Tuesday, November 02, 2004

The Final Tally

Well, now that it is all said and done, I've voted for:

4 Repulbicans
4 Democrats
1 Green Party Guy
6 Libertarians
4 Non Partistans (several of them you had no choice)

1 Tax increase
1 Tax decrease

I hope you've all gone out and voted!

The general principle I use is:

-> If a candidate has something they make their main campaign promise that I strongly agree with, I vote for them.

-> If a candidate has something they make their main campaign promise that I strongly disagree with, I vote AGAINST them. (In this case, I vote for whatever opponent is most likely to win - as is the case, for instance, with Kerry).

--> If don't particularly like one candidate or the other (of the Rep and Demo) then I vote Libertarian. (This is the case when neither mainstream candidate is making a big issue out of something I care about. The Libertarian problably won't win, but at least I'm making a stand by siding with a cause that I pretty much agree with, namely, "get the Government out of our lives thank you very much.")

--> The one case where I voted for Green Party it was becuase both the Republican and Democrat candidates were boring, and the Libertarian was a complete nut-case, so I voted green.

Thank God we live in a country where we are free to vote for any candidate of any party.

God Bless America!


Monday, November 01, 2004

Why am I going to vote for?

I have decided that my goal for the day is to figure out who I am going to vote for.

I have been very much against the current president George Bush, and have long ago decided to vote for Kerry as a protest vote. (Normally I'd vote for a Libertarian if I didn't think my vote really mattered, but in this case I really want to vote Bush out of office.)

Well, lately I've been swayed by things I've read. Isn't abortion an important enough issue to vote for Bush instead of Kerry?

Well, I also discovered the other day that George Bush is my 8th cousin. (My family is really into geneologies and stuff.)

Does that sway me?

There was a romantic article on the web about a young man who George Bush prayed for him when he told the president his mother was sick.

Shouldn't I want a man of faith?

Well, I still stand firmly against Bush for various Bush-led agendas and their implications:
-invading Iraq,
-his own personal interest in oil,
-the whole hiding the truth from the public about WMD issue,
(I do not think, and nobody can convince me, that invading other counters makes you safer back here at home. Nope, the bad guy always eventually catches up with you. If you piss people off in this world, it will come back to haunt you. Enough said.)
-the Bush-led compromise of American's civil liberties in the interest of "protecting us from terrorist" (the fact that law-inforcement agencies can now ignore "due process of law" - something our ancestors died for, one of the main reasons they founded this country - if the government claims it believes there is a terrorist thread.)
(that last one in my book is almost justification for civil war, no less booting the fascist president who brought it into being)

Anyway, all this time, however, I really haven't had any particular liking for Kerry. But today I stumbled across a couple of things.

1) Kerry voted for the "Daschle amendment" something that banned certain types of abortions! (hurray for Kerry!) you can read about that here:
http://www.beliefnet.com/story/155/story_15523_1.html He also says he stands by his vote.

2) Kerry is a Catholic and seems devoted to his faith:

Anyway, that's my 2 cents about the Bush-Kerry question.

I'll be posting some more on other candidates, but to give you a glimpse:

* I'm voting for Rossi (GOP) for governor. (The Gregior campaign has been full of lies from what I've been able to discover.)

* I'm voting for Jay Enslee (Democrat) for Senator (He's been a fine senator the past term and has tried hard to work toward the preservation of our civil liberties in the very matter that I mention above.)

* I will probably cast my typical Libertarian vote for other positions where I can't decide between the lesser of two GOP- Democrat evils.


Wednesday, October 06, 2004

In case you haven't decided who to vote for yet...

I think this little film here can be highly informative:



Thursday, September 30, 2004

For No Reason...

The Weekly Reader

My daughter as a new 2nd grader has started receivieing a weekly periodical called "The Weekly Reader" for young kids who are just learning how to read. It's four pages long, perfect for a 2nd grader as far as I'm concerned. The first issue was about the presidential election. It features a page on Bush and a page on Kerry. Excellent, that's about all I can stomach on the matter.

We reviewed the facts:

Bush has a cat named India.
Kerry has a bird named Sunshine.

Bush was born in Connecticut, and is currently president.
Kerry was born in Denver Colorado, and is currently a senator from Massachusetts.

Bush likes blue.
Kerry likes blue.

Bush's favorite childrens book: "The Hungry Caterpillar"
Kerry's favorite childrens book: "Robin Hood"

There's a photo of bush as a child dressed up like a cowboy riding a pony.
There's a photo of Kerry as a child on a sailboat wearing a life vest.


So after reading the little magazine, there's a series of questions on the back and a place where you can cast your vote. "Who are you going to vote for?" I ask her. (I'm thinking: Kerry, Kerry... It was the choice of book that did it for me. Bush likes a children's picture book, and Kerry likes a great classic work like Robin Hood. An actual chapter book!)

My daughter quickly points to Kerry.

"Why" I ask? "Why not vote for Bush?"

"Because he likes to keep fighting for no reason."

~ Basil

Friday, September 24, 2004

Regarding the Presidental Election

I've so far not really paid any attention to Kerry. I've planned on not voting for Bush, which in my mind means: voting for Kerry.

However, with this story, I think I can hear Kerry say something that I believe is right on:

MSNBC - Kerry: Bush has wrong priority in war on terror: "I don't view these people as conservatives," Kerry said. "I actually view them as extreme, and I think their policies have been extreme, and that extends all the way to Iraq, where this president, in my judgment, diverted the real war on terror which was Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida and almost obsessively moved to deal with Iraq in a way that weakened our nation, overextended our armed forces, cost us $200 billion and created a breach in our oldest alliances."



Monday, September 20, 2004

today's dilbert
I'd like to post this little thought because it is so Orthodox:

It's not every day that Dilbert hits the spot, but I love it when it does. In this particular case I think it is something we can all agree with!


Friday, September 17, 2004

Are All Muslims Evil?

This is a question I frequently find me asking myself. Well, I'm still not certain about the answer.

One friend pointed out to me that Muslims do not believe in a God (Allah) of Love as we Christians do. Well, I've never read the Quran (spelled Koran in English when I was younger), and so I don't really have any impression to speak of. My impression of Muslims comes from what little bit I read of in the media (pretty much always terrorism) and the few encounters I've had with real Muslims in the real world (like the kind Muslim woman who told my wife: "we Muslims don't persecute and hate Christians. In fact the only time in my life I would be obligated as a devout Muslim to kill you would be if you tried to convert me." - she wasn't joking...)

Needless to say, such thoughts coming from an assumed "ordinary Muslim" make one think that the religion is wholly evil and without and possibility of peace existence in the world.

Anyway, with those thoughts as a background for my own impressions of what Islam is all about, I am happy to say I discovered a web site today that seems to indicate (at least some elements of Islam) have at least some virtuous conceptions.

This web site:
What do Wahhabis Think About 9/11?
is about a sect of Islam (or maybe you could call it a denomination?) that is making it a point of trying to deny the allegation that all Muslims are Terrorists, or that "true Muslims" even support terrorism.

Well, I think it is worth reading some of these pages for a balanced perspective.


Thursday, September 09, 2004

The Garage Sale is Over

just in case you are wondering...

Meanwhile... I haven't been blogging much lately. James is doing a nice job of blogging for us all, and I'm doing most of my posting over THERE as comments to his blog.

Life and death in this world of ours have been crazy lately. We should do something about it.

Let's all panic.

Just kidding.

I don't really have anything to blog about, so I guess I'll go now.


Friday, August 20, 2004

Garage Sale







The key to a good garage sale as far as I am aware is:

** cheap prices
** lots of signs

If you can get people to come, they will look around. If they see some little piece of junk that's cheap, they will buy it.

So, in the spirit of American Consumerism ("my junk is your treasure"), I'm pleased to announce that we are having a garage sale today.

Here's the "Garage Sale Cam" so you can check out how things are going:

Click Refresh on the page to reload the image.

What? All you see is an empty driveway? Well, then it could be that either we haven't started yet, or it is all over (you snooze you lose). We plan on starting about 2:00 today (Friday August 20) and running until 7:00 PM tonight. Then tomorrow we will start bright and early in the AM (maybe 8:30 or 9:00 - that's what I mean by "bright and early") and run into the mid afternoon.

Hope to see you there!


Saturday, August 14, 2004

Author Intrusion
Director Cameo in the Films of M. Night Shyamalan

Note: Don't read this essay if you've not yet seen The Village and plan to see it. This is a critical essay on the films of M. Night, and I don't hold back on details in any one of his films I've seen, particularly The Village which I just saw yesterday afternoon. If there are any other's of M. Night's films you haven't seen, you might want to be extra careful while you read. There are to some degree or another spoilers here for nearly all his films.

This is intended to be a semi-scholarly essay. Only semi-scholarly because I don't cite reference for anything. That would be too much work for my intentions. But I promise, everything I say below that isn't my own commentary and interpretation can be gleaned from the "bonus material" on Hitchcock's or M. Night's films.

Author Intrusion is a literary device whereby an author inserts himself into the story. It is generally deemed by the status quo of literary establishment to be an error. Good writers, you are taught, avoid author intrusion. The same has always been taught with regard to filmography. Good filmmakers avoid author intrusion. You don't want to "interrupt" the flow of your story with a distraction, particularly by placing yourself into the story somewhere. Unless your story is told in first person (like American Beauty or Nabokov's Lolita) it is just plain wrong (according to the "establishment") to insert yourself into the story.

Alfred Hitchcock, for whom M. Night makes no apology of constantly emulating, was very careful about interrupting the flow of his films. It is well known that he appeared in Cameo inside each of his films, but a careful study of his technique on the matter is revealing. The first time Hitchcock did this it was because he needed an extra to walk through the scene and there wasn't one handy. The second time it happened, he only did it because it seemed an interesting little thing to do the first time - rather like a signature in the corner of a painting. By the time it became a regular thing, however, Hitchcock realized that his fans were intentionally looking for his cameo appearance in each film. So thereafter, Hitchcock intentionally placed his cameo appearance at the start of the film, to get it out of the way so that the audience wouldn't be distracted from the story.

It should be obvious to anyone who has seen one of M. Night's films that he has no such intention. He interjects himself into the film, not simply as a stranger walking by in the background, but as an integral part of the story. I think the particular manner of M. Night's author intrusion tells us something interesting about his intentions in these films.

In The Sixth Sense he plays a doctor who is outside the main action, and yet who is consulted as an expert in some matter. He seems to know much, and of course, we know deep down inside that he knows everything, since it is his story that is being told. In spite of the fact that he is a character in the story, he never divorces himself from the role of directory. In so doing, he takes author intrusion to a new level. We are aware that he's the director even though he's a doctor. By making himself a doctor in the story, we know that he has knowledge, perhaps some intimate knowledge of secrets we cannot yet understand. The "establishment" would think of this as an error on his part, a distraction. On the surface perhaps it is a distraction. Yet on the other hand is it possible that it is a glimpse into some inner meaning of the story? Read on.

In Unbreakable he is a drug dealer in the stadium. He has again a very minor role, but it ends up being a role that is pivotal in the thinking of David Dunn (Bruce Willis). It is this glimpse of evil in the world that makes Dunn snap, and change his course, and realize his place in the scheme of things. Again he has played a very minor role, and again we are aware that he's the director, and he combines somehow the strangeness of this story and his role as storyteller in a unique way. Even by being a part of the evil in the world, he can push people toward the good. And we may conjecture: by being a director that likes to tell tales of the evil in this world, can he ultimately motivate the audience toward the good?

In Signs the author intrusion is taken to a whole new level. Here he is the direct cause (possibly) of the two major conflicts in the film. We wonder if he is responsible for the alien invasion of earth since he has aggravated them by trapping one of them in his basement. But more importantly he is directly responsible for the anguish of the main character Rev. Graham Hess (Mel Gibson) since he has accidentally killed the Reverend's wife in a late night traffic accident. Again he has an insignificant role, only a moment or two of speaking with the main character and then he's gone. But the repercussions of the things he has done ripple out from that and permeate the film.

Finally, there is his brief cameo in The Village. My friends told me before I saw the film that his cameo was much smaller in this film than the others, but I'm not so sure that's the case. When the young fellow security guard goes to the guard station to retrieve the medications that Ivy Walker needs to save her true love, we hear M. Night talking to the young guard and warning him to be careful what he does and says. On the surface it seems insignificant enough, but considering the things he says and his reflection in the medical cabinet glass, perhaps not so. While he is warning the young guard, we get the distinct impression that he knows: that he knows about those people back there, and is devoted to keeping silent on the matter. This is particularly underscored by the fact that he watches the young man steal several bottles of antibiotics (it is clear in his reflection in the cabinet glass that he sees it and notices it) and yet he does and says nothing about it to the young man. He doesn't even ask.

Again his role as storyteller (director) here is superimposed upon what would seem to be a brief cameo in the movie. Of course he knows about them: it's his story. The fact that people can try to live in a microcosm without any interaction with the rest of the world, and the fact that as director (security guard) he is committed to protecting that right says a lot.

I think, taken as a whole, these cameo appearances say much more than they do individually. The art of storytelling is the timeless art of having a message, a story, and transferring that story to an audience. The astute author (or director) makes the audience feel that they are a part of the story, that the story is a part of them. By seeing someone inside the story, whom the audience knows to exist outside the story, the audience is drawn in even more. The boundary between fantasy and the real world is broken. If those from the outside world can exist inside the story, perhaps we can also. This, I believe, reinforces the inner message that seems to be present in M. Night's films: that of empathy and the interconnectedness of people and their stories. His films resonate with the repercussions that each of our decisions in life have on the world around us. If we put ourselves in the place of the storyteller, we find that we can be the ones that push someone over the edge toward either good or evil. We find that our tiniest mistakes and most random musings can have drastic consequences in the lives of others and in the world all around us.

Far from being random acts of a narcissistic personality, I think M. Night's cameos have an important and meaningful place in his films. They go much further than those of his famous predecessor Alfred Hitchcock, but not in a casual and off-hand manner. Not only are they not mistakes, but they are highly meaningful juxtapositions of the world within the film and the world outside the film, that add to the depth of the story being told. When taken at their face value, the uncritical viewer could think that he might just as well have walked past in a scene with dog on a leash or something. Yet when one considers the significance of each cameo appearance, it becomes obvious that his cameo is so tightly integrated his with the plot there is not a single other role in the film that could have had M. Night taking the part.

I, for one, think I am going to be looking at his cameo appearances in a new light from now on.


Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Your Son

Well, I don't have a son, but the Jewish "thought for the day" I got today from "Belief Net" was amusing (and undoubtely true).

I dedicate this post to James:

"Your son is at five your master, at ten your servant, at fifteen your double, and after that, your friend or foe, depending on his bringing up."

- Hasdai ibn Crescas

* * * * * * * * * * * * *


Sunday, August 08, 2004

Go to the Slug, Thou Antard

"A slug, by any other colour..."
- William Shakesbeer

Today we examine the slug. Specifically, I believe this is a banana slug, albeit a rather off colour banan slug.

I found this creature today in my garden. He was beautiful so I photographed him extensively before the execution. (Oh, sorry, when slugs are found in my garden it's: "Off with his head.")

I really did think he was quite an amazing slug. I've seen this type in my garden before and they are usually black, so I'm not precisely sure if it is a banana slug or not. But ORANGE? I've never seen a bright orange slug before, so I had to take pictures.

I wonder if it was something he ate?


Thursday, August 05, 2004

Highlights from Vacation

Well, this is my first of many "Highlights from Vacation" posts.

I took about 1000 pictures on my vacation. Some of them I will be doctoring up (reducing, cropping, etc) and posting here.

For those of you who don't know what I was doing, I was on an excursion through Southern Oregon, doing research for a novel I am working on. My novel partially takes place in 1857, in Southern Oregon, and deals with a stagecoach robbery that took place. (The stage coach robbery actually did take place in the summer of 1857, and I was able to track down the location for the most part while I was down there exploring old stage routes, stage stops, cemetaries, museums, roadside markers and stuff like that.)

Anyway, you will see some highlights from my vacation, so stay tuned.

But here's the first highlight. We took a break from the Dusty Trails of the Old West and went to a good old fashioned Rock Concert in Eugene OR.

Here's The Strawmen with Mike Roe of the Seventy Sevens singing with them.

On the prominent left that's Mike Roe (of the Seventy Sevens), then Bill Harmon (a.k.a. Reader Nektarios) in the middle, and his brother Mark Harmon on the right. On the far left in the dark (you can barely see him) is David Leonhardt (formerly of the Seventy Sevens), and somewhere back behind them all is the drummer. (I'm not sure if the drummer belongs to The Strawmen or the Seventy Sevens, and I never caught his name.)

Well, when I took that picture, I didn't like the way the flash seemed to mostly illuminate the backs of the people standing in front of me, so I turned the flash off and took these next pictures. This is what it REALY looked like!

I think the blurrrrr captures the excitement, the energy, the wonderful stage presence these two groups had.

I've been a big fan of the 77s for years. I had all their early albums on cassette tape 20 years ago, and played them so many times I could hear the back side of the tape bleeding through. I have several of their early albums on vinyl and (as my close friends know) still crank them out and play them from time to time.

I actually got to see the 77s in concert at PLU about 20 years ago. They were amazing, and I still remember how amazing they were on stage. Now, a recent sort of personal thing I'm going through, I've started listening to them (and Daniel Amos, and The Lost Dogs, and The Swirling Eddies, and the Choir) all over again.

For my wife and daughter it was a special time. This was their first time at a Christian Rock Concert. This was their first time at any Rock Concert. My daughter was really psyched, and although they didn't stay for the 77's (too tired, I walked them back to the hotel) they did get to see Mike play a wild bit of guitar for a while before I took them back. They loved the Strawmen, which made me happy. I knew they wouldn't care too much for the 77s (too loud and too wild for them) but they really loved the Strawmen. Bill came over and introduced himself and his wife, and it was a true pleasure to meet him. I enjoyed his music a lot and bought a CD.

Then, after I walked my wife and daughter home, I hung out and listened to the 77s. Mike played an awesome guitar (actually at least 4 of them he had there) and Mark a great bass. At least once they were doing a duo that went on and on, and you just didn't want it to quit. In fact nobody wanted that concert to quit. They came back on stage for one Encore at the end, and I think they may have gone back out for a second (I slipped away, somewhat reluctantly, but a bit nervous about walking several blocks in downtown Eugene by myself too late after dark.)

Someday I'll have to explain more about what I like about this sort of music.


Monasticism and Otter Pops

I was inspired to comment on a great post by James and I've too much to say so I'm writing it all here.

"We converts worship the ground that monks and nuns walk on ..." - James F.

LOL - I know what you mean. Particularly at some parishes monasticism is a highly esteemed lifestyle. Monks and Nuns are glorified because of an idealized concept we have of them from reading the lives of so many great saints who were monks and nuns. But do we respect and think highly of them for what their lives are actually like? I personally think not.

"Maybe the monks should consider a pilgrimage to my house?" - James F.

There's the other side of the coin: I've also encountered many Orthodox who look down upon the monastics disdainfully because all they do is "sit around and pray." The idea being that somehow this makes them lazy.

Actually, in my opinion BOTH of these points of view are wrong. And both ideas suffer from an over-idealized concept of what a monk's life is like.

James, you think maybe the monks should make a pilgrimage to your house, because it is so chaotic there. But that's because you have the idea in your head that a monk (or nun) is sitting around in a spiritual garden all day long singing hymns. On the contrary, most monks and nuns have to work a full day (8 hours, 10 hours?) making crafts, selling things, doing yard work, household chores, tending the farm animals, and so on. Then add to this about 4 or 5 hours of services every day.

Monk's don't get to sit around reading their bible or the Philokalia all day long. If they want to read it at all they have to be up late at night reading it (instead of playing video games, James.) They don't get to sit around the camp fire and chat with friends (no less smoking a cigar and sipping a nice smooth scotch.)

Mind you, I'm not trying to criticize. I could never be a monk. I don't think you could either.

You've got an over-idealized concept of what a monk gets to live his life like. Monk's work so hard all day long that they have far less time for prayer than even you do with your four children running around. There lives are filled with as many interruptions as your life is, and yet somehow they preserver. Maybe they don't have to spend 20 minutes a day changing diapers, but they do have to spend several hours a day shoveling manure, or cleaning up after several dozen other monks: taking out their trash, doing their dirty laundry. Try to say the Jesus prayer while doing that.


Friday, July 23, 2004


I am off enjoying my vacation, which is why you haven't run into me lately.  I have many lovely photos to share with you all - about 500 so far.  :) 

But, alas, I have no way of posting them from my present location.

I'm going to be enjoying the music tomorrow night in Eugene at the Strawmen and 77s concert there.  If you are there and see me in the crowd, introduce yourself.

(Here I am being something so much more and so much less than myself.)

(There's a much more socially acceptable photo of me down the page.)


P.S. Speaking of pictures of me... I keep wondering when James is going to post a photo of me that he has with my beard braded? Yikes! (It's the Gimli in me, that's all.)

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Dilbert Sporting a Handsome Beard

Today, when I arrived at work after a long hard weekend, I found that Dilbert was sporting a new beard.

Cool, huh?
The original url for you:
Dilbert Comic Strip Archive - Dilbert.com

Notice the natural forking of the beard. Wha'dai tell ya, folks? The beard naturally forks don't it?

(If time stood still, and those of us with facial hair could grow it out full length while all the rest of you were in suspended animation, you'd understand what I've been talking about.)


Saturday, June 26, 2004

Wednesday, June 23, 2004


Sometimes all you need for a little perspective...

... is to step back.

Passing Strangers

Thanks be to God for the kindness of passing strangers.

As we took a little stroll through downtown Seattle today (I took the day off work to spend a little quality time with my family - a sort of 1 day mini-vacation) I decided to take a picture of my wife and daughter in front of this fountain. A passing stranger asked if we'd like a shot of all of us together.

Usually I say "no" (could it be a ruse to steal my camera? will they be able to figure out how to take a picture of me? and a dozen other questions...)

Well, this time I took a look at my daughter and wife. Their faces were rosy and I felt good too. It occurred to me that we hardly have any photos in our family arsenal of all of us together. So, I consented to the kindness of this passing stranger.

As I sat down - oh, what a fool I had been. This was clearly a housewife with a stroller and two or three other children swarming around her and another woman, children like bees bees around a pair of fine, fragrant roses.

So, now I have this beautiful photo, probably the best photo ever taken of myself with my wife and daughter.

A thank you to the kind stranger.


Thursday, June 17, 2004

Friday, June 11, 2004

In A Moment, There is Death

I must confess I have always been, have always been concerned somehow that it was not normal, that it was not ordinary, for me to have this morbid interest in death. I am obsessed with the possibility of my own death. I see a grim around every corner. See the possibility of my death everywhere I look

In everything that is alive around me, I see death. Life thrives on death, and someday will not the life of others thrive on my own death?

It is not so much that I am afraid I will die. No, I do not fear death, nor what I shall meet on the other side. What I fear is all that I am leaving behind: the shadows and darkness, the confusion and sense of loss. I fear what will become of those I desired to nurture and shelter. I fear of what will become of the world I tried to build for them.

Yes, I know, I should fear that I have not built for them the world of love I intended. That I have been faithless in my attempt to be faithful. That I have left things undone that should have been completed. Yes, that I do fear. That I do fear very much indeed.

But it is not for any sense of judgment that I fear them. I am able to bear any suffering I am given at the Mighty Throne of Judgment, save that I fear the most: the judgment of knowing what a mess I leave behind. The judgment of knowing what I have left undone that can no longer be completed. The judgment of the impact of my passing on the lives I leave in my wake. Did I teach my daughter well when I had my chance? Did I train her up in the way that was right, so that in her old age she too will give Glory to the God who formed her? Did I teach her to be kind to others? To forgive and forbear rather than to judge another? Was I kind to my wife? Did I leave her with a sense of purpose and confidence, or did I make her question her faith: relieved that I am finally gone from her?

Questions of death impress themselves upon me. I go down into Sheol, into the depths of hell. Deep, deep into the abyss. Thinking about what I leave behind on this earth: those things I did not accomplish, that I should have - those things that I did that I shouldn't have done. Now, I think I can comprehend the meaning of hell. It is more than simply being in the presence of a God we cannot stand to be near. It is also being in the absence of all that we might have done, and being in the presence of all that we did evil.

The question that pursues me, like a coon-dog hounding after a squirrel: when is my time and why? Why wasn't today my day to depart this earth? Will it be tomorrow?

I sense that miracles happen every day around me. Every step I take on this earth is filled with grace and mystery. Why does God love me so? How can I be worth it? I know that His grace does not end when my days here expire like grass. I know that His love goes with me, even though I travel through the depths of Hell. But why does He endure my stupidity even here on this earth?

Today I was driving home from work. I saw up ahead a woman get off the bus. I saw her walking northward along the sidewalk alongside the bus. The traffic was thick, and the bus was at a standstill. I thought the bus stop was beyond that crosswalk there. I could have sworn it was. I started to pass several cars in the right lane. I soared past them at maybe 30 to 35 mph, trying to read all the awful signs the city engineering department placed everywhere (covering both sides of the street at the crosswalk). Signs about street closures. And while I was trying to think: 132nd, 132nd, which of these cross-streets is 13...... SCREEEEEECH. There she was suddenly standing in front of my car in the crosswalk.

I skid about 10 to 15 feet. My laptop-briefcase on the seat beside me is suddenly caught in my right hand. Caught by the handle. Somehow I have managed to skid, and hit the clutch at the same time so that I don't stall the car. My heart is pounding up in my throat and the woman is standing in front of my car with a wild look in her eyes: a look of terror.

But, I thought I just saw her walking up the street past the crosswalk, I muttered to myself aloud: barely audible over the sound of my pounding rock music. Keeping rhythm with my heart.

Why did I not hit that woman, and wind up in jail? Why did God spare me, and why did God spare her?

Our lives are filled with miracles we cannot comprehend. We cannot even begin to fathom them.

Standing there at Fr. Thomas' funeral, thinking to myself of the children and wife he had left behind. Why was it his time to go? In a sense I was quite angry. Why did God see fit to take him at this time? Why him and not me? Why is it anyone's time? How do we know when we are at the end? Will I go to sleep this night and not waken?

There was once a day when a tanker truck exploded on the freeway. It was right where I might have been if I had been taking that freeway that day instead of a side road. People were killed, but why wasn't I?

What is His plan for me? Why does he keep me here on this earth?

And other miracles, no less sincere, no less heart wrenching.

On a day several weeks ago, my tea kettle started screeching. I went to the kitchen and pulled it off the stove. With my right hand I lifted the tea kettle, and poured hot water over my left hand and into a cup. Of course, I was frightened by what I had done in my clumsiness. I jerked my hand away quickly, wincing as if I were in pain. But... What's this? I looked at my hand in horror, terrified at what I was experiencing. There was no pain! My hand was drenched. Soaking wet, and no pain!

And it's not like I had just been at the sink or something. No, I'd been down the hall typing at my computer. My hand was wet, my teacup was steaming, the tea was already turning brown from the teabag. I placed the kettle back on the burner and it immediately came back to a boil, screeching out the spout, from the heat of the burner. There was no question that the water was scalding hot. I tried to stick my right forefinger in the teacup and couldn't. It burned the tip of my finger. There was no question that the water in the cup - the very water I had poured over my hand - was near boiling temperature. And yet, my hand wasn't the slightest bit burnt or singed. It was wet, and I felt the water on my hand, and that water was cold - not refrigerator cold, but room temperature, and yet the water in the tea cup was scalding.

A miracle? How can it be anything less? Why does God fill our lives with miracles?

I am convinced that our lives are constantly filled with miracles. That every day he does countless things to protect us. But why? Some day I will die. Perhaps tonight I will die, but this afternoon he spared me for some unknown and inexplicable task? Today, perchance I am kept from stumbling and falling down the stairs and never realized it. I might have broken my leg, or I might have skinned my elbow against a rough stone wall, or I might have been bitten by a flea that carried some exotic disease that will kill me in ten or fifteen years, or I might have gotten sick to my stomach at something I ate (perhaps even while denying myself meat). But I have avoided all of that, and why? So that I might get hit by a car when I walk to my mailbox and end my life? So that I might die in my sleep of a heart attack? So that I might suddenly have a blood vessel burst in my head?

We do not know these things. We do not know the when or the why, except that we know this: we must learn to love Him. We must learn to see Him. We must learn to worship Him with our each and every breath.

Another time, years ago when Helen and I were just married. We had gone on a walk or out to eat dinner or something, and had come back home to find the stove on and our tea-kettle melted to the stovetop. The plastic of the handle was smoking like it would burst any minute into flame, and I was stupid and tried to pick it up off the stove, as if that were the way to prevent something. I dropped it instantly, and it fell into the middle of the kitchen floor where it melted the linoleum. If we had come back 5 minute later would the apartment building have been on fire?

Thank you God for sparing us all! Thank You God for sparing us again and again.

But when is my time to go from this earth, and for what reason has He spared me.

I do not know. I cannot say.

My friend Barnabas says: "well maybe you aren't a saint" (and I can assure you I am not) "but he wasn't to give you the chance to be one. Maybe he's letting you stay on this earth until you have become a saint."

That's a frightening thing to consider, but I find another possibility even more frightening: is he leaving me here to perfect my sin? To seal myself off completely from Him in the debauchery of my ways? For I find there are two fates that linger in my flesh. On the one hand I might worship and glorify Him, and on the other hand I might give myself up completely to earthly pleasure. It seems the two extremes, albeit distant and extreme, are always close at hand. Ever near.

And I wonder again, which one this day have I chosen?


Thursday, June 10, 2004

Washington State Bird

For those of you who don't know, the Washington state bird is the Goldfinch.

Well, I have to tell you an irony. I consider myself an avid amateur bird watcher. I love watching birds. I have learned the names of most birds I can find, and for many of them, I have learned what their song is. Maybe someday I will start a web page devoted to Northwest Birds.

Anyway, the irony is, that I have never seen a goldfinch since I've lived here in Washington state. I know it is the state bird. People tell me they see them from time to time. But I never did. The purple finch - see it all the time. The house finch, same thing. But never the Goldfinch.


this little guy has a nest in the trees outside my office window. He comes up onto the ledge right next to my desk and picks up cottonwood seeds.

He and his wife come regularly. I keep bringing my camera to work, but for some reason they never come up to the ledge when I've got my digital camera. So, here I have resorted at last to taking a picture of him with my camera phone. Not only is the quality poor, but I had to hold my camera phone about 4 inches away from the bird to take the picture. They don't seem to be afraid of me... I think they must have somehow figured out that I can't get to them through the glass.

No joke, in this shot here:

I was literally holding the camera phone against the glass opposite the bird.

Well, so there are my finches. I'm going to try to take a picture of them again when I've got my digital camera, and so we can hold out hope for something nice and crisp and clear.


Wednesday, June 09, 2004


"The good people of this world are very far from being satisfied with each other and my arms are the best peacemakers."
--Sam Colt, 1852

Friday, June 04, 2004


For those of you who have asked:

Here's Baby Crow:

And here again:

Baby Crow is up in a different tree now. I find it a bit amazing how much he/she can get around when he/she can't fly yet. So, I'm going to try to take a better picture of her today if possible.


Monday, May 31, 2004

The Baby Crow
by Basil Miller

My wife was first to see The Crow, or I should say, the first to notice it. I had seen it a few minutes before, but hadn't noticed it. The Crow was about to provide me the opportunity to consider human nature, the appalling animalistic quality of it, the troubling nature of creatures in general. The Crow was about to provide me a much needed afternoon of self-reflection. But I hadn't noticed that yet either.

I was working in the yard. To be specific, I was emptying garbage bags of kindling we had picked up by the roadside ("Free Wood"), and pulling all the rusty nails out of the rotten boards. Someone had definitely torn down something. More than a fence I suspected. A barn, a shack of some sort, an old shed? The nails were a combination of newer, tiny, zinc coated nails, and enormous old rusty spikes. The oldest, and rustiest nails were in wood that was rotten clear through. Someone had added on to something. Someone had added on to something old. I imagined it something left over from the pioneer days, wondering if I might find a stray slug embedded in the wood here or there.

If the nails were protruding and had a head, I used my 15 inch pry-bar and pulled them out. If there were too many nails, I took my axe and split things up. After going through several bags, I picked up a large bag old roofing shingles and carried it to my shed. The old roof shingles would lay under my workbench in my shed, while the rotten, splintered, broken up wood would be outside in an easily accessible kindling bin I had under my deck.

"Did you see the Baby Crow?"

My wife's voice was coming down from the deck directly above me. I glanced up, and before I could turn all the way around to my wife my eyes caught the eyes of the crow, atop a pile of sticks, the remnants of the neighbor's cherry tree that had gone down in a storm a month ago, about three feet away.

"Yes," I answered. "I saw it before, but I didn't know it was still sitting there. I figured it had flown away."

Earlier in the day I had noticed the dog staring off the deck toward my wood pile. She wasn't barking which meant it wasn't a squirrel. She was just sitting there staring, which meant... I don't know what. So I got up to go out on the deck and see what she was staring at.

There it was, a crow sitting there all by itself atop a pile of half-heartedly chopped up branches. I thought to myself, "oh, how strange... it's just sitting there."

Well, it was four hours later and the crow was still sitting there. So, now I noticed!

"It's a baby," my wife continued. "It can't fly yet."

"Well, I guess not," I interrupted. "It's been there several hours."

"I wonder if we can help it," she finished.

I didn't figure there was much we could do to help it. But might as well try, I thought.

"Let's leave it be for a while and keep an eye on it," I said. "See if any other crows come down to visit it."

I was on a role pulling out nails and didn't want to stop when I'd just gotten going.

So, I sat down and worked, keeping the corner of my eye on the Baby Crow.

The old rotten wood and large, rusty, spike-size nails made me contemplate an older day and age, when men worked out in the yard all day long, not for the fun of it, but for survival. You had as many kids as you could, back then, not for your personal entertainment, like today, but because you needed them to survive. You had to have people working for you... people on your side. Everyone else out there, every stranger, couldn't be trusted. So you worked your hands to the bone, and only rested late in the evening, reading a book or smoking a pipe by the fire.

Some like that had nailed these nails into this thing. Built himself a shack, a barn, a stable. And now, here I was tearing apart the wood. Not because I needed wood to keep my house warn in the winter, but because I wanted wood to keep my house warm for the winter. Entertainment.

My wife was coming out the downstairs sliding glass door with some broken up crackers.

"Good idea," I said. "I guess I'll help you try to feed him. Crows love cherries. I wonder if they like strawberries."

I headed for the front yard where I have so many strawberries growing (and rotting, and being devoured by slugs) that I couldn't harvest them all. In another time and place, none of these strawberries would go to waste. Now it was cheaper to buy a flat of them down at the grocery store for a couple bucks. I couldn't afford to pick my own flat of strawberries. It would take me all day. My time was worth more than a couple bucks. Wasn't it?

Anyway, I came back with a few half-slug-eaten berries. My wife was crumbling up the crackers on a tall stump.

"I don't think he can get there," I mumbled. "I've seen him hop all around on the wood pile, but I haven't seen him hop up on top of the stump. I don't think he can."

I moved in closer and dripped the berries down on a lower stump in the middle of the pile of branches. Took a few crackers from my wife and crumbled them there with the berries.

I went back to work. Remembering that ancient time when people road stage coaches across the plains in order to find some land on which to settle. Now days, you couldn't afford land. You could only afford a tiny lot that surrounded your house. Just enough space to plant bushes and trees - give yourself some privacy. But in those days. Those were the days!

Of course, you needed land, because you would live off it.

The Crow didn't eat. In fact, the other crows swooped down and snatched up all the crackers and flew away. All the while the baby squawked at them, and they squawked back.

Maybe that was how they taught their babies to survive, I thought. Steal all their food from them so that they fight for something to eat. Maybe that was why crows were such prolific creatures. They learned to survive from the time they were a newborn.

Could their parents really treat them like that? Starve them and steal food from them? How inhumane!

I sat there and thought about a bygone era when men and women all lived to survive. I remembered a conversation I'd had with my wife the day before:

"Those people in ancient times weren't all that stupid. They were pretty smart!"

"What?" As usual, I couldn't understand my wife's muttering. "What are you talking about?"

"I've always thought," she said with her usual sheepish innocence, "that in ancient times people weren't as smart as they are today. That people were really stupid back then."

"Oh," I answered. The unuttered what times? what people? what are you talking about? in the back of my mind.

"I was just reading about saint..." (I didn't catch the name) she continued. "And he really knew what he was talking about."

I attempt to contribute to this discussion. "Well, of course, in the ancient times they didn't know as much as we know today scientifically and all that, but they were pretty astute as far as understanding human nature is concerned." There, that should suffice.

"But Justinian... or was it Justin. I'm reading about Justinian and Justin," she continued. "One of them, I forget which..."

"Well, Justinian made a mess of the Roman Empire. But he cranked out some awesome code of law. In fact, the first thing they teach you in law school is the code of Justinian. It's the foundation of all modern law."

"Yeah, that's it. He and Theodora bankrupted the empire giving away to the poor."

"Ah, I see." I answered. So now I know what the Orthodox had to say about the very thing one of my co-workers who is reading the full history of the Byzantine Empire by John Julius Norwich happened to mention to me the other day. That Justinian made an incredible mess of the Roman Empire.

"Well, the main thing was," I had to add, "that people back in those days didn't have time to think. Only the independently wealthy had time to sit around and do nothing but think. Everybody else worked from sun-up to sun-down trying to survive. Trying to get together enough food for themselves to eat and to feed their children. Trying to have enough children so that someone survives long enough to take care of them in their old age. It was a vicious cycle, taking care of the children, struggling to survive, and them taking care of you when you could no longer work."

It wasn't that I recounted the whole conversation with my wife as I sat there pulling nails out of rotten wood that would someday be burnt up in woodstove. No, it was that I remembered again that nugget of truth we had passed over in our discussions. "People didn't know everything back in those days." (And the unmentionable: we still don't now.) "People worked hard to survive. It was only those who had plenty of leisure time that did the thinking."

Now days, all people do is think. Everyone is an amateur philosopher, an amateur theologian, an amateur historian. Everyone is an expert on something, some moment in time, or some idea once up born by the winds of public opinion, and forever epitomized in a name someone had made for themselves. Now days, everybody thinks. Ninety percent of all the work out there was intellectual. Man, how things had changed! But I still enjoyed the rugged outdoors survival sort of work as a past-time. It was a form of entertainment, plain and true. What was more: it was what differentiated between us and the animals.

I looked up at my friend The Baby Crow. My wife was coming through the door again, this time she had the scrambled up contents of a hard boiled egg. "I looked it up," she shouted across the yard at me. "They say to feed baby birds a hard boiled egg."

Okay, I thought. So they are cannibals.

"It's true," she continued. As if she could read my thoughts. "The crows always eat up all the hard boiled eggs people leave on the tomb stones at Pascha."

Yeah, that made sense. Cannibals.

"It probably won't do any good," I told her. "All the other crows keep diving down and taking away the baby's food."

"Really," she exclaimed. It was the sort of "really" that meant she believed me, and felt deeply disappointed. "That's terrible!" I know that's what she'd say next.

"Yeah, I guess it's all survival of the fittest for the crows. Every crow for himself."

My wife left the egg. "Don't leave it on the stump," I shouted. "He can't get up there. I've watched him try."

He really couldn't. He couldn't fly yet at all. All he did was hop from branch to branch across the heap of cut up branches. The stump was too tall for him.

So, I went back to my ancient scraps of wood. Those that had too many nails to remove, I now just pounded down so that nobody would cut themselves trying to put it in the fire. I could always imagine my daughter scratching herself on a nail, and running away wailing. It would be the only time she volunteered to help. A special thing to help daddy. And she'd get infected and die. An agonizing, and painful death, each day getting sicker than the one before. I pounded the nails in hard.

I watched another crow swoop down across the back yard and snag an enormous piece of egg. Almost without stopping he sailed back into a tree. Probably the tree where her nest was, I figured. I looked up high. You could hear a lot of squawking between the Baby, the Thief, the other Crows in the neighborhood. It was hard to tell if any were squawking up in the tree.

Damn shame, them crows. Stealing the food from their own Children. It was what, I supposed, separated man from the animals. The ability to make a sacrifice for others: particularly your own Children.

Then suddenly I had an idea. Ideas: they were what separated man from the beasts. Only humans could come up with ideas: solutions to problems that only they could foresee.

I had been entertaining the thought of throwing sticks at one of the Thief crows. Or perhaps a rock. But I didn't think I could do it without scaring the baby. But then I had The Idea. I Remembered. (The mind: it was what separated man from the animals.) It was the garage-sale-new double barrel high pressure, super squirter I had recently picked up. That thing could shoot thirty feet. I knew it could, because I had already tried it. My daughter knew it could too.

The next time the Thief Crow swooped down to steal some food I'd nail him. I went out into the yard where I had a bucket of water waiting and loaded the gun. A double barrel jet action that would make that thief think twice.

I was back at my scraps of wood and nails again when he came swooping down and landed in the lower branches of the tree. I slowly crept over to where I had the water gun laying, but that thief was onto me. By the time I had the gun raised, he was further up in the tree. Squawking madly. I knew I couldn't nail him through all those branches. Probably couldn't even mist him. I slowly stalked the foliage beneath the trees until he gave up and flew away. A few minutes later he was back, however, and I repeated my stealthy approach. But once again he flew away before I could so much as mist him.

That was the difference between man and animals, you see. A man could rationalize, could think, could figure things out. A man could decide who he would let eat, and who he wouldn't. And by George, I was always in favor of the underdog. Give me a victim, and I'll help them trade places with the victimizer any day. That's how I always was, always had been. That was the difference between humanity and the dumb beasts. On top of the immortal soul, of course. We could make choices that were a sacrifice to ourselves, and we could make choices to feed one mouth, while keeping the other at bay with a double-barrel extra-sharp 30 foot super-shooting squirt gun.

We repeated this process, bird and I, several times before I finally decided to forget about him. I let one squirt fly thought the air at one point, but it was all just for show. (Another important aspect of human nature: inspiring the fear of man in the dumb beasts.) There wasn't much food left down there for the baby anyway. And the baby wasn't even trying to eat.

I thought that was strange. Screeeeeeeh... a big long rusty nail slid nicely out of a rotten board. Awfully strange. Why wasn't the baby eating any of the food we'd brought her?

Then suddenly it hit me: He couldn't eat!

Of course, that had to be it. This baby crow was too young to eat solid food. In fact he was at the age where... I looked up nervously at where the crow stood atop the pile of sticks, looked up guiltily into the branches of the trees above him. He was at the age where he had to be feed by his mother. His mother would eat something, and regurgitate it in a liquid form and stick it into his beak. I'd seen it many times on one or another of those nature shows.

My wife came popping out the door again at the perfect time. Any longer and I would have had time to feel more guilty. It was I who was keeping the bird from getting fed by scaring all the other crows away.

The main difference between man and the beasts: we are untrusting, and therefore can make stupid mistakes.

"Has it eaten anything?" my wife asked.

"Nope," I answered uneasily. "Probably nothing we can do... but... I... uh... I plan to just play it low key for a while and sit back here working... see if anything interesting develops. Maybe we are scaring the bird giving it too much attention."

"Maybe I should call PAWS," my wife said.

"Yeah, good idea. Call PAWS and see if they have any suggestions."

My wife came back several minutest later. "Yeah, they said that the only problem we might have is being dive-bombed by a whole bunch of crows that are trying to protect the baby."

"Hmmm..." It didn't seem likely to me. I mean, I'd seen one or two others come, but certainly no dive-bombing. Maybe they understood about the double-barrel super squirter? "Did they say anything about her eating?"

"Yeah, they said that crows are always fed by their mother until after they can fly."

Ooops. Sure enough. It was all my fault. I'd been keeping them from feeding it half the day.

"Okay," I answered. "Well, I'm going to go inside now."

Main difference between man and the animals. We are just plain stupid.

Friday, May 28, 2004

The other day I purchased a Guillotine

The other day I purchased a Guillotine.

This is my first guillotine, so as you can imagine, I am very excited about it. It came with instructions that are (primarily) in French. Of course, how could you trust a guillotine that had instructions in any other language?

Unfortunately, I don't know French. But there are some sections translated into English and Spanish. Most important, I suppose, are the warnings:

* requires adult supervision

* always operate with the guard rail in place

* do not carry by the blade

* also do not carry by the handle only

* always latch the blade/handle in a closed position when not in use

* do not lubricate the cutting blade

(editorial: now that one doesn't make sense...)

* keep loose fitting clothing away from the cutting blade

My guillotine comes with a nice schematic that has all the parts labeled. Just in case I ever need to take it apart and rebuild it I suppose.

It has rubber feet and a handle with a safety latch and rubber grip.

The guard rail keeps things from flying off in the wrong direction.

The base has a calibrated grid with both "imperial and metric scale guide." Cool. Imperial. I never knew they called the "inch" system "imperial." Makes you almost feel some sort of connection with royalty.

Of course, who wouldn't feel a connection with royalty while using a guillotine?

What's that? Beheadings?

You have a disgustingly lurid sense of imagination, and I am, frankly, shocked by the suggestion. My guillotine is strictly for cutting paper.

Here's a picture from their handy instruction manual:

You see, it all depends on how you look at a thing.

Well, that's about enough for today.


Thursday, May 20, 2004

Balaam's Ass

"God spoke to Balaam through his ass. I believe God still speaks through asses today. So if God should choose to speak through you, you needn't think too highly of yourself."

- a thought for the day from Rich Mullins

Monday, May 10, 2004


I discovered today this famous, but unknown, 18th century Ukranian poet and philosopher. He is considered by Ukrainians to be "their Socrates"

Anyway, here's a nice thought from Skovoroda:

"The world chased me but could not catch me."

~ Hryhori Skovoroda

He left that message on his grave stone.


Saturday, May 01, 2004

The Way Things Are

I have this constant preoccupation with the way things are. Not just the way they are made, and the way they have become, and the way they become, and the way that they were, but most importantly, the way they are.

For whatever reason.

In particular there is the way things are when they are that way having been made so by the Hand of God.

I am preoccupied with the way Everything Is. Because Everything Is some way, and a great deal of what everything is hasn't even been discovered yet.

A good deal of what Is has been published to the internet, and I think that's a good thing. But there are some things that Are and haven't been published suitably to the internet.

My preoccupation has nothing to do with the way things are made, in the sense of: what will you find when you rip the thing apart?

I happen to be a plant lover, and I find one of the most disappointing aspects of the science of botany is the fact that everything is analyzed by dissection. You don't really know What a thing is until you have taken it appart. But, in my thinking, once you have taken it apart it is no longer to be appreciated.

How would my wife like it if I brough her a dissected rose for Mother's day? Or my Mom for that matter.

So, there are some things about the way things are that ruin the way they should be.

Anyway, as a plant lover, I have long lamented that there are not suitable reference guides on the internet to determining the exactness of a plant. Take for example Western Hemlock or Mountain Hemlock. If you were to do a web search for both of these trees, you would end up with all sorts of photographs, some of them looking more like Blue Spruce, and others looking more like Larches, and some of them looking a great deal like the Cedar of Lebanon. But none of these so-called scientists who put together tree identification web sites, give you more than a single picture or two, to use in helping you ascertain the identity of a tree.

Well, I have about five or six plant-identifying books at home, and I still go looking on the internet from time to time for better pictures.

So, it has been a while since I've posted some pictures, and here are some I think shall be informative. These are pictures of The Way Things Are in the first three years in the life of a couple very special trees we have in the Pacific Northwest:

The Douglas Fir
The Black Cottonwood

These two are probably the most common trees in the Pacific Northwest, although the Vine Maple may tag along as a close third...

But how are these things?

Well, here is a Douglas Fir in the very first spring that it comes up from seed:

They are cute little enchanting things. They burst out of the ground like a star: always with six points.

Here's another one:

Well, here's what one of those same Douglas Firs looks like in the spring of it's second year on this earth:

Here is another tree the same age:

These little treelettes are aproximately 4 to 5 inches tall in their second spring. They can be much larger in their second spring, but this is about average.

Now here is a Douglas Fir for you in it's third spring. This one is about 10 to 12 inches tall:

Let us move on to our beloved friend the Black Cottonwood.

As you may be aware, the Black Cottonwood is a very aggressive tree. Typically, there is an order to how these trees appear.

The order goes something like this:

a) a forest fire sweeps clean a stretch of forest - or better still a glacier rushes down a mountainside clearing a track of forest.

b) now you have a field

c) Black Cottonwoods and Red Alders (and numerous other fast growing deciduous trees) start growing and build up a forest again.

d) These trees grow up quickly, shed a lot of leaves, fall down frequently in storms, and so on.

In so doing, they rapidly nurture the soil so that it is ready to sustain a broader diversity of trees - primarily your evergreens will slowly grow up and take over the land they have prepared (never completely wiping them out). So then you get your Ponderosa Pines, your Douglas and Grand Firs, your Larches, your Hemlocks, your Cedars (red and yellow).

Because they have the deciduous trees preparing a nice rich soil for them for years ahead of time, the evergreens don't need to grow quickly. God made them so they grow slowly, and it all works out harmoniously.

Here is your Black Cottonwood in its very first spring of life:

Here is another newborn of the same:

I didn't think of this last year... (I've only allowed ONE of these creatures to survive on my property, and I took the picture above before I pruned out all the newborns) ... so the bottom line is, I don't have a picture of this guy in his second year. But, I will tell you, he was about 18 to 20 inches tall in his second spring.

Now, here he is in his third spring (at the very START of his third spring on this earth):

As you can see (that is the back of my "barn" there) he is at least 15 feet tall.

15 feet in three years isn't too bad, eh?

I have some friends that swear a broadleaf maple will grow that fast, but I've got a broadleaf maple in my yard too. He is in his third year of life and he's only about 30 inches tall.

There is probably nothing that grows as fast as the Red Alder or the Black Cottonwood.

Well, enough tree talk for the day!

~ Basil-Tree the Ent.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Venus and the Crescent Moon

As I drove home from work tonight (at 10:30 PM) I had this sight before me all the way:

It really was quite beautiful - the photo doesn't do it justice.

The moon was a judicial scale held in the fist of Venus. It's the sort of thing fairy tales and tall stories around the campfire late at night are made of. You can almost see prehistoric man dancing around the campfire, singing odes to the moon.

Of course, now we know everything. We've actually been there and back and demystified it.

That's a very unfortunate thing... the mystery is beautiful.

How can Venus line herself up so perfectly with the moon like that (at least to my eye)? How does God hold them all in the palm of His hand?


National Turn off the TV Week

This week is National Turn off the TV Week. Maybe you have heard about it?


Well, so far I have protested National Turn off the TV Week, by watching a movie every night.

(By the way, they expect you to turn off the TV, the VCR, the DVD Player, your computer, your video games, etc... just to proove you are a FAMILY oriented person!)

Monday night I watched Star Wars Episode I (on my new home entertainment system, by the way) and then last night I watched Master And Commander (less-than-an-hour-from-the-store fresh). Great movies, both of them.

Personally, I think if someone watches so much TV they need to turn it off, then then need something more than a National Turn Off The TV week to do it. They need a deep and inner spiritual transformation.

I don't watch regular TV hardly at all. I can't stand the mindlessness of it, for the most part. When I've had a long day, I'm inclined to sit down and watch something on the TOOB, but I'd rather it be something meaty that I can sink my teeth into.

TV-Bashers don't get it. The ordinary person now days knows more about the history of the world, animals in exotic places, and their neighbors down the street than EVER BEFORE in the history of the mankind thanks to Television. The ordinary person now days can think in several layers of abstraction, and follow numerous plotlines that are interwoven as intricately as a web, thanks to good, wholesome, high quality movies that come out of Hollywood. Well chosen TV programs, and good well-made movies can challenge you to think, grow, learn, consider things, to a greater degree than ever before. I'd venture to say that a number of video games can do likewise.

If you are a "user" - that is, rather, an "abuser" - if you are adicted to Trash TV (now TTV), then that's your problem. Get a life... watch something meaningful and challenging.



Thursday, April 08, 2004

I forgot to mention. You can see Big Foot in that third picture down there.


P.S. I think I shall be silent for a day or two.

Saturday, April 03, 2004


I didn't know the F/A 18 Hornet was made in Taiwan.

It's a strange world.

Basil The Fly

Thursday, April 01, 2004

The Way Home

Wherever you are in this world, never forget...

The Way Home

Shadows and tall... trees...
Shadows and tall... trees...

Shadows and
(shadows and)
tall trees...

Shadows and...

tall treeeeeees...
Shadows (shadows) shadows (shadows...)

Basil's little tribute to U2

Classic U2

~ Basilfly

Photo of the Week...

I haven't been posting many photos lately, so this one is all the more meaningful.

Life, as always, speeds past me in a blur.


News Flash

NATO Shoots an Orthodox Priest

Just in case you haven't read or heard the news that NATO troops shot an Orthodox priest in the overnight raid of an Orthodox Church in Bosnia:

Orthodox Priest Shot by NATO

Also, for those of you who pray...

A customer that I work with has been visiting us at work. He was scheduled to be with us for a couple weeks, but unexpectedly got tragic news last night and had to return home to the east coast. His brother was killed in the gruesome killings yesterday in Iraq. Keep him in your prayers.

It is difficult to comprehend the mentality of horrific people who take such delight in death. Of course, eternal damnation awaits them... I guess they'd better learn to like death... But such a tragedy is always intensified if you know someone who it touches directly. It is no longer remoted, bizarre, and sickening news, but something almost personal.


Wednesday, March 31, 2004


You have heard of WWJD - that classic Protestant question: "What Would Jesus Do?" the answer to which is supposed to solve every problem in life, from whether to buy Skippy or Jiff peanut butter, to whether you go to Church or the ballgame next Sunday. What kind of car would Jesus drive? Somehow I imagine a Subaru... really it is only a matter of time until we see a TV commercial with a Jesus-like (think clothing, hair, beard, starry gaze in eyes) driving a Subaru over the hill and through the woods, until at the very end you see a caption: "What Would Jesus Drive?" (fade into the Subaru logo)

Well, anyway... silliness aside...

Here's the Orthodox version: W I J L (What Is Jesus Like?) Obsessed as we Orthodox are with ontology, existentialism - the meaning of everything points back to the existence... the ontology of a thing being pre-eminent in our lives... Well, it turns out things have taken a turn that direction in our latest blogs and discussions.

What Is Jesus Like?

Every problem we confront in humanity has its solution in the answer to this very problem, does it not?

Anyway, as I posted earlier, James has an interesting blog where he takes exception to something St. Athanasios said. I take exception to that in my post below, and I rather think I do so quite succinctly.

However, apparently there is more to the issue. Steve (neighbor down the street... really... he's EVERYONE'S neighbor!) writes the following: "how does this address whether or not Christ ever had a cold?"

So, let me continue my reasoning along those lines...

14) {1 to 13 are below} Since Christ is no less human now than he was prior to his Crucifixion and Resurrection, He is no less (and no more) capable of having a cold than He was back then.

15) Therefore it is just as likely that He catch a cold now as it was that he caught a cold back the. (Perhaps even more so since his body is 2000 years old? but I digress)

16) I have never read in the Gospels that he had a cold, but that isn't proof he didn't, since I have also never read in the Gospels that he defecated or took a pee, and we believe that He was biologically human, and therefore from time to time heeded the call of nature.

17) What I will say, however, is that it seem "out of character" - When God became Man it was no ordinary event. He healed people everywhere he went. How could he even have an opportunity to get sick? People just walked past and were healed just from touching the hem of His garment. I guess, I'm a skeptic. I don't think He ever got sick, nor that he would have gotten sick. Notice I don't say "could have" I say "would have" - of course He is human, so He "could have" gotten sick. But He was also God. So it was always a matter of His choice whether he got sick or not.

18) I do believe he experienced hunger and pain. He certainly experienced hunger when he fasted in the wilderness. He may have even been "famished" - even delirious. But He never lost consciousness as a result of fasting too much, but I imagine he may have been close. But sick. No, Jesus didn't Do That.

19) We don't "need" for him to have experienced sickness first hand, in order to believe He empathizes with us when we are sick, and in order to believe he can and will heal us.


Some thoughts on the Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection.

James has posted a very interesting question, refering to St. Athanasions fine treatise "On the Incarnation"

I tried to respond by replying on his "comment" area, but I couldn't say what I needed to in the allowed characters, so my response is here.

I like to think in steps. It makes is easier to rationally deduce something if you take it one step at a time.

So, step by step, here's what I (and I suspect the Church) affirm:

1) Jesus Christ after the incarnation was fully God and fully man.
2) Because He is fully God, he is indestructable.
3) Because His Body is (and was) fully human it is destructable.
4) When Christ rose from the dead he possessed the same precise "portions" of Divinity and Humanity that he possessed before the Resurrection.
5) He is today no more Divine than he was before the Crucifixion.
6) He is today no less Human than he was before the Crucifixion.
7) His surrender of his Body to Crucifixion was a one time thing. It was sufficient. It was enough.
8) Therefore he need not surrender his body again to Crucifixion.
9) However, his flesh (even though we think of it as Deified) is still "Crucifyable"
10) Therefore, if Christ has not been crucified, one may speculate that He would never have died, just as he now never dies.
11) The only way to kill Christ is for Him to willing give Himself up to death.
12) To think that He is somehow more Divine now than he was then is to disbelieve in the incarnation.
13) To think that He is somehow less Human now than he was then is to disbelieve in the incarnation.

So, in my thinking, the bottom line is: the only way you can kill Jesus is if he willing surrenders Himself to death. We do not believe He will do that again.

And it all makes sense when compared to what St. Athanasios has said.


Thursday, March 25, 2004

Photo of the Day


A day at the beach we spent...

... Sunday


Monday, March 22, 2004

My Blossoms

Sunday after Divine Liturgy we made a little trip to the University of Washington to see (and take pictures) of the lovely cherry blossom trees.

So, there we are (at least the more beautiful 2/3 of us.)

And here's my little...


This picture seemed to me to have a sort of angelic quality to it.
There is something fascinating about the light (or the way it was
processed by the camera or something... )


The Glory of God is spoken everywhere...

Photos (c) 2004 Basil Miller

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Of Mice and Men

We have so many plans... and they all come to nothing.

I was hoping to blog, off and on, this past week on St. Patrick of Ireland, and various St. Patrick things. Along with that I have several green photos to post. Like the one above.

All came to naught.

Then there was the four-leaf clover. I remember in college, my science professor explaining to us: "four leaf clovers are a genetic impossibility". Well, I believed him. Someone said: "yeah, but I've seen one before" to which he replied, "yes, but they don't exist."

Well, anyway, several years ago I found a four leaf clover in my wife's parent's front yard. I kept it... but I didn't keep it very well. I should have pressed it between something and something else, and then mounted it somehow - behind glass would have been nice.

Anyway, yesterday when I was cleaning up my desk, I came across that special four-leaf clover buried under dust. It had been utterly neglected, and actually forgotten. Well, I put it someplace un-dusty while I was cleaning, and told myself: "self, remember it is there, and don't accidentally destroy it." It was very brittle you see.

Well, guess what?

(scroll down)

( a little further)

Yes. Unfortunately tonight I inadvertenly crumbled my four leaf clover while trying to grab something from a tiny shelf in my desk in the dark.

I hope that isn't the end of my good luck. :)

Plus, there is the existential problem of actually inadvertently destroying my rare and exotic four-leaf cover on the very week of St. Patrick's holy day.

But really, from a different perspective: a four-leaf clover is an abomination, since what St. Patrick is actually famous for (although few realize it) is the fact that he used the clover as an example to talk with people in Ireland about the Holy Trinity.

Well, so from that perspective, I should have destroyed this four-leaf abomination the very moment I discovered it.

Of course, that would be utterly silly. A four leaf clover is a rare and special thing, unique in all God's kingdom, and as such, bears testimonly to the uniqueness of our Heavenly Father.


Monday, March 15, 2004

Holy Tradition

My buddy James has posted a most excellent article on "Why we keep on doing the things we do" in the Orthodox Church. Check it out. It's good stuff.

Meanwhile, my thought for the day:

Willow Morning
by Basil
St. Patrick of Ireland

In honor of that great Saint of old, I will be quoting from St. Patrick over the next several days.

The complete text of St. Patrick's confession is located here. There's a different translation here (but how can you trust someone who doesn't put it on a green web page?)

I was struck this morning by how similar the following passage is to the Nicene Creed (at least the first part - the part adopted at the Council of Nicea).

From The Confession of St. Patrick of Ireland

For there is no other God, nor ever was before, nor shall be hereafter, but God the Father, unbegotten and without beginning, in whom all things began, whose are all things, as we have been taught; and his son Jesus Christ, who manifestly always existed with the Father, before the beginning of time in the spirit with the Father, indescribably begotten before all things, and all things visible and invisible were made by him. He was made man, conquered death and was received into Heaven, to the Father who gave him all power over every name in Heaven and on Earth and in Hell, so that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe. And we look to his imminent coming again, the judge of the living and the dead, who will render to each according to his deeds. And he poured out his Holy Spirit on us in abundance, the gift and pledge of immortality, which makes the believers and the obedient into sons of God and co-heirs of Christ who is revealed, and we worship one God in the Trinity of holy name.


Sunday, March 14, 2004

Coffee Hour

A visual celebration of our food and fellowship time after Liturgy.

The Pass

A Quiet Corner


All Photos Copyright (c) 2004 Basil Miller

Photo of the Day
March 13, 2004



Friday, March 12, 2004


I should have mentioned that this little "essay" below was inspired by two things:

1) James' little discussion of the topic of Beauty.
2) My new acquaintance Reader Nectarios' discussion on quitting blogging.

Beauty and the Restoration of the Cosmos

Here are some thoughts on beauty. This might sound fairly incoherent, so rather than calling it an "essay" let's just call it random musings.

Let me begin by saying: "I have devoted my life thus far to beauty" - so I consider myself somewhat of an expert.

How is it, you ask, that you have devoted your life to beauty?

Well, those who know me personally may have heard me say before that I consider myself an artist. That is, I am afflicted with that life-long ailment (and super human power?) of an artist. I am not yet "accomplished" substantially as an artist, but I live my life with that constant preoccupation: how to accomplish something as an artist.

I am not an artisan. I think many of you will understand the difference with that distinction, and many will not. For those who don't: an "artisan" is someone who creates art as a craft, as a duty, as a job. Now, there are many artisans who are also artists. But, by and large, most artists are not able to "make a living" at their craft: though that craft may possess them day and night. To give you an example of the distinction (in the broadest possible sense) between an artist and an artisan, let me suggest the following: Vincent VanGogh was an artist. Someone working as a graphic artist for a magazine (laying out ad copy, or formatting pages of text) is an artisan.

Another way of putting it: an artist is obsessed with his craft, whereas an artisan is able to do creative things in a lesser scope to satisfy some commercial need of society. An artist may or may not be able to satisfy a commercial need of society. Some artist have become vastly rich, and some have died in poverty. But for the artist, it is never about making money (though every artist deep inside wishes he or she could make enough money to quit his job and be an artist full time.)

What is my craft: Literature. I have devoted my life to the pursuit of writing artistic literature. Novels, short stories, poetry - these are what I work with. As an "artist" I have always considered literature to be my main pursuit. Now, if I were independently wealthy, I believe I would expand my art into many different directions. Possibly film, stage, painting, and definitely photography.

You've probably noticed I've gone crazy since I bought my digital camera. I will continue to do so.

Nevertheless, I am not independently wealthy. And although I think visually when I work on some art, I continue to do so through literature, because I can. I have all the tools I need, and then some. Well, don't we all?

Anyway, that's my introduction and way of saying I'm an expert on the concept of Beauty. I was struggling with, thinking about, working on what my own understanding of Beauty was, long before I became Orthodox. Indeed, the beauty so abundant in the Orthodox Church was one of the biggest reasons I converted.

Now, on to those random musings.

Consider: Got made all things Beautiful. God Himself is infinite Beauty. God did not make sin, but allowed it by virtue of His Divine Love: namely, He chose and chooses to interact with us without coercion.

Sin is the perversion of Beauty. Sin does not strictly speaking "exist" but is only the aberration of the perversion of Beauty.

Death, suffering and the flesh: Death is the natural consequence of sin. Again, it is something God allows to happen to us physically, because He chose and chooses to interact with us without coercion. Suffering is also the natural consequence of sin. Again, God allows suffering because he deliberately refuses to interact with us through coercion.

The flesh, represents two things: On the one had it is the physical body. On the other hand it is a metaphor for the place in our souls where resides the thing we refer to often as "original sin" which is the place in us where the perversion of Beauty finds root and tries to grow. As such it is a spiritual chasm within us, and does not refer to our fleshly body. Thus when St. Paul says, "crucify the flesh" he is not trying to get us to commit suicide.

Asceticism is the struggle of the soul against the perversion of beauty. More on that later.

There are vast differences from Eastern (Orthodox) and Western (Catholic, Protestant) though on the purpose of fasting. The West has succumbed to the heresy of Gnostic Dualism, in which the body is set up in drastic opposition to the spirit. The "spirit" is seen as that part of us bearing God's image, whereas the flesh is seen as that part of us which must be subdued in order to encounter the Divine. As such, the purpose of fasting in the West is to eradicate that which is inherently evil (the flesh) and exists within us. In the East the flesh has no such ontology. That is, it really does not exist as an entity in opposition to God. Rather than destroying it utterly, we elevate it, we transform it into something God-bearing, just as the flesh of Christ Himself was God-bearing, just as the Virgin's Womb was God-bearing.

The purpose of fasting in the East is not because the body is inherently evil, and we must cut ourselves off from nourishing its senses. We do not deny ourselves because that part of us we are denying is evil, and should be cut off. Rather we deny ourselves for spiritual discipline.

God has declared all things good. Thus we do not deny ourselves because things are inherently evil, but because they do not belong to us, and we must learn not to be a consumer and possessor. Thus, we do not gouge out our eyes so that we may see no evil, but rather we learn to look upon a thing without seeing evil.

Of course, it goes without saying that there are things each of us must refrain from looking upon, because we are not strong enough yet, and looking upon them will drive us to the perversion of beauty: sin.

On to the basic premise of this little collection of thoughts...

As an artist, my life is closely wrapped up in these concepts. Daily. For as an artist, I must look upon everything I can, and try to find the beauty in it. Of course, I am weak and feeble, and there are many things I myself am not ready to look upon. Nevertheless, my personal struggle, daily, is how to show forth the beauty in the ugliness all around me, how to shine forth the light amidst the darkness.

I do not work hard enough on my writing. I do not write daily. But I think about my stories daily. They are swooshing around in my head at all times like the contents of a washing machine. And I constantly try to feed the swooshing mess. And one more thing has occurred to me.

The incarnation.

Everything is about the Incarnation, and the Incarnation is about everything that pertains to the topic of God and man.

Art is man's reaching toward God. Grace is God's reaching toward man. An artful work accomplished, and set into existence by the artist participates in the divine in as much as it is a creative act: ex nihilo. The artist has created something out of nothing. Surely he uses the substances of things that exist (paint, paper, canvas, bits on a computer) to represent that which he has created. But the thing itself that was created? It was created out of nothing, and now it exists.

The corresponding point of reference for this on the side of the Divine in this great interaction is the Sacrament. The Sacrament is the fullest embodiment of God's Grace. It is the thing that exists and bears God's Divine nature to us personally.

Instead of consuming the created, we consume the Divine.

Instead of possessing the created, we possess the Divine.

And as such, the Divinity consumes us... possesses us.

So, what if I create an un-beautiful thing?

Honestly, I do. Frequently in fact. I recognize that I am not perfect, but I also recognize that God does not insist that I am instantly perfect. Life is a struggle to achieve perfection in whatever tasks God has given us, whatever crosses he has given us to bear. And perfection comes more in learning to forgive yourself, learning to forgive others, than it does in a self-inflicted and self-imposed sort of perfectionism.

Thus, once again, the Fast is not all about self-imposing perfectionism, nor is it about self-infliction of pain. To think as such subjugates the mind to the western heresy of Gnostic Dualism.

The fast is all about becoming whole though the attempt to look at things as something other than consumables, as something other than possessions.

I remember a few words from a song in the 80s: "If you love someone, set them free."

Well, that's what the fast is all about.

You remember the Lenten prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian:

"Take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk;
but grant me rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love;
Yea O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother..."

Unfortunately many people during the fast concentrate on the "judging my brother" part. Namely, what are the eating that is against the rules of the fast?

I see far too many people preoccupied with following the nitty-gritty rules of the fast, and throwing out the purpose of the fast: learning chastity, humility, patience and love.

I'd like to focus on one word here: "chastity."

I do not remember the original Greek, but in Slavonic it is "Tselomudri" - and a literal translation of it is "wholeness" or "completeness." In the West with our preoccupation on sexual matters we have lowered the meaning of this word to something strictly sexual. But the original word refers to wholeness in life, wholeness of person. Namely, a lack of "wantonness" or "lust" - a lack of that thing that makes us want to go outside ourselves and possess, or consume from the beauty that surrounds us.

The restoration of the cosmos?

What is particularly significant in Orthodoxy Christianity is our concept of restoration of the Cosmos. Not only did the Incarnation accomplish the restoration of man to relationship with the Divine (in the fusion of the two natures, Divine and human) but it is also the beginning of the restoration of the whole cosmos. You see this in the many blessings we have in the Orthodox Church: sanctifying the waters on Theophany, blessing fruit on Pentecost, the way we bless our homes and our bodies and everything we have.

In a certain sense, when you give up the use of some physical thing (as in Lent) and when you give over the use of some physical thing (as in when our things are blessed) to God, we are seeing two sides of the restoration of the Cosmos.

The world itself will ultimately become supremely beautiful through interaction with the Divine. The world itself will become God-bearing. The world itself will become Heaven. It will become transfigured, and filled with the Divine Light, just as it was at the Transfiguration.

As an artist I work toward seeing this. I work toward somehow grasping this, today, before it has even taken place. I do not always succeed. I don't even know if I succeed often. I don't even know if I succeed EVER. But I'm working at it.