Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Cooking katsudon for the first time

When I was a very little lad, three going on four, my father, who was in the Air Force at the time, received orders transferring him to Tachikawa Air Base, located about 32 km (17 mi) west of downtown Tokyo (now a civil airfield). Since Dad would be stationed in the Far East for three years (half in Japan and half at Clark AFB, which was on the big Philippine island of Luzon near Angeles City), he was given permission to bring his family with him.

Because I was so young, my impressions of Japan are mere flickers of half-seen images: a country full of bright colors. A fish flag waving in the breeze in front of a farm house as we drive past, and my father saying, "That means the mother just gave birth to a son." Sitting in the living room at the house of our maid/babysitter, whom we called "Mama-san", watching kabuki on the television set. (I'm told I could speak the language, but couldn't translate it.) Standing in the middle of the cul-de-sac where our house was, listening to the base speakers broadcast Kimi ga yo, and then "The Star-Spangled Banner", at sunset. Sitting in the living room as Dad takes pictures of all of us in traditional Japanese clothes ... even my little brother, who was born over there.


It's not to stretch a simile too far to say that donburi restaurants in Japan are like our Denny's and Cracker Barrels, in that donburi is a "comfort food": you grow up eating it, so that's what you crave when you want to reconnect with yourself, or when you don't want/can't afford something fancy. A donburi consists of meat and/or vegetable simmered in a fish stock-based liquid and served over rice. There are many variants; katsudon is one of the most popular. According to Eunice Kwon at, Katsu means "to win"; many athletes will eat a bowl before a big game, and many students will have one before an important test.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Pickles, refills and American weirdness

Away far away, in a land inhabitants deliberately call "Aus" (because it sounds like "Oz"), some wit has had the chutzpah to call America a weird place. And not for any political reason; no, if the unidentified Aussie had gone into political weirdness, I might or might not have agreed with him/her fully. No, let's see why this person thinks America is weirder than the Land Down Under:

1: Free Soft Drink Refills
How is it in America, you get a biggie drink and you suddenly realize you can refill it as much as you want? Why don't you just order a small drink and save money?

I'm tempted to give the writer this one. However, speaking from my QSR experience, most people leave with their drinks. Once you step out that door, refills ain't free, so tank up.

2: Tipping For Service
There's no tipping in Australia! The person gets paid to do their job. You just don't have waitresses that become salespeople to attain a big tip.

You mean they actually pay servers a living wage down there in Aus? Up here, many people — we call them "conservatives", though some call themselves "libertarians" — believe that anyone over 22 who ends up in a crappy job for any reason deserves to get crappy pay. Does that make it harder for you to climb up out of the gutter? Suck it up, buttercup; that's not your benevolent employers' problem. Other people, realizing that that rationale is a load of dingo's kidneys, eventually began to tip good service as a way to offset employers' stinginess. The employers found that the servers could make way more than minimum wage, so they got the right from the government to pay them 1/3rd less than other crappily-paid workers. Remember that the next time you come up here, and give your server a 20% tip ... and the management a piece of your mind.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A really cool message

I was going to write a post about a recent study (mis)reported in HuffPo, about how religious education affects the ability of 5- and 6-year-olds to make distinctions between the possible and the impossible. In fact, I had several paragraphs written; it was really quite thoughtful, if I do say so myself.

And ... then I ran into a technical glitch with Blogger such that, to get out of it, I ended up losing everything I'd written.

So I started over again. And then I checked the clock — well past midnight. So I took a quick trip through Facebook to see if anybody needed a response from me before I called it a night. And among the new items was a cheer from my friend, Catholic Stand editor-in-chief Dr. Stacy Trasancos:

"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.' Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." (Luke 15:4-7)

Monday, July 21, 2014

"The peaceful majority were irrelevant"

You may see this sign crop up on Facebook statuses, Gravatars and other places. You may already know what it is, and why people are adopting it. If you don't, here's why:

This symbol is the Arabic letter Nun or Noon (ن), phonetically equivalent to the Latin N (oddly enough, the Hebrew equivalent, נ, is also called Nun and pronounced Noon). As such, it's the first letter in the word نصارى Nasara — "Nazarenes", or Christians. Wherever the terrorist soldiers of ISIS spray-paint this letter in the ravaged, outraged city of Mosul, there the occupants are targeted for plunder, rape and death.

And so one of the oldest Christian communities in the world dies ... with nary a protest or a condemnation from what people still call The Free World. Qui tacet consentire videtur: "He who is silent is seen to consent."

Here in the United States, a few Christians have been ... discommoded, more or less. We've suffered a few incursions into "free exercise" territory in the name of the "establishment clause" or of other social causes du jour. Some may be permanent, while others will prove to be more or less temporary.

However, the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom has proven to be still fairly robust, as was shown when a Senate measure to override Burwell v. Hobby Lobby was defeated. As tough as it may get for some Christians in the next couple of years, we're not facing public decapitation and unhindered looting of our material goods just yet.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A big announcement

Thursday, July 17, the editor-in-chief of Catholic Stand, Dr. Stacy Trasancos, did me the incredible honor of asking me to join the leadership as a Managing Editor. My CS editor, Diane McKelva, also asked me to accept the position.

Although I did accept the position, it wasn't without stepping back for a few minutes to think about it. Yes, "Managing Editor" is a great honor (and it looks pretty good on a résumé, too), but it's also a big responsibility, although in this context it promises to be not too time-consuming.

You see, a good editor makes sure the writer conforms to the style guidelines of the journal without overwhelming the voice of the writer with his/her edits. S/He checks spelling, grammar, syntax and punctuation, insuring that nothing in the post distracts the reader from following the thoughts of the writer. S/He also does what s/he can to boost the visibility of the post, adding SEOs — search-engine optimizers, such as tags, subheads and links — as needed so that Google, Bing and Yahoo! can find it more readily.

At the end of the day, the writer is the one who ultimately wows the crowd. The editor simply makes sure that the writer's costume is clean and that his fly is zipped. And that he gets proper billing on the marquee.

In any event, I did accept, conscious that I would be doing for others as Diane, and Stacy before her, have done for me. And I publicly thank both of them, and Tito Edwards the founder of CS, for showing so much confidence in me as a Catholic writer. And may I remember: Non mihi, Domine, sed Nomine Tuo da gloriam!

Cor Sacrum Iesu, miserere me.
Sancte Hieronyme, ora pro me.
Sancte Joanne Paule, ora pro me.
Omnes Angelos et Sanctos, ora pro me.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Breakfast, Lunch and Hugs

It's for beautiful people like Tim Harris that I'm pro-life.

An idea for a new hashtag campaign — FREE!

One of the reasons I write blogs is because I don't have the energy or talent required to run a political action committee. In fact, I have a sort of allergy to PACs; when I get too close to bulls**t, my skin breaks out in a rash.

All things taken together, I suppose PACs are better to have than not. It's just another way we exercise our participation in the public square. And I suppose what I really object to — bulls**t by meme — isn't produced by real PACs but by individual liars with access to MemeGenerator or Cheezburger, a copy of Photoshop, and too much anger to be explained by social injustice alone.

I think what really drove me over the edge was a meme that claimed there are 241 (or some such) bills in various state legislatures being considered to "regulate women's bodies". Now, because it didn't quote a source for this number — memes rarely do quote sources — I had no way to check out what hat the creator pulled the number out of. But I'll bet you dinner at Denny's that, of the two-hundred-odd bills, none of them even implicitly mentions women's bodies, that the only reason any of them are considered to "regulate" women's bodies is because they deal with some aspect of abortion or contraception.

Almost within seconds of that item flashing by my Facebook status, Tom McDonald of God and the Machine posted the meme to your right. It was his own mea culpa, his confession to participating in the "dumbing-down of humanity". Now, Tom is one of the most incisive and lucid writers in the Catholic blogosphere, with a high degree of sensitivity to bulls**t. If he can get caught with his pants down, what hope does Your Humble Blogger have?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Ask Tony: Can non-Catholics be saved?

A reader wrote the following question to my fellow Catholic Stand writer, screenwriter John Darrouzet:

I am confused on the Catholic stand on salvation. Some Catholic weblogs say a non-Catholic can not be saved unless they are ignorant of the Catholic church and are sincerely seeking God. Other blogs say the church never believed that non-Catholics cannot be saved. Help — what is the Catholic stand on salvation?


Now that that's out of the way ....

If you read the question right, you'll see that the two sets of blogs actually say close to the same thing. While one emphasizes the negative, the other accentuates the positive (and don't blame me for the Bing Crosby earworm). Yes, non-Catholics can be saved, and the Church has always taught so; yet she has also taught, extra Ecclesia nulla salus (outside the Church none are saved). This would seem to be a contradiction on the face of it. The resolution is that the Church is the ordinary means of salvation, while the saving of non-Catholics is an extraordinary action on God's part not to be presumed upon.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Pelosi gives us a stupid to cherish

Strong emotional reactions fade over time, even outrage. And as they fade, politicians' attempts to maintain them for their political advantage become more strained until eventually they say, or sometimes do, something laughably stupid. This is usually a pretty reliable sign that the reaction has run its course, and the political and economic concerns of everyday citizens have mostly returned to where they were prior to the event.

Life as we know it didn't end with Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. So we now return you to your regularly scheduled existential angst.

Except that every now and again, in the painful effort to keep the rage at white heat, a politician will let fly a very special kind of stupid. A stupid that, if you could take a picture of it, would be a "Kodak moment". We actually had a couple this last week; dishonorable mention goes to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who demoted Associate Justice Clarence Thomas from token black man to just another white man on the Supreme Court bench. There may be African-Americans who think Thomas is an "Oreo", but that's not for any white man to say ... not out loud, not in front of cameras, and especially not a Senate Majority Leader. (Note: I have a lot of respect for AJ Thomas; he's much more than AJ Antonin Scalia's "mini-me".)

Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is no stranger to stupid under pressure. The brightest gem in her personal collection is, "We have to pass the bill so you can find out what's in it." (Mediaite has tried to defend the statement as taken relentlessly out of context. But the fact of the matter is, PPACA was and still is available on the Net in its entirety for anyone to read "away from the fog of controversy", so anyone could have discovered how awesome it wasn't before it was passed into law. Sorry, no cigar.) She's also let fly the occasional puzzler in the effort to reconcile her public stances on certain topics with her self-identified Catholicism, though none of "Pope Pelosi's" pronouncements on these matters have been endearingly dumb.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Catholic Stand: Pessimism, Optimism, Hope and Change

Over my lifetime, I have been called many things, some of which are printable. Within the last six years’ worth of blogging, I’ve had a little mud slung at me, which if nothing else proves I can occasionally write well enough to provoke a reaction, and maybe even a thought, in those who disagree with me. However, of all the tags with which I’ve been yclept, the most puzzling is that of pessimist.

I don’t say it’s puzzling because I see only good in the world and can’t understand how someone would believe I think otherwise. If I tried to make such an assertion I would be a blatant liar. Rather, it’s puzzling because, even as an ad hominem attack, it’s pretty insubstantial. It implies that every fault I see with modern society would disappear if only I take a course of antidepressants and listen to some Zig Ziglar talks. Not only is the road to Hell paved with good intentions, you can have some really pleasant experiences along the way. It’s much easier to get there if you don’t pay attention to which direction the road is going.

Catholics, you may have been told, are a “both-and” people. It’s difficult to put us into either one of any set of binary categories (liberal/conservative, rational/emotional, positive/negative) because you’re bound to trip over aspects that belong to the other of the pair. The Catholic mind is also more attuned to truth expressed as paradox. When you can grasp the idea of Christ holding his own body in his hands at the Last Supper, you can more easily see the truth in expressions such as “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” or, as in di Lampedusa’s Il Gattopardo: “In order for things to stay the same, some things have got to change.”

So, it is with optimism and pessimism. Logically, the glass can’t be half-full without being half-empty at the same time; to find the silver lining in the dark cloud, you must first acknowledge that the cloud is dark. But to recognize that there are demons in the world is not necessarily to forget that there are also angels.

Read the rest at Catholic Stand!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Judge walks back anti-SCOTUS tirade, decides he needs to STFU for awhile

This news piece comes from Breitbart:

Remember Richard Kopf, the senior United States district judge in Nebraska [he's from my home state; I'm embarrassed] who was so upset by the Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case? He was the judge who blogged, “the Court is now causing more harm (division) to our democracy than good by deciding hot button cases that the Court has the power to avoid. As the kids say, it is time for the Court to stfu.” [Link to blog added by me.—ASL]
Now Richard isn't so sure that was the right thing to do. [Do tell?] He blogged Monday afternoon that a lawyer cautioned him about his profanity-laced and vulgar blogging, which includes a post he wrote in March titled "On being a dirty old man and how young women lawyers dress," in which he warned female lawyers not to wear clothes that would trigger him to look down their blouses or up their skirts. ...

Got a news flash for you, Dick: The divisions were present long before Burwell v. Hobby Lobby hit SCOTUS' docket. If you're just now noticing them, don't blame SCOTUS; blame your own inattention.

Kopf has written, "I am going to give this letter serious consideration. It comes from someone I respect and whose judgment I trust. It also reminds me that, as a physician might say, I should always strive 'first to do no harm.' Blogging will be light while I figure this out." Yeah, go ahead and lock that barn door; maybe the horses can unlock it when they return.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Ask Tony: Can you address a bishop as "Father"?

Writes a very dear friend of mine:

I have a regularly scheduling in-home massage client who is a "prominent" Catholic priest. When his secretary originally set up his appointments with me, she referred to him as Father , so that is how I've always addressed him. As we've gone along, we've had a few casual conversations. Within those conversations, I've addressed him as simply "Father", without the last name attached. He didn't seem offended at the familiarity. At my last visit, in one of these casual conversations, he discovered that, while I have a deeply rooted relationship with God, I am not Catholic. He seemed very surprised, almost shocked. I know that in his position he works with many people who are non-Catholics. I wondered what would cause this reaction. I thought that perhaps it is improper for me to address him in such a casual way or to refer to him as "Father". My intent was to reference his position and authority by addressing him as his title (as in "Mr. President", "Governor", "Doctor", etc). I don't want to offend him (if indeed I did). If it is improper for me to address him that way, what would be the better thing for me to use?

My answer: If you were introduced to him as "Father", then by all means address him as "Father" unless he himself objects to it. I take it by her comment that he "didn't seem offended at the familiarity" that he's probably a little higher up the ecclesial food chain — perhaps a monsignor? or the archbishop? Doesn't matter; the American hierarchy tends to be a pretty casual bunch. One blogger told me that, at one conference or another, he snuck outside for a cigarette and found himself in conversation with a cardinal who was also getting his nicotine fix. (As an "out" group, we smokers have a kind of instant cameraderie.) 

At any rate, calling him "Father" is more respectful than calling him by his first name alone, or calling him "Mister So-and-so". I know that there is some social pressure to get immediately chummy with every one we meet by calling them by their first name, even by their nickname. In fact, I usually know when someone has called me that I don't want to talk to — a salesman, a bill collector, a political pollster — because they inevitably call me "Anthony". And in my various inbound customer-service roles, my bosses have insisted we address customers by their first names even though I know from personal experience that it can be a customer irritant. So when a customer snaps back, "You don't know me well enough to call me '______'," I can relate all too well.