Review of LG Ultra Slim Portable DVD Writer GP65NS60

I bought an external DVD drive (LG Ultra Slim Portable DVD Writer, GP65NS60) from Newegg for about 31 dollars plus a dollar for shipping.
I bought it because the computer I bought (from Indiana University East surplus) does not have a usable DVD drive. (It apparently has a DVD drive—I can sometimes hear it spinnning up when the computer is started—but there is no physical button to open the DVD drawer, and the drive is not visible either in the BIOS setup menu or in Windows 10. But I’m not unhappy about this, because the computer has twice as much space on the hard drive as advertised.) Anyway, I didn’t want Windows 10. I installed Linux Mint 20.2, and the drive is not visible to Linux either.

The LG drive was described as compatible with Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10, and Mac OS X (10.7.5), but one user review said it was Linux compatible, so I hoped that was right.

The box is labeled MADE IN MALAYSIA / FABRIQUE EN MALAISIE.

I plug the drive into a USB 3 port and open the drawer. Even when fully extended, the drawer does not open far enough to completely uncover the disk. This is a common design feature of modern DVD players, but not one that I like. I worry about damaging the disk, particularly when removing it.

Tests

  1. Play an audio CD-ROM. I can play the CD-ROM in Rhythmbox. The drive makes a little bit of mechanical noise at first, but then is quiet once the music starts to play. Success.

  2. Play a movie DVD. The first time I try this, Celluloid reports something like "Region 9 suspected" and displays a black screen. But subsequently two DVDs play well, including the one tried at first. I am unable to duplicate this error. Success.

  3. Copy an audio CD. Of course, I do not expect the Windows software provided in the box to work with Linux; I don’t even try it. Using Brasero, I begin copying an audio CD. It takes 22 minutes to copy the CD to the hard drive, in preparation for burning a new CD—far too slow. Brasero reports an average speed of 420 KiB per second, 2.4x; far below the 24x claimed in the drive specifications. I abort the test without burning the disk.

    I find a review that says the drive is faster with USB 2. So I unplug the connector from USB 3 and plug it into USB 2. I repeat the experiment. Same result.

    Bad drive, or bad software? I decide to try another burning application, kb3. Good: kb3 copies the disk to the hard drive in four minutes, burns the copy in five minutes, and reports an average write speed of 16x.

    Ultimate success. Be careful which software you use.

  4. Burn a DVD image. I choose the 2 GB image file for Linux Mint 20.2 Mate Edition. kb3 does the job in 6 minutes. Success.

Conclusion

Everything works. I am happy with my purchase.

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Learning Lua

I thought I would be learning the fast, functional language OCaml this winter — but it turns out that I’m learning Lua instead. And why Lua? Because I decided to kick out Google Analytics from a web site that I developed in 2012

I thought I would be learning the fast, functional language OCaml this winter — but it turns out that I’m learning Lua instead.

And why Lua? Because I decided to kick out Google Analytics from a site that I developed in 2012 for a course in graphics for the World Wide Web. Originally I had developed the site with Hakyll, a static web site generator. When I began trying to revise it, I found that the Hakyll API had changed radically, the API documentation, never very clear, had become incomprehensible, and the "help" in the mailing list was not very helpful.

Hakyll actually delegated most of its work to Pandoc, a document format converter, and I figured that with Pandoc’s template system, I might be able to do the whole job with Pandoc, and not have to deal with Hakyll at all. (In my case, I’m converting Markdown to HTML5, but Pandoc handles many other document formats as well.)

Everything was pretty straightforward, except for the code examples (HTML, JavaScript, SVG), which needed to be processed twice: once to pass the code directly into the target web page so it could do its work of drawing a picture, and once more to show the formatted code to the students. This required writing a "Lua filter" for Pandoc. Hence my interest in Lua.

I think Lua has an elegant syntax, and it’s interesting that it uses tables as the base data structure for building almost all other data structures (i.e., everything but booleans, numbers, and strings). But the type system is dicey: automatic conversion between strings and numbers, and everything getting a default value of nil. This opens the door to many errors which would not get past the static type checking of the Haskell or OCaml compiler.

Anyway, the project took me about six days of work (my workdays are now far less than 8 hours) spread out over two weeks, and is now mostly complete. There are some minor issues remaining over code formatting (all lines of code after the first are indented an extra 24 spaces) and formatting the descriptions of the examples (I’d like some of the descriptions to have multiple paragraphs and ordered lists, but neither HTML markup nor markdown syntax seems to work so far in YAML).

Et voila:

What Begins, Mr. Biden, When Life Does Not Begin?

Mr. Biden has said he does not believe that life begins at the moment of conception. What, then, does begin?

Mr. President Joseph Biden, you have lately said you do not believe that life begins at conception.

"I respect them, those who believe life begins at the moment of conception and all, I respect that. Don’t agree, but I respect that." (Catholic News Agency, Sept. 3, 2021)

Would you please tell us, if life does not begin at conception, what is it that does begin at the moment of conception? For it is obvious that something begins to be. What kind of thing is it?

Is it a dead thing? That cannot be; dead things do not grow.

Is it an inorganic thing, a mineral, a rock, a clod of earth, water, air, or fire? That cannot be, for they also do not grow.

You may say that fire or crystal "grows", but they do not grow in the same sense that the thing growing in the womb grows, and you know it. They do not develop structurally, sprouting different kinds of tissues, organs, and systems, according to the plan in the DNA. But crystals and fires just become bigger, and that can only be called "growth" by analogy or by a kind of courtesy.

If it’s not a dead thing or inorganic, then it must be a living thing.

Perhaps you meant to say is it is not a human life.

But if it is not a human life, it must be some other kind of life. Tell us, then, what kind of life is it? Animal or vegetable?

Is it an oak tree, or a rose, a blade of grass, rice or wheat, potato or lettuce? Is it a wolf, an aardvark, a deer, a cow, an elephant, lion, tiger? An alligator or turtle? A bee, an ant, a fly, a mosquito? A snail, an oyster, an octopus, lobster, tuna, shark? It is obvious that the thing that begins to be, in the human womb, at the moment of conception, is none of these.

Is it, then, a bacterium, an amoeba, a fungus, an alga, a yeast?

Perhaps it is a novel coronavirus?

Tell us, Mr. President, about that thing that begins to be, at the moment of conception, in the human womb — if it is not a human life, what is it?

Dignity of Biden-Harris

I kept seeing this ad:

“Welcome Senator Kamala Harris to the Ticket!

“Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the dignified leaders we need at the top of the ticket to defeat Donald Trump and mobilize Democrats nationwide this November.

“Our momentum is stronger than ever. Sign on today if you’re ready to join the team and take back the White House:”

dignity2

Sorry.

I would rather have someone undignified
defending human lives and religious freedom
than someone with great dignity
like Marcus Aurelius
writing his meditations in Greek
while persecuting Christians
and King Herod
slaughtering the innocent.

To be truly dignified
you must respect
the dignity of human life.

Related:
Welcome, Kamala Harris
A rational nature confers a right to life

Image source:
https://go.joebiden.com/page/s/bvf2020-VP-petition-gd-july2020

Latin Pronunciation for Church Choirs

A person in our Catholic Latin Study Group in MeWe has asked, “I’m singing in choir. We’re preparing a Latin song. Can this group help me with proper pronunciation?” I’m putting the general part of my answer into the blog for wider sharing and ease of re-use. (The specific part of the answer will occur in-group: if he wants to provide the text, I will offer to record my pronunciation.)

There are many ways to pronounce Latin, just as there are and have been many ways of pronouncing English, depending on region and era. The Church recommends the Roman pronunciation, also called “Italian Latin,” which makes sense for a number of reasons. We are the Roman Catholic Church, after all, with headquarters in Rome. The Roman pronunciation is therefore probably the most widely understood by Catholic people around the world. In addition, our pronunciation, especially when singing, should be beautiful, and the Roman pronunciation is (for the most part) beautiful.

Italian Latin

Here is a summary of the Roman pronunciation of Latin, or what Andrew Owen calls “Italian Latin”. I’ll start with the vowels, which are of the highest importance for beautiful singing.

A as in father.
E as in Fred or feather. Not like “ay” in day.
AE and OE the same as E.
I as in pizza or as the “ee” in feet (except when it is as consonant).
Y the same as I.
O as in off, on, for, or ordinary. Not the English “long O” as in oh or open.
U as in truth.

See how easy this is, so far? There are only five distinct vowel sounds.

In singing the diphthong AU, make the A sound last almost the whole way through and blend into the U sound just before the next syllable.

Now for the consonants:

C before soft vowels (e, i, ae, oe, y) is soft as in cello or “ch” in church.
C in other positions is hard like K, as in coffee.
G before soft vowels is soft as in gelatin or “j” in jester.
GN as in Italian signor, like “ny”.
G in other positions is hard like in grant.
H is silent except, some say, in mihi, where it is pronounced as a K.
J is pronounced as the English consonant Y. Sometimes it is written as I.
R is flapped quickly with the tip of the tongue.
S is soft as in soft and miss (not “z” as in English “misery”, even in Latin miserere), except in SC before soft vowels where it is “sh”.
PH is like F, but TH is like T as in Thomas and Thames.
TI before another vowel is “ts” (e.g. ratio is pronounced “ra-tsi-o”)
T, otherwise, like English T.
X represents cs, so normally it’s the same as ks; but in XC before a soft vowel, the rule for C + soft vowel kicks in, so for example, excelsis is pronounced “ek-shel-sis”, not “eks-chel-sis”.
Z, which is pretty rare in Latin, is soft and dentalized, like “dz”.

My summary is based more or less on “Guide to Pronouncing Liturgical Latin,” pp. 314–315 in The Parish Book of Chant (which is provided as a free PDF book by the Church Music Association of America, but you can also purchase a printed book, as I eventually did), and Andrew Owen’s Italian Latin. I’m not a Latin expert.

For an excellent example of Italian Latin, listen to Friar Alessandro’s performance of Franck’s “Panis Angelicus” — note the beautiful, pure vowels! — or some of his other recordings.

Variations

As I said, there are many ways to pronounce Latin, starting with the ancient Roman way — except that even then, I’m sure there were regional differences in pronunciation and dialect and probably class differences as well, just as even today you may hear the difference between Cockney English and the language of an upper class Oxford graduate. Scholars, beginning in the Renaissance, have reconstructed the “classical” pronunciation, as spoken by Cicero and his fellow patricians. It had long and short vowels, and more diphthongs; C and G were always hard. It seems likely that both St. Augustine and St. Jerome, around 350–430, spoke or at least were aware of the classical pronunciation, but it was then beginning to fade out. The polytheistic Romans were a hard people. Christianity softened both their character and their language. For ecclesiastical texts, at least, the softening has been for the better. One of the Renaissance popes tried to restore the classical pronunciation in Gregorian chant; that idea didn’t go over so well.

As the Roman Empire in the west declined and fell (while the eastern empire spoke Greek), Latin differentiated into various regional languages which eventually became Italian, French, Spanish, etc. People who studied Latin spoke it according to their vernacular pronunciation. Thus, Italians pronounced Latin words as Italian, Germans pronounced Latin words as German, and English people pronounced Latin words as English. Eventually, with the shift of English vowels after 1650, the English pronunciation of Latin became so weird that the rest of the world could not understand it, as Andrew Owens recounts in English Latin.

In other European countries, the Latin pronunciation remained similar to the Italian, at least for the vowels, although for the Germans and the Polish, I think, there are some differences with the consonants.

Practical and Personal Considerations

The Roman or Italian pronunciation is obviously, at least, a good starting point, but how strictly should we follow it? As Father Zuhlsdorf observes, standards of good pronunciation are a fine thing, but we should relax and not get too worked up about it (“Sound Pronunciation of Church Latin vs. Spittle-Flecked Rigidity” — see also reader comments following the article).

Here are some considerations which might lead one to deviate from the “official” Roman pronunciation.

(1) Regional pronunciations, other than the modern English. ‘the Heiligenkreuz monks use the traditional German pronunciation (e.g. “c”=”ts”, “sc”=”sts”, “gn”=”gn”, i.e. not “ny”), which has been used here for centuries…. Of course, when you don’t have a traditional local pronunciation, the logical thing would be to learn the Roman one. But when you have such a traditional local pronunciation like here in Germany, wouldn’t it be more, or at least as, fitting to preserve that?’ —Gregor

(2) Locally, I’ve heard an excellent choir singing their O’s as “oh” and their E’s as “ay” in “date” and “Dayton.” Their vowels were clear, pure, and beautiful. But if you do this, be careful to avoid the diphthongs “oh-ooh” and “ay-ee” which we Americans so easily slide into. Also, it’s hard to maintain those pure sounds before R. In my schola, I will direct them to the Italian “aw” and “e”.

(3) Some English speakers object to “mihi” as “miki” because of Mickey Mouse, and some object to NG as “ny” because “Agnus Dei” then reminds them of something unmentionable. I also dislike the “ny” in general because it is just so bizarre. I am going to direct my group to pronounce the H as H, but lightly, in mihi, and probably to pronounce it always, but again, lightly. But people in our parish are used to the GN as “ny”, so we’ll probably do that. However, we’ll minimize the “ny” by prolonging the vowel before it until the last possible instant. I’m saying “probably” because this is a new group which has not yet had a rehearsal.

Incidentally, my feeling about mihi and agnus enables me to sympathize with the natively Arabic speaking Muslims who object to the word “Moslem” because it reminds them of something offensive in Arabic. I used to think, “So what? We’re speaking English, not Arabic! That shouldn’t remind you of any such thing.” But: “mihi” and “agnus” bother me, even though we’re singing Latin, not English. So now, I understand.

(4) If you’re a choir director, make whatever adaptations as needed to suit the aesthetics of the piece and the acoustics of the place. If you’re a chorister, follow the director’s instructions, unless you’ve been asked for your opinion about pronunciation; or at least make your suggestions respectfully. Directors also should be gentle.

‘Obviously, the major consideration in singing is “how the guy in charge wants us to pronounce it”. Considering the weird things one has to do to English for the sake of a desired sound, it’s not astounding that we often sing different versions of Latin from what we were taught. Mostly, I think it’s helpful to know a certain spectrum…. Choir directors, you can and should be definite about what you want; but super-simple, short explanations and gentleness could help. People might get all worried, otherwise. “Even Latin’s changed!’ — Maureen

So what should you do? Let your musical sense, your love of beauty, and love of your people guide you.

One Nation Under God Or What?

Flag Day, June 14, 2019

Even if I were an atheist, I would want to keep the phrase “One nation, under God,” in the American Pledge of Allegiance.

For foreigners and others who may not know, these are the words of the Pledge: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Why do I think that all of us, including atheists, should prefer to retain the phrase “under God”? Because the nation must be under something.

When the nation is placed above everything else, it becomes evil and demonic. Such was Hitler’s Germany.

Deutschland, Deutschland, über alles
Über alles in der Welt
:
Germany, Germany, over everything
Over everything in the world.

We do not want Amerika, Amerika, über alles.

The nation above everything. Such were Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China, and Pol Pot’s Cambodia. Such was France under the revolutionary terror. Such is every regime which places itself above natural law, justice, and human rights.

But then what must the nation be under? What must be above the nation?

The nation must be under an objective, absolute source of moral goodness and moral law.

And what shall we call an objective, absolute source of moral goodness and moral law?

To say “one nation under an objective, absolute source of moral goodness and moral law” is obviously too much of a mouthful.

If you’re a Platonic philosopher, you could say “one nation under the Form of the Good,” but most people, especially most school children, would not understand what you’re talking about.

The same goes for “one nation under the Absolute” (Idealist philosophy) and “one nation under the Tao” (Chinese philosophy).

Most Americans know the objective, absolute source of moral goodness and moral law under the name of “God.”

The name “God” has the advantage of being short and easy to say, a literary virtue prized by Orwell in his essay on style. And I cannot think of anything shorter or more easily understood.

Therefore, “one nation under God” is the best way to express our allegiance to our nation under the objective, absolute source of moral goodness and moral law.

If states or school boards required people to say the Pledge of Allegiance and salute the flag, I’d be among those standing up for the atheists’ (and others’) freedom of (or from) religion and freedom of speech. But they do not, and have not since the 1943 Supreme Court decision in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. Incidentally, the Barnette case involved, not an atheist, but a Jehovah’s Witness, and the words “under God” were not in the Pledge until 1954.

No text will please everybody. Some people object to “under God.” Others might object to “liberty and justice for all”; or think, like the boy in Lakeland, Florida, that the flag is racist. Every nation is imperfect, and ours is no exception. Even when I was a schoolboy, I realized that liberty and justice for all were not a reality, but an ideal that needed to be achieved. I pledged my allegiance to that ideal version of our republic. That boy is entitled to his opinion. I once knew a man who thought Massachusetts, for the sin of giving its electoral votes to George McGovern, should be expelled from the union. I guess he would not have liked the “indivisible” part.

Our Founding Fathers stated, in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

“God” is easily understood to be whatever is the source of these unalienable rights. Those rights are not created or granted by the government; they are recognized as coming from a Higher Power.

Reject “under God”? Then reject also the Declaration, and the equality and rights that it embraced.

My Latin Study

I’m now engaged in my third effort to learn Latin, and this time it seems to be working well.

For my first try, I used a book called Latin for Today, by Gray and Jenkins, published in 1928.  I picked it up, without much serious intent, at a used book store.  A previous owner had affixed a 1+1/2 cents postage stamp inside the cover, with the notation “If Found Please Send To Dead Letter Office Somewhere in CHINA”!  I started using the book years later.  It contained some good stories about Roman heroes, very suitable for youths, but the grammar was relegated to an appendix, which was not friendly.  In addition, I lacked a good study method.  I absorbed some vocabulary, but I did not feel comfortable with the grammar.

The second time, I tried Mango Languages.  It is provided free of charge to cardholders of public libraries in Ohio, and maybe in your state too.  Mango Languages is an interactive web site where you can read and hear very short lessons and then answer questions.  It is fun.  The readings are from Caesar, Phaedrus, Martial, and Cicero.  Some of the vocabulary I learned here has stuck with me very well.  But after going through 69% of the course, it seemed like I still wasn’t getting a sufficient grip on the grammar.

So for the third effort, I decided I needed two things: a good textbook with a clear, systematic explanation of grammar, and an effective review system.  I chose Wheelock’s Latin for the textbook, and Anki for the review system.  I usually spend an hour each day on Latin study: 15 to 30 minutes reviewing with Anki’s “intelligent flash cards,” and the remaining time solving exercises in the textbook.

Wheelock’s Latin

Frederick M. Wheelock wrote his Latin textbook in 1946 with adult learners in mind—men returning from World War II.  Recent editions have been revised by Richard A. LaFleur.  The seventh edition contains 560 pages, and a new hardbound copy cost me only $22 in 2017, about a fifth of the price my students had to pay for some of their paperback computer science textbooks.

The main part of the book is organized into 40 chapters.  A typical chapter begins with explanation of some grammar, followed by a list of vocabulary words.  After memorizing these—more about memorization below—the student is referred to Self-Tutorial Exercises in an appendix; another appendix provides answers for the exercises.  Then, returning to the chapter, the student finds “Exercitationes,” short sentences to be translated, mostly from Latin, but a few will be  from English to Latin.  After these there are “Sententiae Antiquae,” sentences from classical Latin authors like Lucretius, Vergil, Horace, and sometimes the Vulgate Bible.  After this there are longer readings from classical authors, typically one or two paragraphs, or a similar length of verse.  All of these sentences and readings are very suitable for adult learners, as they are full of philosophical and political themes.  The chapter concludes with some less serious material—inscriptions from the walls of Pompei, etymologies, and a light-hearted  concluding paragraph that often contains Latin phrases and Latin-English puns.

With both the “Exercitationes” and the “Sententiae Antiquae,” I write out the sentences in Latin and in English.  With the longer readings, I don’t usually write down either the Latin or English, but just read them carefully for comprehension.  If there is difficulty with a passage, I will write some of it down.

After the forty chapters, there are two sections of “Loci Antiqui” and “Loci Immutati.”  The “Loci Antiqui” are brief selections from ancient authors, adapted to the students’ limited abilities.  The “Loci Immutati” are similar but without adaptation, intended for those who “wish to try their wits on some unaltered classical Latin.”  All of these are heavily annotated to help  with vocabulary and occasionally grammar.

I am very well satisfied with Wheelock’s Latin.  I’m in chapter 37 now, and I have only two complaints so far.

(1) In Chapter 34, Deponent Verbs, the rule “Deponents are conjugated according to the same rules as regular verbs in the passive voice” does not tell me how to conjugate the imperfect subjunctive.  In regular verbs, the imperfect subjunctive is formed from the present active infinitive; but deponent verbs do not have a present active infinitive, and the imperfect subjunctive is not formed from the present passive infinitive.

(2) In Chapter 37, Conjugation of Eo, there are too many forms of eo, an important verb, meaning “to go.”  The forms intefere with one another, so it is very difficult to learn them all at once.  It would have been better to teach eo bit by bit through a series of chapters.  I’ve spent more than two months on this chapter, twice as long as any other.  But the end is in sight.

This book teaches classical Latin.  But for those mainly interested in Ecclesial Latin, the kind traditionally spoken in the Roman Catholic Church, I think this book is still a good choice.  The grammar is the same, and the vocabulary is mostly the same.  It’s the pronunciation that differs.  So you can easily find the rules of pronunciation for Ecclesial Latin and apply them.  The only thing that might not seem obvious is the accents, but that’s easy too.  Classical Latin has long and short syllables, and the accent is determined by the length of the syllables.  For Ecclesial Latin, it seems that in most cases the same syllables are accented.  So you can just forget about the long and short, but remember the accents.

Anki

But what about that nasty-sounding phrase from above, “After memorizing these,” referring to grammar and vocabulary?  Indeed, memorization is an essential part of learning Latin, and I feel that Anki (or something similar) is a vital aid to my memorization.

Earlier I described Anki as an “intelligent flash card” system.  So what does that mean?  It means that instead of wasting my time reviewing everything with the same frequency—for example, every vocabulary word 20 times each month—Anki will choose the times for review so that I spend more time reviewing things that are more difficult.  The more times I correctly answer a review card, the farther off in time my next scheduled review of that card will be.  But if I answer wrongly, I will be reviewing that card very often for the next few days.  Thus, Anki lets me spend more time reviewing things that I need to review, and less time reviewing things that I already know very well.

Although you can find many shared decks of Latin cards on AnkiWeb, including at least two based on Wheelock’s Latin, I recommend making your own, as I have done.  There are three reasons for this.

(1) You get to choose your own vocabulary words.  Okay, the shared decks based on the textbook you’re using might have the vocabulary that you want, but then again they might not.

(2) Typing in the words with your own fingers as you make your own cards is still beneficial for learning.

(3) Most importantly, you need cards for grammar as well as vocabulary.  For example, I make an Anki note for each verb conjugation  and for each noun declension.  For noun declensions, the Anki note I designed  allows Anki to generate six different review cards, so I don’t have to face the entire declension all at once.  Instead it will ask me, “Give the nominative singular and plural.”  Then the next day, the genitive singular and plural.  Then on successive days, the dative, accusative, and ablative cases.  Finally the whole declension.  I get similar power-ups—multiple review cards per note—from other parts of speech, such as verbs.  I hope to be able to write some details about this later.

My main point is: you need review cards for the grammar as well as the vocabulary.

 

Robert E. Lee and His Statues

We should never forget that the Civil War was an arduous, even desperate, conflict which led to the liberation of black slaves. There could have been no such great struggle if there were not heroes on both sides. Noble warriors honor their enemies, especially their defeated enemies.

As an Ohio resident, I am deeply ashamed of James Alex Fields, Jr., the man who allegedly killed Heather Heyer and injured numerous others in Charlottesville, Virginia. If it were possible, I wish the state of Ohio would revoke his state citizenship. Murder is evil. Racism is evil and stupid.

But I do not believe it is a good idea to be taking down statues of Robert E. Lee and other Southern heroes of the American Civil War. People do not become racists by looking at these statues, even if racists are among the people who admire them. Tearing down the statues will not end racism; it will not help those who suffer from it.

We should never forget that the Civil War was an arduous, even desperate, conflict which led to the liberation of black slaves. There could have been no such great struggle if there were not heroes on both sides. Noble warriors honor their enemies, especially their defeated enemies. Removing statues smells of the Soviet practice of erasing the names of those fallen from favor, from the history books and all other records, so that they became “non-entities.”

Robert E. Lee was a great man, and fundamentally a good man, though he made some mistakes — as who has not? His greatest error was siding with his state, when Virginia, after long deliberation, finally chose secession. If not for that, General Lee would probably have led the Union Army, and the Civil War might soon have ended.

After the war, in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia, where many of the elite of the Confederacy were gathered for Sunday worship, a very tall and very black man walked up to the altar rail to present himself for communion. A shocked hush fell over the assembly. Then Robert E. Lee also rose from his pew, stepped forward, and knelt down beside the black man. That, I believe, was Lee’s finest hour.

Even if Lee believed that the black man was inferior (in some ways, as nearly all the white folks thought back then, even Abraham Lincoln), he recognized in that black man a fellow child of God, equally beloved by the Heavenly Father, a brother.

After the war, Lee also served as a university president, where he took a lively and paternal care for the well-being of his students.

King David of Israel was another great man who made mistakes. David’s greatest mistake was committing adultery with Bathsheba and then ordering the death of her husband when she became pregnant and his affair could not be covered up. I am trying to imagine a society for marital fidelity and against murder, advocating for the removal of David’s statue by Michaelangelo from the city of Florence. But my imagination refuses to cooperate.

(My remarks on the life of Robert E. Lee are based on recollections from a biography that I read several years ago. I do not remember the author or title. I have not attempted to verify or “fact-check” my statements, but I believe they are substantially accurate, even if there may be some errors in the details.)

Merry and Blessed Christmas!

성탄절 즐겁게 보내세요!

The Snow Lay on the Ground

The snow lay on the ground
The stars shone bright,
When Christ our Lord was born
On Christmas night.
Venite adoremus Dominum (O come, let us adore the Lord).

‘Twas Mary, daughter pure
Of holy Anne
That brought into this world
The God made man.
She laid him in a stall
At Bethlehem;
The ass and oxen shared
The roof with them.
Venite adoremus Dominum.

Saint Joseph, too, was by
To tend the child;
To guard him, and protect
His mother mild:
The angels hovered round,
And sung this song,
Venite adoremus Dominum.

And thus that manger poor
Became a throne;
For he whom Mary bore
Was God the Son.
O come, then, let us join
The heavenly host,
To praise the Father, Son,
and Holy Ghost.
Venite adoremus Dominum!

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

God rest you merry, gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
Remember Christ our Saviour
Was born on Christmas Day;
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray.
O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy;
O tidings of comfort and joy.

From God our heavenly Father
A blessed angel came;
And unto certain shepherds
Brought tidings of the same;
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by name.
O tidings ….

“Fear not, then,” said the angel,
“Let nothing you affright;
This day is born a Saviour,
Of pure virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in him
From Satan’s power and might.”
O tidings ….

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this polace,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
Doth bring redeeming grace.
O tidings ….

Fantasia on Greensleeves — Ralph Vaughan Williams

What child is this, who laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds greet and angels sing;
Haste, haste to bring him laud;
The babe, the son of Mary.


Thanks to St. John Cantius Church for including this (and more) in a preview of their midnight Christmas mass, and thereby directing my attention to this music.