Think About These Things

An example of beauty.

It's rare that one of the Sunday mass readings really resonates with me, but today the epistle leaped out and (gently and mercifully) took me by the throat and wouldn't let go. The passage in question is Philippians 4:6-9, and it says this:Brothers and sisters: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ … [Read more...]

Review: Desolation Island, by Patrick O’Brian


I've been working my way through Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series over the last few weeks; and in a comment of my review of The Mauritius Command a reader asked me to say a few words about the "inner" and "outer" stories I was speaking of, as she wasn't familiar with the terms. I replied directly to her comment; but on the principle that others might be confused as well, here's my reply:Those are my terms to describe what's going on; I define them in my review of Master and … [Read more...]

The Method in Aristotle’s Madness

The moon: not at all what it seemed to the ancients.

Today I'm continuing last week's discussion of Aristotle in response to Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry's post "How our botched understanding of 'science' ruins everything." Last week I discussed the questions Aristotle was trying to answer; this week I'm going to discuss his methods vs. the methods of modern scientists.In Ancient Greece, the very type of true knowledge was mathematics. Here certainty was possible; and the Greeks were good at it, both arithmetic and (most especially) geometry. I've … [Read more...]

Christ Promised a Crown of Thorns, not a Bed of Roses

When I was rather younger, and attending an evangelically-flavored Episcopal parish, I participated in a program called Evangelism Explosion. In a nutshell, EE was a program to train parishioners to go door-to-door presenting the gospel; it involved memorizing dozens of pertinent scripture references (we had flash cards) and a detailed outline of a presentation of the Gospel, culminating in an invitation to give your life to Jesus.One part of the presentation was a personal testimony … [Read more...]

Software: When It Don’t Work, It Ain’t Pretty

Ceci n'est pas une chaise.

So last week I broached the topic of beautiful software: beautiful, that is, from the skilled programmer's point of view.In a discussion on that post, fellow-Patheosi Frank Weathers (fresh off of some Mustang-related supercharger replacement therapy) noted that software is like hardware: it has to work.That is, pace Don Knuth, computer programming isn't an art; it's a craft, a tekhne: the art of making something useful. If the thing made doesn't serve its purpose, it isn't properly … [Read more...]

You’ve Heard Shatner; Introducing Mrs. Miller

So one of my FaceBook friends posted this video of Nancy Sinatra singing her trademark song "These Boots Are Made For Walking." It's notable mostly as a reminder of how short miniskirts got in the '60's, which was not quite all of the way up to the armpit.While looking at that, I saw a link to a recording of the same song by someone named "Mrs. Miller", a recording clearly of same vintage as Miss Sinatra's: but "Mrs. Miller" bears an unfortunate resemblance to Margaret Dumont. I had to … [Read more...]

Patrick O’Brian on Unsuccessful Interior Design

Lord Clonfert had the cabin of his sloop-of-war decorated in the Eastern style; now he has been promoted to a post-ship, and has brought his belongings with him:When he led Stephen to his cabin he showed its furnishings with a somewhat tiresome exultation, though insisting that this arrangement was merely temporary: ‘not quite the thing for a post-captain – passable in a sloop, but a trifle shabby in a frigate.’ The cabin, like most of those in rated ships, was a strikingly beautiful room: in … [Read more...]

Brandon Watson on being a Competent Critic

Brandon Watson is always worth reading; here he gives an extended meditation on what is required of a competent literary critic.Increasingly, however, I have come to think that one of the common characteristics, and perhaps the distinguishing feature, of incompetent criticism is not recognizing that skill is skill, that craft has the structure of craft. All skill or craft has goals in view; the whole point of skill is that it appropriately applies means to achieve goals and does so … [Read more...]

Review: The Mauritius Command, by Patrick O’Brian


The Mauritius Command is the fourth of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels, following after H.M.S. Surprise. In form it is similar to its predecessor; Captain Jack Aubrey, newly-married with twin baby girls, is given a long mission to Indian Ocean. In this case he is given command of a large frigate, the Boadicea, and also is named commodore of a small squadron. (In the Royal Navy of Aubrey's day, "commodore" was not a permanent rank, but a temporary rank given to a senior captain to … [Read more...]