Monday, December 31, 2007
You may recall that when I was in the car business, we used the term "cracked" to describe when we maximized profit on a customer. Ever since then, I have been entirely wary of entrepreneurial attempts to sack my pocketbook.
So it is that I walked into Katzinger's Delicatessen in Columbus, Ohio (featured in the pic) yesterday on our return trip from Chicago. I had stopped once before more than two years back after haphazardly discovering the establishment. I recalled the location, the lofty, left-wing attitude of its customers and that President Clinton ate there while in office--there's a pic of him visiting the place on the wall.
I remembered how Katzinger's is in the old German village section of Columbus. It's the "cultural" section, the same way you think of "cultural" when thinking of DuPont Circle in D.C., or Belmont in Chicago. It's clean. There's brick paved streets and architectually pleasing structures throughout. But the gay element hangs around like a series of bad apples.
The one thing, though, that I forgot is how outrageous Katzinger's prices are. The minimum price for all their sandwiches with meat was $9.95 (1/4 lb.). For the 1/2 lb. try $11.95.
Ok, to be fair, Katzinger's makes some great--even fantastic, to-die-for--food, and not all of their prices are horrible. They support local industry and all that. They offer unlimited pickle action, great deli ambience and a selection of olive oils that would probably make any olive oil enthusiast drool profusely. I say "probably" because my olive oil experience is limited, but still took the time sample some of their available varities and checked out their overall selection. It was all top notch, but so were the price tags.
Anyway, my point: $12.00 for a sandwich?! WTF? I don't pay that in NYC where sandwiches dominate all over the place. This is Columbus middle-of-nowhere Ohio. My sandwich at Katzinger's was good, very good, but at $11.95 I am expecting fireworks and small nuclear explosions. Clare's sandwich, on the other hand, was out of this world and arguably worth every hard-earned penny. Hmmmm.
This brings me to my first and primary point. I was cracked. I know it. I practically walked in knowing it. They lost money when it came to the pickles, I hope, especially the ones we pocketed before leaving. You laugh, but I kid you not. Katzinger's pickles made it to Stafford, VA as surely as you can say "Dill or Garlic?" and "No bloody shame."
So, you the reader, are probably asking (and rightly so) why I bothered to spend the money, then, if I abhor the prices that much. Well, the truth is I abhor virtually every fast food chain in America except Subway much more in principle than I do an off-the-beaten path, mom-and-pop liberal food-shrine like Katzinger's.
I guess you can say I am nearly an ideologue when it comes to my food. I buy organic as much as I can and would willingly high-five in the middle of the store a like-minded conservative for shopping at Whole Foods. When I shopped there regularly, I never had to worry about my meat being recalled for hormones and shit being pumped into it. I just went back into my apartment feeling fortunate and exuberant about my amazing, tasty and environmentally-friendly food.
There are some who have called me and believe, quite seriously, that I am a yuppie for my preferences in food. Oh, shame on you for not knowing any better, fools! I consider myself as having superior and sometimes expensive taste, yes. It's slightly arrogant, maybe, but when you have had supreme, whether it's mom's home cookin' or a 5-star restaurant, you know when something's low-grade. You know when something is shit. When you have taken the trouble of creating a healthy diet consisting of quality foods that you can afford, you have a pretty good idea of when you are being served 7-day-old f'ing roadkill.
Yuppie, a term coined in the 80s, actually means "young, upward moving professional." But also tends to refer to the kind of people who lack a personality outside the bounds of a corporately defined atmosphere like Starbucks, a corporation that has successfully created an ethos that implies it has a monopoly on cool. Except in a pinch, I eschew Starbucks and the man-bag wielding fags who think they're the shit because they know the difference between a grande and a mocha. Dudes. Starbucks is hit or miss. Often, it is passable. Their espresso is usually fairly good, yes, but their coffee is generally no-better than caffienated poison.
But it's not the coffee drinks that piss me off so much as its corporate attitude and culture, which might well say: "If you don't drink coffee here, you have no taste and make up the sector of society we can safely entitle 'the nameless rabble.'" Yah, ok. Right. While I think Starbucks has created more enthusiasm about coffee in general, it has lowered the bar culturally when it comes to superior coffee.
But this post is not about coffee as much as it is about food. Should we bother paying more for excellent fare even if it is located in a painfully liberal and quasi-arrogant place like Katzinger's in Columbus, OH, or Georgetown, or Hyperion in Fredericksburg, VA? My own thoughts on the matter is to choose your battles wisely, should you even care in the first place. I can only handle so much of the freaky-deaky liberal-types who tend to frequent said shops and keep them in business.
Indeed, it's a shame that it's liberal idealogues who most often, it seems to me, form the vanguard of the "good food" and "good food awareness" corridors in the more upbeat neighborhoods across our country. It's not something we tend to think about, but nevertheless an issue so close to home it's in our refrigerator. Eating better food may cost more money in the end, but I think the rewards are highly worth it.
Happy New Year,
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Well, it's only a little over 5 days at the time of this writing until we leave for Chicagoland. As you may recall, last May, Clare and I visited the region and had a wonderful trip. We are hoping for a repeat experience, since we are fairly set on moving back to the region. While I will miss the mountains and beach nearby, I'll be happy to be in a saner area with nicer people and wonderful breakfast shops, not to mention the hosts of other foods and cultural attractions that are available.
Today we celebrated with Clare's family the Christmas season with dinner and a gift exchange. I got some cool stuff: Fundamental Refrigeration, by Gunter; some socks from Vermont, and gift cards for Lowe's and Gander Mountain. I also bought myself a much need new Carhart work jacket to withstand artic blasts.
On the side, I have been distracting myself by reading the last quarter of Dr. Carroll's The Rise and Fall of the Communist Revolution. I had always meant to actually read the whole book in it's entirety--I've read numerous bits and pieces at one time or another--but never made the time or maintained the motivation to read it in full. The sweet thing about this history is that it's broken up into very succinct bits that are easy to digest. So it's relatively easy to put your mind around a historical event or series of events fairly quickly, which is important when you have chores and a baby to attend to.
One subject I have found particularly fascinating is Mikhail Gorbachev. He's a mystery. I think it's fair to say that the guy essentially dismantled, in part, the USSR politically from within, by repudiating Stalinism and allowing for the creation of multi-lateral party systems. I mean, if you are a card-carrying, Mao-worshiping commie, Gorbachev is nothing short of poison to your entire being. My own personal opinion is that Gorby was no dummy. He believed he was a true communist, but could not stomach the crimes of Stalin's regime. He saw that his country was crumbling and could not sustain itself any longer without allowing the people some sort of freedoms to handle their own problems.
Ok, I'm rambling here somewhat, but one last tidbit. Lech Walesa, one of the chief proponents and founders of Solidarity whose flag is pictured above, has to be one of the greatest heroes in the 20th century. Along with Pope JPII, he faced down the most evil regime in the history of the world with the grace of God without drawing a drop of blood, lived to tell about it, and won.
Polish pride, baby. Polish pride.
Over and out.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Monday, December 03, 2007
At the annual Aikido party on Saturday night, a group of the more rambunctious aikido-ka from our dojo continued the tradition of hanging out on Sensei's back porch, overlooking the forest, and smoking cigars. This group continues to get larger with each passing year, but it is made up of the solid core that began the tradition: Craig, Carlos, Jeff, and myself. Mike S. was also key to the start of the group, but he has moved on, for now.
So there I was smoking my cigar and drinking some outrageously delicious 10-year tawny port, brought by Scotto, when Carlos and the crew began to laugh and joke about my breakfalls during the test, because I hit the mat pretty dramatically. He proposed that we should abolish the Ricter scale for earthquakes and replace it with the "Nickter" scale. And instead of points we should have faces of Nick. So, when I got launched over Chris's hip for the first koshi-nage, Carlos said that that one deserved at least 3.5 Nicks, which I thought was pretty hilarious.
But jokes aside, Chris's test was great. He put everything out there and rocked-and-rolled the way he should. For uke, the one who receives the technique and take the fall, there is also the test of giving a true attack, maintaining control, and taking the fall in a real but artful manner.
In all my "test" experience, where I was called out to receive the technique, this was one of my best moments. Everything felt tight and juiced. After Chris threw me in a kote-gaeshi breakfall, I was back on my feet as soon as he let go of the pin, pausing appropriately to maintain zanshin and martial awareness before continuing on.
Chris and I had connected twice a week plus for a month prior to prepare, so we were already in tune with each other's movements. But when you get out on a mat full of ju-ju, with 75 people in a relatively small room, examining each of your movements, each technique, watching you, you are standing in the moment of truth. There's really no time to think about what's happening. You just do it and succeed or do it and stumble. For uke, you do it and recieve.
Ueki is the art of falling, of recieving the attack. Typically, this is called Ukemi. But ueki takes ukemi to the next level. You are not merely receiving the attack and falling away from harm, you do so in a way that is beautiful and perfect, that takes something bad and turns it into something good. That is ueki.
And I feel that I tasted some of that weekend.
Over and out.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Right now, Mona Lisa Smile is showing on the T.V. before me, and this movie is bloody painful in just about every way. Julia Roberts. Ugh.
I am going to keep this one short and say that I have been enjoying encouraging my brother-in-law Andy to follow his sense desire to go "off the grid" and move to adventure town or BFE, wherever that may be. Nearly every day he updates me on the latest far-flung properties perching on a mountain top in the middle of nowhere. It's almost always somewhere more crazy than the last time, and so it goes.
Well, I think I better try playing chess and hopefully become woozelly and lull myself to sleep.
Until next time. Over and out.
Monday, November 19, 2007
This past weekend, our trip to the Mountains turned into a trip to Culpepper, or as Agnes, my old land-lady used to say, Cul-pep-pa. Not only did she have an accent, she remembered when her daddy and his dad used to sit out on the front porch and watch the people driving their horses or Model Ts on an old Indian Path into Fredericksburg. Wow.
So Clare and I had our first foray into downtown Culpepper this weekend, where we actually got out and walked the main drag. Apparently, we picked a good weekend for this trip, as the town was having their Christmas Open-House Kick Off or something like that, albeit one week before the traditional start time. I didn't complain too much, though, as segments of the evening's brass ensemble played Christmas tunes outside for shoppers and villagers alike. It was actually pretty classy.
And that's just it. Culpepper is now classy. Too classy? That's not for me to say, but I seem to remember a time when Culpepper was the po-dunk backwater of Northern Virginia, home of the slack-jawed and the snaggletoothed. Now it is something of a country retreat for the cultured and coiffured, a reality natives probably didn't much expect 1o years ago or so, but these are different times.
In fact, if you are misfortunate enough to find yourself even farther south in Charlottesville on 29 during rush hour, you know these are different times. At least an hour away from anywhere, Charlottesville, home of prestigious UVA and Monticello, causes sheer disbelief when the roads become clogged with automobiles galore.
Anyway, my point is the landscape of Virginia has changed massively. It's not all bad, particularly in Culpepper. For such a small, Old Town area, there's a bit of everything, though mostly of interest to Northern Virginia types. Foti, an off-shoot restaurant of the Inn at Little Washington, is in the heart of town. The Camaleer, a boutique with interesting imports from continents that start with the letter "a" is fun to peruse. And there's a passable coffee shop, a nifty looking, 50s style corner cafe, and a chic French culinary establishment.
So that was our weekend. I had actually wanted to visit Wolfton too, to find a new home for us and our dog, but apparently the town has exceeded its wolf-quota, so the door--there was only one--was politely but firmly closed and we were unable to buy there.
I think we are going to bide our time, then, and buy around Chi-town instead.
Over and out.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Both trips were important, but that did not mean on Saturday morning I was let off easy. I met Chris T. at 7:30 AM at the dojo to go through some sections of his blackbelt test. Believe me, I was not pumped to get thrown over someone's hip 15 times. I know how to take the fall and all, but it was more a question of Chris learning the throw. Luckily for me, Chris' painful and uncertain hip throws had improved dramatically since this past Tuesday, where I was tossed into oblivion while my partner was left scratching his head.
The good news is that, in the end, we were able to work out the kinks in his technique, which in turn made taking the falls much more pleasant and exciting.
Anyway, I just wanted to sleep in on Saturday, but by the end of our practice and the following class I was digging it and everything felt well-worth it. I came home and then grabbed some movies, wings to go and a few replacement light bulbs for the Jeep. That night we watched Shooter, which was surprisingly good and reinspired me to live on a mountain top.
Sunday I was happy to sleep in, finally--I seem to have inherited Clare's morning fogginess by proxy. Lovely. So I pounded down some coffee, happily, as well as my mother-in-laws egg-vegetable medley and some corn muffins. At 1PM, I met Chris T. again at the dojo for a full run-through of his test. Everything went well, and at the end, Sensei asked me a question:
"So what are you going to do, between now and Chris's test, to build up your wind capacity?"
LOL. This kind of caught me by surprise, but I rolled with it. I know I need to work on my endurance levels, I always do, but I answered the question nonetheless. "Well, I am going on a hike tomororow!" which brought a rounding good laugh.
And this brings me to the subject of this Update. What am I to do? Well, I did go on a small hike today with Clare and the baby through the beautiful and winding Alum Springs Park in Fredericksburg. I carried Anastasia on my back in her Kelty carrier and felt great. Maybe that's because last weekend, I got my butt totally kicked at Prince William County park doing the same thing for a longer and more difficult hike.
I guess my point is that when we are active and actually stay active, not only do we feel better, but also we carry the benefits of our previous activity with us into the next day. It's usually easier to keep up the juice factor if you keep going than if you stop, wait a while, and then start again. You lose a ton of momentum and it feels like cruel and unusual punishment.
Because I have been a once-a-weeker at Aikido, I almost always feel like I am starting all over again by the next class, in terms of stamina and endurance. But this weekend, where I did something every day that was vigorous and active, I not only feel better in the present, but was able to carry the benefits of those activities into each successive action.
Chris's test is in less than 3 weeks. Between now and then, I will make an effort to be more active to make it through our seminar and Chris's test. Hopefully, I will get to do a crazy-ass hike between now and then too.
We shall see.
Over and out.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Well, you wouldn't believe it, but there is actually a website called glocktalk.com. To the left is a beautiful picture of a most righteous Glock 21, .45 caliber, in action. I spent some time this weekend researching this and other pistols, so I have been inspired to post and talk a bit about guns.
When I was kid, about the age of 7 or 8, though, my dad did his best to discourage all my talk about guns. I used to go on and on ad nauseum, the way kids do sometimes, about how much I liked and wanted an arsenal of firearms. Finally, one day my dad asked me why I liked guns so much. My answer, well, they kill people.
That wasn't exactly a good response, especially for my dad. The last thing he wanted was for his son to brandish play guns, dreaming of blowing things up, which, of course, is what I did. I used to carry play guns in the car and shoot at make-believe targets as we drove by. I guess I was practicing for my daily commute along I-95.
But eventually I gave up my love of guns (temporarily) because of my father's opposition to them. But he wasn't really opposed, the way anti-gunners are, he just didn't want his son turning to the dark side.
I suppose, though, it doesn't get any darker than Glock.
Many have argued that guns take lives and that the only people who really need them are the police. That is a nice thought, but it is suitable only for Utopias and authoritarian regines. Human nature is wounded, and so people do bad things. It is sure a blessing that many of us, hopefully, have not experienced first-hand an extremely violent crime, but it does not mean those things do not happen.
Ultimately, I believe law-abiding citizens should be allowed to own and carry a firearm for their and others protection. However, it is surely the decision of each individual whether they choose to excercise that freedom.
As for me, I already own a shotgun, which was, as funny as it sounds, an awesome-awesome wedding gift. Now it's time to pump up the action, if you know what I mean.
Over and out.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Yesterday, Clare and I made our bi-weekly trip to Richmond to visit with her Uncle Mike for the purpose of exchanging post cards and checking out a house or two.
Uncle Mike sends us a list every day of what's coming on and going off the market. So it is that I found a foreclosure that looked promising from the outside to check out for under a 100k.
What we found was a pleasant shock. A craftsman style bungalow replete with newly finished hardwood floors, French doors that lead into a finished tile kitchen, and thick, early twentieth century trim. Yes, the home is rough around the edges, but most of those issues are cosemetic. Clearly, it looked as if someone had done a fair deal of updating, but fell on hard times.
So Clare and I are in the process of purchasing this home, not as a keeper, but as an investment. With a thorough bit of cleaning, some paint and a lot of elbow grease, the optimist in me believes it will significantly increase in value.
In a way, it's very much a tragedy in our day that home prices are so out of control. Real estate is a wonderful investment all in all, but I would rather be purchasing a nice house to live in for a long time and make a home then to purchase a house, enhance it's attractiveness and then flip it so I can simply do the former.
Planting roots is a huge part of taking our place in the world, at least for some of us. I like Richmond, though it is not my first choice for a home. It is a good choice for a market to invest in I think, since there are areas in which house prices are fairly reasonable.
Again, I'd rather hang out and live the crunchy-con way, but in this day and age, it seems you must first possess the entreprunurial spirit to be a crunchy-con.
The irony, eh?
Over and out.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Speaking of automobiles, we got the Jeep back and it's back to laying the smack down to VDOT, pavement or not. The Wrangler is driving like new. The clutch is extremely smooth thus far and makes for a fine driving experience. Major props to our Hartwood mechanic, Kenny, who put everything together. He's a cool master mechanic good ol' boy type who works for Jeep out in Centreville.
As for me, work continues to be a whirlwind for all of you who monitor my travails. I received my EPA 608 Certification Study Guide in the mail today and have begun the process of slogging through it in hopes for testing for my certification in two weeks or so.
Also in 2 weeks, Clare and I will be attending the Nickelcreek concert at the 9:30 Club downtown. I hope it will be a sweet event. The last concert I went to was Tull at Wolf-Trap. They are coming again to Bethesda to Strathmore, but the tickets are way expensive for the seats that are available. Another Tull concert would be cool, but I'll catch them in 2008, if they tour.
So, despite the fact that it is the off-non-holiday season, our schedule continues to be packed on and off the clock. It's wierd how that goes, but alas, that's the way it is, I guess.
I am just looking forward to getting my HVAC Certification in a hurry, so I can start working in the trade and become a refrigerent bad-ass. Hopefully, everything will work out and I'll be able to find flexible side work where I can learn and be paid.
Next week, I'll endeavor to be more contemplative in my post, but there seems to be so much stuff going on.
Keep the Juice. Over and out.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Anyway, it's been outta commission now for over a month. I brought it to the mechanic's last weekend and he, of course, discovered that it needed another part in addition to a clutch kit and pinion bearing. Ok great, just fix it and give me back my JEEP!!!!
Recently, I was driving back from a foray into town but was in my Mustang. While driving my Jeep I have become accustomed to wave at other Jeep drivers. It's called the Jeep wave, which Wrangler people customarily give to other Wrangler people. It's a Jeep thing. Anyway, I love the commardie of the "Jeep Wave" because it's total respect for one thingmand keeps you excited about your Jeep for another. So now when I am driving other vehicles, sometimes I wave.
Anyway, I was driving the Mustang and saw another Mustang and did the chill-I'm-cool-wave and the other driver waved back. It was so great. This is the second time I can recall waving from the Mustang and getting a response. Most Mustang drivers are not that tuned in to waving, but the ones who are are usually pretty cool.
So that's the story in these parts. I should also add that I have chosen HVAC as my new path for professional and personal development. So instead of Latin and Dawson for now, I am reading Black & Decker's Guide to Home Wiring and the Esco Institute's EPA 608 Exam study guide for the CFC Universal test. The translation to that last part is that I am pursuing my license to do HVAC stuff.
The main reason for this alteration in reading is that the latter works will hopefully lead to an increase in income. It will also make me more valuable at my job, or so I'd like to think.
Anyway, that's the story Gee's. Until next post, over and out.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
As you may recall if you come here semi-regularly, Clare and I are in the market for an affordable place. We have found the Richmond area to be a source of sanely-priced smaller homes that are not located near or close to BFE.
So manana we are heading that way for a look at some properties. The good thing is that her Uncle is a realtor in that area and has been doing it for many years.
I have looked at lots of homes and ideas for us, and while our attention is presently drawn to this area, I know that nothing is certain until the close.
So this is basically a shout out to all of you who follow our fortunes and wonder from time to time about our home purchasing direction. Depending on the circumstances, I will endeavor to keep my job as long as possible. Despite occasional difficulties, I love working for Holy Family parish and the Church. It's good experience and work for the Lord.
So that's basically it for now. My dream is to find a really cool and affordable fixer-upper, make it sweet and keep it. I would like to build a small but impressive personal library one day, so I will need some space for that and all my other junk.
And you know, I don't keep a lot of junk, or try not to. It weighs you down. When I had two Mustangs, I remember it felt good to sell the old one, like it was a burden off my shoulders, even though it was a very cool car.
Ok, that's really it. I'll check you all later. If I find something, I will post.
Best to all. Over and out.
Monday, October 01, 2007
Well, it was nice to visit Williamsburg, finally, and now I am re-visiting this wonderful town in my post.
Let me first say that I was pleasantly reminded of how important it is for a historian to visit and touch, if possible, those things he reads about. Such adventures take one's musings about a place and time out of the imagination and make them tangible. One can not only retrace the footsteps of our nation's founding fathers, but also re-live their past, see what they saw and smell what they smelled.
And in all my smelling this weekend, several matters became abunduntly clear and real for me. No man who joined the American War for Independence did so because he didn't have much to lose. His predicament was very real. Win or die. Washington, Jefferson and Patrick Henry laid it all on the line. Had their attempts failed, they would undoubtedly have met their end at the gallows. As patriots, we should reflect on their sacrifices and be better for it.
And this leads me to my second personal revelation. What if, on an ideological level, you disagree with the American project, or at least parts of it?
Well, I suppose this could be the subject of a small library, but basically I have this to say. The founders of this country were educated in the Enlightenment, which may be objectionable on its own, but as men they took grave risks to establish our nation. For that we must respect them. They had backbone. They put their lives on the line no matter how you cut it, and so their valorous deeds ring true.
As far as the Enlightenment part goes, well, this was certainly a part of who the founding fathers were as educated men. Notwithstanding their personal piety, organized religion--as far as the Enlightenment is concerned--goes to the back of the bus when confronted with the general "progress" of mankind.
That said, the founding fathers, Jefferson most notable among them, were often fine humanists, and their contributions to our cultural patrimony are central to our identity as Americans. Whatever their ideologies may have been, places like Monticello and procedures like our practice of Law were established with noble intentions and stand as a testimony to their greatness.
So in a word I believe it is best to judge these men by their positive merits and actions rather, perhaps, than by their education alone. America's founding fathers stood up and were counted when their time came and when their countrymen needed them the most.
We should be so good to do so as well.
Over and out.
Monday, September 24, 2007
He focuses on St. Benedict because his rule was monumental for medieval life, forming the platform for the most essential institution to the Middle Ages: the monastery.
The good--and by good I mean tasty--news is that St. Benedict's monks have given us a real treat on their road map to becoming holy, which leads us to the title of this post, "Monastery Soup."
It was announced today at our staff meeting at Holy Family that our new lunch lady will be serving Benedictine Monastery soup everyday for the staff. If you have met Beth, you would know instantly that she is the real deal in terms of living a Catholic and sincere life. And you would also know that she is no joke when it comes to serving hearty monastery soup.
As you might imagaine, I was elated at the news of our new lunch option, and for many reasons. First, it's monastery soup, with the yummy recipes being taken from the book of the same name; its's available from Ligouri Press, I believe. Second, it's nice to have a daily ritual that creates the possibiliy of community outside the feeling of the workplace, more, say, than just hanging out with one or two people over a bagel.
Eating in common is an ancient tradition and creates the sense of "we're in this together" for all the participants. One reason this is effective for a new evangelization is that it creates a common bond, sending the message that in the work of God we come together to fulfill our basic human needs. It's also very tangible, as opposed to merely acknowledging the merits of some theory or ideology. You can point to an action, and concrete actions are needed if we ever are going to build a culture of life, especially one that is shared.
Even if nobody else comes, going down for the parish community's monastery soup is an excellent idea. It's just cool. So I am certainly looking forward to this new and hopefully lasting daily tradtion.
Over and out.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
I think of my schoolwork at College, my initiation into things true, good and beautiful, graduating, and then being left to the seas of everyday life in an apathetic and sometimes cruel world.
Most of the people out there never have heard of Christendom, let alone the sacred and real principles for which my Alma Mater stands. As a student, especially as a senior, I remember feeling the impulse to get out and prove myself, do God's work, and open a can of Catholic-Whoop-N'-It to take over the world for Christ.
And then, when that moment finally came and I was on the other side of the threshhold, it was, in some ways, kind of like being overwhelmed by being underwhelmed, even disenfranchised, realizing that, hey, the world just doesn't give a damn. And it's not that the world--the culture, the people we meet, etc.--is always virtiolic in it's wayward apathy. No, it is much more like Peter from the movie Office Space, when he says, "It's not that I'm lazy, it's that I just don't care."
Often, when it comes to reconquering the world for Christ, it's easy to get disheartened by the seeming banality of everything.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of listening to Bishop Loverde speak on here at Holy Family on leadership of the diocese, specifically about the growth we are experiencing. And despite all that, as a lay person, even though I work for a wonderful parish despite its failings, I feel left out of the ever-allusive "Catholic thing" in some ways.
Maybe it's the general architecture. Or the commute. Or the vast communties of sprawl that disfigure once beautiful countryside for miles on end. I don't honestly know. Death by suburbia is a reality for sure and it's lackluster ethos effects us probably more than any of us realize or may be willing to admit.
And when you become part of a place like Christendom, it never really leaves you. It has been said that if you stay in a place long enough, you become that place. True. True. But then you leave because life goads you on and calls you to higher purpose.
Wonderful. But always, or at least someimtes, I find myself looking back to that sense of purpose and belonging, even granduer, I felt as a student.
Often, it was great. And then enter, the real world, awakening me from my reverie, and there is definite vacancy of tangible purpose other than the Divine Mandate, as if that were insignificant. The previous inculcation of the highest things leaves you spoiled and wanting more, but looking left and looking right, you don't see that desire mirrored by anyones else usually except pedants.
Historian Sir John Julius Norwich comments that, in Byzantium, you could find bums on the streetcorners debating the Virginity of Mary and the dual natures of Christ. Well, I don't think one needs me to say it, but we are certainly a fair cry away from that in our society
Perhaps I am not alone in feeling this way, but I guess I get a sense sometimes of "this all there is." Routine can be a killer, especially when it seems so easy and alluring to get lost in adventure, whether fiction or non-fiction.
I guess this leads me to the title of my post, albeit in a roundabout way. Many of us were once part of a forum that confers an identity by just being a part of it. That's a cool thing, but should it end once you leave the doors, or shouldn't it continue in some fine way after the fact?
Over and out.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
(The only problem is, no one is allowed in, except for special dinners.)
Recently, I stole the opportunity to investigate Christendom's new St. John the Evangelist Library, which I had never checked out properly after it was completed. And wow! It is grand and surpasses most other modern libraries to be sure. I hope students for ages to come will venerate that place. Finally, there is a structure on campus, other than the chapel, worthy of the name Christendom.
So, now that I am done with the HP series, I have begun reading, once again, Wheelock's Latin and Dawson's Medieval Essays.
The more I read on the fall of Rome, the more I see the parallels to our own day, which I think is one of the most important reasons to study the medieval world. It's not that they are on a pedestal, necessarily, when compared to other civilizations. No, it's that the medieval Church and the culture it raised was able to cope with a crumbling, hedonist society that stood at odds with the teachings of Christ.
It is easy to fall verily into pure anachronism and judge the faults of Rome by the failings of our post-modern world. Even though we confront the challenge to distinguish one reality from the other, the similarities are striking, and if pondered upon, unnerving.
That said, I wonder about today's movements to embrace facets or the whole of medieval past. I am speaking about everything from distributists to the outbreak of fantasy as a genre of fiction and (quasi-) Renaissance Faires. Do we, as a societal whole, intuitively acknowledge the spiritual and cultural bankrupcy of our own day, and, in turn, seek answers from the western medieval world to remedy the problem in our own lives?
Maybe this is purely a romantic musing of an individual fascinated by the medieval imagination and much of the stuff associated with it. Well, I will not disappoint you--I will not deny my bias. Still, I think it's a good idea to see how our forefathers in the west handled barbarians and barbarism. (Heck, some of them probably were barbians.)
Until then, over and out.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
I just finished Harry Potter: Deathly Hallows, Book 7, this past Tuesday morning, even allowing myself to be late to work in the process. And while they owed me some time anyway, I am one of those people who occasionally takes a "sick day" just to stay home an read an adventure.
So now I have actually joined the ranks of the multitudes who have read and are fans of the sometimes infamous Harry Potter. In the end, I thought the series as a whole was quite good, and that many people defame the books very unecessarily, going over the top with their criticisms in effort to prove their convictions.
That said, from a literary and my personal point of view, the last two books--Book 6 in particular--were somewhat out of the mold set up by the first five and did not deliver the goods in some ways as amazingly as I had yearned. While the final scenes of the series were crazy awesome, some of the setup was a bit over-the-top and over-complicated.
I'd take more time to go into detail if I were not at work and actually had moments to spare besides. Suffice to say the planned euthanasia revealed in the end was not inspiring, and neither were the seemingly endless scenes of snogging in Book 6, and celebrated at the end of Book 7. For all the literary and imaginative greatness revealed by Rowling in Books 1-5, and her seeming initial unwillingness to sink to the level of carnal tastes, the aforementioned features unecessarily marred an otherwise great story.
Oh well. I actually didn't expect complete perfection. But again, it was, overall, pretty damn good.
When I wasn't immersed in the last few books, for the past 2 or 3 weeks I have found myself back online playing chess. I often go through spurts of playing and not-playing, and I was reminded to start playing again when I found a white queen chess piece outside at work, which now adorns my desk here at work.
I am not entirely sure why, exactly, but I am excited to say that my game is now the best it's ever been, at least in the 10-minute segment. I find myself sacking Class A players (the rank below master level), and say to myself, "What the hell? I mean, Yah! What the hell!" This totally pumps me up and makes the game that much more exciting.
I hope this isn't just a streak of good luck, because if it is I've been lucky for a while. I still need to study the game and improve for sure; it's just awesome when you finally find yourself seriously dominating and making 1900 level players crumble.
So that's it for now. I've tooted my own horn enough. Let fly the cannons and all that good stuff. I'll see you later.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Again today, I seem at a loss for words. Clare and I took an impromptu trip over the weekend to the Winston-Salem, NC area to check it out and see what's what. It was generally very relaxing and we stayed at a very comfortable hotel.
I just stinks that the weekend had to end so quickly. Alas, next weekend is a 3-day weekend for those who have a nice work schedule. Will the Monday Update be off for Labor Day, too? I don't know. Even artists have to take a break.
As I write, I am currently at work, getting ready for the next season of updates and repairs to our facility at Holy Family, in what is hopefully an attempt to make it look less dumpy and more like a church.
And speaking of churches, over the weekend Clare and I attended Our Lady of Grace in Greensboro, NC for mass. It was wonderfully gothic and beautiful, with fanstatic stained glass, an old-school organ and beautiful high altar. I felt great to be in that space.
That's it for now. I am off to celebrate a Staff member's birthday. In the meantime, enjoy your day.
During lunch today, I had the oppoprtunity to talk at length with our parish's resident classical language scholar, Fr. Carrier. I asked him a host of questions regarding his latin study, classical and medieval latin texts and requisite dictionaries. Our discussion was highly enlighting for me, because he clarified a number of my questions regarding Latin's study and use. His father, in fact, is taking a Latin correspondance course with the bloody University of Cambridge, which I think is pretty cool.
In any event, I cannot adequately express how satisfying and refreshing it is to talk with someone who is conversant regarding Latin and its rewards and difficulties. I find myself again inspired to plunge back into the Latin texts.
Well, after Harry Potter, of course.
Monday, August 20, 2007
My diligence in reading Harry Potter has by far outstripped my discipline of waking up at 6:30 in the morning to study Latin and pursue the intellectual virtues. Over the past 7 days, I have pounded down Books Two and Three with abandon and have ventured into Book Four.
Pictured above, by the way, is Azkaban. If you don't know what lies within, you're one of the lucky ones.
I am certainly happy to be reading so much. My wife is reading too. Sometimes reading just Potter feels like literary hedonism, but it's still great, especially on a night like tonight, here in the upper room, listening to the thunder and rain and seeing the occasional flash of lighting.
It's just bloody fantastic.
Anyway, nothing profound has percolated within lately, so I am going to keep this one short and sweet. Enjoy the rest of your day and evening, whichever it may be, and see you next time.
Monday, August 13, 2007
Since my last post, I have read and finished Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Book 1 of 7) and have plowed my way into Book 2, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, from which the title of this post is taken. Rowling's books are easy on the eye, a quality that is especially nice for the late evening before bed. This means, however, that I am going to need Book Three faster than you can say "Flue Travelling."
Watching the Harry Potter movies has certainly re-kindled my interest in the history of the university, particularly the medieval university. I had even forgotten, or took for granted, that before I left Christendom I took a 500 level course on Catholic higher education which outlined and described the development and philosophy of the Catholic university throughout the ages, with particular emphasis on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
So much occurred on a grand scale during these two centuries to alter our paradigm of formal education it is mind-boggling. Suffice it to say, education is no longer what it used to be.
Ah, Oxford. I wish all schools looked this awesome.
Anyway, I have been continuing my medieval studies, boring to some, but intriguing and exciting to me. One of the books on my list has been Christopher Dawson's Medieval Essays. This marks the first time I've really sat down and read Dawson on my own, and he is fantastic! One of the big inquiries I have is exactly how did the transition from Fall of the Empire to Medieval Catholic Europe take place? I mean, how did it transpire on an organic cultural level? I think Dawson's answers are not only insightful, but refreshing.
The other facet of my study has been Latin. I can only handle about 40-45 minutes a day, at the moment, and by that time I am pent up and need to throw somebody. Seriously. I love Latin but it makes me mad, as in crazy. (My wife says I don't need Latin to make me crazy, though.) Even still, I figure if I can make it through that much each day, after a long period of time, I will have a solid grasp of the language.
To study anything historical pre-1800 requires ease with Latin if I want to move on in the ranks of academia. I don't know that I ever will--though I am thinking about it, I got the itch, you know--but if I do decide to go in that direction, I will need to be a competent Latin scholar. I will need to kick it seriously. Better to be prepared than to be unprepared and found wanting.
I love Latin despite it's difficulty. Ever since I knew there was a Latin language, I've always wanted to learn it and be good at it. If I can get my lazy bum up each morning to try and master it, maybe "good" will be attainable after all.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Well, if you know what that means, then you also know that I have happily immersed myself in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter story. At least the movies, at any rate.
Alas, I know some of my readers may be shaking their heads if not their fists, but in truth I cannot say I haven't been charmed by Rowling's tale. Perhaps it would be even more accurate to say, "Bloody Hell, I'm so spellbound I can't even keep my eyes straight!"
For me the films are powerful because they are extraordinary in their spectacle, breadth of imagination, feature an all-star cast, and at least for the first three installments, the artful score of master composer John Williams, and that set upon the back-drop of the Bodleian Libary and Christ Church College at Oxford.
And what does all this spell, my friends? K-I-C-K-A-S-S.
Ok, so there you go. I like Harry Potter and that is my opinion. Enough of that for now.
So what else have I been up to?
Well, I have quietly, though enthusiastically, begun immersing myself further into medieval studies via my own personal library.
Well, when I have time. Speaking of which, I've also been thinking much of late about my time at Christendom and what it has meant. Now the professors who had seemingly ensconced themselves like institutions of the institutions, who exerted so much influence in my studies and life as an upper-classman--Drs. Fahey, Blum, and Reyes--are all gone into the ether and working at other Catholic enterprises.
Honestly, I never thought those dudes would leave. I thought they had it sweet--Department Heads, VP of Academics and everything. But most people, for one reason or another, usually--eventually--do leave.
For me, this goes to show that when we go to a place like Christendom for example, we embrace such a large tradition that it cannot be restricted or confined to a small group of individuals. It is vast and alive. So despite the absence of these intellects, Christendom will still be Christendom, and I will remain an alumnus, not of Blum and Reyes, but of Christendom.
Maybe the Hogwarts craze is having its effect on me, but that, my friends, feels pretty damn good.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
We went to a great local dive called the Ice House for dinner one night. If you make your way to this shack, check out their steamed shrimp, which are awesome!
I feel totally rejuvenated and relaxed today. I need that. People here are crazy and so go-go-go that they don't enjoy life too much with each passing day. At the beach, however, the wind and water just seem to lift and wash your cares away.
Each night we went to sleep to the sound of the waves crashing on the beach. It's hard not to sleep great in that kind of environment. It was almost like going back to a "state of nature."
On Monday morning, I woke up at 6:30, and with the crud still in my eyes, stumbled my way out to the ocean with my bokken--wooden sword--in hand and began stretching and training on the beach with the sunrise. It was a fantastic experience. After I had sufficiently warmed up, I picked up my sword and began practicing my cutting with the waves crashing all around me. I began with the "eight-direction cut," which really makes one focus since the waves and ripetide are pulling/pushing at you in all different directions.
Awesome. It was a great challenge, and I found my energy levels and intensity increased to do everything correctly. I then began cutting toward the sea with the 3rd suburi (basic cutting practice) where you reach up in to sky, then lower your body and sword, and finally explode with a cut. It was exhilarating and refreshing. All I wanted was someone to throw me kote-gaeshi into a wave.
So, if you can't tell already, our trip was much needed and, at least for me, very therapeutic. Training on the beach is a vastly superior practice. If I lived on the beach, "beach training" would be my lifestyle, all the way.
Until then, over and out.
Friday, July 20, 2007
Tomorrow, Clare, Anastasia are heading out to Virginia Beach for some adventures of our own. We will be staying at First Landing State Park, pictured above.
It will be nice to visit the beach, I think. Virginia Beach has that carnival atmosphere characteristic of all laid-back, waterscape towns. It's a cool place, even if it is often crowded. But what good beach isn't?
Several years ago, I met my friend Jason in San Francisco for some crazy adventures. One of those took us south of the city, north of Half Moon Bay, to a beautiful secluded beach. The sun was wicked hot and the water was freezing cold. Then, as we were chilling out on a rock, watching the waves crash and coastal birds flap around, a naked ex-hippy jangles up to us and interrupts our reverie.
"Hey dude, you got any weeeed? I found this there hacki-sack here on the beach and I'm looking for someone to trade it to for some weeeed."
"No." I scowl and look away. So he turns to Jason, who actually looks like a hippie, and re-explains himself.
"Man, you got any weeeed?"
Ever the diplomat, Jason responds, compassion in his voice. "Man, I'm sorry. I don't have any weed."
Jason's answer seems to satisfy our new acquaintance, and he trots off in search of the next poor soul. After a short while, Jason and I look at each other and crack up.
I hope that guy didn't make it to the East Coast....
Monday, July 09, 2007
I have been a lazy lout when it comes to updating my blog. Part of that is because I've been very, very busy at work lately, with our Church/School renovation. The good news is that our projects have turned out excellently thus far.
The whole school is newly tiled with premium quartz vct. Actually, it's not vct, it just looks like it. It also looks like we have a new school without our nasty old carpet. My great prayer and concern is that our tile stands the test of time and looks just as marvelous many years after I am gone.
We also have a new church floor! I cannot tell you how bad ass this really is. Someone actually let me drop a handsome some of money to renovate an ugly Church and make it beautiful. Take that you bastard iconoclasts! Fr. Carrier, our resident scholarly genius, came into the Church today while the liturgy director and I were marveling at the floor and he started singing a cool new song: "We are actua-lly, starting to look Ca-a-ath-o-lic!"
This was so awesome to hear. Everyone has marveled at our damn floor.
Actually, it's a concrete slab, just a different color, and it's breathtaking. It's decorative concrete, dyed a dark chocolate brown, and looks like marble or aged stone. We ripped up the nasty old carpet, stripped off the glue and dyed the slab, sealed it, and waxed it.
With decorative concrete, you magnify the character already in the floor. We are just lucky that our 30-year-old floors were done well. The trowel marks create a wonderful swirly, artistic feel in the midst of light and dark highlights throughout. In the words of my boss, who is very picky and particular: "It's awesome."
It's also a feather in my cap because this was entirely my idea.
Well, maybe it was the Holy Spirit's, but you know what I mean. It makes me feel great because this is one of my unique contributions to the Church, as an employee and a member of the faithful.
Anyway, we may have the most architecturally displeasing church in the diocese, but we definitely have the most beautiful floor, which distracts you from the rest of the asymetrical form. We might actually be the only church in diocese, heck, the archdiocese or state of Virginia, with decorative concrete. It is my hope that our beautiful new floor will be a model for other churches as they consider the possibilities of their renovation.
It is also my hope that this floor will inspire architects and designers to put decorative concrete on their short list for good design at an affordable price.
Well, I didn't realize I was going to go on about this when I started to write. If you are ever in Dale City, check out our kick ass floors. I will try to post some pics soon.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
I know that I have been delinquent in my postings. For those of you, like me, who often have nothing better to do than troll around the internet looking for interesting new blog updates by your friends, I apologize.
But for the rest of ye, walk the plank and take a salty bath! Arrrgh!
I titled this post about Bamboo for no other reason than I did not have anything more interesting to put. So I looked up, saw the light and then saw my green bamboo. Ouila. Now we have a cool post title.
I don't feel like pontificating today, but I notice that every day I wake up with many of the same questions: Where am I going? Where do I want to live, What do I want to be doing in five years? etc., etc. Sometimes it feels more like blah, blah, blah.
The irony is that now that I have a family of my own, I feel priced out of the area in which I live. I realize that while I am living with my in-laws, sooner or later it's going to be decision time. It's kind a like standing on a high dive, plotting your jump into the water. Do I do the triple lindy, or should I strive for seemingly safer leaps into calmer waters?
I am on board with the fact that I missed the sweet spot in the housing market, but now that it's time to be a-settling down, it kind of feels like scanning the horizon and wishing for yesterday's sunset. That's no longer the sillouette of a 110,000 home you see, but a 235,000 home. Pricy, but that's reality.
Now that I am in the country and the experience of savouring city-life stands at my back, I wonder where the next step forward is going to lead us. The city is nice, but I enjoy the pace of country life too.
Clare and I visited quaint Staunton, Va. not that long ago, and we were like, "Sweet! Staunton!" The nifty little town shows some signs of life, but homes are also expensive there. What is more, no friends, no family, no history or connection is there for me or Clare to be overly attracted to the place, notwithstanding our aesthetic or crunchy-con beliefs.
As I discern what our future holds, I find myself gaping at Northern Virginia--Western Prince William County to Arlington to Fredericksburg--and say WTF. Well-built 1930s and 40s bungalos have been overtaken by suburban sprawl and Carl D. Silver. The only planning that has been done, generally, has been for profit. That's why by the year 2020, our traffic problems are going to be worse than L.A.
Do I really want to live here and risk my life driving with the other commute-battered, bleary-eyed buffoons on I-95?
The grass is greener on the other side, but with each passing day the other side is looking better. The towns that are farther away from D.C are usually nicer than the ones closer in, but after a certain mile marker, the people start to look scary and toothless, and the brotha' in D.C. starts to seem very cultured.
Until he draws his knife, that is.
Some questions are easy, but for me, the one about where to live for the long term is not. I feel the need to be swinging a hammer in the hot sun under blue skies and building myself a home, but alas, sometimes it's not that simple.
Or maybe it is, and I just don't see it yet.
Over and out.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
My mom and dad hosted a party for the entire family at our church, St. Thomas More. Here you can see them stringing up a pinata, while Jamie, my brother's second oldest daughter gets ready to go buck.
Because my heritage is from the South Side, I tried to take some some less glamorous but nevertheless interesting photos of this area. Above are two smoke stacks on the lake belonging to one of the local mills. These mark the beginning of mile upon miles of steel mills from South Chicago to Gary (if you continued to the right) on the lakeshore. Of personal significance, these towers were often my guiding beacon back to port when I was driving the fishing boat back to the dock from all areas of the lake.
This is a cool shot. I decided to drive right through the South Side (read "ghetto") on our way to the museum. What you see are three major bridges, going over the Joliet river, which opens up into lake Michigan.
In the background is the Skyway, which is a quick shot into the southern area of Chicago, terminating at the Dan Ryan. We were docked just on the otherside of the Skyway. As a side note, my dad worked on that bridge back in the day.
The second bridge, the one with spindles off to the left, is the train bridge. This thing is massive and sorta spellbinding upclose. My guess is that it must have been built in the 20's or so, because it has the period look. Miyazaki could probably write an entire story around this thing. It lowers for various trains to go across the river and is still in use. I found this out the hard way when I was sitting on the bow and a train decided to release the juice in it's foghorn in the mini canyon that forms between river and its two walls.
The third bridge is the second of three bridges that take you to the southside.
Above is the 95th Street Bridge, just like in the movie Blues Brothers. This is the actual bridge they jump, and it just happened to be up when we got there. It's the last street bridge before you get to the lake!
I would have posted more pics in this post, but Blogger restricted me.
I hope you dig. Gotta juice for now. More pics to come.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Clare and I's visit to Chicago has gone remarkably well thus far. I took some pics to post when we return. In some ways, it feels like we've been visiting stuff in between large, midwestern meals.
It's crazy. I don't actually want to stuff myself, but everyone is like "Have more, have more! You're on vacation! Get your fill! Eat up! Etc," I haven't even eaten anything today and I still feel like a stuffed pizza.
Some highlights from our trip, in no particular order:
--Eating at Connie's pizza outdoors on the Southside, overlooked by the city skyline, before going to the White Sox game Monday night, sitting behind homeplate with the Scouts, going buck watching the Southsiders clinch an 8-5 victory over the A's
--Midwestern family resteraunts for breakfast
--A trip downtown to the Museum of Science and Industry to check out the awesome, awesome new U-505 exhibit, the live train models and, of course, Finnigan's (to-die-for) Ice Cream on Yesterday's Main Street.
--Lincoln Park Zoo (we are going back today, yay!)
--A visit to my brother's new kicking pad
--Going to Cheers with my cousin Tim for some Corona and good conversation
--Seeing most of my extended family
Yah, we've had a great trip. D.C. ain't got nothing on Chicago. I am looking forward to another Kick-A day in the city. It should be fun.
Over and out!
Thursday, May 10, 2007
It's approximately 6:20 AM as I sit at my homemade computer table and sip some Mao Feng Green tea, waiting for my shower to warm up and for Clare to return from her jog with Leia.
Things in D.C are good right now. Unfortunately, we will be leaving soon to go live with Clare's parents down in Stafford. It's not like we aren't down there 2 days out of every week or anything already, but it is nice to have your own hip apartment located in the heart of bustling, trendy city life.
City life agrees with me for sure, but I certainly do relish getting out to the country. I've gone from King George to Georgetown and now almost back again. It's crazy, in a way, but the adventure part of it is awesome.
I will miss the general bright and upbeat feeling of my neighborhood, Glover Park, the melancholic sound of the bus whizzing past my apartment, the architecture and late night dog walks, city lights and evening breeze through the city streets, with their large trees rustling pleasantly in the wind.
I will miss being close to everything I could possibly want--Whole Foods, the best grocery store known to man, Trader Joes, Teaism, Cafe Bonaparte, Furins, and Armands Chicago Pizza, to name a few. I will miss the feeling of riding into Georgetown in the evening in my Stang and the daily feeling of a certain mastery of the city.
There's a lot I won't miss too: D.C. commuters and drivers. Traffic. Sneering, cold people. The elitists. BMWs, Mercedes and Lexi. Wealthy people without friends and social skills. Whacked liberals. Getting out of Georgetown in the morning. Pedestrians who think they are the center of the world and taxi cabs stopping in the middle of a street with their hazards on.
I won't miss the small element of danger that comes to one and their family living in the city. I won't miss changing oil and working on my car in the street. And I won't miss my in-laws, that's for sure.
So here I am, in the center of this packed up house, feeling all melancholic about city life. I've often thought that the best arrangement is to have a country cottage and apartment in the city.
Maybe so, but it may be a while before an arrangement like that occurs.
Cheers one and all.
Saturday, May 05, 2007
Andy O. over at the Internet Peasant has lamented about his recent negative experience with MBNA. Well, my friend, you certainly aren't the only one.
I've had an MBNA card since '98. I signed up at Comisky Staduim in Chi-Town on my way out to a Sox game and got a free hat. I did not expect to get a credit card as a young punk, but I did.
Since then, my card has bailed me out of some tight situations, but it's tough to get bailed out of credit cards, especially if they are jacking you on the interest rate.
Growing up in this country during the latter part of the 20th century experiment, credit cards and living on credit seemed very normal to me. Our ancestors from 2-3 generations before, though, would likely have shunned such prevalant use of credit, especially when it came to owning living accommodations. I can hear them now: "Save until you can purchase a home with cash, or build it yourself, because JP Morgan honestly does not give a rip about you or me."
Credit card debt in this country is, on the average, $9,656 or so, and the interest rates on these babies range from bad to worse, especially if you miss one payment. Last year, Americans saved, on average, a -$0.56. That's the first time we have saved as a country in the negatives since the depression.
Anyway, I have an MBNA card. I was on my way to paying it off a couple of years ago when I decided "F-them, I'm closing this account." Well, when you call them and say you want to close your account, oftentimes they have someone very professional try to stop you. At least did with me anyway, and you can list your grievances and negotiate terms.
I still have my MBNA card today, but believe in paying cash for everything. Even if it is an emergency, we are betting off borrowing from friends and family then a credit card company, notwithstanding the pride factor.
Maybe there is nothing overly new in it, but here are some simple rules for becoming financially independent:
1. Save your money
2. Own your property, i.e., car, home, dog, etc.
3. Pay cash
4. Invest for the long haul at a 10-12% rate
Basically, decrease your monthly payments as much as possible. Pay off balances quickly. Then save and invest what you previously were paying.
I would certainly welcome and encourage any and all feedback regarding how you all save or how to better manage your dough.
Keep Your Juice.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Andy has hiked the Appalacian Trail in its entirety, half of the Pacific Crest Trail (he ran out of money) and now will be attempting the nation's least traveled North-South Trail, the Continental Divide Trail.
Andy came up from Stafford yestereve to stay with us before jetting out. Like last time, there was plenty of juice to go around regarding the expedition. It's really damn, inspiring actually. This kid's got some serious cahones and determination.
When I think about it, it's no surprise that I feel myself desiring to head out West to unseen places, park the Jeep and set up camp with a fishing rod. Perhaps next Spring it will be our turn for a great western adventure.
But that's next year. Right now, feel free to check out "Shaggy Sticks." He's someone who actually goes into REI, makes purchases and uses the shit.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Fred Thompson, one of the Republican candidates for President has got my vote all the way, and that was before I read his piece on Gun Laws vis a vis April 16's tragedy. You can read his compelling article here:
I didn't expect to find this over at National Review, but it helped me breathe a sigh of relief that I am not alone in my thinking, nor am I crazy for thinking it. I bravely mentioned my philosophy (see previous post) in front of a priest and the preschool director last week, when the latter mentioned her son attended the college.
I was met with a surprise and astonishment. "A gun? A gun?!!!! Are you kidding me?" Was the non-verbal response from the pre-school teacher. She composed herself and said, "So you think students should be able to carry guns?"
My answer: "When the police came, the damage was done. I can understand not wanting kids bringing guns to class, but the crazy killer who breaks the law doesn't really care about the school's policy. Something to think about." To which I received, some thoughtful nods.
I will leave you with two thoughts for now. First, one of the reasons Cho chose school classrooms for his deed is because he intuitively knew that all his victims were captive and unarmed. He may have lost it, but he wasn't stupid.
Secondly, imagine if you yourself were in that Hall, hearing gunshot after gunshot admidst screams of fear and chaos. As terrible as it might seem, how would you feel if one of your classmates pulled out of a gun to defend you and the class?
I can tell you right now, my belief is that that is the one thing Cho wasn't expecting.
Over and out.
Monday, April 16, 2007
This piqued my interest for a variety of reasons. Let me say right off that I can understand not wanting guns or Rambo knives around children. Kids are curious. Accidents happen. Most adults lack an understaning of weapon safety and training. I mean, let's face it--many of us will get uncomfortable when someone is around us and has a gun, especially when that person lacks a badge.
Now, in a parochial setting, a gun is not necessarily a regular tool for completing the day-to-day tasks. But guns and weapons do have a place in our lives and in society.
Today, 33 people were killed in Blacksburg at Virginia Tech. A crazy Asian moe-foe locked himself in a school building and went on a rampage, opening doors and systematically capping people left and right. You can hear the gunshots on recordings of the incident. One thing, however, has not been generally highlighted by the mainstream media: nobody shot back.
Virginia is one of proud states that has legalized the carrying of a concealed firearm with an appropriate permit, but on Blacksburg's Virignia Tech's campus, this liberty is denied. I can see their reasoning, sure, especially when some students are certainly prone to get drunk and violent for example. But what if someone today was in Norris Hall and shot back and killed the crazy LONE gunman? What if someone had stopped him with a gun, shooting him in cold blood. He would be a hero, wouldn't he?
You damn right he would. The irony, however, is that our institutional laws, such as those in schools, prohibit access to this type of heroism. It's in the rules and regulations. No guns.
And so the people who would call the cops for safety in a real emergency like today's end up frustrating their real objective.
This is part of a comfortable mindset that deals in double-realities. It's like playing "let's pretend." Let's pretend the world is sanitized, peachy, and trouble-free. But when an unspeakable tradgedy like this occurs, we mourn over it and shake our heads and wonder why this happened. God forbid, we might even get angry, but we certainly wonder why and how.
Maybe it was the guns? Bad people. With guns. Bad people with guns, but definitely the guns.
No, it was that the psycho who did this was possessed by a demon. We are lucky it wasn't a bomb.
The upshot is even more interesting. As the Catholic Renaissance takes shape, and real men of all types are emerging--you know, the ones who are likely to have a copy of Wild at Heart on their bookshelf--Catholic men are forced to face some serious questions: A.) Do I own a gun? B.) Do I carry it outside my house? C.) Do I carry it inside my Church or School?
These are valid questions, to which every man will have his own unique answer. Today's incident is more than proof.
I will leave you with a brief story which I believe illustrates the right attitude. Fr. Deusterhaus, when he was with St. William of York during the time of the D.C. sniper shootings, gave an insightful answer to this quandry during a Sunday homily. He mentioned that certain parishoners were cautioning him not to stand outside while he was shaking hands, speaking with and blessing people as they exited Church after Sunday mass. His response was the absolute best and totally unforgetable: "Are you kidding? At this parish I am expecting you to actually return fire!"
Now that's what I am talking about. That's one great priest. Notice he didn't say who, but he knew some men should be gettin' it done.
Peace out, yall.
Friday, April 13, 2007
I feel remorse today. My helper was fired today. Well, maybe "let go" sounds better, but he was fired none-the-less. I understand the reasons behind this move, but it doesn't make it easier. Jeffrey is a 19-year-old from Nicaragua. He's a good kid and sort of drifting along. I wish him the best. He will be on for another two weeks and then get a stipend. I feel bad because he has done such a good job for the most part and I have trained him in both English and fixing stuff. It sucks to see him go.
Perhaps it was the way he was let go. He honestly wants to work. Because his replacement, Fernando, now an "ex-seminarian," is more skilled "and is such a hard worker," Jeffrey is getting canned. I was told of this idea when I was hired, but it is my feeling that this isn't the most prudent path. It also makes me wonder how much I am valued even though I am told "good job." Here today, gone tomorrow. Damn.
Anyway, life goes on. It must and will until the end of time. A Magic Hat "9" brew and some blues does help some.
Ok, I am going to sign off. I hope my post wasn't to depressing. I just needed to vent into the ether. Kick some ass, juicebags.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
As you know, I've always got tons of stuff to talk about, everything from my favorite pipe shop to finding the ever-elusive spot to dwell.
But first, I would like to announce that I have personally and successfully added to our 2001 Jeep Wrangler our first aftermarket modification (mod): KC Fog Light Replacements. Here's a pic:
Notice the KC emblem on the grilled fog lights. This, my friends, is power--candle power. For you off-road enthusiasts and/or wanna-bes, check out www.kchilites.com.
After experiencing the sweet, sweet victory of putting these babies on, Clare and I decided to hit the road and trek out west. While we missed our friends Ben and Anna, we did explore some of the more remote areas around Front Royal and Page County. We even checked out a plot of land in remote Fort Valley. Actually, it was more like a fire pit off a long dirt road. I guess I shoulda known.
Anyway, we had a nice trip. The Shenandoah is truly unique and beautiful.
Until next post,