Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Something's Burning...and I (Don't) Think it's Love.


In an article written last October, Darnel Tanksley wrote this, concerning Obama;
"He is our President, Barack Hussein Obama: The most loved man in the world."

I don't think Mr. Tanksley could say the same thing today......especially not in Afghanistan where rioters recently burned Obama's effigy.

From Google News:
"JALALABAD, Afghanistan — Protesters took to the streets in Afghanistan on Wednesday, burning an effigy of the US president and shouting "death to Obama" to slam civilian deaths during Western military operations.
Hundreds of university students blocked main roads in Jalalabad, capital of eastern Nangahar province, to protest the alleged deaths of 10 civilians, mostly school children, in a Western military operation on Saturday."

The isn't the first time the Afghans burned an effigy of Barack Obama. Rioters, this past October, burned his effigy in in reaction to rumors that U.S. troops had desecrated the Quran.

It seems a bit odd that "the most loved man in the world" should be so hated in "The Friendliest Country in the World, Possibly the Universe".

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Comcast Sucks.

Readers of my blog may recall my two posts from earlier this year concerning Comcast Cable. [Seventeen Days in the Desert. and Slowly, I (re)turn.]
For those unaware of my problems with Comcast, I will give a brief synopsis.
When we moved into our house in June of this year, I contacted Comcast to have our account transferred from our apartment. To make a long story short, Comcast could not run a cable across the street where we live and we were unable to get cable service.

All the equipment was returned and we were told in June that we had no account balance.

Last week, I received a collection notice from an agency claiming that there was a $29.14 balance which we had been notified of many times but had failed to pay.

Bullfeathers.

Not only were we told that there was zero balance, but we have never received any bill from Comcast. I went to the local office and was told it was a transfer fee and I'd have to call 1-800- COMCAST to have them remove the fee.

I called the number and only received more bullfeathers.

When the person on the other end could not/ would not help me, I demanded that she connect me with her supervisor. I guess the supervisor is busy, because I was told she/he would have to call me.

I had been considering going back to Comcast and have them try once again to have me connected, but after this, I decided against that.

I'll be sure to post any updates after I speak with the next Comcast employee.

Oh, yeah. Googling comcast sux and comcast sucks, I discovered the above photo and comcastsucksballs.blogspot.com and comcastsucks.org to name just a few.

Update:
I received a phone call from a Comcast employee calling herself "Evelyn". After hearing my complaint, she assured me that the $29.14 would be removed from collections and I should be receiving a letter from the company soon.
We'll see how that works out.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Scroogenomics.


With his millions of listeners, I'd imagine that an author could do a lot worse than having his book mentioned on Rush Limbaugh's radio program. Normally, with that sort of exposure, you'd think that having Rush talk about you're trying to market would be a proverbial goldmine.

I don't think that will be the case with economist Joel Waldfogel's book - "Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays.”

It's not that Waldfogel doesn't have any points worth considering. Waldfogel said,
“People value the items they receive as gifts 20 percent less per dollar spent than the items they purchase for themselves. These are items that are not well-suited for their tastes.”

Of course, that's true enough. It isn't easy buying gifts for someone you barely know. More than likely, the present you give won't be as well received as you'd like. It's difficult gauging someone's taste when that person isn't a close friend or relative.

The answer, however isn't becoming a "Scrooge" and abandoning Christmas gift giving. No, the obvious solution would be trying to get to know better the person you're giving the gift to.

Waldfogel tries to rationalize his positions with economic "theory". He claims that our giving gifts that aren't fully appreciated creates an "orgy of value destruction that vaporizes $25 billion per year,” From an economic standpoint, that's complete BS.

There's no question that most retailer's live or die based on Christmas sales. Jobs and profits depend on the spending that the Holiday creates. From an economic view, it matters not whether the person receiving the gift enjoys it or not. The store will make money off that blue and green polka-dotted tie you gave Uncle Louie; it doesn't matter whether Uncle Louie wears it, puts in away in the closet, or sets it aside to be used on his garden's scarecrow this coming spring.

No, Waldfogel can't destroy Christmas gift giving with his bizarre economic ideas;
And even though Amazon.com assures me that the book can be delivered in time for Christmas, Waldfogel's book will not be on my list of things to give as Christmas gifts. So, in that respect, I guess Waldfogel gets his Christmas wish.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Maybe I've gone too far.

I enjoy baking and it's always been a pleasure for me to prepare goodies for my wife and son. I want my son to grow up with memories of having home made pies and biscuits and muffins and such coming from our kitchen on a regular basis.

I think it's especially nice to do this around the Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays. (Although muffins and biscuits are subject to be baked on any given day all through out the year).

This morning, however, I see that I may have created a Frankenstein's monster of sorts. J.P., our four year old, has just asked me to make bread.

"What sort of bread ?", I asked.

"This kind", he said as he pointed to a regular loaf of bread purchased at the grocery.

It's nice that he thinks that there is no cooking or baking chore beyond my talents, but as much as I enjoy baking, I dread the idea of having to produce loaves of bread on a regular basis. It's one thing to throw together a batch of biscuits 3 or 4 days a week or even yeast rolls for special occasions, but the thought that I might have to bake bread as often as I now bake biscuits is the stuff horror movies (or I love Lucy episodes) are made of.

For the time being, I can put him off; I don't have enough loaf pans. Every bread recipe I've found produces multiple loaves. I won't attempt to halve a bread recipe. Bread making is not unlike chemistry; you have to have the correct proportion of flour versus salt, versus sugar versus yeast and/or baking soda and baking powder. The wrong mixture can be disastrous.

I know it's just a matter of time, however. I know that, soon, I'll go to Walmart and purchase enough loaf pans to accommodate any bread recipe the Internet throws at me. With the right number of pans, I'll have doughs in the freezer, ever ready to thaw and bake.

If there's any consolation it's the idea that, years from now, when J.P. is my age and I'm no longer around, he'll be in the kitchen doing the same thing for his kids (or grand-kids) and continue the tradition. Unless, of course, he marries a woman who enjoys baking......which isn't very likely, all things considered.

Vicar Advises Shoplifting.

Whenever I come upon a headline on an online news source, particularly when the story deals with a priest, Bishop or religious, I take the headline with a grain of salt.
Too many times I'll see a story about, say Pope Benedict, do a bit of research on the story and find that both the headline and the story are exactly the opposite of what the Pope actually said or did.
So, when I came across the news report about the English vicar giving the OK to shoplifting [Priest advises congregation to shoplift. - It's OK to shoplift.] I knew I'd need to go further into the story.

I tracked down the complete transcript of the priest sermon from this past Sunday.[Transcript.]

It doesn't look good for the Vicar.

He says;
"Let my words not be misrepresented as a simplistic call for people to shoplift. The observation that shoplifting is the best option that some people are left with is a grim indictment of who we are. Rather, this is a call for our society no longer to treat its most vulnerable people with indifference and contempt. When people are released from prison, or find themselves suddenly without work or family support, then to leave them for weeks and weeks with inadequate or clumsy social support is monumental, catastrophic folly. We create a situation which leaves some people little option but crime."

He advises, however, that one shoplifts from "from large national businesses, knowing that the costs are ultimately passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher prices" and not small Mom & Pop businesses.

The police in York have taken a dim view, naturally, of the vicar's sermon.
According to one source,
" A North Yorkshire Police spokesman said: ' First and foremost, shoplifting is a criminal offence and to justify this course of action under any circumstances is highly irresponsible.Turning or returning to crime will only make matters worse, that is a guarantee.' ”

I agree that "social support" for the unfortunate can often be "inadequate" or "clumsy" but, I can't see how spending Christmas in jail can help matters.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Day One.

Today is the first day of a rather extended Christmas Holiday. I return to work on January 4th.
One would think that with this much time off I'd find more time to blog. We'll see how that works out.
The plan for today is to drop by the LDS family history center and order a microfilm of parish records for the area in Poland where my paternal grandfather's ancestors called home. The LDS is a great source for obtaining information useful in tracking down ones family history.

There was a time when I was a regular visitor to the family history center here in Rome, but I guess it's been nearly 10 years since I last went. When ordering the microfilms, you're given the option of paying to keep the microfilm in that particular center indefinitely. I can't remember what I was paying ten or eleven years ago; I wouldn't be surprised if the cost has gone up. But still, I don't suspect it will be outrageous.

My first choice will be a microfilm containing baptismal, marriage and death records in the parish from 1818 to 1865.
Baptismal records from 1835 to 1909, marriage records from 1835 to 1939 and death records from 1835 to 1939 are the next microfilms on my wish list.

When the microfilms arrive, I'll be sure to take my Polish/ English dictionary along......obviously, the records won't be in English. Being a Catholic parish, there's always the possibility that the records are in Latin. That would make things a bit easier, but I'm putting my money on the records being written in Polish. If I can't make do with the dictionary, I have a co-worker who speaks Polish. Getting her to the LDS might not be easy, but hopefully, it won't come to that.

Later, J.P. and I will go to Mass.....that's our regular Friday activity. Oh yeah, that and going to library to see if there are any new Thomas the Tank Engine books.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Old Photos Day.

Yesterday, quite coincidentally, I received emails from 2 different sources (an old friend and a cousin) sending old photos to me.
The cousin sent a few photos of our grandparents, aunts and uncles.
My old friend sent a photo he had taken of me....lord knows how long ago. I'd guess this photo is close to 35 years old (give or take).
As you can see, I once had hair.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

You Reckon?

According to the organization's website,
The Optimum Population Trust is the leading environmental charity and think tank in the UK concerned with the impact of population growth on the environment. OPT research covers population in relation to climate change, energy, resources, biodiversity, development impacts, ageing and employment and other environmental and economic issues. It campaigns for stabilisation and gradual population decrease globally and in the UK.

In other words, the group believes that we must do whatever it takes to reduce human population to a level that the planet can support.

The patrons listed on the website are, presumably, educated people. Some of the patrons are household names in the U.S.....naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough and Dr Jane Goodall to name just two.

This past March, this group of presumably, educated people had the following News Release:
SEX IS MAIN CAUSE OF POPULATION GROWTH .
In the report,Professor John Guillebaud was quoted as saying,
“Having a large rather than a small family is less of a planned decision than an automatic outcome of human sexuality.”

Who'da thunk it?

Meat Free Mondays.

Well known vegetarian and former Beatle, Paul McCartney traveled (by jet) to a European Parliament meeting in Brussels earlier this month to help in the battle against global warming. There are many in the global warming religious movement who argue that meat production produces far more greenhouse gasses than our use of the internal combustion engine. Some believe that worldwide food production creates 30% of all green gasses - with half coming from meat production.

McCartney says that if we all went without meat one day a week, we could save the planet from destruction. That's where the idea of Meat Free Monday comes from. (Heaven forbid that they'd pick Friday as the one day to abstain).

To help further the cause, McCartney has this video on his support meat free Monday website. Those of you who remember the days when Paul McCartney could write something worth listening to might not want to view this video.....it's not for the squeamish.



For more disgusting Meat Free Monday songs, go
here, - there and everywhere.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Listening to my own advice.

Regular readers of LarryD's blog -actsoftheapostasy.blogspot.com- are aware of Larry's disdain for the (alleged) Catholic (!?!?) online news source National Catholic Distorter Reporter.
Many's the time I have suggested to Larry that, for the sake of his blood pressure, he should stop reading the NCD NCR.

I should listen to my own advice.

The title of the article made it too good for me to resist reading it; The state of the Catholic church written by Richard McBrien. Mc Brien's first paragraph was harmless enough:

"If anyone wonders why the Catholic church presents such a different face to the world and to the Body of Christ today in comparison with the world and the church of the 1960s and 1970s, we need look no further than the extraordinarily abbreviated pontificate of John Paul I."

Like a fool, I was expecting - after reading that first paragraph - that the article would be an evaluation of "the extraordinarily abbreviated pontificate of John Paul I".
Very little of the piece actually dealt with John Paul I; there's very little that can be said about a Pope who reigned for only 33 days.

The actual purpose of the article was to criticize John Paul I's successor. The last 2 sentences sum up McBrien's point.

"Although he would do many good things in the 26 and a half years he occupied the office, John Paul II's appointments to, and within, the hierarchy were not among them.
And that is the main reason why the Catholic church is experiencing such difficulty today."

Yes, I should follow my own advice. I shouldn't waste my time reading the NCR......it's bad for my blood pressure.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Norway? No Way!

Last year, Barack Obama won the election, in part, because many felt he could magically turn around opinion of us on the world stage and make America popular again.

Now, after his trip to Oslo to pick up his Nobel Peace Prize, Obama's approval rating in Norway is even lower than it is in the U.S..

The guardian.co.uk is reporting that Obama "has cancelled many of the events peace prize laureates traditionally submit to, including a dinner with the Norwegian Nobel committee, a press conference, a television interview, appearances at a children's event promoting peace and a music concert, as well as a visit to an exhibition in his honour at the Nobel peace centre."

He has even canceled the traditional lunch with the King of Norway that goes with the Nobel Peace Prize. This has the collective Norwegian panty in a wad. A poll shows that 44% of Norwegians believe it was rude of Obama to cancel his lunch with King Harald - only 34% saying they believe it was acceptable.

It seems odd that Obama would turn down this opportunity to bow down to yet another foreign potentate.

It had been reported earlier that 5000 demonstrators were expected in Oslo to protest the fact that a war President would be receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

Not only are the Norwegians unhappy with the One and his plan to escalate the war in Afghanistan, but as this video shows, he isn't the most popular person in Afghanistan either.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rest in Peace, Fr. Jim Miceli.

Yesterday, at the beginning of the noon Mass in celebration of the feast of the Immaculate Conception, we learned that our former pastor, Fr. Jim Miceli had died.
Details were scarce. He had only just retired a few months back due to poor health.
Last night, the local newspaper published an article about Fr. Miceli on it's website. The article said that he had died of an apparent heart attack while at a clinic in Minnesota. I think many of us thought he was still in the Rome area. I had no idea that he was in a clinic (much less in Minnesota).
The photo on the left was taken four years ago when he baptized our son.
There will be a rosary for him Friday evening; his funeral Mass will be Saturday morning. Our Archbishop will celebrate the Mass and I'm sure it will be standing room only.

Monday, December 7, 2009

My Great-Grandfather.

The photo on the left is of the headstone for the graves of my grandmother's parents - Ludwik & Veronica Szymanski. They are buried in St. Stanislaus cemetery in Buffalo NY.

I have no idea when this particular headstone was placed there; I am reasonably certain that it was not put there in 1961 when my great-grandmother died. I don't believe there would have been money available at that time (I could be wrong, of course).
The words Ojciec and Matka are the Polish words for Father and Mother, so I'm assuming the headstone was placed there by one or more of their children and not their grandchildren.

The stone is impressive. I'm sure it cost a great deal of money. Unfortunately, there is an error in the date of Ludwik's birth. The year is given as 1873, but that's not correct. It's understandable why that date was put on the stone. After all, it's the date given as his birth year on his death certificate. This would not be the first time a death certificate had a mistake on it. It's more common than one might think.

My genealogical resource shows that the actual year of his birth is either 1866 or 1867.

In the 1910 Federal census, his age is given as 44. The 1915 New York State census lists his age as 48 and in 1920 he said he was 53 years old. You do the math.
I have a copy of his application for U.S. citizenship from August, 1894 where he gives his date of birth as August 21, 1866.

To further complicate the matter, when he arrived in New York aboard the SS Eider on March, 15, 1887, he gave his age as 23.

His death certificate gives his parents names as Michael Szymanski and Apollonia Grat......the marriage record for the couple gives their marriage date as 1860 (when Michael was 24 and Apollonia was 23). It's seems reasonable to me that it would be more likely that Ludwik was born when his mother was 29.

There are marriage, baptism and death records, for the Catholic parish in Poland where the family lived, available on microfilm from the LDS. One day, I'll order the microfilm and see for myself when he was baptized. I'm sure it'll be closer to 1867 than the 1873 date engraved on his tombstone.

One more thing. Veronika's death certificate gives her date of birth as January 27, 1877. The same census records that show Ludwik was born in 1867 and not 1873 show Veronika was born in 1880 and not 1877.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Arrrgh.

No, this is not a post about pirating.

I'll be working an especially long workday today, so no time for a proper post. It should resume Saturday........or not. Who knows? Could be Monday.



Arrgh.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmas Parade Crowd Video.


First, a confession. I did not watch the President's speech last night. I was at work. The truth be told, I probably wouldn't have watched it had I not been at work....I, more than likely, would have been with my wife and son at our town's annual Christmas parade.

Of course, I've seen video snippets from the speech and there's more than enough written about it on the Internet. I was going to give my thoughts on what he had to say, but I found something that interests me more.

I went to the Rome News Tribune website and found videos from last night's parade. The video I'm posting is one taken of the crowd. My wife, son, our friend Val and her daughter are seen at 5:58 on the video.

video

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It's the Biology, Stupid.

In comes as no surprise to me that columnist Richard Cohen doesn't think too highly of the "Manhattan Declaration". In a piece published in today's Washington Post Cohen attacks the declaration's condemnation of, so-called, "same sex marriage".
To Cohen, the issue is a matter of civil rights. He compares laws that prohibit "same sex marriage" to the laws that once prohibited interracial marriage.

As most of my readers know, I am married to a Filipina. Prior to the 1967 Supreme Court decision, Loving v. Virginia, she and I could not have married in the state of Georgia. Using Cohen's twisted logic, I should be empathetic towards gays wishing to marry.
He's wrong, of course.
Allow me to explain the difference.

The race-based restrictions on marriage were based on erroneous beliefs concerning the "racial superiority" of Caucasians over "non-whites". The ban on interracial marriages was based on the racist idea that children born of such a marriage would pollute the "white race".
Of course, we all know now that no race is superior or inferior to any other race. The children that come from interracial marriages are equal in every way to children coming from "same race" unions.

There never has been any legitimate reason to prohibit marriage between a man and woman of different races.

The same cannot be said about "marriages" between two men or two women. As much as some would wish it were otherwise, the ultimate biological and evolutionary purpose of sex is to reproduce the species. I know it isn't fashionable to say this, but sex is not about self expression. In this day of contraceptives and abortion-on-demand, people seem to have forgotten this basic biological fact.

Cohen and this writer believe that our objections to "same-sex marriage" are simply based on our misguided biblical interpretations.

Perhaps someone should explain the "birds and bees" to Mr. Cohen.
It's the biology, stupid.