Monday, January 31, 2005

Here's a poem I encountered yesterday

and like a lot. The spacing, I'm afraid, is off...I can't master the "tab" function yet...the indentation should be staggered, with the first line left-justified, the second five spaces in, and the third ten spaces in (then repeat). Enjoy.
****

Trying to Make Music

A poet is trying to make music
out of the tumult of the dictionary.

--Boris Pasternak

Getting the right words in the right order
Is everyone’s problem, but trying to make music
At the same time (and often having to turn
And shut your mouth for a moment
At the end of what you imagine is the end
Of a line) is a poet’s burden. All around you
And even inside your head the giggling and shouting
Go on and on, the deliberate misquotations
From someone you can’t remember and don’t want to,
And even if angels or that grizzly hag, your muse,
Were to dictate directly, clearly soto voce
A perfect poem into your earhole,
The signature would seem wrong. The key would seem wrong.
And along the mildewed corridors
And high through the tiers of the echoing madhouse
You call your native tongue, you would hear
The catcalls, the snide cackling, the whispering
From cell to cell at the same time as the Voice
Of the loudspeaker is babbling something crucial
And the chorus of tone-deaf guards is bellowing
Lock-down and Body Search! Silence and Lights Out!

--David Wagoner

Sunday, January 30, 2005

The Siesta Desk

I'm trying to cash in some frequent flyer miles for this year's baseball trip to Florida. It is very much an adventure, but I'm trying to, you know, endure customer service.

I've earned my reward on a certain airline that serves the American Delta, including Atlanta, Covington, KY, and Salt Lake City. I tried calling all day today and was getting busy signals...to the point where it was clear that something was wrong at the call center. Finally, this evening, I decided to try to work in through the back door. I called the automated flight arrival/departure information, where a very sweet computerized lady offered to help me. Here's what happened.

Hi, I'm the automated flight information system--
"Operator."
I'm sorry, I didn't understand you
"Operator."

(Long, long pause.)

Okay. Say the arrival city.
"(confused silence)"
I'm sorry, I didn't understand you. Please say the arrival city.

(At this point, I figured...what the hell.)

"Kilamanjaro."
All right. The flight is from...Hartford!...to...Banjul, Gambia!...Is this right?
"Yes!"
What time will the flight arrive?
"Two PM."
All right. Let me check.

(long pause)

I'm sorry, there are no flights from...Hartford!...to...Banjul, Gambia!...scheduled to arrive at--
"Bitch!"
I'm sorry, I'm having trouble understanding you.
"Fuck off!"
I'm sorry, I'm having trouble understanding you. To speak with an agent, say "Talk to an agent."
"TALK TO AN AGENT!"

The agent, alas, made me miss the computer. She didn't seem to understand what I was saying, even after two or three repetitions. Questions like "What was the month of travel?" and "Okay, so was that the 8th, 9th, or 15th?" were trying my patience. So I said "Could you transfer me to another agent? I'm not certain you're understanding me." To be honest, even though that was my #1 concern, that was only part of the problem; I also was having trouble understanding her due to her heavy and indeterminate accent. She offered to transfer me to, I believe, "the siesta desk." Okay, whatever...it'd be better than the computer or this agent. So I went on hold and started typing this blog entry.

Periodically, the misunderstood-and-misunderstanding (albeit very polite) agent would come back and say "Do you want to do this on-line?" I also stayed polite, but said no, I needed an agent. Ten minutes later, she'd ask "Are you still on-line?" I never told her that I was on-line. I was, of course...but I was writing this blog, rather than checking frequent-flyer availability, etc. At any rate, it was taking a long time--over twenty minutes--to get through to the siesta desk. Perhaps they were taking a nap. Another time when she checked in on me, we had this classic exchange, both of us staying polite the whole time (which made it a bit more surreal):

HER: Sir, if you can't understand me, I can put you through to the siesta desk as long as you wait, or you can go on-line.
ME: That's not the main problem. I don't want to go on-line...I have questions for an agent. And the main problem isn't that I can't understand you, it's that I don't think that you are understanding me well enough.
HER: That's what I'm saying, sir. If you have trouble understanding me, you can wait for the siesta desk.

I do hope this conversation was recorded for quality assurance...that exchange actually happened.

Eventually, we both gave up on the siesta desk and I hung up, called back, got another agent (after grappling with the computer again...I'd forgotten the magic word "talk to an agent"), and was told that there are no frequent-flyer seats for the dates I want to travel. Bummer.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Another update

Remember my Jeopardy! tryout? How I got my butt kicked by a woman named Rosanne?

Well, not surprisingly, Rosanne-who-kicked-my-butt made the show. I was rooting for her...if she won a few days, it would mean I got beat by a tough won. And she was really good. The competition was strong, but at the end of Double Jeopardy, she had $12,400. Each of her opponents had $9400. All she needs is to risk about $8000 and get Final Jeopardy right. All three contestants got it right (alas, I did not). But Rosanne risked only $2000. WHAT?????? Did she not want the money??????

Still, I'm glad she performed so well. It wasn't her knowledge that beat her down. It was either timidity or really poor math skills.

Wish me luck...

At a recent game, a photographer from Referee magazine (to which I am a proud and satisfied subscriber) asked for my name and hometown, as he was in the gym taking pictures. I hope I make it. And that my picture is used to demonstrate a "do" rather than a "don't."

The sky is not falling.

All my friends and colleagues who spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about how promiscuous today's youth are--I think you can chill out at least a little bit. All recent studies show that the #s of sexually active HS students has gone down in recent years, but all of my doomsday-scenario friends will shake their heads and say "Well, that doesn't count ORAL sex. These kids are having oral sex just like it's a kiss." I've always thought that was completely bogus and based on Chicken Little anecdotal evidence.

According to tonight's survey, the number of students from ages 13 to 16 who have done this is 12%. Maybe a little higher than it was in my HS days...maybe...but I'd hardly call it epidemic or like kissing.

I'm glad someone finally asked.

Now, if we could just clean up the dancing...

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Johnny

When young celebrities die, I feel sad even when I don't feel at all connected to them. For example, I didn't have any interest, positively or negatively, in John Ritter, but was still really weirded out by his death. I remember doing a search on his name just a couple of hours after he'd passed away and finding this fan page dedicated to him. The author already had a MIDI of "Imagine" playing, which felt so incongruously sweet to me.

When older celebrities die, I only respond with sadness when I felt connected to them in some way. Johnny Carson's death actually made me say "Oh...sad." I associate him with staying up late starting in 5th grade. His monologues were sometimes just awful, but he could always save them with that little eyebrow raise that said "Gee, that bombed, and I'm still out here with ten more jokes to go...and you're stuck here too..." Current comics, even ones I love, don't do that kind of genial subtlety. That's why I'm sad.

I'm going to try to tape both Leno and Letterman Monday night (which will require a very difficult simultaneous VCR and TiVo taping). This is not so much out of respect for Johnny, but to test a hypothesis I have about late night TV: when faced with any identical tragedy (and given that they've both lost the guy who launched their careers, they don't get more identical than this), David Letterman will handle it with far more grace and beauty than Leno. I could be wrong, but I don't think I will be.

5,000th page load

About a quarter to 4 today, some guy from Pennsylvania surfed in from Jack Bog's blog and checked out a couple of reffing-related posts. He/she was the 5000th page load for my modest little blog.

Thanks, y'all.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Alas, I am not a nerd...


I am nerdier than 37% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!


"Not nerdy, but definitely not hip," they tell me.

I could demand a recount, but I won't. Based on these questions, my decision not to pursue math after taking Calculus as a HS junior pretty well blew away my nerdy hopes.

The season's first high-school T

went to White's coach last night. There wasn't a single egregious explosion that caused it--it was what a soccer official would call "persistent infringement." He was giving play-by-play from hell. "THAT'S A WALK!" "THAT'S NOT A FOOUUULLL????" "COME ON!" pretty well all night, but didn't drag out any individual complaint for more than 5 seconds, so it wasn't terrible. Still, it wasn't stopping. I tried talking with him and addressing his concerns: "Coach, she was dribbling while she fell down, and I can't call a travel while she's dribbling." That didn't work. Next, I tried walking away and ignoring it, but I still felt like his bitching was inappropriate behavior. The game was fairly close late in the third quarter when it occurred to me that, if I wanted this guy to shut up (which I did), I'd have to T him up now rather than later...I wouldn't want make that call late in a close game.

So I issued him his warning after his next mini-explosion. I wandered by the bench and, facing in to the players during a dead-ball situation, said "Coach, your constant commentary is unsportsmanlike. It needs to stop." His response, "Yeah, well you need to call it the same way on both ends!" (Foul count at this moment: White 3, Blue 2.) Me: "I'll watch, coach, but still, it's unsportsmanlike. This is your warning. No more tonight." Two trips down the floor later, he chirped about a walk call I made. T. Easy as anything...sure as the sun sets in the west, if you ignore my warning, you get T'd up. Best of all, my baby (who was watching me work for the first time) reported that I remained completely calm...signaled the T just as calmly as I'd signal a simple slap on the arm.

It was a marvelous technical call. Didn't hear from him again all night. Game settled down a bit. His team won.

Scariest moment: after the game, he came into the room where my partner and I were just after I'd showered. I expected the worst, but said "Good game, coach." He was polite. "Yeah, the kids came back. Showed real character." Translation is as follows. Me: "Nothing personal, Coach." Him: "Yeah, nothing personal."

Expanding the Presidential field

In the comments from the Pierce/Simone/Goodwin presidential race entry, Joe points out that Otter Stratton is in the race. So Jeremy Goodwin has had a nervous breakdown and has returned home to Natalie, who rather than nursing him back to health, is being annoyed with him (in a perky sort of way).

But with Joshua Malina out and Tim Matheson in, we're left with many excellent possibilities for a 3-man race. I invite you to play a multiple-choice political game with the following:

CANDIDATE A: Hawkeye Pierce, George Plimpton, the US President from Canadian Bacon, or William Wants A Doll

CANDIDATE B: Bobby Simone, Chicago Drug Lord Julio Gonzalez, Victor Sifuentes, The Cisco Kid

CANDIDATE C: Otter Stratton, Pontius Pilate, Jonny Quest

Of those, I insist Bobby Simone is the best candidate, but that Candidate A has the best list of choices.

BEST CHOICE: Plimpton vs. Simone vs. Quest
WORST CHOICE: Wants A Doll vs. Gonzalez vs. Pilate

WORST JOB: Campaign manager for Pontius Pilate. (Mr. Pilate, do you have anything in your past that may come back to haunt you during this campaign?)

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Who would make the better President?

West Wing probably jumped the shark when President Bartlet stated "I can't move" a few weeks ago. But the upcoming fictional presidential election (between Alan Alda, Jimmy Smits, and Joshua Malina's candidate) has me interested--and I'll tell you why. I want to know who would make the best president: Hawkeye Pierce, Bobby Simone, or Jeremy Goodwin?

(Yes, I know that Joshua's character on West Wing is only the campaign manager. But let's go ahead and promote him to candidate.)

Let's go one at a time. I believe that Hawkeye would run as a Democrat due to his pacifistic tendencies. He's sensible, has a good health care plan, and genuinely cares for people. Sure, M*A*S*H Veterans for Truth (most notably Frank Burns and Margaret Houlihan) will one day come back with the antics he performed during the war, but his heart is in the right place. However, the ceremonial portions of the job won't be important to him. I can see him showing up for state dinners in his bathrobe and making wacky comments at press conferences.

Bobby? I think he's a Democrat, but in this three-man race, he runs as the Republican. Law and order, take no crap, we'll-bend-the-rules-a-little-to-get-the-bad-guy Republican. He'll start a real conversation about race in this country, like he did with Sipowicz. He'll have compassion for the poor, since he knows them so well. He'll have a heart of gold. We'll feel safe.

Jeremy would run as the third-party candidate. In a Howard Dean-like way, he'd challenge Hawkeye to be a better pacifist, because only he could position himself as more of a pacifist than Hawkeye (due to his intense dislike of hunting). He'll advocate for the handicapped and be the "book-smart" candidate. Smart blue-state liberals would turn up their noses at those who would compromise by voting for Hawkeye. Jeremy gets about 5 percent of the vote.

This leaves it wide open for Bobby to win it all--a 53% to 42% to 5% landslide. Nobody would trust either liberal candidate, enough so that even the split liberal vote wouldn't matter. Bobby gets Republican votes and minority votes. Republicans--good ones, not loser buttheads--ride his coattails into Congress. The world gets a little better.

And you know what? I'd vote for Bobby. In a way, he'd represent what I don't like about Bush...a distrust of intellectualism, the idea that we have to vote for the tough guy or appear wimpy (as we would voting for Hawkeye or Jeremy). But, bleeding-heart liberal that I am, I must admit that neither Hawkeye nor Jeremy would be at all good in a crisis...Hawkeye would lose perspective, perhaps having flashbacks to his near-drowning as a child in Maine, while Jeremy would overthink situations to the point of paralysis. Bobby would listen to the options, pick one, and stick to it. He'd kick ass, but still look just effeminate enough to make you think he was actually giving a massage. He'd be unafraid to tackle the big issues. He'd get my vote.

Dumber than Paul Maguire?

My baby is watching the new version of The Apprentice, and there's a guy who has said something Maguire-esque.

When not shouting "Watch!" or "Lookit!", Maguire has many times said something that makes me laugh (at, not with). He announces that a team should go for the juggler. As in "Right here, on this drive, they really need to go for the juggler!" Which leads my brother to get very upset. It's hard enough to keep all those balls in the air without people going after you. Leave the juggler alone!

But Brian, on the "high school" team for The Apprentice, said this of his opposition:

"They're going to be cut by the juggler!"

Two observations:

1. Perhaps the juggler is juggling knives, and not very good at it.

and

2. This guy is dumber than Paul Maguire becaue, as my baby points out, even if "juggler" were replaced with the correct "jugular," the sentence still doesn't make a lick of sense.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Dumb criminals

You can take all your folks who leave their phone numbers on stick-up notes or whatever. I give you Richard Hatch.

Did he think nobody noticed he had won a million dollars? What, exactly, the hell was the big criminal plan that would enable him to get away with this?

A CPA, Joel Podgor, puts it best in the article:

"I find it shocking that somebody wouldn't report the income when it's so blatant and obvious and it's all over the TV that he earned it."

No shit. Even if you can't spell CPA, you should understand that much.

Progress or backsliding?

Tonight--two very good JV teams; this game was the quality of some Varsity games. I felt like partner and I had a good first half...smooth, nicely put together. At some point in the third quarter things started to go in the wrong direction. There were several ugly-looking shot-block attempts where the player came in and sorta LUNGED at the ball...but each time, the ugly-looking challenge got all ball. So no call, but lots of chirpy coaches. I had to tell one of them, who seemed to be a nice enough guy otherwise, that I was done listening to him. (Showed him my palm, the international sign for "Enough!") It got to where I was thinking of calling a foul or two on ugly all-ball challenges just to get them to stop.

But here's the big deal. It was very close late in the game, and I wasn't even a little bit nervous. In the olden days, I would have been very worked up late in a close game, but not this one. Green trailed by two and had the ball with eleven seconds left. I was trail, which meant I had the all-important task of figuring out whether the last shot by Green was before or after the buzzer. Shot goes up with two seconds left. No good. Green rebounds. Shot goes up...and...FOULED IN THE ACT OF SHOOTING! White gave her a shoulder-push. Not much, but enough that I couldn't ignore it! Clock reads all zeroes, but shot (and foul, although that part doesn't matter, since the shooter is protected until she hits the ground regardless of when time runs out) was before time runs out. Two shots for green after the buzzer. Players are all cleared out. Green...misses the first shot. The second shot is irrelevant, and therefore not taken. Game over. Sad for the kid who misses.

Point here: I made the ballsy, gutsy call late. Didn't wither. And I wasn't nervous. That's gotta be worth something. I'll take that with the third-quarter challenges and move on.

The gym was so hot that I swore I lost two pounds during the game. I was curious enough that I weighed myself when I got back. I gained two pounds instead. I guess that running around in sauna-like gyms adds pounds. Who knew?

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

In case you're scoring at home

I reached my goal weight of 195 today. This is down from as high as a Michelin-manesque 214 this past summer. I'm swimming in my ref shirt and blue jeans only fit me the first day out of the wash. Yay me.

Maybe I can hit my pipe-dream weight of 185. There's still another month of basketball to do it.

But under no circumstances will I return to my college weight of 150 or my HS sophomore weight of 135. (You should see the pictures. 6'2" and 135. That is not a misprint.)

This spring's baseball trip

I'm about 78% sure it'll be to Florida.

For those of you who don't know me, I'm working on getting to all the MLB stadiums. Eight more to go. These eight sort of clump themselves into three not-quite-geographic groups: Cincy/Pitt/Philly/Washington, Atlanta/Tampa/Florida, and San Diego. Now, with the end of my major league stadium quest in sight (even though they keep opening new ones, like in St. Louis in 2006), I've had to develop a new quest; to go to a minor league game in each of the fifty states. Eight down, 42 to go. It has become my tradition to take a baseball trip in the spring and another one in the summer, plus my baby's and my traditional July 4th minor league game, which will likely be local this year. I have nine days to make my trip, although I'd like to keep it to 5 or 6 days for budgetary reasons. Here, as I see it, are my options:

OPTION ONE: San Diego. Then what? Catch a minor league game in SoCal, maybe find my way across to my college buddy in Phoenix, possibly head up to Vegas for a game and some foolishness.

OPTION TWO: The Midwest. Probably just Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, with minor league game possibilities in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and West Virginia.

OPTION THREE: Florida, Tampa and Atlanta, with minor league game possibilities in Florida, Georgia, and maybe even the Carolinas.

OPTION FOUR: Washington and Philadelphia, with minor league game possibilities in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey.

Option one...well, it doesn't look as good as the others. I could see the Padres' beautiful new park and the Mariners' single-A affiliate in San Bernadino, but it'd be tough to make it across to Phoenix, and if I got there, I'd have to choose between Las Vegas and Tucson for minor league action, since they're at home on the same days. Seems like very few ballparks for this year. Maybe next summer the schedule will fall better for me.

Option two: impossible. The Reds and Pirates aren't at home until Friday and Saturday. As much as I'd like hanging out with Joe, it'd be a HUGE pain in the butt to do consecutive games in those cities back to back and to fly home the next day. Plus, although I haven't been there yet, Pittsburgh looks like such a beautiful ballpark that I'd want to spend at least two days there (a day game and a night game, I think). Finally, I prefer doing my northerly trips in the summer (so I'm not stuck in the South in July or August).

Option three: damn, I wish I coulda done it last year. It all looked fantastic...start the week in Miami, head up to Tampa in the middle of the week, and head up to Atlanta, doing games in places like Daytona, Augusta, and Charleston, SC (although I won't pay money to sleep or eat there in order to honor the NAACP boycott of the state). I was ready to roll...then MLB moved the Tampa games to Japan. Never mind. This year...looks tough. Basically, all three ballclubs are at home from Saturday through Wednesday. To do this sanely, I'd have to do the Saturday night game in Miami, the Monday game in Tampa, and the Wednesday night game in Atlanta, picking up other games between and after that. Tough, but doable.

Option four: Would be my first choice under other circumstances, but the time I'll be there will be the Nats' first couple of home games, and as much as I'd like to see my sister and Spoon, I'm worried about my ability to get a ticket. Maybe another year.

So it's Florida. But alas, there are obstacles to be crossed:

--I want to cash in a frequent-flyer ticket to go. (My first ever frequent-flyer reward!) Will they let me go someplace as ubiquitous as Florida for Spring Break? Will they let me get a triangle route...flying into Miami and out of Atlanta?

--Do I want to save the trip for another year when I can actually slow down and enjoy Florida, where I've never been? I'd like to take a day and chill in the Everglades, since it's so unlike anywhere I've ever been. I don't think I could do that well when I have so much driving to do. Could I leave Miami early Sunday morning, enjoy a few hours of the Everglades, and then catch a minor league game in Sarasota or Ft. Myers or some on-the-way-to-Tampa place that night? Sounds iffy.

But right now, this is the best option. I liked last year's trip, I admit, which led from Wichita to Tulsa to Arlington to Houston--and that, I think, is just as much driving as this would entail. And last summer, I drove from Detroit to Toronto to Batavia, NY and all the way back to Toledo. So I'm leaning towards Florida this year as well.

But I wish the schedule-makers had consulted me first.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Board games

What are your recent (not classic) favorites?

Saturday, January 15, 2005

The National Football League

This weekend's results:

Eagles over Vikings by a touchdown. Minnesota won me over last week, but not enough. But I did have a dream last night that the Vikings won. This game will serve to prove whether or not I'm clairvoyant.

Rams over Falcons. I've kinda felt like the Falcons are a little bit of a paper tiger this year, and I think this'll be a track meet with the Rams winning 38-35 or some such.

Patriots over Colts. I still think that this is the best team in football until someone knocks them off when it counts.

Steelers over Jets. 28-10 or some such.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Tonight's game...

It looked for a while that I would be doing varsity ball this season, but because of a rule so arcane that nobody noticed it was being broken, four officials, including me, were left doing JV ball. I was angry about it for a while, and now I'm not anymore. So I'm doing a year of JV games, and being evaluated by varsity officials in hopes that my scores will be good enough to go up to varsity ball next year.

As of now, I'm confident that they will be. I had a good game. Very easy game...two teams in zone defenses with offenses who don't take it to the hoop. Net result: no contact. We called only 15 fouls the whole game. Plus, after the score was 32-4 at half, the team in the lead really backed off and started passing the ball around. The second half was very, very fast. My partner was an earnest (but not in the bad way!) HS sophomore who impressed me with his poise and willingness to learn rather than to look cool or show off his knowledge. He'll go far.

Then the time came for me to get my evaluation. The first varsity official handed me a sheet and said "I'm giving you the highest score. I mean, I was looking as hard as I could, and I couldn't see a single thing you did wrong. I'd only say you should use your voice more." This is a compliment to me, as I try not to use my voice much on the court (vocal cord injury). Plus I had a cold. The second official said "I feel very bizarre evaluating you." I think it's because I deflowered her as an official...I was her partner for her very first game, a sixth-grade girls' tournament game over Thanksgiving of 2000. Now she's a varsity official, but still looks up to me. She just handed me my evaluation, which contained no negative comments save one: "Use voice more."

Cool. I guess I'm perfect.

But you know what? I'm actually a little disappointed. I mean, my partner and I had a great game, an easy game, but I was lulled into sleep, I'm afraid, because with about 3 minutes left, I made an egregious rookie mistake. I gave a time out to white when blue had the ball. You just don't do that. Blue was walking the ball up the court, white coach saw one of his players crying (still don't know why), and shouted time out. I blew my whistle and instantly realized my mistake. The rule is that once you blow the whistle, you have to eat crow and award the time out. I, however, compounded the error by saying "Inadvertent whistle. Blue ball." Meanwhile, my partner was trying to do something brilliant...the blue coach was rightly complaining, and my partner said "My time! Official's time out for the injury." Awesome! It would have been better had he blown his whistle, but for a 15-year-old kid to have that kind of game awareness and the willingness to save his partner from a weird situation...loved it.

But I made a terrible mistake, and I know varsity official #1 was there to see it. He must have simply finished his evaluation by then. Oh well...I'll have to bite my tongue and settle for a perfect score in an imperfect game.

Alphabetical Music Quiz

My favorite radio station is playing all of its music library (well, the stuff it ordinarily plays) in alphabetical order by title. They do this annually, and I love it. I LOVE guessing what comes next! More than that, I love guessing right. Let's see if you can get some of the ones I got. I'll give you the title of a song, and you guess what song (or, in some cases, songs) came next.

(If you need help with the station's adult contemporary format, here is the link to the station.) Remember that this will be slanted a little towards older songs, since they're playing everything.

"Bears," Lyle Lovett.
I guessed the next one.
I should have guessed the second one, too. Can you get them?

The announcer says: "That's the end of the I's. We'll start the J's after this."
I got the next two! Very proud of this.

"Steppin' Out," Joe Jackson.
I got the next one, but only because they gave me the artist. (HINT: It's the title song of my least-favorite album by one of my four favorite musicians.)

"Under Pressure," Queen/David Bowie.
I got the next one.
Never would have gotten the next one, but you can guess it if you want.

Answers will be posted to comments after the weekend.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Not Catholic anymore...

My Catholic buddy Joe over at Hip Deep in Pie wrote beautifully about his recent visit to an Episcopalian service. It has led me to think a good deal about my own recent switch in religions. I started typing a comment to him, but it became so long that I figured, what the hell, I'll spill out my deepest religious thoughts here for y'all.

I've made the switch--I am now Episcopalian and identify myself as such. It was about a year ago.

I was raised Catholic. It more or less took. Out of the four kids my parents had, I was one of two who maintained Catholicism into adulthood. My older sister is in it for the duration...she has married into an uber-Catholic family, and I can't see her switching out. My brother never bought into any of it...he rolled along and got confirmed, though, to prevent any family upset (I don't think there would have been any, but he disagrees). He's an atheist. My younger sister also didn't like it, but she fought the teachers at Confirmation class and didn't get confirmed. No family upset. She now identifies herself as Bahai.

When in my life have I been most Catholic? When I've had good priests. The priest in college was just wonderful...challenged my brain, challenged my heart, gave historical background for the readings, served as a de facto counselor for me...he was excellent. Later, in my mid-20s, I found a 9PM Sunday mass at the University's Newman Center. No music, just candlelight and reflection. It was perfect...I'm leaning forward in this dinky room, a former fraternity basement, saying "just you and me God...let's get busy." There, I met a wonderful priest, and followed him to a different urban location. He gave the most splendid homilies, even giving pro-gay homilies. He eventually moved on to California...a bigger position, which I was glad about, since he seemed to be everything I loved about being Catholic and none of the things I hated. I stayed on after he left--I even did the readings for a while, gave Communion. But I moved to the suburbs and eventually stopped going to church. I told myself it was the commute, that I couldn't find a parish, that coaching had made me too exhausted and lazy to get out of bed on Sundays.

But it wasn't. The gay issue was heating up, and the heads of the Church, both nationally and internationally, were bugging me with their response. And it became too much to ignore. I think the change was rattling around my brain for literally years...and then one day, otherwise ordinary, as I was walking to my car after work, I realized that the Church's stance was just too much to ignore. I've learned that ignoring some dogma had been too much a part of my religious experience, and I don't think I'm alone...my mom just turns down her hearing aids if the priest is bad. I don't want to have to ignore stuff. And in fifty years, when we're looking back on the critical early-21st-century victories for the gay community, I want to be able to say I was on the right side of the struggle, and I've decided that Episcopalians are way ahead of Catholics on that score. If the Catholics changed their stance on this issue, I'd seriously consider heading back...but I doubt I would. Even though there's great comfort in the ritual...Catholics make God out to be as big as I want him to be...at this point my honey and I are very happy in our church, and it's actually starting to become a part of my personality. It's good to be going to church again (on non-coaching weekends, anyway) after such a long absence, and good to be somewhere that jibes with my morals more or less 100%. It's a beautiful place, as lovely as Joe described (albeit not in Gambier!).

A few weeks after my switch, the New York Times printed an article describing how many people were switching churches due to their stance on gay rights. Many, like me, were leaving Catholicism because they wanted a more gay-friendly community. But many were leaving Protestantism for Catholicism because they felt Protestantism was becoming too permissive of gays. They were leaving the Church because it was considering welcoming someone? Troubling. I love and respect those who decide to stay in the Church, like Joe, my mom, and my sister, but that article cemented it for me. I feel in my heart I've made the right decision for me.

Still, I do hope the Catholics let me visit every now and then, although if the Pope or Cardinals read this blog, I might not be welcome anymore.

Digging out...

At my school, for reasons too complex to go into here, each of the Humanities teachers have a small pile of money (a few hundred bucks) that we may use in one of two ways. One is to have it for "extra hours" we spend grading papers above and beyond our contract. I like that. But if need be, we may use it to get a sub for one or perhaps two days during the year. While the sub runs our classroom, we get to hide somewhere in the building (they won't let us do it at home) grading papers. I have always greatly preferred option #1, and use it most years. When I get the sub, I feel like I'm throwing away money, since I'm as likely to come up short extra grading hours as a desert is to come up short sand (forgive the highly convoluted metaphor). But my two-week rule--get the goddam essays out of my house within two weeks--well, I'm already in violation of that one, and while I'm grading the big stuff, the piddly shit I collect in the meantime accumulates. So I took a sub today, hid upstairs in the library, and graded twenty student essays.

The good news is that the essays are not bad. The sophomores seem to be figuring out how to write a thesis (took 'em three papers and three times teaching it, but we got 'em there). For the most part, they understood the material. Grades are high without me feeling like I'm settling for less. The bad news is that I need to convince the little cherubs that we do not use the word "you" in an essay, unless they are actually referring to me. So "You strap the explosives to your vest and walk into the mall" is not appropriate. In fact, it creeps me out. And I also think it's time to tell them to deep-six the exclamation point unless they are actually dropping something on their toe while writing. So "Israel has had very little peace since its formation in 1948!", well, I can do without that.

I have few enough left that I can finish 'em tonight. It's so much harder to work at home now that I've got the Vile Temptress here...

Sunday, January 09, 2005

A suggestion...

Could someone tell sportswriters/sportscasters/sports experts to review the rules of the game?

Stephen A. Smith of ESPN has just suggested that the Chargers made a terrible mistake in Saturday's playoff game by waiting until fourth down to have kicker Nate Kaeding kick the potentially game-winning field goal (which he missed). He said they should have kicked it on third down, and gave this as his reason: "That way, if he misses, he'd have another chance on fourth down."

Stephen? You been taking rules lessons from Maguire and Theismann????

I have underestimated Michael Irvin.

He just used the word "vicissitudes" on NFL Countdown.

If Maguire isn't fired like I hope, then maybe Irvin can give him some vocab lessons beyond "Lookit!"

Saturday, January 08, 2005

By popular demand

Pack over the Vikes easily. The Vikings simply aren't good enough to be in the playoffs, and Green Bay is hot.

Colts over the Broncoids in a closer game than a lot of people think. If I were brave, I'd pick an upset here. I'm not brave.

Change...

I've told some of you that I predict St. Louis to beat Seattle today, since Seattle, you know, sucks. St. Louis sucks too, but less.

With the forcast of snow, I'm reversing that. Seattle to win. St. Louis, in spite of its state of lesser suckiness, won't be able to throw the ball in the wet white stuff.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Curious about US tri-points?

Rob has updated his site.

He's added a jaunt from Gary, Indiana all the way down to near Memphis. It's a fun ride.

I wish I could blog about people I hate at work.

Because I am so pissed off at one cadre of parents that I could spit. It's nothing that impacts me directly...they're after my bosses, as I'm not even a player in this battle...but if I spoke about it here, it'd leak, and even with my name and school ostensibly disconnected from this, Murphy's Law says I'd wind up some distance from here along Excrement Creek. Without a means of navigation.

I don't understand why we can't seem to love one another in this world.

You learn something new every day

From a student bibliography entry (I think I'm getting the author's name wrong):

Judson, Tim. The Holy Bible: New International Version.

Finally! The question has been answered! The answer is Tim!

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Last night's dream

Through a series of misadventures, I discover that my poems are published in an anthology. But there's a twist...a couple of my pieces are mixed in with pieces of a guy who shares my first and last name, a German philosopher who died in 1935. It was him they intended to publish, but they ran across my work and mistook it for his. I approach the publisher and demand royalties. They are dubious at first as to whether the work is mine, but I convince them by pointing out images and references in the poems that the previous philosopher-poet-with-my-name could not have known. I get my money, and they put me in the next great American poetry anthology. Through a major fluke, I've made it as a poet.

Hey, it can happen, right? I can (literally) dream.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

New Year's observation...

The local newscasters stated that the organizers for the big party wanted to "go younger with the music this year." Their selections to go with the fireworks: "New Year's Day" by U2, "R-O-C-K in the USA" by John Mellencamp, and "Let's Go Crazy" by Prince. It's good to know that I'm "younger," but younger than what? "How Much is that Doggie in the Window?"

Then, the local singer (winner of a recent talent contest) rang in 2005 by singing "Auld Lang Syne." God as my witness, not once, but repeatedly, she sang "Should all appointments be forgot..."

Kinda changes the meaning of the song. Makes it into a commercial for a PDA. And damn funny. I've been singing it all night.