Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Post-Christmas Hangover

Is there any tougher week of the year to work than the week between Christmas and the New Year? We don't think so. It is not only hard to motivate to do work-related things after the heavy focus on hearth and family, it is hard to find people to do them -- except for a silly few, the author included, offices are empty. Perhaps this emptiness is good -- the trouble with finding people to do things, aside -- because Christmas, as much fun as it can be (and it was a very fun Christmas on the Quarter Acre) is exhausting. The preparation, the parties and the cleanup leave us feeling toasted. It's hard to shake off the hangover that lingers after Christmas and focus on the work-a-day details that make the boisterous and present-strewn-celebrations possible.

So, we return to the grind with eyes-all-a-bagged, mind cloudy (at best) and nothing to look forward to except taking down the decorations, January, February, March and at least half of April.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Birth of The Savior

While they were there, the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests." When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.

Luke 2:6-20

Sunday, December 24, 2006

To Bethlehem

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

Luke 2:1-5

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Dream

Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means "God is with us." When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.

Matthew 1:18-24

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Annunciation

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there will be no end." And Mary said to the angel, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?" And the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the Child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible." And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:26-38

Dark Lights (2) & Decorations

Our Brother has a theory about the intensity of the Dark Lights: being LEDs they have no white in them. Traditional lights have a filament that burns white and shines through either clear or colored glass. LEDs have no white to soften their glow and lend warmth to the night. We like this theory, but still think that the Dark Lights miss the point.

The NY Times has an amusing article about the blow-up Santas, polar bears and other "seasonal" characters who populate suburban lawns in ever-greater numbers. We are not sold on these decorations and think that they, like the Dark Lights, miss the point. While we prefer more traditional Christmas decorations, we do see some humor in these blow-up behemoths (there is one giant snow man snow globe, with swirling "snow" and a lit-and-star-bedecked-Christmas tree within the globe, that must be 12 feet tall not far from the Quarter Acre) and know that Child One takes tremendous delight in riding around to look at character strewn lawns this time of year.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Dark Lights

With the Christmas Season in full swing, and houses bedecked in their holiday finest, we've noticed many shrubs lit by super-bright LEDs. The intensity of these lights is startling. They burn like little suns but cast off little ambient light and accentuate the darkness rather than alleviate it.

This seems to miss the point of the Christmas light. Traditional Christmas lights cast a warm glow and brighten dark winter nights. They serve as beacons in the gloom to guide visitors to welcoming homes -- a fitting symbol of the season's true meaning.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Decorating Disaster

Last night, we decorated the Quarter Acre Christmas Tree. Child One unwrapped ornaments, commenting on the beauty of each, and hung them with glee, absolutely enjoying the moment. This is the the first year that she has been able to actively assist in the hanging of ornaments and it was one of the most enjoyable tree decorating events of our young family's history.

We decorated the tree twice last night. We also re-strung all of the lights.

While taking stock of the gift inventory in the basement, we heard the bouncing and popping of hard objects above our head. We ran upstairs to discover that the Quarter Acre Christmas Tree had toppled over, shattering many ornaments, spilling tree solution all over the rug, and generally creating holiday mayhem in the living room.

We are unsure of what made the tree topple, though we have a theory. We had placed some newspaper beneath the tree-stand to absorb any liquid that might spill during watering. Though the stand seemed stable it was obviously out of balance for when laden with lights and ornaments . . . It was ugly. Broken glass, pine needles and ornaments littered a soaked rug.

We picked up the broken glass, and tried as best we could to dry the rug. The physics of this event are intriguing to a non-scientist. Many of the balls on the sides of the tree landed on the floor but their hangers remained in place. The light strands dislodged from their original locations and clumped together in disheveled bands. Evidently, this fall generated a lot of force -- too much, at least, for tree lights and decorations. We lost some beautiful ornaments, one of which was a an antique purchased in Rhinebeck, NY several years ago. There is something extra-disappointing about breaking an ornament.

So, we restrung the lights -- they look better and are applied more rationally than before -- rehung the surviving ornaments, and went to bed when done at 1:30 AM. For the first time this year it finally felt like the holidays.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas Tree Lighting

Everyone we know within our generation has a story of helping their father string lights around the tree and being told to "pass me the lights! Pay attention! Don't bump into the tree! Give me some slack!"

Now that we are a homeowner, responsible for purchasing and lighting our own tree, we laugh when thinking about our role as a lighting assistant, and understand completely why it was such a trying experience for our father. Because Child One and Child Two are too small to help, lighting the tree is a solitary endeavor with many spacing consultations and other internal reviews with Mrs. Agricola, and Child One.

From having rolled lights onto reels in the wrong direction at the end of last year (more on that in another post,) to seeking out the dead bulb that shorted half a string of lights, this year's Christmas tree lighting was an epic endeavor. What we had hoped would take only an hour ballooned into a three hour effort that pushed the decorating process into a multi-day affair. A tradition of sorts -- similar to being told to "pass me the lights!" -- has been born on the Quarter Acre. Someday, we're sure that we'll look back on it and laugh.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Encountering the Raptor

Despite living in NYC for the better part of a decade we never saw the famed nesting- pair of Red Tailed hawks that lived in Central Park; nor the Red Tails who were evicted and later reinstated at a tony address on 5th Avenue; nor the Peregrine Falcons who supposedly hunted at will throughout Midtown; nor the trained falcons used to control pigeons in Bryant Park. It took our move to Boston to start encountering urban raptors.

Just last week, while walking near my office a sudden movement high atop a bell tower caught my eye. The pigeons who roost up there suddenly took flight and started flying around the tower in large swooping arcs. Within moments a Peregrine Falcon coasted into view looking for lunch. The small bird peeled away and about three minutes later it reappeared, approaching the bell tower and potential lunch on a new vector.

At another job, in one of Boston's tallest buildings, we had the good fortune of sitting in a cube with a westward facing window -- looking out towards Fenway Park and Boston's western 'burbs. A Peregrine Falcon lived nearby for we saw it almost daily, hunting while riding the updrafts that scoured this structure. Our perch was high enough that at times we could see the falcon from above.

As much as we might have wanted to we did not see either of these falcons make a kill. We did witness a kill on the Quarter Acre in the spring of '05. One morning, while holding Child One by a window, watching birds on the feeder, all of the avian diners bolted in a panic. Within a moment a hawk dove past the feeder, talons out, and landed on the lawn. It came so close to the feeder that at first we thought it had picked off an unfortunate sparrow. However, as it flew away, after standing proudly in the middle of the lawn, most-definitely occupying the top of the food chain on the Quarter Acre, we saw that it had nailed a ground-feeding chipmunk.

This same hawk has flown by our porch -- at eye level, close enough to hear the air moving over its body -- and we frequently hear it while working in the yard, chirping and screeching from its nearby, but unseen nest. Last spring this raptor had a partner and we watched them soar high, high above us, nearly transparent in the sky, but highly audible as they screeched to one another while making lazy circles.

Spending as much time as we do commuting to our job we also notice many hawks perched above the highways and byways of the Commonwealth. Two hawks hunted from neighboring lampposts over I-95/128 in Woburn. One was struck by a car -- we saw its carcass by the side of the road in the late summer -- leaving only one hunter to scan the shoulders and median strips of that road. A giant hawk perches atop a lamp post along Soldiers' Field Road in Brighton, hunting along the obviously abundant banks of the Charles River.

The overt presence of these amazing predators is one more exhibit in a growing body of evidence that nature is adapting and growing ever more comfortable living in close proximity to humans. Many might argue that Man encroaches ever-more into nature, and forces this adaptation. Our neighborhood, however, was built in 1954, and is therefore, not a recent encroachment into some pristine wilderness area. Despite the seemingly settled nature of our man-made environment we are surrounded by the eternal struggle between hunter and hunted, entropy and stasis. It would not take much for our environment to revert to its original state as evidenced by the raptors that live comfortably in our midst.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Seasonal Opening

This past weekend,in addition to rekindling our love affair with the Martini we began the process of decorating the Quarter Acre for Christmas. Greenery was purchased for the outside of the house. Lights were placed in windows, and on Sunday a yard-tree was dressed in lights, a spotlight was placed in the lawn to shine on the front door and the Christmas season officially opened on the Quarter Acre.

Child One helped us with the window lighting which was very fun. The house is really coming to life, and assuming a magical air. This is one of our favorite times of year on the Quarter Acre. A week after putting the yard to rest until the spring, the focus shifts to the house, the home and the interior life of the Quarter Acre. We take comfort, and delight in this transition which is so fitting at this time of year.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Rekindling An Old Flame

This past weekend, in the midst of starting the Christmas Season by decorating the house with lights and greenery, we created and knocked back a couple of delicious Martinis. In the past this was the defacto, winter drink of choice on the Quarter Acre. However, due to unknown reasons the Martini has not been agreeing with us and has fallen out of favor. Perhaps our body is telling us that ingesting three shots of Gin, one shot of Dry Vermouth and olives is not a great idea because even one Martini would leave us feeling less than delightful the following day.

Despite all of this, we mixed up two Martinis this weekend -- one on Saturday, the other on Sunday. They definitely agreed with us this weekend; and, as the Christmas season truly gets under way, an old flame has been rekindled. The turning point in this relationship happened about two weeks ago. While out to dinner we ordered a Martini and received instead a glass of chilled gin containing some olives. This irked us. Recipes are written for a reason and are meant to be followed. If we wished to drink chilled gin and olives we would order that.

The abominable drink that we received motivated us to try out our tried and true recipe (Thanks to DrinkBoy for being our guide and our high priest of classic and classically prepared cocktails) and give our preferred winter beverage a new chance. The old flame is back and burning brightly. Just in time we say, as the world enters the darkest time of year.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Seasonal Closure

Rather than spend the weekend after Thanksgiving battling the masses for silly sale prices on silly things we don't need (at Christmas time or any other time of year for that matter) we spent the weekend around the Quarter Acre shutting down the yard for the season.

We've raked the yard a couple of times this year, mowed the lawn close, applied the winterizer and basically kept things looking sharp. This past weekend was the final push. At the back of the property is a hill that runs the entire the width of the plot. Atop this hill sit several oak trees that produce copious amounts of acorns that litter the lawn and leaves that blanket the hill.

The leaf-blanketed hill is messy-looking, and we spent 6 hours raking it, bagging the leaves and taking the refuse (23 thirty Gallon bags) to the giant leaf pile at the town dump. It was one of the best days yet on the Quarter Acre -- a crisp, beautiful, November, Saturday, outside, engaged in good honest hard work that added a blister to the inside of our thumb, and a new layer of dirt and scuffs to our boots. Additionally, we cut the dead Hostas, Astilbes and other perennials to the ground; raked out beds; mowed the lawn for the last time (mainly to pick up stray leaves); put away the gas grill and the Adirondack chairs and disposed of a completely rotten chimenia.

The yard is neat and trim and looks as spare as the leafless trees that surround it. There is a beauty now to the Quarter Acre that is both of and from the season that increasingly settles upon it. Stripped down, dormant and waiting, the yard is closed for the season, anticipating the Spring and the beginning of next year's ministrations.

Crazy Friday

A friend of Quarter Acre asked us to write about the first shopping day of the 2006 Christmas Shopping Season. This friend was horrified by of our fellow Americans and described them as "greedy" as they bum-rushed the gates of stores to scoop up holiday bargains. We certainly agree that the behavior of our fellow Americans on this day is disturbingly boorish. However, we're not completely sure that it's evidence of greed, per se, but rather misplaced priorities and consumerist venality.

One thing that we've always thought is that people like to shop on the day after Thanksgiving because they want something about which to talk and complain. Americans love to tell stories that involve distress and discomfort. For us, there is nothing more uncomfortable and distressing than the thought of arising at 5:30 AM to push and shove strangers at the door of a store to buy things that will be thrown out, disused and forgotten within weeks of their receipt -- because, honestly, isn't that the fate of most of the things we buy in the big box stores? Yet, each weekend immediately following Thanksgiving, the media, and our personal spheres are filled with tales of shopping-woe and mall-based-misery arising from the "Official Kickoff to the Shopping Season." If the so-called savvy-shopper doesn't know that this weekend is going to be miserable by this point then there is not much that we can do to help them; and, if savings of 50% - 70% off regularly priced items don't mitigate the agony then is Thankgiving-Friday shopping really worth it? What's wrong with internet shopping?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving Eve

Today is Thanksgiving Eve, the true kickoff to the Holiday season. This is one of our favorite days of the year, and the start of one of the most enjoyable times on the Quarter Acre. There is much work to be, much to be prepared over the next month, but it is all fun and all driven by love and cheer. We love that the darkest, coldest time of year brings this period of heightened focus on family, home and charity -- the old boys who set up the Ecumenical calendar knew what they were doing all right. As we try to do each day, but particularly on Thanksgiving, it is fitting to give thanks for all that we have, especially:

Food on the table
Our Armed Forces
Being an American

Happy Thanksgiving to all who may stumble upon the Quarter Acre.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Milton Friedman, RIP

“Those of us who survive, who remain in this fight can—and should—take courage from [Friedman’s] example. Few of us will live as long; even fewer will be able to match his achievements. Still, we can continue the struggle, do our part to leave the world a bit better, striving always to advance freedom; and, in doing so, we will benefit greatly from the intellectual ammunition and the personal example he leaves us. For that and much more, we should all mourn and honor this great man.”
—Fred L. Smith, Jr., President, Competitive Enterprise Institute

“[Milton Friedman was] able to thoroughly discredit the idea, common since the Great Depression, that capitalism is inherently flawed and requires the ‘fine tuning’ of government to avoid excess and disaster. This has been the central conceit of the Keynesian state, administered by educated elites, adjusting tax-and-spending policies to tame the business cycle... Friedman attacked these beliefs at their root. He ambitiously argued that the Great Depression was not caused by the ‘defects’ of capitalism but by government incompetence. Going back to the 1930s, he demonstrated that the one-third fall in GNP was due to a one-third cut in the money supply from 1929 to 1933. ‘The Great Depression in the United States, far from being a sign of the inherent instability of the private enterprise system, is a testament to how much harm can be done by mistakes on the part of a few men when they wield vast power over the monetary system of the country’.”
—Ed Feulner, President, the Heritage Foundation

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

By Hand

One of our favorite things about the suburban transition is that the domicile is in need of work. Now, we're not talking about major renovations, but rather about cosmetic changes -- painting, cleaning, yard work. We just finished painting the dining room. This necessitated patching walls, the ceiling, sanding, cleaning, priming then the application of two coats of paint to all surfaces in the room (yes, we painted the ceiling and all the woodwork, if you don't do that, don't paint the room).

There is a lot of woodwork in our dining room -- chair rails, base boards, crown moldings and three door frames, a window frame and a neo-Classical styled corner hutch -- and it grew tedious near the end but looking at the finished product is gratifying. The job took several nights of work, after the day job and after the children were put to bed. A professional could have done it faster -- though not necessarily better -- and we would have been free to remain forever ensconced before the video altar. But, we took matters into our own hands, and got dirty, got paint splotched, and started to work on the callouses, toughening up relatively pink office hands.

One of the realities of living in a service based economy is that we can pay others to do nearly everything for us. Others can paint our dining rooms, mow our lawns, cook our meals and even train our children to pee in the pot. We like to do manual labor around the Quarter Acre. It reminds us of where we come from. It permits us to connect with our surroundings; use our hands on something more than a computer keyboard; take greater ownership of our property.

Friday, November 10, 2006

With Gratitude

“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. A man who has nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety is a miserable creature who has no chance at being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.” —John Stuart Mill

With deepest gratitude and respect we thank America's Veterans, and her active duty troops. You are in our thoughts and prayers this Veterans' Day, and every day.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Next Blog & Portuguese Blogs

One of our new favorite web pastimes is to come onto Blogger and keep hitting the "Next Blog" button. It's fascinating what you bump into. One thing that amazes on a daily basis is the number of Portuguese-language blogs that we encounter. We're unsure how the randomizer works on this button and what the criteria are, but we've never blogged about Portugal, or Brazil, though we have visited the former and loved every moment of the trip. Perhaps the next blog button has some sort of psychic powers, and can read our mind and thus connect us with people who also have a connection to Portugal. It would not surprise if Google had this in Beta . . .

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Together We Can . . .

That was/is the motto of the Commonwealth's first African American governor. It's a terrific marketing line. It says much and says nothing. It's brilliant and permits the reader to finish the line and therefore believe that the coming administration will fulfill his or her governmental dreams. The Patrick campaign never permitted itself to be defined, to take a stand or to declare its beliefs. Instead, it used its brilliant slogan to make the electorate believe that anything is possible. It's a great message, it's a great slogan but unfortunately the lack of substance, and the apparent lack of a plan behind the slogan don't bode well for the Commonwealth which is now a true, one party state.

Kerry Healey did not deserve to win. She ran an abysmal campaign that focused on one small part of Patrick's past. It was illustrative of the type of governance that we can now expect, but it never helped to define her, or help the electorate see how her proposed vision was better for the Commonwealth. Locally, nationally, and even more forbiddingly, internationally, it was a bad election day for Republicans. Like Kerry Healey they didn't deserve to win. They have spent the past two years aping Democrats -- spending like drunken sailors -- and failing to uphold the conservative credos that swept them to power in 1994.

A person close to us thinks that this election spells the end of the conservative movement and that conservatives will be out of power for at least another 12-15 years. We disagree with that, and take heart in the fact that conservatism actually seems to be on the rise, last night's results not-withstanding. It was a bad night for Republicans, not conservatives. Many of the Democrats who challenged and won were not Howard Dean/John Kerry leftists, but conservative, pro military, pro-religion candidates. The conservative movement will carry on. The Republican congressmen and senators of the 109th congress will not. This is a painful lesson for the Republican party, but perhaps they will return to their conservative roots and remember what it is that first brought them to power. Together we can . . .

Monday, October 23, 2006

A Thousand Words

This image appeared in the NYTimes, on 10/23.
This is an image of the Korean Peninsula, at night, released by the USDOD.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Front Lawn Activism

As the country approaches the 2006 mid-term elections we can't help but notice the blossoming of lawn signs proclaiming fealty to one candidate, or one cause or another. Throughout our neck of Metro-Boston the liberal Democrat candidate Deval Patrick seems to be the darling of our neighbors -- his dominance in opinion polls echoed by the prevalence of his campaign signs that have sprouted on suburban lawns like dandelions in July.

We do not begrudge our neighbors the opportunity to tout their man, and support a candidate who will finally move the Commonwealth into the single party model of the old USSR. Surely, a socialist utopia will ensue. We have no problem with any statement of political affiliation, but we chuckle over the following, prevalent political signs:

War is NOT the Answer.
A Call to Our Conscience: Save

These are statements from the same chapter of the liberal rhetorical playbook that reflexively promotes "dialogue" over fisticuffs, in all instances. These signs express a cherished liberal ideal that talk will fix everything. No doubt, dialogue has reigned in Iran's nuclear aspirations and subdued Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; The Six Party Talks prevented the N. Korean nuclear test of 9 October 2006; negotiation has convinced Omar al Bashir of Sudan to spare the lives and folkways of the animistic peoples of Darfur. This, however, is not the world in which we live.

Because of our extreme civilization, we often forget that it is necessary to "go medieval" particularly when dealing with those who are themselves medieval. As terrifying as hordes of self-satisfied American suburbanites brandishing lawn signs can be, their anger and the concomitant desire to dialogue is hardly a motivator for folks such as Bashir, Kim and Ahmadinejad. Repeated, disciplined beatings with an iron fist and an even steelier resolve to stay with the fist until our enemies relent is the answer -- despite what we want to tell ourselves with our lawn signs.

Monday, October 02, 2006


During its heyday in the late-70s to the mid-80s we toyed with playing Dungeons and Dragons -- the seminal role playing game with the crazy set of 6, 8, and 20 sided dice -- but honestly could not get into it. It was too much work, too cerebral and way too steeped in competitive seriousness with levels of skill etc. If you came late to the game you couldn't just play with your buddies who "knew" how. The owners and their "Characters" had too much "experience" to willingly play with a novice who would undoubtedly slow down game play and make the game un-fun.

So, now, rather than drawing mazes, and building characters via dice rolls, and some predetermined allotment of gold coins, men -- many of whom no doubt played D&D as boys -- now "draft" "teams" of professional athletes and play fantasy (fill in the blank). We know that there are many massively-multiplayer-games on the web that more closely mirror the old paper/pencil/dice-D&D experience but we don't play those for the same basic reasons that we never got into D&D. That said, fantasy (fill in the blank) players (aka: "team owners") are as geeky, dorky and obsessive as any of the most hardcore, 15th level warrior-owning D&D dice-rollers ever were. In our second year of Fantasy Football (FF), we feel much as we did as a 13 year old D&D aspirant -- frustrated, uninterested and basically fed up with the whole inane process.

By nature, we are competitive, and losing is not a fun experience even in relation to something as irrelevant as FF. FF is aggravating and there is enough aggravation in life without willingly submitting to an aggravating "game." Games, by their nature, are supposed to be fun. However, given the unpredictability of "any given Sunday" in the NFL, FF becomes a game of chance and we hate games of chance. So, just as we did 20-odd-years ago with the D&D craze, we'll remove ourselves from the Fantasy universe and leave it to the true fantasists and obsessives. Anybody for Monopoly?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Dogs Are Loose: 2

A little more than a year ago we wrote about allegations of blood doping against Lance Armstrong. Just about two weeks ago two more riders on his team -- one currently still employed by Discovery and wishing to remain anonymous, the other the retired Frankie Andreu -- claimed that they used EPO in 1999 prior to Armstrong's first Tour de France victory. Both are and were domestiques who felt they needed this to do their job which is to help the boss win the race. Armstrong denies the allegations -- as he always does -- but now we can add two more of his former teammates to a very besmirched list that includes this year's disgraced TdF winner, Floyd Landis and Olympic gold medalist Tyler Hamilton. We mentioned in '05 that we want to believe Armstrong, but it gets harder with each revelation and it gets harder to take cycling seriously as a sport given that it appears that many of the pros dope. It's quite disappointing really -- but unsurprising.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Traffic "Flow"

Being employed as a contractor compels one to follow the money. In the case of the author, the money trails leads 40 miles from the home field. That translates into an 80 miles round trip in pursuit of gainful employment. This distance is covered on roads neither scenic nor calm but rather on some of the nastiest, most miserable highways on the Eastern Seaboard. The traffic is atrocious, the driving of fellow wayfarers even worse (if there is something worse than "atrocious") and the ability to predict conditions nearly impossible. The Massachusetts State Police call the section of highway that we drive each and every work day "The Banzai Pipeline." Enough said.

The time spent on these highways, often sitting, sometimes hurtling in a mad dash for any sliver of open road, has provided ample opportunity to ponder the phenomenon of traffic. Certain phenomena that amaze, yet never delight, on a daily basis are:

  1. The evolution of the left hand lane as a 45 MPH travel lane.
  2. When approaching major right hand merges/exits with other highways the left hand lane stops dead, yet the lanes between the merge/exit continue to flow unimpeded.
  3. Mere taps of breaks at the head of a line of traffic can cause a multi-mile ripple effect throughout the traffic stream that effectively stops traffic behind the point of the initial slowdown, leaving people behind the offenders stuck in a jam long after the perpetrator is home, enjoying a cocktail. These are the jams that mysteriously disappear at some random point on the road.
  4. People must slow to watch a cop take a speeder's licence and registration, or watch people exchange papers after a fender bender thus causing the aforementioned ripple effect.
  5. There is nothing like the setting sun to surprise people at nearly the same spot, and the same time every day. "I came around the corner and the sun was in my eyes so I jammed on the breaks . . . "
  6. Hitting the breaks to slow down while going up a hill.
  7. This is specific to the Commonwealth of Mass, but, there is nothing like cleaning out storm drains, replacing guard rails and trimming trees along the highway during the morning drive to snarl traffic.
Without a doubt, the commute from the 'burbs to the job, whether in the city or in another 'burb has been the biggest challenge and adjustment over the past two years. Never, would we have thought that we would miss the A-Train out of Brooklyn. All of the quality of life changes that we anticipated by moving out of the city, into the 'burbs have either not materialized, or been mitigated by the commute. It is something that was unexpected, and still being processed, and perhaps the thing that most make us question our move.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

"The people are better"

Yesterday morning while walking Child 1 into pre-school we paused before a small memorial outside of a nearby church that had printed sheets with the name of each person killed on September 11, 2001, and where they died. Child 1 asked us what all the names were for. We replied that many people were hurt on this day, and those are the people who were hurt.

Walking into pre-school today, the lists were down, and the memorial gone. Child 1 commented "the other morning there were signs outside of people who got hurt, and today they are gone because the people are better." We commented, eyes misting over at the sentiment and the beautiful innocence, that yes, that may be the case. We hope that today, all of the souls of those lost, and the souls of those left behind are resting a bit easier after a day of intense, national reflection and prayer.

Monday, September 11, 2006

In Memoriam

A year ago, on this day, September 11, we posted much material to commemorate the 4th anniversary of the attacks that took the lives of 2,996 innocents. This year, the fifth anniversary of this horrific event we will commemorate the anniversary in a quieter way.

  • Our thoughts and prayers go out this day, and every day, but especially this one, for all those killed 5 years ago, and also for their families and friends. May your grief lessen with time, your wounds ache less and may you find solace in the happy memories of your loved ones.
  • Despite the passage of time this wound on the American heart, psyche and soul is still very raw -- the hurt, anger, and sadness of that day do not dwell far below the surface. Just when we think that Americans are beginning to forget, this day dawns and brings it all back to us, and that, though painful, is a good thing. We need to remember this every day, and remember all who perished.
  • While much is made of the buildings, and the site, and the city and the Geo-politics surrounding this day, this is a human story, writ large. The Every Man as embodied by tycoons, and firemen and dishwashers was murdered five years ago, today. While so much surrounding this event is complex and immense, it pales in comparison to the staggering human dimension of September 11 and the fact that the stories that families tell and retell will shape generations to come.
  • The brave men and women of our armed forces stand in harms way today, pray for their safe return.
  • This September 11 broke as crystalline as it did five years ago.
  • Never forget. Never surrender.

Friday, September 08, 2006

A Return

It's been a tumultuous year since last posting to this blog -- the birth of a second child has a way of limiting the amount of time that one spends navel-gazing on the web. However, with nearly a year's gap between posts we are feeling the urge to publish again. Perhaps it's the change of season, and the fact that short days and long nights will soon become the norm in the North East. Maybe, it's the fact that around this time each year, for at least the last 5, we feel the need to sound off, to make ourselves heard, regardless of how few will actually read or interact with our posting about what we consider to be the signal event of the last 50 years in the life of our country -- the attacks and murders of our fellow countrymen on September 11, 2001.

Amid all of the ratings-grubbing, maudlin, and politicized coverage that undoubtedly will mark the fifth anniversary of this attack we should look through the soft focus videography, and block out the surging violins to understand that this anniversary is the result of a cowardly and unprovoked attack. As much as defeatists and appeasers, both domestic and foreign may want to blame the U.S. these attacks and their harvest of widows, orphans and children-buried-by -parents lie squarely at the feet of fascistic Muslims who wish to dwell in the 14 Century and wish that we would do the same.

There is nothing in the normal course of international events that justifies the type of attack perpetrated on September 11, 2001. We certainly never went looking for this type of trouble; we never asked to be engaged as we are in the Middle East -- despite what the punditocracy would have you believe. We are fighting a war of ideas here, and it is a hot war. Bullets are flying, people are dying and the stakes are incredibly high -- the survival of western culture, liberty and freedom do depend on this conflict.

This is not hyperbole. The governments of Western Europe are cowed by their giant, restive Muslim populations and have completely withdrawn from this engagement. Their fear leads to their continuous denigration of U.S. efforts. This appeasement -- coupled with negative Euro birth rates -- will lead to the inevitable submersion of Western European culture beneath a Muslim sea. America really is the last redoubt of freedom and truly liberal Western thought in this world. We owe it to ourselves, to our heritage and not least of all to the victims of Muslim Terrorism to stand up to fascistic, Muslim dreams of a world wide caliphate. We need to wage this war to its end and we must fight it to win whether that victory comes five, ten or fifteen years from now.