Octopodial Chrome

Stuff that Made Sense at the Time

The Personal Weblog of Bob Uhl

Thursday, 28 April 2005

Safe Child Syndrome

I found an excellent article by Beth Hawkins about over-protective parents. I’ve gotta say that I’m glad that my parents weren’t like some of those in the article. Sure, they’d some rules which were a bit over-the-top (the ones about leaving the street before one’s 10th birthday, and about going near the lake are about the only ones I remember now), but for the most part they let us play like normal kids. I remember going for picnics in Jamestown and Williamsburg, exploring creeks and marshes with my brothers, getting horribly dirty and having loads of fun—and as I remember it they mostly trusted that we couldn’t get into too much trouble on our own. And we didn’t.

Sure, accidents happen. But they’re very rare. And might it not be worse to produce a stilted human being never capable of fully maturing than to take the slight risk of allowing some harm to befall?

Darth Vader Blogs

Who knew that the Dark Lord of the Sith has a blog? It features such bits as And Me, with a Pain in All the Diodes Down my Left Side and My Sinister Agents Have Failed Me Again. Hugely worth reading.

Take Your Rugrat to Work Day

Today is apparently Take Your Anklebiter to Work Day. I’m not certain what exactly the point is: a chance to suck the very life from the sprog, just like it’s drained from their parents; an opportunity to curtain climbers that adult life isn’t as fun as they think; a head-start on embittering the little spawn?

Don’t get me wrong: I like kids and would someday like to have a set of my own. I also like a good bath, but I don’t bring my tub into work. It’s the soul of selfishness to assume that just because one has copulated successfully, the rest of us want to be tripping over one’s get all day.

There’s a time and a place for everyone and everything: the place for yard apes is not work but, oddly enough, the yard.

Wednesday, 27 April 2005

On the Etymology of Easter

As Easter approaches, I thought I’d post an article by the learnéd Cædmon Parsons which I found on a mailing list I frequent:

Most of us may well prefer to use the word Pascha for Feast of the Lord’s Resurrection but, please, let us not be so uncouth as to attack the venerable word Easter which is a part of our Orthodox heritage and a genuine survival from the days when Britain was Orthodox in her faith.

There is absolutely no evidence for a Germanic goddess with a name in any way resembling the word Easter. Rather than the term being derived from a goddess, the supposed goddess is derived from the term. She was postulated by certain 19th century Germanic scholars in an attempt to explain the etymology of the word. These same scholars (foremost among them the Grimm brothers, famous for their folk-tale collections and less well-known as the discoverers of the Indo-European linguistic family) had a very definite nationalist/ethnic agenda in which they were trying to rediscover the real roots of German culture. Thus the folk-tale collection’s avowed purpose was to search for survivals of pre-Christian Germanic religion and culture.

The later connection of this invented figure to Astarte was sheer fundamentalist propaganda based on a coincidental similarity in sound. Having dismissed Nativity/Christmas because its timing coincides with a number of pagan solar festivals, those fundamentalist groups which criticise all celebration of holy days thereby sought to discredit Easter whose general timing is well laid out in the Bible. If there was a connection, it would be the only case of a Sumerian/Canaanite word coming into the Germanic languages without first passing through Hebrew and/or Greek into Latin and then into Germanic via the medium of Christianity.

There is some by no means conclusive evidence of a festival or holy day connected to the spring solstice. However, every recorded instance of the word’s usage has clear Christian connotations (i.e., if it ever was a pagan festival, it had effectively disappeared by the time people wrote using the term Easter). As to why this word is used in English and German: it is used in German for the simple reason that the pagans of modern-day Germany were missionised by Anglo-Saxon Christians such as St. Willibrord or the two St. Hewalds. The Germans thus got Easter the same way the Russians got Pascha—from those who evangelised them.

Although the Grimm Brothers probably did conflate the issue, the goddess Eostre may be a valid concept. However, the only mention of a goddess Eostre is recorded in Bede’s 8th century De tempore Ratione (On the Reckoning of Time)—the book which helped popularise BC/AD dating. Since there is no other corroborating evidence Bede may be mistaken. However the term for Pascha was not named from this doubtful Goddess. Instead it is most likely that Easter (Pascha) comes from the Saxon month of Eostre (April) which was used for the spring period.

In other words, the term Easter no more honours Eostre than a Wednesday Night Service at your local Protestant church honours Odin (Wednesday = Woden’s Day).

In England itself, this is the type of theoretical issue Anglo-Saxonists enjoy arguing. There appears to have been a very strong cultural bias among the Anglo-Saxons against other languages. While their Latin missionaries and then their own churchmen obviously knew and used Latin, there was remarkably little borrowing from Latin into English at this time. In almost every instance, the English Church took existing English words to express ecclesiastical terms (thus sanctus was translated by hælig [holy, healthy, whole] and Old English uses hælige John not St. John, hæliged [hallowed] rather than sanctified, &c) rather than simply borrowing the Latin (the modern preponderance of Latin loan words for ecclesiastical terms is a product of the post 1066 Norman invasion). In addition to Latin books, Old English had the most active vernacular literature (primarily Christian) of any Western area prior to the millennium. There is an extant translation of the gospel of John which is the oldest translation of the Bible into a western vernacular with the exception of Bishop Wulfilas’s Arian translations into Gothic (itself another Germanic language).

In other words, the presence of the word Easter is actually a product of the vibrant Orthodoxy of the Anglo-Saxon Church which unlike later periods did not suppress the resident culture in favour of an all-embracing Latinism but rather transformed (in accord with the guidelines given to St. Augustine of Canterbury by St. Gregory the Great) the entire language and culture. Although I myself generally use Pascha because it is the common usage among Orthodox now, I find attempts to dismiss as pagan a true survival of English Orthodoxy very problematic.

Furthermore, there does not seem to be any English form of the word Pascha; Orthodox England never called the feast anything but Easter.

Word-list (from J.R. Clarke-Hall’s A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary)

adj. east, easterly
adv. eastwards, in an easterly direction, in or from the east
from the east, easterly
east wind
eastern king
eastern quarter, the East
the East
east-end, east quarter
the East Anglians: East Anglia
Easter-day, Easter Sunday
Easter-fast, Lent
feast of Easter
the feast day of Passover
Easter custom (appears only in the 9th century sermons of Ælfric where he is reffering to Christian Easter practises)
belonging to Easter, Paschal
Easter-month, April
east, eastern, oriental
Easter Sunday
Passover (lit. Easter gathering)
Eastertide, Paschal season
Easter Week
Easter, Passover, (possibly) Spring.

And while I find the etymological connection of Easter and astiehen (to rise up) doubtful, the pun of Eastre, astah (risen) is very obvious in Anglo-Saxon.

So you see there’s nought wrong with saying Happy Easter!

Swimming the Atlantic

I didn’t know this, but in 1998 a Texan swam from Cape Cod to France. That’s a truly amazing trip, one which took 72 days to complete. Someday I’d like to walk across America, which isn’t quite so cool, but would still be pretty neat.

Saturday, 23 April 2005

The Many Titles of Queen Elizabeth II

From the Wikipaedia page on the titles of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, this one woman is most fully (and alphabetically) known as:

Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of Antigua and Barbuda, of Australia, of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, of Barbados, of Belize, of Canada, of Grenada, of Jamaica, of New Zealand, of Papua New Guinea, of Saint Christopher and Nevis, of Saint Lucia, of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, of the Solomon Islands, of Tuvalu, and of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Queen, Head of the Commonwealth and Defender of the Faith.

The list of her orders and honours is even longer. It must be nice. I really wish that the US had an honours system: it’d give one something to aim for. To tell the truth, I’d trade everything I own—down to the last empty beer bottle—for an hereditary peerage. And I7rsquo;d give the majority of my life’s fortune for membership in even a single order. Sigh…

The Harm of the Minimum Wage

I recently found an excellent article on the harm done by the minimum wage. The author—who manages rest stops and camping grounds—hires old folks who mostly are content to work for free camping and a few bucks to cover gas for their RVs. They do a good job and are generally conscientious. It’s exactly the sort of situation which economists mean when they say that people are willing to trade some benefits for others. If the minimum wage is increased, then he will have several bad options: eliminate the jobs; contract out the jobs; automate the jobs; raise prices. None of these are good.

There should be no legislated minimum wage: the minimum wage is the least anyone is willing to work for. That’s fair. It sounds bad, but remember that there’s competition for labour: if someone needs hired help, he’ll pay more than the prevailing wage in order to get more employees. We can see this now: almost no-one is paid minimum wage. Fast food joints are now paying almost twice what the law requires, and they’re not doing it out of the goodness of their hearts, but because they need to. Adam Smith’s invisible hand wins again.

600 Miles

The odometer on my bike passed the 600 mile mark today. To put that in perspective, that’s enough to cross the English Channel at its widest point four times over; it’s 2/3 of the way from Denver, Colo. to Dallas, Tx.; it’s 20 times the width of Rhode Island & Providence Plantations and 15 times its length. Granted, I know of people who put that much on their cars in a week—but every single one of those miles was covered by my legs, which is pretty cool.

Tuesday, 19 April 2005

Benedict XVI

Well, the Romans have a new bishop, and the Roman Church has a new pope: Benedict XVI, formerly Joseph, Cardinal Ratzinger. From what very little I know of him, he’s a decent fellow of the old mold. I’ve no idea what his relations with our churches will be. It’s probably not too likely that he’ll decide to renounce infallibility…

Saturday, 16 April 2005

Darth Tater

From Playskool comes Darth Tater: Mr. Potato Head dressed to look like Darth Vader. It’s actually really amusing.

Marathon Trilogy Now Free

Bungie (now a subsidiary of Microsoft) have just released the Marathon Trilogy. For those who’ve not heard of it, Marathon came out at about the same time as Doom did for PCs. Despite being roughly contemporaneous, Marathon was much more advanced: while on only aimed horizontally in Doom, Marathon supported full horizontal and vertical aiming; while the PC game was very two-dimensional (with just the illusion of 3D), the Mac standard was fully (albeit primitively) three-dimensional; but most importantly where Doom had no story other than kill lots of things before they kill you, Marathon had a complex story of aliens and an insane computer who was both ally and foe.

Marathon 2 and Marathon Infinity carried on that tradition of excellent stories, with perhaps the best storylines of any first-person-shooter I’ve ever played, stories almost good enough for interactive fiction. Indeed, the Marathon series were a kind of interactive fiction with a shoot-em-up component.

Although now long-outdated, the source for Marathon Infinity was released years ago by Bungie and has now given birth to Marathon: Aleph One, with which it is possible to play the latter two of the original trilogy, but with better sounds and graphics. Marathon lives on!

Friday, 15 April 2005

Talking Cure No Cure-All

Nowadays it is taken as a given that the best way to deal with problems is to talk about them. It ain’t necessarily so; indeed for some people it can be harmful. I have known this for years, of course, but no-one asked me.

Wednesday, 13 April 2005

Elizabethan Clothing

I recently re-found a link to this superb set of men’s clothing from the Elizabethan period. I would love to own this, and would wear it whenever opportunity presented itself. Modern clothing is so…drab.

Tuesday, 12 April 2005

The Battle of Tarawa

In the Battle of Tarawa in 1943, the USMC conquered a series of Pacific islets. 3,000 Marines fell; out of 4,700 Japanese only 17 survived. It’s impossible to imagine a survival rate of 1/3 of one percent. Said one of those survivors, when asked if Japanese morale ever broke, Yes, when the dieing Marines kept coming and coming.

We complain about less than 2,000 dead in Iraq in two years or so—half again as many died in a single battle for a single string of islets nowhere in the Pacific.

Monday, 11 April 2005

Happy St. Guthlac's

My parents called to remind me that today is the Feast of St. Guthlac of Crowland (or Croyland). A young man of noble birth (and brother to another saint, a hermitess named St. Pege, or Pega), he became a Benedictine monk and later a hermit in the fens of Crowland. He drained them, wrestled with the demons who lived there, and finally was victorious, turning the swamps into beautiful and fertile land, as related in the excellent Life of St. Guthlac related by the esteemed, and late, Prof. Raymond P. Tripp, Jr. in the April 2001 Lion. Because of his life, he has been associated with Orthodox Ecology.

For my own part, I took his name when re-enacting Anglo-Saxon times because I felt sorry for the old fellow. A saint should be honoured by the naming of children for him, and his example should be something which others are called to follow—but no-one will name his child Guthlac, and very few will hear his story and be inspired by his example. Well, this is one small way to honour him and to perhaps influence other to in some small way follow his example.

The Troparion & Kontakion of St. Guthlac:

Father Guthlac you followed the ways of the prophet Elijah,
and the straight path of the Forerunner.
You became a dweller in the cisterns of Croyland
and in that wilderness brought forth fruit an hundredfold both conquering the demons and healing the sick.
Intercede with Christ our God that our souls may be saved.

You abandoned royal estates and the life of a warrior to live by silence and prayer,
by this you inspired the English peoples, holy Father Guthlac.
Wherefore we acclaim you
as the father of English monasticism.

The lesson we learn from St. Guthlac’s example is two-fold: first, the holiness of monasticism; second, the holiness of reclaiming this fallen Earth for man’s goodly use. On the one hand, it is worthy to forsake the world and seek God alone; on the other, it is worthy to strive to tame the wild, to dispel sickness, and to bend uncouth nature to the service of man.

Friday, 08 April 2005

Wal-Mart Dating

The romantic Germans have come up with Singles Shopping: show up at Wal-Mart at a designated time and receive a bright bow to tie to your cart—and then cruise the store, maybe meeting the girl of your dreams. Interesting little idea.

The Patton Manual for Sabre Exercise

A little-known fact is that George S. Patton, the hero of the Second World War, was at one point in time Master of the Sword at the Mounted Service School for the Fifteenth Cavalry. He even wrote a manual on the use of the sword and designed the M1913 cavalry sabre.

Tuesday, 05 April 2005

Emmy Rossum

I’ve yet to see her in any films, but Emmy Rossum appears to be a true beauty. I first noticed this in a photo comparing her outfit to an Austrian empress; my suspicion was confirmed in a photo of her at a screening or somesuch event. A truly attractive girl, and if she graces the movie camera quite so well as she does the still, then she’ll certainly go places.

Piss-poor Grammar at Time

Time, in an article about the lying-in-state of Pope John Paul II, writes the traditional pageantry, mystery and power of Vatican rituals has[sic] awed the faithful for centuries. Not has; have. The subject is plural: pageantry, mystery and power. We live in a sad age indeed.

Monday, 04 April 2005

Fifteen Minutes

I want fifteen minutes in a room with the guy who invented daylight savings time. Me, him and an aluminium baseball bat. Wham!

Sunday, 03 April 2005

The Louisiana Purchase Nickel

I noticed that the new Louisiana Purchase Nickel has a pipe on the back, crossed with a tomahawk above a handshake. Just sayin’…

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