Our Second-Class Civil Right

The US Commission on Civil Rights claims that the right to religious freedom enshrined in the First Amendment must take a back seat to the right to “nondiscrimination”—found nowhere in the Constitution. Dwight Duncan points out that this makes the freedom of religion a second-class right, even though it was the very first right recorded by our Founding Fathers in the Bill of Rights.

As early as the 1840s, Abraham Lincoln had occasion to join his voice to the cause of religious freedom when the nativism of the Know-Nothings was exhibiting a certain anti-Catholic strain: “The guarantee of the rights of conscience, as found in our Constitution, is most sacred and inviolable, and one that belongs no less to the Catholic, than to the Protestant, and…all attempts to abridge or interfere with these rights, either of Catholic or Protestant, either directly or indirectly, have our decided disapprobation, and shall ever have our most effective opposition.”

And for those who aren’t religious and don’t care, keep in mind that if they can abrogate religious freedom so easily, which other rights can they make go away? Free speech and free press? Due process? As long as they can show that it’s in the service of nondiscrimination, right?

Lots of Feelings, but Little Thinking Doom Penguin

This is where we are. A couple of guys thought they were saving the world by stealing an endangered African penguin from a South African aquarium and setting him “free”. But what they’ve really done is doomed the penguin, who was born in captivity and has never learned how to fend for himself in the wild, and set back the breeding program designed to save the whole population.

The law of unintended consequences strike again. Relying primarily on their emotions and their own sense of self-righteousness, these low information do-gooders have only made things worse. How often do we think that because we have read something online or feel strongly about it, that we’re now experts qualified to talk about it.

I see this all the time in the anti-vaccine crowd or the anti-GMO crusaders and the rest, who become so intransigent in their self-imposed partial ignorance that they reject the truth when presented to them.

Thanks, guys, for killing the penguin you were trying to save.

The $500 Drip

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Last week, we started hearing a constant drip, drip, drip from the bathroom faucet.1 It wasn’t even a slow drip, but a quick one that I knew was wasting a lot of water.

So on Saturday, I wanted to go to Home Depot to get some replacement parts, but first I needed to determine whether it was the hot faucet or the cold one and what kind of faucet it is (compression, ball, cartridge, etc.). So I tried turning off first the cold water supply valve and then the hot one to see which one caused the drip to stop.

The cold water faucet was the culprit, but I couldn’t turn off the the hot water supply. I put as much torque into it as I dared, but it wouldn’t completely close. That would be bad if I ever had a real leak, but it wasn’t of immediate concern, so I left a message by email with our plumber. Then I put that aside and I took out the old cartridge from the cold faucet and headed to the Home Depot…

…where I was confronted with the wall of faucet parts. I need to let you in on one important detail: Before we bought our home it was renovated by a flipper, which means they used the least expensive “contractor special” parts available for everything, faucet included. So as I stared at all the replacement parts, I had no clue which to choose. I stood there for 20 minutes, comparing the original cartridge in my hand to every possible one I could find that looked similar. Finally, I just picked the one that looked the closest, although they weren’t identical, and prayed for the best.

I got home and put the new cartridge into the faucet, put everything back together and it fit!

Except the faucet was backwards. By which I mean when you turned it to the “on” position, the water stopped and when you turned it “off” the water flowed. It turns out I’d purchased the cartridge for the hot water faucet, which of course is reversed. But the drip had stopped! At this point, I wasn’t making another trip back to the Depot of Homes and so I just ordered the cold water version on Amazon.2 We could survive with a backward faucet until Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the plumber got back to me and said he’d come by on Monday. That morning, as I cleaned out the cabinet under the sink for him, I noticed some of the items were wet. That was my next bad omen, but I was willing to take a trip up “de Nile” and pretend it was condensation or something. When he showed up, I explained why the faucet was backward and he had the professionalism not to laugh at me outright or shake his head at my idiocy. He did have a few choice words for the renovator/flipper’s PVC pipework under the sink, but he assured me he’d sweat the broken valve off quickly and put a new one in its place.

I went off to my office to work until he came to find me a bit later. It turns out that the drain stop was the source of the leak under the sink and while he was trying to fix it, the thing broke off. Normally, he’d have some bits and bobs of old faucet sets in his truck and he’d just pop one of those in there, but his less-than-brilliant assistant had cleaned out the truck. So now we’d need to buy a whole new faucet because you can’t just buy the drain stopper bit, and off he went to the plumber’s supply store.

Which means that the leaky faucet I’d fixed and whose (second) replacement cartridge was still on the way from Amazon was going away anyway. Meanwhile, after the plumber got back getting the new faucet in and dealing with the original Franken-plumbing took a couple more billable hours.

So here I am with a shiny new faucet, a replacement cartridge fresh from Amazon ($10), the other replacement cartridge the Lord knows where in the trash somewhere, and a bill for plumbing work for $450.

But no drip!

  1. Yes the bathroom. We are seven people in a small ranch-style, single-bathroom house.
  2. Because now I had a part number and manufacturer, which I didn’t have before.

How to Freeze and Defrost Everything Better

Freezing and defrosting food so that it doesn’t become inedible mush is an important skill to learn. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt takes us into the Food Lab to show some very easy methods.

Basically, the trick is to make whatever you’re freezing as flat as possible and get as much air out of the bag as possible. He shows you how to do it with regular zip-lock freezer bags, but we use a Foodsaver vacuum sealer1. It has paid for itself several times over by saving us from throwing away freezer-burned food. It’s also great for saving bacon in the fridge if find yourself using only a few pieces at a time.

Just remember: Air is the enemy of food.

  1. It’s not the same model we have, but a newer version. Ours is a few years old.

Prince of Outcasts

This is a book review for those who have read the previous 12 books of S.M. Stirling’s Emberverse series of apocalyptic fiction, but haven’t read the 13th book in the series, The Prince of Outcasts. If you have not read the series, stop right now and go buy the first novel Dies the Fire or better yet, go buy the 11-volume bundle and get the discount now. You’ll end up reading the whole thing anyway.

As for the current book, we pick up where The Desert and the Blade left off, on the coast of southern California, a great storm suddenly sweeping one of our protagonists off to the West, leaving our other protagonist on shore, trying to figure out what she’s going to tell their Mother.

Like the fourth through 12th novels of the series, this 13th installment isn’t a single contained story. The first three books of the Emberverse were a trilogy, telling a complete story about the first generation of those who survived the Change. The next three told a classic “beginning/middle/end” quest story of the next generation, but they’re not the whole of that story.

The next four after that continue the tale of the second generation, but the pacing and plot shift. No longer are we moving forward in quest-style story, but we’re jumping around in time and place, back and forth across the continent. The pace of the action slows to a crawl. And that’s the sticking point for some fans. They’re so used to a different pace that this feels too slow. In fact, one of the books feels like it’s all about just a single battle!

Finally in the 10th book, the enemy that has been the focus of the previous six is confronted. What’s next?
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The Heart of St. Padre Pio in Boston

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Update: They did make it there!

Thousands of people in the Boston area, some even flying in from other parts of the country, are venerating the heart of Padre Pio this week. It is the first time a major relic of St. Pio has traveled outside of Rome and it is here in Boston at the request of Cardinal Seán, a fellow Capuchin, for the saint’s feast day in the Year of Mercy.

The Boston Globe covers the initial veneration in Lowell and it’s funny to read the outsider’s perspective. We, Catholics, are a peculiar bunch and I can see why others think it’s weird. But human beings are weird and quirky, especially when it comes to those we love who are no longer with us.

You have to see George Martell’s photos of the visit on the Archdiocese’s Flickr page. You can see the full range of experiences and emotions that were present.

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Melanie and the kids are going to the Pastoral Center in Braintree this morning for veneration. They’re bringing a picture of Padre Pio that came to us mysteriously. Several years ago, Melanie took the kids to daily Mass on Sophia’s feast day and as they come out after, a young man approached them with the picture and said that it was for them. Melanie had never seen him before and didn’t recognize him from the parish at all. The picture has been in the girls’ bedroom since then. They hope to touch the picture to the heart of Padre Pio today and make it a third-class relic.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to go. I hope to swing by the Pastoral Center on my way home this afternoon, but my guess is that after the noon Mass until the end at 5pm the place will be crazy with people.

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Fascinating Video of the Last Edition of Hot Metal Typeset New York Times

This video was a 1978 documentary filmed of the last day the New York Times was printed in hot metal typeset in a Linotype machine before it transitioned to computerized cold typeset. The old method was similar enough to original Gutenberg process that old Gutenberg himself would have recognized it.

In the movie we see dozens of men typing each line, setting each line in lead, creating 40-pound blocks for each page that were used to print the paper. What’s equally fascinating is the look at what replaced it, the first computerized systems, which look equally outdated and obsolete.

At the end of the film, we see the grizzled typesetters and others now working at computer terminals in a clean well-lit room rather than hot-type machines in a dark, industrial workspace. And yet even all those typesetters are gone, replaced by even more digital automation. I’m glad this record has been preserved.

Why Non-Swing State Conservative Voters May Want to Vote Trump Anyway

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I have publicly stated before that I didn’t plan to vote for Trump or Clinton or Johnson or Stein, that I might throw away my presidential vote this year.

After all, I live in Massachusetts, which has absolutely no chance of giving its electoral college votes to anyone but Hillary Clinton. As a pro-lifer, I won’t vote for Clinton or Johnson or Stein and while Trump has made some noises about being pro-life and appointing strict constructionist Supreme Court Justices, there’s too much crazy in his baggage train.

However.

However, a scenario has come to my attention that may make it more important that I cast a vote for Trump for the good of the country, even though it won’t affect the electoral college.

The FiveThirtyEight blog has an article that posits the circumstances in which Trump could win the Electoral College and lose the popular vote. I can’t think of anything worse for our country. If you thought the liberal reaction to Bush winning that way in 2000 was bad, it will be over the top in 2016. Our already fractured country will just dissolve into bits as liberals and Trump-haters of all stripes declare his presidency illegitimate and seek to overturn it or neuter it or overthrow it. It would tear us apart.

We need to make sure that if he wins, it’s both the popular and electoral college.1

  1. And, no, I won’t vote for Hillary for oh so many reasons, but not least because she loves abortion.

The End of the World and We Don’t Feel Fine

The media often touts economic news as the barometer for whether life is good in America or not. So when a new poll shows a majority of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track even as other news breaks that the middle class is finally starting to reap the benefits of economic recovery, they can’t make heads or tails of it.

Maybe, just maybe, that majority doesn’t base their sense of well-being for themselves or their country on how full their wallet is. Maybe they’re concerned about the breakdown of law and order, the division between races and between ideologies, the forced redefinition of fundamental realities like the nature of marriage or what it means to be a man or woman. Maybe we see violence and death and terrorism and incredible suffering around the world and are uneasy about how it will come to our shores and affect our children. Maybe we look at the media and government and corruption and lies and wonder whether we are self-governing citizens or merely dupes subjected to a ruling class.

As David French writes at National Review:

In other words, there are some problems that are beyond politics. Yes, good policies can adjust incentives, but — at the end of the day — good policies don’t keep families together or keep the needle out of a young man’s arm. As I wrote in the print edition of National Review a couple weeks ago, a true Ronald Reagan-style “morning in America” renaissance is made far more difficult when there is an increasing lack of cultural cohesion and family stability.

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