Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Euro-Centric Cardinals


The Catholic Cardinals begin meeting on Tuesday, March 11, to select a new Pope. Only those age 80 or under can vote, and news reports say there will be 115 such cardinals.

I’m very interested in all of this. There is speculation about the cardinals, for the first time, electing a Pope from outside of Europe–perhaps Africa. Curious, I went to Wikipedia for a list of cardinals, wanting to see how they broke down by region of the world.

Number of voting Cardinals from Europe: 64
Number of voting Cardinals from the rest of the world: 63

Those are just the cardinals eliglble to vote. My own numbers from Wikipedia aren’t definitive, obviously, since they add up to a dozen more cardinals than the 115 expected to attend the conclave. But it’s at least in the ballpark.

Italy alone has 49 cardinals, of whom 28 are eliglble to vote. You can hardly walk down the street without bumping into a cardinal. The US has the second-largest contingent, with 13 voting cardinals.

Here’s an extended list of the total number of cardinals in various countries. The number of cardinals obviously isn’t based on the number of Catholics in the country.

  • Brazil: 9 cardinals (123 million Catholics)
  • Mexico: 4 cardinals (96 million Catholics)
  • Philippines: 3 cardinals (75 million Catholics)
  • USA: 19 cardinals (74 million Catholics)
  • France: 8 cardinals (54 million Catholics)
  • Italy: 49 cardinals (53 million Catholics)
  • Nigeria: 3 cardinals (37 million Catholics)
  • Spain: 10 cardinals (36 million Catholics)
  • Colombia: 3 cardinals (39 million Catholics)
  • Congo: 1 cardinals (36 million Catholics)
  • Argentina: 4 cardinals (36 million Catholics)
  • Poland: 7 cardinals (35 million Catholics)
  • Germany: 9 cardinals (26 million Catholics)

The selection process is somewhat secretive. How political is it? I have no idea. But I’m fascinated.

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14 Black Lizards

black-lizardThanks to used bookstores, my to-be-read shelf of Vintage/Black Lizard books grew too crowded. So since Christmas, I’ve read nothing but books in the Black Lizard imprint, which includes some of the best mysteries ever published. I just finished my 14th in a row. The whole list is here on my blog.

  • I read two outstanding books by Norwegian author Jo Nesbo, who is new to Black Lizard.
  • The 2nd Ripley book by Patricia Highsmith.
  • Two Martin Beck mysteries by Swedes Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo (only 1 left in the 10-book series).
  • Two by Andrew Vachss–the 17th Burke novel (I’ve read them in order) and an outstanding collection of short stories.
  • Two by 1950s-spymaster Eric Ambler.
  • Books by Jason Starr, George Higgins, and John Burdett (all new to Black Lizard), plus mainstays Ruth Rendell, and David Goodis.

Now I’m moving on. Gonna plunge into a half-dozen books awaiting on my Nook.

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Not Having Enough to Eat Isn’t the Problem


For the first time on a global scale, being overweight has become more of a health problem than lack of nutrition. This comes from a massive study involving 500 scientists in 50 countries. Some results:

  • More disease is resulting from people being fat and eating too much, than from people having too little to eat.
  • People are living longer, but in worse health and with more disability.
  • We’ve conquered many deadly disease, but people are suffering more from ailments that won’t necessarily kill you (neck and back pain, mental disorders, substance abuse).
  • One-fourth of all deaths come from strokes and heart disease, which can often be traced to being overweight.
  • The death rate among children under age 5 has dropped 60% since 1990.

(From an article on the New Scientist website.)

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Shadow of the KGB


The second 007 movie, “From Russia With Love,” was shown in the White House theater on November 21, 1963, when the president was in Fort Worth, Texas. The next day, in Dallas, Kennedy was assassinated. Sounds ominous. Yet, despite applying my substantial analytical powers, I find no significance to it. Nevertheless–I report, you decide.

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An Unlikely Analogy


Many years ago, I listened to a cassette teaching tape by Jill Briscoe. She was talking about empowering the laity. She said pastors and wives too often do things themselves, because they figure they can do it better than any of the available volunteers. But that’s the wrong approach. She said something like this:

“If they can’t do it well, let them do it poorly.”

This principle, believe it or not, actually came to my mind with the sequester. A result of crossed synapses firing simultaneously.

We know we need to cut federal spending. But the White House, the Senate, and the House are afraid to make spending cuts because it might cost them votes. Which, of course, would trigger the Apocalypse.

The sequester took it out of their hands. It’s an irresponsible way to make cuts, but it’s apparently the only ways cuts will get made.

We’re a couple days into the sequester, and we’ve now experienced two record-setting days on Wall Street. So I’m wondering if the principle is:

“If they can’t reduce spending responsibly, let them do it irresponsibly.”

Or, as Larry the Cable Guy would say, “Just git r done.”

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For Goodness Sake


This morning I ran my snowblower for only the second time this year. The snow was VERY deep. I was pooped out after doing our own driveway, but then I headed over to our elderly neighbors’ house to do their drive and walk. I don’t know the technical term for the next level beyond “pooped out,” but I was definitely there. Several levels beyond there, actually.

I think I met my “good deed” quota for the week. I realize that, by announcing my good deed before men (and women) on Facebook, I am sacrificing any heavenly reward. But I’ll settle for a few “Likes.”

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Let’s Book the Sistine Chapel

sistine chapel ceiling panorama

It must be pretty cool to have a conversation like this:

“We’ve got a bunch of people coming in for a big meeting.”

“Where should we meet?”

“I don’t know. How about the Sistine Chapel?”

Pam and I visited the Sistine Chapel in 2000, on a two-week trip that started with the Oberammergau Passion Play and ended with a week-long tour of Italy. The Sistine Chapel was amazing. I imagine the cardinals, as they work on selecting a new Pope, spend a lot of the time just staring at the ceiling and walls. That’s why it takes them so long to reach a decision.

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Please Hold for Dear Leader


Dennis Rodman, our blinged-out Mr. Ambassador, became the first American to meet Kim Jong-un since he became the new leader of North Korea. Rodman says “he wants Obama to do one thing, call him.” Unfortunately, the phones have not been working in Washington DC for several months. The President, John Boehner, and Harry Reid are unable to call each other, let alone place a call to North Korea. Verizon expects to have the problem fixed sometime after the 2014 mid-term election.

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