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I definitely think this is a good cause and was more than happy to donate to it once I found out about it through Crescat. I am very fortunate to have to means to buy whatever book I want (unless it's gold-plated and worth a million dollars) to help my spiritual growth. I can only imagine what it must be like to yearn to teach the word of God...without having the means to further your understanding of the word of God. I wish I could donate more money to this cause....but feel that any sort of donation will impact many more lives than we can possibly imagine. Please check out the Africa eBook Project and consider making a donation. For as little as $2, you can provide a CD full of books for a seminarian in Cameroon! Huge props to Brandon Vogt and rozanncarter for getting this campaign guys are certainly Cool Catholics!!

Pax Vobiscum!

Phriday Phive: Memorial Day Weekend Warrior Edition

I don't even know why I keep calling my update posts "Phriday Phive" considering how often I don't post on time. I have a legitimate reason why I didn't post this Friday...

  1. We had an early day in the lab on Friday due to an early closing for Memorial Day weekend. I looked forward to this early closing as soon as I heard about it...but come Friday I was so caught up in learning a new technique. I will spare you the details in an effort to avoid PETA nuts knocking on my door, but will say that it involved brains. Instead of leaving the lab at 3pm, I ended up leaving at 7:30pm. The good news is I have a new technique under my belt....the bad news is, well, no early day. Fortunately, I was okay with this because I could not drive down to south Jersey anyway because...
  2. Saturday was the day I got to go to Newark to pick up tickets to the one man Lord of the Rings show at NJPAC. I suckered in the boy, the fool, a wanderer, a doctor, and a milliner. I warned everyone that I would be dressing up ahead of the ticket hopefully I don't end up embarassing too many people...unlike when I went to see Return of the King in theaters all those years ago....
  3. I bought Fr. Barron's Catholicism series on DVD as an end-of-semester treat. Someone was selling a used copy in good condition for about $40 on, so I ended up going for it. I've had it floating around my apartment for a while and brought it home for the weekend. I have watched 4 episodes thus far and have been floored by the beauty of each one. Why didn't they have this when I was preparing for my first Communion or even my Confirmation?!?! Watching these would certainly make many Catholics that much better than they are now...if only because they'd understand the beauty and complexity of their faith much better than they do now. If I ever have the time, I would love to teach a course based on these films....if someone was willing to spare a few hours of their weekend to be inspired. In short, I HIGHLY recommend getting this set. If you can't pay the full price for these, do what I did and find cheaper sources. If you wait long enough and are vigilant enough, deals do pop up in the "used" section of I don't really trust eBay for movies and whatnot ever since companies started taking the place of individual sellers...but I am sure there are cheaper places to get movies. Google even has a product search you can access by typing in "froogle" into the search menu. You can type in a product and they search the internet for prices and sellers. It's worth a shot for this series. TRUST ME, IT WILL BE ONE OF THE BEST BUYS YOU EVER MAKE.
  4. I may not have a lot of time to blog in the days to come. My qualifiers are coming up (end of September), but my PI would like a first draft of my papers by the first of July. I have a lot of reading and typing ahead of me, so I may not have a lot of time to myself once I really dive into the work. With that said...please pray for me. God has not let me down yet, but I keep thinking that I have taken advantage of his kindness with all the procrastination, etc. I've been known for. 
  5. I have started the C25K program in an effort to lose some weight and train for the Warrior Dash in NY. My lab mates and I are going to be entering into this day full of fun, obstacles, mud, and madness which takes place in August. With that said, I need to start training and what better way to train than train myself to run 5km nonstop. I have just wrapped up my first week and have no problem jogging for 1 minute straight with 1.5 minutes of walking in between....several times in a row. It's been a good work out and I have even went to far as to buy jogger clothing and shoes. They make a world of difference to someone who, like me, sweats like a pig. I don't sweat like a lady...I sweat like a man...but these wet technology whatchamacallit gear has been doing a fantastic job of keeping me cool. Oh, I almost forgot to can dress up for the warrior dash. There's been a few jokes about what we will dress up as...but I imagine lab coats, Xena Warrior Princess, 80s, and a few other silly options may be the current options we'll chose from. I will have to keep you all posted.

What have I gotten myself into?

Oh, before I go, I have to thank all the Vets out there for their sacrifices. I've known some amazing vets in my day and I truly am thankful for all of the people out there that have sacrificed so much to ensure that the bullies of the world are stopped. I'd also like to give a shout out to the people out there who are still putting it all on the line to ensure that people out there enjoy the freedoms that we so often take advantage of or allow to be lost.

Also, a shout out to my dad and his awesome barbecuing skills. The food was delicious.

Pax Vobiscum

Happy Birthday to the Catholic Church!

Today is Pentecost...the Sunday of the year where we commemorate the beginnings of the Church about 2000 years ago. Today is the day celebrating the Holy Spirit coming upon the apostles as tongues of fire, strengthening them and inspiring them to go forth and teach the world all about salvation through Christ.

Today is also the day where I went to Target and finally came in contact with...the mother god cult. For whatever reason, this cult tended to use Montclair State University as recruiting grounds. They used to approach all sorts of students and preach all sorts of wonderful heresies to students who were trying to study. They made the mistake of approaching my sister twice and both times she was able to point out how they were incorrectly interpreting the bible...and attempted to correct their theological as well as historical understanding of the bible. Many of my friends had also been approached by this cult at the library and it was always the same story...only the reactions tended to range from indifference to outright annoyance (especially during finals). I, on the other hand, never got a chance to experience the cult first hand while I was at MSU...and felt like I was excluded from one of the typical, MSU experiences (up there with parking tickets, having a shuttle bus speed past you when you are late to class, and having to run down to financial services with checkbook in hand to avoid another hold on your account). Meeting up with a member of this cult was certainly one of those inconvenient and annoying life experiences that you dread happening, but then laugh about later on when in the company of friends and colleagues.

After 6 years at MSU, I was a little disappointed that I never got to meet these people even though many of my friends had. All sorts of crazy stories went around campus regarding this cult. There was one story in particular that stood out and may have led to the campus-wide email warning students of the cult. In this story,  a student got caught up by this cult and found themselves getting led into a van, stripped and baptized in a forest at night, and then on an airplane to Korea. Eventually, they managed to get back in the US and in touch with local authorities. I am not sure how it happened exactly, but this cult got the attention of campus police. This is not hard to believe considering the stories going around and the experiences that some of my own friends had over the years. I didn't have much experience with this cult, but here is a first hand account from a student who did end up getting suckered in to visiting their church. This cult may still be active at MSU, but their activity has been flagged and this organization has gained somewhat of a following...not as a credible religion...but as a joke among students. This is probably not the attention they wanted...but it's the attention their actions brought upon them.

Well, today, I finally got a chance to hear them. I was perusing the clearance racks when I overheard a conversation that sounded all too familiar based on what I had heard from other students. As these people kept pointing out passages in scripture, I kept mentally referencing scripture and tradition that easily refuted what they were attempting to teach. One of them kept talking about how she took a religion class in college that taught about (enter convenient argument here)...and I kept wondering what college she went to and what class she must have taken.... My sister, the theology major (who recently graduated from Seton Hall with a masters in moral theology) and I kept trying to hold back a combination of laughter and incredulity as these women kept talking. We were tempted to lay down a Saint Thomas of Aquinas-esque smackdown on their ridiculous attempts at understanding scripture and their attempts to undermine the religion of an unsuspecting Target shopper. However, once we'd heard enough, we got in touch with Target's security folk and the mother god people disappeared.

So why am I even mentioning this cult as I write about the birthday of our Church? Well, it comes down to Acts 5:39:
But if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it, lest perhaps you be found even to fight against God. And they consented to him.
The priest mentioned this in his homily today..and then I later heard it in Father Barron's Catholicism series. (Yes, I did end up buying it and I've finally had a chance to watch 40% of it this weekend...but that's another post.)

Basically, my post comes down to this...if something pops up and it is not of will die out in its own time. I am fully confident that the mother god cult will cease to exist in due time. Let's face it, human-based movements (especially those based on heresy and foolishness) tend to be self-destructive. There have been countless cults in history and some more nuttier than others...and all of them disappeared in their own time. On the same lines, there have been all sorts of psychics, visionaries, spiritual leaders, self-proclaimed gods, etc. through history that have failed to withstand the test of time. There are quite a few more modern fad religions and movements out there that have gained the favor of all sorts of celebrities, etc....but even the most wealthy or popular of these will not last unless they are of God.

Why do I say this?

Well, if you look on the Catholic Church from a purely secular point of view, we should have never survived the first century let alone the last century. When we came into existence, there were a handful of members and our figurehead had just been crucified by the ruling authority. This man we had followed had claimed to be the son of God, but he had been killed alongside common criminals. What kind of religion could be based on a criminal...especially when there were so many other religions that were far more appealing. We had the polytheism of Rome which allowed all sorts of hedonism. We had the monotheism of the Jews...a religion that already boasted a few millennia and more than a few stories of salvation. These other religions were far more popular, far more widespread, and far more able to financially support the building of new temples.

Christians, on the other hand...were virtually nonexistent. Yet, Christianity grew in spite of all of this. We may not have been considered a huge threat at first...but we soon became a people who would willingly risk our lives for this new religion. Under Nero, hundreds if not thousands of Christians were lit on fire, thrown to lions, and publicly discriminated against from all directions. To make matters even stranger, Christianity was not necessarily the most easygoing and fun of all religions out there. Christians, in comparison with much of Rome, lived ascetic lives and refused the excesses so loved by many Romans. We did have joy, but our joy was not of this world. It was a joy that grew out of love rather than lust. It was a joy that grew out of self-sacrifice than gluttony.

Our popularity ebbed and flowed through history. We became a super power during some parts of history...a threat in others...and virtually nonexistent in others. We built great Cathedrals like Notre Dame, Cathedrals that not only withstood time...but attacks from extremely anti-Catholic governments that attempted to replace Our Lady with "Reason." They turned our cathedrals into temples of reason, where  religion was replaced with atheistic belief systems and anti-Catholic sentiment. As popular as these belief systems may have been at the time...and as  as Christianity was forced to become at the was Christianity that prevailed.
Festival of Reason at the Notre Dame Cathedral, 1793

The same goes for Catholicism in the face of other extremely anti-Catholic regimes...such as the communist dictatorships that razed churches to the ground and attempted to indoctrinate children to their atheist principles. As hard as they tried to speak out against religion and as hard as they attempted to remove it from the people, the spiritual starvation did nothing to kill this religion. In the case of the USSR, all it took was one visit from Bl. John Paul II to his homeland of Poland to awaken the thoughts and beliefs of a people that had been forced to pray in secrecy for years as their children were taught that God did not exist. The resounding call of "PAPA! PAPA! WE WANT GOD! WE WANT GOD!" from millions at a service (that the government refused to televise) ended up sparking the flame that would bring communism to the ground.

Looking at moments like this, it is almost impossible to explain them from a  purely secular point of view. We can argue that there simply weren't enough jails to imprison all of these people who called out for God...or that there weren't enough bullets to kill them all. However, I highly doubt that even this would be enough to stop the cry for God that was present in the yearning souls of a people that were starved of God for so long. You simply cannot stop the Holy Spirit when it is in action. In the same way, you simply cannot stop God or His works when He wills them into action. Our Church, being founded by Christ, lived for 2000 years BECAUSE it was founded by Christ. As such, it is a work of God that is actively ministering to His people and spreading the gospel of salvation. All these other fad religions and movements stand no chance because they are created by human minds and work solely through human hands.

We cannot, however, overlook the human component of the Catholic Church. Yes, God founded the Church through Christ...but, he entrusted it to us. We are not intelligent like angels. We are not perfect like Christ. We are a people that are full of imperfections and, as such, we are able to be corrupted by the evils of the world...and the temptations of the devil. We have had our share of scandals through the ages and we have dealt with much heartache through the years as we watch story after story of crooked padres in the news. Compound this with the selectivity of the biased media regarding anything Catholic, and one would be tempted to develop a bleak outlook regarding our Church. Yet, even with all the Borgias of Church history and all of the scandals so loved by the media today...I have not lost hope.

You see, we have not survived long because of all of the scandals, greed, and sin of our church.
"....Look not upon our sins, but upon the faith of your Church...."
God knew we were imperfect when Christ handed his keys to Peter. Peter himself was imperfect. Of all the disciples (Judas not included), he comes across as the one who puts his foot in his mouth most often. He may have gotten the keys to heaven, but he was also rebuked by Christ and eventually even denied Christ. God knew Peter before he was appointed the first pope, imperfections and all. However, with God's grace, Peter became Saint Peter. With God's grace, Saint Peter became the rock of the Church that Christ founded on this earth. In the same way, our Church has been through quite a dark periods. It has survived attacks from the outside as well as from within. Yet, we have survived. One could even say that we have been tried and purified time and time again...with the help of God's grace and protection.
"And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
                                                                                 -Matthew 16:18  
As worried as I am that we will have to deal with quite a lot in the days to come due to the HHS mandate and constant attacks on our faith by other not-so-friendly humanist groups and not-so-open-minded attempts at secularization...I consider these more of a nuisance than a real threat. As selfish as this sounds, I never wanted to live in a world where I would need to actively defend my faith via protesting and letter-writing to the government. (Personally, I would have preferred to fight along St. Joan of Arc with sword in hand...rather than deal with the political correctness,  red tape, paperwork, and bureaucratic BS you need to deal with to get anything done these days.) I always hoped to share my faith in a nicer a more tolerant an environment that required less paperwork and more honesty. However, I am beginning to accept that I have to work with what I got. There may be no Tolkien-esque wars against evil to be fought out there, but there is plenty to fight for....and I will fight.

The good news is that regardless of how long it takes to defend good against evil...regardless of how long we may have to deal with anti-Catholic oppression (if it ever comes to that point in the US)...regardless of what may be thrown at us in the days (or years) to come, God is with us. He's been with us for about 2000 years and He will continue to be with us in the days to come....and "if God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31)

Here's to another 2000 years of all-that-is-good-and-Catholic!

Pax Vobiscum

This gave me chills....

....the good kind of chills. TELL ALL YOUR FRIENDS TO WATCH! SHARE IT AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE! As much as I hate having to get so political on my blog lately, I know that I have to stand up right now. It is imperative that we do so...because when it comes to carrying the cross and being a true Catholic, we have to remember that some things are just...

Updates: Catholic Science GREEK Edition

This weekend, St. George's Greek Orthodox Church (located somewhere in the mythical land of "Central Jersey") hosted a Greek Festival and a certain Wanderer proposed that we go. I loaded up the Dionysian Wanderer, the Boy, the Boy's sister, and the Fool (aka the younger sister) into Gandalf the White (now sporting yet another prolife sticker, compliments of the Fool) and journeyed off into the land of "all that is good and Greek Orthodox."

1. I tried my first new food of the day: Souvlaki. It was quite delicious and served in generous portions that would make any Greek yaya proud. 

2. This is going to sound embarassing, but I finally got a chance to try baklava. I know how culturally-deprived this makes me sound, but I have to say that the wait was worth it. It was quite delicious, in a sugar coma-inducing way. I would have had seconds, but I had already tried a bite of two other honey-laden foods. They were delicious...but my stomach already felt like it did every Easter when I was a kid and had filled up on Easter basket goods. 

3. I tried ouzo. Holy moly, that stuff is strong! (I should mention that I've been saying Holy moly quite often lately for whatever reason.)

4. I was successfully able to buy a few jars of jams from a Greek yaya. She could not speak English and I could not understand a word of was all Greek to me!....(sorry, I just had to throw that in there). However, at the end of the was a fun experience.

5. I am planning to attend a rally for religious freedom, so I am making sure to cover all my bases. I started off by making sure the biggest base was covered. In other words...I asked my dad if he could bail me out should I get arrested.

Me- (in Portuguese) Daddy, would you bail me out if I get arrested? I will reimburse you if need be. 

Dad- Why would you get arrested?

Me- Well.... (The Fool and I then go off into the whole HHS mandate freedom of religion violation spiel, indicating our plan to take part in the protest).

Dad-....(upon thinking it over, sharing his own thoughts about Obama's shoddy thinking behind this mandate)....Sounds good/Okay(or at least the Portuguese equivalent).

There we have it, I got my dad's okay about protesting. Keep in mind, this was the guy who (before hearing my thoughts regarding the Occupy rubbish) told me it would be a good idea to avoid it and not get involved in it. This is also the guy who has warned me about a few other enthusiastic relatives of mine that have gotten arrested for civil (and not so civil) disobedience in old country and beyond. He was also the guy to encouraged me to fight back if some kid at school decided to pick a fight with me. I will spare you the story about how proud my dad was when I threw some troublemaker boy into some rose bushes when he and a few buddies tried to start trouble with my sisters and me and after school...

With that said, I cannot tell you HOW HAPPY I AM THAT THE ENTS ARE ON THE MOVE! That's right, Obama made a move against religious liberty...and we're all coming together to ensure that our rights as Catholic (Christians, etc) are protected. My hat goes off to the 40+ Catholic Institutions that came together to file suit against this rubbish mandate.

Rock on Catholics, rock on...for we truly are the rock upon which Christ built his Church. We have survived 2000 odd years because we were courageous enough to fight when we needed to fight and wise enough to know when to fight. We have survived because, as unpopular as denouncing abortion/slavery/euthanasia/etc. may be at a given time...we serve God and strive to live by His laws. We have refused to live by the unjust and cruel laws of the Obamas and Pelosis in history.

We live according to the laws of God regardless of how popular sin may be in increasingly immoral civilizations. We fight for our religious freedom knowing that we were not meant for this world...that there is something far greater out there for us. We fight because we are not meant to be loved by the world...and because we will one day stand before God to be judged according to our WORKS as well as our faith. We fight because we know that we must answer for all the crimes we committed AS WELL AS all of the crimes we allowed to be committed through an act of COMMISSION AS WELL AS OMISSION. We fight because even though we know that evil constantly works to destroy the world....we want to keep some good in it for our children to enjoy one day.

We may not live in a perfect world, but we still have glimpses of God's goodness through acts of kindness, mercy, love...etc. We must keep this mercy, kindness, and love alive because the world does not care for any of these. We may not live in a world that loves or respects the dignity of the unborn...but we want the hopeless, tired, desperate, unloved, and hated of the world to experience love and dignity even if it costs us. Even if we are ridiculed for it. Even if our intelligence is questioned over it. Even if we get arrested over it. Even if our name is tarnished because of it. Even if it means being uncomfortable because of it. Even if it means we are abused because of it. We will fight on and continue to swim against the stream because we refuse to give into evil.

Defending the battle at a time.
Even though the world may hate human dignity, hate the unborn, hate Christ, hate God, hate the Catholic Church, hate you....we are still a force that refuses to die by means of complacency. We are a force that will continue to fight the evil of the world....regardless of how popular it may be at a given time and in a given civilization.

I do not love the bright sword for it's sharpness, nor the arrow for it's swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend”
- J.R.R. Tolkien

Pax Vobiscum and keep up the good fight fellow Catholics in whatever way you can!

A Very Cool Catholic Lady

I've spent a good chunk of my free time this past week on a new drawing featuring Joan of Arc...which will probably be a part of my "Badass Saints" book if I ever decide to draw enough of these and publish them. Much like my Saint George drawing, I went for the stained glass look. I am almost finished (hence no previews this time), but I think she's starting to look like she'll make a good addition to the "A Catholic Kid's Book of Badass Saints" if I ever decide to publish it (and if a publisher out there is crazy enough to take a risk on it). That's part of the reason I haven't been blogging frequently. Another reason is the fact that I am trying to cut down on internet time, because I have seriously been getting hooked on wasting time lately (now that I actually have some time on my hands) on a rubbish internet game by the name of Castleville. I am only posting about this for the humiliation I rightly deserve for ever getting hooked on that game in the first place. 

This weekend, I went to South Jersey and did not take my computer with me. This was almost like going through a weekend of withdrawal, but I am glad that I did it. I got caught up on some knitting and started crocheting (very poorly)...and I watched television for the first time in a very long time. For the most part, I tend to catch up on television via watching something on a television (with cable) is something that I am not used to. Needless to say, however, there was nothing to watch besides a nail-biting Bayern Munich vs. Chelsea Champions League win. However, once the match was over and I had the TV to myself, I quickly realized that today's television really stinks. I tried watching the Tale of Despereaux for a while, but ultimately ended up channel surfing until I came across...Mother Angelica.
It was an old taping of one of her live shows from 1998. I did the math, and realized that I was still in middle school when this first aired. At that age, I would never have imagined my 26 year old self ever watching EWTN for fun...and I CERTAINLY would have never imagined myself hanging on Mother Angelica's every word. Holy Moly, she is well-spoken. On top of that, she spoke in a way that made it seem like she was in the room with me. The way she looked at the camera made it seem like she was in the living room with me, simply speaking with me. Some viewers asked some questions that I've had bouncing around in my mind before...and the way she answered these people really was almost magical. 

One of the viewers, for example, wondered why the Blessed Sacrament was not exposed during the mass. My apologies if I end up butchering the response, but she said something about how mass transports us all back to Calvary at Christ's crucifixion. She explained how God always exists in the present and that the present takes place along with the future and past without distinction. The sacrifice at mass is, essentially, performed simultaneously with the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. As we sit, stand, and kneel in mass, we are present with Christ at the last supper and present with him as he dies on the cross for us. We are there during the suffering, the sacrifice, and the immense, sorrowful beauty of the entire Passion as it unfolds. She explained how even though everything is possible with God, you cannot have the end result of the sacrifice (ie. the body, blood, soul, and divinity of resurrected Christ) while Christ is being crucified before us...and before the transubstantiation occurs.

I truly am butchering her explanation...but it really was beautiful and it certainly helped me understand a little more about the mass...and how essential it is to attend mass.  Mother Angelica mentioned how we are all there at Calvary with Christ whenever we go to mass....and as crazy as it sounds, I have felt this to be true for some time. I have felt the presence of others before during mass. I have felt the presence of the departed during the funeral mass. I have felt like I was one with 2000 odd years of Catholics during the Triduum masses.  Though my mom has been gone for 8 years, I still hear her voice as strong and beautiful as ever in the choir whenever I go to the Portuguese mass. I could even almost swear that I once felt an angel brush up against my arm when I was a child during mass.. I am, to this day, even convinced I once saw an angel kneeling on the floor during mass when I was slacking on my own kneeling (even with the comfy, padded kneeler in front of me). Ever since then, I kneel properly because I just can't get that thought of the intense humility and sincere reverence displayed by this angel. You can call me crazy and you certainly don't have to believe a single word of any of this...but as far as I am concerned...Mother Angelica essentially summed up many of the powerful feelings and experiences I've had in the past 26 years...into about 2 minutes of response time. 

I know I have only scratched the surface as far as Mother Angelica's wisdom, faith, and intense understanding of all that is good and Catholic...but as far as I'm concerned, she's certainly worthy of the Catholic Science Geek Cool Catholic Award.

Pax Vobiscum

....And So It Begins

Remember when we said that "we cannot-we will not-comply with this unjust law?"

 We weren't lying.

Kudos to Franciscan University of Steubenville for being the first to stand up against the HHS mandate bullies... 

Below is a message from Franciscan University of Steubenville's health center. You will get most of what's going on by checking their website...but I think this about covers the main points.

I feel really bad for the students that got caught up in this situation and know very well what it's like to live without health insurance. My family was without it long enough to know just how easily one hospital visit or two can set you back. I hope the best for Steubenville's students and for everyone else who will end up getting shafted by an administration that is so determined to get what it wants at the expense of consciences like mine and beliefs like mine.

Be on your guard fellow Catholics and all others who value the sacredness of all life...something tells me it's only the beginning.

Pax Vobiscum

Rocking Out Like a Padre

I think I just found a new band that somehow was able to combine "all that is good and Catholic" while maintaining the badass allure of rock music.

They're a band called "La Voz del Desierto" (the voice in the desert). These guys hail from Madrid, Spain and their mission is to evangelize through music. They're coming to Costa Rica and Guatemala in August for the Rock'n Rieles festival and they have a website! Man, I hope they tour the US. I would certainly love to check them out in concert.

Somewhere in heaven, I can picture JPII beaming with pride with about how people like this are responding to his call for a new evangelization.

The video for Gethsemani from their album "La llamada" (the call):
Rock on padres, rock on...

Pax Vobiscum

Coffee Ethics and Finals

"This devil's drink is so delicious...we should cheat the devil by baptizing it."
-Pope Clement VIII on coffee 
(the authenticity of quote, I should note, is disputed)

Ladies and Gentlemen, in the last few weeks I have chugged more coffee and eaten more doughnuts than should ever be allowed by a 20-something female. I also (as you can well imagine) gained 5 pounds as a result of all the coffee and sweets. I don't know what it is about finals...but I always find myself losing my will power and craving everything that is bad for me. I can, at times, be the epitome of "grief bacon"...especially when its exam time and my stress level is through the roof.

Fortunately, I can finally start losing the poundage now...because...

....(drum roll)...


According to the handbook, I no longer have to take any more classes save for journal club. I  However, I have used guarded statements for quite some time when it comes to class. It all started in high school when I walked out of calculus with head held high, thoroughly convinced that I never had to take another math class ever again as long as I lived. I loved my teacher and thought calculus was cool...but I hated having to do so many problems each night. This was back in the day when cartoons were actually decent and I used to hole myself up in my room to listen to music and/or read. Why would anyone want to do proofs and vectors when there was Lord of the Rings to read, U2 to listen to, and Hey Arnold! to watch? Exactly. This was back in the day when the internet was just getting started as a household fixture. 

Well, flash forward from high school senior self to college freshman self, and there I am...taking a required algebra course....and another algebra course after that one. Pile on chemistry (significant figures!), physics (impossibly long velocity problems), organic chemistry (balancing equations!), and many other courses...and next thing you know I find myself in my room with fingers swollen from all the number crunching. NEVER AGAIN would I EVER assume that I would be free of math and calculator-induced injuries. I am not even going to bother going into too much detail about all the statistics homework I have done since college or the number crunching I have to do on a day to day basis. 

Hence, my guarded attitude towards this idea of no more class ever again. 

Still, I cannot help but get a little excited about this because every day (at least for the moment as I continue on an end-of-semester high), feels like a Friday. I have caught up on a few much-needed things (like grading for the classes I taught on the weekend), rest, and all sorts of other me-time essentials like listening to Lord of the Rings audiobooks (these are hysterical classics!) and trying out a new coffee shop.

Speaking of coffee shops, I had a revelation of sorts. This revelation may sound completely ridiculous...but it certainly has made my conscience feel a little better about the coffee I drink. I have have come to the conclusion that I will try to avoid Starbucks from now on. I came to this conclusion as I was seated at the Fine Grind Coffee Bar Cafe this past weekend. The food (I had a soup and sammy combo) was phenomenal and the atmosphere was fantastic. The decor was creative, but still very comfortable and laid back. I loved the place and saw how the workers there still maintained some level of personality as they served and did their thing. As I sat there, I thought about the plight of mom and pop shops throughout the country and came to the conclusion that I had to do my part to keep places like this going. 

I really wish I could shop local and/or fair trade more often for clothing, groceries, etc...but my PhD stipend really doesn't allow for that. Don't get me wrong, I do still try to buy local. I mean, most of the clothes and accessories I've been buying recently come from a variety of local shops and some of the gifts I've been buying come from a cute, little Irish-themed store down the street. This is, of course, because I seldom buy clothes and don't really give gifts every day. Everything else I buy, however, typically comes from, Target, A&P, and a few other bigger name places. Yes, I do feel guilty about using places like this when there are so many other places I could be utilizing. However, my problem is that, budget-wise, I simply cannot afford to buy everything I need from a mom and pop shop

However, coffee (as tasty as it may be coming from Starbucks) is more of a luxury than an actual necessity. I can afford to spend a little more on mom and pop shop coffee when it's a luxury that I don't have every day. I can further afford to go to local businesses such as this one by cutting down (or just plain eliminating) how many times I go to Starbucks. I already found a way around my tall Pike Place Roast with a shot of Peppermint (hot coffee + splenda + peppermint extract) well as my mint mocha obsession (iced coffee + Splenda + milk+ peppermint extract = mint mocha). I am working on my way around my green tea frappuccino...and will probably figure it out once I get a blender. Thus far, my cold milk+green tea drink mix + whipped cream (optional) mixture is doing the trick. 

I've been trying to cut down on Starbucks for some time to save money and because of some rumors that have been popping up regarding just how not-so-fair-trade Starbucks can be. Don't get me wrong, Starbucks can have good intentions and I am sure it hires a lot of great people, but I think they may be guilty of more than their fair share of green washing for the sake of a profit. Therefore, I've had time to be creative. I've also had time to explore other sources for my coffee fix. As a result, I've been frequenting a local tea place by where I live and a small coffee shop by my school. I still walk past Starbuck twice every morning on my way to the subway in Penn Station...and I have been tempted to go inside for a cup. However, my resolve has certainly grown since this weekend and I will be trying to frequent lesser-known and more local coffee places from now on. 

Pax Vobiscum

An Ounce of Procrastination for Every Pound of Work...

....or is it an ounce of work for every pound of procrastination?

I JUST HIT THE 50% COMPLETE MARK on my take home final! As much as I dread in-class exams, I dread take home exams even more. Take home exams should all have some sort of Surgeon General's warning like:
You've been given all the time in the world to do this exam, so we've just made it as arduous and long as humanly possible. Side effects from this exam: Your fingers will be bleeding from all number crunching. Your eyes may become permanently itchy from all that staring at the computer screen. You will lose all sensation to your wrists as you type pages of response nonstop for the next ## days.
In an effort to remain sane, and to procrastinate as much as I can when I get tired of looking at numbers...I've been periodically checking out blog posts, some new sites, name it. If there is a way to waste 5 minutes in between reading instructions and building up the nerve to start answering a question...I will find it.

Without further ado...I've found a perfect way to waste my time. It's called LOLSaints...and they have some good ones. Below is my favorite thus far. *Word of warning to all my uber-traditional Catholic readers out there...not all of the images are completely appropriate. Not sure how many of them would be given the Nihil Obstat seal of approval...but the site did get a Cannonball Award....and that's got to count for something.
Thanks LOLSaints for literally making me laugh out loud... my fingers continue to cry out in pain from all the typing.
Pax Vobiscum

Buying Snake Oil from Traveling Campaigners/Salesmen

Okay, remember that time where I time I implied that I would keep politics to a minimum on this blog? Based on what I have been posting about since the HHS mandate travesty, I suppose you already figured out that my past self was unintentionally lying. I really do not like politics, but feel as if I've been forced into it by my conscience. I simply cannot let all this injustice, hypocrisy, and outright lying to go on any farther without saying something about it...or, at the very least, pointing it out. This next quote sums up why I can no longer keep silent:

Obama (in Afghanistan, contrasting US democracy with the religious dictatorships in the Middle East)- 
“We give thanks for our democracy that respects the beliefs and protects the religious freedom of all people to pray, worship, or abstain according to the dictates of their conscience”
This guy is really pushing it here. How can you talk about religious freedom when you are forcing contraception and abortion down everyone's throats whether they like it or not...or even believe in it or not. According to the HHS mandate rules and regulations, EVEN THE SISTERS OF LIFE WOULD HAVE TO INDIRECTLY PAY FOR ABORTION. For all you who are not too familiar with the Sisters of Life, they are a religious community whose members take a vow to "protect and enhance the sacredness of human life." If you get to the bare bones of the matter, Obama's policies and attitude towards even the most pro-life of religious communities out there DO NOT RESPECT OR PROTECT ANY FORM OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM. This guy picks and chooses what religious beliefs are allowed to be respected or protected.

Therefore, in an effort so save face on Obama's part as he stomps around Afghanistan and other countries, flaunting how free our nation is...I've decided to edit the aforementioned quote to better reflect the freedoms he seems to advertise more than he protects.

“We give thanks for (what little is left of) our democracy that respects the beliefs and protects the religious freedom of all people (except maybe Catholics, some protestants, and any other religious organization that's been giving me a rough time for the last few months) to pray, worship, or abstain according to the dictates of their conscience as long as they are in agreement with my own conscience
I'm not going to pretend that this election will be a favorable one. Based on the comments and eye rolls I've been getting whenever I talk about my issues with Obama and based on how our media seems to LOVE him...I don't know if he'll lose the election. I guess it makes sense. When reading books like "1984" and "Brave New World," I always wondered how terrible governments took over the US in far-off dystopian futures. For the longest time, I figured the "bad guys" staged a violent invasion of some sort...or that a military junta used force to take over a government. However, the older I've gotten...I've become more aware of how things operate. Freedoms are best lost in secrecy, flattery, and a careful use of words. They are best lost when you vote for smiling, duplicitous politicians. It's harder to form a resistance when so many people are fooled by empty rhetoric. It's much easier to find enough to people to oppose a government when its cruelty is obvious. If you want to attack religion, create a war on women, a war on race, or a war on socioeconomic status. If you don't create the wars yourself, either support existing wars or ignore existing wars. Hence, all the "War on Women" rhetoric that popped out of nowhere.

How is it a war on women, when there is nothing being taken away from women? Third party insurance has always and will always exist. If your insurance doesn't cover contraceptives, do what college kids have been doing for years...go to Walmart and pick some up for less than $15 a month. I was on contraceptives for 3 years...and know very well just how cheap and accessible they are (regardless of what some pressure group protester female law student tries to tell you). Saying "NO" to the mandate won't change anything for women...but it will allow people to refrain from violating their consciences. Saying "NO" may even help women's health. I was hospitalized twice in the past few months due to a potential blood clot and you want to know what the top question was every time a nurse, doctor, etc. came in?

"...Are you on birth control?"

If birth control pills are the miracle drug you claim them to be...why the association with blood clots? Why all the concern about someone like me (with my crazy health background) taking the same pill that seems to be passed off like candy these days? Got acne? Try the Pill. A little too hairy? Try the Pill. Amenorrhea? Forget about screening for PCOS and any other issue that may be causing it...just try the Pill? Cramps? Try the Pill. Migraines? Try the Pill. 

If the pill is so awesome, why are artificial hormones we flush down the toilet threatening wild fish populations (if you want to find out more about this, stick with scientific sources on this one...not feminist me)? Why this emphasis on women's health when birth control doesn't do anything to take care of the issue? They're like aspirin! You take them and they make the symptoms go away...without ever taking care of the underlying issue. Call me crazy, but if this really was about women's health...I think we'd be focusing more attention on cancer and heart disease (still a major killer)?

I do not believe "The Pill" will ever be essential to any woman's health. We are such a health conscious population that is so worried about GMOs, saturated fat, artificial sweeteners, etc...but we are more than willing to prescribe the pill as if it were some miraculous cure...and more than willing to start a war over it.

You want a war? How about joining the fight against age discrimination? How about fighting against Downs Syndrome discrimination? How about fighting against the current war on unborn women?

Pax Vobiscum