Raising the Betts #50: The JohnPauls

In this episode, the Betts had a parade for their nephew JohnPaul, who once embraced his namesake saint in Rome and has now become a US Army officer. Plus a daughter’s birthday, a Mother’s Day out, movies recommended and shows not recommended, and remembering to give a reason for your hope with gentleness.

The Church Needs to Plan for the Recovery

Cue the cliché: We are living in unprecedented times. Actually, in some ways we aren’t. The world–and specifically here I’m going to address the situation of the Catholic Church–has faced pandemics before and much worse ones at that. We’ve seen lockdowns and separation from the sacraments and all and I don’t want to retread that familiar ground.

But what’s unprecedented this time is the ability to connect with one another despite our separation. Since the the beginning of the US lockdowns in March (and before that in Italy and other places in Europe), we’ve seen how we can still connect, do our work, go to school, order groceries and takeout, entertain ourselves, and most importantly, pray together through our computers and phones and tablets. It’s especially gratifying to see how our priests and parishes have responded in an almost entirely grassroots manner to provide us with live-streamed Masses when we were cut off from our communal celebrations in our churches (sometimes to hilarious, Facebook-filter effect). Kudos to the men of the collar for stepping up, often in areas they weren’t comfortable in, to figure out to get connected and online and streaming, almost instantly.

But as the weeks drag on and we receive increasingly dire predictions for how long we’re going to be like this, questions arise. Yes, even as some states have started to ease restrictions, many lockdowns will last into June at least. And even then, we are warned, life will not go back to pre-February 2020. We will continue to have restrictions on gatherings and requirements to maintain distance and/or wear masks and more. We are also warned that a second wave of the coronavirus will probably hit us in the fall, perhaps even worse than the first wave. This is our life for the time being.

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Why Transparency in the Church Matters

It’s frustrating as a Catholic to see our internal problems air in the media sometimes and realize how nobody is quite wrong, but neither are they quite right, and yet so much damage is done by not being forthright and open.

Take the case of St. Mary’s Parish in Winchester, here in the Archdiocese of Boston. Boston magazine lays out the story from the point of view of the former pastoral associate: He worked at the parish for decades, alongside the longtime pastor1, who had gained a major following in the parish, which had become prosperous and very active. Then as pastoral leadership was changing, a standard archdiocesan audit uncovered potential evidence of financial impropriety that eventually involved the FBI. But after the initial flurry of news and worry, nothing more was ever said and despite this employee’s repeated inquiries, no one would say what happened. That resulted in him clashing with the new pastor, with archdiocesan employees, and an auxiliary bishop and eventually his dismissal. This has all led to a once-thriving parish shedding members who have gone to other parishes or–worse–stopped practicing their faith, and of course massive financial shortfalls.

It’s like a bad two-act play that the Church keeps acting out over and over and over.
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Raising the Betts #45: Palm-less Sunday

On the next Raising the Betts, Dom and Melanie have a Palm Sunday without (fresh) palm branches, are cutting their own hair, and pondering the effects of self-isolation on the kitchen ninjas. Plus contemplating how our priests miss us and that while we’re all in a Good Friday of lockdown, an Easter Sunday of freedom is inevitably coming.

Making an On Air Light with Philips Hue and Automation

Because I podcast and do live video from my home office while my wife, Melanie, is homeschooling our five kids in the other room, it’s important that I let others know when it’s safe to knock on my office door and when they have to be very quiet. In the past I looked into those fancy “on-air” lights that you see in TV and radio studios, but they’re pricy and usually need to be hard-wired and so instead I’ve tried various workarounds like notes taped to the door and even a battery operated light that I screwed into the door itself. They never worked well and I eventually stopped using them.

Finally, I think I’ve got the solution, creating a virtual on-air light using a Philips Hue bulb; a cheap plug-in wall light; and some automation on my Mac.

The first step was to purchase the light. I chose this one because it’s not too expensive, it plugs in to the wall, and it will fit a standard Hue bulb. Plus it looks okay. I also got a Philips Hue Color bulb. This was pricier than the regular plain white bulbs I usually get, but for once I had a use for a multi-colored light. When they arrived from Amazon, I hung the lamp, put the bulb in and set it up in the Philips Hue app on my iPhone as normal, naming it “On-Air Lamp”.

The next step was to use the Hue API to identify the bulb and the settings I wanted to use. I detailed how to get your API key and use the browser-based CLIP API Debugger tool in my blog post about automating the Hue motion and temperature sensor. The light was found under the lights section of the GET command response. By setting the bulb to the color I wanted in the Hue app first, I’m also able to see the correct settings for the color and brightness I’d eventually want. It looked like this:

I already have a Keyboard Maestro automation that runs when I turn on my sound mixer. It starts my recording software, Audio Hijack, and turns on an app that prevents my computer from sleeping while I’m recording, called Amphetamine. It’s triggered when KM detects the USB device connecting to the Mac. For me that was a perfect time to turn on the On-Air Lamp so I added the following to the macro in an “Execute Shell Script” action:

curl[YOUR_API_KEY]/lights/25/state -X PUT -d \{"on": true,"bri": 122,"hue": 64738,"sat": 254,"effect": "none"\} ' -H "Content-Type: application/json"

You should replace [YOUR_API_KEY] with your actual Hue API key. You should also set the action to “ignore results” so it doesn’t pop up a notice every time it runs. Also the IP address (“”) should be replaced with whatever the IP address is for the Hue hub on your network.

Of course, I want the light to be off when I’m done, so I set up another KM macro that detects when the mixer is detached from the Mac and executes the same shell script (and only the shell script), but changes the “on” parameter from “true” to “false” and deletes the other parameters because they’re unnecessary.

I also set up some macros for my Elgato Streamdeck so that I could set the light to yellow for when I’m working, but not recording, so they can knock if necessary. Finally, I’m going to set up a Geektool notification for my Mac’s desktop to remind me how the light is set right now so I can be sure it’s on when it needs to be and off when it doesn’t.

Update: I never set up t he Geektool notification because it was easier to set up another Elgato Streamdeck button. The Streamdeck has built-in Hue support so I have the On-Air lamp as an on/off button and so I can see at a glance whether the light is on or not.

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