1. Well, it's official: I failed the piano audition again this year. Apparently, my version of Amazing Grace was more like Amazing Disgrace (how sour the sound!). I'll have to try again next year.
I might not be able to play piano, but I can play the hand bells! That's right, I'm in the hand bells choir this year. It's rather easy, because I can read music, and because I only have two hands, so I can only play two notes at once. The bells choir rarely performs, but it still looks good on my end-of-year review.
As for the singing choir, I'm still in the B-team Choir, which is just fine with me. Just like at my old school, Santa Clara University, the A-team Choir does a lot of polyphonic stuff that I don't like very much. But I'm willing to admit I don't have much taste for complex music. My favorite song is still Swanee River.
2. I took a crash course in Japanese pronunciation, so I could avoid embarrassing myself when pronouncing the names of Japanese towns. I haven't had any complaints so far, except for one that says I put too much of an American accent on the name Matsue.
My new favorite part of the whole subway challenge was how I totally dodged having to pronounce Miyazaki by calling it "the city that starts with the letter M".
3. I got a question on my post about Pope Benedict's recent letter. The question asks, "Why are priests necessary for confession? Did God not tell us that we can open up to Him whenever we want? He's always with us, so why must a Priest and all these rituals be involved?"
To be sure, the Catholic Church allows for the possibility of confession without a priest, but only in super-rare circumstances that you'll probably never find yourself in. Normally, you need the presence of a priest for any sacrament to be valid.
In the sacrament of confession, a person's sins are forgiven and his/her soul is cleansed. That's pretty heavy duty stuff, and not just anyone can do it. You need someone who has been specifically set apart, i.e. consecrated, for such a mission. In other words, you need a priest. Only someone who shares in the fullness of the priesthood can act in the person of Christ, and this is what gives him the power to forgive sins. The priest cannot forgive sins by himself or as himself. The priest can only forgive sins by acting in the person of Christ.
If you just want to repent from your sins, that's fine. No priest needed. You can pray a prayer of contrition anytime, and God will hear you. If you want the sins to be removed, however, you need a priest to administer the sacrament of confession.