Thursday, January 30, 2014


A new teaching year is beginning for myself and my fellow members of the Philadelphia Police Department's Advanced Training Unit, with a handful of new courses to be presented and refreshers coming on a few more.

Each year, the Municipal Police Officer's Education & Training Commission (MPOETC) develops four courses as mandated classroom training for all of Pennsylvania's law enforcement officers.

In Philly, it is the ATU's job to present those courses to the vast majority of the city's 6,000+ officers, detectives and supervisors. The ATU also provides fee-based training to 'outside' jurisdictions such as the police from SEPTA, the university police at Temple and Penn, and a few other agencies and municipalities.

Each MPOETC course is presented as a half-day of training, making for two full state-mandated days in the classroom for each officer. Every single year, the 15 or so members of the ATU staff will provide instruction to roughly 25,000 attendees in a couple of thousand sessions.

However, for 2014, that number will expand, because every two years all officers are also required to receive recertification training in CPR and First Aid. The CPR training is a full day. The First Aid training is a half day, and the PPD always takes advantage of the other half day to present some type of additional training.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Old Man Winter's Act Getting Old

Now is the winter of our discontent. The last four years have been a roller coaster. But this winter has been extreme by any standards.

Over the winters of 2009-10 and 2010-11, the Philadelphia area received huge snow storms that buried us for days each year. We thought that was bad.

Then we received a couple of much needed and well deserved breaks over the last two winters. Both 2011-12 and 2012-13 were mild, with very little snow. In fact, last winter was extremely mild. It was almost enough to make you forget those snow storms of recent years, and forget what a normal winter is around these parts.

Then came this season. It started calm enough back in December. But over the last month we have received 33 inches of snow, capped by the storm earlier this week which dumped more than a foot on most of the area. Since our average winter delivers about 20 inches, we are already well above that average.

It hasn't been just the snow storms this year. The cold has been bitter and unrelenting. Here in the northeast we have been introduced to a new meteorological term: the polar vortex.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Jesus' Example

In the Catholic Church, today is set aside as the "Commemoration of the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ." On this day, readings and sermons remind us of that important event in Jesus' life.

He travels to the River Jordan, where his cousin, John the Baptist, has been doing the work of preparing the way for Christ's coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

John calls on people to repent of their sins, and to change their lives. He preaches that the hour is growing late, warning people to "Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is close at hand." He then baptizes with ritual immersion in water as not just a sign that you are sorry, but as a whole change of life.

John has also been proclaiming that he himself is no one special, but that soon will come one greater than he, one who will baptize people not with water, but with fire and the Holy Spirit. It is Jesus about whom John speaks, and soon enough the day comes when his proclamations will turn to reality.

One day, while continuing his work of baptizing the usual array of sinners: ordinary folk, prostitutes, tax collectors, soldiers, and even clergy, suddenly Jesus appears in their midst, demanding to be baptized. John hesitates, saying that it is Jesus who should be baptizing him. But the Lord insists, and John proceeds with the ceremony.

At it's conclusion, as Jesus raises from the water, the sky parts, God's glory shines down upon the scene, and a dove descends, coming to rest on the Lord. God's voice is heard by all: "This is my Son, the Beloved; my favor rests on him."

Why did Jesus insist on his being baptized by John, when quite obviously as the Son of God, he could indeed have insisted just the opposite? His own words tell the story. In responding to John's incredulity, Jesus said: "Leave it like this for the time being; it is fitting that we should, in this way, do all that uprightness demands."

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Best Cheesesteaks in Philly

There is no one in the world who can legitimately judge a cheesesteak contest without being from Philly. And there are few from Philly who can more legitimately judge them than me.

That's a mighty big claim to make in this town, home of the most awesome and delicious sandwich on God's green earth.

But notice that I didn't go overboard saying I was THE most qualified - just that few are MORE qualified than I am. Let's just say that I have enjoyed more than my share, and have enjoyed them at most all of the best joints.

So I certainly feel as qualified as anyone to put forth my choices for the best cheesesteaks in Philly over the past year of 2013. While I hate to rank my favorites, I'll do it just for argument sake, because nothing sparks a debate or argument like a good old-fashioned subjective ranking. Suffice it to say, every one of these is a personal favorite.

Also, if you are reading this at some point in the future, don't be afraid of the list being outdated. These places have been around for some time, and enjoy loyal followings due to their consistency. You're likely to find them a decade or two from now at the same locations, all still producing quality.

For a cheesesteak to reach my list, it needs to be three things.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

One Word 365: Discipline

Towards the very end of 2013, I stumbled upon a website that intrigued me with it's premise. The site is "OneWord365.com", and the premise of the program is that you choose one word you want to focus on in the coming year.

Such a simple premise, but one with the potential for a great deal of power. Almost any New Year resolution that anyone has ever made can be boiled down to one word, so I decided to give the program a try. And so here we are today.

My one word is "discipline", though I don't mean it in the negative sense, where punishment is involved (though at times it may seem like a punishment is going on, for sure.) No, my efforts are more towards the concept of "self-discipline", the training and control of oneself and one's conduct which is usually undertaken for personal improvement.

Frankly, I feel that my life could use a little personal improvement in a number of areas, and my own efforts at undertaking greater discipline in those areas this year could, if successful, mean major, positive change in my life. Those main areas include diet, exercise, finance, and what I am calling "presentation", how I am presenting myself to the outside world.

I realize it is nothing more than a concept at this point, a thought in my head, supported only by the idea being expressed in some words here at my website. But I am going to begin planting that idea, specifically that word "discipline", into my consciousness, and am going to begin taking action towards greater self-discipline as well.