Category Archives: history

Not Only Once in a Lifetime (Hopefully!)


this halloween is shaping up to be a big one and not because of a costume party or trick-or-treating or anything relating to halloween per se, but because of temple owls college football. ok, i heard you groan right then, but stick with me.

c graduated from temple university school of pharmacy and two of our three kids also graduated from temple, but from boyer college of music. our oldest was in the band while she was at temple as well as drum major for two years, which served as a reason to buy season tickets to temple football. truth to tell, ten years ago, the band was the only reason to go to a football game. our youngest was also in the band while he was in school so we held onto the tickets, and also because they are prime club level tickets on the fifty yard line at the philadelphia eagle’s stadium. truthfully, we didn’t go to a lot of games and when we did, we only stayed until after the band had performed, because temple was usually losing or embarrassingly losing.

now i’ll admit that i have not always been a football fan. my dad played football in college, so football was often on in the house during the season, and mom would occasionally watch college ball after dad died. but for a big chunk of my life i ignored football. after i met c, i started to learn more about the game just by watching with him, since he had played in high school and briefly in college. now i think i’m pretty knowledgeable about the game, although i’m also smart enough to keep my mouth shut most of the time when it comes to commenting on the game. (there’s little worse than sitting next to a person who complains constantly during the game but doesn’t even know what is really going on down on the field).

the plan was to stop buying season tickets after our youngest graduated. and then something kind of wonderful happened: the temple football team started to win. over the years they have had a few marquis players who made it into the nfl, but you could count them on one hand. a couple of years ago there were more than just a couple of talented kids and last year there were even more talented kids on the team, and most of them were freshman. this year the majority of the talented kids are sophomores and juniors and temple is at 7 and 0 for the season so far. more importantly, they beat perpetual powerhouse penn state for the first time in 74 years!

so this year, temple plays notre dame at home on halloween night. and the game is the college game of the week on abc network. and the show “college game day” will be broadcasting from independence hall on saturday morning. whew! i’ll tell you that philadelphians are not used to such positive attention and temple football fans especially are not used to positive attention. ok, so maybe notre dame has something to do with it… but hey, we’ll take it.

now those of you who are used to be affiliated with schools who have big winning teams are yawning at our excitement and you’re certainly entitled to your cynicism, but you know yourself how fun it is to have a winning team. we just keep pinching ourselves to remember to savor the moment, because, well… this could be the one time or this could be the beginning of something.

let’s hope this halloween is filled with nothing but treats for the city of philadelphia and their temple owls!!

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Filed under college, Fall, family, football, friends, history, school, success, tradition

In Search of the Perfect Killing Machine

america is hard up for a way to kill people. seems unlikely, doesn’t it? what with all the guns we have on the streets you’d think it would be easy to kill someone. and, unfortunately, based on the murder rate, it still is. but when the state wants to kill someone, they’re more likely to go wanting these days.

for decades the electric chair was the tool of choice to kill a convicted criminal, but with the rise of lethal injection, the electric chair, along with other forms of capital punishment fell out of favor. besides, lethal injection just seemed so much more humane, civilized, easy, not gruesome – kind of like when you put down your pet. unfortunately for the states, some recent news stories highlighted the grisly details of executions by lethal injection that went terribly wrong. since lethal injection has been the preferred method of execution for decades now, why has it gone wrong all of the sudden? primarily because drug companies began refusing to supply drugs for lethal injection and compounding pharmacies refused to compound drugs for such purpose not to mention that physicians refused to participate in executions. something about those pesky oaths health professionals take to use their knowledge and skills to heal rather than kill…

a dear friend sent me an article about methods of capital punishment in this country and was astounded to find out that jut recently utah passed a bill mandating firing squads to mete out capital punishment in the event that lethal injection is not available. so, what that means… wait, what?! what?!

are we really living in this kind of a country?

apparently we are.

we are in the business of killing people for crimes for which they were convicted of committing. not necessarily that they actually committed, but for which they were convicted. we all know how fair, unbiased, reasonable and affordable the justice system in america is, right?

look, i’m as much of a revenge seeker as the next person, but i’m not a supporter of the death penalty. death penalty supporters will say that it acts as a deterrent, yet the 18 states without the death penalty have had consistently lower murder rates.

after witnessing some recent verdicts in capital cases along with the work of the innocence project, can we really say with 100% certainty that the person convicted actually did the crime?

so if the death penalty is not a deterrent, then it only serves as revenge, like old testament stuff, eye-for-an-eye all that.

you know, the kind of stuff we’re condemning other nations for.

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Filed under crimes, death, history, politics, terrorism

Auld Lang Syne

new year’s eve is such a strange tradition — this way of staying up to usher in what for any other day would be just another day. But, apparently we humans have been doing this for centuries so who am I to part with tradition.

c and I don’t go out on new year’s eve and we’ve always had a tough time convincing friends that they would want to come out somewhere with us (even when we offer a comfy place to stay overnight). so, over the years c and I have made our own fun on new year’s eve: enjoying a evening of hors d’oeuvres, champagne and dancing in the kitchen. c is a very good dj. we’re usually asleep by five minutes after midnight though.

since visiting scotland, i have learned that edinburgh is home to Hogmanay (hog-mah-NAY), a rousing Scottish new year’s celebration, making it one of the best places in the world to celebrate new year’s eve. Here’s a description from infoplease.com:

“One of the traditions of hogmanay is “first-footing.” Shortly after midnight on New Year’s eve, neighbors pay visits to each other and impart New Year’s wishes. Traditionally, First foots used to bring along a gift of coal for the fire, or shortbread. It is considered especially lucky if a tall, dark, and handsome man is the first to enter your house after the new year is rung in. The Edinburgh Hogmanay celebration is the largest in the country, and consists of an all-night street party.”

I can tell you that after visiting Edinburgh, this is most likely one hell of a good party.

but this year though I feel as though c and I have already had a new year’s eve moment. while we were in Scotland, we took a tour of the highlands and the tour guide/driver offered some history and highlights of his country. of course, he spoke about the Scottish song we all sing on new year’s eve: “auld lang syne”, written by the Scottish poet Robert burns. our passionately patriotic scotsman guide/driver sang the song in in his thick brogue and spoke of the true meaning of the words, telling us that the song asks whether old friends and times will be forgotten and promises to remember people of the past with fondness. then he encouraged us all to sing with him.

as the sun was setting, our little tour bus filled with twelve belgins, two Argentinians and we two americans wound our way from the Scottish countryside back to Edinburgh, singing a soulful version of “auld lang syne”. It was a moment to remember with fondness.

“For auld lang syne, we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet.”

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Filed under family, history, Love, New Year, travel

Adventures Across the Pond — Piles of Rocks

castles and henges and baths… oh my! a couple of days after arriving in london, we took a side trip to the english countryside where we saw piles of rocks arranged in all manner of configurations.

castles
first stop was windsor castle, 30 miles west of london and the oldest and largest castle in the world as well as the weekend home of the queen. she was not there at the time, preferring to stay at her beloved balmoral castle in scotland. windsor was the castle that had the fire in 1992, which did a significant amount of damage to the property and antiquities inside as well as open up the era of riff raff being allowed inside buckingham palace. the damage to windsor was extensive and the first estimates to restore the landmark were between £40 million and £60 million. here’s the rub: windsor castle, though being the home of the royal family for 900 years, is owned by the british public (the castle, but not the art, furniture and antiquities inside). not surprisingly, helping out an aristocratic family with enormous land holdings, art, jewels etc. and who did not pay any income tax did not much appeal to your average working class citizen of the uk. so, a deal was struck whereby the queen would open up buckingham palace to visitors for a few months of the year whereby a portion of the cost could be recouped by charging visitors £9.75 or $15.55 to peek inside. but hey, it includes a free audio tour. windsor was already open to the public, but an admission fee was instituted. another free audio tour!



not having castles and such here in the states, it was cool to saunter around a real castle. as you would expect, windsor castle is up on a hill, behind high walls and a self-contained village. the building itself is smaller than you would think but the art and craftsmanship contained inside are quite a sight to see. just the china room alone would set your head spinning. since we were on a guided bus tour we were a bit rushed and didn’t get a chance to explore the picturesque town of windsor, but we did see some of the changing of the guard, a once daily event.

hedges
next stop: stonehenge. it was the afternoon of the autumnal equinox, a special day at stonehenge. there was a sunrise service, organized by druids and pagans with a smattering of wiccon (i’m not joking) to mark the day when there is an equal amount of sunlight and darkness. here’s a link to some video.

we missed the sunrise service and as far as i’m concerned we could have missed stonehenge altogether. smithsonian magazine published a cover story on new scientific findings at stonehenge, which i read before we left so i was looking forward to the guide talking about the new findings. alas, stonehenge tourist central didn’t seem to either know or care anything about it. in conclusion, stonehenge looks just like the pictures and i would have been satisfied with just driving by it and taking pictures out the window.

baths
not surprisingly in a town called bath there are roman baths which date back to about 70ad. i have to admit that i was the least excited about bath, for no particular reason other than i figured it would not be more interesting than windsor castle. wrong! if you are planning a trip to england, bath is one of the places you should put on your itinerary and maybe even plan to stay for a couple of nights. it’s quite amazing to walk on 2000 year old stones and into structures where steaming waters from the king’s spring still stream into the pools and to learn about the important role the baths played in both roman and english society. you can even drink some of the water, which reportedly has healing powers. not so sure about that, but c and i both drank a cup.


again, we were on a tour so our time was limited and we were only able to see the roman baths themselves and just a bit of the beautiful town of bath, and exterior of the bath abbey, an example of some of the finest fan vaulting in the world and site of christian worship for over 1200 years. we did drive by jane austen’s house and past some of the other homes in town, examples of georgian architecture, but my literary friends will be disappointed to find out that we did not have the time to download and take the free audio tour of bath as jane austen knew it.

we had just a moment to duck into a pub for a drink and enjoyed a lovely conversation with the barkeep who filled us in on a few bits of local news.

as if there weren’t enough to recommend about bath, the visitor’s site lists top dog walking routes around the town and who’s to argue with a town that on its visitor site lists top dog walking routes?

look for adventures across the pond – part III

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