Stone of Remembrance

October 31, 2007

95 Theses

Filed under: Commentary — admin @ 18:14

He nailed it.

490 years ago today, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed a 95-thesis treatise to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral. It was the igniting spark for the Protestant Reformation, a division within Christianity that echoes through the centuries to the present day.

They were some pretty big assertions, denying the supremacy of the Pope, the validity of confession and most penance, the selling of papal indulgences, and a host of other things that didn’t sit too well with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

It should be noted that Father Martin Luther wasn’t aiming for a separation from the Church – he wanted to reform the one that he was in. Luther wanted the Bible in the vernacular and wanted to stop the selling of indulgences (and he thought that the Pope was simply ignorant of excess; in Thesis 50 he writes, “if the pope knew the exactions of the pardon-preachers, he would rather that St. Peter’s church should go to ashes, than that it should be built up with the skin, flesh and bones of his sheep.”) Luther wasn’t a Lutheran.

History is full of ironies like that. Happy nailing day.

October 29, 2007

The Sweep

Filed under: Baseball, Commentary — admin @ 00:14

Jon Lester delivers.

The Red Sox finished off the Rockies tonight. Okajima served up a homer to Garrett Atkins to make the game close in the eighth inning, but Mr. Death Stare finished it off.

During the eighth inning I remarked to R. (see the previous post) that if Terry Francona was managing like Grady Little, or John McNamara, or any of the other bozos that managed the team before him, he’d have thought about using someone else so that he would have a fresh Jonathan Papelbon for Game 5. But it begged the question: you don’t need Papelbon for Game 5 if you win Game 4.

They won Game 4. SFP™ – Sox Fan Panic – is officially cured. Now we can think about whether we really want to sign A-Rod, who opted out from the Yankees tonight.

October 28, 2007

Arisia – Boston convention

Filed under: Commentary, Walter\'s Schedule — admin @ 20:43

One of our local conventions. It lasts four days this year.

Official website

Not Your Father’s Red Sox

Filed under: Baseball, Commentary — admin @ 02:52

Big Papi delivers.

The Old Towne Teame is up 3 games to none now, thanks to a 10-5 win Saturday night against the Rockies. The Red Sox took a 6-0 lead, sending Josh Fogg away; Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched very well, walking two guys to start the sixth inning. Javier Lopez came in and did nothing useful, but Mike Timlin pitched out of it, leaving the game at 6-2.

Timlin got in trouble in the 7th, so Francona went to Hideki Okajima, who hadn’t given up anything at all – and he threw the wrong pitch to Matt Holliday, who made it a 6-5 game. Coors Field went wild.

And my good friend R. developed a bad case of S.F.P.™ – Sox Fan Panic. We’d been chatting on IM all through the game, and this was the exchange during that scary 7th inning:

Me: that was a bad, bad pitch.
R.: They look remarkably like my father’s Red Sox.
Me: no, it’s 6-5 not 7-6. Hold on.
R: We need Bob Stanley to complete this picture.
R: There are still no outs.
Me: argh. (Todd Helton had just singled to right, putting the tying run on base.)

R.: He looks lost out there.
Me: ok. 1 out. (Okajima struck out Garrett Atkins.)
R: Brad!
Me: ok. 2 out. (Okajima struck out Brad Hawpe.)
R: Thank u Yorvit. (Yorvit Torrealba hit a weak grounder back to Okajima, ending the inning with the Red Sox still up 6-5.)
Me: not your father’s Red Sox. Not yet.

And they weren’t: three runs in the 8th and a run in the 9th were enough to give Papelbon a cushion to work with. Hawpe delivered a two-out triple but never scored, and Mr. Death Stare closed out another game.

It was eerily like the ALCS game where Kenny Lofton never quite scored the tying run. But it never happened, just as it never happened here. This isn’t the Red Sox of 1975, 1986 or even 2003. This is a different sort of team, and SFP™ is treatable.

I wrote the following to my good friend during the ninth inning:

Me: take a deep breath . . . and repeat after me.
Me: These are not your father’s Red Sox. You were hyperventilating during the 7th inning. You were in the traditional Sox Fan Panic (SFP™). But these are not, not, not your father’s Red Sox.
Me: they did not give up the lead. They scored some pad runs. They are about to win Game 3.

And so they did, 10-5.

Mr. Death Stare strikes again.

Note: The original image went away – substituted this instead.

The latest tactic by Yankee fans and fellow-travelers across the country, by the way, is to suggest that Red Sox fans have become what they loathe, as if a few years of remarkable success somehow wipes out the years and years of insufferable arrogance and sense of entitlement that Yankee fans have stuffed down New England’s throat. Sorry, but no thanks, not buying that line. There’s still far too much SFP™ in the air, even up 2-0, even up 3-0. Of course, some people characterize it differently. Meanwhile, Sox fans are still worrying that the Rockies could somehow, impossibly, come all the way back to win this Series.

Not going to happen. This could all be over by Sunday midnight, or Monday midnight if it winds up falling to Josh Beckett to close out the NL champs in Game 5. This one was their chance to get back in; the seventh inning was the moment at which Your Father’s Red Sox would have coughed it up.

They didn’t. They won’t. The valiant, young, talented Colorado Rockies will not be winning this World Series. And maybe this will put SFP™ out of business once and for all.

October 26, 2007

Two Games Up

Filed under: Baseball, Commentary — admin @ 07:13

Picked him off.

After a Game 1 blowout, the Colorado Rockies came back with their A game in the second contest. It was like a scene from “The Natural” with 41-year-old Curt Schilling, the 2004 Series hero, opposing the young and energetic Rockies (with a 23-year-old fireballer, Ubaldo Jimenez, blowing past the veteran Red Sox lineup.)

But Schilling made it into the sixth, followed by Hideki Okajima into the eighth; Schilling was gritty, Okajima was brilliant. When righthanded-hitting Matt Holliday, a candidate for NL MVP, came to bat, Jonathan Papelbon was summoned from the bullpen. Holliday drove an 0-2 pitch right past Papelbon, causing a collective New England gasp.

Next batter: Todd Helton, a perennial .300 hitter, lefthanded. Dangerous. And then something remarkable happened – Matt Holliday, a decent base stealer, got a little too far off first base . . . and Papelbon, who had never picked off a player in the majors, threw over to first. Inning over.

After that, the Rockies’ momentum that had won them 21 of 22 coming into the series was all gone. Papelbon retired Helton, Atkins and Hawpe in the ninth – two by strikeouts – putting the Red Sox up 2-0.

The club goes to Colorado today, with games 3, 4 and 5 (”if necessary”) on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. But the Rockies really wanted to get one of the first two; there was no chance in Game 1, and they fell short in Game 2.

Now let’s see what happens a mile up.

October 22, 2007

They Did It

Filed under: Baseball, Commentary — admin @ 00:14

Dustin Pedroia delivers

After going down 3-1 against a young and talented Indians team, the local club came back to win three straight. Kenny Lofton had a Lonnie Smith moment . . . and Dustin Pedroia had a Manny Ramirez moment.

The World Series begins Wednesday. Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox. Hope the Yankees and their fans are enjoying the show. I know we are.

Bring on the Rockies.

October 20, 2007

Spamming Milestone

Filed under: Commentary — admin @ 12:21

Since I installed it several months ago, Akismet has been trapping spam postings to this blog. This morning I reached a milestone: 100,000 spam postings have been caught.

To provide a little bit of perspective, there have been about six hundred postings and comments to the blog since I put it online in April, 2006.

This doesn’t deter me from the desire to kick spammers directly in the crotch, repeatedly, but it has made their irrelevant bandwidth consumption a nuisance rather than an obstacle.

Thanks again to PS for pointing me at this valuable tool.

October 19, 2007


Filed under: A Song In Stone, Commentary, Writing — admin @ 00:05

The pilgrimage route goes almost directly east from Santiago, crossing the Pyrenees and leading to the city of Toulouse on the Garonne. In the Middle Ages, Toulouse was known for its dyeworks; this lucrative profession also had the side-effect of producing large amounts of crud that hung in the air and turned the river blue.

Still, it was a wealthy city in 1307, divided between the city (civitas) and the suburb, or bourg, with some areas (such as Saint-Cyprien on the west side of the river) actually outside of the city.

For the travelers, the destination of the pilgrimage is Notre-Dame la Dalbade, a whitewashed church in the southern part of Toulouse; but first they pay a visit to the Basilica Saint-Sernin, the crypt of which housed many saints’ relics.


The travelers get their first look at dusk:

It stood at the crown of a hill in the Bourg, a vast wall-enclosed northern suburb. After washing our hands and feet in a fountain at the Place de la Trinité we got our first view of the great cathedral from the south. We had a good look at the portal called the Porte Miègeville, with Rob providing the details on what we saw. Saint James stood on the left – he had the scallop shell on his hat; Saint Peter held the keys to God’s BMW on the right. James stood between two cypresses, the Gospel in his hand, surveying the scene, watching the three pilgrims who had walked all the way from his shrine at Santiago to visit this cathedral.

While they are there, Ian and his companions get a glance at King Philip’s Keeper of the Seals, the sinister Guillaume de Nogaret. He is apparently looking for something – or perhaps someone. Nogaret is from Toulouse, which was an autonomous county in his youth; that autonomy was stamped out in the suppression of the Cathar heresy almost forty years before 1307.

But the pilgrimage destination was yet to come for Ian Graham. This time he doesn’t have to touch a part of the church: the vision comes upon him when he reaches the church’s transept, where earth-path and water-path cross.

I walked slowly down the center aisle, the clerestory vaults to either side, toward the high altar. It was as if there was an invisible but very tangible line on the stone floor that I could follow. What was more, I had a distinct feeling that I was being escorted: two rows of figures, just out of sight, walking alongside me in the main aisle of the church. I’d never been much on the business of having a sixth sense, but this certainly felt like it. Like visions and mystical paths, it seemed to be a part of my all-inclusive fourteenth-century tour package.

The scene became slowly more indistinct. I could see the altar and somewhere I heard the sound of slowly coursing water, the sort of noise that comes from a decorative waterfall in a Japanese garden: loud enough to notice, soft enough to be unobtrusive. With each step I took, it became harder for me to contemplate the next one – as if I were growing more and more heavy.

Earth and water meet, I thought suddenly. The two paths. I wanted to ask Rob more about what he’d meant, but I couldn’t see him and I couldn’t turn my head – all I was able to do was walk forward, one difficult step after another . . . but when I placed my foot on a square of red marble just before the altar the terrible lassitude was released so suddenly that I nearly fell on my face.

This the second step of Ian’s pilgrimage.

Place: La Dalbade, Toulouse, France
Heavenly Body: Mercury
Pilgrim’s Title: Occultist
Correspondences: Iron; Oak Tree; the Peacock<

October 13, 2007

Veasey Clear Sky Clock

Filed under: Commentary — admin @ 12:46

My good friend D. pointed me at this page, which provides detailed information for astronomical viewing. When your perspective is based on interstellar travel, it’s easy to overlook the fact that ground-based astronomy is heavily dependent on such factors as light pollution, cloud cover and sky transparency.

There are links to other such sites – if you’re a telescope user, take a look!

October 12, 2007

700th Anniversary Reprieve

Filed under: A Song In Stone, Commentary, Writing — admin @ 09:59

On October 13, 1307, the Knights Templar were arrested all across Europe. Over the next seven years, the prisoners were subjected to torture of all kinds, culminating in the 1314 execution of the Grand Master, Jacques de Molay. He was burned at the stake, during which he proclaimed his innocence and (according to legend) called King Philip and Pope Clement to meet him within a year before the Throne of Heaven. (Both died within the year.)

Apparently all is forgiven. And for €5,900, you can even own a copy of the proceedings. The leather-bound volume contains reproductions of documents from the interrogations and trials, including exact copies of the seals. It even includes a copy of the Chinon Parchment, “lost” until 2001.

The Vatican has a long memory. It’s left as an exercise to the reader whether it matters to the victims of the Templar persecution that the principal charges have been dropped – post mortem.

Thanks to Slet for pointing this one out.

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