Weekend Wonk

Final Doings: Danube

  Jerome Shea       November 25, 2011

So on the eleventh of July, the Sheas and the senior Dinsmores (aka Bob and Pat) got on a Lufthansa Airbus at Boston’s Logan Airport for a long hop to Frankfurt, a short hop to Budapest, and the beginning of their Danube cruise. Ports of call would be Budapest, Vienna, Passau, and Regensburg, with special stops for the monasteries at Melk and at Weltenburg, in the Danube Gorge. We would leave the Danube at Kelheim, the beginning of the gorge, making our last leg the Danube-Main Canal to Nuremberg.

Fiat Lux

  Jerome Shea       November 25, 2011

Light. The first Light. “Let there be Light,” said the Lord God, and it was so. Light is both humble and holy, practical and profound. Modern artificial light, electric light, is a wonder that we take for granted. I like to remind myself from time to time what a small miracle it is to get up in the pitch (wonderful word, that) dark, hit a switch, and instantly flood a room with light.

Do You Feel a Draft?

  Jerome Shea       November 25, 2011

In a typically brilliant Gary Larson cartoon, we find a deer behind a tree, hiding from a hunter in the near distance. Panicked, the deer is saying to himself, “He is definitely shooting at me! I’ve gotta think: do I know this guy?” We laugh because we seldom see it that way—a hunter has no personal grudge or vendetta against a deer that he kills. But in fact random killing is a fact of life—or rather, death—and nowhere more so than in war.

Big Stuff, Deep Stuff, Heavy Stuff

  Jerome Shea       November 25, 2011

We live among immensities of time and space. Sometimes the question is not so much how we manage to grasp those immensities, but how we entertain that knowledge without just blanking out, clicking off, like a spaniel trying to understand quadratic equations (woof?). What started me thinking about this was a couple of recent science articles guaranteed to titillate us laymen. In one, astronomers think they have discovered a galaxy—make that “evidence of a galaxy”—that is the earliest, which is to say oldest, that has been seen so far.


  Jerome Shea       November 25, 2011

At some point in the tropes course—last week, this time around—we study the argumentums, which are great things to hang tropes on. I’m talking about such familiar terms as argumentum ad hominem, argumentum ad populum, argumentum ad ignorantium, and so forth (no, I am not going to add ad nauseam, although it seems sometimes that it ought to be included). The first thing to know is that these are not valid arguments in the syllogistic sense (all birds have two legs, Socrates has two legs, therefore Socrates is a bird…something like that; I was never real good at it).

A Rose by Any Other Name

  Jerome Shea       November 25, 2011

In a recent column Tom and Ray Magliozzi, my favorite car guys, said of a certain unethical mechanic that he had earned a place on their “fecal roster.” I chuckled all morning over that felicitous rephrasing of “sh*t list,” and even sent it to a couple of friends. I am calling that a euphemism, and I would like to talk about euphemism this week, along with its evil twin, dysphemism. We seem incapable of calling a spade a spade.


  Jerome Shea       June 6, 2010

The other day I discovered a wonderful cache of old letters, and I would like to share some with you. This one has to do with Diana’s family’s place in Madison, Ohio, on the shore of Lake Erie, where we went every year when the kids were growing up. It seems a wonderful celebration of summer. I hope you enjoy this wonk, and enjoy this other summer that has come round again.

Mappa Mundi

  Jerome Shea       June 1, 2010

“Map” is a strange word. Broad-voweled but abrupt, it rhymes with yap, zap, slap, clap, and so on. It might be an acronym (Mercator Area Projection?) or the call of an ill-tempered tropical bird (“That infernal mapping kept us awake all night!”). In fact, it comes from the medieval Latin mappa, meaning a napkin, a cloth. Mappa Mundi means map of the world. To put something on the map is to make it famous; to wipe it off the map is to obliterate it.


  Jerome Shea       May 26, 2010

I love maps. I don’t even have to leave my recliner to haul up my eight pound world atlas (oof!) or my USA/Canada/Mexico road atlas. Should I see some place mentioned in the morning paper—Storm Lake, Iowa, say—I will grab the road atlas and have a looksee. Just to see, and maybe imagine my being there, imagine the Hawkeyes who live there, imagine what the campus of Buena Vista University looks like and wonder how a town of 9973 (in 2006) can support a university.


  Jerome Shea       May 12, 2010

Quite often there is something new at the stump in the bosque. Last week it was that rosary; on tomorrow’s run I’ll probably find something else. About a month ago, I found this note, protected from the elements with plastic: Letter to the Cross Remover To the person who removed the cross from our stump and who may or may not be the person who removed an earlier cross from the stump that a trail worker carved years ago to remember a fallen loved one and to create a place for others to meditate and pray.

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