Friday, August 31, 2012

Postcards From Mars; an Embarrassing Arrest; and a New(ish) Website

I am not making this up:The dateline for that article is Lima, Peru. In a way, it's nice to know that America doesn't have monopoly on - colorful? - folks.

We do have an election coming in November, though. There are some very important issues at stake: none of which I'm writing about today. The closest I get is my opinions about an archbishop's arrest last Saturday: for DUI.

More importantly, I think, the Vatican has a new(ish) website with resources for the upcoming Year of Faith.

Finally, Curiosity sent back 'postcards' from Mars - plus the first voice transmission from the red planet, and a song.

Quite a bit more has happened this week, some of which may be more important than what happened in Peru, or on Mars. But this is what I've decided to write about:

1. Year of Faith/Annus Fidei: Online Resources

"Pontifical website aims to help lay Catholics worldwide"
David Kerr, CNA/EWTN News (August 29, 2012)

"The Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Laity is positioning its website as a resource for lay men and women ahead of Pope Benedict's Year of Faith, which will kick-off in October.

" 'It is directed to all the lay faithful that want to know more about their vocation, about their role within the Church,' Ana Cristina Betancourt of the Pontifical Council's Women's Section told CNA in Rome.

" 'So, it is a way of being in contact with what we do day-to-day and that was our aim in having it, to make more known the things that we do, the reflections that we have, the things that we are thinking about and also the guidelines that the Pope is giving the laity to better live their vocations.'..."
When Betancourt said " their vocations," she wasn't necessarily talking about how we earn money. I'm pretty sure that, since she'd "all the lay faithful," she had this definition of "vocation" in mind:
"VOCATION: The calling or destiny we have in this life and hereafter. God has created the human person to love and serve him; the fulfillment of this vocation is eternal happiness (1, 358, 1700). Christ calls the faithful to the perfection of holiness (825). The vocation of the laity consists in seeking the Kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God's will (898). Priestly and religious vocations are dedicated to the service of the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation (cf. 873; 931)."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, Glossary)
When I visited, the server sent me to, the English-language version of Pontifical Council for the Laity. The website is also available in Italiano/Italian (, Spanish/EspaƱol (, and French/Francais (

Pontifical Council for the Laity's has a pretty good selection of articles and publications, including:
There's even a trailer for next year's World Youth Day in Rio.

"WYD Rio 2013 - Promo Trailer"

JMJRio13, YouTube (June 12, 2012)
video, 2:48

I don't expect that the Pontifical Council for the Laity's website will be updated daily - or even weekly. But it looks like a pretty good place to go for background on a fairly wide range of topics:

The Pontifical Council for the Laity has been around since 1967 - or since 1976, when it was re-founded as a permanent department in the Roman Curia.

2. Drunk Driving and Rorschach Tests

First, a little background about driving and DUI (Driving Under the Influence) in America.

Statistics and Driving Drunk

About 2/3 of all Americans are licensed drivers: of the 307,000,000 Americans in 2009, 210,000,000 were drivers. The same year, some of those 210,000,000 drivers got drunk or stoned: resulting in 1,440,409 arrests for impaired driving in 2008. (Federal Highway Administration, U. S. Department of Justice)

If I did the math right, that means that a little over one half of one percent of American drivers got caught in a DUI violation in 2009.

I think driving while impaired is a really bad idea. It's a decision that can have lethal consequences: which is why I think legal sanctions against drunk driving are sensible.

DUI and News

DUI arrests generally aren't 'news,' unless there's a celebrity involved. Archbishops aren't, quite, celebrities: not the way Hollywood glitterati are. San Francisco's incoming archbishop, Salvatore J. Cordileone, is an exception. He's scheduled to take over that job on October 4: and was arrested for DUI last Saturday.
"Police confirm DUI arrest of future San Francisco archbishop"
Hillary Senour, CNA/EWTN News (August 27, 2012)

" The San Diego Police Department verified the weekend arrest of the Archbishop-designate of San Francisco for driving under the influence.

"San Diego police spokesperson, Detective Gary Hassen, confirmed for CNA Aug. 27 that Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone was arrested just after midnight on Aug. 25 and held in county jail.

"After passing through a DUI checkpoint near the San Diego State University, Archbishop Cordileone was further evaluated by the police and then taken into custody.

"Just before noon that same day, Archbishop Cordileone was released on bail, Hassen said. The legal blood alcohol content limit for California is 0.08 percent...."
As far as I know, Archbishop Cordileone's arrest hasn't been used as 'proof' that the Catholic Church supports child abuse and is plotting to destroy the environment. But quite a few folks are offering opinions, analysis, and assertions: some of them sensible, some not so much.

The way I see it, the archbishop's arrest:
  • Shows that
    • Archbishops are
      • Human
      • Affected by original sin
      • Not exempt from traffic regulations
        • In San Diego, California
    • DUI laws
      • Are enforced
        • In San Diego, California
      • Set minimum standards for sobriety
  • Doesn't show that
    • Same-sex marriage is
      • Okay
      • Opposed by drunk drivers
        • Who should shut up
    • The Catholic Church
      • Hates homosexuals
      • Wants to spoil everyone's fun
      • Shields drunk drivers
But I'm a practicing Catholic, so I would say something like that.

This is an election year in America, so I figure we'll be seeing Archbishop Cordileone's DUI arrest replayed in news and op-eds for weeks. Maybe longer.

More about the archbishop, from a counter-cultural point of view:

Seeing What We Expect to See

What I've read suggests that Archbishop Cordileon's DUI arrest is like the old Rorsaschach test. Some folks may see this news as 'proof' that the Catholic Church is icky: because it's what they expect to see.

I'm one of those people who think Catholic clergy, from priests up to the Pope, are human beings. I think the archbishop's DUI arrest indicates that San Diego police had reason to think that he was driving while 'under the influence.'

Driving with alcohol in one's system is a really bad idea, and I expect that Archbishop Cordileon will experience whatever legal sanctions the law requires.

But my faith isn't shaken. A DUI arrest, although serious, is far from the worst trouble a member of the clergy's had in the Church's millennia-spanning history.

3. Voices From Mars

"First Recorded Voice from Mars"
Mission News, NASA (August 27, 2012)

"The following statement by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden was returned to Earth via the Mars Curiosity rover.

"Hello. This is Charlie Bolden, NASA Administrator, speaking to you via the broadcast capabilities of the Curiosity Rover, which is now on the surface of Mars.

"Since the beginning of time, humankind’s curiosity has led us to constantly seek new life…new possibilities just beyond the horizon. I want to congratulate the men and women of our NASA family as well as our commercial and government partners around the world, for taking us a step beyond to Mars...."
I enjoyed listening to Administrator Bolden's speech.

It's a 'first,' although we've had the technology for sound transmissions from Mars for more than a decade. Curiosity's Monday voice transmission was, I think, more about encouraging folks to think about what we can look forward to, than a technical or scientific milestone.

I tweaked the embed code NASA provided, in an effort to fit their video player's controls into this blog's format. It worked for me: but if you have trouble, I recommend viewing "Interplanetary Voicemail" on NASA's website.

I also made a low-resolution version, in case NASA reorganizes their site before you see this post:

"First Recorded Voice from Mars"

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
California Institute of Technology (August 27, 2012)
video, 1:33 (file size: about 10.8 MB)

The server for the low-res. version is nowhere near as fast as NASA's, so the file may take quite a few minutes to load.

'And Now, a Song'

There's another recording stored on Curiosity: "Reach for the Stars," by
The audio quality was pretty good, although I was a little disappointed with the musical style. In the NASA video, explained why he chose a rather 'classical' orchestral approach. I see his point: and agree that it was probably important to show a very 'human' sound coming from Mars.

Sounds of Mars - Maybe Next Time

The Mars planning FAQ page says that Curiosity doesn't carry a microphone, so we won't be hearing 'live from Mars' broadcasts. This time.

A late-20th-century Mars expedition carried a microphone. Signals from Mars Polar Lander ended on December 3, 1999, during descent to the Martian surface:

Should We Stay, or Should We Go?

(from NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS, used w/o permission)
"...This image is a portion of a larger image taken by Curiosity's 100-millimeter Mast Camera on Aug. 23, 2012. See PIA16104. Scientists enhanced the color in one version to show the Martian scene under the lighting conditions we have on Earth, which helps in analyzing the terrain...."
"NASA Rover Returns Voice, Telephoto Views From Mars"
Mission News, NASA (August 27, 2012)

"...In spoken words radioed to the rover on Mars and back to NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN) on Earth, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden ... said curiosity is what drives humans to explore.

" 'The knowledge we hope to gain from our observation and analysis of Gale Crater will tell us much about the possibility of life on Mars as well as the past and future possibilities for our own planet. Curiosity will bring benefits to Earth and inspire a new generation of scientists and explorers, as it prepares the way for a human mission in the not too distant future,' Bolden said in the recorded message.

"The voice playback was released along with new telephoto camera views of the varied Martian landscape during a news conference today at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif...."
My faith doesn't depend on learning more about this astonishingly vast and complex creation. On the other hand, I don't see a point in cultivating ignorance of the wonders God surrounds us with.

Postcards From Mars

Here's a closer look at the center of that photo.

(from NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS, used w/o permission)
"...For scale, an annotated version of the figure highlights a dark rock that is approximately the same size as Curiosity. The pointy mound in the center of the image, looming above the rover-sized rock, is about 1,000 feet (300 meters) across and 300 feet (100 meters) high."

Scientists figured the terrain in Gale Crater would be interesting. I don't think they expected to see something like this, though:

(from NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS, used w/o permission)
"This image taken by the Mast Camera (MastCam) on NASA's Curiosity rover highlights the interesting geology of Mount Sharp, a mountain inside Gale Crater, where the rover landed. ... "
What's intriguing about this photo are the strata - more-or-less horizontal layers on the face of Mount Sharp. What's unusual about this set of layers is that the upper ones are tilted quite a bit more than the ones underneath. the dividing line between those two zones runs roughly across the middle of the photo.

Strata being at different angles isn't at all unusual here on Earth - it has to do with plate tectonics, according to a fellow in a NASA news conference. But around here, it's normal for the upper set of layers to be much more horizontal than the lower ones: the opposite of what's happened on Mars.

It's another puzzle - I'm pretty sure that we'll find more. I hope so, anyway: maybe some answers, too.

Related posts:

No comments:

Like it? Pin it, Plus it, - - -

Pinterest: My Stuff, and More


Unique, innovative candles

Visit us online:
Spiral Light CandleFind a Retailer
Spiral Light Candle Store

Popular Posts

Label Cloud

1277 abortion ADD ADHD-Inattentive Adoration Chapel Advent Afghanistan Africa America Amoris Laetitia angels animals annulment Annunciation anti-catholicism Antichrist apocalyptic ideas apparitions archaeology architecture Arianism art Asperger syndrome assumptions asteroid astronomy Australia authority balance and moderation baptism being Catholic beliefs bias Bible Bible and Catechism bioethics biology blogs brain Brazil business Canada capital punishment Caritas in Veritate Catechism Catholic Church Catholic counter-culture Catholicism change happens charisms charity Chile China Christianity Christmas citizenship climate change climatology cloning comets common good common sense Communion community compassion confirmation conscience conversion Corpus Christi cosmology creation credibility crime crucifix Crucifixion Cuba culture dance dark night of the soul death depression designer babies despair detachment devotion discipline disease diversity divination Divine Mercy divorce Docetism domestic church dualism duty Easter economics education elections emotions England entertainment environmental issues Epiphany Establishment Clause ethics ethnicity Eucharist eugenics Europe evangelizing evolution exobiology exoplanets exorcism extremophiles faith faith and works family Father's Day Faust Faustus fear of the Lord fiction Final Judgment First Amendment forgiveness Fortnight For Freedom free will freedom fun genetics genocide geoengineering geology getting a grip global Gnosticism God God's will good judgment government gratitude great commission guest post guilt Haiti Halloween happiness hate health Heaven Hell HHS hierarchy history holidays Holy Family Holy See Holy Spirit holy water home schooling hope humility humor hypocrisy idolatry image of God images Immaculate Conception immigrants in the news Incarnation Independence Day India information technology Internet Iraq Ireland Israel Italy Japan Jesus John Paul II joy just war justice Kansas Kenya Knights of Columbus knowledge Korea language Last Judgment last things law learning Lent Lenten Chaplet life issues love magi magic Magisterium Manichaeism marriage martyrs Mary Mass materialism media medicine meditation Memorial Day mercy meteor meteorology Mexico Minnesota miracles Missouri moderation modesty Monophysitism Mother Teresa of Calcutta Mother's Day movies music Muslims myth natural law neighbor Nestorianism New Year's Eve New Zealand news Nietzsche obedience Oceania organization original sin paleontology parish Parousia penance penitence Pentecost Philippines physical disability physics pilgrimage politics Pope Pope in Germany 2011 population growth positive law poverty prayer predestination presumption pride priests prophets prostitution Providence Purgatory purpose quantum entanglement quotes reason redemption reflections relics religion religious freedom repentance Resurrection robots Roman Missal Third Edition rosaries rules sacramentals Sacraments Saints salvation schools science secondary causes SETI sex shrines sin slavery social justice solar planets soul South Sudan space aliens space exploration Spain spirituality stem cell research stereotypes stewardship stories storm Sudan suicide Sunday obligation superstition symbols technology temptation terraforming the establishment the human condition tolerance Tradition traffic Transfiguration Transubstantiation travel Trinity trust truth uncertainty United Kingdom universal destination of goods vacation Vatican Vatican II veneration vengeance Veterans Day videos virtue vlog vocations voting war warp drive theory wealth weather wisdom within reason work worship writing

Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.