Monday, September 29, 2008

That hurts

The Ravens were thisclose to knocking off the Squealers at their home on Monday night, but dumb penalties, a costly fumble, and poor kick returning did them in (Yamon Figurs, check the waiver wire). I'd prefer to get blown out like we did last year than to lose 23-20 in OT.

At least Joe Flacco played well in his first road start. But a loss is a loss. And to the hated Squealers, no less.


(Okay, so I have Squealer Derangement Syndrome. Sue me.)

Hating Sarah

If for no other reason, I love love love Sarah Palin for the derangement syndrome that the Left has unleashed upon her. Anything that cheeses off the Left so much has to be good.

This column by Joan Swirsky is one of the best articles I've read about how insane this is getting. The whole thing is worth a read, but her opening paragraph is a winner:

Why are the retro-feminists in the left-wing media, the National Organization of Women, and the abortion lobby, among other hysterics, militating so violently against Sarah Palin? It's because they value abortion-on-demand over every other subject on earth.
That's it, in a nutshell. Bring it on, gals.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Tragedy Near Andrews AFB

A Maryland State Police MEDEVAC helicopter crashed near Andrews AFB early this morning in bad weather after retrieving victims from a traffic accident. Four of the five passengers on board were killed.

Working in traffic, I hear callouts for MEDEVAC response all the time, so this affects me. I'm actually surprised that the copter was allowed to be airborne, given the bad weather.

May God rest the souls of those who perished, and give comfort to their families.

What I'll Miss About Maryland

  • My family and friends in the area, first and foremost.
  • The National Shrine Grotto of Lourdes, and chaplain Fr. Jack Lombardi.
  • St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Libertytown, and Msgr. John Dietzenbach.
  • The greenery.
  • The farmland of Frederick and Washington Counties.
  • Frederick, a charming small city with growing pains, but also a lot to offer.
  • Glen Burnie, an unassuming, blue-collar Baltimore suburb.
  • Other delightful small towns such as Thurmont, Emmitsburg, Mt. Airy, Smithsburg, Hagerstown, and Brunswick.
  • The Ravens and M&T Bank Stadium.
  • The fairly good condition of the roads (try PA or DC if you don't believe me).
  • The historical sites, from Ft. McHenry to Antietam Battlefield to Harpers Ferry.
  • The celebrations like Frederick's Fourth, the Great Frederick Fair, In the Street, Colorfest, Kris Kringle, the Renaissance Festival, Twilight Tattoo, etc.
  • Baltimore and Annapolis' harbors.
  • Berger cookies.
  • Utz potato chips.
  • Crab cakes.
  • Cream of crab soup.
  • Thrasher's fries.
  • The ability to go for a weekend trip to NYC, PA, or elsewhere.
  • Ocean City.
  • The B&A/BWI bike trails.
  • The aircraft viewing area off Dorsey Rd. near BWI.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

What I Won't Miss About Maryland

  • The traffic.
  • Red light and speed revenue generators cameras.
  • The overly stressed drivers who muck up traffic all the more.
  • The NIMBYism against fixing traffic.
  • NIMBYism in general.
  • The anti-business climate.
  • The weak Frederick County job market.
  • The one-party rule.
  • The political and cultural leftism.
  • High taxes.
  • Martin Owe Malley.
  • Lennie Thompson.
  • Jennifer Dougherty.
  • Roscoe "Did I say 'only three terms?'" Bartlett.
  • Blaine Young.
  • All these stoopid Squealer fans here in Frederick County. What does it say about Pittsburgh that so many of you chose to leave it? We're not exactly leading a parade to NV.
  • Key 103.
  • In fact, radio in this area as a whole (including no REAL Catholic station to speak of; the Mt. St. Mary's student station broadcasting to the deer of Catoctin Mountain Park overnights doesn't count).
  • Our inability to get TV reception without cable or satellite.
  • The People's Republic of Montgomery County.
  • Murders in Baltimore.
  • Serving on Baltimore juries all. the. time.
  • Shootings near my Baltimore apartment.
  • The Calvert and Centre Street Democratic Club, a.k.a. the Baltimore Sun.
  • The Orioles, at least not as long as Fish Lips owns them.
  • The lack of a minor league hockey team on any level.
  • My alma mater, Loyola College, which has become CINO (Catholic In Name Only). If I had it to do all over again, I would not have gone there.

Separated at Birth

TV government grant huckster Matthew Lesko (top), and DC Council member Jim Graham.

(At least they get their glasses from the same opticians, anyway.)

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Song For Joe Biden

Who doesn't want to impose his Catholicism on others (um, Joe buddy, politics is nothing BUT trying to impose one's ideas and ideals on others!), hence why he supports abortion.

In response, I give the Senator Steve Taylor's song, "It's A Personal Thing," and hope that Biden doesn't plagiarize it. Taylor took the tough road of being a Christian satirist in a realm where satire is rarely understood.

To wit:

The Press Conference

It's a personal thing, and I find it odd
You would question my believing in a personal God
I'm devout, I'm sincere, ask my mother if you doubt it
I'm religious, but I'd rather not get radical about it

The old-time believers had timidity and grace
But this new generation doesn't know its place
You're entitled to believe, but the latest Gallup Poll
Says you mustn't interfere--that's the government's role

'Cause when you throw your hat in the bullring
Before you know know know it's a personal thing
And when he comes to the day of reckoning
He's gonna tell 'em, "uh, uh, uh, it's a personal thing"

The Nomination Speech

It's a personal thing, and I boldly state
That my views on morality will have to wait
'Til my personal life's out of the public eye
And the limitations statue can protect my alibi

I'm devout, I'm sincere, and I'm proud to say
That it's had exactly no effect on who I am today
I believe for the benefit of all mankind
In the total separation of church and mind

'Cause when you throw your hat in the bullring
Before you know know know it's a personal thing
And when he comes to the day of reckoning
He's gonna tell 'em, "uh, uh, uh, it's a personal thing"

The Victory Night

It's a personal thing, and I plainly speak
(From the same code of ethics that I held last week)
As I promised if elected this election day
With the help of God almighty, I'll do it my way

'Cause when you throw your hat in the bullring
Before you know know know it's a personal thing
And when he comes to the day of reckoning
He's gonna say, "Back off, buddy, it's a personal thing"

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Visit To Shanksville, PA

This past Saturday, while on my way back from a conference north of Pittsburgh, I decided to stop at the (still-temporary) memorial at the Flight 93 crash site outside Shanksville, PA.

If my Rand McNally road atlas hadn't had the location marked, I'd have had a hard time finding it. As far as I could tell, there were no signs on the PA Turnpike at the Somerset interchange to indicate the way to the site.

I traversed a couple back roads northward to Rt. 30 (Old Lincoln Highway) and headed east. There was a sign pointing to the Flight 93 site off that road.

To reach the site, I had to drive up atop a somewhat steep hill. Then off to the left, I saw the makeshift memorial. The actual crash site is almost a mile south toward the tree line in the distance.

The plane reportedly plowed into the ground upside down between the flag on that distant fence and those trees. The area is considered a grave for the 40 passengers and crew who perished, but not without a struggle.

The memorial site consists of a chain-link fence with various items attached to it, a group of benches bearing the names of the 40 passengers and crew of United Flight 93, and various monuments left by others.

Here's some of what's on the fence:

This Shanksville VFD coat caught my eye. What an overwhelming event for them to respond to on 9/11/01, having seen and heard what was going on in New York.

At the bottom of the fence I spotted this volleyball, left by the team from Walkersville High near us:

Here are some of the other memorials around the site:

And here are the benches.

Sue from the Park Service told us more about Flight 93.

Some interesting tidbits from what she had to say:

  • Flight 93 left Newark International late for San Francisco at 8:42 AM. Had it been a few minutes longer, the flight wouldn't have left at all because of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center at 8:46. It was supposed to be coordinated with the other aircraft.
  • The hijacking of the Boeing 757 took place somewhere near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. By that time, the passengers had heard about the second plane attack on the WTC, and were about to learn of the Pentagon attack as well.
  • The passengers gathered in the back of the plane and decided to attempt a takeover once they were over a sparsely populated area.
  • Todd Beamer was heard to say "Let's roll" (a line he used with his kids) because he had called an operator in Chicago on an Airfone. This operator asked Beamer not to hang up. Of course, Beamer was far from the only hero: read more here.
  • The passengers struggled to get into the cockpit where the terrorists had taken over the plane. As they did so, the terrorists pitched the plane up to 40 degrees in either direction to throw them off balance. Read the flight voice recorder transcript here.
  • The terrorists had the order to crash the plane if they couldn't reach their objective, which Osama bin Laden determined would be the Capitol because Congress was in joint session that day. He decided that the White House was too difficult to spot from the air.
  • North of Shanksville, the employees of this scrap metal company, which is being relocated because of the permanent memorial, heard and saw the plane coming in toward them, reportedly even upside down (although is that physically possible?), at close to 600 mph. They said it was so low, they felt they had to duck.

  • The impact of the crash meant there were few remaining pieces of debris; the 757 all but buried itself following a fireball explosion that seared the nearby trees (they're still that way today).
Read about the design for the permanent memorial here; it hasn't started yet because of legal land squabbles between the private plot on which the temporary memorial sits, and the crash site which the families of the Flight 93 heroes now own. Some of my fellow righties contend that the original design describes an Islamic crescent, but I find that about as ridiculous a conspiracy theory as all the others that come up when you Google "Flight 93 crash."

That being said, I don't think the proposed memorial, with a walkway, groves of trees, and a monument wall, is heroic enough. Why not a statue of some of the passengers starting out from the back of the plane to rush the cockpit? These are HEROES, and while they indeed gave their lives on this ground and it must be hallowed, they deserve more than a simple gravesite. It was not mere tragedy; it was a triumph.

Just before sunset, I traveled a couple miles south to the town itself.

As of 9/11/01, it was no longer a town where Nothing Ever Happened. Reminders of that day abound.

Most houses and businesses have flags flying in the yards.

The Shanksville VFD forgets not its own.

All in all, it was a sobering experience for me to visit the site.

I then drove through more of the hilly central Pennsylvania countryside where "bitter people cling to their religion and guns" and headed home.

And Now For Some Sports Rants

Few things are so beautiful as watching or hearing sports personalities completely lose it on camera or microphone.

We start with Jim "Diddly Poo" Mora in New Orleans:

Followed by Jim "Playoffs?!" Mora in Indianapolis:

Is it any surprise that Mora didn't last long in either job after these tirades?

After losing a sizeable lead to Da Bears on Monday Night Football at home, Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green praises his opponents . . . sort of:

Kansas City Royals skipper Hal McRae hates a reporter's question so much that he trashes his own office and injures one of the reporters in the process:

Cubs manager Lee Elia takes exception to the fans who show up at the Friendly Confines, and tells the reporters to "run it downtown and print it!" (WARNING: uncensored! Here's a bleeped version if you prefer, but the sound quality isn't as good.)

And then there's the Earl of Baltimore, Earl Weaver, not knowing when to let it go with ump Bill Haller. He was tossed from 97 games in his career, more than any other manager. (WARNING: uncensored!)

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy dresses down a female columnist, and in the process tells everyone how he defines manhood:

And maybe my new all-time favorite: sports talker Mike Valenti goes thermonuclear after Michigan State blew a lead to Notre Dame back in 2006. The best way to listen to this is just to check out the first minute or so, then skip ahead to the 7-minute mark. Notice how hoarse he becomes. The last three minutes of the cut are classic; you'll probably want to listen to it . . . "again!"

And if you care, there's a Part II of Valenti's rant as well. I can't believe Valenti didn't spit out his vocal chords.

Any others you like?

(HT: The Czabe, esp. for Elia, Gundy, and Valenti)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008

Our New Church

(photo from the Catholic Review)

Last weekend, the new church building for St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Libertytown was dedicated by Most Rev. Edwin O'Brien, archbishop of Baltimore. This is the same church that burned down in June 2004. LC and I visited it for the first time at the 7:15 AM Mass this past Sunday.

It's a gorgeous structure that incorporates the walls of the church that was destroyed; those walls now frame the daily chapel. In said chapel, the painting of the Crucifixion that survived the fire, aided by restoration from artist Nancy Pollack, now hangs behind the altar.

The church is brighter than its predecessor, in which the wood of the pews and walls was very dark. While I like the brightness, I get a feeling that it's just a little too modern, but it's not ostentatious. Would that there was money for different paint schemes than basic beige, but I won't quibble about that, and it may change later on. The original plans called for a grand staircase in the back of the church leading up to the balcony, but I'm glad that was scrapped for financial reasons; that WOULD have been gaudy.

The pews are rounded to allow more of them in the sanctuary. It's nice to use kneelers again for a change; we had none in the parish hall, where Masses have taken place for the past four years.

Another parish's misfortune became a blessing to St. Peter's as the stained-glass windows from a defunct inner-city Baltimore parish are now encased in the Libertytown church. There weren't enough of them to put all around the church, but they adorn each corner.

Behind the altar is the new, soon-to-be-dedicated perpetual adoration chapel. The tabernacle for the altar of the main church doubles as the repository for the monstrance in the chapel; it's built right into the wall.

A new sound system, a grand piano, and a magnificent organ help the congregation enter more into worship. The reconciliation room allows for either face-to-face or screened confessions. At LC's suggestion (!), the small glass window in the door will be opaqued out for privacy purposes. The heating and cooling system may need to be tweaked a bit, but then again, it was unseasonably warm this past Sunday. A few projects remain unfinished, such as the balcony and the church-level bathrooms.

If not for Deacon Mike Misulia, 91 years young and a surveyor by trade, noticing that the scale of the proposed church was off, who knows literally where the building would be? He saw that it could be built right where the former church had stood, as long as it was placed at a slight angle. Kudos to him, to all who designed and built the church, to all who contributed to its financing, and to all the church staff for putting their hearts and souls into seeing this project to completion.

But most of all, I want to thank Msgr. John Dietzenbach, our pastor. His gentle leadership has been an example to all of us. He never lost faith, he had the vision of what needed to be done, and he quietly guided the project to its successful completion while continuing to shepherd his flock. I really like (and will miss) Msgr. John. Even when he says things in his homilies that I may not agree with, such as about Iraq or immigration, he does so in a respectful but firm way that doesn't leave me resenting him for it.

More info and photos here, here, here, here, and here.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

And I Would Drive Two Hundred Thousand Miles

Sometimes seemingly being held together by pins and duct tape, the Cygmobile - a 2000 Ford Focus wagon - has eclipsed 200,000 miles. It did so rather nicely Wednesday morning as I rolled into my parking space in the Silver Spring garage, accompanied by the strains of Rush's "Xanadu." I commemorated the 150K milestone back here.

We've put a lot of money into the beast, but it's done us well, including today as we cleared out our storage unit (thanks again, Fred and Sterling!). And this coming weekend, I hope to take it one last time to one of the places we went with it first: Pittsburgh.

P.S. I brought the camera to photograph the magic moment, but forgot the memory card. :-( That's an image I found on the Web. Here's the photo I managed to get as soon as I found the card:

Farewell, Maya

For the first time in our marriage, we have no cats. We put Maya down today. LC had gotten her as a five-month-old kitten.

Sadly, we'd been forestalling the inevitable. She had gone weeks without a bowel movement, and when the blockages got to be too much, we'd have to take her to the veterinary ER. To make matters worse, she repeatedly threw up her medicine. At age 16, there just wasn't much more we could have done for her. The stress of the move would have been too much. LC gave her a sedative at home, and then we took her to the vet for the rest.

Pictures and memories:

Here's Maya sharing our bed with Patches, her sometime adversary.

Although Patches also liked doing this, Maya was the one who lived for her "dinka water" out of the bathroom sink. I always had to clean out her fur.

Here she is resting amid the stuff on the floor of my office before it was repainted and recarpeted. Note the bag of catnip close by.

She was our flirtatious cat, always showing off for the men. Even a couple weeks ago when we had our friends Maria and Dan over for dinner, she kept staring at Dan and even put her paw on his leg.

She loved being in the perch next to the window so that she could survey "Maya's world" and check out the birds, bugs, squirrels, etc. Usually while in said perch, I'd brush the excess fur off her and then scratch her belly - if she'd let me. When she did, Maya would go into what I called a "cat-gasm" whereby she'd raise her hind legs and start waving them as she was scratched.

My most enduring memory of Maya: I was once despondent and feeling alone and unloved. I prayed that God would show me some sign that I was loved. Seconds later, Maya trotted over and, like I described above with our friend Dan, put her paw on my leg. Wow.

I pray that she's rough-and-tumbling with Minnie again, and perhaps even hissing at Patches a time or two.

When we get out to Nevada, we will be getting a kitten from Sandy's friend's litter, so we'll look forward to that. But we'll definitely miss the cats we've had.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Name Is Old Glory

On this September 11, take a listen to this well-produced recitation by voiceover artist Dude Walker.

Then conquer we must
When our cause it is just
And this be our motto,

"In God is our trust."

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!


Sunday, September 07, 2008

Cereal Killer

For anyone who likes cereal as much as I do, you've got to check out this post with the above title from Kevin Francis.


Before you know it, America was bombarded by cartoon tigers, sea captains and mysterious onomatopoetic elves. Sugar was still something that was a concern for parents, but only mildly so. It's what explains such names as SUGAR Pops, SUGAR Frosted Flakes, and most damning of all - SUPER SUGAR Crisp. The result were entire generations of kids eating so much sugar they vibrated across the living room floor while watching The Banana Splits. Bright colors, sing along jingles and progressively more annoying cartoon mascots brought things to critical mass and the moms of the world kicked a soccer ball into the crotch of the cereal manufacturers. Gone were any references to "sugar" in the name of the product, and seemingly overnight, we were buttonholed with officious-looking actors stressing the importance of fiber. The idea, I suppose, was to bring the kids off the swing set and into the bathroom. The sharp increase of children yelling, "Mommy, help!" from behind those bathrooms doors was deemed acceptable collateral damage.
I totally forgot about Freakies and Grins and Smiles and Giggles and Laughs. Never had either, but I do remember the over-the-top commercials.

What to add, what to add. Besides sugar, that is.

Bigbro and I all but grew up on Cheerios. Eventually, they started disagreeing with me, but Bigbro kept on consuming. Later on, I would hear that "sink the Cheerios" was a popular method of toilet training (thanks, Lost 'Hoo, wherever you are).

To this day, I have no idea why my friend Ed and I thought the eponymous character Big Yella (Corn Pops in another guise, really) was so funny, but we did.

I fill my bowls of cereal up to the rim. Then I pour the milk and pray for surface tension to set in. It doesn't always. But I've always done it this way. At our Glen Burnie house, I had an accident or two trying to carry a bowl full of cereal and milk down to the basement to watch SportsCenter.

Another friend named Ed had five other guys living with him in our Christian community, including the aforementioned Ed. One day I saw in his pantry 48 boxes of Kellogg's Corn Flakes stacked up to the ceiling. There was a sale of $1 a box, limit 8. So he rounded up all five guys to join him in buying 8 boxes each. Meanwhile, I got ragged on by the same guys for buying Pop-Tarts for our house.

I went through a phase where I'd eat nothing but Cookie Crisp. I wouldn't touch the stuff today. Nor Cap'n Crunch, the earliest commercials of which were produced by Jay Ward, the co-creator of Rocky and Bullwinkle. But not too lomg ago, I had a refreshingly good bowl of Lucky Charms. Again, I wouldn't have that all the time.

These days, I'm partial to Frosted Mini-Wheats, or the Wal-Mart equivalent thereof. I also like Total, Crispix, Wheaties, and the occasional Corn Flakes.

"Why so serious?"

We were late to the bandwagon, but last night LC and I saw The Dark Knight.

Wow. Just wow.

It's every bit as good as everyone has said it would be. While there are plenty of special effects to enjoy, director Christopher Nolan uses good old character development and interplay to advance the plot, which is anything but predictable.

If the late Heath Ledger doesn't win the Best Actor Oscar for this, something is seriously wrong. He plays a psychopathic Joker to the hilt, a Joker who doesn't telegraph his real intentions. Unlike Cesar Romero or Jack Nicholson, this Joker is to be feared. For his part, Ledger admitted he got very little sleep while playing the "clown." That may well have played a part in his eventual suicide; we'll never know for sure.

It would have been easy for Nolan to make Christian Bale's Batman a caricature, but he comes across as fresh and human -- when and where he has to be. The supporting cast is strong, with Michael Caine playing a most convincing Alfred, Aaron Eckhart a principled Harvey Dent, and Maggie Gyllenhaal as his girlfriend who also has a past with Bruce Wayne. Gyllenhaal is attractive, but why the permanent circles under her eyes? Oh, well. And even in a bit role, Morgan Freeman shines, as he usually does.

Rating: 10 out of 10.

Praying For .500

To say the least, I'm not optimistic about the Ravens' chances this season.

And the problems don't start with quarterback, where Joe Flacco got the ball by default. He may be spending an awful lot of time running for his life behind a patchwork offensive line. One bright spot on the offense is that Ray Rice appears to be the Ravens' running back of the future. He'll be nice insurance against the vagaries of Willis McGahee (right now, many Bills fans are saying, "We told you so").

On defense, our D-line and linebackers are still solid, but not as fearsome as in years past. But PLEASE don't tell NFL quarterbacks that our secondary can be thrown on. Although the DBs suffered quite a few injuries last year, Chris McAlister, Samari Rolle, and even Ed Reed weren't anywhere near as effective as they've been. This bunch gave up the 6th-most passing touchdowns in the entire league last year.

I expect to hear much snickering from the Brian Billick apologists this season, which could be a long one for new head coach John Harbaugh.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Can we vote?

I fear that we may be locked out of this election. We'll be moving to Nevada too late to meet their 30-day residency requirement, but we won't be Maryland residents at the time of the election. Perhaps we'll still be allowed to vote in Maryland (motto: "We weren't really using our 10 electoral votes anyway") via absentee ballot. I hope we can get a straight answer from the Board of Elections.

I guess if we lived in New York and were moving to Florida, we wouldn't have this problem.

Monday, September 01, 2008


We were hoping to go out to breakfast this Labor Day morning. We tried Airways Inn of Frederick and Lohr's Family Restaurant, only to find that both were closed for the holiday. Perhaps as a result, both Cracker Barrel and IHOP were overflowing with patrons.

We gave up and went back home.

Oh, well, it could be worse; we could be preparing for a hurricane.