Saturday, January 30, 2010

Archbishop Chaput addresses the reality of Satan

.- On Wednesday, the Emmanuel Community's annual symposium in Rome was addressed by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, who spoke on the task of evangelizing the modern culture and what he called religious leaders' embarrassment to discuss the existence of Satan.

The American archbishop spoke for half an hour at the Pontifical Lateran University to an audience ranging from college students to people in their 70s. His speech, entitled, “The Prince of this World and the Evangelization of Culture,” was part of a symposium that lasted from Jan. 25-27 and was dedicated to looking at "Priests and Laity in the Mission."

Archbishop Chaput began his talk by reflecting on the human desire for beauty and transcendence.

“We are creatures made for heaven; but we are born of this earth. We love the beauty of this world; but we sense there is something more behind that beauty. Our longing for that 'something' pulls us outside of ourselves,” he said.

Examining what God enabled man to do when He created him, the Denver archbishop observed that “God licenses us to know, love and ennoble the world through the work of human genius. Our creativity as creatures is an echo of God's own creative glory.”

But “we live in a time when, despite all of our achievements, the brutality and indifference of the world have never been greater,” the archbishop underscored as he surveyed the modern culture that Christians are called to evangelize.

In his estimation, “God has never been more absent from the Western mind than he is today. We live in an age when almost every scientific advance seems to be matched by some increase of cruelty in our entertainment, cynicism in our politics, ignorance of the past, consumer greed, little genocides posing as 'rights' like the cult of abortion, and a basic confusion about what – if anything at all – it means to be 'human.'”

Archbishop Chaput then warned of the dangers of creative genius, saying that our human accomplishments can lure us into a “will to power” within politics and science and an “impulse to pride” within art and high culture.

“Genius breeds vanity. And vanity breeds suffering and conflict.”

The roots of this vanity, explained the archbishop, can be traced back to the very first “non serviam” that Satan uttered.

Reflecting on the hesitancy of religious leaders to speak about Satan, Archbishop Chaput said, “It is very odd that in the wake of the bloodiest century in history – a century when tens of millions of human beings were shot, starved, gassed and incinerated with superhuman ingenuity – even many religious leaders are embarrassed to talk about the devil.”

“In fact,” he observed, “it is more than odd. It is revealing.”

“Mass murder and exquisitely organized cruelty are not just really big 'mental health' problems,” he continued. “They are sins that cry out to heaven for justice, and they carry the fingerprints of an Intelligence who is personal, gifted, calculating and powerful.”

The archbishop recalled that in the late 1920s, as “the great totalitarian murder-regimes began to rise up in Europe,” Raissa Maritain wrote an essay, “The Prince of This World,” in which she described Satan's works: “

“Lucifer has cast the strong though invisible net of illusion upon us. He makes one love the passing moment above eternity, uncertainty above truth. He persuades us that we can only love creatures by making Gods of them. He lulls us to sleep (and he interprets our dreams); he makes us work. Then does the spirit of man brood over stagnant waters. Not the least of the devil's victories is to have convinced artists and poets that he is their necessary, inevitable collaborator and the guardian of their greatness. Grant him that, and soon you will grant him that Christianity is unpracticable. Thus does he reign in this world.”

The archbishop added: “If we do not believe in the devil, sooner or later we will not believe in God.” The devil is “the first author of pride and rebellion, and the great seducer of man. Without him the Incarnation and Redemption do not make sense, and the cross is meaningless.”

“Satan is real. There is no way around this simple truth.”

Archbishop Chaput then praised Pope Benedict XVI for his commitment throughout the years to speak often and forcefully against the “culture of relativism” and called on the Catholic faithful to fulfill what he believes is their primary vocation.

“We have an obligation as Catholics to study and understand the world around us,” the archbishop said. “We have a duty not just to penetrate and engage it, but to convert it to Jesus Christ. That work belongs to all of us equally: clergy, laity and religious.”

“We are missionaries,” he continued. “That is our primary vocation; it is hardwired into our identity as Christians. God calls each of us to different forms of service in his Church. But we are all equal in baptism. And we all share the same mission of bringing the Gospel to the world, and bringing the world to the Gospel.”

Archbishop Chaput concluded his address by encouraging the faithful to have no fear in approaching what some may view as a daunting task.“We should not be afraid to believe and to love; it took even a great saint like Augustine half a lifetime to be able to admit, that 'late have I loved thee, Beauty so old and so new; late have I loved thee.'”

“God calls us to leave here today and make disciples of all nations,” exhorted the prelate. “But he calls us first to love him. If we do that, and do it zealously, with all our hearts – the rest will follow.”

Click here to read about the archbishop's Q & A session following the address.

Rush Limbaugh's Open Letter to Barack Obama

Reject easy annulments, Pope tells Vatican tribunal

From Catholic Culture:

Granting easy access to marriage annulments is an offense against both justice and charity, said Pope Benedict XVI on January 29.

The Pope’s message has a particular resonance in the US, whose Catholic Church tribunals account for more than half of the world’s annulment decrees. Pope Benedict, like Pope John Paul II before him, has repeatedly argued for a more vigorous defense of the marital bond.

In an address to the Church’s highest tribunal for marriage cases, the Holy Father warned against “the tendency—widespread and well-rooted though not always obvious—to contrast justice with charity, almost as if the one excluded the other.” He reminded the tribunal’s judges and advocated that the marriage laws of the Church are oriented toward the spiritual welfare of the individuals, and applying those laws properly is itself a work of charity. Ultimately, he reminded them, “the Church's juridical activity has as its goal the salvation of souls.”

“Without truth charity slides into sentimentalism,” the Pope told officials of the Roman Rota, at the opening of its judicial term. “Love becomes an empty shell to be filled arbitrarily. This is the fatal risk of love in a culture without truth.”

Pope Benedict acknowledged that a marriage tribunal comes under pressure to announce the nullity of a marriage, due to “the desires and expectations of the parties involved, or to the conditioning of the social environment.” But he argued strenuously against lowering the standards of canon law in order to “achieve a declaration of nullity at any cost.” He decried the use of pseudo-psychological theories that see any marital problems as evidence of nullity, observing that this approach has the deleterious effect of “transforming all conjugal difficulties into a symptom of a failed union whose essential nucleus of justice-- the indissoluble bond-- is thus effectively denied.”

The Pope went so far as to suggest that tribunals should do their best to save marriages intact whenever that is possible. In most American dioceses, couples are required to file for a civil divorce before submitting an annulment application. But the Pontiff suggest that “effective efforts be made, whenever there seems to be hope of a successful outcome, to encourage the spouses to convalidate their marriage and restore conjugal cohabitation.”

Recognizing that some Catholics who have divorced and remarried want to obtain annulments in order to resume their active membership in the Church, and regain access to the sacraments, the Pope expressed sympathy for their goals but cautioned against offering a “false advantage.” If the first marriage was valid, he reasoned, then the remarried couple is living an objectively immoral situation. Under those circumstances, he said, it is wrong for a tribunal “to ease the way towards receiving the Sacraments, at the risk of causing people to live in objective contrast with the truth of their own individual state.”

Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

Reject easy annulments, Pope tells Vatican tribunal

Friday, January 29, 2010

Mel Gibson's New Film

Celeb Doppelgänger

Cathy at the Super Bowl

Angelatin Moroni

From Fr. Erik Richtsteig:

(Zuchetto Spin to James Pawlak.)

A kindergarten teacher gave her class a "show and tell" assignment. Each student was instructed to bring in an object to share with the class that represented their religion. The first student got up in front of the class and said, "My name is Benjamin and I am Jewish and this is a Star of David."
The second student got up in front of the class and said, "My name is Mary. I'm a Catholic and this is a Rosary."
The third student got in up front of the class and said, "My name is Tommy. I belong to the LDS church and this is a jello mold.

Rush Limbaugh: “Judge of the Night”

Coronation of Pope John XXIII - Canon of the Mass

Coronation of Pope Pius XII - 1939

Pope Saint Pius X Walking Through the Vatican Gardens

China sets standard for Chairman Mao's favourite dish

Official guidelines have been issued to restaurants across China instructing them how to cook Mao Tse-tung’s favourite meal, an unctuous dish of pork.


By Malcolm Moore in Shanghai
Published: 5:49PM GMT 29 Jan 2010

In Mao's home province of Hunan, much of the Great Helmsman's success has been credited to his fondness for hong shao rou (red braised pork) cubes of braised pork belly glazed with caramelised sugar and Shaoxing rice wine. The dish is widely regarded as the "brain food" which provided Mao with the wits to defeat his enemies.

Now the local government in Hunan has sought to standardise the cooking of the dish, in order to stem the tide of imitations that crowd Chinese restaurants.

According to stringent instructions from the government's food quality supervision and testing institute, true hong shao rou can only be made with the meat of rare pigs from Ningxiang county. Officials have designated the pig, which has been bred for nearly 1,000 years, as an "agricultural treasure"...


Photo: Donna Cooks

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Sun Also Flares

If we get hit with a once-in-a-century solar storm, we’re history.

Had the earthquake that hit Haiti shaken Florida instead, the death toll would not have been so tragically high — over 150,000 at last count. In Haiti, as in other impoverished countries, buildings are often shoddily constructed, infrastructure is weak, and governance is incompetent. The primary response to disaster: Wait for help from abroad.

It’s a well established rule: Rich nations endure natural disasters better than poor nations. But there may be an exception. Stay with me for a moment and you’ll see what I mean.

In recent years, Americans have become dependent not just on electricity but on computers, microchips, and satellites. The infrastructure that supports all this has become increasingly sophisticated — but not more resilient. On the contrary, as this infrastructure has become more complex, it also has become more fragile and therefore more vulnerable — an Achilles’ heel.

That is why, in 2001, the U.S. government established a commission to “assess the threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attack.” Such an attack would involve the detonation of a nuclear warhead at high altitude over the American mainland, producing a shockwave powerful enough to knock out electrical power, electronics, communications, transportation, refrigeration, water-pumping stations, sewage systems, and much more. Think of a blackout, but one of indefinite duration — because we have no plan for recovery and could expect little or no help from abroad.

Historian William R. Forstchen researched what America would be like in the aftermath of an EMP attack for his novel One Second After. I don’t think I’m spoiling the experience for prospective readers by telling you that Forstchen is convinced the result would be millions of deaths from starvation and disease, a catastrophe from which America would never fully recover.

The EMP commission also reported that Iran — which is feverishly working to acquire nuclear weapons — has conducted tests in which it launched missiles and exploded warheads at high altitudes. The CIA has translated Iranian military journals in which EMP attacks against the U.S. are explicitly discussed.

Might Iran’s rulers orchestrate such an attack if and when they acquire nuclear capability? That is a heated debate among defense experts. But what is almost never discussed is the threat of a naturally occurring EMP event.

I first learned about this possibility a few months ago at a conference organized by Empact America, a bipartisan, non-profit organization concerned exclusively with the EMP challenge. Scientists there explained “severe space weather” — in particular, storms on the surface of the sun that could trigger an EMP event.

The strongest solar storm on record is the Carrington Event of 1859, named after Richard Carrington, an astronomer who witnessed the super solar flare that set off the event as he was projecting an image of the sun onto a white screen. In those days, of course, there was nothing much to damage. A high-intensity burst of electromagnetic energy shot through telegraph lines, disrupting communications, shocking technicians, and setting their papers on fire. Northern Lights were visible as far south as Cuba and Hawaii. But otherwise life went on as normal.

The same would not be true were a solar storm of similar magnitude to erupt today. Instead, the infrastructure we depend on would be wiped out. Most of us would not adapt well to this sudden return to a pre-industrial age.

How likely is a repeat of the Carrington Event? Scientists say it is not only possible — it is inevitable. What they don’t know is when. The best estimates suggest that super solar storms occur once every 100 years — which means we are 50 years overdue.

Both the EMP Commission and a 2008 study by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) call for a response: hardening the electrical grid and other components of the infrastructure to increase the chances they would survive, as well as pre-positioning spares of essential, complex components of the electrical grid and other infrastructure critical to communications and emergency public services.

And it would certainly help if scientists could learn to forecast solar storms reliably. If we know one is coming, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the destruction. In particular, the electrical grid could be shut down; planes could be grounded (Air Force One is designed to withstand an EMP attack, but other planes would fall from the sky); citizens could be instructed not to leave home — in particular, to stay out of their cars, which would stop working — until the storm subsided.

President Obama has pledged $100 million to help Haiti recover from its recent earthquake. By coincidence, that’s precisely the amount that the NAS recommends be spent on measures that could limit by 60 to 70 percent the damage resulting from an EMP event. When you consider that such an event — whether naturally occurring or a “man-caused disaster” — could cause trillions of dollars in damage and claim more lives than were lost in World War II, that sounds like a reasonably priced investment.

Clifford D. May, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism and Islamism.

Apostolic Visitation II: Nunjas!!!

This Time We Are Not Taking No For An Answer

by Matt and Patrick Archbold

The Apostolic Visitation started last year with reports of concerns, irregularities about a secular mentality or even a feminist spirit pervading America’s female religious. A letter from the Vatican followed. A simple request and a questionnaire to help the sisters and to respond to concerns for their welfare.
And then things got ugly. Many women religious teamed up and refused to comply. It was like Norma Rae but with off-the-rack gender neutral pantsuits.

But now, in a world where the Vatican’s Apostolic Visitation was rebuffed, many Sisters forgot something. One very important thing. You never ignore Rome.

While many wondered what the Vatican’s response would be, the second wave of the Apostolic Visitation will be carried out under the cover of darkness by…NUNJAS!!!!!!!!!!!

Just when liberated sisters thought it was safe to go back to tai-chi class…Apostolic Visitation II: Nunjas!!! And this time they’re not taking no for an answer.

Make no mistake, these are not your ordinary nuns. They don’t correct the wayward with rulers. When NUNJAS correct you, you stay corrected. They are NUNJAS! These Nunjas mock albino monk assassins…to their pasty white faces.

Their mission in the dead of night is to sneak into the Lair of the “Sisters of Perpetual Liberation” and exorcise their meditation rooms, replace crystals with rosaries, replace Pantsuits with habits, change their cable plan replacing HBO with EWTN (A litle less “Big Love” and a little more “Life on the Rock), tear down all Sr. Joan Chittister posters from their bedrooms, perform secret Nunja Sleeper hold on radicalized sisters like Sister Mary Rainforest and have them wake up with the Nashville Dominicans just in time for Eucharistic Adoration, and confiscate all rainbow lapel pins.

When it comes to NUNJAS Resistance is futile…but preferred.

Senator Hubert H. Humphrey on the Second Amendment

"Certainly one of the chief guarantees of freedom under any government, no matter how popular and respected, is the right of citizens to keep and bear arms. This is not to say that firearms should not be very carefully used, and that definite safety rules of precaution should not be taught and enforced. But the right of citizens to bear arms is just one more guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard against tyranny which now appears remote in America, but which historically has proved to be always possible"

Senator Hubert H. Humphrey (D) Minn.
"Know Your Lawmakers" Guns (magazine), February, 1960, p. 4.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Aquinas and the Big Bang


Aquinas would have no difficulty accepting Big Bang cosmology, even with its recent variations, while also affirming the doctrine of creation out of nothing. He would, of course, distinguish between advances in cosmology and the philosophical and theological reflections on these advances.

One day a little boy asked his mother where he came from. His mother, pleased to have the opportunity to discuss such an important matter with her son, began by offering an elementary account of human biology, even introducing some references to the theory of evolution. Lest she restrict her analysis to the realm of the purely physical, she spoke of God's role in the creation of each human soul, and ultimately of God as the source of all that is. After she had finished, her young son, looking somewhat bemused, said to her that he had wondered about this because his friend next door had told him that he had come from Iowa.

The question of where we come from can be answered in many ways. We need to keep this fact in mind when we turn our attention to the account given by contemporary cosmology of the origins of the universe. The reigning theory among scientists today is that we live in the aftermath, or rather in the midst, of a giant explosion that began about fifteen billion years ago. Most cosmologists refer to the Big Bang as a "singularity," that is, an ultimate boundary or edge, a "state of infinite density" where space-time has ceased. Thus it represents an outer limit of what we can know about the universe since it is not possible to speculate, at least in the natural sciences, about conditions before or beyond the categories of space and time.

Nevertheless, in the past two decades some cosmologists have come to offer theories that account for the Big Bang itself as a fluctuation of a primal vacuum. Just as sub-atomic particles appear to emerge spontaneously in vacuums in laboratories, as the result of what is called "quantum tunneling from nothing," so the whole universe may be the result of a similar process. Other cosmologists, such as Stephen Hawking, contend that the notion of an initial "singularity" that seems to require a temporal beginning to the universe needs to be rejected. The universe, according to Hawking, does not have a boundary: "It is completely self-contained and not affected by anything outside itself." He thinks that the only way to have a scientific theory is if "the laws of physics hold everywhere, including at the beginning of the universe." For Hawking, contemporary quantum theory leads us to reject the very notion of such a privileged point as the beginning of the universe.

These recent variations in Big Bang cosmology have led some to wonder whether we are on the verge of a scientific explanation of the very origin of the universe. The contention of the new theories is that the laws of physics are sufficient to account for the origin and existence of the universe. If this be true, then, in a sense, we live in a self-creating universe that has sprung into existence spontaneously from a cosmic nothingness. Or, in Hawking's analysis, since the question of a beginning of the universe becomes meaningless, there is no role for a creator. As Quentin Smith, a philosopher of science, observes, if Big Bang cosmology is true "our universe exists without explanation. . . . It exists non-necessarily, improbably, and causelessly. It exists for absolutely no reason at all."

In such a self-sufficient universe, exhaustively understood in terms of the laws of physics, it would seem that there is no room for the God of Jewish, Christian, or Muslim revelation. The advances of modern science threaten to render traditional doctrines of creation and its Creator as intellectual artifacts from a less enlightened age. Perhaps the God of traditional theology is but a hypothesis now shown to be unnecessary.

Too often contemporary discussions about the relationship between science and religion suffer from an ignorance of history, and our question is an example. For we can save God and natural theology from the dustbins simply by turning to the sophisticated analyses of the natural sciences and creation that took place during the age of High Scholasticism. In the thirteenth century, brilliant scholars such as Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas wrestled with the implications for Christian theology of the most advanced science of their day — namely, the works of Aristotle and his Muslim commentators, which had recently been translated into Latin. Following in the tradition of Muslim and Jewish thinkers, Aquinas developed an analysis of the doctrine of creation ex nihilo that remains one of the enduring accomplishments of Western culture. His analysis provides refreshing clarity for our often confused contemporary discussion of the relationship between science and religion.

It seemed to many of Aquinas' contemporaries that there was a fundamental incompatibility between the claim of ancient physics that something cannot come from nothing and the affirmation of Christian faith that God produced everything from nothing. Furthermore, for the Greeks, since something must come from something, there must always be something — the universe must be eternal.

Recent speculations that the universe began as "quantum tunneling from nothing" reaffirm the ancient Greek principle that you cannot get something from nothing. For the "vacuum" of modern particle physics, whose "fluctuation" some see as bringing our universe into existence, is not absolutely nothing. It is not anything like our present universe, but it still is something. Or else, how could it fluctuate?

An eternal universe seemed incompatible with a universe created ex nihilo, and so some medieval Christians thought that Greek science, especially in the person of Aristotle, ought to be banned, since it contradicted the truths of revelation. Aquinas, believing that the truths of science and the truths of faith could not contradict one another — God being the author of all truth — went to work to reconcile Aristotelian science and Christian revelation.

The key to Aquinas' analysis is the distinction he draws between creation and change. The natural sciences, whether Aristotelian or those of our own day, have as their subject the world of changing things: from sub-atomic particles to acorns to galaxies. Whenever there is a change there must be something that changes. The Greeks are right: from nothing, nothing comes; that is, if the verb "to come" means a change. All change requires an underlying material reality.

Creation, on the other hand, is the radical causing of the whole existence of whatever exists. To cause completely something to exist is not to produce a change in something, is not to work on or with some already existing material. If, in producing something new, an agent were to use something already existing, the agent would not by itself be the complete cause of the new thing. But such a complete causing is precisely what creation is. To create is to give existence, and all things are totally dependent upon God for the very fact that they are. God does not take nothing and make something out of "it." Rather, anything left entirely to itself, separated from the cause of its existence, would be absolutely nothing. Creation is not some distant event; it is the continuing, complete causing of the existence of everything that is. Creation, thus, is a subject for metaphysics and theology, not for the natural sciences.

Aquinas saw no contradiction in the notion of an eternal created universe. For, even if the universe had no temporal beginning, it still would depend upon God for its very being. There is no conflict between the doctrine of creation and any physical theory. Theories in the natural sciences account for change. Whether the changes described are biological or cosmological, unending or finite, they remain processes. Creation accounts for the existence of things, not for changes in things.

Aquinas did not think that the opening of Genesis presented any difficulties for the natural sciences, for the Bible is not a textbook in the sciences. What is essential to Christian faith, according to Aquinas, is the "fact of creation," not the manner or mode of the formation of the world. Aquinas' firm adherence to the truth of Scripture without falling into the trap of literalistic readings of the text offers valuable correction for exegesis of the Bible which concludes that one must choose between the literal interpretation of the Bible and modern science. For Aquinas, the literal meaning of the Bible is what God, its author, intends the words to mean. The literal sense of the text includes metaphors, similes, and other figures of speech useful to accommodate the truth of the Bible to the understanding of its readers. For example, when one reads in the Bible that God stretches out His hand, one ought not think that God has a hand. The literal meaning of such passages concerns God's power, not His anatomy. Nor ought one think that the six days at the beginning of Genesis literally refer to God's acting in time, for God's creative act is instantaneous.

Adhering to the traditional reading of Genesis and the doctrinal proclamation of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), Aquinas believed that the universe had a temporal beginning. Aristotle, he thought, was wrong to think otherwise. But Aquinas argued that, on the basis of reason alone, one could not know whether the universe is eternal. Furthermore, if there were an eternal universe it still would be a created universe. To affirm, on the basis of faith, that the universe has a temporal beginning involves no contradiction with what the natural sciences can proclaim, since on their own they leave this question unresolved. Hawking's denial of an absolute beginning to time, while also affirming a finite past, involves complicated speculation about quantum gravity, which itself remains not fully worked out. Regardless of the intelligibility of Hawking's scientific claims, the conclusions about creation he and others draw from them are false.

The Big Bang described by modern cosmologists is a change, not a creation; the natural sciences do not themselves provide an account for the ultimate origin of all things. Apologists for the Christian doctrine of creation ought not to think that the initial "singularity" of traditional Big Bang cosmology offers scientific confirmation of their view. Nor ought those who reject the doctrine of creation think that recent variations in Big Bang cosmology support their view. Even if the universe were the result of the fluctuation of a primal vacuum, it would not be a self-creating universe. The need to explain the existence of things does not disappear. Contrary to the claim that the universe described by contemporary cosmology leaves nothing for a creator to do, were a creator not causing all that is, there would be nothing done.

Aquinas would have no difficulty accepting Big Bang cosmology, even with its recent variations, while also affirming the doctrine of creation out of nothing. He would, of course, distinguish between advances in cosmology and the philosophical and theological reflections on these advances.

The variations in Big Bang cosmology I have mentioned are only theoretical speculations, and there are likely to be more of them. Their status as mere "speculations," however, does not justify their failure to distinguish among the domains of the natural sciences, metaphysics, and theology, nor their encroachment on nonscientific ground. Like the little boy mentioned at the outset, we are being told a great deal that is beside the point of our question. Thomas Aquinas did not have the advantage of the Hubble Space Telescope, but in many ways he was able to see farther and more clearly than those who do.


William E. Carroll "Aquinas and the Big Bang." First Things 97 (November 1999):18-20.

This article is reprinted with permission from First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life published by the Institute on Religion and Public Life, 156 Fifth Avenue, Suite 400, New York, NY 10010. To subscribe to First Things call 1-800-783-4903.


William E. Carroll is Professor of History at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa.

Alternate Universe

"We can always follow Peter"

"We can always follow Peter" | The Introduction to Simon, Called Peter: In The Company of a Man In Search of God | Dom Mauro-Giuseppe Lepori, O.Cist.

"And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him" (Lk 5:11).

Is there anyone who is not moved by the witness of absolute dedication to Christ? This is the allure of the saints, whom the Church never tires of contemplating and of presenting as proof that it is possible to follow Jesus Christ with our entire selves, that it is possible to make a radical commitment to the Son of God, "the way, the truth, and the life" of man. The saints address our desire for the fullness of life and tell us that this is not an illusion, that it is not a mirage, but a call that resounds in the heart of every man and requires fulfillment. The answer to this desire is not a dream but rather the realism of following Christ. The realism of following Christ is demonstrated by the saints, those who followed him before us, leading us on toward him in an invisible chain stretching from the first steps of Mary and the apostles throughout all of history, until the Second Coming.

"They left everything and followed him." The allure of this radical response is lost unless we ourselves are moved by what we see in the saints and ask ourselves, "What does leaving everything to follow the Lord mean for us?" The saints teach us that the answer to this question is not the same for everyone. The saints teach us that "leaving everything" does not come before the act of following—instead, these two things happen at the same time. Leaving everything is done not only at the beginning but during the entire journey. Only death confirms, once and for all, our leaving everything behind in order to be with the Lord forever. Following him is a constant, renewed "leaving everything". It is never finished and continually requires a fresh commitment, as if each of the Lord's footsteps created another "everything" between himself and our freedom, a new "everything" to be left behind once again. This is how the love of Christ continues to live and grow.

The disciple and apostle Simon Peter is one of the most emblematic figures of the gripping drama of following Christ. He left everything right at the start, without hesitation, but he still had to confront the claims made on his freedom by Jesus, by circumstances, and by his own fragility and repeat his initial Yes to the very end. Peter's denial, but also the tradition of "Quo vadis?"—his last attempt to escape the total Yes of martyrdom by leaving Rome, and his encounter with Jesus, who asked him for a definitive "leaving everything" in dying for him—help us to understand that the freedom of total self-donation to Christ is a lifelong commitment. Because this commitment is asked of us by the Lord, it is always possible, in spite of everything, as for the repentant thief crucified next to Jesus.

At every stage of my journey as a man, a Christian, a monk, and an abbot, I have found Saint Peter as a companion walking ahead of me with my own humanity, with my own human poverty, full of contradictions. Peter is the saint in the Gospels who is most like us, the closest to our humanity, and yet also very close to Christ. We can always follow Peter. He always leads us to Jesus, he unites us to Jesus, because he never permitted his own fragility to separate his heart from Christ, even when he denied him.

And it is for this reason, I believe, that Simon Peter is the character we recognize best in the Gospels. We know all about Peter: his abilities and limitations, his sins and his sanctity, his psychology, his whole character. All of this lies before us absolutely clearly, so much so that at times he seems a bit superficial and crude to us.

Peter's transparency is gospel, is part of the gospel, of the good news of redemption in Christ. We can and must enter the school of Simon Peter, the school of his journey with Jesus, in order to follow the Lord as he wants to be followed, to cling to Christ as he enables us to love him.

Simon Called Peter: In the Company of a Man in Search of God

by Dom Mauro-Giuseppe Lepori, O.Cist

Foreword by Angelo Cardinal Scola, Patriarch of Venice

Simon Peter, the fisherman who was both attracted to Jesus and repelled by his own weakness, who in faith walked on the water and in fear began to sink; the ardent disciple who promised to die for His Lord and then moments later betrayed Him, who needed to reaffirm his yes to God over and over again, even unto a martyr's death: Is this not a model for many of us who desire to love and trust the Lord completely, yet who struggle daily to pick up our cross and follow Him?

Abbot Lepori's meditation on the relationship between our Lord and Saint Peter invites us to consider our own relationship with Christ. As he imaginatively retells the well-known stories from the Gospels, he revivifies them and makes them present to us, deepening our understanding of the calling we have received from Jesus and strengthening our confidence that the Lord will, indeed, bring to completion the work of love He has begun in us.

"You are carried into the events narrated here... and you see them with your own eyes and heart, more than if you had been there." -- from the Foreword by Cardinal Angelo Scola, Patriarch of Venice

"Dom Lepori's account of Peter reminds us of just how often this first of the Apostles appears in the Gospels. When we see Peter spelled out in his encounters with Christ, we realize that this 'Rock' is being formed, but also that he was someone who could be formed. It is not without interest that the Church is founded on Peter, a solid man, yet also a sinner. With Lepori's guidance, we realize that Peter's life is a portrait of how God deals with men. We cannot but be moved by this Peter, a man like unto us, sin included, but a brave man who acknowledges, who learns, who, in the end, is 'the Rock' that he was called to be from the first time Christ saw him." -- James V. Schall, SJ, Author, The Order of Things

Dom Mauro-Giuseppe Lepori, O. Cist., is the abbot of the Cistercian abbey of Hauterive outside of Fribourg, Switzerland. He received his licentiate in philosophy and theology from the Catholic University of Fribourg and as a layman was an active member of Communion and Liberation. In 1984, he entered the abbey of Hauterive and ten years later was elected abbot. Written originally in Italian, Simon Called Peter has been translated into both French and German. Other works by Lepori include L'amato presente.

Obama aims to ax moon mission
Orlando Sentinel

NASA's plans to return astronauts to the moon are dead. So are the rockets being designed to take them there — that is, if President Barack Obama gets his way.

When the White House releases his budget proposal Monday, there will be no money for the Constellation program that was supposed to return humans to the moon by 2020. The troubled and expensive Ares I rocket that was to replace the space shuttle to ferry humans to space will be gone, along with money for its bigger brother, the Ares V cargo rocket that was to launch the fuel and supplies needed to take humans back to the moon.

There will be no lunar landers, no moon bases, no Constellation program at all.

In their place, according to White House insiders, agency officials, industry executives and congressional sources familiar with Obama's long-awaited plans for the space agency, NASA will look at developing a new "heavy-lift" rocket that one day will take humans and robots to explore beyond low Earth orbit. But that day will be years — possibly even a decade or more — away.

In the meantime, the White House will direct NASA to concentrate on Earth-science projects — principally, researching and monitoring climate change...

Feast of St. Agnes at St. Agnes Church in Minnesota

From the New Liturgical Movement:

We were very pleased to be passed along these photos today from the feast of St. Agnes at St. Agnes Catholic Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, which was offered in accordance with the modern Roman liturgy.

The celebrant is Rev. John Ubel, pastor of St. Agnes, and the music for the Mass was the Saint Cecilia Mass by Gounoud. Mass was celebrated ad orientem and in Latin with vernacular readings -- the usual fare at St. Agnes for their primary Sunday Mass and for feast days.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Met Visitor's Picasso Stumble is $65 Million Oops: Expert


This may be the most expensive stumble ever.

A Metropolitan Museum of Art visitor who lost her balance and tore a hole in a Picasso work Monday slashed the painting's $130 million value in half, an expert told the New York Post.

The 6-inch tear in Picasso's "The Actor" happened after a woman stumbled into the Met work, leaving it with a mark that could mean the painting could never be restored to its original condition, appraiser Gerard van Weyenbergh said.

"It's a 50 percent loss of the value -- at least," said van Weyenbergh.

"When an artwork comes up in auction, that's the first thing people want to know -- were there any repaints or restorations," the expert told the Post.

The six-foot by four-foot painting was hanging on the second floor when the woman fell, leaving the half-foot gash in the lower right-hand corner of the painting.

The "small hole" could mean that avid collectors -- van Weyenberg cited Steven Spielberg as one -- won't be interested in the tainted work, according to the art expert.

Met officials didn't identify the woman who made the $65 million oops but said they would have the painting restored later this year.

Teleprompter Shot of the Day

Here's Obama dropping in for a chat with his middle-class task force. And people made fun of Reagan because of his notecards!

Mr. Edison’s Kindle: Fifteen Amazing Gadget Ideas That Were Way, Way Ahead of Their Time


“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” So said legendary tech visionary Alan Kay. He was absolutely correct. But he might have added that inventing the future is anything but a cakewalk. Even though everyone who does it has the luxury of learning from predecessors who tried and failed.

The brightest inventors on the planet keep coming up with ideas that never amount to much–even when they set out to solve real problems, and even when their brainchildren foreshadow later breakthroughs. And professional tech watchers have long proven themselves prone to getting irrationally exuberant about stuff that just isn’t ready for prime time.

Thanks to Google Books’ archives of Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, LIFE, and other magazines that frequently reported on futuristic gizmos, we have a readily accessible record of technology that failed to live up to the initial hype–including random notions that never got off the drawing board, startlingly advanced products that didn’t find a market, and very rough drafts of concepts that eventually became a big deal. The best of them are fascinating, even when it’s not the least bit surprising that they flopped.

Herewith, fifteen inventions–not that all of them ever got built–that were at least a decade ahead of their time. They’re in chronological order, starting with the inspiration that gave this article its title.

1. Thomas Edison’s Metal Books

As described in: Cosmopolitan, February 1911.

What it was: Among the numerous brainstorms and predictions that Thomas Alva Edison shared with Cosmopolitan readers in an exclusive interview was his vision of 40,000-page books that would be two inches thick and weigh a pound–because their pages would be made of metal, not paper:

Even the pages of books may be made of steel, though Edison regards nickel as a better substitute for paper…”Why not?” asks Edison. “Nickel will absorb printer’s ink. A sheet of nickel one twenty-thousandth of an inch thick is cheaper, tougher, and more flexible than an ordinary sheet of book-paper. A nickel book, two inches thick, would contain 40,000 pages. Such a book would weigh only a pound. I can make a pound of nickel sheets for a dollar and a quarter.”

Here…is a prospect of real culture for the masses Forty thousand pages in a volume! A single volume the equivalent in printing space of two hundred paper-leaved books of two hundred pages each! What a library might be placed between two steel covers and sold for, perhaps, two dollars!

That’s a lot of exclamation points!

Flies in the ointment: I feel disrespectful expressing skepticism about an idea pitched by the greatest inventor of all time, but…I’m skeptical that it would have worked. Also, wouldn’t it have been tough to flip ahead to, say, page 17,356?

When did the basic idea become practical? I know of no evidence that Edison or anyone else ever printed a single book on nickel. (A Google search for “books printed on nickel” returns one result–a Publisher’s Weekly story referencing the Edison interview.) The first time anyone crammed massive numbers of books into one booklike device that real people could buy may have been when the Rocketbook and Softbook were released in 1999–not that very many people bought either of them.

Modern counterpart: The Kindle, the Nook, Sony’s Readers, and every other current gadget for reading digital tomes…even though they all cost a lot more than $2. And is it going too far to say that Edison had a 1911 version of the upcoming Apple tablet in mind?

2. The Automobile Wireless Telephone

As seen in: Popular Mechanics, February 1913.

What it was: An brainchild of Los Angeles inventor E.C. Hanson, who successfully made wireless calls over a distance of 35 miles from a phone installed in his roundabout.

Flies in the ointment: You thought the telescoping antennae on early brick phones are comically archaic? Hanson’s car phone required that the car in question be outfitted with telephone poles fore and aft, supporting “aerial wires and high-voltage insulators.”

When did the basic idea become practical? Experimentation with mobile phones continued for decades, but they only started to make sense in 1983 when Motorola shipped its DynaTAC, the first true cell phone–a full seven decades after Hanson’s experiments.

Modern counterpart: Your iPhone, BlackBerry, Nexus One, or Pre. Or even your humble flip phone.

3. The Telenewspaper and Electric Writer

As seen in: Popular Mechanics, June 1928.

What they were: Items in a “home of the future” depicting the typical house of 2000, designed by architect R.A. Duncan and exhibited in London. Besides the expected flying car in the garage, the place had a high-tech study with:

…a built-in radio and loud speakers, a built-in television set to see the day’s events and a built-in telenewspaper for visible radio projection of the day’s news. An electric writer, to transmit by radio similar messages, and an elaborate lighting-control panel, were also included.

That’s as far as the magazine’s explanation goes. If the room already has a TV, I’m assuming that the telenewspaper would have presented news in words and pictures displayed on a screen. The electric writer, meanwhile, appears to involve an in-wall display and some sort of box with buttons. I can’t see any evidence of QWERTY capability–maybe there was a wireless keyboard.

Flies in the ointment: The illustration in the magazine shows a house dwarfed by a huge honkin’ antenna, looking a bit like the ones at the top of San Francisco’s Twin Peaks. With experimental television broadcasts barely underway, it was awfully premature to be talking about homes with multiple displays built into the walls. Also, shouldn’t the telenewspaper and the electric writer be one device, or at least share one display?

When did the basic ideas become practical? In the 1980s and 1990s, more and more people began using electric screens to read news and transmit messages, although the screens usually weren’t built into walls and the transmissions used telephone wires rather than radio waves.

Modern counterparts: Google News and Gmail.

4. The Watch-Case Phonograph

As seen in: Popular Science, June 1936.

What it was: A bizarrely small phonograph built into a watch case. You wound it up like a mechanical timepiece, whereupon a “midget record” played music through a “diminutive horn.”

Flies in the ointment: It would have required the world to accept a new media format: midget records. (Their running time is unknown–wonder if you could fit an entire song onto one side?) Also, holding the player up to your ear would have gotten old fast.

When did the basic idea become practical? The introduction of the Sony Walkman in 1979 kicked off the era of pervasive, portable prerecorded music.

Modern counterpart: The iPod, of course.

5. Magic Lantern Talkies

As seen in: Popular Mechanics, October 1937.

What it was: A projector technology that permitted businesses to create presentations consisting of color slides synchronized with an audio track. Popular Mechanics’ article provides an example in which a New York City marketing company creates a 15-minute presentation (with 75 slides) and dispatches it to offices in Dallas, Memphis, Minneapolis, and Seattle. The projection equipment fit into a jumbo-sized briefcase–which, back then, sounded impressively compact.

Flies in the ointment: The theory was that businesses would hire scriptwriters, actors, and radio announcers to create these shows, making them a pricey proposition. The story says that a high-end magic lantern talkie might cost $1500–or around $23,000 in current dollars. The projector cost under $100.

When did the basic idea become practical? Businesses began using overhead projectors as a presentation aid in the late 1950s, and presentation software such as Harvard Graphics in the mid 1980s.

Modern counterpart: The unavoidable communications tool known as PowerPoint.

6. Talking Newspapers

As seen in: Popular Mechanics, June, 1938.

What it was: I’m just going to quote the article, which discusses an invention by W.G.H. Finch:

“Hurry to Police Headquarters with the sound box. Get every word of that murderer’s confession so our readers will be able to play it tonight when they see the pictures!”

Such assignments may become routine to the newspaper reporter and photographer of the future who will carry a portable recording device when he covers an important story. Every word of sound will be recorded on a film track which will be rushed to the newspaper office to be developed and printed. When the newspaper is bought that evening, it will have not only pictures and type matter but also a series of wavy lines constituting sound tracks, along the margin and, in some cases, on the page itself.

Cutting these sound tracks apart and pasting them together in a continuous strip, the reader will put them in an inexpensive reproducing device attached to his loud speaker. Then he will hear the murderer’s confession–his children will hear the comic characters in the funny section talk, bark, quack, and mew, and his wife, reading a travel article about Hawaii, will hear the soft accompaniment of guitars and ukuleles providing appropriate atmosphere.

Flies in the ointment: Sounds like a lotta work–and a predecessor of much later ill-fated attempts to encode information on periodical pages, such as Cauzin Softstrip and the CueCat. I’m not sure why Popular Mechanics, which had already reported extensively on experimental TV broadcasts, thought that anyone would prefer to cut up the evening paper to get the news in words and pictures.

When did the basic idea become practical? Depends on how you look at it–this day, newspapers don’t talk. But audio synchronized with images became real when commercial TV broadcasting really got rolling in the the late 1940s. And newspaper Web sites began to supplement their words and pictures with audio in the 1990s.

Modern counterpart: How about newspaper podcasts?

7. Newspapers by Radio

As seen in: The Rotarian, September 1939.

What it was: A system that sent newspapers over ultra-high frequency radio waves to early fax machines in the home, eliminating the need to print and distribute them through traditional means. The Rotarian piece reports that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was the first paper to try the technology; that Transradio Press Service was planning to launch 25 radio papers; and that the Chicago Tribune, the Detroit News, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer had all obtained licenses to broadcast papers.

“The coming of the facsimile broadcast marks not merely a milestone,” says the story portentously. “It is also the dawn of a new epoch of deep importance to all of us.” It speculates that the new medium will throw newspaper employees out of work; that news stories will need to get shorter; and that the industry will have to figure out how to make advertising pay for facsimile newspapers so they’re self-sustaining. Any of this sound familiar?

Flies in the ointment: Mostly speed–or lack thereof. It took fifteen minutes to broadcast one page of content, which was why the Post-Dispatch’s electronic paper was only nine pages long. Color was also out, eliminating the possibility of a traditional Sunday comics section–but the article muses that it might not be that far off.

When did the basic idea become practical? Newspapers began to establish electronic presences on services such as CompuServe in the 1980s, then really ramped things up when the Web went mainstream in the mid-1990s.

Modern counterpart: The notion of scheduled digital delivery of a newspaper reminds me of the Kindle’s newspaper service.

By Harry McCracken | Posted at 11:04 pm on Sunday, January 24, 2010

See all: Features

8. Colorfax

As seen in: Popular Science, November 1947.

What it was: An improvement on monochrome fax machines (which had already been around for a couple of decades by this point even though they didn’t find widespread usage until the 1980s). Coinvented by W.G.H. Finch–the same guy behind 1938’s talking newspapers–Colorfax was a $150 box that plugged into an FM radio. It recreated incoming documents on paper by drawing them with red, blue, yellow, and black merchanical pencils. The article envisions the technology being used not only for business purposes but also to deliver color images associated with radio broadcasts–and to transmit the Sunday comics.

Flies in the ointment: For one thing, the $150 gadget could only receive faxes, not send them. The process was also sluggish, taking fifteen minutes to transmit an 8-by-10 picture. At this late date, it’s hard to judge Colorfax’s image quality, but it’s hard to imagine that photos looked very good given they were being rendered with pencils. (The Popular Science cover shown as an example looks okay, I guess–considering that it was 1947.)

When did the basic idea become practical? Depends on how you look at it. Good color printing at affordable prices didn’t come along until technologies such as inkjet, laser, and solid ink started to do it in the 1990s. (Solid ink, in particular, is vaguely similar to Finch’s colored pencil setup.) In the 1990s, a standard called ITU-T30e enabled color faxing, but it never became all that popular. It’s the sending and printing of colored images across the Internet that comes closest to the scenarios the article outlined.

Modern counterpart: Even the most humble all-in-one printer now lets anyone scan, send, and print color pictures.

9. Highway Hi-Fi

As seen in: Popular Science, November 1955.

What it was: An option for 1956 model-year Chrysler automobiles that put a phonograph player in your dashboard–one that played special 7-inch LPs from Columbia that played at 16 2/3rpm and contained between 45 minutes and an hour of music. The player itself rested on cushions, was allegedly skip-proof, and cost about the same as a car radio.

Flies in the ointment: Here’s how Popular Science described the experience of using Highway Hi-Fi:

You play records with no more fuss than it takes to work the radio–an obvious safety requirement. Press a button and the door flops open. Pull out the turntable as far as it will go, pick a record from the stack underneath, and push it against stops on the turntable–it drops right over the spindle. Press a lever on the tone arm and move the arm until it stops. When you let go, the needle drops into the first groove and the music starts.

Sounds complicated to me, at least if you’re trying to do it on the freeway with one hand, without taking your eyes off the road. And this account seems to leave out at least two steps: pushing the turntable back in, and performing the whole process a second time to listen to the flipside of the record. Also, who’d want to buy new copies of all their favorite music–or at least everything that was available–in a format that only worked in cars? (The article says there were no plans to build home players compatible with the discs.)

Another fly in the ointment, possibly the one that proved fatal: The players were apparently notoriously unreliable and complicated to repair.

When did the basic idea become practical? Highway Hi-Fi only lasted a couple of years; Chrysler tried again for 1960 with an RCA player that could take standard 45s, and failed again. A few years later, 8-track cartridges and cassettes put music in a much more car-friendly form that could also be played at home.

Modern counterpart: Until recently, I would have said the in-dash CD player. These days, though, it’s just as likely to be an AUX port that lets you plug in your iPod or music-capable smartphone.

10. The Punch-Card Picture Phone

As seen in: LIFE, September 1961.

What it was: An AT&T project–although LIFE didn’t make clear how much of it was working in labs, and how much of it was sheer visionary speculation about the “fantastic everyday world of the future” that Ma Bell expected to show up by 2000 or so. The article described was a multi-line videophone with built-in document sharing features: It could be used for business conferences, online grocery shopping, banking, and maybe even to “use the Vatican Library, or see the Louvre’s art treasures without leaving home.” LIFE theorized that the whole idea might lead to everyone being assigned permanent phone numbers at birth.

Flies in the ointment: The user interface apparently involved inserting punched cards in a reader. Sounds more like 1961 than 2001!

When did the basic idea become practical? If you want to be literal and only count any of this stuff as coming true when it can be done on a telephone, it’s only been in the past half-decade or so that much of it has been doable. AT&T’s big mistake–understandable for a phone company–was assuming that the gadget in question would be a phone, not a computer.

Modern counterpart: It sounds like a lot like the Web, really.

11. The Microlibrary

As seen in: Popular Mechanics, November 1962.

What it was: A next-generation advance on microfilm, which had been around for decades by 1962. A technology called Photo-Chromic Micro-Image (PCMI), developed by NCR, was allegedly capable of reducing printed materials by a factor of 40,000. The result was supposed to be crisp, clear images that could be projected from cards–permitting an entire year’s worth of Popular Mechanics to fit onto one 3-by-5 card. It was all a response to what Popular Mechanics deemed a “crisis”: the sheer amount of information in the world, and how difficult it was becoming to store and find it. The magazine thought that innovations such as PCMI might render libraries obsolete. It also said that the entire holdings of the U.S. Patent Office could fit on a 72-inch stack of PCMI cards, and that consumers would install PCMI readers in their homes.

Flies in the ointment: Popular Mechanicals explained that NCR hadn’t figured out how to make it possible to index and retrieve the millions of pieces of information that could fit in a shoebox’s worth of PCMI. Also, the whole process sounds decidedly expensive–the article mentions that a similar system from Kodak cost $2.5 million or more.

When did the basic idea become practical? In the late 1960s and early 1970s, libraries got excited about PCMI and similar technologies–collectively known as “ultrafiche”–and began using them to cram massive amounts of information into small spaces. But the trend lasted only a few years. By then, I assume, it became clear that the future was digitization, not miniaturization.

Modern counterpart: Betcha that the inventors of PCMI would go gaga over Google Books and Google Patents.

12. The Neck-Strap TV

As seen in: Popular Science, February 1965.

What it was: A Sony portable TV with a 4-inch screen that–unlike most of the gizmos I cover here–actually reached the market, for $200. (That’s around $1400 in 2010 dollars.) It used flashlight batteries and came with an earphone and sunshade; a car adapter cost extra.

Flies in the ointment: It weighed six pounds, and you wore it strapped around your neck. The gent in the photo looks hideously uncomfortable, and you gotta think that extended use would leave anyone a hunchback for life.

When did the basic idea become practical? I’d say that all CRT-based teensy TVs were doomed to be unwieldy. The breakthrough was the introduction of LCD-based ones in the early 1980s.

Modern counterpart: Today’s FloTV is what Sony would have built in 1965 if it could have.

13. The DIY Home TV Tape-Recorder Kit

As seen in: Popular Science, August 1965.

What it was: Wesgrove’s VTR-500, a build-it-yourself video tape recorder. It had no timer, but the article’s author cheerfully explained that you could tell your wife to record the ball game so it would be ready for you when you got home from playing golf. The cost? $400, or about $2700 in 2010 dollars–a fraction of the price of the first store-bought models, which were already on the market.

Flies in the ointment: Well, for starters it that took Popular Science’s author 150 hours to build the recorder and get ir working. It recorded on 11 1/4-inch reel-to-reel tapes that could hold only ten minutes of video, sounded “like a runaway lawnmower” and had a tendency to chew up tapes and send reels flying across the room. Also, it couldn’t rewind tapes.

When did the basic idea become practical? The first home VCRs that were cheap, easy, and useful enough to catch on appeared in 1975 (Betamax) and 1976 (VHS).

Modern counterparts: TiVo and/or DVD recorders–neither of which ever spit anything across the room.

14. Computer Tutors

As seen in: LIFE, January 1967.

What it was: A pilot program in which first graders in troubled East Palo Alto, California learned English and math via computer terminals hooked up to an IBM 1500 mainframe. The educational system, designed by IBM at a cost of $30 million, included both a CRT and a projection screen, 3D graphics, voice synthesis, and a touch-screen interface that let kids tap a pen to to the screen to answer questions.

Flies in the ointment: Actually, it still sounds pretty cool. Except for the cost: The East Palo Alto school system spent $1.5 million in mid-1960s dollars to educate 100 kids via computer for one year, or fifteen grand per child. That’s close to a hundred grand a kid in 2010 dollars.

When did the basic idea become practical? Within a few years of LIFE’s article, relatively affordable minicomputers started to show up in schools. And education was a major application of personal computers from the time they arrived in the mid-1970s.

Modern counterpart: One Laptop Per Child’s “$100″ XO computer. Even it only plans to add a touch interface with its next version, though.

15. The Home Teletypewriter

As seen in: Popular Science, May 1967.

What it was: PopSci asked its writer, C.P. Gilmore, to use “a real computer at home”–which in this pre-PC era meant using a Teletype machine to connect to a GE 235 mainframe via dial-up. He used it to calculate heating costs for his home and play tic-tac-toe. And he helpfully explains in the story that while people once thought there would someday be inexpensive home computers, “now we know it won’t be like that at all.” Connecting to mainframes was just going to be too cost-effective.

Side note: Popular Science used the article to introduce a service in which readers could get access to mainframe programs by filling out forms with input data and mailing them to PopSci, which would then run them program and send the results back in a S.A.S.E. the reader had supplied. It may have been the least real-time approach to computing in the history of the universe.

Flies in the ointment: Gilmore had to write most of his own programs in BASIC and feed them into the Teletype via its built-in punch-tape reader. Output was on paper, so there were no fancy graphics. And renting the Teletype and paying for timesharing service didn’t come cheap: It was about $180 a month, or $1300 in current dollars.

When did the basic idea become practical? Within a dozen years of Gilmore’s piece, a meaningful number of computer hobbyists were using PCs to dial into the Source, CompuServe, and BBSes. They engaged in activities that were only a little more advanced than his experiments, but at a much lower cost.

Modern counterpart: Cloud computing!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Moscow mayor calls gay pride march 'Satanic'

(AFP) MOSCOW — The mayor of Moscow, known for his overtly homophobic statements, said Monday that he would never allow a gay pride parade in the city, calling it "Satanic" and saying marchers should be punished.

"A gay parade... cannot be called anything but a Satanic act," Yury Luzhkov told an education conference, quoted by Interfax news agency. "We haven't permitted such a parade and we won't permit it in the future."

Luzhkov called for gay marchers to be punished. "It's high time that we stop propagating nonsense discussions about human rights, and bring to bear on them the full force and justice of the law," he said.

Gay rights campaigner Nikolai Alexeyev reaffirmed that plans for this year's gay pride parade will go ahead despite the ban.

"We don't plan to make any changes. We still plan to hold a gay parade on May 29," Alexeyev told AFP.

Luzhkov first called the gay pride parade "Satanic" in 2007, prompting gay rights campaigners to sue him for libel -- unsuccessfully.

Organisers have never been granted permission to hold gay pride parades by the city authorities, leading to violent clashes with police and anti-gay protestors.

Last year's parade took place on the day of the Eurovision Song Contest final held in Moscow.

In a public relations disaster for the city, Alexeyev and other campaigners were brutally dragged into police vans by riot police in front of a crowd of international journalists.

They were later fined.