Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"The Drunkard's Will" (by Gorham D. Abbott, 1833)

"I, ________, beginning to be enfeebled in body, and fearing that I may soon be palsied in mind, and having entered upon that course of drinking from which I have not resolution to flee; do make and publish this, my last will and testament--

Having been made in the image of my Creator, capable of rational enjoyment, of imparting happiness to others, and of promoting the glory of God--I know my accountability. Yet such is my fondness for sensual gratification, and my utter indisposition to resist temptation, that I give myself entirely to alcohol and its associate vices, and make the following bequests--

My property I give to be wasted--knowing it will soon fall into the hands of those who furnish me with liquor.

My reputation, already tottering on a sandy foundation--I give to destruction.

To my beloved wife, who has cheered me thus far through life--I give shame, poverty, sorrow, and a broken heart.

To each of my children--I bequeath my example, and the inheritance of the shame of their father's character.

I give my body--to disease, misery, and early death.

Finally, I give my soul, which can never die--to the disposal of that God whose commands I have broken, and who has warned me by His Word--that no drunkard shall inherit the kingdom of heaven."


"Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine. Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper!" Proverbs 23:29-32

(From Grace Gems daily devotional)

Monday, August 29, 2011

"Orkney Interior," by Ian Hamilton Finlay

[Well, that's enough weekend.  Back to the real world . . . ]

Doing what the moon says, he shifts his chair
Closer to the stove and stokes it up
With the very best fuel, a mixture of dried fish
And tobacco he keeps in a bucket with crabs

Too small to eat. One raises its pincer
As if to seize hold of the crescent moon
On the calendar which is almost like a zodiac
With inexplicable and pallid blanks. Meanwhile

A lobster is crawling towards the clever
Bait that is set inside the clock
On the shelf by the wireless—an inherited dried fish
Soaked in whisky and carefully trimmed

With potato flowers from the Golden Wonders
The old man grows inside his ears.
Click! goes the clock-lid, and the unfortunate lobster
Finds itself a prisoner inside the clock,

An adapted cuckoo-clock. It shows no hours, only
Tides and moons and is fitted out
With two little saucers, one of salt and one of water
For the lobster to live on while, each quarter-tide,

It must stick its head through the tiny trapdoor
Meant for the cuckoo. It will be trained to read
The broken barometer and wave its whiskers
To Scottish Dance Music, till it grows too old.

Then the old man will have to catch himself another lobster.
Meanwhile he is happy and takes the clock
Down to the sea. He stands and oils it
In a little rock pool that reflects the moon.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Stupid Bike

It is those moments of sheer stupidity (perhaps the better word would simply be “thoughtlessness”) that reminds us that we are not gods.

I have been trying to get the upper hand on my “corporalita” (specifically, physical health and fitness) by finding a routine at the gym (it’s been more than 25 years since I’ve made regular appearances, so I’m starting all over again). The other day, I made my appearance with every intention of walking on the treadmill. As they were all taken, I sat on a recumbent bike, to wait until a treadmill was open. Like the treadmill, the bike as much potential for a workout, so I thought I would try something different, so I confronted the bike.

As many already know, the treadmill is programmed to provide the user a number of pre-set options to take one through one workout or another; or, the user may manually program his or her own. I use the “Forest Walk” preset (at present, a 40 minute walk, speed 3.0 at 1.0 unit of incline). The computer panel blinks at me with its video game screen even before I step up. “Walk on me and win a prize!”

The panel on the bike was dead. Blank. No lights and no other signs of life. I checked the rear of the bike—perhaps it was unplugged or something. No cords to be seen.

Perhaps it is battery-powered . . .

I checked the next bike: dead.

The next bike: dead.

No bikes today. Oh well.

I waited for the treadmill.

One soon became available and as I stepped up I expressed within my gratitude for my turn that I would have used the bikes, but there did not seem to be working.

“Sure, they work,” the sweaty guy huffed back. “The user generates the power.”

I decided then and there that the little guy on the bike inside my head must have been taking a water break.
Yeah, I'm going back today.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


I'm glad I'm not an elevator repair man because if I ever made a mistake, I'd be wrong on every level.

Amazing what one learns from the creases and folds of a cowboy hat. (Dexter, I'm thinking of you, brother).

Have you ever wondered how boards are cut from trees? Here's a sculpture to inform you.

The case that helped forensics consider the science of fingerprinting.

"Patience and Tranquility of mind contribute more to cure our distempers [than] the whole of medicine." (Wolfgang Amadeus  Mozart, written in English, to Johann Georg Kronauer, a language teacher, 30 March 1787)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Finding What I’ve Missed

Recently I’ve been reading about Leonardo DaVinci and have been intrigued by his style of observation: he did not merely “observe,” but he “examined” everything--even things considered mundane--from at least three perspectives. He was fascinated by what he saw. I thought to test his style and went for a short walk on break the other day. I was astounded at my discovery.

Outside, I accepted the challenged to learn from a cloud of gnats. Yes, gnats. They could not be examined against a light background, so I positioned myself to cast them against a dark background. The gnats did what they do best—the tumbled and jumbled silently in the air, their aerial acrobatics about 6 feet from the ground, rising and falling in an 18 to 24 inch range. I could only imagine how they must have sounded to each other, or what they were doing (but one can guess).
I watched the cloud. These little bugs so small they were barely discernable as bugs, only dots, rising and falling in the air, doing what comes gnaturally. Since the swarm was rather small, I tried to focus on one member. After a few moments of observation, I saw the pattern and was stunned. When each member rose in the air, it spiraled upward in a clock-wise fashion in a loop no more than 8 inches in diameter. When each descended, it reversed direction and spiraled downward counter-clockwise in the same 8 inch loop. Each member ascended and descended clockwise and counter-clockwise in turn. No observable descent was clockwise and contrariwise the reverse—each in its own order.

There is not much I can do with these observations, but I am filled with awe at the intent of the Creator behind it all. His handiwork is clearly seen through the top field of my bi-focals. It took less than 10 minutes for me to find another reason to worship God and thank Him for the care that He shows even the smallest creatures.
As I reflect, I recall how I’ve experienced these little guys with all my senses and never paid attention. Like you, I’ve walked unwittingly into swarms, had them in my ears, and have perhaps have swallowed a few too many without further regard and have never stopped to examine.

I wonder what else I’ve missed? I 'll let you know when I find it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

"Has anyone ascended into heaven?"


Jesus says, “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man” (John 3:13); but, the Bible says, “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; For God took him” (Genesis 5:24); that “And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (2 Kings 2:11) and “Enoch was translated that he should not see death” (Hebrews 11:5). So which is it: has anyone ascended into heaven, or not?

Interesting to note what Jesus says in the previous verse: "If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12).

Jesus’ statement about ascending into heaven is in the context of a conversation and is not some independent mystical inculcation. Jesus is speaking with Nicodemus, a teacher who has not understood the very lessons he should be teaching. Jesus says, “You must be born again” (John 3:7). Nicodemus shows his confusion, “How can these things be?” (John 3:9). Jesus replies, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and no not understand these things?” (John 3:10). Apparently there is something cultural and historical that this teacher knows but has not understood. The open minded will examine and search out these things alluded to in the text.
Jesus points out that Nicodemus does not merely lack understanding, but that he is clinging to ignorance. “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:11-12) Understanding comes through faith because this is a spiritual truth.

How does one get to heaven? How is one reconciled to God? Can one merely just “go up?” We cannot ascend through reason or understanding, knowledge or good works. We cannot find a way there ourselves. Those mentioned in the Old Testament proofs reveal relationships with God that are worth investigating. Enoch, Elijah and Enoch did not find their way to God on their own accord; rather, God approached them first. He, as it were, descended and as a result of God “stepping down,” they ascended.
Here is the message: “You must be born again” (John 3:7) in order to enter heaven and God made the way possible by descending into time and space to pay the penalty for your sin in order that you may be able to enjoy forever The One who makes Heaven what it is!

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Why is it said that we only dream in black and white when my personal experience shows otherwise? Do you dream in color?

As the kids return to school, remember: "The essence of mathematics is not to make simple things complicated, but to make complicated things simple."  (Gudder)

(ht: Jannai) 

35 Breathtaking Aerial Photographs
Astronomers Discover Darkest Known Planet

"We are sometimes a little at a loss, to know if we are doing just the right thing, and if we are doing it at the right time. Perhaps it would not be possible to find any one test which would apply to all subjects and all times. But I have met with one, in the form of a question, which may prove of use in reference to many things — and very often! I am sure that if I had properly used it — it would have prevented my doing many things, which I have had to regret after they have been done. It is this — in whatever engaged, ask the question, "How will this impact on eternity?"

Remember: the highest end of exploration is to bring the unfamiliar into your life.

Monday, August 15, 2011

"The Storm," by Theodore Roethke


Against the stone breakwater,
Only an ominous lapping,
While the wind whines overhead,
Coming down from the mountain,
Whistling between the arbors, the winding terraces;
A thin whine of wires, a rattling and flapping of leaves,
And the small street-lamp swinging and slamming against
the lamp pole.

Where have the people gone?
There is one light on the mountain.


Along the sea-wall, a steady sloshing of the swell,
The waves not yet high, but even,
Coming closer and closer upon each other;
A fine fume of rain driving in from the sea,
Riddling the sand, like a wide spray of buckshot,
The wind from the sea and the wind from the mountain contending,
Flicking the foam from the whitecaps straight upward into the darkness.

A time to go home!--
And a child's dirty shift billows upward out of an alley,
A cat runs from the wind as we do,
Between the whitening trees, up Santa Lucia,
Where the heavy door unlocks,
And our breath comes more easy,--
Then a crack of thunder, and the black rain runs over us, over
The flat-roofed houses, coming down in gusts, beating
The walls, the slatted windows, driving
The last watcher indoors, moving the cardplayers closer
To their cards, their anisette.


We creep to our bed, and its straw mattress.
We wait; we listen.
The storm lulls off, then redoubles,
Bending the trees half-way down to the ground,
Shaking loose the last wizened oranges in the orchard,
Flattening the limber carnations.

A spider eases himself down from a swaying light-bulb,
Running over the coverlet, down under the iron bedstead.
The bulb goes on and off, weakly.
Water roars into the cistern.

We lie closer on the gritty pillow,
Breathing heavily, hoping--
For the great last leap of the wave over the breakwater,
The flat boom on the beach of the towering sea-swell,
The sudden shudder as the jutting sea-cliff collapses,
And the hurricane drives the dead straw into the living pine-tree.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


The last thing I watched on TV was The Weather Channel. Yeah. 

Don't believe Facebook. You only have 150 friends.

Archaeologists hope to use a hacked Kinect Game System in Jordan Excavation. "Researchers hope students traveling to an archaeological dig in Jordan will use a hacked Microsoft Kinect as a mobile scanning system, making 3-D models of ancient sites that can then be visited in a virtual-reality environment."

The Roman Legion that lay siege on Masada some 2,000 years ago was forced to use timber from other areas in the land of Israel for its weapons and encampments, and was not able to use local wood as earlier studies have proposed.

Literary passage of the week: "What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. This doesn't happen much, though." (J.D. Salinger, "The Catcher in the Rye.")

And remember: those who say that nothing is impossible never tried slamming a revolving door.

Monday, August 08, 2011

"The Philosopher in Florida," by C. Dale Young

Midsummer lies on this town
like a plague: locusts now replaced
by humidity, the bloodied Nile

now an algae-covered rivulet
struggling to find its terminus.
Our choice is a simple one:

to leave or to remain, to render
the Spanish moss a memory
or to pull it from trees, repeatedly.

And this must be what the young
philosopher felt, the pull of a dialectic so basic
the mind refuses, normally,

to take much notice of it.
Outside, beyond a palm-tree fence,
a flock of ibis mounts the air,

our concerns ignored
by their quick white wings.
Feathered flashes reflected in water,

the bending necks of the cattails:
the landscape feels nothing---
it repeats itself with or without us.

Thursday, August 04, 2011


Apple now has more cash than the US Government.

The last time I laughed (I mean really laughed) was a couple of weeks ago. I laughed so hard, I nearly passed out--twice. We were watching "Enterprise," and the Klingons were experiencing the holodeck for the very first time. The Klingon captain (Volok) gave the officer a geographic survey of the home planet for the experiment. The next scene is looking over the shoulder of this knife-wielding, growling, be-fanged alien as he surveys his home planet. He points and says, "I can see my house from here!" I nearly died--I just wanted to share that with you. It was funny.

7 ways our earth changes in the blink of an eye.

Lessons in Leadership: The PBS documentary, "The Greely Expedition" relates following account: "In 1881, 25 men led by Adolphus Greely set sail from Newfoundland to Lady Franklin Bay in the high Arctic, where they planned to collect a wealth of scientific data from a vast area of the world’s surface that had been described as a 'sheer blank.' Three years later, only six survivors returned, with a daunting story of shipwreck, starvation, mutiny and cannibalism. The film reveals how poor planning, personality clashes, questionable decisions and pure bad luck conspired to turn a noble scientific mission into a human tragedy." Also read "Ice Master: The Doomed 1913 Voyage of the Karluk."

Literary passage of the week: "We went to his study for coffee, a jolly room full of books and trophies and untidiness and comfort." (John Buchan, "The 39 Steps.")

And remember: anything unrelated to the subject of elephants is irrelephant.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Novel Update

Last November I finished writing the first (and very rough) draft of my first novel. Since then, I have been stuck in “revision-land.” I am somewhat happy with the result, but there is still so much more to do. I actually let the work sit untouched for a few months before I even picked up my little red pen for editing autoposy. There is blood everywhere.

Right now, I am tweaking plot and characters before finalizing all the bad grammar and other errors. Got some great stuff going in—very excited about it, but still a ways to go. I hope to have a “presentable” second draft by Christmas. 

Until then, enjoy Anne Bradstreet's (1612-1672) poem, "The Author To Her Book":

"Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth did'st by my side remain,
Till snatcht from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad exposed to public view,
Made thee in rags, halting to th' press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call.
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
The visage was so irksome in my sight,
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could.
I washed thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw.
I stretcht thy joints to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run'st more hobbling than is meet.
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save home-spun cloth, i' th' house I find.
In this array, 'mongst vulgars may'st thou roam.
In critic's hands, beware thou dost not come,
And take thy way where yet thou art not known.
If for thy father askt, say, thou hadst none;
And for thy mother, she alas is poor,
Which caused her thus to send thee out of door."

Monday, August 01, 2011

"Swimming Song," by Loudon Wainwright

This summer I went swimming,
This summer I might have drowned
But I held my breath and I kicked my feet
And I moved my arms around, I moved my arms around.

This summer I swam in the ocean,
And I swam in a swimming pool,
Salt my wounds, chlorine my eyes,
I'm a self-destructive fool, a self-destructive fool.

This summer I swam in a public place
And a reservoir, to boot,
At the latter I was informal,
At the former I wore my suit, I wore my swimming suit.

This summer I did the backstroke
And you know that's not all
I did the breast stroke and the butterfly
And the old Australian crawl, the old Australian crawl.

This summer I did swan dives
And jackknifes for you all
And once when you weren't looking
I did a cannonball, I did a cannonball.

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