Tuesday, April 24, 2012

You Verbing Noun-of-a-Noun!

Dark Benedition, a collection of science fiction stories by Walter M. Miller, Jr., has a great deal to commend it.  I am nearly through reading the collection, which has many great stories.

One little unexpected gem was from a story called The Lineman, in which one character insults another with this most genericized insult of all time:

You Verbing Noun-of-a-Noun!

I thought that was mighty clever.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Collect Against Identity Theft

I tend to worry about a lot of things.  Prayer helps me not to worry so much.  

And, to be honest, the Book of Common Prayer has most of the worries of life pretty well covered.  But in cases where modern life has spawned new fears, troubles, and dangers, I sometimes compose new Collect prayers.

Here is one, which beseeches God to deliver us from identity theftI humbly submit this for consideration for inclusion whenever the next legitimate BCP revision occurs!

O Almighty Father, who didst identify with mankind in the Incarnation of thy blessed son Jesus, vouchsafe to keep us from the trouble of identity theft; and, that we may spend our days in tranquility, grant to the perpetrators of the same repentance and the grace to find their true identity in thee. Amen.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Chevrolet = Volt Cheer

As I was getting ready to exit westbound I-696 at Southfield Road this morning, the van in front of me suddenly started blazing amber warning lights.  As I tapped the brakes, I saw that it was one of those rescue vans, such as gets sent out by AAA to rescue stranded motorists.  The driver was slowing down the vehicle and pulling it over to the curb.

What I saw next filled me with cheer, for the stranded vehicle was none other than a Chevrolet Volt with a dead battery!  The first of many such dead Volt sightings I hope to make.

My reasons for hating electric vehicles (and hybrids) are many, and I don't intend to document them in this blog entry.  But I wanted to document my first sighting of a Volt owner who tried to go just a little too far on his battery, and got stranded.

One wonders if the buyers of the Volt and of BEVs in general take into account all the towing expenses they will face, when making their cost-benefit analyses in advance of the purchase?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Saving the Stick Shift, One Driver at a Time

Here is an article about a gentleman on a crusade to save the manual transmission.  I like this guy!  In a day when drivers are lazier and lazier, and want the car to do more and more of the driving for them, manual transmission drivers are a breed apart.
Eddie Alterman is the top editor at Car and Driver magazine. He doesn't mind being called a gearhead. His whole career, he’s watched the sales of cars with stick shifts decline. And when Ferrari failed to offer a manual option for the new 458 Italia, he said, enough’s enough. Basta.

Alterman is going to do something about it, even if he has to convert people one by one.
On a warm and windy day in mid-March, he meets Julia Espinosa in a high school parking lot in Ann Arbor, to give the University of Michigan student her first lesson in driving a manual transmission.
Espinosa says, ever since her uncle regaled her with tales of touring the back roads of England as a young man, she’s wanted to learn how to drive a real car. You know, one with a stick.

Espinosa: "So the clutch pedal needs to be depressed completely before it’s going to engage? or you said half way." Alterman: "About halfway and you will feel that engagement point."

Then, like millions of new drivers before her, Espinosa stalls the car. A second time. And a third.

Alterman doesn't get upset - at all. After all, the car that's being used for the lesson is a company fleet car, a new Focus, driven in for this lesson by Ford's Chris Terry.

"Put a little more gas in," Alterman coaches gently.

And, lo and behold on the fourth try, the angels of the road sing. Espinosa starts the car and begins moving slowly down the parking lot.

Alterman whoops, "You did it! Now to get into second gear…"

Monday, April 9, 2012

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

A casual word from the Deacon after Palm Sunday services at the Anglican parish we were visiting led to our discovery of the Crystal Bridges Museum of Modern Art in nearby Bentonville, Arkansas.

According to this Wikipedia article, the museum officially opened its doors to the public on November 11, 2011.  As I remarked to my family, it still has that "new museum smell".   It has gained its permanent collection quite quickly and, according to the Wikipedia article, must now be ranked among the top half dozen art museums in the United States.  It was built largely with donations from Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton, who has reportedly donated $317 million to the project.

The architecture of Crystal Springs, by Moshe Safdie, is pleasing, with a very modern feel.  The grounds, though I only saw a small fraction, seem immaculately kept, and their are 7 or 8 walking trails that visitors may use.  Admission to the museum is currently free!

I was very impressed with the permanent collection, and to give you a small flavor of that, I will share some of the photos I took.  Photography is allowed in the museum as long as it is without using a flash or a tripod.


Saturday, April 7, 2012

Return Visit to St. Gabriel's Anglican Church, Springdale, Arkansas

It was a year ago when my family and I made our first visit to St. Gabriel's Anglican Church in Springdale, Arkansas.  Upon re-reading that blog entry, I realize that many of the praises I had intended to heap upon the parish in this entry had already been mentioned in that former one.  That is a good thing, I think.  It means that the wonderful things I noticed last April were not some fluke, but the regular practice of the parish.  (For a fun little game, compare the 2nd photo below to the similar photo last year, and see if you can spot one major difference!)

In his fabulous book Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton once described a "double spiritual need" common to men:
This at least seems to me the main problem for philosophers, and is in a manner the main problem of this book. How can we contrive to be at once astonished at the world and yet at home in it?  How can this queer cosmic town, with its many-legged citizens, with its monstrous and ancient lamps, how can this world give us at once the fascination of a strange town and the comfort and honour of being our own town?  
I blog on it at length in this entry. Chesterton's purpose in Orthodoxy is to show how the Christian faith meets "this double spiritual need, the need for that mixture of the familiar and the unfamiliar which Christendom has rightly named romance." I find that visiting St. Gabriel's Anglican Church for a second time also fulfills this double need for me, because it is on one hand an adventure to visit a parish church other than my own, but at the same time it is so familiar as to fulfill that need for feeling "at home" which Chesterton describes above.

This year, our visit fell on Palm Sunday, and so we had the additional pleasure of participating in the distribution of the palms and the Processional.

The weather was perfect for this, and it was easy to imagine oneself in the crowd on that original Palm Sunday, shouting "Hosanna!" and cutting down branches and "strawing them in the way". But as it always happens, we don't get to be comfortable in "Palm Sunday" mode for too long. Fr. John Slavin's sermon challenged us to think about what made the difference between Palm Sunday and Good Friday. What can account for the horrible change from "Hosanna!" to "Crucify him!" in just a few short days.

Fr. John pointed out that gossip and slander, and the sowing of the seed of discord by evil men account in part for the change. There was great activity over those few days by Jesus' political enemies, by those who had always hated him and been jealous of him. But the other thing that must have certainly happened was that many of those who had been spreading their garments in the path of the Messiah on Sunday decided, for whatever reasons, to keep quiet later that week. It certainly seems possible that the "Hosanna!" party could have shouted down the crucifixion party, but they did not.

Fr. John went on to point out that the world is hostile to Jesus Christ today, just as it was then. And he left us this challenge: "When you go out into the world, will you keep silent when Christianity is slandered?  If so, you have sided with Barabbas." It is a chilling thought.

The music was very appropriate for the season, and one of my favourite hymns, #71, Ah, Holy Jesus, was sung. All the readings were read in full, including the Old Testament Lesson and the Psalm, which I greatly appreciate. Some parishes neglect to read these, which I think is a great shame, particularly since they often reinforce and deepen the New Testament readings.

Incense was used, which is another thing I greatly appreciate. I seem to sense, sometimes, the rise of the "anti incense" party, and so I feel that I should be vocally thankful whenever a parish chooses to use incense in its worship.

As happened last year, we providentially arrived on a Sunday in which a potluck meal was served after the Holy Communion service, and so we were greatly blessed to share in food and conversation with many members of the parish. This led to us receiving a great suggestion from Deacon Ed Knox, regarding an art museum just to the north, in Bentonville. It is called Crystal Bridges, and will be the subject of an upcoming blog.