Thursday, June 19, 2008

Join the Party!

This joke motivational poster from my friend Martin took me back to that History of the Soviet Union (remember those wacky lovable nutcases?) I took in my undergrad. It seemed like a good idea at the time (the course, I mean, though I suppose that could be a theme today for any course on the USSR).

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Beekeeper, The Monastery, and the Foreclosure Crisis

From the New York Times. St. Francis and my late father would both have liked this story.

April 20, 2008
American Album
Floridian One to Call When Bees Move In
CAPE CORAL, Fla. — In a county with one of the nation’s highest foreclosure rates, empty houses have attracted a new type of nonpaying tenant: bees.

Tens of thousands of honeybees, building nests in garages, rafters, even furniture left behind.

When a swarm came to the foreclosed ranch house at 3738 Santa Barbara Place in Cape Coral, town officials called B. Keith Councell, a fourth generation beekeeper and licensed bee remover.

On a recent evening, Mr. Councell stood at the light blue house’s open garage door as hundreds of honeybees buzzed over his head and past his ears, disappearing into a hole behind the water meter. The house has been without a human occupant since December.

Read the whole article and don't miss the video.

In Hard Times, the Truck Stop Offers a Place to Pray

From the New York Times. I've travelled through Breezewood, PA, on the way to other places. I never thought much about the spiritual needs of the long-haul truckers who pass through here or other truck stops.June 18, 2008

More than six million souls pass through this quarter-mile strip of all-night waffle houses and gas stations each year. The Rev. Shannon Rust hopes to save at least a few of them.

For nearly two decades, he has pulled the chapel inside his 18-wheel tractor-trailer twice a week to this bustling truck stop where the Pennsylvania Turnpike meets Interstate 70.

To most people, this place between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg is neither here nor there. It is a tank of gas, a bathroom break and a coffee refill. But to Mr. Rust, the diesel-soaked lot alongside the All-American Petro is a parish ideal for preaching to the traveling masses about life’s ultimate arrival.

Read the whole article and don't miss the video.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Marathoner and the Newsman - A Cautionary Tale

By Steve Sternberg, USA TODAY

For all their differences, NBC newsman Tim Russert and famed marathoner Jim Fixx, author of the 1977 best-seller The Complete Book of Running, have two things in common: Each died of a massive heart attack while still in his 50s.
Neither one saw it coming.

Russert, 58, died Friday while recording voice-overs for Meet the Press, anchored, as usual, to a desk. Fixx, 52, died on July 20, 1984 after a daily run in rural Hardwick, Vt.

Such cases provide tragic proof that though you can lower your risk of sudden death, you can't always prevent it, says Robert Califf, vice chancellor of clinical research at Duke University in Durham, N.C.

Read the whole article

When Mess Dinners Go Horribly Wrong

This link via YouTube from the old British series "Ripping Yarns" by Michael Palin and Eric Idle is worth watching, especially if you've ever sat through a full fledged military mess dinner. Click here.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Goodbye to 4RCR

While I ceased to be a member of the Fourth Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment on 1 June when my transfer to the Regular Force took effect, I wanted to say goodbye by attending the battalion's change of command parade yesterday, 12 June. The parade marked the end of LCol. Brock Millman's very successful tenure as unit CO and the beginning of LCol. Matt MacDonald's command. The weather cooperated beautifully, a warm evening with a light breeze and clear skies. The parade took place in the parade square of historic Wolseley Barracks in London, the first facility ever built in Canada for Canadian (rather than British) troops.

Clicking on the pictures will provide a larger view.

LCol Millman in center of the picture. 4RCR's colour, bearing the regiment's battle honours, is to his left, and is carried by Lt. Jerry Rozic. The honour guard are Sgts. Irving and Tarrington.

An award ceremony followed the parade, where I had the opportunity to present the Battalion with a set of framed prints of RCR uniforms over the last century, a gift from my late father's estate. My dad, Maj. Allan A.S. Peterson, won the Military Cross with the First Battalion of the RCR in Korea in 1952, and was posted at Wolseley Barracks ten years later, when I was born.

LCol. Matt MacDonald, CO of 4RCR, and myself hold two of the prints which will hang within the 4RCR unit lines.

Army Wives on TV

I don't watch cable TV, I just rent it and read about it in the New York Times. Recently I came across what seems to be a smart show about the costs of military service on families back home. I was intrigued by Ginia Bellafante's review in NYT of the series "Army Wives" on the Lifetime channel (I have no idea if Lifetime is available in Canada - I'd be surprised in the gazillion channel universe if it wasn't.

Bellafante makes me want to catch this series as a means to understanding what goes on at home when soldiers are deployed - terrain that was briefly explored in the now defunct HBO Iraq war-based series "Over There", which was not exactly a successful recruiting tool for the US Army. Here's an excerpt from her review:

“Army Wives” depends on plenty of easy patriotic imagery — slow shots of billowing flags in front of brick buildings, all those red and blue party napkins — but at the heart of the show is a deep skepticism about the psychological impact of military culture on family life, a distaste for the brand of masculinity it breeds. The show never allows you to think that what you really want is a man in uniform. Only one of the servicemen is genuinely appealing: he reads Steinbeck, and he listens. The rest subjugate their wives and children to myriad offensive rigidities, one of them deranged enough to want to blow up a local bar out of anger over his wife’s infidelity."

A quick google lead me to an earlier NYT review from 2007, following a group of real army wives in Fort Drum, NY, watching the show.

The women generally approved of it, and one offered this wonderfully shrewd comment:

“The problems were the technical aspects. Hollywood writers writing about the military is like men writing about childbirth.” But, she said, “you notice that we keep watching, week after week. That says something.”

I'd love to hear any comments if you've caught this show on TV or in the video store.


Friday, June 6, 2008

Pushed, Not Jumped - Losing Nukes a Career-Limiting Move

From the New York Times
Published: June 6, 2008

WASHINGTON — The Air Force’s senior civilian official and its highest-ranking general were ousted by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Thursday after an inquiry into the mishandling of nuclear weapons and components found systemic problems in the Air Force.

Read the whole article:

In other words, when you've had this stuff for the last sixty years, and you haven't really thought about it much since the Berlin Wall came down, it's easy to lose track of it. Rather like those hockey cards or army men you enjoyed as a kid, and you know are around the house somewhere, you're just not sure where. If things are this bad in the USAF, imagine how much worse it is in the former East Bloc.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

I would like a great lake of beer

Last night I attended my last event in the Diocese of Huron, an ordination service at St. Paul's cathedral in London, to support two students who did placements in my parish, the Rev'd Brad Dunbar (ordained priest last night) and the Rev'd Jenny Sharp (ordained transitional deacon).

It was hot and my fellow clerics were obviously distracted by the last game of the Stanley Cup finals. My imagination was caught by this text printed on the last page of the service booklet:

"On the Heavenly Banquet

I would like to have the inhabitants of heaven
In my house:
With vats of good cheer
Laid out for them.

I would like to have the three Marys,
Their fame so great.
I would like people
From every corner of Heaven.

I would like them to be cheerful
In their drinking,
I would like to have Jesus too
Here amongst them.

I would like a great lake of beer
For the King of Kings,
I would like to be watching Heaven's family
Drinking it through all eternity."

Celtic poem from the tenth century.

I'd never heard of this text before, and it is a lovely sentiment. Many of us would indeed have enjoyed a great lake of beer last night.

The theological question it poses, however - what beer would the King of Kings drink? My friend, the Ven. Dr. Timothy Connor, would undoubtedly say Guinness, which indeed would suit the Celtic provenance of this poem. I think if it was a Canadian lake, and a great lake of beer sounds very Canadian, it would be Wellington County Dark Ale.

What do you think the King of Kings would drink?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Signs of the Times

Today saw us one step closer to getting to my first posting at CFB Greenwood. After getting verbal clearance from the military's Relocation Program, we signed up with our realtor and got our house on the market.

These placid pictures mark hours of frantic work tarting up the house and getting it ready to show. Kay has been amazing during these long days, which turned tropically hot this week, working like a dervish. Her garden has never looked better, and the house has never looked cleaner.

I've been thinking of putting a yellow ribbon and sign beside our realtor's sign with the words "Support Our Troops, Buy This House" but I think that would be cheating.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Sigining My Life Away - Going Reg Force

"Going Reg Force" is an expression in the Reserve or militia portion of the Canadian Forces for people who transfer (CT or Component Transfer in CF jargon) to the Regular Forces.

On Monday, June 2nd, I signed a six year contract to serve in the Regular Force as a chaplain, the end of a discernment process that's lasted for over a year. My patient and resigned wife, Kay, took this picture of me signing the contract at the Canadian Forces Recruiting Centre in London.

Since I had already taken the oath to enlist in the CF as a reservist, there was no
additional oath or affirmation, just a bunch of signatures. Perhaps the most ominous part was the signature agreeing that my service could be extended beyond the contract date in the event of a national emergency (code for a world war or similar catastrophe) which, however unlikely, is a sobering prospect. It was also higly meaningful to sign these papers knowing that two brothers, my father, and paternal grandfather have in their lives also gone through this process and made these promises.

Kay and I celebrated by taking a bunch of books to a used bookstore - lo and behold they took a bunch, but did we take cash? No, God help us, with a move coming up, we took $100 in credit. Spending this credit will give us something to do while we have to be out of the house for a showing, and it will give me something to read when I have to go out to CFB Greenwood ahead of Kay, which looks increasingly likely.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

A Sermon for D-Day

I had the honour of conducting the annual D-Day service at Victoria Park in London for the 1st Hussars when their padre, Fr. Chris Gillespie, was unavailable. As it was my first Sunday after resigning from my parish, and was the day before my transfer from the reserve to the regular Canadian Forces, it seemed like a suitable employment for a Sunday. 1H as they are known within 31 Brigade have a proud history, including being one of the first units ashore on Juno Beach, making the hazardous journey ashore in their amphibuous duplex drive Sherman tanks to clear the beaches for the Canadian infantry. Here's the sermon, kept appropriately brief for a standing audience of soldiers:

It gives me great pleasure to bring greetings from LCol Millman and all ranks of the Fourth Battalion, the Royal Canadian Regiment. Ever since some soldiers rode to battle and others marched, there as been a rivalry between the cavalry and the infantry, and that rivalry continues between our two units. However, when the stories of D-Day and the Normandy campaign are told, there isn’t a Royal Canadian in A Block who is not proud to have as our neighbours, the gallant Hussars.

Today we gather to mark the sixty fourth anniversary of D-Day. Nothing in military history had ever been attempted on this scale before. For the fifteen thousand Canadians who participated with their Allies in Operation Overlord, it would be the ultimate test of training and of courage. Coming from the air by night and from the sea in the grey light of dawn, Canadian soldiers, supported by airmen and sailors, joined with their Allies in what General Dwight D. Eisenhower called a crusade to free the peoples of Europe from Nazi occupation and oppression.

Just after 0700 on the sixth of June, four squadrons of Canadian amphibious tanks, including two from the First Hussars, began their long slow run into Juno Beach. The crews of these tanks displayed exemplary skill and courage, trusting that the canvas screens of their tanks would keep them afloat in a choppy sea lashed with German gunfire. The phrase “a leap of faith”, a favourite of we preachers, took on a whole new meaning that morning. As Sgt. Leo Gariepy described the moment of launching, the tank would drop off the ramp of the landing craft, sink into the sea until less than six inches of canvas were above the water, and then get underway. Once ashore, the Hussars helped the Canadian infantry overcome the German beach defences and proceed inland. One infantry unit, the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, reported in gratitude that “no higher degree of courage or calculated daring could be displayed than that shown by every commander and sub-unit of this gallant Regt” (Regimental history, The Gallant Hussars, p. 124).

In the weeks that followed the D-Day landing, the First Hussars and their colleagues confronted and overcame the best troops of Europe’s best army, at a considerable cost. While the civilian population suffered in the midst of this combat, they always knew that the Allies had come as liberators. This fact is clearly demonstrated in the account of how the Hussars’ famous tank, “The Angel”, earned its celebrated mascot. After the landings, two Hussars were investigating a village when an elderly man asked them to celebrate the village’s liberation by ringing the church bell, which had been silent throughout the occupation. In gratitude, the Hussars were given a metal plaque of an angel, which graced three tanks by that name and was presented to the Juno Beach Centre in 2003.

Christian scripture tells us that angels are messengers of grace and peace. Soldiers make unlikely angels, to be sure, but that summer in Normandy and in the years since, Canadian soldiers have been messengers of peace. They come ready to do battle, and often fight at great cost, but the people of Normandy, like the peoples of Bosnia and Afghanistan, know that these soldiers are to be welcomed as agents of peace and a better future, and need not be feared as occupiers. Today, while we honour our fallen comrades of the Normandy campaign, we are mindful of our brothers and sisters in arms who have laid down their lives in the years since, including the most recent years. We commend them as well today to the mercy of God. We pray that their families may find peace in healing in times of sorrow and grief. Finally, we pray that their sacrifice not be in vain, but that their efforts build a better future for all the world.


Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.


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