Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Oh to Have the Energy

Josh's adventure is coming to a close. They are on the way this evening to OR before heading to San Fransisco for a major event on Saturday. Saturday will be the last event before the World Championship Quarterfinals on Thursday Aug 9. The top seventeen in the quartersfinals go the the semifinals on Friday. The tope 12 then go to the Finals on Saturday. The Crossmen will not make the finals but will likely make the semifinals.

Below is the Crossmen schedule for today as taken from their web page. They got to sleep-in today for an extra 30 to 45 minutes.

Ohhh to have the energy to keep such a schedule day after day after day. Evie asked Josh if he would do it again. Without hesitation he replied, yes.

Today's Schedule

4:00 AM arrive Meridian, ID
8:15 AM Wake/Stretch
9:00 AM Breakfast
9:45 AM Visual
12:15 PM Snack
12:45 PM Subs
2:45 PM Ensemble
4:15 PM EPL (Eat Pack Load)
5:35 PM BIS
5:45 PM Depart for show
6:15 PM arrive @ show
6:45 PM Visual
7:15 PM Warm-up
8:05 PM Move
8:14 AM Gate
8:31 PM Perform
8:50 PM EPL
10:20 PM Depart
5:30 AM Arrive Portland, OR

Oh the temperature in Boise today, high of 99F. Cooling down to mid to upper 70s by late evenings.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Josh Crossmen Portrait and A Glimps of Their Show

The Crossmen have had their official pictures taken. Here is the link to Josh’s portrait taken last Saturday after the San Antonio show. His tan has really deepened in the last month, and his moustache and goatee have become much more pronounced.


As you will notice he is not smiling. He has his show face on. The Crossmen are not allowed to “show teeth”. Like are not allowed to show joy in their victories and in another’s defeat. Likewise they are not allowed to show disappointment so as to detract from another’s victory.

Here are some Youtube clips of this year’s show.

In this first one you will see a green shirted man running around. He is a judge. You will also see how quickly the Corps is moving. In the company front reverse Josh is somewhere on the left side of the screen. Company fronts is when the whole Corps lines up straight and moves forward. A reverse is a straight line walking backward.


This clip is in the last third of the show. The guards change from red to blue outfits about half way through the show. Note the contrabases go to their knees. Josh is behind the contras on around the 40 yard line.


If memory serves, at the end of this clip Josh a baritone that is around the 35 to 40 yard line.


Note the guard’s toss work in this short clip.


This clip is from the last two minutes of the show.


The clips were taken over a week ago. The precision of the drill has greatly improved since we last saw them two and half weeks before. They will be even more crisp by the end of the season in two and half weeks.

One of the more entertaining groups this year is the Carolina Crown. Though they will not be the top three, they have my vote as the most entertaining. Crown is likely to finish fifth or sixth.



Thursday, July 26, 2007

Important Day MIssed

Today I became aware that I forgot to celebrate National Ice Cream Day this past Sunday. Since 1984 July is Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday is National Ice Cream Day. Did you celebrate it?

Can you guess what are the top five flavors? By order of rank and production, vanilla, chocolate, Neapolitan, strawberry and cookies 'n' cream.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Living in Washington, “legacies” is a term one hears frequently. The city is full of monuments, parks, bridges and buildings named to remind people of someone’s legacy. Bills are constantly being passed to name a boat, park, highway, bridge or some other federal building somewhere in the country after someone. Legacy is part of the political mantra of long term members of congress and during President’s second term. Supreme Court justices, significant civil servants and generals are not immune from building their “legacies”… and we sometimes see it with Salvation Army officers.

When we look at “the great leaders” most of us lack legacies. Or do we? The type of legacies that make into history books distracts us from two of the more significant legacies one could leave. One of these legacies is the testimony of a faith of Christ; a faith lived out in word and action. A second legacy is how we have shaped the character, values and dreams of our children and grandchildren.

No person is an island. Our lives are like a mighty river into which various tributaries flow. Sometimes the river flows rapidly, churning and cutting its way dramatically and at other times meandering slowly enjoying its existence. While as a parent I cannot guarantee the character of my children, as a powerful headwater I am able to have a dramatic impact upon the nature and character of my two sons rivers, and through them to my yet unknown grandchildren. My character and faith are the strong headwaters that I hope will dominate their rivers as other streams flow into their lives.

Nana has been a major stream in many into the rivers that make up our lives. Through my mother she has shaped my life. Her influence has been strengthened through years of family visits and words of encouragement.

None of us are flawless. Each of us has their shortcomings and strengths. Each of us has their own collection of defeats and victories. Nana too has had her share of each. One of her greatest victories and lasting legacies is her faith in her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. She loved her Lord and in quiet way lived out her faith. She looked forward to being in the Lord’s house and to worshipping Him with her whole heart. She quietly and in a simple manner encouraged her own children and grandchildren to think about things above and faith.

Nana’s greatest legacies rest in the hands of her children and grandchildren. It is up to us who live on to reflect her best qualities and to live out a godly faith. It is up to us to seek to live in faith an honest life. It is up to us who are her biological and spiritual heirs to be slow to anger, quick to forgive, to love with an expansive love that like a balloon with immense capacity continues to expand and remain full. It is up to each of us to take joy in our family, to be kind to each other and to have a generous compassionate spirit toward others, and to give the best of ourselves to our family and community responsibilities.

We are Nana's legacies. May God grant us the courage and wisdom to carry on our grandmother’s legacy through how we live each day.

Nana lived a full life. She passed from this life peacefully, both in body, mind and soul. She was at peace in her own soul and with her Lord. In the Army we speak of a person being “Promoted to Glory”. Nana has been promoted. Welcome home good and faithful servant and daughter. Welcome Home!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Stop At Niagara Falls

As many of you are aware, Evie and I spent Wednesday night at Niagara Falls on our way to Bracebridge. Below are three pictures taken during our stay. The first was taken from our hotel room. The last two are of well feed gulls that fly in and around the gorge.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Reflections On A Painting

Tuesday I saw a painting that somewhat troubled me as a person of faith. The painting was one of George W Bush kneeling in prayer flanked by two prayerful figures with their hands upon his shoulders.

I do not question Bush’s faith or passion for his Lord. Nor do I question that he should be upheld in prayer. Rather it is the responsibility of every single Christian to pray for all our political leaders, particularly for those who assume key responsibilities for the governance of our communities and nations. I am of the view that one of the sins of the Church is that it does not pray for our political leaders regardless of their political persuasion or that of the collective and individual congregants.

In my blog of 26 May I questioned the damage incurred to the gospel when significant branches of the Church and/or its major leaders tie themselves to a political party. While many individuals and portions of the Church will naturally align themselves with a particular position and even a party, we must, must, have the wisdom to not align ourselves within the body or outside the body to a particular party.

What bothered me with regard to picture is that it the two figures in prayer with President Bush between them were George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. The painting communicates the following:
a) That Bush is a man of faith
b) He is a man of the caliber of Washington and Lincoln
c) He is God’s man of the hour to lead the nation out of darkness into light
d) The nation is in a crisis of the order of War of Independence and Civil War
e) The Church should get behind the President and support his position without debate because of “c”.

I will agree with “a” but “b” is unsupportable. While “e” is more subtle, we must be careful to conclude that because a person is a Christian that he is more blessed than others on the political level. He clearly would be more blessed on a spiritual and interpersonal level than a person lacking faith, but God can work through a leader who lacks faith which has been demonstrated in Scriptures. Hence, “c” is somewhat debatable in my mind.

I am not as convinced about “d” as America had faced numerous other crisis moments that threatened to harm the nation. Amongst such moments the War of 1812, the Depression, WW II, and the Cuban Missile Crisis immediately come to mind.

I said above somewhat troubled, not troubled, as the painting should be desplayed as it is free speach. Further, it was in a private office and therefore private and personal speach and not in a public place so as to indicate the political dogma and position of the organization and its leadership.

May God convict the Church on its sin for not praying for our political leaders. May He also grant us wisdom to address life, social and community issues without having to align ourselves with a particular political party.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Yesterday I heard a political commentator repeatedly and proudly proclaim, “I am helping unit the country.” The commentator went on to say that when she first started on the air that the country was divided 52/48 and that the country could not get more divided that that type of split. She went on to note that it is 71/29 against Bush which she proudly proclaims as proof that she is uniting the country. The same individual has a habit of belittling those who do not agree with her by questioning either a) their capacity to think, or b) their state of mind.

From time to time I listen to this commentator. Frequently she will depict in demeaning and demonizing terms those who take opposing political and social views. Any idea raised by someone on the other side is immediately viewed as valueless and decries when those of similar views to hers seek to take a more posture as selling out or compromising their principles. She will highly complement those who agree with her as being intelligent clear thinking individuals with such language as to imply that those do not agree with her are ignorant and lack the capacity to think.

As I listened to her going on about uniting the country I wondered where is the place for civil discourse and the ability to agree to disagree agreeably. I enjoy listening to her from time to time as she does have occasionally some good points. Her idea of unity is clearly skewed. Unity is not in not found in votes and poll results. Unity has more to do with people of diverse views working together to common solution on problems for the sake of the whole. Passion for one’s perspective does not need to be surrendered. Rather, the passion for one’s views needs to be maintained just as the passions of the other should be respected and affirmed. Passion that drives one to defeat the other and advance only one’s views at the cost of the other is a destructive behavior. Unity seeks to eliminate winners and losers for the sake of having a win-win as much as possible for all.

As I listened to her speaking about uniting the country while degrading a person of an opposing view I remembered reading in college a book or article by a political/social activist for a philosophy class.

The author too spoke of the need to unify the country, to bring everyone into agreement through various techniques to a common viewpoint. He noted that some would be easy to persuade while others would only be persuaded by demonizing those who disagree and making fun of their shortcomings while over exaggerating yours. He went on to tell of the importance of making others who come to the correct position believe that they are intelligent people. As broad civil discourse is viewed as divisive, expression of doubt should be strongly discouraged. He stressed that it was important to have as complete unity as possible and once eight out of ten people agree with you that the remaining should be persuaded more forcefully or marginalized so that they will not harm the unity of the country. I was amazed how similar this political commentator sounded and was thinking like Lenin.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

From the Road - Part VII

Evie and I had an enjoyable visit with Christian. As we got twenty or so miles down the road I realized that we missed taking a picture of Christian with Evie, and Evie with his two frisky but enjoyable dogs. Thank you Christian for allowing us to spend the night with you.

Today, July 4th, when we pulled into our campsite at the Delaware Water Gap the weather reminded me our 1992 trip to Newfoundland and our 2000 trip to Kentucky. The first night on the road in 1992 we arrived in the pouring rain. As the boys and Jen remained in the car Evie and I struggled to get the trailer off the hitch followed by blocking the tires and putting down the support legs. By the time Jonathan helped to crank up the trailer I was already soaked to the skin. We carefully pulled the ends out so as to protect the beds and linen from getting wet. I do not think we worried about putting up the awning as our plans were to be on the road early the next morning.

In 2000 we stopped in Missouri for our last night. About four in the morning I awoke as the wind had really picked up. A flash in the distance told us what was coming. The last thing we wanted to have was wet canvass when we returned to Iowa City. Everyone was awoken and commanded to pack. The packing did not need to be orderly, just quick. We no sooner got the top down a half-hour later when the rain started. Ten minutes later the trailer was hooked up and we were on the road without checking the lights, but the canvas was dry.

Today, we arrived and it was just starting to rain. We pulled into our site, found a level spot, quickly went outside, drew the awning down, hooked up the electric and water, got back inside to put the front drapes over the window, turn on the refrigerator and hot water heater, draw down the back blind, open a window that was under the awning and start the front and then back vents. As I sat down with a soda I noticed the alarm was blinking “12:06”…it had been six minutes since the power was turned on which was about three minutes after pulling into the site, if that. Within ten minutes of pulling into the site I was drinking a diet coke. In 1997, ten minutes would have been used up just getting the trailer off the hitch and leveled.

Our two pop-ups were great for us and I loved having them. We traveled far and wide in them. Do I miss them….what do you think? Damp cool rainy weather puts it all into perspective.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

From the Road - Part VI

During the shows you can see a major difference between the top tier Division I Corps and the next two levels. The Cadets and Phantom Regiment shows are outstanding. Their sound was big, their shows complicated and their technique more refined. The top six Division I Corps finish four out of five years in the top five. Carolina Crown could make a challenge this year to finish in the top five for the first time…their show and skills has that potential. Of all the shows I find Crown’s to be the most entertaining. Word is that the 2006 World Champions, The Cavaliers (and champs for three or four times in the last six years), are at risk in falling outside the top five and being replaced by Crown.

One of the challenges faced by the less experienced Corps like the Crossmen is to receive a disheartening score. After Erie the Crossmen have worked hard at refining their show but the scores did not increase. Consistency from the practice field to the show is not there. Still members are not moving together and keeping their spacing in solid.

While the Crossmen would far outperform high school and college groups, their consistency is not yet there to take them into the final twelve Corps.

Josh noted the sound remains thin in spots because some are having difficulty playing particular bars here or there during some complicated moves. While he can play all his music without difficulty while standing still, but a bar here or there is during the first week to ten days were still giving him difficulty as he worked to maintain his place in the moving lines and to move fluidly.

The results of the Giant Stadium show moved upward even though their shortcoming on the sound was more evident as their sound became lost in the vastness of the stadium. Still the Corps was encouraged by the results. The results of the show in NY or RI were positive.

As the Corps moved into the MD to CT area volunteers became plentiful as they are in the area in which their past base was drawn. While much could work around the chuck wagon could easily be handled by the cook and four volunteers, having eight or nine volunteers around makes the work much lighter.

For the Bristol RI show we stayed with Christian in Norwich CT. He traveled with us to the show in Bristol. Unfortunately we did not have a chance to visit with his wife and children as they left for camp on Monday.

Following is one pic from Westminister and two pics from Bristol. In the formation pic from Westminster, Josh is just in front the base drum and beside the contra-base. In the one pic the Bristol pics he in set position for taking the field. In last the Crossmen are lined up with their sister Corps, the Cadets (who have a top three show and could go all the way this year) to play a post show item “America the Beautiful” which started the fireworks show.

Yes, if you look closely, Josh is now showing a mustache and is growing a little goatee just like his brother.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

From the Road - Part V

I mentioned the Crossmen, like all the other Corps, has a chuck wagon in a large semi-trailer. Their sister Corps, the Cadets, and the top Corps have chuck wagons that are mind boggling and far surpass the majority of the Corps.

Contained inside is a walk-in refrigerator that runs 24/7 off a diesel refer generator, three large wash sinks, grill, two ovens, microwave, a twenty cup coffee maker, two food prep counters, a grill, three double gas burner units and various storage shelves (see pics). Out of this chuck wagon one hundred and fifty servings are prepared four times a day.

Food is placed outside upon two series of tables and the Corps serves itself. Every meal has PB&J (Peanut Butter and Jelly) table for those who do not have a hankering for what is served or if they still want more to eat. Once a Corps member has picked up their food s/he will find a place to sit down to eat outside. Some will sit on the grass, others just on the pavement of the parking lot. If it rains, the EPL crew helps move the serving tables and food into the school.

Food preparation is coordinated by a paid cook, Donna, who has two daughters in the Corps and who herself was a member. Volunteers and other staff members help with the serving and some preparation. One has to have a certain personality to cook for so many in such a fluid environment. Donna certainly has that personality and will do anything she can to help support the members.

The photo on Part II showed Josh running. He is not running for food, but for water. Each Corps member has their own self supplied one gallon water jug. At meals they load it with ice and water. Every so often, the leaders yell for a five minute water break.

Every member is assigned an EPL task. Josh is on the crew that sets up and takes down the three tier scaffolding used by the directors. There are crews for the drum major stands, packing the instruments in the trailer, chuck wagon set up and take down, painting of the three fields, etc. From the moment of the last field practice ends the whole Corps is on the buses in about seventy-five minutes. It is an amazing process to watch.

Each of the four buses is assigned to carry a section of the Corps, the guards, the leadership, the drum line and the horn line. As the horn line is so large, they spill onto the other three buses. Every member is assigned to a particular seat on a bus. This keeps attendance and head counting simple. Having assigned seating allows members to store personal items in their bin overhead and on the windows. As you can see from the one pic, some members have suction cups holders and pictures mounted on the window. Josh had us get us some suction cup holders and hooks (see pic).

The Elizabeth and Westminster shows indicate that significant rough spots remain. Consistency is lacking and high number of rookies is having its affect. The age of the Corps and its lack of vet depth is showing. They Corps has sixty rookies from Texas alone. Over half of the Corps is marching for the first year. Though this is not the Crossman’s first year, given the move to Texas and over half the Corps being rookies, functionally the Corps is having some of the issues common to new Corps.

The horn line still is not getting the lines straight which is clearly evident on the Company Front and Company Reverse, which are two difficult moves and when not done correctly clearly shows. As the Corps is less experienced than the top eight or so Corps, their sound is not as bold and deep as the Corps that have only a few rookies. The top Corps have few under the age of nineteen as most of their members come with experience gained in other Corps like the Crossmen.

The Crossmen’s show is a difficult and demanding show. Their scores could increase dramatically if they can refine their presentation and get consistency. Allentown will be the big test and will help define how they will finish at the end of the year. Last year they finished 14th and are hoping to make the finals, which at this point is not beyond reach but would be a challenge.

Josh continues to be in fine spirits. He is enjoying his summer and experience. He has learned a great deal about drilling and marching technique. He is also learning how to keep playing while breathing as well as projecting of sound. His biggest complaint is that each morning he awakens stiff and sore. Once through morning stretches the kinks and soreness start to go away.

The evening Josh flies back to Fairfax is the same day the Oakton marching band goes to Orkney Springs for a week. After doing laundry and repacking he will be traveling up early Monday morning. Most students find the week to be demanding and exhausting. The other day when he commented upon the Crossmen schedule and we mentioned going right to Orkney Josh laughed that the Orkney schedule will seem like a vacation.

Monday, July 02, 2007

From the Road - Part IV

As Evie noted in her blog the standard marching band convoy consists of four buses, a van pulling a trailer with a gator on it, the two eighteen wheelers (food and equipment trucks), the Corps’s supply truck and souvenir trailer, and the Corps’ motor home pulled. The Corps pulled into the South Allegheny High School in McKeesport PA (south east of Pittsburg) around 1:10. Shortly after 1:30 the trailers had been detached and the Corps was bedding down inside the school.

Wednesday, the Corps was up at 7:15 for exercising and stretching before an eight o’clock breakfast. Following breakfast they Corps went into sectionals to hone particular elements. Sometimes a portion of the drill or music is rewritten to give it added strength or to help cover a flaw.

As I type this the pit is twenty yards away under a grove of trees working one particular series. The pit has xylophones, marimbas, timpani, base drum and various cymbals. For the last twenty minutes they have been working at perfecting a four bar segment.

This morning over breakfast I noticed that about a third of the Corps had a white band across their forehead. We noticed Josh has a band too, just not as noticeable or thick but it was still there an inch thick just below his hair line. The band is where the top of their head has been sheltered from the sun. The darker their faces have become, the starker the contrast with the band is becoming.

This evening they will finish at eight with dinner and then about 9:30 with a movie in the school’s auditorium. Josh opted out of the movie and spent the evening chatting with mom and dad, calling nana and pupa in London, as well as enjoying the air conditioning (the school has not AC).

As you will know the Corps’ schedule is tight. Most days there is no free time. The Corps goes from wake-up directly to stretching and running and then to breakfast. Between breakfast they are either in sectionals, sub sectionals or visual (working on the show as a whole). The schedule is so tight Josh had little time to get a few items from our camper when it was only fifty yards away and then take them to the gymnasium to put them with his luggage or put them at his seat on the bus.

Days before Josh left for Texas on 1 June Evie and I again read through the rules of expectations and conduct. One thought struck me as I read through them, they are more strict than many of the conduct rules we have for camp staffs. Smoking, drinking and profanity are not permitted, not even from volunteers. Even prescription and over the counter medication is handled by the Corps’ trainer as the members are not allowed to have drugs of any kind with their personal items.

Members are expected to be on the bus or at their rehearsal location on time. One of the complaints of Crossmen veterans is that when the schedule calls for members to be on the bus at 4:40, that there are sometimes two or three that are three minutes late. They see this as the discipline being a little lax. In some Corps when it says to be on the bus at 4:40, everyone is in their seat by 4:35.

As for romantic relationships, the Corps makes it clear it has not time to deal with such matters. They are not willing to risk esprit de corps on such matters. Hence, members can be friends but not romantically involved. If a couple were already together beforehand, the regulations make it clear, no PDA and hand holding. Remember, seating is assigned by section on the buses so anyone you would be dating would be on another bus. And frankly, given their schedule, there is no time for romantic involvements. At night when there is no show and everything is done around 10:15, there is just time to get a shower in before lights out at 11:15. On days where there is a show, more often than not the Corps is traveling to 2:00 to 3:30 in the morning.

Below are a few pics of Corps life. The posted schedule is typical of most show days. They were allowed to sleep a little longer as they did not bed down until around 4 AM.

In the one rehearsal pic, notice two things. A) The drum line is wearing one set of shorts and the baritones another (the contra-bases, mellophones and trumpets had their own too). That day the caption heads ordered their sections to wear the shorts they bought as sections while in San Antonio. B) Notice one of the baritones is rehearsing without his instrument. It is being repaired but he still marches using a cone.

One is of the lunch line. When the Corps moves toward the chuck wagon, the cook and volunteers announce, “the locust are coming.” The fourth pic is of the morning stretches that take place before a mile run.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

From the Road - Part III

We again have internet...on to part III

The housing site in Erie is forty-minutes from the competition site. Evie and I were given DCI staff passes that allowed us to park with the Corps area and to enter the stadium free of charge. We could site anywhere…as long as the seat was vacant.

Though the Crossmen were a little disappointed in their score, it was only their third competition. Those that they were going against had already been in five to six competitions. Tuesday and Wednesday would be off days given to honing their drill. They know the music and the drill, it is time to make sure all are stepping correctly, having the appropriate spacing, moving in harmony across the field throughout the show while keeping proper spacing and playing the appropriate accidentals with fullness.

“Exhausted” is the unifying word upon all lips of the staff, members and volunteers. The days are long and the work is almost constant, particularly for the members. It was after 10:30 when the Corps returned to the housing site. Within minutes, small clusters were working on correcting a small item on the show before turning in at close to midnight.

This second day saw us up by 6:15 to cook breakfast for 150 people. Once breakfast was done, on to lunch preparation and then following lunch preparation, afternoon snack and the evening meal. Then pack up and hit the road at 10 PM for the next event nearly 3 hours away. As with today, there is not event tomorrow so the whole day is given to sectional and full Corps rehearsals.

Tuesday afternoon saw us taking a short nap while the chicken cooked. Fortunately we have our own self contained unit and a sturdy generator. Josh and his peers continued to rehearse in sectionals and sub-sectionals most of the day before the whole Corps worked on the drill in the late afternoon.

Following an 8:30 meal, the Corps quickly loaded up the buses, their equipment and packed up the food trailer. Shortly after 9:30 PM we were on the road to our next housing site three hours away.

Above are two pics from the Erie show on Monday.