Poetry Wednesday 78

When the weather turns cold and gloomy I’m ready to be “Here, There, Anywhere”

“Here, There, Anywhere”

Sand, saltwater beach

Tropical drink in my hand

Ocean time is nearby


Mountain views abound

Wine, ‘shine on a fruited plane

Hike along the trail


Time away from here

Relaxation and rest

Vacation needed

© Ryan Stroud 2019

History Monday #79

Can the Church’s power trump the state’s?

America as a nation celebrates the important idea of Separation of Church and State. Congress is forbidden from establishing a national religion or interfering with any private practice thereof. This radical idea would likely ruffle some important feathers in one of the principal actors in today’s #HistoryMonday.

Pope Boniface VIII.jpg

On this day in 1302, Pope Boniface VIII issues the papal bull known as Unam sanctam. For reference a papal bull is not a bovine that the Pope releases to terrorize opponents. The word bull refers to a clay seal on a letter and is connected to the Latin word ‘bulla’ which means ‘bubble’ since the seals were usually round blobs. Although the Pope sending wild cattle to intimidate opponents might have more effect if not more entertaining.

Anyways, back to Unam sanctam and its historical significance. Pope Boniface VIII was embroiled in a Philip IV, the King of France over monetary obligations to the church or the state. King Philip in 1296 had ordered clergy serving in France to pay taxes at about 50% of their income in response to Boniface’s ambassadors insisting on the importance of following Church law. Boniface issued a papal bull Clericos laicos in response which effectively denied King Philip’s unfair taxes on clergy and any other clergy taxes, such as King Edward I, of England. Government agents including royalty faced excommunication for levying such taxes.

The Catholic Church was fine with collecting their own taxes to pay for Holy Land travels and building projects but saw their own power as superior to the national leaders who were appointed to serve by the Pope. Philip then responded by enacting an embargo to prevent goods being delivered to the Papal States to bring pressure to bear on Boniface.

Unam sanctam is named for a portion its opening line, “We are obliged by the faith to believe and hold—and we do firmly believe and sincerely confess—that there is one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and that outside this Church there is neither salvation nor remission of sins…. In which Church there is ‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism.’” The line in Latin, “est unam Sanctam Catholicam et Apostolicam Ecclesiam” can easily be parsed by using cognates in the English. Boniface makes a further assertion in Unam sanctam that there are two swords to be used by the Church, the spiritual and the temporal. Obviously, the spiritual is the Church contending against false doctrine to preserve the true Gospel while the temporal are the princes, kings, and rulers that the Church permits to enforce non-church matters in consultation with the head of the Church which is the Pope.

fast forward

Obviously, Unam sanctam would have pushback during the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther encouraged the Prince of Saxony to refuse the Pope in 1517 after addressing issues with papal authority and misuse of Church funds in his Ninety-five Theses.

Prior to the Reformation, the immediate aftermath of Unam sanctam was felt by Boniface at the hands of King Philip. John of Paris was asked by Philip to refute the bull with his own criticisms. Boniface then excommunicated King Philip.

Following this back and forth, King Philip convened an assembly and alleged several crimes that Boniface was guilty of committing such as heresy, murder of Pope Celestine V, and magic.  Guillaume de Nogaret, an advisor to Philip with an army of mercenaries attacked the papal residence. Once inside, the ruffians apprehended Boniface, but spared his life because they decided episcopicide crossed some line. Sadly, Boniface succumbed to the injuries by King Philip’s forces about a month later.

Boniface and Unam sanctam was seen as problematic not just by King Philip. Dante Alighieri penned an article arguing that both the Pope and the Monarch are only humans who are empowered by God to serve in their capacities. Ultimately, God should decide how to use the swords not two fallible and mortal human beings. Dante also included Boniface in Inferno and doomed Boniface to the eighth level of Hell for simony, the act of selling church offices or roles. King Philip would also encourage Pope Clement V to conduct a posthumous trial of Boniface. The council leading the trial accepted the testimony of three cardinals as to Boniface’s innocence and declared the matter closed.

The fact that King Philip is also known as Philip the Fair should not be lost on anyone for the rich irony of attacking a Pope, likely leading to his death and then trying him for crimes against the Church. Essentially what would be seen now as a playground squabble had serious effects because each actor ratcheted up the tension, with Boniface declaring Philip as having lost salvation while Philip declared the Pope was a corrupt heretic.

While this might get missed in modern times, since we have realized the lunacy of the battle between church and state, the idea of the distinguishing features of the church persist. The Church is one or united because we share one faith, one mission, one hope, and one Lord. We are united in at least two of the sacraments whether Roman Catholic or Protestant. We are also holy because we are to be set apart from the world to accomplish the goodness and purpose of God. We are catholic because we exist as a body of believers universally for all people, at all times, in all places. Lastly, we are apostolic because we follow the authority of the apostles. This authority was then handed on from bishop to bishop.  This tradition was preserved, taught, and handed on by the apostles—an unbroken chain of succession. Similar language is still confessed even today with the Apostles’ Creed, but more especially with the Nicene Creed.

[For what it’s worth, trying to write seriously about this was somewhat of a challenge because I read this with a focus on the more humorous aspects of this story. As I first read Unam sanctam during my continuing education classes, another pastoral colleague and I jokingly referred to the Pope as Boney-face and of course Phil for the King. By applying diminutive nicknames to each person, it helps to process the information and remember it more easily.]

Do you recite the Apostles’ Creed or Nicene Creed at church on a regular basis?

Current Event Friday #82

Be careful to avoid the crime of Grand Theft Baseball

NASCAR lore promotes the phrase “If you ain’t cheatin’ you ain’t tryin’” That saying could easily apply to other sports and as news broke this week, the sport now in offseason mode could see some making similar claims about their game. The alleged culprits and the outrage is today’s #CurrentEventFriday.

Image result for astros

World Series Runners-up the Houston Astros were alleged to have used cameras in the batter’s eye in centerfield to steal signs from their opponents this season. Already found to have been caught a few years ago for similar circumstances, their previous offseason success is now in question.

Experts have evaluated the statistics for the 2019 season and shown that the Astros success at home this year is vastly better than road appearances. Call me skeptical, but if that was true the Astros should’ve won the World Series easily this season since they had home field advantage but were swept at home in the World Series. So, I have my doubts.

Regardless of the accusations being true or not the Astros can’t be the only team trying to steal signs. Every team is trying to determine the pitch that’s being thrown at any time. The entire goal of the batter is trying to guess the pitch and the location being thrown. So, how is it wrong for coaches to do the same. Stealing signs is roughly equivalent to a scouting report. I know the idea of communicating the signs to the players is the issue, but the ability to judge the pitch type, speed, and location is determined by the batter in less than 10 seconds. Even knowing the pitch ahead of time doesn’t guarantee a hit or runs produced. So, I don’t have a problem with a team scouting the competition. Back to NASCAR wisdom, this from Darrell Waltrip, “If you don’t cheat, you look like an idiot; if you cheat and don’t get caught, you look like a hero; if you cheat and get caught, you look like a dope. Put me where I belong.”

If teams want to prevent signs from being stolen, pick new signs that teams don’t already know. If you’re being outsmarted by another team with your pitch selection, outsmart them with new signals. Even if by accident, some pitchers will reveal their pitches and ‘tip’ the pitch to the batter. Catchers and coaches have already worked to prevent pitch tipping by covering their mouths with their mitts during mound visits. Worth noting, catchers might do well to avoid painting their nails so pitchers can more easily see because that same visibility extends to eagle-eyed opponents trying to figure out what the sign is.

A possible solution is borrowing technology from NFL. Why not have a pitching coordinator in the press box or bullpen with a headset connected to the pitcher and catchers who are fitted with an earpiece? The pitcher and catcher agree on the selection called by the pitching coordinator and throw the agreed upon pitch. Sure, there’s potential for problems with this, but make sure the umpires or another MLB official maintains custody of the electronics before, during, and after the games.

Is it wrong to ‘steal’ signs of an opposing team?

Time for a Change

If I could make changes in sports I would…

Back in the day, a show titled Queen for a Day that encouraged down on their luck women to explain what they would do if their fortunes changed. The show has since inspired euphemisms based on this concept using the format ‘x’ for a Day. In that spirit, I wanted to pretend what changes I’d make if I were King of Sports for a Day.

The changes I’d like to propose are not confined to one sport alone and are mostly related to geographically aligning teams and competitive divisions to provide more TV ratings and ticket sales. Remember, these are all hypotheticals and I have no influence but thought they would be good for discussion.

First up, is my favorite sport—Baseball. Before anything else, the home plate Umpire is only located there to call safe/out on plays at the plate, while balls & strikes are decided by a virtual strike zone operated at MLB headquarters in New York. Next, there shall be 5 expansion teams located in Nashville, Charlotte, New Orleans, Indianapolis, and Montreal. The four U.S. market teams provide baseball in national markets to compete with NFL & NBA franchises. The AL gains the New Orleans and Indianapolis franchises, while the NL receives Nashville, Charlotte, and Montreal teams.  Also, the Texas Rangers will move to the NL so that there are Texas teams in both leagues. I know originally the Houston Astros were an NL team so moving them back would seemingly make more sense, but I can’t see with their recent success moving them, the Rangers could benefit from a change in League alignment. For those concerned about replay decisions, Crew Chiefs are mic’ed up and must explain the ruling that MLB replay officials decide after review. Finally, the DH is only available for both leagues regardless of the home stadium on regular season Sunday games, while the rest of the time pitchers must hit and the DH is only available during the World Series in Games 3 & 6 regardless of NL or AL team hosting, meaning no DH in the AL or NL playoffs.

Next turning to NCAA sports, conference alignments are first on the block. The Big Ten or B1G is a ridiculous name given there are well over a dozen teams in the conference. I suggest the Heartland Conference as the new name. Also, Penn State, Rutgers & Maryland don’t belong here geographically and will be aligned with the ACC. The new Heartland Conference now has two spots open and are filled by Missouri and Cincinnati. Mizzou already has a rivalry with Illinois, and they’ll get to play each other often enough with Conference implications. There are also geographic rivalries rekindled from the Big 12 with Nebraska, and likely many of the Northwestern and Mizzou fans overlap with the Cubs/Cards rivalry from MLB. Also, Louisville leaves the ACC since it’s neither Atlantic or Coastal and aligns with the SEC, as there are already perfect geographic rivalries for UofL with UK & Vandy. West Virginia also leaves the Big 12 and takes over for Texas A&M who joins the American Athletic Conference. While we’re discussing that conference, Connecticut joins the ACC. Sacramento State and San Diego State University also depart the American Athletic Conference and join the Mountain West Conference.

Now turning to the NFL, pass interference rules follow the NCAA rules which negates the spot foul that gifts the offense 30 yards on passes that were questionable to be caught. Replays are handled by the NFL offices in New York. Next, two new expansion teams and a couple of realignments. An expansion team located in St. Louis and playing in the NFC North, let’s say the Pilots incorporating a Burnt Orange and White color scheme. A second expansion team located in Toronto will play in the AFC North probably the Beavers and incorporate a Purple and Silver color combination. The Arizona Cardinals return to Chicago and keep the same name and borrow the Baby Blue and Cardinal Red colors from the St. Louis Cardinals (MLB) uniforms of the 1980’s. The Jacksonville Jaguars relocate to Arizona and become the Arizona Phoenix replacing the teal with a darker Indian Red and adding White as a secondary color while the black becomes only an accent color.

For what it’s worth, this is not meant to be an exhaustive list. I know there would be more moving parts for much of these changes and not everyone will appreciate them. Obviously, I could suggest changes to other sports and further tinker with even the sports I did mention.

What changes would you make if you were ‘Ruler of Sports’ for a Day?

History Monday #78

Life is a Highway, a song says and today’s historical event is about the life of highways

It’s the 11th day of the 11th Month, and for Americans that means Veterans’ Day. So, blessings and thanks to all Armed Forces Veterans on this day. The armistice of World War I would seem the most obvious choice for today’s entry, but I like to call attention to the not so obvious events for #HistoryMonday, so let’s roll on down the highway with today’s entry.

The U.S. Highway Plan approved on 11 November, 1926

On November 11, 1926, the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) approved the Numbered Highway System. Created more than a decade earlier to organize and assist the patchwork group of auto trails, the AASHO acknowledged shortcomings of the loose affiliation of the auto trails and hoped to correct them.

Most auto trails began as old wagon trails, cow paths, and corduroy roads. Adventurous and romanticized travelers attempted to navigate the country using these pathways and created names like the Lincoln Highway, Dixie Highway, Ocean to Ocean Trail, among others. Travelers found confusion when auto trail clubs built parallel roads with makeshift signage and no clear instruction on which route to take, something had to be done.

Wisconsin noticed the pitfalls and decided that an organized system using numbers rather than arbitrary names would be a better option. Other states followed suit and eventually the AASHO began meeting to organize the system nationwide that would be clear to all.

Not everyone appreciated the move though. Some of the auto trail designers felt that numbers were too sterile and cold and lost the sense of adventure and honor that the named trails offered. Arguing that numbers were an insult to the memory of Abraham Lincoln by numbering a highway rather than retaining the Lincoln Highway. Others joked that nobody could get their ‘kicks’ on 46, 55 or 33 or 21. Ironically, Route 66 would be popularized in song and travelers were encouraged to get their ‘kicks’ on the highway.

Spending roughly a year to plan the system, the AASHO approved the report from U.S. Agriculture officials serving with the Bureau of Public Roads and state highway officials. The Joint Board had tried to determine the best way to arrange the routes and satisfy local entities.

The U.S. Highway Numbering System uses numbers to convey direction of travel and length of the route. Odd numbers generally run north and south, with highways ending in ‘1’ and ‘5’ being major routes. East to West routes use even numbers and those ending in ‘0’ are major highways spanning from coast to coast. Spurs of the parent highway adopt a third digit prefix attached to the parent highway number.

fast forward

As the U.S. Highway Numbering System became the standard for auto travel, other states followed the pattern for their own state routes. Eventually, the Interstate Highway System would use roughly the same numbering system during their creation. The Interstate Highway System also insisted on further standards for the roads that the U.S. Highway System don’t always require.

Even today, there are still memorialized and honorary naming conventions for highways still exists. Portions of state highways, U.S. Highways, and Interstate Highways bear the names of important people. The Interstate Highway System bears the official name Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways honoring Pres. Eisenhower who pushed for a standardized transcontinental system similar to the highway systems he had observed during World War II in Germany.


The Southern terminus of U.S. Highway 1 in Key West, FL

Even many of the old auto trails named for persons or geographic destinations are still associated with U.S. Highways. Nearby in Kentucky, U.S. 31 and its spurs are most often termed the Dixie Highway, and of course as I traveled on U.S. Highway 40 during Undergrad, the highway is popularly known as the National Road.

What’s your favorite U.S. Highway?

Current Event Friday #81

A water with a bubbly personality is ready to compete with others already in stores

There’s nothing new under the sun says the Teacher in the book of Ecclesiastes, or more euphemistically stated, “everything old is new again.” Hopefully for Atlanta’s favorite beverage company, their new old fad will go over better than their old new fad three decades ago. Today’s #CurrentEventFriday looks at the latest fizzy water offering to hit the market.

Image result for seltzer water

Carbonated water and carbonated drinks are nothing new, having been around since the discovery of the carbonation process in the latter third of the 18th Century. Bottling carbonated water and dispensing it became popular in the 19th Century as a way to replicate the mineral waters at famous underground springs. The popularity of soda water or Seltzer water grew even more with flavored syrups like Dr. Pemberton’s Coca-Cola and competitors like Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, Moxie, and a slew of others. Before the bottling of soft drinks, soda shops employed carbonated water or club soda dispensers and mixed the fizzy water with flavored syrups and/or ice cream.

More recently, flavored soda waters and seltzers have seen a spike in popularity again. Offering the bubbling sensation of a soft drink without the coloring agents and sugar, seemingly everyone and their brother is a fan of the new product. Thanks to the popularity of carbonated waters like La Croix, Pepsi created their own line—Bubly, and alcoholic beverage companies like Anheuser Busch have rolled out Highball as a hard seltzer and are joined by White Claw hard seltzers and others. Not wanting to miss out, the Coca-Cola Company has announced they are creating their own line of carbonated water to be named Aha. Offering unique flavors sans the sugar, but adding 30 mg of caffeine Coke is hoping to find a larger market share than their competitors. Consumers can find the Aha line of beverages in March 2020.

Corporate officials at Coke acknowledged this is one of the more significant new products the beverage company has rolled out in more than a decade. Of course, the company has expanded their major product lines and adjusted chemical compositions such as the Diet Coke retooling a few years ago, or the Stevia-sweetened coke, but the company seems eager to tout a brand-new product line. Assumedly, longtime corporate officials may be wary thanks to the debacle of New Coke of 1985. Lasting only 3 months, the reformulation of the Coca-Cola formula that resulted in a sweeter product, the new formulation was scrapped, and Coca-Cola Classic took its place. Although a few skeptics believe the company reformulated the drink to drive up sales of the classic formula.

Whether Coca-Cola’s efforts in the carbonated water game remain to be seen, no doubt the brand name behind it will affect sales one way or the other. Beverage consumers are fiercely loyal and proclaim superiority of their brand of choice spurning those who offer the rival soda. So, Bubly may have to watch out for Aha all while everyone else taking a neutral line can get buzzed while drinking White Claw.

What’s your favorite sparkling water?