Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Friday, June 11, 2004

That Guy Escorting Mrs. Reagan

Major General Galen Jackman is in charge of the Military District of Washington, and thus in charge of military ceremonies in the area. He's profiled by his hometown newspaper, the Lincoln Journal.

Oddest Pew Couple on Record?

Gorbachev sitting next to Baroness Thatcher.

Lyrics of the Recessional Music

It apparently was a combination of music from the soundtrack of the movie We Were Soldiers with a hymn written for the end credits of that movie, "The Mansions of the Lord". The whole thing was beautifully played by the US Marine Chamber Orchestra. (Who have wonderful dress uniforms, btw.) Here's the lyrics, written by Randall Wallace (who also wrote the movie):

To fallen soldiers let us sing,
Where no rockets fly nor bullets wing.
Our broken brothers let us bring
To the Mansions of the Lord.

No more weeping, no more fight,
No friends bleeding through the night.
Just divine embrace, eternal light,
In the Mansions of the Lord.

Where no mothers cry and no children weep,
We shall stand and guard though the angels sleep,
Oh, through the ages let us keep
The Mansions of the Lord.

I've long predicted that soundtrack composers are the great composers of our time. This is not only a nod to Reagan's home industry; it's an indication that other people have realized the same thing.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Rotunda Thoughts

We the people throw a nice funeral, don't we?

"Sergeant York" was a very skittish horse. Either his master was a lot more nervous than he led on, or that horse needs a lot of training with crowds and guns.

Nice boots.

Don't clap for a coffin caisson, okay?

I'm glad they had more than one team to carry the coffin up all those steps. I particularly respect the guys in front.

Navy sailor pants are...thin. Holy cow, you could see people's undies!

There is such a thing as too much T.S. Eliot. I realize he's practically an Episcopal saint, and that was a very clever choice of quote. But was it comforting? The Senate Chaplain, Barry Black, did a better job with his "toppling towers of totalitarianism" and quote from "Day by Day". Simplicity goes better with grief.

The director of the Singing Sergeants was very interesting. Did you notice he was directing the choir about a bar ahead of the music, on what to do next instead of what to do now? I've never seen someone do that before. The singing was very well done, but it was also perfectly obvious that they had practiced in the Rotunda and learned how to take advantage of its freaky acoustic properties. The arrangement was also unique, with the verses switched so that "pilgrims' feet" came last. Nicely, nicely done.

I had a lot of respect for everyone who came, from the dignitaries (who, as my friend Joy noticed, were incredibly still and well-mannered) to the normal people visiting the Rotunda. The people in line seemed in good spirits though subdued. It looked like a block party. If the Capitol is "the People's House" (I thought that was the White House), then last night the Steps and the Mall were the People's Porch and Backyard on a lazy summer night.

Holy Tekakwitha!

You know, I respect the emergency room staff. As a matter of policy, I am stuck on Band-aids (or the Rite-Aid equivalent) 'cause Band-aids stick on me. I've been eating good lately, so I'm not a slow healer these days. And maybe I do need to thank my reflexes for moving a mite quicker than I thought. But all that said....

When I took off my bandages this morning to redo them, there's a reason I said "Holy Tekakwitha!" I'm telling you, my burns are pretty well gone. The blisters on my first and second fingers are only visible if you know where they are. Yesterday's tiny papercut looks more impressive. As for the big blister on my third finger, it's a lot smaller again and continues to look like it's not ever going to break. The lady may not be a great believer in helping people to deal with pain (understandably, since her people believed in being a lot more stoic about these things than I was!) but she is gangbusters on healing.

So thank you, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. Your prayers have been a great help to me.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Poetry by a Soldier's Daughter

No, not poetry by me this time. This is by Miss Brandy Nales, the daughter of a co-worker. Her dad and his unit are going back to Iraq for the second time this year.


by Brandy Nales, 6/8/04

Who was there when I skinned my knee?
Who means the very world to me?
"My Dad"

Who took me when a drill he'd go?
or give me money for the picture show?
"My Dad"

Who was there when I needed love?
Who was sent from God above?
"My Dad"

Who was there to wipe my tears?
Who did I tag along these 13 years?
"My Dad"

Who is going to war to make Osama pay?
But who's loved more than words can say?
"My Dad"


by Brandy Nales, 6/8/04

Now I must go
they're calling me away
but I know
I'll be with my family again someday

I know it's tough
I've been through it all before
Only now, I'm getting taken from four people I love and adore

They assure me they're OK
but they take me as a fool
they would rather have me home
than to do the job I was sent to do.

My bags are packed
and I'm ready to go
I'm going to fight for my country, the U.S. of A.
but I hope and I pray that God may
watch over my family so I'm not afraid
so I can do my duty 100%
and after 2 years
can come home without a dent.

I know it's not going to be easy
After all, I volunteered for this job so many years ago
but I know I'm now strong, ready, and true down
to the core.

I'm not only a hero to the family I adore
but to my country in which I'm fighting for.
Furthermore, I'm a soldier, an American soldier
Fighting for all the things that make us who we are

(In dedication to all of the men and women fighting in all the wars today, including but not limited to:


Important Safety Tip: Hot Things Burn

It's a good idea to make sure that burners really are off, and cool, before you touch them. I didn't follow this advice, and therefore spent a good chunk of my day in the emergency room yesterday with second degree burns across the fingertips of my left hand.

Lessons learned: If you're standing right next to the freezer when you burn yourself, possibly you should get out some ice while you're running water on your hand. Also, the bathtub faucet puts out a lot more cold water than the kitchen sink.

To make matters worse, it was going on eight in the morning. I had to call sick into work, too, and that's always a long drawn-out process when people aren't at their desks because they're working. (We have to talk to a live body of appropriate management rank.) So I called my mom and asked her to please call in for me, which she did. Then I set out for the emergency room.

Going to the emergency room without a car is an interesting project. Especially since the thing about second degree burns seems to be that they don't bloody stop hurting, no matter how long you run cold water over them. (Or rather, they do ease up, but only as long as you have them under cold water or on ice.) Fortunately, the hospital here is within fifteen minutes' walk. But that's a long time, particularly when you've just realized you have insufficient quantities of ice to get you anywhere. What I ended up doing (in case you are low on ice sometime) was filling a big 20-oz foam cup with cold water and dangling my fingers inside it. The only problem with this approach was that it took only about five minutes for the water to turn lukewarm enough to bother my burns. At this point, I resorted to twiddling my fingers to bring up colder water from the depths of the cup. Which worked okay for a while; but by the time I reached the hospital, I was practically crying from the pain.

I admit, maybe I shouldn't have gone to the emergency room. If I'd been at my parents' house, with plenty of ice and really cold water, I probably wouldn't have bothered to go to more than Urgent Care. But Urgent Care is a half-hour bus ride away, and a good fifteen minute walk to the bus stop first, plus an hour's wait.

But it honestly was the worst burn I've ever had; some of my skin looked blistered and some of it scaly, and that spooked me. Beyond that, though, I was really really in pain. If I never feel worse pain than that, then I still think I'll have felt plenty.

So anyway, I arrived in the emergency room and was relieved to find the place deserted. I got some more cold water, talked to the receptionist, and settled in to wait. (There was one patient ahead of me.) I must admit that the emergency room is one place where it's better to have to wait than to have to get immediate service. I ended up getting treated for my burn inbetween other cases (there was at least one person already back there, and another who came in while I was waiting). I'd brought a book, though, and they'd gotten me an icepack pretty soon, so I didn't mind waiting.

Lesson learned: Elevate burns, too! I admit this makes sense; you don't want blisters to swell up, either -- but I'd never heard this.

In the end, I got a tetanus-diphtheria shot (to help against infections when my blisters burst, which they probably will) and individual wrapped fingers. This was the result of some very nifty engineering. They had a little wire "finger", onto which they pulled a tube of gauze. Once they had a sufficient quantity of gauze, they put the wire finger over each of my fingers in turn, using it to pull on the gauze and keep it straight and unsnarled. I don't know why this impressed me so much, but it did.

I also got a prescription for Vicodin. I would like to thank the makers of Vicodin. I didn't need to use more than one pill, as it happened, because after that the heat was finally out of my fingers and so was the pain. But until I took the Vicodin, I was in serious pain. Also, it didn't really zonk me out like some pain pills do. (Not that I'm suggested you run out and drive heavy machinery under the influence or anything.)

My mom and dad came and picked me up afterwards. (They would've come earlier, but my dad had already left to do some errands when I called my mom. We are not a cellphone family.) I spent the rest of the day with them, mostly sitting around with my icepack for company. Our Irish wolfhound, Liath, was extremely curious about my icepack and my wrapped-up hand. In fact, toward the end of the afternoon, she tried licking my icepack (not much good, since it was cloth on the outside). Then she decided to try a pull at the end of one of my gauze fingers. Suddenly Liath found herself holding a long snake of gauze, which she then did her best to ingest in the second before we stopped her. I wasn't much help, as I was busy laughing.

(Btw, she did this all very delicately; my own finger wasn't hurt at all.)

This morning, I was surprised to see how well my burns were doing. In fact, they looked like they'd been healing for several days. I don't know if the blisters will burst after all; they look more likely just to heal. Whether this has more to do with my impassioned prayers in the bathtub to Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, or the skill of the emergency room folks, I don't know. Either way, the only real problem is that my burns don't look very dramatic now -- they only needed Band-aids this morning -- so I feel a bit embarrassed about taking off yesterday!

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Banshee's Guide to American Catholic Church Architecture

I know this sort of thing's been done before, but here's my whack at it!

God's Country: Tiny rural town, impressive old church.

Immigrant church: Poor urbanparish, impressive old church with statues of St. Patrick, St. Joseph, and the Infant of Prague.

Spotlight windows: Windows in the altar wall focusing natural light on where the priest at the altar would have been standing or giving out communion at the rail.

The donors went to Europe and all they brought me was this lousy church: church
imitating a European art style from somewhere nobody in the parish is from.

Cafeteria-line Catholicism: Currently in use communion rail, with kneeling
cushions and everything.

Strained Glass: Windows illustrating some bizarre piece of Catholic trivia you
never thought you'd see on a piece of stained glass and will probably never see again.
Examples: Obscure church councils, Marian apparitions you've never heard of, St. Brigid with her bishop's crook. The National Basilica is a good example of this.

Colorful Concrete: 1930's church built quickly out of concrete but then beautifully painted with elaborate artwork. Once the present generation is gone, many modern churches with plain walls will probably be repainted in this style.

Fallout Shelter: 1950's church built to serve the survivors of a nuclear war.

Let There Be Abstract: Stained glass windows and church art that aren't pictures of anything or geometric designs.

Destruction of the Altars: Pre-Vatican II church with its altarpiece gone.

Modern Weird: Church with no apparent rationale for its architecture.

Modern Ugly: Relentlessly unaesthetic church.

Church Circular: Church built in a circle. Also, Church Triangular.

Dance of the Dais: Dais for current altar built somewhere other than the
original altar wall, whether that means being closer to the center of the church
or against another wall altogether.

Movable Priest: Altar sometimes one place, sometimes another. This may be for
practical reasons of space and acoustics in a gathering space; or it may be just plain

Where's Mary?: Church severely deficient in saint statues and images.

Where's Jesus?: Tabernacle moved from front and center to...somewhere, making people wonder where to genuflect to.

Perpetual Where's Jesus?: Tabernacle moved, allegedly to facilitate perpetual

Three Coins in a Font'n: Birdbath or fountain-shaped baptismal font placed to block the main aisle and attract pennies.