When is Bread Not Bread?

Eucharist held in the hand

The upcoming Pan-Amazon Synod for the Catholic bishops of the region has been gaining controversy for some of its controversial proposals, but this one is the worst yet.

One proposal wants to replace the wheat bread used to confect the Eucharist with a bread-like food made from yuca, a starchy tuber that grows in South America, Africa, and Asia. Msgr. Charles Pope sounds the alarm on this one by pointing out that the only valid matter for the Eucharist is bread made of wheat flour and water and nothing else. Not rice, not yuca, nothing.

Like other tubers, yuca can be used to make gluten-free “bread.” But it is not bread — it is merely bread-like. By definition, bread is made with grain. The Church has long been quite specific that the bread for the Holy Eucharist must be made with pure wheat flour. Nothing is to be admixed—no honey, no nuts, no other grains. This purity is necessary for validity.

I recall many years ago attending a Mass in the Diocese of Richmond near Virginia Beach at which the bread used for the Eucharist was leavened with yeast and had honey and, I think even raisins or nuts. It wasn’t good bread and it wasn’t the Eucharist. It was only one of the liturgical abuses present in that Mass.

Anyway, the reason they want to replace actual wheat bread for fake bread in the Amazon is apparently because it’s so humid there that the wheat hosts become mushy and, they claim, no longer bread. So, the bread is no longer bread and must be replaced with something that is not bread either?

We need clear instructions from Rome that this is unacceptable because down this path leads the denial of the sacrament to many of the faithful.

Leave the Cap On

Plastic bottles and recycling

I was surprised by the advice in this article about recycling plastic bottles. I don’t use a lot of water bottles, but we go through a lot of milk bottles and surely that must be similar.

The gist is that when recycling plastic bottles, you should leave the cap on so that caps don’t get sorted by the recycler into landfill-bound waster by the recycler. I’ve had a habit of leaving them on and recently stopped after Melanie asked me about it and I realized that leaving the cap on trapped moisture in the bottle, which can lead to grossness. So now I’ll start leaving it on.

However, I’ve always crushed plastic containers when putting them in recycling because an empty milk bottle takes up so much space, which means I have to empty the recycling more often.1 But now they say crushing the containers can confuse the sorting machines into thinking they’re paper and they’ll end up in the wrong place (if your recycling pickup is single stream and not pre-sorted).

So, on the plus side I was right about the caps. On the negative side, I guess I’ll be taking out the recycling more often.

  1. Taking out the trash and recycling is my job and with a family of seven it’s a constant battle to keep them from overflowing.

My Podcasting Workflow: Hardware Setup

Dom sitting at his desk with his computer gear

I’m sometimes asked about my podcasting workflow, how SQPN goes about recording, editing, distributing, and promoting our shows. Right now, for the most part, this is a one-man operation. However, we’re growing to the point where I’m going to need to start bringing on some help and handing off some of these elements to other people. So what follows is a series of posts that explain the multiple steps that take me from the beginning to the end of the process for each show we produce. The first step involves the hardware setup.

My office at home is where I do my podcasting. I have a big Ikea desk on which sits my computer and a second monitor and microphone. Actually “sit” isn’t technically true. Both the 27″ iMac and the 27″ secondary display are on separate swing arms that allow me to move and reposition them independently as needed. On a small rolling cart to my right sits my Mackie ProFX8 mixer. It’s a bit overkill for a single microphone setup, but I anticipate doing multiple microphone recordings in my office in the future and this will work well for that. The Mackie is connected to my Mac via USB.

My microphone, an Audio-Technica ATR2100, is connected via XLR to the mixer through a Cloudlifter CL-1 microphone pre-amplifier. The microphone hangs off of a Rode PSA1 boom arm and a shock mount along with a pop filter.

Hanging from an Elevation Lab AnchorPro headphone hook under my desk is my Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones which are directly connected to my iMac’s audio-out port.
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Too Many Cars? Private Enterprise Could Fix That

Around here we call Cambridge the “People’s Republic” for a reason. The city’s politics veer somewhere to the left of Leningrad circa 1985. So when they set out to reduce car ownership in the city a few years ago it had a decidedly liberal bent … and the predictable outcome. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

A few years ago, Cambridge set a goal to reduce car ownership out of environmental concerns and started by trying to encourage people to go without and instead rely on buses and bike routes and the usual stuff that works for singles and small households, but not larger middle class families. The gentle carrot approach didn’t work as much as they’d hoped so now they’re going for a little less gentle approach of limiting the available parking, on or off street. And if that doesn’t work…. can taxes or “congestion fees” or any number of punitive steps be far behind?

Unfortunately, Cambridge’s policies seem to assume that most people who live in Cambridge work in the city or in neighboring Boston and don’t really venture outside those cities for anything. Of course, if you have five kids like we do, you’re already a pariah in the PRC so complaints about schlepping kids and their stuff around or wanting to visit family in the ‘burbs or go on vacation or even just go to the grocery story once a week fall on deaf ears. Instead, you get suggestions that maybe you should pay for Instacart or Uber or Zipcar or a bunch of other expensive services that still aren’t quite aimed at big families or the poor for that matter.

Still, there’s a future coming in which there may be a way to reduce car ownership without onerous regulation, but relies on private enterprise to fill some of the gap. That’s because we’re very close to having autonomous electric vehicles available. Read More and Comment

Gen Xers Reliving Apple II Nostalgia

A guy about my age found his old Apple IIe in his parent’s attic, posted his nostalgia on Twitter, and got the world agog about his 30-year-old computer nostalgia. I have to admit, I’m nostalgic too.

John Pfaff tweeted about finding the computer and then followed with a series of tweets and photos of the computer running various old programs from the floppy disks that still worked.

I’ve written before about my history with Apple computers, and I would love to go back and see some of those great early computers we had. I would love to have that Apple //c or Apple IIGS again and all that great software. Pfaff plays with some of the software I used back in the day, including Olympic Decathlon. Happily, you don’t need to find an ancient, still running Apple II computer to revisit that old software as the Internet Archive has a lot of it online and usable in a browser-based emulator. However, it won’t uncover the old personal files, like the letter from his late father that Pfaff found.

But it can still be a fun walk down memory lane. I do wish I had that Apple IIGS though.

The Higher-Ed Bubble is Bursting

I’ve said for years that the higher education bubble is about to burst and it’s now coming true. All over New England over the past couple of years, small colleges have started closing due to falling enrollments and financial pressures.

The causes vary: Tuitions have risen to the point of ridiculousness and orders of magnitude faster than inflation in order to fund bloated administrative bureaucracies. Falling birth rates over the past several decades due to birth control and abortion have been exacerbated by falling populations in New England due to soaring cost of living. An increase in politically correct nonsense on campus in and outside the classroom to go along with the increase in expense have left people wondering whether there’s a value in a college degree compared to just getting a good job out of high school.

Sure the big schools like Harvard and MIT aren’t going anywhere. Harvard’s endowment is so big they could stop making students pay tuition and stay in business for several decades. But the small to mid-sized colleges, which there are more than you think, are in trouble. In 2015, there were 4,627 degree-granting colleges and universities in the United States, according to the US Dept. of Education. That’s an average of nearly 100 per state. Here in New England there are more than 250, 102 in Massachusetts and 50 clustered around Boston. that number is getting smaller by the year though.

Does the world need that many business and marketing majors, art history and pool management majors1 every year? Meanwhile, good jobs as electricians and carpenters and plumbers and factory workers paying good money without requiring four years of tuition that turns into crippling debt are staying empty.

We’ll all be much better off once the bubble is burst and the dying off is done. The schools that will remain will be healthier and hopefully more young people will realize that success in life doesn’t automatically start with a college degree.

  1. A real degree at Salem State University.

We’re All Better Off For Chris Kimball Leaving America’s Test Kitchen

Chris Kimball

It’s not often that a messy public divorce, of sorts, leaves nearly everyone — or at least those of us who weren’t part of the relationship—better off for the split. Of course, I’m not talking about a real marriage or family, but of a corporate relationship.

In 2015, Chris Kimball left or was forced out of the America’s Test Kitchen empire he had founded several decades before. In case you don’t know, ATK includes an eponymous PBS TV show and a second show called Cook’s Country, a magazine of the same name and its more famous, older sibling Cook’s Illustrated, as well as recipe and equipment review web sites, and a cookbook publishing business.

Kimball founded the company in 1993 and led it from a Brookline, Massachusetts, brownstone until he left. Right before that point, the company had brought on its first CEO as it tried to deal with the changes in the way Americans get their food journalism in the age of the internet, but at some point in 2015 Kimball was forced out of his company by co-owners who thought he was no longer the man for the job.

At the time I was very skeptical of the move. I wrote here that this was a big mistake: “Chris Kimball is the face and personality of ATK and its driving force. This is like John Scully forcing Steve Jobs out of Apple in the 1980s. It is Kimball’s homespun, stolid Vermonter style that underpins everything they do from the magazines to the TV shows to the radio show.”

I’m happy to say I was wrong. Certainly things have worked out for Kimball, but it’s also worked out for ATK. Read More and Comment

The People Behind the Headlines

I have a neighbor who was in the news a couple of months ago and not for a good reason. Now, to be clear, I don’t know this neighbor personally and only became aware of them the day the news trucks were in front of their house a few streets over. But I do walk by their house every morning on my daily constitutionals.

They were in the news because they were a government employee who allegedly succumbed to temptation and stole public funds. It wasn’t a little bit, but it wasn’t a kingly sum either (given they were living in a small ranch-style house like mine). Still, it was allegedly a crime and a breach of the public trust so I’m not offering any excuses.

The reason I bring this up now is because I see they have suddenly sold their house. I don’t know for certain why—perhaps they had been planning a move all along—but the timing certainly suggests that the sale is not unrelated. Mounting a legal defense is expensive and paying restitution would not be cheap. And given that the person charged with the crime is now out of work and probably unable to get a new job at similar pay, finances are probably tight.

Again, I’m not interested in excusing a crime, even white-collar crime, but I am looking beyond the headlines and news stories to remember that there are people behind every story. People make bad decisions every day, maybe not criminal decisions like these ones are alleged to be, but certainly sinful ones. And we suffer the consequences of those actions. Sometimes we suffer the consequences of other people’s actions, like the family of the accused or another neighbor who recently had an out-of-control driver crash through her house and render it uninhabitable, not to mention the young lady in the car who lost her life.

It’s a reminder to me to remember the news is not a reality show, that there are people in pain and hurting all around. These are people who need prayers and care. I regret that I didn’t know these neighbors and don’t know most of my neighbors despite having lived in this house for a decade now. Such isolation is a symptom of our modern life, of the general disconnection among people who live in this area, and of my own introverted tendencies. I need to remedy that.

I need constant reminders that the people in the news or who go viral on social media or who show up in the comment boxes online are all real people with real struggles who are loved by God and for whom Christ died to save. It seems so simple and yet I often need reminders.

How Scott Hahn Changed the Church

We’ve been doing some major tidying up around our house, which led me to tackling the bookshelves in my office. And that led me to pulling down some of my very old sets of Scott Hahn audiotapes. These date back to the 1980s and include his series on Salvation History as well as a set on the Lamb’s Supper and on the Eucharist.

I still remember my 11-hour drives in the early 1990s back and forth to and from school between home and Steubenville, Ohio, listening to these tapes for hour upon hour. Or before that during my daily commute to work or while I was doing chores at home.1 Then eventually I was able to take some classes with Scott as part of my theology major and to interact with him as a student to teacher.

It was Scott who was a major part of my decision to go to Franciscan University to study theology in the first place. I’d been dithering about going back to school, where to go, and what to study. Then I attended a one-day conference at St. Marie’s parish in Manchester, New Hampshire, where Scott was speaking along with his wife, Kimberly, and Peter Kreeft and Tom Howard. (What a lineup!) In the vendor area, Franciscan University had wisely set up a booth and so, inspired by what I’d heard, I picked up an application and the rest is history. Read More and Comment

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