Saturday, 18 January 2014


Here are some recent  Facebook comments from two of my younger friends in Pittsfield, MA.

One could not sleep. She wrote:

"R.I.P to my sleep schedule. I can literally feel the bags under my eyes growing darker."

The other was under great stress.  She wrote:

"I am quite literally at the end of my rope."


I hope that the first friend could not feel actual bags under her eyes.  I trust that the second friend was not at the end of any rope.

The first friend meant "Figuratively speaking there are bags under my eyes"

The second friend meant "Figuratively speaking I am at the end of my rope"


But of course very few English speaking people would  say "Figuratively speaking"  at the beginning of such statements. It sounds rather awkward

English speaking people should say "There are bags under my eyes"  or "I am at the end of my rope".
Those statements would be well understood as figures of speech.

But my younger friends add the un-necessary literally.

I suspect that they do so in order to add weight or emphasis to what they are saying. If that is the case they should be forgiven!


The Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary offers the following as a way of understanding and using "literally" and "figuratively",

He's a sailor who knows his ropes, literally and figuratively.

Makes sense to me!

Who is "you" in Alex Sink's political commercial?

Who is "you" in Alex Sink's political commercial?
Alex Sink (D) is running to be elected as the representative of Florida's 13th Congressional district.

I do not live in that district -   I cannot vote for her or for any other candidate in that district.

Nevertheless I am in the same television market as is the 13th Congressional district, Thus I see and hear her commercials.

In one of these she says "I've always got things done by working with people you don't agree with".

I ask: ---  "who is you?" in Alex Sink's commercial?  

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Traveling out side of the U.S. An important precaution.

The recent compromising of shoppers' credit cards  at our Target stores has led to my greater awareness of American laziness and ineptitude in the matter of credit/debit card fraud.

I have learned that American businesses and banks still rely on the old fashioned magnetic strip on credit and debit cards.  This makes them very vulnerable to fraud.

The rest of the world  (see Forbes Magazine quote and chart below) has long since moved to the more secure "Chip and Pin", or EMV technology.

In fact, some American travelers are discovering that their credit cards will be rejected for point of sale transactions (gas, hotel, travel, retail stores etc.)  (see Wikipedia article below).

God willing I'll be traveling outside the U.S.A. later this year. With that in mind I contacted the administrator of my Visa card, the Bank of America.

To my intense comfort I learned that B of A is one of the few Financial institutions which will issue a chip and pin cards upon request.

I'll have to move from my familiar "Working Assets" issued card (administered by B of A), to a B of A issued card: "Travel Rewards". (This is a pity since "Working Assets" devotes a small but significant part of its profits to wonderfully progressive groups each year). ***

My new EMV friendly card will arrive in about a month, in good time for my overseas trip. 

(If you plan to travel abroad soon it will be worth your while to try to get a Chip and Pin Card).


*** Groups such as Working Assets often issue cards, which are administered by some financial institution (in my case the B of  A).


From Forbes Magazine

A world map shows only one dead zone when it comes to embracing EMV technology: the USA. Remote countries such as Bhutan, Bosnia and Iran all use it, as does every other country (yes, even North Korea).


From Wikipedia

Chip and PIN is the brand name adopted by the banking industries in the United Kingdom and Ireland for the rollout of the EMV smart card payment system for credit, debit and ATM cards. The word "chip" refers to a computer chip embedded in the smartcard; the word PIN refers to a personal identification number that must be supplied by the customer. "Chip and PIN" is also used in a generic sense to mean any EMV smart card technology which relies on an embedded chip and a PIN.

Chip and PIN systems can cause problems for travellers from countries that do not issue chip and PIN cards (most notably, the USA) as some retailers may refuse to accept their chipless cards.

While most terminals will still accept a magnetic strip card, and the major credit card brands require vendors to accept them, some staff may refuse to take the card under the belief that they will be held liable for any fraud if the card cannot verify a PIN.

Non-chip-and-PIN cards may also not work in some unattended vending machines at, for example, transport stations

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

I hate it when that happens

As I was ironing a shirt yesterday a tiny wound on my left thumb opened up and squirted blood all over the shirt.

I hate it when that happens.

On Monday evening when I was out of the house the cats had a roustabout and knocked a small glass dish from a side table in  my sitting room to the floor.  It shattered.

I hate it when that happens.

The cats are under house arrest and on a bread and water diet.  That'll learn 'em.

I took an egg out of the carton this morning in order to make an omelet/omelette.  I dropped the egg.
I hate it when that happens
As I walked around the pond today I saw two gorgeous sand hill cranes engaged in beautiful dance. They took it in turns to flap their wings very gently, and then jumped up off the ground to a height of three feet.
I love it when that happens

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Should Auld Aquaintance

Lunch at the Crap Trap II in Ellenton FL today, with Tom and Sue Smith of Pittsfield MA.

We have not seen each other since 2000, so it was a good reunion (and the calamari,  and crab meat quesadilla we shared were both very good)

Monday, 13 January 2014

Wild and wonderful days in Pittsfield (MA) (and other places).

I received an e-mail just a while ago from a Pittsfield, MA parishioner.  She wrote
"Michael----just got off the phone with Anita McConnell.....
she wondered if I was still in touch with you and if you remember her.  She worked with you distributing condoms at local bars as part of the "love carefully" campaign through the Red Cross.....she remembers being quite impressed that you would be such a visible partner in this necessary effort to spread the word.  I told her that you would most likely recall that episode in your Pittsfield life!
Well, goodness gracious me!  I had not forgotten that campaign, but I had not thought about it in many years.  Of course I remember Anita, and I also remember the look of panic and shock on a bartender's face when I marched into a local tavern, wearing my clerical collar, and asked him to place a bowl of condoms (and some literature) on the bar.  He agreed to do so.

On a similar note, I received a Facebook message from a colleague in my Cambridge days. She and I had not been in touch in so many years.

She wrote: "I remember you as being .........  an advocate for the disenfranchised"

Those are generous, gracious and kind words. They caused me to get a bit teary eyed.

I am glad that she remembers me as "advocate for the disenfranchised"

I have not always been courageous but I have done my best to follow Jesus in such areas as:

(1) speaking out against anti-Semitism (Jesus was a Jew);

(2)  working and learning from the poor in

(a) Chicopee ( serving anonymously in a feeding programme at a Catholic Church in Holyoke) 
(b) Pittsfield (our parish community meal, and ministry at the Christian Centre),
(c)  Cambridge ( the food pantry at St. James's, and street ministry with the "Outdoor Church"),
(d)  Sarasota (ministering at Resurrection House)

(3)  Opening the doors for gay and lesbian people in a couple of parishes.

(4) Always, always, always working against the nonsense called racism.

None of these ministries are particularly radical, and I have often been reluctant or timid.

But they have seemed to be the "right thing to do" as I have tried to follow Jesus (with varying degrees of commitment).


Sunday, 12 January 2014

Three woman and three deaths

As I browed the obituaries one day last week I read of the death of a woman in Naples FL, some 120 miles south of SRQ.  Her last name was sufficiently unusual that it "leapt out" at me.

I knew her.  I knew her late husband.  They lived very near me in a Massachusetts city where I was once a Rector.  They named themselves as Episcopalians, but I cannot remember ever seeing them in Church, not even for Easter or Christmas.

He was a businessman.  If you have heard of type A personalities, then know that he was an A super plus. He was demanding, imperious, rude and often angry.  His wife was not far behind in personality types.

Came the day that he died.  I was summoned to their condominium to discuss his "state funeral" in my parish.  As I drove to the condo I thought "what in heaven's name can I say about this man by way of eulogy. Will I have to lie through my teeth?"

I was let off the hook.  This was because Type A personalities have a way of arranging their verbal portraits.  For when I got to the home I was informed that the deceased's brother would give the eulogy.

"Alleluia" I thought, "there is a God in heaven".   So the brother eulogized very nicely, leaving me to talk about God.

The notice of the widow's death last week brought all this back  God rest her soul.


Many of you read last week of the sudden death on January 8th of our SRQ friend Catherine. Her death was an enormous shock, particularly because many of his had been her guests at a splendid New Year's Day brunch.

Her partner writes as follows: As most of you know by now, my partner and spouse Catherine Wieczorek, passed away suddenly in her home on Wed. Jan. 8. I am so overcome with grief, but I do appreciate your phone calls. It helps. After speaking with the doctor this morning who did the autopsy, Catherine had severely sclerotic and blocked arteries to her heart, aorta, and the arteries to her brain, the carotid, were 98 % blocked. She died peacefully in her sleep, probably from a stroke. She looked as if she was sleeping, so I am sure it was pain free. Please feel free to share this email with anyone I may have missed. And thank you for your prayers and condolences. Dennie

Somehow these findings from the autopsy give us a sense of clarity, but they do not mitigate our grief.


Mary Jane Gracely always sat in front of me at the 9:00 a.m. Eucharist at St. Boniface.  I also got to know her in  a small group at Church. She enriched my life.

Her obituary is printed below.  Of course I attended her funeral last Friday afternoon at 4:00, together with some 40 members of her family, and at least 80 parishioners who wanted to pray together such was their love for Mary Jane.

Mary Jane was extremely intelligent, and wonderfully wise. She was better at listening than talking (a rare enough gift!), but when she spoke those who listened to her were blessed.  She had a wonderfully graceful presence, and was never ever stuffy.

I remember that when I preached on Trinity Sunday back in 2009 (?) she greeted me at the door after the service. She said "Michael, I have heard many sermons on the Trinity down in Naples, and here in Sarasota.  But you are the first preacher I've ever heard who did not start the sermon with words such as "the Trinity is very difficult" or "I hate preaching on Trinity Sunday" or "I cannot explain the Trinity". Mary Jane continued "you dove into a Trinity Sunday sermon without apology, an I liked that".    A compliment indeed.

Better than that: -  Mary Jane in her 80's often wore a blue denim jacket with blue denim jeans. I once complimented her about this, for you have to be a damn cool octogenarian if you can wear blue denim and look fabulous!  She did.

God bless you Mary Jane Gracely.


Mary Jane's obituary as published in the newspapers.

Mary Jane (Llewellyn) Gracely, age 88, passed peacefully in her sleep December 30, 2013 in Sarasota, Florida. Mary Jane was the loving wife of the late William H. Gracely, whom she married October 14, 1950.

She was born to James and Daisy (Donithen) Llewellyn in Marion, Ohio. She graduated in 1943 as the valedictorian of her Marion - Harding High School senior class. She continued her education at Flora Stone Mather-Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio where she graduated in 1947 with a bachelor degree in teaching.

Mary Jane and Bill moved (pioneered) to Naples, Florida in 1958. Bill became the eighth practicing attorney at law in Naples. (*) Mary Jane was a long-time member of Trinity by the Cove Episcopal Church and served Christ in many capacities through the years. She loved playing and teaching Mahjong with her many friends in both Naples and Sarasota. She was an excellent cook and loved to bake and share her famous crumb cake and Penuche iced cup cakes during the holidays and for family celebrations.

Mary Jane lived her life with joy, grace and love for her Savior. She joins Bill and their daughter Sarah who preceded her.


From jmp again

 (*) There are probably at least 800 lawyers in Naples these days!

Mary Jane is survived by three children, seven grand children, and seven great grandchildren.