General Archive

Monday, February 20, 2012

Fastnacht Day 2012

Fastnacht Day is once again upon us. I'll be busy making fastnachts tomorrow morning in celebration. Since I don't have anything new to say from previous years, I'll just quote and paraphrase a bit from older entries.

Doughnut Picture from Wikimedia CommonsDepending on where you are in the world, you may call tomorrow something else, like Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day. But from where I'm from in Pennsylvania, it's called Fastnacht Day. Traditionally, you make potato based donuts, called fastnachts, supposedly as a way to empty your larder of all the fatty, sugary foods in preparation for the Lenten fast. My elementary school even used to give out donuts with the lunches on this day. So, in celebration of Fastnachts, here's a recipe on my main site on how to make fastnachts, and a link to the (not so thorough) Wikipedia article.

You're supposed to wake up early to make the fastnachts on Tuesday morning (they're freshest that way), but I usually make them the night before. They keep pretty well in a brown paper lunch bag. I also like to put a little bit of powdered sugar into a ziploc bag, and a mix of granulated sugar and cinnamon into another one, to coat the fastnachts just before eating them.

To see just how popular fastnachts are back up in Pennsylvania, go read this article from 2009. Look at those pictures, and just how many fastnachts they're making. And according to this article from 2011, bakers in Hagerstown started baking on Sunday night to meet Tuesday's demand.

A guy I worked with from Chicago mentioned a similar tradition up there - paczkis, from the Polish immigrants. But instead of a hole in the middle like my family's fastnachts (not all fastnachts have the hole), they have a filling, usually jelly or creme. I guess lots of groups have invented traditions to allow indulgence before a 40 day fast.

Doughnut Picture from Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Plane Christmas Greeting

AOPA Christmas CardFor Christmas, here's a poem my great uncle wrote and sent to a few of us last year. In case you're wondering on the choice of aircraft in the poem, he was writing it for all the guys based out of the same airfield as he is. If you want the full effect, you can read a scan of the original. (BTW, if you like the picture for this entry, click on it and support the AOPA's Air Safety Foundation by buying a Christmas card with that as the front, or pick one of their many other aviation themed cards.)

A Plane Christmas Greeting
by Bud Eichel

T'was the night before Xmas,
At Finleyville "Airdrome".
Not a creature was stirring,
Human, elf, or gnome.

All Aircraft secured,
In their Hangar "stalls".
The Xmas shoppers,
Home from the Malls.

From atop the Hangar,
The wind-sock hung low.
And bathed in moon-light,
The runway was aglow.

The rest of the field,
Was snowy and white.
This flyer's home-base,
Was a beautiful sight.

Then quick as a wink,
Dark shadows appeared.
Following moon-beams,
As they all neared.

Big ones and small,
These shadows all grew.
Twisting and turning
As by me they flew.

They made a "formation",
The shape of a "V".
Now as they pass,
They are plain to see.

Stearmans and Wacos,
A Stinson went by.
T-Crafts and Luscombes,
All on the fly!

Home-builts, a Mooney,
A new Carter-copter.
A Cessna amphibian,
An L-2 Grasshopper.

PT's and BT's,
From World War Two.
And old-style craft,
Like the Wright Bros. flew.

A "Cub" and a Grumman,
A sleek Monocoupe.
Can you believe this?
A pretty, '47 Ercoupe!

Aeroncas and Cessnas,
A Beech Musketeer.
Of all these Planes,
Not one, could I hear!

Are they "ghosts" of the past?
Am I tired and weary?
Wait, just a minute,
I have a theory!

That Angels exist,
I have no doubt.
And on Christmas Eve,
I'm sure they're about.

Did they take the form,
Of things that I love?
Is this my "gift",
From Heaven above?

If this was a gift,
I'd sure like to share.
Merry Christmas, to All,
I wish you were there!

Happy Holiday's, and Happy Landing's, to all my Pilot friends, & families.


No matter how you celebrate this time of year (or even if you don't celebrate at all), I still hope you have a good time.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Salvation Army - To Give, or Not to Give?

Salvation Army?It's that time of year when you can't go shopping without hearing the familiar ringing of bells being rung by the person standing next to the hanging red kettle, wishing you a Merry Christmas, grateful for any change you might have. I'd always given to the Salvation Army, usually more than just a bit of spare change, but now that I've begun paying attention to some of the criticisms of the organization, I wonder whether I want to support them.

First things first, the Salvation Army does a lot of good. Their thrift stores are well known, as well as their help to the needy. Perhaps slightly less well known are their disaster relief, rehabilitation centers, and homeless shelters, as well as a few programs I'm sure I've forgotten. And let me also dispel a prominent rumor. The bell ringers don't take a cut from the red kettle (see Snopes).

But, they're not without controversy. Keep in mind, the Salvation isn't just a charity. They're a church. They take positions on issues that would otherwise have nothing to do with their charity work. Take a look at this page on their site:

Salvation Army USA - Position Statements

They have positions on:

  • Abortion
  • Alcohol and Drugs
  • Economic Justice
  • Euthanasia
  • Gambling
  • Homosexuality
  • Human Equality
  • Human Trafficking
  • Marriage
  • Pornography
  • Religious Persecution
  • Suicide

Their positions are exactly what you'd expect from the religious right. For example, here's part of what they have to say about gambling.

The Salvation Army believes that gambling engages its participants and promoters in an exercise of greed contrary to biblical moral teaching. Gambling at best wastes personal resources, and at worst afflicts millions through a lifestyle of compulsive behaviors and destructive influences.

And just to show what they consider so bad:

Some examples of gambling include casino games, state lotteries, and betting on sports.

Moving on to something that's more of an active political discussion right now, here's part of their statement on homosexuality.

Scripture forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex. The Salvation Army believes, therefore, that Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life. There is no scriptural support for same-sex unions as equal to, or as an alternative to, heterosexual marriage.

And here's the beginning of their statement on marriage.

The Salvation Army affirms the New Testament standard of marriage, which is the loving union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. Marriage is the first institution ordained by God (Genesis 2:24), and His Word establishes its significance (Matthew 19:4-6).

Now, if they just had position statements, as bad as they are, that would be one thing. But the Salvation Army actively works to support their positions. The most famous example from this country was when New York City passed the Equal Benefits Bill, requiring all organizations receiving public funds to provide the same benefits to "domestic partners" as they do to spouses. The Salvation Army threatened to quit receiving public funding rather than abide by the law, which would have in effect shut down the majority of their operations in the city.

Then, there are numerous local incidents - none which are officially supported by Salvation Army headquarters, but which are still rather widespread. Someone else has already covered this pretty well, so here's a link to their article on the issue:

ARISE - Do not donate to the Salvation Army

Here's just a sampling of some of those local incidents:

Aside from how their positions affect their own charitable donations, here's an example of them trying to 'steal' money from another charity. When H. Guy Di Stefano died, he wanted his estate to be split evenly between 8 charities. One of them, Greenpeace International, was absorbed by the Greenpeace Fund between the writing of the will and Di Stefano's death. The money that was to go to Greenpeace International was going to go to the Greenpeace Fund, and none of the other charities had a problem with that, except for the Salvation Army. They argued that because it wasn't the same charity named in the will, that the money should be split evenly between the 7 remaining charities. An agreement was reached, and The Army's lawsuit was dropped.

More Info:
Seattle Times - Salvation Army settles its dispute over Issaquah man's $33 million bequest

And then, there's their cult like treatment of officers in their church. They can only marry other officers in the church. And it's not an empty threat. A few years ago, they did terminate an officer when he became engaged to someone from outside the organization.

More Info:
Christian Post - Salvation Army Leader to Lose Job for Violating Marriage Policy


So, what's a person to do? I think it's up to the person and how they're realistically going to respond. It's not as if the Salvation Army is the only game in town. There are plenty of worthwhile charities that don't have such horrible positions. My wife and I already donate to several charities, but I've decided to donate just a little more to make up for what I used to put into the red kettles.

But, I do think the Salvation Army does much more good than harm. So, if the only way you would donate would be to drop your change into one of their kettles, then don't hold back! Most of your money will go to helping people, and it's better than doing nothing at all. So in that case, go ahead and give the Salvation Army your spare change.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Earthquake Followup

EarthquakeI recently wrote about the Oklahoma earthquake we felt here in Wichita Falls last Saturday night. Of course, there are people claiming it's a sign of the end times, which is a little silly, but this is the Bible Belt, after all.

The quake's been a topic of quite a few conversations here in Wichita Falls. Earlier this week, I had a dentist appointment. My dentist is pretty friendly, and we usually talk a bit about non-teeth related topics. He's never brought up religion with me before since that would be unprofessional, and given my views and the region I live in, I never make it a point to bring up religion myself. However, when we got to talking about the quake, he told me about the mental checklist he went through trying to figure out what was happening.

I can't remember his exact words, but he said that at first he thought it might have been the Rapture. Now, he wasn't exactly sure if was going to be taken, but he was pretty sure his wife was going to make the cut. So, when he looked over and saw her still sitting there, he knew that that couldn't have been it.

Anyway, I have no commentary. I just thought it was funny.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Shake Up in Wichita Falls

EarthquakeMy wife & daughter and I were watching a movie on Netflix Saturday night, when I felt the couch start shaking a bit. At the same time, I noticed the TV shaking, and then looking around, saw the blinds shaking and a light flickering. There was also a lot of noise and some creaking, and I could hear the glasses rattling in our wine cabinet. My first thought was that a storm had just hit, since really powerful straight line winds that shake things up a bit aren't uncommon here. But this was a lot more shaking than that, especially on the ground floor since our house is built on a slab. I considered and immediately dismissed a tornado, since the sirens weren't going off. I even wondered if there had been a nearby explosion. By the time the shaking was done in about 5 seconds, though, I'd figured out what was going on.

It turns out, the largest earthquake to hit Oklahoma in recorded history happened on Saturday night, and we were close enough to feel it. The quake was centered near Sparks, which is about 150 miles from Wichita Falls, as the crow flies. According to Times Record News, "The USGS says the quake was shallow, about 3 miles deep. It was initially registered as 5.2 magnitude, but later upgraded to 5.6. It was the latest in a trio of tremors that struck Oklahoma Saturday."

The girl staying with us was up in her room studying at the time, and came running downstairs scared. I guess the shaking was worse on the second story. She said the ceiling fan was shaking pretty bad. But really, there wasn't any major damage - just a few slight cracks that maybe were already there and I just hadn't noticed before.

The quake did cause some more substantial damage to buildings in Oklahoma, but nothing I've seen that's truly catastrophic, and it doesn't look like anybody was seriously injured.

Earthquakes aren't unprecedented in Oklahoma. The Meers fault line runs through the state, causing on the order of 50 quakes a year. They're just not normally this strong.

So now I can check off an earthquake as something I've experienced. I realize that it was pretty minor, and people from California or other areas might not think much of it, but feeling a quake at all in Wichita Falls is something pretty out of the ordinary.

More Info:

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