In fairness, my brain will also circle around and make some kind of connection to the readings, and evangelization, and how Jesus loves even troublemakers like you and me — all that jazz. But yes, for the rest of my life, this is the verse I’m going to hear in my head when Gather Us In starts up.
Thank you, skunks; thank you, brain; thank you, Mom and Dad for years of family camping trips so yes, I know just what the skunks want and no, reader, you shouldn’t have put that in your tent. Tom Zampino, your spot as the Conspiracy’s top poet remains secure.
I was attempting to answer the question for my kids of whether an improvised mask, such as a cowboy-style bandana over your mouth and nose, could help slow the spread of disease.
Hypothesis: Even though an improvised cloth mask won’t filter viruses, it does limit the distance air coming out your mouth travels, and therefore reduces how far any germs get spread while talking, coughing, sneezing, etc.
Experiment: Well, about that. So my plan was to set up a measuring tape on the bathroom floor showing the six feet of “social distancing” and then blow various lightweight items (dust, loose powder, wadded up scrap paper) using the hair dryer. We’d see how far the hair dryer blows these items when unmasked and how far it blows them when masked with various garments — my favorite scarf, a standard bandanna, etc.
I decided to run some preliminary tests before the kids woke up, because if my hypothesis (or my experiment) was obviously wrong, that was something I could learn on my own, thanks.
I got the measuring tape out, found a scrap of (clean!!) toilet paper on the floor (note to self: CLEAN BATHROOM), and dug out my circa-1994 Salon Selectives hair dryer, currently collecting dust thanks to social-distancing.
==>Thanks Mom! That was an awesome Christmas present, even though I wasn’t sure what to think about it at the time. Just a few months ago we were marveling it had held up so long and showed no signs of giving up the ghost.==>
With the dryer on its high setting, I could blow a scrap about four feet. I put the bandanna over it, and could only blow it about one or two feet. Also, there was this slight burning odor, which I figured was all that collected dust burning off. No big deal.
I was pleased by my preliminary findings, but more pre-testing was in order before calling in my skeptical children. It was possible, for example, that I was seeing such dramatic differences in how far the paper scrap would travel because I was not consistent in how I aimed the hair dryer.
I did some experimenting with holding the dryer at different angles, un-masked, chasing that scrap of unused toilet paper around the bathroom. Then I put the bandanna over again. Not nearly as much air-power, again with the burning smell, and then: Experiment over. Hair-dryer shorted out.
No amount of hoping I’d tripped a breaker bore fruit. After a quarter-century of faithful service, my hair dryer is no more.
(1) I should not be left unsupervised with valuable machinery.
(2) An ordinary bandanna provides enough airflow resistance that it can wreck a hair dryer.
(3) If you’re contagious and you want to share space with me, yes, I would much rather you covered your mouth and nose with one of those masks that “does nothing” because it sure seems to me like having your germs go not-very-far is better than having your germs fly closer to me.
(4) I can’t afford to resume this experiment on my kids’ hair dryer, because I have three teenage daughters who will mutiny if I wreck their machine, as they do style their hair in quarantine. Therefore,
(5) I’d be grateful if other people would take up the cause and run experiments to see if my preliminary findings are reproducible.
Photo: The guilty parties (me and that bandanna), posing in my makeshift office in the garage. I love having my family at home all day, and I’m grateful my husband and I can both work from home, no matter how crazy the set-up is. Not everyone is so lucky. Pretty sure those on the front lines keeping our infrastructure together wish you’d do whatever you can to reduce the odds you make them sick when you run your essential errands, even if it isn’t perfect and 100% foolproof.
ConspiracyPress – COLUMBUS – When Kaden Zimmer received the Vatican-promoted “Smart Rosary” from his confirmation sponsor at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church, he wrote a polite thank you note and promised to use it every evening when his parents lead a family Rosary. “I figured it would announce the mysteries and help you keep from slipping into the Nicene Creed instead of the Apostles Creed by accident. I had no idea what we were in for.”
Heather Zimmer, Kaden’s mother adds, “Father Scott, our parish priest, is always trying to reach out to young people. So Kade’s uncle was excited to get a coupon code for a parish discount on this new product that was supposed to help liven up our prayer life. We all downloaded the app for our phones. Little did we know.”
The family was enjoying the meditations on world peace and concern for the poor. “Basically it was just like being in religion class,” Kade says. “I’m pretty good at writing short-essay answers for that. I figured I was set.”
Then one evening Kade begged out of the evening family Rosary. As Joel Zimmer, Kaden’s father recounts, “It was a Thursday night, and Kade had been at practice until seven, and he told us, ‘I’ve got all this homework to do, and also we had the school Mass today, and Father always leads a Rosary while the choir is practicing.'”
“That’s when my phone began buzzing,” Heather recounts.
“Giant PANTS ON FIRE icon lit up,” Joel says, shaking his head sadly.
“We were horrified. Needless to say, Kaden was grounded,” his mother says. “We told him that behavior was unacceptable, and he’d be marching straight to confession Saturday afternoon.”
Mr. and Mrs. Zimmer report that while they were disappointed in their son, they were pleased that the Smart Rosary’s honesty-detector had prevented spiritual disaster. The family privately shared with close friends how the accountability functions were bringing about renewal in their spiritual life. “We were excited. We encouraged other families to purchase the Smart Rosary and download the app.”
Then came what the couple now refers to as their spiritual u-turn.
“We’d all gathered in the living room,” Joel says, “and I remember Heather had such a peaceful, prayerful expression on her face. But we began to pray, and the Smart Rosary kept re-starting us at the Second Joyful Mystery.”
“We thought it was a glitch,” Kaden explains. “I told my parents to restart their phones. But when they did . . . it updated.”
“We were just launching into the second ‘Hail Mary’ when the notifications started,” Heather recounts.
Mr. Zimmer shows screen shots of the messages the Smart Rosary app began displaying:
RESTART PRAYER: Stop making grocery list.
RESTART PRAYER: Quit replaying final three minutes of yesterday’s game.
“It was a little too smart for them,” Kaden says, recounting the feeling of victory he experienced at his parents’ comeuppance. “I asked them, ‘Do I need to ground you, too?’ And that’s when my phone buzzed. CONFESSION ALERT: Violation of 4th Commandment.”
With no way to go back to the older version of the app, the Zimmer family quickly uninstalled the Smart Rosary features, and turned off Alexa and Siri just to be safe. Unfortunately the damage was already done: Father Scott at Our Lady of Good Counsel had already been copied on the notifications.
An exhausted Father Scott describes how the scheduling feature of the Smart Rosary quickly overwhelmed parish life. “In the early versions, there was just an option for the Legion of Mary to get their weekly meeting announcements sent out. Perfect. With the second update, we were able to share parish prayer requests, and with the third update, Smart Rosary would make suggestions on, say, remembering to pray for Joyce Hirschel’s cancer surgery during the Sorrowful Mysteries. It was great.”
Unfortunately, the CONFESSION ALERT feature was designed to coordinate with the pastor’s schedule. “Next thing I know, my calendar’s showing six hours of Confession on Saturday afternoon. Six hours!”
Father Scott admits he fibbed to parish staff. “I told them I’d just go ahead and make myself available in the confessional, and use the downtime for prayer and Bible reading.” What he failed to mention: “It’s possible I took breaks between prayer sessions to check a few headlines on my phone. Next thing I know, the bishop’s calling, because Smart Rosary is blowing up his phone with notifications.”
By Sunday morning, Our Lady of Good Counsel parish had officially banned Smart Rosary. “Sure, it’s fine if the Vatican wants to promote this thing,” Heather Zimmer says. “But from now on, we’re using those cheap plastic rosaries you get from the table by the brochure rack.”
Unlike regular Bingo, with Vatican Bingo what doesn’t get said counts too! Put your chips on the grey boxes at the start of the game, and you get to keep them there until someone starts talking. Don’t worry, when the Vatican’s playing, you can be sure your chips won’t be extradited any time soon.
And lest you worry: The Vatican shut down the USCCB’s process last fall to replace it with this? Fear not. The USCCB wasn’t planning to talk either.
Luckily as an Easter People, we can rise above! Here are the top ten alternatives to the Easter Bunny, loved by Christians around the world:
1. The Easter Beagle Take the ringing of the bells at the Gloria and multiply it by 10,000. That’s the sound of Easter Beagles joyously proclaiming the Resurrection. You won’t, of course, want to give your children real beagles for Easter, unless you want the Good News proclaimed every time the doorbell rings, the neighbor’s cat walks by, or a stray leaf blows through your yard. PETA’s job would be a lot easier if we switched to the Easter Beagle.
2. The Easter Lion And it symbolizes the Lion of Judah and no children have ever come back alive to report that the Easter Lion at the mall is actually just same lion whose day job is sleeping all afternoon at the zoo. Ideal for families on the Paleo diet, because instead of bringing baskets of sugary candy, the Easter Lion brings home hunks of raw meat for the young cubs.
3. The Easter Chicken Perfect for people who always felt the Easter Bunny was appropriating avian culture.
4. The Easter Platypus If you want to solve the egg problem without giving up on the cute furry mammal thing. Always good for a quick laugh when you are really straining for material in your comedy routine.
5. The Easter Polar Bear What can we say about the polar bear? It’s adorable from a distance? It’s an endangered species? It’s a deadly predator? Sounds exactly like the way the media describes Christians! You won’t find a more accurate symbol of Easter for the new millenium.
6. The Easter Cardinal These bright red birds with their cheerful disposition and playful habits symbolize everything a Christian is looking for in an Easter mascot: A bad pun on something to do with the Church, and also it’s the only bird at the feeder you know how to identify. Caveats: Leaves sunflower seed shells everywhere, and may be objectionable to certain sports fans.
7. The Easter Ferret Where some people see a creepy, dodgy predator, others see a loveable pet. Ferrets are a perfect symbol of the Resurrection, because just when you think you’ve lost your little darling for good, he finally turns up again. This is the perfect Easter mascot for those whose vision of the Heavenly Banquet comes with a soundtrack from WOW’s Top Hits of 1999.
8. The Easter Retriever This winsome, loveable pal doesn’t hide your eggs, he finds them — over, and over, and over again. You’ll have no trouble enjoying all eight weeks of the Easter season, though admittedly those plastic eggs are gonna be a little slobber-worn by the time Pentecost rolls around.
9. The Easter Dolphin Imagine you were the kind of Catholic who habitually prays for the repose of the soul of Douglas Adams. If that’s you, the dolphin symbolizes hope for a better world, the great questions of human existence, and the number 42. An Easter Dolphin magnet on the back of your car adds depth and meaning to that faded Christian Fish you almost peeled off and then didn’t.
10. The Easter Groundhog If the Easter Groundhog comes out and sees its shadow on Good Friday, that’s 36 more hours before you can legit break out the Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs.
The difficulty here is that Fr. Gunrow put his shoes out for the wrong saint. You can avoid this problem by carefully matching the needs of your soul to the saint who can best help you. Here’s a quick guide to which vigils you should set out your shoes in order to receive what you need in the morning:
St. Zita . . . Your lost keys.
St. Therese . . . Roses.
St. Juan Diego . . . Roses; painted tilma. Both if you’re extra good.
St. Michael . . . Swords.
St. Vincent de Paul . . . Canned goods to donate to the local food pantry.
St. Catherine Labouré . . . Miraculous medals.
St. Catherine of Alexandria . . . Wheels.
St. Catherine of Siena . . . Fraternal correction; extreme penitence.
St. Dominic . . . Rosaries; improved homilies. Both if you’re extra bad.
St. Stephen . . . Rocks.
St. Lawrence . . . Steaks for your feast day BBQ.
St. Philip Neri . . . Joke books; small dogs; counter-reform.
St. Genevieve . . . List of all the conquering armies who are not in your living room this morning.
St. Paul . . . Thorns; shipwrecks; writing instruments.
St. Peter . . . Keys; fish; perpetual documentation of your chief failures in life.
St. Augustine . . . Book-length explanation of what your roommate did with those “borrowed” items.
St. Jerome . . . New Bible; scathing critique of your sorry attempts at theology.
St. Anthony . . . Maps; organizational tips; parking spaces.
Obviously this is the abbreviated version. To add your suggestions to the list . . . the combox is here.
We’ve reached a new low on the Battle for Advent: My house now sports an Ordinary Time Tree.
I told the children they ought to crown it for the feast of Christ the King, but they were too busy ignoring admonitions about liturgically-correct decorating schemes while they quick tied up all the cut limbs with red plaid bows. In memory of the souls in purgatory, I’m sure.
Early last week my trusty Surface Pro (reliability rating: 7th Circle of IT Hell) spontaneously quit working, forever and ever amen, while I was using it. I assume it was pre-punishment for my caving on the tree. So I spent the week sharing one PC with a man who was home “on vacation” working all day at the one PC.
And that’s the story about how I became a Black Friday shopper.
Surreal part: No lines, no crowds, no traffic. I gather that the “we’re closed on Thanksgiving (until 5pm)!” thing is causing all the crazy people to get their manic shopping needs taken care of on the vigil, leaving the daylight hours to those of us who don’t love the contact-sport side of holiday shopping.
Disturbing part: I purchased a laptop named after a deadly sin.
It was on sale, so it’s okay, right?
More disturbing part: It was not the right deadly sin.
If you told me I was blogging from a machine called wrath I’d consider it truth in advertising. Sloth and gluttony come to mind as obvious runners-up. Were it a school chrome book, now the go-to way to avoid the hassle and expense of textbooks even though students don’t learn as well online, we could call it avarice.
But envy? Nah. It’s shiny, but not that shiny. Envy is why we have the ordinary time tree.
This morning after Bible study one of the ladies asks me, “What are your degrees in?”
It’s a good question, and one I occasionally have to clarify. I studied economics and I have a degree in economics are two different things; in my case the former is true but not the latter. Every now and then an author blurb goes to print without my clearing it, and I cringe at the odd inaccuracies.
So I answered, “I have a BA in international studies, with a not-quite-a-minor in economics. My master’s degree is in business administration, with the bulk of my coursework in accounting with a little bit of finance.” Again, I don’t have an accounting degree, though I did graduate with enough upper-level courses to work professionally in accounting. But I’m not a CPA, which people ask me whenever they hear I studied accounting.
“Oh,” the lady at Bible study says. “So do you have a PhD in theology?”
Pardon me? “No.”
“Oh. Someone said you had a PhD in theology.”
No. No no no. “Nope. Business. Master’s degree in business, no PhD in anything.”
“Sometimes Father Whippersnapper seems to defer to you during Bible study.”
“That’s because he has a graduate degree in theology, which I do not, but I am more experienced with arguments among non-academics bickering on the internet.”
As parish grapevine experiences go, it was more amusing than horrifying, so it worked out.
–> I got to share a little bit of mine and my husband’s conversion stories (answer to the follow-up question of “How come you seem to know so much?”), and I conceded I do write a bit of Catholic non-fiction.
More better: I got a few minutes of living vicariously through one of the other Bible study ladies, who overheard the conversation and shared with me about her experience in internal audit and fraud detection, which is one of the coolest things accountants get to do and I’d be totally looking into that if I were looking for an accounting job.
It was a good day. And to my credit, I read just far enough into Love and Responsibility to know, as any good Junior Moral Theologian who happens to be married should know, the answers to these sex questions over at the Aggie Catholic blog,* which topics I alluded to in the rough cut of my most recent NCRegister post, now up: “What Do Priests Know About Marriage?” My very smart editor removed the explicit references (which the Aggie post answers succinctly, so you’re set if you have those questions) to keep it PG rated.
*I do not write for the Aggie Catholic blog. I have been to Texas three times, though, so it’s practically the same, for parish rumor-mill purposes.
Three kids and I depart tomorrow today for the big trip. I am not a person who packs light. I was pretty pleased that two girls and I were able to get more or less all our stuff, carry-on excepted, into one (large) suitcase. My big packing question is: Would I be annoyed that I had to buy this in France?
For some things I prefer not to pack our own. Most of our toiletries we’ll purchase on arrival, because I do not need some child’s shampoo saturating everything we own. That’ll be fine on the return trip, but I am hoping to not see the inside of a French laundromat for a good week or so. They can bring home the dregs of a bottle of shampoo for a souvenir.
What is killing us on luggage is that the boy is going to camp. He wanted to see Alps. After doing all the investigating — and I was this close to taking up learning German — the best option for giving him Maximum Alpine Experience was to send to him to a week of summer camp down in Chamonix. Everything about that choice is good except the packing list. The camp people want the kids to bring clothes and spare clothes and more clothes for every day. Of course they do — who wants to be liable for a dozen freezing-naked underpacked children?
Also, I would be mildly irritated to have to buy a fresh set of camping gear in Europe, and I’m very not interested in having a gear crisis the day camp begins. Unfortunately, my imagination does not look at a tiny-font packing list and accurately gauge how many cubic feet that will all turn into. Thus we have a mountain of luggage despite my extremely uncharacteristic efforts to go semi-minimalist otherwise.
Two hippos and a rabbit have wormed their way onto the passenger list.
Weirdest thing about this trip: I am having a hard time believing it is real. That’s odd because I don’t just know lots of people who travel all the time, but also I’ve done this before. I’ve lived in France twice. I’m not going someplace exotic to me. I think it’s that I’ve been so firmly planted in the stay-at-home life for the past two decades, and also that doing this was so completely impossible until so recently; until it actually happens, I don’t think my brain can be fully persuaded that it can happen.
Last night we had a mini bon voyage party, which involved getting bitten by all the mosquitos and then coming home from the river to find my friend surprising me with an icon of St. Raphael. She didn’t have time to get it blessed on her local orthodox altar, so she proposed that I might want to get it blessed in France. That would be a serious stretch outside my comfort zone, giving me a double-hit on areas of maximal shyness, but friends do that to you.
St. Raphael is the ignored angel in my life (Gabriel and Michael get all the attention, and Gabriel would tell you he’s the overlooked tag-along in that pair), but here’s what my friend pointed out: St. Raphael is the patron of both wayfarers and of healing.
Apt enough, and then if you add in the part about how I need to cram all that luggage into our otherwise right-sized too-small rental car, there’s this: He’s particularly the patron of I Can’t Believe This Is Happening To Me, and also of people launching into big adventures with a terrifying stack of baggage. At least for once he’s being invoked for good crises and not bad ones.