Monday, 21 April 2014

Photo Editing...

At the beginning of the year my phone was due for an upgrade. I decided that I was getting too old to squint at a tiny screen, and opted for a Samsung Galaxy Note 3, which is large, but not excessively so. I had been very happy with the camera on my Samsung Galaxy Nexus, and was unsure as to what improvements they could have made. I think I take pretty good photos (albeit of the point-and-click variety) and so at first I didn't bother too much with the many editing options on the phone itself.

However, I've photographed pretty much all of the main celebrations at Blackfen, and I thought I should play around with the camera settings a little more. Two weeks ago I posted a photo of the Sanctuary at Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen, which I had edited to look as if it was a framed pencil sketch. Several people commented on how much they liked it, and this has encouraged me to experiment a little more. Maundy Thursday provided me with a few good shots...

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Not all of the photos I took were suitable for the pencil-sketch treatment - too much "background noise" in some of them meant that they didn't quite seem to work. I decided to play around with my phone's "vintage" setting for Good Friday...

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Finally I took a few experimental shots at the Easter Vigil. This one was in sepia...

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And I thought the vintage setting looked rather good, muting the yellow gold of the vestments...

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The original photos, as well as a few other edited ones can be seen on my Flickr pages for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil, so do go and have a look, and tell me what you think in the com box...

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Bleeding Hearts...

There is a great kerfuffle going around on the interwebz. There seems to be a serious security weakness in the OpenSSL software used by several sites which could render users vulnerable to having sensitive data such as passwords stolen.

Horror stories about viruses, hacks and impending meltdowns aren't exactly new, and I was tempted to ignore heartbleed as more of the same. But the acknowledgement by several of the big sites such as Google, Yahoo and Facebook that they have looked into the problem and applied security patches suggested that it was something to take seriously.

The problem is ostensibly very simple to resolve - by changing one's password. There is a catch: there is no point changing one's password unless the affected website has applied a security patch, otherwise the new password will be just as vulnerable as the old one.

Sophie Curtis of The Telegraph has provided a link to check a site's URL to see if it is affected by the bug. Even more helpfully, she has compiled a list of some of the more common websites with a summary of its status and whether or not it is necessary to change one's password.

I have to hold my hand up and admit that I have been shockingly lax in setting passwords - I basically had one for work and one for personal use, and I had been assured that they were "strong" passwords by each site on which I'd used them... the thought of trying to generate and remember unique passwords for each secure site I use made me blench. But since I now have to change my passwords anyway, I have bitten the bullet and set up a password manager which does the random generator thing for me. It even has an app for the phone. The disadvantage is that the master key which opens the password manager isn't stored anywhere. It's also an extremely time-consuming process.

Now I just have to make sure that I don't forget the master key...

Monday, 7 April 2014

Passiontide Begins...


I couldn't resist playing with the photo-editing options on my mobile phone...

Saturday, 5 April 2014

The End Of The Saga...

It has been twelve weeks since Miaowrini's accident, ten and a half weeks since the operation and four weeks since her final check-up. Part of me wanted her to remain an indoor cat, but while Furretti would be happy enough to stay permanently on the sofa, Miaowrini likes to get out and about.

After a slightly more-than-usually bad-tempered spat between the kitties, I decided that the time had come to open up the cat flap...

When it came to the moment of truth, Miaowrini actually proved slightly hesitant about leaving the safety of the cat flap. She sat for a while on the top shelf, enjoying the breeze and keeping a wary eye out for the other local moggies. Finally she jumped down. I can't see the garden from my flat, but one of my neighbours promised to keep an eye out for trouble, and I assumed that, having been cooped up for so long, Miaowrini would take full advantage of her freedom and would probably not come home until the wee small hours.

I told myself that I had to be sensible about it...

I needn't have worried. After about half an hour, Miaowrini returned. I wanted to get another video of her walking around, but she wasn't having any of it. She demonstrated her complete disdain, in true feline fashion, by settling down to wash herself. Furretti, on the other hand, was feeling neglected, and decided to try and gatecrash the video session...



Finally, this evening I was given incontrovertible proof that, apart from a little stiffness, Monsignor Miaowrini has made a complete recovery. The cat flap banged a short while ago, and Furretti abandoned my lap. As I had been feeding her slivers of cod, this indicated something unusual. I went to investigate. Sure enough, Miaowrini had caught a mouse and had brought it home to play...

I have never been so pleased to see a mouse in the house...

Monday, 24 March 2014

Vestigial Traces Of Hope...

The latest story to hit the MSM has been sparked by a documentary on Channel 4, due to be aired tonight, which reveals that hospitals have been burning the bodies of aborted and miscarried babies as clinical waste, and then using the energy released to heat the hospitals.

The Dispatches programme hasn't been shown yet, but I note that, at the time of writing this post, a Daily Telegraph article about it has already attracted over 1800 comments, and has been shared countless times via Facebook and Twitter. The majority of comments have expressed outrage, horror and shock. There have even been a few international bloggers deploring the state to which the UK has sunk.

I do not wish to defend what has been done. But I do find the response interesting.

After all, health professionals are very careful not to draw anyone's attention to the fact that abortion kills babies. Chemical abortion is the ideal - the earlier the better - with suggestions that the process is more easily completed in the privacy of a woman's own home, so that any unfortunate evidence can be disposed of directly down the lavatory bowl without much chance of catching sight of any inconvenient details suggesting a dead baby. Surgical abortion by aspiration is so brutal that the vacuum pump acts as a blender, and no-one has to look too closely. Later-term abortions, where the baby is delivered piecemeal, are harder to rationalise away as "products of conception" or mere "blobs of tissue".

Despite the fact that improvements in ultrasound scans and the ease of producing photos make the lies harder to maintain, there are very few pro-choice campaigners honest enough to admit that abortion involves killing a baby.

Having gone to all the trouble of convincing us that abortion is a simple, routine procedure akin to having one's teeth filled, is it likely that hospitals would then want to suggest otherwise by presenting a woman with her dead baby to be buried or cremated with due ceremony? Even to mention that the remains are to be cremated by the hospital might raise uncomfortable questions - after all, one does not expect to be told that one's appendix is going to be cremated once removed. It is just disposed of as clinical waste. And the safest way to dispose of clinical waste is by incineration.

The Telegraph headline "Aborted babies incinerated to heat UK hospitals" is therefore rather misleading, as it suggests that the babies were deliberately and specifically incinerated with a view to reducing the heating bills. That is nonsensical, and I consider it sensationalist (and sloppy) reporting. Other reports have used similarly emotive phrases.

Nevertheless, the almost visceral response to the news does give me some cause for hope. The outrage over the inappropriate disposal of aborted babies suggests that people recognise (albeit on an unconscious level) that the unborn baby is not just clinical waste but is a human being in its own right.

Recognising the humanity of the unborn is a small step in the right direction in the fight against abortion. Now we have to help make that recognition explicit.

Friday, 21 March 2014

World Down Syndrome Day...

March 21st is World Down's Syndrome Day. We don't see so many people with Down's Syndrome as we did back in my childhood. Unfortunately this is not because anyone has found a cure. What happens is that the prenatal screening carried out aims to eradicate the syndrome by identifying the babies who carry the extra chromosome and "encouraging" the parents to have an abortion.

All sorts of arguments are used to explain the dreadful lack in quality of life that the child will experience in order to get parents to make the "right" decision. It seems to work, because, according to the most common statistic I've seen on the internet, over 90% of babies with Down's Syndrome in America are aborted. That works out as 9 out of every ten babies. And, in 2009, a report in the Daily Telegraph estimated that three babies with Down's were aborted every day.

People are attempting to redress the balance. Francis Phillips, who has a child with Down's, has posted an excellent article in the Catholic Herald on the topic, and she highlighted the following video...



Some people suggest that by aborting the babies with the abnormality the disorder will be eradicated. However, it doesn't work like that. The chromosomal abnormality is caused by the faulty division of chromosomes in the gametes of the mother - two copies of chromosome 21 are carried in an egg rather than one, and when the egg is fertilised, the sperm adds another copy. The faulty division of chromosomes is impossible to eradicate because of its random nature (it's a mutation) - though the frequency of this fault is known to increase as a woman gets older.

So the destruction of foetuses with Down's Syndrome is akin to killing an individual who suffered a major disability through an accident or illness in later life...

Oh, sorry, I forgot. That sort of thing is being done already.

The Pitfalls Of Cat-Friendly Cafés...

I suppose it was the next logical step from the stunt pulled by Ikea when it let 100 furry felines loose in one of the stores overnight. Presumably people just aren't satisfied with the knowledge that the cats had been on the furniture...

A Turin café-owner has decided that her customers need the opportunity to be surrounded by cats whilst they enjoy an espresso. Despite being a catoholic, I forsee one or two problems with this.

I suspect that the café will suffer an increased problem with shoplifters - wouldn't you be tempted to opt for an extra "take-away," especially if it actually crawled into your shopping bag of its own volition. Bags and boxes are well-documented kitty-magnets.

There will also be the high probability of an increased problem with stray hairs in the gelato. Even with just two kitties, I find that cat hairs regularly adorn my tea towels.

And finally, I suspect that the sales of coffee will go down. Very few cats like coffee. On the other hand, sales of saucers of milk will increase, but I think that these are less lucrative for café owners...

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Counting Down To Easter...


Twitch of the mantilla to Bones for this little widget to remind us how much more time is left to endure the misery of being unable to eat chocolate sorry, to enjoy preparing for the Easter Season...


Sunday, 9 March 2014

Having A Minor Rant...

I am seriously annoyed.

I realise that all is not well in the Catholic Church in England & Wales. That much is obvious when The Bitter Pill takes regular swipes at Church teaching on morality and pro-life issues and goes unchecked, unrebuked and often unremarked.

However, I feel that things have become rather serious when a usually sound Catholic publication such as The Catholic Herald* contains leaflets on behalf of the Alzheimer's Society.

Alzheimer's disease is awful - my grandfather suffered from it. But the Alzheimer's Society supports (and funds) stem cell research, including embryonic stem cell research in its search for a treatment or cure for the disease.

In other words, babies are being created in the laboratory in order to provide cells for research. Possibly aborted babies are being used as well.

I am therefore horrified to see that Catholic papers (however indirectly) are giving support to the fundraising for such research.

Rant over.

*To be fair, The Universe had the leaflets as well... but I expect better from The Catholic Herald.

Friday, 7 March 2014

The Boys From Brasil...

2014-03-02 10.42.45When trying to describe where Blackfen is, I have usually resorted to approximations such as "the border between South-East London and Kent" and "just inside the M25 near the Dartford Tunnel" or occasionally "quite near Greenwich."

However, I think that I will have to change all that - from now on it will be "Westminster Cathedral? Oh, it's quite near Blackfen..."

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Blackfen is quite the up-and-coming travel destination, it seems... at least, it is if you are a Brazilian seminarian at the Institut du Bon Pasteur, France, and you want to attend the Traditional Latin Mass on a Sunday! One of the seminarians is an avid blog-reader, and has been following His Hermeneuticalness from well before he entered seminary.

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Six seminarians came to visit on Quinquagesima Sunday. Three of them joined the choir and sang the propers and a couple of other pieces at the Offertory and at Communion. The other three served on the Sanctuary. They were lovely chaps, and told us that their seminary is at a bit of a crisis point, as they have 33 seminarians and five priests, but have only got 28 rooms in two houses. Prayers would be very much appreciated.

I'm afraid that my vanity was given full rein: "Ahhh! So you're Mulier Fortis...!"

There are a few more photos on Flickr.

The End Is In Sight...


The three readers of this blog who appear to be ailurophobic can breathe a sigh of relief - I think that the number of kitty-related posts will return to pre-Miaowrini's-accident frequency.

This might mean that I post even more irregularly than of late...

To be fair, I haven't posted anything about cats for a whole month... not since the post on my last visit to the vet.

Anyway, it's time for an update. I had started to let Miaowrini spend the day wandering around the sitting room during the day, and then putting her back in the cage at night. That seemed to go well, and then, after my return from Ampleforth, I went a step further, and allowed her to roam around the flat for a few hours when I got home.

Letting her stay out and about all night was the next big thing. On the first night she managed to get up to the top of the wardrobe... and then couldn't get down. I managed to manoeuvre the suitcase down (with her on top) and so disaster was averted. The second night, Furretti had bagged the spot on top of the wardrobe, and was repelling all boarders. Miaowrini retired, in a huff.

The silence which followed was so profound that I became nervous, and went in search of her. I found her, curled up in the cage, which quite brought a lump to my throat!

The third night was rather chilly. Miaowrini promptly rediscovered the delights of sleeping on my bed.

This evening I took Miaowrini to the vet for a further check-up. The vet examined her carefully, and then nearly gave me a heart attack when he told me that her knee was swollen. Just as I was berating myself for being irresponsible in letting the cat out of the cage, the vet then told me that this swelling was totally normal, and that the cat would possibly be prone to arthritis in later years. He declared himself delighted with her progress (as well as being pretty amazed by it) though he added that he sincerely hoped that he never came across such a severe injury ever again.

The really good news is that Miaowrini doesn't have to go back for any further check-ups unless I get worried about something. She is not allowed outside, however, so the catflap must remain firmly locked for another four weeks or so. She is still falling off the occasional windowsill...

Nevertheless, a little celebration was in order. The two cages I borrowed from Annie Elizabeth were both duly dismantled (a task which was reminiscent of the puzzle challenge on the Krypton Factor - putting the cages up seemed much easier).

And tonight Miaowrini and Furretti are both curled up on my bed, fast asleep.

God is in his heaven. All is right with the world...

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Photos From Ampleforth...

2014-02-18 20.34.58My super-dooper, all-singing-and-dancing Galaxy Note 3 may have been stymied by poor internet and phone connectivity out in the middle of nowhere (sorry, North Yorkshire) but the camera function on the phone is rather special. I have had a great deal of fun playing with various settings, but the simple point-and-click option works rather well.

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Much of the weather was grey and damp, but there were some glimpses of sunshine on a couple of occasions, and I decided to go for a little wander around...

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You can see the rest of my photos over on Flickr.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The Symposium Continues...

The Faith Movement's Symposium is rather high-powered stuff. This morning's session was way over my head - I never did get to grips with Philosophy. At one point I was confused by the speaker, Fr. Hugh MacKenzie, talking about Socrates and hemlock after he had said that he was going to talk about Plato. Of course, everyone else knew that Socrates' final discourse was actually written (or reported - apparently it's open to discussion) by Plato...

Fortunately for me, I asked Canon Luiz Ruscillo for the explanation quietly, over lunch, and he explained it equally quietly, so I didn't make a complete fool of myself.

Yesterday evening, Canon Ruscillo gave a fascinating talk on the place of the Old Testament in the catechesis of the Faith vision. Canon Ruscillo's thesis was that the Faith Vision is pretty thorough when one is trying to argue for the necessity of God and the existence of a spiritual soul, but it had neglected to explain the place of the Old Testament, which he thought was essential. He explained that the use of typology has disappeared from our reading of the Old Testament, and that it ought to be made more use of, as it witnesses to the inner unity of the Scriptures.

The "anthropic principle" seen in the physical universe, which shows how all things are purposed to the evolution of man, is mirrored by a "messianic principle" running throughout the Old Testament, which means that everything we read is purposed to the coming of Christ. The only religious tradition which witnesses to this sort of development is that of Israel, which is why the Old Testament is so vital for Christianity.

I hope that a Faith pamphlet on this topic will be forthcoming.

Things Are Getting Better...

Although my mobile wifi still doesn't work (and apparently Fr. Dylan has the same problem with his iPhone) I have managed to get my laptop to connect to the system. This is a major improvement, because the computer in Reception acted as if it was steam-powered, and my laptop is rather a nice one. This was, after all, the reason I got myself a laptop rather than a desktop.So I'm very pleased to have found a use for it.

The downside is that the WiFi only works in the vicinity of the pink sofas in reception. I managed to find a chair and am set up on a rather gorgeous table, but I can't quite reach the power socket without risking someone tripping over it... and that wouldn't be good.

In addition, I can't actually connect to anything during the talks, so live-tweeting is not an option.

Nevertheless my twitchiness due to the inability to check emails, blog feeds, Twitter feeds and Facebook status updates has been assuaged. Especially since His Hermeneuticalness has been able to get some sort of phone signal and has been busy behind me tapping away on his computer.

I find something deeply anxiety-provoking about being unable to connect to the internet when other people *are* able to do so. If everyone is held incommunicado it seems to be easier to cope with...

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Feeling Slightly Aggrieved...

I am not entirely happy. My all-new, super-dooper, snazzy new phone (a Galaxy Note 3) has been rendered almost completely useless by virtue of the fact that the North of England has very limited wifi access and non-existent phone signals for O2 (yeah, a VAST oversimplification, but that's what it feels like...)

So my cunning plans (to use my mobile as a sort of modem to allow me to blog on my laptop, and to live-tweet the talks I'm attending) have been well and truly scuppered.

I'm here for the Faith Movement's Theological Symposium. It's been pretty amazing so far - we've had three sessions (two talks and a discussion) led by Fr. Dylan James on the Orthodox "position" on divorce and remarriage. Listening to the highly detailed discussions which have ensued, on the implications for practice in the Latin Church, has left me both encouraged and appalled in almost equal measure. I need more time to digest what I've heard...

There is a bit of a queue for the guest computer, so today's post is necessarily brief, but I shall try to get a few thoughts down for tomorrow...

Sunday, 16 February 2014

I've Never Been Fashionable Before...

It seems that I'm just attracted to the Old Mass because it's fashionable, as I'm too young to be nostalgic for it. So that makes two new experiences for me - Apparently I'm considered young and fashion-conscious by those in the know.

Ches, the Sensible Bond, has summarised the whole thing in song, and very entertaining it is too...

Be Careful What You Wish For...

Fr. Tim made a light-hearted comment about asking the Day With Mary team whether they had any DVDs on liturgical dance. At least, I think it was light-hearted. But the MC was tidying up the choir's music cupboard and he discovered the following instruments (of torture)...

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I also think that our Maestra di Cappella is missing a trick or two in her recruitment campaign for new choir members. She ought to advertise what she keeps stored next to the music...

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No wonder the choir is always so cheerful...

The Day With Mary At Blackfen...

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The Day With Mary team came for their annual visit to Blackfen on Saturday. It's a truly wonderful occasion, and I find it to be a sort of spiritual spring-clean - it gives a tremendous boost to see so many fellow Catholics united in their love for God and Our Lady. With the door to the Confessional almost revolving with so many penitents, and the cry chapel used as another Confessional (and I think the Repository may have been employed too) one can almost hear the Holy Souls being sprung from Purgatory.

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I took lots of photos - some of which were, I thought, rather good. I made the mistake of showing off to Fr. Tim earlier today. He promptly hijacked my super-snazzy phone and sent himself copies of the ones he liked best... and then uploaded them to his blog before I could get them up on Flickr.

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The DWM team has a YouTube channel where most of the talks and sermons are posted. Fr. Tim's homily at Mass (on Our Lady's words to St. Bernadette: "I am the Immaculate Conception") and his talk (Our Lady at the Beginning of Salvation) are both up on the channel already. The video of the latter starts with a snippet of the singing by the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, which is really beautiful.)

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And I don't think the Day With Mary experience would be complete without the final farewell. It brings a lump to my throat every time...

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Miaowrini Making Progress...

I took Miaowrini to the vet last Friday as planned. She really seemed to be going "stir-crazy" in the cage, and made a few more escape attempts. The sheer sneakiness of the attempts quite took me by surprise... I didn't expect downright duplicity from a cat. Intelligence, yes... But there she was, purring and rubbing her cheek against my hand, so that I moved over to that side of the cage door... and then she sprang for the gap on the other side. Fortunately I was able to block her. But, like I said, there was a deliberate attempt to deceive.

I was concerned that her attempted escapes might have caused problems, but the vet was absolutely delighted with Miaowrini's progress. Out came the stitches, much to Miaowrini's relief. The vet admitted that he hadn't expected the operation and recovery to go so well, and was careful to warn me that it could all still go horribly wrong. We need to wait for scar tissue to form and stabilise the knee joint: the nylon holding the bones together won't last forever. Nevertheless, if we follow recommendations, there is every possibility that Miaowrini will make a full recovery.

Unfortunately for my peace of mind, one of the recommendations is that Miaowrini is kept "quiet." She mustn't go out just yet (not really a problem), and she isn't allowed to do much in the way of jumping about.

That's rather more of a problem. I'm not entirely sure how one is supposed to ensure that a cat doesn't jump.

Part of me is tempted to keep the cat in the cage for the rest of the recuperation period. Much easier for me - and I won't have to worry about Miaowrini over-exerting herself. But the more sensible part of me knows that she has to be allowed to get the knee properly mobile again, and that means walking about on it. The cage just isn't big enough for that. So, after a bit of thought, I decided that I would let her out of the cage during the day while I am at work. I can shut her in the one room, and she can look out of the window, or sit on the sofa or under the table...

Yes, I did think about letting her out when I'm at home in the evening, but I thought that it would be a lot harder to "persuade" her to go back to her cage first thing in the morning when I'm busy getting ready for work. I reasoned that, by the evening, she'd be hungry and ready for attention...

So on Monday morning I let her out of her cage and, with trepidation, left for work. By Monday evening I was berating myself for my poor judgement - Miaowrini was limping noticeably by the time I got home. However, she seemed pleased to see me, and was very cooperative when I put her in the cage for the night. She ate a bit, took her medicine without complaint and promptly went to sleep.

Wracked with guilt, I contemplated leaving her caged up this morning. But when I went to feed her breakfast, she seemed to be alert and raring to go, so I decided to see how she coped, with the option of keeping her confined the next day if she appeared to be overdoing things.

This evening she was waiting for me by the sitting room door. She still has a bit of a limp which makes her move in a rather crablike fashion, but it's much better than Monday evening. But I was so pleased with her progress that I decided to take a video of her with my snazzy phone...



I think that the local pigeons have had a bit of a reprieve. I doubt that Miaowrini will be up to her usual bird-catching antics for some considerable time. But pigeon pie isn't completely off the menu...
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