Friday, April 28, 2006

The Hammock

Not only was yesterday a day of digging, it also was the day I installed the Lee Valley Tools Mayan Hammock in the backyard. We had one of these in Boston, and I've been longing for another one here in Ottawa ever since we moved here, nearly 4 years ago. I always thought I needed a couple of trees or posts about 12 feet apart, but on reading the instructions, I found I could use the play structure already standing in the backyard. In Boston, I had it stretched out more horizontally (like in the LVT website picture) - here, it's hanging up about 6 ft. high, but it comes down to about knee level. Now I'm set for a relaxing summer in the backyard.

When James came home, I thought he'd be interested in the hammock, as he and Thomas had enjoyed it a lot in Boston. Instead, his attention focussed entirely on the new patch of ground I'd dug. He looked at the rectangle-shaped patch of dirt and immediately assumed that I was digging him a swimming pool! He got very excited, and couldn't stop talking about it. Boy, is he going to be mad when he sees tomatoes growing in there.

Garden news

A very big day yesterday. I finally got out the little rototiller I bought for $50 at a country auction last year, and decided to try to start work on the new garden patch.

This old "Tilly" tiller is quite small, and I had it serviced last fall by my fellow in the mobile internal combusion engine servicing van, who came by the house to take care of it as well as my new pressure washer and the lawnmower. It started easily and worked fine, but he told us that a section of it is missing - specifically, the part with the STOP mechanism! Basically, it has no throttle, but it does have a jerry-rigged wire sticking out that does the job. He explained to Dean how to turn it off with this wire (I had to leave to take Emma to karate).

So here it is, 6 months later, and I haul out the machine and say to Dean, "Do you remember what he said, about how to turn off this machine?" We managed to get it started, and I found that it works nicely. Now the challenge - how to turn it off. "I think you pull on the wire," said Dean, giving it a tug. RRRRRRRRR Hmm, that didn't work. So he pulls harder GRRRRRRRRRR!!! "Stop! Stop! You're revving it!" I'm shouting as this thing is fuming away in front of us. Well, there we stand, with the rototiller bellowing away, and no idea how to turn it off. We did the only possible thing - go open the garage gate, and start using it until it runs out of gas, which it did pretty quickly (I'd only put in a small amount of gas for the purposes of experiment).

Around noon, I figured I'd tackle it again. I'm not quite sure how to use the Choke - open/close, or just open? And how many times? Oh well... After flooding the engine a few times, then waiting for it to settle down, I succeeded in getting it going. And I figured out that gently pulling out the wire would feed more gas to the engine and get it going strongly.

It worked nice and easy on the old garden, which of course is just soft dirt; it doesn't dig too deeply, but it makes nice furrows. As this time I'd filled it up with gas, it was still running when I finished the first garden, and decided to try the big job - tearing up the grass for the new garden. I realize that this machine is really a bit too small for a job like this, but although it took many repeated passes over the same ground, it did manage to break the surface and dig down into the soil. Since the tines are small, it actually mulched and chopped up the grass - a bigger rototiller would have left it all in big clumps.

It took 2 hours (and another gas refill) but I got the whole thing done in just over an hour and a half. Then the moment of triumph - I figured out that by PUSHING on the wire, I could throttle it down until it choked off the gas supply to the engine and I turned it off!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

I just discovered a new blog (new to me, at any rate): Posse Incitatus, whom I discovered thanks to a link from a comment on Mark Steyn's "Letters" page. Like me, he's a new Roman Catholic, converted and accepted into the Church this past week. I was most taken by one of his reasons for entering the Church:
If there is to be a Long War, who better to side with than an institution that has weathered barbarian invasions, the plague, the Crusades, the Reformation and both world wars?

I confess, that this was a strong motivator in my case, too. After the death of Terri Schiavo, followed by that of Pope John Paul II, I had a strong feeling that the world was moving towards a great confrontation between Good and Evil, and I wanted to make it clear what side I was on. I've no doubt I could have continued as I was, supporting the Church against the evil tide that is rising, but it seemed to me that the time was come to openly declare my allegiance. Maybe I feared myself - that a furtive support could too easily slide into passivity, and a temptation to buy peace with outward acquiescence. By converting, I've put on the uniform of the Church - like any soldier in uniform, it makes one an easily spied target for enemies, but it also identifies one to friends. And I have to say, I was surprised by all the friendly people who came up to congratulate me and my 3 fellow converts on Saturday night. I did truly feel that I'd joined something bigger than myself.

Local man wins Darwin Award

From my own local paper: Man sets self ablaze using chainsaw to open gas tank. Goes to show you can live 62 years in this world, and not learn a thing. As Dean, said, "His last words were, 'I didn't expect THIS!'"

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Papal nicknames

Naturally, the first time I try to post a link to a particularly funny entry on someone else's blog, I can't figure out how to do it. Oh, well, I'll post the important stuff here, and then add the link once I've got it working (probably about the same time the letter "c" on my keyboard stops stiking...sticking). The Shrine of the Holy Whapping had a wonderful entry on papal nicknames, and how odd it was that we have only a few "greats" (Leo, Gregory) and nothing at all for most popes. So they came up with some good titles for popes of the past:

Liberius the Pretty Good but for Some Reason did not Make Sainthood (352-66)
Stephen (II) the Brief (752)
Lando the Forgotten (913-914; possibly retired to Cloud City)
John (XX) the-Not-Appearing-in-This-Film
Pius (II) the Poet (1458-1464)
Alexander (VI) the... We-Don't-Talk-about-him-in-Public-Anymore (1492-1503)
Marcellus (II), "As Seen on Palestrina!" (1555)
Pius (IV), No-not-him-But-the-Other-One (1559-65)
Pius (V) the Hammer of Liturgists (1566-72)
Gregory (XIII) the Hammer of...um...Inaccurate Calendar Thingies (or "the Bill Nye the Science Guy of the Counter-Reformation") (1572-85)
Urban (VII) the Generous (1590)
Gregory (XIV) the Shortlived (1590-91)
Leo (XI) the Really Shortlived (1605)
Urban (VIII) the Guy Who Put Bees Everywhere (1623-44)
Innocent (X) the Large Two-by-Four used to Whap People of Jansenism (1644-55)
Alexander (VII) the Often Confused with The Other Guy, but Who Did Nice Things and Liked Architecture (1655-67)
Clement (IX) the Smallish Ruler Used to Whap People's Knuckes, But Which Still Really Stings, of Jansenism (or, more seriously Clement (IX) the Friendly) (1667-69)
Pope Innocent (XI) the Vacuum-Cleaner of Nepotism (1676-89)
Innocent (XII) the Vacuum-Cleaner Special Attachment Nozzle, you know, the one to get the tough little dust-bunnies in the corners, of Jansenism (1691-1700)
Pius (VII), You Know, the One Who had to Put up with Napoleon (1800-23)
Pius (VIII) the Pressure-Washer of Liberalism (1829-30)
Pius (IX) the Prisoner (1846-1878)

I have to admit a fondness for Pope Urban VIII - I thought that bees really were an official Catholic symbol of...something or other. I didn't know it was just his family emblem. Years ago, the museum downtown had an exhibit of Vatican ornaments and vestments, and there were bees everywhere. I didn't know that this all came from just one guy. Anyway, I've got a little bronze bee pin that I wear as a secret symbol of my Catholic identity.

Monday, April 17, 2006

'Who is this well-dressed, handsome man?' Is everybody's eager cry


I make response, for the fleeting nonce, 'Excuse me, it is not I.'

But if you want to think it is, that's fine, too. This is the brilliant Russian movie actor of the silent era, Ivan Mosjoukine. He was the first great male movie star of Europe - what Valentino was in the U.S., Mosjoukine was in Europe. And no wonder - he was graceful, mesmerizing, charismatic, funny, adorable to women, and with eyes that could burn a hole through the movie screen. I am devoted to him, and spend much time scrounging through eBay for photos. Fortunately for my purposes of collecting, he's almost unknown today, so I have very little competition when it comes to buying memorabilia. For all of his great talent, he was unable to make the transition from silent movies to talkies, and his career collapsed and he died of TB, forgotten, in 1939. But I want the world to rediscover Mosjoukine, so I will use this little photo as my identifying avatar, in the hope that others will be inspired by curiosity to look him up. Maybe one day his movies will be restored and enjoyed again, as they deserve to be.

Incipit vita nova

My 'new life' as a Roman Catholic, that is; everything else is going on much the same as it has for 46 years. But as on Saturday night at the Easter Vigil I was received into the Catholic Church, I thought it might be a good opportunity to start a blog as well. Those who knew me when I was an Anglo-Catholic (high church Episcopalian, in American terms) would be surprised to see the Catholic church I go to. Holy Cross, Ottawa, is not at all the style I would prefer, either in architecture, decor or liturgy. We have a decidedly "modern" liturgy, although the 8:00 AM mass I attend on Sundays has no instrumental music, only a cantor. The other masses vary between organ, piano, violin and guitars - all for the most part well-played, but still, the kind of "happy-clappy" style I normally avoid.

How I ended up at this church instead of a Latin liturgy parish is easy - this is my neighbourhood church, the one I can walk to in 10 minutes. But when I come to reflect on the difference between this church and the last Anglican parish I attended years ago, I can only say that I HAD that kind of formal, beautiful liturgy before, and it isn't enough. A Catholic has to BE a Catholic, not just look and sound like one, and the Anglican Church stopped being Catholic a long time ago. So such as it is, I'm in the Roman Catholic Church to stay now, and the reality of the thing outweighs the aesthetics.