Monday, December 31, 2007

Appeal to vanity?

While some option packages are worthwhile, others are a means to appeal to a buyer’s vanity. These vanity type of items frequently are costly and add little driving value, particularly on high end vehicles. Yet people keep buying them, even when you could buy another car for the price of the package.

Here are the most costly option packages on the market. Are they worth it? You decide.

Price: $16,900
Porsche 911 Carrera S and Carrera 4S

Option: X51 Carrera Power Kit

For more than the cost of a new Volkswagen Jetta, buyers of the Porsche 911 Carrera S or Carrera 4S can boost engine output with the X51 Carrera Power Kit. Thanks to modified cylinder heads, a sport exhaust system, and a revised intake system, power is increased by 26 hp to 381 hp, resulting in a 4.5-second 0-60 mph sprint, 0.2 seconds faster than without the option.

Price: $14,070
Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG
Option: P30 AMG Performance Package

Die-hard Mercedes-Benz SL-Class enthusiasts who already are spending more than $130,000 can shell out an extra $14,070 for the chance to reach a top speed of 186 miles per hour with the P30 AMG Performance Package — that's 31 mph faster than a "regular" SL55 AMG can muster. The package includes a limited-slip differential for increased traction, recalibrated Active Body Control suspension for improved handling, and 19-inch AMG twin-spoke alloy wheels.

Price: $14,000
BMW 7 Series
Option: Individual Package

The highlight of this customization package is BMW's five-layer Xirallic paint that gives the 7 Series' finish a breathtaking intensity. The interior is completely wrapped in high-quality Merino leather.

Price: $12,570
Lexus LS 600h L

Option: Executive Class Seating Package II

The Lexus LS 600h L has a seating package that transforms the back seat into a luxury lounge. The Executive Class Seating Package II offers multi-function massage capabilities, a wooden work table, and a rear-seat refrigerator. The seating package also comes bundled with Lexus' hands-free parking system (executives are usually too busy to park themselves) and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Price: $12,000
Lexus LS 600h L
Option: Premium Package II

The Premium Package II is focused upon high-tech content for the LS hybrid. It features Lexus' Advanced Parking Guidance System, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Driver Attention Monitor, and a pre-collision system that helps prevent accidents by keeping tabs on surrounding vehicles, lest they come near the $100,000-plus hybrid.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Joe Paterno

The Dean of college football is undoubtedly Joe Paterno. I for one have thought he should have gracefully retired five to ten years ago. Yet the age of 81 he continues to coach and produce very competitive teams. Given his record and his contribution to Penn State I have also felt that he should choose the date of his retirement rather than being forced out.

This will be Paterno’s 500th game as head coach at Penn State. This is a laudable achievement. To put it into perspective, since he became head coach at Penn State 42 years ago, there have been 816 head coaching changes in NCAA Div I teams.

On Saturday Penn State and Texas A&M will be playing each other in the Alamo Bowl. In all the build up to bowl games are a series of pep rallies. At one rally Thursday night a student pep leader told the crowd the Paterno was “on his death bed.” He went on to joke with the crown that “someone needs to find him (Paterno) a casket.”

Such comments are not funny. Also, they are disrespectful. A&M has sent the spirit leader home. The President and Athletic Director of A&M have issued apologies to their counterparts and Paterno. The grand old coach took it all in stride by saying, "Some young guy went up there, trying to be funny. Maybe he's accurate, I don't know."

My heart was warmed when the report noted that the Texas A&M students and alumni recognized that the spirit leader was out of line with his comments and shouted him down with boos. These partisan fans immediate response speaks volumes.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to one and all from Evie, Dave, Josh, Jonathan and Maggie. Following are pictures from today as part of our holiday greeting. The first is the fire we enjoyed while opening our gifts.

Again, Merry Christmas to one and all.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Oakton Holiday Concert Tradition

Thursday night was Oakton band’s the holiday concert. One of the traditions at the holiday concert is after Symphonic Band has finished that Concert I and II come to the stage to form one large band. Alumni and those in junior high who will be attending are Oakton are also invited to play (they receive emails telling them to bring their instruments). Together they play two items, one of which is Sleight Bells.

Below are pictures of the combined group that fills the whole stage. For the first time Jonathan was able to attend and sit by his brother.

The young lady to the left of Josh is on a softball scholarship at Harvard. Go up the trombone line a little further (second and third past the girl in a Santa hat) is another two brothers, one is in Concert band and the other is in Junior High.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Where's Josh This Summer

Two weeks or so ago we learned of Josh’s summer schedule (italic print is locations somewhat near family):

May 30-June 11 – San Antonio, TX
June 12 – Fairfax for Oakton graduation
June 13-15 – San Antonio, TX
June 16-19 – on the road to Ohio

June 21 – Toledo, OH
June 22 – Dublin, OH
June 24 – Belding, MI
June 26 – Oswego, IL
June 28 – Madison, WI
June 30 – Erie, PA

July 1 – Fort Edward/Glenn Falls, NY
July 2 – Beverly, MA
July 3 – Bristol, RI
July 5 – Giant Stadium (Rutherford, NJ)
July 7 – Chesapeake, VA
July 9 – Columbia, SC
July 12 – Orlando, FL

July 15 – Ocean Springs, MS
July 16 – Lafayette, LA
July 17 – Dallas, TX
July 19 – San Antonio, TX
July 21 – Denton, TX
July 22 – Wichita, KS
July 23 – Pittsburg, KS

July 26 – Atlanta, GA
July 28 – Sevierville, TN
July 30 – Warrenton, VA (near home)
July 31 – West Chester, PA
Aug 2 – Allentown, PA
Aug 3 – Hershey, PA

Aug 5 – 9 – Indianapolis, IN for the World Championships

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Sobering Matter in the Season of Peace and Joy

We recall stories of religious charlatans of past ages preying upon the vulnerable and uninformed. The famous “Witch Hunts” of by-gone eras cause us to shiver while moments later we breathe a sigh of relief that that was in the distant past and that they do not happen anymore.

In this season of joy and peace, the following is most sobering. Children in Nigeria are being beaten, abused and abandoned by the hundreds every month in the name of Christ. The claim is that these children, some are infants, are witches.

Here is a quotes from the article: “Pastor Joe Ita is the preacher at Liberty Gospel Church in nearby Eket. 'We base our faith on the Bible, we are led by the holy spirit and we have a programme of exposing false religion and sorcery.' Soft of voice and in his smart suit and tie, his church is being painted and he apologises for having to sit outside near his shiny new Audi to talk.”

In a second quote the pastor justifies his actions: “'We know how they operate. A witch will put a spell on its mother's bra and the mother will get breast cancer. But we cannot attribute all things to witches, they work on inclinations too, so they don't create HIV, but if you are promiscuous then the witch will give you HIV.'”

From this link you will read that thousands of children have been
abandoned, tortured and killed by their Christian parents and pastors. These heinous acts are being perpetrated by evangelical Christians in the name of Christ! Innocent children are being blamed for normal unfortunate things that happen in life. They are being blamed for droughts, job losses, accidents, illness and disease. Can you imagine the terror and confusion these children suffer as they try to understand why their parents hate them enough to beat them, abandon them or even try to kill them. As you will be aware from other postings I am deeply dismayed by spiritual abuse issues, and this story is a prime case of blatant and subtle spiritual abuse on so many levels.

I recognize that I am so far removed from the situation that I cannot intervene and take a discarded child or two or thee into my home. I recognize that this is another country and another culture. Yet I cannot help but raise my lonely voice and raise questions. Though this spiritual abuse in its most extreme form has been going one for years, where is the outrage from our religious press? A great cry goes out about The Golden Compass and emails fly forth about the Church being threatened by a children’s tale, yet there seems to be utter silence on this horrendous tragedy.

Where are the voices of our Church leaders around the world calling people to pray for the children and to give money to help provide care and comfort for these children? The essence of my humanity cries for these children and I cannot just say, “That’s too bad but there is nothing I can do.” Our faith tradition believes in the importance of prayer, but it also believes in the value of action and social justice.

I will do what I can. First, to draw their attention to the issue I am going to email a copy of this blog to my COs and Divisional Commander. Second, I am going to try to find an agency that is providing shelter, food and education to these victims of spiritual abuse and for the next year send them a monthly gift.

Third, I am challenging each reader of this blog a question, what are you going to do to help draw attention to this disgrace to the attention of others?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Compass Foolishness

Over the last two weeks evangelical leaders and pastors across the country across the country have blasted out emails to their congregants and friends warning their membership not to see the about to be released The Golden Compass. It is decried that in the last book of the series “God is killed.”

It is unlikely that most of the major evangelical personalities who helped launched the campaign have viewed the movie or read the books. Most of those who sent the messages that they received from major evangelical leaders have ever read the series let alone seen the movies themselves. They have blindly accepted without critical thought the messages from others and are encouraging their members to blindly trust them as they are blindly trusted those from whom they have received the emails.

From those who have read the books I understand that it is correct that the god figure is overthrown and killed. They carefully point out that the false personages who have falsely set themselves up as the god figure are overthrown. Put the distinction aside for a moment, let us remind ourselves that this is a children’s fable. Are these same leaders about to blast out email “encouragements” for Christians to boycott nursery rhymes like “Rock-a-my Baby”, Peter Pan, Wizard of Oz and hundreds of children’s tales that do not match up with reality? Are they about to issue a pronouncement against Santa Claus? If not, why not? What is the difference?

What these evangelical leaders are suggesting is that Christians are easily fooled and mislead, that they lack the capacity to think for themselves, so much so that they need to be sheltered and protected. In essence they are saying that the Christian faith is week and if not protected the Church will fall.

On a practical level are the producers of The Golden Compass upset at the emails. Oh they have issued their carefully worded announcements that somewhat deny the claim while at the same time carefully constructed to keep the controversy going. They are doing this because they know that the longer the evangelical leaders decry the movie, the more successful the movie will become. Last weekend, what movie was the most seen movie? The Golden Compass. Most people are emerging from the movie theaters are leaving saying that this is a horrible movie as a movie itself (plot, progression, dialogue, etc.) but still people will continue to see it because of the email blast.

At the end of the day I suspect that many who are aware of the controversy will emerge wondering what all the brouhaha was all about. At the end of the day, far too many people will conclude that once again evangelical leaders have over-reacted, made themselves look foolish and marginalized themselves.

Regretfully those leaders who sat up on high who will appear to be fools of will not be the ones who loose the most. Those who loose the most are the pastors who received the message and passed it on to their congregants. Those pastors will have lost some regard with the congregants who see the movie.

For another recent example of misguided uncritical thinking in the church we only have to look at Gerry Falwell’s announcement about one of the non-gender Telatubbies. Soon pastors and other evangelical leaders picked up the announcement and they too were crying out against the Telatubbies. The gay community did not see the character as being gay, but once Falwell made his pronouncement and the controversy started, they happily embraced the character. Falwell accomplished the utter opposite of what he sought. When will the evangelical leaders learn that they will ultimately loose in such matters. This movie would have a fraction of its audience if they remained silent. Instead they end up guaranteeing success and making the Church look foolish in the eyes of the society at large.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Cruelty Free Sex

This morning driving into work I heard an interesting conversation on the radio regarding “cruelty free sex.” Just that phrase sounds interesting and on the surface one could readily support. But ah, the English language can be twisted and what seems agreeable at first glance may not be so agreeable upon further examination.

The advocates of “cruelty free sex” are encouraging their adherents not to marry or even date anyone who does not agree with their beliefs. They are arguing that a person must be fully in agreement with their beliefs before intimacy should take place. They argue that those who are not of their particular viewpoint and lifestyle must truly convert to the position of their partner before dating seriously or marrying. The person must remain firm and strong to their beliefs. The outsider must submit to the one in the group and be instructed as to the true path.

Further, the proponents of “cruelty free sex” state that followers who have physical relations with those who do not hold to their beliefs are polluting themselves and are undermining the credibility and compromising their belief.

Sound familiar? Does not this sound somewhat like Paul?

The advocates who have coined the phrase “cruelty free sex” and are advocating it are vegans. A vegan is someone who abstains from eating meat. They say that for a vegan to date a person who is a carnivore is to participate in cruelty and support cruelty. Are they crazy and way out there? If so, then what does that say about those in the church who speak of people dating or marrying only those who are of the same faith tradition?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Josh as a Moutaineer?

Since September Josh has been going through the application process. A week ago his list included James Madison, West Virginia, Virginia Tech and George Madison. Earlier in the week he added Lousiana State University. LSU was added at the enouragment of his teachers who feel that Josh could be competitive for receiving scholarships at LSU. LSU has one of the strongest band programs in the country.

This afternoon the mailperson brought a letter of acceptance from the University of West Virgina in Morgantown. He still needs to audition in order to be accepted into their music education program.

Which school he will attend rests upon scholarships and financial aid packages. He would be paying out of state fees in West Virginia but they have a generous music education scholarship program which could make his personal expenses less. We will have to see how things work out.

West Virginia is where Tom and Doreen's daughter Stephanie is part of their medical college.

$20 Million Estate

This past Friday a court in London England upheld the will of a wealthy 88 year old woman that left her whole estate, about $20 million, to the owners of a Chinese Restaurant. Five nephews and nieces argued unsuccessfully that their aunt was not of a sound mind when the will was revised in 1994, eleven years before her death.

Even prior to the death of the woman’s husband, the woman, Goldie Bechal, had been friends with the restaurant owners. Since the death of Goldie’s husband the friendship with the couple deepened. She often visited their home and the Mans hers. They invited her to join them on their vacations and celebrated her birthday in their restaurant.

These nephews and nieces were essentially arguing that their aunt was not of a sound mind because she left the estate to the Mans. The argument rests upon the assumption that leaving the estate to someone who was not a blood relative, “outside the family”, was an irrational act, and thereby she had to not have been in her right mind. And if she was not in her right mind then the will was invalid and if it was invalid the five would receive $4 million each.

I am pleased by the Court’s thinking. The Mans were able to tell stories of repeated visits in each others homes, birthday celebrations enjoyed together, of Goldie being there for anniversary celebrations and repeatedly taking vacations with the Mans. The five could not demonstrate much, if any, ongoing connection with Goldie.

The crux of the case comes down to definition of family. Irrespective of how often they visited their aunt, or whether they could recall her birth date in court, the five genetic interlopers held that because they shared her genes that they should receive her money. The arguments of these vultures are shallow and their actions driven not by concern for Goldie but by greed.

The Court dismissed such a shallow definition of family by noting that even though the Mans did not share any genetic material with Goldie, they functioned and supported each other as a family.

The Court has reminded us that family is not about common genetics, it is about support and love for each other. The judge has given a wise ruling. Kudos to the Court.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Thoughts Arising From Joanne's 8 October Posting

Since Joanne’s posting of 8 October I have remained silent as I was unsure I have any words of wisdom to share on the matter. Standing at a distance I lack adequate competency to on the matter. Yet I find myself drawn to speak on broader issues of spirituality, worship and the church, all of which her posting touches upon.

Along with politics and family discipline, worship expression and religion are the most explosive issues we face within our families and circle of friends. Each of these three explosive areas is colored by our culture, personal experiences, values and intellectual assumptions.

There are times when I have had to stir myself Sundays to go to worship with the collective body of believers. In those moments I have to remind myself that there is something mystical that takes place in a collective worship experience that cannot take place in solitary worship. Many of those times I did not wish to go have been the moments I have found an element in the service or the whole service itself to move my heart. Scripture not only strongly encourages people of faith gathering together but the Word also says that our faith is defined and shaped by the corporate.

Though I have worshipped primarily within a Salvation Army context I recognized in ’96 that it could change one day. When we left Winnipeg we felt that being people of faith was primary, denominational affiliation was secondary.

Some congregations can be cold and others warm. Some are rigid and legalistic while others seek to have a dynamic expression of faith, while some seek to appeal to the mind, too many settle for the warm fuzzies. Worship styles vary just as personalities vary.

By their nature churches tend to be authoritarian structures that unintentionally foster judgmental dynamics. People are told what to believe. A resultant is that those who do not hold the same views are viewed as having defective faith or even lacking it. When a person thinks differently they are told that they are resisting the will of God. Too many define their faith by what they attack and view as being wrong rather than by the higher values that they hold. One only has to look at the Christian mass media to see regular examples of major leaders setting a judgmental pattern and thereby fostering spiritual abuse. Lacking love and a desire to find a meeting of the minds their unkind and judgmental harangues are colored more by control and political issues than by the love Christ taught. With such patterns established by the church leadership, including those most widely known, is it any wonder that those in the congregation do the same?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Top 100 High Schools in the USA

A thoughtful observer of American society will quickly observe that one of the characteristics of the nation is its tendency to evaluate and rank a host of things. It is seen in the college football and basketball pools, in restaurant ratings, in graduate college rankings, in where one places in one's graduating high school or college class, in regional and national rankings of high school athletes in various sports, in ranking cities that are deemed to have the best/worse commutes, the safest cities, the best and worse crime rates, the best places to retire, best and worse cars, trucks, televisions, movies, etc. In that mix is the ranking of high schools.

The top 100 High Schools in America was published over the weekend by USA News and World Report. Fairfax County, the county in which we live, has three high schools ranked in the top 100. At the top of the list as being the best high school is Thomas Jefferson HS. TJ is a science and computer specialty school that draws students from across the county. Their labs are better equiped than most colleges. To gain entry to TJ one has to go through a screening process that yields them the best of the best. TJ is the school that Josh tried to gain entry to but did not make to the final round.

Langley, another Faifax HS is ranked number 37. And Josh’s school, Oakton HS, is ranked number 88. What is interesting is that though most in the county have viewed Oakton as one of their best high schools, the School Board in its wisdom has been talking about changing the school boundaries, decreasing the school population and making other educational changes. Those who have opposed the changes have been arguing that as the school is one of the strongest that they Board could end up undercutting its strengths. We suspect that the vocal opponents have just been added a strong argument against making any changes.

Monday, December 03, 2007


The calls for a football playoff system has become a resounding chorus in the last three weeks. Commentators speak of the BCS as being in shambles. A proposal calling for a twelve teams play down system has strong support. The top four teams would play the winners coming out of the next eight playing against each other. Hence, there would be four rounds, or three extra games for a team to make it the bowl championship team.

Fans, it is argued, will love playoff games being played throughout the month of December. Some of the existing bowl games would become part of the playoff. There will be some politicians who will jump on the bandwagon and leverage this issue to garner support. Those charlatan politicians are demonstrating that they are shallow and are more concerned with gaining public office rather than focusing their efforts on solving society’s much greater challenges.

For various reasons I cannot support any of the playoff proposals. The chief three are:
1. One of the enjoyable aspects of college football is the inter-college arguments of which team is really better than others. I like buzz, chatter and the debates. This year is not a disaster as some have noted.
2. The BSC and the polls are not in shambles. The number of top ranked teams being defeated to low ranked or non-ranked teams has demonstrated that the college game this year has a high level of parity. In the past, three or four teams have dominated the game. Hopefully, such parity will be more frequent in the future.
3. The operative word in the whole debate is the “college”. The players are students, not professionals. Yes some are more players than students, but let us not forget that the bulk of the team is made up of students, students who in December have major papers due and final exams. Those who are arguing for a playoff system seem to be asking these players to sacrifice their studies and grades for their entertainment and to satisfy their desire to settle the argument as to which team is really the best team.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Cascading Affect

With any commute you come expect certain points along your route to move slowly. A series of lights or three lanes going into two or merging of traffic from another major route tend to create slow points. This week I was heading and was about a mile from one of the major slow down points created a perfect storm, the merger of traffic from three lanes into two right at the point where two major routes enter. Complicating the flow are two lights just after the second merger and the narrowing of the lanes. The traffic suddenly slowed and then crawled well before the normal place.

It took nearly minutes to get through the area that even in heavy traffic normally takes five minutes. I thought that there was a major accident. As I approached the pair of cars with their flashers on I could see Arlington backed up as far back as I could see, about two miles. Looking down the beltway, the first major set of mergers, I could see northbound traffic was crawling along from the south but flowing well after the Arlington exit, and the southbound traffic was crawling along from the north in a similar manner. The traffic coming down the two ramps of the beltway were so backed up that traffic was backed up so far that the deceleration lane was overflowing onto the expressing, thereby functionally closing down one of the four beltway lanes. The second major merger was also a mess.

Expecting a significant accident I shook my head when I saw the cause. The cause was one car rear ending the car in front just beyond the merger of the other route and the three lanes into two. It was clear that there was little damage. No crumpled panels or bumpers. No broken lights. They speed of impact was likely below 15 mph. Rather than pulling off to the shoulder both cars sat there, drivers sitting in their cars, waiting for the police. Though the police will take the report it is likely they would be told a) the police did not need to be called for this accident and they should have just exchanged information, and b) that they should have pulled off to the side of the road to exchange the information.

Sitting there behind their wheels waiting for the police for something that did not need police involvement had a cascading impact.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Decoration Day

Decorating Day means different things in different contexts. When we lived in St. Marys the term was used exclusively in reference to the Sunday in May when people decorated the graves in the town cemetery. At DHQ is means a day to a dress down day that is spent decorating each floor at DHQ.

One of the things that I value about working for a faith based organization is the ability to openly embrace Christmas. Each year after Christmas the DHQ staff women shop the specials to add a few more items to the building’s collection of Christmas decorations. Over the decades a significant collection has been built. New items are put out, and some retired. This year the nutcracker type figures were purchased and put out this year across the break room window and the snow lights that hung in the windows retired.

Below are some of the decorations in the building.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving Is Near

Growing up in Ontario Thanksgiving and the following week was awash in the colors of the season. Thursday is American Thanksgiving. This year in Virginia we are about a week beyond the peak of the season. Following are pictures taken this past Friday. The first two are in the Front Royal area.

The last one, of the tree in the middle of the field is part of the Manassas II battlefield. The battle took place over three days. This is the field was on the Union right on the third day. The Union forces were in disarray and were in danger of being destroyed. This was the area through which Longstreet's forces moved to crush the Union Army. Mistakenly thinking the Confederates were retreating the Union General had pulled over half of the forces on his right for a pursuit charge. He was unaware that 30,000 troop under Longstreet arrived overnight.

Nearly 20,000 Confederates charged through this area where they ran into 2,200 Union units from Ohio and their solitary cannon. The Ohio units losses were heavy but they delayed the Confederates long enough to allow the Union to organize behind them and to structure an organized retreat. The Ohio brigades suffered tremendously, 33% of their men, and inflicted heavy losses on the Confederates. If they had not held, it is well possible the bulk of the Union troops which were a mile to the north (left side of the picture) would have been surrounded, thereby effectively putting the South in a position to win the war.

This lone tree which existed at the time of the battle has survived to be a witness of the carnage that took place before and around it. The three is viewed from the Confederate side with the Union forces alined across the ridge by the tree.

The heart of Manassas I (Bull Run I), the first major battle of the Civil War lies behind the ridge of trees at the back of the field.

I share this since it was Lincoln in the midst the Civil War made Thanksgiving a national holiday. In the midst of struggle and turmoil he called for the country to pause to remember the blessings they have enjoyed and to give thanks to God for their country, freedom and the harvest. This country could look greatly different if those 2,200 men who volunteered from Ohio had run from the field of battle. I am thankful for the character and character of those farmers and store clerks who stood their ground against overwhelming numbers.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Concert Season Underway

Tuesday night was the start of Concert Band season. It was the first performance for Oakton’s two jazz bands and three concert bands. Josh plays in four of the five groups.

Above, in Concert II Josh is the end-chair baritone. Last year he played clarinet in Concert II.

In Concert I Josh is the lead Tuba.

Above Josh is lead trombone in Jazz I (the lead trombone in jazz is flanked by second and third chairs). Below is Symphonic Band where as with last year Josh first chair trombone. As you will notice, with each group his tux changes in style.

Following the concert the music teachers left the next morning for a conference in Chicago. The substitute teacher is not a music teacher so with the substitute sitting in the room Josh puts each of the bands through their rehearsals. For weeks if one of the music teachers has to be out of the room, whether it be for ten minutes or thirty, they have been turning the groups over to Josh to conduct.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Cutting Horses

A few years ago when I was in Houston I attended a rodeo competition. Competitors came to the event throughout the west, including from Alberta and Saskatchewan. One of the events was a cutting horse event. We saw a similar event on a trip to Colorado about six years before. I was fascinated by how the rider and horse work as a team to cut cows and horses. It was a thing of beauty that I would be happy to watch again.

On youtube there are several clips showing cutting horses in action. Here is one such clip, enjoy.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Rain, Rain Come Today, Do Not Wait Another Day

Often children cry "rain, rain go away, come back another day." Our prayer has become "rain, rain come today, do not wait another day."

In the last year Virginia, like most of the southeast has received far less precipitation than normal. Three weeks ago, the lake from which Atlanta draws its water only had a 90 day supply left. While recent rains have helped, the southeast needs much more rain.

With the water table has been dropping firms that dig wells have been doing a booming business as people hire them to make their wells go deeper. In late September Virginia’s governor issued a campfire ban, a ban that is still in affect. Loudoun Country, just to the northwest of us has been under water restrictions since the summer. This past Friday, the City of Fairfax too went under voluntary water restrictions. Though we are in the County it seems to be only a matter of time before we too could be under restrictions.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Josh in Videos Online

Josh is in this youtube video taken in California. In this video the baritones are warming up. He is the 8th player from the left.

This is part of the Crossmen final show. As the video starts Josh is on the left side, back line, third in from the right. At the 48 second mark Josh is right behind the last contra-bass on the the left side of the screen. At the 1:09 to 1:13 mark Josh is on the far left and between two contra-basses.

Plans are for Josh to be a Crossman in 2008. His monthly trips to San Antonio start in December.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Marching Season Almost Over

With States rating taking place late yesterday marching band season is almost at an end. In most years the season would be over but this year the band is traveling to Cary NC next Saturday for a competition. Evie and I will be traveling as chaperones. If you want to see this year’s show, go to for the various performance videos (right side about 2/3 down). The Oakton Classic video is their best show and the first in their new uniforms. At the end note the fireworks.

Marching in the blacktop, at the States Oakton received its “Superior” rating. All bands performed on the blacktop since it had been raining almost non-stop since Tuesday. The rain ended Saturday morning at 8:30, just minutes before the first band of the day was scheduled to perform. The two pics below are from yesterday.

Though they have been rehearsing in classes since September, the focus shifts this week to concert band season. The shift means that in addition to in class rehearsals each concert band has a two hour after school every week. For Josh this means he will be staying after school every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as he is in all three concert bands. On Tuesday he has Symphonic where he plays trombone. On Wednesday he has Concert I where he plays tuba as they are short of tuba players, and on Thursday he has Concert II Euphonium. In addition to these groups Josh plays Jazz I.

The seating in the trombone section in Symphonic band initially created a surprise. The young man who was seated third last year was seated first. At his audition he played one octave in the circle of fifths where as Josh and the young lady seated second played two octaves. Josh did not have a good audition and ended up being seated third. The top three challenged each other which ended up with all three seating in the same order as last year, Josh is first chair (also first chair in Jazz I). This year with seven trombones the second chair trombone will also being playing the first part.

Somewhere in there he has college auditions to prepare and attend.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Hernando's Hideaway

For several years I have been somewhat bothered by SA the singing of grace at our camps. There was something that has made me feel more unsettled each time I am at camp and grace is sung. Today as I listened to XM Radio I discovered the source of that discomfort.

Since last Thursday XM Radio has been playing the major pop hits. Starting with January 1940 they are playing 24/7 the hits in chronological order of when they were released. This morning they were up to March 1954, the month Hernando’s Hideaway was released and went on to become a hit.

Today, regardless of the camp, camp grace is normally sung to Duke Street, Montreal Citadel, Hernando’s Hideaway, and three or four other melodies to which grace was song when I first went to camp in the late 60s. Hernando’s Hideaway as a hit in 1954, and we still use it. What melodies from the last decade are we using? None. From the 80s? None. The 70s? Is the fact that we continue to use Hernando’s Hideaway and other long held melodies a symptom of traditionalism and complacency, and that we are loosing/have lost connection with popular culture? I now know the source of my discomfort and I am not sure I like what it signifies.

Your thoughts are welcome. Or better still, do your own blog.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

College Football Rankings

The first Bowl Championship Series rankings came out at the beginning of this week. The rankings are not a surprise if one is only looking at the latest AP and USA Today polls. Yet if one looked at the preseason polls the BCS does not come close to what the “experts” were predicting at the beginning of the season. The recent losses by USC and LSU along with the surprise of Appalachian State defeating Michigan at the beginning of the season have muddied the waters.

For this blog I will use the top ten as identified by Athlon Sports and compare them with where they currently stand. Athlon’s rankings are for the most part similar to preseason AP and USA Today (give or take a spot or two here and there). It is expected that out of these top ten that three of them would be in top four BSC positions by seasons end. This year that will not happen.

1. USC – in the BCS they are now 14.
2. Texas – not in the top 15 in the BCS. In the AP they are ranked 22
3. LSU – though they lost to Kentucky they are holding at number 4
4. Wisconsin – not listed in the top twenty-five in any poll and not on the BCS list
5. West Virginia – they are currently 9 in the BCS
6. Florida – they are number fifteen in the BCS
7. Oklahoma – at 5 in the BCS
8. Michigan – not in the top 15 in BCS and is ranked 25 in the AP
9. Virginia Tech – they are number 11 in the BCS and in the same place in the other polls
10. Rutgers - unranked

In the BCS,

1. Ohio State was ranked 12 by Athlon
2. South Florida - 31
3. Boston College - 27
4. LSU - 3
5. Oklahoma - 7
6. South Carolina - 39
7. Kentucky - 43
8. Arizona State - 44
9. West Virginia – 5
10. Oregon - 40

Only three of the preseason top ten are in a position to be in the big 1 vs 2 game in January. Six of the current top ten were not ranked at the beginning of the season. In the current top ten, at least three will drop out by the time the season comes to an end five Saturdays.

This year is a lesson that people should not to caught up in the preseason hype, that upsets are why we play the game, and college games can be so unpredictable.

On a personal note, it is great to see Kentucky doing so well this year which helps to balance off the struggling Iowa Hawkeyes (Athlon had them 33 and they have not lived up that even that this year).

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day

Today is a day people have been encouraged to blog on the environment. I for one am disturbed by the attitude of the controlling elements of the Republican Party who deny that global warming is taking place or if they do admit it is happening dismiss it as much to do about nothing. What is more alarming for me is the fundamental wing of the Church and a good part of the evangelical wing also dismissing the issue.

These religious officials and Republican hacks have demonized Al Gore’s efforts to draw attention to the issue. His winning of the Nobel Peace Prize has brought forth venom that is unwarranted. For years these same officials argue that global warming is part of a historical pattern. They note that at various stages Northern Europe experienced years of warmth that allowed crops that traditionally grew in the south to be grown in northern areas. This may well be true but their response leaves three questions unanswered:

1.) Is it possible that emissions from vehicles and power plants are enhancing the climate change? Is suspect human activity is increasing the climate change beyond historical swings.

2.) What is wrong with improving the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink? What is wrong with protecting wetlands and protecting our forests? The Church should be crying out that all God’s created order should be protected. Instead those who maintain they cherish the Word of God more than other wings of the Church are the first discard concern for the created order. Instead the attitude is that it is entirely proper for humanity to pillage and rape the world God has provided as humanity goes forth to be fruitful and multiply.

3.) What are the risks if those who deny global warming are wrong as against what are the risks if they are right? It takes far longer to clean a river, lake and the air than it does to pollute them. Time and time again we have discovered that the costs of clean-up are far more costly than judicious preventative measures.

Let us open our eyes to what is happening around us. Let us work together to protect our environment. One step such as computerized lights on major commute routes that facilitate inbound traffic in the morning and outbound in the evening is one simple step to cut down on idle time, thereby decreasing vehicle emissions (instead politicians argue for spending far more money to widen roads). Other steps could include helping to facilitate the development and distribution of bio-fuels.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Follow-up on 3 October Blog

This is the follow-up to the 3 October blog concerning baseball’s statistical framework, some meaningful and others less so. I tossed out some figures/statistics associated with my life, some meaningful and others not meaningful. Kudos to Barb for attempting to figure out the statistics. Those that are in blue are items that Barb correctly identified. The answers are in red.

a) 18,899 days (this is an easy one)
- days since I was born
b) 2 (this is enough for me thank you)
– number of sons/children
c) 2:49 (this is from July of this year)
– time it took to get to and through US Immigration at Buffalo after leaving Bracebridge following Nana’s funeral
d) 12 vehicles
- number of vehicles that we have owned and company vehicles for our use
e) 7 in June and July of 2007 – number of DCI live competitions attended in stadiums
f) 4-10-9-4-2-2-2-7-5-6+ for a total of 10
– ten different places and the number of years spent living in each place by sequence
g) 91.6 (linked to “c”) – maximum speed going from Bracebridge to Buffalo
h) 16.1 miles or 41 minutes – standard daily commute to the office
i) 25,000,000 – most money I have held in my hand at one time
j) 9.7 mpg
– best mileage we have had in the camper
k) 11 Corps
– number of Corps that I have considered my Corps
l) 95.1, 93.7, 91.6 (if you get “g” you will get this one)
– known top three maximum speeds as recorded by the GPS. Yes, sometimes I have a heavy foot.
m) 1:31 (from July)
– the time that it took to get from the Bracebridge Corps to the junction of 407 and Hwy 10.
n) 52 days – the number of days from posting to Christmas
o) 247 miles
– the NCV Corps furthest from my home
p) 5, 6, 7, 20 - our four birthdates. Josh on the 5th, Jonathan on the 6th, I am on the 7th and Evie on the 20th. Evie recognized this one right off.

q) 33 – number of airports flown into/out off
r) 5 games in 2 days
– number of major league games Evie, the boys and I took in over a two day period in 1993
s) 16 stadiums – different major league baseball stadiums
t) 5 out of 23
– number of business days I am in the office this month
u) 100,000.0 (hit this on Josh’s birthday)
– miles reached on my car to the exact tenth as I pulled into my parking spot at the house

Thursday, October 11, 2007


One of the US’s more vexing problems is health care. The poor and the wealthy are well looked after. Those in the middle class have a mixed bag. They find themselves with insurance coverage changing from year to year as employers seek to reduce health premiums. They find themselves in a plan that restricts which doctors and hospitals may be used.

The SCHIP program has allowed families that are not eligible for Medcare/Medicaid to receive help. The Democrats and a number of Republicans have voted to extend the program for another period of time and to increase the number of people able to be covered.

Last week the President decided to veto the legislation. The extension of the program and the increased coverage would cost less than two days in Iraq. As a response to the veto the Democrats put on national radio a twelve year old young man whose family has been helped by the program. The young man told how his family has been helped by the program. This is a hard working family who found itself in an unfortunate position yet who benefited from a federal health care support program.

In response, the Republican Party orchestrated blatant attack under the direction of Senator McConnell. Via Republican operatives and bloggers the Republican party has attacked the Frost family rather than engage in honest civil discourse. Where one person is willing to draw the line for eligibility and nature of services may differ with others.

The attacks by Republican operatives upon the Frost family are far from being civil, they are mean spirited. The attacks which include a shallow and distorted representation of the family’s history and the posting of their home address on the web indicates compassion that the Republican party proclaims is defined far differently than it is in most families. The mean spirit of the Republican leadership is unconscionable.

It is unfortunate that Congress does not live under the health care options of families like the Frost family. If they did, I suspect that they would quickly be making changes.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Warenton Murals

Below are murals on two sides of a building in Warenton VA. Warenton is about twenty-five from the Manasses I and Manasses II battlefields and about sixty miles from Washington DC. Fredericksburg is about thirty miles to the southeast. To the west of Warenton are the mountains.

During the Civil War armies of both sides Warenton passed through Warenton and camped around it. Below is the scene focused upon the Confederates. Note how the mural incorporates the window. Note on the far right the Union camp below.

Below is the scene focused upon the Union. Note in the bottom right a guard watching over Confederate prisoners. Just to the left of the center a soldier is being baptized in the river.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Baseball - Salute to Statistics?

Baseball post-season is underway. Baseball is full of statistics, some more meaningful than others such as HR ratios, strike out ratios, and batting averages. Others get down right meaningly when all is said and done, such as a players batting average against left handers with runners on second and third in a dome with the roof open and the wind blowing right to left at night with temperature below 60 F.

In honor of the sport that has more statistical frameworks than any other sport, let me toss out some figures/statisticss associated with my life. I would challenge the reader to guess what each represents. Take your guesses and in a week I will post what is what.

a) 18,899 days (this is an easy one)
b) 2 (this is enough for me thank you)
c) 2:49 (this is from July of this year)
d) 12 vehicles
e) 7 in June and July of 2007
f) 4-10-9-4-2-2-2-7-5-6+ for a total of 10
g) 91.6 (linked to “c”)
h) 16.1 miles or 41 minutes
i) 25,000,000
j) 9.7 mpg
k) 11 Corps
l) 95.1, 93.7, 91.6 (if you get “g” you will get this one)
m) 1:31 (from July)
n) 52 days
o) 247 miles

p) 5-6-7-20
q) 33
r) 5 games in 2 days
s) 16 stadiums
t) 5 out of 23
u) 100,000.0 (hit this on Josh’s birthday)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Colonial Williamsburg 4

I noticed that this is my 201st blog. When I first started I thought one blog every two weeks would be good. Yet within a 17 monhts I have hit the 200 mark.

Below are the last pics from Colonial Williamsburg. The first are of some characters, tradesmen and actors. The last is if the Anglican (Episcapal) Church that was constucted in colonial days. The church has four services on Sundays and over 240 families in the congregation.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Colonial Williamsburg II

Here are some more pictures taken of Colonial Williamsburg. This set is of the Capitol which is a two building H structure connected an arcade. The one side housed the General Court building (completed in 1703) and the other the House of Burgesses (completed in 1705). On the second floor are three committee/conference rooms, secretary/clerk offices.

The first picture is a look at the Capital from Duke of Gloucester Street, the main street. The side that faces Duke of Gloucester is the court side. The second picture shows the two sides.

The above is the court room. Below is a meeting room and lastly the House of Burgesses that has a Parlament type look with two sides of benches and secretary tables in the center with the speaker at the end.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Hang-ups and Crazy Laws

This country has some significant hang-up as evidenced a sampling of some crazy laws on the books in various jurisdictions. I cannot imagine the mindset of those who voted to institute them. Though some may go back more than a hundred years I am deeply troubled why current lawmakers do not repeal them when they are drawn to their attention.

The only acceptable sexual position in Washington D.C. is the missionary-style position. Any other sexual position is considered illegal.

In Oxford, Ohio, it's illegal for a woman to strip off her clothing while standing in front of a man's picture.

In hotels in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, every room is required to have twin beds. And the beds must always be a minimum of two feet apart when a couple rents a room for only one night. And it's illegal to make love on the floor between the beds!

In Oblong, Illinois, it's punishable by law to make love while hunting or fishing on your wedding day.

In Nevada sex without a condom is considered illegal.

An ordinance in Newcastle, Wyoming, specifically bans couples from having sex while standing inside a store's walk-in meat freezer!

In Norfolk, Virginia, a woman can't go out without wearing a corset. (There was a civil-service job-for men only-called a corset inspector.)

Any couple making out inside a vehicle, and accidentally sounding the horn during their lustful act, may be taken to jail according to a Liberty Corner, New Jersey law.

A state law in Illinois mandates that all bachelors should be called master, not mister, when addressed by their female counterparts.

An excerpt from brilliant Kentucky state legislation. "No female shall appear in a bathing suit on any highway within this state unless she be escorted by at least two officers or unless she be armed with a club". The following important ammendment however is to be considered here: "The provisions of this statuate shall not apply to females weighing less than 90 pounds nor exceeding 200 pounds, nor shall it apply to male horses."

In Kingsville, Texas there is a law against two pigs having sex on the city's airport property.

In Cleveland, Ohio women are not allowed to wear patent-leather shoes.

It's safe to make love while parked in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Police officers aren't allowed to walk up and knock on the window. Any suspicious officer who thinks that sex is taking place must drive up from behind, honk his horn three times and wait approximately two minutes before getting out of his car to investigate.

In Connorsville, Wisconsin no man shall shoot off a gun while his female partner is having a sexual orgasm.

The owner of every hotel in Hastings, Nebraska, is required to provide each guest with a clean and pressed nightshirt. No couple, even if they are married, may sleep together in the nude. Nor may they have sex unless they are wearing one of these clean, white cotton nightshirts.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Colonial Williamsburg 1

Today Evie and I visited Colonial Williamsburg. This is an awesome place to visit for a long day or over two days. Following are some pictures of the Governor’s Palace. In the entrance and hallway are hung swords and muskets of various types. Each musket was kept oiled and ready for use. Besides the size of the home, the swords and muskets are what greeted visitors…an early version of shock and awe.

To the left of the mansion is the servants’ quarters and to the right, support offices and quarters above.

Throughout the town are characters dressed for the period and artisans making crafts in the same way they did in the 1750s to 1770s.

More pictures to be posted in the following days.