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30 September 2005
I had a friend over tonight for an evening of chocolate and chick flick. By chocolate I mean double chocolate brownies with pecans and caramel, dusted with confectioners sugar and drizzled with more chocolate (dark chocolate, heavy cream, butter & Grand Marnier) and my secret recipe Mexican hot chocolate topped with homemade whipped cream (made with more Grand Marnier). And what good is chocolate without salties? Hence, popcorn was made the old fashioned way, on the stove top with a hand cranked pan, and liberally dressed with sweet cream butter and sea salt.

I will partially tip my hand on the hot chocolate and say that for 4 cups of hot chocolate, I add 1 shot of espresso and 2 shots of, you guessed it, Grand Marnier. It's not that I'm overly gonzo for the G.M. In fact, I pretty much use it for only two things: chocolate and the occasional Café Parisian. It's more that I'm convinced that two of flavors that make chocolate go gonzo good are orange and coffee. The other would be hot chili peppers; but for that, one truly must be a purist. On that note, I'm still searching for the perfect fudge recipe. I have this vision of doing a habañero fudge... I know it sounds gonzo nuts, but, if you're from Princeton, I can make a believer of you. Go to the Bent Spoon and the next time they have it, get their habañero dark chocolate gelatto. It's not too hot at all, but it's hella good.

hell freezeth over

29 September 2005
It's Thursday night, and Sunday's sermon is done.

Nunc est bibendum.

Well, not nunc, but tomorrow night and with a good, clear conscience at that.

for your decomposing convenience

What do a Swedish corpse from Jonkoping and mangos purchased at REI have in common?

They both come freeze dried.

If the process is as environmentally friendly as they say it is, I'm all for it.

It is, however, still my earnest desire to have my remains either scattered from a coffee can on a windy day or spilled then shoved up under a rug.

(Credit is only given if you get both geek references.)

and behind door number 3

Das übervershwiegen Vorhaben getan ist!


Und was ist das übervershwiegen Vorhaben?

Well, my dear reader, if you will remember, a few weeks ago I was given an assignment of which I was forbidden to speak. Today, I presented and may now blog freely on the matter.

The assignment was to "prove what's written on Jonahtan Edwards' tombstone."

The project isn't as heinous as it sounds. The truth is, ol' firepants is buried less than a mile from the Sem.

Solution: walk my ass over there with a digital camera, take a crap load of pictures, transcribe and translate all the text, come up with material for a few foot notes and drop in some satellite imagery courtesy of Google Maps, and ye'r done!

I did learn a few interesting things about ol' firepants:
(1) He was the 3rd president of Princeton University, immediately after his son-and-law, Aaron Burr Sr. (father of Aaron "Dueling Pistol" Burr).
(2) He died as a result of a complication from taking the smallpox vaccine. He took the early vaccine in an effort to encourage others to do so. Naturally, his death was less than encouraging.

So, what does it say on Jonathan Edwards' tomb stone?


Reverendi admodum Viri,
Collegii Novæ Cæsariæ Præsidis
Natus apud Windsor Conneticutensium V Octobris
Patre Reverendo Timotheo Edwards orindus
Collegio Yalensi educatus;
Apud Northampion Sacris initiaus XV Februarii
Illinc dimissus XXII Iunii MDCCL
Et Munus Barbaros ins[…]ueo[…] accepit.
Præses Ausæ Nassovicæ creatus XVI Febuarii
Defunctus in hoc Vico XXII Martii[.] sequentis, S.N.
Aetatis LV heu nimis brevis
Hic jacet mortalis Pars.
Qualis Persona quæris vi[.]tor?
Vir corpore procere sed gracili.
Studiis intentissimis. Absentia et Sedulitate
Ingenii Acumine, Iudicio acri et Prudentia,
Secundus Nemini Mortalium
Artium liberalium et Scientiarum Peritia insignis
Criticorum sacrorum optimus. Theologus eximus,
Ut vix alter æqualis Disputator candidus;
Fidei Christianæ· Propugnator validus et invictus;
Concionator gravis, serius, discriminas;
Et, Deo favente, Successu
Pietate præclarus, Moribu suis severus,
Ast aliis æquus et benignus.
Vixit dilectus, veneratus –
Sed ah! Lugendus
Quantos Gemitus discedens ciebat!
Heu Sapientia tanta! Heu Doctrina et Religio!
Amissum plorat Collegium, plorat Ecclesia!
At, eo recepto, gaudet
Abi Viator, et pia sequere Vestigia.

And, of course, the photographic evidence:

The top half of the tombstone:

The bottom half of the tombstone:

The east end of the tombstone:

And, the west end:

all worked up with no place to go

27 September 2005
Well, folks, Date to Save is a farce.

I got all worked up for nuthin'.



26 September 2005
Thanks to the Language Log for pointing me to an article on sixty-three of my favorite words.

thanks, no

25 September 2005
Dear American Politicians,

Please, don't go getting any ideas.


Peace, love and monkeys,
The Public.

do what to who now?

A few days ago, Laura left a comment with a url. So, I dutifully sauntered on over to "Flirt to Convert." This website purports to provide a dating service that provides individuals the opportunity to convert to other religions. One has the option of looking to convert to a religion, or looking to date someone who's looking to convert. Your options are Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, or Atheism. Sorry, Baha'i, Shinto, Jainism, and Mormons, you're outta luck.

While this website in it self is sufficiently upsetting, there is another link at the top of the page that reads, "Flirt to Convert is a proud supporter of the DATE TO SAVE ministry - www.datetosave.com."

Like a fool, I clicked on that link too.

Apparently, my blood pressure was far too low and the universe was giving me the opportunity correct that woeful imbalance.

Date to Save defies description. Short of recording Wookie-ish howls, I don't know that I could effectively communicate my feelings about this website. However, I did find the FAQ quite telling, particularly this bit:
What happens if the person I am dating becomes a Christian?
Praise God!!! That hasn't happened to me yet (still just planting seeds!), but you have two choices: Dump him and start dating a better-looking nonbeliever... or keep dating the person you're with now. I'd just see how hot he (or she) is and base the decision on that. The Bible says "man looks at the outward appearance; God looks at the heart." We're definitely not God, so just decide if your date is hot enough for you (after praying about it, of course).

I'm really not going to go off on this theologically, ethically or logically. The page does a pretty good job of that on its own. I'm more interested in this phenomenologically. Just the other day, I read an outstanding essay by Susan Harding, "Convicted by the Holy Spirit: The Rhetoric of Fundamental Baptist Conversion" in American Ethnologist 14:1 (1987): 167-81. Harding does the fairly standard ethnography thing in describing being witnessed to by the pastor of the church she's studying. In doing so, she identifies five stages in the pastor's hour long monologue:
  1. equating the listener with the stories of the speaker

  2. defining the listener as lost

  3. defining the speaker as saved

  4. transforming the narrative of the listener to that of the speaker

  5. exhorting the listener to speak

All of this relies on forcing the listener into a space of liminiality wherein the speaker deliberately creates a sense of existential and spiritual crisis thereby pushing the listener toward the solution presented by the speaker.

The parallels with so-called "Missionary Dating" are quite interesting. It would seem that the sole purpose of the dating is to draw the "nonbeliever" into a space where a decision could be influenced by the desire to be with the other person. Of course, all of this is quite theoretical since the "project's" originator has yet to succeed.

I also find it interesting that she addresses her page only to women.


the answer is 3.2 gigapixels

23 September 2005
The super secret assignment has been completed and handed in. I have already gotten positive feedback. However, I don't make the presentation until Thursday, so I'm going to assume I can't talk yet.

Tomorrow, I'm off to a Presbyterian ordination in D.C. I'm told there's an interesting tattooing ritual that usually follows after such things. While the ordinand doubts that there will be a sufficient number of parlors to choose from, I have found more than ample evidence to suggest that we'll be able to find her something suitable. Sadly, "Space Cowboy" is already taken.

(Yeah, so that was a great big, huge inside joke. Sorry, ya'll.)

office space zen

22 September 2005
As I was riding my bike to school this morning on Route 593/Princeton Pike, I passed a tricked out luxury SUV with custom plates that read "BAUHAUS." They were, I think, missing the point. If any vehicle could be called Bauhaus, it would have to be the VW Thing. And it would certainly not have vanity plates.

Now, for the Office Space moment of zen...

I was biking home this afternoon, passing a column of cars on Rosedale, I came upon a mini van. The mini van had the Educational Testing Service logo emblazoned on the driver's door. Inside the van was a well groomed, clean shaven, spiky haired, suit wearing, twenty something child of parents of very obviously European stock. The windows were rolled down and, of course, the stereo was blasting 50 Cent.

Damn it feels good to be a gangsta.

Given that consistency is the demon of petty minds, I also give you the two coolest web pages I've seen in a long time.

(1) Turning the Pages from theBritish Library. Be sure to check out the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Sherborne Missal! Credit goes to the BBC story on the inclusion of the original Alice in Wonderland manuscript into the collection for pointing me to this wonder of the web.

(2) The Doom RPG for mobile phone.


19 September 2005
My favorites from the comments section, presented in reverse chronological order. (Stick one giant [sic] next to these. They have been published as they were written.)

Substance abuse: a fine substitute for original thought.

Jeepus Saves!

Was this saint helpful? No, not really. Maybe I need to pray a novena to her.

Hmm... Battle of the PhD Stars...

Your thingie is little. ((giggle))

Yeah, but Durga gets 6 arms and a TIGER. I only get four and run OS X.4 "Tiger."

We only equip our cell phones with d8.

Umm...I thought you were working for Jesus.

FASTER!! FASTER!! FASTER!! How hard is that shell?

Thank you, Mark Twain. 30 years is considerably better than 6 weeks. Perhaps by then I will have figured out what to do with a definite article.

"organic, unwaxed lemons." So...they're like european?

Christian Bale may be the ultimate Batman, but for Robin's sake! where are his NIPPLES!

It's all about the codpiece.

Those Teutonic langauges grow up so fast! It seems like just yesterday he was that little tyke Gothic. Has anyone seen his cousin, Low Saxon? I wonder where he went.

There may be no good reason for me to exist but baby, I got a purple lightsabre.

j'aime le terme "le courrier electronique" mais je pense que "le bloc-notes" est un peu trop, n'est-ce pas?

Some women read smut, some men look at p0rn, I watch Survivor.

Dude....Where's a februae when you need it?!?!?

Where's the "My Geek Code breaks the decoder and I can prove I'm right according to the geek code standard" variable?

I'm hardcore. Must have been that minivan related post.

Hey, it's better than the Virgin Mary Grilled Cheese......

don't think it's Middle English - that's where hobbits live. ;)

for the lauras (and any hellenophiles out there)

I've not had fun with words on this page in a while, so, without further ado, I give you A Sop in Wyn's False Etymology of the Week, from John Scotus Eriugena's Expositions on the Celestial Hierarchy I.1-2.5:

"In Greek, pater is a compound, that is panta peron, protecting all. For does he rightly seem to you to be moved, as he cares for all, he who protects and saves all, which he did in his only begotten? Here this too: he is called Father and God, that is, theos, 'running,' a noun derived from the verb theo, that is, 'I run.' For he runs through all things, filling and substantiating all things."

I *heart* being a medievalist. Seriously, who needs crack when you've got this???

eye candy

18 September 2005
Both of these links are coming to you via Boing Boing.

(1) The Flying Mobulas of the Sea of Cortez

(2) Chop a Frog (froggy photoshopping).

The frogs almost made me late for Mass. Although some are singularly disturbing, I'm especially keen on the rain frog.

s-a-t-u-r-d-a-y night

17 September 2005
I'm sure that somewhere, someone is having a thrilling Saturday night. What with the clubbing, the dancing, the socializing. Perhaps even the sermon writing.

Me? I rebuilt my laptop hard drive.


The whole scene was so geeky, it required photo documentation.

rule number one

I learned something valuable today. I learned that even if you can fit 2 five shelf bookcases, a full size bed frame, full size mattress, stool, dresser, table and legs from Ikea into your 2001 Toyota Camry, do not assume that you can fit a measly two drawer file cabinet from Sam's into the same vehicle. I will grant you that the Ikea products were in bits and the file cabinet was whole, but damn, son, you'd think I could fit a lousy file cabinet in my car! But, alas, it was not to be.

So what did I do?

Like a fool, I fought the bloody thing for half an hour, trying every possible way of getting it into my car that I could. Only after I'd tried everything twice (and a couple of former students had driven past me, blithely waving as I attempted to force a rectangular peg into an irregular hole of slightly narrower width), did I cave in and call for help.

So, without further ado...

Ave Laura, gratia plena. Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus et benedicta vehiculus tui, Jeepus.

it begins

15 September 2005
While classes officially began on Wednesday, I had my first doctoral seminar as a doctoral student today (which is somehow substantively different than a doctoral seminar as a masters student... something about substance and accidents...). I can already tell this is going to be fun. I found myself grinning stupidly in the middle of class, simply because I was having fun. Lo, I am the alpha nerd.

Even more fun is my super secret first assignment for CH900: Historical Method. I'm not allowed to talk to anyone at all about the assignment, suffice to say, I have an assignment. It really is quite the creative little project I'm to undertake and it's certainly nothing illegal or unethical. The secrecy is more to force me to do this on my own. So, in two weeks, I'll post on this again and let you know all the crazy details.

required reading

1. Princeton Theological Seminary Professor of Patristics and President Iain Torrrance's Convocation address to the Seminary community.

2. Father Jason's sermon for the seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost.

3. (Moving from the sublime to the absurd): Quotes from faculty according to the Phantom Professor.

my new pet peeve

13 September 2005
Why do people feel the need to give products pointlessly pretentious nomenclature?

Exempli gratia, I just purchased an "Excelsior II."

While one guessed it might have been a razor, it is not.

Nor is it a pen, a flash light, or a model airplane.

It is, in fact, a desk lamp.

It's a fancy desk lamp, but a desk lamp none the less. It's fancy insofar as it's one that clamps to the desk and has an extra outlet and a long jointed and a dimmer switch. But it's still just a lamp.


game review

11 September 2005
Timely, this is not. But hey, Mac gamers are allowed a little lag time, largely because there aren't enough games released for Apple. I can't be too bitter about that since my productivity is way higher this way.

That said, I finally finished Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.

In a word, wow.

Unabashed, unbridled and unspeakable geekiness is to follow.

While it's no secret that I'm a sucker for RPGs, this one really is phenomenal because of the depth of the playing experience. The game is remarkably robust in terms of the character development. The initial classes are really fairly limited: scoundrel (rogue), scout (ranger-esque?), and soldier (fighter). It being a Star Wars game, you can be assured that you will in fact be Jedified, but not for a while. Interestingly, decisions you make early on really do affect gameplay later on.

One of the other things that makes this game really stand out is the NPC development. You get a large number of NPCs to chose from in your party, all with remarkably disparate skills. This is really nothing new. What's nice about this game is that the NPCs have really full character development in the story arc of the game.

The game play is also really nice. None of that Diablo-esque action/RPG crapola. No sir. This is good old fashioned, turn based RPG goodness with a reasonable interface. KOTR is likewise not overburdened with cut scenes, and when they do happen, they're not pointless. It strikes a nice balance between compelling story and letting you play the friggin' game.

KOTR is set something like 5,000 years before the films, so it doesn't get caught up in messing with a good thing.

So, final vote?

This game definitely rolls 20s.

And if you get that reference, welcome to the sick, sick world of my sense of humor.


This isn't a real post. It's more just an update on the blog itself and a new feature thereof. On my "blogroll," you can now use your mouse to hover over the site names for brief descriptions. If it's your cite I'm describing and you wish to dispute my label, drop me an email. We'll talk. ;-)

completely out of context

10 September 2005

Pick a saint. Any saint. Rank 'em and rate 'em.

I'm well aware that the authors of the web page in question are more likely asking, "Was the vita we provided helpful?" But, sometimes abusing the English language is more fun.

on a grander scale

Why is it than when a computer malfunctions on a grand scale, the hardware engineers could not have seen their ways clear to at least have the computer produce gratifying video-game-esque sounds. CD not recognized? Surely that would merit a lusty, "Head Shot!" Program crashes without warning? Clearly, the requisite system response should be a "Fatality!" (a la the original Mortal Kombat). And of course, when your computer decides that it no longer has a hard drive, why not a resounding "Humiliation?"

Perhaps these engineers foresaw that such responses would result in violence against the machines from untold numbers of users. But I've got to tell you, after sending my lap top in for the second time in less than a month and dealing with constant computer malfunction at work, I think I might well be amused by such outbursts.

When the laptop went off for it's first repair, it got a new logic board and a new hard drive (at least that's what the invoice I got said). So, when I was on vacation in Boston, I booted the old girl up and low and behold, the logic board is no longer able to find a hard drive. Nuthin. Nada. Zip. Wudo. Nilsky.


I took the offending critter in to the Apple Store today and they informed me that they'd have to replace the hard drive. A bit surprised, I ask, "Again?"

The techie looks at me oddly and says, "Was it just in for a repair?"

"Well, yeah. I noted that in my reservation and gave you the old case number. When I got it back, they told me that they'd put in a new logic board and a new hard drive."

"They didn't put in a hard drive. But we'll do that soon."

"Are you sure it's not just improperly seated? My invoice said they put in a hard drive."

It's not that I paid for the hard drive (thank God for Apple Care), but I really don't want to rebuild another system.

The other thing that really annoyed me is that when I spoke with Apple Care on the phone, they said, "Just go into the store, give them a case number and they'll mail it straight to us and well have it shipped back to you early next week."

The Apple Store wasn't willing to do that, in spite of what the product specialist said. And I had to haggle to get my computer shipped back to me so I didn't have to make another two hour round trip to Northern-Jersey-Consumer-Hell, a.k.a. Melo Park.

Well, as long as the mice within the desktop don't go on strike, all will be well.

in a borrowed ecclesial idiom

08 September 2005

Though I do cringe a bit at the "Reganesque" bit.

what i did for my summer vacation

My friends, I have returned from my holiday and am much the better man for it. I greatly enjoyed my vacation, both the time I spent alone and the time I spent with my friends. That said, it's quite good to get home, to get back to my own bed and to my own bathroom. I'm also happy to again be communing with my desktop. Yeah, I'm a geek.

On Tuesday, 30 August I took the Amtrak up to Boston. The train ride proved to set the tone for the bulk of my vacation. Having never taken a train beyond the North East Corridor between Princeton and New York, the ride came as a pleasant surprise. I discovered that I genuinely enjoy traveling by rail. I'm not sure I'd care to try to ride from New York to Dallas, but for more sane jaunts, I find it vastly preferable to auto or airplane, particularly because of Amtrak's "quite car" policy. On every train, there is a designated quite car. No talking. No music. No cellular phones. Rather, there was simply reading, sleeping and looking out at the ocean and farmland roll past. Beautiful.

Once I got to Boston and found my way to the "T", I promptly made my way for the monastery and four nights of silent retreat. As always, it took me no time at all to slip into the rhythm of the monastery. I would attend each of the offices, beginning with Morning Prayer, then the Mass, Noon Day Prayer, Evening Prayer and finally Compline. I made a conscious point of journaling several times a day and doing spiritual reading, including Rowan Williams' The Truce of God and Simone Weil's Letter to a Priest. The former is magnificent. The latter proved to be incredibly valuable and a challenging read to juxtapose to spending four nights in a monastery. If you're not familiar with Weil, Letter to a Priest is a good place to start as it does a wonderful job of synthesizing much of what she thought in a fairly digestible, though no less challenging, way. (If you're unfamiliar with Simone Weil, check out the Simone Weil Society and Three Outsiders by Diogenes Allen.)

Weil writes in Letter to a Priest (written in 1942, one year before she died, to a French priest in New York while she was waiting to join the Free French Movement in London):
We owe the definitions with which the Church has thought it right to surround the mysteries of the faith, and more particularly its condemnations (... anathema sit) a permanent and unconditional attitude of respectful attention, but not an adherence.

We likewise owe a respectful attention to opinions that have been condemned, to the extent - be it ever so small - to which their content, or the life of those who propounded them, contains some show of good.

Intellectual adherence is never owed to anything whatsoever. For it is never in any degree a voluntary thing. Attention alone is voluntary. And it alone forms the subject of an obligation.

If one tries to bring about in oneself an intellectual adherence by the exercise of the will, what actually results is not an intellectual adherence, but suggestion. That is what Pascal's method amounts to. Nothing degrades faith more. And there necessarily appears, sooner or later, a compensatory phenomenon in the shape of doubts and 'temptations against faith.'

Nothing has contributed more towards weakening faith and encouraging unbelief than the mistaken conception of an obligation on the part of the intelligence. All obligations other than the one of attention which itself is imposed on the intelligence in the exercise of its function stifle the soul - the whole soul, and not the intelligence only."
(New York: Penguin, 1954. 27, pp. 60-61. Italics original.)

After getting myself back to center, I took off for Manchester, NH to visit Jason. As he has said, there were many video games, much beer, good food and a fabulous time to be had. I was incredibly impressed by Richard's Bistro on Lowell Street. Sunday Brunch there is in the $15-$20 per person range and includes a cheese & fruit plate, a basket full of warm, freshly made breads, generously portioned and beautifully executed entrees and incredible truffles after the meal. The room is cozy and the staff is more than competent. If you're in Manchester on Sunday morning, get your bum to Grace Church for Mass and then saunter down the 150 yards or so to Richard's. You'll be the better for it, I promise.

I did spend a rather interesting afternoon on Sunday surrounded by complete strangers at the home of the parents of Jason's girlfriend's brother-in-law on the occasion of said person's natal anniversary. While my ability to behave and act charitably around vehement evangelicals was perhaps underestimated, the afternoon was generally pleasant as it was largely spent looking out on a really lovely lake near Manchester. I also came to a new decision about my own birthdays. I've decided that I'm willing to celebrate (at least more than I normally do, which would translate to quite moderate festivities indeed) on birthdays that fall on either (a) perfect numbers or (b) allegorically significant numbers connected to Holy Scripture.

After New Hampshire, it was back to Boston to catch up with the coolest Harvard Law student ever, Abby, and another friend from AC, Lydia. I also made pilgrimage to the MFA Boston. I spent over four hours there and only got through the second floor. While my earlier trip to the Fogg while at the monastery yielded much more in the way of exciting medieval art, the diversity and depth of the collection at the MFA was impressive and enjoyable.

As is always the case with museums, I invariably enjoy the conversations people have in the galleries, though not nearly as much as the art. Exempli gratia, while in the Impressionist gallery, standing in front of two paintings by Claude Monet, Grainstack (Snow Effect) 1891 and Rouen Cathedral Facade and Tour d'Albane (Morning Effect) 1894, a gentleman looking at the same paintings proclaimed, "It looks just like Thomas Kin-kaid-e."

Uh, yeah.

Anyway, Boston MFA gets three thumbs up, if not for commentary, for the art and the cafe which served not only a delightful cheese plate, but Chimay Blue. Yizeah.

So, after another train trip, I'm home, doing laundry and will soon be in my own bed. I am much the happy camper.

more fun in manchester

04 September 2005
Things around here have been far to theological and dignified lately. This simply won't do.

While I am still out and about on vacation, and I didn't have the common sense to bring the adaptor cable to link my camera to my laptop, this photo was captured by cellular phone from an establishment on Elm Street in Manchester, NH. For those that aren't familiar with Manchester, Elm is pretty much the main drag in historic down town. It's largely populated many groovy local coffee bars and spiffy European style bistros. This is neither.

Photo by Liz Wilson at my request.