Sunday, January 30, 2011

Train show galore

Yesterday I took Kevin out to West Springfield for the annual train show at the Big E (here is my account of our trip to this show last year). This is an enormous show which takes up four buildings on the property. It is made up of collectors, running model trains, hobby shops, etc. We got there around 12:15 or so and I immediately sought out my friend Jay and his wife Pam. They are very active with the Berkshire Scenic Railroad Museum in Lenox and they had a display at the shop. Luckily there was a program book saying where every vendor was so I found them right away. I went to college with Jay and have stayed good friends with him through the years but I don't get to see him as much since he lives in the Berkshires. Jay is a train addict and he just got a job working for Amtrak out of Albany so he is in his glory.

I spent about 10 minutes chatting with Jay as Pam brought Kevin around and showed him some things. We then went on to check out the rest of the exhibits. Kevin spent time playing in the kid's area, we took a ride on a kid's train, and we just walked around taking in the sights. The show is so big it can be very overwhelming for kids but Kevin was pretty good. We stayed until 3:30 or so and then headed out.

We were near some state parks so I thought we'd go see some but they were already both closed to cars for the day: Robinson State Park in Agawam and Chicopee Memorial State Park in Chicopee. So we headed back on the Mass Pike but to go to Boston. We were meeting up with Lynn and her family for dinner at Doyle's in Jamaica Plain. A good way to end a good day but I was so tired when I got home. Between being with Kevin all day, driving all over creation, etc. I fell asleep very easily around 11pm.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Obama and abortion

Today President Obama affirmed his belief in a woman's right to destroy human life in her womb. He said:

Today marks the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that protects women's health and reproductive freedom, and affirms a fundamental principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters.

I am committed to protecting this constitutional right. I also remain committed to policies, initiatives, and programs that help prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant women and mothers, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption.

And on this anniversary, I hope that we will recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights, the same freedoms, and the same opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.

He doesn't believe that government should intrude on private family matters? News to me.

DeLeo = Hack

Despite his rhetoric as of late (which sounds more like a death bed conversion) Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo has been exposed as just another Beacon Hill hack who exists solely to get his family, friends, and donors jobs with the state, namely the Probation Department. The agency's reward for hiring DeLeo's flunkies? A huge budget increase while DeLeo was chair of the Ways and Means Committee.

The Globe reports today that under DeLeo's chairmanship, the budget for the Probation Department received MORE than it requested! This is because DeLeo had 12 friends and family hired in the agency (as well as other state agencies).

I loved this part:

DeLeo faced no opposition in his bid for a second term as speaker this month, and members did not openly question his plan to end patronage in Massachusetts government. But one ex-legislator who lost his reelection bid in November said many of his former colleagues are puzzled by DeLeo’s new emphasis on reforming Probation.

“It certainly has raised eyebrows,’’ said former Representative Matt Patrick, a Falmouth Democrat. “He’s claiming he didn’t know what was up [at the Probation Department]. It just raises questions: How is that possible?’’

Don't blame me. I voted Republican in 2010. Don't say we didn't warn you.

See the great Globe article here.

Trip to the brewery

We had a snow day on Friday and I left the house once...for 2 minutes...to just move my car so the plow could clear out our spots. I didn't even change or take a shower. Yup.

So on Saturday I was determined to get outside and do something, anything. I searched high and low for something fun to do but couldn't find anything. It was too cold and snowy to hit a state park and I didn't want want to go to any kid's place. I also wanted to take a ride somewhere, anywhere. So we decided to check out the Wachusett Brewery in Westminster, a few miles down the road from Wachusett Mountain.

I've actually driven by the brewery before...literally. You would never know it was a brewery, it's just an office park type building. I had my GPS and I was wondering where it was. This was last summer and I decided not to go in as I had the kids and I wasn't sure there was much to see or do.

Anyway, we got there around 3:15 and had plenty of time until the 4pm tour. We took a ride over to the mountain where Lynn ran in to the visitor's center to look around (I've been there before) and then looked at all the skiers and snowboarders at the ski area. We headed back to the brewery where you could hang out in the waiting room, eat some pretzels, and try a sample. I tried the Green Monsta and Lynn had the Winter Lager, both which weren't bad. As we headed into the tour area, the guide stopped us and said, "Before you go in I need you to know that if your kids make noise, it's OK, that's what kids do." That was nice of him.

He actually had Kevin be his helper, holding up some things to show people. The tour was about a half hour. I couldn't really pay much attention as we had the kids but it was neat to see all the contraptions. After the tour we had another sample (I had the Quinn which was great and Lynn had the Larry).

I am not much of a beer expert or anything. I was more interested in learning about a local business and hearing about them thrive. Take a ride out sometime - they're off exit 25 off of Rt. 2.

Looking out for the Kennedy's

When I first began teaching AP US History, I had my students read "Thirteen Days" by Robert Kennedy. The book recounts the Cuban Missile Crisis and portrays the Kennedy's as firmly in control and as strong negotiators. I asked my students if the fact that the book was written during the height of the Vietnam War tarnished the veracity of the book at all. That is, was Kennedy trying to portray himself as the anti-Johnson, someone who could solve problems by talking and not fighting?

Looks like my premise may be right as today's Boston Globe reports that the Kennedy family is blocking the release of Kennedy's papers from his time as Attorney General. As the article points out:

Some historians attribute the family’s guarded attitude to a desire to protect Robert Kennedy’s image as a champion of civil rights and social programs, and a man who emerged, in the years after his brother’s assassination, as a strong opponent of the Vietnam War. The boxes, they say, may contain evidence of Robert Kennedy the ruthless anticommunist who broke laws in the quest to take out Cuba’s leader, and perhaps other abuses of power.

Kennedy's son Max, who controls access to the papers, told the Globe:

“There are many requests to see them, and frankly, many of those requests come from people with poorly-conceived projects. It is my responsibility, as custodian of the papers, to grant use responsibly,’’ Max Kennedy wrote in an e-mail. “That does not mean that every book must be cloyingly positive; I do not think that for a moment, and I would be doing a disservice to my father if I acted that way. But I do believe that historians and journalists must do their homework, and observe the correct procedures for seeking permission to consult the papers, and explain their projects.’’

Please. Just another example of the Kennedy's trying to protect their fake, manufactured image.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Looking out for nobody

Once again, the buffoons we call the Massachusetts Legislature proved they are nothing more than hacks who look out for themselves and who could care less for the taxpayers and transparency. Just weeks after giving the three felonious former Speakers of the House standing ovations, the House of Representatives voted no on:

1. Requiring roll call votes on tax increases
2. Posting committee votes on-line
3. Eliminating the useless and unnecessary position of Speaker pro tempore

These people are so corrupt, I can't take it anymore. I have no use for anyone who voted no on these three measures. I doubt there is even a roll call vote on these. Considering the House and Senate haven't even posted a single Journal for the year, I am not holding my breath.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Blessed Pope John Paul II...to be

Rocco over at Whispers in the Loggia is reporting that Pope John Paul II will be beatified, perhaps as early as October! The last step is for Pope Benedict XVI to accept the findings and that will be that!

I remember there was speculation that Benedict would bypass the entire process and declare John Paul a saint at World Youth Day in 2005. I was at that event and as we listened to his homily it sounded like he was going to do it. I kept on looking at my friend's Bill and Andrew an we were all thinking the same thing. Imagine if he did that? The place would have erupted. Alas.

Anyway, see the story here but below is a taste:

Thanks in part to the waiving of the traditional "five-year rule" to open the cause on the part of the then newly-elected Benedict XVI, the process bringing the church's greatest saintmaker in history to the penultimate step to sainthood in his own right has reached the milestone with a speed matched by but one other figure: Mother Teresa of Calcutta -- of course, celebrated in life as a saint -- who was raised to the altars by John Paul six years after her 1997 death, but whose required miracle for canonization remains pending.

Monday, January 10, 2011

My man Norman

Thanks to Mass Moments, we read that on this day in 1977, my favorite artist Norman Rockwell was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Ford. Ford said:

…. As we move from the Bicentennial Year into our third century, America must remain a place where men and women are encouraged to create, to innovate, to explore, and to set the very highest standards, whatever their vocation….

Artist, illustrator and author, Norman Rockwell has portrayed the American scene with unrivaled freshness and clarity. Insight, optimism and good humor are the hallmarks of his artistic style. His vivid and affectionate portraits of our country and ourselves have become a beloved part of the American tradition….

In closing, let me voice our country's deep gratitude and great appreciation, not only to you but to all those who helped you achieve what you accomplished. Each of you has friends, coworkers, teammates, families who share in your achievements and in our pride today….

See more here.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Some things never change

Today's Lowell Sun has an article on the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's speech to the Massachusetts Legislature prior to being sworn-in as president. This part of the article cracked me up:

Kennedy's father Joseph feared his son might have used up all his best lines before his inaugural. In Ask Not: The Inauguration of John F. Kennedy and the Speech That Changed America," historian Thurston Clarke writes that a reporter said to Kennedy after his Boston speech, "Imagine wasting a speech like that on a bunch of clods when you must give an inaugural address in less than a week."

The legislature as a bunch of clods! The more things change...

What liberal media?

Remember when Maj. Nidal Hasan allegedly killed 13 people at Ft. Hood in Texas? He is Muslim, was linked to Muslim extremists, and yelled "Allahu Akbar!" when he allegedly killed his victims. The media fell all over themselves saying we shouldn't "jump to conclusions" vis as vis Hasan and any Muslim extremism motivation.

Jump ahead to yesterday's rampage in Arizona and immediately the Right's "rhetoric" is blamed. Byron York has an amazing column on this topic here. Below is a taste:

"We can't jump to conclusions," Army Gen. George Casey said on CNN November 8. The next day, political analyst Mark Halperin urged a "transparent" investigation into the shootings "so the American people don't jump to conclusions." And when Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra, then the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, suggested that the Ft. Hood attack was terrorism, CNN's John Roberts was quick to intervene. "Now, President Obama has asked people to be very cautious here and to not jump to conclusions," Roberts said to Hoekstra. "By saying that you believe this is an act of terror, are you jumping to a conclusion?"

Fast forward a little more than a year, to January 8, 2011. In Tucson, Arizona, a 22 year-old man named Jared Lee Loughner opened fire at a political event, gravely wounding Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, killing a federal judge and five others, and wounding 18. In the hours after the attack, little was known about Loughner beyond some bizarre and largely incomprehensible YouTube postings that, if anything, suggested he was mentally ill. Yet the network that had shown such caution in discussing the Ft. Hood shootings openly discussed the possibility that Loughner was inspired to violence by…Sarah Palin. Although there is no evidence that Loughner was in any way influenced by Palin, CNN was filled with speculation about the former Alaska governor.

Going camping

I've been wanting to go camping in one of the cabins at a state park for some time. However, from Memorial Day to Labor Day you have to stay for 7 days and they're always booked months and months in advance. Some of the cabins are open year round, including at two state parks in the Berkshires. Surprisingly they're all booked up in weekends in January and February but there was an opening the first weekend of March at Mohawk Trail State Forest and I grabbed it.

I am going to take Kevin as well as my friend Bill and his future step-son Noah. This website has pictures of the park - go to the 59th picture titled Mohawk Trail State Forest Cabin 002 to see our cabin!

This should be amazing. It will still be cold and we won't be able to do a ton of hiking but I've wanted to stay in the Berkshires for a long time and this should be a great experience.

Day at church

The other day I mentioned that I wanted to become more involved at my parish, Saint Francis, again. I was very involved when we moved to Dracut in 2005 but lately with the kids and school, I haven't been going there except for Sunday Mass. This year I want to do more.

So yesterday I went to the monthly Men's Breakfast. I've only been to the breakfast twice before - I always forget about it or I don't feel like getting up that early on a Saturday (it begins at 7:30am). I got there yesterday around 7:15am and a little while later we had a tasty breakfast of pancakes and sausages with coffee. After we all ate, the deacon, who runs the breakfast, gave a nice talk on lectio divina. I am pretty familiar with lectio as it's a monastic practice and I learned it while a student at the Benedictine run Saint Anselm College. We read the gospel for this Sunday over and over again and many of us had different takes...it was very helpful.

After it was over I chatted for a bit with the deacon and two other guys and then went to leave. On my way out I noticed a book on a table called "The Jesuit Guide to Nearly Everything" which was the book the parish book club was going to discuss after 9am Mass. I hadn't read the book but having gone to a Jesuit high school, I thought it may be interesting. It was too ironic - the Men's Group discussed something from my college days and now the book club was discussing something from my high school experience! I decided to stay for Mass and then the book discussion. I didn't have much to offer as I didn't read the book but it was nice to hear other people's thoughts.

Later that evening we all went back to the church for a spaghetti supper to benefit the kids who are going to the March for Life in a few weeks. It was a good crowd....so good that they ran out of spaghetti twice! We were in line the second time they ran out so I let Lynn and Kevin have the last helping. They made some more so all was well! Our friend Rebecca and her daughter Julia (aka Kevin's bud) went too (Rebecca's husband Dave had to work so couldn't join us). The kids had fun playing and running around, coloring, etc. Our pastor sat with us too. He just became our pastor back in June and I've only talked to him once or twice so it was nice to chat with him.

Today I will take Kevin to the 10am Mass (he does well with me for some reason) and we'll probably go to the coffee and donuts they have after Mass. All in all a good weekend at the ol' Church.

Two mirrors

Yesterday's shooting in Arizona was horrible. But now everyone is blaming the heated political rhetoric on the right (i.e. Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, etc). I don't deny that they can be inflammatory but the left is just as bad. Now the Left is wringing their hands calling for a change in our political discourse. Hmmm, where were they during the presidency of George W. Bush when he was called a Nazi, Broadway plays about his assassination were in vogue, and the Senate Majority Leader referred to him as a "loser?"

Get yourselves a mirror.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Get thee to a history class

So some guy is advocating that we abolish the United States Senate. One of his arguments to do so is:

Because senators represent states, and not people, it is one of our few political institutions that does not honor the principle that each citizen has equal political rights. In the Senate, some are more equal than others.

The people of Wyoming make up 0.2% of the population but have 2% of the senators. The people of California constitute 12% of the population but also have 2% of the senators. Residents of the District of Columbia have no senators at all. There is nothing fair or just about such a system. It’s a relic of history.

Um, yeah buddy that was the whole freakin point of the Great Compromise. The number of seats a state gets in the House of Representatives is based on population whereas each state gets 2 senators no matter how big or small.

Sigh.

Clueless

President Obama praised outgoing Press Secretary Robert Gibbs for working for him for a "modest salary." Gibbs' modest salary? $172,000.

This is the same president who called those who make $200,000 rich.

Which way is it, Mr. President?

Get what you pay for Part IV

For the second time in a year, a Democratic member of the Massachusetts Senate has been sentenced to prison. First it was former Sen. Anthony Galluccio who liked to drink and drive and now it is former Sen. Diane Wilkerson who has a bad habit of taking bribes and stuffing the cash in her bra. Wilkerson was sentenced today to 3 1/2 years in prison for corruption.

This comes on the heels of two convicted felons (former Speakers Flaherty and Finneran) and one soon to be felon (former Speaker DiMasi) getting a standing ovation from the pathetic legislature at yesterday's swearing-in ceremonies. It is also a few weeks after former Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner was sentenced for taking bribes.

What do all these people have in common? They all have D's after their names.

Don't blame me...

Get what you pay for Part III

From Rep. Angelo Scaccia yesterday as he convened the House of Representatives on Beacon Hill:

“Protect your members,’’ Scaccia said. “Shield them, as much as possible, from the outside world. . . . This institution is being battered from all sides, within and without, and we have to follow that leader.’’

Shield them from the outside world? These people are insane and delusional.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Get what you pay for Part II

Major unemployment. $1.5 billion budget deficit. The economy falling apart. And this is what our esteemed legislature feels the need to work on.

Get what you pay for

So the state legislature was sworn in today. I guess by tradition, former Speakers of the House are invited back for the first day festivities. So in the midst of a Probation Department scandal, Parole Board problems, numbers of politicans going to jail, who was in the House of Representatives today? Convicted felons Tom Finneran and Charlie Flaherty and alleged felon Sal DiMasi. When they were introduced, the hacks gave them a standing ovation!

They just keep laughing and laughing at you people. They don't care about you nor about what you think. They just keep on scamming the people and doing whatever the hell they want. These people are so corrupt and devoid of any common sense.

Furthermore, when Speaker Robert DeLeo called for reform and an end to patronage and no new taxes, no Democrat applauded.

Don't blame me, I did not vote for a single Democrat in November.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

PC run amok

Now this is going too far. A new edition of "Huckleberry Finn" will not use the "n" word but rather replace it with "slave."

In other news, Michelangelo's "David" will soon be fitted with pants. Darth Vader's color will be changed to blue so as not to offend black people, and the Bible will have all sex scenes cut out.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Parish life

We are undertaking some pretty exciting initiatives at my school and today the principal announced the changes to the faculty. Essentially, we are going to be introducing a service learning program in which every student will have to design some service project over the course of their four years. They will be assisted by faculty and staff in small group meetings.

I was part of the team that helped with the idea which came from our desire to build relationships and community in the school and to help the students develop their faith lives. It's no secret that fewer and fewer people are going to Mass and our students are no different. This will be an opportunity to reach them as, for many of them, we are the Church.

It makes me realize that we all crave community and relationships. How many of us know our neighbors? Take an active role in a community group? How many are invested in our parish? I've had a bigger desire to get more involved in my parish community. I was pretty involved when we first moved to town in 2005 but with 2 kids and a busy job, I've dropped off lately. But now I am making more of an effort to get involved in the community life. For example, we have a Men's Group that meets once a month for breakfast, fellowship, and Mass. I've been twice in the years we've had it but now I am going to make an effort to go every month. This Saturday our parish is having a spaghetti supper - I love those. Later this month we're having a dinner night with music from our parish show group, next month a ham and bean supper, and the following a Mardi Gras Monte Carlo night. The last one doesn't appeal to me a ton but I am glad they're doing it. Even though I may not go, it's nice to know it's going on.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Howie's predictions

Howie Carr rings in the new year with some predictions for 2011. You can see them all here but below is a taste:

Like his predecessors Shannon O’Brien and Joe Malone before him, Typhoid Tim Cahill will spend hours wondering why he ever gave up the best job he could ever hope to have, state treasurer, to end his two-bit career in a kamikaze run for governor.

Many of these thoughts will occur to Tim as he’s working at his new job in the Dreaded Private Sector — raking leaves.

Best bet for legislative redistricting: Therese Murray, the Senate president, will see to it that the town of Sandwich is removed from her district, because that’s the home of a lot of Republicans, one in particular — Tom Keyes, the selectman who came thisclose to defeating her last November.

Best bet for Congressional “contraction” (as LeBron James would say): Barney Frank decides to retire, his district is dismembered, and none of the other posturing popinjays have to run against each other in a Democrat primary.

Second best bet: John Tierney decides to spend more time with his family.

Third best bet: The Legislature combines the western districts of John Olver and Richie Neal, because it makes the most sense, and is less likely to lead to anyone’s indictment in 2012.

More, more, more...

While Gov. Patrick and state officials are calling for "shared sacrifice" remember it was the state legislature who accepted a pay raise last year. Now it looks like the legislature may get a pay decrease - but only by about 0.5%.

And the Globe and others are actually talking like this is a big deal. These people make over $60,000 a year, they get a per diem for driving to work, they get extra pay for leadership or committee chairmanships, etc, etc, etc. One clueless hack actually said this in the Globe article:

“Every year when it goes up, people are calling on you to give it back,’’ said state Senator Kenneth J. Donnelly, an Arlington Democrat. “If you gave it up [two years ago], are you going to get a rebate?’’

Who the hell voted for this guy?

Good hiking weather

As I mentioned yesterday, we all went for a First Day Hike at Breakheart Reservation yesterday afternoon. Breakheart is on the Fellsway in Saugus right near Rt. 1. When I lived in Melrose, I must have driven by Breakheart a million times but I'd never been there until last summer - it is so nice there. They have a beautiful cabin-like visitor's center, walking trails, a pond, and a playground.

We got there around 11:45am and there was a good crowd already there, around 50 people. They had a number of different hikes you could take - we took the easy one which was just a paved loop around the property. I think it was about 2 miles in total with some hills so it made for an invigorating walk (I wouldn't call it a hike). Before we walked, we enjoyed some hot chocolate and sat by a fire. After the walk, they served free clam chowder from Kelly's Roast Beef.

Kevin was a trooper but I had to carry him on some parts. He would say at times, "This is hard for me." Erin was happy as ever in her carrier that was strapped to Lynn.

They had some flyers about other DCR events in the winter - walks along the Charles River in Boston, hot chocolate and roasted marshmallows on the beaches, etc. However I really want to take Kevin and spend a night or two in one of the cabins at either Savoy Mountain State Forest in Florida or Mohawk Trail State Forest in Charlemont. Lynn is reluctant to let me take Kevin this time of year but I think it would be awesome. We all hiked Savoy Mt. back in the fall - it is in the middle of nowhere and on a dirt road. Maybe I will wait until March when it's less wintry and desolate but the cabins seem to be in use every weekend so people do stay there, I won't be alone! I would probably ask my friend Bill to come along too - he's more of an experienced outdoorsman than me!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

First Day Hike

My sister Meaghan's birthday is December 29 and today we're having her birthday party at my parent's house in Melrose. Before we go, however, we're going to head to Breakheart Reservation in Saugus for a First Day Hike. 14 state parks are having special hikes today to mark the New Year. If we didn't have a party to go to, I would have gone to the hike at Purgatory Chasm in Sutton - that place is amazing. I took the kids there over the summer and LOVED it. It's so unique (as is its name).

I will post pictures to Facebook for those of you who are friends with me there.

Happy New Year!

Off to a good start

It looks like the New Year is off to a good start with one less hack on the state payroll. Embattled Probation Commissioner John O'Brien resigned yesterday at 5:30pm (nice news dump time). The Probation Department has been riddled with scandal after it was revealed that the place was a dumping ground for hacks and relatives of legislators.

If there is any justice in the world, lots of people will be going to jail in the new year. Just remember voters of Massachusetts - you get what you vote for.

See the Globe article here.