Monthly Archives: April 2009

April Baseball in Norfolk…Thank God for Global Warming

April is at long last over.  Though officially spring, the weather in Norfolk or the Hampton Roads area is often miserable.  It can and usually is cold, rainy and windy.  Low temps often are in the 40s and sometimes early in the month in the 30s.  While this is pretty pathetic compared to the Great Plains, Great Lakes and Northeast where winter doesn’t really end until like June, it is still a pain in the ass.  Especially if you are a member of the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish.  Since I am a member of said parish the weather here in April hath great interest for me.  I think it was our first season here, I don’t refer to them as years, they are indeed seasons, that we went to our first home opener at Harbor Park.  To be succinct we were totally unprepared for the climatological experience having just come up from Jacksonville Florida.  In other words on the 3rd of April or whatever it was, we froze our asses off.

I really can’t remember if it was the 2004 or 2005 home opener the weather was quite sporty and very cold.  The temperature at game time was 38 degrees.  There was a wind coming out of Center Field blowing into our face at a steady 25-30 mph with gusts to 45.  You can figure the wind chill yourself, but to say the least it was cold as hell behind the plate at Harbor Park.   Now we came prepared.  We had heavy jackets, long  johns and layered clothing.  Yet we were still cold as hell.  I ended up spending a bunch of money on a Norfolk Tides blanket to go over us, instead of beer we were mainlining coffee and hot cocoa to try to stay warm.  Despite all that we did to keep warm we were driven from the park by the 7th inning stretch.  I’m sure that the ever patient Judy would have wished to depart a fair amount sooner, but there is something almost unholy and heretical to me about leaving a game early.  It’s like doing the “down and out” after Eucharist at church.  Catholics understand this, the people receive communion and continue walking out the door without waiting for the closing prayer and benediction.  However, in this case, in order to keep warm I finally gave in and took Judy home.  Weather of this kind has not been a singular experience in our stay here.  I have spent a fair amount of money on jackets, blankets and sweatshirts at Harbor Park as well as a few other stadiums just to stay warm.  Time and time again in April we have frozen our asses off watching ball games.  I have talked with the Deity Herself about this but She has basically told me to “Suck it up” as it “builds character.”  Since I have been labeled a character by some I guess that Her plan for me is working.

This year has been a mix of weather.  We have had a couple of very nice nights for baseball.  In fact I worn a t-shirt, cargo shorts and Birkenstocks on Tuesday night.  Last night we were back to cold weather with a lot of wind. It was cold enough for me to leave my seat and try to stay warm.  After making a deposit of my rental beer (one can never really buy beer) I went to get a to get a charcoal grilled King-Twist pretzel.  I made sure that I stayed up at the warm fire produced by the charcoal at the pretzel stand as long as I could while eating my cinnamon sugar pretzel.  After finishing this I took my second rented beer, a Gordon Biersch Marzen, and hung out with Chip, the usher for section 202.  Chip is a retired Navy Chief who served in submarines.  Over the past few years we have gotten to know each other.  He’s a great guy. After a nice conversation with Chip I moved down the stairs  to hang out with Elliott, the usher for my section 102 on the walk separating the 100 level from the 200 level. This is Elliott’s first year as an usher and he knows his baseball as does Chip. It is fun just to talk about life, baseball and faith with these guys.

So Elliott and I leaned up against the rail and talked about the game, life and family as I drank my rented beer.  One of the cool things about being a season ticket holder is that the park becomes like a comfortable pub where you relax and enjoy life with people who love the game.  For me this is pretty cool.  No matter how tough a day I might have, the calm brought about by the simple view of the diamond settles and centers me.

While hanging out with Elliott I was able to grab a foul ball which had come straight back and bounced off the press box into my my hands.  This was the second ball in two days that I had picked up.  The first was the night before when I outran a couple of drunks for a foul ball that had come back over the grandstand as I walked to my car.  Having kept that ball I gave it to the only kid left in my section of the stadium.  This was a hearty lad not more than four years old sitting with his equally hearty family.  Mom expressed her gratitude, the lad said thank you and it made me look like a nice guy and I still got to keep a ball.  Actually, the times a Harbor Park I have got a foul ball I have given it to a kid. This is not because I am a nice guy.  The truth is that I am like an evangelist for the Church of Baseball.  I remember what it was like to get my first baseball at Anaheim Stadium when I got one from Angels outfielder Billy Cowan.  I want to ensure that these young people join the one true church and not one of the apostate sects like football or basketball. As I said previous night I had picked up a ball that came over the grandstand while heading to the parking lot.  Since I was the only kid out there I figured that it was mine, the drunks behind me who were stumbling to try to catch me would have to fend for themselves.

As it were the weather stayed cold and windy.  I finally looked at Elliott and said “Thank God for Global Warming or we would really be freezing our asses off.”  Elliott laughed and said that he would have to remember that one and use it.  Chip also agreed. In April and early May I do have to thank the Deity Herself for global warning.  Come July and August I will be arguing with her that She needs to cool things down and She as usual will tell me to stop complaining and enjoy the game at the Harbor Park Parish of the Church of Baseball.

Peace, Steve+

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How Pro-Life People Make Themselves Look Like Idiots

Note: This post will likely cause me grief but it has to be said. To preface this I am pro-life and anti-abortion. I fully support my Church’s stand on abortion. At the same time I am becoming more and more appalled by the less than informed, often illogical and many times  uncharitable comments made by those who claim to be pro-life on subjects other than abortion that they no little or nothing about. This post may come across as harsh but I mean it that way with no apology.

Recently I have seen some conversations and blogs by “pro-life” individuals lately that make me shake my head in bewilderment.  I am beginning to wonder if some people in the “pro-life” movement have lost all sense of reality.  I also am beginning to wonder if pro-life people are becoming the greatest threat to the pro-life movement.

What I saw today was a conversation by some in the pro-life movement about government’s efforts to ensure that the Swine Flu does not reach epidemic or pandemic status.  What I saw was to put it mildly, idiotic, unethical and un-Christian.  In fact I would view it as an argument that as a minimum seriously calls into question the judgment of these people.  At worst such actions and statements make me seriously if they are truly “pro-life” at all, and not just simply anti-abortion and the hell with everything else concerning life, especially if it deals with already living and breathing people.

The basic argument of these people, who I assume are well meaning, is that they object and find unreasonable government efforts to respond to the Swine Flu outbreak.  They called this into question because the “government supports abortion which kills millions of pre-born babies every year.”   Another commentator,  who obviously knows nothing about influenza or other infectious diseases, made very uninformed comments about the Spanish Flu of 1918-1919.  This idiot attempted to minimize it talking about the fact that medicine has advanced and there is better sanitation. Others were spouting inane comments like “woord!” I have to assume this is something like the Marine “oorah!”

Unfortunately there is a severe moral and ethical disconnect in the argument.  The problem with this whole line of reasoning says that we will fight like hell for the unborn but the hell with the “Post-born” simply because we are angry at the governments policy against the unborn.  Sorry, if you are truly pro-life they all count the same. Just because the “pro-life” movement has fixated on abortion doesn’t mean that people who are already born don’t count.  In this line of reasoning the unfortunate “Post-born” who have the misfortune of contracting the disease, well, their lives don’t matter.  Screw them because we disagree with government policy on abortion.  The claim by some that the government is  hypocritical because it puts money into trying to stop what history has show to be a really really nasty disease.   Remember H1N1 in 1918-1919 alone killed 50-100 million people worldwide. Admittedly, this was in a time when medical care for such problems was much less capable than current medical technology.  At the same time what took weeks or months to get around the world happens in hours. This  gives governments and other responders no room for error.  Likewise the population of the United States is about double what it was back then and unlike the 1918 we are a more urban and closely packed society. We are utterly dependent on interconnected transportation and logistics networks to maintain the supply of food, medicine and other essentials. These are delivered as they are needed versus stockpiled. A pandemic would seriously disrupt this network and cause chaos.  You think that the economy sucks now, it will be sucking like a Hoover if this happens.

Swine Flu or H1N1 targets young healthy people, the age 20-40 crowd. The writers of these posts will have great fun if this becomes and epidemic or pandemic.  I am sure that most of them are Flu Virgins.  In other words they won’t have the anti-bodies to fight this off if they get it.  This will really suck.  They get to die if this gets really bad, or best they will suffer greatly.  Over half the fatalities in 1918 were in this age group.  Just wait until decisions have to be made about who gets treatment and who dies in a pandemic.  You can bet that most if not all of these people will advocate for themselves and their families at the expense of others that they deem unworthy of life. It’s easy to be pro-life when your life isn’t the one in the balance.

So with this being the case, the logical person has to assume that these folks are not genuinely pro-life, but rather simply anti-abortion.  Unfortunately I am cursed with being a logical, rational and analytical I cannot limit my pro-life beliefs to simply protecting the pre-born.  That is a worthy mission but we also have to stand up for the right to life of the “post-born” too.

Conversations and arguments of the nature presented by the people I read today makes pro-lifers look heartless, cruel and hypercritical.  By making these comments they subvert their own efforts to protect the lives of the unborn.   The idiocy of these people’s conversation was absolutely mind numbing.  I almost wonder if the verse out of Romans can be applied to these folks.  “Claiming to be wise they became fools…”   Of course I applied that verse out of context, but no less so than I have seen others in the “pro-life” movement do.

I’m not going to re-hash last night’s post here, no will I go deeper in the weeds on the subject.  If people are actually interested in the Swine Flu they can read John Barry’s The Great Influenza” Alfred Crosby’s America’s Forgotten Pandemic and Pete Davies’ The Devil’s Flu. Additionally they can go and visit the evil government Centers for Disease Control at or the really super evil UN sponsored World Health Orgnaization at  Unfortunately I fear that my words will fall on stoney ground. People who think this way haven’t a logical cell in their brain.

My point is that people who claim to be “pro-life” cannot allow themselves to submerge themselves into stupidity by making comments that are really anti-life. If followed to their logical conclusion the inane ideas spouted by these knuckleheads would allow millions of people to die in the event of a Swine Flu or Avian Flu pandemic.  If an unborn baby’s life is worth going to jail for in a protest, what is the value of the already born?  Oh wait according to the logic applied by the people that I saw today, absolutely nothing.  To protect the unborn they have become “anti-life.” That’s just sad.

This is painful to watch.  What ever happened to any theological, philosophical, ethical or personal reflection on the value of life?  What ever happened to the “pro-life” movement?

Peace,  Steve+


Filed under healthcare, Political Commentary, Religion

Don’t Mess With the Pig- The Swine Flu is no Joking Matter

I am not an alarmist by any means.  I am a realist and a historian.  If we know anything from human history there have been great plagues as well as epidemics and pandemics of various types.  Our world is rich in life and beauty but it is also full of really really nasty diseases that on occasion get loose and act really really bad.   Influenza, which normally kills about 30-40,000 people annually in the United States is one of those ugly nasty diseases.    Even mild cases can make you want to die and this is the easy stuff.  I’m not smart enough to make a prediction that the Swine Flu will be the next big pandemic, but it has potential and that potential needs to be addressed to ensure the safety of everyone, even lawyers.

The Avian and Swine variations of the flu are like normal flu on steroids.  They kill if they are not contained quickly.  The last scare we had with the Swine flu was back in the 1970s.  I remember getting the vaccine for it.  Hopefully those anti-bodies as well as all the ones from every other flu bug that I have been vaccinated for or exposed to will keep me safe with good preventive measures. That bug was contained and it did not become an epidemic.  Because it didn’t the pharmaceutical companies that produced the vaccine were beaten down.  A small minority of people had side effects from the vaccine.  The pharmaceutical companies, for all their faults, got hosed on this.  They had their asses sued off and were not protected.  Maybe we should pray, like Henry IV that if this Flu becomes a pandemic that it kills all the lawyers first.  People, especially we Americans then developed the attitude that this is not a threat.  This attitude could cost us big if we are slow to react.

The fact is there will be another epidemic or pandemic.  The really big one was the Great Influenza or the “Spanish Flu of 1918-1919.  This was nasty a virulent strain of Influenza A subtype H1N1, the same subtype as the current Swine Flu. It killed people by the millions worldwide, most of whom were the young and able bodied.  Thousands of US Soldiers in France and Stateside Camps got sick and died with the first outbreak in the US coming at Ft Riley Kansas.  Back then there was no mechanical ventilation nor antibiotics. So if you were blue from lack of oxygen you were put in the “you’re going to die line.”  Back then the mortality was about 2.5-5% with anywhere from current estimates 50-100 million deaths world wide.  In the United States it is estimated that 28% of the population was effected with between 500,000 and 675,000 fatalities.    More than half the fatalities were in 20-40 age group.These were the “Flu virgins.”  Regular Flu kills the elderly and young children, this Flu was different, it ate up the young and otherwise healthy people with no immunity.

With supportive care in the United States and other first world countries that will be significantly lower but still catastrophic.  Estimates range to 2 million dead in the United States alone.  Because we are a much more fluid society in the event of a real pandemic the government will have to take draconian measures.  These will have to ensure that public safety limiting movement, deciding who gets vaccines first and who gets treated the most acutely with the coresponding reality that in a pandemic there will be people for whom the best you can do is palliative care. This will offend sensitivities of religious people, good hearted “secular” humanitarians as well as various political factions.  Civil Libertarians will be outraged.  Media goons and talk show hosts will rant against the government.  Conspiracy theorists will come out in droves.  Unfortunately if this outbreak becomes a epidemic or even a pandemic drastic actions may be required until the emergency passes.   Marital Law may be an option.  I’m not a big fan but if this gets really ugly it may have to happen.

I am an ICU chaplain.  Really bad Pneumonia’s are a pain in the ass to treat for Intensivists and quite often exacerbate or cause cause problems in other organ systems.  This flu and the Avian flu produce pneumonia’s in spades both viral and bacterial. In the Spanish Influenza it was the bacterial pneumonia’s that killed the most people.  Through in ARDS, pulmonary edema and hemorrhages in the lungs.   If you have ever been in an intensive care unit and seen a young person on a vent battling a pneumonia and barely hanging on to life then grab your seat.  Lot’s of young people will die.  Likewise there will not be enough ICU beds and ventilators to go around should this reach the pandemic stage.  Resources will be short and physicians and government officials will have only bad and worse choices.  Those in the front lines of the battle, young physicians, nurses and technicians will be among the casualties.

I am not privy to any plans of the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense or CDC.   However, I am graduate of the USMC Command and Staff College.  I am sure that both departments have been preparing for such case since the Avian flu started showing up in the 1990s, as well as the threat of terrorists using biological weapons post 9-11.  Unfortunately there are some who would see what these agencies are doing to plan for a worst case scenario as some diabolical plot, a conspiracy theory to make the government more powerful.  If fact there are some of the Keepers Of Odd Knowledge that are alleging a government plot to engineer such a virus.   I have seen this from both left and right wing bloggers and I’m sure that their message will get out and cause people to act stupidly and jeopardize public health.  In other words, they will damn everyone else, and do what I want even if it means that they spread a virus that will kill those around them.  Sorry this is selfish, irresponsible and just plain idiotic.  Prudence is the watchword.

On my way to the ball park I heard a radio talk show host talking about the “Napolitano Flu.”  He was taking a shot at the Secretary of Homeland Security.  Unfortunately for the millions of listeners this man and others like him will not take the threat seriously.  I’m not going to say that there will be a pandemic with this outbreak.  However, a pandemic is bound to happen and when, not if,  it happens the blood of these people’s listeners will be on their hands.  Ignorance and idiocy in encouraging stupidity is not a virtue even if you have valid criticisms of the way the government is handling the situation.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on this.  I hope it goes away.  I don’t want any of this to happen.  Anyone with half a brain doesn’t want it to happen. However it will someday and maybe even with this strain.  God I hope not.

Peace, Steve+


Filed under healthcare, History, Military, Political Commentary

Let Lying Dogs Sleep


Frieda glaring and sulking after surgery to remove a tumor on her tail at the age of 10. We sometimes refer to this picture as “The Ass in a Sling.”

The term “Little Shit” in reference to  a Wiener Dog is one which may offend some people who have not been owned by one.  However as a descriptive term there is little better to describe them.  Those of us owned by them who struggle against them also mean it as a term of endearment.  Using the term in this post I mean no offense to the unenlightened, yet as we who know and love them understand deep in our hearts, that these little shits are to be treasured each in their own way.

Wiener Dogs, sometimes known as Dachshunds are among the most peculiar animals. Almost anyone who has been owned by one can tell you stories of how these little shits manage to do things that, well….to put it mildly convince you of the existence of purgatory.  They will make your life Purgatory for the 12-16 years or more that they will own you.  Sorry Protestants who don’t believe, if you aren’t owned by one here there will be one in Purgatory.  She is a Wire Hair named Frieda to run your life until you get straightened out enough to get to heaven.  After all, Purgatory is, like my home of record, West Virginia, Almost Heaven.

Judy and I have had these little wonders for oh… the last 25 years or so.   We have grown attached to them, much as hostages attach to their terrorist captors in the Stockholm Syndrome. We are convinced John, no I’m not having fun Calvin had a Wiener Dog.  Probably a Wire Hair, although I don’t think that the Wire Hair was around quite by JC’s time.  I do think that they came later.  However, that being said and despite the influence of Augustine’s understanding of predestination, Calvin had to have one of these little shits to come up with the doctrine of  Total Depravity. There is no question in my Anglo-Catholic mind of this fact. Likewise,  I’m sure that the Deity Herself will confirm this someday. Maybe John Calvin himself will thank me for bringing this up as we warm up on heaven’s lush green outfield.

For those of you who don’t believe, all you need to do is look at the first chapter of the orginal edition of Jame’s Dobson’s book The Strong Willed Child. Even Dobson cannot escape a power fight with his Wiener Dog named Max.

For us we had Frieda, a beautiful classic Wire Hair Dackel (what the Germans call them) from deep in Bayern (Bavaria). Frieda  took ownership of us on Christmas Eve 1984.  We also had Greta, a fat little red Dachshund from San Antonio who we got in 1988. Finally we have our current little shit and mischlinge (mixed) Long Hair Dachshund-Papillon and defender of the realm, Molly, in 2001.    We lost Frieda at the age of 16 1/2 in 2001. Greta at 15 1/2 in 2003.  Molly still acts like a puppy at 8.  Molly though a mixed breed flips from being the happy and obedient papillon to the obnoxious and stubborn Wiener Dog in nothing flat.  There is no in between setting for her, she goes from the good side of the Force to the Dark side at a moment’s notice.  Sometimes I think that she is channeling Frieda when this happens. Though they never met, they are somewhat kindred spirits.  Molly is not nearly as extreme as Frieda and  we can thank heaven for that. As it were we spent 16 plus years in a constant power fight with Frieda. Despite being a  little shit, Frieda weighed in at 28 pounds and had teeth and jaws like a German Shepherd.  Patently the little shits in Germany are bred to hunt badgers and foxes.  They are incredibly strong and have an attitude just this side of a Klingon in a bad mood.  Most dogs, once you have established dominance as the “Alpha Dog” in your little pack accept their place.  Not Wiener Dogs, especially Frieda. She spent 16 years trying to force us into doing what she wanted be it through passive or aggressive means.  If you have ever seen the Peter Sellers movie The Pink Panther Strikes Again where Inspector Cleauseau visits Oktoberfest and gets a room at a small hotel, you will see what I am referring to here. The good inspector sees a dog laying on the floor near the front desk. He asks the desk clerk if his dog bites.  The clerk replies no and Cleauseau reaches to pet the dog who attacks him.  Cleauseau tells the desk clerk “I thought you said your dog did not bite.” To which the clerk replied; “that’s not my dog.”  The dog is a Wire Hair, who looks just like Frieda in her early years. This was our life for 16 years.

Going back to the subject line of this post, it is more about Frieda than the other two. Although both Greta, as we affectionately called her Poo had her moments, and Molly like I said sometimes channels Frieda.  Frieda was unique. From what I hear from others owned by Wire Hairs that some of what she did are common to all of these miscreant creatures.  I can’t go into too many details and like John the Evangelist I would have to say that there are many more things that Frieda did which cannot be contained in this one blog.

Among other things, Frieda was a liar.  This began early when as a puppy in Germany she would try to fake Judy out about taking a pee.  She knew that if she went outside that she would be rewarded.  Rapidly catching on the little shit began to do “touch and goes’  faking the pee and hoping to still get a reward.  Judy noticed this and thus began an intricate dance of death with the little shit attempting to fool us, and us trying to catch her.  This usually involved looking to make sure that there was wetness where wetness should be on a female dog after they urinate.   If there was no wetness Frieda would not get her reward.  Likewise, Frieda lied about other things.  When she did something that she shouldn’t and you discovered it she could act more innocent than a Nazi at the Nurnberg Trials.  “What? Me? Do something wrong, I was in the Hofbrauhaus while the others we making those decsions.”  If you decided to push the issue she became 28 pounds of razor blades.  Actually it was more like a Sherman tank blundering into an ambush by a Wehrmacht Jagdpanther with the long 88.  Not a fun and often violent.  I think Judy and I still have scars from some of these encounters.

Frieda lied in other ways, occasionally we would catch her.  Once while living in Texas we went to take a blind friend to the store.  This was just before Christmas and Judy had just made a butt-load of cookies.  We didn’t expect the call from our friend so we left the apartment rather quickly.  When we got to our friends’ house we were struck by a terrible thought, the cookies were in striking distance of Frieda and Poo.  Reacting quickly I asked our friend for his phone. This being in the dark ages before cell phones we affordable to the average person.  Calling my house I waited for my version of Bill Clinton’s voice to play through the message on the machine and as soon as the “beep” signaled I was live I began to talk.  “Dammit, get away from the cookies now! I’m coming home and if I catch you you’re dead!” Slamming the phone down I ran to the car and raced the 5 miles back to our apartment.  As I rushed the door I noticed that indeed to cookies had been pilfered, However the dogs were nowhere to be found. I found Poo hiding in the bedroom and Frieda behind the toilet.  I can only imagine the looks on their faces when my voice called them out in the middle of the crime.

Frieda would also play dead.  I mean play dead enough to make that you think that she was dead.  She would be on her back, eyes fixed forward and unblinking, chest not moving. She would do this until we or her various puppy sitters were screaming “Oh may God she’s dead!” When she was happy the little shit would wag the very tip of her tail as if to say gotcha!

If you asked if she knew about the ripped up clothing, eaten socks, opened child proof medicine bottles her eyes would turn to steel.  Molly can do this too when caught.  Thankfully she is only half of Frieda’s weight and not as heavily armed. She also being a mischlinge has to fight the Papillon urge to please, something that Frieda did not have to contend with being fully in tune with the Dark Side of the Force.

As I said before the stories about Frieda could fill volumes.  Those who knew her can attest to these and many other nearly unbelievable stories.  Maybe she was an X-File. I don’t know, but if so she was our X-File and we loved the little shit, we still miss her.  One thing that we know.  Always let lying dogs sleep.

Peace, Steve+

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Life in the Ninth Inning- The Game is Never Over Until the Last Out

Today I marked a milestone in my academic life.  I completed the course requirements for my Master of Arts in Military History.  For me this means, at least in this program I am entering the 9th inning.  I have two other graduate degrees as well as a professional hospital residency and I am a graduate of the Marine Corps Command and Staff College.   I’ve been doing graduate level work for years.  I was a history major as an undergraduate and did a year of masters level work before I was commissioned in the Army in 1983. Being tired and broke, I elected not to take an educational delay to complete the masters in history at that time.

However, I never stopped loving history.  In seminary it was Church History that led me to an Anglo-Catholic Sacramental World view.  While this was reinforced by subjects such as Systematic Theology, Philosophy and Ethics, it was history that did me in.  Thus I have continued to study always hoping that I would get the chance to pick up the MA in History, despite my other degrees and studies.  I think that history, if you do it right and don’t subscribe to myth and believe everything you read is good preparation for many other academic and even complementary to scientific fields. So I am very happy today.  I hope my run continues, I have not had less than an A in any class in the program and would hate to have a B.  That to me would be mortifying. Okay, I’m competitive.  I don’t like to lose and I hate being wrong.  I do patently do both, but I don’t like it.  I was thrown out of a Church softball game back in college and I have been known to say my peace sometimes in a very un-peaceful manner.  I really get upset when I am the one who makes the mistake.  However, this too is part of life.  Note my adventures in trying to put my uniform together for the Dining Out in yesterday’s post- The Dining Out. That was a comedy of errors, thankfully despite that I kept my head and got out with the save.

Anyway, the 9th inning is something that we all have to do in life.  For me at this time the 9th inning is the completion of my degree.  With the completion of this last class, I am out of the 8th and I’m going into the 9th.  I kind of cruised through my last class as it was an entry level course that I had put off to the end.   I did not put the same effort into it as I had other courses simply because I felt that I needed to take it a bit easier with all the things going on in my life.  However, I still have to do my Comprehensive Exams to be awarded the degree.  I need to complete the 9th.  This will be harder than the 8th, though I do not expect to have any problems with it.

There are parallels in almost every area of life, even in faith.  How we do life is important, faith matters but practice even more.  You can see the same in sports, politics, academics, and daily life and work.  I find that a lot of people are bad a closing things out.  I have known a lot of people who are smarter, more talented and better looking than  me who don’t finish well.  The 9th inning is all about finishing well.  Like baseball you don’t get out of the 9th unless you get the three required outs. There is nothing more frustrating than having the lead in the 9th and losing.

My life now is about being the old catcher or coach who helps the young guys learn this lesson early.  It is not enough to have a great 8 innings, you have to get through the 9th.  As I work with young people, be they clergy, seminarians, interns and resident physicians, young enlisted sailors and Marines, it is my desire to help them finish well.  I want them to succeed and will do whatever I can to help them in the process.

Have a great day and finish well. Peace, Steve+

Note: The Tides won again today 7-0 over the Bulls.  They have a day off tomorrow and host the Gwinett Braves for two games on Tuesday and Wednesday…those games I will go to. The Tides are back in first place at 11-5.  Hopefully the O’s will not come and take all the good guys too soon. We are having a lot more fun here in Norfolk than any time since 2004 when we took the International League Southern Division and got in the playoffs.

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Filed under Baseball, History, Loose thoughts and musings, Religion

The Dining Out

Tonight was a lot of fun.  I went to our 2009 Naval Medical Center Intern Class Dining Out. Now for those that do not know what a dining out is I must take some time to in the words of Ricky Riccardo, to “‘splain it to you.”

Dining outs, and their counter part the Dining in go back to the times of the Roman Legions, when the officers of the Legion would get together to honor to honor individuals or units.  In these events they would recall campaigns and battles, shared hardships and parade the booty from their campaigns.   Transplanted to Northern Europe the Viking and later the people of Britain. The Viking War Lords gave a new shape to these feasts.  Of course the Vikings, like the Klingons were quite the people for a hearty celebration of victory.  They ensured that the feast was something special. “These celebrations saw all clan members present with the exception of the lookout, or watch. Feats of strength and skill were performed to entertain the members and guests. The leader took his place at the head of the board, with all others to his right and left in descending order of rank.”  Transplanted to England the tradition further developed with the various councils of knights such as the Knights of the Round Table and the lesser known Knights of the somewhat Oblong Table with One Short Leg.

For those who are clergy and somewhat put off by such displays, we too have a hand in this.  The monastics of Europe had these types of events.  The clergy of course, being the learned educators of the day spread the custom to universities.  Professional British officers who graduated from these universities carried the tradition to their units where they became more developed.   Thus to all the officers who find these functions a waste of time or money, you can blame your chaplain.  He or she may not have any idea about this, but hey, you can call them out.

The tradition grew in Royal Navy and Royal Marines and was transplanted to the American Colonists.  These traditions continued to grow and prosper until Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, a strict prohibitionist who definitely could not spell or even comprehend the concept of martial camaraderie and fun banned alcohol from US Navy ships in 1914.  The following World War, Great Depression and the Second World War contributed to its dormancy in the Navy.  The Marines kept the tradition of the Mess Night alive and by the 1950’s the tradition also began to return to the Navy.  The Air Force adopted the Tradition from the Royal Air Force while the Army had such events from the beginnings of their Service in the Continental Army.

The Dining In is something shared among the members of the Mess themselves.  The Dining Out can include spouses or other civilian and military guests from outside the Mess.  The two are very similar in most regards including an opening invocation by the unit chaplain, in our case tonight yours truly.  It is followed by other events such as the National Anthem, the parading of the beef, the testing of the beef by “Mr Vice,” the formal dinner, toasts and remarks of the guest speaker.  During the event there are certain infractions that can cause a member of the Mess to be fined or to have to partake of “the Grog.”  The Grog, depending on where you have a Mess Night can be quite an experience.  The Grog has its roots in the mixture of watered down rum and added citrus (to fight scurvy) aboard ships of the Royal Navy.  The daily ration of rum, or Grog was perhaps one of the few pleasurable moments for sailors and Marines on warships of the 18th and 19th centuries.   When I came in the Army in the early 1980s the grog was quite the witches brew, usually a nearly undrinkable concoction of whatever alcoholic beverages Mr Vice might decide to mix together.  I do think the grog has become a bit tamer over the years, but it still can have a good effect on the violator of one of the rules of the Mess.

Tonight’s event was as I said the Dining Out for our Intern Class.  They will be graduating in about two months, some will remain with us for residencies or go elsewhere in the Navy for their residency, or go for three years to be a Flight Surgeon, Diving Medical Officer, or General Medical Officer in the Fleet or with the Marines.  I have gotten to know a lot of these young men and women through my contact with them on the ICU or Pediatric ICU during good times and bad times.  I love being around them. They work hard.  Interns at our medical center spend about 79.5 hours a week in house, I’m sure some do more because they need to do research and study all the time they are there.  Some will end up in Iraq or Afghanistan in the next few months, they all are to be commended on their work in this year.

Tonight was a really good night.  I even missed a home game at Harbor Park to be at this event, but it was worth it. Unfortunately the Tides dropped their first game at home this year after 9 consecutive wins, losing 4-1 to Durham. Norfolk left 7 runners in scoring position.

Now my day in trying to get ready for the Dining Out got sporty as far as my uniform went.  In fact things reached Ludicrous Speed this afternoon as I tried to get ready for the event.  As a Lieutenant Commander I have to wear the Mess Dress Uniform.  A formal, black tie uniform complete with cummerbund, miniature medals, bow tie and jacket. It is a very sharp looking uniform, but it has a lot of moving parts.  I had to re-do my medals as I have picked up a few since the last time I wore the uniform before I went to Iraq.  I now do this myself and discovered during the process that I was missing a medal and a couple of devices to affix to a medal as well as some hardware to put things together.  After two trips to the uniform shop at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek I thought I was ready.  I was wrong.  I mounted my medals and got them on my uniform.  So far so good.  Then I discovered with under two hours until showtime that I was missing the gold, studs to my formal white shirt.  They were in my office sitting on my desk.  I had a choice to make.  Do I go to my office at the medical center and take my chances with the traffic and the bridge tunnel, which oh by the way is closed east bound for re-paving, or do I make a third trip to Little Creek?  I opted for the latter figuring that I could get dressed in the dressing room of the uniform shop after I got the studs.  The ladies at the store, who now had become used to me showing up every other hour were gracious.  I bought the studs and started to get dressed.  Then I discovered that I did not have shirt stays to keep my shirt from riding up. Putting on my cargo shorts and Birkenstocks which did not go well with the black socks which I had just put on, I wore my formal pleated shirt with the aforementioned items and bought the shirt stays.  I was now absolutely sure that this would be it.  I got my uniform on and put on my jacket.  To my astonishment and disbelief I noticed that my button and chain set which are used to fasten the jacket were missing.  Yet another trip to into the store and to the cash register before I could safely pack my stuff and race across the town to get to the Spirit of Norfolk on which the Dining Out was to be held. I felt like an idiot, something that I am not in the habit of feeling as I made each trip to the cash register at the Uniform Shop, I’m sure that the ladies got a kick out of my antics.  I could almost see such a thing happening to George Costanza on Seinfeld.  Serenity Now!

Peace, Steve+


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Wear of the FWU-“Faggoty White Uniform” or Summer Whites

fwu-crete-2002Me in my FWU’s as a LT on USS Hue City CG-66 off Crete July 2002

We in the Mid-Atlantic Region of the Navy have now transitioned to our summer uniforms.  I’ve talked in depth about the NWU or Navy Working Uniform which is now an all year working uniform.  While this is not the most traditional Naval uniform, we do still maintain some traditions.  Both enlisted sailors and officers still have white uniforms for the summer.  Enlisted in the pay grades E1-E6 wear the Service Dress White, or the Cracker Jack uniform for Dress occasions.  A new service uniform which looks similar to the Marine Corps Charlies with black versus olive green trousers is replacing the short sleeve summer white and long sleeve Winter and Working Blues.  So for the enlisted the Cracker Jack remains for dress occasions, the Summer Dress White and Service Dress Blue for summer and winter respectively.

Navy Chiefs and Officers have three, make that four variations of whites.  We have the Summer Dress White which is short sleeve, Service Dress White, which is the choker jacket worn with ribbons.  The Full Dress White, which is the same with large medals and ribbons as well as white gloves.  Lastly there is the seldom worn Tropical White which includes shorts and knee socks, a very colonial British look if you ask me, though the thought of the sun maybe reaching my legs and allowing them to tan while I am at work is an interesting thought.  Since when summer hits I normally am in shorts almost every day when not in uniform, I think shorts with the Whites would work fine here.

However, here lies the problem.  White is white and it is nearly impossible to keep clean.  If you sneeze and blow a huge luggie that ends up on them, it will be seen.  If your coffee is too hot and some drips on the uniform, it too will be seen.  Please do not even think about trying to eat a chili dog, wings or ribs in any of these uniforms.  If you end up making a splort on them it will be there for all too see and someone will be asking who the homeless dude masquerading as Captain Stubing from the Love Boat is. So when wearing any of these summer uniforms caution is required, and if you are eating, probably a bib.  However I am not sure if Naval Uniform Regulations permit you to sport a bib or not.  I suppose that if it was a Go Navy bib it might be okay, but otherwise I believe that it would be frowned upon as violating the decorum of the Wardroom.

Additionally, every time I wear this uniform I can hear the theme from the movie Top Gun playing in my head.  I’m sure that my dear Judy would kill me of I were to walk up to her in a bar or Officer’s Club singing You’ve lost that Lovin’ Feelin.’ Neither the humor or the singing would be appreciated as I think that they should be.  Likewise every time that I wear this uniform, especially when I was serving with the Marines I can almost hear Colonel Nathan R Jessup (Jack Nicholson) of A Few Good Men snear at me and say:

“You see Danny, I can deal with the bullets, and the bombs, and the blood. I don’t want money, and I don’t want medals. What I do want is for you to stand there in that faggoty white uniform and with your Harvard mouth extend me some f**king courtesy. You gotta ask me nicely.”  (sorry if anyone is offended by the language but it is the line from the movie and yes Marines can and do often talk that way, sometimes using the F-bomb as a noun, verb, adverb, adjective and sometimes even an action verb  in past present and future tenses in the same sentence. After all I am sure that the Deity Herself will forgive them as she will have Marines stationed on post around the Pearly Gates.)

Thanks to Colonel Jessup I have thought of the Summer Whites as the Faggoty White Uniform or by the acronym FWU since I arrived at Camp LeJeune North Carolina in 1999.  I figure now that we have the NWU this will work.

Today was my first chance to wear this uniform since last year.  I have to admit that it looks pretty good on me, especially with my weight loss, which I do plan on maintaining and continuing.  As I walked through the hall I could hear the Top Gun Theme going through my head and Colonel Jessup growling at me.  When I was stationed with the Marines I would ask what uniform we might be wearing for a certain ceremony.  If the answer was Your Summer White I would say, “Oh, the Faggoty White Uniform” often drawing looks of amazement and comments of “That’s really bad Chaplain,” followed by a laugh.   Now I simply call them the FWU.  Let’s keep things simple.  As long as I don’t run into Colonel Nathan R Jessup anytime soon I should be okay, at least I am not scheduled to go to Gitmo anytime soon.

At the same time this is a classy uniform.  Sorry to say, or beat the hell out of anything in the Army or Air Force inventory, and only is really outdone by the Marine Service Dress Blues.  It is traditional.  You can go to any Navy around the world and find a similar uniform.  I find this kind of cool.  I do like tradition and hope that the wear test of the Service Dress Khaki uniform is successful and that it will be brought back by the Navy.

So anyway, those are my thoughts about the uniform change.   A final note.  I went and saw the Tides tonight.  They won their 9th straight beating the Durham Bulls 8-2 and moving into first place in the Southern Division of the International League.



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Unearned Runs and Life

Today was one of those days where things went a lot better than the previous couple of days.  I mentioned yesterday about a situation that I needed to deal with at work.  I was able to do so with wonderful support from my boss, co-workers and especially my wife.  Special thanks go to Judy my wife and Jessie my boss and department director.  Both through their sage advice and love kept me from doing something that might have satisfied my desires but been damaging had I did it in the venue that I wanted, right here.  It was one of those times that I learned to listen and not act on impulse.  In the past I might have, to use a military term “fallen on my sword.”  This is where in order to make a point you commit career suicide.  The thing is about “falling on your sword” is that you tend to only get to do it once, whether you do it intentionally, or whether you get yourself into a situation where you lose control and make a costly mistake.  So you must pick when and where and for what you are willing to do it.  So it better be worth it. Likewise you have to be careful not to put youself in the position of making the costly mistake.  Today was not worth it, those who I rely on as my sanity check kept me from doing this allowing my inner Romulan to reemerge and get control of myself before I even went up to take care of the situation.

Falling on one’s sword is like an unearned run in baseball.  For the people who still need to get saved and become a member of the Church of Baseball, unearned runs are things that you do which give the opposing team runs that they did not earn.  Unearned runs come mainly come from walks and errors, though wild pitches, passed balls and errant throws. These kind of mistakes allow the other team to get runners on base that should have been out.  In baseball the lead off walk, the two out walk or error is often fatal to the team that allows it to happen. There is also the type of unearned run that comes when a pitcher decides to throw at a batter when it would go in against the best interests of the club.  Maybe he does it because the batter hit a dinger the previous at bat, maybe for some other reason.  The effect is often even worse.  The pitcher gets the other team fired up, the batter gets a free pass to first and the pitcher then has to face the next batter with runners on base against a team that is now fired up.

I saw the former happen to the Durham Bulls tonight.  An error in the bottom of the sixth on a pick off attempt put a runner into scoring position who the scored on a soft base hit to right.  The Tides won the game 4-3 and improved their record to 9 and 4 moving to a half game behind the Bulls in the International League Southern Division The night was a great night for a ball game, just a little bit chilly, but such is April in Hampton Roads.  Tomorrow the Tides and the Bulls play again, 7:15 at Harbor Park.

Today I was able to get what I needed on the table in a public forum.  I was angry enough that to use the baseball analogy I was ready to throw at a certain individual’s head.  Instead after talking with the manager, I was able to do a brush back which got his attention.  Doing this I was  protected by my boss and affirmed by my colleagues.  And I didn’t even use any course language.  When I told this to Judy she said something like “that’s amazing.”  Something that I patently agree with and I am sure that the Deity Herself prevented me from allowing any unearned runs today.  This actually felt good.  After about 28 years in the business I am finally learning.

Finally I have to admit that I work with probably the best team of Chaplains that I have in my career.  To all of you, you are the best.  Thanks for helping me through the past couple of days and helping me not to  a costly error.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, Loose thoughts and musings, PTSD, Religion

Bad Days and Baseball


Today I am not a Merry Man

I had a bad couple of days.  I’m not going into any detail here about any of the incidents as they are too personal and could harm me if I aire them in such a public venue.  To be short I have been working with my boss, some fellow chaplains and my wife to figure out how to address these things.

I will not go into detail but I was the most pissed off and offended as I have been in ages.  So much so that I could not let go of it and had to ask my boss to let me leave the medical center.  Thankfully a friend who is one of our attending physicians told me to stop by Harbor Park, despite the Tides game against the Charlotte Knights already being underway.

Thank the Deity Herself for baseball.  I was able to get to Harbor Park during the top of the 4th inning, have a chili dog and beer and see the Tides win the game 4-2.  The weather was not too bad despite a couple of stray sprinkles that the Devil tried to send our way.  As a season ticket holder it is kind of cool sitting next to some great folks game after game. In a way it is like going to a pub.  Of course anyone who reads this blog knows how much I like that.

After all was said and done Judy and I went to the Gordon Biersch Micro-Brewery had dinner and a couple of pints.  Judy and my boss Jessie helped talk me down from doing anything stupid in writing on this blog or in person about situations referenced above.

Until tomorrow.

Peace, Steve+

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Winning Well and a Good Christian Death

Last night I went home from Harbor Park disappointed that the home opener was rained out.  Of course as we know this was the Devil’s work, which made tonight a better night.  The day at the hospital was a bit sporty and I didn’t get out until late because one of my attending physicians in  one of my ICUs asked me to stay until a crisis was over.  This meant patently that I did not arrive at Harbor Park until the bottom of the 3rd inning, but my seat in section 102, row B seat 2 was waiting for somewhat slimmer ass to take its seat.  The usher now knows me and was ready, my next door season ticket holder, Barry had his scorecard on his lap and was able to quickly get me up to speed.

The weather, except for a brief shower in the bottom of the 5th was great.  68 degrees at game time and clear with winds 10 miles an hour blowing from right to left.

It was a great game.  The Tides are definitely a different club than last year.  Our starting pitcher, Jason Berken threw 7 scoreless innings giving up 4 hits with 3 strike outs.  Reliever, Ross Wolf finished the game just giving up 1 hit.  The Tides hitters are way above last year.  They scored 4 runs in the top of the sixth taking advantage of an error by Charlotte First Baseman Andy Phillips one what should have been an inning ending pop-foul to the first base side which allowed Tides 3rd Baseman Mike Costanzo to score from third.  Two more runs on deeply hit balls to center gave the Tides two more runs.  The Tides are now 7-4 and play Charlotte tomorrow afternoon.  The Devil tried to interfere in the bottom of the 5th with a brief rain shower, but the game went on, the Deity Herself granting us fair weather the rest of the game to vanquish the Knights.

As I said my day was interesting.  Our young patient was stabilized, at least for the time being.  At the same time today was one of those days where something tragic ended well.  We had a woman about my age with a particularly virulent form of Cancer which moved quite quickly.  She passed away today in our ICU with her family at her bedside,  Her wishes were honored and as Monsignor Fred and I said the prayers for the dying at her bedside and walked out of the room she gave up the ghost.  It was, what used to be called, a “good Christian death.”  The woman was attended to by a loving family which included her parents, husband, sisters and children.  There was not a time when she woke up that she did not see at least one family member by her side.  Her nurses and physicians as well as others who had attended to her over the past several months paid their respects.  The woman was a saint.  She endured suffering with grace and patently accepted the fact that her earthly life was coming to an end.   When the end came she was surrounded by her  family who had so patiently and lovingly stood with her.  We were all graced by her life and her faith, which was living and real.  I pray God’s peace to be with her family and blessing upon those who attended to her.

Lord knows what tomorrow brings.  However this I know, that God still loves us and that “heaven’s gift to mortals” the game of Baseball will go on.

Peace and blessings, Steve+

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