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Month: May 2023

Reflections of a visionary

Reflections of a visionary

It sometimes happens that we make light of little things [in the spiritual life]. There is nothing little in the spiritual life. Sometimes a seemingly insignificant thing will disclose a matter of great consequence. Many spiritual undertones are concealed in little things.

A magnificent building will never rise if we reject the insignificant bricks. Sin depends on the degree and light within the soul. Sometimes we consider these faults as sins only in the strictest definition (discounting them as trivial). This is also true in [what seems like mild] imperfections. Yet these petty things are of great importance to a soul that is tending towards sanctity. They should not be treated lightly, but with patience and kindness to open the way to the innermost secrets of the soul.

St Faustina Notebook I – entry 52

For those willing to dig deeper, I find the modern world is continually re-discovering the inner truths that Christianity has known for millennium. St Faustina is describing an element of what we today would call emotional intelligence, self-awareness, etc. For those seeking improvement, self awareness comes from reflecting on ourselves (prayer and reflection), paying attention to even our little behaviors, getting feedback on how we’re behaving (measuring our actions against standards of behavior/sin), and then hold ourselves accountable for change (via confession). While the world does this to it’s own constantly changing standards, the Christian measures themselves against the teachings, example, and living relationship with Jesus.

Despite hundreds or even thousands of years, just about every historical document from humanities earliest days shows the same human frailties exist. Most are just as true today as a thousand years ago. Just like the equations of gravity that rule the orbits of our planets to the tensile strength of certain kinds of steel, we can put our complete faith and trust into what they tell us. We trust our planet won’t fly out of orbit to our doom and build bridges out of steel will hold the cars we drive over it. In the same way, this is the true shocking meaning of putting your trust in the teachings of Christ. They do, and have, worked through all time. Two thousand years of proof is pretty compelling.

In reading this quote from St Faustina, I found the observation to seriously consider even the small bricks as important when building a beautiful edifice to be really worth reflection. We all have likely seen something that has been put together by masters. One of the hallmarks of a master is the amazing attention to the smallest details.

Yet, in today’s very distracting world, many of us rarely attend to our inner and spiritual lives because we’re too busy distracting ourselves with near constant, often largely pointless, ways we waste our time: music/noise, travel, careers, money, buying new things, clothes, popularity, consuming social media, etc.

If there was one thing I can recommend to this modern age, it would be this: slow down, viciously defend your quiet reflection and prayer time, and listen to the inner voice of your soul. It is only there that real peace will come.

Backrooms videos

Backrooms videos

The Backrooms is an internet creepypasta that got started in 2019. A simple post and picture on 4chan caught fire. It became stories, then a video game, then lots of video games. Then, it became live short videos that use lots of VCR like 80’s video quality effects.

Andy R Animations shows how he used free versions of Blender and Davinci to create some of the higher quality Backrooms videos. Definitely worth a look at the amazing things people can generate now using free tools.

Horror themed Doom wad – My House

Horror themed Doom wad – My House

One might think not much is still happening in a 30 year old game; but people are still modding the original game Doom (released in 1993) – and getting really creative. Frighteningly creative.

Recently, someone uploaded a mod for the game that seemed pretty simple at first – someone’s house. Making a familiar place like your house in Doom is something modders often start with as beginners. At first blush it seemed like just some new guy’s simple mod attempt. In his post, he claims that:

Excited to finally release this tribute map. Last August I lost a good childhood friend of mine and took it pretty hard. When I was visiting my hometown for his funeral, I connected with his parents who shared with me some of his old belongings. Among them was a copy of an old map of his backed up on a 3.5” floppy from high school. Thomas and I were into amateur Doom mapping in the early 00s but I had never seen this map of his prior to uncovering it on one of the old floppy discs. As a way of paying tribute to him and all the great memories we had together, I took the plunge and installed Doom Builder in order to polish up his map and add a few modern amenities just for convenience sake.

But as you go into the house, things get stranger and stranger. What began as a simple reproduction of someone’s house begins to morph into something entirely different. Technically, some of what happens should be impossible in the original 1993 engine. The environments you soon find yourself are decidedly part of modern internet creepypasta culture.

The story and where it takes you becomes pretty fantastical and astounding. This was clearly done by someone with high technical skill and great storytelling – bending both the game engine and the story itself. If you dig around, you’ll also find extra text files with a back story and… Well – lets not give it all away.

The video above is one of the better walkthroughs of it – describing all the connections to other media and describing all the things that shouldn’t be possible.

Physical Penetration Testing

Physical Penetration Testing

Deviant Ollam did an amazing presentation on his work as a penetration expert. He goes over how they do their work finding the weak points in buildings and companies.

He goes over common door penetration topics: fitment issues, bad latches, opening tools, etc. He also covers lots of topics like duplicating keys from photos, rental key boxes, learning everything you need for faking a service call from service provider key boxes, circumventing buzz-in door boxes or gate access systems, RFID lifting, issues with camera systems, criminally available master keys for common doors/locks.

‘Modern’ politeness rules

‘Modern’ politeness rules

Back in the day in the US, we had social Christianity (major part of society were some Protestant blend), or columns like Miss Manners and etiquette books to know how to behave. Now, things are less clear with a constantly changing moral and political landscape (we can discuss why things are now ‘more complicated’ than they were, but that’s another blog entry)

I don’t necessarily agree with these (and some of them are just … yeah, no), but it is interesting watching people trying to make sense of social conundrums without any moral compass beyond current social norms. It should be no surprise then that there are some clear contradictions in her list: such as accommodating the most COVID-careful, while putting some clear limits on food allergy issues.

Update 2023: Turns out others have taken a swing at these situations too, like Conde Nast’s guide to splitting a bill.

Still, some of the decent ones:

  • You don’t have to read everyone’s book. But if you do and you like it, send them a nice note.
  • You may callously cancel almost any plans up until 2 p.m. That gives the friend time to find another activity.
  • Do not get into an argument with your significant other in a group of friends in order to prove your significant other wrong or gather support to prove you are right.
  • If you’ve met someone and they clearly don’t remember your name, say, “Hi, we’ve met, I’m X.”
  • The proper response to being told something you already know isn’t “I know.” It’s “You’re right.”
  • If you’re real friends, you accommodate the most COVID-careful among you.
  • Don’t tell someone with an accent that it is “cute.” It’s condescending.
  • If you bring up astrology (or faked moon landing, fad diet, Trump theory, magic crystals, auras, or any other non mainstream scientific theory) and it isn’t met enthusiastically, change the topic. Not everyone believes in your made-up bullshit.
  • Never ask anyone what their job is. It’s classist and boring. Try to find three other topics to talk about first.
  • Being a racial ally doesn’t mean debasing yourself. Apologizing or saying something about your privledge is condescending and really just a move that’s saying “Oh, look, I’m the center of attention again!”
    • My own note: It’s amazing how many well meaning, self described ‘allies’ (who are often those that talk about their privledge) seem to be experts on how other minorities feel, think, or should act. When asked directly, they are getting all their talking points from other white people and they haven’t actually talked with anyone in that group. Instead, they go around constantly seem to be telling everyone how minorities feel. I find these ‘allies’ can actually be worse than those they claim to be against. Maybe go talk to actual minorities and ask if they think their culture is be appropriated, they find something insulting, feel mistreated in a situation, etc. Maybe just shut up and let them speak instead of you if you’re claiming to elevate their voices?
  • Listening is not the time for you to silently rehearse what you want to say next. Everyone can see your eyes glazing over while you do it.
  • If your burger is becoming a salad, your restaurant-order modifications have gone too far and YOU are the problem.
  • Waiting to decide your order at the counter when there is a line. Figure out what you want BEFORE you get to the counter. When you get to the front, you should already know what you want and say it.
  • Don’t foist your food allergies onto a dinner party. At a dinner party, it’s about what the host wants to do. Just pick at what you can, then eat when you get home or before you go.
  • The correct number of slices of pizza to order for a group of X people is 2X + X/3.
  • After high school, you’re not allowed to be a birthday diva. Don’t use it to make demands on people – you’re a grown up, so act like it.
  • Always be the first one out if something seems bad. Be the first to bounce when things go wrong for any reason. Feeling menaced? Smell smoke? Time to head out.
  •  If you like them, text people within three hours of hanging out with them.
  • Whoever put the most work into planning the trip gets first dibs on the rooms. And yes, that’s whether they’re single or a couple.
  • If your host is doing the dishes, it means you’re supposed to leave.
  • If you’re somebody’s houseguest, always strip the bed, even if they tell you not to worry about it.
  • If you lose or break something you borrowed, offer to replace it.
  • Don’t buy a gift off-registry – but money is the perfect gift if nothing else.
  • While not always feasible, it is morally superior to call in takeout and delivery orders rather than using the apps.
    • My own note: I find it’s usually cheaper to call. App prices are usually about 20% higher via apps like Grubhub, Doordash, etc. Don’t believe me? Look up the prices on their website you can make call-in vs what is shown in the app.
  • And if you’re dialing into a meeting and your internet connection is choppy, don’t struggle through. Put your thoughts in the chat, or message someone to say them for you.
  • If you’re a boss and you see your employees in the wild, greet them warmly but briskly and move out quickly.
  • Don’t comment on other people’s food or what they are putting on their plate.
  • Disclose your recent positive COVID test to those possibly affected promptly but without shame.
    • My own note: you have a moral obligation to take a covid test if you are sick, or to tell others you’re going to stay home if you feel ill. Covid can kill some people and many people interact with people in their households that are immune compromised/fragile/aged/etc even if they will be fine.
  • If you hear rumblings of layoffs and are wondering if a friend or acquaintance was affected, the gentlest way to inquire is “Sounds like a tough day at <their company/team name> Thinking of you”
  • Gossip as if the person were just 12 feet from you. Because if they aren’t, someone that knows them probably is, and whatever you say will get back to them.
  • Your kid doing algebra in second grade? Reading at 3½? That’s great but selectively share, don’t go crazy.
  • Sharing parenting advice is a no-win game. Every kid is different and needs different approaches.


  • Don’t ever message someone “k.” It’s basically the same as “f* you” to most people.
  • If they hand you their phone to show you a photo, keep your thumb still. Do NOT scroll through their photos.
  • Don’t use Instagram Stories/Facebook/etc to surveil what your friends choose to do instead of hanging out with you. The story you’ll tell yourself will always be worse than the real one.
  • Hot gossip goes only in the voice memo, never in text. As your attorney, I must advise you: Send that gossip in a voice memo.
    • My own note: don’t put ANYTHING sensitive in a text, voice mail, etc. In fact, why are you saying it? Gossip is often character assassination. A good Christian doesn’t respond or share gossip – but takes the opportunity to say a silent prayer for the person instead.
  • Sit down and respond to an email, even if it’s a year late. Just say why honestly.
  • Don’t harass your friends (or, worse, co-workers) to promote you online — and don’t forget lots of people just don’t live like this online.
  • Find your signature sign-off and stick with it. From “all best” to “lotsa love,” be yourself.
  • Read receipts (i.e. has someone read this email) are to be turned on only in cases of medical emergency.
  • You have to get consent to post a quoted conversation with a friend on social media.
    • My own note: Do not share any one-on-one personal or private conversations via social media. If you do want to talk about an interesting discussion, don’t mention names or like Dragnet ‘change the names, situation, and details to protect the innocent’
  • Don’t pelt your friends with text messages. If someone is texting you too much, just tell them your cadence, “I don’t text when I’m busy during the day at work”

Completely disagree:

  • Claim: “It’s okay to email, text, or DM anyone at any hour.” This directly contradicts her point #6 about never waking a significant other for any purpose. Nobody is watching or making big choices from midnight until 6am no matter what you text. If something is that important, it’s your job to get up early to text or call them at a human hour of 7am or later. Anything from midnight to 6am better be an emergency or part of a party that you’re a part of and trying to find your friends.
  • Claim: “You can eat anything at your desk in an open-plan office. There are break rooms for a reason.”
    • Wrong. Just wrong. Your stinky food is likely offending more than one person and it’s not their responsibility to leave and not be able to do their work because you want to eat durian or lutefisk at your desk. Not everyone needs to smell everything you’re eating. This whole discussion is just one more example why open office spaces are provably worse than cubes.
  • Claim: “Saw someone shoplifting? No, you didn’t. Ignore it.”
    • Ignoring injustice is cowardly. Theft against anyone is injustice. I have absolutely called out people shoplifting. A person of character can call out bad behavior and not have to call the cops. I saw some late 20 year olds very ham-fistedly stealing random snacks at the local gas station. They realized I saw them shoving handfuls of stuff in their pockets. I put on my best elementary school teacher face/voice and said, “Really?” They put the stuff back. Calling out bad behavior is perfectly acceptable – and something I have no problem doing. You’re adults, act like it. Antisocial behavior begets more antisocial behavior. Best to nip that in the bud earlier than later.
  • Claim: “Post like the wind. Conventional wisdom is that you should post on your main Instagram feed no more than once a day. Posting 15 individual photos to your main grid in one day is what freedom feels like.”
  • She states a number of Tipping rules
    • Most of the comments at the bottom of that article disagree with her statements entirely – as do I. New York, San Francisco, and other large tourist cities have guaranteed service work pay now and tips are actually LESS needed than before. Rising minimum wage laws in many of these cities also negates this need. But don’t take my word for it – many restaurants and bars tried removing tipping and went with fixed surcharges/living wage raises. They almost universally failed. Not because people wouldn’t pay, but because the workers quit. When Zuni in San Francisco went to a no-tip model, the workers revolted and many left because they made far more from the untaxed tips. This tells you how much money these servers were making. Much of it completely untaxed if unreported.
Largest religious painting ever: The Crucifixion

Largest religious painting ever: The Crucifixion

At Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale California there is a largely unknown gem. The largest religious painting ever made – a staggering 195 feet long and 45 feet high. It’s so large it has it’s own auditorium style seating.

The story behind it is almost equally amazing. It was commissioned in 1894 and painted by Polish painter Jan Styka. To make the painting, he traveled to Jerusalem to prepare sketches and even had his palette blessed by Pope Leo XIII. The gigantic mural was unveiled in Warsaw in 1897, traveled many European cities, then joined the 1904 St Louis Exposition. It was seized when the partners failed to pay custom taxes and was considered lost for 40 years. It was found in 1944 rolled around a telephone pole and badly damaged in the basement of the Chicago Civic Opera Company. It was restored and then displayed in Forest Lawn by American businessman Hubert Eaton.

It’s hard to find detailed images of the massive painting, but the pieces I have seen are really astounding. Read more about it here.

Also check out some of Jan Styka’s other paintings such as St Peter preaching the gospel in the catacombs.

Invasion of the Black Slime and Other Tales of Horror

Invasion of the Black Slime and Other Tales of Horror

When I was a kid, I loved Choose Your Own Adventure books. At school book fairs, I was always on the lookout for a good deal. There were various copycats series – such as the really excellent Fighting Fantasy series that I discovered in middle school. Which Way Books, however, never really received the accolades of Choose your own Adventure. Most of them were very mediocre to downright terrible. One book from the series, however, really stood head and shoulders above the others.

Invasion of the Black Slime and Other Tales of Horror was honestly one of the best scary books I read as a kid. I always loved adventure mixed with a tinge of the scary or fantastic. The book consisted of 3 main story lines you could choose between. The first storyline was to continue on to the supposedly invaded mountain town of Silverlode. The second involves visiting a lonely doctor. The third was one of the best which involved spending 24 hours in Uncle Harry Crispen’s haunted house to earn a million dollars.

There were some really great illustrations as well:

It is hard to find copies of this book today. The series was never terribly popular, and used copies of this book can run you about $35 – if you can even find one. I have never seen this book online anywhere; so I decided to change that. I bought a copy and scanned the whole thing cover to cover. It’s now here available as a PDF to download and enjoy.

Personally, I found the haunted house path contained some of the most terrifying stuff I read as a kid. Even today as an adult it holds up really well. There’s even a warning that you need to give full attention to the pages you read as you go into Uncle Henry’s house. I remember taking it seriously and going to my room and laying on my bed to read it. It was downright terrifying to 10 year old me.

If you’d like to hear some the book, here’s an audiobook version:

If you read this book as a kid, share your experiences with it. It was definitely one of my favorites.

Which Way Books #10
The Invasion of the Black Slime and Other Tales of Horror
Written by: R.G. Austin (pseudonym used by multiple people) – Gelman, Rita Golden (uncredited); Lamb, Nancy (uncredited)
Illustrator: Smith, Joseph A.
Format: Paperback
Published: January 1, 1983 by Simon Pulse
ISBN : 9780671460204 
ISBN-10 : 067146020X
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0671460204
ASIN ‏ : ‎ 067146020X
Pages: 118

Download Invasion of the Black Slime and Other Tales of Horror PDF here