First Look: Amazon Echo, or Alexa Tells You All About It

Amazon Echo

So in a fit of madness I pre-ordered an Amazon Echo when they were announced a couple of months ago, and it arrived on my doorstep this afternoon. I say a fit of madness because I'm not usually an early-adopter; but I was in a susceptible mood and it seemed like it might be cool, maybe, possibly, perhaps, a little.My first reaction, having spent fifteen minutes or so with it—this thing is pretty darn nifty.So what it is it? Well, that's it over there to the right. It's a black c … [Read more...]

Living on a Prayer Trigger


St. Paul tells us to pray without ceasing.  Just what that means is not entirely clear; opinions range from continuously (literally, every waking moment) to continually, on a very regular basis.  In the Eastern tradition, for example, it's a recognize devotion to say the Jesus prayer under your breath as continuously as possible.Me, I come down somewhere in the middle.  As I related few months ago, I have a regular daily prayer schedule as a Lay Dominican, so I certainly do pray co … [Read more...]

Ngaio Marsh: Vintage Murder


Ngaio Marsh’s first novel, A Man Lay Dead, is a competent, entertaining mystery, and already quite distinct in tone from the work of Marsh’s contemporaries; yet, as I noted last week, it’s still lacking that which makes Marsh’s novels so special.  By Vintage Murder, the fifth “Roderick Alleyn” novel*, Marsh has quite hit her stride and her skill is in full force.I chose this one because it is the first in which Inspector Alleyn is shorn of his regular support, and in particular of his “Watson … [Read more...]

Today’s Aquinas: With God, Knowing is Doing


We’re blogging through St. Thomas Aquinas’ Compendium Theologiae, sometimes called his Shorter Summa. Find the previous posts here.If you've been paying attention then Thomas' next move should be unsurprising.  First, Thomas showed that God is simply One.  Then he showed that God has intellect; and that His intellect is the same as Himself: we approach some small understanding of God by considering His intellect as a distinct thing, but God is without part: He is all One.  Lastly, Thomas has … [Read more...]

Chris Barber: The Ballad of the Liver Bird?

The "Liver Bird"? Really? What on earth is that?What it is, is a song from from a 1964 Lionel Bart musical called Maggie May, about a Liverpool streetwalker and her sailor boyfriend. The "Ballad of the Liver Bird" serves as the overture and the finale. I glanced at the song list and didn't recognize any of the titles except "Maggie, Maggie May", which it turns out is not the song of the same name by Rod Stewart, but is rather a folk tune. You might have heard the Beatles sing it as … [Read more...]

Ngaio Marsh: Bad Makeup on a Bad Face

Typewriter Type Bars

She painted her face, but with such inattention to detail that Roberta was reminded of a cheap print in which the colours had slipped to one side, showing the original structure of the drawing underneath. She had curious eyes, very pale, with tiny pupils, and muddy whites. They were so abnormally sunken that they seemed to reflect no light and this gave them a veiled appearance which Roberta found disconcerting, and oddly repellent. Her face had once been round but like her make-up it had … [Read more...]

How I Work

My favorite gadget

Tom McDonald tagged me a few weeks ago to do a post on "How I Work"; and apparently the answer is slowly because I've not got around to it until now. I'll be talking primarily about the work I do at home: blogging, other writing, preparing for RCIA classes, personal programming projects and like that, as opposed to my day job. (In my day job I sit in an office with an ancient Windows box and a big monitor doing mathematical modeling and writing software. There.)Location: Southern … [Read more...]

Ngaio Marsh: A Man Lay Dead


Ngaio Marsh (pronounced "NYE-oh") is one of my favorite mystery authors; and she’s striking because she’s so quietly different than her contemporaries from the 1930’s.  Her sleuth, Chief-Inspector Roderick Alleyn of New Scotland Yard, is a gentleman like Lord Peter Wimsey; but he’s neither as whimsical nor as damaged as Lord Peter (we gather that Alleyn had some formative experiences in the Great War that led him to leave the Foreign Office for the CID, but they don’t come into the foreground), a … [Read more...]

Today’s Aquinas: Does God Love What Is Good?


We’re blogging through St. Thomas Aquinas’ Compendium Theologiae, sometimes called his Shorter Summa. Find the previous posts here.Given intellect, says Thomas, God must also have volition: He must be able to will, to choose:We perceive, further, that God must have volition. For He understands Himself, who is perfect good, as is clear from all that has been hitherto established. But good as apprehended is necessarily loved, and love operates through the will. Consequently God must have vo … [Read more...]