Thursday, March 31, 2011

MD Wine Bill -- Almost There

To follow up on my earlier post--the Maryland Wine Bill (SB 248 and HB 234) has passed, but still require some minor differences between the two bills to be worked out before the current legislative session ends on April 11th. 

According to an article in the Washington Post, the governor has stated that he will sign the bill when it comes to him for signature.

So don't uncork your favorite old wine yet.

But, find out where you have it hidden.

The State Senate approved the bill 45-0.

There was a bit of confusion in the way some of the articles I was reading were worded about the wine bill--one from Friday suggested that the bill was headed to the Governor for signature--however, that wasn't entirely accurate as it turns out.

But, we are getting closer.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Consumers and Politicians and Taxes

The politicians seems to be very concerned about closing budget gaps all across the country this year. legislatures from Maryland to California are trying to figure out how to get more money to sustain levels of service. It goes to the city level as well, Baltimore City is looking to close a tax revenue shortfall, too.

Sadly, the universal answer seems to be in raising taxes and "fees." 

I hate fees.  We pay a fee with our taxes for garbage collection in Howard County. It used to be included in our taxes until about 15 years ago the county board decided to make it a separate fee.  It was $75 then. The problem with government levied fees? There are few controls on them. The country wants to raise the fee this year from the current $250 to $500 per year. If it was a tax--we could challenge it and even vote on it. Since it is a fee--it can be changed pretty much on a whim.

And the state wants to increase property tax, and gas tax, and alcohol taxes and whatever taxes they can get away with.

Ever wonder who pays those taxes?

I read an article the other day about the giant corporation General Electric. Despite being the fourth largest company in the U.S. and posting a $14 Billion profit, the company paid no taxes.

That is $0.

What a deal!

I sure made a lot less that and amazingly I am paying a lot more than $0 in taxes.

So, let me get this straight. Politicians across the country are pinching consumers and private citizens to pay more taxes--yet the 4th largest corporation in America skates. There has to be a story here somewhere.

Oh, and it gets better. GE is claiming a $3.2 billion refund. Read it here in the Berkshire News.

I need to actually pay something in taxes to get a refund---not pay zero and get additional money.

Politicians are clearly looking in the wrong place for additional money. How many private American's taxes are needed to add up to a $3.2 billion refund? I looked this up--329,301 (with the average individual tax bill in America for the 2009 tax year being $8,157). Check out Tax Stats at a Glance and do the math.

Message to the politicians: Go after the corporations in America who are making a joke of tax laws!  That's where the money is.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Consensus Wine Released

We have finally obtained the winning wine form the Keswick Vineyards Consensus blending weekend.

I described the process and the weekend in my blog earlier.

This past weekend, Chris and I went to the winery to obtain a few bottles so that we could enjoy the wine that we helped to create since even though the direct shipping bill has passed, it is not in effect yet.

Wine is such a team effort to create. Not just the blending, the part of the team we participated in; but the winemaker had to blend it and it had to be bottled and this was after the grapes were grown and picked and crushed.

We tasted the wine while we were at the winery--and it was every bit as good as we remembered. It should be good for many years to come.

It was exciting to taste the wine as it was poured at the winery for others to buy. They made 245 cases of the wine. A very small and exclusive run.  And they told me at the winery that it was selling very well. Over 30 cases were sold on release weekend--which was the 19th of March.

Ah, the memories! 

Projects and Cold Weather

Last evening, Tina was over working on some projects.

It was cold outside--to cold for the paint to dry that she was using for one project and too cold for the glue to set on another.

The operative words here are that it was too cold.

Too cold.

We have moved to daylight savings time--(btw--did you note that Russia has moved permanently to daylight savings time?) to have more daylight in the evening for projects and now it is too cold for the projects.

So can we get someone to turn on the global sunlamp and get temperatures up to normal at least?

The cold weather is a problem for the grape vines in central Virginia--the low there last night of about 27 degrees is right at the point where damage could occur to the new growth. hopefully, the vines are still slumbering.

The cold is also going to make the Aloha Shirt Day I am sponsoring at work on Wednesday seem a bit premature--but we should have fun with it nonetheless.

Alas thought, I too have many outside projects which need to be started--but it is too cold. By the time it warms up enough to work on them I am afraid it will be too hot to work on them.

Well, Opening Day at home for the orioles is Monday--hopefully it will not snow on Monday. It did one year.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday Musings - March 28, 2011

1. March is over this week (amazingly enough--where did it go?) and we launch into April. The weathermen are reporting that April will begin with weather more suited for February.  What a downer for such a promising month. Only 30 days until pool opening day--weather permitting.

2. College basketball is fun and this March the madness has been incredible. Consider this--of the 68 teams in the NCAA Men's tournament, 4 remain to vie for the crown of National Men's Champion. Of the four, there are no Number 1 or 2 seeds left. That, friends is what sports are all about. You have to play every game.

3. We had a great wine weekend. A quick trip to Charlottesville to get some of the consensus wine that we helped to blend, a quick stop at another winery and then back home. Yesterday, we went to look at some homes for sale--just because.

4. Birthday weekends are busy. This week we celebrate with Patrick--and then next up is Ethan. Dinner at On the Border last night was a lot of fun and a good spur of the moment idea. A lot better than pizza.

5. I'm hosting a conference at work this week--so the blog may be a bit late or thin. Bear with me. Conferences drive me crazy.  So many loose ends. Changed schedules and the like. It is far easier to attend a conference than to plan and host one.

6. Japan and Libya are still occupying the bulk of the news from around the world.  Both situations seem not to be showing many signs of improvement.

7. This week we said good-bye to a faithful companion of Mike and Nicole and I grieve with them on the passing of Calvin (or Cal)--the cat that came free with a $10 bag of cat food some 12 years ago. He was a fixture around their house and he was one of those cats who really took charge of things--be they children or yappy dogs. It was both sudden and sad the day he passed and like so many other good friends--he is missed and will be missed. Sadly, I don't think I have any images of Cal to share.

8. Here is a thought. Plans are made to be changed! You knew this of course. But, this weekend really drove that point home for me. Nothing happened that way it was planned or envisioned. That, is the spice of life.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Maryland Wine Bill Passes

Consumers and wine drinkers in Maryland are celebrating the beginning of the end of archaic rules which prohibited legal access to over 95 percent of the wines available in the United States.  The Maryland Legislature, as reported late Friday, passed the long awaited direct wine shipping bill, which while imperfect, will finally allow at least direct shipment of wine from wineries to consumers in the state.

I am excited that my favorite wineries--Keswick in Virginia and Chateau St Jean in Sonoma Valley, California, can finally ship my wines direct to me; but there is still more to do. I still cannot join a retail wine of the month club, nor have wines shipped from retailers.

Why is it important to have wines shipped from retailers?

First, consider this interesting fact that was reported in The Standard Times on November 26, 2005: 95 percent of all wine purchased is consumed within 48 hours.

So, clearly, the idea of ordering wine for expediency or probably even reduced cost is not a factor for direct shipping. It is an issue of access to product. Some wineries do not sell all of their wines on the retail market. I know this for a fact from visiting so many wineries across the United States.

Wine, however, is a world-wide product. Direct shipping of wine from wineries is great for US wine--but how about the South African, or Australian, or you the name it country wines that are not carried by Maryland retailers? I want to support the local retailer, believe me. But the tiered system in Maryland does them a disservice as well and they cannot carry all of the wine available and cannot order the wines I often ask them about.

We, the consumers, should have access to all of the wines available without unreasonable red tape and confusing rules. As I travel the country, I often find wines that I enjoy and want to buy in Maryland. In fact, favorite Chris' Merlot, the Hart & McGarry, is not available in Maryland. That is why we need direct shipping to include the ability to receive wine from retailers.

Retailers in the state feel threatened--but they should see direct shipping as an opportunity--they would be allowed to ship out of state. This then gives them access to compete on a bigger market--especially if they offer a unique or not widely available wine.

Remember, we are looking at 5 percent of the total wine sales here--and there is a good chance the retailers won't even notice the 5 percent because it is possible much of that is already making its way into the state via other means.

And so, I will tip a glass of wine tonight to celebrate success--but continue to push for complete access to the wine available in the world.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hart & McGarry 2008 Merlot - Review

I decided to review another follow-on vintage wine and this would be the wine listed above. I had previously reviewed the 2005 vintage of this wine, and I raved about the high value for the price that the 2005 vintage was.

The wine is listed as a Napa Valley Merlot but the winemaker's address is Manteca, CA--which isn't in the Napa Valley.

The 2008 vintage has a nice light berry with a hint of plum nose. I found it to be very young, but it improved significantly as it sat in the glass over an hour. The color is light and a bit thin and the wine has a taste which needs time to mature, but I am concerned that there may not be enough structure to provide a basis for improvement with time. The wine does have a finish with lingers a bit and yearns for another sip.

A very easy drinking wine, but not particularly interesting nor complex. Very light tannins. The wine should be good with light foods and summery fares, maybe even burgers and hot dogs--it you want to impress your neighbors.

Recommendation: An easy drinking wine, with similarities to a pinot noir for people who like light wines. At about $15 per bottle, is it probably at or above the optimal price point, but given a few more months in the bottle it may turn out to be a wine which rivals the 2005 vintage, which I enjoyed very much.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Frustration

Cold. Rain. Cold. Dark.

Springtime is just not getting off to a strong start.

Yes the hyacinths and tulips love the weather, but I am a warm-weather person.
Miniature Daffodils in Bloom March 2011

Last week at this time I woke to sunny blue skies and daytime temperatures heading into the 80's. There was a lot of green and I was wearing shorts and walking on a white sandy beach with the turquoise waters of the Gulf lapping at my bare feet.  I had my shirt off getting a mild sunburn while I enjoyed the view out of the water-sky boundary on the horizon. Another reason that I love southern Florida!

And so this morning it is dark, cold, dreary and there are hints of snow in the rainy, wintery (yes, they call it wintery) mix of precipitation.

I will endure my day hoping for some amusement this evening as I enthusiastically attend happy hour with my friends and we shake off the frustrations of the week by wallowing around in some good wine, sampling some new cheese, and munching a few crackers while talking about the promise of the Orioles as Spring Training draws to an end and the season is poised to begin next week--when the games actually start to matter.  (How was that for one awesome run-on sentence?)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Reverse Thinking

Monday night they showed this video at the men's group that I attend. We were completing our series and I was fascinated by the video and decided to link it into my blog so that others could appreciate the video as well.

I also read the comments on You Tube below the video and am continuously amazed at how negative so many people are when confronted with simple statements of personal belief. Unbelievers, it seems,  are always searching for ways to confirm their unbelief and tear everything apart.  It is sad.

One of the comments reads as follows: "By the way this video is made form personal choice rather than from actual evidence and explanation.Its the same old redundant argument made from a bronze aged mythology called Christianity. Pure garbage."

If unbelievers are so insecure, perhaps it is because they understand the eternal consequences of their actions--and it makes them uncomfortable because of the "what if" question. Apparently although the factual evidence exists in huge quantities, many do not want to accept or understand the facts surrounding Jesus Christ.

What if:
  - there is a loving God who wants a personal relationship with me?
  - eternal separation from God is real?
  - I don't really know everything although I try to justify my unbelief in everything I see and do?
  - the wages for sin is death and although the price was paid for me, I don't accept it?

Questions, sadly, that could be haunting for a long time.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Football Rule Change - Loss of the Kickoff

It may be one of the most exciting plays in football--the kickoff.

So many freaky things happen and it adds a wild card twist to the game. A team getting trounced can turn the game around on a kick-off return.

As reported in USA Today, the kickoff rules are being significantly changed. Read about them in :
Eye-opener: How do you feel about the NFL's new kickoff rules?

So what has the NFL done? In the reported interest of player safety they have again moved closer to a game in which the excitement is being taken out. 

Decades ago, the NFL made the game better by moving the goal post from the goal line to the end line (1974). Many fans don't even remember that there was a time when a field goal was 10 yards closer for the pros than college. And they added the two-point conversion (1994) to make the game more interesting and exciting--kind of like college football--which many argue is a better overall product from the standpoint of excitement factor.

But now--with the modification to the kickoff rules, the NFL has laid an egg. 

Arguably the most exciting, nail biting play in football may be reduced to a formality with a kickoff out of the end zone and the ball being placed on the 20 yard line becoming the norm.  Heck--why don't they just put the ball on the 20 yard line after a score and dispense with the kickoff altogether if they are really that concerned about safety. Who needs an onsides kick anyway?

NFL lock out, kickoff changes. Wow, am I ever glad it is baseball season.

Batter up!

Travel Magic

Saturday was a magical day for me. I didn't realize it as I was making my way through the day, but in less time than it takes for some people to commute to work in the morning, I was able to spend a great day in Florida, attend an Orioles Spring Training game, and fly back to Maryland to join my family at a local pub for some celebration drinks and still be in bed only an hour or so past my regular bedtime.

During the day I enjoyed 81 degree temperatures, saw Major League Baseball, got sunburned, and experienced the joys of passing through airport security with my favorite TSA personnel.  What could be better?

Breakfast at the hotel, lunch at the ball park and dinner at Pub Dogs in Columbia with Patrick and Corey (and Chris, too).

Only when I slowed down on Sunday morning did I realize the magic of the over 800 mile journey that I took without almost even thinking about it. In olden times--800 miles would have been a month long or longer journey on a horse or with a wagon. They could never conceive of a day like I had--it would have been science fiction to them.

And yet--I did it Saturday. And many other people do it nearly every day and do it almost without thinking about the magic of it all enabled by technology that we are so comfortable with that we don't even really consider it, either.

How much easier is turning the key in the ignition of our vehicle and roaring off at 60 mpg (or more) when compared with getting the horse out of the barn, saddled, and ready to stroll off at the rapid clip of about 5 mph. And then brushing the horse down when we return. A trip into town--a short distance away was an all afternoon affair.

Sometimes I refer to the vehicles I own as my stable--just for that reason. To remind me of how lucky I am to be riding in air conditioned comfort rather than eating the dust of the unpaved road.

As I crawl into my car/truck this morning and the rain begins to fall, I think I will be a bit more appreciative of just how good I have it when it comes to travel.

And of course--having Florida so close doesn't hurt either.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Dancing with the Moon

I don't know if you took some time to view the bright moon this weekend or not, but it seemed to follow me everywhere and forced itself into my stream of consciousness.

It really began early Thursday (the 17th) morning as I was driving to the club to play racquetball about 5:30 AM. Yes, it is early, but I love starting the day on the courts.

I noticed the moon setting on the horizon--it was dancing in and out of my view around hills and through trees. It would disappear for a moment--and then return, a bright orb on the western horizon cheering my soul with its apparent antics in the sky. It made me smile and I thought about the moon and how it really wasn't moving around at all, but it was my own turning that made the moon apparently dance on the horizon.

I enjoyed driving on the nearly deserted roads and waiting for the moon to peak up over a hill, or to come into view from around some buildings. It had been a very longtime since it had driven around with the moon so low on the horizon.

And then, Saturday evening as I was flying back to Baltimore from Tampa, I got to watch the moon again.

It was a bit different though as the moon appeared lower than the airplane. I watched the moon rise in the east over a cloud bank and tried to take an image of it, but the iPhone and dirt on the plane window just do not do it justice.

I watched the moon pass under the wing of the airplane as we banked. The sky was clear as we approached Baltimore, and I saw the moon illuminate the Chesapeake Bay as we turned onto final into the BWI. It was a painter's scene--the moon shining down and illuminating a long streak in the bay silhouetting the ships and shoreline. I etched the image into my brain--if only I were a painter so I could capture it for others to see. But alas, I have a hard time staying in the lines.

All in all though, it was an interesting couple of days watching the moon dance with me and illuminate the darkened planet with its reflected light.

We all need to take time to notice these things. It grounds us.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Musings - March 21, 2011

1. Welcome to the first full day of Spring! We have officially survived another winter and are now heading into the best parts of the year. Spring arrived at 7:21 pm EDT last evening. I couldn't get my egg to spin.

2. What an amazing weekend.  On Saturday at noon I was sitting in a baseball park in Florida getting sunburned in 81 degree full sunshine. On Sunday at noon I was strolling my yard in 51 degree temperatures bundled in a coat trying to stay warm hoping that the sun would shine stronger and longing to take the cover off my pool.

3. Saturday was an amazing day. I woke up in Sarasota, Florida, attended a baseball game, drove to an airport, flew two hours north to Baltimore, and was celebrating an early birthday with Patrick and his friends in a local pub before 10:30 PM. And it seemed normal.

4. Week one of daylight savings time is now complete. We should all have fully recovered by now.

5. Japan is still fighting nuclear disaster in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami--don't forget them.

6. Libya is a catastrophe. I'm glad the international community stepped in, but as we know from experience in Iraq, and the Balkans--it is a slippery slope that we are treading upon.

7. The wine that Chris and I helped create was released this weekend by the winery--sadly, we could not attend the release because I was in Florida--but we are headed to the winery next weekend to secure a few bottles.

8. Did you look at the moon this weekend? I did.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Where I am on the planet

The sign kinda says it all.

Here, they call it paradise--and I'm not going to challenge that thought one little bit.

Saturday At Noon

So what are you doing with your Saturday?

I'm in Sarasota at Spring Training enjoying my favorite sport. Live!!

Those are the Philadelphia Phillies doing batting practice.

The temperature on this March 19th approaching noon is already nearly 80 degrees. The sky is clear, the sun is hot, and there isn't a hint of snow anywhere.

Outside my Hotel

Last night as we got back to the hotel from the game and watching the NCAA Men's basketball tournament at a local and fairly empty sports bar, I parked the car under this tree.

You can see the mirror of the car in the lower right of the image.

Not going to find anything like this in Maryland in March.

This morning the sun is bright, the sky is clear and blue, and I am comfortable in a short sleeve short and shorts.

How far away is summer?

Friday, March 18, 2011

From my seat in the stadium

My first ever spring training baseball game. And I'm in my seat munching a sausage and pepper sandwich enjoying the ambiance.

Unfortunately, my glasses just broke. At least they lasted three weeks.

And I just found out that the seats we are sitting in used to be in Camden Yards. Way cool. But I'm glad we are getting new seats this year.

March, baseball, and 81 degrees--what could be better?  Nothing!

Birds Waiting for the Game

As I was walking the Sieta Key beach, I found some other Bird fans already in line waiting for the game this evening.

Since most of the spring training games are afternoon games, they were just a bit early.

Siesta Key beach

So what are you doing on your Friday afternoon?

I'm here with a couple thousand of my new best friends on the Siesta Key beach.

Baking in the sun.

The water temperature is a chilly 69 degrees though.

Out the Hotel Window in Sarasota

Awesome beautiful green morning. After the winter in Maryland, the green of Florida is refreshing. That is the thing Mike and I noticed as we drove from Tampa to Sarasota--the green.

The green-ness is everywhere and I was constantly asking myself the question: I don't live here full-time, why?

While the scene out the hotel is not much to look at, the blue sky and green grass more than makes up for it.

Spring training may become an annual event at this rate.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Out the airplane window

A beautiful clear day for flying. I'm amazed still when I think about working all morning and being in Sarasota, Florida by evening. Wow.

What a time we live in and we don't even appreciate the speed we can move and the places we can go with just a small bit of work.

I know it is a 18 or so hour trip by car. Think about riding a horse or in a wagon. Weeks.

And still I'm not moving fast enough it seems.

Accidents, Fear, and Knee Jerk Reactions

We knew it was going to happen again.

Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and now in Japan--Fukushima.

Accidents where we learned of the inherent dangers of nuclear power and thought we could do better.  Each one has its own story and,  for many of us, remembering Three Mile Island and Chernobyl brings back the fears of the world as they were occurring.

An article in the Christian Science Monitor is already accusing the Japanese Government of lax oversight. Like that is going to make a difference right now.

Countries around the world are examining their nuclear power, which a good thing; but let's not condemn the entire system, yet.  We still need to learn more--but apparently the community has gotten complacent. But to turn off the nuclear plants does not make the problem go away.

We do not stop mining coal when mines collapse. We didn't stop drilling for oil in the wake of the BP sponsored oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year.

Similarly, since shutting down the plants does not make the problem go away--we should not stop producing electricity using nuclear fuel. We need to devote more research to making the process safer and thinking about the "what ifs" that are out there when dealing with a natural disaster. I'm still amazed that no one thought about an earthquake followed by a tsunami and the need to have on site power to keep the pumps circulation coolant.  But that's just me looking in hindsight.

And while I'm at it--the finger pointing that the Christian Science Monitor is reporting doesn't help. There will be plenty of time for finger pointing later--and there will be a lot of it because I'm sure there is a lot of blame to go around.

Right now--let's not waste brainpower trying to determine blame--let's solve the problem at hand. Then point fingers and begin planning to correct deficiencies to preserve the future around the world.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Zero Tolerance is for Computers

Today's blog follows up on a post I made a week or so ago about the basketball player at BYU. I was reading my recent issue of Time Magazine the other evening and ran across a well written editorial by Nancy Gibbs titled: Zero Tolerance, Zero Sense

I urge you to take a minute to read the editorial because I believe that she points out some real inequities that are appearing in our society as we become more and more unable to apply common sense to everyday situations and wind up  ruining lives, like the high school career with a promising student: "A Florida honor student faced felony charges when a dinner knife — not a steak knife or a butcher knife — was found on the floor of her car, which she had parked at school. "A weapon is a weapon is a weapon," the principal said."

It is the inability to determine both intent and discern the difference between a knife intended for killing and spreading butter which makes these types of things happen. It is the same as letting a computer make life decisions for us--without any quality of humanity or mercy. It is easier that way, but it ignores what makes us humans and not machines.

And at the heart of it all is the battle cry of: Zero Tolerance.


Yes.  And the cost?  Destroyed lives. The Time article also highlights a 15-year old young man who made a big mistake, admitted it, and then as a result of the consequences of his actions and the lack of mercy shown by the system became so despondent that he killed himself. And who lost? We did because we are deprived from knowing this really special young man.

As a parent, I am appalled. As a grandparent, I am afraid for my grandchildren. As I man, I know this is wrong.

I was reminded of a story in the bible as I read this article.  You probably know of it--John 8:3-11 about the young woman caught in the act of adultery. (Of course I have always wondered where the guy was in this incident). The law was very clear on the penalty for adultery--death.  And Jesus knew this. It was an open and shut case and in our present day world of zero tolerance a very different ending to the episode would have happened. Jesus did not dispute the law and the penalty--but his words smack at the very heart of zero tolerance: “Whoever among you is guiltless may be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7b - NET Bible. 

No one could stand up under this requirement--except for the one who spoke the words. All the assembled people who were calling for her to be killed according to the law, departed without throwing a stone at her.  And his final words to her were very simple: And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” John 8:11b - NET Bible.

The next to last paragraph of the article in Time really spoke to me:

"Making distinctions is part of learning. So is making mistakes. When authorities confuse intent and accident, when rules are seen as more sacred than sense, when a contrite first-time offender is treated no differently from a serial classroom menace, we teach children that authority is deaf and dumb, that there is no judgment in justice. It undermines respect for discipline at a stage when we want kids to internalize it."

More is learned from mercy than can ever be obtained from vengeance or the mindless application of zero tolerance.

Who among us has not shown bad judgement or sinned? Show mercy to others because we certainly cannot throw the first stone.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Humor: When it really isn't funny!

I'm a big fan of political humor. In "olden times" it was used to highlight things which were happening socially and politically which needed to be addressed, but couldn't; and so the hidden meanings were critical.

A Malaysian newspaper has published a cartoon about the Tsunami which I find tasteless--as did many others who saw it.

Some things just shouldn't be joked about.

The article in the San Francisco Chronicle says it all and helps explain the charicature:

"A Malaysian newspaper has apologized for printing a caricature of Japanese cartoon superhero Ultraman comically trying to outrun a tsunami.
Malaysians reacted with a tirade of anger after the Malay-language Berita Harian daily newspaper published the cartoon Sunday. Critics vented on Twitter and Facebook and some called for a boycott of the paper.

The apology issued on the paper's website and on social newtworking sites said Berita Harian had "no intention of poking fun" at the disastrous earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on Friday.
The newspaper expressed sympathy and said it shared "the sorrow of the Japanese people.""

Read more:

Some things just aren't funny. And I am left to wonder what they really meant.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday Musings - March 14, 2011

1. Tomorrow is one of the most famous days in infamy-- The Ides of March. "Et tu, Brute?" I found it interesting that technically only the months of March, May, July, and October have the ides falling on the 15th; during all of the other months the ides falls on the 13th. Go figure.

2. My thoughts and prayers this morning are again with the Japanese people as they struggle to recover from the devastation caused by the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear reactor partial meltdowns.

3. How about the Big East placing 11 teams in the March Madness NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament? And Syracuse got its expected 3-seed. I hope they play better than they did in the Big East Tournament--although they did lose to the eventual champion.

4. And here is a tribute to capitalism: Price of preemie-preventing drug to skyrocket: Who will pay? It seems that once a company won exclusive rights to make the drug in the U.S., the price per shot went from $20 to $1500. Way to go! And who is going to pay? Well, we are of course.

5. We were blessed with an exceptionally pleasant weekend, weather-wise. It was nice to be outside in the warm sun working around to house or even being in Washington, DC as Chris and I were for Saturday afternoon. We checked out the National Portrait Gallery and wandered around F Street for most of the afternoon.

6. I'm running a bit slow this morning--the first weekday morning after daylight savings time occurred this year. Ugh--I couldn't believe it when the alarm clock went off. I just wanted to hunker down deeper into the bed and resume sleeping.

7. Just a note for everyone out there--I hate tax season. Why don't I qualify for a bailout? Oh yeah, I'm the consumer that everyone is out to gouge.

8. And speaking of taxes--did you ever consider the psychology of the process when it comes to taxes? People seem to be singularly focused on whether they get a refund or not? They forget to look at the real line--the total amount of tax due before we offset it against the amount of taxes withheld. And when the federal tax bite is added to the state tax bite AND don't forget to throw in property tax if you own your own home--anyway, I coulda bought a new car last year--and not a cheapie, either. But I'm sure someone in Congress or Annapolis thinks I should be paying more.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Daylight is being Saved

It is here. The annual sleep deprivation event has arrived. A sure sign that Springtime is upon us, which it is!

Yesterday was another sign of Springtime. I noticed the trees full with budding leaves and flowers beginning to bloom.

Last evening as we walked Makayla and Chewie we heard the peepers singing in the not so cold evening.

Allergies are blossoming with the budding trees and flowers. But it is a sign that even with one week remaining, winter's grip is slackening and the world is bursting to life after the dark and cold.

Spring officially begins next Sunday but despite the slowness of the calendar, it is already fully underway.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tsunami, Earthquake and Japan

I spent most of yesterday appalled by the destruction in Japan from the earthquake and resulting tsunami.

My prayers and thoughts are with the people of Japan as they begin to try to recover from the disaster and bury their dead.

It reminds me how quickly life can change from the routine of the day to terror and disaster. One minute, shopping for a meal at the well stocked grocery store; the next, clawing for life from amid the rubble caused by an earthquake.

I saw the news reports of the wall of water sweeping over the countryside carrying buildings, vehicles, and probably people into the oblivion of destruction. I couldn't stop watching it everytime it was played on TV. It reminded me how fragile the creations of man are when compared against the great forces of nature.

Pray for the people there--who were just going about living until life abruptly changed.  Send aid when you can.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Grand Lady of Space Set to Retire

Discovery Landing March 9, 2011
After 27 years and 39 missions into the fringes of the final frontier--the space shuttle Discovery rolled to a final stop on the Florida runway about midday on Wednesday.

An era ends.

The ABC news story summarizes it pretty well--but being the space head that I am, it still makes me sad that as a country we have so terribly lost our way and mortgaged our future that we cannot continue to lead the discovery of space which has already returned so many benefits to us.

And so, by way of celebrating an era and a good ship, here forom the news item is a summary of some of Discovery's accomplishments:

"Discovery flew both return-to-flight missions after its sister ships, Challenger and Columbia, were lost. It launched the Hubble Space Telescope. It carried John Glenn, one of America's first space pioneers, on his sentimental return to space in 1998. It assembled the first components of the International Space Station. It has flown more times than any other spaceship in history."

And as I stand  under the cloudless night sky and gaze at the points of light that are the stars and the constellations, I continue to wonder if God put them there to taunt us with their distance and difficulty, or to challenge us to praise Him for his magnificance.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Reflecting Daylight Savings Time

With the gloom and storms of the morning promising up to three inches of rain, I was fondly remembering Tuesday morning's blue skies and bright sun which greeted me as I exited the club after my racquetball match.

I was astounded at the clarity of the sky--in the cold dawn light, but I also noted that it was light. The sun (by almost 7 am, had cleared the horizon and was beaming brightly into my eyes.

It was a stunning scene as I drove from the club to work. I knew the sun would be burning into my eyes as I merged onto the already too full expressway which is Maryland Route 32 during the morning rush. But, I was looking forward to it.  Next week daylight savings time resets the morning clocks by an hour and I will not enjoy the morning sun in my eyes again until May.

Yes, yes, I know I will be enjoying the sun longer into the evening and that I won't be grilling dinner by my grill light, but still; being a morning person I enjoy the dawn and the sunlight in the morning , too.

I love the smell of the day breaking over the still slumbering world. Wet with dew and filled with the sound of the birds waking with the dawn. 

I enjoy driving to work with the headlights off and the sun cheering my soul as I begin another day of activities. Some days, I even drive to work with the top down on my car, just because I can.

And so, with the raindrops beating against the window panes, I return to the reality of now and prepare for my day. Not nearly as cheery as I was on Tuesday--but hopeful that the rains will not be nearly as fierce nor as drowning as they could be.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Really? This Much Press for a Bad Boy Actor?

The Charlie Sheen situation has finally driven me to the edge of my patience.

I am tired of hearing on the news about this spoiled, rich, self-appointed Adonis actor who has an untreated drug problem and currently is getting more press than the war in Libya that is driving our gas prices into the stratosphere.


He got fired for being an embarrassment. An embarrassment to himself, his family, the people who employed him and to humanity.

People lost their jobs and now the people who were trying to work with him and protected him for a long time are being vilified.

It is all very sick.

The news has been transformed again from what is happening in the world, to what sells.  And actors being bad, sells.

One college newspaper tells the story as follows:

"Pot, cocaine, heroine, crack and meth don't seem to be doing it for the average drug-user anymore. Always looking for the newest and greatest, a new drug has just hit the scene and seems to be the only drug of choice these days.

The drug is called Charlie Sheen. It can be snorted, smoked or injected intravenously. It has become extremely popular among high school and college students and is now the most common drug at UCCS.

When on the drug, students have described a feeling of "winning." The effects of Charlie Sheen resemble the symptoms of bipolar disorder. As such, users experience extreme bouts of winning on either end of the spectrum. It also renders users capable of curing diseases with their brains."

The whole Charlie Sheen 15 minutes of fame needs to run its course and be done and fade into a distant memory and be forgotten.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Spring Training Excitement

I guess upstate NY got hammered by snow this weekend and I'm thinking about being at Spring Training.  In less than two weeks, I am heading off to Sarasota to view two games and get really ready and into a baseball state of mind. (Yes, that is Florida with a capital "F")

I was watching the Orioles play the Yankees in my first televised Orioles game of the season from Spring Training last night.

I was looking over the stadium intently--and it looks very intimate. They set an attendance record with just over 8,000 people. Sadly, the game ended in a tie--a 0-0 tie. But is was baseball and the Yankees didn't win!

 Ties are allowed during Spring Training which makes the game interesting.

I could almost imagine the smell of the sultry warmth of the west coast of Florida in the evening and the smell of the grass of the stadium, and maybe even some flying bugs just to make things interesting.

It has to be better than getting into Kitty last night to go to men's group only to find the battery dead because it has been almost a month since I drove the car. Very frustrating. I just need to drive the beast a bit more. Ugh.

I also heard the dreaded "S" word used in the weather forecast for the weekend. No accumulation, just flurries. I am still hoping that the season is going to change over soon and we will begin seeing temperatures sustained in the 60's and above.

It is almost here--I can feel it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday Musings - March 7, 2011

1. March is already a week old? What happened to February, did we lose it somewhere in a snowstorm?

2. The rains of this past weekend should really get off to a great start. Coupled with the moderate temperatures we should be mowing in a few weeks.

3. Paul Zukerman writes an interesting and thought provoking article titled: "Why Evangelicals Hate Jesus." Take a read--it caused me to pause for a moment and think.

4. Did you read the one about the college basketball player attending BYU who, when asked, admitted to having premarital sex with his girlfriend? He was suspended from the basketball team just before the conference tournament and may be kicked out of school for an honor code violation. My question--OK, yeah he did it and admitted to it. And being suspended from the team is the right thing to do, but there needs to be some mercy here too--we all sin, daily. Perhaps we are just lucky enough not to be breaking BYU's honor code when we do it.

5. Spring training continues to be exciting, and although the O's lost their second game, they do seem to be playing very well and lots of promises seem to be being fulfilled.

6. I watched most all of the four Indiana Jones movies this weekend, as they were playing back-to-back-to-back-to-back on one channel and it was raining all day Sunday.  I'm not sure if I'm proud of this ultimate couch potato achievement or not.  Although, I did ride almost six miles on our exercise bicycle to compensate (I was watching one of the movies as I rode). I think I need a new hat, lol.

7. Here's a thought--I like rain a whole lot more than snow! We received over an inch of rain this weekend--that translates into about 8-10 inches of snow. Any questions? Sorry to my family in upstate NY--you should have taken a short trip for the weekend to avoid the white stuff.

8. As we were driving on Saturday, I noticed crocus and snow drops were blooming on some of the yards in the neighborhood.

9. The birthday party for Jax on Saturday, was also attended by four of the family's dogs--I forgot to mention that Makayla and Chewbacca also were in attendance.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Celebrations Went on and On

Jax had a great birthday--from all indications.

Blowing Out the Candles

Jeremy, Nicole and Luke at Discovery Zone

Grandma and Luke

On an Adventure in Egypt
It started early and continued into the night as family and friends celebrated the special guy's birthday and the completion of his third year on the planet.

We began as a group at the Discovery Zone with Lucas and his family and spend a fun filled--but at times tense couple of hours. Some of our group forgot the most important thing about group activities--stay in sight and so there was an all out search for one of the guys which ended happily. It was good practice for Disney World which may happen sooner than later it appears.

The actual party was a masterpiece--decorations were themed for Scooby-Doo, Jax's favorite character and an adventure created by Tina and Patrick highlighted the afternoon as the kids searched for clues to discover ,Who stole Jax's presents--complete with ghosts and twists and turns.

The kids had as much fun as the adults did watching them find the presents.

Scooby Cake
We even enjoyed some comic relief as we rounded up some escapees--the dogs decided to go for a stroll.

A great day of fun and celebration.

Happy birthday Jackson.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Jax Turns 3

Jax, the miracle baby turns three today!

What a ride it has been with this dynamic kid.

He has developed and grown so much during this past year it is hard to express it all.

But mostly--he remains the miracle baby with the straight line of a faint scar on his chest--to remind us all that he is truly a special child of God. And one upon whom many prayers have been said and blessings given.

The coolest thing happened after church last Sunday. Jax and Ethan met in the hallway surrounded by throngs of people--among them Jeremy, Nicole, Lucas, Mike, Nicole, Chris, and me. But when Jax found Ethan--for whom he had been seeking among all of the people there was the most awesome expression of love I have seen in a long time. A true, unabashed hug of two brothers who, thought they can fight like enemies, truly love each other and look out for each other.  I call them, the Haslup Boys.

Happy Birthday Jax--and may you always be blessed more than you realize.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Congressional Reprieve--A Sad Commentary on America

A couple of days ago, Congress passed another continuing resolution. I believe most people in America barely blinked an eye at the passing of the CRA, as it is called.

However, passing the CRA is significant. It allows the government to continue functioning--at least for another two weeks. This year's budget battles represents everything that needs to be fixed in our system.

The government is working without an approved budget. Congress is supposed to approve a budget and forward it to the President for signature and execution.  Sadly, neither the Democratic controlled congress (before January, nor the newly divided congress seems to know how to get through this process.

Here is the rub--the new fiscal year began on October 1, 2010--over five months ago. People forget that if the formerly fully Democratic-controlled Congress had done its job, we would not be in the position of playing partisan politics with the newly Republican-controlled House squared off against the Democratic-controlled Senate and the President.  But, alas, they didn't take their responsibilities seriously enough to put the work and functioning of this great nation ahead of personal politicking.

What is the impact? Inefficiency! In the end there is going to be a huge amount of waste, ineffectively spent fiscal funding, and maybe even a total governmental breakdown.

Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution begins to define the powers of Congress as follows:
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

As this is the first of  about 17 statements regarding what the congress is supposed to be doing, I would surmise that it is fairly important. Without a budget, none of the items listed can be accomplished. Congress is so focused upon internal politics that they are failing to accomplish their Constitutionally mandated mission.

Write your senators and representatives and remind them to get back to work governing this great land and providing "for the common defense and general welfare of the United States."

Whose fault is it?

It does not matter--they all are at fault.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Tulips on the Table

In all of the longing for Springtime and along with the outside work, we decided to rush things a bit last weekend.

Tulips on the Table
Wanting some flowers to grace the table,  we bought tulips--not a bundle of tulip blooms, but a container of forced tulip bulbs so that we can plant them and enjoy them in the gardens next Springtime.

I thought it was a really great idea because after the blooms are gone we don't just throw the stems away, no we have to do work and plant the bulbs and stems in the gardens--but hopefully they will bloom next year.

I say hopefully because we have a problem here with tulip bulbs.


They seem to love tulip bulbs and so of the many hundreds we have planted, only a few remain.  The daffodils and the hyacinths are not apparently on the menu--but tulip bulbs seem to be a squirrel delicacy.

But no matter--we will continue to plant the bulbs for even a single season of enjoyment--because tulips are one of the classic Springtime flowers and these days they come in so many variations.

I remember when it they came in two colors red or yellow with one type of bloom. But now they appear in all of the colors of the rainbow--including green, and have multiple bloom styles from traditional, to double and parrot and who knows what else.

For now though--as our temperatures are dropping back into the low 40's, they provide that visual clue that says: don't despair, Springtime is coming,

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Out the Hotel Window - Denver in March

Looking into the Morning light
I was thinking I wasn't going to do the out the window thing for this trip--afterall, I'm staying near the airport and the area is flat with not much to look at.

But then, yesterday morning, I looked out my window after talking to Chris on the phone and was treated to that fire in the sky kind of sunrise that just makes me go: aha!

I was awesome. And then I saw the moon and a star over one of the buildings near to my hotel.

Yeah, the images are grainy--what did I expect from my iPhone.  But I captured a memory. A moment in time as the world came alive, stirring and waking from its slumber.

Moon and Star over the Plains

Interestingly, shortly after I took this these images, the loval TV station rebroadcast similar images of the sunrise on its morning show. I guess I was not the only one who thought the scene painted by God was special.

I continue to be amazed at what I see and notice outside my hotel windows as I travel. I never used to even really open the curtains and let the world in, but I am finding so much to see and marvel at now that I am taking the time to look.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

More Signs of Spring

Chris and I were working in the yards on Saturday and we found more sure signs of Spring in the yard.

The daffodils are springing up all over.

And as we removed the heavy layers of leaves--we found more and more groupings of flowers pushing their way toward the sun.

Ah yes, the sun--I wish I could see more of it.

But as today is March--I am sure the weather will be getting warmer and warmer from here on.

Too bad some areas of the north were still receiving snow totals measured in feet over the weekend. We at least are getting some warmth and sun.

Bring it on.
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