Left turns and Traffic lights

Anyone know what's up with the traffic light outside the Shipley's Grant shopping center (near the intersection of Rte 108 and Snowden River Parkway)?  The lights all had bags over them, and a stop sign has been installed.

I made a left turn out of the lot this morning at 9:30 and it was a bit dicey. Seems like an impossible (read: dangerous) thing during hours with heavier traffic.



Food Truck Rally!!!

Ok, THIS piece of news made me happy. Of course it's food related, so of course it made me happy.

Baltimore's food trucks will be converging on a lot in Harbor East (421 Central Ave) this evening. They'll be selling from five to ten o'clock.

Depending on how late I leave work, and how crowded it is, this might be a dinner stop on the way home!


Cracks in the system

There was some kind of trial that resolved recently.

Ok, I'm not actually that clueless. But I didn't follow the case, so I decided to do some catchup on the Casey Anthony trial coverage after the verdict blew up Facebook, Twitter, and even workplace water-cooler talks. Anthony was sentenced today.

A common thread seems to be reactions like "she's guilty" and "what were those jurors thinking" and "the justice system is broken."

Incidentally, when I typed "The Legal System is" in Google, top autocompletes were:

The legal system is a joke
The legal system is broken
The legal system is not our enemy

So there's a problem at least in perception, and possibly in practice. There are voices far more qualified than mine to comment on that topic. 

Here's an TED talk, food for thought (on certain aspects of our legal system at least):

Going back to criminal law... the court of public opinion is not the same as the trial by peers that's taken as a fundamental right in the US.

So here's the question: does the public reaction indicate that the legal system is broken, or does it indicate that in some cases, we have a problem with the existing rules?

A news brief from TampaBay.com (reposted on the Sun) revealed this comment from one of the Jurors.
"I just swear to God ...," said the juror, who spoke to a reporter on condition of anonymity on Wednesday. "I wish we had more evidence to put her away. I truly do ..." (source)
This, at least, tells me the system "worked" to the extent that the jurors focused on the evidence - the burden of proof that is the responsibility of the prosecution, and a system that declares a defendant innocent until proven guilty.

To me, that was actually something of a comfort. There's a little cynical side of me that sometimes thinks that presumption of innocence is not always the case.

Still, I would not have wanted to do that job.

The final thought I have on this is... why people have focused so intensely on this investigation (versus other cases that are also horrific, or other examples of how the justice system possibly failed)? Why is this the poster case for a 'failed justice system'?

I'm not answering that question (or really even the first one) - I'm more interested in hearing your thoughts. Leave 'em in the comments below!


Where am I, Wednesday?

This week, on where am I, Wednesday....

...where am I in the HoCo? (hocoblogs@@@)

Leave your guess in the comments below!


Independence Under God

In the days leading up to the weekend, I noticed a trend among a certain subset of my Facebook friends. Statuses began to change to this:


To be honest, I didn't give it much thought until I read the following comment someone (not my FB friend) had posted in agreement:

Commenter: They don't say it in alot of places and its [expletive] if you don't like it go the [expletive] back to your own country. Alot of men and women lay their lives down each and everyday so that cry babies can whine about reciting the pledge of allegiance

Typically I'd shy away from discussing this type of thing on my blog, but I feel like a day that celebrates American Independence sort of calls for it. 

Wikipedia summarizes several aspects of controversy surrounding the pledge. They include:

1) That the promise of freedom to dissent means that people should not be required to give an oath of allegiance (as does the right of people to not speak in public).
2) That those likely to recite the pledge on a daily basis - kids in school - are too young to really understand what that oath means.
3) Objections to the constitutionality of including the phrase "Under God."

Let's start with an extremely streamlined summary of the recent controversy over the last two - schools and "Under God". Feel free to clarify my omissions and/or imply my ignorance in the comments below. 

Also (because, sadly, I feel this might be necessary), please keep in mind that if you think you know my personal opinion(s) on God and/or religion from reading this blog post, you are most likely wrong.


Since the 1960s, the courts have been dealing with challenges to the constitutionality of prayer in public schools

A case filed in 2000, Newdow v. United States Congress, Elk Grove Unified School District, et al., raised objections that, for instances where the Pledge was recited in public schools, led by teachers, the clause "under God" was an endorsement by the state of religion, and thereby violated the first amendment.

To review, the first amendment guarantees freedom to exercise religion, and prohibits laws that impinge on the establishment of religious beliefs. Congress is also prohibited from making laws that can lead to the establishment of a national religion - the "establishment clause."

In 2004, the decision of the case (which was that requiring students to recite the pledge was unconstitutional) was struck down on the basis of standing. The next incarnation of the case - Newdow v. Carey - eventually resulted in a decision in which the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of pledge recitation in public schools.

Of course, if you believe in freedom of religion, then this follows: some people can say "under God" if they want, and anyone who doesn't want to, doesn't. Right?

Not exactly.

Before I get to my thoughts on the FB commenter (or rather, the mentality behind the comment), let's look more closely at the controversial words - "under God."

The Pledge of Allegiance was composed in 1892 by a man named Francis Bellamy, and adopted as the national pledge in 1942. The words "under God" were officially added to the original pledge twelve years later, in 1954 - although unofficial use of them began earlier. This addition was allegedly drawn from the Gettysburg address, although some question exists as to whether or not Lincoln used the phrase in his famous speech.

Different versions appeared in different manuscripts after the speech.

Version 1: "It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."  
Version 2: "It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. 

Others have challenged the actual meaning, suggesting that in the context of the time, Lincoln's "Under God" would more accurately mean "God willing" and not a declaration that the nation follows God.

At the time of the "Under God" addition to the pledge, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, made these comments:
"From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural school house, the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty. To anyone who truly loves America, nothing could be more inspiring than to contemplate this rededication of our youth, on each school morning, to our country's true meaning. 
Especially is this meaningful as we regard today's world. Over the globe, mankind has been cruelly torn by violence and brutality and, by the millions, deadened in mind and soul by a materialistic philosophy of life. Man everywhere is appalled by the prospect of atomic war. In this somber setting, this law and its effects today have profound meaning. In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America's heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country's most powerful resource, in peace or in war." (Source)

Reading the above excerpt actually gave me a lot of food for thought. Seriously, I had no idea about the history of the pledge, although I remembered the court case(s). The context of the change as stated in Eisenhower's adderss has me thinking about the reasons why the pledge might have been made official - not in the terms of is it "good" or "bad". 

Now, on to the comment.  Some critical questions:

Just because we've done something the same way for a long time, does that mean we shouldn't question it? (hint: bad news for any movement that has ever challenged the status quo.)

Is it a legitimate attitude that questioning a Pledge of Allegiance - or the willingness to say "Under God" - makes someone a coward or anti-American or anti-troops?

More bluntly, which was what caught my attention to begin with: Is there a place for people who are not comfortable with "under God" - either because they are atheist, agnostic, deist, or ascribe to a religion that is not compatible with the phrase - in America?

Most people would say something generic like "I don't care what religion so-and-so is" - but consider the ongoing discussion over whether President Obama is "really a Christian."  

We can't have it both ways.  

We can't be the "melting pot" but tell the Gruy√®re that it has to sit this one out because it's asking uncomfortable questions.

It's easy to dismiss dust-ups like this as a matter of political correctness - the "fear of offending" noted by the commenter. However, when those seemingly PC-issues crop up, it's equally important to understand why and look for clues as to what that issue reflects of our psyche as a nation, and as individuals. 

The assurance of 'freedom of religion' in the first amendment means nothing if it's a thin veneer covering up an "us or them," "fall in or get out" sort of mentality.

There are plenty of arguments for whether America was founded as either a secular nation, or a Christian one, and those for both sides carry flaws. The truth is that the Founding Fathers were white, Christian (although some may have technically been deists), and many owned slaves

In a modern age where the founding of America is idealized and politicians carelessly rewrite history to suit their rhetoric, we have to remember that, for all they accomplished, the Founding Fathers faced their own limitations - limitations of their time and their life experience - that are not necessarily applicable to the America that exists 235 years later. Nor SHOULD those standards be applicable.

Relying on the literal words of documents from that time restricts the nation to the past, rather than conferring independence in the future - for those who wish to live "under God," and for those who don't.

Happy Fourth of July! Drive safely, and enjoy the fireworks.


Baltimore Ten Miler

A little late in posting about this, but two weekends ago (Jun 18) I ran the Baltimore Ten Miler. I hadn't upped my mileage well in the leadup to the race, so I was just looking to be comfortable and not destroy myself.

The race wasn't exactly comfy. There were a ton of hills - long, gradual ones that don't seem as bad when you run down them, but are killer on the way back.

Some water stops weren't very organized, but it was really only a problem at mile 4 where there was one poor woman trying to pour out water as dozens of runners ran past. There were plenty of them on the way back, though. I ended up hydrating a lot, because it was so hot, my clothes were sopping at the end of the run.

The post-race party was good. Wedges of watermelon (yum - the watermelon juice stained my face orange for a bit), water, post-race beverages right out of an ice-water bath (2 per adult... I can never drink them anyway, I sipped at one and gave the other to Matt), and some Quaker-Oak granola bar type snacks that I didn't touch. They were just at one table, and it didn't seem worth it to fight the crowd.  There was live entertainment and a beautiful area (in Druid Hill Park/by the Zoo) to sit and listen or socialize.

The premium was a fleece vest. I'm not yet sure how I feel about it. The 10 miler was hyped because of its super premium, but a vest isn't for everyone (and by everyone, I mean me. And possibly others.). They also ran HUGE. I ended up with a small after trading, and still am not sure how it's really going to fit (it's sitting in the clean laundry pile post-wash at the moment).

Afterwards we stopped at Frank's Diner for breakfast. Um. YUM. Great balance of salt, fat, carbs... and coffee. Coffee was had by me.

Corned Beef Hash with Eggs and Homefries from Frank's Diner in Jessup.
The eggs improve with the addition of heavily-processed cheese.
Coffee not shown.

Jeff 6 does a great job summing up our race day on his blog-race-report. He was super company.

We posted decent times (under 1:30 - not a PR, but between the training, the heat, and the hills, I'm totally good with that). 

More importantly, I had virtually no pain the next day. I felt great. I was really happy about that.

This weekend kicks off training for the Marine Corps marathon in October. That's my single remaining race of the year, and I'm really looking forward to it. The future Mr. SwimWriteRun will be doing the 10K on the same day! Hooray!

I know HuskyRunner is running the Marine Corps Marathon (did you know he makes BEER for DuClaw? I KNOW!)... anyone else?


Technicolor Bagels

Don't ask about FvF... but I am prepared to talk about ONE food thing this week. (hocofood@@@)

The Bagel Bin in River Hill has started offering Cheddar Cheese bagels. I noticed them right away a few weeks ago. They're hard to miss. 

OK, to be honest, the color was actually a little alarming (compare to the mild yellow of the egg bagel beside them). I snapped a picture and received some funny looks from other people in line.

My typical MO is to order a pizza bagel on a toasted supreme bagel. This is an awesome breakfast after a quick run (comfort food after being dusted), and has carbs, salt, and fat, which I crave after a long workout. (alright, to be honest, I could eat that after a mile run. Oh well.)

Out of curiosity, I changed it up. I give you, pizza en cheddar bagel.

Pizza bagel on a toasted cheddar cheese bagel at the Clarksville Bagel Bin.
Yeah... I eat the pickle, too, even though it's breakfast. Yum!

The verdict? This was pretty good. Like having pizza on a cheese-it, if cheese-its contained the perfect mixture of crunch and chew. 

Of course, this change might not be for everyone. Based on my recommendation, a friend changed his AM order. The result of his Pizza Bagel Experiment:
Mo, I tried the cheddar bagel as you instructed. It didnt work out. The supreme [my last bagel recommendation] is definitely your finer hour.


Have you tried the technicolor cheddar? Tell me in the comments below!