30 September 2008

At the station

Took the kids to see an old steam train that was in town on display for a few days (h/t to Angie). It was just me and the kids. It would've been much better if my father was alive to be with us. He was a railroad engineer for 40+ years and his absence tugged at my heart while the kids ran around and in and out of the train. They never got the opportunity to meet their grandfather, nor he them.

I explained all I knew about the train, but was disappointed in myself that I hadn't paid more attention when my dad explained every gear and gizmo to me because I had the strange notion that he would always be there to give me a refresher course. I do think I impressed a few of the old-timers who were listening to me tell my kids all I knew about the train. Still, there was so much I had forgotten.

That's part of the blessing of having a large family, of growing up learning that pain and suffering are as much a part of life as the small moments that make you smile. I was blessed to have had a very close relationship with my father, appreciated him while he was here and it was a blessing he knew how much I loved him.

Having a large family provides great examples of kindness and charity, selflessness and giving. At times, you also learn some diplomacy and conflict resolution. You learn to share and take turns, to look out for each other. Large families are not easy, but I think they demonstrate nearly all we are supposed to learn and become in this world while preparing us, in a small way, for the next.

I think this, in part, is why I have such a hard time articulating things to my MIL. Her family is not close, they all have insulated themselves from each other. I guess it shouldn't be any wonder to me when she says, does and believes what she does. If she never had opportunities to visit and care for sick relatives, bring food to a cousin who just had a baby, pray for someone's job or health, or weep at countless funerals, then protecting life from conception to natural death is not such a personal, identifiable and valuable thing.

Using a train analogy, the wheels came off a long time ago when their family was splintered by divorce and fell away from the Church. Then it was a fairly easy, though gradual, transition to supporting birth control, euthanasia and abortion. Satan knew full well what he was doing when he attacked the family.

St. Joseph and Blessed Mother, ora pro nobis. Protect our families.

20 September 2008

Stolen things memes

Yes, I swiped these from Father Erik who stole them himself from others. It's rare that I venture west to his great blog, but he's out of town and I had a minute and thought to myself that I haven't done a meme in awhile.

First the "book readin' meme." I don't think I'm all that well-read, so here goes nothin'

Basically, the idea is to bold the books you've read and highlight the books you'd like to read.

1.Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien - I own them and will read them to my children some day
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6. The Bible – part of it anyway
7. Wuthering Heights - Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials - Phillip Pullman
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11. Little Women - Louisa M. Alcott - own it and will read to my kids
12. Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare - not hardly, some anyhoo
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien - will read to my kids
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller's Wife
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell, never saw the movie in its entirety either
22. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy - own it and will read some day before I die
25. The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh - I fear Karen will kill me if I don't read this
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky - parts
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame - own it and will read to kids
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy - saw the movie, so need to read the book
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis - most books of the series
34. Emma - Jane Austen
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
36. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
37. Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
38. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
39. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
40. Animal Farm - George Orwell

41. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown - saw the movie which was enough for me
42. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
43. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
44. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
45. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery - own it and will read to my kids
46. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
47. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
48. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
49. Atonement - Ian McEwan - saw the movie
50. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
51. Dune - Frank Herbert - parts
52. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
53. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
54. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
55. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
56. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
57. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
58. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
59. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
60. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
61. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
62. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
63. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
64. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
65. On The Road - Jack Kerouac - I knew a bookseller who had a passion for Kerouac so am interested in what all the fuss is, he appears to be a nut IMHO
66. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

67. Bridget Jones' Diary - Helen Fielding - the movie was enough
68. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
69. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
70. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
71. Dracula - Bram Stoker
72. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett - own it and will read to my kids
73. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
74. Ulysses - James Joyce
75. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
76. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
77. Germinal - Emile Zola
78. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
79. Possession - AS Byatt
80. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
81. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
82. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
83. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
84. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
85. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
86. Charlotte's Web - EB White
87. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
88. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
89. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
90. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
91. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
92. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
93. Watership Down - Richard Adams
94. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
95. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
96. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
97. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
98. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo
9. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain
100.The Outsiders

Who-What-Where Meme

1. President Kennedy's Assassination - 22 November 1963 - Not born yet, parents not even married for another six months

2. England's World Cup Semi Final v Germany - 4 July 1990 - I vaguely remember this because we had just returned from a trip to Australia where soccer was on TV 24/7. I remember Germany being in it, but England? Hmph.

3. Margaret Thatcher's resignation - 22 November 1990 - Being a Reagan baby, I liked her. Can't remember her resigning though. Gosh.

4. Princess Diana's death - 31 August 1997 - I was painting the hall closet in our house in Seattle. Thought her passing was kind of surreal.

5. Attack on the twin towers - 11 September 2001 - I was at work and on the phone with some British ex-pats in Hong Kong trying to figure out some equipment specs for a huge proposal. Pretty soon, the office had a TV on and everyone was in the conference room watching the coverage.

6. The election of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger to the papacy - 19 April 2005 - I was pregnant with my daughter, at home with my husband watching the coverage and was so certain they would pick ANYONE besides Cardinal Ratzinger. I would've bet my life savings it wasn't going to be him. When he was selected I started clapping and cheering. Viva la Papa!!!!

You learn something new

every time you go to bible study.

This year we are studying the Book of Revelation. Last year, it was the Gospel of St. Matthew and I posted my notes each week. Not gonna happen this year because I don't have the time and I don't think I'm learning as much as last year. But, then, it's only the first week. Guess we were spoiled with Father Echert's lectures last year and now we have to watch a priest on a DVD instead.

But I will post the interesting points or the nuggets I learned. There is way more symbolism and reference to OT books than I can address. I do find it incredible that the bible is so inter-woven...God really saw the big picture when He wrote it :)

Here are the Chapter 1 points I learned:

* The chapter opens with a Benediction, linking the book to the Mass from the outset.

* Seven is the number of completeness, so the seven churches mentioned refer to St. John addressing the entire Church, not just these churches individually. The priest on the DVD said it was the number of perfection of the covenant.

* In one of our study questions, we were asked whose voice is heard speaking like a trumpet to St. John (v. 10-11). Some answered Jesus and some answered an angel. I wrote that they saw Jesus, who appeared as "one like the son of Man," but that they heard the Angel of God. In looking at Haydock's commentary, it says this voice --- A great voice, as of a trumpet. To signify the importance of things to be revealed. (Witham) --- Voice, &c. This was most likely St. John the Baptist, who calls himself the voice of one crying in the desert, and who in Malachias is called the Angel of the Lord, as he is also styled in the first verse of this chapter. Of course, I think my fellow students thought I was a nut to say it was St. John the Baptist, but having used Haydock's commentary for my other bible studies, I have to say I tend to agree with Haydock because St. John the Baptist has always been the precursor to Jesus, and since this book is so full of symbolism, it only makes sense that this is St. John the Baptist.

* Another theophany takes places, just like in the Transfiguration and when God appeared on Mt. Sinai. Full of the same symbolism.

* In verses 13-16, it mentions what the one in the midst of the lampstands, "one like a son of man," was wearing: a long white robe and with a golden girdle round his breast. The clothing is symbolic of the priesthood, but it is what a priest wears AFTER the sacrifice has taken place. Very cool.

* The two-edged sword represents the Word of God and is the only weapon He is carrying. It also portrays Christ as a judge, whose Word distinguishes good from evil and who distributes rewards and punishments.

There is so much symbolism, much of it coming directly from books of the OT, that it is mind-boggling. I'm trying to get some Navarre commentaries on Exodus, Daniel and Isaiah, just to tap into some of the OT references St. John has woven into Revelation.

17 September 2008

How much

I guess I'm not the only stubborn one. After nearly 20 years of marriage, my in-laws are still caught up in this "it's not fair" attitude. Be it politics, religion, sports...you name it, their comments always boil down to fairness.

Where does this come from? The Constitution talks about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. My in-laws strongly support abortion and define the "pursuit of happiness" to be the "guarantee of happiness." Guaranteed by the government, of course, equalizing the playing field and resources, but only to the point of their coming out on top. As long as they get theirs, things are fair.

After 20 years, I'm still shocked they are so entrenched in this mindset. Their own parents, members of Tom Brokaw's "Greatest Generation," were the types of folks who struggled and never complained, put a greater good above their own interests and were willing to sacrifice for it. Brokaw portrays this generation as heroes and many were.

Last weekend, we were having dinner with my parents-in-law and husband's aunt. Don't know how the topic came up, but families with lots of children were mentioned. My MIL, who was sitting next to me, made some comment under her breath about that women who have lots of children (more than two is her definition) should have their heads examined. I bit at that one.

Her whole thing is that kids are a lot of work and it isn't FAIR that the parents have all these kids and expect the older kids "to help raise them." Being slow of the uptake since having my own kids, I asked how that wasn't fair. I should've asked how is it fair that many families with one child don't raise their own kid either, but send them to daycare? I'm not criticizing people who need two incomes just to stay afloat, but there are plenty of families who use daycare to allow both parents to work so that the family can have more stuff.

Hubby's aunt, my MIL's sister, commented how she thought it was crazy that my MIL had her third baby. "I thought you were nuts," she told my MIL. Since when is three kids an extreme?

I told her I know plenty of large families where the loss of a child through miscarriage or knowing that the child they are holding in their arms is probably the last, is heart-breaking. Why? Because these families see children as they blessing they truly are. The bible is full of references about how children are a blessing, but then their idea is that Jesus wants us to be happy, and that happiness is brought about by how we individually define it and choose to pursue it.

Jesus told the rich man to give away all he had and follow him. His disciples were to do the same and many religious orders follow the same examples of poverty. Tanqueray, in The Spiritual Life, says this:

Our Lord addresses the following invitation to all His disciples: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." In order to follow and to love Jesus, there is an indispensable condition, that of renouncing self, that is to say, renouncing the evil inclinations of our nature: selfishness, pride, ambition, sensuality, lust, inordinate love of ease and riches. There is the condition of carrying one's cross, of accepting the sufferings, the privations, the humiliations, the evil turns of fortune, labor, sickness, in a word, those crosses with which the hand of God's Providence puts us to the test, strengthens our virtue and makes easy the expiation of our faults. Then, and only then, can one be Christ's disciple and walk the way of love and perfection.

It seems many of those in the Greatest Generation knew this instinctively. On the radio just yesterday, Dr. Ray talked about a study that showed that the more people gave away, the happier they were. The more money they spent on themselves, the less happy they became. Hubby's aunt rails against the Republicans because they are "just for the rich." If we were to take an inventory, she'd be considered rich. A house, a cabin, a pension, a new pontoon, an ATV, computers, electronic gizmos, cars, and on and on. Same with my PIL. Instead of taking stock in their blessings and seeing all that they do have, they look around at the people who have more and compare themselves to the even wealthier folks. That's a shell game and a losing proposition...there's always going to be someone who has more than you. If keeping up with the Joneses is their idea of happiness, I'd rather run a day care.

How much is enough? when your soul is empty
How much is enough? in the land of plenty
When you have all you want and you still feel nothing at all
How much is enough, is enough

15 September 2008

Fer dumb

Had to share.

My husband was on a business trip and was seated on the flight next to a lady who was a Psychology professor in Florida. Turns out she used to have a practice as a psychologist in a small town in Wisconsin not far from our cabin. She told my husband that the town is a very popular place to relocate victims of mob crimes. It is also a favorite spot to relocate ex-mob members. Several times the victim recognized the perpetrator...also living in this very small town...and the relocation process had to begin all over again. Our tax dollars at work. It's funny that also not too far from our cabin is Al Capone's Hideout...must just be a popular area with the mob for some reason.

The bear that broke into our shed came back. Hubby had gotten some Gorilla glue and glued (not nailed for some reason) the door trim back together. This time the bear ripped off the trim on the other side of the door, but he didn't manage to get into the shed. Odd because the cocoa bean mulch was sitting just a few feet away outside of the shed. I think the bear has some issues with us.

My parents-in-law own a vacant lot in the woods near their cabin. It was the original lot they owned and used to camp on before they bought a place on the lake. My father-in-law, for some reason, decided he was bored and was going to go over to the lot and cut the grass (and weeds) that had overgrown the path into their lot, which they don't even use. The lawn mower managed to sail a rock through the window of the driver's side of his truck doing $240 of damage. Ouch.

12 September 2008

Weekend Kneeler Jeopardy

I survived the first week of homeschooling and now we are headed to the cabin to recoup. Here's a question related to what my son is learning this week.

Category: Astronomy

Who helped prove Kepler's theory of elliptical planetary orbits over the Ptolemaic (geocentric) and Copernican (heliocentric) models?

St. Alex says, place your answer in the form of a question in the combox, say an Our Father while you wait for the answer to be revealed. Demerits for using Google. Educated guesses are welcome and encouraged.

Your humble prize for a correct answer is the satisfaction of knowing you are a brainiac.

BTW: If my son was really learning his in his first week of Kindergarten I'd need more than a weekend to prepare the next lesson :) We're really learning phonics and about God creating the world and about the ancient civilizations in Mesopotamia.

Prayers for those in the path of Ike.

Half price

Back in college, I took a bunch of psychology classes. One of them talked about why gambling is so addictive and I heard Dr. Ray mention this as I was driving home from bible study yesterday. Something to do with the erratic rewards system. If you always win or always lose, there is no fun in playing. But, if you sometimes hit the jack-pot, it illicits a very strong response the encourages you to keep dumping your money into the machine.

I've come to find that it holds true for used book stores too. That outside chance that I just might stumble onto something keeps me coming back. There must be a 12-step program for used book store addicts.

Just before Labor Day, Half Price Books had a sale. Typically, going to the bookstore is something we do as a family, but I got the kids all dressed and hoofed across town to see if the store in Maplewood (even though there is a store about a mile away) might still have the book I wanted but hadn't purchased the prior weekend, How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, by Thomas Woods.

I've had the best luck at the store in Roseville, but on this day, I scored. The book was still there AND I got an older, but like-new copy of the Jerome Biblical Commentary. I carried this tome around the store for about a half hour trying to determine whether it was a good idea to buy based on some things I had previously read in it (see here for an EWTN critique), but since it was only around $10, I figured it was good to have to compare, being aware of the concerns, with my other commentaries. And, when would I have the opportunity to buy another copy at this price?

I know from being a seasoned garage sale shopper that I have to grab items when I see them, let the excitement pass, and then ask myself the difficult question about whether I really need the item or not. Sometimes being a bargain shopper and loving a great deal, while simultaneously attempting to be frugal and prudent, are conflicting agendas!

I also got the kids a great art-related jigsaw puzzle book. The pictures are very vibrant and large (it's an oversized book) so you get a good feel for the artist and painting. It only covers four artists: Bellini, Botticelli, Raphael (my favorite) and Titian (close second favorite!).

When I lived in Portland and had Powell's bookstore just a few miles away, I spent many weekends there. Those of you familiar with Powell's will understand my love of the store and what fostered my addiction! Carpe libris!!

10 September 2008

End stage

I had to bug out early on our homeschool book blessing Mass and social hour because hubby had to go in to work for some dire proposal that's due at 10am sharp. The house is remarkably quiet with the kids in bed and hubby gone. Hubby's a smart man, much smarter than I am. I used to think I was the smart one until I spent a few years being married to him. He's smart. He's patient. He's kind. This I know.

I also know one thing. God exists. There's a vast ocean between what I believe and what anti-theists do. Hard for them to understand me and equally as difficult for me to understand them. All the words I would use to describe God: obvious, rational, merciful, providential; are the exact opposite words that come to their minds. To them God is not obvious and certainly not rational. Most often He's vengeful and even arbitrary. Distant.

Sadly, it isn't only the anti-theists that feel that way, but a good number of Protestants.

My husband's uncle is not well. He hasn't been well for a long time, but he is now, technically and medically, in "end stage emphysema." The family is in shambles. The issues of death and dying, and if there is eternal rest, are a bit more than my husband's aunt can handle at the moment.

My husband used to be Lutheran. As a cradle Catholic, I have a hard time understanding how other religions approach these issues. I mean in their hearts, deep down, what do they really think will happen when they die? Many believe that most everyone goes to Heaven, while Hell is populated with Hitler and Stalin who are still waiting for two more to join them for bridge. Getting into Heaven seems like a slam dunk.

But, hubby says many Protestants don't believe Heaven is a certainty, not beyond a shadow of a doubt. What if those pesky Catholics are right? Or even the Hindus, and they have to come back and do this all over again until they figure it all out? And, on the outside chance the anti-theists are correct, they missed a lot of opportunities to have fun.

While many don't address the issue head-on of where they'll spend eternity, it is a little more challenging to be Protestant and to grasp the concept of suffering. This is where hubby's family struggles and I struggle to help them, most of the time being unable to know where to begin because our faiths are very different at ground level.

Purgatory, Communion of Saints, Confession, Absolution, and redemptive suffering are just a few items not on the Protestant radar. How can you see the providential plan of God, witness His mercy or merely not fall into despair, if you can only see life's struggles, and even it's incredible sufferings, as pointless and without merit?

Everyone keeps saying that they hope Uncle D dies in his sleep because they don't want to see him suffer and they don't think it's fair. As a Catholic, I don't want to see a loved one suffer, but fair doesn't have anything to do with it (who was the Lamb without blemish, the Innocent Victim?). As a Catholic, our faith makes this a time of action instead of a time of hopelessness.

With my large family and all the serious illnesses my parents and other loved ones have suffered, I find my Catholic faith to be incredibly comforting. For me, God is never closer than when things are the darkest. For my husband's family at this time, God is far away. Distant.

It's funny the number of times I've had to stop myself from asking hubby's aunt if she's called the priest yet. Without the comfort of the Catholic faith, it's hard to talk to hubby's aunt. Her heart is breaking and the conversations are morose. If only she could see how close God really is.

08 September 2008

My homeschool group rocks

Why? In 10 words or less...

Fr. Kasel.Private Adoration and Benediction.Confession.Absolution.Social Hour.

Top that public schools!!

I'm just sayin'...

The end to a hectic but grand day.

Tiger by the tail

Today is the official "First Day of School."

It's been a busy summer and I know I haven't had much time to post much to my blog or visit everyone else's blog. With school starting, I don't know how I'll find time to even get the laundry done (convenient excuse I might just use when hubby is out of socks!). Please bear with me as I adjust to this strange new world.

Hard to believe my son is actually old enough to start school. It's a weird dichotomy because it seems like he's always been a part of the family, but then I still see him as the little guy we brought home from the hospital.

Now that some of the neighbor kids are starting school, I'm realizing how much I'm really a homeschooling mom at heart. It's hard to describe. I just don't see myself being comfortable, especially at this stage, with someone else who doesn't share my goals, ideals, morals and perspectives, teaching my son. Maybe not the most rational thought I've ever had, and I'm certainly not saying all teachers are bad (I have plenty of them in my family), but I honestly cannot see who would be better to instruct my son. Having just spent five years with the talkative little bundle of energy, I think I have some shred of insight about how to teach him.

I'm sure it will become abundantly clear in short order if I'm cut out for this homeschooling thing. Please keep us in your prayers as we start this school year.

Fr. Solanus Casey, ora pro nobis.

06 September 2008


I'm hiding out.

Right now, as I speak, the entire neighborhood is out in the street in front of our house for the neighborhood picnic.

I hate these things. Despise. Detest. Would rather have a sharp stick in my eye.

Reason: I was outside at the food table, getting a cookie for my daughter, summoning up courage to meet and greet the neighbors, when I hear their conversations. EVERY SINGLE ONE IS BASHING McCAIN!!!

I'm out numbered.

I have a tart baking. It only takes 10 minutes. For all I know, *ahem*, the oven could be on the fritz and it could take a few hours to get the tart done.

That's my story.

Better part of valor and all...

Wish me luck!

Only monkeys need apply

Couldn't resist this article on Richard Branson. Just heard about it, even though it happened earlier this year. I bet Boeing is just humoring him and GE spent a good deal of time and money researching and testing this little coconut exercise to appease Sir Richard. Very short flight (40 minutes) from Heathrow to Amsterdam, using 150,000 coconuts.

Can Airplanes Fly on Biofuel?

There were a couple of strange things about the Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 that taxied out along one of London Heathrow's two main runways and took off into the bright sky late Sunday morning. First, there were only five people on board, while more than 100 watched intently from a nearby hangar. Second, the plane was the first commercial jet ever to fly on biofuel, a fuel produced from plant matter instead of petroleum or other fossil fuels. "This is the first stage on a journey towards renewable fuel," Virgin founder Richard Branson told reporters in the hangar shortly before takeoff, his voice drowned out every now and then by the roar of overhead planes. "It's the equivalent of those exciting first few steps of a baby."

As it happens, Virgin's eco-plane ran only one engine on the experimental fuel; the other three burned standard jet fuel. And the biofuel-powered engine was using a blend of conventional jet fuel and biofuel: 80/20 in favor of the regular stuff. In total, then, just 5% of the 49,000-lb (22,000 kg) fuel load consisted of the novelty: a special mix of coconut oil and oil from the Brazilian babassu plant, prepared by Seattle-based Imperium Renewables over the last 18 months and tested by General Electric Aviation in Ohio.

Even as environmental groups roundly pooh-poohed the flight as a publicity stunt, Virgin and its partners stressed that percentages weren't the point. The event was, the businesses claim, meant merely as a demonstration. "What we're proving today is that biofuel can be used for a plane," Branson told reporters. "Two years ago, people said it was absolutely impossible." Among the fears: that biofuel would freeze before a plane reached cruising altitude, or that it would require massive and costly changes to the aircraft or fueling systems to work at all. Those prognosticators were proved wrong. The fuel Virgin used Sunday required no equipment modifications at all; the plane flew to 25,000 feet (7,600 m) without incident; and the environmental benefits seem clear, at least once the fuel is loaded onto the plane. Internal company testing suggests the biofuel, when burned, releases just half the emissions of conventional jet fuel.

Still, there are no plans to make commercial air fleets run on coconuts. In fact, biofuel producers in general have had a tough couple of years. As food prices soar worldwide, people are growing ever more worried that biofuel production can drive up the prices of staple foods. Tens of thousands of Mexicans marched in January 2006, for example, to protest the rising price of corn, used in the U.S. to make ethanol. Virgin and partners claim that their airplane fuel is, as Branson says, "completely environmentally and socially sustainable." It's not made from staple-food crops or from crops that required deforestation. But even coconuts and babassu have their problems: the oil yield is just not that high. If a 747 could run on coconut oil alone, it would still take more than a dozen acres of crop to fill one plane.

Down the line, say Branson and Imperium Renewables CEO John Plaza, biofuel producers are more interested in jatropha, a thorny plant that grows well on non-agricultural land in Latin America and Africa. They're also interested in farming algae, which Branson calls "the jet fuel of the future." Development of those feedstocks does look promising, but commercial mass production is still years off. And getting regulatory approval for the new jet fuel could take several years as well. So if biofuel ever takes off in aviation, it will likely be a decade before it has any noticeable impact on industry emissions.

Is it worth the effort? Some critics — like Greenpeace activists who breached Heathrow security Monday to protest the airport's proposed third runway — argue it makes more sense simply to fly less. Others argue there are bigger, more realistic environmental gains to be made by building more efficient airplanes. Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, once it's finally shipped out to its buyers, is expected to burn 20% less fuel than similar-sized planes — and that plane will be in commercial use in just a few months. As priorities go in aviation sustainability, "Right now [biofuel] will be very low," Virgin Atlantic CEO Steve Ridgway tells TIME. But with fears that the days of oil are numbered, it only makes sense that a business would try to diversify its raw materials in the long term. And cutting overall industry emissions will be no easy task if demand for flights continues to grow. "We cannot be Luddites and turn the clock back," Ridgway says.

Just before 12:30 at Heathrow, Virgin Atlantic's 747 touched down in Amsterdam, finishing off the event without a hiccup — which is more than could be said for Branson himself. For kicks, the mogul had drunk a sample of his firm's coconut oil and babassu oil jet-fuel blend. "My God that was horrible," he told reporters afterward. "I've been burping ever since." Now that, without a doubt, is a publicity stunt.