Saturday, September 12, 2009

God Bless Phineas Gage

In September 13th we celebrate the notorious case of Mr. Phineas Gage. On that day in the year 1845, Mr. Gage experienced a mind-numbing thing: he was working on a railroad building project when an explosion sent a steel rod through his head (it landed about 80 yards away.)

What's special about Mr. Gage as opposed to everyone else who gets a 1.5 inch thick metal shaft sent through their head, is that Mr. Gage survived, and lived a relatively normal life afterwards. Apparently his is the subject of study to this day at universities and colleges that address issues of neurological science: every different perspective using him as an example to support their beliefs and claims (even when those claims oppose one another.)

You can read about Mr. Gage here:
Happy Gage Day!


Friday, August 28, 2009

Fake Moon Rock

Now here's something interesting. It has just come out of Amsterdam that a moon rock given to that country in a gesture of friendship by the U.S. Ambassador not long after the Apollo Moon landing is FAKE.

Apparently they decided to perform tests on it, and discovered that it is nothing more than a small rock of petrified wood.

And "US officials said they had no explanation for the Dutch discovery" - makes you wonder.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Vacation Day 5
Redwood Forest Day 2

[Redwood Trees, Del Norte State Park, California]

Today was the day we really planned this coastal trip around: going to spend a day in the Redwood Forests of N. California. We first drove down to Trees of Mystery, a comercialized slice of classic American road-trip.

Trees of Mystery is cool. From the 1960s voice recordings in redwood boxes along the way that explain things, to the named trees, and Paul Bunyan carvings. They've modernized with the Sky Trail: a tram you can take up through the tall trees to the top of a little mountain to see the views all around.

We took the sky tram up, then walked the 1 mile trail back down. Be forwarned, when they say the trail is for "advanced hikers" they mean it. I thought they were just saying that to keep the motorhome-bound pavement hikers from accidentally going down a real trail, but no, it really is some pretty advanced hiking. Very steep downward trails on which both of my girls fell down on their butts a couple of times, in spite of the holding-on-to-the-rope thing.

We had a great time exploring all of their trails with wierd signs and wierd carvings and even wierder recorded explanations. The creepiest thing was the 'Cathedral Tree' which had creepy 1960's organ music with a guy singing "I think that I shall never see a poem so lovely as a tree..." My wife knows that whole poem by Joyce Kilmer from memory but we'd never heard anyone singing it before. A very religious experience.

(Just kidding...)

After a day spent there we ate at the Forest Cafe, not to be confused with the Rain Forest Cafe. My daughter had read about it on some brochure and was hoping that it would be "really cool" like he famous Rainforest Cafe. Well, it was cool, but in a very unique way. Half the dining room was under water and the other half was under the forest canopy. We couldn't quite get used to eating lunch under a duck's butt.

But the food was the best food they've got anywhere around the Trees of Mystery. In fact, it is the only food they've got anywhere around the Trees of Mystery.

After this we decided to spend the afternoon on the beach. This was our "more serious" beach trip, whereas yesterday was our more casual one. We planned to spend the whole afternoon at the beach and basically we did. The beach was a really pretty one, that isn't quite on the maps so I don't know what they call it. It was about a mile or two north of Trees of Mystery at the very southern tip of the Del Norte State Park, near a campground (also not on the map) called SOMETHING lagoon. If you are ever traveling up there, don't worry, you'll find it. It's the only beach along 101 within 15 mile either direction.

This is a small, but very beautiful beach with rocks out in the water. There is enough sand to build sand castles, and here we built our main sand castle of the summer after strolling up and down the beach for several hours taking photos of birds, and rocks and waves and other interesting things.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Day 4
Redwood Forest 1

Today we had a leisurely drive from Umpqua Lighthouse down to Crescent City CA, stopping only twice: for Pizza lunch in Gold Beach, and at the BORDER. Wow, did you folks know they still had border stations between California and other states? How ancient is that?

Our hotel wasn't ready yet to move into the room, so we went on a short excursion to a beach and to the redwood forest. (Saving the bigger excursion for day 5.)

First stop: Crescent Beach, just south of Crescent City. We had fun playing on the beach but it was so windy that we ultimately had to give up. You don't need to worry about sunburn there, you need to worry about getting all of your skin blasted off.

We did all the important beach things, like building a sandcastle and walking along getting our feet wet, and taking lots of photos!

I got some great photos there of a couple of beautiful birds (and several ugly ones). I was scanning the skies trying to get an Osprey when this seagul flew right into my line of sight. (Thus the amazing close-up... I really wouldn't try intentionally to get right underneath a seagul like that!) I also managed out of a dozen photos or so of Osprey to get at least two photos that were pretty good!

Second stop: a drive Southward through the redwood forest. Xenia "couldn't wait" to see those giant redwood trees. We drove past the Trees of Mystery where we plan to go tomorrow, and kept right on down to the Drury Road, Old Highway 101 that turns off and goes through the beautiful trees. We turned off there and went for a short walk through the redwoods, ooo-ing and ah-ing as we looked up at the giant redwoods.

We got back to the hotel late and went next door to a mexican restaurant for our last (thankfully) seafood meal of the fast. (I've had seafood so many times on this trip I think i'll throw up if I even look at a fish in the next several months.)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Vacation Day 3

Day three: we enjoyed a scenic drive down the coast from Tillamook to Umpqua Lighthouse State Park, just south of Reedsport.

We didn't stop much on this road trip, but we did stop a viewpoint near Waldport to watch the whales. This was the first time I've ever seen humpback whales in person (not at some sort of aquarium, but in the wild. It was really cool! This isn't a really great photo. We saw them blow quite a few times but I was unsuccessful at catching a photo of it. I think Xenia might have got one, and I'll post that later if I can.

We also stopped later at the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, home to some great Ghost Stories, which I have been working on
integrating into my story of a pirate-turned-cowbowy in the 1850s in Southern Oregon.

In the 1890s the first ghost story was written about this lighthouse: how a sailor came into port one day and left his daughter in town because she was seasick, and how she disappeared in the lighthouse after some teenagers discovered a secret passage way that went beneath the lighthouse itself down to the sea. Well, I won't spoil and tell my version of the story, which fits perfectly with he historical facts, but tells the "true behind the scenes" story of pirates and smugglers.

Anyway we made the rest of the trip safely to Umpqua Lighthouse State park where we stayed in a beautiful cabin overlooking the lake there and enjoyed roasted banana's on the camp file and munching on huckleberries, both black and red.

The Roasted Bananas: I got the idea from the girl scout who put those things inside aluminum foil with chocolate and throw them on the coals in the fire. Only we didn't have any aluminum foil so I improvised. You cut an opening in the top of a banana. You slit the banana itself it three times (or four) and insert three (or four) squares of chocolate. You stick on a regular wiener/marshmallow roasting stick and hold over the fire until the banana is sizzling and the chocolate looks melted. You remove and let cool. You eat.

If you do this with good chocolate (we used some gourmet 65% cocoa chocolate bars) it tastes delicious!

We had a great time once again at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park. This time staying in a beautiful cabin.

~ Basil

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Vacation Day 2

Day Two was a leisurely drive from Astoria down to Tillamook OR. We've made this drive down the Oregon coast many times now, but this is the first year I've planned it so that I had only a 1.5 to 3.5 hour drive each day instead of an 5 to 8 hour drive each day. The objective: RELAXATION, leisure time, (what a concept for a vacation!)

I decided our first stop was going to be Tolovana Park near Canon Beach, in order to see the great diversity of wildlife at the wildlife preserve, and of course, to stop and see Haystack Rock.

But as we were driving through Seaside, I thought, we've never stopped at the Seaside Aquarium before, let's stop there. We couldn't follow the signs (what should have meant turn right here and go 1/2 mile, looked like it said turn right in half a mile) but thanks to Google Maps on my blackberry we found it.

The address is SomethingSomethingSomething Prominade. Well, guess what, Prominade isn't a street it's this... a beautiful cement walkway that goes along the beach.

The Seaside Aquarium isn't much bigger than the tropical fish section at most modern pet stores, but I think it contains some beautiful things, several octopuses, and massive (ugly) wolf eels, and a bunch of really beatiful and odd fish, crabs, shrimp, etc. The major draw is feeding the seals which are in a big tank right inside the front door.

They give you a "tray" of fish to feed them for only $1.00. But don't let your eyes pop out of our head with excitement thinking cookie-sheet here, a "tray" is one of those wee paper french-fry bowls they give you at most fast food places.

It was still a lot of fun, and something interesting to do at the ocean when you are "rained in".

Yes, as you can see it was quite misty at Haystack Rock and the Tolovana Park. I was hoping to walk down the beach and see sea life near the Haystack Rock itself. It is supposed to have loads of cool birds and tide pools below it with interesting things to see. But in this sort of weather, horizontal spray of rain, my family and I decided we wouldn't make the hour-or-so walk up the beach to where that stuff is actually located, so after a brief strole we went on our way south.

The most important item on this day's agenda was, of course, a stop at the Tillamook Cheese Factory, a family favorite. We had lunch there, and cheese: skipping the hour-long-line for a free sample the size of a tiny pebble in favor of buying some cheese which we were planning to do anyway. (Why do people wait in that line when they are just going to buy some cheese anyway????)

We decided not to get ice cream (again, about an hour-long line) and went to our hotel.

After we checked in and freshened up we decided to go out to see Oregon's shortest lighthouse at Cape Meares State Park. We were NOT disappointed. What a beautiful place with beautiful views and most importantly the SUN came out for the first time since we've gotten to the Oregon coast.

One of the highlights there at Cape Meares (asside from the spectacular views) is the Octopus Tree, a freakish Sitka Spruce that has eight main tree trunks growing up from a single stump.

On the way back to the hotel, and dinner, we stopped at another new place, the Blue Herron French Cheese company. I had somehow got it into my head that they made blue cheese there. I love blue cheese, and was really looking forward to that. But, alas, the only Blue in them is from their namesake, the Great Blue Heron. They make Bree. Delicious Bree, but not blue cheese. Anyway, it was a nice visit. Helen and Xenia liked it, particularly the petting zoo. Yes, "high class wine and cheese tasting" with a petting zoo: that's how they bill this place. If you like walking around in muck pretending you are in France (think a french barnyard) this place will really appeal to you.

It really wasn't so bad though, and it was relaxing, even though my family still complains about cr#p on the bottom of their shoes. I did not, alas, do any wine tasting. The really didn't have any wines that looked interesting to me. But if you want salted cock roaches, and mexican spiced dried worms, this is the place to come. (Seriously, they sold those sorts of novelty items in their gift shop right along side their delicious bree, and the classic Oregon Huckleberry everything from coffee-beans to chocolates to jams.)

It was a fun second day, and very busy really. Now, onward to the south. I'm hoping to stop at the Rogue Brewery for lunch or dinner.
~ Basil

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Vacation Day 1

Thank God for a safe trip to Astoria OR. We enjoyed a great day today with perfect weather: warm, but no need for sun screen as we had natural sun screen (clouds) with breaks of sun and brief drizzles now and then. Beautiful fresh clean air down here off the ocean at the mouth of the Columbia River.

We have a great hotel room at the Red Lion Inn where you could fish off our balcony if you wanted.

We had lunch at our old favorite diner, Andrews and Steves, then walked all around Astoria, visiting the (outide of) the Maritime Museum, and then later driving up to the top of the mountain to visit the Astoria Tower.

We've never been up to the tower before: the Astoria Column. It was great. Xenia and I actually climbed to the top and took some photos from up there. The view is remarkable, 360 degrees unobstucted for as far as you can see, which around here is as far as the clouds will let you.

Xenia atop the Astoria Column

View from the Astoria Column

Later we had dinner and I tried out a couple of great brews from the Astoria Brewery: Wet Dog Cafe. Delicious food and great beers! I even bought a cool t-shirt as a souvinir.

I love Astoria. It is the first time we've ever spent the night here, so really the first time we've spent more than half a day here. I'd love to come back sometime and spend a couple of days: check out all the spots where several great movies were made: Short Circuit, Kindergarden Cop, and The Goonies.

Tomorrow, no to another favorite costal town: Tillamook.

~ Basil

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Scary Police Officers

The scariest thing about the whole "Gates" fiasco has been the reaction of the many law enforcement officers around the country.

Then there's this guy who is a police officer (apparently, we can all see by reading his email, with about a second-grade education) who emails a major newspaper raving about things:

Here's the story from CNN: the story.

Here's his actual letter (pretty disturbing.. not so much in content as in form and what it reveals of this officers personality) : here.

The police officer in question shouldn't be fired for racism, he should be fired because he's so stupid: claiming some newspaper reporter had 4th grade grammar just because he disagreed with what that reporter said, all the while showing to (now) the whole world that he has only 2nd or 3rd grade grammer himself. Yes, if you want to know, just ax him.

What an idiot. How are any of us in this country supposed to feel safe with idiots like this police officer walking around wearing a uniform and carrying a gun!

~ Basil

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Microsoft-Yahoo Deal: Everyone Looses!

Microsoft and Yahoo made an announcement late last night.

I actually caught wind of the story last night and skimmed over it, but I was too depressed to actually read it. Most of you probably heard about it today.

This really sucks big time!


It takes away from us all (everyone in the world!) alternatives.

I've tried bing a few times, and it pretty much always sucks. I can never find the site I'm looking for with Bing. Now, I admit, I wasn't really looking for something at the time, I was looking for something I knew was there and seeing if I could find it on bing as easily as I can on google. I couldn't.

I've tried it several times: no salami!

On the very, very rare occasions that I can't find what I'm looking for on google, yahoo has ALWAYS pulled though for me! A case in point. My friends all know I serve as a volunteer on the board of directors for For The Children Of The World. What happens when you search for that? "For The Children Of The World" is a common phrase and admittedly not a good choice for an organization name if you want it to pop up top on search engines. But, if you think about it more. Who is going to search for that exact phrase if they aren't looking for our organization????

On google, it generally doesn't pop up at all or it is about 10 to 20 pages into the search results. On Bing it is even worse.

But with yahoo, it pops right up as somewhere between the first and fifth result every time. Now, give me a break google and microsoft!!!! Are you guys really THAT stupid. Our web address is for crying out loud, how hard it that to find!

This deal really sucks because it is going to make trying to find what we are ACTUALLY looking for all the harder now. What is worse, it takes something AWAY from the people of the world without giving them anything back in return.

I predict this is the end of the company yahoo, if they really go through with it and rip out their old search solution and replace it with bing! Oh, please, please, please give us at least two options: Yahoo Bing, and Yahoo Classic!!!!!!

~ Basil

Saturday, July 25, 2009

8 Year-old at Fault for Being Raped

Ever since I stumbled upon this news story this morning, I can't get it out of my head.

Here's one version:

That one's a little more sympathetic than a previous one I read (which I can't find now, of course.)

Her's a little better version of the story with a different perspective:
AZCentral News (Local Source)

We've all heard reports before from Saudi Arabia where when a woman is raped it is "her fault" and so she's put to death for it. But actually considering a child at fault I find intolerable. Not that it's tolerable when it is an adult, but that any one can see anything but vicitimization of a child in this story is incomprehensible. This child is being victimized by her own father, who says to the police "take her away! She can't live here any more. She has brought shame and dishonor on our whole family!"

I'm sorry, dude, but you've brought shame and dishonor upon yourself! An all your people who consider what you are saying to be normal.

I hate to sound racist. But, personally I don't think it is a racial thing, I think it is a cultural thing. It is a cultural thing that we find unacceptable here in the United States of American, and I don't care where you are from, and what your race, and what your religion, if you consider women to not have the same rights as men, and if you consider children to not have rights, then go the hell back to your own country and get out of ours, because you are not welcome here!

One of the most disturbing things about the story is the social workers saying "well, the family hasn't actually broken any laws by doing this." Well, then it is time we change the laws to protect women and children, I'd say.

It should be against the law for example, for any parent to "disown" their child under a certain age when a crime has been committed against them! It should be against the law for people to teach their boys that it is OK to rape the girls (if they can manage it), and that is basically what is being taught here.

I don't know if I'm more angry at the young boys who did this to the poor girl, or their parents. Actually, I do know. I'm more angry at their parents. Parents should be held responsible for violence abuse that their children inflict on others.

I understand that people from other cultures bring their cultural values with them when they come to the United States. I admire, have many friends and relatives, and greatly appreciate folks who immigrate to the U.S. from other countries. One of the greatest things about our country is the amazing diversity of cultures we have here.

But some things from other cultures simply cannot, and should not be tolerated. There should be laws against tolerating such things. And people who immigrate here should be required to sign a statement in their own languages that they says they renounce certain cultural things that we find not acceptable here.

One of those things is the notion that a victim should ever be considered responsible for a crime committed against them.

Another of those things is that those who commit a crime are more of a disgrace to their people than those among them against whom a crime has been committed.

And lastly, that women (and girls) have the same rights in our culture as men (and boys), and that considering men and boys to have greater worth and value than women and girls is intolerable here.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Man in the Moon...
I mean, Man on the Moon!

Let me first say, I have no opinion on the matter of whether or not man has ever been to the moon. As a child I was raised to believe it with a certainty. As an adult, I was actually surprised to learn that some dispute that man has ever been on the moon. But having read through much of the skeptic's materials, which is, we all recognize, amateurish looking which only reinforces the notion that it is all nonsense, I've decided that the skeptics really do have some legitimate things to say. The Apollo moon landings could have been staged, faked, etc. We certainly had the technology at the time to fake such a thing, and it is questionable whether or not we had the technology at the time to actually get to the moon.

So, I'm not saying I cast my vote for the skeptics. It would be absurd to cast your vote for either side. But, I'd like to at least propose that: It is absurd to believe unquestionably the the U.S.A. landed people on the moon back in the 60s, for a number of reasons. I'll let you investigate that on your own.

What I'd like to write today is a response to this interesting article: Top 5: Proofs That The Moon Landing Happened. It may seem ridiculous to you that anyone would need proofs, since you most probably like me were taught this as indisputable truth as a child.

The #5 reason, they say is: "The Soviet Union Did Not Dispute It" - they write that because of the way the Soviets had just lost the Cuban missile crisis, and were going back home with their tails between their legs, if they had any believe at all that we were faking the moon landing, the Soviet Union would have tried to use this to embarrass us. Well, yes, I guess if you take the conventional wisdom that most American's have, you'd think that wouldn't you. Since the Soviets were a bunch of idealogical crack-pots they would behave as such. But actually, now that some time has gone by since the end of the Soviet Union, they have started to let some of the archives of their politburo conferences become public. What has been revealed in this is that the politburo was a very thoughtful body, trying to lead the Soviet Union in its arms race (and race to space) against the U.S.A. If you read some of the archives of their discussions that have been made public you will see that they were very conservative. Like a skillful chess player they thought out every move very carefully.

In my opinion it would have been ludicrous for the Soviets to come out and say right then that the U.S.A. was faking it, and if they had some doubts that we had really archived this, they would have certainly met together and discussed what their reaction would be: "Should we call the American's bluff?" "But how can we prove anything?" "Well we know they didn't really go to the moon, maybe we can catch them somehow with their pants down?" "No, we will make ourselves look like idiots if we say anything at all, because all the world believes them..." etc. You see how I would envision they might have worked things out.

No, it would be foolish beyond sense to believe that the Soviets lack of disputing we had done this was somehow proof that we actually had done it. They could have had very good reasons, especially after the embarrassment at Cuba for keeping quiet on the space matter.

Reason number 4, they write: The Number of Photographs
They say "It seems obvious to the point of absurdity, but the sheer number of photographs -- none of which show anything terrestrial -- is pretty compelling evidence." That's pretty silly if you think about it: if you take enough photographs of something it PROVES it is real. Like about a million great movies that have been made throughout time, each with more about 1000 times more still frames taken than the volume of photographs taken of the moon, and so we are to believe that all the missions of the Starship Enterprise have been for real since there are thousands upon thousands of frames of pictures from these movies and TV shows, and NONE of them show any other cameras, or studio personnel in the background. I mean surely if it hadn't been for real we would have seen something in the background somewhere suggesting it was a HOAX!

Give me a break. If Hollywood can be so careful when they make a movie that is 20 times longer than any film shot in space, and contains millions of more frames (the equivalent, I'd think of a photo) without accidentally getting a directory, or an off-duty actor, or a camera cable, or a microphone, etc. Then I'm pretty sure NASA could have accomplished that too. In fact, if you look at history, we were much more well advanced in filmation at the time we sent folks to the moon than we were at space travel. (And, of course, STILL are!) The volume of photos certainly isn't an argument in favor, and if NASA isn't careful (when they keep discovering previously undiscovered photos that had been archived) eventually the volume of photos will be an argument AGAINST, once someone runs the calculations and figures out there is no way the could have lifted off the ground with all that film!

Reason number 3: "Rock Samples Are Universally Acknowledged As Being Non-Terrestrial" Well, I have to say here they have finally arrived at a pretty compelling point. But I'm unconvinced that they couldn't have faked the rocks somehow using chemical compounds and heat/radiation, etc. Sure the rocks didn't contain any microbes, but how do we know for certain NASA didn't irradiate them all of the rocks first? It certainly is a good argument, but by no means "proof."

And, again, as if they can't get enough of themselves, in the middle of offering this as a proof they accidentally revert back to "and I'm sure the Soviets would have said something..." argument. Which, I say again, I wouldn't have been so sure I would have known exactly what the Soviets would or wouldn't have done.

Reason number 2: "No.2 - No One on the Inside Disputed It"
Actually if you read through that link up at the top there where they claim the whole Apollo program was a hoax, they do mention some astronaut who supposedly said something about it being a hoax shortly before he died or something. I can't remember the details, and you can read it for yourself if interested. I'm certainly not reading that crap again. But I think the statement "the sheer scale of the project would have made it impossible to keep everybody quiet." is again a silly notion. There wouldn't have had to been all that many people "in on" the secret if it was a hoax. NASA already had a "studio" where the recreated as best the could the environment of the moon in order to test vehicles and so forth. On the few days that they were filming and photographing they could have had a very small crew of people who were in on the secret. As for the astronauts themselves they could have blasted them up in to orbit to circle the earth until they came back down in their other capsule. It really "could have" been faked. Again, I'm not saying it was, but it is certainly well within the realm of possibility.

And, when you consider how carefully NASA has selected their astronauts over the years, I'm sure that if NASA had wanted to consider someone's ability to keep a secret, a NATIONAL secret that to "break the secret would be a betrayal of your homeland!" Somehow I'm sure they could have found folks with that quality. In fact, seeing as the USA employs thousands maybe even tens of thousands of spies around the globe at all times with those very qualities, I'm sure they could have found a few astronauts and a skeleton crew of officials that were "in on it" to work out filming the thing if they wanted to. After all, if we had the ability to get folks to the moon, we certainly had the ability to fake it, and I think we national feeling of patriotism that many folks have would be more than enough to convince them to keep a national secret.

And the number 1 reason they site: "It Happened Again…And Again…And Again"

They quote astronaut Charlie Duke: "We have been to the Moon nine times. Why would we fake it nine times, if we faked it?" They they say "it is a pertinent question and it does seem that if you are going to tell a lie, it is far easier to do it once and then stop, than to keep exaggerating the lie over the course of the next few years." Oh my gosh! Have these people NEVER told lies. Anyone who has ever told a true like, completely faked something, knows that they have to keep retelling the same lie over and over and over again. Once you've gone down that route you have to keep supporting it.

Again, I'm not saying NASA was lying. But I find the notion that if they lied once they would have let it stop there and not lied any more to be completely ridiculous. Of course they had to keep "going to the moon." If they had the technology to do it, how could they suddenly stop doing it? If anything, the fact that we finally DID STOP going to the moon suggests that the lie ran out of steam, that eventually politicians got elected that didn't think we should keep lying and so the budgets got cut, and so on.

Now, in conclusion, I'm not saying we've never been to the moon. All I'm saying is it hasn't been proven to me. I am looking forward to eventually finding out for sure. Our political, cultural, socio-economic climates have changed considerably since we were making trips to the moon. And what's more, the possibilities seem greater and greater all the time that we will soon know much, much more about the truth of what we have learned from our lunar expeditions. Currently some other countries are sending various craft to the moon. One of them has spent probes, and another is circling the moon photographing it at high detail. They plan to photograph the entire surface of the moon in the highest detail ever!

I look forward to seeing our US landing craft show up on those photos! Either that, or I look forward to watching NASA scramble and try to explain to people why you can't see them! Either way, it will be very, very interesting.


Friday, April 17, 2009

The Day of Rest

You are, maybe, wondering why I hardly ever write, and am suddenly writing about such a banal thing as politics on this most Holy of Days?

Well, so am I.

I mostly don't write, because I haven't got anything to say. That's probably a good thing, considering how many people out there still blog anyhow when they haven't got anything to say. So, today, I saw Chavez shaking hands with Obama, and I felt proud of my new president, and decided to write about that.

But, what's today really all about?

This is the great Day of Rest. On the Seventh Day, God Rested from all of his Labours. Today, Christ God rests on the greatest Sabbath of all. He rests from his Labours in the tomb!

Yesterday He was murdered. Today He rests in death. Tomorrow He is Risen from the Dead.

Here's one of my favorite passages about Christ's vastness:
(I'm doing this from memory because I don't have a copy of the Divine Liturgy handy and can't find the text on line.) This is something the priest says at the Altar table after he's brought back the Chalice from giving everyone communion. He usually says it under his breath so you can't really hear it, but the text is there in your service book if you want to read that.

"In the tomb with the body, on the throne with the Father and the Spirit, and in Paradise with the thief, art Thou, O Boundless Christ, thyself circumscribed."

The newer translation doesn't use the word "circumscribed." I forget what it uses but it is something else. But the word "circumscribed" is important here, as is the word "uncircumscribed" which you don't see because there they translated it as "boundless".

Christ God is Boundless. That is to say, He cannot be bounded. That is to say, He cannot be contained. He cannot be circumscribed.

Nevertheless, He WAS (and IS) circumscribed. By His own Choice, God the uncircumscibeable became circumscribed. That is to say, he became "contained" and "bounded". That is to say, He was incarnate (took upon himself flesh, carne.)

One can say that the uncircumscribeable God became circumscribed, by His own choice. And as a circumscibed man and yet eternal God, he was in several places at once on this very day. He was laying in the tomb with the Body, he was on the Throne in Heaven as God, and he was in Paradise with the thief. We are talking about the thief who died on the cross next to Christ, here. To whom He said: "This day shall you be with me in Paradise."

How is it that He was in Paradise? Because he died and entered Hades, and as God, overpowered it, and led the captives of Hades free. He lead them into Paradise.

But get this: he also, never left the body!

If you have a notion, a notion that perhaps might be easy to have: that He died and the God part of his nature went one way leaving the man part of his nature (the flesh) alone in the tomb, well, if you have that notion of his Godhead leaving his body at death the way your soul leaves your body at death. Well, that notion would be wrong.

When He Died, His Godhead, His Divinity, it was still fully present inside his dead, fleshly human body. So, in some incomprehensible way, God died.

And yet, because he is God, when He died, He entered Hell and smashed it to smithereens.

This is a glorious day, this day where He is dead in the tomb. Because on the one hand He rests the greatest rest of all. A rest that not even the most technical Jew can say they've ever rested. He kept the sabbath in a manner surpassing all men before Him, because he was dead that day, and resting quietly in His tomb. And yet, because this bounded One was equally boundless, He was still on His Throne in heaven ruling over all, and he was equally in Paradise on this day with the thief.

This day, is in many ways even more special, mind-boggling, and unique than tomorrow is, where we leave time once-and-for all, entering the eigth day of the week. And yet it is tomorrow that defines it. Tomorrow that demonstrates to the universe the triumph of God over the powers of evil, the triumph of man over sin and death. A day in which we cry out "Christ is Risen!"

He is Risen Indeed!

This is what I love about Obama!

Many of my friends are staunch anti-Obama fanatics. It didn't really go over so well that I supported Obama in the election. And, somehow these people are able to see nothing but "what's wrong with Obama" even now. They are already blaming the economic catastrophe on Obama, although I suspect what we are suffering the consequences of today was something started by Nixon, Ford and Regan. Sure it was something that several successions of Democratic presidencies were unable to fix. Carter and Clinton did nothing to help us avoid where we are at today, but I think it was squarely begun back in the Nixon administration, and brought to it's apex by two successive Bush legacies.

But, I'm digressing.

The reason I voted for Obama was that I had dreams that hopefully his foreign policy would end up being exactly how it is.

We Americans just don't learn from our mistakes. We have generation after generation trying to do the exact same thing and expect different results. (This, by the way is the definition of insanity!)

For more than 20 years, I've been ashamed to be an American from a global perspective. Americans have been known the world over to be bigots who try to force their ideology on others. We like to claim that what we are forcing on them is the will of their own people, we call this "Democracy" and we insult, ridicule, and try to undermine the governments of anyone who disagrees with our own particular twist on democracy. Give me a break people, we didn't even elect our own president on George Bush's first term. How can we be so pathetically vulgar to the rest of the world, telling them we know what's right, and their own people don't. We seem to be able to find some tiny group of malcontents in every society and exploit their ideas and claim that they are main-stream, claim that these people are the true Freedom Fighters who are struggling for democracy.

We always try to force other nations to bend to our will because our way is right. If you look back on history that's what the Persians, and Assyrians and Babylonians, Greeks and Romans always said. The governments said "we know what's right for you" and conquered the rest of the world. We're here to make you all civilized, and then we go on and kill everyone who resists being civilized.

I still say America is one of the greatest lands in the world. It is a country full of opportunity. A country in which all races, creeds and colors can find a place to live to their fullest. Unfortunately, for too many years, in foreign policy our perspective has been that we have to keep all the other potentially threatening nations of the world under our thumb, so they don't get out of control, so they don't become powerful and someday threaten us.

Well, look at the news folks. What threatens us is: us! We are having mass killings weekly now. We are having crazy people who have a few screws loose and unleash their foolishness on many others. There are even a great deal of crazies these days who seem to have gotten some sort of subversive notion that the U.S. Government is going to take away all of their rights, and so these people are going out in droves to buy guns. Are we simply laying the groundwork for the next generations of suicidal mass murderers?

I've said for years that the notion of keeping the rest of the world under our thumbs merely builds up resentment. We are out there actively CREATING enemies. We are out there actively teaching people to hate us!

Well, thank God for what Obama is doing with foreign policy! It is about time that we try to make friends instead of enemies. I think it is perfectly appropriate to meet the leaders of other nations as equals, not as someone inferior because they have a different culture, and discuss common points while trying to encourage values that we think will benefit everyone: like freedom of speech, freedom of commerce, freedom of expression, and so on. You aren't going to see a Cuba with these freedoms using the approach that we've used for the past 70 years. You aren't going to see these freedoms come to life in many other nations either, if we keep treating them disdainfully, refusing to even speak with them until they change.

It is long past time for this approach. My only question is: is it too long past time? Will it do any good, or are we already too late? Have we already created out there the enemies that will ultimately destroy us, or is it not too late?

~ Basil

Sunday, March 29, 2009

From Letters to a Young Poet
by Rilke

"With nothing can one approach a work of art so little as with critical words: they always come down to more or less happy misunderstandings. Things are not so comprehensible and expressible as one would mostly have us believe; most events are inexpressible, taking place in a realm which no word has ever entered, and more inexpressible than all else are works of art, mysterious existences, the life of which, while ours passes away, endures."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Maryland, My Maryland
Well, the world is changing. That's the way things happen.

And before it has gone too far, I'd like to sing you a little tune.

This is (currently, but by the sounds of it not much longer) the State Tune of Maryland.

Maryland, My Maryland
(to the tune of "O, Tannenbaum")
by James Ryder Randall

The despot's heel is on thy shore,
His torch is at thy temple door,
Avenge the patriotic gore
That flecked the streets of Baltimore,
And be the battle queen of yore,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Hark to an exiled son's appeal,
My mother State! to thee I kneel,
For life and death, for woe and weal,
Thy peerless chivalry reveal,
And gird they beauteous limbs with steel,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Thou wilt not cower in the dust,
Thy beaming sword shall never rust,
Remember Carroll's sacred trust,
Remember Howard's warlike thrust,-
And all thy slumberers with the just,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Come! 'tis the red dawn of the day,
Come with thy panoplied array,
With Ringgold's spirit for the fray,
With Watson's blood at Monterey,
With fearless Lowe and dashing May,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Come! for thy shield is bright and strong,
Come! for thy dalliance does thee wrong,
Come to thine own anointed throng,
Stalking with Liberty along,
And chaunt thy dauntless slogan song,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Dear Mother! burst the tyrant's chain,
Virginia should not call in vain,
She meets her sisters on the plain-
"Sic semper!" 'tis the proud refrain
That baffles minions back again,
Arise in majesty again,
Maryland! My Maryland!

I see the blush upon thy cheek,
For thou wast ever bravely meek,
But lo! there surges forth a shriek,
From hill to hill, from creek to creek-
Potomac calls to Chesapeake,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Thou wilt not yield the Vandal toll,
Thou wilt not crook to his control,
Better the fire upon thee roll, Better the blade, the shot, the bowl,
Than crucifixion of the soul,
Maryland! My Maryland!

I hear the distant thunder-hum,
The Old Line's bugle, fife, and drum,
She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb-
Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!
She breathes! she burns! she'll come! she'll come!
Maryland! My Maryland!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

I'm making a clean sweep.

All the cobwebs of my life are being washed away.

I'm digging through the files, and burning, shredding, throwing away and posting.

Here's a little scrap I've found:

"a granite tomb for the repose of ruined passions, hopes and woes."
- М. Лермонтов

This can be such a depressing day if you think about it.

It is better to do something nice in hope of invoking a smile than to think about it.