Wizards of Oz

"Life is fraughtless ... when you're thoughtless."


[Moblog] Splashdown!

After a 0600 departure from the Secret City this morning, we covered 500 miles in 8 hours before grinding to a bumper-to-bumper halt on Interstate 64 between Richmond & Williamsburg.

After an abrupt "about-face" (thanks to those handy 'Authorized Vehicles Only' cut-outs on the median), we cut over to U.S. 60 and scooted the length of the Peninsula - only to find the Monitor-Merrimac Bridge Tunnel was closed due to a disabled vehicle.

Another about-face, we crossed the James River Bridge into the haze from a wildfire in the Great Dismal Swamp (which started two weeks ago, ironically from the heavy equipment that was being used to *prevent* fires from spreading).

Though my "average speed" plunged from 63mph to a mere 56 (reminding me why we dislike Virginia), we are now surrounded by dear friends at the Tillett-Ambrose-Smith family pool. In a few moments, the worship pastor from our former hometown church will baptize Eldest and Man-Cub (as well as the Tillett-Ambrose-Smith family).

Update: Pastor Mark, Worship Pastor from Believers Church in Chesapeake, Virginia, presides over a baptism ceremony in the Ambrose-Smith-Tillett pool. Eldest's faith grew significantly during a "Women of Faith" conference and concert in Washington, DC two years ago (which she attended with CINCOZ), and she's been asking to be baptized for several months.

Man-Cub also has a much deeper faith than me, expressing it in nearly everything he does. So he wanted to make his own declaration of faith -- much like CINCOZ's personal acceptance, also at the age of 7.

As someone raised in a secular home (we didn't even go to church at Christmas or Easter) -- whose subsequent faith was tempered in the cauldron of solipsism before giving way to deism in college -- and whose bride has been Christian nearly her entire life, I marvel at the purity of faith in these kids. Though my own skepticism has not yet been squelched (requiring something on the order of a "Road to Damascus"-like encounter to overcome), there is comfort to be found in the unadulterated love kids can express.

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Super Fat Tuesday

Thanks to the early Easter this year (due to the close proximity of the full moon to the vernal equinox), we get to celebrate (quite appropriately, IMHO) "Super Tuesday" simultaneously with "Fat Tuesday / Mardi Gras". So tomorrow morning, as ashes from the palm fronds from last year's Palm Sunday are imposed on the foreheads of the Christian faithful, will we also have a definitive presidential candidate from each party?

Having just left the polling place, I can say unequivocally that "electronic ballots" remain trapped in the Luddite past of paper-driven industrial age process. After arriving at the polling place at 8:30am EST, I discovered that our local polling places did not actually open until 9:00am. After the polls officially opened (at 8:00am one county to the west of us, in the Central Time Zone), I had to:
  1. Complete a "Voting Application Card" in red ink. (I told the pollsters that it was considered bad luck in China to inscribe a name in red; they didn't seem to care.) Note that though the line of waiting voters was now more than 30 people, there was only one (1) small table for completing this "Voting Application Card" -- rather than distributing them (with red pens) to the waiting voters.
  2. Present the "Voting Application Card" along with a photo ID to the kind lady with the "A-D" catalog of registered voters in that precinct.
  3. Let said lady compare the signatures between my digitized Voter Registration and the "Voting Application Card", then check some boxes and sign where indicated.
  4. Present my "Voting Application Card" to a third polling place worker, who wrote my name (in longhand) on a roster.
  5. Go to a fourth worker, who took my "Voting Application Card" and provided me with a four-digit "PIN" to activate the voting machine.
  6. Proceed to vote for one (1) candidate for President of the United States, as well as twelve (12) "Delegates-at-Large" and three (3) District delegates. Since my candidate of choice had only two "Delegates-at-Large" who had professed fealty to him, I decided to vote for all eight "uncommitted delegates". This meant I had to spin my "selection wheel" no fewer than fifteen times for each delegate, since the cursor reset to the top-left corner after each selection and the "uncommitted delegates" were at the bottom-right. (My attempts to outsmart the machine by rotating my selection wheel counter-clockwise sent me to the previous section of the ballot.)
BTW, the image at the top of this is provided courtesy of al Jazeera (found via a Google Image search for "Super Tuesday").

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Tagged: Christmas Meme

Local friend Citizen Netmom has been tagged by LissaKay to provide a "Christmas Meme" profile, so I'm following her lead. Here are the rules:

1. Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share Christmas facts about yourself.
3. Tag seven random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Welcome to the Christmas edition of "Getting to Know Your Friends."

1. Wrapping or gift bags?
Gift bags - the ultimate convenience in gift-giving!

2. Real or artificial tree?
Artificial pre-lit. (See comment on "convenience" in 1. above.)

3. When do you put up the tree?
Me? Never. My bride? Usually just after Thanksgiving.

4. When do you take the tree down?
After our annual Epiphany Party in early January.

5. Do you like egg nog?
Not as much as what you can put *in* the eggnog.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
A BMX bike when I was 12 years old.

7. Do you have a nativity scene?
Yes (a small porcelain one).

8. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
At an office "gag gift exchange", I ended up with a plastic hand pedestal that was supposed to be a remote control holder. We kept it in the closet until the follow year's gift exchange.

9. Mail or email Christmas cards?
Despite my comments on "convenience" above, this is one area where we go all out -- mail is the only way for us. Our family photo is planned months in advance (this year's card was from a February trip to Mexico, complete with Santa hats in the luggage), cards are ordered shortly after Halloween, and labels printed the week before Thanksgiving. We have made a habit (perhaps bordering on Obsessive-Compulsive :-) of mailing them the day before Thanksgiving -- sort of a green flag for friends and family of the start of the holiday season.

10. Favorite Christmas Movie?
Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas.

11. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
Black Friday. My lovely bride, however, starts the day *after* Christmas for the next year.

12. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
My bride's crockpot turkey (never dry!). And my Grandmother's & Aunt Peggy's Secret Toffee.

13. Clear lights or colored on the tree?

14. Favorite Christmas song(s)?
Sarajevo 12/24 by Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

15. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
We usually travel -- we have family and friends scattered throughout the country.

16. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?
Yes (though it might take me a while). Don't forget Olive! (As in "Olive, the other reindeer..." :-)

17. Angel on the tree top or a star?

18. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning?
One selected gift on Christmas Eve, the rest on Christmas morning.

19. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
Some people let themselves get too stressed out -- so courtesy seems to be too rare this time of year, ESPECIALLY on the roads and parking lots.

20. Do you decorate your tree in any specific theme or color?
Classic white lights, gold trimmed ribbon, with lots of sentimental-value ornaments.

21. What do you leave for Santa?
Milk and cookies, of course. And some carrots on the lawn for his reindeer.

22. Least favorite holiday song?
Anything with "singing" animals.

23. Favorite ornament?
Our Macy's-New York City "Curious George" ornament (showing George climbing the Empire State Building in a clear glass globe) from their 75th Anniversary Parade.

24. Family tradition?
Besides what's already been described here (decorations, cards, gifts), we have an emerging tradition of performances. Both kids play in holiday piano recitals, and Renee always performs with the church choir in their Christmas performances. Also, Shelby has performed in The Nutcracker three of the past four years now -- and Jarrett has said he wants to be a "party boy / mouse soldier" in next year's Nutcracker.

25. Ever been to Midnight Mass or late-night Christmas Eve services?
Yes, a couple times (once in San Diego, when my mother-in-law visited us there; and another time in Minnesota at her church).

I will be passing this "tag" on to the following blogfriends (updated to link to their replies):

Sean Meade

Can't wait to see what they post... Merry Christmas to all!

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Marathon Anniversary

Today is the conventionally-accepted anniversary of the Battle of Marathon (490 B.C., nearly 2,500 years ago). As the legend goes, a professional long-distance runner named Phidippides was dispatched from the field at Marathon, running the 42km over rocky and mountainous terrain to Athens to announce the Greeks' victory over the invading Persians. (The Battle of Thermopylae, recounted in historic fantasy in the movie 300, took place ten years later).

The irony of Phidippides's tale is that it probably never took place. The original historian Herodotus notes that Phidippides ran from Athens to Sparta (about 250km, or 150 miles) in two days to request their help. On the way, Herodotus says, he encountered the god Pan in the mountains who asked why the Athenians had forgotten him. Upon Phidippides's return to Athens, the Athenians built a shrine to Pan under the Acropolis -- and Pan fought alongside the Athenians to hold off the Persians until the Spartans arrived after the full moon a couple weeks later.

The inspiration for the modern Olympic "marathon" is a 19th-cent. poem by Robert Browning:

So, when Persia was dust, all cried, "To Acropolis!

Run, Pheidippides, one race more! the meed is thy due!

Athens is saved, thank Pan, go shout!" He flung down his shield

Ran like fire once more: and the space 'twixt the fennel-field

And Athens was stubble again, a field which a fire runs through,

Till in he broke: "Rejoice, we conquer!" Like wine through clay,

Joy in his blood bursting his heart, - the bliss!

The Spartathlon, a 152-mile ultramarathon between Athens and Sparta that has been held annually since 1983, will be held later this month.

Today, September 12th 2007, also marks (at sundown) the beginning of both the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah (starting the Ten Days of Repentance that end on Yom Kippur), and also the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

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