Monday, December 28, 2009

Some more pix of Henry

I love this picture. In the hospital--Betsy was ready to come home, but Henry had to bake under special lights for 12 hours to cure some Jaundice. The incubator was there to keep him simultaneously warm and naked--however it is a little freaky to see your baby in a plastic box like this.

Happy Grandparents

Betsy and Henry, home and happy

Sunday, December 27, 2009

"Poor Joseph, God was a hard act to follow."

A controversial billboard put up by an Anglican Church in New Zealand has prompted some debate (as was intended):

According to an article about it, the sign was defaced within hours of being put up. "Church vicar Archdeacon Glynn Cardy said the sign was intended to challenge stereotypes about the way Jesus was conceived and get people talking about the Christmas story, but not everyone has taken it that way. Catholics, in particular, were upset."

At issue is the question of whether Mary was perpetually a virgin or whether she had relations with Joseph after the birth of Christ. Another, even more controversial issue is whether Joseph was the biological father of Jesus.

Now, the question of whether Mary was perpetually a virgin (even after the birth of Jesus) fascinates me. I think the arguments in favour of perpetual virginity are kind of weak and derivative. Scripture would seem to suggest that Mary and Joseph did have "relations," after the birth of Christ: "When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus" (Matthew 1:24-25, emphasis mine).

Then there are references to the brothers of Jesus. Multiple times in scripture there are references to the brothers of Jesus. Consider Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3, Galatians 1:19, and 1 Corinthians 9:5. Even the ancient historian Josephus in Jewish Antiquities (20.9.1) referred to "[James] the brother of Jesus who is called Christ." Josephus does not use the term for "half-brother" or "step-brother" as he does when describing other such relationships, so that strongly implies that at least Josephus thought James was the Lord's full-brother.

Although the Magisterium (the Roman Catholic teaching authority) may argue that these could be step-brothers by a previous marriage of Joseph, it's hard to square that with the fact Jesus' name always appears first in the lists (suggesting he was the oldest). Also, why is there no mention of the previous children of Joseph in any of the nativity narratives? Did these kids go with Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem or what? Also, consider the fact that in Judaism a man can only have one first born son. So how do we make sense of Luke 2:22-23 referring to Jesus as Joseph's first born son if James was actually older?

A very old (circa 150CE) document called the Protevangelium of James makes the argument that Mary was betrothed to an older relative in order to preserve her virginity, and that sex with Joseph would have been incest. But this document was never considered canonical as scripture, anyway. Certainly it was not written by James (the author was unfamiliar with certain aspects of Jewish culture and nor does the writing style of the Greek make earlier authorship unlikely). However, this non-canonical Gospel does demonstrate that devotion to Mary and the tradition of her Perpetual Virginity are quite old.

Indeed, the real arguments for the perpetual virginity of Mary are not based on scripture but upon theology (or, more accurately, "Mariology"). In other words, it's based on a theologically nuanced view of the role of Mary in salvation history and the implications that has for our understanding of her, that we begin to make an argument for her perpetual virginity. I'm not going to rehearse that argument here, but suffice it to say that many fine Christians find it persuasive. So much so, that the doctrine of perpetual virginity is considered "essential" to the Catholic Faith. That is, it is considered beyond question.

For me, I think that Joseph and Mary had normal marital relations after Jesus was born. But I don't feel it's very important to convince people of this. If Mary's continued virginity is important to your faith, go for it. God knows there are going to be many things like this that people of good faith will disagree about when they come together to worship and adore the Son of God and his Blessed Mother. As for me, the notion that Mary and Joseph had kids after Jesus enhances, rather than diminishes, my devotion to the BVM and her Son.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Solemn Preface for Christmas

Here is a recording I made of the Rev'd Marili Moore singing an outstanding Proper Preface at the Midnight Christmas Mass. It's the solemn version of the Preface as pointed for chanting in the BAS Altar Book:

Here's a direct link to the MP3 file...


Christmas Supper

Special times deserve special meals. Lately I've been on a cooking kick--and it seemed appropriate to do something special for my in-laws to celebrate both the birth of our Saviour (Christmas) and the birth of our Henry. So I pulled open Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook and went to town. Christmas Day Menu was as follows:
  • Carré d'Adneau au Moutarde (Rack of Lamb with Mustard)
  • Gratin Daughinois (Gratin Potatoes)
  • Sautéed Vegitable Medley
  • Travaglini Gattinara 2003

I got the lamb racks from Grace Meats here in Toronto. It's a fantastic, family-owned butcher in Little Italy.

Let's get to the recipes...

Carré d'Adneau au Moutarde

from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook
(thanks Meg and Seb)

2 Racks of lamb, French cut
Salt and Pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp Butter
1 Cup Red wine
2 Cups strong, dark lamb stock
1 Garlic clove, slightly crushed
1 bouquet garni
1 pinch of fresh thyme leaves
1 pinch of fresh rosemary leaves
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp fresh Bread crumbs

large, heavy-bottomed sauté pan
wooden spoon
fine strainer
small pot
roasting pan
serving platter

Serves 4-6

Season the racks with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in the sauté pan and, when the oil is hot, add 1 Tbsp. of the butter. Once the butter has foamed and subsided, put the racks in, fat side down, and sear, turning with the tongs, until brown on all sides, about 5 minutes total. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Discard the fat from the sauté pan and, over high heat, stir in the wine, scraping the bottom with the wooden spoon. Reduce by half, then add the lamb stock, garlic, and bouquet garni. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook down until thick enough to coat the spoon. Strain into the small pot and set aside.

Preheat the oven 375 Degrees F (190 C). Sprinkle half the thyme and rosemary leaves over the lamb. Then spoon the mustard over the fat side of the lamb rack and cover the area with bread crumbs. Press the bread crumbs into the mustard, forming a thick layer on the outside. Place the lamb in the roasting pan and cook in the oven for 17 minutes (for medium rare). Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing into double chops and arranging on the serving platter. Bring the sauce to a boil and add the remaining thyme and rosemary. Whisk in the remaining 1 Tbsp. of butter and serve alongside the lamb. (source)

Tay's Notes
An awesome, awesome recipe. Fun to make and rewarding. But Anthony leaves out a few details you might want know about...

First off, I don't think his recipe makes enough sauce. You can fix that by doubling the amount of wine, stock, butter you use to make that sauce.

Speaking of the sauce... There is an opportunity for good kitchen theatrics here. After you've seared the lamb and poured off the fat, put the pan back on the stove on med-high to high (depending on your stove) until it just starts to smoke. Pour in the wine at that instant and then burn off the alcohol as it boils in those first few seconds. If you are cooking on gas, this flambe effect happens when the alcohol vapor gets near the cooking flame. If you are using an electric stove (as I was), simply light a match and hold it near the vapor cloud. Just be sure to invite your in-laws are others over to watch as you make a nice flame effect!

Anthony B. believes, I mean BELIEVES, in making your own stock. Sorry, man, didn't have time for that! So I substituted beef stock for lamb stock. Your butcher may have lamb stock--be sure to check.

Here is a problem I've noted with recipes from this book--cooking times seem off. Perhaps he's just cooking at a higher temp or my oven is colder than it should be, but I found these time estimates to be too brief. Instead of 5 minutes to brown the lamb, more like 8-10. Instead of 17 minutes to roast it, try 23-25 for medium rare. Actually, don't use time at all for that--use a meat thermometer!

Anyway, great recipe, and not too difficult to make, either. Just follow the steps.

This next recipe is AMAZING. Unbelievably delicious...

Gratin Dauphinois

from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook
(thanks Meg and Seb)

8 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
2 Cups heavy cream
5 Garlic clove
1 Sprig of thyme
1 Sprig of rosemary
1 Sprig of flat parsley
salt and white pepper
freshly ground nutmeg (go easy)
1 Tbsp. butter
4 Oz. Grated Gruyère cheese

large pot
large ovenproof gratin dish

Serves: 4-5

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. Place the potatoes in the large pot and add the cream, 4 of the garlic cloves, and the herbs. Season with salt, white pepper, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. After 10 minutes of simmering, remove from the heat and discard the garlic and herbs.

Use the remaining garlic clove to rub around the inside of the gratin dish. Butter the inside of the gratin dish as well so that it is evenly coated. Transfer the potatoes and cream to the gratin dish and sprinkle the top with the Gruyère cheese. Cook in the oven for 40 minutes, or until the mixture is brown and bubbling. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. (source)

Tay's Notes

The potatoes should be "mediumish" in size.

I tied up the herbs in cheese cloth to make it easier to retrieve them from the cream before the transfer to the making dish.

I would probably use more than 2 Cups of cream next time. I know, I know... but were you preparing this for Jenny Craig convention or what? It's Christmas, relax! So I would suggest 2 1/2 to 3 Cups of cream.

For nutmeg--I'd use about a pinch or two.

He says 40 minutes, but I went longer (about 50 to 55) in order to get a pleasing brown top.

The Gruyère cheese and nutmeg really make this dish. Just awesome! If in doubt that it will make enough for your dinner group, don't hesitate to double the recipe. Otherwise you won't have leftovers, and you want leftovers.

As Anthony B. points out, these two dishes above go great together. But another good addition to the plate is sautéed veggies.

Sautéed Vegetables Provencals

from Tay's Mind

4 carrots, peeled, cut into 1 1/2 inch lengths, then quartered longwise
6 Celery stalks, cut into 1 1/2 inch lengths
2 Bell Peppers, seeded, Juliane into 1 1/2 inch lengths
2 Cups Mushrooms (most kinds and cuts will do just fine)
2 Tbs. Olive Oil (a little more may be necessary later)
1 Tbs. Butter
1 Tbs. Provençal Spice

Sauté Pan
Large Bowl

Serves 6

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan until hot (sprinkle a few drops of water onto the oil and see if it sparkles and spits if you aren't sure if it's ready). When the oil is ready, add a pat of butter and wait until the foam subsides. Then add the veggies in batches, setting aside as each finishes in a large bowl (use a slotted spoon or tongs to make sure you don't get too much oil in the bowl). You can add a little oil to the pan if it gets too dry. Once the veggies are done, toss them with some provincial spice and salt and pepper.

Travaglini Gattinara pairs well with these dishes--a mellow, smooth Italian red that won't overpower the subtle lamb tastes.

Betsy was very pleased with this supper. Our son had no comment--he prefers a simple diet of milk, sleep, and attention.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

'Twas the Flight Before Christmas

A Moss family tradition--reading this poem at Christmas time. My grandfather, a pilot, was particularly fond of this one...

'Twas the Flight Before Christmas

by Capt. R.C. Robson, December 1952

‘Twas the flight before Christmas and all through the sky,
Not a creature was stirring, ‘cept the Captain and I.
The throttles were set on the quadrant with care,
In hopes of beating St. Nicholas there.

The passengers were nestled all snug in their seats,
The purring of engines had lulled them to sleep.
And Captain at the wheel and I on his right,
Had just leveled off for a long winter’s flight.

When out of the sky there arose such a clatter,
We jumped in our seats to see what was the matter.
We checked each engine quick as a flash,
Glanced at the dials all over the dash.

The moonlight reflecting from the cloud bank below,
Showed nothing amiss in the cold white glow.
When what to our wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old pilot, so lively and quick,
We knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than our ship his courses they came,
And he whistled and shouted and called them by name.

"Now Pratt! now Whitney! Now Curtiss and Wright!
On Franklin! On Allison! On, on though the night!
"To the top of the clouds, to the top of them all,
Now, dash away, dash away, dash away all!"

And then in a twinkle on our wing we did here,
The prancing and pawing of each little dear.
Flying swift as the wind over a cloud,
They passed right by us, nodded and bowed.

He was dressed in goggles and helmet and boot,
And snow flakes were clinging to his flying suit.
A bundle of toys was strapped to his back,
He looked like a paratrooper in his jumping pack.

His goggles now frosted, his dimples now merry,
The wind burned his cheeks and his nose like a cherry.
He had on the earphones of his radio,
And he was flying the course straight as an arrow.

The smoke from his pipe his teeth held tight,
Streamed out behind him into the night.
He had tightened his seatbelt over his belly,
But it shook underneath like a bowl full of jelly.

He was sure a good flyer, that jolly old elf,
He flew better than the Captain – or even myself.
With a burst of speed from his tiny sled,
He was out in front and pulling ahead.

He was looking for a break in the dense overcast,
For he’d stockings to fill – al all night task.
When off to the south he saw a big hole,
And banked to his right and started to roll.

He pushed forward his stick, to his team gave a whistle,
And towards it they flew, like the down on a thistle.
But we heard him exclaim as he dove out of sight,
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good flight!


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Home again

We're now home with Henry. There is a fire in the fireplace and cooking smells coming from the kitchen. Henry is still in his car-seat carrier deal from the trip--he seems to like it so there is no reason to take him out just yet. Betsy is playing with her iphone--returning messages and e-mails, no doubt.

Life feels very, very good. I feel extremely grateful to all the people that were praying for us and wishing us well. I'm also grateful to our midwives, doctors, and nurses for their excellent care. Particularly I want to mention Dr. Kingdom, a good Anglican (he goes to St. Paul's, Bloor Street), who was the OB on call that did Betsy's surgery. Super competent and attentive. He also wishes that midwifery care was better integrated into the medical system as it is in the UK and the US. In fact, his own children were delivered by midwife in the UK. He was the first one at the hospital to really take us seriously (initially the nurses at the time didn't properly understand the urgency that our midwife was trying to convey). But he knew what he was looking at and got her into the OR STAT.

We also were treated to some excellent nursing care. Francis, Wendy, and Sue were particularly patient with our late-night feedings and such.

And, of course, our midwives were great. Our primary midwife Tia has been great, and Marlene, our backup, was a wonderful and extremely helpful participant in the birth.

So, now we are just settling back into something like what our normal life will become!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

William Henry Moss

Here's my little guy, William Henry Moss. We'll call him "Henry." He's a cuttie pie. Unfortunately, he's developed some Jaundice (extremely common) and needs to spend another night at the Hospital. Betsy is ready to come home, but will stay with him, naturally. Jaundice, incidentally, is when the level of a bi-product of the normal breakdown of red blood cells called Bilirubin gets too high in the blood. Normally bilirubin is filtered out by the liver and exits the body through the intestinal tract. But newborns have both high turnover of red blood cells and newly-developing livers, so often the Bilirubin levels get too high. Most of the time this will resolve itself naturally once the mother's milk comes in (exposure to sunlight also helps), but some Pediatricians (such as the one assigned to us by the hospital) are more aggressive about treating this than others. If we hadn't been in the hospital in the first place it probably wouldn't be an issue. But once we were transfered to hospital care from the midwife, we kind of lost control of that. We had never even met the MD who ordered the treatment until the nurse twice requested the pediatrician visit us. Interesting how our nurse let us know that our case was borderline and that it would be reasonable for us to go home and yet never actually directly questioned the doctor's judgment. Hmm. But when your nurse tells you to get a second opinion you know something is up. Anyway, the momentum was against us and the pediatrician was quite dismissive and rude and we're exhausted, so.... Henry is going get treated for Jaundice. (Oh, and did I mention that the pediatrician in question never even examined Henry? All she cared about was one number on the chart (Bilirubin level).)

Fortunately, the treatment is non-invasive. They put him in an incubator to keep him both naked and warm, and shine some special lights on him overnight. He can still feed as normal--but I anticipate a difficult night for our little guy.

Otherwise... things are definitely swinging back toward equilibrium. Family is coming into town today and that will be helpful. I'm home for a few hours just to get some stuff for Betsy and take a shower. Might catch a nap, too.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Birth Story Pre-Posting

Betsy gave birth to our son, William Henry Moss (we'll call him "Henry") on Saturday afternoon at 1:34 PM. He was 8lbs 6oz. of joy right from the get go. He was born at home, which was an awesome and beautiful experience, but then Betsy developed a rare and unforeseeable complication that required her to go into the hospital for surgery. The surgery was successful and hopefully she will be able to come home tomorrow (Tuesday). I've been with her and Henry in the hospital, but I'm just coming home to take a shower, nap and post this update.

Big thanks to everyone for their prayers and concern. It means a lot to us that so many people have been apart of this time in our lives. I'll be able to share more details and lessons learned and other blog-worthy tid-bits after we've had a chance to get our bearings again. Right now I'm just gonna go down for a nap!


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas/Advent Concert 2009

Here's a sample of the Christmas (Advent) Concert this year at Messiah. It's Laura Roth (our Cantor) and Gwynedd Macleod singing a beautiful duet by Howard Blake: "Walking in the air."

Here's a direct link to the MP3 file...


Sermon - Advent 3 2009

for the first time in a little while I got to preach. Kind of nice to be able to step back into the pulpit, actually! I was attempting to preach about how the call of John the Baptist to repent is fully compatible with the kind of love and affection we find in God's call to us!


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sermon - Advent 2 2009

Dave Stone, a Campus Minister on the University of Toronto for Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, was our guest on Advent 2 at Church of the Messiah. He preached us this sermon. I like the fact that he was so pleased by our layout. He noticed immediately that we were going for something that Jesus and the early church would have recognized!


Boeuf Bourguignon

Boeuf Bourguignon is a classic of French cuisine. Like many dishes, it started as peasant fare--a dish designed to cope with tough cuts of beef. But eventually it became the stuff of refined dining and $20 entrees. Still, it has never forgotten its working class roots. Below is Anthony Bourdain's recipe, which I have a lot to say about at the bottom of this post...

Boeuf Bourguignon

from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook
(thanks Meg and Seb)

2 lb paleron of beef (aka "chicken steak" cut or shoulder/neck pieces or just "stewing beef"-cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces)
salt and pepper
1/4 Cup olive oil
4 onions (thinly sliced)
2 Tbsp. flour
1 Cup Burgundy
6 carrots (cut into 1 inch pieces)
1 garlic clove
1 bouquet garni (2 sprigs flat parsley, 1 spring fresh tyme, 1 bay leaf, in cheesecloth bag)
a little chopped flat parsley for garnish

Dutch Oven (or large, heavy-bottomed pot)
wooden spoon
large spoon or ladle

Serves 6

Stage 1
Season the meat with salt and pepper. In the Dutch oven, heat the oil over high heat until it is almost smoking. Add the meat, in batches--NOT ALL AT ONCE!--and sear on all sides until it is well browned (not gray). You dump too much meat in the pot at the same time and you'll overcrowd it; cool the thing down you won't get good color. Sear the meat a little at at time, removing it and setting it aside as it finishes. When all the meat is a nice, dark brown color and has been set aside, add the onions to the pot. Lower the heat to medium high until the onions are soft and golden brown (about 10 minutes). Sprinkle the flour over them. Continue to cook for about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the red wine. Naturally, you want to scrape up all that really good fond from the bottom of the pot with your wooden spoon. Bring the wine to a boil.

Stage 2
Return the meat to the pot and add the carrots, garlic, and bouquet garni. Add just enough water (and two big spoons of demi-glace, if you have it) so that the liquid covers the meat by one third--meaning you want a ratio of 3 parts liquid to 2 parts meat. This is a stew, so you want plenty of liquid, even after iti cooks down and reduces. Bring to a boil, reduce to a gentle simmer, and let cook for about 2 hours, or until the meat is tender (break-apart-with-a-fork tender).

You should pay attention to this dish, meaning check it every 15 to 20 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot to make sure the meat is not sticking or, God forbid, scorching. You should also skim off any foam or scum or oil collecting on the surface, using a large spoon or ladle. When done, remove and discard the bouquet garni, add the chopped parsley to the pot, and serve. (source)

Tay's Notes
Anthony doesn't mention this--but be sure to pat-dry the meat pieces with a paper towel before seasoning, otherwise the excess moisture will cause a LOT of splatter. Even with this step, you might want to have a splatter shield on hard to keep those hot bits of oil out of your eyes as you manipulate the meat to get the nice 6-side searing action. Julia Child also thinks pat-drying is important ("it will not brown if it is damp").

Another tip, you probably want a set of tongs about 18 inches--otherwise you are probably going to get a fair amount of hot oil splattered on your hands. Be warned.

He calls for adding water ounce the onions are done and the wine boiled. I would wonder whether beef stock might not be a superior choice. Perhaps his distaste for canned stock from the grocery store led to this omission? Or perhaps he is being a traditionalist on this point--the dish was done with only wine, no stock, in the past. (Wikipedia notes that modern cuts of beef don't have as strong a flavour as they did in the past, thus justifying a mixture of wine-and-stock.) Stock is good enough for Julia...

Classic versions of this recipe call for starting this recipe with frying lardons of bacon in butter! Substituting olive oil is more of a southern-France thing (according to Wikipedia) and saves a lot of time and work--but creates a very different result than the pork-friendly versions. Julia Child split the different: sauté bacon in olive oil...

Another step missing from Bordain's recipe: baking in the oven. Traditional recipes seem to have a step of baking the dish in the oven after the meat and veggies are coated in flour as a way of giving them a coating.

Be careful not to add too much water (or stock). About 4 Cups is enough--don't let Bourdain intimidate you. Just enough to cover the contents is probably fine. The finished sauce should be the consistency of heavy cream.

Another thing Bourdain ommits: mushrooms! Virtually every other version of this recipe I've found includes a step adding sauteed mushrooms!

Also, you'll probably want to add a little salt at the end--to taste.

Here is a link to the Julia Child version.

I would definetly do it again--but probably one of the more complicated versions with the lardons of bacon and all that jazz.


Flight Northwest 188

Remember back in October when those two pilots overshot their destination airport by 150 miles? They were going from San Diego to Minneapolis and went out of contact with flight controllers for 77 minutes. Many were afraid the plane had been hijacked.

After the plane landed (safely) there was a great deal of speculation that the pilots had fallen asleep. The actual explanation is less interesting. They were distracted by their laptops! According to report just issued by the FAA, the two pilots had their laptops out and were trying to figure out a flight scheduling system that was new to the captain.
Mr. Cheney, 53, with 24 spotless years with the airline, and Mr. Cole, 54, who started flying at 14 and also had a spotless record, were going over Mr. Cheney’s schedule. Applying for a schedule under new computer procedures at Delta, the airline that acquired Northwest earlier in the year, Mr. Cheney had received a schedule that he did not like and that would have him at work for three additional days a month, the two men told investigators. They had both pulled out their laptops as Mr. Cole tried to help Mr. Cheney understand how to work the new system.

The documents contained a summary of interviews with Mr. Cheney and Mr. Cole, and added some fresh details. For example, the crew members reported hearing “radio chatter” but no calls for them; the reason, they told investigators, was that Mr. Cole had apparently tuned the radio to the frequency for an air traffic control center in Winnipeg, Manitoba. After the flight, investigators discovered that when a flight attendant used an on-board telephone to ask the pilots when the plane would be landing, the crew first spoke to the Winnipeg controllers. (source)

No recommendations for change, yet, but that will probably come. The New York Times, for instance, speculates that perhaps the Airbus A320 will a chime or other noise when text messages are sent to the aircraft.

Sadly, there have been a number of accidents caused by pilots being distracted. Most famously, perhaps, in the tragic crash of Easter Air Flight 401 in the Florida Everglades. Both pilots and the flight engineer were trying to troubleshoot a burned out landing gear indicator light and didn't notice that they had switched the autopilot mode to maintain pitch rather than maintain altitude. Then the pilot accidentally pushed the yoke forward and didn't notice the slow descent this caused.

The last words of the crew were these:
(1st Officer) Stockstill: We did something to the altitude.
(Captain) Loft: What?
Stockstill We're still at 2,000 feet, right?
Loft: Hey — what's happening here?

These days, pilots are trained in what's known as Cockpit Resource Management. The gist of which is: "One guy flies while the other guy fixes."

(As an interesting aside, there were numerous reported ghost sightings in planes that received salvaged parts from EA 401.)


Just War Theory and Obama's Christian Realism

David Brooks and others have been studying Obama's fascinating Nobel Peace Prize speech last week. It's a rousing defence of Just War Theory and the complexity of war and politics: "that war is sometimes necessary, and that war, at some level, is an expression of human folly." What can bring peace is not a change in human nature, but a "gradual evolution in human institutions" (paraphrasing JFK).

It's an amazing and thoughtful speech. Right up there with his speech on race during the campaign. It's nuanced and reflective and represents the heritage of Christian Just War Theory. Good stuff.


The Fourth Paradigm

There is some discussion in computer science and other fields of scientific inquiry about the so-called "Fourth Paradigm." Jim Gray, a Microsoft Researcher, coined the term to describe a major shift he saw coming in the way science is done. The first three paradigm shifts, in Dr. Gray's estimation, were the scientific revolutions characterized by experimental, theoretical, and computational methods. The new paradigm shift is towards methods that deal with the immense quantity of data being generated by a combination of inexpensive, prolific sensors, networks, and data storage. Scientists are swimming in data, and the future is about how to make sense of it.

Unfortunately, Dr. Gray died in a boating accident in 2007. However, a tribute to his work has recently been published. The Fourth Paradigm: Data-Intensive Scientific Discovery is a collection of essays on the topic. The promise of this new methodology is staggering. Simply put, it will become possible to solve problems that could not be solved in the past!


Monday, December 14, 2009

Cooking While We Wait...

Saturday and Sunday were intense. Saturday was the "greening of the church"--the day when we decorate the place for the last weeks of Advent and Christmas. And I had two small services, as well. That evening we went to a Christmas party of Betsy's department.

Then, on Sunday, we had a great concert in the afternoon. I was very proud of my congregation and especially the choir and Eric. A success. After the concert a bunch of went to the local pub and had a grand time. I came home and watched a little football before falling asleep.

Today I managed to get some grocery and Christmas shopping done--always with a careful eye on Betsy. So far, so good. She is experiencing some minor and irregular "Braxton-Hicks" contractions, but nothing to write home about, yet. Any moment, though....

While we wait... might as well cook! I've been thinking again about French cooking. Here's the recipe I made tonight after Betsy said, "I have this pork shoulder, but I don't know what to do with it."

Palette de porc à la bière

from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook (thanks Meg and Seb)

4 to 6 lbs pork shoulder (bone in)
salt and pepper
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
2 small onions (thinly sliced)
2 carrots (chopped)
4 garlic cloves
2 tbsp. flour
1/4 Cup apple cider vinegar
12 oz. beer
1 Cup chicken stock (or broth)
4 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. bread crumbs (unseasoned and not toasted)

large pot
wooden spoon
baking sheet
small brush
cutting board
small saucepan

serves 4

Cook the Pork
Season the pork all over with salt and pepper. heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in the large pot over high heat. The add the butter. Let it foam, right? Like always. Is it hot? Okay. Lay the pork in the pot and cook over high heat for 5 minutes. Then roll the beast over using your tongs and cook for another 5 minutes on the other side. Nice and brown color on both sides? Remove the pork from the pan and set aside on the plate.

Take the pot off the heat, discard the blackened butter, and add 2 tablespoons of fresh oil. Now add the onions, carrots, and garlic in the pot. Cook over medium heat until soft and brown. Add the flour and stir well so it coats the vegitables, then cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the vinegar and beer, scraping up all the good stuff with the wooden spoon. Bring to a boil until the liquid is reduced by half. Stir in the chicken stock or broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and return the pork to the pot, being sure to incorporate any juices from the meat. Reduce to a very low simmer, cover the pot, and let cook for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Make the Crust
Preheat the over to 450F/230C. Remove the pork from the pot and place on the baking sheet. Brush the meat evenly with 2 tablespoons of the mustard, then press bread crumbs into the mustard-covered surface of the meat. Place in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the crumbs form a firm, browned crust. Remove from the oven, and allow to rest on the cutting board for 5 minutes while you finish the sauce.

Finish the Sauce
Strain the cooking liquid into the small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 15 minutes, then season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of mustard. Slice the meat and serve with sauce either on the side or poured around the slices.

Tay's Notes...
Above is how Anthony Bourdain writes this recipe. I would just add that it's important to get the temp right when you are initially browning the meat. Don't burn it! Also, this dish ends up being a bit drier and less "porky" then you'd expect--which is awesome. It carves nicely, but there isn't much sauce. Also, I think this recipe does better in a nice thick pot. Like cast-iron or perhaps a dutch oven.

Tomorrow, kiddie-permitting, I'm going to try Bourdain's Boeuf Bourguignon recipe. Seems simpler then Julia Child's version. I'll report back...


Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Wishlist

People have been asking what I want for Christmas (besides a baby)...

  • Slippers--for walking around the house
  • Humidor--I don't smoke a lot of cigars, hence the need to store the ones I've got for special occasions!
  • Shop-Vac
  • NFL merchandise (favourite teams: Saints, Patriots. Favourite players: Brett Favre, Troy Polamalu, Drew Breese)
  • Whiskey Stones
  • Whiskey (Kentucky Bourbon/Scotch/etc.)
  • Weather Monitoring station

But really, I'm just going to be thrilled to have a new baby at home!



FEWG--The Fresh Expressions Working Group--is a Diocesan Committee that primarily is responsible for overseeing church planting in the Diocese of Toronto. That means both serving as gate-keepers to the money set aside to assist in setting up church plants (through the grant process and ultimately controlled by Diocesan Council), but even more importantly we companion on-going projects, think strategically about where God may be calling the Diocese next, and recruit and discern potential missional leaders.

I'm a very junior member of this committee and have only been to three meetings so far, but I have to say that I am extremely impressed with how they do business/ministry. I'm not sure I have been a part of a committee than has been more open to the work of the Holy Spirit. It is not uncommon for people to speak about how they think God has been active in the work they are talking about. And we speak quite a lot about how God's providence is working itself out in the Diocese of Toronto. It's a very "spiritual" sort of discussion that we have around that table. It's also quite down-to-earth nuts-and-bolts, too, but there is no contradiction there. I wish there was a way to share some stories from that committee because I think people throughout the Diocese would be encouraged both by the good news of what we are discovering in this process as well as by the amazingly holy way that the committee and the planters have gone about the work of building up the Kingdom. Very, very cool.

I also appreciate how fun these meetings are. Lots of laughing and joking around. They feed us lunch (sandwiches and pop), and we do a devotional time before the meeting starts in earnest. The Archbishop, Colin "Double-Cross" Johnson, joins us. (His nickname "double-cross" comes from the way he follows the tradition of putting two crosses in front of his name since he became Archbishop.) The meetings last about two hours.

A sign of a good meeting is that everyone leaves feeling even more excited about their work than when they entered. Something about getting a group of enthusiastic people together ought to create something between them that it is powerful and exhilarating, you know?


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

More Security...

We had so many security problems at the church that we finally decided a few months ago (even before I was punched) to install security cameras. That work was finished today. Fast forward to this evening, when I got a call from the alarm system monitoring station--they were showing a burglar alarm at the church that hadn't been reset. I get these calls every few weeks--usually it's a false alarm. Sometimes it's the real deal.

So I dutifully put on my coat and shoes and headed out the church at 8:30pm. When I arrived I found the cleaning crew. They told me that the alarm had been going off when they arrived. I didn't figure out why it hadn't given them the usual delay to give them the time to reactivate it, nor why the monitoring station couldn't see that it had been reset. I shrugged, said goodnight to the cleaners and came home.

I had just taken off my shoes and coat again when the cleaners called back. Someone was in the building. They had heard someone closing a door upstairs in the daycare and were seriously freaked out. The cleaners ran outside and called me.

So I went back down to the church. Odds are, this is someone left over from the AA meetings earlier in the evening that was looking for somewhere warm to stay. I carefully searched the whole church with my big Maglite. As best I can tell, the person was probably scared off by the cleaning staff and left out the back stairway.

I'll find out for sure tomorrow when I check the video footage from our fancy new security cameras!


Advent Layout

I've been talking a lot about the Advent layout. Here's some pics to give a better sense:

It may be hard to make out in these photos, but it's a U-shape with the Presider's chair and the ambo at the bottom, the altar in the middle, and a table at the top of the U with the tabernacle and menorah. A small Credence table is just in front of the ambo, which is flanked by a pair of candlesticks. The choir sits on either side of the top of the U, with the piano offset to one side. We're thinking this Sunday we are going to have the choir all on one side.


CECE Update

We had a very good meeting of the Centre for Excellence in Christian Education (CECE) project last night. Our Resource Library is really starting to take-off now that we have our first substantial grant ($10k from Area Council). Much excitement and joy as we move forward with various parts of the project!


Saturday, December 5, 2009

US Air Force Acknowledges New Aircraft

Little know fact, the United States Air Force spends more now on Unmanned Ariel Vehicles (such as Predator Drones) than on traditional, piloted aircraft. Of course, UAV's do, in fact, have pilots. It's just that the pilots fly the vehicles remotely from bases. There are a lot of advantages of this besides lowering the risk in operations over hostile territory. Without the weight of pilot, human interface (cockpit), or the life-support/survival equipment associated with pilots, these airplanes can have incredible range and time-over-target. If pilots become tired, no problem, they just get up and another pair takes their place in the command centre! The current (declassified) record for a single Predator flight is 40 hours and 5 minutes (source).

The existence of the "RQ-170 Sentinel" has just been declassified. It looks like a smaller version of a B-2 Bomber: flying wing with no tail. Few details have been released, but the aircraft is obviously designed to minimize radar signature. It is believed that it does not carry weapons (but that assumption is really just based on the RQ designation declassified by the Air Force). Aviation Week says that it is probably a "tactical, operations-oriented platform and not a strategic intelligence-gathering design" (source). But a lot bloggers point out features of the design that suggest an internal weapons bay.

I have a great story, incidentally, that an USAF officer told me about a Predator giving operational support during the invasion of Iraq. I don't think it's a classified story, but I'm not going to share it online. Suffice it to say that these things are amazing. I imagine that the new "Sentinel" has made major advancements over the late-90's-era Predator.

Capt Richard Koll, left, and Airman 1st Class Mike Eulo pilot a Predator UAV from a base in Iraq before handing control off to a team in the United States. The guy on the left flies while the one on the right operates sensors and weapons systems. (source)


The "Crazy" Season

Advent, the period leading up to Christmas, has a way of bringing out the crazy in people. In the past few weeks a number of situations in church-land and beyond have seemed to escalate in intensity and anxiety. Several people that I counsel or have pastoral charge of seem to be having a harder time than normal, and I really think it's because of the added pressure of this season. Between the holiday parties and gifts and church events and services, things are getting more crazy in every way.

For example.... A few days ago I was assaulted by a mentally ill person known to our community. I don't want to share too much on this for legal reasons, but it is something much on my mind, obviously. I got punched in the stomach while standing in the doorway to the church by someone because they thought, in their delusional state, that this was a good idea. I was actually talking to 911 at the time, and the police did come and arrest this person for assault. Luckily, my ample ninja-priest tummy has a near-magical ability to absorb punches, so I'm absolutely fine. The person that hit me was not very strong. The last (and only other) time I was assaulted was in Los Angeles when I did social work, and I could write a whole set of "lessons learned" from both occurrences.

So... the precautions we take at the church to lock doors and install video cameras may seem excessive for some, but then something like this happens and we all realize that due vigilance is required, especially for those of us in urban ministry. As this story has gotten out, a LOT of my colleagues have shared similar incidents. One guy I know was chased out of St. Thomas' by a mentally disturbed person. It can happen to any of us, at any time.

The police are handling it and I suspect this person will be re-institutionalized, which is the best thing for it. I just wish that we had a better way to help the severely mentally ill than the criminal justice system. It's a shame that we've criminalized mental illness.

What concerns me now, however, is the way that this "craziness" fits a December pattern. I know a lot of other people that find this time of year very, very difficult. I, myself, find it difficult to maintain a positive attitude when I worry about the church deficit or certain parishioners that are having a hard time coping right now.

And yet there is a lot to be positive about. We recently had five new people join the church. Next week I'm going to expand the Contemplative Eucharists to Saturdays. The Women's Bible Study is flourishing. I'm thinking of starting some kind of house church event. I think most people in the parish are extremely happy with the way ministry is happening here. So why is my soul troubled?

I've wondered whether this is displaced anxiety from my coming fatherhood. Yet I was similarly anxious last December, so maybe not. And when I think of the baby I'm mostly excited. I get a lot of prayer and meditation these days, but what I experience are strong feelings of concern and love that ache with something close to nostalgia or regret, not joy and elation (as I have felt at other times). All I have to do is attend to my feelings at the Contemplative Eucharist on Wednesdays or the Healing Prayer service on Saturdays and there IT is--that feeling of December anxiousness.

The Advent Prose (Rorate Coeli) resonate remarkably well with it. We've been singing a modern English translation in place of the Gloria/Kyrie on Sundays. It's a searching, longing melody that just aches with desire for the fulfilment of God's Advent promise. "Pour down, O heavens, from above, and let the skies rain down righteousness." It's a haunting musical/liturgical meditation on the hope of the prophets. Perfect for the crazy season upon us.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Sermon - Advent 1 2009

Doug Clark, our Intern, preached this sermon on the first Sunday of Advent. He was deeply troubled by the movie "2012" and the hype surrounding it and decided that he needed to offer a pastoral response through this sermon.

Here's the audio...

Here's a direct link to the MP3 file...


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sermon - Reign of Christ 2009

On Reign of Christ Sunday (the last Sunday after Pentecost), we had a baptism at the church. I preached this sermon with that, and the Kingship of Christ, very much in mind. Enjoy...

Here's the audio...

Here's a direct link to the MP3 file...


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Facebook Profiles turn out to be Accurate...

It's well known that people lie about themselves when they create on-line profiles for things like dating sites. Turns out, however, that Facebook is different...

[W]hen University of Texas researchers began studying Facebook friends, they expected that users also would exaggerate accomplishments and offer an enhanced version of themselves. To their surprise, they discovered that Facebook profiles typically gave an accurate and realistic impression of the user’s real-life personality. (source)

In this sense, Facebook is used more as a normal communications tool rather than as a means of self-promotion. How about that?


Our Lady of Guadalupe

Probably the most important pilgrimage site in the Americas, the Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine in Mexico City is an incredible place. I've been there twice and have been incredibly moved both times by the pure devotion, warmth, and affection of the pilgrims there. Definitely something you don't want to miss if you are ever in D.F. (Mexico City).

Doug C. sent me this video of the crowds singing "Happy Birthday" to this patron saint of Mexico.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

One of the best ways to work of stress, I find, is good video game. My favourite genre are so called "First Person Shooters." This genre of twitch-gaming is one of the most action-packed, violent, and challenging types of gaming experience. It rewards fast, accurate reactions that take practice to develop. One of the newest such games is "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2." I've been playing recently and have to say it's a cinematic, exciting, and immersive experience. In it, you take the part of several different special ops soldiers tasked with a wide variety of missions. In one mission you have to capture an arms dealer fleeing through a Brazilian Flavela slum teaming with angry militia. In another, you have to escape on foot after your convoy in Iraq is ambushed. One minute you are directly airstrikes from a Predator drone and in another you are sneaking past Russian dog patrols in a pine forrest. Thrilling, thrilling stuff.