Monday, November 30, 2009

On towards December

Oh, my aching foot! The Ten Commandments Hike was a resounding success, but the six miles of walking did little to alleviate the discomfort that resulted when my plantar faciitis kicked in an hour after I stopped hiking. Oh, well, if a night or two of foot pain (make that three nights) is the price I have to pay for a successful hike, I guess I'll deal with it. We had over 200 Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Scouters, parents, siblings, other relatives and friends go with us to ten different places of worship. Among the highlights of the trek this year was the rare presentation of the St. George Award from the Episcopal Church of the USA to The Very Reverend Susan Gaumer, the rector at St. Andrew's Epsiscopal Church. St. Andrew's and Mother Gaumer were selected because of the 80th anniversary the church celebrated in its sponsorship of a Boy Scout unit, Troop 48. Two Catholic churches, Mater Dolorosa and Holy Name of Jesus were also on the hike for the first time this year in acknowledgment to the large number (60%) of the membership of the Southeast Louisiana Council. Two Jewish presentations were made. The first at the Jewish Community Center with Conservative Rabbi Ethan Linden and the second at Touro Synagogue with Rabbi Alexis Berk. The talks by all of the religious leaders were especially good this year as each expounded upon one of the Ten Commandments at each stop. One of the best talks (again) was delivered by the Rev. Carol Crawford at Rayne Memorial United Methodist Church. After the first four miles ended at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Cub Scouts fell out and caught a streetcar (note our logo) back to the starting point. Everyone else continued on for an additional two miles to two further stops, a Lutheran Church (Zion Lutheran) and a Baptist Church (New Home Full Gospel Ministries). Many thanks to Father Jon Paul (Catholic-Jesuit Order), the Rev. Neale Miller (Presbyterian), Mike Nicholas (LDS Church), Robert Carpenter (Lutheran) and Terrence Giles (Baptist) for filling in at the last minute for other speakers. The Jewish Community Center was also the site for a hot kosher meal consisting of hot dogs, chips, fresh fruit and lemonade. Kentwood Spring Water contributed several cases of water and Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff Marlin Gusman provided a motorcycle escort for our hikers for most of the way. Now the only question is what to do to make the 2010 hike even more memorable, since it will be in the centennial year of Scouting in the U.S. Guess it's also time to start making plans for Chanukah and Christmas season, which is fast upon us now. And, Mardi Gras is also fast approaching.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Day

Let me be perfectly straightforward. We should all be thankful for every day we enjoy. Even the most hapless individual trying to eke out a living in an inhospitable world should give shouts of praise for life and all of its possibilities. As challenging as life can be, there is always a positive outcome just around the corner. Some lessons I've learned through the years are telling. Bill Gates started Microsoft during a recession. Harland Sanders started Kentucky Fried Chicken at 66 with no income aside from the $105 he received from Social Security. James Cash Penney suffered financial ruin at the onset of the Great Depression, but kept his empire alive by borrowing from his life insurance policy. There is always potential in every human being that he or she will do better tomorrow and so we should all gives thanks for the many blessings we have today. To me Thanksgiving Day is the quintessential American holiday. It speaks volumes about our dependence upon one another and that we should always put our best foot forward. The story told to grade schoolers of the first meeting of the plucky Pilgrims and the dimwitted Wampanoags who befriended them is full of untruths and misleading stereotypes. For those of us who know the true story of Squanto and the historical facts of the very first Thanksgiving, there is little doubt that the Pilgrims would likely have perished had they not had substantial help from the Native Americans living near Plymouth Rock. Nevertheless, it is easy to dismiss these spun tales as pure propaganda and understand the reasons these stories were concocted in the first place. It was to make the earliest American settlers seem somehow superior to the Native Americans and justify the horrible way the Europeans treated their friends. Those Wampanoags that survived the pestilence brought upon them in the form of the common cold or flu to which they had no immunity were almost all wiped out by wars waged upon them by their Pilgrim brothers a few years later. From such humble beginnings the holiday of Thanksgiving evolved into what is today the most American of holidays. It is a day for families to gather and to revel in the freedoms we all enjoy as American citizens. It is a spiritual holiday, but that doesn't mean it is specifically religious. It is a patriotic holiday, but it is best expressed through family. I've always loved the holiday for what it offers: the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, an opportunity to dine out or join with family at a central location and the jumping off point for the upcoming holiday season. As a kid, I loved the Macy's TV spectacular and a few years ago I even managed to go up to New York to view it up close and personal. It was so bitterly cold outside and so crowded that I abandoned my perch on Broadway and ran inside to catch the rest of the parade on the small TV screen in the cramped hotel room there. For this we paid a high premium. I thought to myself that I could have just as easily caught the parade on the small screen back home and saved a significant bill in the process. Despite my having seen many Mardi Gras parades here in New Orleans, I will admit the Macy's parade with its many colorful and gargantuan balloons is very special. There's nothing quite like watching these mammoth lighter-than-air figures floating inside massive canyons of glass and steel. The spectators are very composed and enjoy themselves with a great more comportment than we do down here. But perhaps I am jaded. These New Yorkers just don't get it. I stood on a crowded sidewalk freezing my lagniappe off and didn't catch one bead, cup, Frisbee or doubloon. Some parade! In any event I hope you all enjoy the grandest of holidays and keep the spirit of the day in your hearts.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tokens of my affection

Last night I drove downtown to pick up 180 Regional Transit Authority (RTA) tokens. No, I'm not planning on giving up my car or becoming environmentally responsible by advocating for mass transit. Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you. A very important part of the upcoming Ten Commandments Hike involves our use of the historic St. Charles Avenue streetcars for our return to the starting point. Streetcar fares like buses are $1.25 each. Anyone who knows the difficulties with having to pay for hundreds of people boarding one or two streetcars using cash know full well the reasons we dispense RTA tokens to our participants. The only problem is that the tokens are only sold at a handful of stores across New Orleans, none of which are particularly convenient for me. The one store that sells tokens into the evening hours is Unique General Store, a huge convenience store located near the intersection of Canal and Royal Streets. This means that it is located in the historic French Quarter, although for many New Orleanians there is the feeling that first block with its many modern edifices along Canal Street is well out of character. Suffice it to say that the block is busy. There are quite a number of people drinking beers and congregating along the sidewalks there and inside the aptly-named Unique there is a veritable United Nations of visitors and residents. In my earlier days I would have had no problem getting down with my people and acting like a very cool cucumber. But in order to find a legitimate parking spot free from the ever-vigilant meter maids, I had to enlist my mother to travel with me. She was not amused. While I went indoors to find a manager, she was exposed to a cacophony of sounds and a kaleidoscope of sights not usually heard or seen by her. After locating a manager I had to go to the rear of the store, my hand inside my jacket clutching several hundred dollars. I felt uneasy as I negotiated what seemed like a palaver between me and the natives there. "Can I please have a receipt?" I asked the manager through the windows that formed a small office. His right eyebrow rose as if to mimic a look from one of John Belushi's "Samurai" skits on Saturday Night Live. "Is a plain piece of paper okay?" he shot back. I assured him it was. He handed me 18 small bags, each containing ten tokens, and I was instructed to count them. 15, 16, 17, 18. "Yes, that's right. Thank you very much." I turned to move towards the front of the store, but the exit seemed a lot further away than it did when I had entered. There were several people congregating in the front and I had to do my best Fred Astaire impression, pivoting masterfully here and there as I found myself back on the street and turning towards my car and my mother. As I approached the vehicle, I could see her demeanor was not unlike that of a deer caught in the headlights. She was not amused. I opened the door, giving her a slight startle and began to negotiate out of the parking spot. In a few seconds we were away and much more relaxed, feeling our mission was a success. I felt very pleased with myself until this morning. That's when I heard from the Scout office that another 20 people had signed up overnight for the hike. That meant another two bags of tokens and another jaunt down to the French Quarter. How lucky can I get?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sixth annual 10 Commandments Hike

View 10 Commandments Hike 2009 in a larger map
Map of 10 Commandments Hike
With less than a day to register online, there are still several slots available for interested parties to join with me on the sixth annual Ten Commandments Hike, sponsored by the Southeast Louisiana Council. This is an interfaith hike designed to reinforce the 12th Point of the Scout Law ("A Scout is reverent.") and to promote physical fitness. It's more than just a Boy Scout activity. It is open to the public and an unusual way to promote religious tolerance, acceptance and understanding. Quite frankly, I enjoy leading this event because it brings everyone together in a very real manner under the umbrella of Scouting. Everyone who participates gets a water bottle emblazoned with the 2009 logo, a special patch, a streetcar token, a brochure listing all the stops and is fed a delicious hot kosher lunch midway through the hike. It's even open to Girl Scouts, the only event sanctioned by the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of the USA. So the hike is responsible for bringing all kinds of disparate groups together. Here's the link to sign up until midnight tonight.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Four rabbis and two imams

Imam Omar Suleiman addresses the dinner crowd at Casablanca Restaurant in Metairie.

The joke is supposed to start "Four rabbis and two imams walk into a restaurant," but last night it wasn't a laughing matter at all. It was, in fact, a serious effort on the part of many in the New Orleans community to foster trust and understanding between two divergent faith groups. The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, a non-profit organization founded in New York by rap mogul Russell Simmons, Rabbi Marc Schneier and the late impressario Joseph Papp, organized the day-long activity between (Orthodox Jewish) Congregation Beth Israel and the Abu Bakr Al Siddique Mosque This so-called "twining" process began two years ago with Schneier's The New York Synagogue and the Malcolm Shabazz Mosque and has since grown into 50 such pairings last year across the nation with 100 this year. Rabbi Uri Topolosky and Imam Omar Suleiman have varying opinions on a number of matters, but they did away with criticism and dissent yesterday and, along with fellow congregants, picked up paint brushes and helped rehab a home in the Upper Ninth Ward area. That work, sponsored by the Saint Bernard Project, was intended to have both groups of Jews and Muslims work together on a project of lasting significance. After they cleaned up from the back-breaking work, everyone gathered at Casablanca Restaurant in Metairie, a kosher Morrocan restaurant, to enjoy a festive meal and to enjoy fellowship with one another. Both Schneier and his "twin" partner, Imam Muhummad Shamsi Ali, were in attendance at the dinner and each had time to discuss the various forms of religious observant foods allowed or prohibited in each religion. In Jewish circles the concept is called kosher or kashrut, while for Muslims the term is called halal. Members of each group asked questions of each other's spiritual leaders in order to gain insight. Also in attendance were Beth Israel administrative director Rabbi David Posternock and Rabbi Robert Loewy, the spiritual leader of Gates of Prayer Synagogue, where Beth Israel is presently meeting. All in all it was a great first start for two religious groups who have been largely distrustful and suspicious of each other. While Imam Suleiman and Rabbi Topolosky still have a major philosophical rift on a number of other topics, rebuilding New Orleans is a primary focus for both of them. This first "twining" was tentative, but wildly satisfactory in that a mechanism has been put into place for common values and to foster future connections between the two groups. It is, perhaps, God's will that the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding will bring these two Abrahamic faith groups closer.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NBC News Correspondent Martin Fletcher books into town

Sharing a moment in time with broadcast legend Martin Fletcher at the New Orleans JCC
One of my journalistic heroes came into town last night. Martin Fletcher, the lanky NBC correspondent who has covered conflicts in the Middle East, wars in Afghanistan, scourges in Africa and a host of other unsettling news events wheeled into New Orleans as part of the Jewish Community Center's 10th annual "People of the Book" Bookfest. Fletcher, whose hard-cover edition of "Breaking News" was released last year was not able to fit New Orleans in on his vacation schedule from NBC, having to stick to major cities in the initial push for publicity in 2008. This year, however, he made two stops at the two cities where I spent a significant time in my life. Last week it was Cleveland and last night he was here. Speaking with a very proper British accent, Fletcher charmed his audience with a number of "war" stories, some of which involved him and his crews in genuine danger. His ready wit had many in attendance laughing along with him as he recounted small instances in his long career, which at the time seemed anything but funny. Following a stint as an editor at the London Times, Fletcher opted to become a television reporter. Initially he signed on as a cameraman. One of those early stories involved his work as a pool cameraman during the 1973 "Yom Kippur" war in Israel when he and his colleagues riding in an armored personnel carrier were attacked in a bombing and strafing run by an Egyptian plane. As Fletcher related, he was traveling with Horst Faas, a Pulizer Prize winning photographer who had been cited for his previous superb work under fire. Faas and others sought refuge inside the vehicle through a turret. Fletcher was unable to join them because there was no space left inside. So, being the good broadcast journalist that he was, he started shooting his film camera. Even though the vehicle was driving erratically and in a serpentine pattern, he stood firm and watched through the lens as the MiG came back for two more attempts to dispatch their vehicle. Just as Fletcher and the others feared the worst, the Egyptian pilot flew straight up, pursued by an Israeli fighter, which shot him down in a haze of black smoke a few moments later. Faas hadn't even shot a single frame of film, but Fletcher had recorded it all. Afterwards, he told Fletcher it was by far and away the most dangerous event of his life, but Fletcher being naive or, perhaps, naturally calm under pressure, caught what turned out to be one of the most incredible exchanges of fire in that conflict. It was to be an indicator of much of what he was capable of doing in the coming decades. Although he stated he lived in Paris for two years early in his career, NBC kept him on the road in Afghanistan, the Middle East and other places for all but 42 days during that time. Eventually, he married an Israeli woman he literally "picked up" on the street, came to live just north of Tel Aviv and raised his family there. To hear Fletcher tell it, his job is unlike any of his adult counterparts in Israel. When the two intifadas were ongoing and prior to the security wall going up, Fletcher would put his children on school buses every morning fearing for the lives of his sons that they would not suffer at the hands of a terrorist or suicide bomber. Then, he would travel to the West Bank and interview some of the very same people who might very well be launching such attacks. Throughout his credit and much to his credit, Fletcher managed to interview both sides of a story and come away with a fair and objective report. The result was that neither the Israelis or the Palestinians came to see his reports as particularly biased. He didn't make any friends with right-wing Israelis nor was he embraced by hardliners in the Palestine Liberation Organization. The human factor of his stories has become more important to Fletcher and to support that he played videos of some of his more recent reports. A story on a young, determined AIDS victim in Africa, whose parents were lost to the disease and who was once close to death herself was riveting. Another report showed a violin from World War II that had belonged to a young Jewish violinist forced to play for Nazi officers and their ladies at a night club. Plotting his revenge, the violinist stashed a cache of explosives over a period of a year or more and used them to kill 200 of his captors before he himself was captured and executed. His violin was restored in Israel and played by famous Israeli violinist Shlomo Mintz at Aushwitz as Fletcher recounted the compelling event. Proudly, Fletcher admits he is less interested these days in covering an event or a story, but more interested in coming to know the people involved and telling their story. All in all, "Breaking News" is a good read, but Fletcher is an effective speaker and a vaulted personality worthy of respect in the field of broadcast journalism. He is less anxious these days to cover a war or conflict as he might have done in Rwanda or Kosovo. Still, that sounds to me like the wisdom of his years finally caught up to the recklessness of his youth. Martin Fletcher is a hero for these and many other reasons. An audience member revealed how surprised she was to learn that Fletcher is the son of Holocaust survivors from Vienna and that in all of his reports across the globe from Israel and afar, she had no idea he was Jewish. That's an incredible compliment to any reporter that is seeking the truth. He is a great broadcast journalist and now he is an author of great merit. I look forward to his new book on Israel, which he says is already at his publisher's offices. Perhaps next year we in New Orleans will be lucky enough to be on the first publicity tour for that tome. If not, there's always the paperback tour in 2011.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

10 Commandments Hike

Holding a special "kudu horn" or shofar, here I am at the 2007 Ten Commandments Hike

Five times in as many years I have organized an interfaith march along historic New Orleans streets for the Boy Scouts. Sponsored by the Southeast Louisiana Council (with a major push from the Jewish Committee on Scouting), the Ten Commandments Hike has received critical praise and overwhelming support from diverse groups within and without the Scouting community. As a matter of fact, it is the only event in which members of both the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of the USA participate. The idea of the hike is to promote acceptance and tolerance of major faith groups as well as to advocate for physical fitness. The Twelfth Point of the Scout Law is "A Scout is reverent." To that end and to promote a Scout's duty to God, the participants gather at one of the many designated houses of worship and hear about one of the Ten Commandments before leaving for another and then another. The hike is designed to be age-friendly for the younger and older segments of those participating. For Cub Scouts and others from six- to eleven-years old, the hike is four miles long encompassing eight of the ten stops along majestic Carrollton and St. Charles Avenues. For older Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and adults, the remainder of the hike is another two miles long. At the end of each segment, participants climb aboard the historic St. Charles streetcar and return to the starting point just prior to sundown. This year's day-long event on November 27 enjoys stops at Episcopal, Catholic, Presbyterian, Jewish, United Methodist, Mormon, Lutheran and Baptist houses of worship. But an interesting thing has occurred this year. Perhaps it is the ever flattening economy or perhaps it is that boredom has set in, but for some reason our usual numbers are off and less than ten days remain before the hike takes place. This year's hike is important in that it kicks off awareness of the centennial year of Scouting in the United States among the various faith groups. Founded on February 8, 1910, the Boy Scouts of America has always counted on support from religious factions and major faith groups as major partners. So, in an effort to drum up support and get more participants, I am officially plugging this year's hike. EVERYONE and I mean EVERYONE can take part. You don't have to be a Scout or even know one (although you do know me, I guess). Here is the link to sign up online. Oh, and don't forget about submitting the medical form and registration information. Hope to see you at this year's hike. Woo hoo!

Monday, November 16, 2009

The skin of my teeth

The last week has been bit of a haze for me. Monday I underwent periodontal surgery on the upper right and lower left portions of my gumline. The three and a half hour ordeal was made easier by the use of copious amounts of lidocaine that rendered parts of my nose, lips and oral orifice numb for 24 hours. There's nothing so freeing as to dribble liquid unintentionally over yourself following a procedure like this. It's those little things that make the other more disgusting and painful outcomes of surgery seem somehow a bit more tenable. Thank goodness for pain medications and an attentive staff who called me daily to check on my progress. In any event, as you can attest, I did survive and indeed made it through the initial bland-and-soft-food-only days with a certain aplomb and esprit-de-corps. It's like the song "New York, New York." If I can make it there (through this), I 'll make it anywhere (through anything)." There is no doubt we take our mouths for granted. It is only in disquieting times like this when we are advised not to speak and counseled as to what we can put inside our mouths that the daily importance of smiling, eating and even kissing loom large. I can admit that the most difficult post-operative prohibition I dealt with was not talking. Oh, what would I have given to have had a universal translator or some other fictional futuristic device to aid me in my dire time of no communication! I had a pad of paper and a pen that I tried using, but given my poor pensmanship, cursive writing is a labor in futility for me. I liken it to surfing the Internet with Mosaic. It could be done, but why bother? I am so accustomed to typing for all my writing that I think in keystrokes. It probably was a good thing that I had a handful of pain medications to down at the time and help me cope. The relative lack of pain kept my spirits up and allowed me to deal with my recovery in a measured and steady manner. By the end of this past week I was talking and eating in a more natural way. I admit I was not really feeling up to writing a whole lot or chowing down on a thick steak or a box of peanuts. The last week I've had several instances where I should have written something. Disgraced former U.S. Representative William Jefferson was sentenced to 13 years behind bars and both New Orleans Chief of Technology Gregory Meffert and his wife Lisa and his computer-savvy crony Mark St. Pierre were arraigned in federal court on a variety of charges. Looks like when I finally do recover, I'll have plenty to write about. Oh, well, time to remove the sutures.

Monday, November 9, 2009

One Ida, One Ani

Some of you may have heard. It's November. Apparently, that fact escaped notice from Mother Nature because an extremely rare November storm named Ida lashed North America over the past few days. While attentions were being paid in Louisiana to football games and the fallout from last weekend's Voodoo Fest, Hurricane Ida blindsided the Big Easy. After hitting the Carribean, the storm entered the Gulf of Mexico, poised to strike the Alabama and Florida Gulf Coasts. According to meterologists, Ida has been downgraded to a tropical storm, but it still will be a significant rain event. Meanwhile, Ani Kafavian, a renowned classical violinist whose sister Ida of the Beaux Arts Trio, was due to be in town tonight for a concert sponsored by the Friends of Music. The concert is now slated for November 10. Uh-oh. Gotta fly. My periodontist beckons me to have oral surgery about now. When I hear the word "oral" pronounced, I prefer a litany of other choices to follow it, surgery being my least favorite of word choices.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Yankees go home

For the 27th time the New York Yankees are world champions, winners of the coveted and heralded Commissioner's Trophy that signals they have won four out of the seven-game World Series. It's the first time the Yankees have won since 2000 and the first year they opened their new stadium. Back in 1923 the Yankees did the same thing. They opened a new stadium (soon to be called "the house that Ruth built") and won all the marbles that year. Winning has been a part of the Yankees' tradition. Fact is, they have won more World Series than any other ball club and have several significant records to reflect on their dominance in Major League Baseball. The crowning glory of this year's victory this year was they defeated last year's Series winners, the Philadelphia Phillies. 2008 was the first year in recent memory they didn't figure into the post-season, so posting the best average in the league was a great place to start, but taking the title was even more important. There was a time when winning and the name Yankees were almost synonymous. True Yankee fans will harp back to that incredible run from 1996 to 2003 when the team went to six World Series and won four. Of that four most fans will point out, the Yankees had a run of three consecutive Series wins (1998-2000). It would seem their losing ways hit a nadir last year. But look. The birds are flying ever more lightly this day and the air seems somewhat more refreshing than it has in years. The moon looked a bit brighter, perhaps showing the sun was beaming ever more brilliantly. Indeed, the universe is back on an even keel, because Yankee fans take to losing about as well as penguins do to living alone. It just can't be done for very long without the entire fabric of society shredding away. So, for the seventh time since 1973, the New York Yankees are world champions. Philadelphia put up a good fight, especially in Game One. But world champions they are no more. Sorry, Boston fans. Sorry, my friends in Cleveland. This is one of those special times where you won't hear us saying "wait until next year."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Windows 7

I've been keeping a bit mum about Windows 7, the latest and greatest operating system from Microsoft. Windows 7 is basically Windows Vista without any of the problems that beset that operating system at its initial release. Most of the problems associated with Windows Vista were hardware related and not the fault of the operating system, which did offer significant improvement in a number of areas over Windows XP, most notably that in security. Unfortunately, the bad rap it suffered from the start kept it from being implemented into more workplaces. Many clients actually preferred to stick with older versions of Windows XP rather than upgrade to Windows Vista because they were sure it would cause problems on their local workstations. Ironically, those that upgraded from older downlevel client operating systems like Windows 2000 Professional or were implementing computers on a local network for the first time, thought Vista was a huge improvement. Many of the problems with Vista have been ironed out in the last several years, which is why Microsoft used Vista as the basis for its latest operating system. There are some significant differences with Windows 7, especially as it relates to the desktop. There are some very cool features here, most of which require actual hands-on use rather than a description by me. The main thing to remember is that Microsoft got a black eye from the pushback it suffered from the initial release of Windows Vista. It is not making the same mistake with Windows 7, which it released October 22 at the same time it released an upgrade to its Windows 2008 Server package: Windows Server 2008 R2. As it turns out, there are some very sharp applications that work in concert with Windows 7 Professional and Windows Server 2008 R2. Please remember this does not apply to Windows 7 Starter or Home operating systems. I have never recommended any Microsoft Home operating system for a business, but I can understand an end user wanting to save money when purchasing a new computer intended for a home network. Frankly, I believe there are benefits accrued when using Windows Vista Business or Windows XP Professional in the workplace or at home if spending the extra $100 is not crucial to one's budget. Today I took part in a seminar related to the benefits of installing Windows 7 over existing networks. I am intelligent enough to know that the downside of Windows 7 is likely to be glossed over, but for the most part I am impressed. It seems to me that it's worth upgrading to this new operating system, especially for those who have not upgraded in the past five years. Also, in the back of my mind I know that Windows 8 won't be that far off either.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The second burning of Atlanta

This time there wasn't a Big Ben play. The Saints simply took it to Atlanta, hung in tough and, despite some ugly play at times, held onto their lead and won ESPN's Monday night NFL game 35-27. For the first time before the home crowd in the Superdome the boys in black and gold trailed their opponent, even though that lead was a short one. Quarterback Drew Brees outgunned his counterpart on the Falcons, Matt Ryan, in a convincing manner. with his stable of tight ends and running backs (Colston, Henderson, Shockey and Thomas) and extended the lead for the Saints to 3-1 in the NFC's South Conference. Colston was credited with making a couple of key plays in his 85-yard game in which he also scored one touchdown, while Pierre Thomas registered a 100-yard game with 91 yards gained on the ground. Even Reggie Bush managed to score his sixth TD for the year with the go-ahead points that put his team into the lead for good. The Saints also were at the top of their game defensively with heavy pressure applied to Ryan and his offense both on the line and on the passing routes. Tracy Porter was credited with a possible game-saving interception in the fourth quarter. Brees admitted that he thought the Saints could play better. "I don't think we played that great today," he shot back at newsmen after the game. "I think our best is yet to come." Maybe he's right, but for most of those who are used to seeing the Saints start and stop from season to season, it is refreshing to see the team register so well and play mostly injury free. Only one other team, Indianapolis, led by New Orleanian quarterback Peyton Manning is still undefeated. There's still at least nine more games left to the season, so it's good to not get too overconfident or cocky. But at 7-0, the Saints' record is tied for their best start in franchise history. The coffee and chickory tastes a bit better this morning and everyone is smiling broadly as they go about their daily rituals. Next week is a short one in terms of preparation with conference rival Carolina.
Meanwhile, the National League champs Philadelphia Phillies fought against elimination at the hands of the American League New York Yankees last night at the same time. They'll play at least one more game in New York on Wednesday night to determine who will win the World Series after winning the fifth game last night 8-6. The Yankees lead the series 3 games to 2 and have never lost to any team in previous series play when they led 3-1. Chris Utley, who has proven to be a one-man scoring machine for the Phils tied a record previously held by Reggie Jackson for hitting five home runs in a World Series. Utley hit two more four-baggers last night. Mark my words. If he hits another home run in the next game (or the final game, if necessary), we may all be calling Utley "Mr. November."

Sunday, November 1, 2009

An hour saved is a month gained

Halloween was probably the most perfect of nights this year. There was a large, practically full moon lighting the way for the children, who gleefully ran through the streets from house to house seeking candy and treats. The night had just the slightest of chills to take the edge off a warm day, making a glass of wine (or was that blood?) a perfect libation to take it all in. Then, after a long night of merrymaking, it was time to sleep and to worship the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin, the first man to propose Daylight Saving Time or, as some people refer to it, Summer Time. The idea first cropped up in the writings of Dr. Franklin in 1784 in Paris, when he was acting as an American delegate for the young nation to France. The idea took root when several Frenchmen ran with the idea, but nothing came of it until over a century later when British builder William Willett in his pamphlet "Waste of Time" proposed clocks be turned back 20 minutes for four successive Sundays in April and turned back ahead in the fall. Imagine dealing with four separate time changes in the spring and the fall. Daylight Saving Time has its critics, but with few exceptions statistics have indicated a one percent savings in nationwide energy costs. Not every state participates in Daylight Saving Time. Arizona and portions of Indiana do not as is the case for Hawaii and American territories in the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam and American Samoa. Countries in Asia and Africa typically don't observe Daylight Saving Time either. Countries along the equator get equal amounts of sunshine and daylight, so it would make it foolhardy to implement it as well. During World War II, "double" Daylight Saving Time was implemented in Great Britain, meaning clocks were set back two hours for additional savings. Luckily, Daylight Saving Time has been standardized in the United States for some time. Implemented in April of each year, we lose an hour's sleep and retrieve that hour when we return to Standard Time, usually in late October (or, as it was technically this year, very, very early November). It's nice to get that extra hour of sleep and this year was no exception. But a curious thing happened. No sooner did I get back that hour than a new month loomed large. It is November, after all. I reckon it is only a little over four weeks from Thanksgiving and that means the holiday season is also fast approaching. Without fanfare one hour of rest was retrieved and, without expecting it, reality began to sink in. Planning for holiday parties means Mardi Gras balls and parades are not that far off too. I'm not trying to rush the end of the year, but I must be pragmatic. There's a whole lot less of 2009 left than we've enjoyed so far. Another year has almost lapsed and it won't be long before we are all caught up in the maelstrom that is holiday time, the New Year and (especially as it applies here in the Big Easy) the Carnival season.