Posting twice in one week

The local Dominicans here, (of which the aforementioned Fr. Tall is one,) host a monthly program called Dominican Forum, in which the people of the diocese may attend lectures by resident or visiting Dominican friars on a variety of topics. This Monday there was an excellent presentation on St. Francis of Assissi by the author of a forthcoming new historical biography of the saint. The introduction to the history and documentation of the life of St. Francis was fascinating in itself and I truly look forward to getting my hands on the book when it comes out in March...(must remember to pre-order through Amazon this weekend.)

The speaker was Fr. Augustine Thomas, O.P. (I would say that I am superstitiously developing a fondness for anyone named Augustine, but the truth is that I have been sincerely fond of every Dominican that I have met so far in my life as a practicing Catholic and since all of the Augustines I have met have been Dominicans, I don't really think the name has anything to do with it.) He is a history professor who has spent the last two and a half years sorting through all of the surviving documents on St. Francis and has written the most historically authentic biography of him that is yet to be known.
He also has a history of the religious practices of the laity in the middle ages which I will get as a gift for my dear husband as soon as he forgets that it exists, which should be any time now, if not already.

The presentation last Monday makes me grateful that I have never read any stories about St. Francis and think I know very little about him. I will not have to put much effort into shedding false opinions. I anticipate enjoying the book so much that I review it here and try to convince you to read it as well.

This must be why I am posting again already, I have books to talk about. That is so much more interesting than my own life.

Oh, ...I get it!

A Dominican friend of mine, aptly nick-named Father Tall, recently lent me _The Curse of Chalion_ by Lois McMaster Bujold. I am about half way through it as of last night and have finally figured out why he chose to recommend this story to me as a fair exchange for the Wright and Lamplighter trilogies that I lent to him. It had been noteworthy that the story is very light on the magic for a fantasy novel these days. I finally clued in that it is not really a fantasy novel as I would classify one analytically. It is neither high fantasy or sword and sorcery; rather it is speculative fiction. Bujold shows here how excellently the fantasy genre holds up as an avenue for theological speculative fiction, (as opposed to scientific speculative fiction which most of us are more accustomed to seeing.) So far through the story, Bujold speculates with style and finesse that makes everything that I have read so far more enjoyable now that I get it.

A scene I read last night laid everything open. There was an intriguing discussion between two characters about what makes a person a living saint. Someone who is not looking for theological commentary can enjoy the scene for its world building and character development qualities, because this information has become intrinsic to the plot. The conversation does not take the tone of an info-dump because it takes place between two well developed characters who are both learned and insightful and each have something to share, while one is keenly aware of desperately needing the information possessed by the other. The views and definitions are firmly grounded in the theology of the world, which means that the author reveals a solid understanding of the logical development of a theology based on given assumption. From that point, she sets her definitions well and the beliefs exhibited by the characters are all believable in the context of the world and story.

The author uses this fictional theology to speculate on our own understanding of divinity and morality. It is very nice to read a plot that is solidly built around a given idea of speculation, rather than a story with the authors agenda driven diatribes inserted here and there or a shallow story set in a flimsy world where the culture is so poorly examined that the behavior of the characters in not a believable expression of the faith or faiths described as part of the backdrop.

food experiments

I have decided that I want to develop a recipe for upside-down blueberry banana cake. My current step is to get the perfect banana cake. I am on my second cake this week. My first cake was a blueberry banana cake that came out overly moist, dense and low. The flavor was terrific, but I was really not pleased with the process or the lift of the cake. My second cake was made using my preferred method, which does not require me to foam and fold egg whites. I am pleased with the look and texture of the cake. It made very good layers, but is still very moist. (I like but must use care when cooling and moving.) Since the cake layers baked up so well, I stacked them and frosted them so that the cake would not dry out before we could eat it all. Unfortunately, I forgot about the cats when I contented myself with using the frosting to seal the moisture in the cake. When we got back from the baseball game last night, we found that the cat had tested and approved my buttercream frosting. He licked away about a third of the frosting from the top, right down to the cake underneath. I am glad he didn't make himself sick, but he ruined a huge chunk of my cake! I can't believe that I forgot to cover it when we left the house. This must be one of the reasons that my mother would not allow us to keep indoor cats when I was growing up.

On other food adventures, I got an idea for the most wonderful addition to the heart-attack-on-a-plate category of American cuisine. (This is so much better than deep fried Kool-Aid!) I am going to make Buffalo style deep fried mozzarella sticks. Doesn't that sound like the worst kind of fabulous?

Restaurant review

I found a restaurant that is as obsessed with bacon as partywhipple. Yesterday, I had a Bacon Jam Burger for lunch at the Spenard Roadhouse (http://spenardroadhouse.com/). Here is the menu listing for the Bacon Jam Burger: 8 oz all natural beef, bacon jam, Cambozola cheese, grilled apple, arugula, house mayo, toasted bun. I was able to pair this burger with Tater Tots and a glass of freshly squeezed red grapefruit juice. Bacon Jam is exactly what it sounds like. They chop onion and bacon and cook them down together with honey and brown sugar to make a jam. It is an amazing mix of smokey, sweet, savory, rich, and bitter flavors.

This Bacon Jam is also available as an appetizer, served with cambozola cheese, Granny Smith apple and a baguette. Also available as an appetizer is their bacon of the month, which is often ordered with one of their many fine bourbons. Bacon is an optional add-on for it's regular burger, grilled cheese sandwich, or the Super Tots. This restaurant advertises a contemporary twist on comfort food, including a gourmet
TV Dinners on Sunday nights.

If you are in Anchorage, go and enjoy.

A very rare "poor me" moment

I try very hard not to feel sorry for myself. It is usually rather easy. I love my life and am happy. I have a life full of faith, purpose and love. Even in times of minor disaster, I can usually see the bright side of a situation or identify the lesson offered, which makes it easier to endure any difficulty.

For the most part, I am failing in that right now. I felt lucky Wednesday to get a next day dental check up for a tooth ache. I had a nagging fear about it all through yesterday morning, for good reason. My dentist looked at me and said, "I hate to have to do a root canal on someone with no cavities."

You read that correctly. No cavities. No fillings. I am 35 and have never had a cavity. My X-rays show no sign of cavities or tooth decay. As far as my dentist can determine, my healthy tooth was damaged in some old trauma, probably my braces in jr. high combined with some more recent minor bump, which caused the slow death of my tooth from the root down. My tooth pain was caused by swelling of the tissue around the root. I am currently on steroids to reduce the swelling. (That part is working and has alleviated most of the pain. Thank God for pharmaceuticals.)

My dentist was booked through the next week and did not want me to wait any longer than that, so I am on-call for a root canal. They will call me as soon as they get a cancellation long enough for the procedure. I don't even know when I go under the drill. (At least the pain is fading with the meds.)

What should I expect from a Hegelian...

I tried to read a novel yesterday and will not get through the first chapter.

_To Reign in Hell_ is one of Steven Brust's older novels. I have enjoyed so many of his books over the years that I grabbed this one in the midst of my current reading dulldrums. I may well have enjoyed it six or more years ago. That was before my conversion and the addition of theology into my philosophical studies. Now I cannot get past his opening premise.

With this novel I hoped for something Miltonian with an irreverent dash of Brustish humor and action. He has a capacity for granduer and I believed that he could make the Ultimate Bad Guy into a sympathetic character without simply praising evil. I imagine that he did manage to pull that one off, but I will not bother to find out.

To his credit, Steven Brust does not make Yaweh into a power hungry tyrant. He posits that in the beginning, Satan and Yaweh were friends and that together the strove to fight the primordial chaos from which they sprang. See my problem?

The author cannot abandon his atheistic creation mythology in order to tell a story about angels and Heaven. I fully expect this book to be far better than any Philip Pullman story, but I am very disappointed and will not bother reading the rest.

If this story is an argument against God, then argue against God, not a creature that has God's name, but in whom no believer believes. Brust posits that God has no glory and that he is merely the oldest of beings who, upon his randomly blipping into existence and through his determination to survive, caused the creation of other beings and that together they are the seven Regents of Heaven older and more powerful than all the other angels, they are the makers of Heaven.

I can't go there. It is unsatisfying because the author ignores what God is in favor of portraying a likable and friendly visionary who plans a great project that will eventually tear his world apart. Even though I like the author and the narative voice, the story is too human. The scope is to small for me to allow.