December 28, 2005

Happy Holidays!

I don't know why people have stopped saying "Happy Holidays" after Christmas passed. They now simply use the "Happy New Year" greeting. Don't they know some of us are still celebrating? I mean, hello! Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are still going on as I type! Isn't that the whole reason they had to say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" in the first place? The majority of the holidays that take place during this time are only happening now, and nobody is wishing "Happy Holidays" to anyone anymore. I, for one, am offended. After December 25, people asked, "So how was your holiday?" but shouldn't they have asked, "How was your Christmas?" Because really, that was the only holiday that has been completed so far. I find it insulting that it is assumed by strangers that I might have possibly celebrated Christmas! I mean, the nerve of those people! Christmas is only one of only how many holidays people?! Bottom line: Never ask a stranger how their holiday "was" in the days after Christmas. In an America where we celebrate diversity, it is quite disrespectful of everyone to assume that it was Christmas they celebrated. The proper time to ask strangers about the "holidays" would be sometime in the first week of January. By then, all holidays (December holidays, anyway) would have passed, and one can respectfully ask this question. So, please fellow Americans, do not ask me or anyone else about "the holidays" until then. However if you only want to ask about Christmas, just go ahead and do that.

December 21, 2005

Teach, Don't Preach, the Bible

Interesting op-ed by Bruce Feiler in the New York times today.

Here's the closing paragraph:

The extremists talk about religion - and spew messages of hate. Religious moderates must denounce this bigotry and reclaim Scripture as the shared document of all. When flamethrowers hold up Scripture and say, "It says this," moderates must hold up the same text say, "Yes, but it also says this." The Bible is simply too important to the history of Western civilization - and to vital to its future - to be ceded to one side in the debate over values.


Click here to read the whole thing.

December 13, 2005

Commander in Chief?

Ok, so the Golden Globe award nominations were announced today. Why in the world is Commander in Chief nominated for Best Drama? Did the voters actually watch an episode before voting for it? I know that The West Wing is not in the middle of its own creative peak, but this season has most certainly been its best one in the past 3 years (where it was previously nominated) and is far superior to "the other White House show." I don't know if the voters were making a political statement with the nomination, but it certainly wasn't because it is a quality show.

Religious Coalitions in American Politics

Here's an interesting article I came across today.

Here's a clip:

American politics is the politics of coalitions, and religious groups are not exempt from the need to build alliances. Indeed, religious coalitions have often been the subject of hot debate by observers and activists alike. Ever since the presidential election a year ago, the media has been full of reports about "new religious coalitions," at the very same time that battles over abortion, same-sex marriage, and judicial nominees have revived some old ones. The controversy over the current state of religious alliances slides almost imperceptibly from empirical—how do religious groups cooperate in contemporary politics?—to prescriptive: how should religious groups coalesce so that appropriate values shape public policy?


Click here for the rest.

December 12, 2005

What a Weekend in Sports

This was a great weekend for my sports teams! It's nice to watch a game to see your team win at the end.

The Redskins beat the Cardinals
! In order for us to have a post season, we HAD to win yesterday. There are only divisional matchups for the reason of our season so every win is currently a must win for us to have any hopes of getting that wild card slot. Or who knows, maybe the Giants will collapse and we will win the division. (It is possible. I mean, many things are possible.)

The Maryland soccer team won the national championship! I saw the second half on TV yesterday as we cruised to our first championship since 1968. Crazy! Great day for Maryland sports fans!

The 17/21 ranked Terps beat No. 6 Boston College in our ACC opener
! A nice win after the loss to GW last week. Welcome to the ACC Boston College!

December 8, 2005

O'Malley's Running Mate is Brown

The gubernatorial race here in Maryland has had a new development--a running mate has been chosen. As you know, Governor Ehrlich will battle the victor of the Martin O'Malley/Doug Duncan battle which sure looks like it will be fierce (although O'Malley is currently trouncing Duncan, and is ahead of Ehrlich if they were to face off).

Well, Martin O'Malley announced today that Delegate Anthony Brown of Prince George's County will be his running mate. This can't really be seen as surprising because we all know that now, thanks to Governor Ehrlich's leadership, the lieutenant governor position is now the minority slot. It was a forgone conclusion that O'Malley would run with an African American, as will Duncan whenever he fills his number two slot (rumor is state Senator Gwendolyn T. Britt is a top choice).

Here's my question: When Governor Ehrlich chose Michael Steele as his running mate in 2002, there was mass hysteria that the only reason he was chosen was because of the color he added to the ticket. Shouldn't those who support affirmative action actually have be pleased with this selection? And is there any question that the white male Democratic candidates for governor were going to select black lieutenant governors?

You hear it time and time again. When Republicans select African Americans for positions, it is always because they are used as window dressing. Plus, they really aren't black anyway, right? But when Democrats do the same exact thing, there is absolutely no problem with it.

Hypocrisy is quite common in politics. Your opposition does something shameful and you call him out on it. But if somebody on your own side does the same exact thing, you don't really point finger unless you have to. Both Republicans and Democrats are guilty of this. I think its just embarssing that the party of the minorities shows this trait when it comes to race.

I have not officially decided who I will be voting for in the governor's race next fall. I am quite satisfied with Governor Ehrlich's handling of the job despite not having voted for him. However, I am waiting to see what his plans for the next four years are, and to find out if what the Democratic nominee has to offer is better. This race will certainly be one to watch.

Customer Service Numbers--My Christmas Gift to You

Don't you hate it when you call up a customer service number only to discover you get to talk to a computer that talks back to you and asks you questions? And when you answer, it doesn't understand you? And you keep getting sent back to the same menus over and over? And then you call the computer voice mean, vicious things, only to provoke a non-response, or the far better, "I did not understand that"? Maybe that last one is just me...

Anyway, if you haven't heard about it already, some guy who apparently had too much time on his hands (oh, I'm not complaining!) has compiled a large list of companies' customer service numbers and has the "codes" you can punch to get directly to the human customer service agent bypassing the most likely Windows-based computer.

So, in the spirit of the holiday season, instead of giving you a fruitcake, an ugly sweater, or pants that look like they were in style in the mid 80s which I was otherwise planning on sending you, I thought I would give you this--something you could actually use year round saving you time and stress. And really, can you place a value on this? I didn't think so.

Without much further ado--Merry Christmas! That's right...Christmas!
http://paulenglish.com/ivr/

So just bookmark the page in your browser, and whenever you need to call the dreaded customer service department, use it. And think of me. All throughout the year. It's just a token of how much I care.

Oh, and feel free to regift this one. I won't be offended.

December 7, 2005

Having the Usual

Today was a special day in my life. When I made my occasional morning stop at Sizzling Express on 23rd Street for a muffin and a smoothie, I was asked my the lady behind the counter, "Hawaiian smoothie?" to which I nodded in affirmation. So now, I have one more place I can include on my "places who already know what I'm getting" list.

At my old job, whenever I went out to lunch with my boss, we always ate at the same place. And no matter who the server was, they didn't need to bother with menus because they already knew what request to send to the kitchen.

People used to know their neighbors. Store owners knew their customers. Strangers were strangers because those were those few people in a community that were unfamiliar. Now, the few are the people you actually do know. And sometimes even these people can be thought of as strangers.

Many advances have been made in the past couple decades. Socially, politically, medically, and technologically, we have seen many gains. However, there have been costs as well. The greatest of these, I believe, is the diminished value of human relationships. This is obviously not a deliberate action, but simply a by-product of our current society. We grab some fast food for dinner, stop by the big box store for personal items, have our cars serviced at centers where we are merely a number, buy groceries with self checkout, and buy things online to avoid crowds at the mall just to rush home and watch Must See TV. Have things become more convenient? Definitely. But at what cost?

Generally speaking, who gets the best service anywhere you go? The answer is simple. It's those who know with whom they are dealing. You get better service if you know your mechanic's name. If you know your pharmacist name. If you know the server at your restaurant. If you know your kid's teacher. If you know the guy hiring.

Nowadays, you need to make an active effort to get to know people outside your tight knit circle. The benefit of this is one of those things whose value cannot be given a dollar amount. And maybe, just maybe, places where you can have the usual, whatever that "usual" might be, will not be a rarity but the norm.

December 2, 2005

My Weeks in Brief (or not)

So it has been more than two weeks since my last post! I know your life has almost ceased to exist these past few days. For that, I'm sorry. I won't ever do it to you again. Well, I'll try not to, anyway.

Here are some of the things I might have talked about in the last couple weeks:

- I missed my traffic court date!
I got stuck in traffic two weeks ago and missed my hearing on my speeding ticket from back in June. I was apparently doing 100 on I-270 and missed my chance to explain to a judge why. There was a huge traffic jam on the Beltway, but luckily, I was granted a postponement. Four months until round two.

- I testified before the Prince George's County Council
My church is currently trying to build on our land, but before we can go forward with some plans, we need to have a category change for water/sewer. We'll see what happens. My testimony was basically, "I support our County Executive's position on this issue, and it is an honor to speak before you today in a county I've lived in my entire life."

- I saw the Redskins lose against San Diego
Going into the game, my record was 1-0. So, honestly speaking, every game I had seen the Skins play in person, we had won. And since this was a critical game in the season, I felt compelled to be there just so we could pull off a win. But, alas, this wasn't to be. Another disappointing "lose it in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter" game that we have had for the past three weeks. How nice.

- Mark Warner is on fire!

How many news commentators in the past two weeks, when talking about the 2008 presidential nomination, have said it looks like it will come down to a Clinton/Warner battle? Too many to count. I know, I know...there are a couple years until any such comment acutally matters, but it sure is nice to hear that kind of stuff about your guy!

- My pastor had an article in section A of the 'Washington Times' last week
Click here to read it.

- I have a clothing schedule for work

After it was both admitted to after questioned, and then later stumbled upon by somebody using my computer, I feel it is necessary to have a public disclosure of this issue of critical importance. I have a two week clothing rotation for work, and in order for me to stay organized and not wear the same clothes the same week (apparently, some aren't fans of that), I just have a list of my "work outfits" and I simply cycle through them whenever I go to work. I don't see a problem with that for a guy who can't remember what he wore to work yesterday. Plus, it shows how much I care about the rest of the world. That's right. I do care.

- My 'Apprentice' people are doing great
Early on in the tv season, I picked my favorite candidates on each of the Apprentice shows. Yes, I do watch the Martha Stewart edition as I have announced previously. Both are still in it to win it. Rebecca on The Donald's version has made it to the final two, and Ryan on Martha's version has made it to the final five. Still fans of each.

- 'Lost' is excellent this season
I started watching Lost season one, but got slightly distracted midseason with some slow storylines as well as the conflict with the results of my West Wing addiction. However, I did eventually catch back up and have been faithfully watching every episode this season. It is most definately one great show. Unfortunately, there are six weeks until the next new episode! Why, oh why, oh why!

Well, that's it for now. Stay tuned for my next post regarding this holiday season. I started talking about it in this post, but when I had two paragraphs, I figured it could be its own. Plus, I'm starving right now and lunch sounds a lot nicer than typing. Sorry to cut this one short. It's not right, but it's okay... you're gonna make it anyway!