Sunday, August 28, 2011

"BC" on EWTN's "Life on the Rock"

Bishop James Conley of Denver (whom countless friends refer to as "BC") is featured in this episode of EWTN's "Life on the Rock."

Conley is the auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Denver. I've known him for 20 years or so, when he was a priest in the Wichita diocese.

You'll find Bishop Conley at the 18th minute. I was blessed to go on a pilgrimage with then-Fr. Conley to Rome in 1994 - the year after World Youth Day was held in Denver. Conley invited me to go along because it was a large group of mostly women who had no experience of traveling in Europe. I had been to Europe before, and he knew that.

Everything fell quickly into place for me to be able to go, so I did. It was a marvelous experience. I'll share more from that trip in future blog posts. But it sounds like Bishop Conley celebrated daily "pilgrimage Masses" in Spain --- just as he did each morning of our pilgrimage in Rome. It added such depth and meaning to our journey, our experiences....

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A musical interlude

Love this version of "Ain't No Sunshine." Love, love, love it!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Some reassuring words about the path to holiness

"The soul that carries within itself the least appetite for worldly things bears more unseemliness and impurity in its journey to God than if it were troubled by all the hideous and annoying temptations and darknesses describable; for, so long as it does not consent to these temptations, a soul thus tried can approach God confidently, by doing the will of His Majesty, who proclaims: Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will refresh you [Mt. 11:28]."

Saint John of the Cross

There is solace in these words, for we all struggle more than we'd like...fall more often than we'd like....feel far from God much more than we'd like. Heaven knows I do.

I have heard that the road to holiness is filled with struggle, and these words echo that sentiment.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Prognosticating the Premier League

The English Premier League season kicked off this past weekend. It's the most televised professional soccer league in the world, with the highest ratings. Whether the soccer in the Premiership is better than the top leagues in Spain, Italy, France or Germany is a matter of debate (and preference for style of play).

I started following it about a decade ago when Fox Soccer Channel became part of my cable TV package, and I now have several soccer (or "football," as they - rightfully - call it) fans on my lists of followers on Twitter, friends on Facebook and readers of my weather blog for the Eagle.

It's amazing how markedly the service I received in France and Germany improved when the waiters learned I follow soccer and was aware of their local teams. Football as an international ice-breaker --- fancy that!

Anyway, just as I like to do for the NFL and MLB here in the USA, I make an effort to choose how I think teams will finish each season in the Premiership (and in the Championship, the next tier of English soccer). My friends overseas enjoy receiving them for the abundant laughs they invariably share from the list.

It is a challenge to make these predictions, because teams can still bring in new players (and let current ones go) up until Aug. 31 (think of MLB's trading deadline). That means a team's fortunes could still shift dramatically one way or the other in the coming weeks.

But it somehow seems wrong to wait until the teams have already played nearly 10 percent of their games before making picks and pretending to be wise, so here we go.

  1. Manchester United - the Yankees of the Prem, winners of 19 English titles - more than any other club; they also have an incredibly talented and deep squad and are well-positioned to make a run at 20.
  2. Manchester City - ManU's chief title rivals may be their "noisy neighbors" just across town. City is the wealthiest club in the world, thanks to their oil-rich owners, and have amassed the most talented squad in the league. But will they gel in time to win the title for the first time in more than 40 years?
  3. Chelsea - This London-based team has a weathy Russian owner who splashed barrels of cash several years ago to stack the squad (much like ManCity has done the past year or two) and brought home Prem titles and FA Cups. But that squad is aging now, and a new coach has to navigate the transition to a younger team while still chasing silverware. Tricky task, that.
  4. Liverpool - Once England's dominant soccer team, now eclipsed by ManU, Liverpool is relying on new American owner and old hero Kenny Dalglish as coach to mount another assault on the throne. Likely a year or two too soon.
  5. Tottenham - Another London club, the Hotspurs (think of an angry rooster) finished fourth two seasons ago and enjoyed their first taste of Champions League football (a competition among Europe's best teams, and the biggest tournament in European soccer). But they faded a bit last season and haven't spent much so far this summer.
  6. Arsenal - The "Gunners" just lost one of their best players and may lose another before the end of the month; known in recent years for playing pretty football but not winning trophies, Arsenal looks like it could struggle unless/until Coach Arsene Wenger can stem the bleeding.
  7. Everton - Liverpool's "other" team has a well-earned reputation for punching above its weight and finishing higher in the standings (or "table," as they refer to it overseas) than their resources suggest they should. But shoestrings and pixie dust only last so long, and the Toffees seem far more likely to tumble than to climb - particularly if the injury list grows long.
  8. Aston Villa - One of two teams in Birmingham, England's "second city," the Villans figure to settle near the top of the Prem's "second tier," which starts at about 7th place this year.
  9. Fulham - Another old London club has longtime American striker Clint Dempsey in its strike force. It also has a new manager, Martin Jol, who should steer the Cottagers to mid-table safety.
  10. Sunderland - After a late-season slump nearly sucked Sunderland into the relegation scrap, manager Steve Bruce brought in enough new players to field an entirely new set of starters. Expect an up-and-down season that'll land 'em right around the middle.
  11. West Brom - That's short for "West Bromwich Albion," a club in the western midlands dating back to 1888. A notorious "yo-yo" club (for its propensity to earn promotion to the Premiership only to be relegated back to the second division), the Baggies enjoyed their highest finish in the Prem last season. Manager Roy Hodgson looks to solidify West Brom this season, and for the first time in memory no one is predicting Brom to fall through the trapdoor this year.
  12. Stoke - The Potters had a storied season last year, making it all the way to the FA Cup final, which earned them a berth in the Europa League this year. The question is whether that competition will so tax a limited Stoke squad to the point they'll suffer in league play.
  13. Bolton - The Wanderers had one of their best-ever seasons in the Prem unfolding until a late-season fade. Now, with much of their firepower going elsewhere, they need to find goals from those who are left to avoid a scary slide down the table.
  14. Newcastle - A team in disarray, the Geordies would be favorites for the drop if it weren't for so many flawed teams elsewhere. This team needs more of everything, and those glory days of even 10 years ago seem a sepia-toned memory.
  15. Wolverhampton - The Wolves survived relegation by the faintest of margins last season, and figure to be in the relegation scrap again. I like their additions, however, and they have a decent shot at survival.
  16. QPR - Queen's Park Rangers looked a good bet for relegation before a new owner took charge one week into the season. With a few reinforcements, last season's Championship winners have a fighting chance to avoid an immediate return to the second tier.
  17. Norwich - The Canaries have a solid team for a squad just up from the Championship, and should be able to do enough to stay up this season.
  18. Swansea - A fun team to watch, but frailties in defense will be punished. The Swans should score goals, but they'll also give up a bundle.
  19. Wigan - It's hard to believe Wigan has stayed in the Prem for 7 years now. A late-season surge saved them in their annual brush with relegation last year, but I can't see it happening again. 
  20. Blackburn - Shady owners, a paper-thin squad, little talent, a clueless manager ---- Blackburn's going down.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Rocco Palmo talks about why he started the blog "Whispers in the Loggia"

Who, you may ask, is Rocco Palmo? It's a fair question, and one I asked myself when the media liaison for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops suggested I talk to him for a story I was working on a story earlier this year about why so many priests from the Wichita diocese have been named bishops in recent years.

Palmo has a blog called Whispers in the Loggia, which takes a look at developments and issues within the Catholic Church. He was, indeed, a fascinating interview for my story. Trusted friends in the Church have told me some regard his blog as glorified gossip, and thus should be approached guardedly. But I still found it telling that the USCCB official respected Palmo and his blog enough to point me to them.

This television interview offers a glimpse of Palmo's personality and motivations for launching the blog. Watching it reminded me of my lengthy interview (and fact-checking call after the story was written). He's passionate and articulate about the Church and being Catholic, and for that I'll tip my hat.

An eminently avoidable tragedy

As most of you reading this blog likely already know, strong winds collapsed a stage at the Indiana State Fair this weekend, killing five and injuring dozens more. Here is video of the stage collapse, in case you haven't seen it.

Details of how this tragedy unfolded are still murky - separating fact from rumor always takes time in the aftermath. Strong winds have collapsed stages at outdoor events several times in the past few months, so this can't be dismissed as a freak of nature.

There's no excuse for organizers not to have access to the National Weather Service or a private forecasting service to receive detailed information about when and how severe weather may impact a given event. I've heard AccuWeather warned clients in Indianapolis of the gust front's arrival at least an hour before it arrived.

I'm reading that authorities were preparing to evacuate the stage and grandstand in anticipation of the strongest winds arriving at around 9:15 p.m. --- only the fatal gust front arrived nearly a half-hour before the National Weather Service predicted. Were authorities negligent in waiting so long? I have a feeling lawsuits will attempt to answer that question.

I've read that law enforcement officials at the fairgrounds were using radar imagery from their smartphones to help monitor conditions. That imagery may not have been sophisticated enough to show the gust front out in front of the strong thunderstorms. And even if they were, would the officials know enough about meteorology to recognize what that front looked like (or signified) on radar? Most folks aren't.

This year has been filled with far too many examples of people making poor choices when faced with severe weather...and paying an awfully high price for it.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The E-trade baby loses everything

We've all seen those commercials of the cool, confident and classy....explaining the virtues of E-Trade. Well, in the wake of this latest round of Wall Street wobbles, the folks at College Humor have created a tongue-in-cheek commercial depicting the baby's reaction as the market takes a tumble. Well, actually, falls off a cliff.

I'm told E-Trade wasn't too happy about the fake commercial and yanked it off YouTube quickly. But here it is, courtesy of the Huffington Post.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

An account of the riots in London

Rioters have ravaged London for the past three days, and reports now indicate the riots have spread to Birmingham and other cities in England. The original riots began in the Tottenham neighborhood of London over the police shooting of a man there.

The riots are being fueled by 20-somethings, I'm told by Twitter followers who live in the U.K. Here's an account of a mob striking at a restaurant in London. Scenes like this should send a shiver down the spine, because with economies wobbling you wonder how soon they could happen elsewhere - even here.