September 27, 2006

LONG WAY TO GO

Well, we're eastbound and down, loaded up and truckin' this morning. More when I get back where it's warm.

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September 25, 2006

LINK

Secrets of 'South Park'

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NAKED

The first thing two of my best high school friends said when I walked up to them at the reunion was "Hey, we found your blog!" Gulp. All of a sudden I was completely self-conscious, and I still can't shake the feeling. Neither of them said anything to lead me to believe they agree (or disagree) with anything I say here. They just read it. And I don't like it.

Again, I can't help but think about what Tim said about Polite Company. (I swear, this is probably the post that I think about more than any other blog post that's ever been written.) My blog thoughts are never anything I would every want to discuss during a five minute conversation at my reunion. All of a sudden I felt naked, like everything controversial I've ever said was right there in the open. I was embarrassed, and the more I think about it, the stranger I feel.

I have a friend from high school who's Muslim. Devout Muslim. And we're most certainly still friends...because we both believe in Polite Company. What if he were to find my blog? Even though everything I write here is how I honestly feel, I still can't stand the thought of him finding it and learning everything all at once. What if he were hit with the full force of this blog instead of gradually discussing issues face to face, the way people used to get to know each other before blogs?

I can't stop wondering what these two friends are thinking. Do they talk about how crazy I am? These are two people I really look up to and admire, two of the smartest men I've ever known; what do they think of me now that they know every intimate detail about the inside of my brain?

Right now I feel so uneasy that I can't even stand to blog. It's not normal for your old friends to know the entirety of your personal and political beliefs when you don't know a single thing about theirs. It's a consequence of blogging that I wasn't quite prepared for, and to be honest it makes me feel ill.

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September 23, 2006

SPURLOCK SEEMS FULL OF BALONEY

Hud found a study that tried to replicate the Super Size Me movie and had vastly different results. My husband and I would like to try to replicate Spurlock's stint with poverty. We watched him on Oprah talk about how impossible it was to live on so little money...and then he takes his niece and nephew to the movies and buys everyone popcorn and candy. So the moral of the story is that it's hard to live like a baller on little money? Duh.

I honestly think I could live on minimum wage. Heck, we don't even try and we only spend half my husband's paycheck, and I spend $400 a month at the grocery store on gourmet mushrooms and cheeses. If we really tried, like going to Aldi and having my husband ride his bike three times a day to work instead of just one, we could cut that down to next to nothing. And we sure as heck wouldn't be 1) going to the movie or 2) buying outrageous Junior Mints there. If we were so inclined (and we might not be, since I love cooking and cable TV), we could spend very little money. To be honest, all we could think about while watching Spurlock on Oprah is how hard it would be for us to stay on minimum wage. If for some reason we both had to start from the bottom again, we'd race each other back to the top. Night school, adult education, something so that we'd make more money. And we wouldn't spend a dime more than we had to. Spurlock just sat around his apartment and complained about how much better his old life was and how hard it was to be poor.

Actually, the real experiment we missed out on came as a tardy inspiration. I should've gotten a job at Walmart when we moved here and seen how I was treated for the six months. That would've been interesting blogging.

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LINK

One of our friends from OBC was wounded two years ago in the fight in Mosul that launched CBFTW to fame. He's back in the saddle now, and there's an article about him explaining the differences between Iraq then and now.

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September 20, 2006

NEIGHBOR

James Lileks hosted an open house this weekend. All I could think about these past few days -- and even moreso this morning when I read today's bleat/screed -- was how lucky some people are to be neighbors with James Lileks. People get to hang out with this man. My husband and I got this little fantasy going yesterday, that we could move in next to Jasperwood and time starting a family just right so that Gnat could be our babysitter. Do his real neighbors know how lucky they are?

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September 19, 2006

BAGS

So after I finished my teddy bear knitting kick (all in all, I made 13 bears), I started in on a handbag kick.

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The white one is Tasha from knitty.com, inspired by The Girl's version. The brown one was my first felting experience, using the salvaged Unikat wool that Charlie tried to eat. Actually, I've discovered that Charlie has expensive taste: he couldn't care less about the cheapy yarn I use to make teddies, but he grabs the nice wool and runs under the bed with his treasure.

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FLYING

I'm flying home this weekend for my reunion, so I looked up what is not permitted on the plane these days. I can take a corkscrew but not a chapstick? OK. I'm just taking my wallet and a book.

I also ran across this horrifying account of a mother watching her seven year old son get felt up by airport screeners (via RWN). She's right: is it really making us safer for someone to thoroughly check her kid's underroos? Sad.

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September 18, 2006

WORDS vs ACTIONS

I just saw an interview with Maswan Rasmoudi from the Center for Islam and Democracy. (Or Raswan Masmoudi from the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, as the only google hit came up with. What the heck -- did John Gibson just get it totally wrong? I wrote it down word for word from the TV.)

Anyway, whoever this guy was, he gave the usual speech that Islam is being corrupted by a small minority of people who are attacking the Pope. Naturally, that's not mainstream Islam. OK.

It's easy to cherrypick certain ayat to show how messed up Islam is. Of importance now are the sword verses, those that say

to "fight and slay the pagan (idolaters) wherever you find them" (sura 9:5); or "strike off their heads in battle" (sura 47:5); or "make war on the unbeliever in Allah, until they pay tribute" (sura 9:29); or "Fight then... until the religion be all of it Allah's" (sura 8:39); or "a grievous penalty against those who reject faith" (sura 9:3).

These are certainly troubling passages, but there's plenty of troubling stuff in the Bible as well. In my opinion, the texts are not nearly as important as what followers do with the information.

I've never been 100% convinced that the Bible explicitly comes out against homosexuality. But I don't deny the fact that most Christians read the verses as admonishment and on the whole have adopted the worldview that homosexuality is wrong. No matter what the actual words of the translation of the Bible say, or no matter how I think they could be interpreted, it is a fact that most Christians aren't thrilled with homosexuality. It's the actions that matter, not the words that were written down 2000 years ago.

So when Raswan Masmoudi says that these Koran ayat are being taken out of context and abused by Osama bin Laden and a "minority" of angry Muslims, I call b.s. on him. It doesn't matter how he and his friends at the Center want to interpret the verses; what matters is that real live actual journalists were threatened with their lives if they didn't convert.

I can try to convince Christians that the verses against homosexuality are just as outdated as the slavery or "unclean during your period" verses until I'm blue in the face, but that doesn't make Christianity as a whole keen on homosexuality. Similarly, these folks can keep saying that Islam is a religion of peace and that jihad is a personal struggle, but that doesn't mean that it's going to bear out in reality. In reality, Muslims are threatening to assassinate the Pope.

You can't change the actions of a religion by claiming that verses of the holy book have been taken out of context. What matters is the actions.


MORE TO GROK:

Amritas makes a good point: A big difference between Islam and Christianity is that the words matter so much more in Islam. I remember accidentally starting a fight in my linguistics class because I asked how Allah could dictate the Koran but Mohammad wrote it down with no vowels. The vowels are what matter in Arabic! How could we be absolutely sure what Allah was saying without the vowels? It seemed like a completely illogical system. My teacher got really mad at me and asked how I dared call Allah illogical. And she was a Jew, go figure.

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I'M SORRY

More about apologies...

I remember my grammar professor talking about an interesting facet of the English language. We have two meanings behind the words "I'm sorry": one is in the sense of "this was my fault" and the other is "I am sympathetic that this happened to you." That is how your friend can tell you his house burned down and you say "I'm sorry" while obviously not being guilty. It is my understanding -- based on my limited experience with foreign languages -- that this distinction is more clear in other languages, usually with two different phrases to express the different meanings. For example, in Swedish you can say "Förlåt mig", which means "forgive me" when it's your fault, but you'd say something more like "Det är trakigt" for sympathy, which loosely can translate as "that sucks". I used to try to say "Jag är ledsen" for "I'm sorry", but my friend said I was always using it wrong because it never carried quite the meaning I was striving for when I tried to use it for sympathy. (Maybe Amritas can shed more light on the topic, especially if I'm misinformed.)

Anyway, as my professor explained to us, this is how we can apologize without apologizing. The Pope can say he's sorry (that Muslims are reacting in such a violent way) without saying he's sorry (that he quoted Manuel II Paleologos in a long speech about rationality in religion).

There are two "I'm sorry"s in English, and apparently the Muslims know the difference. Because they're still ticked, which is why they say things like

We shall break the cross and spill the wine ... God will (help) Muslims to conquer Rome ... (May) God enable us to slit their throats, and make their money and descendants the bounty of the mujahideen.

Goddamit, maybe it's time they apologize to us. To the Pope. And for the nun they shot in the back. And the churches they burned down.

I am so f-ing sick of the Muslim world.

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APOLOGY LIES

I was finishing up some laundry when I heard a news segment on the TV about Democratic Senate candidate Jim Webb. Apparently he wrote some article in 1979 called "Women Can't Fight", in which he said that he'd never met a woman who could lead men in combat and that they shouldn't be admitted to the Naval Academy. So now that he's running for office, this stuff is surfacing and reporters are wondering why he doesn't apologize for writing this article. Got that? Reporters want him to apologize. (Well, so do women in the Navy, but that's beside the point for this blog post.) Apparently after his debate, they pressed him to offer a blanket apology for his remarks.

I don't know Webb from shinola, but I think this whole thing is weird. He wrote something in 1979 that might not have been that shocking given our military norms at the time. Since then, he has grown with the times and altered his position a little. Apparently he's since apologized for any difficulties women might've faced at the Naval Academy in light of his words. He also is apparently "'completely comfortable' with women's roles in today's military." So the short story is that his view of women has changed a bit since 1979. Pardon me if I don't think we should stop the presses.

Here's what I don't get, why I'm bothering to blog this. I wish I had recorded the reporter's exact wording of this story, but he said something to the effect that people were pressing Webb to retract his 1979 statement. They want him to publicly state that he doesn't believe what he wrote then. And it seems to me that he's doing just enough to hedge his statements so that it would appear that he still holds the same view to a certain extent but doesn't want to seem anti-woman or even anti-women in the military. He thinks they're fine in certain leadership positions but not leading men in combat. (I hope I'm not putting words in his mouth here, but this is just what I'm surmising by reading between the lines.)

So reporters are clamoring for him to retract his previous beliefs, even though they seem to still be his beliefs. That is to say, they want him to lie. They want him to come out and say that he doesn't believe all that malarky he thought back in the 70s, heavens no, women are fabulous. Why do they want him to say this? Why do they want him to lie?

Let's leave aside the fact that they're the Media and he's a Democrat, OK?

Don't we want politicians who tell the truth? I know every politician will gloss over things and sugarcoat stuff and hand us rose-colored glasses to look through. We all know this. But we don't want them to flat out lie and say that they believe in something when they truly don't. If Webb holds a belief that's unpopular or not P.C., the voters have a right to make a choice based on what the man believes. The media shouldn't hound him to apologize for something he's not actually sorry about just to make himself look better.

Why do we want all these people to apologize all the time? This comes while I'm still festering over the hubbub the Pope has caused. The Pope doesn't need to apologize for quoting some medieval text that's actually right on the money. As one Turkish columnist said, "You would think that the Pope had spent his whole speech attacking Islam. The Pope is the Pope. We didn’t expect him to praise Islam." So he can apologize for hurting people's feelings -- as Webb did -- but why this rush to get him to retract, to take it all back, to act like he never actually believed the thing he said? He's the freaking Pope! He's the head of a completely different religion; why on earth should he be expected to be nicey-nice with a religion that's *not true* according to the beliefs of his religion? Lord knows the imams say far worse things about Jews and Christians every single day.

But you know what? If you don't like what the Pope said, or what Webb said, then talk about it on your blog or in your Bible study or at your dinner party. But would it really make us feel better for them to lie to us and say they never meant to say these things? That's ridiculous.

You can't take it back and you shouldn't have to. Don't say something controversial and then just cave when people call you on it. It doesn't really help; just ask Lawrence Summers. And the media, or American society, or whomever we want to blame this on needs to lay off and stop calling for people to freaking apologize. We need for more people to tell the truth and say it like it is in this ridiculous world of ours, not be afraid that they might bring the house down with their words. We need to stop stifling people from saying what they really believe!

You don't like what Webb said? Don't vote for him. It's that simple.
(Actually, just don't vote for him: he's a Democrat. Heh.)


MORE TO GROK:

More on apologies here.

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SPOUSEBUZZ

Chances are if you're a military spouse you know what Military.com is. Well, did you know that they host milblogs? And did you know that Andi from Andi's World got the great idea to urge them to host a spouse blog?

Andi approached me a while back to ask if I'd contribute. I'm in good company with some other familiar military spouse names -- Air Force Wife, AWTM, Homefront Six, Most Certainly Not, My Life as a Military Spouse and Molly Pitcher -- and a handful of other folks who are new to blogging. There's even a dude involved!

Anyway, I know a lot of Army spouses from our old post read this blog, and I know other folks have come here in the past looking for information on deployment (that's you, Terri and CaliValleyGirl). I just want to point out that this new milspouse blog at Military.com intends to be a wealth of spouse information. I recommend that you check it out and contribute to the dialogue.

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It's called SpouseBUZZ, located at www.spousebuzz.com
Check it out.

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September 17, 2006

ANNIKA RULES

My husband's reaction to the Muslim Brotherhood demanding a personal apology from the Pope: "Just who in the hell do these people think they are?" I think that sums up the influence Islam knows it has over the West these days.

Annika has a good roundup of what she's calling "the next 'cartoon' riots." My favorite bit is this quote she found from an Indonesian protest organizer:

Of course as we know the meaning of jihad can only be understood by Muslims . . . Only Muslims can understand what jihad is. It is impossible that jihad can be linked with violence, we Muslims have no violent character.

Tell that to the Palestinians who immediately started attacking churches. Or the folks who threatened to suicide attack the Pope.

No violent character my foot.

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September 15, 2006

RACE RELATIONS

I've been thinking more about my post from yesterday, and I can't help but think that this simple act of buying a greeting card has encapsulated my view of race relations.

My college roommate (whom I've written about before) was afraid to walk across campus alone because she thought she'd be lynched. I am not making that up. I invited her to a party one night with some of my friends, and she kept asking me if it would be OK and if my friends would think it was weird. The next day, she said how much fun she had had and how accepted she felt. Well, duh. But she said that there was no way on earth that she would've taken me to one of her friends' parties, because none of them would've accepted me. But we white people are supposed to be the racist ones.

I always end up depressed when I watch Dave Chapelle, Chris Rock, or other black comedians. I hope it's just schtick, but they seem to roll with the idea that all white people have an inner klansman. That we all secretly hate black people and can't stand to be around them. Well, if we've given any vibes that we don't want to be around them, I believe it's usually because we're scared to death that we'll offend them. In my reality, most white people bend over backwards to never ever ever do anything that could mildly be construed as offensive or racist when there's a Person Of Color in the room. We walk on eggshells to make sure we don't say anything rude. That is what's happening today between the races: white people are scared to death of hurting black people's feelings. That's how two French kids ended up as African-Americans.

You know what the conclusion to my card buying experience was? After I walked away from the rack, I thought that I might like to get another copy of the same card. Good cards are hard to come by, and I always like to have nice ones on hand. I went back to the rack and found a black lady perusing the cards. And I walked away. I was too nervous to walk my sour cream ass up to the Mahogany section and stand side by side with her to pick out cards. I was afraid of what she'd think of me. I was afraid that, rather than having her think "Cool, this white girl thinks it's OK to send a card with a black face on the front", she would wonder why in the hell some white girl has to come into her card section when there's two whole aisles of cards for white people. I think that's what a lot of white people fear these days. I wanted her to think I was cool and hip, but I was afraid that it would backfire and make her dislike white people even more. That's why white people switch off the rap music when they stop at a red light next to a black person. That's why we don't put the collard greens back. We're afraid that the things that could possibly bring us together -- the fact that this woman and I both liked the same greeting cards -- might be used to make us look bad. And so we don't bother to reach out in the first place.

I don't have any idea what it's like to be black, but I know that being white isn't always a piece of cake. We've got a lot of crap floating through our heads every time we encounter a black person, crap that I hope someday we won't have to waste time worrying about.

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September 14, 2006

HESITATION

I love stationery and cards, so I always spend time looking for just the right thing to send. As I was looking at cards today, I came across one that was really nice. The photo was classy, the words were not schmaltzy, and it was the card I wanted to buy. But I hesitated...and then shrugged it off...and then hesitated again...and then finally bought it. I decided my hesitation would make an interesting question to pose on my blog: Would you think it was weird if your white friend sent you a Mahogany card? Or would you even notice? If you're white, would you buy a Mahogany card? And if you're black, would you send a Mahogany card to a white friend? If I send it, will I look like I'm "trying too hard to not be racist"? And if I don't send it, will I look racist?

So much social commentary surrounding one little card!

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September 13, 2006

FLUFF

In ridiculous celebrity news, Britney Spears had her second baby in a year. However, she can't beat my mother-in-law: Britney's babies are 363 days apart; husband and his brother are 357 days apart. Keep tryin', Brit.

And my husband noticed this article that Kevin Costner doesn't approve of the new movie where President Bush gets assassinated. The fact that not thinking the President should be shot is newsworthy and controversial really says something about Hollywood these days.

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September 12, 2006

THE BEST 5 MINUTES I SPENT ALL MORNING

LGF found a MEMRI production narrated by Ron Silver called "The Arab & Iranian Reaction to 9/11" that Johnson calls "eye-opening." If you don't have time to sit through 42 depressing minutes of Jew bashing and America hating, let me summarize the first 37 minutes for you: They hate us. But please go over there and at least fast forward to the end of the film. At 36:47, there's a final segment called Reformists. These are the people we want to hear about; these are the Muslim people condemning the conspiracy theories and lamenting that their people were involved in 9/11. Go watch them, and hope there are more of them out there and that they continue to get a voice on Arab television. Be sad that there are 37 minutes of hate-filled voices and only five minutes of sanity, but go listen to those five minutes. They're our only hope.

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COMMEMORATE

My husband suggested that we commemorate 9/11 by "doing things that would piss bin Laden off." So we had bourbon glazed pork chops for dinner and watched Team America. I drew the line at "wearing a really slutty outfit all day" though.

The internet and television were sad places yesterday. A week ago when I heard some networks were going to rerun their 9/11 coverage, I thought the idea seemed a bit weird. But I must admit that I was glued to MSNBC for hours yesterday morning. First of all, I never saw the real-time coverage five years ago (getting to class on time and all...) Watching the coverage with hindsight was extremely interesting; it was strange to know the exact minute a tower would fall and then wait for Lauer and Couric to notice it. When the second plane hit, all CNN could think was that there must have been a major problem with navigational equipment; no one could even fathom that someone had done this intentionally. So an idea I originally thought was silly turned out to be the best way to mark the anniversary, in my opinion.

I couldn't even begin to read all 2996 tributes; the ones I did read made me too sad to go on. The best part of a tribute I read yesterday? From Uncle Sam Ate My Baby, the blog where I learned about the 2996 project in the first place:

While Mercery Molina hopes that her father’s body will some day be found on the ground, I prefer to think that Manuel didn’t fall to the ground with the World Trade Center but rather that he just stepped up to Heaven from the 110th floor since he was so close anyway and just reached out and took hold of the hand of God.

What a comforting image that is. Also Angie's statement that the color of the sky in New York is "red, white and blue."

But the best 9/11 article ever written still continues to be the one James Lileks wrote in 2002.

And thus as it turns to September 12th, we can forget about 9/11 for another year. Last night my husband remarked how sad it is that people are only patriotic on the 4th of July, in love on Valentine's Day, and mad at terrorists on September 11th. He's right: we should be all of those things every day of the year.

Let's piss Osama off every day.

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September 11, 2006

THE COLOR OF THE SKY

My high school English teacher burned the first sentence of the Stephen Crane story "The Open Boat" into our brains: "None of them knew the color of the sky." I always think of this story whenever I think of 9/11 because everyone knows the color of the sky on September 11, 2001. It's usually one of the first things a New Yorker will mention.

For many Americans, 9/11 was immediate. But for some of us, busy with grad school 825 miles west of the World Trade Center, 9/11 took a while to sink in. The lessons were slow in coming for someone who had never been to NYC. I'm ashamed now of how self-centered my life seemed back then, when nothing mattered except getting to class on time.

For most Americans, 9/11 is still not over. For some families, the loss of a loved one will never stop hurting. For those who walk around NYC, the empty sky where the WTC stood will always be obvious. For some, the consequences of 9/11 are subtle but very real: the volunteers who are slowly dying from the death they inhaled that day, the children who are growing up without a parent, and the people who survived the WTC, only to be filled with guilt and anguish over living. My cousin survived the fall of the Towers, waking up in a coma weeks later. She's only now starting to put the pieces of her life back together. The effects are subtle indeed.

And for those of us who only knew about 9/11 from the TV or papers, those of us who woke up to The Way The World Is after those attacks, life will never again be about just getting to class on time.

Today, five years later, I wonder what the color of the sky is over New York City.

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FRANK PALOMBO

The hole left in the earth at the foot of Manhattan is nothing compared to the hole left in our hearts by Frank Palombo's departure from this earth.
--Steve Kennedy

When you sign up for the 2996 Project, you get an out-of-a-hat name and a photo. I stared at that photo a long time before I started my research, trying to get a feel for Frank Palombo.

PalomboFrank.jpg

All I could think about was how old-timey he looked, how he looked like a man from another era. And when I started reading about him, I realized he was a man from another era.

Frank Palombo met his wife when she was nine and he was 14 [1]. Nine years later they went on a date, and there went Frank's plans of joining the priesthood [2]. Their marriage brought ten children.

Ten children.

My heart dropped when I realized how "famous" Frank Palombo is among 9/11 victims. Major Giuliani himself attended Palombo's funeral and told his children, "Nobody can take your daddy away from you, you know that you are the son and daughter of a great man, a hero, a fallen warrior" [3]. New York Giants coach Jim Fassel has given both his money and his time to help raise the ten Palombo children, inviting them to games and eating dinner at their home [4]. But Frank's wife, Jean, doesn't want to be the famous 9/11 family; she turned down an invitation to be on Oprah [5].

I've been so impressed reading about Jean Palombo. She woke up on 9/11 thinking she was pregnant again. But God didn't bring her another baby that day; instead He took her husband. Through it all, she seems to have remained an incredibly strong woman. I want to weep when she describes her family's new life: "The children are happy because of the father they have, but they miss not being able to play with him, not being able to pray with him, not being able to learn with him, and not being able to be with him" [6].

Oh, and I haven't even mentioned yet that he was a firefighter. He was set to retire in January 2002 but instead was one of six firefighters lost from his Ladder.

Look at his photo again. Frank Palombo was a devoted Catholic and public servent. He organized youth group trips to see the Pope [7]. He loved being a father and even wanted more children. He seems more like a Greatest Generation than a Baby Boomer, doesn't he? He was like a man from a simpler time, an older generation that took pride in a strong family and a life of service to others. It's not common to find men like this these days, and I think the world is worse off for losing a man like Frank Palombo.

Remember Frank Palombo today for the simple but full life he led, a life devoted to his faith, family, and fellow men. And remember Jean Palombo and Anthony, Frank Jr., Joseph, Maria, Thomas, John, Patrick, Daniel, Steven, and Margaret Mary.

OTHERS TO REMEMBER TODAY:
Manuel Molina
Vincent Morello
Ramzi Doany
Father Mychal Judge
Mark McGinly
Scott Johnson
Robert Frank Tipaldi
Battalion 1 Chief Matthew Ryan
Chow Kwan Lam
Brian McDonnell
Zhanetta Tsoy
Chip Chan

(If I haven't found your tribute today, please leave me a comment so I can add it.)

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