Seven Quick Takes, Vol. 8: Participial Edition


One of my favoritest websites:, the project of one Stéphane Pigeon — “the signal processing engineer with a strong passion for sounds.”

“Signals oscillating between twenty and twenty thousand times a second are my favorites,” he notes in his biography. “I often team up with Nyquist and Shannon when projects need to be discrete, or with Fourier when time doesn’t matter.” I don’t know what that means, but his website enriches my life. cheetah-in-the-rainI like combining the Ice Drone with the Rain Noise, or the Shortwave Radio with the Cave Water. He adds new stuff all the time, and it’s all lovely — you can tell it’s personal.

Very useful for those times at work when I’m concentrating too hard to be able to listen to music, but the task is too much of a drag to want total silence. Good for blocking out coffee shop noise when I’m writing, too. I’m a donor, which means I gave him five bucks once and got unlimited access to everything. But there’s tons for free without ever donating a penny.


I’ve been off my meds for a week. My therapist, who is by not anti-med but is also not a pill-pusher, discouraged me from discontinuing, but didn’t forbid it. My reasons are: (1) not taking pills every day is better than taking pills every day, and (2) I’d like to find out whether they’re unnecessary. It’s been, holy crap, over two years since I started. That’s probably long enough. The side effects have been totally manageable, but — well, nothing’s for free, is it? Except Jesus.

hydrophobic-shoesSo far I seem to be a bit guiltier, a bit hornier, and a bit more emotionally porous than I remember being for the last couple of years, but I’m expecting those things to die down in another week or two. If they don’t, then I’ll reevaluate. Regardless, I could use some prayers.


I recently met a friend for a beer because we disagreed about Hobby Lobby. The disagreement started on facebook, moved to text messages, and ended in the bar about a week later — we agreed to meet up specifically to discuss the thing, which was a great excuse. We still disagree about Hobby Lobby and a lot of other important things, but I learned that disagreeing in person with friends is much, much more productive than on the internet with strangers. Also it is beerier, and might actually bring you closer, and nobody gets compared to Hitler.


Speaking of Hobby Lobby, though, I thought it was weird that people who deplored the supreme court decision deplored it on a freedom-based argument: Hobby Lobby was taking away the freedom of its employees to have access to abortifacient drugs. How come they didn’t mind when the ACA tried to take away the Green family’s freedom to follow their conscience?

I think the unspoken assumption is this: access to abortifacients is taken for granted to be part of the Default Standard Moral Code that all normal rational educated humans, everywhere and at all times, take for granted. People who object to abortifacients are esssentially fringe elements — someone who wants to take the Default Standard Moral Code, the blank slate, and add something extrinsic (and religious-y) to it.

The problem is that there’s no such thing as the Default Standard Moral Code — or, if you believe there is (which I do), there’s no reason to suppose that it coincides with what nice educated middle-class Americans in the early 21st century reflexively believe. Go ahead & google “racist ads” or “sodomy laws” or, for that matter, “Alan Turing chemical castration 1952”. Yikes. So “What most people don’t bat an eye over” is not the same thing as Natural Law, and varies widely with the decade or even the year.


We don’t like to admit that anything is a disease, a disability, a sickness, or a disorder. Down Syndrome is not a disability, because it makes you special and innocent. Autism is not a disease, because it makes you a fashionably awkward genius. Gender Dysphoria is not a disorder, because it makes you liminal and nonconformist.

How come we don’t want to say these things are diseases? We think that “disease” is a judgmental word. And it is, but it’s judgmental of a condition, not of a person. People snicker at the phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin”; okay, how about “love the person, hate the cancer”?

We’re afraid that saying “Jim has a disease” is the same as saying “Jim is worth a little bit less than other people.” But that’s only true if Jim’s worth is predicated on his physical or mental health. But Jim’s worth has nothing to do with which chronic conditions he does or doesn’t have. His chronic conditions are accidental, rather than essential; his worth is essential, rather than accidental.

useless-machineA broken machine is worth less than a working one, because if a machine can’t do the thing it was made for, then what good is it? Cast it into the furnace. But we’re humans, not machines; machines are made for productivity, but humans are made for something else. We’re made for loving. And a sick human can love just as much as a healthy one can.

So why not call sickness sickness? What’s so terrible about being sick? Are we afraid that somebody’s going to throw us away if they think we’re defective?2


When I was young, I didn’t pay attention to the news because it bored me and I didn’t understand it.

When I was a little older, I tried hard to be interested in the news and understand it, because I thought it was probably my civic duty.

A few years after that, I noticed that paying attention to the news made me anxious and angry and cynical and preoccupied. I also realized that the news I was reading probably bore very little relation to the things that were actually happening.

Now that I am old, old, old, I try (with various degrees of success; see Hobby Lobby, above) not to pay attention to anything that happens outside of my life and the lives of the people I love. I have no idea whether this is maturity, laziness, virtue, burnout, or Just Another Thing.


If you want some good news, click here. “The Internet’s collective 90s kid heart,” indeed.

1 Nothing is going to save this section from upsetting some people, but since upsetting people is not my intention, I want to clarify a little bit.

First of all, I don’t mean to say that anybody with Down Syndrome, autism, or gender dysphoria has any less dignity, worth, or value than anybody without those things. On the contrary, I’m arguing that people with these conditions do not differ in dignity, worth, or value from anybody else.

Second of all, even though I think these three things are comparable in some respects, I don’t mean to imply that they’re comparable in all respects. For example, I am not saying (and do not believe) that transgenderism is a form of mental retardation. I’m also not saying (and do not believe) that any of the three have anything to do with anybody’s moral character.

There. I probably just made everything much worse.

2 Although cf.

16 Comments on “Seven Quick Takes, Vol. 8: Participial Edition”

  1. Anna Macdonald says:

    “Are we afraid that somebody’s going to throw us away if they think we’re defective?”

    Yes, because rejecting defective people is (and always has been) quite common.

    1. Sarah says:

      I have to agree with Anna. Having Down Syndrom does not mean everyone just thinks you are adorable and innocent; some cursory googling told me that around 40% of unborn babies with D.S. are aborted. Autistic children are not generally admired, but bullied and ostracized. People are afraid of the mentally ill. People cringe away from sores and wounds.

      So yes, people who are perceived as sick or defective get literally thrown away very often. In a way, we are even designed to do so. We have a natural aversion to people we perceive– rightly or wrongly– to be diseased, because survival compells it.

      Of course it’s wrong, and human value should not be based on mental or physical health. But it is, in almost every area of our lives.

      1. AspieCatholicgirl says:

        I heard that 90% of babies with Down Syndrome are aborted.

  2. I’ve gone back and forth on your #6. At this point I read a lot of news. However, I don’t read it out of civic duty, curiousity, or any other such thing. I’ve shifted my purpose for reading the news to something that I hope is more noble. It allows me an opportunity to unite my prayers to the needs of the world beyond my present concern. Yes, the news makes me sad sometimes. Yes, it can make me angry. However, I’ve discovered that it no longer makes me cynical. In fact, it helps me to achieve the opposite. I’ve discovered a deeper resivoir of concern I can draw upon. My hope is that this is one way that I can expand my heart just a little more to cover a wider sense of the human family.

  3. Derek says:

    I was really hoping that the link on #7 would be selling dollar-sign shaped candy bars. I guess the news is better than that, but if “you’ve got the money” maybe we can start a new product line…

  4. richard says:

    I read all news in context. I avoid speculation.

  5. Melissa H-K says:

    “Hobby Lobby was taking away the freedom of its employees to have access to abortifacient drugs.” But you don’t actually believe that, right? Because Hobby Lobby was actually just trying not to pay for those drugs. Their employees can still get prescriptions for the drugs or devices in question and pay for them by themselves. I’m old enough that I remember when health insurance didn’t pay for prescriptions. It isn’t a given. But maybe I’m preaching to the choir here.

    Also, please be alert about your mental state. I’ve tried to go off antidepressant drugs, too, and it hasn’t worked for me. I’ll probably always need them, though I might need to have them jiggered around, rebalanced, traded out, etc. News flash: people are different! Hope you were sitting down for that one. 🙂

  6. AspieCatholicgirl says:

    It seems common on the Internet to say that Autism/Aspergers is fashionable, but just try having it in real life.
    In real life, it means you’re the most unfashionable person around. (And not necessarily-a genius, either).
    (I’m mentioning Autism/Aspergers rather than the other conditions in the post, because it’s the one I know most about).

    That being said, I agree with Steve’s essential message.

    1. Hello AspieCatholicGirl,

      Thanks for saying that, and I hope my lack of clarity didn’t offend you. When I said “Autism is not a disease, because it makes you a fashionably awkward genius” — I wasn’t agreeing with that statement. I meant something like “[It’s popular to believe that] autism is not a disease, because [people say] it makes you a fashionably awkward genius” — but I think it’s problematic to think that way.

      That’s not to say that autism & the other things on my list can’t sometimes come with blessings, but coming-with-a-blessing doesn’t make something any less rotten.

  7. Billums says:

    You say you’re old, old, old, and soul-wise that may well be true. But I’m officially 55 and don’t have a clue what Homestar Runner is. Not even the clue of a clue.

  8. Matt P. says:

    1: This is one of the reasons I love your blog. The app version of this will come in very handy when traveling. (I use a white noise machine in my bedroom, but it’s a bit much to lug around.)

    2: Good for you for trying. I know some people need meds, but serious and prudent exploration into that is a good idea. I had lots of people telling me to medicate my way out of depression, but I found acceptance of my natural less-joyful-ness combined with lifestyle and attitude changes (particularly improved *quality* of prayer life) to do the trick. The 12 Steps worked well for me.

    3: I think a *few* Hitler comparisons are warranted. I’ve given up on online debates and have tried to move those conversations to in person (or at least on the phone), but some interlocutors aren’t willing to go there.

    4: Agreed. Without a morality rooted in something eternal, everything eventually drifts (and Hitler is one possible outcome, which is why some comparisons are warranted).

    5: A) Love the creepy hand-box picture. B) I think you’re on to something. There’s a very strong eugenic twist to the abortion movement, with a deep (and mostly deeply repressed) attitude of some people being better than others – and most people being “not worthy of being.” I’ve seen a sort of warped perfectionism, where people don’t want to bring children into the world unless they can be raised perfectly, with perfect house, perfect upbringing, perfect needs met, perfect hair, perfect car, etc. But the imperfection in the world is so overwhelming that’s it’s scary to bring people into it. Someone might blame you for screwing up. I think one of the great messages of the Gospel is that not only is it okay to be screwed up, but it’s an expectation. So relax, let go, [give it to God], and take it easy. It’s the bracketed part that some people forget.

    6: I like Br. Gabriel’s take. I remember someone (a comic? A Jeopardy contestant?) mentioning how their Catholic aunt would always watch the news with rosary in hand and exclaim “Saints preserve us!” it a stereotypical Irish accent. But basically she was praying. I need to do that more. Remembering to pray for Miley Cyrus might even make reading the Entertainment News redeeming. In Christ all things are possible!


  9. Angela says:

    Dear Steve,

    This is not a comment for this post, but a series of questions. As a Catholic with SSA what do you think of the mixed gender marriages, that is if either the wife or husband has SSA (they know of it beforehand)? On a out of there question, could say two people, a male and female, with SSA could enter a marriage successfully? Also would you agree that a wife or husband that got married and then discovered he/she has SSA and went off and wanted to do gay marriages, would that be breaking their marriage vows?

    What about the children in all of these questions?

    Thanks for your thoughts,


    1. Dear Angela,

      Here are my thoughts on your questions. I invite readers with more experience on these matters to chime in.

      I know of more than one case where a mixed-orientation seems to be working very well. I’m thinking particularly of Josh Weed: see

      I also know of more than one case where such a marriage has ended in desertion and heartbreak.

      It seems very clear to me that if (for example) a man entered a marriage and later left the marriage to pursue somebody else, whether male or female, he would be guilty of breaking their marriage vows, yes.

      It also seems very clear to me that, if a predominantly homosexual man married a woman without telling her about his homosexuality, he would be making a huge mistake and would be guilty of serious deception.

      As for the children, it seems to me that in one case (where the marriage works) they will have a unique perspective but may have to suffer for it, and in another case (where the marriage doesn’t work) they’d be the innocent victims of a terrible tragedy.

      As for my own case (although you didn’t ask), I consider it possible but unlikely that I’ll ever marry. I’m open to the possibility.

      As I say, I have little to zero personal experience with these questions, so please take everything I’ve said with generous helpings of salt.

      Joseph (“Steve”)

      1. AspieCatholicgirl says:

        Josh Weed…One of my favorite blogs! one of the funniest blogs around.

  10. DasWugo says:

    They’re puns! XD

    “Signals oscillating between 20Hz and 20kHz are my favorite” — The “typical” sound frequency band for human hearing is purported to be 20Hz to 20,000Hz (mine’s more like 80Hz to 15kHz)… those frequencies comprise “sound.”

    Harry Nyquist and Claude Shannon were electrical engineers (holla!) who were each very influential in information theory. The Nyquist Theorem is a tool used to determine what rate you should sample a signal at in order to ensure you get all the information of the signal. Shannon… well I don’t know much about Shannon other than his method of “Shannon Decomposition” which has to do with boolean algebra… more programming than signal processing.

    Either way, they dealt with systems of “discrete”-time information… information that resembles a sampling pattern where you only have values at an interval and nothing in between (think of a graph of how much you get paid over the course of the year… every week or month or whatever the value spikes [you get paid] and it’s zero everywhere else), as opposed to a continuous signal with information at every point along an interval (think of a graph of how much money you have… hopefully not zero everywhere). So “when projects need to be ‘discrete'” refers to projects which deal with discrete-time.

    But by far my favorite pun is, “Fourier when time doesn’t matter,” because, in signal processing, it’s often more efficient to look at a signal as a sum of a bunch of cosine waves of various frequencies instead of as a function varying in time. To transform a function from “time domain” to “frequency domain” you use what’s called a Fourier Transform. There are various advantages to this perspective (“frequency domain”), but the effect of it is that how the signal varies with its composite frequencies matters instead of how it varies in time. Time doesn’t matter. Frequency does.

    Trust me, these puns are brilliant if you understand them!

    1. DasWugo: thank you for enriching my life with your knowledge. I’m serious. 😀

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *