A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Kateri Tekakwitha
painted from life, 1690
The Lily of the Mohawks
Kateri Tekakwitha will be formally canonized next Sunday.   

There is a certain nonchalance on the part of Catholics regarding their saints.  René Goupil, killed by Mohawks with a blow to the head, is today the patron saint of anesthetists. St. Lawrence, roasted on a griddle, is the patron of short-order cooks.  St. Barbara, whose father was struck by lightning after he had beheaded her, became the patron saint of artillerymen.  (When I was in Artillery ROTC, the corps paraded each year down Broad St. to St. Barbara's Church for the annual Artillerymen's Mass.)

Pithy Quotes
By 1960 the price of a good 1900 reproduction of, say, a Louis XVI table had risen, sometimes to fantastic heights -- probably because people knew that with the disappearance of craftsmanship even such reproductions were no longer reproducible.
-- John Lukacs, The Passing of the Modern Age

From a certain period forward the imperator acted most of all along the Rhine, because that was the frontier and the place of danger.  But we see that the change in that line into a central axis line did not prevent its continuing to be, throughout all the later centuries of Western history, the imperial or command line.  Along the territorial belt, which runs from the Low Countries, the length of the Rhine, to Milan is the region where all those who for twelve centuries have wanted to command in the continent have had to fight.  And it is not by chance that the only emperor whom the Spaniards had the luck to have, the last of the great ones, Charles V, had as his inheritance the very territories of Flanders, Burgundy, and Franche Comte.
-- Ortega y Gasset

Cycles Seen in 64
In Darrell Huff's book Cycles in Your Life, in 1964, he noted that a 65 year cycle in volcanic activity in the Pacific NW predicted an eruption in 1980.  And Mt. St. Helens erupted on schedule.

He also noted an approx 18 year cycle in business failures and predicted future peaks in 1981 (from which we extrapolate peaks in 1999 and 2017.  But a parallel cycle in housing indicated a peak drop off in 2001 and a bottom in 2009/10.  That's not too bad an accuracy over that span.

There is something deeply creepy and narcissistic about this.  What other hero resting upon the laurels of great deeds possesses such a monument?  One is reminded uneasily of the boundless adulation heaped upon the Dear Leader of N.Korea. 

The Reliable Reed
A detailed review of all 2,047 biomedical and life-science research articles indexed by PubMed as retracted on May 3, 2012 revealed that only 21.3% of retractions were attributable to error. In contrast, 67.4% of retractions were attributable to misconduct, including fraud or suspected fraud (43.4%), duplicate publication (14.2%), and plagiarism (9.8%).

Unclear on the Concept
Broten also said publicly-funded Catholic schools in Ontario should not be teaching students that abortion is wrong because the anti-bullying law prohibits misogyny.
"Taking away a woman's right to choose could arguably be considered one of the most misogynistic actions that one could take," she said.
"I don't think there is a conflict between choosing Catholic education for your children and supporting a woman's right to choose."
Unclear not only on the nature of 'conflict' but also on that of bullying.  That latter is someone who has all the power attacks someone small and helpless.  

Science Marches On
One cannot imagine this peer-reviewed paper was meant seriously: Chocolate Consumption, Cognitive Function, and Nobel Laureates
(The New England Journal of Medicine, October 15, 2012).  This produces our prize-winning Quote of the Week:
There was a close, significant linear correlation (r = 0.791, P<0 .0001=".0001" 10="10" 23="23" a="a" and="and" between="between" br="br" capita="capita" chocolate="chocolate" consumption="consumption" countries.="countries." in="in" laureates="laureates" million="million" nbsp="nbsp" nobel="nobel" number="number" of="of" per="per" persons="persons" the="the" total="total">
That's one dang small p-value.  So the conclusion must be true, right?  Notice it need not be the laureate who eats the chocolate, only his country, on a per capita basis.  Do snarf those M&Ms, dude and help your countryman win the Nobel Prize.  I noticed that on a per capita basis, the Scandinavians give the highest rate of Nobel prizes to... Scandinavians.  With Switzerland and Austria being up there too.  Germany does not have as many Nobelists as her chocolate consumption would indicate.  The plot seems to suggest they all went to Sweden.

I really really hope this was meant for humor. 


  1. Err, is that Quote of the Week meant to be doubled in a strange manner?

  2. Seeing as there is a case to be made that one of the women mentioned in Obama's autobiography might be imaginary (or composite), I have reason to wonder about the tale of the first kiss.

    You're right, it does feel a little too close to Dear Leader.

    1. More than that, there's something schoolgirlish and more than a little shallow about it. It looks and reads like something from Tiger Beat.


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