The King's Marquee

Election Day is finally here! Let's get out there an seal the deal for Trump and the American people! And don't forget to support the CTGOP under-ticket!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The countdown begins... for baby number two! The name game!

As many of you know, we are about to expect our second child - in fact, any day now, or even any hour!

With this pregnancy period it's been a particularly long haul over the last several months due in part to a few stresses in our life... dealing with a learning, growing, and developing toddler, some growing pains with our little house, and the fact that I had - up until Friday - a tyrant and total jerk of a "boss" at work - luckily, I just switched segments which is pretty much like starting a new job, I suppose. And I usually don't cite work on my blog due to protective reasons (although I guess there is no harm in it if all names and company references are omitted). So there is a bit of celebrating that is going on for me personally, and my wife is relieved that I no longer work for an A-hole. (I'm trying to keep this site "G-Rated").

And as my neighbor is found of saying, when little ones are about to arrive, God sends his blessings along. I think that is particularly true in this case. And by the way, God - just so you have it in writing - I am thankful!

So what's a new father to be, to do? Well, how about everything his wife tells him or else face her wrath. As I've previously mentioned, we have sort of outgrown our little house. So boxes, furniture, and things tend to migrate from room to room so as to appear to clear up space in one area which, of course, creates clutter in another. The only way to win the game is to throw things out - but its hard to fathom what to throw out because an evil little voice in your head warns, "don't throw that out, you'll need it and have to buy a new one." Or the ever present, "in a new and larger home, there will be room for that." Ever heard these voices?

Another source of pure annoyance in a small home are the toddlers toys. How many toys does she need? And by God, how many toys does she really need to play with - at one time? Each toy seems to receive attention for about 10 minutes until its tossed aside in favor of another toy. And where does that discarded toy wind up? On the floor, so daddy can trip over it or stub his toe. Arggh!

Last year I did the right thing and bought a toychest. But for some reason I forgot to seal the toys in it, or purchase a pirate chest size lock and throw away the key. Honestly through, she has learned to put her toys away, but no matter what, some of these toys like the rocking horse and little car she rides cannot fit in the toychest; toys just take up a huge amount of space. Thank God they can be recirculated with the next child or else I would be forced to open up a toy store and start to get rid of the dozens and dozens of beeping, moving, spinning, singing and obnoxious toys.

But back to the new baby.

A trying issue for any new set of parents is trying to determine what to name the new baby. We've spent significant time hemming and hawing about what name fits best. And its not like naming your pet cat or dog, its this life-long, permanent thing that your child will be stuck with for the rest of his or her life. And since you need to get it right the first time, it takes a lot of energy to go through the thousands of options available. A recent mom or dad may have encountered a similiar set of criteria of cans and can'ts to deal with:

  • The name can't be overly popular. Remember how many Ally's popped up when the Ally McBeal series came out? Besides, what kid wants to grow up with six kids in their grade with the same name? Everyone wants to have some individuality!
  • It can't be the name of someone you don't like. I can't tell you how many times that has just killed off a great name as an option. Think of all the wonderful names that have been ruined because they "occupied" by an annoying or filthy co-worker, family member, or television character, or even politician. Will anyone ever want to name their kid "Adolf" again?
  • It can't be hard to pronounce or spell. This is key for parents, who will be calling the name alot - particularly during the toddler years!
  • It has to make sense. A relative told me an interesting story which I'm obliged to share here: And this is a true story:
He was in Home Depot, and a lady was standing next to him in the paint department with her young son at her side. She starts talking to my relative about the variation of colors and choices and how wonderful they are. As a shop teacher and a painter, he agrees. She points out a color and says, "I like color so much that I actually named my child after this color." Impressed and eager to learn what color she named her son after, she points to a bright blue color on the wall, smiles and and surprises him by saying... "Enamel". And then she points to her son and says, "I've always loved that color, and decided to call him Enamel."

Nuff said on this point. And yes, this is a true story. And my relative didn't have the heart to explain anything to this ignorant creature.

  • It has to "flow" when you say it. The consonants have to be easy on the throat or jaw when they are said. Some names are a mouthful and you understand why people go by a nickname or two initials - like J.T. or something along those lines. You'd hope to pick a name your child and others will want to use.
  • It has to fit with your heritage or background. Names like Wha-Ching Mendoza just don't seem to fit together.
  • You have to consider the potential rhyming of the name. And remember, kids can be very cruel. We though at one point of naming our current child Belle. But worried that if she grew up to have a large frame that kids might refer to her as "Big Belle".
  • You have to think about what it will look like on a resume in 22 years. Cute name, but who is going to hire a "Candie" for anything other than a job a Hooter's?
  • The the first letter of the first, middle and last name can't spell something, like F.A.T. or P.I.G.
  • You have to be careful about not putting names together that may imply something you didn't intend. Harold Pond sounds nice until someone starts calling him "Harry Pond" for the rest of his life. You get the visual, right?
  • The name can't be too plain or ordinary. Too many John Smiths, Kelly Sullivans, and Hector Sanchezs in the world. Let's give the post office a fighting chance to find your kid.
  • And not to be taken as a derogatory comment, but you need to be cognizant that some races have the market on certain names that used to be used by other races... names like Harold and Tyrone; these are great names that are not used by the white community as often any longer.
  • And lastly, it has to be a name that you both agree on. This may be the toughest part of all.

Some people have all sorts of rituals on how to chose a name, for example - they may name after themselves or their parents, or grandparents, or even their favorite Aunt. And some just want a fresh start all-together and decide based on how the name sounds and may go out of their way not to pick a name that's already in use. And some agree to let the moms chose the girl's names, and the dads chose the boy's names. It's tough work because you can just go out of your mind trying to pick the "right name".

The whole name selection thing led me to a fun exercise that you parents-to-be might want to give a try - as I started to wonder about what kinds of names my ancestors used in our own family line. Now I am fortunate to be able to trace back to about 1690 or so, with some bridges (or leaps of faith) to earlier centuries, so I had a lot of good material to pour through and have fun with. And it gives you an opportunity to sort of mix the old with the new in terms of name ideas. On one hand you might get an idea about a name that hasn't been used in your family for generations, while at the same time be able to say, "you are named for your great, great, great Aunt Thelma who lived in Wethersfiled in 1750. "Ha Ha.

While looking up the names associated with my family, I was reminded that I had a great grandfather named "Elmer". I probably wouldn't have chosen that one today as Elmer just sounds "like a old person's name" and isn't much in use. And I did enjoy seeing many of the old Biblical names used by our family line during the 17 and 1800s, many of them from the Old Testament - for example, one such as "Moses". Living in West Hartford, you often hear many of these names in use today, but that is only because of the large jewish population that abounds. But to think, back in the day - OT names were used by Christians on a regular basis in reverence to God and scripture.

I guess the names must have become more modern - for lack of a better word - as our society became more secular. Although many of the newer names found today are in actuality - derivitives of older biblical names.

I offer only one piece of advice when going through the painful process of picking a name. Do not share the names you are deciding with anyone. You don't need to see the reaction or hear the opinion of anyone outside of anyone other than your spouse. This applies not only to parents, but also to co-workers and friends, who have their own views, beliefs, customs, biases, and opinions. And don't take options from them either - in fact, just shut them down if they start in - you can do it with humor and be polite unless they become pushy. The last thing you want is someone you like today and might dislike tomorrow trying to take credit for naming your child. So, in summary - pick the name together, and let the first time others hear it be when they meet the child for the first time, or when they read the annoucement. That applies to everyone - even if it delays the receipt of a custom-made blanket with his or her name on it! If they can wait nine months to meet him or her, they can wait just as long to learn the name.

My last point on this topic is that we plan to go to the hospital with a few names in mind. Once we look into the baby's eyes, we will make a decision at that very moment. And that will be the baby's name for the rest of her life!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Baltimore Orioles' announcer Gary Thorne should resign: alleges Curt Schilling's "bloody" sock was a fake! Go to hell Thorne!

Fewer things are more sensitive to Sox fans than hearing their hometown heroes get bashed by the outside media. But when it comes to Baltimore Orioles' announcer Gary Thorne's insinuation last evening during the Red Sox-Orioles game that the bloody sock worn by Curt Schilling during the 2004 World Series was a fake, and a stunt by the Sox to create a public relations stunt - then it means going too far.

As Sox fans will remember, Sox Ace Curt Schilling suffered a traumatic injury to his ankle during the 2004 season which worsened by the time the 2004 play-off series against the Yankees came around. The only option available was for Dr. Bill Morgan to drill sutures directly into the ankle . A few weeks later during the World Series, the surgery was repeated, but this time blood clearly leaked through the stitching, and soaked Schilling's sock - enough for the media cameras to pick up on. Despite the pain and agony, Schilling went on to lead the Sox to the 2004 World Series victory.

And now, Gary Thorne, citing Red Sox catcher Doug Mirabelli as his source reports the bloody sock was "painted" red for effect and drama. Mirabelli came out swinging in a television interview today, ripping Thorne and referring to him as a liar. Later today, Thorne has backed off on his comments, citing it as a joke, and a misunderstanding.

Well, its no joke.

Schilling could have sacrificed his career to pitch under those circumstances. The injury was very serious. And to wrongfully put back up catcher Mirabelli in a bad place with his own teammates by making false accusations that he was the "source" of this lie is about as foul as it goes. It's not just shoddy journalism, its close to slander as it gets.

Even current Baltimore first baseman, Kevin Millar, who was a member of the 2004 Championship team came out in defense of Schilling saying, "it was 100% blood... why are we even talking about this?"

Good question, Millar.

But the next question is why is Gary Thorne still employed by the Orioles? Do they make it their business to run a libel or slandermill? Maybe its high time that Gary Thorne hit the high road and the Orioles separate themselves from this kind of madness. Baseball has enough controversy in it without the like of Thorne poisoning the environment with lies!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Chelsea 1-0 Liverpool; Man U wins but also loses

Champions League play always has its surprises, and the past two days have provided just that.

Even with serious injuries to the Chelsea squad, Chelsea managed to pull out a fabulous one goal advantage at home in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final today. To me, the bigger surprise was Chelsea holding Liverpool to zero goals during the 90-minute battle. With Gerrard and Crouch in the mix, nothing seemed to come easy for Liverpool. In fact, nothing came at all. It's not a shock that Chelsea won at home, but it is a shock that Liverpool didn't manage to put at least one in the net.

Manchester United's lackluster 3-2 home victory yesterday over A.C. Milan sets the stage for a disadvantage for Man U as they head to Milan in the second leg planned for next week. Even with Rooney's two goals (and one coming in stoppage time in the second half), Man U's terrible defense allowed two big "away" goals. Milan scoring two away goals will add up unless United can pull out a major lopsided victory next week. And with roster injuries to Man U, that is going to be a tall order. No, make that gargantuan order!

The betting man who thought that the Champions League final would be a dramatic Manchester United vs Liverpool, may have to settle for the unexpected Chelsea vs A.C. Milan - particularly, if things hold as they appear to be holding. And who gets the edge in such a meeting? If the Chelsea squad remains as injured as they are - then A.C. Milan will have an advantage. If Chelsea can get back to full strength, then its going to be a real Champions League final for the ages!

And this is the thing with soccer - you're never out until the final whistle blows.

And again... this is why soccer the the greatest sport on Earth.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Life is Good as Sox sweep the Yanks at Fenway! And Chelsea can't gain on United's draw!

As I mentioned in my last post, I usually don't call these things, but for the Sox to sweep the Yanks at Fenway was simply an amazing accomplishment. Plus to add a little historic flair - the Sox hit four back to back homeruns off Yankee pitcher - Chase Wright. The homers came courtesy of Manny Ramierz, J.D. Drew, Mike Lowell, and team captain, Jason Varitek. This is the first time this has happened off of an American League pitcher since 1964 - and as coincidence would have it - Terry Francona's dad was one of the players who hit one of the four homers in '64.

The Sox next entertain the Blue Jays at Fenway while the Yanks head to Tampa Bay to recharge before the Sox and Yanks meet up again this weekend for round two.

As for individual performance of some players like Dice K, I have to say that the jury is still out. Yes, he picked up the win, but not without giving up several hits and runs to the Yanks. He's already given up the long ball a few times this year. So far, you have to say we'll be fine if the Sox keep hitting they way they have been hitting. But that's a lot to ask of your players, day in and day out.

We need some consistency on the mound where our pitchers hold to two or three runs, and not six. In MLB level baseball, you don't expect pitching staffs to give up 6 or 7 runs each time out.

God its great to be Sox fan. And the season has really just started!

EPL mention.

I'd be remiss to mention the other incredible action over the weekend from the world's most popular sport - Soccer. Looks like Chelsea couldn't capitalize on the Manchester United's draw with Middlesborough this weekend. Chelsea found itself drawing with Newcastle United leaving the lead at the top of the EPL to Six point square. As the season draws to a close it will be interesting to see who finds themselves at the top, who gets relegated, and who makes it into European play. What a year for the EPL. Amazing stuff.

It will be interesting to see who gets into UEFA Cup next year.... Pompi? Tottehnam? Reading? Bolton? It's just going to be a fabulous finish that is going to come down to the last game to decide who goes and who doesn't. The the line between who goes and who doesn't will be the slimmest of margins - to be sure.

And speaking of Champions League play, expect first leg action this week of the Semi Final games between Manchester United and AC Milan, and the game between Liverpool and Chelsea to be nothing short of phenomenal. It's going to be another amazing week in Soccer. And I can't wait to tune it!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Red Sox dominate!

For all the billions spent by the New York Yankee ownership, it was great to see that old-fashioned, gut-wrenching, hard-nosed baseball as provided by the roster of the Boston Red Sox still prevails. The Sox had two long, back-to-back come from behind performances the last two nights with yet a third game scheduled for this evening.

While I have to admit that the Sox are third on the list of highest MLB payrolls, one would still expect because the Yanks still lead in the money game - that the result should show it. But obviously, money isn't everything. And it hasn't been for the the past few nights.

While I don't make game by game predictions I can safely say that the Sox actually look like a cohesive team that could sweep the Yanks this time around. The Sox are playing long ball and small ball and doing what needs to get done to move the runners along. Even the defense is picking up despite some unexpected (and unprecedented) errors from Mike Lowell at third base.

There are plenty of weak spots in the Sox line up, but you couldn't tell where they were over the past few days. Even when Red Sox Captain Jason Varitek can go 5-7 and rebounding from a 2-17 slump, then you have to say there's hope. As for Lugo, Cora, and a few others - only time will tell what we can expect from them on a consistent basis. But one things for sure, we can't have a year like last year - where we relied on miracle homeruns from Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz to carry the team.

As a diehard fan, games like the ones over the past few nights are heart-wrenching. Every Red Sox - Yankee game is like an emotional battle of immense proportion. Why the emotional investment in a mere baseball game you ask? You have to grow up with it to understand. It's like good versus evil with George Steinbrenner starring as the Devil himself.

On Friday, I had declared the Sox dead at about the six inning. I was infuriated by A-Rod's homerun and another struggling performance by Curt Schilling. I was annoyed to see the Sox fall further behind at Fenway - with the the thought that we were bound for embarrassment under our own roof. But I'd also forgotten the magic of Fenway, and what the post- 1980s Sox are capable of.

Growing up watching the Sox in the 70s has its impressionable stigmas. One expects that if the Sox are behind after five innings then the game is over. But not so with this new brand of Boston Red Sox - established circa 1990s. No longer is it: its over when Bob Stanley comes to the mound, now its really not over until its over. And Sox fans may have to sit nine full innings this year to see just how it all plays out.

Good luck tonight Dice-K. I'm rooting for your first win at Fenway, and the Sox's best sweep of the season against our arch enemies!

Go Sox!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Getting back in shape! An old(er) guy's guide to exercise!

OK, this one is for the 30-somethings and 40-somethings... anyone else remember the Bazooka Joe "Make a man out of Mac" cartoon (pictured left)? Thought it was fitting.

I decided I wouldn't write about my new devotion to physical fitness until I had been consistently excising for at least 2 months in a row. Now that I've been steady through two and a half months, I feel I can adequately write about my progress in winning the battle of the bulge.
Like most people who are busy with the hustle and bustle of life and who do not or have not included exercise in their daily activity, I needed a little shell shocking to get me back in the mood. So, in February of this year, I had a "come to Jesus" realization when I began to view some of the family pictures and home video that was shot during our February vacation. Watching myself waddle across the sand pretty much put me over the edge to "do something" about my unhealthy state.

Although I am not obese, as defined by medical experts, I am - like most Americans - fairly overweight. Hey in truth I like to eat - and I like to eat carbs - I'm guilty of enjoying bread with butter, and I enjoy meats, and all kinds of bad stuff. And I enjoy drinking nice beer once in a while - such as a nice liter of Spaten, or a pint of Newcastle, Bass Ale, or even Carlsberg. I'm definitely a beer snob - and life is too short to drink cheap or carb-free beer - YUCK! - these are all topics for a future entries, no doubt.

So digressing a bit from the present, here is some history outlining my ups and downs...

I think like all of us who used to be jocks in high school, we remember ourselves as fast, thin, and in great shape. We were bio-machines, high on testosterone - models of perfection... ha ha! Then you go off to college, and begin to pick up on the bad habits like eating cafeteria style foods (all you can eat), and attending fraternity parties where the goal is to get about as silly as one can without passing out - which leads to more late nite snacking at McDonald's, Subway, and Taco Bell - and of course, let's not forget - "Domino delivers!" I can't even recall how many of those cardboard tasting "2 for ten" slices we consumed at 2 a.m.!

So as I started accumulating inches around the waist, going from a perfect wrestling/track weight of 132 in high school to an astounding 235 during senior year in college. Wow! And this isn't an unfamiliar story to many college students who find themselves buying all new clothes when it comes time to start interviewing for that new job.

And more to my particular situation, I also suffered an ACL injury while playing intramural Soccer in College for S.V. Sauerkraut (the team was named so because most of us, if not all, were pooled from either the college German language club (like myself) or were German exchange students. And I have to say that I liken the reason for me receiving the ACL injury to "putting the cart before the horse". My good intentions were to get back in shape, but my mistake was that I didn't take into account that some sports - like soccer - require that you are in reasonable shape prior to playing. My mind was ready, and my body was clearly not! So you can imagine the results of the deadly combination of total access to UConn cafeteria food with being casted, and carted around campus by the handi-van!

I have to say that post college I did make a healthy comeback. At a point in my mid 20s, I had worked to recapture my self of old and managed to join World's Gym, and exercise daily. At one point I believe I was in the best shape of my life from a stamina and overall conditioning point of view - I was able to run 4-5 times a week, generally about 3-5 miles during my extended lunch - mostly steep hills found in the backroads of Simsbury, CT. So that with a rigorous heavy weight training schedule, brought me to about 160 lbs.

After my department moved out of Simsbury, my daily runs stopped. So that coupled a family move away from the town where my gym was located prompted fewer regular visits. And I think in those days, cash was tighter so belonging to more than one gym was out of the question!

Then... I fell in love. And you know what happens when you fall in love? You get comfortable, you go out to dinner, and go for ice cream together, and you go on vacations like cruises - and you tend to get fat! So the rollarcoaster ride continued. And I gained a few more pounds perhaps getting up to around 190 or so.

It probably didn't occur to me that I had packed on the pounds until one day when I can distinctly remember an annoying scenario. It was the Spring of 1998, my then-girlfriend and I had just gotten out of my car, we were both walking up to the complex, and this lazy, welfare woman who lived one door down from me came up to me - and in an effort to make good-natured conversation with me, she said,

"Boy, you sure gained weight. What happened to you? What you been eat'n?"
And she laughed. Of course, I didn't find much humor in it, so embarrassed, I turned and walked briskly away. Observing that she had hit a sore spot and had gotten my goat, I could hear her from a distance shouting, "What you been eatin'!" - which was then followed by a loud roar of laughter! At that point, I turned to my then-girlfriend and said, I need to get back in shape. I was so pissed! I was pissed for weeks.

So that little episode combined with a move to West Hartford, and a marriage proposal combined "for a kick in the pants" or incentive to get back in shape. But this time, the weight didn't come off so easily. I think this was in part, due to the fact that I had tried to mix the Adkins Diet with exercise - instead of really putting in the work of steadfast exercise, and changing the mindset of eating properly. I swear to this day, all that gunk that I ate on Adkins - bacon, eggs, meat, and sausage and all of the high protein, high cholesterol garbage has created some other issues which I still feel plague me to this day. If you know anyone who wants to use Adkins, steer them away from it. Common sense tells you, that fad diets are not only unproductive in the long term, but some may have long-lasting effects on your system.

But by wedding time, I was back in reasonable shape. Not the best shape of my life - as it seemed that whatever it was that was going to take to get to my former "best shape" wasn't realistically achievable. I can distinctly remember wondering why I couldn't get down below 190 lbs. Why the plateau seemed to have risen now that I was ready to enter my 30s. It was a nothing more than a reality check.

Beyond that and fast forwarding, as most readers understand - settling into married life and general lifestyle changes require you to put more emphasis on career-focus (generally good careers require a stressful position that merits beyond 50 hours a week), or being a parent which is a 24/7 physical and mental role that requires time and a major expenditure of energy - even if its parental learning, thinking (about some matter or decision), or even - worry. Time management becomes a problem at just about every juncture, and some time is simply not manageable as things simply arise -- sick children, projects that run late, daycare, trips to the vet, etc.

And as you get older, the pounds just cling, clearly, the pounds do not come off as easily as they used to, and the body can't take as much punishment; recuperation of muscles and joints take more time than they did when you were in your twenties. You have to set reasonable expectations of yourself and what you can achieve over a short period of time.

And believe me, and before I explain what magic formula I'm using today, I have to tell you that on and off over the past few years I've tried a number of methods for losing weight or maintaining shape. I've tried a few of the popular ones (links to WebM.D. commentary provided) - Adkins, The Zone, South Beach Diet, and the Body for Life program. I think that all of these will provide you results, and probably good results in terms of weight loss and getting back in shape. The problem that I have found with these programs are many-fold.

For example, it's hard as Hell, to keep on the program for an extended period of time; a couple bad days or a bad week tends to disrupt results, and cause frustration. And some of these programs require that you spend hours shopping and preparing "special meals" and that you understand and divide percentages of fat, carbs, proteins for each meal. You could make a living doing this stuff. If you have lots of time on your hands, and have a rigid lifestyle then you are in luck!

You begin to find a lack of overall satisfaction with the meals and constrictive nature of rules around eating that conflict with your lifestyle or family lifestyle (I'm not going to punish my kids with these programs when at this stage of their life, they need carbs, fats, and proteins to grow and be healthy). Parents who turn their kids into veggins (vegetarians) are just plain dumb! Humans are carnivorous and the body requires that we eat and process some meat for a variety of reasons. We have not evolved into plants or plant and seed eating lifeforms! While I don't want to go down too far down this road (perhaps I have already) I would like to provide a valuable quote by Professor Thomas M. Greiner regarding discussion on human anatomy as it relates to the debate on whether man is designed as a meat eater:

"....Finally, you need to look at nutritional requirements. There are some B-complex vitamins that are available only by eating other animals. The human body requires this nutrient, but does not synthesize it the way some other animals do. Therefore, if humans truly ate no animal foods, and had no artificial vitamin supplements, they would sicken and die. In nature, there are no true "human vegetarians."

I also recommend reading this posting by John McArdle, Ph.d.

The programs often lead to quick results that lead to stagnation and quick plateaus. And lastly, there is dissatisfaction with not being able to break the rules of consumption without feeling guilty or self-destructive regression in productive gains on your program.

So the simple question is so what do I do? First of all when you fall off the bike, you have to get back on - it just takes some of us longer to realize that we've actually fallen of the darn bike. I need to eat less, and exercise more. And that's what I do. I don't overdue it, I'm old enough to realize that I'm not going to be in a fashion show, but smart enough to realize that I've serious work to do to get in shape - for myself and for my family.

So I make it a point to go to the gym at 5 a.m. Oh yeah. You read that right! 5 a.m., that's 5 o'clock in the morning.

Why 5 a.m.? There are a lot of reasons to go in the morning. To start with, it's less disturbing to our family schedule and my schedule. All I lose is extra sleep, and I don't need to short cut family time, or try and squeeze in time after work when I'm usually exhausted or annoyed from a day's work.

Second, the gym is scarcely occupied. You generally find people who are there to get in, do their workout, and get out - not socialize and tie up a bench for 30 minutes, not pose in the mirror between sets, not hog all of the equipment so no one can use it. Morning people need to get it done and get out. As a general rule, the slackers that are there for all of the above, aren't the types that get up at 5 a.m. for any reason anyway.

Lastly, as a matter of incentive and from a psychological viewpoint - when you work out in the morning, you get to spend the day knowing that no matter what happens - you've worked your butt off and accomplished something that no one can take away from you. And you don't have to do it later. Moreover, when I go to eat something I shouldn't - I think, OK, dumb-dumb, did you just get up a 5 a.m. and sweat your pants off to now go and eat candy, and kiss away your morning workout? No. Every hour that goes by where you don't eat garbage is a step in the direction of pure weight loss and great conditioning. You control your own gains after you leave the gym. No make ups for later. Later may never come if some "emergency" arrives - like need to rush the dog to the vet, or stop at the store to pick up flour, etc.

OK, so what have I accomplished so far and how? In the last two and half months, I've gone from 249 lbs (wow!) to 231 lbs. Remember that I have a larger frame, so I tend to keep the shape that large shoulders provide. And the real results are in the waistline which unless you shrink your pants every time you wash them should become readily visible nor not.

A friend of mine, a co-worker, turned me on to a simple method of counting calories using You just enter in the pertinent data, create a plan and track your progress - that's all there is to it - and they don't pester you with advertisements or spam. There is no magic formula here. Your body requires on set number of calories to function based on your height, weight, activity level, etc. So to lose weight, you need to take in less than you burn through regular burning of calories, and exercise. Using the site you can make good decisions by using section that provides data on calories, nutrition, fat and other contents. So stay below your caloric intake goal and try to make reasonably healthy decisions. Now obviously, if your target is 1800 calories, you shouldn't eat 1800 calories worth of candy. Duh? Or overeat in one meal and not leave enough for the next. And remember this is only a guide. Most of the time, you know what's high in calories, and what isn't. But there are a lot of surprises in the first few weeks when you begin to plan out your day of caloric intake!

And in any case, even from a education standpoint, this makes you read labels, and after a while you get pretty good at knowing what your limits are. At first, I admit it was a nightmare - having to record everything you eat, but its good to keep track of your goals and how you are doing.

And while I'm on the whole eating thing, remember that you need to take a break once in a while and jump in and eat pizza or ice cream; you need to reward yourself! Or go for that second helping of pasta. And please... don't start dieting around the holidays. You don't have to go nuts, but you don't need to watch everyone eating the Christmas pudding while you sit there making a statement to yourself about how much new self control you have! That's just plain dumb.

Basic rules for making good food choices include selecting products that have the following terms written on them: non-fat, low sugar or sugar free, low-carb, low-salt, salt-free, and have labels that read as having low calories. And don't forget to begin portion control - so instead of choosing a 16-ounce porterhouse, choose a four ounce strip. If you have the option - bake the food instead of frying it. And try to stop using mayonnaise, and replace it with mustard, and stop using butter and opt for Ms. Dash on veggies or potatoes, and fat free jam on toast.

As for the exercise routine. Aim for 4 times a week as a minimum, but no more than 5 or 6 times a week maximum as your body needs rest (and if you must go six times a week, make that six day a fun day by mixing it up). Focus on cardio, cardio, cardio! 30 minutes is for sissies. Go for 45 minutes at a time, if you can. Then focus on some limited weight training. For the guys, its more fun to lift weights. You see fast results and feel great about being able to lift 1000 lbs on the rack, but look around. How many fat asses do you see that should be spending less time doing curls and more time on the treadmill? How about most of the time, eh?

Oh and one last thing. If you start going to the gym in the morning, that means you need to go to bed earlier too. You can't stay up and watch late night news and expect to be spry in the morning. This takes some time to get used to, but the rewards are greater than the pain.

And to end on a cautionary note - here are a couple don'ts (O.K. I lied, more than a couple):

  • Don't compare yourself with others in the gym, you have your own goals, starting point, progress points, and metabolism. Who cares about what others are doing.
  • Don't read fitness or body building magazines and expect to look like these people. The Muscle Fitness bodybuilders or Men's Health models train to look like this for a (paid) living. Set realistic expectations for yourself.
  • Don't use one machine for all your cardio workouts during the week. Instead, change up from time to time, switch across Treadmill, Elliptical, Cross Trainer, Bike, etc. You can change up every couple days to prevent boredom and challenge your body.
  • Don't take diet pills. Diet pills may have other impacts to your body that may cause you to become hyper and lose sleep. A lot of these pills contain caffeine or similar caffeine type drugs. Natural is best. I do recommend drinking a cup of regular coffee before heading to the gym. That's my rule only.
  • Don't overdue it at the start. Use low levels selections on the cardio machines, and very light weights. You'll work up to faster speeds or inclines over time.
  • Don't use meal replacement bars. Eat food. Meal replacement bars do not satisfy you from a psychological standpoint (and you certainly won't feel full) and sometimes you'll meet your caloric limit in two bites. (Some of those bars can be very high in calories!)
  • Don't workout without a water bottle. I drink water before, during and after the workout. Dehydration is counter-productive. Also, drag that water bottle with you all day long and fill it and use it at work.
  • Don't binge eat and don't eat past 7 p.m. Throw out all unhealthy snacks.
  • Don't grocery shop when you are hungry.
  • Don't give up. If you get crossed up by scheduling conflicts and don't exercise for a period of time - just pick back up where you left off.
  • Don't choose fast food. Cook most of your meals at home; you'll not only save money, but have control over what you consume and how its prepared.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Soccer: the REAL athlete's sport

OK, so today I'm tackling the big question that everyone has been asking me these days... what is all this (sudden) fascination you have with Soccer (a.k.a. European football)?

Well its not really sudden, since I've been a fan for some time, but its been nearly impossible until very recently to be able to watch it on cable television and take in the game at a professional level on a regular basis. With the advent of Fox Soccer Channel (FSC), fans like myself can catch both the English Premier League (EPL) - the number one professional soccer league in the world, U.S. MLS, Italian League, and other soccer leagues from around the world. And its daily coverage instead of what we used to get which was a splattering of sound bites at the end of the World Cup.

Thank God for FSC as ESPN hasn't really caught onto the "world most popular" sport. Here's what I see: ESPN shows a five second clip of a ball entering a goal with little reference to the actual game, and calls it "coverage". Although to be fair, ESPN does get high marks for - its probably one of the best sites out there for scores, news stories, trades, and analysis, etc. But ESPN TV, especially SportsCenter coverage -- stinks! They need to get a clue over there at ESPN studios - someone needs to remind them that ESPN Desportes shows are produced in spanish, and the channel isn't available to everyone state-side. And they could probably cut out some of the airtime they give to the world's biggest cheater - baseball's Barry Bonds. Maybe some of the spots that ESPN devotes to kissing Bond's rear could go to real athletes like Ronaldo and Keane.

Of course, soccer isn't an unknown here. Just about every kid in the USA grows up playing soccer as part of the gym curriculum; and teams are popular from Elementary School through High School level. But when I was young, most kids could probably name only one soccer player - the great Pelé. Although they probably couldn't tell you that he is a famed player from Brazil. Today, kids know Ronaldo, Rooney, Henry, Keane, Lampard, and on and on.

Today, my hometown of West Hartford boasts as having the largest number of soccer leagues, and boasts of being the town with the largest number of kids playing in all of the State of Connecticut: 1400 kids are registered to play soccer under the banner of the West Hartford Youth Soccer Association. And that is just the kids - that doesn't include high school teams, recreational teams, and adult leagues. If you move from Italy or the U.K. and want your son or daughter to grow up playing soccer - then West Hartford is where you want to be! Here is the WHYSA site in case you are interested.

My general interest in soccer was reignited back when the United States hosted the World Cup in 1994; FIFA was very reluctant to permit the U.S. to host the World Cup based on the incorrect perception that there weren't many soccer fans in the United States. FIFA also imposed that in order for the United States to host that they would have to create a professional league at some point in the near future - which they did in 1996 under the banner of Major League Soccer (MLS). Despite the initial perception of FIFA representatives and officials from competing nations, World Cup Soccer venues were well-attended in the States - up to 70,000 attendees per game. And with a good action plan in place, interest in U.S. Soccer is on the rise.

Anyone can recognize that Americans have almost too many choices for Pro Sports with long seasons that already tend to cross over each other. NFL Football, MLB Baseball, Basketball, Hockey, PGA Golf, NASCAR, Tennis, are but a few that receive regular programming time, then complicate the matter by throwing in NCAA College games and tournaments in most of those sports mentioned above. So why would anyone want to add Soccer to the list to compete with all of those previously mentioned. Well, one reason is that Soccer pound for pound, minute for minute is better than most of those listed above.

So why do I believe that soccer is better than most other American sports?

Well to start with, soccer is one of the few sports where the athletes, referees and officials have to actually be in reasonable shape in order to even show up on the field of play. Players and officials must run their tails off for 45 minutes straight - with few breaks, followed by a brief intermission, and then followed by another grueling 45 minutes of non-stop play. If that isn't enough, players endure kicks to nearly every part of their body, collisions, slide tackles, dives, and a host of other dangerous maneuvers during the game. Most soccer players are in incredible shape - and clearly, you can't fake the kind of physical fitness that's required of the game. No one stands around "waiting for a ball to come to them"; you either play hard for 45 minutes at a clip or you don't play. There is no time out, and if time is wasted, the ref adds more time on the end of the period to make up for it.

In contrast, if you look around Major League Baseball (and I am a die hard baseball fan, so no hate mail please), a great number of the guys on the field are just plain fat and out of shape. And I don't just mean those porkers in the Designated Hitter (DH) position, but pitchers, outfielders, first basemen, and particularly MLB umpires are all poster-children for weight loss programs. Quite a few (American) football linesmen are big, bulky and out of shape too. It's nearly pathetic to call some of these overpaid slobs - athletes. And I won't even start on the golfers. Oh man!

Soccer season tends to run from late August through end of May (continuing through the summer for athlete's chosen to represent their nation in World Cup qualification games), and often the teams participate in multiple Cup Championships during the regular season and in the middle of regular season league contention, and not after they are all rested up at the end of the season. How about that in contrast to Major League Baseball owners and players whining about pre-season activity by some players who participate in the World Baseball games. Gesh, give us a break, won't ya? Just don't overexert yourselves boys! It's a long summer sitting on the bench spitting out sunflower seeds and we wouldn't want you to become too tired to do that!
Soccer action is fast and furious, while baseball comes slowly, one pitch at a time. Soccer requires athletes to cover lots of space by spiriting back and forth a long 130 yard field, unlike pro basketball players who run around on the court and are able to rest during the plentiful "television timeouts" (Football is even more pathetic when it comes to TV timeouts). Soccer requires team effort all the time, passing the ball forward and backwards, and side to side, where as pro basketball is simply premaddonas making pretty baskets from 30 feet away.


I would also say that the excitement, stamina/physical fitness required, fan sense of extreme anticipation (based on the fact that soccer at the pro level is usually a low scoring game than can be decided at the last second by a quick goal which could mean a win, loss, or draw), atmosphere, unpredictability, and complexity of the game, the incredible technical skill required, and number of rules (actually referred to as Laws) that govern actual play - all of this - makes the sport more exciting than most.

Finally, I particularly have to give a special Kudos to the professional English soccer leagues for setting the bar across all sports for penalizing teams who don't make the grade, and rewarding teams that do. The English system is made up of six levels (listed lowest tier to highest tier): Conference North and Conference South (both level 6), Nationwide Conference, League Two, League One, League Championship, and the Premiership (a.k.a. English Premier League or EPL). If you finish in the bottom positions in either the Championship League or the EPL then you receive an automatic demotion the next lowest tier; this is referred to as "relegation". So losing can mean losing a sponsor, notoriety, embarrassment, playing in front of smaller crowds, and there are obvious salary and pay disadvantages. On the other hand, if you finish in the top three spots in either League One or the Championship League, you receive a promotion to the next highest tier. And promotion naturally comes with all the rewards of moving to an advanced league provides - money, fame, and fortune.

So what does this do? Well, it makes teams play hard all the way through the last game of the season since every game counts; teams control their own destinies, and of course, on the other side of the equation - no one wants to lose to a team about to be relegated. The competition is so fierce that it doesn't permit teams to settle for a loss here and there based on laziness, when it could mean getting bumped down to a lessor division after losing in consecutive quality games. In contrast to other sports, where teams face no "penalty" other than embarrassment and loss of revenue for being at the bottom of their division.

The best example of how relegation can affect your club is to look at the history of Leeds United. A team considered to be cream of the crop in the EPL, a team that won several cups in the 80s, now finds itself struggling to keep from being relegated to League One!! Obviously, the money teams are usually the Premier teams, and once you lose a foothold, it become harder to recruit the best players, and reclaim ascension and glory. After all, what all-star wants to play for a has-been, when there are 20 teams in the Premier League offering higher salaries, and more options?

Alas, if you wonder what the big deal is... then tune in. There's nothing like it in the world!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Passed the Ref class, and reviving an old English Soccer theme!

I've been rather swamped this week with this and that so I haven't had time to update my blog - even though a lot has been happening. Taking a short break from some of the more serious and pressing issues going on in my life and around the world, I thought I'd post something fun.

Since it's both Champions League and World Cup qualifying time again, I had to drum up a little something to keep myself entertained. Back during the 2006 World Cup, England had a great little theme that certainly ruffled the feathers of the host Nation - Germany. If you haven't heard it, listen here or watch it here; its by the Tone Def Allstars.

For those who missed it this week, Manchester United's trashing of Roma was about as thrilling as it gets - particularly for those of us who wanted to see Roma fans dejected for the brutal behavior displayed by Roma fans and Italian police. Watching United score three times in under 20 minutes put the icing on the cake, and avenged Man United fans. And adding to the weeks' good news - Chelsea snuck through with a one goal victory too. And with Liverpool FC advancing easily, it looks like the Champions League champion will be out of the EPL (where is belongs). This is just further evidence that the EPL is the greatest league in all of professional soccer.

I also passed my Grade 8 referee exam yesterday evening, so I can officially begin my referee career. My hope is to eventually post some of the more interesting referee experiences on my blog. I plan to tackle the question of why am I involved in the whole "referee thing" in the future. But for now, I'm going to bask in passing what was a relatively challenging exam - after two weeks of attending nightly classes to try and absorb the "Laws of the Game". If nothing else, I've come away with an even greater respect for the game, and for my fellow referees.

Friday, April 6, 2007

My Church in turmoil: The Episcopal Church's road to Schism from the Anglican Communion.

This is liable to be a long entry as I've toyed on and off about how to go about drafting what will be a controversial essay on the current state of the Episcopal Church (ECUSA) in the United States. As you've probably read in the newspapers and online, the ECUSA is on the road to schism (that is separation) from the world-wide Anglican Communion. The issues are very straight-forward, and very serious for proponents of both sides of the battle. And the ramifications of the outcome are significant for all of its 77 million baptized members in the Communion since schism holds no neutrality; you are either in or out.

There is a reason that we were told as youngsters to not discuss religion and politics in polite company - both are contentious, and both are deep-rooted in our traditions, beliefs, and ideals. But adults need to have forum to discuss these matters particularly when the outcome of certain arguments can lead to new doctrine, which could have long term implications on critical pillars that are essential to the Church's very existence.

Because this is a commentary, be forewarned that I have a significantly strong, fact-based opinion about the matters concerning this debate. Where feelings are concerned, I expect that mine differ with many in my own Church, locally and on the national level. But I think, except for a small minority who are thriving - literally thriving - on their activism; this debate is painful and antagonistic. Most parishioners on both sides of the equation would rather that the whole thing just goes away. But even I must concede that the idea of agreeing to disagree cannot really apply to such fundamental questions.

There is no doubt that I'm going to offend someone by taking my stand. And I cannot apologize for this because my essay is a response to the insurgency that is undermining the fabric of our Church and its doctrine. While my Diocesan Bishops are doing their utmost to express their views and shape the debate to their side's advantage, I will do my part to present the contrary view - the traditional Christian, Bible-based view.

And while I accept that I am not moral enough or Holy enough or "good enough" to be a Bishop, Minister, or even a Deacon - I do expect that those holding those roles in a Church are; they are called up to uphold the moral values, beliefs and traditions that are expected of leaders of the Church and the Community - that they walk and live not by man's example, but by the Lord's example laid out so clearly in the Holy Scripture. I don't mean that Church leaders should be perfect people, but reasonable, rationale, moral people that have a sense for right and wrong. And by their efforts try to live a Godly and Holy life.

I make this distinction because I admit I am a terrible Christian. Between my poor attendance, lack of compassion, and all the other shortcomings I have, I don't beg to lead the debate on behalf of my side, or be set up as an authority on good and bad -- but at least, I understand who should be leading and who shouldn't be leading, and I recognize correct Biblical interpretation from false interpretation - which is really at the heart of Episcopal-Anglican debate.

Note that where applicable, I also present links, facts, and source material that are abundant on the world-wide web. I encourage Episcopalians to do as I have, which is to read everything that can be found on the matter before forming their opinion. And then share it openly with their fellow parishioners and friends.

My background, and up-bringing in connection with the Episcopal Church

Let me begin by stating that my family has been associated with the Episcopal Church dating as far back as it's origin in 1789 (my family attended St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and my descendants are buried there - they probably attended as Anglicans prior to conversion). I write this reference, not to make myself out to be some authority on the Church (I most certainly am not), but add to the enormous dimension of personal connection I have to the Church which makes the observation of turmoil in the Church and the spiraling movement toward separation from communion with the Anglican Church - all the more disappointing, and disheartening.

At present, I attend St. John's (Episcopal) Church in West Hartford, Connecticut. St. John's is a wonderful church of which I am happy to be a member (although this is probably not apparent by my mediocre attendance record). Members of the church will tell you that the St. John's is blessed financially and its members tend to come from healthy, well-to-do families and means which reflects the economical status of residents in trendy, upscale West Hartford. Although, the state of the membership in most suburban Episcopal Churches in Connecticut is probably by default, similar.

The Church that I grew up in was far more Anglican and far more conservative than most Episcopal Churches - as a rule. I was confirmed by Father Edward Patrick at Trinity Episcopal Church in Portland, Connecticut. Father Patrick was from England, and was well-regarded as a spiritual leader and he was beloved by all. To underline his sense of humor, I can distinctly remember a confirmation class, where after correcting an exam - he slowly and methodically tore them up and tossed them into into the flames of the roaring fireplace. In disgust, he got up, turned, and left without uttering a word. We all sad in silence contemplating the trouble we would be in with our parents having angered Father Patrick so. This was meant to be a lesson in applying ourselves and - wasting his time. Years later, we learned that he would do this with every confirmation class in order to light a "spark" under the students so they would give the material the attention and respect that it so deserved. Notwithstanding, his tough shell, "Father Pat" was an incredible person and a wonderful rector. To this day, no one has come close to his manner, ability, and compassion as a "real Rector".

I can remember, as a youngster, that the Church was jam-packed each Sunday. During spring services, the large choir would go around to the outside, and procession from through the tall oak doors, up the long way to the altar of the Church. In those days, Services were conducted with the utmost reverence with particular focus on Biblical teaching and scripture. I can still clearly see and hear the images from those days. In those days, you looked forward to Sunday - to the Prayers, the Eucharist, the Sermon, the Hymns, Church school, and to the fellowship of the coffee hour.

Sadly, after many years of service, and after having signaled his retirement from his duties, Father Patrick passed away. In a lot ways, when he died, he took traditional Anglicanism with him. For Trinity Church or perhaps the Episcopal Church in Connecticut was never the same without him.

During the period when Father Patrick was Rector, the most controversy I can recall was the fact that the parishioners were very upset over the replacement of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer with the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. The Bishop had ordered the removal of the old Prayer Book in favor of the new. The newer book combined the baptismal rite from three rites into one, rearrangement of the Lord's Prayer, adding liberal or so-called "inclusive language" changes (for example, removing the use of the word "men"), adding Eucharistic Contemporary Prayer selections, etc. A few parishes left the Episcopal Church over the changes, but most stayed because Rite I was not all together removed from use. Today many Churches use Rite I in the 8 a.m. Service.

Introduction to Rev. James E. Curry

Portland Trinity Church went through a very rough period with the Diocese of Hartford; the Diocese sent in a variety of rectors who didn't seem to work out for one reason or another, until they settled on Rev. James E. Curry, who served as Rector for about ten years. During his tenure, the attendance of the Trinity Church spiraled dramatically, and the parish fell into a sad state. Rev. Curry, being very liberal in his politics and approach, divided the church membership by ousting the long time organist, Mrs. Greenwood, and battling with prominent church families over church administrative matters and warden leadership. Even my family - which was not prominent in a sense that they never "helped run the Church", but they did attend since the time when my Grandfather moved to Portland in the 1930s; and under Curry's tenure had left the Church feeling that the state of disharmony was too painful to endure.

During my college years, I recall one meeting I had with Rev. Curry, he had made a sly comment that the Church rolls had been diminishing, and he said, "It seems I've lost most of your family too." In a lot of ways, I felt for Rev. Curry; it was not the point that he had really inherited the decline, but rather seemed to have either caused it, or perhaps - oversaw its decline. I distinctly remember him creating a hymn service where we would all sing hymns as requested by parishioners. There must have been no more than 20 people scattered about the church, he begged them to all come together to fill up the front rows. Sadly, I think that was the last time I had heard the hymn "Onward, Christian Soldiers" in an Episcopal Church. One of the greatest hymns of all time has been now deemed "too offensive to sing due to its militaristic overtones" by ECUSA officials. What a shame.

Rev. Curry and I met in 1991 while I was attending UConn to discuss an article that I read in the National Review Magazine entitled, "Are there Episcopalians in foxholes? What in Heaven's name is happening to the Episcopal Church?” Rev. Curry was quite willing to discuss my concerns about the Episcopal Church's move to the left, in particular - I wanted to take issue with the disturbing notion of the blessing of same sex marriages and gay activism in the Church. I think the basis for my discussion was to determine if the Church was "too liberal" for my own politics and concern for its present theological direction; was the Episcopal Church becoming involved in gay-activism? Curry didn't necessarily defend Rev. Spong, but he didn't take issue with his positions either. But he did affirm that I had nothing to be concerned about since then Bishop-Arthur Edward Walmsley had said that the Bishop has upheld the current Biblical position - which was that homosexuality was a sin, and the Bishop wasn't about to condone same-sex unions, etc.

Now I'm not sure why Rev. Curry said this. Either he believed it to be true at the time, or he was covering up for Bishop Walmsley. In deference to the fact that Curry has always been considered honest, I would have to believe that he chose his answer to simply avoid a theological debate on the matter. The fact is that Rt. Rev. Arthur Edward Walmsley is knee deep in supporting homosexual activism in the Episcopal Church; note this link that reports that Rt. Rev Walmsley is headed to Ottawa to lead a meeting on "Same Sex Blessings" on April 13-14 of 2007. So for whatever positions that Rev. Curry tried to imply, years later we find our old Bishop is off leading activism for the same sex crowd as Canada moves toward a vote on same sex blessings.

But, for me, to understand the politics and left-leaning agenda of now Bishop James Curry is to understand the politics of the Presiding Bishop of Connecticut, and the leadership of the Episcopal Church. This is not to say Bishop Curry isn't a pleasant man, he is. While he is remembered as "drab" at the church lectern, he is considered very good with administrative functions. And he is apparently very good at traveling around and supporting the Diocese Leadership's liberal agenda in keeping with the revised Episcopal Church's vision of moving toward a non-Bible based church, and drawing the Church into Schism.

Part of my concern with our own Connecticut Church leaders lies with the evidence of strong-arming by Bishop Andrew D. Smith, who threatened to remove six Episcopal rectors (now down to five) from their posts for opposing the election of V. Gene Robinson in New Hampshire. It's fairly remarkable that the Bishop would resort to such strong-armed tactics when it comes to dissent within the Church. In light of the fact, that supporting homosexuality is certainly not in keeping with Biblical teachings, its seems that Bishop Smith has chosen liberal politics and liberal activism over established Christian teaching; an odd position for any man of the cloth to take.

A sample incident written by William Witt where one of the "Connecticut Six" was assaulted by Bishop Smith illustrates the extent to which Bishop Smith is willing to push traditional Christian's out of the Church. It's a dismal crime perpetrated by the Bishop on one of his own churches in support of immorality. This activity by Bishop Smith has not gone uncontested and formal charges were filed against Bishop Smith in 2005. Churches from all over the world protested Bishop Smith gestapo-style tactics, including Rector Chuck Collins of San Antonio, Texas.

Smith has worked toward widening the schism by authorizing priests in October 2006 to bless same sex unions in the Church where he is quoted as saying that "'s time for the church, this diocese, to acknowledge and support our sisters and brothers who are gay and lesbian." The reaction to this created staunch opposition by the American Anglican Council, in a similar article on the same story, the AAC's Rev Canon David C. Anderson, stated, "[this action] is proof of his [Smith's] disregard for the larger Anglican Communion and further evidences his militancy with the homosexual gay agenda."

About V. Gene Robinson (alleged Bishop of New Hampshire)

The entire situation revolving around V. Gene Robinson seems to have created a firestorm that even the most liberal activists in the Church couldn't have foreseen. The response has created major divisions in the Episcopal Church - echoing anger within individual parishes, and dioceses, which is resonating nationally and internationally across the Anglican Church and its international communion.

On its own merit, Robinson's nomination seems to be a bizarre choice. Robinson seems to have had a long history of troubles and issues including alcoholism, divorce from a woman to seek a gay partner after fathering two children with his wife, "living in sin" with another man as well as other matters of concern. It seems that he was selected by those like him who are hell-bent on advocating open homosexuality to take a high position in the Church for the sole purpose of changing the Church's doctrine and accepted teachings.

It's clear that Robinson was quite keen on what he was trying to do from an activist standpoint. While he watched with glee as Episcopal parishes battled internally, and with each other over his controversial lifestyle as an openly gay man living "in sin" with his partner seeking to change the "culture" of the Church. A better man - a good man- one with a true Christian conscience would not have wished to see such negative harm come to an institution so important to so many. It's clear the Robinson's ambition (and his small hoard of activist supporters) firmly believe that their social agenda is profoundly more important than the very survival and harmony of the Church itself.

Robinson's assent and election to the role of Bishop was under very controversial circumstances. You can read the detail here but in short, allegedly the Bishop's website was linked to 5,000 pornographic images, and there was also an accusation that Robinson improperly touched a male parishioner on two occasions at a New England Conference. One way or another, after the parishioner "recused himself" from the matter (which I suppose neither serves to acquit Robinson nor condemn him), the Convention dismissed the charges and Robinson was elected by a narrow margin of 62 to 45.

Since his election, Robinson has continued to seek "assistance" for his personal issues and problems. Recently, he took at brief leave to address his alcohol problems as was reported in this February 14, 2006 Boston Globe piece. But this article is not about making judgments regarding Mr. Robinson's behavior or choices, as it is about larger question regarding the Episcopal Church and its teachings.

Biblical View of Homosexuals

My own view on whether or not homosexual behavior is by choice (sexual perversion) or by orientation is very much undetermined. I happen to interact with homosexuals on a daily basis (probably as many as 15 on average) - and generally speaking, they are friendly and courteous. And clearly, from my own observations, they are different. For the reader's edification, I want to be clear that I am not against gay people.

The scientific community has many arguments for and against orientation. The statistics regarding suicide, mental anxiety, and depression, "partner" break-ups (lack of monogamous relationships), are higher among homosexuals than of most social groups. There are also unfortunate parallel circumstances where many self-proclaimed homosexuals, as young persons, endured a period of abuse, rape, and other sexual mistreatment that may have led them to develop or "choose" this alternative lifestyle. There is plenty of documentation on the web and in medical journals to support these statements. Again, this is not the basis for my essay, but the reader should understand that I do not hate gay people, nor do I have dislike for them. The evidence presented in the links above indicate that there are social issues surrounding this phenomenon have not been adquately vetted.

The Holy Scripture clearly states that Homosexuality is a Sin, either directly or through parables. This fact is plain and simple and not subject to interpretation. No rational person would dispute this fact. They may refute the Bible as the "Word of God", or they may attempt to dismiss teachings in the Bible by drawing parallel or circular arguments to outdated cultural positions (such as the often misinterpreted "woman shall keep quiet in the Churches" (1 Corinthians 14:34, and a similar reference in 1 Timothy 2:11-13), etc.) but when it comes to human nature - the concept of man and woman go to the very nature of our existence beginning with the Garden of Eden.

Thus, if you believe that Scripture is the basis for church teaching, and therefore - the basis for the Church then you understand that homosexuality is incompatible with Scripture. Surely you can draw the reasonable conclusion that the consecration of Bishop Robinson (or any minister of God) is incompatible with Scripture.

The advocates of the activist attack on the Episcopal Church want you to forget these facts. They can't compete on the intellectual level, so instead a dishonest approach - they make the "social justice argument" or play the discrimination card. They completely disregard the basis for why the Church exists - its doctrines and Scripture - instead they see Church as merely a social organization, akin to a rich man's golf club that won't accept African American members. So their arguments are reduced to indirect Biblical references ("women keep quiet in the Church") or vague and unrelated parallels to 1930s black discrimination. Remember that the next time you read or hear them speak. Warm and fuzzy instead of Biblical or fact-based.

So there you have it. For the purposes of Church leadership, and moral teaching, homosexual activity and behavior, whether by orientation or choices is contradictory to the teachings of the Holy Scripture as stated in the Bible. And since the Bible is the basis for Church teachings, then its clear that homosexual leaders have no place in the Church - not just the Episcopal Church, but any Church of God.

An International Response

Most people and admittedly, even myself - expected that the matter of Bishop Robinson would have blown over by now, very much in the similar fashion to the Prayer Book scandal of the late 70s. But clearly this issue seems to have ruffled the feathers of more than simply a few older, high-brow members of the Church. In fact, it’s turned the entire Communion on its axis.

While the Anglican Communion is comprised of some 38 or so provinces, there are a variety of different splinter organizations that have been created as a result of the Robinson crisis. Organizations such as the American Anglican Council (ACC) have been set up to attempt to find a reasonable settlement to the entire matter based on the premise that the Anglican Communion should find some way to stay together. Unfortunately, the issues are running deeper than expected, with lawsuits filed all over the country between parishes and dioceses over property rights and funding (and in Connecticut), new mandates regarding Bishops and Diocese oversight, and pressures are mounting in the Church of England over the choice between morality and Biblical teaching, and money (the Anglican Communion it is said receives 30% of its operating revenue from the Episcopal Church alone). Smaller churches in Asia and Africa, which tend to be poorer, are reportedly the benefactors of these funds - so in essence, some of these Episcopal Churches are making a moral stand to support Biblical teaching and possibly do without the funding at the risk of disappearing!

If you are not familiar with the timeline of events regarding the entire crisis please click here, and as much as folks would like to think this all started with Robinson's ordination in November 2003, it didn't. The seeds of this conflict were planted by those seeking to promote their pro same-sex agenda as far back as 1976 (although goes back further with their timeline). But it is true that while that was mere kindling around a campfire, the real fire was not to really start until the envelope was pushed too far in 2003.

The response to the Robinson ordination was well thought out and planned by outraged Anglican leaders. Here is a basic timeline (with some modification by me I must give courtesy and credit to which may serve as a primer (I've taken the liberty of searching for and adding links with applicable text or stories so readers can dig further into the detail):

  • In July 2003 - preceding the Robinson consecration - a group of 60 Anglican leaders from across the globe declared that there would be consequences if Robinson was consecrated.

  • In October 2003 at the Lambeth Convention, the Primates of the Anglican Communion further warn that if the consecration precedes that the ramifications for the EPUSA could be serious, including the division of the Anglican Communion.

  • November 2003, disregarding concerns of the faithful and Anglican Leadership, Gene Robinson is consecrated as Bishop in New Hampshire.

  • In October 2004, a full year later after their warnings, and after much discussion, the Lambeth Commission distributes its "Windsor Report" reaffirming Lambeth Conference resolution 1.10 and the authority of Scripture as central to Anglican common life, and calls for moratoria on public rites of same-sex blessings as well as on the election and consent of any candidate to the episcopacy living in a same-sex union.

  • In February 2005, the Primates meet in Dromantine, Ireland, to collectively examine the Windsor Report and produce a Communiqué calling on ECUSA and Canada to "voluntarily withdraw" their representatives from the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) until Lambeth 2008.

  • In March 2005, ECUSA House of Bishops meeting at Camp Allen, Texas, and pledges to uphold all consecrations (including that of Gene Robinson).
    In June 2005, at the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Nottingham, England, ECUSA makes a presentation, "To Set Our Hope on Christ," defending what amounts to a new gospel that is wholly incompatible with Scripture, thereby justifying, rather than repenting of, their actions. (Canada also makes a similar presentation.) The ACC meeting also upholds Lambeth 1.10 teaching on human sexuality and endorses the Primates' request for ECUSA and Canada to withdraw their representatives from the ACC until the next Lambeth Conference.

  • In June 2006, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church meets in Columbus, Ohio. The GC response to the Windsor Report amounts to rejection and repudiation; elects heterodox Presiding Bishop that is fully committed to the revisionist path chosen by the Episcopal Church on issues of sex and morality. Eight dioceses request some form of alternative primatial relationship.

  • September 2006: The Global South Primates meeting at Kilgali, Rwanda, issue a communiqué that laments, "We deeply regret that, at its most recent General Convention, "... We are convinced that the time has now come to take initial steps towards the formation of what will be recognized as a separate ecclesiastical structure of the Anglican Communion in the USA."

  • October 2006: The Presiding Bishop's chancellor, David Beers, writes letters threatening legal action against the dioceses of Fort Worth and Quincy.

  • November 2006: In an escalating environment of threats and persecution, Bishop Schofield of San Juoquin, pulls no punches in his response to the new Presiding Bishop, saying, in part, "The Episcopal Church, as an institution, is walking a path of apostasy and those faithful to God's Word are forced to make painful choices."

  • December 2006: Nine Virginia congregations, including Truro and the Falls Church, vote to leave the Episcopal Church. Eight join CANA, the ninth accepting oversight from a global south primate. This brings the total number of congregations that have left the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia to 13, with another two having congregational votes coming up in January.

  • December 2006: In a letter to the Primates, the Archbishop of Canterbury explains his rationale for not withholding an invitation for the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church to the Primates Meeting scheduled for February 14-19 in Tanzania, saying "I am also proposing to invite two or three other contributors from that Province for a session to take place before the rest of our formal business, in which the situation may be reviewed, and I am currently consulting as to how this is best organized."

  • January 2007: Diocese of Virginia press release announces lawsuits against 11 of the 15 departing congregations, continuing the scorched earth policy against dissidents apparently being orchestrated by the national church's New York headquarters. Read guest editorial by Falls Church Sr. Warden, additional news stories here,

  • March 2007: Bishops Reject Primates' Ultimatum. The House of Bishops has declined to participate in a pastoral initiative designed by the primates to care for congregations and dioceses which for reasons of conscience cannot accept the Episcopal ministry of their bishop or primate. They also rejected a request to set up an alternative structure with separate Bishop oversight for the Churches with traditional Anglican theology. Also see the Archbishop of Canterbury's letter to the Southern Primates and the ACC dated March 5, 2007.

  • September 30, 2007 is the mandated deadline for Episcopal Church to reform itself or face possible separation from the Anglican Communion.

The question that everyone is asking is who has led this revolt in the Church and taken up gay activism? And why is it as critical as to be far more important than keeping a landmark American (since 1789) institution together as a unified group in confederation with the Anglican Communion?

The answer is simple. Liberal activism at this level has no shame. And it has no boundaries. In fact, the more damage you can inflict on a conservative, mainstream, or traditional organization such as a Church, then the larger the personal reward, and the greater the victory for the "cause".

You have a minority group of individuals who are subverting the Episcopal Church and changing it from that of a Bible-based Church with an emphasis on God and Scripture to that of a good works social club with an emphasis on liberal politics, and social engineering - and they have succeeded in creating another platform for themselves to spout their liberalism from - and moreover, they've done so with a new found authority - pretending the Lord as their mouthpiece!

So the truth is that little of this has to do with God's teaching, this is an opportunity for liberal activist groups to take over another institution and mangle its doctrines for their political agenda.

At this point, I want to reiterate that its not just the Africans who are taking issue with the Episcopal Churches current direction. Local Churches with Anglican ties such as The Church of the Holy Trinity in Marlbourough Massachussetts led by the Rev. Michael J. McKinnon have taken issue with the direction of the Episcopal Church as witnessed by his piece in in response to the Boston Globe's poorly written editorial "No change in Episcopalian teaching" dated February 8, 2007. Other Massachusetts' Churches have also voiced opposition and threatened to leave the Mass Diocese.

This underlines that the issue is not reverse-colonialism as suggested by some trying to direct blame toward the African Continent, but rather tangible and local outrage within the ECUSA - right here in the United States.

So why do I stay in the Episcopal Church? Why not just go to another Church and be done with it?

By any reasonable standard, I've laid the ground-work for leaving The Episcopal Church. I've made the case that for a traditional Christian like myself, which falling under Bishops' Smith and Curry and the Diocese of Connecticut doesn't make a lot of sense on its merit; they believe and seek one thing, and I uphold the truth - not my truth - but His truth. And moreover, the national direction of the ECUSA is shameful, outrageous, and disappointing. And actual Schism from the Anglican Communion is my biggest concern above all else.

I want to address this question from several angles. Hopefully, this will clarify a lot of things.

First of all, at a local level, my church - St. John's Episcopal Church in West Hartford is a good church. There is no outward agenda one way or another being preached from the lectern on Sundays. Having been a member since 1997, I know that the focus has been on Scripture and the music, readings, prayers and sermons are reverent and sometimes Bible-centered (generally not the strong stuff, but rather the soft take on Christ; (we know the rector's left of center politics by the bumper sticker on his vehicle - and he tends to keep those thoughts on his bumper where they belong). The rector and assistant rector are not activists and are happy to leave things as they are - nonconfrontational and noncontroversial. You come, you Worship, you drink coffee with the "Huffingtons" and chat politely about stocks with "Buffy", and you go home.

So, in short I am not upset with my own parish, nor does anything that happens there motivate me to a point of concern. The only thing is that I clearly understand that I am probably one of a handful of individuals that falls under the category of "traditionalist"; so it’s tough looking around and knowing that I'm pretty much alone. You can get a feel for the liberalism in the congregation by simply listening in at the Adult Forum. But all in all, the church is not likely to change because there is no legitimate reason for it to change.

Second, there are groups within the Anglican Communion that are fighting for conservatives and traditionalists to have a place in the Episcopal Church. These groups include The Primates, the American Anglican Council, Lambeth, and others who are devoted to God and trying to protect the ECUSA from itself. It's hard to abandon those working so hard to correct the church's broken moral compass. And I suppose there's always the hope that the Church might right itself before forcing its own separation from the Anglican Communion.

I know the signs on the roadway imply that schism is unavoidable - the recent arrogant decrees by the House of Bishops pretty much gave the finger to Canterbury and the Anglican Communion; whether this is "real" or just a temper tantrum by the ECUSA liberals will not be known until September 30th. But I think we owe it to the groups trying to keep the Communion together to talk and work together on the issue.

Third, as mentioned in earlier paragraphs, I have a long family history with the Episcopal Church. This in itself is a more personal issue with regard to maintaining my own family traditions in a similar fashion such as why I enjoy celebrating Christmas Eve with my family (while other celebrate solely on Christmas Day). So my feelings or thoughts on this cannot be expressed logically - it just is.

This leaves me with the quandary of internal debate over "family traditions" and "Anglican/Episcopal loyalties". I've always viewed that one of the pillars of the Episcopal Church is that it’s connected (not just remotely rooted) to the Anglican Church in England, the land of my ancestors. In fact, if you open the current version of the Book of Common Prayer, you will see written in the second to last paragraph in the Preface:

"...They will appear, and it is to be hoped, the reasons of them also, upon a comparison of this with the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England. In which it will also appear that this [Episcopal] Church is far from intending to depart from the Church of England in any essential point of doctrine, discipline, or worship; or further than local circumstances require."

Well, today it appears very much intending to depart on essential points of doctrine and discipline with The Church of England. The move by the activists in the Church as outlined in their most recent communication in March 2007, “...The meaning of the Preamble to the Constitution of The Episcopal Church is determined solely by the General Convention of The Episcopal Church.” This implies a clear shift from seeking accordance and agreement with the Anglican Communion, vis a vis The Church of England to a new independent authority, based solely on the whims and wishes of a few high ranking Episcopal Bishops. This seems a huge departure from the concept of a Communion. The connection to the Church of England no longer sought, and would no longer be legitimate, if schism occurs.

Since the ECUSA at this moment remains a part the Anglican Communion, there is no reason to leverage this argument in favor of my leaving today. This may change by the Fall of this year. Obviously, there is much to contemplate as developments continue to unfold.

Fourth, if I leave the local Church, then I will lose grounds for engaging directly in the debate with local Church leaders and parishioners. It's more effective to be able to say "we are going down the wrong path", and then it is to argue from the outside that "they" or "you are going down the wrong path". Moreover, the Diocese of Connecticut would love for all the traditionalists to pack their bags and leave so they could be one unified voice through and through on all things political, liturgical, and theological. The perfect utopia - no opposition! They would love to sit in their meetings, unopposed, nodding unanimously in agreement - completely assured of their correctness - amplified by full solidarity on every vote and word.

Lastly, there is the vague hope that if schism is about to occur or does occur that the Episcopal Church may in time recognize that they've gone too far. Even though the rhetoric out of the House of Bishops is inflammatory and screaming for separation at this stage, this isn't to say that recently dismissed concept of alternative oversight (which by the way may be the cleanest way to solve the problems in the interim) could be resurrected at some point. Now, my church - St. John's wouldn't join the new Episcopal Church or fall under alternative oversight, but it might be enough for some parishioners to feel a connection to the Anglican Communion through the relationship that could bridge the Anglican Communion and the new and old Episcopal Churches. I'm sure somewhere a hardcore liberal is laughing at this notion, but not much of this is funny to those looking at the financial books of the ECUSA - where they are seeing themselves nearly 4-million dollars in debt.

Although as a point, I don't blame or condemn traditional Christians who have already decided upon leaving the Church. For many, Church is where they recharge for the week, and it's often a sanctuary for peaceful prayer and reflection, and Christian reassurance through fellowship with follow Christians. So, going to a place where there can be so much conflict and disharmony can probably be deflating and counter-productive for some.

And when you see the Episcopal Church attempt to put an 86-year old man on trial, retired Bishop or not, for ministering outside of a jurisdiction, you can see why people would become so angry at the lunatics running the TEC, and want to leave. It's a little more than unnverving.

So as the countdown to September 30th continues, true Anglicans should do the following:

1. Monitor all communications and transcripts published by their local Diocese, the American Anglican Council (ACC) (note the AAC has a free weekly email newsletter than can be subscribed to here),, the Anglican Communion, ECUSA, Church of England, and the Church of Nigeria.

2. Find out where you Parish stands by attending church meetings, reading your Parish newsletter, and speaking with your Wardens. In a similiar fashion, determine where your Diocese stands.

3. If your Diocese or Parish are in league with the ECUSA positions and agenda, seek out information regarding alternative oversight in your Episcopal juridiction, if it exists. Please note that I'm not calling on you to abandon your Parish, but educate yourself about local and state organizations that are sympathetic to keeping the Anglican Communion whole and ending the ECUSA pro-gay, pro-gay positions. Whether you decide to stay in your Parish or go to another, or leave the Episcopal Church a decision that only you and your family can make.

4. If you feel strong enough about the matter, write your Rector a letter explaining your thoughts on the matter. Or write the Bishop and Diocese. Chances are that your complaints will fall on deaf ears, but you might feel better about it.

5. If you want to engage directly in the debate then write an editorial for your local newspaper to print. Of course, understand that if you do this, everyone in the Church will understand your position. So be prepared to take some heat about, including more than a few cross-eyed looks during Service.

6. Seek information on other Anglican Churches in your area. Over the years, there are several Anglican Churches that have split from the Episcopal Church for a number of reasons, including Episcopal Doctrine, or the crisis over the Prayer Book in the late 70s. Some alternative Anglican Churches can be found here. And there are a large number of these Anglican Churches can also be found on this page (I was actually surprised to see so many groups that want nothing to do with the Episcopal Church but still want to maintain "Anglicanism").

7. Pray for the Episcopal Church. That its leadership sees the light and reverses its ongoing trend into darkness. These folks may be well meaning, but they are doing the Devil's work.

Thanks for reading. And have a Happy Easter!