Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 was Miles ahead of 2008.


For my last lunch of 2009 I chose clam chowder in a bread bowl.If you've never had clam chowder in a bread bowl before you simply must remedy that at the earliest opportunity. Buy a goodly chunk of bread, like the one pictured above, as well as a can of New England Clam Chowder. Just hollow out the bread until it sort of resembles a bowl and then add the chowder. The best parts are the chowder-soaked bread that you can scrape off on your spoon. It's really good.

Monday, December 28, 2009


*Question inspired by brother John's related question- "Is a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup a candy bar?"


I have spent more than just a little time thinking about and analyzing the redskins performance this year. The central question that my inner deliberations have revolved around is very simple- “What’s wrong with them?” Last night, during the nationally televised game vs. Dallas, Chris Collinsworth, seemed to lay the lion’s share of the blame at Jason Campbell’s feet, with a little side of blame for Coach Jim Zorn. So many Campbell haters! Over the course of this season I have consumed massive amounts of media pertaining to the Redskins’ woes. With season ending injuries to Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts, the running game has been terrible. Although, in all fairness, Portis and Betts were not able to get anything done before their respective injuries and it can be argued that Washington’s running game actually improved after they made their way to the tunnel. Speaking of injuries, what happened? Is Washington cursed or something?!?! Almost everybody who is a somebody in Washington has spent some time on the sidelines with an injury this season. We have guys from off the practice squad playing at key positions, and with so many demoralizing losses even the twelfth man is listed as “Questionable” for this weekend.

What is his injury? A broken heart and stooped shoulders.

The offensive line is terrible. It was even terrible before being decimated by injuries, but now they have reached all new levels of crappiness as third and fourth string guys are called upon to fill in. The porous and weak offensive line made Campbell look worse than he is. He was constantly, and almost instantly, rushed on every snap. By allowing Campbell little or no time they kept our admittedly mediocre receiving corps from posing any sort of deep threat, and the receivers were forced to run short routes underneath or snag little screen passes just to be relevant. The O-line also didn’t allow our ground attack any holes or running lanes. What successes Rock Cartwright and Quinton Ganther were able to wrest from opposing defenses is entirely to their credit and they should be recognized for playing with heart. Fred Davis, filling in for an injured Chris Cooley at TE, was a happy surprise. I would like him to see an expanded role in the future. The only other bright spot from this season was the defense, which played extremely well. I think it can be argued that Washington has the best defense overall in the NFC East. They would be better too if they weren’t constantly on the field. For example, during our last game against the Giants, during the first quarter the time of possession was almost fourteen minutes to one in favor of New York. Our defense is really, really good, but the offense needs to give them a break every once a while. I don’t know what to make of Zorn and the play calling fiasco that was foisted upon the organization by Vinny Cerrato. The same Vinny Cerrato who has since been fired. Then, of course, there is the owner, Dan Snyder. I’m not sure how much to blame him. Oh, the Redskins’ problems are myriad!

But here is my final analysis in bullet point-


Priority #1- BEEF UP THE OFFENSIVE LINE! The entire offense of any football team is predicated on a strong offensive line- pass protection, maintaining a pocket, running lanes. You can’t win without a strong o-line.

Priority #2- Fire Jim Zorn. His head must roll for this farce of a season. Shanahan? Greg Williams?

Priority #3- Go out and get some big, tall receivers- the kind you can just lob it to in the back of the end-zone and they come down with it.


#1- Don’t fire Jason Campbell. Fix the offensive line and he’ll perform better. I’ve decided I believe in him.

#2- I hate to say it, but it’s time to give Portis his release. It’s time to invest in some younger legs. I love the man dearly, but we can’t afford to keep him around.

#3- Don’t become so focused on fixing the offense that the defensive side of the ball is neglected. I’m happy being a defense-first club. Coach Blache has done a great job, and things should be maintained on that side of the ball.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

CHRISTMAS IN THE VALLEY, 2010. (There were palm trees- just like the first Christmas!)

In the afternoon, on Christmas Eve, we drove the two and a half hours to the valley for the annual Christmas Eve party with Sarah's extended family. I have come to love these large family get togethers down in the valley. Sarah's extended family is really awesome. In past years we have mostly gathered at Umpa and Grandma Fusano's house in Sylmar, although one year we all went up the Perito's in Acton, CA. But long, long before I became associated with Sarah, and by extension, the greater Fusano confederacy they all gathered each year in this basement. This is the house where Umpa and his siblings grew up, and for years and years (like when Sarah was a little girl) this was the family gathering place at Christmas time. The house is currently home to Umpa's sister, Aunt Ange, and just for old time's sake they decided to do the Christmas eve party down in the basement again this year. Literally, nobody had been down in the basement for over twenty years, not since the last Christmas eve party, and I'm told that when they went back down into the basement it was still decorated for Christmas just exactly as it had been over twenty years ago. They dusted everything down, plugged in the lights, and turned on the gas to the range. Presto! The place was ready to go. It was very, very, very nostalgic for Sarah who remembered the basement as a magical place from the tender days of her youth. I have to say I really liked it down there. Kind of close quarters, but somehow that added to the fun. It was fun to imagine Sarah as a little girl running around and waiting for Santa. Sarah kept coming to me all night with stories and memories, which the nostalgic venue had awoken in her. It was really cute.

C'mon down!

Hanging out before the food. I can't tell you how many times I heard people say something like "It's just how I remember it." That's because, as I've already said, it was exactly the same as they remembered it. Literally nothing had changed in that basement since the last Christmas party more than two decades ago.

The Christmas Eve spread! I love that stuff. Sarah's family does food right.

Why are those kids above so excited?

Santa! This year (and last year) Santa was played by the incomparable Cliff Sutherland who is married to Sarah's cousin Diana. He did an awesome job. I especially appreciated his prayer before handing out gifts. Cliff's version of Santa is very Christ-centered. I liked it.

Sarah was the hottest girl there.

Here's everybody watching Santa and the kids.

All the kids got stuffed animals that are somehow interactive online. I guess you go to some site and enter a code and it will tell you all about your specific pet and how to take care of it and stuff, or something like that. I dunno. This year, Rosie and Justin, didn't want to rush up to Idyllwild late on Christmas Eve after the party, which makes sense, and they have been great sports making the exhausting late-night trek up to our house the past couple of years. So we stayed down in the valley this year so we could enjoy the holiday together. Nanny's house is a little too small to accommodate all of us so we asked Umpa and G.G. if we could sleep at their house, which is right down the street. On their suggestion, we ended up doing Christmas Morning at Umpa's house as well, which worked out perfectly. Lots of room.

Lots of screaming, oohing, ahhing, paper shredding, and delighted squeals.

I think Jack's favorite present was a cheap little dragon he found in his stocking. He more or less ignored with his bigger presents and just focused on that little dragon. Who knew? I love that little boy.

Nanny got the kids things to ride this year. Lucy got a fancy new bike with training wheels, Jack got a big wheel, and Bowden got a razor scooter. They were big hits.

Sarah was the hottest girl there.

We drove back up to Idyllwild on the morning of the 26th, and were delighted to find all of our gifts from the Tates back east waiting under our tree. With all of the excitement we had almost forgotten about them, and the kids were very excited to have a mini-Christmas to welcome them home. Christine, the sock toys were ridiculously awesome! I was impressed by them very much!


Nanny got the three older kids various, age-appropriate conveyances for Christmas. Bowden and Lucy both confided in me from under their cozy covers at bedtime Christmas night that scooter and bike were their favorite presents. Way to go, Nanny! Bowden especially loves his scooter.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

redskins trick play dec 21 2009

Wow! Just embarassing and demoralizing!


Last night's nationally televised, Monday night matchup vs. the Giants was simply the worst football game I have ever watched. Why do the Redskins insist on breaking my heart!!! Why do they suck so bad? I will let Hitler give voice to my frustration!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


The old tabernacle is coming down to make way for a new Worship Center. I know there are enough "Camp Maranatha Types" that check in here at the Bummer-Free Zone to make this a worthwhile post. It is kind of surreal for me to walk past and see the walls removed and the stage gutted from the old tabernacle. It's a worthwhile project though. The new worship center that is going to replace it will be a vast improvement.Check in at the camp's blog for regular progress updates.

Monday, December 21, 2009


This book I'm reading the kids at bedtime ("Two Old Women" featured at right) is requiring a lot of editing on the fly. For the most part the story is fine- just a lot of rabbit snaring, structure building, berry gathering, moose shooting, struggling with the wilderness kind of stuff- all good- but two nights ago I had to edit my way through a two page discussion about cannibalising old people. There have been a couple of other "interesting" parts, but this was the longest and most disturbing which I found necessary to sidestep. I don't think my editing lent any improvement to the flow and meter of the story, but the innocence of their little minds was preserved. That's the most important thing, of course. I'm committed to finishing the book as a bedtime feature, and although I think it is a very interesting read, I really can't endorse it as a children's book. In all fairness though, I don't think that is how Velma Wallis envisioned it. So, my bad.

I do recommend it to all of you adult readers though. Mom, would you like me to send it along to you once we're done with it? I would need it back though eventually as it was a gift to Sarah.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I think it is a total bummer that the blizzard slamming the east coast hit when it did. Just a few days earlier and kids all up and down the eastern seaboard would have missed some school and Christmas Break could have started early. I know the kids think the snow is cool anyway, but how much cooler would it have been a few days ago. My heart goes out to all of you D.C. school kids for the poor timing. I was once one of you. But buck up, grab your sled, and head on over to the sledding hill at Ridgecrest Elementary School.

"...Prince Georges County School District is closed..."
Possibly the most exciting combination of words ever uttered over the airwaves.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

LET'S PLAY ILLUSTRATION- The game where I give you a scenario and you tell me what spiritual analogies can be drawn from it.

No sooner had the war of 1812 concluded then the U.S. government announced it's intentions to build a massive fort where lake Champlain meets the Richelieu river. During the war, Britain had used the lake as a watery highway to transport men and supplies directly into the heart of the United States from their base of supply in Canada by way of the St Lawrence Sea way and Richelieu River. The lake had been similarly used by invading armies during the Revolutionary war and prior to that, the French and Indian War. Thus in approximately a 75 year span foreign European armies had thrice sailed past the spot where Lake Champlain meets the Richelieu River to invade the interior of America. So following the war of 1812, it was agreed that a massive citadel would be built to prevent future invasions via the lake Champlain corridor. The world's foremost experts in the field of military engineering were brought over from France as consultants on the project, and no expense was spared in the construction of the fort which, once completed, bristled with guns and commanded the narrow waterway between Rouses Point, NY and Alburg, VT. The fort was completed in 1816 for what was then the astronomical price of $200,000. (I know it sounds like chump change these days with some in the media apparently defining an annual salary of $200,000 as middle class!!! No kidding, I just heard Geraldo Rivera say it tonight. If that's middle class I am definitely poor. Dirt Poor!!! In the early 1800's $200,000 was big, newsworthy money though.)

In 1816, within weeks of the fort's completion, it was discovered by a team of surveyors that the fort, all of it, had been built entirely within Canada. Can you imagine? Heads must of rolled. Much to the consternation of the U.S. Army, Washington sent representatives to Ottawa like a bunch of Hosers to discuss what might be done aboot the fort. Pretty rough, eh? Canada kindly asked the U.S. Army to remove their personel and artillery from their soil. The fort languished for a considerable amount of time while the two governments bickered back and forth. Eventually Canada ceded the land surrounding the fort to the United States, but by then much of the cut stone had been removed by local farmers for use in private building projects and the remainder of the fort had either returned to nature or fallen into such a deplorable state that the ruins were deemed unusable and the site was cleared for the construction of a second fort. The original fort was never named, and today is remembered by historians as "Fort Blunder."

EPILOGUE: Fort Blunder's successor, Fort Montgomery (ruins photographed above), constructed in 1844, was never garrisoned or even armed with guns (by then the threat of invasion from Canada probably seemed as silly as it does to us today.) Today the site is for sale for ten-million dollars.


I just had to clear this off the ol' desk before Christmas. Back around Veteran's day, this came home in Bowden's homework folder, and I purposed to mail it to my Brother, Job. That, however, failed to happen so I will post it here. On the front Bowden wrote "I remember the military," and on the back he wrote "My Uncle Job is in the Navy." The second sentence is accompanied by a lovely drawing of Uncle Job. So thanks for your service to the country, Uncle Job.

Monday, December 14, 2009


Eleven pm- December 27, 2002. The lights atop my cruiser bounced reflectively off the surrounding snow berms as my cruiser came to a stop in front of an adddress on Ewell Court. A woman, in pajama bottoms and a tank top, stood barefoot in the slushy snow at the end of the driveway flagging me down.

"He's inside!" she yelled as I stepped from my cruiser and instinctively checked everything on my belt. Baton- check. Pepper Spray- check. Radio- check. Handcuffs-check. Spare Cuffs- check. Gloves- check. Gun- check.

I opened the back door of my cruiser and invited the woman to climb inside out of the snow. She apologized for being barefoot, but said that he came home drunk and started punching her and calling her a "slut," so she called 911 on her cell phone and just ran outside. Then she added, almost as an after thought, "My kids are still in there."

"Is he their Father?"

"No! Hell, no!"

"What exactly is your relationship with him?"

"We've been living together for a couple of weeks."

"What's his name?"

"Everybody calls him Benny."

"Does Benny have a last name?

She shrugged.

"Are you okay? Do you need medical attention?"

"Oh, nah, nothing like that."

I handed her a statement form and asked her to start writing everything down while I attempted to interview the man.

I walked across the front yard, wondering what was taking the second car so long to get there and knocked on the door. No answer.

"Sir, I'm going to have to kick in the door if you don't open up for me. I need to talk with you."

No answer.

Feeling dark, and grumbling angrily under my breath, I took a step backward and brought my boot down hard where the lock meets the jam. It splintered, and a second kick aimed at the same spot resulted in the door flying open. From behind me I heard the woman yell, "What the f*@# are you doing?"

I walked inside, and found the man, dressed like he had just come from the clubs, hurriedly walking down a hallway toward a rear door.

"Sir, stop. I need to talk with you."

He increased his pace, shuffling drunkenly toward the back door. In a flash of inspiration, I pretended to speak loudly into my radio, "Jason, get ready by the back door with the dog! He's coming out that way."

He stopped with one hand on the doorknob, wheels turning in the fuzziness of a beer addled mind. I called out to him in the stearnest voice I could muster, "You can deal with me or the dog, sir." It was a lie- bald faced- but I didn't care.

It worked. Believing the false impression I had given of multiple officers on scene and a dog taboot he was meek as a lamb. He obeyed all my commands, and soon I had him handcuffed and sitting Indian style on the floor of the living room. I stood over him with legs spread taking down the man's information on a pad of paper.

The kids, two little girls and an older boy, maybe 12, filed out from a back bedroom and plopped down on the couch. The girls expressions were blank, but the boy wore a look of keen enjoyment on his face. It reminded me of a picture I had once seen of a hunting dog grinning and wagging his tail high atop the back of a dead brown bear in Russia. The bear in cuffs. The boy grinning atop the couch. It was very similar.

That's when I took in the scene. A Christmas tree, which looked suspiciously like one that had gone missing from the front of the newly landscaped bank on Main Street, stood in a corner. There were a few paltry Christmas ornaments, but for the most part it was decorated with empty beer cans, (I'm not making that up.) and an inverted bottle of corona served as the tree-topper.

"D'ya get anything good for Christmas?" I asked the boy trying to make this surreal scene a little more normal. He shrugged. "Not really." "How 'bout you guys?" I asked the girls. They also shrugged and refused comment.

Later, as I drove the man down to the correctional facility I asked him how his Christmas was, and he said "Man, just shut the f@#* up! I'm serious! Just shut the f@#* up!"

Merry Christmas, St. Albans!


I'm not a bachelor, haven't been since 2001, but I still love the Foreman Grill. I busted it out after church yesterday to make some burgers, and it was an inspired decision. The buns were warmed to perfection, and after the patty was cooked (from both sides simultaneously), all that was left for me to do was slap the two together, add some cheese and condiments, and then sit down in front of some football. Soooo good! Mr. Foreman, wherever you are, thank you!


Sunday, December 13, 2009

He leaned across the table, his voice inscrutable, his demeanor relaxed. He said, "Human beings can speak an average of 150 words per minute, but they can think about 400. Do you know what that means? Well, it means that while you're talking, I am listening to what you are saying, disecting it, arranging counter arguments, and forming my rebuttal. You talk too much. You would do well to keep your points shorter because as long you're talking I'm going to have the advantage. So, go on, keep on talking, kid. I'm listening."


SUGAR!!! Last night, some of our good friends came over to help us decorate our gingerbread castle. Josh and Emily, of course, Marin Campbell, and Chris and Katie Bayer. They all did an awesome job. They're all very creative people. Of course, after eight o'clock or so we were all suffering from the fuzzy tooth and slipping dangerously close to a sugar coma.
Our friends from Beijing, Joel and Chris White came over for dinner but left just as the decorating began to catch a movie in town. It was fun having them over for dinner, although Joel's inspection of my Bobberball setup made me a little uncomfortable.

It was a lot of fun, as usual, with lots of laughing and admiring each others creativity.
Here are some pics of the finished product.

Thanks guys! It just wouldn't be Christmas without a Gingerbread Castle Party. Check out the Gingerbread Castle action from last year here.


Here's a short video tour of the castle.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

"I pray someone invents a time machine to go back and tell a 5-year-old me that being a Redskins fan will cause a lot of heartache and pain and maybe I should look elsewhere. I was 5. I'd have changed loyalty for a cookie. But now I'm stuck for the rest of my life. Been a tough year. Yeah. Tough year."

Matthew Berry of ESPN


"I love you, Uncle Job! I like when we play together." Lucy Tate

"Uncle Job, I hope that we can come to your house again. Happy birthday!!!" Bowden Tate

(I couldn't get a usable quote out of Jack.)


I'm a pro now at putting on chains. They convert a cowardly Astro Van into a much more courageous animal.


Check out Jack trying to rip his way into the package. What a little savage!
The very first presents under the tree were from my brother, John, who lives in Augusta, GA. Jack was having a hard time not touching them. "Jack! DON'T TOUCH!!!"
Last year, you might remember, we also camped out in the living room (I enjoyed revisiting it). The kids love camping out in the living room. They have been looking forward to it all week.
This is, in my humble opinion, the very best Christmas movie out there. It's a classic. The kids loved it it almost as much as their sippy cups full of lukewarm cocoa and little plastic bowls of popcorn.
TV at bedtime! Wha?!?!?