Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Leap Day!!!

I started this blog in February 2009 (yes, this is the 3rd anniversary-ish), which means it didn't exist in 2008 for the last Leap Day. So, of course, I couldn't miss posting on February 29th!

According to Wikipedia (duh, the repository of all knowledge): "February 29 is a date that usually occurs every four years, and is called leap day. This day is added to the calendar in leap years as a corrective measure, because the earth does not orbit around the sun in precisely 365 days."

Little known/useless facts: Every year divisible by 4 is a leap year under the Gregorian calendar (the current standard calendar for most of the world). But years divisible by 100 are not UNLESS they are also divisible by 400. So, 1600 and 2000 were leap years, but 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not. The same for 2100.

Also according to Wikipedia: "The Gregorian calendar was designed to keep the vernal equinox on or close to March 21, so that the date of Easter (celebrated on the Sunday after the 14th day of the Moon—i.e. a full moon—that falls on or after March 21) remains correct with respect to the vernal equinox. The vernal equinox year is about 365.242374 days long (and increasing)."

So Happy Leap Day everyone!!!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Oscars? Who Cares?

Since I've started this blog in 2009 I've posted my Oscar predictions. Prior to that I participated in an Oscar pool at my wife's job and we won a couple of times over the years. Not to pat myself on the back, but I was pretty good at predicting the winners. But I've lost interest in the Oscars as the worthy winners have continued to be ignored by the Academy.

The year THE DARK KNIGHT didn't get nominated for Best Picture was the beginning of the end of me. It was a complete joke and led the Academy to expand the Best Picture category from 5 nominees to a maximum of 10. Last year was the final straw. The best film of 2010, INCEPTION, got Weinsteined (i.e., the Weinstein brothers' Oscar push which always seems to manipulate the final results), and it lost out to the far inferior THE KING'S SPEECH. Worst of all, THE KING'S SPEECH beat out INCEPTION for Best Original Screenplay, which was a complete travesty. Seriously? Writing about a well known public figure for a boring as hell movie is more Oscar worthy to a magnificently original story and compelling narrative?

Go to hell, Academy, and continue your road to irrelevance and consistently declining ratings for your over produced self important award show.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Remembering Malcolm X

Yesterday was the 47th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X. Personally, the most influential book I’ve ever read (besides the Bible) is The Autobiography of Malcolm X. I read it back in 1991 when I joined the U.S. Army. It had a profound impact on me, and Malcolm X remains one of my idols. I collected documentaries on him, and videos and audio tapes of his speeches. I even had a poster up of him in my barracks room (which confused many of my platoon mates—White, Black, and fellow Latinos alike). He’s a misunderstood figure to many, regardless of race or ethnicity. For instance, he is known for the saying: “By any means necessary.” It’s viewed positively and negatively depending on your POV. It’s ironic that his famous—or infamous—saying is taken out of context. He said it to mean that Blacks should defend themselves by any means necessary.

Many of his views were harsh, but he was willing to reassess them as he gained more knowledge. As he wrote, “My whole life had been a chronology of—changes .… Despite my firm convictions, I have been always a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth.”

There’s a subtle, but important event in the book. A white female college student had been so moved by Malcolm’s speech at her New England school early in his ministry that she flew down to New York to see him. She found him at the Nation of Islam’s restaurant in Harlem and asked him what she could do to help the plight of African Americans in this country. Malcolm bluntly said, “Nothing.” She burst out crying and ran out the restaurant. Later on in the book after Malcolm had embraced the idea of the kinship of all peoples and the races working together to end racism, Malcolm reflects that he regretted telling her that, thought about her often whenever the topic arose, and wished he knew her name to write or telephone her. It troubled me that in Spike Lee’s movie he put the rejection scene in without the context of Malcolm’s later regret in how he dealt with the situation.

A month before his murder in February 1965, Malcolm said during an interview on Canadian television: “I believe in recognizing every human being as a human being—neither white, black, brown, or red; and when you are dealing with humanity as a family there’s no question of integration or intermarriage. It’s just one human being marrying another human being or one human being living around and with another human being.”

This was at a time when intermarriage was not only taboo in the U.S., but still illegal in some states. It was actually counter to his previous views on interracial marriage during his early times with the Nation of Islam. This was a man who evolved in his ministry and world view and recognized this evolution. It is this evolved Malcolm—El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz—who is one of the forefathers of how we view race today.

Ash Wednesday

Later today I'll be going to the Cathedral of Saint Patrick in NYC to get my ashes, as I’ve done for years past on Ash Wednesday. I’m a life long Catholic, with—admittedly—periods of agnosticism and atheism (a long story for another blog post). But I’ve been back to the home town religion for the last 25 years or so. I had been getting my ashes for so long, that I had lost track of the reason behind it. That’s a big no-no in Christianity. Jesus explicitly distinguished His followers from the pagans by noting that the pagans followed ritual without worship. In other words, they went through the motions without understanding why. For His followers, however, Jesus wanted them to know and understand by worshipping in their hearts and by their deeds. So a few years back I researched Lent and Ash Wednesday to make sure I knew what it was really about.

Yes, I know that Ash Wednesday begins the Lenten season in the Christian calendar, the 40 day period of preparation for Good Friday and Easter, but I had wanted to know more. According to the pamphlet handed out in St. Patrick’s, in explanation of Ash Wednesday:

“The ashes of Ash Wednesday not only describe our humanity, more emphatically, they are a proclamation of hope, reconciliation and peace. Ashes give symbolic expression to our trusting dependence in God’s merciful love.”

Okay. Now for the explanation for Lent in the pamphlet:

“Lent is the period of forty days during which we examine our lives in order to renew our faith. Through acts of love, we become more like Christ in our attitude toward God and one another. Let prepares us to take part fully in the celebration of the Easter Mysteries during the Triduum (3 days) of the Lord’s Supper, his Passion, Death and glorious resurrection on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday, the holiest days of the Christian year.”

Being a history buff, I didn't stop there. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Lent and Ash Wednesday first arose at different times. The word Lent is Teutonic in origin and referred originally to the spring season. The significance of the number 40 invokes both Moses and the Hebrews wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, Jesus fasting for 40 days in the desert in preparation of His ministry, and Jesus lying 40 hours in the tomb.

A preliminary 40 day fast for Easter arose in the Fourth Century. This was not inclusive to the then separate custom of fasting during Holy Week. This preliminary fasting period became known as Lent. By the Fifth Century, Lent lasted for six weeks including Holy Week, but there was actually only three total weeks of fasting excluding the weekends. Soon there was a split, with some Christian communities insisting on 40 actual days of fasting and, thus, Lent would last eight weeks (40 days plus non-fasting weekends) with other communities sticking with the six week tradition. By the Seventh Century the six week tradition won out, but with six days a week fasting for a total of 36 fasting days. The tradition of beginning Lent with Ash Wednesday began in the Eighth Century. It arose from a devotional imitation of the practice observed in the case of public penitents. The ashes themselves are from the previously blessed palms from the prior year’s Palm Sunday. By the Middle Ages, Lent consisted of forty weekdays which were all fast days, and six Sundays with Ash Wednesday marking the start of Lent.

As to the fast itself, there has never been a hard tradition. Some Christian communities abstained from eating anything that was once alive, others abstained from all living creatures except fish, and others only ate birds and fish. There was a consensus, however, that for fasting days there was only one meal a day and it was taken in the evening. Over the years, the fasting requirements were relaxed and now in the United States no meat may be eaten on Ash Wednesday, Lenten Fridays including Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. The origin of making a Lenten sacrifice is more obscure, but probably arose with the relaxation of the fasting requirement.

Finally, now that we know about Lent & Ash Wednesday the the last big question is--why is Easter at a different time every? Is there a hidden Church calendar we don't know about? Does the Pope pray for divine inspiration when to set it? No. Easter is reckoned to the traditional start of spring, March 21 and the first full moon thereafter. Generally, Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the first full moon following March 21. This year the first full moon after March 21 is April 6 and Easter Sunday is on April 8.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

With my daughter Elena being born a month ago tomorrow, this is her first Valentine's Day. Of course, she doesn't know what's going on and I couldn't get her my usual Valentine's Day gift (Godiva chocolates, which I always give to my wife), so I got her a special onsie. So to Elena, my wonderful wife Betsy, my sis Ivonne, and my mom Marion, Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Happy 203rd Birthday, Mr. Lincoln

Two hundred and three years ago today, Abraham Lincoln was born in a one-room log cabin on a farm in Hardin County, Kentucky. Lincoln’s birthday is a legal holiday in only 7 states (California, Connecticut, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, and Indiana). Local government buildings are closed here in New York, including the courts.

Growing up, I had gotten used to having both Lincoln’s birthday and Washington’s birthday off from school, but that changed in the mid-1980s with the joint holiday of “Presidents Day” on the third Monday of February. I put it in quotes because the official name is still “Washington’s Birthday.” Washington’s Birthday is actually a federal holiday while there has never been an annual Federal holiday honoring Lincoln. As they say, the South lost the war, but won the peace.

Monday, February 6, 2012


Congratulations to the New York Giants on their 4th Super Bowl championship and 8th NFL championship overall in franchise history, third alltime behind the Green Bay Pakers and Chicago Bears. The Giants had won their 1st and 2nd Super Bowls 4 years apart and they've done the same with their 3rd and 4th. In fact, head coach Tom Coughlin won the title in his 4th and 8th year as coach of Big Blue, then same as the legendary Bill Parcells. Maybe now fellow Giant fans will stop hating on Tom.

But the game, the season, and this era of Giants football belongs to Eli Manning, who has cemented himself as the best quarterback in New York pro football history. No starting QB has won more road/neutral site postseason games than him. This victory was his 7th 4th quarter comeback of the year. Simply the best. Better than his brother Peyton and the man he's defeated twice in the big game--Tom Brady.

I saw the Super Bowl at my friends house. He's a huge Giants' fan and threw a big Super Bowl party, which was an amazing time, full of chears, screaming, and shed tears. At the end of the night everyone was ecstatic because our team was champions of the world again. Yeah, our team, now that I've come back home to Big Blue.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Well, it's been about three weeks of my newfound Giants fandom and I have to say it feels liberating. My son has worn his Eli Manning shirt to school on dress down day and rocked his Giants hat all week. I've gotten more excited by the day for the big game tomorrow.

You may wonder if I miss being a Jet fan. I explained in my previous post my long circuitous route to rooting for the Jets the last 14 years, but being a fan of theirs was always a choice. There was some good times but every year ended in disappointment. The best endings was being hopeful to the following year. So, no, I don't miss it. I'll never hate the Jets, although the utter self-loathing by Jet fans was always hard for me to deal with over the years.

So, it feels good being a Giant fan. Like I said before, I rooted for them in all their Super Bowls except one, but that was a special situation. What makes it easier this time is, once again, they're facing the loathed New England Patriots. As a lifelong Yankee fan I hate everything Boston--Red Sox, Celtics, Pats, Bruins, BC, Logan Int'l Airport, Mitt Romney, etc. So, GO BIG BLUE, I'll be with you all the way!!!