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September 26, 2010

The secret lives of fossils
Posted by Patrick at 10:40 PM * 83 comments

As previously documented on Making Light, Teresa made several items of jewelry for display and sale in the art show at Boskone this past February. In her words: “This partly grew out of a compulsion that somehow settled on me a while back: to make a rosary for Charles Darwin out of fossils. It helped that so many commonly available semiprecious stone beads are made of fossil material. I wound up making two rosaries, which turned out to be surprisingly pretty, and will probably make more. Next time around, though, I have got to get my hands on a usable trilobite.”

One of those two pieces, “The God of the Burgess Shale” (name explained in a popup footnote here), was purchased by Lis Riba and her husband as a gift for Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J., longtime SF fan and curator of the Pope’s meteorite collection. (If knowing people with interesting jobs is the key to happiness in life, we win.)

Some months later, the relevant birthday has occurred and the recipient has described the gift. Which, evidently, now sits “just below our Moon Rock in our meteorite display case” at the Vatican Observatory, Specola Vaticana at Castel Gandolfo.

Teresa says she is “nearly limp with egoboo.” I can attest to the truth of this.

Comments on The secret lives of fossils:
#1 ::: Nicholas Rogers ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 11:52 PM:

This is the coolest thing I've read this weekend (and you've posted some good stuff already).

I don't know if knowing people with cool jobs is "win at life"...but I'm pretty sure having one of your first rosaries displayed in the Specola Vaticana at Castel Gandolfo MOST CERTAINLY IS!

#2 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 12:00 AM:

Cool Beans.

Other words fail me.

#3 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 12:18 AM:

That is SO COOL.

(Being pedantic, there is a third Darwin's rosary, made later than the other two, also given as a gift. It's not in a glass case; it's in a bowl with a bunch of clock parts and stones.)

#4 ::: Spring "Dinogrl" Schoenhuth ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 12:22 AM:

That is really amazing! Understandably thrilling, and very, very cool.

#5 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 12:32 AM:

That Is Just Awesome.

#6 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 12:37 AM:

Mine! The Precioussssss!

#7 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 12:47 AM:

Like, totally cool. Maximum cool. Awesome.

#8 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 01:31 AM:

There really isn't a term for how awesome that is. Hell, I'm limp with egoboo just from the fact that I know Teresa.

Like: wow.

#9 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 02:25 AM:

Amazingly cool.

#10 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 07:21 AM:

This is awesome and a most excellent thing to read first thing on a raw gray Monday morning.


The phrase "...manifest in unexpected ways..." comes to mind indeed.

#11 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 07:53 AM:

Those are very lovely rosaries.

#12 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 08:09 AM:

Coprolite?

Doesn't bother me, but I can't help but fear someone will have a 'piss christ'-style tantrum if the wrong person hears about it.

#13 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 08:10 AM:

Other than that, though, Awesome!

(I'm sorry, I'm just a worrier.)

#14 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 09:07 AM:

As Bill Higgins said at Brother Guy's journal -- it has become a treasure of the Vatican. And he prayed with it before putting it into the case!

I saw it at Boskone, and it's really amazingly cool.

#15 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 09:24 AM:

I love it too, although I grew up with a certain degree of Romophobia, which now and again twitches.

And I love your reference to "The God of the Burgess Shale". I may steal it...

#16 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 10:13 AM:

Amazingly cool!

#17 ::: oldsma ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 10:37 AM:

Wow. Doublepluscool.

#18 ::: Ken MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 10:51 AM:

Way cool.

I like to think that 'Father Ramon Ruiz-Sanchez, late of Peru, and always Clerk Regular of the Society of Jesus' might see it some day.

#19 ::: Geri Sullivan ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 10:51 AM:

This is as it should be, which only adds to my pleasure in knowing it is so.

We live in a wonderful world. And, yes, we not only know (and are) people with interesting jobs, we know (and are) people who do fascinating, incredibly cool things both on the job and off.

#20 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 11:03 AM:

Wow!

#21 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 11:08 AM:

From Things I believe:

I believe that the God who made (among other things) light, and space, and number, and time, and the spiral curve of Fibonacci numbers, must be acknowledged to understand more than I do about why there’s pain in the world.

Damn. I've been trying to articulate this for twenty years, and there T nails it in one paragraph.

This lady Is A Professional; Do Not Try This At Home.

#22 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 11:20 AM:

Was Brother Guy at the Mars Society Conference at CU the week after Denvention in '08? (How many Catholic friar astronomers can there be?)

#23 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 11:31 AM:

I wonder if Brother Guy knows about the Jesus toaster.
I kid you not.

#24 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 12:10 PM:

I just told my boss about this. Her mouth dropped open. "Woowwww!" She was suitably impressed.

#25 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 01:26 PM:

That is exceptionally cool!

#26 ::: Brother Guy ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 01:45 PM:

I am delighted and amused that this wonderful piece of work (and my simple act of doing the obviously right thing with it) has turned into a Making Light moment. The real heros in all this, of course, are Lis and Ian, who saw the piece at Boskone, bought it, and sent it to me. Many, many, many thanks for bringing the two of us (rosary and pray-er) together.

#27 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 02:01 PM:

Me @15:
I love your reference to "The God of the Burgess Shale". I may steal it...
But not without attribution, 'cos I see that it's copyright.

#28 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 02:40 PM:

me @22: How many Catholic friar astronomers can there be?

I mean, that are well-known in sf fandom? (That the Vatican has its own observatory suggests strongly that there are at least "several" Catholic friar* astronomers.)

* Terminology? Is "monk" more accurate? Neither?

#29 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 02:54 PM:

Jacque @28:
Terminology? Is "monk" more accurate? Neither?

Monks vs friars depends on the religious order to which the brother belongs.

Some orders, such as the Carmelites, the Franciscans, and the Dominicans, are known as mendicant orders; their brothers are supposed to be out in the world begging for their livings and preaching the Gospel. (This rule has become more complex over the centuries, but that's the origin of it.)

Brothers of monastic orders, by contrast, live in monasteries. They may or may not go out into the world, but have a specific "home base". There are lots of monastic orders, ranging from really huge ones like the Augustinians and the Benedictines to quite small groups indeed.

Brother Guy is a Jesuit, which is to say, a member of the Society of Jesus, a mendicant order. So he's a friar.

#30 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 03:03 PM:

Abi @ 29... Brother Guy (...) a friar

In French, the word frère means brother and friar.

#31 ::: Brother Guy ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 03:08 PM:

Jaque @22: Yes, that was me at the Mars conference. I get invited to lots of these things. I like going to them. But I was not the only cleric in attendance; there was also a Lutheran bishop there, IIRC.

Jaque @28: The terminology is confusing, which is to say, probably fascinating to many of us on this list...

A "monk" is someone who lives in a monastery and has taken a vow of "stability" not to leave the monastery without permission (which is thus a regular plot point in the Brother Cadfael novels). Jesuits, on the other hand, have been known to say that "our vocation is to travel." As someone who has been in the 100,000 mile elite of a major airline for the last couple of years, I certainly do not qualify as a monk.

A "friar" is a brother, i.e. a member of a religious order but not ordained as a priest. That actually does describe me accurately. However, the term is usually used to refer to members specifically of mendicant orders (who do not own property). Though Jesuits do have vows of poverty, it is written in our rules that we can own property to support schools. Furthermore, though there are Jesuit brothers (I being one), the order itself is set up to be an order of priests with the occasional brother, not an order of brothers with the occasional priest. So, no, we aren't friars, either.

The more generic term is "religious" -- I would say, "I am a religious" -- presumably a shortened form of "I am a member of a religious order." I guess the word "religious" in this context is an adjective acting as a noun; is there a term for that?

#32 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 03:32 PM:

Brother Guy @ #31, "an adjective acting as a noun; is there a term for that?"

Well, if you believe Wikipedia, [and there can be no greater earthly arbiter, right? ;)], that would be an adjectival noun.

#33 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 03:33 PM:

Brother Guy...

I think I have "Brother Astronomer: Adventures of a Vatican Scientist" in my to-read stacks. I'll look that up tonight.

"I am a religious" -- presumably a shortened form of "I am a member of a religious order."
In French, you'd say "Je suis un religieux", which translates exactly as "I am a religious". Maybe that's where the English expression comes from.

#34 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 04:01 PM:

In #31, Brother Guy writes:

As someone who has been in the 100,000 mile elite of a major airline for the last couple of years, I certainly do not qualify as a monk.

Well, you haven't left the planet. On the other hand, you haven't made a vow not to...

#35 ::: Brother Guy ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 04:10 PM:

@ #32, Bill Higgins writes: Well, you haven't left the planet.

Not for lack of trying. I have been sent to every continent, including Antarctica, as Serge will discover when he gets to that part of Brother Astronomer.

#36 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 04:20 PM:

We're thinking of using Turn Left at Orion as the basis for this year's round of novice presentations at our astronomy club. I really enjoyed hearing Brother Guy and Dan Davis talk about the history of the book at the Texas Star Party back in May.

#37 ::: Dr. Psycho ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 04:23 PM:

To think, that I was dazzled when I heard Lee Gold say she had painted an icon of Saint Nikolai I. Lobachevsky which sat for years above Poul Anderson's desk. This rosary and its fate are orders of magnitude egoboostier.*

The phrase "God of the Burgess Shale" chokes me up. The Shale is indeed an awe-ful thing, and I do not discount the possibility that its survival into the modern era was a love letter from God.

*Custom-fitted egoboostiers are now available from Frederick's of Utopia Planitia.

#38 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 04:56 PM:

One can also say that an adjective being used as a noun is being used substantively. In Classical Latin and Greek, adjectives being used as nouns is a matter of course; if the adjective is masculine or feminine, you infer that it speaks of a person, while if it's neuter gender then it speaks of an inanimate thing. So for instance the snake-god Alan Moore worships is called Glycon; this is the neuter singular of "glycos", "sweet", so the name translates literally as "sweet thing".

(Note also that in Greek "y" and "u" are the same letter, so this is the same "glycos" from which we get "glucose".)

#39 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 05:10 PM:

Brother Guy @31: And not only that, he can toss off references to the Brother Cadfael novels! I love Making Light, you meet the most interesting people here.

#40 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 05:23 PM:

Wow. Congratulations, Teresa! That's truly sublime egoboo.

It has one disadvantage. Next time you're pooh-poohing your skills as an artist of stone and line (colloquially, a "necklifier") we will laugh you to scorn. "Your artwork is on display in the Vatican!" we will hoot.

English doesn't have that strong a distinction between adjectives and nouns. Nouns may be used attributively (as modifiers) without thereby becoming adjectives (frex a "security station" is not at all the same thing as a a "secure station"). Going the other way is a little more difficult in English (though not in other languages). Usually you need to append ' one' to get there.

I don't think that's what's going on in the case of the homographous noun and adjective spelled 'religious', however. The meaning isn't congruent. Compare:

I am a religious person.
I am a religious.
If it were simply a case of an adjective standing in for a noun, the meanings of these two sentences would be virtually the same, whereas in fact they are quite distinct. I AM a religious person (I say puja to Ganesh-ji every morning), but I am not a religious by any means.

I think we have two separate words here, one a noun and one an adjective, that happen to be homophonous and homographous.

#41 ::: David S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 06:21 PM:

Vatican, May 3 2447: His Holiness Pope Suburban XXXVII today announced an official investigation into the famous 'Rosary of St. Teresa' which has long fascinated Catholics throughout the solar system. The investigation is charged with determining the origins of the rosary and any links it may have to the controversial saint after whom it is named.

Given that church critics claim there is no real evidence Saint Teresa ever existed, let alone owned the rosary named after her, and the almost total loss of Church records during the Sirian invasion in 2096, many lay Catholics see the exercise as a pointless waste of time and energy that would be better spent deciding whether the recently discovered 'face on Triton' is really the image of Jesus Christ.

"I feel that unresolved questions such as whether Martians can be ordained are more important than this." said radical papal critic Father Jonas Souk from exile on Vesta.

#42 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 06:34 PM:

Oh oh! <skippity-hop!> My question provoked a language discussion! <skippity-hop!>

#43 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 06:35 PM:

It's a small internet. I just came here from reading this article at the Grauniad.

#44 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 06:57 PM:

David S @ 41... there is no real evidence Saint Teresa ever existed

She can be seen here, caught in the act of throwing a fireball.

#45 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 08:29 PM:

This is certainly as cool as cool can be. It's a beautiful rosary, both to look at and meditate on.

#46 ::: Ian Osmond ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 09:05 PM:

You left out that, besides fossils, the rosary also includes a meteorite fragment.

Lis said it best. It was just logical. Where else COULD this rosary go?

There are actions which must be taken because of their rightness and poetry. And, even though "shipping rosaries to the Vatican" seems like a version of "coals to Newcastle", this was one of them.

Theresa and Guy worship the same God -- a Creator so magnificent that the human mind can't comprehend the tiniest portion of His/Her/Its glory, but that you can spend a very fulfilling life making the attempt. A Creator who can take one tiny little planet orbiting an unimpressive star way off on the edge of one arm in one mediocre galaxy, and fill it with life, not only one type of life, but eons and eons of different body plans and methods of living.

We can spend our whole lives trying to grasp the magnificence of that, and we won't be able to do it, but it'd be a fantastic way to spend that life.

And then we can look at the sky, and realize that we have to raise that incomprehensible glory to an incomprehensible power. And that STILL wouldn't be close to God's glory.

So, that's the God that both Theresa and Guy worship. Not only that, but they both use the mechanism and methods of the Roman Catholic Church to do so.

So, when Theresa makes a religious object that is designed to allude to that type and degree of glory, and in that mechanism and method, then it ought to go to someone who uses that mechanism and method to worship that God.

And the Vatican Observatory is a really good place to find people who use Roman Catholic methods to worship a God who is great beyond the comprehension of mortals, but who nonetheless understand that making the attempt to comprehend God's Creation is a method of worship.

And, well, as it turns out, Lis and I happen to know, and like, someone who fits the bill.

It was just logical. Some actions have to be taken because they are right. This action had all the logic of poetry, and all the poetry of logic, so we had no choice.

All of you would have done the same.

#47 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 10:58 PM:

Brother Guy @ 35... It took some digging around my home office, but I did find "Brother Astronomer: Adventures of a Vatican Scientist". Yay!

#48 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 11:50 PM:

Patrick pointed out to Teresa that not only was the rosary she made in that display case with the moon rocks, but so was the sheet of paper ("from the printer right over there!") with the list of what all the beads were made of. This made her even happier. Then I pointed out that she would have a curious sort of name-immortality: her name will be copied out by scribe after scribe, whenever the inventory of items in the Vatican Observatory, Specola Vaticana at Castel Gandolfo.

She got the most lovely look of what I can only describe as secondary bliss.

#49 ::: Judy ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 12:01 AM:

If ever egoboo was well-earned, this is certainly one of those times. I can attest to the loveliness of these rosaries as I am the fortunate recipient of A Rosary for Charles Darwin.

This one has a much humbler home than its sibling (a rose-printed box), but is no less loved and admired, albeit by a much smaller audience.

#50 ::: Judy ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 12:02 AM:

If ever egoboo was well-earned, this is certainly one of those times. I can attest to the loveliness of these rosaries as I am the fortunate recipient of A Rosary for Charles Darwin.

This one has a much humbler home than its sibling (a rose-printed box), but is no less loved and admired, albeit by a much smaller audience.

#51 ::: Judy ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 12:10 AM:

Apologies for the double post. My ISP, it is weird tonight.

#52 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 06:41 AM:

The more generic term is "religious" -- I would say, "I am a religious"

This reminds me slightly of the detectives in "The Wire" who would invariably describe their job as "I am a police".

#53 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 03:46 PM:

Serge: Ah, someone else with back-to-back bookcases (I have three rows of those in my home office/library)*. And Michael Whelan artwork on the created-wall of the bookcase ends, as well. Do you like his art in particular, or do you just like Friday? I have a wonderful signed Artist's Proof of Hatani (cover to "Cuckoo's Egg") in my bedroom - the wood on the bowl-chair looks so wonderful you can almost feel the smooth texture.

(And Teresa: lovely piece of work).

* Some half height, so the cat can jump up, of course.

#54 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 03:52 PM:

Brother Guy @31:

OK, I stand somewhat corrected. The nuances of these things are important.

#55 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 04:00 PM:

dcb #53:

I did back-to-back bookcases for over twenty years, and gave it up with relief--the floors were sufficiently uneven (we called the house Rollingwood) that there were whole piles of index cards of various heights holding things up, and even so, things were still a bit wobbly. On the other hand, if your living room is thirty feet long and you don't have a third bedroom to make a second study, it's definitely one way to go.

All of them were six+ feet high, but the cat could still jump up on them from on top of the record player. Then she'd make a four-foot Great Leap to get to the other bookcase pair sticking out from the opposite wall.

#56 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 04:12 PM:

dcb @ 53... Those back-to-back shelves were how I figured out how to handle what we have. What you see is only half of the room's bookshelves. Those on the left are for my wife's reference books, and there is one more aisle further to the left that's filled with more of her stuff - some of it stacked on the floor. As for the prints... The room also has Whelan's "Cuckoo's Egg" although neither of his prints are signed. There's a Frazetta, and a few Foglio things, and some paintings by my wife. There is a signed print by Roger Dean, and some by Dawn Wilson. Cluttered? Nah.

#57 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 04:56 PM:

joann @ 55: I have the advantage of a concrete-floored extension, 18 ft 6 x 13 ft 9, or something like that. It's my home office plus library, with about half the room given over to the library, including one end wall and the aforementioned three rows of back-to-back bookcases. There are also five four-drawer filing cabinets, a couple of desks for all the computer-related equipment (and some space for papers on the desk when I'm working) and some more book shelves above the filing cabinets. That room holds the natural history & veterinary books and journals. The rest of the house holds the remainder of the books - I think I calculated the total at more than 1,000 feet of bookshelf space.

The top left drawer of my desk is kept pulled out and filled with a cushion, so the cat can be near me without being on my lap, laptop or papers.

#58 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2010, 05:17 PM:

Jacque @ 22:
The "About Us --> Personnel and Research" link at the Vatican Observatory web site lists about fifteen permanent scientific staff members, all but one of them Jesuits.

(I love the fact that Brother Guy's official photo there is a still from his Colbert Report appearance...)

#59 ::: Brother Guy ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2010, 06:19 AM:

abi @ 54 Actually, you sounded so positive in your comment at #29 (which was posted while I was writing #31) that I started wondering myself... what are the mendicant orders, and are the Jesuits one? Wikipedia doesn't list them among the mendicants, for what that's worth.

I have asked around (when the issue came up, I was staying in a Jesuit house in London) and no one there could give me an authoritative answer, either.

This is the kind of stuff I actually took a class in, during my last period of Jesuit formation, called Tertianship, which I did in 2007... but as you might expect,around me at least the names of the moons of Saturn come up in conversation more often than this does.

My only useful data point, I guess, is that I have never actually heard any Jesuit refer to any other Jesuit as a "friar".

#60 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2010, 07:11 AM:

Brother Guy @59:

If it's of any use, the Wikipedia entry on The Society of Jesus describes the order thusly:

The Society of Jesus is classified among institutes as a mendicant order of clerks regular, that is, a body of priests organized for apostolic work, following a religious rule, and relying on alms, or donations, for support.

Now, I was taught all these monk/friar subtleties by a Discalced Carmelite, so I don't think he was thinking about the Society of Jesus. I take the word of the people who are actual Jesuits over either Wikipedia or someone from another order.

So basically, the answer to "monk or friar"? is "mu". If there's not a joke in there, there darned well should be.

#61 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2010, 08:26 AM:

abi @ 60 and Brother Guy @ 59:

For what it's worth, the Catholic Encyclopedia, in its entry on friars, has this to say about the Jesuits:


It may, however, be pertinently remarked here that the Jesuits, though mendicants in the strict sense of the word, as is evident from the very explicit declaration of St. Pius V (Const. "Cum indefessæ", 1571), are classed not as mendicants or friars, but as clerics regular, being founded with a view to devoting themselves, even more especially than the friars, to the exercise of the sacred ministry (Vermeersch, De Relig., I, xii, n. 8).

Note that this is from a book published around 1913, so it's possible there's a more modern take on this (e.g., if Vatican II reclassified the orders for some reason).

#62 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2010, 03:06 PM:

Brother Guy's book tells me that he used sugar to measure the porosity of meteorites.
Low-budget science.
I love it.

#63 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2010, 06:49 PM:

Serge #62:

Barry Gehm: "I have a friend who is packing the Pope's meteorites in sugar." Pause. "Now there's a sentence I bet no one's ever uttered before."

(The idea, more fully described in Brother Astronomer, was to find the volume displaced by a meteorite without exposing it to water or another liquid that might damage it. Guy got the idea to use a dry powder. He went down to the kitchen and experimented using sugar.

Eventually he used fine glass beads to measure the bulk volume. Another scientist had a gadget which measured the amount of helium displaced by the meteorite when placed in a sealed container. Subtract the two volumes, and you have a measure of its porosity, on the scale where a helium atom can get in but a small glass bead can't.)

#64 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2010, 07:26 PM:

I don't think that sugar will fool the TSA meteorite-sniffing dogs at the airport.

#65 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2010, 07:34 PM:

re Sugar/Helium: Wow... the folks who hang out here are more clever than I thought (many of them are far more clever than I).

#66 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2010, 12:46 AM:

Terry Karney @ 65... I feel the same way, but I'm glad it hasn't stopped either of us.

#67 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2010, 12:48 AM:

Bill Higgins @ 63... "I have a friend who is packing the Pope's meteorites in sugar."

Why do I hear that sentence as if it were spoken by Philip Marlowe?

#68 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2010, 03:24 AM:

"Packing the Pope's meteorites in sugar" is probably colorful mobster slang for "kidnapping a powerful rival's family and ransoming them in exchange for illegal powdery substances".

#69 ::: Brother Guy ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2010, 07:40 AM:

Why do I think "packing the Pope's meteorites in sugar" is going to show up now in the next Jim MacDonald epic?

Actually, I have already played a supporting role in other great literature of our era. There is a certain "Father Mangano" at the Vatican Observatory mentioned in The Da Vinci Code... his description of our offices is as accurate as everything else in the book...

And in Spears of God by Howard "don't put books for free on the internet" Hendrix, the meteorite curator has been promoted to the post of the director of the Vatican Observatory: it is an American Jesuit known as Brother Guy. As far as I can recall, I have never met the author; he lifted all sorts of stuff about me off the internet. That's what I get for putting it up there for free, I guess. The book itself is breathtakingly awful, but in a gleefully giggly way.

#70 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2010, 08:49 AM:

Brother Guy writes in #69:

And in Spears of God by Howard "don't put books for free on the internet" Hendrix...

You misspelled "Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Wretch."

#71 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2010, 10:50 PM:

And well-deserved egoboo at that. That rosary is superb (as one would expect).

Mind you, as a cranky old agnostic, I might raise a quizzical eyebrow at the idea of a Believer considering a string of rosary (or other religions' prayer-tracking) beads anything but a purely utilitarian object, but I undersand that question has been settled long ago, among the people who use them.

Now I'm wondering about possible variations -- abacus-like rosaries, or base-[n] ones.

#72 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2010, 11:07 PM:

Brother Guy @ 69... The book itself is breathtakingly awful, but in a gleefully giggly way

...must not... buy book... must... resist!...

#73 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2010, 11:08 PM:

Bill Higgins @ 70

Ah, yes. I wonder if that phrase is going to be Hendrix's sole or major Claim to Fame. (I've never had occasion to read any of his books (if the plural applies), or desire to do so.)

Although.... I suppose someone might give him a secondary claim by winning a WorldCon Costume Competion with a "Pixel-Stained Techonpeasant Wench" outfit.

#74 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2010, 11:52 PM:

How about a TechnoPheasant?

#75 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2010, 04:18 AM:

Don @71:

I might raise a quizzical eyebrow at the idea of a Believer considering a string of rosary (or other religions' prayer-tracking) beads anything but a purely utilitarian object

People love ornamentation, variety, and beauty in their everyday objects. As a regular user of another of Darwin's rosaries, I find the size and weight of the thing, the variety of bead shapes, and the size of the ammonite all deeply satisfying.

When I'm looking at the rosary rather than just staring off into space, the different colors and textures lead me to contemplate the variety and beauty of the creatures in the world, the depth of time, and the tension between change (living creature to rock) and essentialism.

Prayer isn't one state of mind, basically; it's many different ones, with the commonality being an orientation toward the divine. So I can use a rosary and be deeply absorbed in the Mysteries, or in a completely transcendent state outwith time itself†, but I can also be contemplating the beads themselves, or Teresa's kindness in making it for me and the pleasures of the visit during which she did it, or a dozen other associations, and still have it be saying the rosary.

I understand that question has been settled long ago, among the people who use them.

Oh, no, there are still arguments between the pure utilitarians and the accessorizers. Such is humanity.

Now I'm wondering about possible variations -- abacus-like rosaries, or base-[n] ones.

I make rosaries where the (olive-wood) beads slide a little on the string‡, and enjoy the feeling of motion inherent in using them.

I think it would be fun to make an octal rosary. You'd have to reduce the number of octaves* to suit, which would mean you couldn't use the traditional sets of five Mysteries. Or one could do a duodecimal one and add a dozen* to each set of Mysteries.

A whole unexplored theology awaits!

----
† well, I never end up there, but in theory...
‡ which I then have nowhere dispose of, so they're building up...I should stop, but they're really pleasant to make
* decades are for decimal rosaries

#76 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2010, 04:54 PM:

Abi @ 75

Oh, yes, I understand the Varieties of Religious Experience. That is, I understand that there are _many_ of them -- probably as many as there are people who have them; the True Nature of any of them is beyond me.

I'm not so sure about people loving beauty in their everyday lives, as a generalization-- I'm acquainted with too many who either don't seem to, or whose concept of Beauty is totally alien to mine. OTOH, I've long been fascinated by North American Indian cultures -- the major gross/physical aspect of which is the ornamentation of practically all everyday objects. (Crow Indian beadwork, for example, frequently contains the most soul-satisfying combinations of abstract/geometric shapes and colors that I've ever encountered -- and practially all of it is applied decoration on utilitarian objects. )

If there's a problem with fitting five Mysteries into an octave (I know practially nothing about rosaries; my mother was brought up as an Evangelical Lutheran [or Lutheran Evangelical -- I've forgotten which, but seem to recall that both would be insulted by being confused with the other] and they don't use them), perhaps you could slip into pentatonic-scale mode as needed.

Oh, and in case you turn the olive-wood beads yourself, I have an oppressively large olive tree in the back yard, and it's in need of Serious Pruning, so I expect to have some good-sized logs RSN....

#77 ::: cleek ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2010, 04:05 PM:

wow. that's pretty awesome!

#78 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2010, 05:13 PM:

Abi says: I think it would be fun to make an octal rosary. You'd have to reduce the number of octaves* to suit, which would mean you couldn't use the traditional sets of five Mysteries.

Why not use the Beatitudes? (Am I remembering correctly that there are eight?)

#79 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2010, 03:42 PM:

Lori @78:

Luke has four, Matthew has eight, four of which pretty much map to Luke's.

So I've made an octal rosary, with four sets of eight beads interspaced with paternosters, and the standard +-O-OOO-O pattern hanging off of it. Once round gives you the Lukan Beatitudes, twice gives you Matthew's.

It seems really...dinky...in comparison to the standard rosary. I'll see how it settles out, saying it; I imagine it'll feel like reading the abridged edition of a favorite book.

If that turns out to be the case, I'll just cut the cord and re-use the beads.

(Which beads are bought mail-order from Palestine, rather than self-turned. I only have so much time.)

#80 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2010, 10:18 AM:

Ok -- that explains why I wasn't certain, a different number of them depending on which Gospel they appear in!

Hmm, that's very close to the pattern of the Anglican rosary. Guess it's obvious I'm crazy for beads, and particularly fascinated by those used for prayer.

Every time I go to a rock and mineral show, I keep looking for a fossil sand dollar with holes that could be used for the "medal" in a rosary.

#81 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2010, 12:00 PM:

I just finished Chapter Two of "Brother Astronomer", which begins with a quote where Erle Stanley Gardner compares detective work to astronomy.

I now have this vision of a client coming to the office of Vatican astronomer Raymond Burr, explaining his case while Sister Barbara Hale is dutifully taking notes.

#82 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2010, 04:11 PM:

Last week I turned up "Brother Astronomer" while weeding the religion section of the bookstore I work for, and snagged it to buy myself. Started reading it yesterday, and I'm almost finished -- an excellent book!

#83 ::: P J Evans sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2014, 11:10 AM:

A latecomer, I guess. IT would be less conspicuous on a different thread.

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