Thursday, December 29, 2005

Old school...

As a Penn State fan, I am also a fan of Joe Paterno, known affectionately as Joe-Pa to those who adore him. This year, he was one second away from a perfect season, after seven combined wins in the past two years. A friend of mine passed this article along to me, highlighting the circumstances surrounding the University administration asking him to step down at the end of last year. It offers a good read and good insight into a decent man, who still defines old-school.

Go Penn State. Go Joe.

Find the lost....

I just finished reading Assassination Vacation by NPR commentator Sarah Vowell. Whetther or you agree with her politics or not, it is a very interesting read as she tours the Assassination sites of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley.

One of the more interesting things to come out the book was Find a Grave, which enables you to look up the final resting places of famous people (T.S. Eliot is in Somerset, England), or to do a search of your area to find out who's close (Fred Rogers, Betsy Ross and Jim Thorpe, for me).

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

What we all want... a little more time, perhaps to spend with family and friends. Guesss what? All those wishes are about to come true, with the addition of a Leap Second. Apparently, we've been spinning a little slower the last couple of years, so now we get an extra second. You might want to think about how you're going to use yours...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Merry Christmas....

...what do you get for the person who has everything? Here's an interesting idea...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


According to this report, Crocodiles are now the number one predator in Zimbabwe, taking over from elephants.

Crocodiles dragged away and ate 13 people -- including children -- in the first 10 months of 2005, according to the Communal Areas Management Program for Indigenous Resources, known as Campfire.

Elephants charged and trampled 12 others, including some villagers trying to protect their crops from the giant herbivores, who eat an average 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of fodder a day as adults, the group said in its annual report.

Still, before you cancel your travel plans, consider this report, and realize you're probably safer trying to push an elephant into a river in Zimbabwe than you are in our nation's capitol.

I'll take the crocodiles, just don't put me in those stupid shorts.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Simply the Best....

So, you want to live in the best country in the world, huh? Guess what? You're going to have to pack your bags and move. According to this report, you could actually choose 11 other countries to improve your options (I personally disagree with Norway as a selection...I can't imagine they collected the data in early February).

So who is number one? My people, of course.

Philadelphia Icon For Sale

Check out this auction, if you have a million dollars and a desire to have your own Rocky Balboa statue.

Now the question...where to put it? I'd like to get one of the other two out there as well, and put them in front of my driveway, flanking the entrance to my house.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Paddy wins again...

Your joke of the day:

Three Irishmen and three Englishmen are traveling by train. At the station, the three Englishmen each buy a ticket and watch as the three Irishmen buy just one ticket. "How are the three of you going to travel on only one ticket?" asks one of the Englishmen.

"Watch and learn," answers one of the men from the Ireland.

They all board the train. The three Englishmen take their respective seats but all three Irishmen cram into a toilet together and close the door. Shortly after the train has departed, the conductor comes around collecting tickets. He knocks on the toilet door and says, "Ticket please." The door opens just a crack and a single arm emerges with a ticket in hand. The conductor takes it and moves on.

The Englishmen see this happen and agree it was quite a clever idea, so after the game, they decide to do the same thing on the return trip and save some money. When they get to the station, they buy a single ticket for the return trip, but see, to their astonishment, that the three Irishmen don't buy any ticket at all.

"How are you going to travel without a ticket?" says one perplexed Englishmen. "Watch and learn," answer the Irishmen.

When they board the train the three Englishmen cram themselves into a toilet and the three Irishmen cram into another toilet just down the way. Shortly after the train is on its way, one of the Irishmen leaves their toilet and walks over to the toilet in which the Englishmen are hiding.

The Irishmen knocks on their door and says, "Ticket please".

Where's Waldo?

My friend Lou was talking about geography, which reminded me of this test. See if you're smart enough to pass third grade.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Pennsylvania football...'s a hard year to be a football fan in PA. Penn State got a BCS bid to the RipOff Bowl, Pittsburgh pretty much sealed their fate with a loss to the Cincinatti Bengals (remember when they were the punchline to a joke?) and my beloved Eagles have officially imploded on a grand scale, laying the grandest of Monday Night eggs, a 42-0 blowout loss at home.

The fact that the Eagles laid this particular egg on the night when Reggie White's number 92 was retired is an insult to the man and his legacy. The things I remember about White are his strength, his spirit, and that the man never quit....EVER. He got sacks where he was crawling on all fours toward the QB, like some gridiron Terminator.

I miss having Reggie around. More than that, as an Eagles fan, I miss having his spirit around.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Politicians roasting, on an open fire...

Lately in Pennsylvania, there has been no shortage of reasons to roast politicians, with late night voting, pay raises, and skirting the Constitution. That being said, this report found an interesting new reason to be peeved, when it took an intriguing look at Pennsylvania's Ghost Voting (you have to click on the video to the right).

Let he who is without sin, throw the next switch...

Apparently we are not going to get to 1,000 death row inmates executed since Gary Gilmour said, "Let's do it." His execution in 1977 began the current spree, and today we have executed 999 people, with Robin Lovitt in Virginia scheduled to be the 1,000th. His execution was stayed by Governor Mark Warner, and commuted to a life sentence.

People ask me about it, and I tell them I'm against the death penalty. I know Christians that are for it. I don't understand that, but they are. I think execution is a simple answer to a complex problem. As a Christian, I think it misses the central point of punishment, which is correction, and ultimately redemption.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

It's about the bike....

As a bike commuter during the months when I can go both directions in daylight, and an avid cyclist, I have gained a reputation as having a few screws loose among some friends at the office. Looks like I'm just a trendsetter.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

I thought things could not get any stranger with the Eagles. I was wrong.

It seems Christopher Noteboom thought it would be a good idea to run onto the Lincoln Financial Field holding a plastic bag, leaving a cloud of fine powder behind. The contents? The ashes of his dead mother. Apparently, you can't run into a crowded stadium and out on the field trailing white powder (I know there's a Michael Irvin joke in there somewhere, if you want to look for it).

If you're considering tossing your loved one's ashes around the Linc, consider this...
Eagles spokeswoman Bonnie Grant said the team has declined requests to spread ashes on the field..."unless it's Terrell Owens," she muttered under her breath.

I think I'd be a quercus rubra...

One of the dumber articles I have seen in a while came from CNN. I don't write about my political views often, because I think most people know where I stand on most issues, and what many people call debate is just two people screaming at each other to see who can shout the loudest, as an expression of how they are correct.

Still, Peter Goss, head of the CIA, comes out with this gem:

Al Qaeda leaders bin Laden and al-Zarqawi haven't been found "primarily because they don't want us to find them and they're going to great lengths to make sure we don't find them," Goss said in the interview broadcast Tuesday on ABC's "Good Morning America."

You're right. They sure would be easier to find if they wanted to be found. Brilliant!

I liked this quote as well:

Even with the CIA's mistakes, Goss said, the agency is "the gold standard by any measure" in terms of human intelligence.
"We don't get it right every time," he said, "but I don't think there's anybody who could even come close."

I'm no expert (I'll leave that to my friend Eric), but I would say the Israeli Secret Service is pretty close on more than one point. A country whose internal security service (allegedly) assassinated Palestinian bomb-maker Yahya Ayyash, aka "The Engineer", with an exploding cell phone in 1996...

This was interesting, too:
"What we do does not come close to torture," Goss said, though he declined to elaborate on the agency's interrogation techniques.

If it doesn't "come close to torture", why can't/won't they say what it is? Again, I'm no expert (Again, I'll leave that to my friend Eric), but I don't think we get to call ourselves the good guys if we're tortuing people. And, I don't think we get to call ourselves the good guys if we condone or advocate this, either.

The thing that gets me about discussions like this one, is the recent focus on torture and its effectiveness. McCain and his group say torture should be outlawed because it's not effective. Rush and his people argue that it is effective, saying But the American left with the avid support of the American media is placing those constraints, and the fact that more and more people seem to be willing to have those constraints placed is really troubling.

Effective? Not effective? What's missing from the discussion, in my mind, is whether or not it is right.

Respectfully submitted with my friend Eric (USAF), and his brothers and sisters who serve in the Armed Forces to defend my right to print things like this, in mind.

Monday, November 28, 2005

to too much

Two of the funnier things I've read on the whole "to" debacle I saw here. Outstanding...rack him.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Crime and Punishment...or not.

Something caught my eye as I read the headlines today: this story, about a cyclist who was hit by a teenager who was text-messaging. The thing that really got me was this:

The driver could face a charge of careless driving resulting in death, Stanton said. Under Colorado law, the teen could face up to a year in prison.

Call me crazy, but a year seems awfully light for killing someone. Even more amazing was the response of the victim's wife, who said:

"I feel sorry for the teenager. It was a stupid mistake," she told the Rocky Mountain News.

I was quite humbled, realizing my compassion might not extend so far, the commandment of God to forgive those who trespass against us notwithstanding...

Monday, November 21, 2005

How will I get my croissants?

As if things aren't bad enough for the French with all of the recent rioting, now comes news of a rail strike. And, it seems the rail workers have them stuck between Scylla and Charybdis: the primary target of the ritoers--people's cars! That's a lot of burned Lemons.

Perhaps they should just surrender...

Dyin' for a smoke...

I think I've finally found someone dumber than this woman. It's this woman.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Toughen up!

...this humbles me.

Isaiah 40: 28-31
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.

29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.

30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;

31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

One for the birds....

Actually, 23,000 for the birds. That's the number of dominoes a renegade sparrow knocked down when it decided to savagely attack a formation of dominoes being put up in an attempt to break a world record.

Following the vicious domino attack, the people setting up the the dominoes responded in the only way you can to such a heinous event. They cornered the bird and shot it.

Endemol spokesman Jeroen van Waardenberg defended the killing of the bird.

"That bird was flying around and knocking over a lot of dominoes," van Waardenberg said. "More than 100 people from 12 countries had worked for more than a month setting them up."


The problem is that the bird was an endangered species, protected under law in the Netherlands. So, the people who have pledged themselves to protecting animals and seeing that no harm comes to a single feather of a single bird, have responded with a solution of their own:

Death threats have reportedly been made against the man who killed the bird. A Dutch disc jockey has offered a reward of 3,000 euros ($3,500 US) to anyone who topples the dominoes before the official start.

Ummmmm...hey fellas. It's dominoes!

This trade just HAS to be done...

With all of the talk about "to" and where he is heading, I found this article more than just little amusing. Randy Moss is already taking shots at to, and they aren't even teammates...yet. As I see it, the REAL fun and games will start when they are both enthroned on the dais of Raider Nation.

"You know, T.O. is his own player; I'm my own player," Moss said. "We have no similarities whatsoever. I'm a playmaker, he's a playmaker. It's just who makes the most plays is what separates me and him."

Moss also said NFL is taking "the fun away from the game" by restricting how players can celebrate their achievements on the field.

Moss was fined $10,000 for pretending to pull down his pants and moon the Green Bay crowd during Minnesota's playoff win last season and also drew criticism for leaving the field with 2 seconds left in a regular-season loss against Washington.

Let the games begin....

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Future of NFL showboating?

As an advertising guy, and a football fan, I have found quite a bit of amusement in the breakout season of the Burger King guy. The spectacular diving catch in the endzone just further cements his stratus, in my mind, as a Pro Bowl caliber receiver in this, his Rookie Season.

Now comes word that Dan Snyder wants to buy Six Flags, the theme park company that owns Great Adventure, among others. On the surface, it looks like just another attempt for Dan to grow his empire…unless you’ve seen the “moves” by their advertising spokesperson. This guy has dance moves that would humble to (as hard as it is to picture a humble to....). When it happens, and the Six Flags guy is returning kickoffs for TDs, remember you saw it here first…

Friday, November 11, 2005

I need someone to show me the things in life that I can’t find...

Apparently, there are a lot of scary things out there on the web. My friend Eric, who is very savvy about computers and websites, had this to say about my Blue Ball post:

You said you wished you had the time to build the blue ball machine. It kind of makes you wonder why someone would devote hours of their time to build something that intricate doesn't it? It could be that they are just an artist that takes great pride in their work. It could be that they were just really bored. Or perhaps they wanted to create something that was so compelling it would lure folks to the web site to do malicious thing to them. All are equally possible.

There are indications some pride is involved because of the author's comments in the green highlighted section. Is he a hacker trying to earn some respect? Clearly he is bragging because you, as well as countless others, have been lured into directing traffic to his site.

Given my line of work, I am naturally cautious about the motives of an unknown entity on the web. They may be benign, or then again, maybe they aren't.. So, I checked out the source code for this web page. It is cut and pasted below. I want to draw your attention to the yellow highlighted section below.

That section creates an inline frame or IFRAME
( and the frame contains a hidden image size 1pixel by 1 pixel-most probably white. Why would the author do that?

Hidden images can be used for a variety of purposes, but the author gives us a hint what his is used for-voting. See the blue highlighted section. Now the question is: voting on what?

That is a question I have no answer to. Why? The pink highlighted section downloads and runs some unknown JavaScript. Although I am exceedingly curious at this point, without going through additional work I don't have the time to undertake, I cannot get to that source code and analyze it.

The most interesting part of this is: some of the JavaScript this page runs is written in plain text right here in the source code for the page-see the teal highlighted section. Why would the author feel the need to hide some of his code when the rest of it is out there for all the world to see? Is he hiding the code because it is up to no good? Did it scan my machine for vulnerabilities, did it drop some unknown form of malware on my machine, or was the author simply using the code to keep a count of how many folks hit his or her site so more bragging right can be amassed?

I simply won't know without additional analysis I cannot invest at this time; I've already wasted too much time.

But, as I said at the outset, I am paranoid, and we paranoid people love to spread our paranoia. My recommendation: always consider the motivation behind the creation of every web page. Your machine will thank you, and your privacy and security will be better protected.

Paranoia central signing off for now. :-)

All that to say, be careful out there. You never know what surprise might be waiting for you...

btw: Extra credit if you know the reference from the title of this entry.


Apparently, there's a new sport out called Shoot the Cyclist with a Pellet Gun or Paintball Gun. A couple of things to keep in mind if this is your sport of choice, though (from a friend at RBR)...

I just wanted to let you all know about an incident I was involved in a week ago today.

Recently, I equipped my old mountain bike with a set of street/trail
Conti's and a rear rack to minimize the use of my 11 mpg gas hog
pickup truck. Three bucks a gallon in that thing makes going to the
grocery store more expensive than the groceries themselves. Now that my time in the saddle seems to be increasing, I am also seeing a proportionate increase in the hostility against cyclists that we are all painfully familiar with.

Last Tuesday, while I was commuting from my house in Arden to the YMCA in Biltmore Park, I was shot in the back with what is known as an Airsoft BB (or pellet) gun. The passenger of a passing car on Hendersonville Highway fired one off and, as the car kept heading north, laughed as he looked at me in the rear view mirror. I am reminded of a few rules in life that were violated here:

Rule One: Don't shoot bicyclists with guns of any kind.

Rule Two: If you opt to violate Rule One, make sure the cyclist is
not a State Trooper.

Rule Three: If you violate Rule One without regard to Rule Two, make sure it's a fat State Trooper and not one who has just come back from a national track competition and still has kick in his legs.

Details of what followed will not be posted here because of the
pending criminal charges and I don't want to say anything that could provide any excuse for a defense attorney to make a fuss over during any upcoming trial. (I've probably said more than I should already.)

But the long story short is that, because of heavy traffic and a set
of highly motivated legs, I was able to overtake the suspect(s) and
gather enough information to follow up with an arrest warrant for
simple assault.

Simple assault is not a serious charge, but it sure gets the
attention of a set of students from a local high school who never
expected much to come from their mid-morning truancy and risky
antics. I have also discovered that high school principals are not
amused with the prospect of their students bringing weapons of any sort onto the school grounds. This, too, occasionally results in
arrest warrants and expulsion proceedings.

As a closing note, let me advise all of you who may experience
similar assaults that the key to making such a case is not just
getting the license plate number, but also being able to identify the
assailant (and/or driver). I still could have made this arrest
without seeing the driver and his passenger simply because of at
least one set of parents and school personnel that took the matter
seriously. If, like me, you are able to overtake anyone who assails
you or commits some other criminal offense against you, do not lose your temper and commit the assaults that many have told me I should have done. To be sure, what I wanted to do would have resulted in MY arrest and the probable loss of my job. You could also be further injured yourself if things go bad and, ultimately, the criminal charges against your assailant would have to be negotiated to the point of dismissal.

I love this bike....

Just something about it...

Veteran's Day

On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, remember our veterans. Here's one way you can do it.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Oh snap!

This is just plain crazy...but it sure looks like FUN!

The doctor is "OUT"...

For when you go on vacation and you're not sure what to put on your "Out of the Office Auto Reply"...

1. I am currently out at a job interview and will reply to you if I fail to get the position. Be prepared for my mood.

2. You are receiving this automatic notification because I am out of the office. If I was in, chances are you wouldn't have received anything at all.

3. I will be unable to delete all the unread, worthless emails you send me until I return from holiday on 4 April. Please be patient and your mail will be deleted in the order it was received.

4. Thank you for your email. Your credit card has been charged $5.99 for the first ten words and $1.99 for each additional word in your message.

5. The e-mail server is unable to verify your server connection and is unable to deliver this message. Please restart your computer and try sending again. (The beauty of this is that when you return, you can see how many in-duh-viduals did this over and over).

6. Thank you for your message, which has been added to a queuing system.. You are currently in 352nd place, and can expect to receive a reply in approximately 19 weeks.

7. I will be out of the office for the next 2 weeks for medical reasons.. When I return, please refer to me as ' Margaret ' instead of 'Frank'

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

What the...?

It's not that I wish I had invented THIS, so much as I wish I had the time to invent something like this....

Monday, November 07, 2005

Sooooo close....

So I'm watching the New York City Marathon yesterday. After 26 miles and 365 yards, the race comes down to a sprint finish, or what could pass for a sprint after running that kind of distance. In the end, Paul Tergat won, ahead of a stumbling Hendrick Ramaala, by one second. One second. It's the slimmest margin ever for the NYC Marathon.

As I was looking over the page, I also saw the finish times for the wheelchair division. Yes, the wheelchair division. Men and women who do the 26 miles and change with their arms. I REALLY need to get back in shape...

Friday, November 04, 2005

Separated at Birth?

So I was looking at my friend Brad's Blog and I came across this picture of Belarusian Dictator Aleksander Lukaschenko. I couldn't figure out what Dr. Phil had to do with Belarus...then I began to wonder if they were one and the same person?

Think about it. Have you ever seen them together? Me either....

Monday, October 31, 2005

A computer that guesses what you're thinking

Visit this site. This was a little freaky--I was thinking Brown Trout and it came up with Rainbow trout. That's close enough for me when you're talking about a computer guessing your thoughts...

Happy Halloween...

Yours truly, as Dr. Octopus....

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The bells...errrr....jackhammers!

Every once in a while, you see something you just can't believe. THIS is one such thing.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Not even sure....

...what to do with this one. So I'll blog it and move on. Have a nice day.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

11 Angry men figure it out

I was going through my daily CNN reading and in one of those rare ironies of life, the top headlines were too perfect.

The first story was about emabttled former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. It seems they've issued a warrant for his arrest. But what really got me thinking was the story under it. THIS ONE.

I am just picturing the field day Nancy Grace would have with the trial, should Michael be called as a juror in the Tom DeLay case.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


I consider myself a positive, often motivating force, which makes me a target for naysayers and grumps everywhere. Normally, it's easy to brush aside the doom and gloom crew, but occasionally they sneak up on you with humor (that's humour to my Canadian brtohers and sisters). Such was the case with my friend Brad in this post, which I found absolutely hysterical.

For what it's worth, I do find those motivational posters dull and inane. My positive nature doesn't extend to the realm of the banal...with apologies to my friends who have those posters in their offices.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Is it in the Cards?

As a Red Sox and Phillies Phan, I'm long past caring who wins the World Series. At this point, I am just a baseball fan. But, I have to say I've been drawn to the series between the Cardinals and the Astros, in a high-drama baseball kind of way. So, I stayed up and watched the game...all of it. Which is why I have to laugh at my friend Lou, who turned off the game after the Berkman blast put the 'Stros up by two. Or his brother, who, unbelievably, turned the game off when Pujols came up to bat, missing what could quite possibly become the most important single play in franchise history.

Both of them slept through the blast that will make Albert Pujols more of an icon than he aready is. And, let's face it, if the Cardinals go on to win the series, he'll probably be canonized, or something... If it wasn't for the plexiglass at the back of the stadium, the ball could have ended up in Lou's back yard...and he would have woken up today and said, "Who's been playing ball in my backyard?" and thrown the ball in the bin in the garage.

Which brings me to another thought. Every baseball game is 27 outs. Play 'em all. Always.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Weighty fishing issues...

One of the things I love to do is fly fish. The beauty....the majesty...the safety issues of not flyfishing.

I love the picture that comes with this article. One of the things that intrigued me about this was this line:

He is keeping the weight as a souvenir after doctors gave it back to him.

"It's my lucky weight now. I will carry it around with me," said Mr Williams, of Acrefair

When I was about 15 years old, I was running along the beach at dusk on Long Beach Island, New Jersey. My grandmother had a house down there, and I loved to run on the beach. So, I'm running, and I go under this fisherman's fishing pole and he's dragging his line in. As he does this, I feel a slight "bite" in my leg. Thinking it was a horsefly, I gave a quick half-step, to shake it off. It was not a horsefly.

Since it was dusk, the fisherman couldn't see his lure. He had pulled it up and it hit me in the leg. He thought it was still in the surf. When he felt the "tug" he thought it was a he set the hook. I went down in a hurry, the hook buried into my calf. I tried to back it out, but to no avail, as the barbs had bitten into my flesh....deep.

So I decided to go the rest of the way home. One mile. With the hook in my calf (mom always said, "Don't take rides with strangers!"). In what has to be my greatest John Wayne moment (when he was a tough guy, not when he wussed out and named names...) to date, I gritted my teeth and tried to push the barb out the other side so I could clip it. No dice. It was too dull and would not go through the muscle. So I ended up going to the hospital and getting it cut out.

I saved the lure, a Hopkins #4, and use, to this day, as my key chain. My good luck charm, if ever I had one...

5 minute vacation: Not Madison County

My friend Eric posted this link in response to the bridges post. I never knew Malaysia was so beautiful.

Again, check out THIS bridge...another shot, here.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Amazing bridge....

This is the Milllau Viaduct in France. I don't know about you, but I'm fascinated by construction, especially bridges. This one is the cheese!

Great Picturesof the
Project, how do I get my bike on there...

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Thinking about the leather...

We all make mistakes...some of them bigger than others.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Another 5 minute vacation...

This one in our nation's capital...

October...I love it!

Herewith, my predictions for the Fall Classic:

First round of the playoffs:
American League:
Yankees v. Angels: I like the Angels in this match up....I really do.....BUT: That having been said, I think the Yankees will win for two reasons: First, they're the freakin' Yankees. Second, they know if they win the get to either face the Red Sox or say they're better than the Red Sox. That's enough for them.

Boston v. ChiSox: My beloved idiots are trying soooooo hard not to implode. They get by the Other Sox, barely, to face off against the Evil Empire.

National League:
Cards v. Padres: Cards. Please. The Padres should just mail it in, like they did with the rest of their season.

Braves v. Astros: Yeeesh! Tough pick, but you have to believe with their momentum and pitching, the Astros are the team to beat, especially in a short series. Plus, in the end, the Braves are inevitably going to be the Braves. Hats off (AGAIN!) to Bobby Freakin' Cox, who would probably make the playoffs with Helen Keller in left field, and one-armed octagenarian playing catcher. As a Phillies fan, I hate him. As a baseball fan, I respect him immensely.

Boston v. Yankees: BoSox in 6, with just too much firepower.
Astros v. Cards: Astros in 5 with better pitching. Sorry Lou.

The World Series...
Boston v. Astros in the World Series…this is the way it should be: GREAT HITTING against GREAT PITCHING. Give the nod to my beloved Sawks, who've come up big against tough pitching in clutch situations and find a way to claw out on top.

Monday, September 26, 2005

I get a kick...

What's up with the NFL? The toughest guy in the Eagles win over the Raiders is......the kicker, David Akers. He pulls his hammy and still has the guts to come in and finish of the PAT.

I suppose this also means our big mouth is better than their big mouth.

And, for some reason, I love this picture. ANybody who can laugh at himself is all right with me.

Five minutes is all it takes...

I do a lot of high pressure sales, so one of the things I like to do to blow off a little steam is take five-minute vacations. One of the places I do that is here.

The other day, I came across a thread that was sooooo beautiful, I had to post a link. Go ahead--take a five minute vacation.

Just some random stuff....

Rack him...
I thought I was having a bad day, until I saw this poor guy...

Weather or not....
Apparently, our weather has been stolen! I didn't believe it either, until I saw an article about Scott Stevens. An he's a weatherman, so MUST know!

When Irish eyes are smiling...
It looks like my people might be on the right track. I certainly hope so...

Interesting stats...
They say baseball is a game of statistics. Here's one I have NEVER seen:
Researchers charting emergency-room visits in that baseball-crazed city during last year's championship season found that ER caseloads dipped by 15 percent on days with televised, important games -- especially when the Sox were belting home runs and playing well. One more reason for people to be yelling, "Go SAWX!"

You just know...
...this one cannot end well. If they can't even punch a ballot, how in the world are they going to shoot the bad guy?

It's in the tea leaves...
Don't report "unhealthy" news in China. According to this article:
Under the new rules, which went into effect immediately after they were made public by Xinhua, any online news service found to be reporting false or distorted information could be fined up to $3,700.
Ummmmmmm...okay. Government controlled media is a bad thing! If I'm wrong, you can sue me.

Anybody out there making plans for Ramadan...
...might want to consider changing their plans, according to this report.

And remember...
According to my friend Joe, no matter how bad things seem, it could always be worse.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

I thought this was cool....

Cadence Cycling out of Manayunk, in Philadelphia, has a pretty cool intro on their website. Also, according to the New York Times, they're now giving away a month of training with each new bike purchase.

I say, "Well done!" Selling someone a bike and then showing them how to get the most out of it, and REALLY enjoy it, makes great sense.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Hardy, har Harrrrrrgh!

One of my favorite holidays is coming up! No, not Halloween. I'm talking about Talk Like a Pirate Day.Harrrgh...that's right, me mateys!!! On Monday, September 19th I recommend you celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day! This site gives you a boatload of information, including advice, games, and links. Just keep the rum to yourself until after 5 pm.

Monday, September 12, 2005


Some of you are following the story of Tanya, which I started here.

We just received this letter from the church at Krichev:

Tink, hello!

Thank you for your answer. We are glad to receive letters from you.

Tink, you write about Tanya in your letter and we answer for you.

15 September we go for Tanya and try to do holiday for Tanya with big cake!

And we sure thing to give your kiss and your hug.

We ask her about clothes and boots and other.

We think that better if you send from America. Because in Belarus clothes and boots cost very much.

And personal care things we try to give for Tanya. When we meet with Tanya, we will speak about this. We want to help Tanya—your Belarusian daughter.

Tink, our friendship grows and we will know much about each other and Tanya and we will try to help this girl.

First, that we know --- Tanya very loves you. We understand this, when we met with Tanya first time.

We very want that Tanya will love Jesus! And we try to help her in this very important moment--- Jesus love Tanya and Tanya will loves Jesus!

Jesus helps Tanya to live. And we do that we can that Tanya lives better.

Tink, very beautiful to take care about people together!

Tink, we know that give mercy for people are very good for Our Lord!

We know that our meetings with you, with Tanya are God’s will.

We very want to do good and gladly for our Lord!

News from our churches.

Harvest is good. We dry out our harvest and keep in our cellar. In winter we will help people, who need.

Now we more and more work for water project.

And prepare for Christian concert.

We pray and wait new meeting with you!

And we believe that in next year we can to do more for Jesus!

Tink, say for us, please, your birthday? Because in our churches we celebrate every people with birthday. And give little present and pray all for person celebrating his.

In your birthday we want to celebrate you and pray for you.

We think that we are one big FAMILY!

Tink, please, send our best regards for your pastor Mark Webb, for Brad, Don, Jon and all, who pray for us and know us.

Thank you very much for your praying!

Let God Bless you!

Your sister in Jesus Christ Galina at the request of pastor Michail.

09.09.2005. friend's perspective.

Last year I got a call out of the blue on New Year's Eve from my best friend in high school. We hadn't spoken in years, but we picked up pretty much where we left off, in the way that only best friends from days gone by, and occasionally those with the grace of saints, can. He responded to my blog about 9-11 with his own perspective, as an officer in the United States Air Force. Further, he is stationed, with his family, in Shreveport, LA, and while he missed a lot of Hurricane Katrina, they have been touched more directly by the storm. I felt his response was very powerful, and I didn't want it to get lost on the comments page.

Eric Oliver said...
I was at work. A news channel was on in one corner of a nearby conference room. A co-worker was the first to tell me to come see what was on TV.
I went in to see the south tower in flames on some news channel, and I remember sitting there thinking, "How the hell did someone hit that tower? It's perfect flying weather; clear and a million! It had to be someone that meant to hit the tower, there's simply no other explanation..." I also remember watching the flames licking upward and the choking smoke boiling out from all sides and commenting, perhaps to no one in particular, "There is no way anyone above that is going to survive..."
I remember the camera shot was from a long way off. So, it was tough to judge depth--very much the way the pitcher looks like he is almost standing on home plate when the centerfield camera is being used.
As I watched that greatly foreshortened view, I remember seeing a plane seemingly flying from the norteast toward southwest in the background. When I saw it, I thought "huh?!? They haven't stopped air traffic in the area?" I assumed it was inbound for landing at Newark, but it just seemed incomprehensible to me that ATC would be allowing aircraft anywhere near that area in the wake of such a disaster.
I guess something else in the room distracted me for just a moment, and I looked away, but I was suddenly brought back to sharp focus by a reporter shouting "Oh my God! There has just been a tremendous explosion! It appears that there has been another enormous explosion in the tower."
They continued on for several minutes, talking about how this must have been one of the fuel tanks exploding--something they apparently had been discussing as a possibility before I tuned in.
I'm not sure when they or I figured out the truth: we had seen the plane heading into the north tower.
I know I figured it out at some point because I remember calling my wife (who was irritated by something that morning when I called, but I don’t remember what), telling her to turn on the TV, and then telling her I probably wouldn’t be home for dinner that night. My job on Sept 11, 2001 was to do communications planning as a member of Air Combat Command’s Crisis Action Team.
My wife's car was at the shop that day to have its shocks replaced, and it was time to pick it up, so I left work. As I drove, I was listening to an NPR reporter who was talking to another reporter at the pentagon. The pentagon reporter was talking when she was interrupted by the first reporter and asked: “We are just now hearing reports of smoke at the pentagon. Are you seeing any smoke?” The pentagon reporter said “No, everything appears to be normal”, and after a brief exchange, went on with her story. Before she finished her story, she was again interrupted. There were additional reports of fire at the pentagon. Did she see or hear anything? Still the same. Nothing she could see was out of the ordinary. So, she continued. She was another couple of minutes into her story when she abruply stopped, paused for a moment and then said “Okay, we are now getting evacuation instructions over the public address system. Apparently, there is a fire somewhere and we are being told to evacuate.”
I remember continuing the drive thinking, “those towers may fall; that would be disastrous”, and I remember feeling more helpless than I ever want to feel again.
I remember showing up at the shop in uniform and all the attention I attracted. I remember one gentleman saying “I wish I wasn’t so old, so I could sign up and put on a uniform too.” A second said “Every generation has their ‘Pearl Harbor’. This is this generation’s; they’ll have no problem recruiting for the foreseeable future.”
As I drove back toward work, the first tower fell. I heard the NPR broadcast. The reporter sounded as if he was about to cry as he described it all too picturesquely. I figured it was only a matter of time until the second one went too. I found a new, even lower, feeling of helplessness.
At some point that day, I remember hearing that there was still at least one plane that was unaccounted for. I was back at work at Langley Air Force Base, VA by that time, and there were rumors the plane was headed for us: Headquarters, Air Combat Command. It made sense to me. The pentagon had already been hit. The towers had been hit. If you wanted to make a big statement, what would be more fitting than to fly a plane into the headquarters of the mightiest combat air force in the world?
We went to THREATCON DELTA. Security Forces and civil engineers were racing everywhere setting up hasty defenses and hardening facilities as best they could. I was worried, but not scared, and I certainly didn’t feel helpless anymore. If they were going to bring the fight to us, we were at least going to make it a bit harder on them.
After the Flight 93 hit the ground, I was sent home to rest. We were going to 12 hr shifts, and I was going to be pulling the mid shift on the Crisis Action Team that night. I ended up pulling the mid shift for many months after. I didn’t pull my last 12 hr mid shift until March of 2003.
That year and a half of my life is mostly a blur, but one happy moment sticks out in my mind. A few hours into my shift on 13 Sep 2001, an ice cream cake appeared. It was my birthday. I had completely forgotten, but my beautiful wife, Patricia, had not. She couldn’t come into the secure area where we were working, so she had passed it to my boss, Monica Kopf, who surprised me with it. It was a very bright spot at a very dark time.
The story should end here, but it doesn’t. Monica Kopf now lives in Biloxi, MS. She was a commander of a technical training squadron at Keesler Air Force Base on August 29th 2005. She took a direct hit from Katrina. When I finally got hold of her to ask how she was doing, she wrote:

Eric – thanks for the email. Go figure, I’ve lost my house, my motos, my squadron (they sent off all the students) and basically my office because of the fema etc guys…. It’s been an emotional week…. Hanging strong tho’ for the most part – I have some quiet moments where I’m a bit thin on the veneer but…

Kev is great – he evacuated (thank God) and he took the dogs of course. He was going to stay but I couldn’t stand the stress I told him – I couldn’t take care of everyone at work AND worry abt him and the dogs simultaneously.

Take care and thank you!!!!

As I pressed her to find out how she was really doing and what she really needed, she finally wrote:

homebuilders/salvage folks, lawyers for bankruptcy, financial guidance, money/donations.... also people who're willing to help tear out yucky stuff...

if you're willing to come work w/ me clearing my house out, i'll take the help.... the whole place needs to be gutted....

I am going to go down there the weekend of the 17th and try to be the bright spot in her very dark time.
I'll stop hijacking your blog now...thank you for letting me bloviate and purge

The last line is typical of my humble friend. Bloviating? I remember being in the midst of burying my Aunt, and at each stage of the funeral, we would get in the car (after the viewing, the service, the burial, etc.) one more major event unfolded. I was calling in to see if they needed me on the ground for reports anywhere near Philadelphia, or even to go to Washington, but our team was already all over it. When the plane went down near Schwenksville, our team was on the scene immediately.

It all seems like small potatoes compared to what Eric and his brothers and sisters in the armed forces were doing on that day, and continue to do today. I'm sure I speak for all of us when I say "Thank you" for doing the job that you do. I feel a whole lot safer knowing there are people like you out there protecting us, our families, and our nation.

Thank you brother.

Friday, September 09, 2005

9-11....Where were you?

It's one of those questions that every person has a rememberance. I was burying my Great Aunt, who was the matriarch of our family. At each stage of the funeral, more news came forth until it became apparent what was going on. My Aunt was a very firm believer in the Lord, and I think God may have called her home before these events so she didn't have to see them. I also think, if God gave her the power of an angel, she was up there protecting people, or more likely, holding them as they passed from our world to the next. Aunt Clara was like that. She probably had warm cookies waiting at the gates...

9-11 Coming up...

Two interesting thigs came across my desk today.

First was this e-mail:

THE PROGRAM IS THIS: On Sunday, September 11, 2005, please display an an American flag outside your home, apartment, office, or store. Every individual should make it their duty to display an American flag on this fourth anniversary of our country's worst tragedy. We should do this in honor of those who lost their lives on 9/11, their families, friends and loved ones who continue to endure the pain, and those who today are fighting at home and abroad to preserve our cherished freedoms.

In the days, weeks and months following 9/11, our country was bathed in American flags as citizens mourned the incredible losses and stood shoulder-to-shoulder against terrorism. Sadly, those flags have all but disappeared. Our patriotism pulled us through some tough times and it shouldn't take another attack to galvanize us in solidarity.

Our American flag is the fabric of our country and together we can prevail
over terrorism of all kinds.

Action Plan: So, here's what we can do...

(1) Let other people know about this. Take a moment to think back to how you felt on 9/11 and let those sentiments guide you.

(2) Fly an American flag of any size on 9/11. Honestly, Americans should fly the flag year-round, but if you don't, then at least make it a priority on this day.

Second, was the selection of a memorial for this site. My friend Brad rides his motorcycle a lot, and one of the more moving experiences he has ever had was at this field. I get a feeling similar to the one he described when I go here; you can feel the history, you can sense the power of what occurred in these places.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Thanks a Lott

One of the things I have been really worried about for this whole Hurricane disaster is "What will happen to Trent Lott's house? Will he be able to rebuild?" Well, this story has the answer.

"First, we're going to save lives and stabilize the situation," Bush said at the Mobile Regional Airport upon his arrival. "And then we're going to help these communities rebuild. The good news is -- and it's hard for some to see it now -- that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before.

"Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch," he said, referring to the former Senate majority leader who lost his 154-year-old family home in Pascagoula, Miss.

Thank goodness!!! I mean, let's put aside the grammar for a moment (Rubbles????) and consider he has yet to set foot in New Orleans. I have to think it is more than the "liberal media" taking advantage of the situation.

Monday, September 05, 2005


I have resisted writing about the disaster and devastation in Louisiana and the other southern states, in part because I am, like most people, speechless. Many people are equating this to 9-11, and the way in which the two events have awakened the national consciousness are very similar. One of the things that did strike me, though, is the incredible differences between the two events, especially as it relates to the response time of the government, and the general response of the people, especially in New Orleans.

The government has been slow to respond. There a plethora of reasons people are promoting for this, including everything from racism to general ineptitude within the government to a President who, like me, just doesn't know what to say. Regarding racism, I also found this interesting article. Still, the question remains as to why the government has taken so long to get to these people and help them?

Quite frankly, I don't even have the heart to go into the atrocities and general stupidity encountered in the wake of this horrible event. I remember the way New Yorkers banded together to help each other, and the direct opposition to the response of many people in the Katrina disaster just sickens me. There will be stories that come out about how people have supported and saved one another, but for now the news is not pretty.

If gas prices are going down, as per this article, someone should really tell the guy who puts up the prices at my local pump. A very long tunnel, indeed....

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Tri-ing to win

When I was younger, before my sales career, I had the good fortune to work with a lot of students with special needs, both as a counselor and a teacher. In the end, when alll was said and done, they probably ended up teaching me more things than I taught them.

I was pretty impressed with my triathlon experience this year, competing and finishing in less than two hours. The reason I am writing about these two things is because I heard a story the other day about a father who has found the strength to combine his love for his son, who has Cerebral Palsy, with his love of triathlons.

Team Hoyt is one of the most inspirational stories I have seen in a long, long time. It takes a while to download, but it's worth it. Caution: You're probably going to get a little misty-eyed around the 5.45 mark and have to explain it to coworkers. Again, it's worth it.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Ryan Holt: Tough Guy

One of the cool things about the Internet is that it has the ability to bring like-minded people together. Occasionally, "families" (after a sort) are formed and people look after one another. Because I was learning about cycling, one of the places I gravitated was RoadBike Review (commonly and lovingly referred to as RBR).

I have been witness to some amazing things, including one guy who got hit by a car and people started raising funds for his recovery. This is a community that takes care of its own. Occasionally, they take care of people who are not their own. Such was the case with Ryan Holt.

These guys banded together and built a couple of bikes, including this one, then auctioned them off on e-bay to raise money for the family to help Ryan with his battle. On August 24, Ryan's grandparents came from Heaven to show him the way home. These guys have my respect and admiration for what they did for one little boy. Godspeed, Ryan.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Child of God...

One of the things about the schools in Белыничи, Беларусь (Belinichi, Belarus), just like here, is that eventually, the children graduate. Some go to technical school (learning how to paint walls, make dolls, or the like), some are simply turned out, and others are not so fortunate. Such is the story of Таня (Tanya), a little girl who found the heart of one of our team members, Tink, about three years ago.

To hear Tink tell it, she didn’t know if Таня was a boy or a girl when they first met. She was wearing her clothes and had her hair cut in such a way that left the question unanaswered. After spending time with Tink, she began to blossom into a wonderful young girl, and came out of a deep hole. Таня grew each time Tink and the team went back to see her. They are now so close, she calls Tink Mama, and Таня has become her daughter in Беларусь.

Last year, she graduated. She was sent to an asylum, because her “test scores” showed she was mentally deficient. In Беларусь, the asylums are a portrait of hell, something out of Dickens. It is where the worst of the worst go, and they are all lumped in together. When we went to the orphanage this year, and Tink got the news, I could hear and feel her heart breaking. She went to visit Таня and her fears about the type of place she was in were confirmed. She begged Николай (Nikolai, director of the orphanage in , who knows Таня, to make a plea on her behalf, but alas in Беларусь, it is complicated, and that is all…

…only this time, it is not all. Tink continued to wrote to Николай and also wrote to Pastor Mike at the church in Кричев (Krichev) about the situation. This is what Pastor Mike and the church wrote back:

Tink, hello!
We are glad to receive letter from you.
Tink, please, not apologize! We understand all your works and busy, because we work much too.
Tink, history about these Belarusian young women live in our hearts. And we sincerely want help this soul, because she is priceless in eyes of LORD!
Tink, please, write for us her full of name. We will try to visit these young women and take part in her life in a way. We sincerely want to help her.
If Tanya agrees and she will have possibility to come in Krichev, we can help her with home. And she will can visit our church. God can help this young woman.
Let life these woman will be good and spirit.
Tink, we will call in Belinichi and will speak with Nicolaj.
We try to have visit to these woman.
We have good days. Let God bless you.
Tink, please, give for us all news about Jon! And E-mail.
Let God bless America, your family, your church, and all people, who love Jesus!
Krichev church

Then, members of the church in Кричев made the trip to the asylum. After visitng Таня, Pastor Mike and the church wrote this:

Tink, hello!
We have very good news for you!
After my letter for you pastor Michail organized trip to Tanya.
My brother Volodya-driver, pastor Michail and I go to Tanya. We met with Tanya, her friends and 3 hospital nurses and doctor.
Yes, TInk, Tanya is very shy and quiet girl. But Nicolay from Belinichi said that Tanya is aggressive and not predictive girl. But we see quiet and good girl. One, Tanya needs in Mama’s love!
Tanya is girl, who is in corner and not can do her life.
Tink, yes, this place is very, very bad. She has very horrible! Tanya cry and say that she want to be free.
Tink, we think that Tanya gets into trouble. And we must to help her some way.
I speak with nurse and I know that we can take Tanya in Krichev to weekend.
We write statement and get Tanya 2 or 3 days.
Tink, we try to do for Tanya good holidays and give God’s love in her heart.
Only LOVE can to do this girl good woman.
Tink, all we will do for Tanya, you will know, because you are MAMA.
We try to prepare for Tanya place, where she will be good and free and comfortly.
This is not easy, but we try.
Yes, Tanya needs in Mama’s love and care!

Galina at the request of pastor Michail.

They are now making arrangements for Таня, though it is very complicated, to come to Кричев and spend time with the church, and begin to live with the people of the church. In short, they have changed a death sentence, into an opportunity for life.

I consider myself both blessed and humbled to know such people, much less to know they are part of my family…

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Put your best foot forward

I was asked by my company to contribute to the newsletter with a sales column. So, I started my column: Ask the Sales Guy. Here is my first installment.

I have seen a lot of salespeople. I work with them. I meet with them. I see them at conferences. And there’s one thing that always amazes me. A lot of them don’t seem to really think much about how they appear. Maybe you’ve noticed these people too. Maybe you know one of them (if so, feel free to slide this article onto there desk—I’ll take the heat). Maybe you are one of these people...

You only get one chance to make a first impression, but if you do it right, they’ll never forget you. There are a couple of areas that you and I should look at if we want to set forth the right image as sales people. Here are my top 10 ways to make a lasting, positive first impression.

10) I know a guy that says, “Your breath is your oral handshake.” Your teeth—brush them. Also, floss is your friend. So is mouthwash.

9) For God’s sake, get a decent pair of shoes. Actually, get two—one black and one brown. They should be fashionable (if you’re not sure, ask a woman—she’ll tell you) and comfortable. When you buy them, walk directly over to the belt rack and get a belt that matches the shoes in shine and color. Also, get yourself shoe polish and use it. Your shoes should be shined—always.

8) Dry cleaners. They are the people that clean and press your suits. Find one and use them. Please. Rumpled does not make a fashion statement...actually, itt does, but not the one you want to make.

7) Suits should be wool. And clean. And pressed (see number 8).

6) A word about cologne. You know how people say too much of a good thing is NOT a good thing. This is where that saying began. If their eyes water when you walk through the door, they are not going to be able to see the contract to sign it. They cry, you cry: it’s lose-lose.

5) A word about jewelry. Men should wear a wedding band (if they’re married) and a watch. Women should do the same, and can add a simple necklace and a pair of regular earrings. Smaller is better. Look, if they are thinking about shooting baskets through your earrings, they’re not thinking about the sale.

4) Carry a decent pen. I hate when it’s contract time and people whip out a Bic pen. No offense to huge fans of French writing utensils, but you are asking someone to make an investment with you. Show them how much you appreciate it. If they like the pen, leave it with them.

3) Your hair should be clean. And combed. It may be chic and hip to have that Hollywood bed-head look. But you’re not in Hollywood. And, I hope you’re not in bed (if you are, you have bigger problems than this particular column can help).

2) If you’ve had the same look for ten years (OR MORE!!!) it may be time for an update...

1) Look around you. See who dresses sharply. Ask them where they shop. When it is time to shop, tell the salesperson what you do and the type of clothes for which you are shopping. It amazes me how many guys (sorry, it’s mostly us, though) have no clue how to dress, and don’t think to ask the incredibly well dressed guy in the store for help (I blame the secret gene that also keeps us from pulling over and asking for directions). I recently upgraded my shirts (if they look shabby, they’re smocks for the kids). I took my suits with me to the men’s shop, paired up the new shirts and ties, and walked out knowing everything worked. That’s the kind of thing that builds confidence.

I’m not saying that having the right outfit is going to close the sale for you. But, if you look good, you’re going to feel good, and if you feel good, your clients are going to notice you are confident and sure of yourself. If you are comfortable, they will be too. And let’s face it, isn’t that the first impression you want to make?

Friday, August 19, 2005

My daily commute....

I was reflecting on this as some people I know have been commuting or just riding. They've been buzzed, spit on, cursed at and had things thrown at them. I have been so much more fortunate. I still don't get why people think it's okay or cool to mess with cyclists in this way...

I get yelled at every once in a while. I try to think fast and come up with something helpful. A guy in a truck yelled at me this week. As he drove past, I saw he had Marine stickers in his window, so I shouted "Semper Fi!" Might make him think next time, might not...

I got run off the road by a guy pulling out from the left about two weeks ago, so I just yelled "Hey!" He had to stop at the light and I pulled up behind him and said, "Watch the cyclists, please!" in a loud voice. The light turned green and he went through it, then pulled over to wait for me. I'm thinking "Okay, let's see what this idiot wants to do" (I'm not built like your average cyclist: I'm 6 feet tall and go about 195 lbs). I pull up next to him and he rolls down his window....and starts....APOLOGIZING! "Hey man, I'm really sorry I didn't see you back there...."

We had a nice chat and I told him how cyclists have to ride on the road because it's illegal over a certain speed to ride on the sidewalks. He was totally cool and then we went on our separate ways. As he passed me the last time, he gave me a wide berth and a wave. I'm fairly certain he'll keep an eye out for cyclists next time...I'd appreciate it if you would do the same. Thanks.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

He's not bad, he's just drawn that way...

My friend Julie sent me this interesting story from the Moscow News. Everytime I want to complain about our government (read as: daily), I realize how truly fortunate we are. I mean, these guys were arrested for drawing freakin' cartoons.

Still, it's enabled me to be less cynical about the Belarussian government. At least they have identified the problem. It's those out of control kids and their cartoons. I'm sure that is what contributes most to the lack of resources, poverty, despair and rampant cancer rates in the country. Relax, Belarus--things just got a whole lot better.

By the way, as a bicyclist, and a huge fan of irony, I love the sleeves on his shirt in this cartoon--they look like knockoff LiveStrong bands he's wearing. Hey Al! You can find the real ones here, from an organization doing something about cancer.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I come to give you gas...

Gas prices keep going up. I just got this site, which, if you live in PA, might help you find cheaper fuel. All in all, it's enought to make people consider riding their bikes a little more. You remember riding your bike, right?

These guys had a boatload of great experiences and advice, and helped me set up my commute to work. It's ten miles each way, which sounds like a loooooong ride. It's not. Bonus: It doesn't take much longer than driving and it's not half as wooly. And, it reduces my stress, increases my fitness and makes me happier. What could be better than that?

Friday, August 12, 2005

Good morning....

One of the things I realized when I came back from Belarus, and indeed, I think one of the things we all realize when we travel, especially abroad, is how fortunate we are. This often manifests itself in little things. For me, it was the morning after I came home, and I set my feet down on carpeting. It was warm, spongy...soft. It made me appreciate getting up in the morning. It reminded me of something I found a long time ago, from one of my people...

Lorica (Morning Paryer)

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's hosts to save me
From snares of the devil,
From temptations of vices,
From every one who desires me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a mulitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.
Christ shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that reward may come to me in abundance.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation

St. Patrick

Pray for Andy Reid...

He just found out he has a horrible, untreatable disease....

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Welcome Back, boys!

If Leroy Neiman and Hieronymus Bosch were to collaborate on an artpiece, they could do worse than a painting to commemorate today's immortal sports moments. Item 1: Major League Baseball welcomed back artificially enhanced, finger pointing Rafael Palmeiro to the rapidly disintegrating Orioles organization. Welcome back! Item 2: Kenny Rogers had his suspension for assaulting a cameraman shortened by an arbitrator...he's back today to face my Red Sox. Stop me if I'm wrong, but the last time I looked, assault was still a felony in most states. Speaking of felons, this brings me to Item 3: Todd Bertuzzi. Todd, you may or may not recall, crushed an unaware Steve Moore from behind, then slammed him to the ice and broke two of his neck vertabrae. Bertuzzi's back today, with a $5.2 million contract. Sweet.

Moving forward....

Part of why I haven't added to this is because it will all seem so anticlimactic. How do you follow up a trip to Belarus? I suppose I’ll just start writing, which seems a logical place to start/continue, and perhaps find the Divine in the every day of this Suburban American life…it could happen. So, with that, I will forge on. I hope you enjoy the ride.

I just finished a book by Mike Magnuson: Heft on Wheels. Ostensibly, it is about his transformation from fat man to thin, fit guy. It’s an interesting read, but I have some reservations. First, there is no way this guy can be an English teacher. I am certain, he meant for his colloquial style to draw the average-Joe-reader into the world of cycling, but it is often overridden by poor grammar and usage. “Me and him” as the subject…as in, “Me and him went to the store.” He misuses words...example: inertia. Where was this poor man’s editor? Couple that with the often disjointed and clumsy nature of his writing style, and it was a tough read.

And, while the book is about his transformation from fat guy to fit guy, there is little about the process. When the book begins, he’s fat. He starts to pedal furiously. He gets dropped. He pedals more. The next thing you read is his adventures doing Three Mountain centuries (100 mile rides). As a cyclist I was amused by this book, and his coverage of the different aspects of the sport are fun and entertaining. As a fan of the English language (I admire those who use it correctly…I loathe those who do not), I cannot help but think someone should have proofed this before it was sent out to the publisher.

I have also been sorting through some of the pictures from Belarus. Here is one I thought was cool.

Monday, August 08, 2005

My Belarussian Odyssey Part X: Final Day....Saturday July 16th

Time to say goodbye. I was actually doing okay until Оксана и Вика (Oksana and Vica) came up with tears in their eyes. I gave them a big hug and told them to look after each other, because now they were sisters, and it's what sisters do.

We drove out of the orphanage with, of course, Rosa and Mumu, chasing the bus and barking all the way. We circled the orphanage and the kids ran to the far side to see us one more time, and then they were gone. On the way out, we drove over the bridge of the river where we swam, and in the distance, I saw our beach.

I am told that in Russian, there is no word for goodbye. Literally translated, До свидания (Pronounced: Da Svadanya) means "Until we meet again." That's how they do it in Belarus, and it's so much better.

22 hours later, I was in my own bed, with my beautiful wife and my daughter, who was sleeping on my side of the bed, hogging my pillow.

Friday, August 05, 2005

My Belarussian Odyssey Part IX: Friday July 15h

The swingset has been released. We said a prayer at the beginning that everything would fall into place, then got to work. We had to hurry because we only had one day to put the whole thing together. Linda and I measured the holes, then triangulated them to make sure they would be square. Some kids joined us to help on the project, so we had them start digging the holes. I was surprised at how easy it was to dig, and the quality of the soil. It was almost black about eight inches down, and there were little to no rocks in the soil—a sharp contrast to the clay, shale and granite composite of Pennsylvania.

While the kids were digging holes, we began assembling the swingset. We went through a bunch of ideas as to how to build it. The original plan called for a five foot step ladder to be used. The only ladder we had available was a rickety old thing that would never hold the entire swingset (This thing is huge!). We eventually decided to build it upside down, lift it up onto a cart, and then rotate it as we dropped it into the holes (lifting it onto the cart would alleviate some of the pressure on the legs as it was turned into the holes. We dragged a very large tractor cart over to the area. It was no mean feat, even with the kids helping. To top things off, it was also the hottest day of the trip—easily in the mid 90s.

So, we’re struggling to put this thing together, and we’re doing it in a way that was, quite obviously, not intended. The paparazzi recorded our every move, and Brad maintained or escalated his sense of humor, as the situation dictated.

We got the legs attached to the main beam and then it was time to transfer the whole thing to the cart. The more we looked at it, though, the less sturdy it seemed, and the less likely it seemed the set would survive the trip. The legs were just too floppy and, as we rotated it off the cart, all of the weight would be placed on three legs. Surely, they would snap. We made an executive (think: battlefield) decision to put on the crossbraces and hope/pray they were a) strong enough to make a difference and b) level. We put the braces on and then opted to pull crossbraces from a second swingset to further strengthen the assembly for the turning over. We put those on as well, which is good because a major storm was rolling in. I learned another new word: гром (Grom)...thunder.

It was time to roll it over into the holes. We said a prayer that everything would (literally) fall into place without breaking. I explained in my Pigeon-Russian to the kid how I wanted them to push up on the swingset. Jon, Brad and I were at the top of the beams, where they met the crossbar. As it went over, our plan was to run around to the other side of the swingset where it was coming down and basically catch it and guide it into the holes. I counted: один, два, три and up we started...

I was reminded of the scene in the Ten Commandments where they raise the obelisk to Seti (it could have been a Monument to the Great Patriotic War!) and it’s jut going up on the strength of the people moving it…and they hope it doesn’t shatter when they drop it in. IT DOESN’T!!! The legs of the swingset drop in to the holes perfectly. Then, Don takes out a bullet level and puts it on the crossbraces and it is dead center. A direct hit! Meanwhile, the others had similar success in putting together the monkey bars.

As we're doing this, the storm has been coming in fast so we have to get the concrete poured. Only, the box cutters to open the buckets are still quarantined with a bunch of other stuff. I took a breaker bar and busted it open the buckets we had and the kids started pouring cement. It is then that Julie realizes we are short four buckets of cement, which we need to finish the project. There was a gruff, severe looking gentleman (in the middle with the blue shuirt) watching the whole project. He was the head maintenance man (I think) at the orphanage. I made a point of saying good morning to him every day. He would grumble back. This morning, though, I was up early, and as he came in I saw him. He actually said good morning to me before I could get it out. In a cynical way I thought about he chose the very last day we were here to make any effort at friendliness.

So he’s watching the process (and probably thinking, “Those silly Americans”) when he takes a bunch of kids and leaves. So now we have a storm roiling, we’re short four buckets of cement, and the maintenance guy has just taken a good portion of our help. Oh yeah, he took the biggest kids, too. Great! About ten minutes later, he came back with the kid, and the buckets of cement! He walks over to me, puts the bucket down, and walks away, cool as a cucumber (with dill!). He never said a word...just dropped the bucket and walked away. The kids that went with him had the rest of the concrete we needed to finish the project. I don’t know how he got into the quarantined area, what moved his heart to even do so (it’s, at the least, a dangerous proposition to do so), or how he got out with it. I was just grateful he did. We poured the concrete then got a bucket brigade for the water, as it started to rain. I was tightening bolts as the lightning arrived, but I couldn’t help but think God wouldn’t take me halfway around the world, let me go through all of this, then strike me with lightning, before it was finished. In retrospect, rationalizing the mind of God might not be such a great idea. And then it was finished. Brad put our sign on the swingset, from John 15:12..."My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you."

Mom always said, “Put things back where you found them.” I got a bunch of the boys together and we pushed it back to where we found it. These boys are very strong. After everything, it was hard work. That’s okay: Tonight is Disco night!

Little Нина (Nina) asked me to dance with her: very cute. I spent some time with Николай and Миша. The music was really good: Belarussian Techno, which sounds very similar to our own. These kids can dance! It was awesome…and, praise God, no Chicken Polka! Even the tough girls danced with us for a while. Николай and Марина (Blonde Marina) are very good dancers. Николай tried to show me some steps, but my three left feet could not find the rhythm, which amused him to no end. They were all patient in teaching a bunch of clumsy Americans to dance.

The last night is always the hardest. I wanted to give some of my new friends gifts. I gave a Spiderman do-rag to Миша, and my Alaska shirt to Николай. I gave my sunglasses to Рослан . At night, Николай hinge out with us in the room. Other kids were knocking on the door, so I used a falsetto voice of “Olga” to pretend I was a woman and there was no one home. We were laughing as this went on for about 5 minutes, then it abruptly stopped on the other side of the door. There was one more knock and I did the Olga voice again. The voice of Николай the director came through the door…OOPS!!!

We opened the door, but he was busy sending the kids to their respective rooms. He turned and saw our Николай in the room and motioned for him. They had a quick conversation, then he was allowed to stay. It was, in my opinion, the coolest thing the director did the whole time we were there. We hung out with Nikolai (student, not director...I know: it is complicated) for a little while longer, then he went to bed and we talked into the night.

Tomorrow is goodbye.

Thursday, August 04, 2005's been a while.

Life has a way of catching up. I'll be posting more in the next couple of days. If you're anxiously awaiting the next installment, stay tuned...and thanks.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

My Belarussian Odyssey Part VIII: Thursday July 14th

Today was kind of an odd day in that we didn’t have any planned activities. One of the things we did was put the bridle on the horse. We had brought over a tack and bridle system for the horse that carries the wagon around town. They use it for everything, from taxi to dump truck. Carolyn was a little disappointed that it was a little too large, and I understand that, especially in consideration of everything she and Tink put into getting it. That having been said, one thing I’ve noticed is the industriousness of the people here, and their knack for making things work. Further, once they get things working, they keep them working (which makes me hideously aware of the disposability of our own culture). I think he’ll not only have the bridle on the horse and fitting next year, he’ll be rocking with it!

It was hot today. Николай and Миша (Meesha, who has become my left hand man) taught me a new word today: жаркий...Hot! I was getting the idea across while we were putting the bridle on the horse. Николай grabbed my hand and led me across the field (always taking me to new places, new experiences…as well as being my right hand man, he is my Joe Rogan on this adventure). We hopped a fence and walked down a dusty road to a black pipe sticking out of the ground. Attached to this was a second pipe, which Nikolai pushed down as water poured out. He and Миша grabbed a quick drink and then I stuck my head under it to cool off. The boys thought about for a second, then they did the same thing, while I pumped the water. Julia asked me to stick my head under the water again so she could snap a pic---I suppose the water was coming up from the belly of the earth, because when I stuck it under the faucet again it was FREEZING—take-your-breath-away-and-shrivel-your-head-freezing!

Then we had a break for lunch and Tink had a funny thought. In беларусь, apparently, the easiest vegetables to grow are cucumbers and tomatoes and the easiest spice to grow is dill. They put dill on everything. If they don’t put it on something, they put it in it. So Tink began calling it, "Our Daily Dill…"

After lunch, it was still hot, and the kids wanted to go плава—swimming. I had heard it was a long walk, but who cares. Brad and I said "плава?" to a couple of kids and they ran through the place, telling their friends. We had about 20 kids and started walking toward the river. One of the things I love about Brad is I can say, "Let’s go swimming" and he doesn’t even think about. He just says, "Okay, let’s go" and off we go. So Brad and I are walking out with the kids and we are stopped by a teacher who starts pulling out kids, at random and telling them to get back to the orphanage. It seemed kind of random, so I asked what was up and the teacher said "не плава"...she was pulling out the kids who could not плава. Brad and I quickly agreed it would be a good idea if they did not go along on this particular outing.

On the way to the swimming hole, we passed a guy building his own house. He had built a form out of two to four inch wide boards and was pouring the cement into the form. Then, he was smoothing it with a trowel. We also came to the top of a huge hill. The kids apparently have a tradition of running down it as fast as they can. Some of them did it, then started shouting, "Rob! Rob!" which is the Belarussian equivalent of, "I triple dog dare you!" So I did it, and it was GREAT!

We walked across a huge open field and came to the riverbank. The kid got down to bathing suits, a couple to underwear, and started jumping in. I put on Jon’s swimming shoes he had loaned me and also jumped in. The water was cool, but not cold. When I put my foot on the bottom, stuff crunched a little—glad I had the shoes. Some of it felt organic, but I got the feeling some of it was not. Рослан (Rooslan, pictured here with Linda) dove to the bottom (the river was about 5 ½ feet at its deepest) and brought up some sizable river clams. We swam for some time, then Brad and I took turns throwing some of the kids into the river. The older boys were squatting down and getting on each other’s shoulders, then jumping up and launching them. It was the purest kid experience of my stay in Belarus: no pretension, no fear, no guardedness…they were just a bunch of kids, swimming in a river. It was absolutely beautiful in its simplicity, and it remains the favorite thing I did with the children on this trip. Walking back to the school, I said to Brad, "You know, swimming in that river probably knocked about a year off my life. But it was so worth it."

When we got back it was time for dinner, then the kids had their nightly meeting. The meeting consists of the kids getting together in groups of their peers, with their teachers. They stand in a three-sided square while Tatiana stands at the open end and recounts the day. The kids motioned for me to come over and I stood in with the older kids like I was one of them. Tatiana looked at me, smiled, then started the meeting. It lasted about 5 minutes or so. I noticed Elena (our translator) in the corner of the room and, after the meeting dismissed, and I had said goodnight to the kids, I asked her what had been said.

She explained it was a review of the day, and they go over what happened as well as which kids have behaved and which have not. Tatiana had also said that it had come to her attention that a bunch of kids had gone to the river to go swimming without the knowledge or permission of the teachers. She stated, "this is not allowed and will not be time." Adding, in effect, "I hope you had fun" she sent everyone on their way with a wink, wink and a nod, and we were all off the hook.

Word has it the swingset will be released tomorrow. The government officially quarantined it because, when we provided a list of everything going over, we did not account for each and every nut and bolt that holds the swingset together…it is very complicated…. So we will have one day to put up the swingset and pray it all works out.