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As I had suspected, my brother sent along a copy of the Blazing Angels WWII air combat game for my birthday.   After having given it a try, I have to confess that I much prefer my old Microsoft game.  For one thing, B.A. – at least for Wii – doesn’t have any cockpit instrumentation  – no dials or flap controls, for example.  And you can’t look anywhere but in front.  For another, the aerobatic capabilities of the fighters in this game seem to be virtually limitless.  And for a third, there is a long and boring narrative that goes along with the campaign.  The accents of the Brits especially are extremely dubious.

On the other hand, I’ve been exercising using the family’s Wii Fit for a couple weeks now and I have to say that I am noticing definite results.

I’ve spent the past day or two rereading Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy.  It occurs to me again that one of the many reasons I am so fond of these books is that there is much about their anti-hero Guy Crouchback that I see in myself.  Like him, I very often feel that I am not simpatico.

I’ll tell you a little story about this:  When I was a kid, I worked out an elaborate fantasy to explain why I always seemed to be on the outside of things.  Everyone is born not quite fully done, I thought.  After birth, each new baby is injected with something I called “Factor X”, a serum that completes their physical, mental and emotional development and turns them into what appears to be ordinary.

When I was born, however, the doctors determined that I was so close to normal naturally that any administration of Factor X would transmogrify me into some kind of superhuman.  Not wanting this to occur and thereby upset things, it was decided not to give me the injection, but instead to let me scrape along at the lower edge on my own inborn talents.

Probably not the healthiest attitude in the world, but there it is.  Thank Heaven I inherited Mom’s cheerful nature or I probably would be sunk in perpetual melancholy.

I like this: “What the FOCA?” a catchy new website dedicated to rallying opposition to the truly horrid Freedom of Choice Act.  Go check it out.

I did my own little bit of duty against the thing by duly signing postcards to my senators and representative last Sunday, which postcards will be collected and delivered to the Hill in person by our Bishop.  I suppose that for my efforts I will be placed on some kind of black list.

The good news is that I read somewhere recently that FOCA doesn’t even have the votes to get out of committee.  I sincerely hope this is true.

A glass of wine with Damian Thompson.

Sorry for the lack of posting today.  We had a goodish bit of ice here overnight.  This morning I spent a couple hours hacking it off the driveway and sidewalk, came in and collapsed in my comfy chair next the fire, where I spent the bulk of the day drifting in and out of sleep.

Very pleasant.

Uh, oh.

Owing to an unguarded word to the effect that I would be happy to help out in an assistant coaching position, I was asked this evening by the league president if I would be willing to manage one of the Triple-A softball teams in the eldest gel’s league this spring.

Of course I said yes, only taking pains to add the caviat that I have never coached or managed a team of any sort in my life.   From the tone of the president’s acceptance of this information, I gathered that it was not much of a concern. 

Well, all I can say is that it ought to be.

Of course, I immediately started meditating on my prospective management technique.  My first instinct was to take this approach:

On second thoughts, though, I’ve noticed that I seem to be something of a favorite among the gel’s little friends.  Perhaps I can charm them into giving their requisite 110%.

We shall see.  As I remarked to Mrs. R, I can’t possibly make a worse pig’s breakfast of it than I did at serving on the vestry at RFEP.  (And as I didn’t remark to her, the  chances of my making some kind of positive impact in the world are far, far greater her.)

Of course, if I do wind up skippering a team, I will keep you posted.  If nothing else, the experience will make terrific blogging material.

I would point out that January 27 is a significant date.  Not only is this W.A. Mozart’s 253rd birthday, but nineteen years ago today Mrs. R and I had our first (blind) date.

Because yesterday was my birthday, I took the day off, spending the morning with Mrs. R and, after she’d bustled off to start her new grad school course, the afternoon and evening with the gels.

Sunday night, in celebration, I had cooked a family favorite – a shrimp and prosciutto pasta dish.  Unfortunately, I got carried away and put in waaaaaay too much garlic.  (Yes, apparantly this can be done.)   Alas, the meal was roundly condemned at table, and all day yesterday I could still taste and smell it. Oh, well.

I notice with some amusement that Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church still has me marked down for receipt of the annual birthday offering envelope.   No doubt I’ll appear in tomorrow’s service bulletin as well.  So far as they’re concerned, I still count as a warm body regardless of my actual beliefs.  Nonetheless, the next time you see an article or the like stating that the Episcopal Church has a national membership of 1,900,000, you should know it’s actually 1,899,999. 

In a strange twist, I believe I actually spend more time there now than I did prior to swimming the Tiber, since Mrs. R has become much more committed to regular attendance than previously and it’s my duty to tag along in order to help ride herd on the gels.  I suppose that so long as I refrain from taking part in the RFEC communion (which I, of course, do, remaining in the pew and smiling quietly to myself) nobody can tag me with being too heretical just by showing up.

Besides, I still have friends there, I enjoy helping out with sandwich Sunday once a month, and the hymns are usually well worth singing.

UPDATE: Oh, my.  I haven’t been paying attention to these things for a while, but this morning the rector suddenly started talking about how “the Church’s strength is in its contradictions” and “don’t believe everything you read in the papers.”  I leant over to tell Mrs. R that it sounded like somebody has just dropped another bombshell, but she shushed me before I could get the words out.

Well, it turns out my radar was working just fine because it seems the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia has just passed a resolution embracing free love.

agincourt There is a review in the WSJ today by Ron Maxwell (who wrote the Gettysburg and Gods & Generals screenplays) of Bernard Cornwell’s latest foray into historickal fiction, this time focusing on the Battle of Agincourt as seen through the eyes of an English bowman:

With his novel “Agincourt,” Bernard Cornwell leads us into this world with the hypnotic skill of an old seer seated about an ancient campfire. Of course Shakespeare, with “Henry V,” has already taken us on this journey, as seen through the eyes of England’s young king. Mr. Cornwell selects for his protagonist a man as lowly as the king is exalted, as powerless as the king is omnipotent. By the end of this gripping novel we understand that it was the common soldier — personified by a man named Nick Hook in Mr. Cornwell’s telling — who embodied the English character and in large measure determined the outcome of its military adventures. Revealing as well is the fact that Hook is exceptionally skilled at a particular kind of warfare — shooting arrows with a longbow.

Anyone who has ever held a bow and arrow will savor Mr. Cornwell’s affectionate descriptions of designing, crafting, maintaining, transporting and fighting with this weapon. He emphasizes that it was the English archer who often made the critical difference in 15th-century battle. He was trained from youth to develop the muscles of his arms, chest and back in order to acquire the reserves of strength to repeatedly draw a bowstring that most strong men could barely pull half-way — and trained as well in the art of guiding the arrow’s flight to his prey.

I would be inclined to pick up this book purely out of interest in the mechanics of longbow archery, but I’m a bit dubious about Mr. Cornwell’s “hypnotic skills”.  Indeed, I have to admit that I find his storytelling style to be somewhat hit or miss:  As fond as I am of dipping into his Richard Sharpe series from time to time, the stock almost-superhuman villains;  arrogant shhnobs and dastardly double-crosser within the Allied ranks; and strong, ravishing heroines all start blurring together after a while.  And I have found the samples of his Stonehenge and Saxon series I have tried to be border-line funny in an unintentional way.

Certainly not in the same league as, say, Patrick O’Brian or George MacDonald Fraser.

Still, as I say, I’ll probably pick up the book anyway……..

The cranium is full of little bits and pieces today, so here goes:

♦   I had a bizarre dream last night that started with my being a part of a settler family retreating down a river for fear of Indian attacks and ended up with my sitting in a hotel in Nashville, where I was employed as a news reader for NPR with no copy in my hands except cut-out newspaper ads.  After stumbling through as best I could, I finished my broadcast with, “This is NPR News?”  Somebody near me said, “Don’t worry, it’s always like that.”

♦  Somehow in the last couple days the expression, “I’ve got a baaaaaad feeling about this”  has seemed ever so much more relevant.

♦  How can anyone not like the overtures of Franz von Suppé?

♦  The eldest gel wanted some help with a writing assignment the other evening.  The topic was “Things that make me angry.”

I said, “Well, just think for a bit and list some topics. Should be easy for you.”

The gel said, “But, Daaa-ad, it’ll make it look like I’ve got a bad temper!”

“Well, you do sometimes,” I gently replied.

I know that,” she said, “But I don’t want Mr. [Teacher] to find out!”

“Um, I’ll bet he’s probably figured it out by now.”

♦  I am just about positive (because he spoke of it so enthusiastically at Christmas) that the small package my brother sent for my upcoming birthday is a copy of Blazing Angels for Wii.  I’ve not played a WWII flying game since we got our new computer and I couldn’t figure out how to attach the joystick to play my old Microsoft program.  Despite the goodish bit of bad press this one seems to have garnered, I am not enough of a gamer geek to worry about the flaws in it and probably will spend an inordinate amount of time blasting Nazis out of the sky.

♦  The streets around the National Mall are still covered with grit and goo from the festivities this week.  It occurred to me this morning that Dee Cee probably can’t hose them down simply because of all the problems associated with sub-freezing temperatures, and is likely waiting for Mother Nature to do her thing and wash them off herself.  Until then, walking about is making me feel faintly grimey.

♦  When’s my birthday, you ask? Why, it’s coming up on Monday.  I’ll be 44, in case you’re interested, but I don’t plan any particular celebration this year.

♦  Speaking of celebrations, I owe an immense apology to several of my on-line friends who sent real life dead-tree Christmas cards this year.  I had thought that my bloggy-friend list had been incorporated into our main one and only found out at the last minute that it wasn’t.  And what with one thing and another and all our travel, I never got round to sending responsive cards either.  Mea culpa.  I’m horrid about that sort of thing, but please do not take my sloppy correspondence habit personally.

♦  And speaking of Christmas cards, I got a very nice Madonna and Child one from Father M.  I’ve put it up on my office bulletin board just to get folks to think a bit.  Of course, it’s right next to a card of a cat about to purree a blender full of goldfish, so I’m not exactly sure what they’ll think. But that’s their lookout.

♦  My sister is about to give birth any day now.  She’s having a second girl.  This will make four nieces along with my three daughters.  My brother’s boy is (and likely will remain) the single male in his generation of my family.  Among these seven female kin and my two God-daughters, I feel more and more the humor behind God’s response to my ardent wish as a younger man to be surrounded by gels.


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January 2009