Saturday, June 28, 2008

Our newest family member

I meant to post this as part of the "Friday Cat Blogging" trend but the place where I store my photo files seems to have died (again!). So I had to establish a new place for the photos.

This is Zaphod. I award extra points for folks who catch the reference although that's costing me a LOT in points. It's not nearly as obscure as I thought. Which is kind of cool actually.

Zaphod is a long hair (sigh, not my choice. My two ladies picked her out and didn't check) all black kitten. I knew I was in trouble the day I picked her up. She was climbing the inside of the cage at the SPCA. Then when she was safely in her cat carrier on the way home she attempted to tear her way OUT of the cardboard carrier. No piteous mewings, no anguished yowlings. Just claws and teeth and full length extensions of paw and limb through the air holes looking for somethig to grab.

Since she's gotten home she's displayed all the usual kitten energy. Plus an absolute mania for climbing. Not just the usual though. She climbs like a lumberjack, wrapping her front paws around the newel posts of the stairs or even the door frames and kicking her way up. She's gotten well over five feet up the door frame several times. I have no idea where she thinks she's going. Fortunately she likes the scratching post I built for her (pretty spiffy if I do say so myself. Hand wound with 100 feet of sisal rope)

Our senior cat Amidala is less than amused by all this energy. Ami never had much of a kitten's sense of whimsey even when she was a kitten. Now she's a grumpy old dowager barely tolerating this tasmanian devil of activity. But no blood. Ami growls and swats when Zee gets too much for her. They've made peace at the food bowl so that's good.

It keeps life interesting for us all. Zee likes to announce her joy of life to me by rubbing, purring and licking my face each morning. Usually around 4 AM. I may be the one to draw blood.

Oh and a note on black cats. Black cats are a tradition in my family started by my father. We only had black cats all the years I grew up. They remain my favorite. I was very disappointed when we adopted our last two because there were none to be had at the SPCA.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Supreme Court Decision

It's the end of session for the Supreme Court and they're cranking out some big ones as per usual.

One from a day or so ago has been sitting with me. It was the ruling that said that
"the death penalty is not a proportional punishment for the rape of a child."

Man, I had a split reaction to that. I do support a carefully applied use of the death penalty. It is not a position arrived at lightly and it is one that I hold with a certain ambivalence. The concept of state sponsored murder doesn't sit well with me. On the other hand society needs to hold that ultimate punishment as a possibility for the worst crimes. That is my belief. As I said it comes with a certain burden of ambivalence.

So surely the rape of a child MUST qualify as among the worst crimes that it possible to commit. The court's logic that only death of the victim raises the crime to the level of capital punishment falls short for me. My heart cries out and my mind echoes the cry. While the murder is a terrible thing it is one with an end. It is a finite event. The results of rape go on long after the criminal "act" has been completed.

There are two other arguments that I find somewhat more comfortable. First that there is no overwhelming societal consensus on the issue. In fact quite the opposite. There is only a handful of states that have such a law and virtually no one other than the plaintiff in this case who has been sentenced for the crime. In fact no one has been executed for the crime of rape of a victim of any age since 1964. Capital punishment for the rape of an adult victim was ruled out by the Court in 1977.

The most compelling argument came from a surprising corner to me, advocates for children. They did not even the possibility of the death penalty because it would diminish the already minimal reporting of the crime. Sadly the most common perpetrator is a family member or close friend. People are more likely to turn in such a person even if they faced life in prison but are less likely if the death penalty is involved.

In the end I find myself resting uncomfortably with a decision on the death penalty. As a minister to young people my first impulse to protect those kids and yes sometimes at any cost. As a person of faith I am called to a path of redemption which can not be followed if the person needing it is dead. Politically I am concerned when the state has the authority to take the life of a citizen.

In the end we live in a broken world. I can only do what I can to make it work as best as it can.

Prayers for our Justices, for our children and for those whose lives have been so broken that they prey on children.


Monday, June 23, 2008

RIP George Carlin

There's a small handful of comedians that I would go back and listen to year after year. Bob Newhart, Bill Cosby, Cheech and Chong (so sue me! They did some classic stuff that blew me away when I was in junior high) and George Carlin. At the very top for me were Cosby and Carlin. Each a classic story teller. Each with a sharp eye for the ridiculousness of every day life. Cosby was comfortable, Carlin had an edge.

George Carlin died yesterday at age 71. Comedian, actor, author. I was amazed later in life when I realized that he had not always been the counter cultural hippie comedian that I had grown to love. Prior to that Carlin had been a big name as a very mainstream comic. The photos of those early days with the short hair and the tie and suit always look wrong to me. Carlin for me would always be the Hippy Dippy Weather Man(which is actually from that earlier period) and all the stuff from "FM and AM", "Toledo Window Box", "Class Clown", "Occupation Foole" and more. What appealled to me was Carlin's love of words and word play. For all the youth who are sick and tired of me with all my word play I'm afraid they probably have to blame George Carlin (jumbo shrimp, military intelligence). At the center of it all was his amazing (to me at the time) and landmark routine "Seven Words You Can't Say on TV" also referred to simply as "Seven Dirty Words". For the boy in white bread Middle America it was astounding to hear an ADULT talking like that. That routine eventually landed at the Supreme Court after it was broadcast on the radio.

After 1981's "A Place for My Stuff" I found Carlin harder to listen to. His act went from having an edge to an anger and bitterness that I didn't find attractive or funny. You'll find a 10 minute bit on YouTube of him taking on religion. I'm not blind to nor am I silent about the failings that religious institutions and we religious folk have been heir to over the years. I'm just not sure I see the humor in what becomes a long diatribe against what I believe. Carlin was not a believer. That's fine. Calling me stupid (and that's the NICEST thing he calls religious people in the clip. The language is rough be warned. Carlin was never afraid to use all the words he knew) for ten minutes isn't the kind of comedy I enjoy. Plenty of people still seemed to like him and every once in a while I'd catch a bit of stuff that reminded me of the older Carlin. We needed his wicked rapier strikes at the shortcomings of our culture. As his life went on Carlin seemed to despair of the entire race.

Of course he was also the first host on Saturday Night Live, had many top rated HBO specials, appeared in movies as different as "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure", "Dogma" and "Cars". Plus he was "Mr. Conductor" for several years on the children's show "Shining Time Station".

Addition to the original postI was reminded in the comments that I had a close encounter with Carlin a few years back. To help my brother celebrate his incipient decrepitude we had gone to Las Vegas. As we walked down the Strip birthday boy suddenly nudged me and said "Did you see who that was?". Glancing around I only saw some old dude with a gray pony tail and a baseball cap. I shrugged and said I didn't see anybody. Turns out the pony tail belonged to George Carlin who was working at the very casino we were passing (the Flamingo I think). A very cool moment for me. Thanks for the reminder!

He was a complicated and difficult guy in many ways. Without that he wouldn't have been George Carlin. I wouldn't mourn his passing so much.

George's questions about God have finally been answered. I hope they can figure it all out together.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

I fall down now

Well the big day came today and I survived. The first of what I hope is several "loops" of the lake near where I live. The whole thing is about 41 miles with lots of hills of varying difficulty. Turns out only two of us were planning on doing the whole loop (wimps) but the other guy was obviously in a lot better shape than me. The good news (?) was he was recovering from knee surgery and needed to "take it easy". Excellent.

I'm quite happy to report that there were no major difficulties along the way. We made very good time (setting a personal best at 4 hours). The biggest problem came at the end when I had a small equipment problem. It seems this little monster, known as the front derailleur, was slightly out of alignment. It seems a small thing right? Well the function of a front derailleur is to move the chain on the front gears. because of the misalignment I couldn't get into my 5 lowest gears. Which are extremely valuable when climbing hills. And the steepest hills are on the last leg of the loop. I managed to negotiate the hills without too much difficulty but by the end my legs had had it. I wasn't quite sure I was going to make it up the last incline to the parking lot. But I did. All because the derailleur couldn't move another quarter inch. It's an easy fix that I wish I'd caught earlier. Sigh.

Today marked the debut of our visiting clergy from Wales. Fr. Noel Carter and his wife Wendy joined us for the first of four Sundays while our regular rectors, Fr. Eric and Mother Susan, are in Wales, then England then France. A long distance pulpit swap. Fr. Noel's sermon was quite good and they seem very nice. So we're working hard to make them feel at home. We hope Eric and Susan (and the girls) are having fun. But not too much fun.

One week to Senior High Conference. Am I ready?

I'll assume that's a rhetorical question.

Must sleep now.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

And now back to the usual silliness

Thanks to Grandmere Mimi for this one

Could You Pass the U.S. Citizenship Test?

The folks at MSNBC give you the chance to see if you could do it. From the site:

When immigrants want to become Americans, they must take a civics test as part of their naturalization interview before a Citizenship and Immigration Services (INS) officer. The questions are usually selected from a list of 100 sample questions that prospective citizens can look at ahead of the interview (though the examiner is not limited to those questions). Some are easy, some are not.

I took the test and scored a 95% The one I missed doesn't surprise me at all (Question 19 which is about INS procedure. No doubt the folks who really take this test are familiar with it). So I would certainly pass this step in seeking my citizenship. Honestly other than question 19 which I took a total guess at the questions should be pretty simple. There was one question (#8) that gave me pause. Everything else was either obvious or easy to figure out.

So I throw down the gauntlet. See if it's as easy as I think it is. I missed one question. How 'bout you?


Sunday, June 15, 2008

And now for equal time...

A few days ago I wrote about a kind of mid-life crisis I've been having. Questioning what I've done with my life so far and the value of what I've accomplished.

In the days since I've been confronted again and again with little reminders about the other side of that coin. The comment posted on the first post, an e-mail, a message in the parish newsletter and last but certainly not least my rector's sermon today! With the exception of the comment none of them were direct responses to the post.

Coincidence? Or is someone up there trying to tell me something? Hmmmmmmmm.

So just to make sure that you don't think that I believe my life to be an utter waste and desolation let me talk about the positives in my life:

My wife. My friend, wife, partner, soul mate and advisor for over 30 years. We've gone through diagnoses of 3 chronic illnesses, one chronic condition, viral meningitis, several massive infections, two hip replacements, two periods of unemployment, a child born 2.5 months premature followed by 20 years of parenthood. We've lived in three different areas but have moved 8 times in 26 years. At the end of it we're still madly (my daughter would say nauseatingly) in love with each other.
I count that as a success(especially given my generations overall track record. In which case it's a world class success)

My daughter. Let's see. She's smarter than I am, more talented than I am, she's funny and articulate and brave. She's travelled more widely than I did at that age (or any age until very recently). The kid has been a wonderful child and is turning into a great adult who I hope will be my friend. Apparently my parenting skills are not so wretched that I screwed her up. Count that as a success.

Career - I've been blessed that with two careers at which I've had success. It's been my honor to work at things I care passionately about. For over 19 years I was a radio personality. Most of that time I was the morning man (at two different stations). I also wrote copy and did the news, recorded spots, chose music, did sports play by play and color, had my own talk show for a year, was the afternoon drive show three times and finished up in management. I worked hard, tried to be fair and gave my best every day. After that career ended I went to work as a youth minister. While I haven't succeeded at everything I've wanted to I'm not ashamed of what we've done. I've seen God move in the lives of my young people and I've had some small part in that process. I was able (with the help of some other gifted youth ministers) to re-start the youth ministry network in my province. I've worked at the local, diocesan, provincial and national level of my church and been respected at each one. Most of the people I've worked with have been sorry to see me leave.

I'm a pretty good photographer, a fair writer, not a bad singer. I'm learning to play guitar (oh so slowly!). I've biked up to 50 miles in a day after I was 40 years old (I'll do 42 more a week from today). I can fix things around the house that don't need to be re-fixed. I've designed theater scenery and built it. I've been the lead in a variety of stage plays over the years and done supporting roles too. They cheered at the end each time. I've learned something new every year of my life and there's no plan to stop that.

As my commenter(who I'm pretty sure is my brother) said I've had some adventures, things I'd never willingly give up. Not for just about anything. And I'm not dead yet.

I'm hard on myself. Always have been. At my last job review a couple years back I was marked down in only one area "Sets goals too high". My motto has always been "Good Enough, Isn't". I doubt that's going to change. God has given me gifts. I don't want to be the guy who buries his treasure to keep it safe only to have God say "But you were supposed to make it grow, stupid".

My parents always told me they were proud of me. That was important. I never wanted to let them down. I still don't. I don't want to let my brothers and the rest of my family down, I don't want to let my wife and daughter down. I don't want to let my friends down. I want them all to be proud to know me.

And yes I don't want to let God down. I want him to be proud of me too.

I'm afraid I'm stuck with my own high expectations. But it's good to remember that this has been a good life. That I've done things I can be proud of. That other people think well of me.

And that'll do.

For the moment. LOL!


Friday, June 13, 2008

So what to do?

I'm going to confess (in short form) something that has been troubling me. I know at face value it sounds silly and perhaps shallow but it troubles me deeply. In simple terms it is this:

This is not the life I thought I was going to live.

Don't get me wrong. In some ways this is a much better life than I could have imagined. The imagination of an 18 year old or 22 year old really isn't up to the task of understanding what life at 30 or 40 or 50 is like. Since I'm surprised at what 50 has turned out to be I'll admit that I probably don't have the imagination to forecast what 60, 70 or 80 may be like.

The problem is that in some ways this life has been very much less than I had dreamed. My lady wife's illnesses has had a serious negative effect on the shape of our married life. It's affected career choices even though without it I probably never would have taken on my current job as a youth minister. So there is both good and bad.

But I had a vision. A vision of who I would be and what my condition in life would be by the time I turned 50. The opportunities I'd be able to give to my wife and child. And yes the things too. Don't read me that sermon, I know the words. In the end this is what I face:

I'm never going to own a house.
I'm never going to be able to treat my wife to the things I dreamed of.
I will not do better than my parents.
I'll be damn lucky to do as well.
It's quite possible that I will never be able to retire and enjoy the things my parents did.
If I'm lucky I won't leave my daughter any debts. The chances that I'll be able to leave her any kind of inheritance rapidly approaches zero.

Let me be honest. While my life falls well short of failure it strikes me as being resoundingly like mediocrity. And in my heart mediocrity IS failure.

I know my wife disagrees. She's told me so.
I know my daughter disagrees. She's told me so.
I'm sure folks who know me will tell me I'm being stupid or silly (again).

And I'm sure you're all right.

And I still feel like I've let my gifts down. I've let my family down. I've let myself down.

And I don't know what to do with this feeling. I've talked with my wife about it. I knew she would be hurt by some of it (and she was. And she's forgiven me already because she's entirely too good for the likes of me).

This isn't the life I thought I was going to live. I'm not sure who I'm supposed to be at this point in my life. It has been noted before that I tend to expect a lot (some have even said too much) of myself. But I've been given several large gifts (I don't think that's my ego talking. I base that on what I've been able to do) that I don't think I've fully used.

I don't know. The longer I type the stupider I sound even to myself. Maybe what I see as mediocre is just normal. And maybe I'm just normal.

But that's not what I expected.


Friday, June 06, 2008

Movie news

I've bumped up against an idea several times now which probably means I need to do something with it. At our last diocesan staff meeting we were talking about increasing our usage of video (YouTube, etc). Our communications director had been to a meeting with Father Matthew Moretz from Rye, NY. If you've not seen "Father Matthew Presents" it's worth your time to take a look. Check out the "Father Matthew Channel" at YouTube. Serious subjects approached with a little tongue in cheek. It's been a fairly amazing response. In less than two years his channel shows just shy of 50,000 views.

So here I sit with a degree in Theater, decades of radio work, fully comfortable with public speaking and script writing and an office full of cameras and video editting software. Hmmmm, think someone is nudging me a little bit? So I have to think about what that may mean for me.

In real movie news let me finally get around to my review of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. First let me say I enjoyed it. I have a great appreciation for the tradition that Spielberg and Lucas are honoring with this series. It's the old movie serials of the 1930s through the 1950's. It's action, adventure, outrageous villians and equally outrageous escapes. And this one does all of that. While not as good as either Raiders of the Lost Ark or Last Crusade it is better than Temple of Doom. ToD always suffered from over cuteness (Short Round) and a female lead with whom there was ZERO chemistry (Kate Capshaw). The biggest negative in this one is Cate Blanchett (maybe it's a Kate/Cate thing) as the villain. She's simply awful. One dimensional, flat and uninteresting. Really bad.

I've been interested in the very negative response from a lot of Indy fans especially with regard to the aliens from outer space. Somehow the complaint seems to be that this makes the movie less "believable". Which only makes me wonder if some folks aren't taking this whole thing a little seriously. Indy is older and wiser (he gets it right with Marion this time!) The script (which is a little uneven) tips it hat to many of the top icons of the time period, the 1950s. The Bomb, motorcycle gangs and UFOs. These movies aren't about believability, they're about over the top fun. And this one delivers. Plus they seem to be setting up for a possible baton pass to the next generation. We'll see if Shia LeBouef can carry the franchise.

Double Happiness This is a neat "little movie" from Canada. I have this whole category of "little movies". They're not made with a big budget, they usually have lesser known actors or actors better known for supporting roles in lead roles. And they are often wonderful discoveries. "Double Happiness" is the story of a Chinese-Canadian woman trying to find the balance between the new world life she wants and the old world life of her family. It's not always easy, it's often funny and it was fully worth the 87 minutes of run time. The star is Sandra Oh, best known from her role on TV's "Grays Anatomy". I'm reminded of my other favorite "little movie" Crossing Delancy

Ok that's it for now. Gotta figure out my own video calling.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Time to be gracious

Here's another reason why I'm grumpy. But this only contributes a little bit.

Congratulations to the Red Wings and their fans. It was an amazing Stanley Cup Final with some absolutely incredible hockey. It had pretty much everything that is not only good but great about the sport. Some astounding goaltending, wonderful virtually non-stop action, great hitting, come from behind action and tension literally to the final second of the final game.

I'm very proud of my Penguins. They never quit. They were facing the best hockey team of the last decade, playing at the top of their game. The Red Wings were smothering. At times it looked like they were on a permanent power play with at least one more player on the ice than the Pens. The Penguin's stars were largely shut down and STILL the Pens refused to pack it in. They were in it till the clock ran out (even if that took FOREVER in game 5!!!)

The Penguins were good. Really good.

The Red Wings were great.

Hail the victor!

A Horrible day so far...

Came in to the office this morning, fired up the computer and Firefox my trusty web browser won't work.

Actually it's spent the morning claiming it WAS working but that I just couldn't see it.

I've spent most of the morning at as many of the Mozilla help sites as I could find. None of them seemed to solve the problem. I've done everything I can think of doing, re-booting, going to a restore point (everything worked fine on Tuesday), deleted the profiles.ini file, finally broke down and deleted the program. Re-installed the program. Did several steps over again. Nothing.

(Thank God I had Opera as a back up.)

Finally got access to the Profile manager which let me get in under a default profile. Sadly it appears that several years worth of bookmarks are in the wind.

I can't imagine what happened yesterday that would cause this. The laptop went home with me to do some work, I couldn't connect to my home wireless network (still can't although my daughter can on her Apple laptop)and fiddled with some of those settings but using Restore should wipe those out.

I'm really angry about losing all those bookmarks. I'm hoping that since profile manager seems to believe my old profile is still here I might be able to snag them. Otherwise...

I'm going to be grumpy for the rest of the day.

Very, very grumpy.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

What Sci Fi character are you?


A venerated sage with vast power and knowledge, you gently guide forces around you while serving as a champion of the light.

Judge me by my size, do you? And well you should not - for my ally is the Force. And a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us, and binds us. Luminescent beings are we, not this crude matter! You must feel the Force around you, everywhere.

Yoda is a is a character in the Star Wars universe. More Yoda information is available at the Star Wars Databank.

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?