Monday, December 31, 2007

Schadenfreude Central

Billick has been fired!

Our long regional nightmare is over!

Yet Another Reason Why I Will Never Be A SysAdmin

After running some media-intensive programs on my puter, one a DVD program to create a disk for my dad, the other a dubbing of a vinyl LP, I decided that I needed more memory. I checked and saw that I had only 512MB, which was state of the art when I bought it (January 2001).

So I was looking up memory sticks for the upgrade process. When I saw what might have been appropriate, I unplugged the computer and pulled one of the current sticks out. I later replaced it, but LC wasn't so sure I had the right type. So I pulled the stick out again.

WITHOUT unplugging the computer.

The result? A fried motherboard. Now we have to get me a new puter. Mine was 7 years old, so it gave me a good run.

I'll continue regular posting after I'm hooked back up.

(I started the post when this actually happened. The puter hung on for a couple more days before completely going TANGO UNIFORM. Hence the earlier date.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

One more Charlie Brown Christmas video

For those of you who haven't seen it, here's the Peanuts gang getting jiggy with it to the tune of "Hey Ya." The song isn't my favorite, but the adaptation is spot on!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Jingle Bells and Mannheim Steamroller

On the way home from a party, we listened to the third Mannheim Steamroller Christmas CD, Christmas In The Aire. We both concluded that the lullaby-esque song that ends the album is a pretty song, but it bears no resemblance to its title . . . "Jingle Bells" (excerpt). In fact, by the time of this third album, Mannheim had become a bit formulaic. Rocking first song, quiet second one, bouncy, key-of-G third or fourth one, etc.

Still, I'm a fan of the first two Mannheim CDs. What's your opinion of Mannheim Steamroller's Christmas music?

Anyway, regarding "Jingle Bells," no one explains its proper place quite like Lucy and Schroeder:

Ah, may God rest Charles Schulz' soul.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Another Possibly Dumb Question

This might be a dumb question, but . . .

When taking your Christmas cards to the post office, as I did a few days ago, does it matter whether you cram them into the piddly "Out Of Town" slot or leave them in the mailbox outside the office? I'd like to think they'll arrive more promptly in the building, but I bet it doesn't matter at all.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Oops! Blammo! Foon! The Summaries of Mishaps

Those are just a few of the adjectives that you'll find in the Navy's Summaries of Mishaps, which I read weekly during my Defense Department days. I was reminded of these when I found a web page devoted to an old high school classmate who is now the executive officer of the USS Harpers Ferry.

Not that I think he's a mishap waiting to happen or anything of the sort! In fact, I recall him having a wit not too far removed from the admiral who wrote these every week. These were signed (and apparently written) by a Rear Admiral F. M. Dirren, Jr. in Norfolk, at least until his retirement after 37 years of Navy service in 2001. I reckon his cohorts in the Navy Safety Office are collectively keeping this going.

Until now, only a few of these had leaked out from behind DoD firewalls for public consumption, but they're not classified . . . and they're hilarious. And probably a lot more read and heeded than just a list of mishaps.

Now, hey, how 'bout that? The Navy has a site with compilations of the more recent SOMs. It's better than nothing; thanks, John Paul Jones! (No, not the one from Led Zeppelin.)

Here's an excerpt from the SOM:

It always starts so harmlessly. An EM3 from a carrier invited a shipmate over to his apartment, the report says, to "drink some beers after work." Happens all the time, throughout the fleet, around the globe. The only question, really, is your definition of the word "some."

The EM3 started early, and when his buddy arrived, they got serious. They had one, and then they had another. And then they had another. And then they had another. And then they had another. And then they had another. And then they had another. And then they had another. And then they had another. Note: Using your cut-and-paste feature, please fill in enough "anothers" until they get to twelve beers apiece.

At about 0200, toss in a bourbon-and-orange-juice for the EM3, just for old time's sake (yum!). He then asked his buddy to rustle up some food, while he got a breath of fresh air out on... (Gene, cue some of those impending-doom sound effects--use that clip from the shower scene in "Psycho" if you have to)... the balcony. From there, he no doubt got one huge breath of fresh air en route to the ground. He then got a broken arm, an ambulance ride, a lost day of work and two weeks of light duty, in that order.

Read the whole compilation of fun with your BAC titled, "Totally Blotto." Oh, and think about it this New Year's. We teetotalers thank you.

Of course, I never do anything worthy of making a publication such as this. :-D

Sunday, December 16, 2007

You? Have GOT to be kidding me.

In the words of Daffy Duck, "I DEMAND that you shoot me now!"

The Ravens give the Dolphins their first win of the year, 22-16 in OT.

Because Brian Billick wouldn't run it in from the 1, when Willis McGahee and company had succeeded in running the ball down Miami's throats. Not to mention that rookie QB Troy Smith had a boatload of rushing TDs in college. (Naked bootleg, anyone?)

Because the Ravens won the toss and elected to receive, rather than take the wind.

Because we are a miserable team.

Oh, well, wait 'til (insert year here). But don't worry; whatever year it is, Billick will still be the head coach.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Another goofy story from my hometown

The funny thing is that I know writer Dishneau and attorneys Smith and Rolle from my news reporting days. Ignore the Hagerstown dateline: the story took place in Frederick.

Jurors Find Overlooked Evidence in Coat

So the convicted defendant gets a new trial . . . with more evidence against him. Unless the defense can use the oversight of the prosecution against them, perhaps.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Talking Football, Subbuteo, and Sure Shot Baseball

Here's one that Bigbro ought to like:

The Czabe had a segment yesterday called "Know Your Gear" where callers were invited to dredge up memories of their favorite sports-related equipment, games, or toys. I'm hoping Bigbro and I can tag-team on this one.

One caller mentioned Talking Football.

I believe it actually belonged to Bigbro; he and I played it all. the. time. There were 10 tiny records that the player on offense used, with each one representing a different play (Madden Football this wasn't). He'd drop the appropriate record into a miniature record player, then hand it to his opponent who would select one of six different defenses by rotating the record until the defense he wanted appeared. Then he'd press the record down to find out what happened.

If there was a mismatch, the offense would benefit, such as a Inside Run defense against a QB Option; I think that resulted in a TD. And the way to stop someone who blitzed early and often was to throw a Screen Pass or run a Draw Play. But the blitz was devastatingly effective against the Long Pass, resulting in a fumble. There were separate, unmarked records for Punt, Kick (FG and extra point), Kickoff, Penalty, Interception, and Fumble.

Each quarter was determined by the number of plays (20 per). The field was essentially a corrugated cardboard box with holes in it for the plays and the down marker, and sliding indicators to show the ball and the 10-yard chains.

I think the record player eventually busted and/or the records became too scratched. So in the later 70s, Mattel re-branded the game as Talking Monday Night Football, and we got that too.

There was also a Talking Baseball, but that was far more complicated and not as much fun. We also had a few versions of Electric Football with the vibrating metal fields and plastic players who invariably wound up swinging each other square-dance style. When the motor (inevitably) wouldn't work, we tapped the board instead.

Another caller, much to Czabe's chagrin (what's wrong with him?), brought up Subbuteo.

Pronounced "sub-BOOT-ee-oh," this was a table/floor soccer game that was a tad different from table soccer or foosball (we had one of those games when we were kids, although not like the ones you see these days). The soccer pitch was a green felt cloth, and the ball was almost as large as the players.

As you see, they had bases like Weebles, and we used our fingers to flick the player toward the ball and thus kick the ball toward the opponent's goal. The same player could only hit the ball three straight times before another player had to hit it. If he hit an opponent before hitting the ball, that was a foul. If the ball hit an opponent or the player whiffed, the opponent's side would take over. The players had an unfortunate tendency to break, however, requiring generous amounts of glue applied by Dad.

When I was in college, Subbuteo unveiled an indoor edition of the game, and some of us played my friend Steve's copy of it in the literary magazine office, which is more than usually took place there.

These memories sparked my recollection of Bigbro's Sure Shot Baseball.

This game was pretty simple: the "pitcher" rolls a marble-sized ball down a ramp, and the batter twists a knob to swing a bat. If the pitcher catches the ball once it goes over the sloped walls, the batter is out. Otherwise, the batter gets a hit, depending on which portion of the wall the ball went over. I don't recall the runners being there; wouldn't they get in the way? I was never that good on catching the ball, so Bigbro won quite a bit.

So that's some of what our sports gaming life was like Back In The Day. There were others, but I need future blog topics!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Countdown to Insolvency

Oh, the People's Republic state of Maryland might be solvent through Martin O'Malley's $1.3 billion tax hike [guffaw], but taxpayers and businesses? Not so much. As this Weekly Standard article points out:

It's not just the largest tax hike in the state's history but the first time in the history of the United States that a state has lifted its income tax, sales tax, and business tax all in the same year.
Hence, I have placed a countdown clock at the top right of my blog which tracks the days, hours, and minutes until the tax increases all take effect on January 1 . . . the date on which Maryland officially sends businesses and residents alike scurrying for the Potomac River or the Mason-Dixon Line.

So if you were ever thinking of living in or relocating your business to the Old Line State, please wait until at least 2011. Thanks.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

AIDS Exaggeration? Ya think?

I'm not happy that anyone must die of AIDS or become HIV-positive. I have a friend who has been HIV-positive for going on 20 years, and I have nothing to fear from him; it's a miracle that he's lived so long.

But that doesn't mean that AIDS has not been an overly politicized disease. I believed that when I had my mandatory AIDS Awareness Training with the government, in which I was indoctrinated with the belief that AIDS was a threat to everyone. Thanks to Michael Fumento, I believe it even more strongly.

Arthur Ashe getting a transfusion with HIV-tainted blood? That was a tragedy. So too is the baby born HIV-positive to a mother with AIDS.

HIV-infected people spreading the disease through entirely preventable measures like sharing needles or promiscuous (usually homosexual) sex? That's a shame, not a tragedy. Again, I'm not wishing them ill, but almost no one has to get AIDS. (That includes my friend, BTW.)

And, as Fumento points out, the AIDS hucksters who need the crisis perpetuated so that they can receive funding (which is what this is all about) love to skew the statistics:

For its data, UNAIDS relied heavily on "sentinel-site surveillance" at prenatal clinics. This system was described and faulted six years ago in Rolling Stone magazine. "If a given number of pregnant women are HIV-positive, the formula says, then a certain percentage of all adults and children are presumed to be infected, too." Such an extrapolation from a small non-representative portion of the population to literally the whole world is nonsense.
Read the whole thing.

I so do not understand these people

Including my own BIL.

For some, blue and white loyalty followed the trucks

These fans show a lot more loyalty to the Irsays than the Irsays ever showed them:

Have you forgotten March 28, 1984? I thought so.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Brought to you by . . .

I hate to do this, but since I'm hard up for money, I need to take this post to thank my sponsors:

  • Two Guys
  • Montgomery Ward
  • Seidel's Bowling Center
  • Haussner's Restaurant
  • Bradlees
  • Ames
  • Pantry Pride
  • Burger Chef ("Incrediburgible!")
  • Gino's
  • Hutzler's
  • Leedmark
  • Read's Drugs
  • Pappy's
  • Gwynn Oak Amusement Park
  • The Enchanted Forest
  • Caldor
  • Peoples Drug Stores
  • Chi-Chi's
  • Thrifty Drug
  • Edmondson Drive-In
  • The Dan-Dee Restaurant
  • Plymouth
  • Stewart's
  • Font Hill Golf Course
  • Equitable Bank
  • Dart Drug
  • The Gettysburg Battlefield Tower
  • Farrell's
  • Golden Ring Mall
  • Hochschild Kohn
  • Crown Central Petroleum
  • The Baltimore Skipjacks
  • Epsteins
  • Korvettes
  • G.C. Murphy
  • Big Valu Supermarkets
  • Toy Barn
Thank you all for your support over the past year or so. Anyone I forgot?

New link

Under my Catholic Blogs section, check out the writings/homilies of Fr. Jack Lombardi, chaplain of the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes at Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, MD (a.k.a. "Mary's Mountain"). I have considerable respect for his devotion to the Eucharist and to the Blessed Mother, his preaching ability, his knack for getting straight to the point, and his reminders to me about what we Catholics believe. (His singing ability, not so much. :-)) If you're an Amazing Race fan, Fr. Jack's recollections of a missionary trip to Tanzania that he led this past summer are a good read: part 1 and part 2. I'd love to do that someday.

If you're not Catholic, check it out anyway; plus, there are links to pastors of other faiths in the northern Frederick County area.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Letters I Never Bothered Writing: Jazz

(format shamelessly swiped from Em B's "mailbox" posts)

Dear "Smooth Jazz" Station Program Director,

Can you tell me what the following all have in common?

  • Phil Collins
  • Al Stewart
  • Steely Dan
  • Sting
  • Earth, Wind, and Fire
  • Chicago
  • The Doobie Brothers
Give up? Well, how about:


And it matters not whether I like them otherwise. But you play them all -- and more -- on your so-called "smooth jazz" stations! What, have the Gordon Lightfoot CDs not come in yet?

Fortunately, I don't have to listen to your silly stations. I have XM 71, Watercolors, programmed by those who know what jazz is. And, more importantly, what it is not.

Just thought I'd let you know that before I return you to your Sounding Like Every Other Station On The Dial already in progress.

Moving on after the death of FM radio,

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Neither Rain Nor . . . What?

Although it was snowing for the first time this winter, giving us 4 inches instead of the predicted 2, the mail came today as usual. Therefore, I planned to swing by the post office in nearby Buckeystown to mail off a couple packages to a couple deserving peeps.

It was closed. No explanation, no sign, but people talking in the back.

Nice work if you can get it. *sigh*

UPDATE: Turns out the place closes daily from 1 to 2 PM for lunch. It's a rather small PO. I went back today (Thursday the 6th), and the USPS folks were most helpful in getting my packages sent.

Anti-O'Malley Bumper Sticker

Both the Cygmobile and the Cubmobile are now decked out with this bumper sticker:

"Don't Blame Me -- I Voted For Ehrlich"

You can get yours by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to:

RCNEBC (Republican Club of Northeast Baltimore County)
P.O. Box 43662
Baltimore, MD 21236

Or, you can pay for it through CafePress, but why?

Those of you who are proud of voting for O'Malley can pay my extra taxes which start in a few weeks.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Three-Quarters of a Century . . . and Counting

Dear Dad,

All God's blessings as you turn 75 today.

Some of my earliest memories were of you taking me for walks in the British countryside, playing soccer in front of our house, or taking me for rides in the car. Given that you were working rotating shift work, these weren't always the easiest things for you to do. Then throw in my three (at the time) siblings who were also competing for your attention.

After we returned from the UK, I recall being summoned frequently to help you out in your basement workroom with some sort of project. You eventually had my brother and I doing all sorts of jobs around the house, including removing paint from the metal porch roof with a blowtorch in the middle of summer (ouch!).

I won awards for the Pinewood Derby in Scouts and the school science fair, but I know who really won them; you did. You attended not only my soccer and football games, but you made sure I got to the practices.

You've been a lector at church for many years, and that was what inspired me to want to proclaim God's Word as well. I recall waking up early with you to sleep pray on the sofa. In your own quiet way, you instilled in me the importance of your faith. Speaking of which, while many of us in the family speak because we have to say something, you speak only when you have something to say.

I appreciate how you raised my brothers and me to be gentlemen, and the way you treat both Mom and your daughters is evidence of that.

We might not have had as many material things as our relatives and many of my friends and classmates, but I never felt deprived as a kid. Maybe we didn't get to Disney World or anything like that, but we did spend summers at the Y and take the occasional trip to Wildwood, NJ. And I enjoyed going to Orioles games with you back in the days when the Orioles were worth seeing.

An important thing you did for me was give me the courage to be on my own. This started with you teaching me how to drive on the old Two Guys parking lot. It continued with you calmly helping me to handle crises like buying my first car or paying my auto insurance.

But maybe the biggest crises you helped with were mechanical. I remember how I drove all the way to Ocean City and back in the Nova while it had a busted leaf spring. You came up with some makeshift contraption to squeeze a new leaf spring onto the body so that you could save quite a bit of money in labor. Even today, you give me encouragement as I try to figure out what's wrong with the car, even offering to drive all the way out to Frederick to help if necessary. You've fixed more things for your family than I can remember.

You encouraged me to apply for a career with the government, and it was an honor to work there with you. Of course, as we discussed over lunch one day, I wouldn't want to try to do your job (technical), and you wouldn't want to do mine (writing)! Guess that throws the whole Biblical presumption of the son doing the same work as the father out the window.

I hope that my elbow allows me to play golf with you again. You might not have taught me how to play golf, but you have indeed taught me how to enjoy it, no matter how badly I play. And I look forward to the times we spend on the golf course; you seem to be in your environment, and we can always talk there.

Which reminds me; I've said this before, but all your life you have struggled with being partially deaf. I know it's been frustrating for you, but you never seem to show it. It must be hard seeing us all laughing at the dinner table, but having no idea what we're laughing at. You have helped me to understand a little bit of what you're going through.

Even today, you continue to pray for us. I wish I was nearly as devoted as you to prayer. But I know that those prayers have yielded fruit in my life. I'm blessed to no end. And? I always look forward to you giving me your father's blessing for the New Year. Even if you forget the words. :-) I also look at all the people over the years that you and Mom have welcomed into your home and hearts, and I know they feel God's love through you.

As my sister said, you show your faith by living it, not by talking about it. I'm sure there's all sorts of other things that you could do for your parish, but you pick up trash. Wow. That's humility.

I feel just a touch sad as I write this, because I know I won't have a whole lot of years left with you, so I want to make the most of the time we have.

I love you, Dad. And as I used to say when much younger, "You're the best daddy I've ever had."

Thanks for more than I can say.


Monday, December 03, 2007

Ahead of Schedule

We've gotten our Christmas decorations up the earliest that we have in years, doing so this past Sunday. Through Freecycle, we gave away our 6' artificial Christmas tree and acquired a 3' one instead. We also bought battery-operated window candles that flicker.

Contrast this to a few Christmases when we actually didn't bother pulling out the decorations at all. I think the fact that we're keeping our house much cleaner and better organized has something to do with it.

As usual, we'll keep our decorations up until Epiphany (January 6).

Late Thanksgiving Report

I was fortunate to at least have Thanksgiving Day off this year, although I had to work both Wednesday and Friday evening on either side. The downside to that was that I really wanted to go to my high school homecoming bull roast on Wednesday night; I've never been able to make it before.

On Thanksgiving morning, LC and I went to M&T Bank Stadium to take in the annual Turkey Bowl between the Jesuit Loyola High (my aforementioned alma mater) and the Christian Brothers' Calvert Hall College (High, that is). Both are all-boys' institutions. About 15,000 people filed into M&T, a stadium that can hold 71,000 for a Baltimore Ravens game.

The day was sunny and surprisingly warm, with temperatures pushing 70. It didn't take Loyola long to make their presence felt: the Dons' first play from scrimmage was a long pass for a touchdown. From then on, Loyola rolled on to a satisfying 33-10 victory.

Actually, Calvert Hall didn't play as badly as the score might suggest; the Cardinals were able to run against the Dons fairly consistently, but the Loyola secondary shut down the Cards' passing attack. And the Hall failed to convert a couple of deep drives into any points, turning the ball over on downs. It was a satisfying win, considering that Loyola lost to the Hall all four years when I was there. I thought Ravens coach Brian Billick could learn a thing or two from Loyola's play-calling.

During halftime, I wandered around the concourse, seeing if I would run into any alumni that I knew. But I would have had to know what they looked like first, not having seen them in years. I also met quite a few Calvert Hall alums in college. On the concourse, I had to dodge large groups of high school kids for some reason. I guess I never will get that girls going to the bathroom in groups thing; I sure didn't when I was in high school!

From there, we headed back to the west side of town to my 'rents for a small but delicious Thanksgiving dinner. It was just the the two of them, my youngest brother, and us. Afterward, we returned downtown to my brother and sister-in-law's house (not far from M&T) where we had dessert with her family whom had driven down from Buffalo. (I regaled you with stories of their wedding back in September.)

On Sunday, we welcomed our friend Kimberly to our abode and took in the many joys of the Maryland Christmas Show. As she reported, Kimberly got quite a bit of her Christmas shopping done. We bought a few things, mostly food related; I'm a sucker for Kettle Korn and Wilbur Buds. Afterward, we split a pizza while watching the Ravens lose to Sandy Eggo.

All in all, a very nice Thanksgiving.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Some Monday morning silliness

From comedienne-singer Carla Ulbrich. It's funnier when she sings it, which she does (in a shorter version) in the last 1:40 of this clip:

What If Your Butt Was Gone?

I was just wondering — hypothetically
What would you do? Theoretically
If something should happen accidentally or medically
What if your butt was gone?

If sitting in a wooden chair felt like tacks
And you found you had nothing to hold up your slacks
’Cause instead of a butt you now had just a crack
Well something would have it be done

Would you write “Dear Abby” for advice in a letter
Put a cushion in your chair to make it feel better
Try to fatten up with brie and cheddar
What if your butt was gone?

If your butt disappeared without a trace
And everyone looked all over the place
Why do you have that look on your face?
Hey it could happen to you

If that booty petootie that sweet derriere
Were now inexplicably no longer there
How soon would you miss it? How much would you care?
And what do you think you would do?

Would you call me up
Would you fall to pieces
Would you make it the topic of your doctoral thesis
Try to go out and find a prosthesis
What if your butt was gone?

A butt, as you know, can be skinny or fat
Dimpled or pimpled, curvy or flat
Like an opinion, everyone’s got one
But what if your butt was suddenly not one

If something should happen hypothetically
What would you do? Theoretically
If something should happen accidentally or medically
What if your butt was gone?

Would you call me up
Would you start confiding
How you tried to make it grow with fluorescent lighting
How you had to give up horseback riding
What if your butt was gone?

Would you realize there’s a good selection
Shopping for clothes in the children’s section
Go to your closet and make a commotion
Take all your pants and throw ’em in the ocean

Does your butt hang low
Does it wobble to and fro
Can you tie it in a knot
Can you tie it in a bow
Can you sling it over your shoulder
Like a continental soldier
What if your butt was gone?

I do know people who have no butt to speak of. Who, you ask? I'll never tell, except I'm not one of them.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

25th Anniversary: Cal vs. Stanford -- And The Band Played On

Also known simply as, "The Play."

I've never been much of a college football fan, having no team to call my own when growing up (my college, I like to say, is unbeaten, untied, and unscored upon. It's also looking for its first win :-)). And I don't recall seeing this when it actually happened 25 years ago. Steve Czaban's show reminded me that this was the anniversary.

With the John Elway-led Stanford Cardinal just having taken the lead 20-19 with only four seconds left on the clock, the Cal Bears needed a miracle. Here's an unedited version from Fox Sports CSTV. The original play-by-play call by Joe Starkey is included; I think it's one of the best calls of all time.

The sax player finished a decided second-best. BTW, sorry, Stanford fans; the one Cal player did NOT have his knee down at the 49-yard line.

Here's also a long version, including Elway's drive to what appeared to be the game-winning field goal for Stanford. Note that the celebration after the field goal cost Stanford 15 yards on the kickoff . . . not an insignificant development, given that the Bears fielded the kick near midfield. Starkey does a great job throughout.

Friday, November 30, 2007

I'm Feeling Crabby!

Time for me to get off my rant horse and have a little fun here. It's Friday, anyway.

Tonight for dinner, LC cooked up an inexpensive box of crabcakes. They were all right; they weren't great, but then again, we weren't expecting any of the fine Maryland seafood places that specialize in crabcakes. Being from Maryland, we're spoiled that way; you might even call us crabcake snobs.

I've always loved crabcakes. You can buy them fully cooked, as pre-cooked patties, or just buy the crab meat mixed with the shells or hand- or machine- picked. I remember my mom licking the shells out of crabcakes on many a summer day (all right, not THAT many; crab meat isn't always cheap). And whereas LC gets a kick out of picking the meat out of steamed crabs, I don't enjoy it quite so much, although I'll open them up and eat the meat as well.

Crabcakes can be either fried or broiled. I've had them both ways, and I prefer broiled; I think there's more crab to taste that way. I often like them with just a dash of Worcestershire sauce and maybe a drop or two of lemon.

Some great places to sample crabcakes in Maryland include finer restaurants like Sunset, near the former Casa del Cyg in Glen Burnie; Buddy's Crabs and Ribs in Annapolis; Phillips in Baltimore, Ocean City, and elsewhere; and Dutch's Daughter in Frederick. But you can get perfectly good ones also at more casual locations like G&M's in Linthicum (that might be the best of all, and I advise getting carryout so you don't have to wait nearly as long as to sit down), Timbuktu in Jessup/Hanover, Roy's Kwik Korner in Glen Burnie, and May's in Frederick. Any of these places will give you baseball-sized crabcakes. If you can get a platter that includes two cakes, get it and save the other for the next day or whenever; I doubt you'd consume both at the same meal anyway. If you can't get here, you can have crabcakes shipped to you.

Just as yummy is cream of crab soup. Sunset serves its cream of crab with a small sherry bottle. Rocky Run has good crabcakes, but even better cream of crab soup. Maryland crab soup, which is more vegetable-based, is also popular, although it's not my favorite.

When I was working in Tampa many years ago, I went to lunch with a few cow-orkers at the Colonnade, a restaurant with a beautiful view of Tampa Bay. I decided to sample their "Maryland style crabcakes," feeling that as a connoisseur, I could judge whether theirs were genuine. Well, I can assure you: they weren't. It seemed almost as if sand was the filler, and the crab meat was nonexistent. In their defense, it was the onset of winter, and there really isn't any local crab population to speak of. And occasionally during Maryland's crab off-season, restaurants may import some crabs from Louisiana. But this year's MD crab haul was reportedly a good one.

This post is making me hungry. Better go to bed with visions of crabcakes and Natty Boh (the official adult beverage of crabs and crabcakes) in my head! Let me know of any places I forgot.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Never mind the water: don't drink out of the glass!

From the same hotel chains that brought you Saving the Environment By Not Changing Your Bedsheets. After seeing the following investigative report from a Fox Atlanta station that's been floating (so to speak) around the blogosphere, I may never use a hotel room glass again:

I saw this on Michelle Malkin's blog, but for a change, I have to disagree with her. This has less to do with the nationality (or lack thereof) of the workers as it does the ridiculous shortcuts that these hotels take to keep their costs down.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Pope Benedict, saving us from lousy music!

How now, DB?

Pope to purge the Vatican of modern music

Okay, the dioceses and archdioceses are next! That sound you hear is OCP and GIA trembling in their drum kits.

H/T: Anita/V for Victory! (The pic was hers too.)

RIP, Sean Taylor

I loathe the Washington Redskins, but the murder of Sean Taylor is truly tragic. Taylor may not have been a model citizen, but he didn't deserve to have someone break into his home and shoot him.

God rest his soul.

Monday, November 26, 2007

That being said . . .

(See my post below on illegal immigration.)

A frequent name being tossed around at folks like me is xenophobic (fear of strangers). Hey, I don't mind name-calling; if the shoe fits, and all that. But here, the shoe doesn't fit.

My horizons have been broadened by watching shows like The Amazing Race in which Americans are plopped into other countries and their cultures. Some of the Racers act like Uglo-Americans, wondering why the locals have the gall to speak their own language and not English! Or, as one participant once said when in an African country, "Why can't these people stop breeding?" Also, in and out of various seasons, the Racers have wound up in India, where the women Racers are almost always shocked at how they're treated: as second-class citizens, if that.

Now, I haven't ventured out of the United States much in my life, and I don't say that as a good thing. Our trip to Canada was my first prolonged time in another country since I was seven years old, as our family finished a three-year stint in England. But I do know this: I would never demand that, for example, everyone in a non-English-speaking country speak English to satisfy me (or, if I did, I'd know I was wrong). That's one of the things that irks me about illegal immigrants to this country; they expect us to provide them their own culture, instead of assimilating into ours.

I would hope that when in other countries, I would be able step back and appreciate what's unique about their culture, people, and way of life. It seems to me that Puffy, for one, has done that.

Another thing that Racers on TAR can have a hard time with is the contrast between the poverty they see in various countries . . . and the utter joy the children have even in the midst of it. Last week's episode was a good example of this, as a group of Burkina Faso children led Vyxsin, a Goth, through a crowded market. She was overwhelmed. Perhaps the children, unlike us, don't couple happiness with economic status. And no, I'm not arguing that it's good for people to be poor! It's just that this idea of money = happiness is a very Western idea not necessarily shared by the rest of the world. (We support Cross International, BTW.) And how many unhappy well-off people do you know?

I hope that I can be so helpful with strangers in my area . . . even if they may be here illegally.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Maryland Bishops Get Illegal Immigration Wrong

Appearing today in my church bulletin was this statement about illegal immigration from the Maryland Catholic Conference, the leftist lobbying arm of Maryland's Catholic bishops in Annapolis.

The major point of the document is a good one: whether immigrants are here rightly or wrongly, they deserve compassion as individuals. Point well taken. But from there, the document leaves much to be desired:

In the Church, a universal body united through Christ, all find a home. Illegal entry is not condoned, but undocumented immigrants are embraced.

Well, which is it? Since when does "illegal entry" not equal "undocumented immigrants"?

Today, like their immigrant predecessors, Latinos often are the objects of suspicion, intolerance and discrimination.

Mainly because they, by and large, are the ones coming here illegally, siphoning money from our economy, sending it back to prop up the economies of the countries they're coming from, demanding goods and services such as hospital E.R. treatment, demanding services in Spanish and refusing to learn English or otherwise assimilate into our culture, etc. I'd appreciate a comparison about how many Poles, Irish, Italians, etc. did this in the 19th century. And what an insult this has to be to Latinos who have come here legally!

And then the bishops really start grasping at straws:

Descendants of enslaved Africans continue to suffer the bitter fruits of slavery and segregation.

Accepting the begged question of whether the verb "continue" is appropriate, no one could possibly argue that slavery was a good thing. But there's no comparison between slaves and their descendants who were forced to come here, and illegal immigrants who are being urged by their home governments to come to the United States illegally.

Crisis Magazine has an excellent analysis of this document. As Deal W. Hudson puts it:

[. . . W]hen the two "rights" are in conflict -- the right to secure borders and the right of a person to have basic needs met -- the nations with the "ability" should respond with "generosity."

The problem with such an argument is simple: Who decides which country has the ability? Who decides what "basic needs" are and whether they are available in the country of origin? Who decides what "generosity" is? Clearly, this argument is a prudential matter and can be argued openly without insinuating any disrespect for the bishops or their teaching office.

My bishops, or, more accurately, the MCC staff, means well, but any discussion of illegal immigrants without looking further at the "illegal" part of illegal immigration is like discussing Hamlet without the prince.

Health Advice

Never try to move an entertainment center using your knee. It doesn't work, at least not like it used to.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Of Flying Cars, The Environment, And Abortion

How life imitates art.

Ladycub and I just finished watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang again. It's a cute movie that has its moments, but ultimately wastes Sally Ann Howes' beauty and fine singing talent, and even Dick Van Dyke seemed out of place at times. It was based on an Ian Fleming novel for children, and Fleming was already well known for writing the James Bond series of books which Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli had turned into the highly successful movie franchise. So Broccoli hired the Sherman brothers songwriting team from Diz-knee and set out to make a musical version of Chitty. Most of the songs, however, aren't very memorable, with the possible exception of "Posh" (which has nothing to do with Victoria Beckham).

Anyway, one of the eventual plot points of the movie is that inventor Caractacus Potts' (Van Dyke) father (Lionel Jeffries, who was actually younger than Van Dyke) is kidnapped by Baron Bomburst (Bond movie veteran Gert Frobe) of Vulgaria, who mistakenly believes the elder Potts invented the eponymous flying and boating car. When trying to rescue his father, Potts discovers that Vulgaria is devoid of children, all of whom Bomburst has imprisoned via the Child Catcher (Robert Helpmann), who can apparently smell kids with his nose that Bob Hope would have envied. Potts' two children, Jeremy and Jemima, fall prey to the Child Catcher and have to be rescued along with the elder Potts.

My point? We are slouching toward Vulgaria, folks.

We live in a society that does not value children and sees them as an intrusion, a problem to be solved, and in no way a blessing. Sports stars father multiple children by multiple women, but that's okay; they don't have to take care of them. On the other hand, married couples with, say, five or more children are demonized as being selfish, uneconomical, or just plain crazy (I'm one of six myself). And while I am on the one hand grateful that young unwed moms don't abort all their children, way too many see the child(ren) as an impediment to their lifestyle. Hey, if Britney could go clubbing after having two kids, who shouldn't?

And now? Having children threatens the environment (h/t: Michelle Malkin). So children are now reduced to a factor that makes the earth less "carbon-neutral," and those who kill their own babies and sterilize themselves are now heroes. If I were more callous, I'd tell these people to kill themselves instead of their children, but that's not right.

But this is what happens in a post-Christian universe. And the societies that are having many children (partucularly Muslims and illegal immigrant Latinos) know their fertility will have an impact on the future of this world. The population implosion elsewhere in the world is well under way, and Paul Ehrlich's alarmist predictions of a "population explosion" are becoming more discredited by the day.

The message nowadays is clear: Getting pregnant is the absolutely worst thing that can happen to a woman. Tell that to my wife, who is involuntarily infertile. Meanwhile, I thank Bigbro for giving me four of the most wonderful nieces a guy could ask for. I hope he never checks their "carbon footprint."

Friday, November 23, 2007

I'm so done with . . .

(Volume II. Here's Volume I. Apologies to the Czabe.)

I'm so done with hearing about Hannah Montana, as well as the Diz-knee PR machine that decides every so often that EVERYone deserves to know the latest and greatest on the Diz-knee Channel.

I'm so done with Brian Billick and his head-scratching play-calling.

I'm so done with that stoopid robot that Fox has during its football games.

I'm so done with Fox's syndicated The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet, which I'm forced to watch while in my office:

First of all, is it a Regis and Kathie Lee clone? Is it hard news, Montel-esque news, or what? It can't decide. And does Mike Jerrick ever comb his hair? Could he get a referral from John "The Breck Girl" Edwards for a barber? He makes Pat Sajak's hairdo look good.

I'm so done with people who finish your sentences for you. (Not that I've ever done that or anything.)

I'm so done with talk radio personalities saying, "Welcome into . . ." when most normal people say "Welcome to . . ."

I'm so done with even pretending to care what Donald Trump has to say.

I'm so done with Dr. Dean Edell. He's lucky to have a radio show.

I'm so done with the Lube Center trying to upsell me on everything, when all I want is a lousy oil change.

I'm so done with women dressing like sluts and then complaining when they get noticed for how they dress. The message they send has nothing to do with the message they intend to send.

I'm so done with prime-time television, save for The Amazing Race and Antiques Roadshow.

I'm so done with the writers' strike, even though I think they're right. It doesn't affect me a whit.

Although I *heart* Laura Ingraham, I'm so done with her breaking up the flow of her show because It's Time To Interview Somebody. She's her own worst enemy. She should just continue when she's on a roll and have fewer guests.

I'm so done with the Olympics, and have been since the 80s.

I'm so done with cell phones that don't allow you to download your contacts. I'm still re-entering mine from when my phone went kaput.

I guess that was my "anti-Thanksgiving list."

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Where we'll be for Thanksgiving next year

Maybe with my sister in Illinois, where her hometown is also the home of:

The Turkey Testicle Festival!

No word on what my brother-in-law thinks of this festival. I'm also waiting for the feminists to protest that there ought to be a Turkey Ovary Festival.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sign Of The Day

One that made me wish I had my camera. It was on a piece of cardboard and borne by a homeless man on New York Avenue in northeast DC:

"I Won't Lie -- I Want A Beer."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Senatus Populusque Thompsonensis

UPDATE 11/28: The Frederick News-Post printed my letter to the editor, an edited version of the following post.

Again, I have to ask Frederick County Commissioner Lennie Thompson what planet he's living on. He still has this half-cocked idea that every county road can be converted into a tollway (his so-called "Appian Way"), once he gets every vehicle in the U.S. to have a revenue generator electronic toll payment transponder. That, he says, is the only way to generate revenue for building new roads.

That, I say, is insane. What does Thompson think we pay gas and highway taxes for now? What increased taxes were necessary to build the new auxiliary lane that runs on southbound I-270 from I-70 to Route 85?

I can only conclude that Thompson loves gridlock, almost as much as he does high housing costs. He staunchly refuses to allow the state to build a simple on-ramp to westbound I-70 from Route 144 because it would "reward developers." I hope he's proud of forcing traffic from New market and Lake Linganore to drive all the way into eastern Frederick and clog up Monocacy Boulevard, competing with trucks coming from the Lafarge Quarry and the Reichs Ford Road trash transfer station.

The simple fact is this: What increased gas tax did Alaska Senator Ted Stevens need to build his half-billion-dollar Bridge to Nowhere? And when did Thompson decide he was no longer a commissioner but a senator? Thompson would be better off using his energies to lure businesses to Frederick County and increase the lousy average weekly wages so that residents like me wouldn't have to commute to Montgomery County, Washington DC, or Northern Virginia to work. But since Thompson has no interest in growing Frederick County's tax base (nay, he'd rather see it contracted), he'd rather schmooze with the contractors who make these transponders. Pretty good for a commissioner who has spent his career demonizing developers and others who might commit the cardinal sin of spurring the local economy.

Of course, Thompson's ultimate plan could be to force all who don't agree with him to move to Pennsylvania. The scary thing is that it just might work. In fact, I thought I recently saw Thompson putting up new signs on I-70 on South Mountain and at Mount Airy saying, "Welcome to Frederick County -- Now Get Out."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I was right!

And some of you said I was wrong to call Kyla Ebbert a skank. Well, I was absolutely right:

A 23-year-old college student who was told by a Southwest Airlines employee that her outfit was too revealing to fly is wearing even less on Playboy’s Web site.

Kyla Ebbert appears in a series of pictures — some in lingerie, some nude…

“They’re very tastefully done,” Ebbert told The Associated Press on Thursday. “I don’t see anything wrong with the female body.” (Nor showing it to any and all, I reckon. -Cyg)

Ebbert worked at a Hooters in San Diego but said wants to become an attorney, and doesn’t think posing nude should get in the way of her professional aspirations.

“This was beautiful and classy. I don’t see why it would affect a professional position,” she said.

Insert your own jokes where appropriate; there's just way too many.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

I Might Be In A Cult-Like Group If . . .

Here's an interesting article from by way of the Covenant Communities Blog: Sifting the Wheat from the Tares: 20 Signs of Trouble in a New Religious Group. It deals with how to tell whether a Catholic or other religious community could be problematic. I'll extract the 20 warning signs here and speak about whether they were involved in my experience as part of the Lamb of God (covenant, shepherding/discipleship) Community in Baltimore:

  1. “Total” obedience to the pope. Not applicable to my experience, since LOG was inter-denominational, but in fact, I had the opposite problem:
  2. No sense of belonging to the local church. Very true: the community became more important than the Catholic Church or my parish.
  3. Lack of true cooperation with diocesan authorities. Hwat diocesan authorities? It was only when the Archdiocese intervened in 1993 that the abuses in LOG were addressed. Until then, the community had little to no dealings with the Archdiocese at all for fear of alienating the non-Catholics. Come to think of it, most of LOG's activities were done out of fear of alienating the non-Catholics.
  4. Making use of lies and falsehoods to obtain approval. For years, we learned that the LOG compound farm in Timonium was a "miracle in green." Legend had it that there was no way that this group of young hippies-turned-charismatics could obtain a mortgage for the farm and pay it off. Well, it wasn't so hard when the mother of head coordinator Dave Nodar put up her house as collateral for the loan. Also, while LOG proclaimed itself as merely a "light to the churches" and not a church in and of itself, it filed for tax-exempt status as . . . a church.
  5. Too soon an insistence on placing all goods in common. This is a tough one to deal with, given the examples of communites in the Book of Acts where this was the regular practice of new groups of believers. Fortunately, this never really came to pass. There was once a community food co-op, formed out of a belief that the "dark times" would force us to have to be self-sufficient. All I remember of it was the tubs of peanut butter that would have made wonderful epoxy.
  6. Claiming special revelations or messages leading to the founding of the group. The article refers to submitting such revelations to Church authorities for investigation. Well, when those getting the messages are an entity unto themselves, who needs investigation? One famous "message" included how we had to "cross the Jordan" and move to the other side of Baltimore. We celebrated this "crossing" with a mid-summer "Jordan festival" at the farm . . . back on the side of town where most members moved from. The LOG school band playing the specially written song "Jordan" sounded like the Pat Metheny Group's "Forward March."
  7. Special status of the founder, or foundress. Who watches the Watchmen? Dave and Cheryl Nodar's house was completely paid for with LOG tithes. Dave would give talks about the evils of the media and TV, and then all the neighborhood kids would be found in his house watching . . . the large-screen TV. Finally, his favorite word at community gatherings: "Let's."
  8. Special and severe penances imposed. That wasn't my experience, but this may have happened.
  9. Multiplicity of devotions, without any doctrinal unity among them. Not applicable: see #1.
  10. Promotion of “fringe” elements in the life of the Church. LOG had plenty of questionable associations, such as evangelist Larry Lea, "prophets" Bob Jones (not as in the university) and Paul Cain, and the Vineyard with John Wimber and Mike Bickle (more here; for a while, I thought LOG was going to become a Vineyard church). The founding of the community stemmed from the Marxist aims of Steve Clark, one of the founders of LOG progenitor The Word of God. Eventually, five Protestant covenant community leaders--Bob Mumford, Charles Simpson, Ern Baxter, Derek Prince, and Don Basham--who devised the shepherding/discipleship movement helped mold LOG into part of that movement while remaining affiliated with Catholic-based communities like WOG and eventually the Sword of the Spirit. More about the "Ft. Lauderdale Five" here. I could go on and on. (BTW, The Sign of Jonah looks to be a good blog about debunking the false prophets of Kansas City and the Vineyard.)
  11. Special vows. I was one of many LOG members who pledged a covenant (lifetime) commitment to the community, which Archbishop (later Cardinal) Keeler later dissolved. In fact, there was an elaborate commitment process that took a number of years.
  12. Absolute secrecy imposed on members. I wouldn't say there was absolute secrecy, but LOG was incredibly inward-focused.
  13. Control over the choice of confessors and spiritual directors. Everyone in LOG had a "pastoral leader" who had zero, zip, nada training in pastoral care. Of course, being at the bottom of the food chain, I wasn't anyone's pastoral leader. Oh, and ask my sister how sensitive personal information about her got disclosed to community leadership, information intended only for her pastoral leader.
  14. Serious discontent with the previous institute of which certain members were part. Not a factor, although the practices of individual churches were often derided.
  15. Any form of sexual misconduct as a basis. The only criterion I can safely say LOG had nothing to do with.
  16. The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members. True for LOG, but only certain new members, ones who were to some degree needy. Nothing wrong with wanting to live in community, but it provided too much of a social structure.
  17. The group is preoccupied with making money. Huge problem, as alluded to above. Another "word" that we received was about the need to build or obtain a community center, and at one community gathering, we members were asked to come forward and empty our pockets. Most people, including myself, did so out of peer pressure and guilt. I never heard what happened to that money, as no community center was ever built. Also, what became of the $1.5 million garnered from the sale of the farm is a mystery.
  18. Elitism. I bought into LOG's "us against the world" mentality. With community life being at the center of my personal life, I sometimes felt awkward getting together with friends or family, or doing other non-community activities. Perhaps that's part of the reason why I so easily slip into hyper-judgementalism.
  19. The leadership induces feeling of guilt in members to control them. See the collection for the center above. Also, shortly before I left LOG in 1991, Dave Nodar gave an angry talk to the community called "Let the Leaders Lead." He could just as easily have called it "Stop Questioning Us." I even wrote him a letter saying how I supported him. Three months later, when I left LOG, I wrote Nodar another letter in which I retracted the earlier one.
  20. The group completely severs its members from the outside world. I've alluded to this already. In practice, we weren't "in this world, but not of it"; we were in our own little enclave that was merely missing a fence, gates, and a guard tower. Also, members who had dared leave were shunned. And here's one bizarre incident: in college, I notified my men's group leader that I would have to miss the next week's men's group meeting because my dad was throwing a 50th birthday party for my mom. He replied, "Can you get him to reschedule it?" And I, like an idiot, actually asked my dad! You know what his answer was . . . and he too was in LOG.
I have much more to say about my LOG experience, and I hope to get to do so here. It'll explain a lot about where I've come from.

Give Me That Old-Time Canon Law

I think I'm going to like our new Baltimore archbishop, Edwin O'Brien. He has served notice that he will not stand pat on liturgical abuse in his parishes; he forced a priest to resign after he had an Episcopal priest concelebrate at a funeral, specifically reading the Gospel. He apparently also gave this priest communion. Both are blatant violations of Canon law.

Then you have to read way through the Baltimore Sun article to find that the Rev. Ray Martin also:

  • Hired a maintenance man who had a history of criminal activity, and failed to dismiss him when the Archdiocese told him to do so;
  • Allowed his dogs in the sanctuary (I know at least one other priest who has done that, and I doubt anyone challenged him on it); and
  • Failed to show up for a baptism.
Now, with the help of the Sun which values the politically correct over the liturgically correct, all sorts of parishioners are springing into action by brushing up on Canon law and the GIRM and finding out how Fr. Martin brought about scandal whining about the archbishop's actions:

Congregants at Our Lady of Good Counsel are organizing a silent walkout after the statement is read, said Natasha V. Rossbach, 37, who lives in Brooklyn."We are just going to get up and walk out to give Father Ray our support and show how much we loved him," said Rossbach.

Rossbach, who is not Catholic but whose husband is, said part of the reason she decided to raise her 3-year-old son as a Catholic is because of Martin. [ . . .]

"We just don't understand, it just doesn't make any sense," said Carroll. "As Christians, we're taught to forgive." [. . .]

"I thought the Catholic Church was making inroads to embracing everyone, but I guess not."

No, the Catholic Church ought not embrace scandal. And sadder than the fate of Fr. Martin is seeing how the feel-good catechesis (or lack thereof) of the last 40 years has brought up such a generation of Catholics who have no idea what they believe or why.

For that matter, Martin seems a bit deficient in his faith when he says, "I think that canon laws exist to protect the [C]hurch from extremism. I don't find that this is such an extreme situation." No wonder his flock is lost.

Archdiocesan spokesman Sean Caine agrees: "How can we expect our own people to follow the teachings of the [C]hurch if the priests don't?"

Amen. And that's why priests need our prayers.

(H/T: Ignorant Redneck.)

Friday, November 09, 2007

Hypocrisy Award Of The Week

I never got into the Sex Pistols, the late '70s punk band from the UK. But it seems that every music critic has, and despite having only ONE album, the band was voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Phlegm Fame a couple years back. Never liking the Establishment, the Sex Pistols boycotted their own induction, citing among other things their hatred of the music industry. (In a way, I see their point: the anonymous illuminati of the RnRHoF have not a clue about who should be in or out; for example, Blondie, Bob Seger, and The Pretenders are in, but Rush, Yes, Genesis, and Deep Purple are all out.)

Fast forward to last month.

Now the Sex Pistols have re-recorded some of their tunes for use in the video game Guitar Hero III. The reason was apparently that their original masters were lost.

Nice to see that these punks are so idealist when it comes to the commercialization of their enshrinement in the RnRHoF (such as that may be), but such ideals go right out the window go right out the window when some dollar (or pound) signs come floating their way for residuals from a video game.

The Sex Pistols may want anarchy, but only as long as it doesn't affect their bank account. Hypocrites. Posers.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Bombs and Bathrooms

Yesterday, when I pulled into the downtown Silver Spring garage where I usually park for work, I noticed that a few of Montgomery County's finest had pulled up near the entrance. I saw a few of them walking downstairs into the lower level where I parked.

Turns out there was a bomb scare in the garage. Apparently, officers had found a vehicle with what at least appeared to be a bomb in the back; the report was of a gasoline can with wires around it. The street and garage were later blocked off for about an hour and a half, then reopened. I guess nothing became of it, and I've seen nothing about it reported in the news.

After I parked, I met my boss in the street; he had just finished his shift in our 9th-floor office. He informed me that he took one of his numerous bathroom breaks (he drinks a LOT of coffee) and heard someone say, "Shhhh." Sure enough, he looked underneath the stalls and saw four feet in one of them, two of which were in socks.

I thought that sort of thing only happened in mall or airport toilets (Larry Craig, call your office), but my boss informed me that the afternoon producer had walked in on a similar tryst some months ago. Ew. Just ew. Whether it was two men or a man and a woman, just go do that somewhere else!

Friday, November 02, 2007

You'll choose civility, and you'll LIKE it!

Having seen many a vehicle with the top bumper sticker (thanks to , how can I oppose a campaign to usher in civility? Well, for starters, if the Calvert and Centre Street Democratic Club Baltimore Sun gushes about it, it can't be much worth supporting.

Frankly, as I examine the site of the man behind the "civility" movement, Johns Hopkins professor P.M. Forni, I believe that the man is sincere in what he wants to accomplish. Surely I know folks that have been rude or offensive to me, and I've probably been that as well to someone else. I can stand to improve in that regard.

That being said, first of all, I think Howard County (one of the wealthiest in the U.S., BTW, and one in which I lived briefly before getting married) is trivializing and politicizing Forni's work. The message that gets sent to others becomes: "I'm civil, and you're not. Why? Because I have a bumper sticker that says so, that's why." Dr. Seuss wrote a book about that called The Sneetches. And check out who backs this initiative.

The very sticker above is an oxymoron. It almost seems to say, "Choose civility . . . or else!" I'd love to see this sticker on one side of a car with, for example, "Well-behaved women rarely make history" on the other side.

Then again, this one from the site of the same name might be fitting:

It's as if civility is being rammed down one's throat like, well, diversity. And the planned community of Columbia was founded 40 years ago in the name of imposed Utopian diversity that has yielded mixed results. Ask any longtime Howard County resident who doesn't live in Columbia what they think of when they hear the name James Rouse, and see the most uncivil reaction you'll likely get.

I do have problems with some of Forni's recipe for civility. For example, one of his 25 rules is to "be inclusive." Inclusive of what? We are all exclusive to some degree or another. Do we always get invited to every social function? Do we always want everyone else involved? Is inclusion really a virtue that should be achieved? Look at how "inclusive language" has dumbed down liturgical music at Mass! One of the worst summer vacations I ever had was when we had a "come one, come all" group of guys at a house in Cape Hatteras. (Well, that was the vacation during which I started dating Ladycub, so it couldn't have been THAT bad!)

"Respect even a subtle 'no.'" If we're talking about sex out of marriage, I'm all for that. But what about when men pursue women? How many relationships and marriages grew out of men's persistence after being turned down? Why isn't "don't give up" one of the rules?

There seems to be no room for disagreement in these principles. I wonder if this isn't a subtle way for those who espouse "Choose Civility" to say "shut up" to those who don't, but in a way that makes it seem like a compliment. I guess, for example, the colonists should have just respected George III and been done with it. Now pardon me while I fix my bangers and mash. And Rosa Parks would have done much better to sit in her proper place in the back of the bus, with much civility . . . right?

I think Forni ought to add a 26th rule, one that seems to work well for Alcoholics Anonymous:

"Don't take yourself so damn seriously."

Or this might be an even better one to live by. As MASH psychiatrist Sidney Freedman put it:

"Ladies and gentlemen,
take my advice:
Pull down your pants
and slide on the ice."

Monday, October 29, 2007

Am I a Pharisee?

This past Sunday's Gospel reading (Luke 18: 9-14) featured Jesus' parable of the two men praying in the temple: the Pharisee who was most proud of his being a stickler for rules and regulations as well as not being like the other man in the Temple, a tax collector.

I can so identify with the Pharisee. I spell anal-retentive with a hyphen. :-) I definitely err on the side of going by the book, which is good and bad. And if there's any area in which I've been checking things against the book, it's been in my recent practice of checking everything that occurs at a Mass to see whether it conforms to the rubrics, the GIRM, or canon law.

Here are the ten most common liturgical abuses, according to the apologetics magazine This Rock. Many of these are spread through ignorance of both the clergy and laity, especially in this post-Vatican II era. But . . . is it my job to point out these abuses everywhere I go? Writer Kevin Orlin Johnson says yes.

For example, LC and I no longer join hands during the Our Father, and as the above document says,

The official publication of the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship, Notitiae (11 [1975] 226), states the practice "must be repudiated . . . it is a liturgical gesture introduced spontaneously but on a personal initiative; it is not in the rubrics." And anything not in the rubrics is unlawful, again because "no other person . . . may add . . . anything [to] the liturgy on his own authority" (ibid).

But let's be honest. Name me one pastor who will tell his flock not to hold hands during the Our Father, after it having been done all these years.

Still, if I have a problem with the way this is done . . . might it not be as much my problem as the pastor's? Is checking my "scorecard" bringing me closer to experiencing the transforming power of the Body and Blood of Christ? Or is it getting in the way?

And, as our pastor (whom I really like) pointed out to us the other day, are these hills we really want to die on? Is it worth it? Is it that big a deal, for example, that a priest in another parish comes off the altar for the Sign of Peace when the GIRM says he's not supposed to?

To be fair, I have never been to a Byzantine-rite Mass, nor a Traditional Latin Mass. I would love to experience either or both someday; I've only known the post V-II Novus Ordo (N.O). But should I throw out the N.O. with the holy water (which, of course, shouldn't be "thrown out") just because not every last thing conforms with what Johnson says above, or because the music is too laden with the usual GIA-OCP V-II tripe, or whatever? Thoughts from my Catholic friends?

Maybe I just need to be more like the tax collector in the Gospel who simply said, "O God, be merciful to me, a sinner." I fail God's rules and regulations all. the. time. And I could stand to practice a little more mercy.


But having been spammed by "Adam" who has all sorts of bogus links to send me to, I am forced to re-enable word verification for my posts.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Another Nice Wedding

LC and I got to attend another wedding yesterday, this one of my cousin. He and I were very close as kids; we spent nights at each other's houses and saw a lot of each other (and our sibs) at the Northeast YMCA. We got to meet his gorgeous wife back at a pool party at his brother's house this past summer.

Some quick vignettes:

  • The wedding was a Catholic service officiated by my uncle, who also officiated for us although we had a complete Mass. He did a good, tactful job of announcing who could and could not receive the Eucharist.
  • During the Psalm response, a number of us cracked up when the cantor sung, "If today you SEE his voice . . . ." Many years ago, my aunt had gotten my cousins to perform the (quite theologically incorrect) Christmas tune "Do You Hear What I Hear?" on reel-to-reel tape to send to us in the UK. But she kept correcting them and getting them to start over again and sing . . ."Do You See What I Hear?" Then when she finally realized it, she went, "Oh, my Gawwwwd . . ."
  • My cousin performed the Tim McGraw song "Amazed" for his bride after the Eucharist. That got applause, as did the Gospel acclamation. We refrained, believing it inappropriate.
  • The reception hall allowed smoking. Somebody tell the state legislature.
  • The wedding favor was a little bell to ring to get the couple to kiss. Seemed like the kids used these more than anyone else.
  • I actually danced the Macarena, helped LC to do so, and my cousin Marcie got the whole thing on video. I offered her money to keep it off YouTube.
  • We also partook of the apron dance with the couple.
  • My mom brought cake to help celebrate LC's birthday, which is Monday.
  • LC has rarely looked lovelier. *swoon* *thud*

One other thing: After seeing my cousin and his bride do the garter bit, I neglected to mention that my brother Thom and his wife Colleen did not even have the bouquet or garter ceremony at their reception. Good for them. We had it, but we didn't make the couple do anything about putting the garter on; instead, we had them dance with each other. Each would up married within a couple years.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Cell Phone Deathwatch

My cell phone is on life support this evening.

It's been raining pretty much nonstop for the past few days, and when I left my office in Fashionable Downtown Silver Spring this morning, it was pouring especially hard. Not having brought an umbrella, I decided to run for it across Georgia Avenue.

I forgot that I had my cell phone clipped to my belt, and my running jarred the phone loose. I reached the other side and prepared to cross Wayne Avenue, but then a kindly soul waiting northbound at Georgia beeped her horn and pointed to my phone lying in the street and getting soaked. Of course, it took a couple beeps of her horn for me to realize what was really going on. I estimate the phone had been there for 20-30 seconds by the time I got back and picked it up. Good thing no vehicle ran it over while it was in the road!

Unfortunately, the phone must have gotten rather waterlogged, because it won't turn on properly. It looks like it's about to initialize, but then it shuts itself off. The battery isn't to blame; it's recharging okay. I'll leave the phone alone for a night and see whether it dries out enough to work.

The thing that would really stink? Losing my contact list. :-P

UPDATE 10/29: Verizon will replace the phone, which is still under warranty. Apparently it showed no signs of being waterlogged on the inside; there's a telltale dot that changes color when it becomes wet enough. But I have indeed lost all my phone numbers, so I'll be e-mailing some of you to get your numbers back (for crying out loud, don't post them here!).

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I just hope I don't get picked last

I have so got to play on one of these adult kickball teams before I get too old to do so (if I'm not there already!). It looks like a lot of fun.

Art (and Art) belong in the HoF

Almost as much of a joke as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (motto: "See the special Progressive/Art Rock wing 5 miles north and 30 feet down in Lake Erie") these days is its neighbor to the south, the Pro Football HoF in Canton. It's a traveshamockery that neither longtime Redskins great Art Monk nor Ravens minority owner Art Modell are enshrined therein.

I don't know why membership is being denied to Monk, the former wide receiver who left the game as the all-time leading pass catcher, and I'll let Skins fans carry that torch for him. But the reason why Art Modell is not in the HoF is simple: Cleveland still hasn't gotten over The Move. Never mind that their team name, colors, and history didn't leave.

I will accept Clevelanders' assertion that Modell and Robert ("If I had any intention of moving the $%##@*& team, I'd have told you") Irsay (guffaw) should go into the HoF at the same time . . . as soon as they can name even ONE good thing Irsay did for the game of football. Getting the NFL on TV, instituting Monday Night Football, making Ozzie Newsome the first black general manager ever (you Clevelanders gonna try to keep him out of the HoF too?) . . . it should be a slam-dunk for Modell.

But it's not, solely because Cleveland isn't over its self-righteous hissy-fit. We Ravens fans are over ours, although we would have loved nothing more than to beat the Indy Irsays last January.

So Cleveland, may you and your snit be very happy together. But Modell has a spot waiting for him in Canton, and you know it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Lovely, soaking, delicious rain!

And two words: Stationary front.

Thank you, Lord. Bring it on! And send some to Southern California.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Snipers, Five Years Later

I was just hitting stride in my radio news reporting job when the news came in early October 2002 about this sniper--or snipers--killing five people in one day in DC and its Maryland suburbs. One of the shootings, in Aspen Hill, MD, was very close to where my next-door neighbor sells motorcycles. Ultimately, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo would gun down 13 people, from Ashland, VA to Aspen Hill, from Bowie, MD to Manassas, VA, killing 10 of them.

Here in Frederick, everyone was certain that the snipers were going to make their way here. Like elsewhere in DC, MD, and VA, the area was literally terrified:
  • Gas stations offered full service at self-serve prices because customers were afraid to get out of their cars.
  • One gas station had police tape around it and a police car sitting in front of it. The station was located next to US Rt. 15, a busy north-south expressway. It turned out that the station's computer system was down, and it just happened to be where the police filled up their vehicles.
  • The Frederick Keys had to cancel their new "Field of Screams" Halloween production because of the stadium's proximity to I-70, making the attendees an easy target for the snipers.
  • Police had pulled over hundreds of white box trucks because that was what witnesses thought they saw leaving the scene of the shootings.
  • I kept looking over my shoulder one night as I walked from my house to the Giant Food store in the dark.

Then late one night, it seemed like something was going to break in the case. I stayed up and watched the ubiqiutous Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose announce the car that was really being sought: a blue 1990 Chevy Caprice.

Not four hours later, I was awakened by a phone call from the lady who did the morning news for our country station. She had sent me on wild goose chases before, but I had a feeling that when she told me about a news conference at the new Frederick County Law Enforcement Center, this was the real deal. I fell out of bed, got dressed, and left without eating, shaving, showering, or brushing my teeth. Indeed, at 5:30 AM, the Maryland State Police announced that Muhummad and Malvo had been captured at the westbound rest area on I-70 between Myersville and the summit of South Mountain. My BIL in Connecticut told me he saw me in the crowd on CNN.

I raced back to the station with my audio and began to edit it and write up the stories to be put on the air. Next thing I knew, the phone began ringing off the hook. Our stations were part of the Clear Channel empire, and many of those stations looked and saw that we were right near the scene. I spent much of that morning on the phone with radio shows in Tampa, Albany, New Haven, Denver, and other cities.

Meanwhile, LC had come home from her night shift at the hospital. She and her cow-orkers knew something big was up, although they weren't sure what. When she pulled into our driveway, she found that Fox 5's news helicopter was hovering right over the house, making it impossible for her to sleep until it moved on!

Once I was done with the other stations (well, almost; I had another stint later with Denver on my cell phone), I headed up to the scene. I-70 was reopened in both directions, having been closed when the arrest was made. But the actual rest area was off limits while the State Police and the Frederick County Sheriff's Office searched the car and the area for evidence. So I turned at the next exit 5 miles to the west and came back to the eastbound rest area, where the media was encamped (those without helicopters). I interviewed several onlookers, including Myersville Mayor Wayne Creadick, who was tired of his town getting notoriety for all the wrong reasons; the year before, a truckload of missiles had overturned nearby. As I spoke to them, truckers heading downhill on eastbound I-70 blew their horns in gratitude to the police.

Only around noon did I get to eat anything, and I had been running on pure adrenalin. But my boss still had me work on another story before I could go home about 4 PM, having worked a 12-hour day. That wouldn't be my last 12-hour day, but that's another post.

The story continued to evolve in the coming days, as we learned about:

  • The Goodwill employee who, along with another motorist, notified the police that the snipers were at the rest area. I got to interview his boss, since he wasn't doing any himself.
  • The trucker who followed police direction to block the exit with his rig. More about him in a bit.
  • The shocking discovery that Muhummad and Malvo had been seen casing the town of Myersville, even driving near the elementary school. During one of the trials, one of them admitted they planned to shoot someone at the Frederick Outback Steakhouse, where they could slip onto Route 40.
  • The tying of the snipers to unsolved murders elsewhere in the nation, and discovering their weapons cache in Washington State.

On the first anniversary of the arrests, I got to interview the above-mentioned truck driver, Ron Lantz of Kentucky, who had since retired. He said he really didn't give any thought to any danger when the police asked him to move his rig across the exit ramp of the rest area after he spotted the Caprice. Muhammad and Malvo were caught while asleep, and without a shot.

But that wasn't the first time Lantz had run across the snipers. The week before, he had helped them change a tire on northbound I-270 . . . in Frederick! At the time, no one had a description of the two, and everyone was still looking for a white box truck and not an old blue Caprice.

As if that weren't enough, Lantz was part of an impromptu prayer meeting later that week at a truck stop on eastbound I-70 near Mount Airy. A group of truckers prayed together* that the snipers would be caught. Never underestimate the power of prayer!

That helped make October 2002 a month I'll never forget. I saved my tape with all the raw sound from that day.

*Side note: Truckers are useful folks. It was a trucker who helped capture the former business manager of our parish. He had stolen over $100,000 from the church, left his family, and started seeing someone else on the sly in Dover, PA. The trucker heard the story on the radio and happened to know of a relative that was starting to see someone new; it turned out to be our business manager.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

An Evening With Colin And Brad

We laughed our akkek off last night with the nonstop improvised comedy of Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood at the Weinberg Center for the Arts. Their show consists of longer-form sketches that were often seen on Whose Line Is It Anyway, plus a few that weren't. And yes, the audience participates!

For example, one couple helped them move around as Belgian detectives, where the windows only go down instead of up. Another couple did a great job of using sound effects to turn them into a pair of incontinent (and incompetent) pirates. The audience also came up with Colin committing the Ultimate Crime: pinning insects to his wife and cleaning his hubcaps with a hamster using a club in Assateague (I doubt Brad knew that was a real place) but leaving behind his raspberry toupee. The folks on stage for the Change Lines game (they honked a horn when they wanted C&B to change the last thing they said) could have made them work a little harder. And it's too bad someone couldn't have vetted the audience suggestions for the "Whose Line" game into which C&B insert random lines as written by the audience into their skit.

The game "Torture" combined a number of Whose Line bits, including Questions Only, If You Know What I Mean, Scene to Rap, and Letter Substitution (K in place of S, hence "akkek").

And finally, two words. Mouse traps.

If you're a Whose Line fan, and you like improv comedy, see them. I just hope they don't get bored with carrying on the tradition anytime soon! Recommended for teens and up.

Wait 'till next year!

We would like to thank the Baltimore Ravens for their participation in the 2007 NFL season.

They managed one offensive touchdown this week, courtesy of Willis McGahee in his former home stadium, but the defense didn't come up big enough, the offense sputtered, too many passes were dropped, Billick made questionable play calls, and too many penalty flags were thrown at the Ravens.

They lose to Buffalo, 19-14, and fall to 4-3. Kyle Boller actually had a pretty decent game.

The Ravens are on bye next Sunday, and I think they'll find a way to get called for 8 penalties for 93 yards nonetheless.

Here's the rest of the schedule, with my predictions:

Nov 5, at Picksburgh Monday night: Loss.
Nov 11, vs. Cincinnati: Win, but a loss wouldn't be impossible.
Nov 18, vs. Cleveland: Loss.
Nov 25, at Sandy Eggo: Loss.
Dec 3, vs. New England Monday night: Loss.
Dec 9, vs. Indianapolis Sunday night: Loss.
Dec 16, vs. Miami: Win.
Dec 23, at Seattle: Loss.
Dec 30, vs. Picksburgh: Loss.

That would make 6-10. I can't see them turning four of those losses into wins to go 10-6 instead. But it ain't gonna happen; the Ravens will be watching this year's playoffs from the comfort of their homes.

And have I said lately that Billick must go?