Thursday, March 27, 2008


I once knew a man, friend of my fathers', who used to say "I like nice things". He was a very successful businessman with a history of, shall we say brutal successes. One was considered luck if, having done a deal with him, one survived with the skin on his back - because the shirt was gone for sure. That combined with an almost shark like sense for businesses that were bleeding and weak - ripe for the kill, so to speak.. His explanation of his success was always simply "I like nice things". That was it. He liked nice things, and he was willing to do whatever it took to get them and keep them. That said he was very kind and generous to my father, and I will always be grateful for that.

Now here we are, as a culture, doing whatever it takes to get and keep "Nice Things". In itself, that isn't bad, of course. I like nice things too. The problem occurs when the acquisition of those nice things involves giving up too many other, important things. Like home and family.

I plead guilty here. I work way too much, and so does my wife. But for some reason, I don't have much in the way of "nice things" to show for it. I have a decent house in a decent neighborhood - no McMansion for sure. I drive a ten year old used minivan, and thank God for it, because there's no way I could afford to replace it! I look at our income, and am amazed at how it seems to evaporate. Sometimes I just want to throw up my hands and say to hell with it all, pack the kids up in the van and just roll. To Montana or somewhere. I know that's not realistic, but DAMN. I just can't seem to see the way out. Perhaps there isn't one. Just keep my head down and keep paying off debts and wait to get out of the tunnel. I just hope I make it out of the tunnel in this lifetime!

How Stands the Empire???

SO WENT the last words of the late King George V. Or so the (apocryphal) story goes.

The question nowadays is more along the lines of "How Stands the Western World?". Well, for those of us who care, and are observant and not entranced and numbed by the indescribably vapid pop culture around us, the answer is obvious - it sucks. We live in a world where of people lead empty hedonistic self destructive lives. Examples are everywhere, form non-existent birth rates to drunken louts running amok to the worst offense of all - indifference. Indifference at the same time the culture is being overgrown by external forces hostile to the past 500 years of western heritage - here is a column from today about that very thing.

Well, fortunately, not everyone in a position of power is oblivious to what is happening. The Throne of Peter is currently occupied by one who not only sees what is going on, but who is so intellectually powerful that he has a plan to try to stop the bleeding - and re-win the battle. This aside from the fact that he has the Holy Spirit on his side - as well as at his side! Pope Benedict is a man on a mission. Not only that he is a man with a plan. Bit by bit we can see it being played out. And it is beautiful!

Today, browsing my usual blogs, I came across this post by my friend the Catholic Knight. Obviously he is onto the same thing. His Holiness sees a problem and he means to address it! A year ago, I had the feeling (as did many) that he was intending to derestrict the old mass the try to save keep the church from flying apart due to the lack of discipline and teaching and the liturgical free for all that had developed. Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi. Now it is apparent that that was only a small small part of the plan.

Then, thanks to a "google alert", I got a link to this article which is saying some of the same things. Yes I know that it's from the followers of the late Herbert W. Armstrong, and I am in no way endorsing that, but that doesn't exclude it from being insightful and correct - albeit from a different perspective.

So, bit by bit the lines are being drawn. And the people are deciding on one side or the other. It's still somewhat at an embyonic stage - actually more of a 12-week fetal stage - but it is happening. Get ready, folks. It's gonna take a while, and it's gonna get rough.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


I rarely blog about work, but today I'm pretty much maxed out. All In, as they say. Not that it doesn't come with the territory. Everyone in the surveying (or engineering) business deals with challenges - it's what we do. But sometimes the challenge is just so damn vexing and so annoying that it makes me want to pull my hair out.

The project I have opened in AutoCAD right now is one of those. Retracing two adjacent properties between which there is 10-15 feet of discrepancy. Along with the 16-20 foot discrepancies between "my" properties and the adjoining lots. Combined with (of course!!!) ambiguous deeds and plats, a road that has moved (without paper trail), and a deadline. Oh, and I am ALREADY over budget and behind schedule.



I eventually got the whole thing worked out, and produced a beautiful map for the client. As a result, he is planning on using our firm to do his site design and engineering work after he buys the property. So, in this case the pain in the arse yielded a feather in the cap!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Red Phone and The Scream

Four years ago, the Democratic Party seemed to have a nominee for the Presidency. He was intelligent, attractive, well-spoken, and experienced. He was the hand's down favorite of the core of the party. He was ahead in the polls going into the Iowa Caucuses. He had basically invented the idea of internet fund raising. And in retrospect he was the by-a-long-shot best candidate the party had to offer. Might even have made a damn good president. His name was Howard Dean.

Unfortunately, following a somewhat disappointing Iowa finish, he gave a concession speech which demolished his chances of winning. That because it ended with the famous red-faced manic scream - thereafter known as "The Dean Scream".

The reason it killed his campaign was simple (remember you saw it here first). As usual, the average man or woman picked up on it, while the elites in the press and politics were clueless. That thing known as common sense still exists out there. Just because the "political insiders" have scornfully sworn it off doesn't mean it has ceased to exist. Most common folk are immediately aware of the Emperor's lack of clothes.

Somewhere in the back of the minds of those common folk, they remember the football. They are aware, consciously or not, that the President of the United States is the man they are trusting to have his finger on "the button". And after seen the "Dean Scream" these common folk were not about to put anyone who appeared that unstable in charge of that awesome (and awful) responsibility.

Fast forward to 2008, and we find that Hillary Clinton, the poser of posers, has decided to play on those same instincts to try and derail the Obama Express. She has been running an ad (now famous) depicting her answering the phone in the White House at 3AM... The ad appears to be working to a limited extent, based on polling data anyway. We shall see the final results tonight! BUT the ad itself opens up a can of worms come November, where John McCain's astonishing experience make either Hillary or Obama look absolutely and hopelessly unprepared by comparison. He won't need to make a big deal out of it, or brag about it. His very existence carries with it the knowledge of his background and amazing story. Not just of his POW years, but since then both in the Navy and the senate. Yes, he's older, but old or not he is one tough son of a bitch. As the months wear on and November gets closer, people will start to think - really think - about that 3AM phone call, and I bet they'll like the thought of John McCain answering that phone a lot more than Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

What the Church can (and should) Learn from Mickey D's

Prior to the 1950's, when traveling across these United States, there was no way of predicting the quality and level of service for food or accomodations. At the same time, innovators like Kemmons Wilson and Ray Croc founders of Holiday Inn and McDonalds respectively, built huge empires based on the simple principle of consistency of service and product.

The concept was simple. People had really just begun traveling by automobile all over the country around that time, and Croc, for example knew that those people wanted to know that no matter where they went, when the walked in to a McDonald's, the burger and fries would be exactly the same as the ones they would get at any other McDonalds, any where. Similarly, Wilson knew that people looking for a place to lay their heads in a strange town wanted to know that the facility would be just the same any where.

These men were right. They became wildly successful as a result. And their methodology has been copied successfully over and over. That is because the fundamental principle is dead-on right. People want, or better yet NEED, to know that they can count on things.

Once upon a time, the Catholic Church was that way, too. One could walk into a Sunday Mass anywhere in the world, and know with very reasonable certainty what they would see and experience. Whether it was Seoul Korea or Seattle Washington, Warsaw, Poland or Wausau, Wisconsin - the mass was the same. This fact provided comfort to millions over the years. The Mass was The Mass.

Now, however, in our "enlightened" post Vatican II world, the mass in not only never, ever the same, it is often doubtful if it qualifies as a Mass at all! Priests feel "empowered" to change the words, the rubrics, even the theology according to their own personal whims. The result is that even in a modest sized city, one can find masses ranging from wide open Liberal Kumbaya-fests to pretty orthodox, by the book Novus Ordo celebrations. Here in my home City of Greensboro, NC we range from pretty much by-the-book Masses (two parishes), pretty good but some clapping and hand-holding (one parish), to no kneeling wide open Jesus Loves Me Can't We all Get Along Roman Protestantism.

Even architecturally, the Church is a mish-mash at best. Again in my city we have two older churches, one with the still awesome High Altar, the other much plainer and smaller, but still with the altar rail (but sadly the High Altar is history). Then there is one that is newer, but still looks like a church (albeit a Southern Baptist one). Then there is the other which is "in the round" with the most awful 1970's "mod" design. Looks like a standing rib roast on the outside, FWIW.

I think that it is no accident that the liturgical practices at the churches more or less mimic their appearance. But that is a subject for another post.

The whole thing is so so sad. A Catholic should be able to go to mass anywhere and know what to expect and how to behave. A Church should feel like a church, the Priest should act like a priest, and the doctrine should be strictly by-the-book doctrine. If you are Catholic, be Catholic. If you don't want to be, don't be, but don't expect all of the others who DO want to be to change because you like to feel like they need to be inclusive or sensitive or "in touch" or "speak to your needs" or what the hell ever. That's why there are protestant churches. Shop around, find one that "fits" you. No hard feelings, they're good people too.

The point is, that if you don't stand up and provide a stable, proven product, that offers your "customers" something that they can believe in, then you are doomed to extinction. For this reason, without a doubt, Rome needs to issue forthwith a strict set of rubrics and standards to be used world wide, without exception, if a Bishop or Priest doesn't like that, they MUST BE shown the door. A ship can have may may engineers, boilermen, cooks, etc. but it can only have ONE navigator if its to ever get anywhere. And this particular ship is hauling a lot of souls to heaven. It would be the ultimate shame if they were to wind up instead at a ... less desirable destination.