Monthly Archives: June 2006


I went over to Edward Tufte’s “Ask E.T.” forum to see what Tufte might have to say about the use of graphical information in An Inconvenient Truth, but it looks as though neither he nor anyone else has posted on this yet. Moreover — oddly — it’s not at all clear how a user might post a query to the forum.

On the other hand, his next book will be out soon.


Yesterday I wrote a long-ish comment on Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’s recent response to General Convention. I didn’t post it, because I didn’t do a good enough job of clarifying the difference between how I feel about the current state of things (on one hand) and what seems practicable, honest, viable, and in keeping with demonstrated trajectories of thought and behavior.

The short answer is that his statement reminds me vividly of the legend of Thomas a Becket. I stress “the legend,” because my point doesn’t depend on what the historical Thomas was really like (or was he married to Mary Magdalene in the South of France by Leonardo da Vinci); the legend, however, simplifies Becket to the man who placed a higher emphasis on his sense of the office of Archbishop than on his friendship with Henry and his roistering temperament. I read Williams as a theologian serving the office of Archbishop as best he understands, over and above his personal inclinations. I respect that a lot, even when I wish it led to different outcomes.

If I were to place his response on a spectrum that extends from “my ideal plausible response” (omitting, that is, mass miraculous conversions of the heart) to “oh, my heavens, I can’t endure that” (and omitting “the renewal of Dioceltianic persecution), this sounds closer to “pretty good” than “pretty bad.” Whether U.S. church leaders are right or not, the whole of the Anglican Communion is not on board with their understanding of the gospel, and I can7’t see a sound theological basis for requiring that the rest of the church to let us have whatever we want and remain in strong ecclesiastical communion with them. (By the way, I wholeheartedly agree with what Alan Jacobs wrote here a few days ago: I’m sick and tired of hearing that “the Spirit is doing a new thing,” without the rich, respectful theological argumentation that might confirm people’s identification of the Spirit’s activity in recent developments.)Granted that the U.S. church isn’t about to repent, Williams’s picture of a two-tiered communion that grants the Episcopal Church use of the Anglican tag, but excludes it from doctrinal and policy decision-making just plain makes sense.

I wish we hadn’t come to this place, but I don’t see Williams making a more congenial response to where we’ve been taken.

St Jerome’s Librarian on Potter

Micah came over for a visit, providing the occasion for a rollicking argument over plot developments in the Harry Potter saga (inspired by the latest news from J. K. Rowling). Micah argues that Dumbledore is not dead, Snape is really Harry’s father, that the Avada Kedavra curse doesn’t actually work, that those who seem to have been killed by the curse are actually working undercover for the Order of the Phoenix (Pippa says, “No, they’re Unknowables working for the Department of Mysteries), and that Harry is not the one who dies (or that he does not die in a final way). He also said that Crabb and Goyle are girls, but I’m not sure he meant that; that may be a decoy.

In other plot prediction news, Si proposes that Ginny may sacrifice her life to save Harry. Pippa wonders whether Hogwarts can continue if the whole line of Slytherin were eliminated.

Spirit Blows Where It Will

Even if he hadn’t been one of my favorite students, I would appreciate Will Crawley’s very direct request that I add him to my blogroll. You have my link here, Will, and I will get around to changing the blogroll (but I’m a tad slow about that).

Will works for the BBC (former employer of Euan and Tom) as host of a program about religion; he’s sharp and articulate and I ought to listen more often, but it’s hard to remember. . . .

Flights of Angels

A lovely, generous friend of us all, Michelle Goodrich, has died. She has shared extraordinarily freely and effectively with friends and strangers alike, and has done so with grace and good cheer from painful circumstances. She no longer knows the limitations that pressed upon her; she is free.

You may meet her at her site, as you learn some of the ingenious, standards-compliant devices she offered to make the Web a more beautiful, more useful medium. You can get to see more behind the scenes in her interview with Frank Paynter (thank you, Frank, for bringing out her answers and saving them for us).

There’ something problematically passive-aggressive about using someone’s death to extort sentiment or action from people. Our friends don’t die to teach us, or to make us better. If hearing about a brave, kind woman’s difficult path moves you to do or say something, maybe you could use her tricks (and note they’re from her, maybe in the alt tag) — or maybe you will lean harder into vacillating politicians and exploitative medical systems so that they take better, more humane care of people in pain.

Michelle put tremendous energy and effort toward the cause of beauty. Beauty enhances the world, gives and continues giving toward glory and wonder, joy and growth; it shares that character of giving-away with the Web, and with Michelle’s habit of offering for free that which she might have held as proprietary secrets. Giving-away makes us all greater; Michelle has made us greater.

Thank you for that, Michelle, and we will pray for you and those who love and miss you.

Everything Is Stromateis

First of all, I should say belatedly that stromateis transliterates a Greek word that serves as the equivalent for the Latin miscellanea. It’s the neuter plural form of the noun strômateus, “bedspread,” which in the plural form has the sense of “patchwork” (hence, an assortment of various matters, a thing of shreds and patches). Titling a blog entry “Stromateis” is a way of saying “even more random than usual.”

OK, the particular miscellaneous topics for this Sunday include:

Someone finally said out loud how ludicrous the whole bathrobed-terrorist security breakthrough is. Unfortunately, people will no doubt ignore this (“consider the source,” the World Socialist Web Site).

• Last Saturday at Ravinia, Garrison Keillor read aloud our greeting to Jeannette DeFriest, priest-in-charge of our parish home, St. Luke’s church. Sad to say, he neglected our greetings to other friends and family.


• I uploaded that image from the camera phone that Si traded me (since he never uses it). I have to email the image to my Flickr site without having seen it first. I could obtain a cable to connect my phone to my computer, but the phone service store wants an extortionate $60 for the cable (so that I remain captive to their upload-via-phone connection). Anyone know of a simpler solution, so that I could (for instance) find out ahead of time that the picture I took was blurry, or spruce it up a bit, before I draw it from Flickr?

• Pippa and I rode about five miles on our bicycles yesterday. Mine has one of those old-school hard leather seats — so when I got back, through today, I have felt as though I dropped from a height of forty feet , straddling a telephone pole.

• In church today, one of the torch bearers fainted while I was reading the gospel. As he crumpled to the floor, a parishioner and I caught him, the M.C. and I caught his candle, and several people went to get water and ease him back to consciousness. Imagine a bow-legged priest (see above) holding a processional candle in his left hand, an acolyte in his right arm, ascertaining that said youth was not about to throw up, and signalling the congregation not to be concerned. Everything turned out fine.

• I think there were a few more things, which I’ll add as I think of them.

Two Degrees of EepyBird

About a week ago, I spotted a link on David Weinberger’s blog to the EepyBird experiment with Diet Coke and Mentos. I showed it to Margaret, and we both laughed ourselves silly first thing that morning.

Yesterday, Margaret and I got an email from my Mom noting that she’d seen it too, and that the shorter of the two experimentalists is Fritz Grobe, a family friend (the son of my Mom’s best friend from school days), a gold-medal juggler and all-around fascinating guy. I’ve met him, ages ago, so I could claim one degree of EepyBird — but since they’re global celebrities now, I thought it was humbler just to claim the two degrees, whether with my mom as the mediating link or Fritz’s mother and father, whom I knew moderately well a few decades ago.

That Kind of Family

So, we all got together for a family night out, and went to the movies to see — An Inconvenient Truth. (That’s after having gone to see Prairie Home Companion the weekend before.) I suppose that says something about us, hunh?

Not Ready For Prime Time

Since I didn’t really have a “side” going into the recent General Convention, I can’t really feel as though my side won or lost. At the end, it looks like everyone lost — to the extent that “liberals” won most votes until the end, when they wound up passing a resolution that contradicts the legislation and actions they had been taking so far; either they didn’t really mean all those votes for the first week of the convention, or they didn’t mean the conciliatory note they tried to strike on the last day (and the “Statement of Conscience” by a number of bishops demonstrates the flimsiness of the Episcopal Church’s affirmation of Windsor Report’s expectations). “Conservatives” elicited a reluctant expression of apparent apology, but obviously they lost the vast preponderance of the particular motions and elections; the convention’s proceedings rejected everything that would have pleased “conservatives.”

I expect all sorts of unpleasant fallout from this. I doubt Canterbury wants parallel jurisdictions in the U.S., so I suppose that they may recognize the authority of U.S. bishops, but exclude them from participation in the life of the Anglican Communion unless they repudiate the Episcopal Church’s recent actions — and then to allow parishes that want to remain in communion with Canterbury to affiliate with like-minded bishops, as near to local as possible. That would leave room for U.S. dioceses and parishes to pursue their own ends, but would definitively relegate U.S. (and Canadian and, eventually, U.K. and some other) “liberal” bishops and clergy in a twilight zone where they’re acknowledged as para-Anglican, but not acknowledged as holding any juridical authority relative to the church at large. But I expect that everyone wants a more decisive outcome than that, so many will press to have U.S. Episcopalians cut off, and plenty of U.S. Episcopalians don’t want to be accountable to a world church that disagrees with them.

If I weren’t aware of how partial my insight is, I’d suggest that very many of the most prominent spokespeople on the present miasma have lost touch with two facts. Fact One is that, however homophobic some people may be, there are very sound theological reasons for conservatives to resist the consecration of lesbigay bishops, and the blessing of same-sex relationships. I don’t hold to those ideas — I don’t think they’ll hold up in the long run — but that doesn’t make them nugatory, or bigoted, or uninformed, or illogical. The people whom I think wrong have a very strong case.

Fact Two is that pious, faithful, learned, spiritually profound theologians hold that there should be no ecclesiastical impediment to these consecrations and blessings. However problematic those sacramental gestures seem to some observers, and however many weak reasons that some proponents advance, a significant constituency of responsible Anglican theologians thinks that hetero- or homosexuality ought not determine full participation in church life.

If we were taking seriously both these facts, I imagine the Episcopal Church’s last two weeks would have run rather differently — but it’s easier, and more practically effective, to trade in straw adversaries and overblown polemical misrepresentations. Presumably the partisans expect that their protestations of “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out opponents in your name, and enact many deeds of power in your name?” will be met with a hearty, “You bet!” I wonder whether there might not be another possible answer to that question.

Hat Tip

Yesterday morning, I received a video iChat invitation from Pascale, who wanted to show off her new roommate Ariel. I, in turn, brought Beatrice to the computer, and we exchanged pet stories and pleasantries.

Margaret called from the kitchen that the flat of strawberries she had bought for Saturday’s trip to Ravinia was not disappearing as fast as necessary, and wouldn’t Pascale like some? Pascale answered that what we really ought to do was make Strawberry Sauce. Margaret pooh-poohed the notion, but I queried Pascale for more details, and she explained how brain-dead simple it was (if it hadn’t seemed brain-dead simple, I wouldn’t have remembered it). And when Margaret left for her morning’s writing work at Peet’s, Pippa and I snuck into the kitchen and stealthily whipped two quarts of strawberries into sauce.

We tested it on our lunch waffles, and agreed that it was pretty good. When Margaret came home from Peet’s, we surprised her with the jar brimful of intoxicating strawberry essence. We served vanilla ice cream for dessert, topped with our own Strawberry Sauce (top secret recipe), and the afternoon of setting and refrigeration had turned our pretty-good strawberry sauce exquisite. Thanks, Pascale!