Friday, December 25, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Reflection on Love

Karen's parents are celebrating 50 years of marriage this coming Sunday. I am honored to have been asked to preside over the renewal of their marriage vows.

No pressure... it's just the in-laws, right?!?

Anyway, I've been thinking a lot about love and marriage. My own 20+ years in no way qualifies me as an expert.

I recently ran across a quote from the movie "Captain Corelli's Violin". The movie was panned by critics and the viewing public didn't turn out for it either, but when I rented the movie a couple years ago, I cried.

I know, I'm a big softie on the inside!


The quote is a monologue spoken by Dr. Lannis (played by John Hurt), as he explains to his lovely daughter, Pelagia (played by Penelope Cruz) the facts of life:

“When you fall in love it is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then it subsides and when it subsides you have to make a decision, you have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part, because this is what love is.

“Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the desire to mate every second of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining he is kissing every part of your body. No, don’t blush, I am telling you some truths. This is just ‘being in love,’ which any of us can convince ourselves we are in. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away. It doesn’t sound very exciting does it? But it is.”

I doubt that I will use the quote at the vow renewal service on Sunday, but it's certainly something to think about.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Physics of Santa Claus and His Reindeer

[Editor’s note: If you still believe in Santa Claus and the magic of Christmas, you will want to skip this blog. Why not pick out some body art over at “Geeky Tattoos” instead?]

Here’s a little something to bring you Christmas cheer! Like Santa and his reindeer, this little jewel has been circling the internet for many years. Some say it started with an article in Spy magazine back in 1990.

For some equally interesting rebuttals, follow the link at the bottom.

The Physics of Santa Claus and His Reindeer

1) Flying Reindeer
No known species of reindeer can fly. But there are 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified, and while most of these are insects and germs, this does not completely rule out flying reindeer which only Santa has ever seen.

2) Children
There are approximately two billion children (persons under 18) in the world. However, since Santa does not visit children of Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or Buddhist religions, this reduces the workload for Christmas night to 15% of the total, or 378 million (according to the Population Reference Bureau). At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that comes to 108 million homes, presuming that there is at least one good child in each.

3) Timing
Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he logically travels east to west. This works out to 822.6 visits per second, so for each Christian household with good children, Santa has 1/1000th of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left, get back up the chimney, get back into the sleigh and move on to the next house. Assuming that each of these 91.8 million stops are evenly distributed around the earth (which, we know to be false, but for our calculations we will accept), we are now talking about .78 miles per household, a total trip of 75-1/2 million miles, not counting assorted pit stops for relief, feeding, etc. This means Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3,000 times the speed of sound. In comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle on earth, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second. A conventional reindeer can run, tops, 15 miles per hour.

4) Weight
The payload of the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium sized Lego set (two pounds), the sleigh is carrying over 500 thousand tons, not counting Santa himself. On land, a conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that the "flying" reindeer could pull ten times the normal amount, the job can't be done with eight or even nine of them -- Santa would need 360,000 of them. This increases the payload, not counting the weight of the sleigh, another 54,000 tons, or roughly seven times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth (the ship, not the monarch).

5) Speed
600,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance -- this would heat up the reindeer in the same fashion as a spacecraft re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer would absorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy. Per second. Each. In short, they would burst into flames almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them and creating deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team would be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second, or right about the time Santa reached the fifth house on his trip.

Not that it matters, however, since Santa, as a result of accelerating from a dead stop to 650 m.p.s. in .001 seconds, would be subjected to centrifugal forces of 17,500 g's. A 250 pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force, instantly crushing his bones and organs and reducing him to a quivering blob of pink goo.

If Santa ever DID deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he's dead now.

For rebuttals to this article (Fine! Believe what you want!), check out

Monday, December 14, 2009

Whine and Cheese

A few months back, I found a display at my favorite wine store of a provocatively-named wine, “Bitch”. I did not buy a bottle – afraid that it was designed as a gift for the woman who dumped you, some putrid concoction of what remains in the bottom of the vat after fermentation.

Or maybe it was designed for a blog just like this one, as the back of the bottle reads:

Yes, I’m in a mood today, so I’m going to bitch vent. If you don’t want to hear it, click on the “Cake Wrecks” link… it’s always funny!

Karen and I went Christmas shopping on Saturday.

And yes, I finished! Nothing left to do but wrap and mail… and enjoy ten mall-free days of egg nog waiting for Santa to arrive!

But I digress.

Near the end of our excursion, Karen needed some beads from a local arts & crafts store. It was cold and rainy and my feet hurt, so I dropped her off at the door and waited in the car.

A few minutes later, a middle-aged woman exited the store pushing a shopping cart. In her shopping cart she had three small sacks. Keep in mind, this was an arts & crafts store. She had purchased nothing large or heavy – in fact, the bags looked almost empty.

Yet, she was pushing her purchase out to her SUV in a shopping cart!

So I watched. The cart-return corral (made necessary because we are too f***ing lazy to return our carts to the store) was directly across the aisle from her vehicle.

You have probably guessed what came next: Instead of pushing her cart 20 feet to the corral, she left it in the empty parking space next to her and pulled away.

I couldn’t believe my eyes! I thought little old ladies who did arts & crafts were kind, considerate people. Apparently this one didn’t get the memo!

Now someone's going to have to park farther away from the store, and some poor minimum-wage schmuck is going to have to schlep out into the cold and rain to gather up the stray shopping carts!

I see this inconsiderate behavior all the time at the gym I go to. Despite signs that say, “Please returns weights to the racks”, the gym rats carry free weights and dumbbells over to the exercise machine area (I don’t know why), then leave them in the middle of the floor.

I wanna say, “Hey, Bubba, your Momma doesn’t work here! Pick up after yourself, you inconsiderate lump of meat!”

But they outweigh me by 100 lbs. of steroid-rage, so I stay quiet.

This morning I noticed that someone had carried one of those large inflated exercise balls into the studio where they hold aerobics classes. Again, I don’t know why that person couldn’t use it in the area designated for such exercises. And again, I don’t know why that person couldn’t return it to the rack from which it came. Seriously, there is not another one like it in that room. What makes you think it’s okay to leave it there?

And don’t get me started about those people who sweat like pigs, but don’t wipe down the machines they are using!!! Last week there was literally a puddle of sweat on one of the benches! Ewwwwww!

Didn't you ever read, "The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy"? "Always carry a towel!"

"A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the starts which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a minicraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough." 

Thanks, Douglas Adams.

By the way, "Towel Day" is officially celebrated each year on May 25th. (See for more info.)

But again, I digress.

And while I’m bitchin’, a few months ago I was following a car down Poplar when a hand stretches out from the passenger window. In the hand was the lid and straw from a fast-food drink. The hand opened, and the lid and straw was added to the scenic view of Memphis. Just a block or two later, the hand reappeared… this time with the cardboard cup. Again, the wind took the empty cup and it, too, became trash along the highway.

“Hey, dumb*ss, this is not the 70’s! Aren’t you old enough to remember the television commercial with the Indian Native American crying?!?”

God, I'm old!

Where is all this headed? Remember that I mentioned we were Christmas shopping? Well, since it's the season for giving, here’s my Christmas wish list for 2009, with only one item that I really, really want:

“Please be considerate of others.”

In the March 1982 edition of “The Atlantic Monthly”, James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling put forth the “broken window” theory:

“Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it's unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside.

“Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars.”

Remember the famous line from "Alice's Restaurant", when they are trying to get rid of all the garbage that had accumulated at Alice's house? The dump was closed, so when they see a pile of garbage off the side of a cliff, Arlo explains, "So instead of bringing that one up, we threw ours down."  

The recommendation of Wilson and Kelling to urban leaders was to fix the first broken window, pick up the smallest pieces of litter, to prevent conditions from getting worse.

The same theory applies to shopping carts in parking lots and exercise equipment at the gym.

And to all our human relationships.

So be considerate of others, and they will more likely be considerate of you.

This concludes my rant for the day. Thank you for your attention.

And, now, since I promised cheese with the whine…

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

You're Not a Good Man, Charlie Weis!

Okay, here’s the deal.

You know how I feel about Charlie Weis. All season long I have been calling for his removal as head coach of Notre Dame football. You can read my last blog on the subject from 11-09-09, written after the embarrassing loss to Navy, in which I resigned my long-held position of Notre Dame fan.

Because of that resignation, I chose not to write a celebratory blog about the too-little, too-late firing of the Fat Man.

He is dead to me.

But he has gone too far this time, and I feel I must once again expose him for what he is.

On Saturday, while hanging around with the small group of reporters who are still willing to be seen with him, Weis was whining. He was giving them his best Rodney Dangerfield impression: “Nobody gives me any respect.”

Background note to my readers: I don’t care for Rodney Dangerfield either!

Unfortunately, Weis wasn’t joking when he said (and I quote):

“Let me ask you this question: You guys know about things that go on in different places. Was I living with a grad student in Malibu, or was I living with my wife in my house? You could bet that if I were living with a grad student here in South Bend, it would be national news. [Pete Carroll]'s doing it in Malibu and it's not national news. What's the difference? I don't understand. Why is it okay for one guy to do things like that, but for me, I'm scrutinized when I swear. I'm sorry for swearing; absolve my sins."

When Weis’ “people” discovered the reporters were going to quote him, phone calls immediately went out advising the reporters that his comment was “off the record”; apparently he has a history of bouncing between “on the record” and “off the record” in the same interview. Most of the reporters obliged; but one made it to press before receiving the call.

Uh-oh. Cat's out of the bag.

Pete Carroll, coach of USC (who has had his own troubles this year), has not responded. USC’s Sports Information Director, Tim Tessalone, insists Weis’ allegations are not true. Carroll does not own property in Malibu, and that “rumor” has been circulating for years.

True or not, who cares?

I feel the same way about the Tiger Woods affair. I just don't care.

It is just not becoming of one coach to make such allegations against another while reporters are standing around – especially when it is obviously coming forth as “sour grapes”.

Pete Carroll still has a job.

Charlie Weis, I know your backside is still stinging from the “spanking” you just received, but with this you have sunk to a new low. You should be ashamed of yourself.

You say you know people that can get you a job back in the pros. I doubt it, but hopefully it will be one where you can do your thing without having to face the press. You may know offense, but you sure don’t know public relations!

And once again – and forever – you are dead to me.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

'Tis the Season...

The following was sent to me via email.

It was intended to be an anti-political correctness diatribe.

I just think it is hillarious!

*   *   *   *   *

Company Memo

FROM: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director
TO: All Employees
DATE: October 1, 2009

RE: Gala Christmas Party

I'm happy to inform you that the company Christmas Party will take place on December 23rd, starting at noon in the private function room at the Grill House. There will be a cash bar and plenty of drinks! We'll have a small band playing traditional carols... feel free to sing along. And don't be surprised if our CEO shows up dressed as Santa Claus! A Christmas tree will be lit at 1:00 PM. Exchanges of gifts among employees can be done at that time; however, no gift should be over $10.00 to make the giving of gifts easy for everyone's pockets. This gathering is only for employees!

Our CEO will make a special announcement at that time!

Merry Christmas to you and your family,



Company Memo

FROM: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director
TO: All Employees
DATE: October 2, 2009

RE: Gala Holiday Party

In no way was yesterday's memo intended to exclude our Jewish employees. We recognize that Hanukkah is an important holiday, which often coincides with Christmas, though unfortunately not this year. However, from now on, we're calling it our "Holiday Party." The same policy applies to any other employees who are not Christians and to those still celebrating Reconciliation Day. There will be no Christmas tree, and no Christmas carols will be sung. We will have other types of music for your enjoyment.

Happy now?

Happy Holidays to you and your family,



Company Memo

FROM: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director
TO: All Employees
DATE: October 3, 2009

RE: Holiday Party

Regarding the note I received from a member of Alcoholics Anonymous requesting a non-drinking table, you didn't sign your name. I'm happy to accommodate this request, but if I put a sign on a table that reads, "AA Only," you wouldn't be anonymous anymore. How am I supposed to handle this?


And sorry, but forget about the gift exchange, no gifts are allowed since the union members feel that $10.00 is too much money and the executives believe $10.00 is a little chintzy.



Company Memo

FROM: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director
To: All Employees
DATE: October 4, 2009

RE: Generic Holiday Party

What a diverse group we are! I had no idea that December 20th begins the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which forbids eating and drinking during daylight hours. There goes the party! Seriously, we can appreciate how a luncheon at this time of year does not accommodate our Muslim employees' beliefs. Perhaps the Grill House can hold off on serving your meal until the end of the party or else package everything for you to take it home in little foil doggy baggy. Will that work?

Meanwhile, I've arranged for members of Weight Watchers to sit farthest from the dessert buffet, and pregnant women will get the table closest to the restrooms. Gays are allowed to sit with each other. Lesbians do not have to sit with Gay men, each group will have their own table.

Yes, there will be flower arrangement for the Gay men's table.

To the person asking permission to cross dress, the Grill House asks that no cross-dressing be allowed, apparently because of concerns about confusion in the restrooms. Sorry.

We will have booster seats for short people.

Low-fat food will be available for those on a diet.

I am sorry to report that we cannot control the amount of salt used in the food. The Grill House suggests that people with high blood pressure taste a bite first.

There will be fresh "low sugar" fruits as dessert for diabetics, but the restaurant cannot supply "no sugar" desserts. Sorry!

Did I miss anything?!?!?



Company Memo

FROM: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director
TO: All F*%^ing Employees
DATE: October 5, 2009

RE: The F*%^ing Holiday Party

I've had it with you vegetarian pricks!!! We're going to keep this party at the Grill House whether you like it or not, so you can sit quietly at the table furthest from the "grill of death," as you so quaintly put it, and you'll get your f*%^ing salad bar, including organic tomatoes. But you know, tomatoes have feelings, too. They scream when you slice them. I've heard them scream. I'm hearing them scream right NOW!

The rest of you f*%^ing weirdoes can kiss my *ss. I hope you all have a rotten holiday!

Drive drunk and die,

The B*tch from H*ll!!!


Company Memo

FROM: Joan Bishop, Acting Human Resources Director
DATE: October 6, 2009

RE: Patty Lewis and Holiday Party

I'm sure I speak for all of us in wishing Patty Lewis a speedy recovery and I'll continue to forward your cards to her.

In the meantime, management has decided to cancel our Holiday Party and give everyone the afternoon of the 23rd off with full pay.

Happy Holidays!


Tuesday, December 1, 2009


The LA Times reports today that a woman in Methuen, Massachusetts, has seen the image of Jesus in the scorch mark on the bottom of her iron. Down on her luck right now, she takes it as a sign that God is watching over her and that “life is going to be good”.

Recently in Calexico, California, workers discovered the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on a restaurant griddle. Hundreds of people are flocking to that small town to see the “holy relic”; even masked wrestler, “Mr. Tempest”, stopped by before an exhibition for a blessing.

The image of Jesus has been popping up everywhere lately – on a burnt slice of toast, in a cat’s fur, on an ultrasound image, in a meteorite, in an oyster, and even in the fabric seat of a clergyman’s chair. The Blessed Virgin Mary has also made the occasional appearance in a tapestry, in a watermelon, in the water stain on a concrete wall, and on a grilled cheese sandwich.

What does one make of all these divine appearances? Is God trying to communicate with us? Is there a new revelation? Is the world coming to an end? Is Armageddon at hand?

Or have we completely lost our minds?

I mean, let’s be serious for a moment – that burn-mark on the toast could be any bearded man. Does anyone else see Che Guevara? Or Charles Manson?

But perhaps God IS trying to communicate with us… again. Perhaps God has decided the Bible’s testimony is not complete enough and, having used up all his good tricks (incarnation, resurrection, inspiration of the Holy Spirit), God is reduced to speaking to us through Rorschach tests.


It certainly seems that way. A lot more people seem to be looking for God… and in more mundane places. A lot more people seem to be searching for answers. A lot of people seem to be asking more and more, “What Would Jesus Do?”

Well I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t eat anything off that griddle!

But that’s a discussion for another day!

Last week I got involved in an online discussion about a news article in the Memphis Commercial Appeal. The article was about panhandlers and the homeless problem in Memphis. The consensus of those submitting comments was that most of these people were mentally ill. (Another discussion for another day.)

Then one “compassionate” soul wrote, “If Jesus were here, what would he do?” Apparently the “correct” answer, which the writer provided, was, “He would treat them with compassion and dignity without judging them.”

I couldn’t resist the bait. I responded that if Jesus were here, he would exorcise the demons causing the mental illness and send them gratefully on their way. But, I added, since I don’t know anyone alive today with that kind of healing power (with the exception of maybe Benny Hinn), we are left to do the best we can to alleviate the symptoms of an ongoing need.

A similar comment followed a fellow blogger’s report of a woman ejected recently from a Southwest Airlines flight because she couldn’t quiet her screaming child. Some thought the airline’s action was appropriate, which drew the usual comments, “You obviously don’t have children.” Others thought the woman was treated unfairly, which made me think, “You obviously have never traveled for four hours seated next to a screaming child!”

Again, a compassionate soul wrote, “What would Jesus do?” And again, the “correct” answer was, “Treat the mother and child with compassion and understanding.”

As before, I wanted to respond that Jesus would lay hands on the child and calm his troubled spirit – again, I’m guessing demon-possession. But since no one on the plane seemed to be possessed with the power to quiet the child (Oh, where is Benny Hinn when you need him?), it was appropriate that the mother and child be removed from the flight.

In both cases, the problem for me is in how the question was asked. “What would Jesus do?”


If you read your Bible (now there’s an idea!), you can pretty much figure out what JESUS would do, based on what he DID.

But I am not Jesus. So knowing what Jesus would do in a particular situation is not necessarily helpful. For example, Jesus could heal the sick – I can’t. He could calm the storms – I can’t. He could walk on water – I can’t. He could feed thousands with just a few loaves of bread – I can’t. He could change water into wine – I can’t.


So rather than “WWJD?”, the question that needs to be asked in these situations is, “What would Jesus want US to do?” The difference is subtle, but real.

And there again, the answers can be found in the Bible.

--“Love the Lord your God with all our heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…. Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

--“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28)

--“I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me… I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:35-36, 40)

--“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Mark 28:18-20)

So maybe, just maybe, the face of Jesus on the bottom of the iron is a reminder to clothe the naked. Perhaps the face on the restaurant griddle or the toast is simply a reminder to feed the hungry. And the image on the seat of a chair might be there to remind us to give rest to the weary.

I believe that’s what Jesus would want us to do. But that's not a new revelation.

So instead of always looking for a new revelation of God, let’s look back to the old one and see what we might have forgotten.