The Thoughts and Musings of Tom Allain

If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it

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(b.1964)

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Archive for November, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

I am writing this on Thanksgiving Day, before we head to Nancy’s sister’s home and eat way too much. I’ve always loved Thanksgiving for many reasons. Mostly I like the fact that it’s a civil holiday but most of us think of it in religious terms. I can’t imagine not going to church on Thanksgiving. Last year I included President Lincoln’s 1863 Proclamation. I read this yesterday at my team meeting at work and realized that few of us know that the holiday is only 144 years old. Here’s what he wrote:

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well as the iron and coal as of our precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the imposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.
In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this 3d day of October, A.D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

Thank you, President Lincoln.

Tony and Alicia Gwynn: They’re a Class Act

Monday, November 19th, 2007

OK, so this is hardly a surprising headline, especially for us who live here in San Diego, but it’s worth saying again. Nancy and I were able to go to Cooperstown in July to see Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripkin inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame. This past Saturday we went to a dinner for the San Diego Foundation where Tony and Alicia were the keynote speakers.

The Foundation is a pool of resources; people who have money they wish to donate can combine with other people. The Foundation provides resources and information so individuals and groups can find good places to donate. It also provides a place where funds can be invested prior to being donated. Nancy’s father has a fund called the Graff Family Foundation (that we will administer when he’s done with it); he was invited to the dinner but given the keynote speakers he gave the tickets to us. It was wonderful.

Tony and Alicia also administer a fund called the Tony and Alicia Gwynn Foundation. After dinner, instead of giving a speech, they answered questions and talked about how they continue to give back to the community. They are both articulate in their belief that they have worked hard, but have also been blessed. Alicia is an ordained minister and talked about how “to whom much is given much is expected” (Luke 12:48). Tony talked about how he is a public figure and he needs to act like one. He spoke about helping children make good decisions by being good role models. He is certainly that.

The funniest part of the evening was before the dinner when I introduced myself to him. I shook his hand and said: “Hello, I’m Tom Allain.” He smiled and said: “Hello, I’m Tony Gwynn.” As if I didn’t know who he is. But somehow the fact that he didn’t assume his fame was refreshing. I’m sure he won’t remember me but I’ll never forget meeting him.

Do They Use Designated Hitters in Federal Prison?

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

We’ve been waiting for this for a long time, but word came out that Barry Bonds has been indicted on 4 counts of perjury and 1 count of obstruction of justice related to his testimony before the grand jury in December of 2003. You can read the text of the indictment here. If you don’t have Adobe Acrobat you have to download the reader to read the document.

It was about that time Barry changed his story from “I never took steroids” to “I never knowingly took steroids. The focus of the grand jury investigation was a company called Balco who Justice lawyers believed provided steroids to a number of athletes. Barry was given immunity so that he couldn’t be prosecuted for anything he told the grand jury (this prevents him from taking the Fifth Amendment) as long as he was truthful to the grand jury. Bonds was asked if he received steriods from Greg Anderson, a friend of Bonds who has an affiliate with Balco. He testified that Anderson administered a cream that Bonds believed was flaxseed oil.

This is all pretty dry stuff, but the bottom line is this: the indictment shows he knowingly took steroids and lied to investigators. Now he faces the possibility of prison time, all because he wanted the home run record enough to cheat. This shows not just a lack of respect for himself but also for baseball. I’ve written on this before on March 9, 2006. By the way Sports Illustrated has a terrific slide show on Barry’s growth chart.

Meanwhile, Barry is a free agent and is looking for a team that will pick him up so he can get 3000 hits in the major leagues. It doesn’t look likely now. Speaking only for myself as a baseball fan, I won’t miss him.

Remembering, Celebrating, Honoring (in no particular order)

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

These past few weeks since the fires here in San Diego have been emotionally eventful and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve said: “I need to blog about that.” Today’s entry is kind of a catch all, known in the vernacular as the whole megillah.

  1. A few days ago we commemorated Veteran’s Day, originally called “Armistice Day.” It’s always November 11th and it began as a celebration of the end of World War I (called “The Great War” back then). It’s easy to remember: the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. According to legend the peace treaty was signed early in the morning but they held off making it effective until 11AM. Hard to imagine they agreed to continue the war for a few more hours.
  2. The day before, November 10th is the is birthday of the Marines. They were created in 1775 by an act of Congress. They continue to be a strong presence in San Diego and around the world.
  3. In the weeks since the fire I’ve had occasion to drive around to see the damage. I’m amazed at the extent of the burned areas, but more amazed by the homes saved. There are several places where the fire damage has gone right up the edge of someone’s home and stopped. I’m sure some of it is because the owner had the forethought to clear the area around their homes. But I’m also convinced that these homes were save by the heroism of the firefighters. It’s nice to see signs in those neighborhoods thanking the first responders. I couldn’t agree more.
  4. Finally I had occasion to go downtown today and see 1,500 people take the oath to become citizens. They have had to fill out untold forms, wait untold months and years, and learn our history and government, and still want to join us. It was an inspiration. One of our newest citizens is my coworker Paola. Don’t tell her but at our next team meeting we’re going to celebrate her work and decision.

I Always Knew My Father Was Hip

Friday, November 9th, 2007

This past Monday my father went under the knife and had his right hip replaced. It’s been an eventful week for him, and for me as I kept in touch from 3000 miles away. Not to keep you in suspense, the operation was a success and he’s home and happy.

It’s been interesting for me on several levels. I remember a generation ago my grandfather had both hips replaced. I don’t remember the exact year but I think it was 1974; it was much different then. The artificial hips weren’t nearly as good as they are today and at the time they weren’t supposed to last very long. People like my grandfather were told they should wait until the pain was unbearable because they (the doctors) didn’t want to replace the hip more than once in a lifetime. It was a serious enough event that we drove 500 miles to be with him when he had the operation. I remember at the time thinking he was so old. I have to laugh because he was 72: four years younger than my father is now. My mother at the time was 9 years younger than I am now and my younger nephew Chris is 2 years older than I was at the time. I guess this is all the proof I need that the torch has been passed.

Back to my father: he was certainly ready to have the operation because it was really making it difficult to keep up the walking he likes to do. That said I’m not sure he was completely ready to be a patient. He’s not a guy who get sick. I remember only once when I was in high school that he missed work because he was sick. When I got home from school he was in the backyard chopping wood. In one of our conversations this week we agreed that this was probably the longest he’s been in bed since he learned to walk as a child. It certainly wasn’t easy for him to need help with getting out of bed etc. but he did really well. The hospital had horrible food but that’s not a surprise. But the fact that they didn’t have ESPN is, to our minds, a human rights violation. In any case he’s home and on the mend and I’m eager to see him being able to walk again without pain. Love ya Dad.