona has a publicly-visible e-mail address on its profile.

God bless you all,
Bat the Mathy

Saturday, May 10, 2014

I didn't think Guillaume-Le-Conquerant even had gunpowder

Dear Internets,

So, (... don't ask me why; I'm not married and I'm in no position to attempt marriage anytime soon, and there isn't even anyone who seems to... anyways)

Yes, anyways, so: I was reading Ed Peters' post, "Does Canon 1066 Amount To A Coin-Toss", and a small thing about his writing there bugs me, as a mathematician. Now, while statistics is emphatically not my thing, and while Dr. Peters' canonical analysis is beyond my competency altogether, the particular "randomization" he suggests that Kasper the Friendly Kardinal (Papa, take his hat away! You can do that!) is insinuating goes on in Marriage today... let me quote Dr. Peters:
If, therefore, as Kasper claims, half of all marriages (or even half of all Catholic marriages) are null, then the pre-wedding inquiry conducted in accord with Canon 1066 is a statistically pointless exercise that could just as well be replaced with a pastor’s toss of the coin. “Heads I marry y’all, tails I don’t.”
Well, actually, no, Dr. Peters. This is confusing the decision to attempt marriage and the validity of an attempted marriage. A coin toss (a ballanced coin... Canadian "Twoonies" not applicable) would admit the attempt of half of would-have-been-successful marriages and reject half of them; and it would accept the attempt of half of impeded marriages and reject half of them. As far as which apparant marriages were valid, an independent coin toss would not affect the ratios at all. To estimate the correlation between fitness to marry and the officiant's decision, one would have to know something also about the distribution of fitness to marry and what fraction of couples asking to marry in the church are turned down.

What Kasper is suggesting is actually much much worse: it is roughly as if those (Catholics, anyway) attempting marriage themselves toss a coin at the wedding and roughly 3/10 of the time decide they aren't really going to mean what they're asked to say.

It might be possible as an adult catechumen (Heavens Forefend!) to mentally resist at the moment of baptism, but I don't think that happens too often. There's lots of noise around desecration of the Eucharistic Body of Our Lord, but that involves a validly confected sacrament. There's also lots of noise illustrating just how robust the formula for validly confecting the Eucharist actually is: the minimal formulas are remarkably short and simple, and it is far more common for abuses to be illicit but valid. Clearly it is possible to make a bad confession; it is almost certainly just as possible to make a bad attempted marriage, but in both cases it's hard for me to see how one could do so and not know it. I'm not about to guess what fraction of confessions are invalid. But at the least it should be harder to muck up a marriage than a confession, given that marriage is part of our created natures and confession isn't.

The Canonical Differentiator

Monday, May 5, 2014

Feast Day

Gratias Deo pro Pontifex suis Maximus et Confessor, Sanctus Pius Quintus.

Ad quem: Ora pro nobis

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I wondered why

In the last couple of days, I've often had the Duruflé requiem wandering through my head; it's a very poignant meditation, at times nearly frantic, on the ancient chant setting one can find (e.g.) in the Solesmes Kyriale.

Just half an hour ago I learned that the first priest I really got to know has died. He was a quiet, pensive fellow. I wouldn't say he was a scholar, but he certainly appreciated scholarship; and I can't recall anything he said that I should now say was heretical, which is more than can be said of all-too-many living priests! Anyway, maybe that's why.

Sancte Ioanne, Sancte Ioanne Paule, orate pro eo.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Suggested Exercises In Epistemology

There was a delightful Dr. Boli letter (it feels more recent in my garblesome memory, but went up a Month ago...), and I think I should just plagiarize quote the whole thing:

Dear Dr. Boli: So I read this book. And when I say I read the book, what I really mean is that I read a review of the book. And when I say I read a review of the book, I really mean that someone posted a link to the review on Facebook, and I read the Facebook comments. But anyway, this guy in the book says that literacy is what causes society to become patriarchal and violent. He says that society before literacy was matriarchal and peaceful, but something about literacy, and especially the use of the alphabet, causes men to take over and ruin everything. He says, “Misogyny and patriarchy rise and fall with the fortunes of the alphabetic written word.” And also, “Writing of any kind, but especially its alphabetic form, diminishes feminine values and with them, women’s power in the culture.” So is he right? Should I be working on forgetting how to read? —Sincerely, A (Former?) Reader in Lemington.

Dear Sir or Madam: You may make your own decision if you develop the author’s theory to its logical conclusion. Literate societies are the ones we know about, because they leave written records. Preliterate societies are the ones about which we can only speculate. So the author’s contention is that the societies we know about are patriarchal and violent, whereas the societies we imagine are matriarchal and peaceful. It occurs to Dr. Boli that this contention may say more about present human psychology than it does about prehistory.

However, if you still desire to forget how to read, may Dr. Boli suggest that you work up to that happy oblivion by easy stages? Start by reading Dan Brown novels.

What brings this to mind today, about a month later, is a strange confluence of chatting with a friend and an Easter Sermon by Fr. Provost of the near-by Oratory of St. Philip Neri, which began by setting-up the contrast
Victorian society famously would never talk about sex, but would talk about death quite easily. Today, we are all too eager to talk about sex, and never talk about death.
... his point was that, without being conscious of Death The Real, the Paschal feast won't make much sense; that is, I don't think he was trying to make any claims on the history of drawing-room (or bar-room) conversation between the reigns of George IV and George VI. Nonetheless, it is a common enough trope that "Victorians were such prudes!" and so forth, that one starts to wonder is it true? and (what is the title of today's nullary epistle) how would we know? (I'm sure the historians have their tricks; maybe from reading contemporary editorials lamenting the decline of etiquette? There must be some... but anyways.)

Just to highlight how strange this question really may become in time: in the year 1870 (or the year 1970, or the year 1990 even...) most of us did not walk about carrying audio recording wireless broadcast stations in our pockets to absolutely everywhere, and the postcard actually wasn't the prefered means of correspondence.

So, given the relatively naïve and quiet character of the Height of Steam Power, what exactly do we know about what people would talk about? We have what they wrote; and somehow, through it all, all five books of Moses, the Canticle of Canticles, the books of Ezechiel and Baruch and Jeremiah... have survived in English glaringly without emendations. The most convincing artefact I've heard of refering to the actual prudishness of some part of our language's communal history (and its usage) is the pair of terms white meat and dark meat to refer to breast and leg of cooked chicken. If you will now alow me to unstring my chosen straw man, the practical distinction between the pectoral and plantal parts of the chicken, for culinary purposes, is that the breast of a domestic chicken, getting relatively little exercise, is a fattier less-oxygenated muscle: so, jucier and perhaps more easily chewed than chicken leg, yet not as interesting flavour-wise. But by the time we get to eating them, it matters less what part of the chicken one is consuming than that one can recognise the wanted cut, once it is all carved up.

Alright, there are an interesting preponderance and interesting correlations, but it's all from written text

So, I don't know, and you don't know (really) how often (or just plain how) ordinary people in Shropshire or Reigate would talk about what their billygoats had been up to in the pastures last week; it's pretty plain, though, that they knew, and similarly knew what Sgt. Troy had been up to (for instance). I do have my own pet theory: they also knew how to make reference without verbally undressing themselves or their neighbours. Usually. And besides, is there anything more dull (conversation-wise) than what everybody knows? (I would quote some text, but... you know, that's text, not conversation.)

my batty self

Sunday, April 13, 2014

"Longest" may not mean "there's no other as long"

This comes up because we've another long Tract, today, much like on Ash Wednesday. It's isn't the whole psalm, but it takes up the same space of paper, not to mention using the same motifs musically.

A Blessed and Holy Palm Sunday, all ye visitors.

the Bat

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Today we recall the Transfiguration, when Peter said: "Lord, it is good for us to be here". And that was true enough, but this was not the time to pitch tents: for who, lighting a lamp, then hides it under a bushel basket? This was not the time to preserve the sign, for He who gave the sign had not yet accomplished that for which He came.
When I was in Rome (for about a week, in 1997), I was taken to the Forum, which was a strangely gravely place. In some places the gravel was thinned-out from much walking to-and-fro, and there one could see tile mosaics in the pavement; I wanted to clear away all the gravel, to get the "right effect" of these thousand-year-old artworks. Four years later, (my summer of nine airplanes) I had been taken to Turkey for about a week, and yet more Roman ruins. Here we were told (as we hadn't been in Rome) that the tile mosaics are covered in gravel (of all things) deliberately, to preserve them. Apparently, the constant gritty treading is less damaging to the tile than the changed weathers of the world since the advent of motorcar and lorry.
Everyone has, I'm sure, heard some awful choirs. Even that everyone has heard some awful choirs singing in a liturgical context, alas... It is indeed possible that this has happened more frequently in the last... forty? ... years ... than the previous forty. It is possible, but I wouldn't jump from this to any surmise that we have become worse singers in any intrinsic sense. I dare say there may have been plenty of unsupportable choirs in, say, the 1920s, the era of decadence (in which setting, for instance, Waugh imagines a most uninspiring but dreadfully sincere young cellista, in Brideshead Revisited). That is, bad music and bad performance and bad liturgy definitely aren't anything new. Bad theology is almost as old as Cain, I'm sure.
An interesting fellow I know, around here, who reads and thinks about these things better than I do, tells me that many of the things sensitive folk find banal in the New Mass are actually codifications of abuses that had arisen more than a hundred years ago — the particular one he mentioned was by the name "three-hymn sandwich": In many poorer parishes, they could afford a Priest maybe but not three (and certainly not three clerics and a smashing-good choirmaster); So Mass was always Low Mass, with the laity singing hymns together whenever the Order didn't have something else going on to listen to or a command for silence.

But a funny thing happens when you have abuses (pious, well-intentioned, and popular... abuses) running for sixty years or more: they fall into time immemorial. "Put them into the books, please".
And so, for a brief little while, it seemed as if what we now may call the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite had been buried. There seem also to have been many who were happy, even gleeful, to leave it buried, happy to cover it with gritty mud and trample over the lot. Yet there have always been places where the gravel seemed thin, and always folk who were fascinated by the intricate patterns one could glimpse here and there. It's hard to tell, but there may just as well have been bits of the old pattern that had already worn out, before the covering was made. We can't see the state of the whole.

Meanwhile, in another part of town is the very new New Courthouse building, whose architecture is a bit odd, that still smells of new plaster and paint and silicone caulking. Most of us aren't quite used to it yet, how to move around in it, its acoustics, and all that. They've already given the English Room a renovation, and the fumes of the glue are still dissipating. It's very busy, though, all of it.
Sometimes, when you bury a thing in mud and later clean the mud off, you find you've also cleaned away lots of other faint dust and stains, and you've polished away scratches that had obscured the colours, and on the whole improved appearances everywhere. Something like this is going on in that strange ritual known by the latin words for care of the foot.

I'm looking forward to a time when we can clean away God's gravel and everyone walk freely in the Roman Forum and admire its ancient craftsmanship, and if that time comes in Time we may well then enjoy something truer than anything enjoyed before. But we may have to wait for a change of weather, a change in the air, a time when our habits and our exhalations aren't worse for it than being covered in gravel.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

It's that time of this year again

... because time in the Church is a funny thing.

last year we had this quasi-meditation; this year I'll only remark (beyond mentioning that) that it's The Longest Tract. We have more Tract this week than we have proper chant ... most other Sundays. I don't want to be groundlessly categorical, so I'll stick with "most", there. Thank goodness, the Schola Master is subdividing the schola so we sing alternate versiculi, each overall singing a page's worth instead of two.

Monday, March 3, 2014

More Star Trek

Golly, but I was ill... Sunday afternoon, after thirty hours of fever-assisted wakefulness, I finally drifted off into weird dreams.

Several times Cpt. Picard thought Counselor Troi looked like someone other than Counselor Troi, and was perplexed by Dr. Crusher's intermittent transparency (like a glass cast copy of herself). These two whom Cpt. saw often walking the corridors together seemed oblivious to their own (or each others') strange appearances.

Later, my older brother suggested to our bus driver he take us to the Tofornia Mile, but I don't think he got on the bus; after younger brother had made us friends with Gayle and Caroline and ... er... I can't pronounce his name... the family sitting behind us, we arrived at the semifamous Tofornia Mile (I think I thought it was somewhere in Mexico) where a someone was wrestling with a malfunctioning automatic baseball tee, in a ballpark between two halves of a divided highway in the midst of thick forest, and we were invited to try hitting one of these baseballs on a mile-long flight (because here of all places one can do that). Anyways, I remember hearing someone with computer-augmented binoculars reading "30 meters... 40 meters... " though I don't remember seeing any baseball bats, or seeing anyone trying to hit the ball.

If anyone has the gift of Joseph and Daniel... but I don't think these were those sorts of dream.


Monday, February 3, 2014

... Everyone needs a hobby?

Dear Mrs Authoress,

There was a delightful exchange between a playwright and Conan Doyle: Q: “May I marry Holmes?” A: “You may marry Holmes, murder him, or do whatever you like to him.”

May I just say, now that you want to play playwright rather than Doyle, that no, you got it right the first time? To say that, as the story played out, it isn't about Potter, (Potter is central to the unfolding, but it's not about him) but about families: that the first big thing we do after Dumbledore's funeral is throw a wedding; that what saves the Malfoys is they decide not to be soldiers anymore but again a family; that Riddle was ruined because his family (mother included) ruined him, just in time for him to destroy them. (Potter doesn't turn into a Dursley, because the Dursleys themselves were scrupulous about keeping Potter out.)

And so, if the story must extend to the generation that follows (it needn't, of course, but that is what happens next) and if that is a happy ending, then the sympathetic characters (Ok, maybe Potter isn't so sympathetic anymore) ought to be well-matched for the purpose of being family. Potter, alas, has grown up without his proper, visible, natural family, and he doesn't connect at all with Hermione's family (they sort-of paper the walls of Diagon Alley once or twice, I think); indeed, who, in the whole tale, knows enough of the running of a family to supply what is wanting in Potter's experience, and can marry Harry and already loves him? I submit that only Ginevra will do.

Leah Libresco very sensibly acclaims the platonic love (I'd say philia) between Harry and Hermione; and why throw away that beautiful moment when Ron himself destroys a bit of Riddle's evil?

I am sorry to hear that you, the immediate author of the original tales, have twice now, been more than willing to recast your characters along lines of will and power, twice now in connection with the generative power and its degenerations. Go read some Tolkien letters (at least when he revises a story, he makes it better), and play with your children some!

a reader

Thursday, January 23, 2014

This is another post about "Gravitational Pull"

As I closed last time, "gravitational pull" tends not to produce collisions — at least, not in idealized circumstances, which I described with the phrase "essentially-two". In the old, "classical" physics setting, this is due to the particular (empirically-determined, but excellently predictive!) gravitational potential, which has a large group of symmetries. The model of a two-object interaction then looks like
\[ \frac{1}{2} \left( \frac{d}{dt} r \right)^2 + \frac{1}{2} r^2 \left(\frac{d}{dt} \Theta\right)^2 - \frac{g_0}{r} = H \qquad\mbox{is constant}\]
where $r$ is the (variable) distance between the two objects and $\Theta$ is a cleverly-composed something that describes the (variable) direction of the two objects' separation, and $g_0$ is a constant describing the gravitational attraction between the two things. It happens that another expression
\[ r \Theta \times r \frac{d}{dt} \Theta = L \] must also be a constant — this one having directional information.

The never-meeting of the two things is sumarized in the necessity that squares of real things be positive:
\[ H + \frac{g_0}{r} - \frac{1}{2r^2} L^2 = \frac{1}{2} \left( \frac{d}{dt} r \right) ^2 \geq 0 \]

Now, of course we know that things largely under the influence of gravity do occasionally hit one another, and so the Moon is a rather interesting thing to behold at night, and St. Laurence has his “tears” every year — these are instances of things having size, being more than geometric points — and so of not being “essentially-two”, in my strange turn of phrase. Another class of things exerting mutual gravitational pull that aren't “essentially-two” in this sense is that of binary stellar systems. A notable sub-class are the pairings of a red giant and a white dwarf, in relative proximity. Sometimes these sorts of collisions take the form of the dwarf partner gradually accumulating the loose hydrogen from off their red giant partner, untill it gets thick and hot enough to start fusing hydrogen into helium on its own account, which makes a kind of nova. I wonder if (and how) this picture might have been in Benedict's analogical thought when he spoke or wrote of "gravitational pull"?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

This is a post about "Gravitational Pull"

It's a funny thing: the Church has Laws — these are in addition to the moral law, at least in the sense that one could reasonably not do what they prescribe under the counterfactual hypothesis that they didn't say it. Nonetheless the Law, justly proposed, itself imposes a moral character on acts that otherwise wouldn't suffer such character.

One such law, which pertains to Priests, accolytes, and cantors, is that Priests as such (accolytes, cantors...) have no authority either to set aside nor to add to the prescribed text and ceremonial of the Mass, except in narrowly described ways. There are good reasons for this on which we need not dwell, and there are annoying consequences of it.

One annoying consequence of it (for a Priest) is that the indulgence attached to the aspiration of "Doubting" Saint Thomas is not allowed him, even in the usual circumstances, at the First Elevation in a Mass he is himself celebrating — for this would be an illicit interruption of, or addition to, the Canon. An annoying consequence of it is that blue chasubles, dalmatics, and tunicles (which exist in plenty, and of which many are profoundly beautiful) are thoroughly outlawed. A most perplexing consequence of it, for the children of Summorum Pontificum is that there really isn't any way the Extraordinary Form can be made an excuse to depart from the edited text of the Missal for the Ordinary Form, nor vice-versa. The dressing of the altar, the vesting of the ministers, the words used and their order, have each their circumscriptions; the propers of a Sunday Mass (proper of the Season) may not be used for votive masses, but only on their own Sunday and feriae; there are more points, but these are enough to keep in mind (unless you are a priest, in which case you keep a fresh Ordo and GIRM and all the rest handy and what are you doing, in whose name, reading this waste of time?) So we're a bit funny, celebrating the Kingship of Our Lord twice a year, and calling 1st January both the Motherhood of Mary and the Circumcision of Our Lord... and for a time we will be funny. (We should always be some sort of funny!) It is not in any authority below the Supreme Pontiff to adjust these counterpoints.

Do we want to unify the Calendars? Perhaps we do, and so why not compose ideas for how to do so; or better: consider sound principles whereupon the Church might do so. Why not write a thesis on the matter together with an example revised biformal Calendar and send it to His Holiness — I understand he answers surprisingly many letters, so the odds are better than at other times that, if he doesn't approve the thing ad experimendum for your oratory, at least he might give you a good reason why.

It's another funny thing altogether (one on which our continued experiences of any kind in this Creation largely depend) that if essentially-two things exert a mutual gravitational pull out of parallel with their relative motion, they never meet.