Sacred Music Friday: Agnus Dei

Barber, Agnus Dei, Choir of New College Oxford

cooking with broth

When the dish I am cooking calls for broth, I have always (always!) used bullion cubes or powder. Doing so, though, is something of a pain. It was always brothhard for me to get the bullion or powder to thoroughly dissolve in the water. That got a lot easier when I got my immersion blender, but it was still extra work, and I’m still getting the blender stick and a cup dirty.

Watching Rachael Ray I’ve noticed that she normally uses pre-made broth in a carton. I’ve tried it recently, and I find it much simpler and easier. I haven’t compared the cost, but I assume the carton version is more expensive. I’ve found, though, that what comes in the carton is strong enough that I can safely use half broth and half water. The dish has always come out fine that way.

It may cost a little more, but it simplifies meal preparation where I normally have plenty of other work to do. And anyway, Rachael Ray says it’s OK, so it must be, right?

replacing those Google tools

I wrote a while back about how I was quite annoyed that Google was discontinuing two tools I’ve used regularly, Google Reader for news feeds and Postini for spam filtering.

The iPad/iPhone app I’d been using for my news feeds relied on Google Reader, as did most. I was not confident in the creator’s ability to come up newsblurwith something new before the end of Reader on 1 July (though he seems to be making progress), so I looked around for alternatives. I landed on Newsblur, which is pretty nice. It doesn’t play nicely with Internet Explorer 10, but it works fine with Firefox. Besides, my primary devices for this function are my iPhone and iPad, and the iOS app is really nice. I actually like it better than my old one. I do have a couple of quibbles. I never got an answer to my support question about IE10, but it’s a small, one-person show, as many of these things are. And when I try to add a feed from the iPad app, it doesn’t show all the folders, so depending on the folder to which I want to add the new feed, I may have to add it from my PC. But those are small things. At $24 a year for the Premium version I’m quite happy with what I’m getting.

My email and Web hosting company had been using Positni for spam filtering for a number of years, since well before it was bought by Google. For the most part it worked very well, and I had been quite satisfied with it. With Postini going away, they switched to a service from McAfee. At first I really felt that it was a step backwards. There is less user control than with Postini, and it captured a lot of stuff that was not spam. For example, any email with “unsubscribe” in it is spam. (Are you kidding me?) And I could find no way to modify or remove rules. So I just had to keep adding companies and organizations to my allowed list. In addition, the first few days it let through a lot of stuff that was spam.

For my Yahoo! groups, it captured half or more of the postings as spam. Adding the group email address ( to the allowed list doesn’t help. I guess it’s looking at the actual poster’s email. Postini had a separate place to enter email groups you belonged to. So, I turned off email and now visit my Yahoo! groups on the Web. Which is annoying because I like the “push” functionality of getting individual emails.

Still, after using the McAfee tool for a few weeks, it’s learned most of the senders whose emails I want to get, and the amount of spam that slips through is smaller than at first, so I guess there was some fine tuning going on in the background. Most of that is caught by Outlook and Norton Anti-Spam in any case. I also have noticed that with McAfee a lot of stuff that is clearly, blatantly spam never shows up at all, and with Postini I had to wade through it all. And I have to admit that Postini did catch things that were not spam and did let some spam through. No system is going to be perfect.

Ultimately, I think both replacements are improvements. Besides, as some of my Facebook friends have been known to say, I totally get that these are first world problems.

So onward to matters of more pressing importance.

Farmers Market

We’ve been going to the Gilroy Farmers’ Market for the past couple of years. For the past two years it was on Sunday, so it worked out nicely to come home from church, get changed, and head over there. I enjoyed getting a Silva sausage for lunch, which, even if high in cholesterol and not terribly healthy, was awfully tasty.

GilroyFramersMarketThis year the Farmers’ Market has had something of a makeover. It’s under new management, in a new location, and is now on Saturday. That works out well because we can drop by there as we head out on our Saturday shopping errands. The energy level seems higher, and there’s perhaps a slight change in the mix of vendors. No Silva this year, but then we’ve just had breakfast when we get there anyway.

This past Saturday we got some marvelous fresh strawberries, sweet peaches, an unusual variety of red spinach (yes, red), and some tasty Italian Caponata hummus.

It’s a nice addition to our Saturday routine.

ordinary time

In the Episcopal and Lutheran traditions, the time between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday is called the season after Epiphany. The time from Pentecost until Advent is called the season after Pentecost.

Parament-Green-1The Catholics do it differently. Both of those seasons are called Ordinary Time. I like that. I like it because it distinguishes between those times and the sacred, numinous, if you will, seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter.

From one perspective, all time is sacred. From another there is something special, set apart (which is the root of the word “sacred”) about those four seasons of the liturgical calendar.

It’s a perspective that works well for me.

Sacred Music Friday: The Lord Bless You and Keep You

The Westminster Choir performs Lutkin’s “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” Benediction in Princeton, NJ.

an alternate dimension?

On the other end of the spectrum from Occam’s razor:

I got my new iPod earphones from Amazon. They came in one of those annoying plastic blister packs. They had three sets of ear pieces: one on the earphones and two included separately. As I pried open the blister pack the alternate earpieces popped out. The two large ones were present and earaccounted for. I could only find one small one. I looked all around on the floor next to the computer table in my office loft where I had opened the package. Multiple times. Nothing. It could have been an error in the packaging, I thought, but that happens rarely.

Later in the evening, when I went back in there to shut down the computer before going to bed, there it was on the floor, as plain as day, even though it was almost 10:30 p.m.

I can’t tell you how often that has happened to me when it comes to household objects.

I know better (I think), but I would swear that household objects sometimes slip into an alternate dimension for short periods of time just to annoy us.

Occam’s razor

Ock·ham’s razor also Oc·cam’s razor  (ŏkəmz)

n. A rule in science and philosophy stating that entities should not be multiplied needlessly. This rule is interpreted to mean that the simplest of two or more competing theories is preferable and that an explanation for unknown phenomena should first be attempted in terms of what is already known. [After William of Ockham.]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition

I wrote a while back about how one of our cordless phone extensions wasn’t holding a charge. I spent a lot of time looking for replacement handsets for our occamsomewhat old cordless system. Then I realized, “You know, you could just replace the battery.” Which I did. And which worked.

Last week I was finishing my walk when the audio on my iPod started to give out. I thought, “Well, it is quite an old iPod. I may need to replace it.” Then I remembered that earlier in the week I had seen bare wire on the cord near the plug, which I had covered with electrical tape. I tried another set of earphones. The iPod was fine.

I need to introduce Occam’s razor into my thinking earlier in the process.

all’s well that ends well

(or The Great Toilet Seat Caper)

When we bought our house in 1997, Terry and I agreed that I would get the loft office and the master bath, and that she would get the walk-in closet and separate full bath. That has worked out marvelously.

One of the results of that is that she rarely uses my toilet, which is a WC off of the master bath. (When people ask us if we go camping our answer is that our idea of roughing it is sharing a bathroom. As in the San Jose Fairmont, for example, or in our stateroom on the Island Princess cruise ship in Alaska.) Terry did have occasion to use my WC some months back. She declared that I needed a new toilet seat. It seemed fine to me, but I wasn’t going to argue.

Terry bought and installed one. (How we roll is that she does hardware and I do software.) It never worked out. One bolt was always loose and could never be tightened properly. Last week it became especially loose and I asked Terry to take a look. She observed that both of the plastic hinges were broken completely.

wcShe went out and bought a new toilet seat and installed that. The seat was padded, which was nice, but the lid would not stay up. Being of the male persuasion, having a toilet seat that stays up is important. Last Wednesday I had come back from seeing my spiritual director up in Santa Clara, some thirty miles away. We have been meeting via iPad FaceTime since my company closed the campus where I had my cubicle, but last week pretty much everyone was either on vacation or off at the big annual show, so I took the opportunity to see her in person. When I got home my bladder was demanding attention and the toilet seat would not stay up. I was pretty aggravated.

I had pulled the receipt for the toilet seat out of the trash, but Terry did not want to return it. I snarled at her in a way that was way out of line, but Terry got it that the matter needed attention. She did a toilet seat inspection and test and agreed that it was not suitable for my bathroom, and said that she would use it in hers. I went out to find a replacement, which had to a) have a seat that would stay up (of course) and b) have metal hinges and fasteners, not plastic. I’m not a big fan of Home Depot, but there I found a no-slam seat with metal parts and a no-loosen guarantee. Perfect. I brought it home and Terry did the swap.

In doing all of this I noticed that the rug in my WC was rectangular, and not contoured for the toilet as in our other bathrooms.  Now this had been the case for many, many years, but I never thought much about it. I realized, after all this time, that there was no reason for my bare feet to be on the cold tiles before getting in the shower or in the middle of the night, when they could be on a warm rug. So I took my trusty Bed Bath & Beyond 20% off coupons and found a contoured rug and matching cover.

Now everything is fine, and we’re both pleased with the updated setup.

The cliché that comes from the Shakespeare play title has become a truism so that we often don’t even hear it any longer. But it is correct:

All’s well that ends well.

Justin and Francis

I was delighted to see that Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Pope Francis took the time to meet in Rome last Friday.

Francis has surprised me in very positive ways, as he has many. Justin gave me hope at the outset, though he disappointed me, as he did many, in his comments to the House of Lords on gay marriage. Still, Justin is on the correct side of many issues, from my admittedly biased perspective.

It was marvelous to see the pope speak of the relationship between the two churches. “The history of relations between the Church of England and the Catholic Church is long and complex, and not without pain. Recent decades, however, have been marked by a journey of rapprochement and fraternity, and for this we give heartfelt thanks to God.”

What I was especially delighted to see was the common bond between the two in their commitment to social justice. The Episcopal News Service story summarized it like this:

The two leaders agreed that the fruits of this dialogue and relationship have the potential to empower Christians around the world to demonstrate the love of Christ.

The archbishop and the pope agreed on the need to build an economic system which promotes “the common good” to help those suffering in poverty.

Welby said that Christians must reflect “the self-giving love of Christ” by offering love and hospitality to the poor, and “love above all those tossed aside” by present crises around the world.

The pope said those with the least in society “must not be abandoned to the laws of an economy that seems at times to treat people as mere consumers”.

They also agreed on the need for Christians to act as peacemakers around the world, which they acknowledged could only be done if Christians “live and work together in harmony,” the pope said.

It was a moment of hope and encouragement.

Pope Francis exchange gifts with Archbishop of Canterbury Welby during a private audience at the Vatican