Saturday, 13 September 2014

Fox News

I heard an animal noise coming from outside of my home  in the wee hours of this morning.
I guessed that it was a fox. We (in the neighbourhood)  see a single scrawny fox from time to time, often at daybreak.
By coincidence my friend Megan who lives in Maryland also heard an animal noise last night - she too guessed that it was a fox, and found this video which confirmed what we had thought.
It was either a very loud fox, or there was one in MD and another in FL.
Penne slept through the entire performance.
( I imagine that the sound of  a barking fox is commonplace in the U.K. where they have settled in as urban inhabitants).

Friday, 12 September 2014

Words on Facebook which should be banned or used sparingly.

1,  EPIC.  No, your marriage proposal may have been unusual but it was not epic. ( "Epic" should be reserved for events such as the 19th C races to the north and south poles, or Hilary and Tensing's ascent to the peak of Everest in the 1950's. etc. )

2, ICONIC. Please use this word judiciously and sparingly. An icon (in historic and traditional use) is a piece of religious art which has been written into being, and which points through itself to a great and profound spiritual truth.

The "writer"  (artist) always longs and prays that her/his "art" will be a window to the sublime and eternal.

American Football/ European Soccer/Athletic/ and Sporting events (etc.) may well be exciting or  fascinating.  Advertisements and/or buildings may have their charm.

But none of these are "iconic" unless the sports women/ men, or the ad. agency, or the architect and builders had a  prayerful intention - one which is designed to point their skill or expertise to a truth which is greater than their personal accomplishments/s.

3, HILAIRIOUS.  Please do not tell me that the Video you just posted is "Hilarious".  I'll be the judge of that.

4, CUTE.  This is a silly word which has lost any meaning.  Please stop using it, together with the de-valued and meaningless word ADORABLE.

5, AWESOME.  Your children are fine. Their drawings and paintings are often very lovely.  Their academic or athletic accomplishments are worthy of praise.  But neither your children nor their skills are awesome.  They are worthy of gracious praise which should be lovingly and critically  bestowed.

But your beloved kids and their accomplishments are not yet awesome.  That appellation should be postponed for a generation or two.

Quirky airline

Originally posted yesterday with a different title

Allegiant Air is a quirky American airline which has carved out a bit of the U.S. market by using (approximately)  100 otherwise under-utilized airports.

All Allegiant flights are nonstop - Allegiant does not offer one-stop or connecting flights. Nor are there daily Allegiant flights.

I used Allegiant a few years ago when I flew from and to the St. Petersburg/Clearwater FL airport to Chattanooga TN for my visit to the University of the South's School of Theology in Sewanee TN.

Some of you may remember that I used Allegiant again last year when I flew up to visit my winter neighbours Ed Green and Eddie Palmer at their summer home in Hendersonville NC.

I booked my flight from St. Petersburg/Clearwater to Greensboro', N.C. and back  -  but I should have flown into Greenville/Spartanburg  S.C. 

Ed and Eddie were delightfully understanding about this since they had also once made the same mistake.  They were good enough to drive from Hendersonville to  Greensboro to meet me. After my happy visit with them I rented a car for the return drive.

(Hendersonville NC to Greensboro  -  159 miles)  (Hendersonville to Greenville/Spartanburg -  60 miles) 

Since then Allegiant has scheduled flights from the Punta Gorda Airport (FL)  (about an hour's drive from SRQ) to Asheville NC airport  ( a hop, skip and a jump from Hendersonville).

So I will take a brief in early October trip to visit with Ed and Eddie in Hendersonville, (it's a gorgeous part of the U.S.A. if you ignore the regressive politics in North Carolina).

The way Allegiant operate means that I can fly from Punta Gorda to Asheville on a Monday and return the next Friday, or  I can fly from Punta Gorda to Asheville on a Friday, and return the next Monday.

I have opted for the latter.  I will have a Friday to Monday visit with my good friends Ed and Eddie.

 Penne will stay with her good friends Ron and Charlotte.

It's a no brainer.  I could fly to and from Sarasota to Asheville using Delta (with stopovers in Atlanta) for about $365

My direct flights to and from Asheville / Punta Gorda will cost me $200.

Of course Delta would offer me many more choices  in my vacation dates.  But since the exact dates for my travel were utterly flexible the Allegiant flights make more sense.

This is not an advertisement  for Allegiant.

But it is an example of a good capitalism -  i.e. when a quirky airline (Allegiant) fills a gap in the market and thereby offers air travel at a reasonable price.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

To make us smile

One of my  Facebook friends posted this.


The Phoenix, Arizona area had unusually heavy rains this week as a result of Hurricane Norbert.  I wrote my friend Joyce V-T and expressed my concerns for her safety.
Here is her delightful reply:
"Fabulous weather, thunder, lightning, pouring rain.  I live near the washes so I am flooded in, how great is that!!  Took Curly  (her dog) out for a walk w/my umbrella.  I enjoyed it more than he.  The highlight of my morning is my next door neighbor’s 2 yr old dtr Olivia, outside w/her Mommy dancing in the puddles and getting soaked and loving every minute.  The joy of a child and the delight at just being alive set the tone for my day.  Hope yours is as joy-filled"

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

As good as it gets (brother M and cousin J will agree)

Lunch today

Delicious salad with mixed greens, melon, nuts and blue cheese  (oil and vinegar dressing)

Home made carrot and ginger soup

Fresh and juicy sliced peaches.

It gets better

My lunch was at the home of the ever fabulous Ron and Charlotte Thompson.  They are such good people.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Food today


Trader Joe's "Greek Style" yoghourt, with honey and blueberries


Quinoa, diced red orange and green peppers, a diced plum tomato, canned black beans (in their liquid), and "Morningstar" brand spicy black bean (veggie) burgers -  all in one skillet and gently sautéed for about thirty minutes.


Bean sprouts, radishes, sliced "Ugly Ripe" brand tomatoes (the best) with fresh basil, and home-made tuna salad.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

The Amazing U.S. Navy Seals

I've just read "No Easy Day - The Autobiography Of A Navy Seal" - The Firsthand Account Of The Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden".   By Navy Seal "Mark Owen" (pseudonym) and ghost written by Kevin Maurer, (Penguin Group USA Inc. 2012).

When I was the Vicar at St. Christopher's in Chicopee, MA I had a parishioner who would disappear from home and family life for months at a time.  I knew that he was in the U.S. Navy. He once said that he could not possibly tell me a single thing about "what he was up to" during those absences.  I guessed him to be a Navy Seal, and I think that I was right.

One of the other Chicopee parishioners was an Army Ranger.

The Owen/Maurer book  (loaned to me by a friend who is a U.S. Navy Captain, Retd.) is an eye-opener into the amazing lives of Navy Seals.

They, (with other special-ops members of the military - tip of the hat to the Rangers!) are an elite, almost a breed apart.

But they were not born that way.  Seals are those exceptional men who choose the harder way. 
It is more difficult to become a Navy Seal than it is to become an Anglican/Episcopal Priest.  (So please, no more whining about the "brutal" discernment process which may or may not lead to ordained ministry).

Choosing the harder way.

Those who aspire to become to Navy Seals know that the process involves:

Utter and complete physical fitness
** Planning for any possible eventuality.
The ability to accept hardship without complaint
A mental acuity which is in synch with physical fitness
**Planning for any possible eventuality.
The willingness to accept critical review, and to learn from it
The endurance of hunger and thirst in pursuit of a great purpose
The ability to be a team member, and to respect and honour the others in the team
** Planning for any possible eventuality.
The willingness and ability to lead the team (if so selected)
The knowledge that team leadership has its costs. (How do you make a split second decision which will lead to the success of the mission, but which may also endanger the life of a subordinate team member?)
The conviction that  as a Seal the following words are true "who more than self their country loved".
The understanding that successful missions depend upon reliable and trustworthy "intel"; upon the wisdom (or otherwise) of the "Officer Class"; and upon the decisions of the Commander in Chief.

**  (Yes indeed, I repeated  this thrice)

"Mark Owen's" story is amazing.  He became a "seal amongst seals".

He is able to tell of missions which did not succeed, and of the successful rescue of an oil tanker Captain (Richard Phillips) from Somali Pirates. 

Above all it is a mind-blowing take of the intel, the planning, the training , the political decisions, the risks, and the single-minded courage which led to the death of Usama Bin Laden.

The account of the Abbottabad raid which led to Bin Laden's death fills me with awe at the skills and courage of  American special ops military  (and of the brilliant intel which made the mission possible).  I am glad to have read the book.  The work of Navy Seals is second to none. "Mark Owens" is a man of immense courage (who is not ashamed of the occasions when he was filled with fear).
If only the Priests and Ministers of the Church had such courage, and were so honest about their fear.
I have three caveats and one fear.
1.  I hope that the intel is as good as it gets. (What if such missions target and kill the "wrong suspects?")
2. I am a bit worried about the frequent use of the sleeping aid "Ambien" by Seals such as "Owen". If you check out "Ambien"  on the net you will discover that it can have unintended and harmful side effects.
3. I wish that "Owen" had not made snarky comments about President Obama and Vice-President Biden.  These comments add nothing to the main narrative, and are a distraction from the story.
These comments may well appeal to red-blooded Republicans, but they disturb honorable Democrats such as I who want to honour and respect our Armed Forces.
What happens to courageous Seals such as "Mark Owen" when they return to civilian life?  How are they helped to make the enormous leaps into "normality"?